Warren Christopher dies

Warren Christopher

The University of Redlands had a special place in the life of former Secretary of State Warren Christopher.

Redlands remembers Warren Christopher.

A glimpse of Christopher’s connection with the University is offered in this 2004 article by Louise Ahern that appeared in “Imagine—University of Redlands Campaign Case Statement I.”

The mannerisms of former Secretary of State Warren Christopher are as humble as the man. Upon first meeting him, he will shake your hand, inquire of your wellbeing and, later, remember your name.

He listens when you speak, so intently that at times it’s easy to forget that you are hardly the most significant person to command his attention; that he has offered guidance to presidents from John F. Kennedy to Bill Clinton; that he has been in the room for some of the most significant moments in modern history and negotiated peace to some of the world’s most violent eruptions. This is not a man who revels in his triumphs.

Rather, he thanks those who helped him win. In his 2001 memoirs, “Chances of a Lifetime,” he writes that he learned an important lesson early in his career as a constitutional law attorney with the Los Angeles firm, O’Melveny and Myers. “An inseparable part of being an accomplished person,” he writes, “is helping others to accomplish.” His list of thank-yous for his accomplishments is long and distinguished, and somewhere near the top is the University of Redlands.

Most biographies and profiles of him only mention that he graduated from the University of Southern California. What they fail to point out is that transferring from Redlands to USC in 1943 was not his choice, but the orders of the United States Navy. “I entered Redlands shortly before my birthday in September 1942,” he said in a recent interview. “It was nine months after Pearl Harbor, and I was a young sixteen.” A debate stand-out at Hollywood High School, Redlands had offered the budding negotiator a scholarship of $150.

It wasn’t enough, so he wrote to Redlands to explain, as he called it, “his dilemma.” “They doubled it to $300,” he said. He had to work four or five jobs—he can’t recall exactly how many—to supplement his scholarship. One semester, he rose at 5:30 a.m. every day to sweep out the University president’s office. He also used his newspaper experience to land a job typing and delivering the student newspaper, a job with an added perk. “I got to go into the girls’ dorm,” he said, laughing.

That he remembers those small moments in his life with as much fondness as the big ones is merely one sign of his modesty. He did not set out in life to seek glory but to serve, valuing every opportunity to do so.

Today, the University of Redlands is honored and humbled to benefit from his sense of service. Chris, as his friends affectionately call him, has for many years been a generous contributor to the University’s efforts to boost its resources for scholarships and other needs.

He also serves on the National Centennial Campaign Committee. He does it, he said, because his time spent in the Redlands liberal arts program was enough to make him appreciate the role a university like Redlands plays in our nation. “There’s an important place in American life for a fine, liberal arts college; a place where students can enter with promising records and expect to receive an excellent education,” he said. “This is a special place.”

Read more about Warren Christopher:

Warren Christopher dies at 85 (L. A. Times)

Former Secretary of State, UR student dies (Redlands Daily Facts)

James Fallows, Redlands native and former University of Redlands trustee, writes about Warren Christopher in “The Atlantic.”

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