SIPA mourns the passing of Ambassador Arnold A. Saltzman, the businessman and diplomat for whom the School’s Arnold A. Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies is named. Saltzman died on January 2 at the age of 97.
“We will always remember Ambassador Saltzman’s commitment to peace and his devotion to the Institute, to SIPA, and to Columbia,” said Dean Merit E. Janow. “He will be greatly missed, but his farsighted vision ensures that his philanthropy will continue to have an enduring impact on the lives of many — at Columbia and at the numerous other institutions and organizations he supported so generously over the years.”
A New York native, Saltzman attended high school in Brooklyn and enrolled at Columbia College at the age of 16. Upon graduating in 1936, he joined his family’s sweater company, leaving temporarily in the early 1940s to join the war effort — first as a government employee in Washington, then as a Coast Guard enlistee.
Following the war Saltzman returned to the family business, rising to the role of president and leading a merger. In the 1960s he became CEO of Seagrave, which at the time was a manufacturer of fire-fighting equipment. Saltzman led Seagrave’s evolution into a diversified public company, later known as Vista Resources. He sold his majority interest in 1989.
Throughout this period, Saltzman continued his government service. Beginning in the 1950s he worked intermittently for agencies including the Office of Price Administration and USAID, and he later advised the Office of Economic Opportunity and the Peace Corps. In the 1960s Saltzman undertook diplomatic assignments for Presidents Kennedy and Johnson; all told, he would eventually serve as envoy for five U.S. presidents.
In 1968, he received a Presidential Commendation for his work on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. He was chairman of the National Committee on American Foreign Policy and worked on U.S. relations with the USSR and, following the Soviet Union’s breakup, with former Soviet republics.
At Columbia Saltzman was a loyal, engaged alumnus. He received the University Medal and served the College in a number of roles over the years — including as chair of the Columbia College Board of Overseers, the Columbia College Fund, and the John Jay Associates. He also co-founded the esteemed Double Discovery program, a tutoring and enrichment program that partners low-income youth living in neighborhoods near the University with Columbia undergraduates. At SIPA he helped to establish the first dean’s advisory board.
To honor Saltzman’s extensive contributions to the University, and in recognition of his longstanding career in American foreign policy, the Institute of War and Peace Studies — established in 1951 by Dwight Eisenhower, who was then Columbia’s president — was re-named for Saltzman in 2003. Housed at SIPA, the Saltzman Institute remains devoted to the study of the causes, conduct, and consequences of war and peaceful alternatives to the use of force in international politics.
Saltzman’s legacy at the University also includes generous funding of scholarships and two endowed professorships at SIPA: the Arnold A. Saltzman Professor of War and Peace Studies (currently held by Richard K. Betts) and the Arnold A. Saltzman Professor of Professional Practice in International and Public Affairs (currently held by Jean-Marie Guéhenno, former UN under secretary-general for peacekeeping operations).
Saltzman’s philanthropy also included support for medical, cultural, and educational institutions. A longtime art lover and collector — his family traced his interest to a single art history class taken at Columbia — he donated German Expressionist paintings to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, served as founding president of the Nassau County Museum of Fine Arts, and was a trustee of the Baltimore Museum of Art.
SIPA is deeply grateful for Ambassador Saltzman’s generosity and support over the years, and looks forward to continuing his great legacy through the outstanding work of the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies.