NYU History Lesson: The Not-So-Admirable Elmer Holmes Bobst

Like most NYU students these days, you probably spent a good part of your weekend inside Bobst, which according to Pier, is really just a “giant stupid library.” The derision may well in part be inspired by the library’s benefactor: former pharmaceutical executive Elmer Holmes Bobst. While the inscription engraved in white marble in the library lobby lauds Bobst as an admirable leader, a quick look at his bio paints a different picture (spoiler: it is not a pretty picture, and looks like the LL-1 woman’s bathroom at 9 p.m on a Sunday night).

Elmer Holmes Bobst was born in Maryland and worked his way through the Hoffman-LaRoche (later Roche-Nutley) pharmaceutical company, becoming one of the best paid executives in the country when he retired in 1944. He was a longtime NYU trustee and gifted six million dollars to the University to build a new library. Documents in the Bobst special collections (ironic much?) prove that while his money may not have been dirty, his past certainly was.

According to the records, our dear Elmer was best friends with both Richard Nixon and Dwight Eisenhower. As the Times made clear this weekend, Nixon was a pretty notorious anti-semite, a sentiment apparently shared by his buddy Elmer. In a 1972 letter, Bobst writes, “Jews have troubled the world from the very beginning. If this beloved country of ours ever falls apart, the blame rightly should be attributed to the malicious action of Jews in complete control of our communications.” Ouch dude. I wonder how he would feel about NYU Local’s Eight Crazy Nights series.

Bobst was also an alleged pedophile. Two of his relatives came forward after his death in 1978 (five years after the library opened) alleging that he had sexually abused them. A suit brought by his granddaughter, Anne Bobst Highly, against Bobst’s estate in 1991 was tossed out because of a 1978 settlement that she accepted from Elmer’s widow, Mamdouha. A previous suit, filed by Bobst’s great grand daughter Sharon Haymes, was also rejected. The library now houses a collection of Bobst’s papers, the summary of which describes Elmer as “a man of strong principles.” Psyche?

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  1. Jason S Ketner says

    Not surprising that a university, even NYU, would be in receivership of donations from pedophiles and anti-semites. Philanthropy is “the love of all that is associated with being human”, even if that human quality is hatred and sexual perversions. Would you agree that this and other gifts like it – especially when made public – are really just celebrations of human love with one’s self?
    Perhaps due to Bobst’s guilt associated with proclivities towards underage females he attempted to balance out his own evil deeds with bravura acts of generocity.
    What is the well worn adage – “people in glass houses…”? We all have our secrets and lies. Some do not possess the means to make a philanthropic donation such as this. Students, faculty, and the public have benefited from this library because of his gift.
    The engravement is deceptive, but whatever his reasons or motivation for gifting it to NYU, the library is a gift for millions to enjoy.
    As far as Bobst’s friendship with President Nixon and General Eisenhower: Guilt by association is never a valid condemnation. Nixon was merely a psychological paradox to nth degree, but he is not the subject of your article or this response.

  2. says

    Mary Lasker (who was Jewish) worked closely with Elmer Bobst to finance THE AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY. Common sense tells you he would not have given millions to NYU that is predominantly Jewish If he was such an anti-semite!! It’s dispicable to smear a dead person that can’t answer these charges! Also, why did his grandaughters or their parents wait until he was dead to sue the estate? Mrs Bobst paid them off so they wouldn’t smear his name but they smeared his name anyway by suing his estate with the “pedaphile” charge which is as low as it gets! RICHARD NIXON was upset because there were so many Jews involved in espionage against the United States. All Elmer Bobst was doing was quoting historical facts!! I grew up in New Rochelle, NY and I have plenty of Jewish friends and customers for my water machines that save lives as attested by an Oncologist that just retired from Sloan Kettering. My brother Richard Ellis had leased over one million square feet in The World Trade Center when it came down on 9/11 and my water machines have helped the police and fire personnel that responded to this tragic event! Elmer Bobst said that cancer would skyrocket as soon as all these drugs and cancer viruses flushed into the ground water spread to the public water supplies and they have (AP testing 2/10/08)! However, POPULAR SCIENTIFIC Magazines don’t want you to know that they told me at my home over 50 years ago why ordinary home water products are useless and that you 1) would have to change the properties of water and 2) recycle water 100’s of times/gallon (NOT ONCE!) to DESTROY CANCER VIRUSES! I have done that (with world wide patents). Now, you know why Jewish owned magazines have a problem with me if Elmer Bobst’s name is mentioned…even if my discovery and THE AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY with Jewish financial backing saves American lives (9/11 is an example)! John Ellis

  3. says

    I commented earlier: Mary Lasker (Jewish) helped to fund the AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY that Elmer Bobst founded! . Why would Elmer Bobst fund NYU when it is predominatnly Jewish? It doesn’t make sense! Nixon was complaining about the Jews that were involved in espionage! THAT does not make them both anti-semitic! It is a verifiable fact! ALL Jews aren’t like that! I grew up in New Rochelle, NY with great Jewish friends to this day! Stop calling everyone anti-semitic if you disagree! Albert Einstein was offered the Presidency of Israel in 1948 but he declined because it would cause “great problems in the future”! HE WAS RIGHT! There isn’t a person alive today that wouldn’t have wanted to have known Albert Einstein and I am one of them! John Ellis

  4. Jack S. Barr says

    Elmer Bobst’s letter to Nixon was the tip of the iceberg insofar as his antisemitic beliefs are concerned. It is the only public verification that the man hated Jews but his coworkers knew the truth. Because he worked with one Jewish lady doesn’t mean he’s not an antisemite. His wife made innumerable contributions to lesser known Islamic charities that are untraceable. Why?
    Did the monies go to fund terrorist organizations? We will never know.
    Keep your water Mr Ellis as we have no need for half-baked, unscientific claims about miracle cancer cures. Preying on the sick and elderly is detestable.

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