York College celebrates its 50th anniversary

York College celebrates its 50th anniversary
Photo by Nat Valentine
By Gina Martinez

York College celebrated its 50th anniversary with an executive Leadership Breakfast last Friday, then a block party and an alumni art show the following day.

The Leadership Breakfast focused on the founding of York College and its survival during the 1970s fiscal crisis. It featured a panel discussion moderated by York history professor Robert Parmet and three speakers: former City Councilman Archie Spigner; Daisy Bernard, a York alumni and former civic organization leader’ and F. Carlise Towery, former president and CEO of the greater Jamaica Development Corporation. All of the speakers have been involved with the CUNY college and helped it in one way or another.

The breakfast event, “The History of York College as a Beacon of Jamaica,” looked in-depth at the history of the fight for York and the school’s impact on Jamaica, as well as Spigner’s role in bringing the school to Jamaica.

“Spigner used the power of his Council office and City Hall to bring Gov. Hugh Carey to tour the downtown Jamaica area, including the empty land mass for the then-proposed York campus,” said Marcia Comrie, from York’s office of Marketing and Communications. “Impressed, the then-governor returned to Albany and signed off on the funding to build York’s campus.”

York was initially founded in 1966 and was called the Alpha College of the City University of New York. The college first opened its doors in Bayside on a leased space on the Queensborough Community College campus in 1967. The college struggled to keep going through the tough economic climate in the 1970s. President Milton Bassin, civic groups and elected officials advocated to keep the college alive. They also fought to bring the campus to Jamaica.

Construction on the Jamaica campus began in 1980 and the first class was held in 1986.

The block party Saturday was held in front of the college campus. The York College big band played music ranging from classic to pop and the steel band orchestra played Caribbean music. Chereese Sheen, 23, is a journalism major at York and works at the college bookstore.

“Although I attended the block party for work purposes, I still had a great time,” she said. “While handing out fliers, I was able to socialize with many of York’s alumni. We spoke about how much the college has changed physically and even how the students are now more involved and have more school spirit than in previous years.”

Reach Gina Martinez by e-mail at gmart[email protected]cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.