Judith P. Sulzberger

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Judith Peixotto Cohen (Sulzberger)

Birthdate:
Birthplace: Manhattan, New York, New York, USA
Death: Died in New York, New York County, New York, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Arthur Hays Sulzberger and Iphigene Bertha Sulzberger
Wife of <private> Levinson
Ex-wife of Matthew Rosenschein, Jr. and Richard N. Cohen
Mother of Daniel H. Cohen and <private> Cohen (Rosenschein)
Sister of <private> Sulzberger; <private> Sulzberger and Arthur Ochs Sulzberger

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Judith P. Sulzberger

Dr. Judith P. Sulzberger, a physician whose philanthropy led to the creation of a center for genome studies in her name at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, and a member of the family that controls The New York Times, died on Monday at her home in Manhattan. She was 87.

Her death was confirmed by her son Daniel Cohen. Dr. Sulzberger also had a home in East Hampton, N.Y.

Family ties inextricably linked Dr. Sulzberger to the newspaper that her grandfather, Adolph S. Ochs, bought in 1896. Its affairs dominated dinner conversations when she was growing up. Her father, Arthur Hays Sulzberger, was publisher from 1935 to 1961; her brother, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, was publisher for nearly 30 years; and her nephew, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., has been publisher since 1992.

Indeed, for 26 years Dr. Sulzberger served on the board of directors, as did her two sisters, Marian Sulzberger Heiskell, a civic leader who was a director for 34 years, and Ruth Sulzberger Holmberg, who published the family-owned Chattanooga Times and was a director of the New York company for 37 years.

But from an early age, Judith Sulzberger resolved to make her career outside the family newspaper enterprises. She became a doctor and for many years conducted clinical and private practices. She later focused on public-health research, investigating AIDS, infectious diseases, microbiology and genetics.

In the early 1990s, she provided financing for what became the Judith P. Sulzberger Genome Center at Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, her alma mater. The center fosters the advanced study of genetics to identify the risks of disease, improve human health and extend life. For many years, Dr. Sulzberger was a staff member at the college and was in charge of special projects for the genome center and chairwoman of its advisory board.

One of her projects was a study, conducted jointly by the genome center and the Pasteur Institute, into the genetic code of the malaria mosquito. She also supported genetic research into autism and Asperger syndrome, and in 2008 established the Isidore S. Edelman professorship in biochemistry and molecular physics at the college. Dr. Edelman, a faculty member since 1978, founded the genome center in 1991, was its director until 2000 and continued his work until his death in 2004.

Dr. Judith P. Sulzberger, from left, with her brother, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, then the publisher of The New York Times, and their sisters Ruth S. Holmberg and Marian S. Heiskell in 1991 at a dedication for Iphigene Ochs Sulzberger Hall at Barnard College. Credit Vic DeLucia/The New York Times Dr. Sulzberger, the author of papers on medical issues, also wrote a medical column for The East Hampton Star in the early 1980s and a novel, “Younger” (Apple Trees Productions, 2003). It was the story of two medical researchers who unravel secrets of the aging process and become famous, but who, when they fall in love, must grapple with social and scientific issues on a personal level because the woman is 10 years older than her colleague.

Dr. Sulzberger was a director of The Times from 1974 to 2000. She remained a principal owner of the company under a trust that had passed to her and her three siblings on the death of their mother, Iphigene Ochs Sulzberger, in 1990.

At that time the trust, set up under a 1986 agreement intended to preserve family control of the company, held 83.7 percent of the Class B stock, which is not publicly traded and elects 70 percent of the directors. Class A stock, traded on the New York Stock Exchange and widely held, elects 30 percent of the directors, whose number fluctuates slightly from time to time.

Dr. Sulzberger was also on the boards of the Wildlife Conservation Society, the Rainforest Alliance, the Health Sciences Council of Columbia University and the Pasteur Foundation, the New York affiliate of the Pasteur Institute in France.

Judith Peixotto Sulzberger was born in New York City on Dec. 27, 1923, the third child and youngest daughter of Arthur Hays and Iphigene Ochs Sulzberger. When she was 4, Judith caught chicken pox and scarlet fever simultaneously and, running a fever of nearly 105, almost died. A pediatrician gave her a serum that caused an allergic reaction, she went into shock, and her heart stopped. She was revived with adrenaline. The frightening episode had one positive effect: it fueled her interest in medicine.

When Judith’s brother, Arthur, was born, their father, who enjoyed writing light verse, prepared an illustrated book describing the boy as having “come to play the Punch to Judy’s endless show.” Punch became his lifelong nickname.

While raised with nannies, maids, butlers, chauffeurs and tutors, Judith and her siblings were inculcated from childhood with lessons of family responsibility toward The Times, which was portrayed to them by their parents and a family lawyer as a kind of revered public institution that required them to follow certain rules.

“At the philosophical center of the list was the exalted importance of The New York Times — ‘the holy New York Times,’ as Judy ruefully called it — and the relative insignificance of the family,” Susan E. Tifft and Alex S. Jones related in their book, “The Trust,” (Little, Brown, 1999), a history of the Ochs and Sulzberger families and The Times.

Fascinated with science, a serious student and a bit of a rebel who sometimes defied her parents and nannies, Judith attended the Froebel League, a laboratory school for teachers, and Brearley, a private school in New York, where she excelled in biology and graduated in 1942. She was accepted at Vassar and Bryn Mawr, but went to Smith College in Northampton, Mass., because her sister Ruth was there.

She did well in college, transferring after three years to Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons under a transition program that combined her first year at medical school with her fourth year at Smith, which awarded her a bachelor’s degree in 1946. She received her medical degree at Columbia in 1949, and over the next two years interned and was a resident in pathology at Grasslands Hospital in Valhalla, N.Y.

She interrupted her medical career in the 1950s to raise a family. In 1946 she had married Matthew Rosenschein Jr., a fellow medical student in his final year at Columbia, who became a general medical practitioner. The couple had two children, Daniel and James, and they were divorced in 1956.

In 1958, Dr. Sulzberger married Richard N. Cohen, a Yale-educated insurance broker. He formally adopted her sons, who took his surname. The couple had no children and were divorced in 1972. Late in 1972, she married Budd Levinson, a divorced businessman. They were divorced in 1984 but later remarried.

In addition to her husband and her son Daniel, a former member of the Times board and a former senior vice president of advertising for the newspaper, she is survived by another son, James; three stepchildren, Ruth Andrea Levinson, James Levinson and Peter Levinson; her three siblings, Marian Sulzberger Heiskell, Ruth Sulzberger Holmberg and Arthur Ochs Sulzberger; four grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews, including Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., publisher and chairman of The Times.

Dr. Sulzberger resumed her career in 1957 as a physician in the pathology department at Cornell University Medical College (now the Weill Cornell Medical College, part of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital). Over the next two decades she worked at various hospitals and clinics in New York and, for a time, in Stamford, Conn.

From 1979 to 1983, she was in private medical practice in East Hampton. From 1985 to 1992, she worked on AIDS research at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center, and she then focused on genetics.

In 1991, the four children of Iphigene Ochs Sulzberger gave $5 million in their mother’s name to Barnard College, her alma mater. In 2005, Dr. Sulzberger and her sisters gave $4 million to Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism for an advanced management training program for news executives, and another $4 million to the Graduate School of Journalism of the City University of New York, which opened in 2006, for internships and scholarships. Both journalism school gifts were made to honor their brother, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, the chairman emeritus and former publisher of The Times.

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Judith P. Sulzberger's Timeline

1923
December 27, 1923
Manhattan, New York, New York, USA
1930
1930
Age 6
1952
August 1, 1952
Age 28
New York, New York County, New York, United States
2011
February 21, 2011
Age 87
New York, New York County, New York, United States