Event At CCNY To Help Soldiers Become Students

The armed services often send recruiters to college campuses to interest students in joining the military. Now, The City College of New York (CCNY) is inviting soldiers onto its campus to interest them in becoming students.

On Friday, January 8, CCNY will welcome some 300 members of the famed “Fighting 69th” Infantry Regiment, a unit of the New York Army National Guard, to a “Veterans’ Social,” 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in The Great Hall. The event, which will be attended by student veterans from CCNY and other CUNY colleges, is part of a CCNY initiative to reach out to servicemen and women eager to continue their education after military life.

“The purpose of this “social” is to introduce the soldiers of the 69th Regiment and their families to City College, its history and legacy, and to the educational benefits available here through the new GI Bill,” said Robert Rodriguez, CCNY Assistant Vice President, Student Affairs. Under the new GI Bill, which took effect last August, veterans receive paid tuition, a monthly stipend for expenses and an annual book allowance. The armory of the 69th Infantry Regiment, at 68 Lexington Avenue in New York City

City College’s veteran population has experienced a surge since the legislation took effect, and Mr. Rodriguez says he expects the figure to climb to 240 from 200 for the Spring 2010 semester. Most of the student veterans on campus are receiving GI Bill benefits, he noted. 

CCNY is “adopting” the 69th Regiment to serve as a mentor of sorts for soldiers wishing to enter college when they return to civilian life. Richard Zerneck, a CCNY alumnus whose late son was a member of the unit, was a driving force in bringing his alma mater and the unit together, noted Mr. Rodriguez, who says he would like CCNY to become a flagship institution for veterans.

The event will be emceed by Don Gomez, an Iraq war veteran and 2009 Truman Scholar, currently a senior at CCNY. Speakers will include Robert Ptachik, CUNY Senior University Dean for the Executive Office and Enrollment, and Wilfred Cotto, CUNY University Coordinator of Veteran’s Services. Both men are veterans.

A highlight of the event will be a special presentation of The City College of New York Public Service Award to Jerome Kohlberg, a World War II veteran and philanthropist. Dr. Zeev Dagan, CCNY Senior Vice President and Provost, will make the presentation. 

Mr. Kohlberg is being honored for his dedication in championing the new GI Bill for Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans. Founder of the private equity firm Kohlberg, Kravis & Roberts, he chaired the Fund for Veterans’ Education, which fought for the legislation and established a scholarship fund for veterans at CCNY.

The 69th Regiment’s history and lineage goes back to 1849 when its predecessor units were organized from new and existing companies of volunteers known as the 1st Irish Regiment. It is an Irish heritage unit, with many of its traditions and symbols deriving from a time when the regiment was made entirely of Irish-Americans.

The regiment has seen combat in four wars: the American Civil War, World War I, World War II, and the Iraq War. It has also participated in 23 campaigns.

Contact: Jay Mwamba, 212/650-7580, jmwamba@ccny.cuny.edu