May 25, 2012 | Queensborough Community College
In 1962, there were 93 members of Queensborough Community College’s first graduating class. This year, several will return to celebrate with the Class of 2012 at Queensborough’s 51st Commencement exercises.
The unique group of alumni, who have crowned themselves Class of 1962 : The Pioneers, will hail from as far as Nevada and as near as Queens to reunite with their former classmates. They were once part of a new community college that consisted mainly of a stone club house and a vast, open golf course.
Among the guests is Paulette P. Kohane, ’62, a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor who enrolled at Queensborough in her late 30s to study education. She taught in the New York City public school system for more than 30 years. Ms. Kohane, who resides in Rego Park, received her baccalaureate in liberal arts from Queens College and a master’s degree in modern languages from Columbia University.
Several members of the Pioneer Club have been close friends for more than 50 years. Of the 11 who will attend commencement, nine received advanced degrees; five at the City University of New York (CUNY). Richard Gusikoff travels from Nevada and Clifford Hoffman, an attorney from Atlanta, exclaimed, “This reunion feels like Christmas to me!”
Michael Kalkin, who majored in business and now lives in Huntington Bay, Long Island, said, “Queensborough is where I felt nurtured. It helped me decide what to do with the rest of my life.” Mr. Kalkin was named in the late 1990s as one of the top Allstate Insurance agents in automobile production in the State of New York.
Norman Bigman, ’62, QCC Fund Board Director and Chair, President’s Circle said, “Because of the absolute newness of everything, faculty made a substantial effort to engage the entire student body.” He added, “I remember that in the winter we went sleigh riding down the hill by the track!” Norman lives in Glen Cove, Long Island, and is an account executive at Gannon Vitolo Contracting.
Another member of the Class of ’62, who will not be present at the ceremony, is James O. Ortiz ’62, Ph.D., retired president of Southern Maine Community College. A liberal arts major and the first in his family to attend college, Dr. Ortiz said, “Early in my tenure, as I began to deal with the perception of private universities verses community colleges, I remembered my vision of Queensborough as a quality institution that is equal to or better than a large private university.”