Stellar steward

Asheville school alum receives national honor.

By Ret Boney

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — Joe Lindner graduated from Asheville School in 1947, but his involvement with the boarding school is perhaps even more significant 58 years later.

Last month, Lindner was presented the Seymour Preston Award, given to one independent school trustee each year by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education in recognition of his stellar service.

“It’s really an honor for the school,” says Lindner, a retired physician and businessman.  “CASE recognized the school for what it is.  It was great when I was here, in terms of its integrity.  The school, in terms of its ethics, standards, character building, is much more demanding.  There’s so much more to learn.”

His volunteer service for the school, which heated up about 14 years ago, includes founding the board of visitors, which helped develop a new drug policy, and helping raise $30 million in its most recent capital campaign.

“His level of commitment and effectiveness is distinguishing,” says Archibald R. Montgomery IV, head of the school, who nominated Lindner for the award.  “I think it is his absolute willingness to do whatever needs to be done and really doing it.  It’s the follow-through.”


Dr. Joseph Linder Jr.

Job: Retired physician and businessman; trustee, Asheville School, Asheville, N.C.

Born: 1929, Cincinnati

Family: Doris Beatty, M.D.; Laura, 40; Karen, 35; 3 grandchildren

Education: BA.B., chemistry and zoology, Dartmouth College; M.D., University of Cincinnati College of Medicine; M.P.H., Harvard University

Currently reading: “The Fall of Hong Kong: Britain, China and the Japanese Occupation,” by Philip Snow

Hobbies: Reading, golf, travel

Today, the school has about 250 students, more than eight in 10 of them boarders, who come from 24 states and 13 countries, taught by a faculty of 36.

Lindner, a Cincinnati native who lives in Hilton Head, arrived at the school in the mountains of Western North Carolina at age 13 after his mother visited on a trip with a friend whose son was enrolled.

“My mother is to be revered and respected for the decision she made,” he says.

After graduating, Lindner went to college and medical school and in the mid-1950s served as a lieutenant in the Navy, where he sailed out of Brooklyn Army Terminal for Europe, the Far East, the Middle East, the Mediterranean and the Caribbean.

After leaving the Navy, he finished his residency, started a private practice, and went on the teaching faculty and the administration of the University of Cincinnati medical school, where he created the country’s first residency program in emergency medicine.

The idea came to him, he says, after a “surprising” experience helping a doctor who had returned to medicine after a 30-year break.

“I went home that night and outlined the program for emergency medicine,” he says, and considers the effort his greatest contribution as a physician.

He stayed on staff at the medical school for 18 years, rising to senior associate vice president and associate dean before he left to enter what he refers to as “my psychotic period,” where he took business courses, ran a 700-bed hospital in New Jersey and started a headhunting firm.

In the early ‘90s, he approached a friend in Asheville School’s development office about becoming more involved and soon was asked to start the school’s board of visitors, a group that would take on special projects.

He agreed in 1995, but only after insisting that at least two members be non-Asheville alums, to provide an outside perspective, and requiring that the board of visitors be off limits for fundraising.

One of the board’s major accomplishments was working with students to facilitate a simple, straightforward drug policy, requiring all incoming students to sign a document allowing the school to search a student’s person or room at any time, without cause.

“And if you disregard it,” says Lindner, “you’re going to be given a picture frame that’s going to hang on your wall, empty, for the rest of your life, without an Asheville School diploma in it.”

He was also an integral part of the Centennial Campaign, completed in 2000, which raised $30 million, and the funding of two new faculty houses, one of which was paid for solely by alums from the Cincinnati area.

“I don’t give money to Asheville School,” he says.  “I invest in Asheville School.”

That’s the philosophy that drives his fundraising efforts, Lindner says, and when asking for money for the school, he focuses on why Asheville School is a sound investment, one that pays higher returns than other options.

“The social payoff for all this is less poverty, less crime, less confinement,” he says.  “It’s an investment in society.  If Asheville School grads were out there taking care of WorldCom and Enron, you wouldn’t need whistle blowers.”

A new capital campaign will kick off shortly, Lindner says, to maintain the high standards he is so proud of, to increase faculty salaries and improve facilities.

When asked what he’s most proud of, Lindner says it’s the people, including his classmates, the student who led the effort to adopt an honor code, the housekeeper to whom the class of 2003 dedicated its yearbook, and his fellow trustees, whom he says deserve the CASE award more than he.

“I’ve interfaced with so many interested and interesting people in the faculty, in the student body and employees,” he says. “It’s the people associated with the school that keep me involved.”

“We’re not better than anybody. But we’re special because we graduated from this place.”

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