The Municipal Forum of New York honored three public finance veterans at its annual awards dinner last night.

Goldman, Sachs & Co. managing director Marvin Markus received its Lifetime Achievement Award. The forum gave Standard & Poor’s managing director Colleen Woodell its Austin Koenan Career Achievement Award, and New York City deputy comptroller Carol Kostik received its Public Service Award.

The Municipal Forum is a 72-year-old organization for public finance professionals. The dinner was held at the Marriot Marquis Hotel in Manhattan. 

Markus received a standing ovation before and after delivering his speech, which is excerpted below. Marian Zucker, executive vice president of the New York State Housing Finance Agency, introduced Markus.

Markus Speech

“Thank you Marian for your very flattering, and generally true remarks.

I appreciate your support and friendship throughout the many years we’ve known each other and worked with each other. As I begin I would like to congratulate tonight’s fellow honorees, Colleen Woodell and Carol Kostik. Both Colleen and Carol are in the midst of distinguished — and notice I said “midst” whereas mine seems to be at end here — are in the midst of distinguished public finance careers and richly deserve this recognition.

I’m particularly pleased to share this day with Carol. Carol, as some of you know, began her career as a summer associate at Kidder Peabody in 1986 where she spent significant parts of the summer working with me on various new business initiatives. For those of you who now work with Carol, and those of you who think she’s scary-smart, I want to take full credit for her insightful questions and comments during your interactions with her.

The only portion of her development I do not wish to take credit for is her fee negotiation skills. I thought I taught her every aspect of the business well, but I guess the part where I indicated that fees that investment banks suggest were always fair did not permanently take.

I want to thank the leadership of the Muni Forum considering me worthy of receipt of this award. When I received a call from Alan Anders indicating that I’d been selected for this great honor, my immediate reaction was, 'It’s about time.’ It’s about time that all those years of dying my hair gray paid off.

Then my humbler self took over and decided the appropriate reaction that the award is just well-deserved. All kidding aside, I truly appreciate the recognition and am humbled to receive this award.

Of course I could not have achieved the recognition without the help throughout the years of many colleagues at various firms — some of which I helped put under — that I worked at, including Bear Stearns (you’ll hear about the missing ones) Bear Stearns, Kidder Peabody, PaineWebber and I won’t mention my current employer for risk having it extend to them.

We shared at all these firms, to use the phrase, utilized for years by the long-running television program Wide World of Sports: 'thrills of victory and agonies of defeat.’

We, like all public finance bankers, praised the victories to our superiors as being won solely on the merits and downplayed our losses as being lost due to political reasons.

To the young bankers in the audience, remember victories are always on the merits and losses are always political and you will enjoy a long career, and distinguished [career].

Receiving any award from one’s peer group is always a time for reflection. What do you make of an award that’s so grandly called a lifetime achievement award? Let me tell you that this honor is a little scary — no it’s in fact a lot scary — in hopes of overcoming my fears as to the meaning of this ominous and final-sounding award, I’ve consulted numerous sources.

The best definition I found, meaning not sounding totally final, was 'the length of time something functions, is useful.’ I decided I would stop there, concluding that I could continue to fool people into believing I was functional and useful, having done so for much of my career.

I then turned my attention to the word achievement — now these definitions appeal to my vanity and sense of self-importance. And one seemed particularly on point: 'A great or heroic act.’ Can you imagine an investment banker as a hero? Hard to comprehend these days — likely never true, but fun to believe anyway.

On a more serious note, I do want to speak to the young people in the public finance area on both the public issuer and the private side. Our little industry consists of numerous hardworking and selfless individuals who collectively keep much of the infrastructure of this country from becoming obsolete and dysfunctional.

We have the good fortune to work at the intersection of public policy and the capital markets. I urge you to stay the course despite many difficulties. The course will be rocky but the rewards in both real and psychic income will be substantial.

My final thanks goes to my family. I would like to thank two individuals who are truly the greatest achievements of my lifetime: My two children, my daughter Adria and my son Bryce, who are here tonight, both of whom have and will continue to bring great happiness. I also want to thank their respective spouses, Brian and Lizzie, for all the happiness they’ve brought into our family, including our grandchildren.

Last but certainly not least, I want to thank wife Michelle for all the love and support throughout our marriage, particularly early in my career when I traveled extensively and most of the burdens of parenthood fell on her. I could not have achieved what you are honoring me tonight without her. And in case you have any doubt that, just ask her. Just the past weekend, she remarked to me that she has been holding me up throughout our 40-year marriage. I, of course disagreed, indicating that it was in fact 43 years, if you count our dating.

Once again, thank you Muni Forum for this great, and well-deserved honor.”

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