The Big Five-Oh
On Back to School Day, held April 16, dozens of alumni returned to NYU Tandon School of Engineering for a jam-packed time that included a tour led by a student ambassador, a behind-the-scenes look at Tandon’s newest incubator with Vice Dean for Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Kurt Becker, a chance to mingle with nearly 800 accepted Class of 2020 students and their parents, and much more.
While all were welcome, it was a particularly special day for one group: the members of the Class of 1966, who were being inducted into the Golden Jubilee Society, marking their 50 years as alumni.
If a prize had been awarded to the Class of ’66 member who had traveled the longest distance to take part in the festivities, that honor would have unquestionably gone to Odorich von Susani, who makes his home in Geneva, Switzerland. Although von Susani had traveled back to the U.S. some 150 times since moving to Europe following his time at the School of Engineering, those trips had taken him mainly to Delaware, where his longtime employer, DuPont, is headquartered. It was the first time he had revisited Brooklyn in five decades. He was particularly interested, he said, in seeing the site of the school’s renowned Polymer Research Institute, which had been designated a National Historic Chemical Landmark by the American Chemical Society in 2003. “I studied there under Herman Mark, who was known as the father of polymer science,” von Susani recalled. “That has been one of the greatest honors of my life.”
Although Stephen Marino had traveled many fewer miles than his Swiss-based classmate, some might argue that he too should be eligible for a prize — one for most energetic and engaging companion. Marino had brought along his 12-year-old grandson, David, who admitted that engineering was only one of the many career paths he might be considering in a few years. Marino hopes that whatever path David chooses it will be somewhat easier than his own: as a young married man starting a family, the aspiring industrial engineer had worked full-time and had attended school at the Heights campus only at night — a set of circumstances that made earning his degree a 15-year process. “It took a lot of tenacity, but it allowed me to have a wonderful career in the telephone industry,” he said, recalling his part in keeping switching equipment operational for millions of customers, despite occasionally daunting challenges.
Back to School Day provided an opportunity to honor not only the Class of ’66 but to name the recipient of the Polytechnic Institute Alumni Association’s Distinguished Alumni Award. That prestigious laurel was given to Barry M. Singer (’64 ’69), who enjoyed a long career at both Raytheon and Philips Lighting. (“That’s the company with one ‘L’ in its name; the other company has two and manufactures Milk of Magnesia,” he good-naturedly quipped.) Singer, who rose to the position of Chief Technology Officer, during his tenure at Philips and who has also served as a consultant to the U.S. Department of Energy among other organizations, used his speech not to extol his own accomplishments but to fondly recall his old academic advisor, Theo Tamir, and to pledge his continued support of the School of Engineering.
Stanley Mazur enjoyed watching the relative youngsters who had graduated in the 1960s be honored. He pointed out that as a member of the Class of ’48, he would be celebrating seven decades as an alum within a few years. He relishes the affiliation. “I noticed back when I was a young man just doing unskilled work at Western Electric that the engineers always seemed to be the ones smiling and having fun at their jobs,” he recalled. “So I’ll always be grateful to the school for educating me and allowing me to join their ranks.”