Florida Atlantic University


The Passing of a Legend


The Passing of a Legend

This weekend we received the sad news that Arthur Jaffe died at the age of 93. Arthur spent the last 15 years of his life at FAU, serving as curator of the Jaffe Center for Book Arts in the Wimberly Library and holding the Ario S. Hyams endowed professorship. In 2011, he was awarded an honorary doctorate by FAU and last year I was privileged to present him the President’s Distinguished Service Medallion. But no title could ever encompass all that Arthur meant to FAU. To us he was a living legend who personified the highest and best values of his generation – “the greatest generation.”

Born in 1921, Arthur came of age during World War II. As a young Army intelligence officer serving in Europe, he took part in the Normandy Invasion and was awarded the Bronze Star and France’s Legion of Honor. After the war, he helped establish the nation of Israel as a member of the Haganah Jewish defense force.

Upon returning to his home state of Pennsylvania, Arthur joined his family’s retail business and later became a hugely successful fundraiser for the Carnegie Institute and Jewish organizations in Pennsylvania and Florida. It was FAU’s great good fortune that he and his wife, Mata, decided to move to Boca Raton in the 1980s. They became involved with the University and ultimately donated their priceless collection of 2,800 artists’ books to FAU. These unique books are works of art in their own right. Arthur kept adding to the collection over the years, and it now has grown to 12,000 volumes. FAU is privileged to be the home of the Jaffe Center for Book Arts, which has become a multi-faceted resource for the University and the greater community that offers exhibitions, workshops, films and lectures as well as housing a working letterpress print shop. It is a true treasure that attracts more than 4,000 visitors annually to the Boca Raton campus.

Arthur announced his retirement when he turned 90, but that turned out to be more theoretical than actual. He kept coming to his office on the third floor of the Wimberly Library even after his health began to fail and he had to use a walker to get around. Arthur was unabashedly in love with FAU, and the University community wholeheartedly returned his affection.

Arthur accepted these and other honors with a humble spirit. Upon receiving the honorary doctorate, he said, “Success is only made possible through cooperation. It is never something that is achieved by one person alone.” We honor Arthur best by remembering these words of wisdom. I’ll let you know through this blog as plans develop to celebrate Arthur’s life.

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 Last Modified 11/8/16