"50 People I Admire"
by Monsignor William J. Linder

In my nearly 45 years here at the helm of New Community, I have met some most interesting and influential people. Many of these individuals are mentioned in a book I am currently working on about my life. Special recognition will be given to all 50 at New Community's 45th Anniversary Gala taking place on March 9, 2013.

Queen Beatrix Wilhelmina Armgard

The oldest reigning monarch of the Netherlands, Queen Beatrix Wilhelmina Armgard is celebrating the 32nd anniversary of her reign this year. She visited New Community and looked to Monsignor for advice as she sought ways to help the poor and disadvantaged citizens of the Netherlands. Her visit turned into a friendship that would last for years.

"Queen Beatrix resolved to make her reign as Queen one of progress. Her visit was unusual in that politics was not her motivation, but rather she was genuinely concerned and dedicated to helping her country create programs that would benefit all its people. Her thoughtfulness and intensity in learning the inner workings of New Community was truly admirable."

Monsignor William J. Linder

William "Bill" Clinton & Hillary Rodham Clinton

During President Clinton's 1992 inauguration, he and Hillary honored "ordinary," yet truly extraordinary people who do great work in their communities through the "Faces of Hope" campaign. Monsignor`was one of the honorees. Later, Hillary traveled to New Community as First Lady and visited one of our childcare centers. Monsignor assisted Hillary when she developed economic development programs in Northern Ireland during a time when war wreaked havoc on its struggling citizens. Monsignor and Hillary also toured Northern Ireland together as part of President Clinton's attempt to infuse community development leadership into the peace building process.

"Both Hillary and Bill are very down-to-earth people with a true passion for human rights. As they live their lives, somehow everyone they meet becomes personally connected to them and their influence on people is tremendously positive. I distinctly remember Hillary would meet these challenges in Northern Ireland head-on and would ask me to meet with women in these very small villages to help them develop projects that would provide jobs for their sons and husbands. Back home she worked within our own government to make her projects move swiftly, avoiding a lot of the normal bureaucracy that would hold up good programs. Both Bill and Hillary's dedication to helping all our citizens reach their God-given potential is truly remarkable."

Monsignor William J. Linder

Robert A. Beck

Robert A. Beck served nine years as chairman and CEO of Prudential, beginning in 1978, and as president for four years before that. A door-to-door insurance salesman who rose to the company's top position, Beck played a leading role in the expansion of Prudential's operations beyond its traditional life insurance base.

"I distinctly remember Bob Beck, Art Ryan [successor to Beck] and Art Wilson [NCC Board President] smoking cigars like they were dividing up the world, but in reality they were enjoying each other's company after working so hard to make New Community's programs and gala a success. With Beck, not only did he provide ongoing financial support for NCC but during pre-gala planning, he would allow his staff to organize the entire event. He truly believed in our work to help the community and Newark residents. This was one of the many ways he showed his support for us. He was a really good person and used his resources, as the head of Prudential, to help us succeed."

Monsignor William J. Linder


Ramon Rivera

Ramon Rivera was a community organizer and one of the founders of La Casa de Don Pedro, a Newark-based community develop -ment corporation with expertise in serving the Latino community. Many viewed him as a radical, given his history as a former member of the Young Lords. He transitioned to true community empowerment, however, joining with other Latino leaders to form La Casa in 1972.

"During his early years, when he was with the Young Lords, Ramon would often stop by for very informal chats. He would just want to sit and talk about the state of affairs in Newark, but what he was really doing was formulating his vision and plans to develop a powerful institution. He did this with many people and I admire his grassroots approach to advocacy and community development. As we now know, he made an impact! What really impressed me was that despite his 'affiliation,' his core values were to be a really good person and make a positive difference in the Latino community."

Monsignor William J. Linder

Dizzy Gillespie

American jazz great, John Birks "Dizzy" Gillespie, was an exceptional jazz trumpeter, bandleader, composer, and singer who was known for his beret and horn-rimmed spectacles, scat singing, bent horn, pouched cheeks, and light-hearted personality.

"The magic in his music was incredible. Gillespie honored me with a personal performance at Queen of Angels church. Dizzy noted this performance was the only time he conducted a concert for one single person. As one of the Jazz greats, I was in awe of his musical genius, whether it was for 1,000 people or just one person. It was wonderful!"

Monsignor William J. Linder

Dr. Leon G. Smith, Sr.

A world renowned infectious disease specialist, Dr. Leon G. Smith Sr. is a doctor who has treated both kings, governors and power brokers, but whose medical practice has been primarily dedicated to the most disaffected in society—the poor, the homeless and individuals infected with diseases like HIV/AIDS.

He trained the first infectious disease specialists to work at New Jersey hospitals and set up a free clinic in Newark to treat the poor and established the first hospital AIDS floor in the state and only second in the country.

"Dr. Smith is a true humanitarian who cares deeply about the health of the poor. For many years, he would volunteer and provide free exams and medical care for children in our day care centers and he did it with as much commitment and compassion as he did for his affluent patients who had the resources to pay him. Our children would receive the best medical care one could get and for that we will always be grateful."

Monsignor William J. Linder


The 50 People I Admire Series to be continued in the October Issue of The Clarion.

© New Community Corporation, 2008