Lasting Impressions: Brooklyn College Faculty Who Made a Difference

In response to our request in the Spring 2004 issue of Brooklyn College Magazine, many former students wrote to praise their teachers at Brooklyn College. So many, in fact, that we couldn’t possibly publish all the letters in this issue. This page contains many more reminescences by our alumni, who fondly remember the professors who made a difference in their lives. If you would like to nominate additional faculty, please e-mail Office of Public Relations with your testimonials, and we will add them to this page.

Ethyle Wolfe

I took a course in Greek humanities, which I would never have taken except for the fact that it was required. Ethyle Wolfe (Classics, 1947–1989) was so fantastic in how she made the Greek classics come alive that I took an additional course with her. I could not wait to get to her classes (and I was not the greatest student in the world). When I recently saw the movie Troy, I remembered all the characters, and I was aghast when they portrayed Agamemnon as being killed by the young girl, for we all know that his wife killed him!
   Judy (Garber) Dubro, ’58

Vera Lachman
To Vera Lachman (Classics, 1958–1974) the gods and goddesses of the ancient Greek classics were as real and alive as we were. She imparted to her students a sense of the personalities, psyches, and interpersonal dynamics that infused the lives of these dear friends of hers. They, in turn, became dear friends of ours as well.
   Annette (Unger) Ramsay, ’65; M.S., ’72

Fred Ewen (English, 1930–1955) was not just an inspirational teacher. His real caring, combined with his infectious and mischievous laugh, made you feel very special in his presence. Classes in Elizabethan prose and poetry became edifying experiences in literature. His graciousness and warmth remain whenever my thoughts go back to those intense and rewarding years at Brooklyn College.
   Louis P. Schwartz, ’43

Daniel Francis Coogan

I received poor grades in my first two semesters at Brooklyn College, but earned B’s in the courses taught by Daniel Francis Coogan (German, 1948–1969). More importantly, he indicated that he understood the personal turmoil I was experiencing at that time in my life. The next year I dropped out, but Professor Coogan told me he was certain I would return to college. At a time when no one else believed in me, he assured me that I would overcome.
   After a few dead-end jobs, I enrolled in the evening sessions and had my first taste of modest success. I maintained contact with Professor Coogan and saw him regularly. It was then that I began to crave success, because I could not allow myself to disappoint Professor Coogan.
   But I was still restless and unsettled, and I withdrew from Brooklyn College and joined the Army. Professor Coogan did not forget me and we corresponded during those years. There is nothing like two years in the Army to convince you of the importance of a college education. I returned to BC with a zest for learning.
    After graduating, I kept Professor Coogan apprised of my successes, and I still have several letters he wrote in his inimitable handwriting. My last note to him was written on May 16, 1980, in which I included a small gift and congratulated him on his ordination as a deacon in the Catholic faith. He never knew how happy I was for him. The package was returned unopened by Mrs. Coogan, with a note informing me that Professor Coogan had died suddenly of an aortic aneurysm. More than anyone else, more than all others combined, Professor Coogan motivated, inspired, and guided me toward success. I will never forget him.
   Leon R. Meyer, ’59

Martin Schreibman
When I first walked into the histology lab of Martin P. Schreibman (Biology, 1962–2000) in August 1975, I was amazed at the number of fish tanks. As I was gazing at the fish, a man in his late thirties appeared from behind one of the tanks. He was thin and had longish sandy black thinning hair and was dressed in cutoff shorts and a tie-dyed tee-shirt with love beads hanging from his neck. This strange character stuck out his hand and said, “Hi, I’m Marty Schreibman, and welcome to my world.” I did not leave his world for four years.
    In my fourth year at BC I took the histology course given by Dr. Schreibman. With his sense of humor and knowledge of the material and his understanding of the way students may perceive this required course, Marty was able to make one of the more difficult, sometimes tedious, premed courses enjoyable and very manageable for even the most reluctant students. I never learned as much from one person or had as much fun in my four years as I did in his research lab.
   Philip W. Perlman, ’79

Helen Roach
After years of stickball and soldiering, it was Helen Roach (English, 1939–1969) who opened the world of theater to me. She taught me the play in plays that carried me into screenwriting.
    Later, after three years at Yale, she helped me land a job, briefly, as an instructor of oral communication at Brooklyn College. When I asked her to monitor a class she rendered her judgment: “Well, they stay awake.”
    Last time I saw Dr. Roach was at a performance of a disastrous play of mine. Despite severely mixed reviews, her attitude was hers alone, not unlike her reaction to my class a dozen years earlier.
    I’m sorry she never saw my better stuff in movies. It all began with her. Not my mentor—she was my teacher. And unforgettable. I hope she knew that.
   David Rayfiel, ’47

 

Yaffa Eliach

I first saw Yaffa Eliach (Judaic Studies, 1973–2003) when Israel Singer, now head of the World Jewish Congress and then adjunct professor of political science, led a sit-in in Whitehead Hall to demand a Judaic Studies Department.
    By 1972, this brilliant, short little lady—with the Polish/Israeli accent and trademark hair-do—was teaching a course on the Holocaust. Her classroom was a catalyst and her influence everlasting, for she taught us how to ask our Holocaust-survivor parents about their experiences. The collection of term papers morphed into the Center for Holocaust Studies in Brooklyn, now incorporated into New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage, A Living Memorial to the Holocaust.
    Later, she collected the photos of the inhabitants of Eishyshok that became the Tower of Life at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Her powerful work there speaks for itself.
   Jeanette Friedman, ’74

Department of Design (circa 1952)

In the fall of 1942 the Brooklyn College administration offered a policy under which students who enlisted in the service after ten weeks of the semester would be given full credit for the term. I knew that if I didn’t avail myself of such a generous offer, I almost surely would flunk chemistry. When I returned to Brooklyn College, an older and wiser person, for the spring semester of 1946, I pursued design as my major. The newly installed head of the newly created Design Department was Serge Chermayeff. He recruited a stellar array of well-known Bauhaus-trained or -oriented faculty members, including Stamo Papadaki, Burgoyne Diller, Robert Wolff, Anthony Pugliese, Walter Rosenblum, and Stanley Hayter. They were all my favorite teachers! They succeeded effortlessly in turning me from an aimless time-killer into an inspired designer.
   Lawrence Lerner, ’48

Charlene Forrest

There were countless times I'd visit Charlene Forest (Biology, 1979–) in her office and talk to her about the challenges I was facing at school, at work, or at home. She’s one of the best listeners I’ve ever met, and often she provided just what I needed: someone to talk to when I was feeling upset or overwhelmed by work. She encouraged me and told me I’d make it when I didn’t think I could. Her belief in me and her support made a tremendous difference in my life, and for that I will be forever grateful.
   Shoshana Berkovic, ’04

I flunked—a first in my life—the early examination the professor gave us. Goaded by pride, I set myself to studying for the next one. And so I woke up to two things at once: the book called The Odyssey and my teacher called Professor Alice Kober (Classics, 1935–1950). I saw a dumpy, dowdy, uncharismatic person with bottle-bottom glasses and a charmless demeanor. I heard a teacher of quiet undramatic intensity, and I have never forgotten what she once said to us: “How do you tell a great book? Your hair stands on end and the back of your neck tingles.” I fell in love with Homer, with my teacher, with those classics all at once. I don't think I've ever again floated in such clouds of glory.
   Eva Brann, ’50

George W. Booth
George W. Booth (Mathematics, 1962–1989) had a knowledge of mathematics that was nothing short of encyclopedic. His enthusiasm for the subject was boundless. His lectures were always a pleasure to listen to; so much so, in fact, that I took about four courses with him for credit and sat in on two or three others. He had a knack for explaining difficult concepts in a clear and frequently humorous manner; his personal library of mathematics books was immense, and he must have prepared lectures by reading several books simultaneously.
    By the time I graduated from Brooklyn College, we had taken to going out to lunch once a week or so; I remember him once using a napkin in a restaurant to explain some particularly interesting mathematical point. He was truly an inspirational teacher, and much of my attitude toward mathematics was shaped by him. It is one of my biggest regrets that after I moved away we lost touch with each other; I learned of his death in an issue of the Notices of the American Mathematical Society and was shocked to realize that I would never have the chance to let him know just how much he meant to my mathematical development—and, for that matter, my development as a person.
   Mark Hunacek, ’72

Stuart Levitt
Stuart Levitt
(Physical Education, 1966–2001) inspired me as a professional to achieve the best and demonstrated a youthful enthusiasm that I still employ in my daily work as a physical education teacher. A collegiate javelin champion himself, Professor Levitt encouraged me to go out for the BC track team as a javelin thrower. Decades later, I still have my bronze CUNY championship medal in that event. I will always be thankful to Professor Levitt for igniting this ember within me that still glows.
   Joel Aronchick, ’74

Hans Trefousse
Hans Trefousse (History, 1946–1999) awoke in me a love for and appreciation of history. Trefousse put historic events in context and told anecdotes about the people involved, humanizing them. History’s heroes and villains were no longer two-dimensional to me, as I came to see that they were, like people of today, motivated by many things—political beliefs, jealousy, bigotry, power, and sex. As a result, I felt a greater level of understanding of these historic figures and—with some of them—a connection as well.
   Reed Podell, ’89

Lindsey Saunders Perkins (Speech and Theater, 1941–1975) was my inspiration and my mentor. While teaching rhetoric, oratory, and public speaking, he insisted that presentation and platform skills must be accompanied by substance. He would quote Congressman John Randolph of Virginia who, in the 1820s, commented on two of his Congressional colleagues whom he considered brilliant, capable, and enticing yet corrupt and devoid of substance. Perkins would rear up on his hind legs and would become Randolph who likened them to “a rotten mackerel by moonlight, he shines and stinks.” Professor Perkins admonished us to “dare to be different . . . if we wanted to make a difference.” In more than thirty years of university teaching, I have tried to convey these values to my students.
   Martin Gorosh, ’59

 
John Hope Franklin
John Hope Franklin (History, 1958–1964) was my teacher in the junior seminar on American civilization. Professor Franklin had just returned from a yearlong professorship at Cambridge University and was considered the leading African American historian in the United States. He was also a superb teacher, who invited and enabled exciting conversations in the classroom, and was the best adviser I had while at BC. He also once stood up for me in a near-confrontation with President Gideonse over a free speech issue. I still consider him the model of what a teacher and a scholar should be: as a teacher, direct, clear, personal, responsive; as a scholar, original, disciplined, highly critical, politically and morally engaged.
   Richard Slotkin, ’63


Nathan Schmukler
Nathan “Nat” Schmukler (Economics, 1946–1982) inspired hundreds, perhaps thousands, of students. He taught accounting, but his legacy lives on in his students’ philosophy of life, their attitude toward business and the fundamentals of professionalism. Nat Schmukler often said that an accountant’s duty to the public comes first and the profit motive second. It is no wonder that Brooklyn College has turned out so many men and women who have made enormous contributions to our profession. Nat Schmukler defined just what a teacher is and what a teacher should be. He still keeps in touch with many of his students, some of whom he mentored fifty years ago. Any success I have achieved in my chosen profession is attributable in no small way to the influence of Professor Nathan Schmukler.
   Stuart Kessler, ’50

May Olive Henneberger
My freshman instructor in English composition, May Olive Henneberger (English, 1941–1973), was an extraordinary guide to clear and correct writing.
    I was happily reminded of this remarkable woman of warmth and encouragement during a recent encounter on a Manhattan subway when a man recognized my BC ring. The ensuing conversation involved memories of Brooklyn College and his favorite teacher, Dr. Henneberger.
   Marilyn Apelson, ’47

Marion Starling
Marion Starling (English, 1946–1977), who taught poetry classes in the 1940s and beyond, was one of the College’s most exciting faculty members. She was especially fond of Gerard Manley Hopkins and turned many of us World War II vets on to that poet and scores of others. In a brilliant English Department that featured the charismatic Bernard Grebanier, Maurice Villency, Anna Babey, and Harry Slochower, Dr. Starling stood out.
   Murray Bromberg, ’48

Marjorie Coogan (English, 1947–1961) was a brilliant, beautiful woman who inspired awe as well as love from her students. She had high standards, and these were imposed on us, whether in sophomore English, medieval literature, or independent studies. She took for granted that we were in her classes to learn, and she was totally intolerant of sloth. I can remember a day when she walked into class, and, in the expectant hush following her entrance, she sat at her desk and asked a question about the previous night’s readings. No one offered an answer. Silence lasted for perhaps fifteen seconds as she looked around the room, and then Professor Coogan picked up her books and purse and stood up. “If you are prepared at the next class, I shall stay,” she said and walked out. What is most amazing is that every one of us felt guilty for having wasted her time!
    At the end of my first semester with Professor Coogan, I requested an appointment. I was a sophomore and needed to decide what I would major in. “Be a medievalist,” Marjorie pronounced. I nodded agreement. And then, tentatively, I asked, “Why?” “So that I can keep my eye on you for the rest of your college career,” she responded. I was honored—despite the fact that this meant I would have to take Latin, Anglo-Saxon, Chaucer, and many other courses in which I had absolutely no interest!
    In fact, as a medievalist, I learned useful and marketable skills as well as more esoteric ones. I learned how to write papers, how to do research, how to think independently, and how to balance intense academic demands with an active social life. Marjorie was my mentor in all areas, curious about my relationship with a sorority (Delta Phi Epsilon), demanding to meet “my young men” and testing them to see if they were “worthy” candidates for my time.
Marjorie left Brooklyn College in 1961 to become a dean at Sarah Lawrence College. She and I remained friends throughout her life. She knew and loved my daughters and inspired them, too, as they grew up.
   Anne Finkelman Ziff, ’61

Teofilo Ruiz

I entered the classroom a bit early. The shades were drawn, and there were no lights other than a single candle burning on a desk. Suddenly the door flung open and a figure enveloped in a long black cloak and black beret swept into the room, perched himself cross-legged on the desk, and proceeded to lead the students into the fascinating world of mystics, alchemists, and wizards.
    No class taught by Teofilo Ruiz (History, 1973–1998) was ever dull; but neither were they easy. He demanded the best from us. In 1994 he was the national winner of the Outstanding Professor of the Year Award given by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, an honor which reflects the excellence in scholarship and commitment to teaching that still prevails at Brooklyn College.
   Jane Leventon, ’92, M.A. ’00


Until I met Harriet Griffin (Mathematics, 1926–1966), hers was always a subject that I struggled with throughout the years of elementary and high school. What a sunburst I experienced with Miss Griffin when she opened the mysterious elements of the current math subject with logic, illumination, and breakthrough development to exhilarating comprehension.
   Frances (Yutkofsky) Brechner, ’42

 

Arthur C. Cole

My major was education. It was a reluctant choice. Family pressures contributed to my choosing a major since “this is what girls do.” Then I met Abraham Tannenbaum (Education, 1952–1959). He was sincere, practical, and above all the epitome of what teaching should be about. Thus, by example, he inspired me to become a teacher.
   I went on to thirty-five years as a successful sixth grade teacher. I later went on to get a master’s in counseling as well. I can only hope that my students were inspired by me in the way that I was by Professor Tannenbaum.
   Judy Novack-Hirsch, ’57

Professor Arthur C. Cole (History, 1943–1956) was a scholar of the highest order, and he instilled in us the appreciation of scholarship and research. We were not permitted to write term papers; we had to use index cards, one for each reference, and put them in order so that if we were to "write a paper, all we had to do was add the ifs, ands and buts." On our essay exams we had to document our answers by citing from the reading reports we had to turn in during the semester. He was a tough teacher, but a magnificent one. He was also a wonderful gentleman and storyteller. To sit in one of his courses was to experience the real college scholarship that was required of us at the time and know what we could become if we just put our minds and hearts into our work.
   M. T. Grant, ’52

Robert D. Barrett (Design) taught art history. He was an intense and passionate person who conveyed his knowledge and enthusiasm to the enormous classes attracted to his course. To appreciate art and the artists he discussed the relationship of the artists with their countries, the period they lived in, their style and their eccentricities. To this day in buying pictures, in viewing art galleries and museums, the connection with Professor Barrett remains with me.
   Ruth (Schipior) Friedman, ’49

Professor Balet (Art) was an intense and passionate person who conveyed his knowledge and enthusiasm to the enourmous classes attracted to his course. To appreciate art and the aretist he discussed the relationship of the artists with their countries, the period they lived in, their style, and their eccentricities. To this day in buying pictures, in viewing art galleries and museums, the connection many of us had with Professor Balet remains with us.
   Marilyn Apelson, ’49

Nathan Doscher (Health and Physical Education, 1930-1971) was a unique blend of brains and brawn, a human dynamo who could motivate individuals physically and mentally. He lived the ideal of the Greeks, “a sound mind in a sound body,” and he certainly epitomized the finest in physical adroitness as he taught his combative class in boxing, judo, wrestling, and life saving techniques. He exhorted all of us to excel in whatever we attempted, and he lead by example, pluck, and by a sensitive understanding of the human psyche.
   John C. Kabat, ’61

Edward O. Lutz (Economics, 1948-1998) was urbane, erudite, warm and an inspiration to many. He had a successful practice in public accounting with a great emphasis in the arts, theater, and music and was instrumental in the establishment of the Brooklyn College Performing Arts Center. His classes were dynamic. He was a professional leader and an outstanding educator.
   Thomas J. Volpe, ’57

Procope S. Costas (Classics, 1958-1973) was an academic of unparalleled charisma and presence. He was inordinately demanding and yet inspired everyone to excel so that you never felt driven to learn. All his classes were closed out early during registration week. He was very generous with his time between classes and could always be found in the varsity cafeteria surrounded by students from all majors. He was very given to the marketplace classroom, and the peripatetic manner of teaching employed in ancient Hellas by Socraties and Plato.
   Hercules K. Nicholas, ’53

In Spring 1941, while war raged overseas, Louie May Miney (English) had a sophomore class of outspoken interventionists and isolationists who she lead with calm tolerance and evident enjoyment of what we wrote, even when I referred to “rending attacks” by German subs and she suggested I use fewer dramatics.
   Howard Pierson, '46

Stanley Rypins (English, 1931-1961) was a great teacher. I took his bible course and still refer to his 1951 work The Book of Thirty Centuries: An Introduction to Modern Study of the Bible. I also took his modern drama course. He was brilliant, dramatic, and funny as hell.
   August Franza, ’54

After Elizabeth P. Casey (Speech and Theater, 1931-1957) cast me in a walk-on part in Elmer Rice’s Street Scene, she entrusted me with the title role in Ibsen’s Peer Gynt, a role that is one of the longest and most demanding in dramatic literature. At twenty-one years of age, I had to play a character that progressed from youth to old age. Miss Casey was there every step of the way encouraging and teaching me what it was to meet (at least partially) the demands of such a great challenge. She even bolstered my ego by demanding I be given a dressing room that was reserved for the stars who were guest artists at Whitman Hall. We thought of her as a “tough old bird” but that toughness transferred a bit to me and saw me through graduate school, two years in the Army and finally a Broadway debut in 1964.
   Michael (LaBombarda) Lombard, ’57

As a senior at Brooklyn College, I had no firm plan for what I would do with my life. Then I had the good fortune to meet Professor Salvatore (Romance Languages). He counseled me, a Spanish and Italian student, to apply to graduate school as a teaching assistant, patiently guiding me through the application process, assisting me in assembling letters of recommendation, and assuring me I could handle the academic and financial challenges ahead. I credit Professor Salvatore with the successful career I enjoyed in the New York City public school system. He took the time to guide and inspire a previously desultory student and I thank Brooklyn College for bringing him and me together!
   Frank A. Friuli, ’55

Helen Brell (Education, 1949-1972) was caring, soft, sensitive and personable and I was sure after taking an undergraduate education course from her that I wanted to be a teacher. I subsequently spent thirty years in the classroom and her smile and voice were always with me. She was a special and a cultured lady.
   Harriet (Wilkes) Wittenberg, ’57

James P. Johnson (History, 1966-1999) inspired me to become a teacher. Taking courses taught by this enthusiastic academic was always an immensely rewarding experience, and each class usually culminated in an intense and exciting discussion of some key issue relating to twentieth-century America.
   Jeffery Haber, ’87, M.A. ’90.

My favorite was Rhoda Ellis (Home Economics, Food and Nutrition, 1958-1973). She taught courses in food handling, preparation and nutrition in her food lab in Roosevelt Hall. She also taught us that she was a human being–a very down-to-earth person who loved to teach and enjoyed passing her knowledge on to us “undergrads.”
   June (Germain) Stein, ’56, M.S. ’76, M.A. ’88

Not only was Frances Kilcoyne (English, 1928-1968) an amusing and interesting guide to literature, his comments on our papers were fair and constructive. Above all, Professor Kilcoyne’s performance as the Stage Manager in a college production of Our Town was excellent. His New England background contributed to the authentic color of the role. Years later, my first audition for a professional role consisted of excerpts from this character. My recollection of Kilcoyne’s performance might well have contributed to my successful entry into the profession.
   Elliot Levine, ’46

Bernard Grebanier
Traveling evenings from building to building in downtown Brooklyn was a harried, hurried experience. One teacher stands out: Bernard Grebanier (English, 1926-1964). Tired as we were he enlivened us with his enthusiasm and love of literature. He made Shakespeare come alive. He quoted, he dramatized, and he gave new meaning to the Bard’s words. He fostered in me a lasting love for Shakespeare.
   Dorothy Weber Schaffner, ’35

Professor Fraidenburgh (History) ran a relaxed class where we were made to feel our opinions and ideas were important. I always felt as if I was being invited into his home and not in a cold classroom. I still remember some of the stories he told that were interspersed with the regular subject matter. When I became a teacher I tried to establish the same kind of classroom atmosphere. Now, after seventy years, thinking of him still brings a smile to my face.
   Sylvia Goldberg Pomerantz Gillary, ’36

Sam Duker
Sam Duker
(Education) was a very brilliant man. I thought of him as a mentor and even a friend. Today, after 45 years, I am still teaching in a Hebrew school in Livingston, New Jersey. I always use the many tools of good teaching Dr. Duker imparted to me.
   Saundra M. Schwartz Siegel.

Organic chemist, devoted teacher, author, and inventor, David Davidson (Chemistry) was a quiet man in a department filled with somewhat less unassuming department personnel. I graduated from Brooklyn College in 1948 after two years’ service in the army infantry during WWII and Dr. Davidson’s friendly and encouraging attitudes led me to continue studies in chemistry, first for two years at Brooklyn College’s Graduate School and later in biochemistry for four years at NYU-Bellevue. I never forgot Dr. Davidson’s humble but authoritative, sage mannerisms.
   Gil Weiss

Robert Cherry (Economics, 1977-) always has time for his students, and would do volunteer tutoring with his classes on an open house basis. He was also extremely patient in explaining the class work as often as necessary. I have been a teacher since graduating and consider Professor Cherry a good role model for those in my field.
   Stephen Meyerson, ’79

Alice Kober (Classics, 1935-1949) taught Horace, and much more besides. She introduced parodies of Horace by contemporary authors and encouraged her students to write some themselves. Her approach made the Classics and the Greek and Roman gods and their all too-human shenanigans come alive for us. Greece and Rome remains relevant and meaningful to all of us, due to the original approach of our teacher.
   Susanne M. (Biberstein) Batzdorff, ’43

Alfred Russell (Art, 1947-1975) knew painters and paintings, art history and all the elements of art, and his infectious enthusiasm for teaching and experimenting was completely inspirational. One felt as if one were a ‘real artist.’ Though Bauhaus methodology strongly influenced the Department of Design, and abstract expressionism was the only art shown in important galleries, Russell’s traditional approach to art gave students basic information without which a young person who wanted to become an artist–a painter–would not be able to function. Thank you, Mr. Russell.
   Carole Alter, ’56

James D. Merritt (English, 1966-1995) taught in a very straightforward, comprehensible style. The techniques of clear, concise, yet meaningful written expression I learned from him in my English 1.2 class during my first semester at Brooklyn College are a priceless gift. I enjoyed his class so much that I enrolled in Professor Merritt's poetry class. This was another source of lifelong learning for pleasure. To this day, I recall vividly the epics, sonnets, and poems we critiqued. I can also hear his voice admonishing, “When in doubt leave it out,” whenever I'm not sure about using commas!
   Carol Lipshitz Kornmehl, ’80

During the 1970s, David Sawin (Art, 1959-1985) had a reputation for being one of the most interesting teachers at Brooklyn College. Therefore it is not a coincidence that both my husband and I had registered for classes with him. Professor Sawin showed slides in class and dissected paintings, discussing each section along with the history that was relevant to the artist, the location and the times in general. He made every painting and artist alike come to life.....so much so that as students we were inspired to start visiting museums on the weekends. To this day whenever I have a day off from work I visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art, pick a new gallery, rent a headset and wander around. I never visit the museum without think of my most special B.C. professor.
   Diane Levy, ’74

I never forgot the course Valborg Andersen (English, 1947-1976) taught: The Nineteenth Century English Novel. The course started with a reading of Jane Austen's Emma. Dr. Andersen's analysis made me a lifelong Jane Austen fan–to the point where I have dragged my husband all over England to see sites connected with Austen's life. Andersen showed her students how to analyze a novel to see how its structure enhanced the author’s themes, rather than just reading it for the storyline alone. I’ve tried to read novels that way ever since taking her class. This skill has enhanced my personal reading pleasure for the past 50 years.
   Shirley Gershen, ’53

Leonard Worley (Biology) taught histology and served as the Pre-Med Advisor. His lectures and lab sessions were meticulously presented. Students faced the dilemma of having to choose between taking notes during his lecture or taking the time to copy the intricate and colorful drawings he sketched on the blackboard using both hands.
    As our advisor he took the time to learn about all of us. He was extremely helpful to me and supported my desire to combine a medical education with an emphasis on research. Upon his advice and with his support I attended the University of Chicago School of Medicine and have since pursued a career in academic urological surgery. Had I not had the benefit of his counsel I suspect that my career might have turned out very different.
   Floyd Alan Fried, ’57.


I had had a bad time in high school. I came to BC with vague ideas about being a writer, and teaching high school. My freshman teacher, Nancy Rockmore-Cirillo (English) responded to my work in a way that gave me confidence that I could write. She also steered me towards thinking about university teaching, a possibility I that had never crossed my mind. I credit her with pointing me towards the career and the work I've loved doing for the last forty years.
   Richard Slotkin, ’63

James K. Lang (Speech and Theater, 1964-1986) made a major impact on my life by encouraging me with my speech communication courses as an undergraduate. He introduced me to the Audiology lab on the 4th floor of Boylan Hall, taught me to solder and trace circuits and train rats with operant conditioning. He later became my Master’s advisor in Speech Pathology and Audiology, directed my Master's thesis, and encouraged me to pursue doctoral study in Audiology at the CUNY Graduate Center and later at Northwestern University. Dr. Lang died shortly after I left Brooklyn, and I wish I had had the opportunity to thank him for teaching and supporting a shy and insecure young man.
   Mitchell B. Kramer, ’71, M.S. ’73

I enjoyed the various classes I took with Edwin H. Spengler (Economics), especially those related to urban economics. He was faculty advisor to the Bureau of Economic Research, a student organization doing research in various areas of economics. I was active in that group and as a result had the opportunity to work with Dr. Spengler on a project that related to problems of urban taxation and its relationship to housing, particularly slums.
    In my senior year, when discussing with Dr. Spengler what I would be doing after I graduated, I said I was interested in pursuing further studies relating to housing and urban issues and how one could make the cities better places to live. However, at the time, I did not have the resources to go to any of the big graduate schools. He mentioned that he taught urban economics at the City Planning School at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and that perhaps I could apply there to do graduate studies. I did, received a scholarship, and was able to get a master’s degree in city planning in 1945. That experience profoundly affected the direction that my life took and I have always been deeply grateful to Dr. Spengler.
   Norma Satten, ’43

I was not a Physics major and, yet needing Science credits, I registered for Astronomy with Peter Broncazio (Physics, 1962-1999). After realizing I was the only non-Physics major in the group, I got cold feet and wanted to drop the class. Dr. Broncazio encouraged me to stay.
   His teaching style was superb, filled with amusing anecdotes about everything from eccentric scientists to the scientific guffaws of the previous night's Star Trek episode. He made Physics fun and was able to break the most complicated information down into easily digestible pieces. And who could forget Dr. Broncazio's uncanny ability to memorize your name and face when you turned in a test paper so he could return it to you at a later date (even though there were no assigned seats). He was the most memorable teacher I’ve had.
   Gary Jacobson, ’71

I must say also that all the math teachers I knew at BC were highly competent and great role models. B.C. was renowned for its math department, but the one I remember clearest is James Singer (Mathematics, 1936-1974). Professor Singer was extremely neat and always delivered his math lectures in a full business suit. He taught principles of calculus for science and math majors, and was an inspiration. He knew his difficult material absolutely cold, which made it easier for us to learn.
   David S. Herskowitz, ’61

Professor Goldman (English) came eager to teach, and looked earnest in his suit, white shirt and tie. He did not lecture to or look down on his students. He prepared a varied syllabus and got us involved in meaningful discussions.
   Once the whole class seemed to fail an essay. He gave us all a second chance. The topic was comparing Thoreau and Carlyle. I invented a fictitious person Carrie Thoreau and proceeded to show how Carlyle's principles could have been applied to Thoreau's life (fortunately it was pure fiction). Mr. Goldman liked the whimsical idea, and all my classmates gathered round me trying to find out how I had gotten an A on the second chance.
    In the middle of the spring term, Mr. Goldman was called to the military we were told. Miss South took over. She was good, but not as good as Goldman.
Susanna Zakon, ’63 and ’66

I learned more from May Hallmundsen (English, 1954-1977) in two courses than in any other classes I have taken before or since. She opened a whole world of literature, art, philosophy, history, and music appreciation for me. She was very demanding and would not accept mediocrity. She made me THINK! What a novel concept.
   Richard Salzman, ’76

I can still see Charles E. Passage (Classics, 1954-1971) moving his arm down the blackboard to indicate the movement of the Ostrogoths and the Visigoths moving south over the continent of Europe and greatly affecting the future of Western European Civilization as we know it today. I saved all the papers I wrote for his courses, and still refer to them. I looked on the internet and found that at least 14 of his books of literary criticism and his translations are still being used and are in print today. We were the first class to use his translation of Faust and he signed my copy.
    He made The Magic Mountain and The Brothers Kamarazov come alive and I still feel the intensity of his language. Of course, I had no idea he might be a greatly respected and well-known figure in the world of European literature.
   Ellen (Lifson) Spin '60

I had to wait until my senior year to meet Priscilla F. Pollister and William E. Fennel (Biology). In the fall of 1960, I took “Invertebrate Zoology” with Dr. Pollister and in the following semester, Dr. Fennel taught me “Parasitology.” As an aside, they may have been the oldest (Pollister) and the youngest (Fennel) faculty to have taught me at Brooklyn College.
    They both inspired me with a love of their discipline and a concern for their students that I had not yet encountered in my first three years at Brooklyn College. Those are two attributes that I believe I took with me when, several years later, I left graduate school to become an academician. I went on to become an invertebrate zoologist/parasitologist due, in large measure to their influence.
   Arthur (Art) Seidenberg, Biology, ’61

I have unforgettable memories of Seymour Fogel (Biology) from my experiences in his genetics course. He was constantly challenging us to think about the topics he discussed in class. He would ask very probing, and sometimes weird and outrageous, questions to test our thinking on the subject, but he was also quick to complement students who came up with plausible answers. His strong personality and dedication to his subject encouraged students to come up with good explanations for the phenomenon we were observing in the lab. The laboratory sessions required students to raise fruit flies from an unknown pair. We were to make as many crosses as necessary to identify the genetic makeup of the parent cross. It was really the most mind expanding course that I took in college and Dr. Fogel's brilliance and enthusiasm for biology has been a great inspiration for me in my life since then.
   Joan Herskowitz, ’61

Professor S. M. Miller, tught in the Social Anthropology Department. I think I was in every course he taught and we became quite friendly. Professor Miller was the only teacher I had who invited me and a few others to his home in Manhattan; on West End Ave. as I recall, in 1956. He was one of the few teachers who established a real rapport with his students and also seemed to value their comments. He also gave some very interesting homework assignments . . . one of which was to talk to a few "blue-collar" working people, and get their opinions on a questionnaire. My first husband and I thought that we would find those "types" at a local neighborhood saloon! That assignment was one that the entire class enjoyed. Needless to say, the answers to our questions not only depended on who we asked, but where we were when we asked!
   Harriet (Zuckerman) Martin ’57

Peter Pitzele guided me through a semester of Ancient History and Philosophy in my Sophomore year. From the minute he entered the classroom on the first day of class, I knew he was different. 25 years later I can clearly picture his Ronald McDonald style shock of salt and pepper hair and the faded jeans, poncho and sandals he wore on a daily basis. It was the perfect attire for the man who wore his heart and soul on his sleeve and shared so much of himself with his students every day.
   He seemed like a character right out of the ancient texts we would be studying. But his uniqueness went beyond his physical appearance. It wasn't till years later when popular culture coined the phrase 'live with passion,' that I was able to define what Peter did every day.
   He loved his job. He loved his students. He was a man with a mission. And through his passion for his work, he shared his vision and inspired his students to seek and pursue their own passions. I never saw Peter again after I left Brooklyn College. But he is in my thoughts often.
   Barbara A. Besteni, ’80

Abraham Scharfman taught Hebrew at the college, which was offered as a foreign language and as I had taken it in high school I decided to continue in college. All of the other students in the class were Yeshiva graduates who spoke and read Hebrew fluently. There was one other girl whose Hebrew like mine was the result of high school classes. I took Bible studies which wasn’t too difficult because I had the English translation on the other side of the page. In the second semester I decided to take Modern Hebrew Poetry. Dr. Scharfman lectured in Hebrew and I had great difficulty keeping up with the class. Once a week he took the other girl and myself down to the lily pond and told us what he had said during the classes. He also allowed us to take exams in English instead of Hebrew since we had such difficulty interpreting poetry in Hebrew. I think I passed the class with a B. It was the most difficult class I ever had but the most rewarding. I will always remember and appreciate Dr. Scharfman for taking the extra time and effort to make that class meaningful and successful for me.
   Helen Stein Ruther ’52

I returned to college in the late 1970s as an adult, filled with fear because my previous experience at Brooklyn College was negative. However, Professor Mary Howard (Sociology), although modest about her own accomplishments, was most unselfish in supporting and encouraging me in my educational pursuits. Her recognition of my ability inspired me to complete my baccalaureate degree in 1980. I subsequently obtained employment at BC and received my masters degree in 1986. During this time, I also met my spouse at the College. I will never for4get Professor Howard. Her initial comments on my work in her class upon my return to BC changed my life.
   Adele Smith-Steinberg, ‘’80, M.A., ’86

Herbert Stroup, Dean of Students, taught sociology of religion. Dean Stroup’s kindness, compassion, and sensititivity were evidenced when my close friend and fellow student endured great personal tragedy. In addition to being a fine teacher, Dean Stroup continued to extend himself personally in our time of need.
   Annette (Unger) Ramsey, ’65, M.S., ’72

I was one of a dozen students enrolled in Professor Irving Allen Kaye’s Advanced Organic Chemistry course on Saturdays in the spring of 1953. Comprised of two hours of lecture and six hours in the laboratory, this eight hour course was exciting, illuminating and inspiring. Professor Kaye believed that students tend to be their most productive, creative and innovative when they work in an atmosphere of joy, mutual trust, and respect. He felt that intellectual honest, quality, and striving for excellence were the keys to success.
   Max A. Cohen, M.S. ’55

I was Professor Herbert Meislich’s first graduate student at Brooklyn College, and he was my thesis advisor and mentor. He also suggested the research project for my thesis on the rearrangement of diastereoisomeric Stilene Bromohydrins, for which I am extremely grateful. He was an excellent advisor and mentor and this research problem taught me techniques in organic chemistry thagt I could not have learned anywhere else. He taught me how to persevere at a task, plan aherad, focus on goals, find creative solutions to my research problem, and to do what all good scientists do—Experiment! Experiment!
   Max A. Cohen, M.S. ’55

Richard Mendes (Sociology) taught Social Work courses during my junior and senior years at Brooklyn College. On entering BC I did not have a major and only stumbled on Sociology when my academic advisor decided that the mishmash of courses I was proposing to take, which did not lead to a degree, should be replaced by sociology courses. It was Richard Mendes' mission to focus his students on social work as a means to overcome social injustice that provided my wakening call. Over the years I eventually completed a Doctorate in Social Work, practiced in hospitals and mental health centers in Chicago, Boston, Ibadan (Nigeria) and Washington DC, and taught social work courses at the University of Ibadan, Howard University and Gallaudet University.
    Constance Adeyeri, '64

Professor Bela K. Kiraly (History) was not just an inspirational teacher of history, he has been a significant contributor to it! Jailed in Hungary in 1951 for suspected conspiracy, in 1956 he was the Military Commander of Freedom Fighters during the Hungarian Revolution. General Kiraly led the resistance against the Soviet forces. He has also served as Senior Military Advisor to Prime Minister Viktor Orban and was a leader of the resistance in Hungary during World War II. After the revolution, he fled to Austria. He emigrated to America where he earned a Ph.D. in History from Columbia University and taught at Brooklyn College. Professor Kiraly returned to his native Hungary after the fall of the Soviet regime. In 1990, became a member of the Hungarian Parliament. He has written and edited numerous books related to the history of Hungary and Eastern Europe. On Ambassador Yuri V Andropov’s pretense of peace while Soviet forces were preparing to crush 1956 Hungarian uprising, Dr. Kiraly is quoted as saying, “Even pirates, before they attack another ship, hoist a black flag.” During my first day in his class, Professor Kiraly, who looked like a General in a three-piece blue suit, spoke of his background and involvement in the Hungarian Revolution. I remember going to the Grand Army Plaza library to search the New York Times microfilms of 1956 for information. I found articles talking of General Kiraly’s accomplishments. As a science major, history had been a required course for me. Professor Kiraly made history come alive. After I graduated, we remained in contact for many years. Bela Kiraly has had many careers, soldier, general, commander, teacher, writer, and statesman -- who better to teach world history of the 20th Century than someone who literally wrote it?
      Marvin L. Sussman, ‘68

 

 

 

 

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