Bob Drake '73
Bob Drake arrived at Bucknell in September 1969 after having graduated from Riverdale Country School in the Bronx, N.Y. He majored in animal behavior, part of the very first graduating class under the tutelage of the iconic Douglas Candland and other great professors. Bob's goal was to apply to medical school, but an overabundance of bridge playing and volunteering for a hotline for students in trouble led to a GPA of 3.00007, which was not sufficient to gain acceptance in the U.S. However, Bob didn't give up hope. He applied to and was accepted to medical school in France, enrolling in the fall of 1974. After passing his first-year classes, he took a summer position with a company in Holland. There, the director asked why Bob wanted to become a doctor. Bob responded he wanted to help children by becoming a pediatrician. That director convinced Bob he could help children in many ways without spending 12 years in medical school, internships and residency, so Bob decided to stay with the company and still works there today.
Bob followed the advice of his director and got involved in various kinds of work helping children. He later branched out and supported other worthy causes including The Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel, one of the top five basic research institutes in the world. Its motto is "research for the benefit of humanity." Bob received a Ph.D. Honoris Causa from the Institute in 2009 and was named chairman of the International Board effective November 2023.
Bob worked with the Dutch branch of the Jewish Agency in The Netherlands and, with his wife, Renée, created four theater groups for underprivileged children in Israel. The last of these groups was established 10 years ago in East Jerusalem and caters to both Arab and Israeli children who act together, write plays describing their lives and are encouraged to think in terms of cohabitation and peace with their friends. The first group, established nearly 20 years ago on the border with Gaza, caters to children who spend more time in shelters than in school.
In addition, Bob and Renée, with whom he does most everything, support a food program in South Africa for 300 children who only go to school because their parents cannot afford to feed them. Through this school feeding program, students receive breakfast and lunch. Bob and Renée also support an institution in Khayelitsha, outside Cape Town, for children who are rape victims. The institution, called Nonceba Family Counselling Center, is a safe haven in a township where it is estimated that one in three children become victims of sexual abuse.
Bob is the president and treasurer of the Dutch Friends of the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra. He has twice brought the orchestra to The Netherlands to play both in the famed Royal Concertgebouw and in Rotterdam's De Doelen.
He also is chair of the Dutch Friends of the Israel Cancer Association, where he helps raise funds for cancer research.
For these and other efforts in The Netherlands, Bob was Knighted by Queen Beatrix in 2013.
Bob and Renée endowed the Ekard Artist-in-Residence program at Bucknell, which gives students opportunities to engage with and learn from accomplished artists through master classes, workshops, demonstrations and studio critiques in conjunction with the Department of Art & Art History. They also support The Ekard Residency in The Netherlands, which allows artists from around the world to spend up to three months in peaceful surroundings so they can develop their practice.
The Drakes' love for art has led them to loan numerous pieces for educational purposes around the world. They have created two shows with Richard Rinehart, curator of the Samek Art Museum, which houses Bucknell's impressive collection. The shows started at Bucknell and moved to universities across the U.S. to allow art students to see works in-person. The first show traveled the U.S. for seven years; the second is touring now.
Bob and Renée are parents of four married children, who live in Amsterdam, Brussels, Phoenix, and Ramot Hashavim, Israel. They also have seven grandchildren. Bob and Renée are proud that their children have become philanthropic in their own right and that they are interested in helping humanity as much as possible.