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Blast from the Past

April 24, 2012

BMCC’s main building is known as the large, brick structure in Tribeca that spans five city blocks.

But—flashback!—it wasn’t always that way.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the “original” BMCC campus was located in midtown Manhattan. Classes were held in various office buildings.

Whether you attended 'the original' BMCC or the Tribeca BMCC, chances are you have fond college memories.

Some of BMCC’s earliest graduates recently attended a First Decade Reunion Dinner held at the main campus.

The event was organized by Pat Splendore, BMCC’s Director of Alumni Affairs, and her team of volunteers.

“Our earliest alumni from the 1960s and 1970s are an invaluable embodiment of the college community, and serve as inspiration for current and future students,” said Splendore.

Videos and yearbooks

The reunion—which approximately 80 alumni attended—kicked off with tours of the campus, including site visits to Fiterman Hall.

Outside of Richard Harris Terrace, small groups gathered to watch a slideshow of BMCC’s early years. Some pointed out old friends and professors they recognized in pictures.

BMCC President Dr. Antonio Pérez stopped by the event to greet the alumni and answer any questions they had about the 'new' BMCC.

The Office of Public Affairs set up a video camera for alumni to talk about their BMCC memories. Alumni also received a BMCC pin, pen, copy of BMCC Commons, and more.

BMCC was “a second chance”

Mark MacDonald (’66), a former middle school teacher who is currently a member of the Vermont State Senate, was one BMCC’s very first students.

He traveled from his farm in Vermont to attend the reunion.

“I was 21 and the school was just opening. BMCC was known as a place that would give you a second chance,” he explained. “At BMCC, for the first time in my life I was a good student. It was a great place with young people who were eager to learn.”

MacDonald also played baseball at BMCC.

“Half the team practiced in Central Park in the morning and the other half in the afternoon—but we traveled to games together.”

After graduating from BMCC, MacDonald was drafted to Clark University’s baseball team and joined the army, before returning to Clark to earn his bachelor’s degree.

“I come to New York to visit friends and BMCC,” he said. “And I’m still a Mets fan.”

A ‘wonderful’ experience

Alumna Vicky (Carmen) Pizzaro ’69 remembers her first day at registration.

“I stood on a very long line and met a woman who is still a girlfriend of mine,” she said. “I was an innocent, naïve student who graduated from an all-girls high school with limited lifetime experience. My introduction to the world was through the eyes of BMCC.”

At the time, Pizzaro was “captivated” by her BMCC peers.

“BMCC is where the cornerstone of my life really began,” said Pizzaro. “I met people of other cultures and religions who spoke other languages. It was a wonderful, wonderful experience for me.”

Pizarro later studied education at CUNY City College then Hunter College, and recently worked as a middle school principal.

“I have BMCC to thank for my career path.”

Dinner speeches

Sixties and seventies music played throughout the formal dinner, as old and new friends perused BMCC yearbooks and exchanged contact information and memories. The room was decorated in BMCC’s signature orange and blue colors.

Alumn and current BMCC Adjunct Professor Doug Machovic (’66) spoke during the reception.

“BMCC was like a private school—it was such a joy to be there, we all knew each other,” he recalled. “We were students, and now we’re nana and pop-pop.”

Machovic, who helped coordinate the reunion, teaches in the Health Education department at BMCC and often speaks at BMCC’s career-related events.

“We came to BMCC, we started here, we went on, we prospered, had successes—the full cycle of life,” he continued. “And together, as alumni, we’re family.”

Next, Liberal Arts major Andre Barber, a recipient of a BMCC Foundation Scholarship, introduced himself to the alumni.

“I’ll be one of you soon,” he said, stating he’ll be graduating from BMCC this June, and moving on to CUNY City College.

“I'm excited to see you all here, as my predecessors,” said Barber.

Berry’s keynote speech

The reunion’s keynote speaker was Philip Berry (’71), Vice-President of the CUNY Board of Directors and recipient of the 2010 Distinguished Alumni Award.

“I was involved in helping to bring about a number of justices we thought were injustices at the time,” said Berry of his BMCC years. “We didn’t feel there was receptivity to the things we thought were important.”

As someone now on the “other side” as a member of the CUNY Board of Directors, Berry said there is now more receptivity to students’ requests and, “you can see the growth that is happening in this building (199 Chambers St.) and others, which is a reflection of that.”

CUNY in the city

According to Berry, who called Fiterman Hall an “amazing building,” one out of every four construction projects in Manhattan is under the auspices of The City University of New York.

“The goal is to accommodate growth in the city as we educate the individuals contributing to this great city and great nation,” said Berry.

He encouraged alumni to give back by contributing to the BMCC Foundations so students like Andre Barber can continue to thrive.

Giveaways and contests

Pat Splendore, Director of Alumni Affairs, hosted a raffle, in which some lucky BMCC graduates received BMCC hats or Whole Foods Markets gift certificates.

A special award was given to the alumni who traveled from Florida to attend the reunion.

“BMCC is so meaningful to the alumni,” said Splendore. “They were grateful to be together again as part of the BMCC community. I felt like I’ve known them for years.”

And, says Splendore, even those who couldn't be at the reunion “sent messages and support as Friends of The Reunion.”

Additionally, more than $1,000 was donated by the alumni of the first decade to support scholarships for BMCC’s current students.   

‘Starting point’

Alumna Constance Adams Simmons (’69) was pleased to see that BMCC has “come a long way.”

“I went to Hunter College then St. John's University, but this was my starting point. I'm glad we had this reunion,” said the Queens-based special education teacher.  “I met someone here who lives around the corner from me that I've never seen before! We’re going to exchange contact information.”

Simmons called the First Decade Reunion Dinner “a great affair.”

“I hope the school continues to thrive,” she said.

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  • BMCC was originally located in midtown Manhattan
  • More than 80 alumni attended the reunion, brought yearbooks, shared stories
  • Honored with a dinner, music and private tours of the college

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