This Queens high school teacher retires after 42 years as his grandson graduates

Photo by Michael Graziano

There have been many highlights in Bobby Guthenberg’s 42-year tenure at St. Francis Preparatory School in Fresh Meadows. But what stands out most are the students’ success stories.

“When the students come back after they graduate and tell me about their success in college — that’s the most satisfying thing for me,” Guthenberg said. “When they come back and they tell me that they’re doing well in college or they have a job they’re happy with … There’s a lot of success stories.”

On June 2, Guthenberg topped off his career at the private Catholic school when he watched his grandson Christian walk the stage and receive his diploma from St. Francis Prep. He and administrators believe it is the first time in the school’s over 150-year history a teacher retired as his grandchild graduated.

Originally from Hicksville, Guthenberg moved to Queens Village shortly after getting married in 1974. He’s lived in Bayside since 1993.

The math teacher spent four years working at other schools in the area before joining St. Francis Prep in 1976. He’s taught subjects including calculus, probability, statistics, geometry, algebra and trigonometry.

“Courses that we teach are accepted at the junior and senior level for college credit through different schools,” he said. “And every year the amount of scholarship money given out to our students increases.”

Guthenberg’s grandson grew up in Italy, where Gutherberg’s son Michael — who also graduated from St. Francis Prep — met his wife while working for the USO.

The 17 year old Christian Guthenberg, who played on the school’s soccer and volleyball teams, has not yet committed to a school and is deciding between institutions including St. John’s University and Queens College.

“[Christian] is ‘Mr. Sports.’ Soccer was really his first love,” Guthenberg said.

In retirement, Guthenberg will continue his over five decades of volunteer work at LIU Post public radio, WCWP, where he interviews artists from the ’60s and musical newcomers.

“We play stuff that you might not hear at other radio stations: new artists, new albums, things that aren’t repetitive like some of the commercial stations,” he said. “We have the freedom to play unique things. It’s a lot of fun.”

While St. Francis Prep has undergone many physical changes over the years through capital improvement projects, Guthenberg said, the general philosophy has remained the same.

“We’re all on the same team here,” he said. “We have an expression here: ‘High school is four years; Prep is forever.’ Long after you leave, you’ll always be considered part of this institution.”

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