York College Mourns President Emeritus Bassin

The York College/CUNY community is in mourning following the death of its former president, Mr. Milton G. Bassin, who died on August 13, 2012. The president emeritus had been in failing health in recent years but still had a great love for the college to which he was devoted.

Mr. Bassin served as York’s indefatigable president from 1971 until his retirement in May of 1991. Under his steady leadership, York survived the fiscal crisis of the 1970s, which had threatened to close the burgeoning college forever. President Bassin exhibited a steely determination and knack for bringing the external community together with the college community. He led the fight for York’s survival as a senior college and for it to remain in Jamaica, Queens and remain a senior college.

The president spearheaded the task of building a state-of-the-art permanent campus housed on 50 acres in the heart of downtown Jamaica. “Without Milt Bassin, the York College campus in Jamaica would never have been built,” said Dolores Swirin, vice president for Institutional Advancement at York. “Thanks to Milt, thousands of students have received a high-quality education at a senior college in the heart of Southeast Queens. Milt won the deep respect of faculty, staff, students and the community for his work. He will be deeply missed by all of us at York.”

Born in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in 1923 to Russian immigrants, Milton G. Bassin was the second president of York College and, to date, its longest serving. He was a staunch advocate of a tuition-free CUNY on behalf of the students who, like himself, came from humble beginnings.

Taking advantage of the free tuition opportunities of the City University of New York’s (CUNY) City College, Bassin earned a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering in 1944 and a Masters degree from Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn in 1954. President Bassin was also a Military man who served in the United States Navy.

His CUNY career began with his hiring as an instructor in mechanical technology at New York City Community College (now New York City Technical College, a Brooklyn-based senior college) and worked his way up the ranks from dean to dean-in-charge and eventually, president. Under Bassin’s leadership, York College graduated thousands of students who now serve as respected physicians, researchers, New York City judges such as Jeremy Weinstein and George Grasso; college professors – some of whom now teach at York; and numerous other successful professions.

In 2007 York showed its appreciation for his service with an honorary doctorate degree, which meant the world to him. Last fall the college family also honored Mr. Bassin at York during the 45th year anniversary celebration where he basked in the love of faculty, community members and alumni.

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