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Cooper Memories

By Jack Kershaw EE'71, Ari Rabinowitz EE'71, Alan Marder CE'71, and Mark Pendrock PHY'71

Most of the memories from my Cooper Union days are of things that actually happened outside of the classroom. Certainly those are all my best (and a couple of my worst) Cooper memories. Here’s a few of them, conveniently grouped by category.

Freshman Gym Class: Sound Minds and So-So Bodies

Learning to ski in Van Cortland Park. Trying, without success, to hold on to the tow rope long enough to be pulled to the top of the beginner’s slope. One of my classmates, Bernie Greenberg EE'71, breaking his collar bone when he held onto the tow rope for too long.

Skating – and frequently falling – first thing in the morning at Rockefeller Center before the rink opened to the public. Cutting my very first Cooper class (a Calculus lecture) with some classmates so we could continue skating after the rink opened to the public.

Horseback riding in Prospect Park. Getting a seat on the subway ride back to Cooper because no one wanted to be near somebody who smelled like horse sweat.

The Cooper Pioneer Newspaper: Four Years Before the Masthead

Typing editorials – and a Humanities term paper – on the world’s oldest manual typewriter located in the Pioneer office across from the cafeteria. That’s of course if you can call a room with some tables, a soda machine and a food machine that dispensed sandwiches and pieces of fruit a cafeteria. And that food machine never worked for me.

While editing the paper, deliberately misspelling a classmate’s name in a movie review byline because it had been written just so very badly (even by Engineering student standards).

In my senior year, staying late with the editor-in-chief to put to bed the last edition of the Pioneer that we would ever work on. Then afterwards prying open the petty cash box to buy ourselves a celebratory dinner.

Living on Campus: No Room in NYC, But Plenty of Bunks in NJ

Freshman orientation at Green Camp the week before classes started. Realizing as a newly oriented freshman that college was going to be a lot more fun than high school.

Green Camp weekends throughout the school year. The feel of the grass under my bare feet on the slope where the Penn Station eagle stood. The smell of the pine trees when walking along the path between main camp and Erskine and Burdell. The clinking of the flag pole in front of the main building whenever the breeze picked up. The feel of squeezing chopped meat between my fingers while making meat loaf for 50.

On a less pastoral note, moving “on campus” in my junior year to an apartment on 7th Street and Avenue C. Moving back home to the Bronx a month later after the apartment got cleaned out by two neighbors carrying really big knives.

Social Life at Cooper: Five Fraternities, No Waiting

Pledging Omega Delta Phi, one of five fraternities that existed at Cooper in the early 70’s. Spending my freshman pledge year on my hands and knees scrubbing the fraternity floor before the big Friday night parties. Staying on my hands and knees to pray for someone, anyone, to show up for the big Friday night parties.

During pledge week, dressing as a farm boy – complete with overalls and straw hat – and “fishing” for several hours out of a sewer on the corner of 5th Avenue and 42nd Street. But cheating at it; I brought my own fish with me. It was smoked.

Learning to sing “Night and Day” and “Finnegan’s Wake” as part of my ODP initiation ritual. Being paddled by the upper classmen because I sang so badly. Using the kitchen bar to barricade the upper classmen in the back room of the frat house in the resulting “Great ODP Pledge Rebellion of 1968”.

Cooper Holiday Traditions: Light or Dark?

Turning 18 in November of my freshman year. Just in time to legally attend my Humanities class on McSorley’s Day, which was held in McSorley’s.

At that class, learning from Professor Bowman what “WYBMADIITYWTM” on the sign hanging on a wall at McSorley’s meant. That lesson costing me 35 cents when I had to buy Professor Bowman a round. A Cooper education was a lot cheaper back in those days.

Political Upheaval at Cooper, Every Tuesday at Noon

Anti-Vietnam war rallies at Cooper. But held only on Tuesdays because that’s the day we had a two-hour lunch break in our class schedules.

Attending the rally in DC as part of the Cooper Union contingent protesting the shootings at Kent State. But getting there almost too late because our bus couldn’t get above 50 mph.

Spotify Playlist

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.