Veterans of Brooklyn College Student Newspaper, Shut Down by School Officials in 1950, Return for Gala Reunion, April 28

Brooklyn, NY — Fifty-six years after the staff of the Brooklyn College Vanguard was locked out of their offices, veterans of the student newspaper will return for a gala reunion on Friday, April 28, to celebrate their historic protest and dedicate a memorial plaque. The dedication of the plaque, outside of Vanguard’s old offices on the second floor of Boylan Hall, will take place at 5:30 p.m. The gala reunion reception and dinner will commence at 6 p.m. in the Brooklyn College Library’s Lily Pond Room. Admission for the reunion dinner is $70.

Vanguard managing editor Harry Baron discusses strategy with the staff after publication was suspended in May 1950.

Vanguard, founded in 1936, was suspended on May 12, 1950, by Brooklyn College President Harry Gideonse for having the temerity to resist his iron rule—the principal issues were that Vanguard was left-leaning politically and had published a story written by Herb Dorfman about internal politics in the College’s Department of History that embarrassed the president. Five months after the suspension, the student paper reopened, only to be officially disbanded a week later by a vote of a student-faculty committee under Gideonse’s control. (For an oral history account compiled by the American Social History Project for the fiftieth anniversary of the Vanguard lockout, click here.)

Vanguard may have been silenced, but the students who worked on the paper went on to very distinguished careers in journalism and publishing, including CNN financial news editor Myron Kandel, Joe and Shirley Wershba of CBS News (portrayed by Robert Downey, Jr. and Patricia Clarkson in the Oscar-nominated motion picture Good Night, and Good Luck); Albert Lasher (Wall Street Journal and Business Week), Mitchel Levitas (New York Times), Harry Baron (Golf Magazine), Larry Friedman (Associated Press), and Rhoda Karpatkin (Consumer Reports). The paper’s last editor, Bill Taylor, served as a staff lawyer for Thurgood Marshall on the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund during the 1950s and was later appointed by President Lyndon Johnson to head the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. After a career as a news producer for ABC, NBC, and CBS, Herb Dorfman, who wrote the article that precipitated the end of the newspaper, returned to head the broadcast journalism program at Brooklyn College.

The staff is locked out of their Boylan Hall offices after publishing an “unauthorized” paper, Draugnav (“Vanguard” spelled backwards), a week after being suspended. The plaque commemorating the work of the student journalists will be on one of the doors in the background of this picture.

In an ironic twist, many of those on the Vanguard staff who antagonized the Brooklyn College administration as students half a century ago have become some of the College’s most generous supporters. In 2004 they created the Vanguard Prize, an annual $500 award to promising Brooklyn College student journalists.

The highlight of the evening will be the dedication of a plaque commemorating the life and the memory of Vanguard and the contributions of those who worked on it. After that ceremony, which will also be attended by three dozen veteran Vanguard staffers and current Brooklyn College President Christoph M. Kimmich, the festivities will move to the Lily Pond Reading Room in the Brooklyn College Library for a gala reception and dinner.

The cost for the entire event, including reception, dinner, and free-flowing wine bar, is $70 per person. Spouses, friends, and even children are most welcome. For more information about the Vanguard event, call the Brooklyn College Office of Alumni Affairs, (718) 951-5065, or visit the Web page for Vanguard alumni at www.brooklyn.cuny.edu/bc/offices/vanguard.