Van Buren HS alumni to fete school’s heritage

Fordham basketball Coach Tom Pecora is one Martin Van Buren High School alumnus expected to join this weekend's celebration. Photo courtesy Fordham Athletic Communications
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The Wikipedia entry on Martin Van Buren High School is scant, but the “Notable alumni” section contains an inspiring catalogue of successes in the realms of culture, civics and thought that could fill several leather-bound volumes.

And with that rich heritage in mind, the Queens Village school’s alumni association is planning a day of celebration this weekend when members of all 55 Van Buren graduating classes as well as the educators who helped shaped their minds are invited to mingle with and inspire the students of today.

“About a year ago I had been working with the school, trying to help out some of the students and realized the school had been struggling for a while,” said Steve Wilson, class of 1977, who is helping to organize the May 17 event on the campus, at 230-17 Hillside Ave.

Wilson, who went on from the institution to found his own investment management firm, said he came to the realization that Van Buren’s alumni could play an important role in helping to turn the school around.

“The more involved I got, the more people I got to join in with me and I realized the potential for the alumni to make a difference,” he said.

After the city lifted zoning restrictions more than 10 years ago, students left Van Buren en masse for schools like Francis Lewis, Bayside and Cardozo high schools. Van Buren received a “D” on its most recent city progress report and received a below-average rating on last year’s school survey.

But under the leadership of new Principal Sam Sochet, the school is poised for a turnaround, Wilson said, and part of the celebration day’s schedule includes an open house promoting a handful of new programs.

Beginning at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, alumni and current Fordham University basketball Coach Tom Pecora will lead a clinic for sixth-graders considering which high schools they would like to apply to, and later in the evening distinguished alumni will be inducted into the MVB Hall of Fame.

The list of honorees includes inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil, media personality Donny Deutsch, the 1958 championship baseball team and two Nobel Laureates: professor Alvin Roth, who the 2012 prize in economic sciences, and Frank Wilczek, who won the physics prize in 2004.

There were many people who do not have a Wikipedia page but make up the fabric of Van Buren.

Alice Gold retired from the school in 1990 after teaching English for 25 years.

“I loved teaching. I loved being in the classroom and I loved working on the shows,” said Gold, who produced and directed the drama club’s performances. “Just being in the classroom was wonderful.”

Gold has gone on in retirement to have her own acting career.

“I’m a working actress,” the 85-year-old said. “I’m really enjoying that.”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4574.

Updated 1:40 am, May 16, 2014
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Reader feedback

anon from queens says:
Why? My cousins went to that school back in the late 80s- early 90s and they hated the school. My Uncle tried to pull them out of it but the school told them no even though they almost got killed in that school just because they were white. That school has more things to focus on then a class reunion.
May 10, 2014, 7:16 am
Kris from Queens Village says:
Absolutely agree,

No point, things have changed, and martin van buren has long been destined slowly to failure, just because you went somewhere 50 years ago, doesn't make it special, its the administration, neighborhood, and historical circumstances that make things special.

Many schools in east new york used to be mostly white, should alumni get involved, would residents even hate white folks from getting involved as foreigners trying to influence the school?
June 7, 2014, 3:21 am
Barry S. Cogan from Queens Village says:
Found your e-mail address while researching the subject question.

I was lucky enough to be a member of the1958 PSAL Baseball Championship Baseball Team.
We won the PSAL Championship by beating Curtis HS of Staten Island in June of 1958.
The game was played at Ebbets Field and we beat Curtis HS by the score of 5 to 3. Our winning pitcher was Joe Saberito and Richard "Red" Ruffine actually hit a home run. To our knowledge, this was the LAST Homerun ever hit at Ebbets Field.

Today, I ran into a gentleman by the name of Brooks, who graduated from Van Buren in 1966. As we were discussing the upcoming 60 Anniversary of that game (1958-2018), Brooks indicated he had a friend who claims he won a PSAL Championship in Gymnastics. I told him his friend was full of s---.

There is a large dinner riding on whether there was another Van Buren Team who had won an NYC PSAL
Championship or not.

Please let me know if you have documentation on who is right.

Thanks for your response.

The 60 Year Reunion will be held in May of 2018, and we would love to have you join us.

Barry Cogan
June 14, 2017, 6:51 pm

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