Last man gets the champagne Reunion: The City College Class of '32 has lived through astonishing changes, and members are still getting together to talk about it.

Education Beat

October 12, 1997|By Mike Bowler | Mike Bowler,SUN STAFF

The boys from the Baltimore City College Class of '32 will gather again Wednesday, this time at the Summit Country Club in Northwest Baltimore.

They've been doing it for 65 years, retelling the old stories and passing around the bottle of champagne with which the lone survivor will toast the boys who went before.

"That last man may not be me," said Walter Kushner, 83, who's the keeper of the champagne and an organizer of this year's reunion. "We're disappearing in alarming numbers. Let's put it this way: At our age, we don't buy green bananas."

World War II didn't help, said Kushner, who became an accountant after serving three years in the Civilian Conservation Corps. Of a class of 450 young men -- this was decades before City College enrolled young women -- many lost their lives in the war. About 140 are still living, Kushner said, and he and his fellow organizers expect about 50 for Wednesday's affair.

Most are 82 or 83 years old. Most are retired. Many are widowed. All have lived through astonishing changes.

"When we left City," said Kushner, "radio was in its infancy, television was a vision and computers were not even on the drawing board. We've lived through several wars, the stock market crash, a presidential assassination, man walking on the moon and now living in space for several months at a time, television bringing the world into our homes and computers changing our lives forever."

One thing that hasn't been discovered is a way to preserve good champagne. Kushner admitted that he's had to replace the bottle every 10 years or so. "It turns into grape juice," he said.

Phi Beta Kappa adds two more campuses

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County and St. Mary's College of Maryland are strutting a little more confidently. Both have been awarded chapters of Phi Beta Kappa, higher education's venerable academic honor society.

Phi Beta Kappa has only 255 chapters and only seven schools were chosen this year from among 147 applications. Other Maryland campuses with Phi Beta Kappa chapters: Johns Hopkins, Goucher, Western Maryland, Loyola and the University of Maryland, College Park.

What does it mean? Prestige, primarily. UMBC and St. Mary's graduates who earn their key should find a little more grease on their slide into graduate school. Faculty members can point with pride. Recruiters can brag. The Phi Beta Kappa designation should help UMBC and College Park when they launch major fund drives this fall.

"Apart from my wedding and my children's births," said Jay Freyman, UMBC associate professor of ancient studies and director of the Honors College, "Saturday [Sept. 27, when UMBC was awarded the PBK chapter] was the best day of my life."

Founded in 1776, Phi Beta Kappa is the nation's oldest collegiate honor society. In addition to prestige, it provides more than $1 million a year in scholarships and visiting lectureships.

Philosophical about health and change at Towson

In his annual "state of the university" speech last week, Towson University President Hoke L. Smith used an unusual theme: his own health.

Just returned to the campus from major heart surgery, Smith, 66, declared that he had been "re-engineered and downsized. I am a metaphor for what we [at the university] are going through. There were signs that I should have changed my lifestyle -- smoking, lack of exercise, too much fat in the diet, hypertension and a mixed family history of cardiac problems."

Suddenly, Smith said, "the dimension of the problem became apparent, and there was no choice but to make rapid and dramatic change "

"Our situation in higher education is similar to my personal history. There are many signs of stress. Our routine checkups don't show the need for drastic change. Yet the signs keep accumulating."

Will they change the name to Senior Scholastic?

The City College Class of '32 won't appreciate this item, but those in the two generations to follow surely will: Junior Scholastic, the nation's best-known classroom magazine, turned 60 last month.

The publication's first issue in September 1937 included articles on new technologies (television and the mechanical cotton picker), "Japanese Bombers Shell Shanghai," sports sensations 22-year-old Don Budge and 23-year-old Joe DiMaggio and new movies "Captains Courageous," starring Spencer Tracy and "A Day at the Races," with the Marx Brothers.

After reading the premiere issue, first lady Eleanor Roosevelt gave it a favorable notice in her syndicated newspaper column.

Pub Date: 10/12/97

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