On Monday, January 24, 2011 The Hill School held its annual Sixth Form Leadership Award ceremony. This prestigious award, presented annually to an individual who has proven to be an exemplary leader and true role model for Hill students, was awarded to Lewis E. Lehrman, a member of the class of 1956. Mr. Lehrman is co-founder of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, a Trustee of Yale University’s Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Abolition and Slavery, and Chairman of L.E. Lehrman & Co. During the ceremony, The Hill also posthumously honored Senator William Proxmire, a member of The Hill School class of 1934 and political "maverick" and former Democratic senator from Wisconsin.
SGA Vice President Anthony Urbano ’11, of Bethlehem, Pa., highlighted the life and career of Mr. Proxmire who passed away on December 15, 2005, noting Senator Proxmire’s reputation as one of the most determined and outspoken legislators on Capitol Hill during his time in the U.S. Senate from 1957 to 1988. He also recalled Mr. Proxmire’s notorious “Golden Fleece Awards;” his commitment to the United Nations Genocide Convention; and his accomplishments as chairman of the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs and member of the Appropriations Committee. Anthony then welcomed Mrs. Ellen Proxmire, wife of Mr. Proxmire, to the stage to accept the award on behalf of the entire Proxmire family, which also includes Hill graduates, Jason Zwerner ’96 and Kurtis Poulos ’97. She eloquently and graciously thanked the School for bestowing such a wonderful honor on her husband, saying that The Hill, then and now, fosters the values of hard work, integrity, and truth, and her husband had a deep love of this special place.
Mr. Lehrman was introduced by SGA President Alex Hoey ’11, of Macungie, Pa., who detailed Mr. Lehrman’s tremendous contributions and accomplishments as a historian, Lincoln scholar, businessman, author, citizen, and friend of The Hill School.
Mr. Lehrman addressed the student body as “heirs and co-heirs of a great tradition,” a Hill education founded in values of faith, family, freedom, and fidelity, the same values that our country’s history are founded upon. He then described how Frederick Douglass, Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, and Abraham Lincoln, though different in their backgrounds and approaches to life, all provide examples and teach important lessons about leadership throughout history.
He deeply thanked the sixth form for bestowing on him this leadership award saying: “I shall never forget this day and will cherish it until my last day.”
When asked about his favorite part of being at The Hill, Mr. Lehrman joked, “those are stories I cannot tell,” but quickly followed up by crediting his mother, noting that it was she who sent him to The Hill and “it forever changed my life.”
Mr. Lehrman also credits The Hill for instilling in him the importance of discipline and self- discipline, recalling the strict schedule and dress code and tough grading. “I learned how the outer world enters the inner world.” And, when asked by a student what the best thing they can do as alumni, he said to “invest your treasure in The Hill.”
More about Lewis E. Lehrman ’56
Mr. Lehrman received his B.A. from Yale University in 1960, after which he won a Carnegie Teaching Fellowship as an instructor of history on the Yale faculty. Subsequently, he received his master's degree as a Woodrow Wilson Fellow from Harvard University. He is the author of Lincoln at Peoria (2008), and his articles on Abraham Lincoln have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Greenwich Time and other periodicals. He has been awarded honorary degrees from Babson College, Gettysburg College, Marymount University, Thomas Aquinas College, and Lincoln College. Mr. Lehrman was the 1982 Republican and Conservative parties' gubernatorial candidate in New York. He later served as a managing director at Morgan Stanley. He currently is a Trustee of the New York Historical Society.
In 2005, Mr. Lehrman was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President George W. Bush in an Oval Office ceremony.
Mr. Lehrman has remained a loyal friend and avid supporter of The Hill through the years. He served as both the 1983 and 2006 commencement speaker. In 1993, Mr. Lehrman established a scholarship to honor David Mercer, Hill’s long-time, greatly loved director of athletics; this award is given annually to a student-athlete in financial need. In October 2001, just weeks after the national tragedy of September 11, Mr. Lehrman delivered a moving address at the dedication of the Field House in honor of David Mercer. In 2004, Mr. Lehrman created the David R. Dougherty Senior Teaching Fellowship of American History.