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Brooklyn Technical High School
I was so focused on engineering that when it came time to apply to university; the schools I looked at all had special reputations in engineering or were of the high quality technical universities such as the so-called Polytechnic Institutes. Although I excelled in the sciences and mathematics in high school I enjoyed other studies and activities, especially English literature, photography and music. I had developed the habit of reading as a child when one of the weekly activities my father exposed me and my sister to was a trip on Saturday morning to the public library where as we left he always said, “The library is the greatest institution in the world” to which when we knowingly asked, “why daddy?” he would answer with, “because it contains all the knowledge of the world.”
In my last year of high school, while in the process of preparing for and applying to university, I picked up the book that changed my life, The Citadel by the physician-author, Archibald Joseph Cronin(his nom de plum being A.J. Cronin). The book so enthralled stimulated and consumed me that by the time I finished it I decided that I might change my studies from engineering to medicine. I recall visiting the home of a very dear friend-girl to differentiate her from someone with whom I had a romantic relationship, although I actually had hoped to develop one at some point. I mentioned to her that I was thinking of medicine instead of engineering, to which she replied with words that became in many ways the essential step in my decision-making process, “You’d be a much better doctor than engineer. I think you should do it.” That statement was the sum total of my career counseling.
When I broke the news to my parents, my mother’s initial reply was, “It will take so many years,” but I could see from the look on her and my father’s face that they were pleased with my decision. I therefore changed all my university applications to read “pre- medicine” in the field of interest and career goals. For reasons of finance I ended up going to our Brooklyn College, one of New York’s five schools of higher education that later on would coalesce into the City University of New York. I was a chemistry major within the “pre-med” program but managed to focus heavily on arts subjects whenever I had the option and in those days it was required to do a whole range of the so-called 101 courses in English, Philosophy, History, Classics, Social Studies and languages- to which I added a few extra English literature and Philosophy courses which looking back were among the most important educational exposures in my life and which formed the basis in many ways of my future academic and creative interests.
One of the profound influences on my education and life was Professor Edgar Z. Friedenberg whose seminal workComing of Age in America, had a profound impact on education in America. He was my Professor in my first 101 Social Studies course and indirectly stimulated me to want to travel in Europe, which at that time (the late 1950’s) was not yet in vogue and certainly not something readily accomplished by people in my socio-economic situation. My parents, being the very unusual and progressive people that they were agreed to my taking six months off from Brooklyn College as long as part of the plan was for “educational” purposes which was accomplished by attending a summer language program in Lausanne