Noted and Quoted

Should You Give to Harvard?

Well, no. With all due respect to our wealthiest and most distinguished university, it's a far better thing to give our money to say, the Borough of Manhattan Community College. So says Randy Cohen, the widely read Ethicist for The New York Times, in his popular Times Magazine column earlier this fall.

The argument, Cohen said, comes down to this: Which schools have a "greater moral claim to your benevolence?" Nearly half of all college students attend community colleges - "institutions that help keep alive the American promise of economic opportunity," he said. At BMCC, for example, many of those enrolled are the first in their families to go to college. More than three-quarters of them come from households with incomes of $25,000 or less and 80 percent of them work while going to school.

That's not to say that Harvard doesn't offer scholarships to significant numbers of low-income students. But with an endowment of $26 billion and private donations of more than $600 million this fiscal year, the university certainly does not have the level of need that community colleges do. It makes sense, Cohen says, to steer a higher percentage of donations to needier institutions, where such support produces a higher proportionate impact. From an ethical investing perspective, then, he concludes that "the more honorable course is to write that check to a community college or a historically black college or a small Catholic college or other modest institution that genuinely and profoundly transforms the lives of its graduates."

What Are the Chances?

David Alvarez, left, with his father, and Alex Ko, with his mother,
outside the theater where both boys rotate in the title role of
"Billy Elliot."

What's the probability of two strangers - whose sons star in the same role on Broadway - working at the same place?

City Tech Provost Bonne August noticed this strange coincidence when Tammie Cumming came on board this past summer as director of assessment and institutional research, bringing broad experience as a researcher, consultant and teacher to her position. Her son, Alex Ko, is the fifth actor to rotate into the title role of Billy in the Tony-Award winning hit musical "Billy Elliot." Alex joined adjunct assistant chemistry professor David Alvarez-Carbonell's son, David Alvarez, who has starred in the show since it opened on Broadway in November 2008 and shared a Tony. Alvarez-Carbonell began teaching at City Tech last spring.

The play focuses on a poor British working-class boy, who, despite the lack of support from his family, pursues his dream of becoming a ballet dancer. Unlike the fictional character they portray, Alex, 13, and David, 15, both had the support of their parents, who made the same decision to relocate their families to New York City from Iowa and California, respectively, to give their sons the chance to make their dreams a reality.

Perfect timing played a major role in bringing Cumming to City Tech and her son Alex, whose father died in 2007, to Broad-way. "He had his final audition for 'Billy Elliot' the same week I had my big interview at City Tech," she recalls. "I had told him that if he got the part he could only take it if I could get a job in New York."

When Alvarez-Carbonell asked his son what he thought about the coincidence, the youngster replied, "Gosh, that's weird if you ask me." Says Alvarez-Carbonell, "That's really funny because it's the same response that Billy's friend Michael gives in the play when Billy asks him what he thinks of Billy's audition for the Royal Ballet!"

Presidential Honors

Hunter College President Jennifer J. Raab was named one of the 50 most powerful women in New York City by Crain's New York Business magazine. The only president of a college or university on a list dominated by corporate executives, she was praised for making Hunter one of the nation's best educational values despite a limited budget. She served as Chairman of the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission for seven years prior to becoming Hunter's President in 2001.

Lehman College President Ricardo R. Fernández traveled to South Korea to accept an honorary doctorate in education from one of Lehman's new international partners, Sungshin Women's University. Last year Lehman and Sungshin began a dual-degree, student exchange program, built on a successful collaboration for nursing students. "This partnership represents a crucial step in preparing our students for a truly global education in an ever-shrinking world," President Fernández told the audience at Sungshin's 41st Commencement ceremony.

Two Interim Leadership Appointments

Peter G. Jordan
Robert E. Paaswell

The Board of Trustees has announced two interim appointments. Robert E. Paaswell, a distinguished professor of civil engineering who joined City College in 1990 as director of the federally supported University Transportation Research Center, was named CCNY's interim president.

Peter G. Jordan, who has been vice president of enrollment management and student development at LaGuardia Community College since 2004, was appointed interim vice chancellor for student affairs.





At City College, Restoring a Portal to the Past

Robert Santos, top, near the rediscovered entrance
to Shepard Hall, left. The entrance is at the end of the
wide pathway, in detail above.

Archaeologist is not his job description, but Robert Santos recently applied his considerable inquisitiveness to unearth a long-forgotten architectural treasure - a covered, below-ground entryway to Shepard Hall, the signature neo Gothic building on CCNY's original North Campus.

As the college's vice president for campus planning and facilities, Santos often walks the campus. One day, as he passed Shepard Hall on the Convent Avenue side, he noticed a box-like structure. It was an old book lift, a remnant, perhaps, of the old bookstore that once existed inside. And there was something else: an opening that seemed to lead to the basement.

Santos was curious. Flashlight in hand, he went in. He was stunned to see an archway, and a door with large bronze hinges. It had to be another entrance to Shepard Hall, maybe a secondary entrance to its old cafeteria, whose alcoves were once meeting places for like-minded students. Two of the alcoves became famous as 1930s meeting spots for highly politicized leftists such as the young Julius Rosenberg, a Stalinist; literary critic Irving Howe, and Irving Kristol - a Trotskyist in his early days and later an architect of the neoconservative movement.

An old University calendar photo of Shepard Hall confirmed Santos' theory: It was indeed a lower-level entrance, covered later to create one wide pathway to the building. The photo showed, between two paths then, the opening and the descending stairway to the lower portal. Santos decided to have the entrance restored. Bringing back the portal, now fenced off for renovation, will not only preserve the design and landmark status of Shepard Hall, but serve as another entryway for 21st century academic programs in the historic space.

Said Santos: "It was the right thing to do."