Tuesday September 09, 2003 01:38:30 AM
Father grows love, education out of seeds sown by hate
By PHIL REISMAN
It would border on glib stupidity to suggest that anything good can come of terrorism.
But Jack Posen's mission has created a seam in that illogical notion. Since Sept. 11, his quest perhaps is more meaningful than ever.
Not long after her death, Posen, an orthodontist who lives in White Plains, decided to establish a college scholarship to help financially strapped students.
Since its inception, The Pammy Fund has helped some 125 young people with $1,000 to $5,000 grants to purchase the incidentals of college life, such as books, clothes, carfare and computers. Twenty-two students received grants for the fall semester.
Every year, in the days leading up to the Dec. 21 Lockerbie anniversary, Posen makes a plea for contributions to the fund.
This year's effort is carrying extra weight.
"This year more than ever, I feel there is a need to touch, to hold and to give to others," Posen said in his most recent mailing to potential donors.
Violence is often a byproduct of ignorance, and so it seems only fitting that Posen chose to create a living memorial to his daughter for the furtherance of education. If education truly liberates, then what else but ignorance and imprisonment of the mind could be the root cause of the hatred that led to the atrocities of Sept. 11?
Lockerbie really was the first cruelty, the first murderous act that made us realize that anti-U.S. terrorists had no rules of conduct and that their twisted agenda could extend to randomly killing innocent civilians, even children. It could've been any plane. They chose Pan Am Flight 103.
Pam Posen and many others on board the ill-fated plane were college students spending a year abroad. Pam, who attended Boston University, was returning home from London.
"She was really a happy, fun-loving kid," her father told me. She was bright and a trendsetter.
"She had an incredible style for clothing," Posen said. "She'd put things together, and two years later everyone would be wearing styles like that and that's what she really wanted, to go into design."
Unlike her older siblings, Pam did not excel in school.
"And I yelled, and I cajoled and I did all the things that you're supposed to do and not do, and it didn't work until she was motivated," her father recalled.
Going abroad meant she needed to improve her grades, which she did. After her death, Posen didn't know what to do or where to turn.
"I just felt so helpless and angry," he said. "I have a wonderful, close group of friends and relatives and I just kept saying, 'I'd like to do something.' "
Brainstorming led to the birth of the Pammy Fund. One of the first recipients was an unwed mother, a Bolivian immigrant, who won a full scholarship to study engineering at Syracuse University.
"We worked with her for four years, and she graduated with honors," Posen said. "She's now working for an architectural firm."
Many Pammy Fund recipients are youngsters who, as toddlers, went through the Parent-Child Home Program sponsored by Westchester Jewish Community Services in White Plains. PCHP was designed to both promote the joy of learning for disadvantaged preschoolers and to hone child-rearing skills for their parents.
Patrice Cuddy, who heads the program, said former participants are often invited back to PCHP reunions, where they are introduced to the possibilities of the Pammy Fund. This year, $24,000 will go to 16 PCHP graduates.
"It's a gift, and what an incredible way to remember Pam," Cuddy said.
On Dec. 21, Jack Posen will also remember his daughter by lighting a candle and saying a prayer. For 13 years, December has been a hard month.
"And then it's over for another year," he said.
For more information, write to: The Pammy Fund/Westchester Community Foundation, 470 Mamaroneck Ave./Suite 304, White Plains, NY 10605.
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