Bernstein, Hanley Pass Century Mark
By Shira Boss-Bicak ’93
Sidney J. Bernstein ’24
PHOTO: TOM CARAVAGLIA
Sidney Bernstein ’24 and J. Daniel
Hanley ’27 celebrated their 100th birthdays this
year, making them the granddaddies of the College alumni family.
A New York native, Bernstein was among the youngest members of
his College graduating class, entering at 17 and completing his
degree in three years.
Although not a gifted musician, he liked to play the piano, and
practiced on an upright in his dorm room in Hartley Hall. After
practicing the same piece for some time, Bernstein received a petition
under his door, signed by scores of Hartley residents, that told
him “enough is enough” and to change his piece, he recalled
in a memoir written for his 90th birthday.
Bernstein is a lifelong supporter of opera and music, was v.p.
of the educational foundation of Fashion Institute of Technology
and was a founder of Shenkar University in Israel. He founded a
commercial real estate company in New York, from which he retired
at 95. His nephew now runs the company as Bernstein Real Estate.
A lifetime John Jay Society member, Bernstein regularly attended
colloquia on campus until his mid-90s.
“When you reach an advanced age, you become an observer rather
than a participant, and take pleasure in others’ accomplishments
rather than your own,” Bernstein expressed through his daughter,
Elaine S. Bernstein ’72 GS.
Having been born at home, Bernstein likes to point out that he
was 79 the first time he went into a hospital. After suffering two
strokes, he has cut back on his activities, but goes to a senior
center four days a week.
Bernstein celebrated his 100th birthday with family and friends
in New York City in a series of private parties at his home every
weekend in April, and with two celebrations on his birthday, April
13 — one at the senior center and one at home with his children,
Paul, Elaine and Anne, and three grandchildren. Bernstein’s
wife of 43 years, Anita Michelson Bernstein, died in 1986.
“He’s a mensch,” Anne Bernstein says of her father.
“He’s the most loving, giving, helpful person on the
planet, a man with ethics, honor and class.” Bernstein attributes
his longevity to having “chosen” the right parents,
who lived into their 90s. “He figures he has another 10 or
15 years,” Elaine Bernstein notes.
J. Daniel Hanley ’27
and his fourth great-grandson, 1-year-old great-grandson J.C.
Hanley was directed to a career in government service from summer
jobs he had while a student at the College in the 1920s. During
that time, he served as a tutor-companion to the sons of several
leading New York families, including Henry Morgenthau Jr.’s
boys, Henry III and Robert, now Manhattan’s district attorney.
Hanley taught them to swim and sail at their home in Fishkill, N.Y,
where one of their neighbors was Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was
recuperating at Hyde Park after having contracted polio and who
soon became New York’s governor.
Hanley was introduced to Roosevelt’s press attaché
and became involved in the Democratic party. “I was with the
Democratic National Convention before Roosevelt was nominated”
as the party’s candidate for president, he remembers. “After
he was elected, J. Edgar Hoover got me to join the FBI.”
Following a short time with the FBI, Hanley was transferred to the
Department of the Interior under Harold Ickes. From there, Hanley
joined the State Department under A.A. Berle, a former Columbia
professor and one of Roosevelt’s chief advisers. Hanley’s
first post was at the embassy in Portugal in 1944. “All of
the dethroned kings of Europe were there,” he recalls. In
Lisbon, Hanley met and later married a Belgian, Colette Janlet,
a championship amateur golfer who had been a Red Cross ambulance
driver during the war. They have been married for 58 years.
Hanley retired from the State Department in 1968 after 30 years
of service, including embassy posts in Yugoslavia, Vietnam, Korea
and Liberia. He and his wife lived in Portugal for 20 years before
moving to Wellington, Fla., in 1988. They have three sons, six grandchildren
and five great-grandchildren.
On March 19, about 50 family members celebrated Hanley’s
100th birthday at “one big party,” as he describes it,
at the Palm Beach Country Club.
Are there any other 100-year-old College alumni out there?
Please contact CCT because we’d like to tell your
Shira Boss-Bicak ’93 is a freelance
journalist in New York and a contributing writer to CCT.