Robert J. “Bob” Appel ’53, vice chairman of the Board of Weill Cornell Medicine Scholars, Cornell Trustee Emeritus and Presidential Advisor, died Nov. 19 in New York City at age 91.
An active and enthusiastic Cornell alumnus, Appel was a dedicated champion, distinguished leader, and esteemed benefactor of the Ithaca and Weill Cornell medical campuses. He was a prodigious advocate of example and, alongside his beloved wife Helen ’55, took immense pride in furthering Cornell’s mission.
“Bob’s legacy – as a dedicated alumnus, volunteer, board member and philanthropist – is far-reaching,” said President Martha E. Pollack. “He will always be one of the truly great Cornellians: compassionate, visionary, and with boundless love for Cornell, his people, and his mission.”
Appel joined Cornell’s board of directors in 1996. During his eight-year tenure, he served as chairman of its investment committee and a member of the executive committee. Since 2004, Appel has served as a trustee emeritus and presidential adviser to six presidents.
Bob and Helen’s philanthropy has strengthened the university on its campuses. On the Ithaca campus, they have supported many projects, including the Appel Commons on North Campus, Lincoln Hall, and the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art. Within the College of Arts and Sciences, they funded Presidential Research Fellowships, Fellowships for Humanists and Social Scientists, and a Chair in Molecular and Cellular Biology. The Calls also regularly offered their leadership, chairing several class reunion campaign committees and co-chairing the Tower Club.
For these and other accomplishments, the Calls received the Frank HT Rhodes Exemplary Alumni Service Award in September.
“Bob’s commitment to Cornell and to research, discovery and the arts has benefited and will continue to benefit generations of Cornellians, and we are truly grateful,” said Kraig H. Kayser MBA ’84, President of the Cornell Board of Directors. “Through his leadership, generosity and warm spirit, Bob embodied what it means to be a Cornellian, and he will be deeply missed.”
After completing his term as a trustee in 2004, Appel was elected to the Council of Fellows of Weill Cornell Medicine, serving as Vice President since 2009, as well as a member of the Executive, Membership, and Governance and Development Committees. .
For nearly two decades, Appel has tirelessly championed Weill Cornell Medicine’s vision of excellence in medicine and science. He cared deeply about impactful philanthropy – how giving can be extraordinarily transformative – and inspired the countless donors of Weill Cornell Medicine to further the institution’s mission.
His achievements are embodied in Discoveries that make the difference campaign he chaired, which exceeded all goals with more than $1.6 billion raised for Weill Cornell Medicine. They are also reflected in the Helen and Robert Appel Alzheimer’s Research Institute, which he and Helen generously established to eradicate the scourge of neurodegenerative diseases. Appel’s legacy will also live on in the Belfer Research Building, which he helped fund, and in the invaluable support he provided to Weill Cornell Medical School.
“Bob was a giant in the Weill Cornell Medicine community who put his heart into everything he did,” said Jessica M. Bibliowicz ’81, chair of the Weill Cornell Medicine Board of Fellows. “A tireless champion of our institution, he will be long remembered for his passion for health care, his dedication to curing Alzheimer’s disease and his commitment to improving the lives of others. He was a firm believer in the power of philanthropy to make the world a better place – a sentiment that embodied his and Helen’s generous giving, and inspired others to do the same. He will be greatly missed by all who had the chance to know him. »
Appel was honorary president for the current We are changing medicine campaign, for which neuroscience is a central pillar.
“Bob’s unwavering commitment to Weill Cornell Medicine and the field of neuroscience was truly visionary,” said Dr. Augustine MK Choi, Dean of Stephen and Suzanne Weiss of Weill Cornell Medicine. “His unwavering support has left an indelible mark on our institution. We are forever grateful for his leadership and that of Helen, who forever changed Weill Cornell Medicine.
Appel received his bachelor’s degree in economics in 1953 from Cornell College of Arts and Sciences and an MBA in 1955 from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He has dedicated his career to investment management, most recently serving as president of Appel Associates, an investment firm he founded in 2003. For nearly three decades prior, Appel was a partner at Neuberger Berman, a securities and investment brokerage firm, where he was also a member of its executive committee.
Charismatic with boundless humor, optimism and candor, Appel was also a member of the NewYork-Presbyterian Board of Trustees and Chairman Emeritus of Jazz at Lincoln Center.
He is survived by his wife, daughters Susan Appel Slavin and Debra Appel Weinreich, and three grandchildren.
A version of this story first appeared in the Cornell Chronicle.
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