Sunday, November 29, 2015

Recognition of Former Chair Philip Erard

At the Annual Dinner at the Union Club a few weeks ago, long-time Section Chair Phil Erard was recognized by members Vic Benes and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney.

Here is the text from the Congressional Record from the 114th Congress:


Mr. Speaker, I rise to pay tribute to Phil Erard and his 35 years of service as the Chair of the New York Section of the American Alpine Club.

The Alpine Club, a nonprofit founded in 1902, is America's oldest and most prestigious national climbing club. Devoted to the issues facing rock climbers and mountaineers, it advocates for American climbers at home and abroad. The organization is dedicated to education and conservation and is a leader in supporting the study and scientific exploration of the high mountains of the world. The club now has over 14,000 members scattered throughout the U.S. This membership ranges from local rock and ice climbing enthusiasts to professionals including the first American ascensionists of Everest and K-2.

In 1980, Mr. Erard volunteered to chair the moribund New York Alpine Club chapter with the intention of reviving the club in this area. One of his first initiatives was to organize a dinner at one of New York's most prestigious clubs. It took quite a bit of salesmanship to get a respectable gathering together, as the local organization had withered due to the unfortunate loss of leadership. After a successful first year, Mr. Erard made the next dinner a black tie event and, to his surprise, a full house showed up. This dinner continues each year to this day, and under Mr. Erard's leadership it has
attracted such prominent attendees as Sir Edmund Hillary, Sir Christian Bonington, Reinhold Messner, Peter Habeler, Brad and Barbara Washburn, Gaston Rebuffat, and Dick Bass.

Perhaps most importantly, Mr. Erard has successfully used his leadership to bring together an extraordinary group of New Yorkers, united by a shared passion for the mountains. He has cultivated an environment that promotes a myriad of outdoor adventures and encourages lifelong relationships.

Over the years, Mr. Erard has juggled his volunteer activities with his professional responsibilities as a senior investment banker. He was a partner at Loeb Rhoades & Co. and a senior officer at Wertheim & Co. Mr. Erard earned his B.A. and M.B.A. at Harvard University. He also served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War period.

On January 1st of this year, Mr. Erard retired as the New York Section Chair of the American Alpine Club, bequeathing a much larger and more vigorous organization than the one that predated his tenure. Today, Mr. Erard is a Managing Director with Bentley Associates and is still an active cross country ski marathoner and climber.

Mr. Speaker, I ask my colleagues to join me in honoring Mr. Erard for his service and dedication to uniting New Yorkers through the love of climbing.

-Carolyn Maloney

Also paying tribute to Phil was a touching tribute from fellow climbers, member, and friend Vic Benes:

Dear Phil:

Circumstances preclude my attendance at the 2015 Dinner, so these remarks on paper will replace my participation. They comprise the usual encomia, a mention of specific accomplishments, good wishes for the future, and a regret we never actually climbed on the same rope.

Your tenure as Chair of the NY Section AAC was remarkable no just for its length, but for its novelty and character. It is not an accident that the 2015 Dinner is the 35th such annual event. You built that event during your 35 years as Chair, using your international connections in the climbing world to give it wide compass, and making it a model for other Sections. You restored and maintained our special relationship (started by John Case) with the Ausable Club; our outings continue to find a welcome venue there. You urged the creation of a Section website, one of the first, which it was my pleasure to host for ten years. You brought the Section a touch of class, some of the flavor of the original (British) Alpine Club, but without the class-conscious trappings. And for years, keeping up the Section’s reputation for toughness, you were the man to beat in your age bracket at the Loppet. 
Three cheers for Phil Erard! Hip, hip…My very best to one of the best.

Vic Benes