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Tribute to Herbert Kurz

(March 16, 1920-November 24, 2014) delivered at Temple Beth Torah, November 28, 2014
It is an honor and a gift to speak about my friend, Herb Kurz. Let me begin by expressing my deepest sympathy to Ellen and Leonard and Herb’s grandchildren, Sophie and Thomas. I know from our many conversations he loved you very much. I give my deepest admiration to you, Leonard, for your great compassion and care for your father, allowing him to live out his life in the way that was so important to him.

Herb Kurz was tall in stature and tall in spirit. He was a man of grace, compassion, and unparalleled generosity. He believed in education and became a passionate benefactor of student support services at Rockland Community College. His generosity knew no bounds as he assisted individuals, causes and organizations. What he gave was not charity, for he expected those who benefited from his largesse to accomplish something with his gift.

I met Herb more than ten years ago when I first came t…

Honoring Our Veterans

In Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place; and in the sky The larks, still bravely singing, fly Scarce heard amid the guns below. Excerpt from “In Flanders Fields” by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae
Tuesday, November 11, is the day the United States honors its veterans. Honoring veterans is something we should all do every day. When you meet a veteran, thank him or her for their extraordinary service to our great country.

“On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, was declared between the Allied nations and Germany in the First World War, then known as ‘The Great War.’ Commemorated as Armistice Day beginning the following year, November 11th became a legal federal holiday in the United State in 1938. In the aftermath of World War II and the Korean War, Armistice Day became Veterans Day, a holiday dedicated to American veterans of all wars.”

I first learned about Ve…

The Dog Days of August

The phrase “dog days” refers to the sultry days of summer and in the Northern Hemisphere the “dog days” are generally in the months of July and August. I grew up in Texas and in the summer it was hot…really hot. I knew the phrase “dog days” early and thought it was created by the same folks who brought us the Alamo and the Texas Two Step. It is a phrase, however, that goes back to the Roman Empire. The Romans called the dog days “Dies Caniculares.” They associated the hot weather with the star Sirius which is commonly called the “Dog Star” because it is in the constellation Canis Major (large dog). Sirius is also the brightest star in the night sky. Who knew?

This summer, I spent some of my “dog days” at the Chesapeake with the family of our beloved Great Dane Sarge who died this past year. Here I am celebrating “dog days” with Sarge’s siblings Mickey (Mantle, a perfect harlequin) and Minnie (Me, who looks just like her mother, a perfect show dog).

The Dogs of Our Lives  I…

The Gifts We Give

We spent the 4th of July weekend at Solomons Island on the Chesapeake Bay. It was our first visit in ten years after spending more than ten Independence Day celebrations there with our children.  Solomons and the 4th of July are part of their collective memory of family fun with our family friends, Jack and Mary Wills.

The big old farm house with its great porch and lovely view of the Chesapeake has been in Mary’s family for many years. As we first drove up the gravel driveway, one of the first things that caught my eye was the big, beautiful paulownia tree which has shown signs of age as it has expanded and tilts slightly with its roots exposed. As I stood and viewed the tree, it became a metaphor for my friendship with Jack, a friendship spanning 52 years. Jack and I met in college and were pledge brothers in Delta Tau Delta. Jack held tenure as social chair and I was president in my senior year.  After we received our bachelor’s degrees, I stayed at the university for …

It Looks Like a Home Run

The Boys/The Men of Summer One of the metaphors of life that symbolizes summer for me is baseball, and the phrase, “The Boys of Summer.” This phrase first appeared as the title of a book in 1972 by sportswriter Roger Kahn. Kahn’s book describes young men who grew up near Ebbets Field in Brooklyn in the 1930s and 1940s. It also chronicles the life of noted players and the integration of baseball when Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers.  It is the story of fathers and sons who share the trials and tribulations of boyhood through baseball. “The Boys of Summer” is also the title of a 1984 hit by Don Henley and the Eagles whose song chronicled the passage of youth to middle age.

As a boy, baseball was always a part of my summer. I didn’t play the game but my three older brothers did and I remember the numerous summer evenings at Samuells Pool in Dallas watching one, two or three of my brothers play the game. My father was the caricature of the over-involved Dad who em…

Honoring Distinguished Faculty

Professors of Science Phyllis Krasnow and George Krasilovsky, PhD, were honored at the recent Beta Beta Beta induction for decades of dedicated service to the RCC Biology community. Both professors served as mentors to science students in the Sam Draper M/TS Honors Program.

Professor Krasnow began teaching at RCC in 1969, and served as a mentor in the Honors Program from 1980-2000. She was known for her student-centered approach. Beyond her work in the classroom and with advisement, she founded the Biology Club, and created a Biology Scholarship offered through the RCC Foundation. She was instrumental in helping many students transfer to Cornell. Even after she retired and move to south New Jersey in 1998, she drove more than two hours each way to continue to teach and mentor part-time. She received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching (1985).

Dr. Krasilovsky, who joined RCC’s faculty in 1971, assumed the role of mentoring science honors students in 2000. He …

Friendship

A special friend gave us a memento that we keep in a special place in our home.  It is a small stone that reads, “Friends are our chosen family.”  As I write this, appropriately on Valentine’s Day, I think about close friends of mine and the lifelong friendship of two extraordinary men whose lives I wish to acknowledge as we celebrate Black History Month. The two men are Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall and Attorney Wiley A. Branton, Sr., who was also my father-in-law.

Thurgood and Wiley’s friendship began in the mid-1950s when Wiley was a young lawyer in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, and Thurgood was a lawyer in NYC, working for the NAACP. Wiley was a local lawyer who was asked to handle cases in the South when the NAACP could not send a lawyer from New York to handle the case.


This was the beginning of a life-long friendship that solidified during their work on Supreme Court case, Cooper v. Aaron, also known as “The Little Rock Nine.”

Wiley, as Chief Counsel, asked Thurgood …

A Winter’s Tale: A TALE AS OLD AS TIME

Rockland Community College is a campus for all seasons and has a special beauty each time of the year. Although the winter of 2014 is bitterly cold, as the above photo shows, the landscape glistens in the snow and ice. RCC is truly a winter wonderland.

My other vision of winter is quite different: a paradox, a metaphor, “a tale as old as time.” Each year a special friend at RCC gives me an amaryllis bulb*, packaged for the holiday season with instructions for planting. Sometime between Christmas and New Year’s I dutifully put the bulb in the soil mix and add warm water as instructed. Then, lo, in a few days a miracle appears: the bulb begins to sprout green stalks and a hard green bean-like blossom emerges. And over the next few weeks, in my sunniest window the shoots of the plant grow strong and straight and reach for the sun. Amazingly, the hard green blossom begins to reveal the red, and within a month a beautiful amaryllis flower appears like the one shown below. This…