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Remembering Tanenbaum Board Member, Lester M. Crystal

Remembering Les Crystal

Yesterday Tanenbaum has lost a unique and wonderful leader. And I lost a dear friend. Because yesterday, Les Crystal’s long battle with brain cancer came to an end.

The eulogies will be many, and Les will be remembered for a life of kindness, brilliance and accomplishments as a newsman extraordinaire—including his groundbreaking work on the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.

Tanenbaum will remember him as a valued Board member and special friend, who deeply understood our commitment to building a more just and respectful society that includes people of all religious beliefs and none. He was always there, with wise counsel and a helping hand. A gentle leader who respectfully would share his own views, Les also knew how to listen and honor the perspectives of others. Les moved Tanenbaum forward and his passing is an immeasurable loss.

For me, this is a personal loss. I think of Les, remember him. And the word that keeps coming to mind is “beloved.”

I first “met” Les when he called Tanenbaum to talk to our President and Founder, Georgette Bennett. I told him she was away, and he requested her phone number. I responded that I’d pass on a message. I then called Georgette (who was trying to be on vacation) to tell her about the man who wanted her number. She was quick to respond. “What? You didn’t give Les my number? OF COURSE, always give Les my number if Les calls—wherever I am!”

When Les joined our Board some years later, he immediately agreed to become Chair of our Communications Committee. Being Les, he rolled up his sleeves and dug in, and asked to meet with the Communications staff. When I told one of them that he passed, she recalled, “I remember meeting Les during my first few weeks at Tanenbaum, and he made such a great impression. That was six years ago, and I still remember it clearly.”

For Tanenbaum, Les often invited the best journalists to consider accepting our Media Bridge Builder Award. Brian Williams was one of them. I remember telling Brian how honored we were that he was with us and had accepted our award. His response was like everyone else’s. “Anything for Les.”

Beloved. I have my own stories but Brian Williams’ refrain is the bottom line. I would have done anything for Les. Because he was that special—to everyone who knew him.

After the great sadness passes, I know I will remember Les with a smile and great gratitude that he was in my life.

For now, I simply know that his memory will be for a blessing,

Joyce S. Dubensky, Esq.,
CEO Emerita, Sr. Strategic Advisor, Tanenbaum