MY WASHINGTON • Winter 2001
Leading by Example

From museums to medical facilities, Harvey A. and Dorismae (A.B. '42) Friedman have worked tirelessly, and modestly, to help St. Louis institutions prosper. Their dedication extends to all schools of the University in creating a multidisciplinary Center for Aging.

When Harvey Friedman's mother died, he and his wife, Dorismae, wanted to honor the memory of his parents with a gift to B'nai Amoona Synagogue in University City, Missouri. Harvey: "I always thought I'd like whatever I did to be anonymous, but the rabbi said that was the wrong way to do it." Dorismae: "We were people of modest means, and he [the rabbi] said it would show other people in our category that they could do it, too." Harvey: "Setting an example was never my intention." Dorismae: "But that was Rabbi Lipnick's advice."

Harvey and Dorismae often complete each other's sentences, as if thinking the same thoughts and taking turns speaking them. That's not surprising—they will celebrate 60 years of marriage in 2003. They still follow the rabbi's advice, yet continue to be hesitant to seek recognition for what they do.

While setting an example for others, they're not inclined to copy what others do. "I was always trying to figure out things that hadn't been done that needed to be done," Harvey says, talking about his current campaign to establish a world-class Center for Aging at Washington University. "I never did get a kick out of following somebody else."

Harvey's interest in helping the aging began taking shape more than 30 years ago, when he diversified his business interests and formed a company to develop nursing homes and apartments and manage projects for the St. Louis Housing Authority and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. That involvement culminated in a project he named Castle Park, the old St. Vincent's Hospital in north St. Louis County. Today, the Castle Park complex with its apartments for the elderly is on the National Register of Historic Places, and its park-like setting resembles a college campus.

The Friedmans' concern for the aging continued to develop through Harvey's service on the boards of the former Jewish Hospital and the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation, and the chair they established in the School of Medicine. They are recognized by the University's Eliot Society as Life Patrons for their generous support of a number of programs over the years.

The Friedmans have known each other since 5th grade but didn't begin dating until Dorismae's senior year in college. Dorismae, who was Homecoming Queen in 1941, graduated from Arts & Sciences in 1942. (She was co-chair of her 60th Class Reunion, which took place in May 2001.) Both entered Washington University in the fall of 1938, but Harvey withdrew to go to work. He was in the service during World War II when he and Dorismae married. They now have two daughters, three grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Harvey began a long career in business, forming Friedman Textile Company with his father in 1945. His experience soon brought him back to Washington University, this time to teach in University College. "That was a very rewarding experience for me," Harvey says, but it ended in 1950, when he needed to travel frequently on behalf of his business.

"In 1961, I began developing and operating small shopping centers," he says. International Super Stores (ISS) was a successor to Friedman Textile. He sold his interest in ISS in 1969, the same year he founded Medigroup, Inc., to develop and operate nursing homes and apartments.

He sold his interest in that company in 1980, after already adding banking to the list of businesses he was involved in. "I was a founder of the Bank of Ladue in 1974 and served on its board of directors until 1977, and when it was sold, I was elected to the Landmark Bancshares board and the board of Landmark Central Bank." He became vice chairman of Landmark Bancshares and chairman of Landmark Central Bank in 1979, retiring in 1986.

His business experience translated well to community service, especially for two local institutions that were facing problems. First, the Missouri History Museum [the Jefferson Memorial in Forest Park] was deeply in debt and about to be closed. Second, the Metropolitan Sewer District was in trouble with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and facing a federal takeover and huge daily fines.

"If the museum had closed, it would have meant that St. Louis would forfeit the Lindbergh trophies," Harvey says. As a trustee and the board's financial vice president, he successfully negotiated with the utility companies, got $85,000 from the city to pay the bills, and worked to include the building in the Zoo-Museum District.

The next challenge was the sewer district, also suffering from bad public relations. As board chairman, Harvey brought proponents and critics together to solve the major problems. "We made two sides one side," he says modestly. The district raised $432 million through a temporary surcharge to pay for the EPA-ordered improvements. "That was the largest amount ever raised by a Missouri political subdivision," Dorismae explains. In each case, Harvey did what he came to do, then moved on to another challenge.

The Saint Louis Art Museum also has benefited from the Friedmans' interest. "At the University," Dorismae says, "I took Professor George Mylonos' Introduction to the History of Art. It changed my whole life." She worked as a docent at the art museum for 15 years. In honor of Dorismae's birthday, Harvey endowed the Dorismae Friedman Docent Enrichment Fund and the James E. Burke Prize in Fine Arts. "We have an outstanding person in fine arts come in each year to give a free public lecture and then work with the docents on their specialties," she says. "The fund also allows docents to take trips for educational purposes."

The Friedmans' current focus is on Harvey's idea to bring together all of the University's research and programs on the aging under one center. The idea resonates with William A. Peck, executive vice chancellor and dean of the School of Medicine; John Morris, the Harvey A. and Dorismae Hacker Friedman Professor of Neurology and director of the center; and Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton, a strong advocate of interdisciplinary cooperation.

Dr. Morris says, "Harvey and Dorismae understood long ago that aging was an issue to be addressed in research and clinical programs. They have worked tirelessly to help the University address this issue in a coordinated fashion."

The Friedmans' Medical Center connection began when, working with the late Dr. Franz U. Steinberg, a pioneer in rehabilitation and geriatric medicine, they established a scholarship for nurses interested in working with the aged. Then, with the help of the late Dr. Paul Hagemann, Harvey says, "We established an annual prize for the physician in the St. Louis area who did the most to alleviate the problems of the aging." They went on to work with Dr. Peck, then chief of medicine at Jewish Hospital, to establish the Program on Aging there. Harvey was a member of the Council of the National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, for four years.

In spring 2001, to honor Harvey and Dorismae for all they are doing to make the Center for Aging a reality, the University established the annual Friedman Lectureship—recognition for the extraordinary example they set for others.

—John W. Hansford