In 1957, on a trip to Germany, Richard Netter came across a little known book about the heroes of WWII, Their Brother’s Keepers. In this book, the author, Philip Friedman, detailed the rescue of the Danish Jews by their Danish countrymen. Mr. Netter was extremely moved by the story and decided to do something to honor those ordinary Scandinavians who had performed extraordinary acts of heroism. Mr. Netter partnered with Mr. Victor Borge and together they founded Thanks to the Danes, which later became Thanks to Scandinavia (TTS), in 1963.
Richard Netter was an attorney, specializing in international, corporate, estate and probate law. But philanthropy always played a huge role in his life. After receiving both his undergraduate and law degrees from Cornell University in a total of six years, he was actively involved with numerous organizations: United Jewish Appeal, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, and Federation of Jewish Philanthropies. He also served as Director of the Central Bureau of Jewish Aged, HIAS, and the National Conference of Christians and Jews. He also served as a member of both the Cornell University and Law School Advisory Councils, as President of the Cornell Law School Alumni Associations, and as a Director of the American Arbitration Association.
In 1958, Mr. Netter became of trustee, and eventually a Vice Chairman of Beth Israel Hospital in New York City. He would remain on the Beth Israel board for 51 years, until the end of his life in 2009, becoming the longest standing board member in the hospital’s history.
On July 4, 1968, Mr. Netter was selected as the American speaker at Rebild National Park in Jutland, Denmark, where the Danes have been celebrating the American Declaration of Independence since 1912.
In the 1970’s, Mr. Netter conceived of and organized a seminar bearing the name “Richard and Alice Netter Seminar,” administered under the joint auspices of the Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations and the National Conference of Christians and Jews. Annually, representatives of labor and management and public interest participants attend to discuss discriminatory practices and to formulate means of promoting greater intergroup harmony and understanding.
In 1970, Mr. Netter received the Joint Special Award of Merit from Cornell University and the National Conference of Christians and Jews for: distinguished leadership in the elimination of intergroup prejudices which disfigure and distort religious, social and political relations; for fostering amity, justice and co-operation among religious, racial, ethnic, labor and management groups in our nation; and for outstanding contributions in promoting the cause of goodwill understanding among the people of our nation and other nations.
Mr. Netter was knighted by each of the four Scandinavian countries, twice by Denmark.
In 1981, Mr. and Mrs. Netter established the “Thanks To Scandinavia Richard and Alice Netter Scholarship” for graduate Study at Cornell University.
Mr. Netter, TTS’s co-founder, longtime president, and inspiration, passed away on July 2, 2009.