A Multi-Borough Back-to-School Day

“About the only thing that still looks the same is the Brooklyn Bridge,” Lawrence Lapson joked. He was just one of the many members of the Golden Jubilee class marveling at the changes undergone by the school—and Brooklyn itself—since they graduated in 1964.

Members of Lapson’s class—along with fellow alumni from all decades--gathered on the last weekend in April to reminisce, hear an address from Dean Katepalli Sreenivasan, view a presentation on women in engineering, and see the hit Broadway show  Jersey Boys. In one respect, that musical may have been an appropriate choice for the Class of ’64, given that it features tunes that many of them remember fondly from their formative years. In another respect, however, this was not a crowd overly nostalgic for New Jersey—their hearts decidedly belonged to Brooklyn.

Howard Taub--who earned his bachelor’s degree in 1964, as well as graduate degrees in ’65 and ’69 and was the recipient of the 2012 Distinguished Alumnus Award--was particularly gratified that the borough’s tech sector is booming so spectacularly. “It was great to study at Poly five decades ago,” he said, “and it’s great to be back to see how the school and surrounding neighborhood have grown. The business incubator system here is really impressive, and it’s a sign that the school is still focused on innovation, just as it’s always been.”

Following a champagne brunch that was widely acknowledged to be outstanding, Dean Sreenivasan greeted the crowd and answered questions, many of them centered on the need for increased diversity in the fields of engineering and science and the real-world challenges that will need to be addressed by future generations of graduates. “We shine in several areas, including biotechnology, wireless, cybersecurity, and urban infrastructure,” Sreenivasan asserted. “Our newer graduates will undoubtedly contribute greatly to society, just as you in this room have done.”

Discussion turned, understandably, to the changes being wrought by the official merger with NYU on January 1, 2014, and Sreenivasan assured the audience that the resulting opportunities for collaborative research, expanded course offerings, and international study were proving exceptionally exciting to students and faculty alike. One member of the Class of ’64, Nelson Ying, a nuclear physicist heavily involved in promoting STEM education through his philanthropy, teased, “I, for one, am excited by the name change. Do you think NYU stands for Nelson Ying University?”  Turning serious, Ying, who fled with his parents from China during the Communist takeover in 1955, said, “This place, no matter what they call it, is responsible for helping me, as a young immigrant, become a success. I’m glad that it continues to do the same for successive generations of aspiring scientists and engineers.”