In memoriam

September 27, 2009

Credit: New York TimesWith sadness the Dana Foundation announced that Chairman William Safire died Sunday, September 27, 2009.  He was 79 and served as chairman since 2000.

“We mourn Bill not only because we have lost our chairman but because we have lost a dear friend, a man devoted to the Foundation and its work," said Edward Rover, president of the Foundation. "During his tenure, Bill was our greatest champion--always working to enhance and build Dana’s mission and outreach."

William Safire from 1972 to early 2005 wrote a political column on the Op-ed pages of The New York Times.  Mr. Safire continued to write a Sunday column, “On Language,” which has appeared in The New York Times Magazine since 1979 until this month.  This column on grammar, usage and etymology has led to the publication of 14 books and made him the most widely read writer on the English language. Mr. Safire was awarded the 1978 Pulitzer Prize for distinguished commentary.  He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award, in a White House ceremony held December 16, 2006.

Before joining The Times, Mr. Safire was a senior White House speechwriter for President Nixon.  He had previously been a radio and television producer, a U.S. Army correspondent, and began his career as a reporter for a profiles column in The New York Herald Tribune. 

From 1955 to 1968, Mr. Safire was a public relations executive in New York City.  He was responsible for bringing Mr. Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev together in the 1959 Moscow “kitchen” debate to publicize his client’s kitchen.  In 1968, he left to join the campaign of Richard Nixon.

He is the author of four novels, including “Freedom,” a novel of Lincoln and the Civil War, and “Scandalmongers,” explaining the roots of liberty of the press.  “Safire’s Political Dictionary,” has helped generations of politicians and voters understand one another; its fully updated 5th edition was published in April, 2008.   His anthology of great speeches, “Lend Me Your Ears,” is the best seller in that field. 

Mr. Safire was born on December 17, 1929, and attended Syracuse University; a dropout after two years, he returned a generation later to deliver the commencement address and was a trustee emeritus.