Dr. Cyril Wecht
YOU’VE OBVIOUSLY EXPERIENCED A GREAT DEAL OF SUCCESS IN YOUR LIFE. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS YOUR GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT, AND WHY?
It’s a little egotistical, of course, and maudlin, but I’ll say it anyway. My family is without a doubt my greatest success. We love and support each other unconditionally. My wife, Sigrid, is an accomplished attorney, and our four kids have each paved their own impressive paths, from obstetrician-gynecology, to neurosurgeon, to director of a prestigious university academic program, to a state supreme court justice.Beyond that, I’m most proud of winning the two protracted, costly lawsuits that were brought against me by both a local district attorney, and later by a federal court. We’ll get to that later.I’m also grateful for having had the strength and capacity to accomplish what I did, from my original ten years of academic training and through today.
LIKE EVERYONE ELSE, LIFE IS NOT ALWAYS SMOOTH. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT A SETBACK OR TRAGEDY YOU’VE ENCOUNTERED, HOW YOU DEALT WITH IT, AND THE IMPACT IT HAS HAD ON YOU?
The lawsuits brought against me in 1979 and 2006, were terribly unfair, frivolous and politically-inspired. The 2006 case started with an 84 count indictment, can you imagine, 84 counts? A five-week trial in 2008 ended in a hung-jury. The case was then assigned by the 3rd circuit court of appeals to a new federal judge who saw the facts through a fairer lens and in 2009, I was completely exonerated.Furthermore, and this matters the most, while on trial in Pittsburgh on the 5thfloor of the courthouse, on a break I went down to the 3rd floor and testified in a police shooting case. In other words, during the entire ordeal I never stopped working for a minute and not one person I’m associated with ever talked about terminating my services. I am thankful justice was served in the end with a total repudiation of the charges. I am exceptionally grateful for our system of jurisprudence.
DO YOU SET ASIDE “ME-TIME” IN YOUR CALENDAR, AND WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME TO RELAX?
Sunday dinners and movies with my family are a treasure, the perfect reward for a good week of work. I also love music, classical and opera, and I’m rarely without it. I used to play tennis and we went on skiing excursions, but I’ve had to make a few concessions to the vagaries of aging.
WHAT’S THE MOST MAGICAL PLACE YOU’VE DISCOVERED WHERE YOU CAN GO TO CHILL OUT?
Sigrid is from Norway so that is a must, and it is magical. Then, there’s Israel and Rome, with Athens just behind. Our heritage is Christian, Jewish and Muslim. Many other places are fascinating, but history is history. We have four children and eleven grandchildren and have enjoyed introducing them to such splendor.Japan and Africa are also on the list, and we vacationed at various Caribbean islands and Costa Rica to escape a week or two of the harsh winter. The world is truly a magical place and we are blessed to have this opportunity.
DOES PHILANTHROPY PLAY A ROLE IN YOUR LIFE, TO WHAT EXTENT AND HOW?
Jewish issues – Israel, Holocaust – and the Urban League come to mind. The list is so long, I would refer you to my ‘CV’ (page two, Community Awards). Giving back is a big part of our lives. It is essential to living a good life.
WHO IS ON THE GUEST LIST FOR YOUR IDEAL DINNER PARTY, PRESENT OR PASSED?
It’s impossible to winnow it down, but I’ll give it a try. For my special dinner guests, I would like to invite the following: William Shakespeare, Thomas Jefferson, Franklin Delano and Eleanor Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Dave Ben-Gurion, Jesus Christ (post-Bar Mitzvah, pre–crucifixion/deification), and Maimonides. Also, to include someone from this side of the morgue, so to speak, and someone both Sigrid and I would dearly wish to meet, please extend my heartfelt invitation to Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
CAN YOU OFFER ANY WORDS OF WISDOM TO YOUR FELLOW THROOMERS?
Nothing original, I’m afraid. I’d recommend boiling things down to simple questions, such as, ‘what do I want to do?’ Pursue that, not rigidly, but get serious. Be willing to make some occasional personal sacrifices and expend considerable time and energy. It’s what you really want to do, after all, so pursue it with reasonably controlled intensity. Live by the mottos, ‘What a man must do, he does,’ and, ‘If not now, then when? If not me, then who?”You have to keep moving, no floundering or complaining. Choose well, work hard, sacrifice, keep your goals in mind. Don’t cease being a sensitive, caring human. Take care of yourself, your family and your friends. In the end, this is all who matter.