York Fetes Former President Bassin at 45th Anniversary

It was an event 45 years in the making and worth every year of the wait. York College used the occasion of its 45th birthday to honor its longest serving president, Dr. Milton Bassin, who retired 20 years ago after 20 years of service to the college.

Seated on the stage of the Performing Arts Center, Bassin, his wife, select alumni, and two political figures from his era at York, was humbled by the adulation being heaped upon him.

“You are the embodiment of the dream of York College,” said Administrative Judge, Jeremy Weinstein, a York alumnus of the Class of 1971. “You helped students to participate in the American dream.”

Weinstein, whose father taught as an adjunct at York, was in good company on the platform with fellow alumni, George Grasso, ’80, a Criminal Court judge, who emceed the event; Donald Vernon, Esq. ’90 and Andrea Kazlas, ’87, who composed the York College Alma Mater anthem, which begins, “Hail York College;” Tracey Bowes, ’91 and now president of the Alumni Association; and Trudy Rowe, ’11, who is pursuing a Master’s of Social Work at New York University all spoke.

“I discovered things not only about others,” said Rowe. “I discovered myself as well. At York you don’t just learn to fly. You soar.”

Each of the former student in turn, praised York for the nurturing, intellectually stimulating environment in which they were groomed for life.

Calling the fight for York “an honorable cause,” Weinstein who was York’s first Student Government president, praised Bassin for his vision in inviting the external community to join forces with the college community to fight for its existence and then convinced governors and mayors that indeed York was worth saving. Donald Vernon, praised Bassin for his patience with protesting students who took over the campus in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, some led by Vernon, himself.

The late Governor Hugh Carey was also given praise for supporting the college president and the extended community for his the vision of a campus for York in Jamaica, Queens, which finally came to fruition with the opening of the Academic Core Building in 1986.

Former New York City Councilman Archie Spigner and former Queens Borough President Claire Shulman, both of whom were supportive of Bassin and the college in its early days, and continue their advocacy, also spoke; and so did founding professor, Dr. Robert Parmet, who just published his latest book, Town and Gown: The Fight for Social Justice, Urban Rebirth, and Higher Education, which prominently features the York College story.

“Milton made ties to the community doing things that sent the message that York belonged here,” said Dr. Parmet, a professor in the Department of History and Philosophy. “He was resolute and completely honest. He knew what he wanted and he stuck with it.”

Gloria B. Waters, Vice Chancellor for Human Resources Management, for the City University of New York (CUNY), called York, “a distinguished gem in the CUNY crown and brought greetings from Chancellor Matthew Goldstein.

York’s President Marcia V. Keizs presented Dr. Bassin with The Milton G. Bassin Distinguished Service Award.

“President Bassin,” she said, “It is my privilege to present you with award on behalf of the students, faculty, staff and alumni of York College, thanking you for your 20 years of outstanding service.”

Speaking on behalf of her husband, Mrs. Bernice Bassin gave the audience a peek at Bassin’s faculty and administrative network and the students.

“His administration was a team,” she recalled. “His faculty was scholarly and dedicated. He was very proud of you, the students too; and so was I. Thank you for honoring my husband…this beautiful man.”

Mrs. Bassin also revealed that her husband, the son of immigrant parents from Russia, “came from welfare,” but graduated with from City College at the age of 19. He would become the first CUNY graduate to serve as president of a CUNY college -- York.

The event ended with appeals for support from retired professor, Gloria Waldman and Dolores Swirin, Vice President for Institutional Advancement at York.

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