Oral Histories

A collection of oral history interviews of LaGuardia Community College members over the years. A large part of this collection is centered around video interviews conducted by David Osborne, LaGuardia & Wagner Archives, for the college's 25th Anniversary. The interviews cover the experiences of students, staff, faculty and administrators looking back on how the college impacted their careers and how the college has changed since it's opening in 1972.


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Andy Saluga
Andy Saluga
Andy Saluga was the College's first Recreation Coordinator Timestamp summary of video: (0:00)Andy was very active when he attended college at Western New York State in 1968 to early 1970s. He was involved in the Student Government and in civil rights. He had decided to leave the college because of issues at the university and may have been shutting down. (2:57)He had worked in construction in the 1970s and was then offered a teaching assistant position at an elementary school. He had liked to help people. (3:38)Andy had attended a special program at Hunter College in 1974 and then came to LaGuardia to attend a program here at the college. Andy didn’t realize there was a college here. He met Fern Khan and Rich Homes a counselor here at LaGCC. The college had been convenient for him to attend from where he was living. (5:36) Andy began to take courses here at LaGCC in education. He had liked the diversity here at the college. In 1976, the Main building was under construction “The Great Hall” was also under construction. It had been used for recreation. (6:36) Andy had graduated with an Associate degree in Education and received encouragement from professors. (7:46)The college had been much smaller and faculty, counselors and Cooperative Education staff all worked together as a team. Andy had worked at the elementary school with 1st and 2nd graders, and had attended college in the evening. The Board of Education was in fiscal crisis and cuts were being made which would not allow Andy to keep his position at the elementary school. Andy was offered an hourly position at LaGCC and had worked with Professor Irwin Feifer. (13:49) The college was awarded a grant and Andy was able to keep his position. He had worked at the Career Resource Center and was hired as a staff member. He had worked with students to provide them with information. In 1977, Andy was appointed to the professional staff and continued his work at the Career Resource Center. (16:08) The college had celebrated its 10th Anniversary and he had worked with the Recreation department on the 10K Race. Andy had been recommended to work at the Recreation department in the 1980s and had joined the department. In the early years of the college, there had not been a recreation facility. They had used “The Great Hall” as the site for recreation. In 1977, there was a new recreation facility. (18:02) Recreation was a voluntary program. The college didn’t offer physical education courses. The LaGCC Recreation department opened 6 days, morning until night and the opportunity to visit is all day long and the pool is also open. (19:48) LaGCC stressed for space so the Recreation area was used as a social space. (21:06) “With increases in enrollment members of the college were asked to talk about any dreams they had for the college. The Recreation department gave the idea of the swimming pool, to the college space committee. Because of 31st Street being closed, we were able to have the swimming pool. We could not have a fitness center in the E building, but the swimming pool was very popular a good decision.” (24:06)Various activities would go through cycles, roller skating during the disco era. Basketball, handball, indoor soccer the Recreation department tried to respond to needs. (25:35)The weight room had intimidated people who didn’t know about weight training, especially female users were not comfortable. Plans were made for a fitness center to have more women using the facilities, they wanted to draw women to the facility. (27:41) “[LaGCC] is always the place to be – the attitude is all things are possible. People of LaGCC are very special and remarkably diverse.” (31:20) “People work hard here at [LaGCC]. [LaGCC] has a sense of community as we get bigger and older I hope we can maintain that.” (32:05) Total time
Barbara Carson
Barbara Carson
Barbara Carson first came to LaGuardia Community College as a student, but returned as a tutor and stayed on in a variety of teaching and administrative positions. Timestamp summary: (00:42) In 1981, Barbara Carson graduated from LaGCC and at time of interview works in the Theatre department. (1:26) Came to LaGCC for Secretarial Science talks about her decision to switch to Liberal Arts to concentrate on teaching. (3:24) Talks about the coziness and supportiveness of the college, describes the M-Building and the Cooperative Education Division in the L & P Building over the pizza factory (4:17) After she graduated from LaGCC, Carson attended a 4 year college but missed the sense of involvement and encouragement from LaGCC. (4:44) Professor Marian Arkin offered Carson a job in the Writing Center as a tutor, Carson talks about how that affected her educational decisions. Goes on to describe courses and internships (6:48) Describes the Coop Seminar and how it prepared students for the transition between school and work and how to think of your career over the long term. (7:54) Talks about student life on campus (9:21) Gives examples of her personal/direct interactions faculty as a students and how they directed her toward literature and teaching. (10:17) Describes the student body, describes the students as having very realistic goals and going to LaGuardia for the purpose of education for a career. (11:17) Talks about working at LaGuardia while completing a bachelors’ degree at Queens College and the differences between the two schools (13:42) Covers her positions as Assistant to the Dean and Assistant to the Theatre Director and her want to help students (15:01) In 1988/89 she teaches Basic Reading in the Communication Skills department and talks about her positive experience as a teacher (16:14) Talks about how the college has in expanded in size over the years (17:42) “The 25th Anniversary theme sums it up – Tradition of innovation – LaGCC has never been afraid of trying something new if it benefits the student.” Total time is 18:48
Dorrie Williams
Dorrie Williams
Dorrie Williams at the time of the interview was Associate Dean of Cooperative Education. He talks about establishing the Cooperative Education program at the College, the changes in the college, and the future of work. Timestamp summary of VHS interview: (1:16) Talks about work experience at IBM before coming to LaGCC, finding out about the college and coming in for an interview. (2:27) Meets with Sheila Gordon at the new college, and said he thought he went to the wrong address – “it was not a college”. Goes on to describe the M-Building in its original condition as an empty factory. (5:57) He also meets with Gordon’s co-worker Ben Baim. There were only 2 people and the secretary that made up Cooperative Education. (6:50) They could not hire Williams until they hired the Dean of Cooperative Education – The Dean would make the final decision – but they would recommend Williams to the Dean. (7:29) After an interview with Dean Harry Heinemann Williams was hired and started working on May 1, 1971. (7:55) Williams said, that summer there was lots of work in terms of recruiting. (8:52) He said, Cooperative Education was on the 3rd floor of the Main building, along with all of the other college offices. (9:19) President Joseph Shenker (Williams also mentions Dr. Rose Palmer) had mandated the Cooperative Education program for all students and built the mission of the college around the concept. (10:56) LaGCC had a division of Cooperative Education at the Deans level – reporting directly to the President. (12:28) They had looked around the country at other established Cooperative Education programs at Antioch College in Ohio, and Northeastern University in Boston. Also looked at BMCC’s (Borough of Manhattan Community College) program in the CUNY system. (13:40) Talks about hiring new staff and the general excitement at the college- coming right out of the 60s (15:31) Williams spoke about the history of the idea of cooperative education history starting from the University of Cincinnati – LaGCC looked at all theories and spoke about how to attract students in Western Queens. (17:49) Speaks about the curriculum and relevant education. (18:48) Williams discussed technology and the work environment beginning to change – “We as a society had to better prepare our future workers.” (21:35) He said they all sat down, himself, Dean Heinemann, Sheila Gordon, Ben Bain, and other members and agreed to build a marketing plan. (23:17) Williams said they were lucky to have companies here in the Metropolitan Area - they had established a brochure for Cooperative Education. (29:00) Talks about contacting CEOs or Human Resources managers in the first few years of the college “We would send literature of who we were and what we needed and would get back to them.” (41:43) Williams discussed the changes over the first 25 years of the college– society having evolved, the college growing, and changes in student demographics, especially in the end of the 1970s to the mid-1980s. (50:26) Williams discussed the year 1990 and the changing future of work (52:33) Discussed students learning to work and interact with others. (55:16) Summarizes the Cooperative Education program and how the college served as a model for Coop Education worldwide.
Enock Charlotin
Enock Charlotin
Enock Charlotin was a student in the Cooperative Education program and talks about his experiences immigrating from Haiti and attending the college. Timestamp summary interview: (1:23) Enock Charlotin came to attend LaGCC in 1989 after his sister referred him to the Cooperative Education program. (2:48) After being accepted, talks about his motivations and how LaGCC supported his goals (3:08) In 1980, he had decided he wanted to learn more about computers and his parents sent him to New York from Haiti, talks about that experience (4:05) Had Professor Washington for his first course Intro to Computers. Describes Professor Washington as a teacher and role model about (5:06) Talks about the quality technology resources at the college and being ahead of other colleges (6:48) In regard to the social setting here at LaGCC – “your friends were from different backgrounds and we were all students we could talk to one another.” (7:43) Charlotin discussed the counselors and how that worked with the Coop Ed PROGRAM (9:32) Talks about his first internship at UAPC/University Application Processing Center in Brooklyn and his current work at UAPC at LaGuardia. (11:20) Talks about the Coop Seminar and guidance he had received. (14:05) Most of the teachers here at LaGCC take the time with students. Goes on to describe several areas and departments of the college that he had help from when he was a student here. (15:20) Was a member of a student club, mentions Ed Hollis, Luis Merchant of Student Services. (19:03) Spoke about the opening of the E building, how that made the college bigger, and how in his opinion made the college more professional and attractive to more students.
George Hamada
George Hamada
Dr. George Hamada was Provost, Vice President of Academic Affairs, Chair of the Natural and Applied Sciences Department and one of the original faculty of the College. He talks about the establishment of the college, the Long Island City area, Cooperative Education and helping develop the Health Sciences program. Timestamp summary of interview: (00:57) Dr. George Hamada discusses the start of LaGCC and the effect of the culture shifts in the 1960’s greatly impacted the mission of the college and how it would be organized. (3:00) Speaks about the faculty at LaGCC during the beginning of the college – “We were a college born in Open Admissions.” Goes onto the talk about the philosophy of the college. (4:10) Talks about coming over to the college from Queens Borough Community College and the differences between the two colleges (5:32) Describes the college as an environment of innovation and allowing for experimentation. (6:33) Goes onto the excitement he felt during that time “Intellectually the most exciting time of my life” and the overall commitment of faculty and staff (7:08) “If we were an alternative college – they were alternative students” Talks about the student body and how it evolved over the years (8:14) Discussed teaching science and his Ecology Intensives course, which involved off campus trips to the beach. (10:24) Describes the first day he walked in and had a room in the M building on the 4th floor and the conditions the building was in (12:56) Talks about the orientation sessions for employees before the college started, including a helicopter ride. (15:23) Describes the area the College was in, such as train tracks on 31st St for the Macys and Gimbels warehouses. (16:00) Hamada discussed the Science and Math area combined with the Math department. Explains how the different divisions were organized compared to the present [1996] (17:01) The college saw itself as a business college because of Coop and Human Services – never saw themselves in health. Talks about the state of the science courses and professors (18:40) Goes on a walk around the college with President Shenker to find a room suitable for the first science lab (20:15) They ran their first class of 13 students, some who eventually worked at the college themselves. (20:55) Curriculum was developing slowly – developed general science – he was coordinating Science – Michael Hoban was Chair of the Department. (21:10) Talks about the inclusion of Occupational Therapy into the college and department (22:48) Makes efforts to modify the college’s Master Plan to include Allied Health as an employment connection for the Health Sciences and to develop the that program. Naomi Greenberg became director of the Occupational Therapy program. Later the Dietetic Technician, Mortuary Science, Animal Health, and Nursing programs were developed. (24:58) Receives a grant in 1975 from the Veterans Administration to collaborate with the VA hospital in Brooklyn (25:42) Discusses the different science programs. (27:17) Returns to talking about the Nursing Program. (29:18) Covers 1980’s nursing shortage and need to increase enrollment. (30:41) Discussed sorting out the Nursing Program to fit the Quarter System and Semester credits, (32:48) Talks about the Mortuary Science program (38:46) Talks about the closeness of the faculty/staff community (1975-1976) and the fiscal crisis and uncertainty of the college’s future in that time (39:42) “We were very unusual – we were making an impact – mission to generate success. Physically we never had enough room – never kept up.” (41:15) Speaks about renovations and moving offices many times (48:12) Hamada talks about changes in the college, and speaks about the 1980s and his position, the different programs and about technology. (52:41) End
Gil Muller
Gil Muller
Dr. Gil Muller was Special Assistant to the President at the time of the interview and overall a long time member of the English Department. he talks mainly about the development and changes in the English Department. Timestamp summary of interview: (1:18) Dr. Gil Muller said he had interviewed for LaGCC in the Winter of 1970 here in New York City at the annual Modern Language Association Meeting. At the time, Muller had lived in Berkeley, California and had taught overseas after graduate school. (6:25) Talks about first seeing the college and meeting President Joseph Shenker (6:34) “It was a very raw factory – it was a college in the making.” (7:26) Muller went back to Berkeley, California and received a formal letter to appoint him as Assistant Professor in Division of Language and Culture. (8:30) Talks about the college orientation in the summer of 1971 to plan for the opening of the College (10:10) They were creating a college from scratch. (10:43) Talks about Prof Harvey Weiner another English professor from the start of the college (11:24) Muller spoke about the courses they had created and spoke about one week Intensives. Talk’s about Professor Judy Gomez “Utopian Society” course in Staten Island, NY and Professor Sarah Barbara’s “Wilderness Experience” course in the Catskills of New York. (14:41) Muller spoke about the helicopter ride – circle tour around Manhattan and Long Island City. (17:00) Describes teaching in an environment where construction was happening all round the building. (17:51) Talks about The Great Hall and its many functions (administration, counseling and teaching.) (18:41) Describes the “founding” faculty members of the college, especially their youth and President Shenker’s age. (19:20) Muller talks about the work environment and long hours worked. Mentions open admissions. Talks about off campus food and meeting spots, specifically Brooks Restaurant (20:53) Spoke about the first fiscal crisis (1975/1976). Muller talks about the tenure and discusses President Joseph Shenker and George Groman. (24:30) Talks about the hiring of professors and hiring a diverse group of faculty members. Talks about bringing John A. Williams and Richard Price to the college. Discusses adjuncts at the college. (30:27) Discusses the English department and its courses. (31:48) Talks about the creation of the Faculty Council, college governance and splitting the English Department from the Humanities Department (34:12) Discusses students that were attending LaGCC and changes in the English department’s mission (37:48) Muller spoke about what he thought made LaGCC different – and how the college has adjusted its mission. Ends at 40:30
Harry Heinmann
Harry Heinmann
Harry Heinemann was Dean of Cooperative Education, he discusses the Cooperative Education program. Timestamp summary of interview (follows Sandra Watson interview on tape): (41:13) Dean Harry Heinemann speaks about how President Joseph Shenker developed the college to integrate the academic curriculum with work experience and to serve the low middle income population of Western Queens. “… families would encourage their sons and daughters – particularly their daughters.” (44:39) Explains the Quarter Calendar. (45:15) “We wanted real jobs- we wanted students to be paid for the work they did” speaking of the Quarter Calendar and Cooperative Education. (46:06) Partnerships with LaGCC started with a lot of ideas – lots of changes had to be made. They had to go out and market Cooperative Education, Dean Heinemann said, He had spoke about IBM and mentioned Professor Dorrie Williams (LaGCC faculty member of Cooperative Education) (48:17) Discusses IBM and LaGCC students being hired and being hired as graduates and moving on to managerial positions. (50:25) “In 1971, before the college opened, we were out there developing jobs – they went to Official Electronics, up the street, and were developing jobs.” (51:40) Speaks about the development of Cooperative Education Prep for students and connecting work experience with classroom experience. (53:17) “Back in the 1970s there was a tremendous demand for secretaries – so it was very easy to develop positions for secretaries. Today, here is a tremendous demand for computer science students and telecommunications majors.” (54:27) Goes into how internships were developed. Faculty member would join in on meetings with business managers to work out educational needs (55:46) Becomes a member of organizations such as the Queens Personnel Management Association and Queens Chamber of Commerce, to get to know the business community and promote Cooperative Education. (57:24) Describes Changes in the economy and employment in the past 25 years and it’s effects on the Coop program. “We follow the economic pattern in the city and in the region.” (58:51) He also discussed Coop Seminar, bridging work experience and academic credit Speaks about the use of field manuals and described TAR (Teaching Application Reinforcement) handbooks which connect to learning to work experience [Archivist Note: TAR books are kept in Institutional Archives collections] (01:05:13) “LaGCC was really the first mandatory Cooperative Education program in the country at the 2 year college level and the first Cooperative Education that offered academic credit in all majors including Liberal Arts” (01:06:31) Bloomingdale's was one of the first employers to take Coop students (01.09.09) In reference to looking back 25 years – Heinemann spoke about the college changing to the Enhanced Calendar and how it made problems for Cooperative Education - the softening of the economy – internships becoming part-time and unpaid – working with IBM (01:13:29) He said, graduates tend to stay with employers. “Employers are interested in our students, interested in a flexible labor force”.
Janet Lieberman
Janet Lieberman
Dr. Janet Lieberman was the founder of Middle College High School, Long Island City, NY, established the Explore Transfer program with Vassar College, and helped shape mission of the college in its early years. Timestamp summary of interview (follows Barbara Carson on tape): (19:39) Introductions (20:35) Talks about the educational/economic/social environment of New York City that lead to Open Admission and the creation of new community colleges. (21:35) “The Chancellor’s cabinet had many young men and several became community college presidents – they had shown their capabilities - Joseph Shenker had become president.” (22:33) “Each community college that was formed at that time had a mission. Our mission was Cooperative Education this was going to be the experimental college.” (23:33) Dr. Lieberman came to work at LaGCC in February 1971. “There was 8 faculty and administrators – a blank slate. They made all these decisions - it was a very exciting time.” (25:54) Dr. Lieberman led a Faculty Development Program in the summer of 1971, centered on risk taking, which served as an orientation for faculty members. Goes on to describe the program and activities such as a helicopter ride, map making, photography of surrounding area to orient faculty to the area and location of college (29:39) “There was a great emphasis on excellence – no such thing as 9 -5. There was a mission - we wanted to be the best.” (30:23) Talks about role in college and hiring for Remediation and Basic Skills programs and faculty in general. (31:10) Worked with Mary Ryan, Assistant to the Dean of Faculty, to design a college curriculum. (31:45) Describes the first entering class of the college and personally greeting all the students walking on the first day with President Joseph Shenker and Dean Ann Marcus. “It was very impressive – the message was we are happy to have you.” (33:06) Dr. Lieberman said students loved to be acknowledged as individuals. “A common complaint when kids dropped out was “No one knew my name.”” (34:56) Describes LaGCC as a leader in collaboration to serve community needs. (36:50) Talks about the creations of Middle College High School [Tape cuts off at 40:02, interview was not complete at this time]
Maxine Lance
Maxine Lance
Maxine Lance was a student in the first graduating class of LaGCC in 1973. She later became a CUNY Office Assistant, eventually working in College Discovery and retiring in 2019. Timestamp summary of interview: (1:05) Maxine Lance said she decided to attend LaGCC because all of her friends were applying to college. She didn’t want to be left out so she applied to LaGCC. (1:53) Talks about meeting people through Student Activities and her major in Data Processing (2:52) Describes the M-Building and Great Hall and how encouraged interaction and impacted student life. (4:15) She discussed prices in the cafeteria for breakfast and lunch and compares them to the present time. (5:16) Talks about being part of the first graduating class (7:01) Talks about her courses, especially in Data Processing and her professors (8:13) Describes how the college and student body has changed since she was a student (having remained at the college as an employee) and how she thinks it has affected student life. (10:32) Speaks about her experience with Cooperative Education and the challenges of attending class and while working. Talks about the different internships she had, including working in the Extended Day department with Ralph Garrett. (14:05) Continued to work at LaGCC in the Registrar office. She said during that time she believed Eileen Murray was the Director and she had also worked in the Adult and Continuing Education Department part-time with Allen Goldberg. She now working at Student Affairs in the College Discovery program and is working there for 13 years. (18:05) Goes on to talk about the Cooperative Education program and the opportunities and skills it builds. (19:23) Lance talks about her work history at the college, working as a hourly for about 10 or 11 years and now she is Civil Service for almost 9 years. (20:01) End
President Raymond Bowen
President Raymond Bowen
President Raymond Bowen was president of the college from 1989 to 1999. He talks about his earlier career at the start of the college as Associate Dean and developing the curriculum. Also covers Middle College High School and going to Baltimore to start another Cooperative Education program. Timestamp summary of interview: (00.00) Introduction and talks about career before coming to LaGuardia Community College (2:17) First heard of Community College Number 9 and came in as an Associate Dean (4:59) Talks about planning the curriculum starting from scratch and going to Brooks, the restaurant by Court Square, to sit down and talk about how they wanted to plan out the curriculum. Also goes over the grant for the helicopter ride at the first orientation. (5:47) Describes the conditions of the M-Building before the college was opened and the work done to get the college ready to receive students. (7:24) Talks about the atmosphere of the early years of the college, especially the close relation between faculty and students (9:02) Gets George Hamada to come to the college to set up the Science Department. Also asks Ralph Garrett to join the college and set up the Extended Day Division (10:02) Talks about creating the Mortuary Science program and discusses the Nursing program. (12:42) Sets up a program in the Sony Building and describes “collaboratives” which involved professors team teaching different courses. (15:32) Talks about Division Chairs stopping the cluster teaching. (18:27) Goes into faculty initial concerns over Middle College students using the college’s space. Also describes bringing the Middle College model to Memphis, Tennessee with Janet Lieberman and Cecilia Cullen, and similar faculty concerns they faced there. (19:45) Leaves LaGCC, and helps set up the Cooperative Education Program in Baltimore, Maryland. (20:36) Covers the LUCED Program [?] and money brought to the college for economic development. (21:38) Describes the diversity and changes in the student body. (23:40) Talks about the Pluralism Taskforce and incorporating pluralism into the curriculum. (25:40) Mentions that 80 percent of graduates go on to get their Bachelor’s degree. Finishes with summary remarks on the interview and his outlook on the future of the college.

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