Cornell University

International Programs

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Alumni Profile

Jay Waks, ILR '68 and Harriet Waks

New Fund Supports Panel Discussion on China and Other Initiatives

Jay and Harriet WaksInspired to Make An Important Gift

In 2004, armed with the insights of Dean Ed Lawler and Prof. Harry Katz about the importance of international studies and labor economics to ILR, Jay (ILR'68 and LAW'71) and Harriet Waks decided to create The Waks Family Fund for International Education and Research. Their gift is intended to enhance ILR's visibility in the international arena and expand its collective understanding of the globalization of work as a critical path towards worldwide economic and human development.

Jay's Background

Jay became interested in international politics and economics right out of high school when he won a summer trip (sponsored by the old New York Herald Tribune) to cold-war Europe to study local politics, cultures and industries, just before coming to Cornell in 1964. By fall, fortified with a more global, personal perspective on world affairs, Jay arrived at Arts & Sciences but, in his second year, transferred to ILR to link his fascination with economics and government to labor relations. He pursued international labor studies under Professor John Windmuller, considered by his peers to be the world's leading expert on international and comparative labor relations, as well as with Professor Alice Cook who was an early authority on aspects of work in Asia. While at Cornell Law, Jay enjoyed his Comparative Law studies, but it wasn't until he entered private practice at Kaye Scholer that he became experienced in international employment and labor law. Throughout his distinguished career, Jay has enjoyed working with British, Canadian, German, French, Italian, Brunei, Brazilian, Mexican and other foreign corporate clients, as well as with U.S. clients with employment and labor interests in Canada and Mexico and overseas, principally in Europe, Asia, and Latin America.

Visiting the World's Workplaces

His keen interest in the working environments of other countries and their cultures reaches well beyond his practice. Jay and Harriet, more recently accompanied by son Jon and daughter Allison, have traveled through much of Europe and some of Asia and North Africa. Allison (Cornell '08) and Jon (Yale '04, Harvard Med. '08) have traveled through China as well. Ali, now an ILR student herself, expects to combine her studies in ILR with Chinese and Asian studies.

"We all have come to the realization that peaceful, productive international relationships must start with an understanding of other cultures and work, especially in Asia and Africa," says Jay.

The Global Speaker Series is Launched

In keeping with the family's hope that the Fund "be used to support international scholarship and educational opportunities in a complementary and even-handed fashion, keeping in mind the interests of business and employees alike," International Programs launched a new Global Speaker Series in April 2005 with a public discussion on Business, Labor, and Human Rights in China. This event, made possible by the Waks Family Fund, introduced key issues affecting labor, business, and human rights in China, the interrelationship among these interests and their significance for the U.S. and China today. It was attended by more than 100 faculty, students (including Ali), and community members.

Thank you!

We thank the Waks family for their support of this inaugural event and, as we have just learned, for renewing their support of ILR International Programs in 2005 through the Waks Family Fund for International Education and Research.

Read Profile: Cornell Law Forum (pdf)

Read News: Jay Waks Elected Chair of Cornell University Council

- Jay Waks, ILR '68 and Harriet Waks

ILR Worldwide


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