New York Times heiress Iphigene Ochs Sulzberger, who maintained a steadying yet subtle influence on four generations of publishers of that prestigious newspaper and whose spunk and adventurous spirit charmed royalty and enamored presidents, died early Monday. She was 97.
Nancy Finn, assistant to Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Mrs. Sulzberger’s son and publisher of the New York Times, said Mrs. Sulzberger died in her sleep of natural causes at her home in Stamford, Conn.
Mrs. Sulzberger’s role as a trustee of the family fortune and as the daughter, wife, mother-in-law and mother of New York Times publishers brought her power and prominence.
Yet she minimized her influence, saying regularly that “my chief claim to fame is survival.”
She was a White House guest of every President from Woodrow Wilson to John F. Kennedy. She was acquainted with heads of state ranging from Japanese Emperor Hirohito to the Shah of Iran to British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
“The more one has seen and experienced in life, the more questions one raises, the more one realizes that, as my coat of arms says, nothing is impossible,” she said in “Iphigene: Memoirs of Iphigene Ochs Sulzberger of the New York Times Family,” published in 1982.
Her father, Adolph S. Ochs, had appointed her to the Times’ Board of Directors in her 20s. After his death in April, 1935, she was one of three trustees, along with her husband and then her son, of the Ochs estate, which owns the controlling interest in the New York Times.
Newspapering was the birthright of Iphigene Bertha Ochs, the granddaughter of Rabbi Isaac M. Wise, founder of Judaism’s Reform movement.
On Sept. 19, 1892, the night she was born in Cincinnati, her father--then publisher of the Chattanooga Times--was in New York, “fighting to get the smaller papers accepted in the Associated Press.”
Four years later, Adolph S. Ochs became publisher of the New York Times; by 1899, he owned it. And on Jan. 18, 1904, young Iphigene helped lay the cornerstone for the paper’s new building at Times Square.
An economics major, she graduated from Barnard College as an A student despite a frustrating learning disability now known as dyslexia.
She married Arthur Hays Sulzberger on Nov. 17, 1917, capping their Washington honeymoon at a White House meeting with President Wilson.
When Ochs died, Sulzberger succeeded him as publisher of the Times.
Her husband retired in 1961. Their son-in-law, Orvil E. Dryfoos, held the publisher’s post until his death in May, 1963. Their son, known as “Punch,” has been the publisher since then; their grandson, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., is now deputy publisher.