Bloomberg News

Scene in NYC: Volcker, Son on Cerebral Palsy Research

September 29, 2012

Cerebral Palsy International Research Foundation

James Volcker, a grants manager at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and his father, Paul Volcker, former chairman of the Federal Reserve. Photographer: Amanda Gordon/Bloomberg

“He couldn’t crawl,” said former Fed chairman Paul Volcker of his son, James. He fought back tears as he went on: “We wondered. We thought: What’s the matter? And then we were told with no uncertainty he had cerebral palsy.”

The occasion was a fundraiser Thursday night for the Cerebral Palsy International Research Foundation, filling the Pierre Hotel’s ballroom and raising $1 million -- $400,000 above the goal.

The organization, founded in 1955 and based in Princeton Junction, New Jersey, supports research to treat the neurological disorder that affects human motor function. In the U.S., 10,000 infants develop cerebral palsy annually and about 750,000 children and adults are living with the disorder.

Volcker, 85, chairman of the foundation, told a tale not all parents can relate to. “My wife was determined to give him as normal an environment as she could,” he said of his late wife, Barbara. “She told the school, if they don’t accept a CP boy, it isn’t good for the school or the boy or them. She won and the school won and Jimmy won.”

James Volcker, 54, related his own anecdote about his mother. At the supermarket, women would see him in the shopping cart and tell her, “Don’t worry, the next one will be fine.”

Now he is a husband, father of a 14-year-old girl and grant manager at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. And Thursday night, showing the early signs of a bald spot like his dad’s, he presented him with an award.

‘One Aspect’

“When I told my father I was going to do this, he had two pieces of advice: Keep it short and don’t spill my guts,” James Volcker said. “I want to thank my father for helping me understand that cerebral palsy is just one aspect of my life.”

Guests in the room included comedian Josh Blue, who performed, Bill Richards, a UBS AG (UBSN) managing director, and Bill Williams, a partner at JNK Securities Corp., with his wife, Michele, who celebrated her birthday. They have a daughter, Marissa Casciano Williams, 3, with cerebral palsy.

Several guests had Paul Volcker sign a copy of the new biography of him by William Silber. “I didn’t write the book,” Volcker said, “so forget about the content -- just look at the picture.”

Women’s Advocate

Elsewhere Thursday night, the Appeal of Conscience Foundation had an awards dinner at the Waldorf Astoria.

The introducers of the awards were the co-founders of the private equity and advisory firm Blackstone Group (BX:US), which, by coincidence -- or perhaps not? -- owns the Waldorf.

Blackstone Group co-founder Peter G. Peterson introduced honoree Virginia Rometty, the International Business Machines (IBM:US) Corp. chief executive and chairman-designate. He called her an “advocate for women in business” and noted that they are both graduates of Northwestern University.

Rometty discussed IBM’s Corporate Service Corps, modeled on the Peace Corps, where IBM company employees volunteer in developing countries to offer business expertise.

Blackstone Chairman and CEO Stephen A. Schwarzman introduced honoree Vikram Pandit, CEO of Citigroup Inc. (C:US), who told a story about a prayer he made in Jerusalem almost two years ago.

“This was still a time of recovery after the financial crisis,” he said. “Like many visitors I went to the Western Wall. I wrote my prayer on a piece of paper, folded it and placed it between two of the stones. Now, I can’t tell you what it said. But the next day the U.S. government decided to sell its remaining stake in Citi stock.”

Brooklyn Nets

On the eve of the opening of the Barclays Center, home of the Brooklyn Nets, Mikhail Prokhorov, the majority owner of the Nets, was at the nearby Brooklyn Academy of Music soaking up some culture.

Garth Fagan Dance was on the program of the Next Wave Gala, as well as an announcement of a three-year series backed by the Mikhail Prokhorov Fund. The theme of the programming is the intersection of U.S. and Russian arts in the genres of film, literature and performance.

Guests at BAM included Harvey M. Schwartz, named Sept. 18 to succeed David A. Viniar as the chief financial officer of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS:US), and actors Patrick Stewart and Anna Kendrick.

Clinton Initiative

Looking back on the Clinton Global Initiative, a highlight was the Topic Dinner organized with Goldman Sachs around its 10,000 Women initiative. The five-year program is offering business-skills training to 10,000 women in developing countries by the end of 2013.

Kabeh Sumbo, who runs a palm-oil business in Liberia, is a graduate of the program.

“It helped me understand to pay my taxes, that I have to have insurance,” Sumbo said in a reception room at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on Sept. 23. “The money is not that much, but I didn’t understand what it means. Now I am paying my taxes on time.”

Sumbo’s business is growing, and her quality of life is changing apace. “I used to eat only one meal a day, now I eat two times a day. I have breakfast and dinner.”

She has built her “dream house,” made of concrete and aluminum and featuring a bathtub. It is next to her old house, made of wood and tin.

Her daughter is studying management so she can join her in business, while she studies agriculture as she plans to start a palm plantation. “I will not only be a seller, I will also be a producer,” she said.

Doesn’t Spoil

She chose to go into oil because “it will not spoil like other commodities,” so if she doesn’t sell it one day at the market, she can sell it another.

John Rogers, chief of staff at Goldman and board chairman of the Goldman Sachs Foundation, presided over the dinner. Guests spotted included Global Health Corps. CEO Barbara Bush, Christy Turlington Burns, founder of Every Mother Counts, and Debora Sparr, the president of Barnard College.

(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)

Muse highlights include Jeremy Gerard on theater, Greg Evans on television.

To contact the writer on this story: Amanda Gordon in New York at agordon01@bloomberg.net or on Twitter at @amandagordon.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at mhoelterhoff@bloomberg.net.


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