Sunday, April 26, 2009

Tech: 30 Years Later

Over the last few years, whenever I hear someone say "Tech", it usually is a Red Sox fan rooting on Jason Varitek. But for me, I always think of something else when someone yells that out as well. The high school I graduated from: Brooklyn Tech.

On Saturday, I took a walk back in time and I went to my 30th high school reunion, at Brooklyn Technical High School.

It's not a "reunion" in the way most high school reunions are. Tech invites all of its alumni back every year, and honors the 10th, 20th, 25th, 30th, 40th and 50th classes especially. It is more of a "homecoming" and it is held inside the school itself.

I had been to my 10th reunion in 1989, and was a little disappointed in the turnout. I graduated in a class of over 1200, and I met very few of my old friends. I didn't go to my 20th or 25th reunions (for different reasons), so I made it a point to go, and I was certainly glad I did.

For those who don't know, Brooklyn Tech has been one of the elite high schools in not just New York City, but in the United States since its founding in 1922. It always is in the Top 100 high schools in the country, and in 2008 they were 62nd (I believe). For me, it has always been one of the proudest accomplishments of my life that I graduated from such a great school. (Not my all-time proudest accomplishment. That is for a discussion on this blog in the future.)

I'll never forget the first day I was there, in September 1975. I was scared to death, and wondered just what the heck I had gotten myself into. I struggled academically the first three semesters I was there, as I had to take classes like technical drawing, freehand drawing, machine shop, pattern making and foundry. It was really tough, like nothing I had ever done before in school. I actually flunked three classes the first three semesters, and wondered if I'd make it to graduation in 1979.

But my grades got much better, and I made up the classes, and made it on time with an 84 average (I think). I went on to college, to Baruch College in Manhattan, and did well there and got my degree. But it was nowhere near as difficult as Tech was.

As the years have gone on, I have come to appreciate the education I got there, and how much weight saying you're a Brooklyn Tech graduate is. I am the only one in my family who went there.

I really had an enjoyable time seeing some old friends yesterday. When I got there, I bought three Brooklyn Tech t-shirts (which I will wear proudly). I appreciated everyone who said that I hadn't changed much since graduation. When I got there I was given a button with my yearbook picture, one I have always thought to be truly hideous! So I was forced to wear it yesterday, and it will be put away in my house, hopefully not to see the light of day again.

Seriously though, the moment I walked into the school's first-floor gym, I started to get a little emotional, as I spent so many fun times there running track and playing volleyball with my close friends. There was a huge crowd from all the classes, and we had a small breakfast and I ran into a few old friends. We then moved over to the school auditorium, which is a magnificent room, and reminds me a bit of Radio City Music Hall or Carnegie Hall. All the honored classes had a film made for them, and 1979 included Star Trek, disco, and the fact the Yankees finished fourth that year(?)

School principal Randy Asher made a speech, as did many members of the Alumni Association. There was a nice rendition of the Star Spangled Banner by one of the current Tech students, and three Tech alumni from the 1930s were introduced and received a lengthy standing ovation.

We then moved to the 7th floor cafeteria (after hiking up six flights of stairs) for lunch, and then my friends and I toured the school from floor to floor. I found my first homeroom class from 1975, at 6N4, which was a pattern making class back then. I found the exact table I sat on then (yes, we sat on heavy wood tables). that room also brought back memories of that first day, when I remembered seeing the Empire State Building from one window, and the World Trade Center from another. Another emotional moment.

After checking some more classrooms, we again gathered in the gym for our class picture. There were about 60-70 of us, and we stood on the gym steps. It was a lot of fun and I'll be getting a copy of it soon from the people who took the picture.

And the capper of the day. When I was heading for Professor Thom's after the reunion, what song comes on my iPod just as I arrive, "My Old School" by Steely Dan. Oh, the synchronicities. (Although a line from that song is "And I'm never goin' back, to my old school...")

It was a really fun day to return to a special place that I spent four years of my life at three decades ago. My thanks to John Russo, Angelo Cervone, Tod Davis, Rita Comes, Penny Vassilakis, Patricia Hoffman Brady and everyone else I met up with yesterday. I'll always treasure the day I spent with you, and it makes me even prouder to be a Brooklyn Tech alumnus.

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