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Queens College Gala – May 4, 2011

Acceptance of Alumni Award by Susan Isaacs

President Muyskens, members of the faculty and administration, students and alums, and all the rest of you good-natured and generous people: Thank you for being here and sharing this honor with me.

Now being a living American novelist, I earn a living finding the telling detail.  And I've noticed something odd about the alums of a certain institution of higher learning.  You're playing the upper-middle-class version of the Know Your Neighbor game and, after the requisite #1, "What do you do?", Question #2 is "Where did you go to college?

They anwer… “In Cambridge."  You know the script.  You wind up saying "Cambridge, England?"  And they say, "No. Massachusetts."  If you're feeling snarky, you might widen your eyes with happy expectation and inquire, "MIT?” and, when they say no, you can look downcast and offer a dispirited “Oh.”  But most of the time, you play along: They say “In Cambridge.” So you ask "Harvard?"  And they respond with a wordless but satisfied nod.

Maybe in New England that’s what passes for good breeding.  Okay, I’m upwardly mobile: Ergo, I considered answering the “Where did you go to school?” query with “In Flushing.”  Low-key, refined.  But then I thought, No.  I went to Queens College.  I got a brilliant (and, in those days, free) education.  I want to spread the word about this school, let people hear its name.

We’ve got it all at the College: a world-renowned math department; one of the finest schools of music in the country; BALA, an innovative program that combines business with the liberal arts.  We’ve turned out slews of wizards of finance, writers, performing artists, scientists. 

Looking for Irish or Byzantine and Modern Greek studies?  We’ve got it. Library science? Sure.  Neuroscience?  Absolutely.  We’ve got it all, or almost.  Because the one thing we don’t have is a big, fat endowment.

And that’s why I’m so grateful that you are all here tonight.  I want this great school not just to survive, but to grow and flourish.  I want this generation of New Yorkers to have the same chance I did: to go to college, first of all.  To study with the finest faculty, to have a rich and fulfilling life on campus, to gain the tools so that they can add some measure of quality to the world.  To get there, we need more money than the state and city can provide.  To offer that equal opportunity we all love to talk about, we need you.

So spread the word.  Don’t say “Flushing.”  It may have a certain old Dutch charm, but we want to get the name out --and the money -- in to support this grand institution.  Say it clearly and with gusto.  “Queens College.”   Thank you.






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Deputy Director of News Services
(Position vacant)

(718) 997- 5597

Maria Matteo
Assistant Director of News Services
Queens Hall, Room 270B
(718) 997-5593

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