By Rich Bockmann
The Wikipedia entry on Martin Van Buren High School is scant, but the “Notable alumni” section contains an inspiring catalogue of successes in the realms of culture, civics and thought that could fill several leather-bound volumes.
And with that rich heritage in mind, the Queens Village school’s alumni association is planning a day of celebration this weekend when members of all 55 Van Buren graduating classes as well as the educators who helped shaped their minds are invited to mingle with and inspire the students of today.
“About a year ago I had been working with the school, trying to help out some of the students and realized the school had been struggling for a while,” said Steve Wilson, class of 1977, who is helping to organize the May 17 event on the campus, at 230-17 Hillside Ave.
Wilson, who went on from the institution to found his own investment management firm, said he came to the realization that Van Buren’s alumni could play an important role in helping to turn the school around.
“The more involved I got, the more people I got to join in with me and I realized the potential for the alumni to make a difference,” he said.
After the city lifted zoning restrictions more than 10 years ago, students left Van Buren en masse for schools like Francis Lewis, Bayside and Cardozo high schools. Van Buren received a “D” on its most recent city progress report and received a below-average rating on last year’s school survey.
But under the leadership of new Principal Sam Sochet, the school is poised for a turnaround, Wilson said, and part of the celebration day’s schedule includes an open house promoting a handful of new programs.
Beginning at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, alumni and current Fordham University basketball Coach Tom Pecora will lead a clinic for sixth-graders considering which high schools they would like to apply to, and later in the evening distinguished alumni will be inducted into the MVB Hall of Fame.
The list of honorees includes inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil, media personality Donny Deutsch, the 1958 championship baseball team and two Nobel Laureates: professor Alvin Roth, who the 2012 prize in economic sciences, and Frank Wilczek, who won the physics prize in 2004.
There were many people who do not have a Wikipedia page but make up the fabric of Van Buren.
Alice Gold retired from the school in 1990 after teaching English for 25 years.
“I loved teaching. I loved being in the classroom and I loved working on the shows,” said Gold, who produced and directed the drama club’s performances. “Just being in the classroom was wonderful.”
Gold has gone on in retirement to have her own acting career.
“I’m a working actress,” the 85-year-old said. “I’m really enjoying that.”
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.