Dear Friends,

Incomprehensibly, twenty-five years have now passed since we lost David Pianko.  Brian’s extraordinary video tribute stirs so many memories of his brother’s inimitable gifts even as it reminds us of David’s unfinished life.  Which is why I am ever thankful for the David Pianko ’95 Memorial Scholarship Fund that Ira and Robin established.  On this significant anniversary, I hope you will consider contributing to David’s Fund in his memory.

My last memory of David remains as vivid today as it was twenty-five years ago. In May of 1996, Marlene and I flew to Eugene, Oregon, to attend a weeklong university conference on educating after the Holocaust.  On our way to LAX, we stopped at Children’s Hospital to visit David, who was battling a rare disease.  Knowing David’s keen interest in the Holocaust (about which he wrote with preternatural brilliance), I told him about the conference.  He was keenly interested, in good spirits, facetious as always. 

We could not possibly imagine that, just three days later, we would get an unthinkable phone call: David had just passed away.  It was less than a year after he graduated Oakwood, less than two months after illness necessitated his leaving Stanford.

A quarter century later, I still cannot grasp David’s absence, but I am unspeakably grateful for his continuing inspiration. David made no secret of his distress when students could not return to Oakwood because their parents’ financial setbacks put tuition out of reach.  Sanctifying David’s memory and the values he held, Ira and Robin created the David’s Fund to help just such students and parents.

As the David Pianko ’95 Memorial Scholarship Fund has grown over the years, it has provided financial assistance to nearly one hundred families who have relied on the help.  I am reaching out to you in the hope of funding still more families.

So please give what you can.  Needless to say, no gift is too small or too large.  You will not only be building David’s Fund but also honoring his fervent wish to support Oakwood families in need.  And you will be doubling the impact of your gift because Robin and Ira, in their enduring devotion to the school, will match every gift that is given to David’s Fund through this outreach.  (See link below.)

For Marlene and me, and surely for you, a quarter of a century seems a very long time.  But in the realm of grief, it’s only a heartbeat away. Which is why writing this letter is so difficult a task, yet still such a privilege.  As you know, David was a remarkable soul in this world.  I will always be grateful for him, for his impassioned devotion to things that matter, and to the school he so loved.


James Alan Astman, Ph.D.
Headmaster Emeritus
Each gift made to the David Pianko ’95 Memorial Scholarship Fund now through December 31 will be matched dollar for dollar up to $50,000.  To honor David’s wishes, the Pianko family has directed that (1) annual proceeds from the endowment benefit continuing secondary school students when family financial circumstances would otherwise make Oakwood unaffordable, and (2) the Financial Assistance Committee identify recipients annually on a strictly confidential basis.