Emeritus Faculty Association news December 2013
Friday December 6th, 10.30am Javits Room, 2nd floor library. Ira Rezak, one of our members, will talk on the history of medicine.
Bio: Dr. Ira Rezak is a graduate of Columbia College (1959) and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine (1963). After an internship at SUNY Syracuse and two years service in the US Navy, he served as resident in internal medicine at Montefiore Medical Center and was Fellow in pulmonary medicine at Albert Einstein. He was on the faculty of SUNY Stony Brook School of Medicine from 1970 to 2010 where he became Professor of Clinical Medicine (now Emeritus). While at Stony Brook he was head of the MICU and of pulmonary medicine, secretary of the Faculty Senate, head of the physical diagnosis course, and founder and organizer of the School's History of Medicine Group. Dr. Rezak is a Fellow of the New York Academy of Medicine, the American College of Physicians and the American Numismatic Society. For the past 15 years he has been President of the Harry G. Friedman Society of the Jewish Museum.
Dr. Rezak's medical medal collection, formed over 50 years, is one of the most important in private hands. It includes coins, tokens, amulets and votives, badges, prizes, decorations, plaquettes (rectangular medals), medallions (medals for walls), as well as medals proper. The collection encompasses medicine in its broadest sense: medals relating to nursing, dentistry, hospitals, medical education, public health, pharmacy, and physical rehabilitation. Other topics represented include disaster relief, blood transfusion, religion and medicine, alternative medicine, and the role of water in health.
Sheldon Chang, Leading Professor Emeritus, died in his sleep on November 13 after a long illness. Born in Shanghai in 1920, Sheldon grew up during the Japanese occupation and studied physics with room-mate C.N. Yang at the National Southwest Associated Universities in Kunming. In 1945 he left China to pursue a doctorate at Purdue. After periods in industry and NYU, Sheldon came to SBU in 1962 while it was still at Planting Fields to take up the challenge of founding chair of Electrical Engineering. Sheldon had a diversity of research interests, publishing in the areas of electrical machinery, systems and network theory, information and communication theory, computer application and organization, and modeling and simulation. He authored several books and had over twelve patents. Even after his retirement in 1991 Sheldon continued work, authoring patents on cardiac assist devices.
Dick Kieburtz passed away on Tuesday 26 at his home in Portland OR where he had been under hospice care after a severe stroke two weeks earlier. He was the first chair of Computer Science as a full department in 1970, and much of the reason that the department was able to negotiate initial rough waters and lay a stable foundation for the future.
Richard Kieburtz received his Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering from University of Washington, Seattle, WA. in 1961. After periods in the Electrical Engineering departments at NYU and SBU, he took two years to visit Stanford on an NSF Faculty Fellowship, converting from electrical engineering to the new discipline of computer science. After standing down as CS chair, he was pressed into becoming Dean of Engineering. In 1981 he departed from SBU to found a new department of Computer Science and Engineering at the Oregon Graduate Center. He was also a founding member of IEEE IFIP Working Group 2.8 (functional programming languages), and Division Director for Computer and Computation Research at National Science Foundation. He was made an ACM Fellow for founding two successful computer science departments, for research, and for service to the computing community. He will be much missed by his many friends in this area. Instead of an official funeral service there will be a celebration of life sometime in 2014.
Alumni Charlie Backfish and Mel Morris spoke of the early days of Stony Brook University (see bios in last issue). Mel was a student member of first class at Planting Fields in Oyster Bay, starting in 1957 with 130 classmates and 14 faculty. Governor Rockefeller was creating a brand new state university and took the opportunity to site the Long Island 4-year program in the Gold Coast estate of William Coe who had deeded the property to the state at his death in 1955. The impetus came in part from sputnik and the need to increase the nation's teaching of science. Classes were initially held in the second floor bedrooms and butler's quarters of the tudor mansion as well as in temporary geodesic domes in the grounds. The cafeteria was initially sited in the main hall with its grand fireplace but was soon moved to the hay barn, and the dormitories were set up in the stables(!)
The then rather impertinent goal model of "Berkeley of the East" was anticipated in one respect when the first student strike occurred, instigated by the firing of the popular dean of students Alan Austel. What happened was that John Lee had been imported to be the dean of Engineering (then all of 2 faculty), but on arrival was pressured into the vacant presidency. His approach of "man experts" in each field then led to a petition from 45 faculty (including several of our current active members) in favor of a broader policy, and the eventual removal of the president himself. We may be destined to repeat this debate once again with the news that the push to produce graduates in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) has produced a deficit nationally of students taking humanities. Getting back to Oyster Bay, the students also voted against intercollegiate athletics, resulting in the emphasis on crew (shades of Oxford and Cambridge). This policy survived into the early years at Stony Brook but has now been supplanted for good or ill by the usual high profile NCAA program.
Incidentally (ed. note), after the SUNY program at Oyster Bay was discontinued in 1971, the Planting Fields estate reverted to a "historic state park". A further influx of funds came from a foundation of Gold Coast locals set up by the heirs to restore the mansion, furnishings, and surroundings to their condition when the family of William Coe lived there. This has resulted in one of the most gorgeous parks in the state system, and well worth a visit at any time of the year, see: http://www.plantingfields.org
Next up, Charlie, a member of the first Stony Brook class, took over to describe the early years of our university in that locale. Originally he, like Mel, had visited Planting Fields during his application process but on arrival in 1962 found himself instead in mudville. Even Nicolls Road was a recent construction site. Planks were provided for the students and faculty to cross the many mud lakes. Charlie described the reaction when his mentor Joel Rosenthal first arrived on campus with his wife Naomi and she broke into tears. The student body, then increased to around 750, was warned in the handbook (then stapled typescript) to wear bright colors when traversing the many wooded areas so that they would not be mistaken by hunters. (Ed note: your correspondent, on one of his runs through the woods to the East of campus, was actually once pursued by the entire Smithtown Hunt, complete with horses, hounds, and bugles.) All classes were held in the first academic buildings of humanities, chemistry, physics, and engineering. These were all built in identical red brick "neo-penal" style - as was G dorm (according to Dan Dicker by an architect accustomed to designing telephone relay buildings). And Ward Melville had donated the land on the assumption of a small New-England federalist style liberal arts college! For the students, who voted down fraternities and sororities, curfews were in effect, as was the custom at the time - quite a contrast with the drug raids which were to follow. Still, one thing stayed the same, - the mass outflow on weekends towards the city. This was caused by the sad failure of local pols then and now to facilitate the development of an adjacent university town, a necessary part of Ward Melville's dream.
During question time, Charlie, who like Mel, has had a distinguished career in high school teaching, voiced some skepticism regarding the current "race to the top" reductionist approach of national politicians. In particular he mentioned the emphasis on common core test standards and teacher accountability across student populations from widely different economic backgrounds and school budgets. In those countries with better educational outcomes, teaching as a profession seems to have had a history of more respect from those in law and finance.
Forthcoming 50th Alumni reunion.
Matt Colson, Executive Director of Alumni Relations, spoke of the forthcoming 50th reunion in June and the induction of the Brook Heritage Society. Any of our members who would like to be involved please email him at Matthew.Colson@stonybrook.edu.