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In honor of the 30th anniversary of the school’s re-opening, the Townsend Harris Alumni Association inducted two former Editors-in-Chiefs of The Classic into the Hall of Fame. The first female in the Hall, poet and psychologist Dr. Heather Nash, accepted the nominations with honor, as did New York Times reporter David Herszenhorn.
Dr. Nash, a member of the Class of 1988, is currently the Site Director of Psychological Services and Training at North Central Bronx Hospital, part of the city’s Health and Hospitals Corporation. She is also an assistant professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University.
After her years at Townsend, Dr. Nash continued her education at Wesleyan University where she earned a BA in English and Psychology. Furthermore, she attained two Master’s degrees and a Ph.D. in Psychology from Connecticut College and St. John’s University.
“Being the first woman inducted into the Hall of Fame is an honor which I feel so privileged to be given. I hold such deep, heartfelt respect for the incredibly talented alumni who have been inducted into the Hall of Fame before me, many of whom … I consider to be my personal heros,” said Dr. Nash. She expressed her gratitude and hope that she also could be a role model for future THHS students.
In attendance was former principal Dr. Malcolm Largmann, as well as former English teacher and founding Classic advisor, Sheryl Rubin, who introduced both inductees with warmth and pride.
Ms. Rubin first mentioned that Dr. Nash’s success in both of her fields of study was due to her “commitment to the power of language.” She remarked that Dr. Nash’s “writing evoked the sensitivity of expression so mature for a ninth grader.”
In her speech, Dr. Nash thanked Ms. Rubin, saying, “You communicated belief in me, the type of belief that made me reach for far more than I ever would have on my own. I carry in me a part of you, so you now have a place in the Hall with David and me.”
Mr. Herszenhorn, a member of the Class of 1990 went on to Dartmouth College where he was the Editor-in-Chief of The Dartmouth and graduated with a degree in Asian studies focused on the Middle East. He now is the New York Times correspondent in Moscow, covering Russia, Ukraine, Crimea, Caucasus, the Baltics, and Central Asia. He was also a Congressional Reporter for the Times based in Washington D.C.
Reflecting on his time at THHS, Mr. Herszenhorn recounted how Dr. Nash, as his first Editor-in-Chief, helped shaped him by guiding the development of his journalistic skills.
Mr. Herszenhorn further reminisced his time at Townsend, noting, “Dr. Largmann will always be the most intimidating community member.” Just recently, Mr. Herszenhorn traveled to Kiev to interview Petro Poroshenko, the Ukrainian president, which he said was “essentially the exact same journalistic exercise, but compared to going notebook in hand to the principal’s office, [a] piece of cake.”
Dr. Nash also shed some light on the founding of The Classic. She mentioned that her father, Stanley Nash, actually came up with the name for the paper from bumper stickers that read, “Townsend Harris: A Touch of the Classic.”
After getting adviser Ms. Rubin on board, “We presented our top three choices to the entire student body and had them vote. The Classic won by a landslide!”
In addition to these nominations, the 30th anniversary of the school gave alumni and faculty the opportunity to reunite and reflect on the years they spent making THHS what it is today.
Dr. Largmann expressed his gratitude towards the alumni and faculty, who had “gathered once more to mark another milestone in the Townsend Harris story.” He claimed, “It is the alumni, their legacy from every class, who from the beginning, have enriched our traditions.” He emphasized the legacy we all share and must carry on as THHS students and members of the THHS community. Dr. Largmann recalled the “colleagues and friends who also contributed to our legacy but have been gathered among the harvest of the years.”
He emphasized Townsend Harris’ commitment to the few but strong, defining morals. Several students, including THAA Co-President Craig Slutzkin, who recalled Dr. Largmann’s belief, “We do not demand excellence; we simply expect it.”
The ceremony also provided an opportunity for Mr. Slutzkin to announce the founding of the Vivek Shah Scholarship available to Townsend Harris students, funded by Class of 1990 graduate, Vivek Shah.
Mr. Shah made the generous donation of $100,000 to the fund and mentioned that the school will work with the THAA to choose “a student who has excelled at the school and needs some financial assistance to be able to attend the college of their choosing.”
“I gave the graduation keynote last year and was reminded of how influential Townsend Harris was in my life and wanted to give something back to the school community,” he said.
THAA Co-President Tanya Odom mentioned a documentary the THAA has been working on for three years on to display Townsend’s history, calling on graduates from both the old and reestablished school to recount their high school years.
“We’re very fortunate to be working with [award winning documentary producer] Jesse Ash from the Class of 2002, an alum who’s helping us make sure this the best documentary it can be. We’ve posted videos on Facebook. They have been getting so much attention, [and] people [are] remembering what it was like to walk into classrooms with desks in the middle [or] to not have desks [at all],” she described.
Mr. Slutzkin added, “The reason why we did this is clear – we wanted to preserve the memories of the school. I’ve often said that the Alumni Association is the guardian of the legacy of the school.”