Rothkopf and George HW Bush

Chapter Eternal: Past president of Lafayette College, Arthur Rothkopf ’55

Arthur Rothkopf, who made his mark in law, government service, commerce and higher education, passed into the Chapter Eternal July 2, 2021.

Born in Brooklyn, NY in 1935, at 16 he left home for Lafayette College in Easton, PA, where he joined in Pi Lambda Phi. College was an experience that set the path for his life’s work in education and commerce.

He was highly regarded at Lafayette, displaying the promising characteristics of a Pilam brother. One of his professors said of Rothkopf, “He was mature in outlook and judgment and strength of character. Extremely dependable. The kind of person you can trust to do a job.”

He went on to Harvard Law School, then began his career in Washington, DC as a lawyer at the Securities & Exchange Commission and the U.S. Department of Treasury. After a long and successful legal career, in 1992 he was appointed deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation by President George H.W. Bush.

“Throughout his career, Arthur was a major force in education reform in both the public and private sectors. He understood that education is the key to job growth and keeping America competitive in a worldwide economy,” said Thomas J. Donohue, CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Rothkopf at Lafyette

Rothkopf returned to his alma mater in 1993 as president of Lafayette College, where he served for 12 years.

In 1998, President George H.W. Bush accepted an invitation from Rothkopf to deliver the College’s commencement address and receive an honorary degree.

Alan R. Griffith ’64, Lafayette trustee emeritus, described Rothkopf as someone who, “has inspired confidence in all of us… his desire to challenge our students has made the Lafayette experience one of excellence as defined by any measure.”

Several endowed funds were established honoring Rothkopf and his wife, Barbara, who were partners in all-things Lafayette, including a professorship in art history and funds supporting internships and the Art Department. 

He served in a number of advisory roles in the fields of education and commerce, as well as non-profit entities affiliated with college financial aid and the Chamber of Commerce.

Rothkopf was awarded Pi Lambda Phi’s highest recognition for accomplishments, the Big Pi in 1995.

Photo credit: Lafayette College