Past Honorees

At Central Synagogue

Felix G. Rohatyn
1996 Former U.S. Ambassador and Investment Banker

Felix Rohatyn, investment banker and former U.S. ambassador to France, was born in Vienna, Austria in 1928. His family fled to France in 1935, and then fled again when the Vichy government took over with the help of the Brazilian diplomat Luiz Martins de Souza Dantas, who helped over 800 people escape from France during the Holocaust. Rohatyn’s family’s journey ended in 1942 in the United States.

Rohatyn is perhaps best known as the American Investment banker who helped save New York City from bankruptcy in the latter half of the 1970s. His financial career took off in 1948 when he joined investment banking firm Lazard Frères & Co., LLC in New York. After a brief interlude between 1951-3 when he served in the Korean War, he eventually became a partner in the firm in 1961. From 1968 until 1972 he served on the board of the New York Stock Exchange. In 1975, during New York City’s financial crisis, he became chairman of the Municipal Assistance Corporation of the State of New York, which ultimately helped resolve the crisis. 

Rohatyn’s diplomatic work began in 1997, when he served as the U.S. ambassador to France during the second Clinton administration. His service ended with the administration in 2000, but he remains a commander of the French Legion of Honor. He is a member of the Council of Foreign Relations and the Council of American Ambassadors, as well as a Trustee for the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Rohatyn has received numerous honors for his work, including The Hundred Year Association of New York’s Gold Medal Award In 1990, and the International Center in New York’s Award of Excellence.

Rohatyn has also been honored with three children with his first wife Jeannette Straight: Pierre, Nicolas, and Michael, and is married to second wife Elizabeth Fly Vagliano. He lives in New York City.