June 15, 2020
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After 63 years of continuous giving to the Kenyon Fund, Kenyon’s most dependable alumnus will now have his name permanently honored at Kenyon.
A donor society for loyal and consecutive giving will launch in the 2018-19 fiscal year and will be named for Henry J. Abraham ’48 H’72 P’79,’84. The former member of Kenyon’s Board of Trustees has made a gift to the College’s annual fund every year since 1955.
“As long as I live, I will make a contribution to Kenyon. I’m not a wealthy person, having gone into teaching, but Kenyon can count on me for a contribution every year,” he said.
Kenyon has about 350 alumni who have made a gift every fiscal year since the College began keeping records digitally in 1984. It is believed that Abraham — now approaching his 97th birthday — has the longest consecutive giving streak by a living alumnus. The first $5 gift he ever made would be worth about $45 today.
“I gave because I wanted to show the influence of the College on my life, and how much I appreciated the College’s program, and how beautiful the campus was for us to inhabit, and what a good faculty we had,” Abraham said. “I have so many good memories.”
Abraham’s family escaped Nazi Germany in 1937, and he returned to Berlin at the end of World War II as part of a U.S. Army intelligence unit gathering evidence for the Nuremberg war crimes trials. For his service, Abraham was given a copy of Germany’s surrender documents, and he later donated those papers to Kenyon’s archives.
After the war, he graduated from Kenyon with a bachelor’s degree in political science summa cum laude, first in his class and a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
“I was a grind,” he laughed. “I’m sure I was no fun, but I did what I wanted to do, and what I wanted was to graduate first in my class. I worked very, very hard. And now in my life I have taught 25,000 students, and I can still lift a glass if I want to.”
Abraham received his doctorate in political science from the University of Pennsylvania in 1952 and taught there until 1972. He spent the rest of his career at the University of Virginia and retired from teaching in 1997. He has authored 13 books on judicial studies, and while he was a Fulbright Scholar in Denmark he helped establish that nation’s first university department of political science.
He also dedicated Palme House, home of Kenyon’s anthropology department, when it was named for Olof Palme ’48, a former prime minister of Sweden and a classmate of Abraham’s.
Although Abraham has not been back to campus in the past decade because of his declining health, he said it is “a great honor” to be the namesake of the new society.