Nuala Pell was the genuine article. She was a great lady and a class act to the core. I think of Nuala and Claiborne, and I think of old fashioned words like ‘grace’ and ‘generosity.’ They shared such an authentic commitment to try and give something back, and without bragging about it, they just went out and humbly did exactly that for so many decades. In today’s polarized and partisan world where sarcasm and snark are too often the currency of politics, Claiborne and Nula may sound too good to be true, but that’s precisely who they were. They were the genuine article all the way, decent, high-minded, altruistic, and sincere people from tip to tail.
To me, Claiborne Pell was always “Mr. Chairman.” He embodied the Foreign Relations Committee and welcomed me in such a personal way as a young freshman Senator. He often reminded me that he and Nuala had first met me in 1971 when I testified as a young kid in front of that Committee, and he went out of his way to let me, as a freshman Senator, have the courtesy of passing an Amendment on the floor which he could’ve just as easily reserved for himself citing Senate seniority. But Claiborne Pell cared about the institution and he cared about empowering his Committee members. He had a generous spirit. So did Nuala. She cared about people, she cared about Rhode Island, and she believed in an America where women are respected and where the arts are cherished, and she succeeded in advancing both of those causes. Through the Nuala Pell Leadership Program in Public Service, she helped put public service within reach for many more of our citizens.
Teresa and I send all our love to their children Toby and Dallas, to their grandson Clay whom we know so well, and to the entire Pell family, and so many in Rhode Island who cherish what the Pell name means to public service.
Tip O’Neill had a great expression. He’d say that someone was “a beautiful person.” Well, Nuala and Claiborne Pell were beautiful people, and they had a beautiful marriage. Today, Nuala is with Claiborne for eternity, and that’s a beautiful end to a beautiful life.