From the Heights to Downtown Brooklyn

Engineering Alumni Gather at the Torch Club to Reaffirm Their Bonds

A biting wind chilled pedestrians making their way down Waverly Place on February 21, but inside the NYU Torch Club, a blazing fire glowed. Alumni from NYU-Poly and NYU Heights who had convened to celebrate National Engineers Week gathered around the hearth to warm themselves, and soon conversations were equally warm.

Whether they had graduated in 1951 or 2012, from the Heights or from Poly, the attendees found plenty of common ground—especially in their devotion to their chosen fields. Some, like Charles Newstead, had enjoyed long careers that took them to the capitals of Europe and Washington’s corridors of power. Some, like Arnold Most, devoted their talents to IBM or other large companies before striking out on their own as consultants. Still others had put their engineering knowledge to use in the service of their country (like Gary Kazin, who was affiliated with the U.S. Army’s Picatinny Arsenal) or their city (like Greg Homatas, an MTA engineer). And in addition to their love of engineering, they each shared a deep fondness for their alma maters.

Acting President and Provost Katepalli (Sreeni) Sreenivasan addressed the group, announcing that after January 1, 2014, when the merger between NYU and Poly is complete, all could consider themselves alumni of the new entity, to be known as the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering. “The two streams will merge,” he said. “And we hope that each of you will be proud to be a part of an even greater institution.” He added, “We need all of our alumni to stand shoulder to shoulder—with each other and with us.”

Eric Kunhardt, an NYU-Poly professor of applied physics, is in the interesting position of being a graduate of both NYU (where he earned a bachelor’s degree in 1969 and a master’s degree in 1972) and Poly (where he earned a doctoral degree in 1976). Invited to speak at the gathering, he prepared a slide show that included photos of the Stanford White-designed Heights campus (which housed the School of Engineering and was in operation from 1894 to 1973) and of himself in his youth.

“I’m just one example, but there has always been cross-pollination between the Heights and Poly,” he asserted. “And if we continue to work together, we can propel the NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering onto the top-ten list. Stanford is on that list largely because of the efforts of its alumni, and we can certainly do the same.”

Richard S. Thorsen, Vice President Emeritus and Senior Advisor to the President, also took the opportunity to wax somewhat nostalgic, explaining that Poly’s earlier incarnation, the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, had been founded in 1854—the very same year as the founding of NYU’s School of Engineering. Thus, when the two merged into the Polytechnic Institute of NYU in 1973, the new logo posed no problem; it quite rightfully read, “Founded in 1854.” The upcoming merger, he said, will pose its own set of challenges, but he expressed hope that Poly alumni would be welcoming to their NYU engineering compatriots and that those from the Heights would embrace their connection to Poly.

The fellowship and camaraderie in evidence at the Torch Club leave little doubt that the alumni will do just that.