Amherst Magazine

Kenneth P. Zauber ’59

Kenneth P. Zauber ’59 died May 14, 2010.
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KENNETH ZAUBER ’59

 

Ken Zauber should have written a book. His road less traveled coursed winding trails, challenging hills and horrendous valleys.

            I met Ken on the freshman cross-country course. His wiry athletic frame was built for stamina and endurance, characteristics that served him well. He was a competitive and agile athlete and continued to be throughout his life.

            Following Cornell Law School, Ken returned to New Jersey, becoming a political heavyweight in Mercer County. Along this political path, Ken was assistant U.S. Attorney where he won 59 out of the 59 cases he took to trial. He loved that number.

            In his 40’s, he met attorney Susan Howard, his soul mate who stood by him throughout his ordeals.

            In the early 1980s, the dark side closed in when Ken became addicted to his meds. He made bad choices with the wrong people and, in 1985, wound up being a co-defendant in a RICO conspiracy, was disbarred and served 18 months in federal prison. Upon release, he became of counsel to Michael Graves, the renowned architect and designer.

            Ken made a wonderful choice to join his buddies at our 50th, days after Susan’s death. He quickly established a $100,000 Susan Howard Zauber scholarship at Amherst. He grieved immensely. Many implored him to find professional help. His last months were a mess, and he just couldn’t move forward. Sadly, he solved his sadness in his own way.

            Ken was a cheerleader of people and causes important to him. He was an energy source, appreciative of friends and loyal to Amherst.  Ken’s pride helped him survive the professional drubbing and personal shame. He came back to serve those around him. George Betke adds, “It’s sad that he ran out of time to regain his erstwhile contagious enthusiasm for life.”   

            Sleep well, our brother. You are in a better place.

—Hank Poler ’59

Comments

Rest in peace, Ken.  Missing Susan was a horrible burden for you.  Finding her and marrying your "storeybook" sweetheart was a fine move.  You waited patiently for the right one for you. 

No more tears, no more regrets, no more sadness.  You walked a winding road of hills and valleys, and survived.  Your love of Amherst never wavered.  It was yet another of your great decisions.

Thanks for all your cheerleading!

Ken Zauber should have written a book following his years at Amherst.  It would have been a best seller.  His road less traveled was a course of winding trails, challenging hills, and horrendous valleys.

I met Ken on the freshman cross-country course.  His wiry athletic frame was built for stamina and endurance, characteristics that served him well over his many years.  He tried out for hockey, a brand new sport for him and found it full of skilled players, so he chose a backup spot as goalie (behind Brady Coleman) where he could enjoy snagging fly balls disguised as pucks.  He was a competitive and agile athlete and continued to be throughout his life.

Ken earned his law degree at Cornell before returning to New Jersey where he became a political heavyweight in Mercer County. Frank Ragazzo, former executive director of the Mercer County Parks Commission, said, 
“He actually changed the political scene in Mercer County. For the next 24 years, he was the guy.
 In 1980, he became Republican County Chairman. He was also the Mercer County Park Commission attorney. And he also became Hamilton Township Municipal judge in the early ’80s.”

All along this political path, Ken was a lawyer, and a former assistant U.S. Attorney where he won 59 out of the 59 cases he took to trial.  He loved that number.

In the early 1980’s, the dark side closed in when Ken was treated for serious back pain and became addicted to his meds.  He made bad choices with the wrong people and in 1985 wound up being a co-defendant in a serious RICO conspiracy, was disbarred and served 18 months in a federal prison.  The inmates called me “the old man”, he told me.  Ken helped others write letters, played softball, and did all he could to make the best of a bad deal.  When he was released he became of counsel to Michael Graves, the renowned architect and designer.

In his 40’s he met attorney Susan Howard, his soul mate who stood by him throughout his ordeals. They married on Valentine’s Day 1983 and together they lived in Princeton with vacation homes in the Pocono’s and in Arizona.  It was a storybook relationship and Ken adored her. “On Susan’s dumbest day she was smarter than me on my best day,” he said. “She was always tops in her class, always the most popular. She got through night law school [at Seton Hall University] in two years instead of four. She studied at Oxford and the University of Florence in Italy.”

Susan was counsel and CFO for Michael Graves.  She began to fight a battle with breast cancer in 2000 and Ken was her sole caregiver throughout the ordeal.  At her death approached, he did not want to leave her to go to our 50th reunion.  She made him promise to attend.  Susan died just before the reunion and Ken honored her wish. He arrived on campus with tears and memories.  Tom Green and I and others pushed him to come back, especially since he had missed so many prior reunions.  It was a wonderful choice to be with his buddies at a time of immense sorrow.

In her memory Ken established the Susan Howard Zauber Family Hope Chest at Congregation Torat El.  Each year, the $25,000 endowment will cover annual synagogue dues of a family facing financial crisis because of illness. Then Ken established a $100,000 scholarship fund in her name at Amherst, honoring her and the school he loved so much.

After Susan’s death, life again became hard for Ken.  He was at her grave each day, commissioned a portrait and grieved immensely.  Many of us implored him to find professional help to get through this.  His last months were a mess and he just could not move forward.  Sadly, he solved his sadness in his own way.

Ken was a cheerleader, rooting on people and causes that were important to him.  He was an energy source, tireless and focused with goals in mind.  He was appreciative of friends and loyal to Amherst.  One of his pals in Princeton knew Ken over many years and he talked of their crazy wild and wonderful times together.  Like with many of us, their relationship drifted apart and was held together only by the celebration of the good old days together.  The past was good and a friendly place to revisit.  Ken had a fierce pride and somehow survived the professional drubbing and personal shame.  He came back to be of help and service to those around him.

Jack Edwards recalls, “In college Kenny always appeared to be up-beat, but I always had the feeling that under that facade was a troubled person. Although we roomed together, I never felt I got to know him well.  In conversations with him in later years I got the impression that he was probably a very good lawyer with some "difficult" clients who ultimately got Kenny into trouble.  He was a much more complex guy than the smiling Ken we remember from the Beta house.  He loved playing hockey, but was very self conscious about his size.”
 
George Betke added, “I recall Ken as one of the most energetic members of our class, a person who always seemed “up” for any challenge, academic or athletic.  He later was personally devastated by two life-changing events – a professional misjudgment with serious legal consequences that Ken reported in a compendium prepared for a subsequent reunion, and the death of his beloved and supportive wife shortly before last year’s 50th.   His mixed emotions about attending in 2009 were obvious in our private conversations; his love of the College, affection for classmates, and appreciation of our non-judgmental acceptance seemed to be clashing with emotions about redemption and spousal loss.  I was at reunion headquarters when Ken was overcome by those emotions, stating that he felt compelled to leave early and assuring me that he was capable of driving home to New Jersey.   I’m glad that I didn’t make a serious misjudgment by not intervening, but it’s sad that he ran out of time to regain his erstwhile contagious enthusiasm for life.”   

Sleep well, our brother.  You are in a better place.

- Hank Poler

 

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