I first met Sid over lunch in a small restaurant in Downtown Syracuse. I didn’t know much about him then, but remembered we had a fun conversation about his time as a student, the ideas he had about promoting public health, and our mutual interest in breaking conventions – especially in higher ed. He must have enjoyed and remembered the conversation too, because I received a call from my boss a couple years later telling me that Sid wanted to work with me on a new project. That was probably the most significant call I received while I was at the University, as it began a journey that has become a highlight in my career.

Over the course of several months, I got to know Sid more closely in creating the Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion. While being very driven, and always challenging others to steps outside their silos in order to see the bigger picture, I admired Sid’s sincerity and a deep personal commitment to supporting others. He never placed himself above others, but that didn’t stop him from believing what is right, becoming impatient with those who stood in his way, and doing his best to change the world for the better. Those are the traits of a great social entrepreneur.

I will also remember the trust Sid placed in me. We always had a very open and honest two-way conversation. He asked for my advice, and valued my opinion. He would tell me if he didn’t like something without worrying about offending or without me feeling offended. It made for a relationship that was very natural, and one that anyone should strive to have with their colleagues. After we launched the Lerner Center, and I went on to work on other things, we would often talk and Sid would continue to ask for my thoughts.

On a personal note, I will remember his humor and natural ability to come up with a unique one liner to lighten the mood. I will remember the love he and Helaine have for each other, and just how much they compliment each other in life and in their philanthropic endeavors. Their partnership is something we all should try to replicate with our friends and our families.

I will miss Sid, but it was a pleasure to have known him, and to have fond memories. He set an example that others should follow.

Eric Persons

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