What were you like when you arrived at Columbia?
Between my native Brooklyn attitude, and my insecurity about being a transfer student, I was pretty desperate to prove myself. That led to a lot of loud-mouthing in Core classes, and some colorful extracurriculars — doing graffiti with the Prentis Hall art kids, exploring the tunnels under campus late at night and at least one ridiculous bar brawl. Somehow I kept my grades up, but there was more than one trip to the Dean’s Office for various infractions, including, memorably, the time I spent $500 of Woodbridge’s dorm entertainment budget on pudding cups as a prank.
What do you remember about your first-year living situation?
I didn’t arrive until sophomore year, and after a disastrous roommate situation freshman year at my first school, SUNY Binghamton, I decided I would do best in a single. Unfortunately, transfer students had the last shot at rooms, and I ended up in a double at one end of the eighth floor of Wien. Interestingly, the other transfer assigned to it had failed to matriculate, so for a week or two I was living there alone, and it was paradise — twice the size of a normal room, with a sink, and two exposures. But then the housing office started sending prospective roommates to move in. It took a lot of creativity to hold them off for the entire year, including, I believe, moving most of the furniture to the basement. I think that eventually led to another trip to see the dean!
What class do you most remember and why?
I was pre-med, and despite everything else, was quite dedicated to the classes and lab work, and the internship at St. Luke’s that went along with it. I particularly liked all the chemistry classes, which led to a job for a year after graduation as a chemistry teacher at Stuyvesant H.S., which was a whole other crazy adventure. Outside the sciences, I had a minor in English lit, which years later came in handy when I went into journalism and had to do a lot of writing. The class I remember most was Alfred MacAdam’s “Latin American Literature,” which introduced me to Borges and Garcia-Marquez and many other writers who remain favorites.
Did you have a favorite spot on campus, and what did you like about it?
I had a ton of semi-secret spots — the roof of the library, distant corners of the stacks, those two platforms at the edge of the Low Steps, the observation deck of Riverside Church (where I once almost got trapped for an entire weekend), plus some others I can’t name. The campus was like a wonderland that I could never fully explore.
What, if anything, about your College experience would you do over?
I probably wouldn’t have done that naked art show, or sweated that B+ in organic chemistry so much. But on the whole it was a great experience that introduced me to my wife, my business partner, many of my closest friends and most of the hobbies and passions I still enjoy today. I’d give it five out of five stars!