Celebrating the 15th Anniversary of the Naming of the Zicklin and Weissman Schools
Every university has its watershed moments—those years that feature prominently in institutional timelines. For Baruch College, this year celebrating the quindecennial of the naming of the Zicklin and Weissman Schools, the years 1847, 1919, 1929, 1953, 1968, and 1998 represent such turning points.
The Baruch Backstory
Before Baruch College was Baruch College—only in 1968 did it become a senior college in the City University of New York system—it had many precursors. Originally, there was the Free Academy, the first institution of free public higher education in the nation, founded in 1847 and built on 23rd Street and Lexington Avenue. More than a half century later, in 1919 the City College of New York (the renamed Free Academy), which had relocated to northern Manhattan in 1907, created a School of Business and Civic Administration. In 1929 that school found a new home on the heritage site of the Free Academy (today the College’s historical hub, the Field Building at 17 Lexington Avenue).
The vibrant, pioneering campus—variously known as “City College Downtown,” “UCLA” (the University on the Corner of Lexington Avenue), and “Saxe’s 23rd Street”—grew in stature and won powerful friends, among them financier-statesman Bernard Baruch, an 1889 graduate of City College. In 1953 the school was renamed the Bernard M. Baruch School of Business and Public Administration in his honor. Fifteen years later, in 1968, Baruch’s name graced the new, independent senior college.
For Baruch College, as for the other founding CUNY senior colleges, the three decades that followed were years of triumph and challenge.
The Worst of Times, the Best of Times
Arguably, the next years of greatest consequence for Baruch were 1997–98.
On the surface, there were celebrations that year: 150 years since the founding of the Free Academy and 30 years since Baruch became an independent college. Baruch had endured many trials as a senior college, including a plan (foiled in 1972) to relocate the College to Brooklyn, the New York City fiscal crisis in 1975, and lingering negative impacts of Open Admissions. But, in truth, the College’s operating model was becoming untenable. By 1997 a college renowned nationally for its accounting programs had rolled up its collective sleeves and begun to implement plans—some austere—to make itself more accountable to its future.
What did those plans look like? In Fall 1997, Baruch closed the School of Education and Educational Services and the Department of Academic Skills and merged three arts departments. College leadership acknowledged disquieting feedback from employers, some of whom felt recent graduates’ communication skills were less well developed than their technical skills.
The College was able to remain hopeful, however, because of the renewed engagement of alumni. “Some things we cannot achieve by ourselves,” said then College President Matthew Goldstein in his annual state of the college address. Acknowledging how much Baruch needed its alumni vanguard, Goldstein envisioned a long-term partnership that would improve academic offerings and increase the value of the Baruch degree. The College had already begun its first capital campaign.
Enter Zicklin and Weissman
In less than five months from the date of Goldstein’s no-holds-barred speech, the mood at Baruch went from grim determination to unbridled optimism. In February 1998, the College announced the largest cash gift ever received in Baruch and CUNY history: $10 million from George Weissman (’39) and his wife, Mildred, to support the arts and sciences (in 1994 the alumnus had endowed the Weissman Center for International Business). A month later, Lawrence Zicklin (’57) and his wife, Carol, pledged $18 million to elevate the business school’s students and programs. Jubilantly the College recalibrated its initial fundraising goal of $25 million, which had been considered highly ambitious and trendsetting for a public institution.
The story of the latter half of 1998 is as much a story about what didn’t happen as did. What didn’t happen—detrimental retrenchment—was the consequence of the generosity of two loyal alumni businessmen.
The Naming Celebration: New Beginnings
On Sept. 17, 1998, Baruch College showed the city and nation its gratitude by dedicating the Zicklin School of Business and the Mildred and George Weissman School of Arts and Sciences in honor of Larry Zicklin, George Weissman, and their wives. The double celebration was in actuality a triple celebration, aptly co-celebrated alongside the official freshman welcome assembly of Convocation. It was a watershed moment indeed: The Class of 2002 and all subsequent classes would never know a Baruch not allied with the names Zicklin and Weissman. In fact, a majority of the alumni population—57 percent or 70,884 men and women—have graduated from Baruch since 1998.
Baruch’s newest high-profile ambassadors beamed with pride and confidence in their alma mater. Their gifts, which signaled a long-term investment, put to rest any question about Baruch’s enduring mission and exceptional quality (as Larry Zicklin made clear, “Carol and I respect excellence”). Other results of their eight-figure gifts: the clout to raise awareness of the institution nationally and internationally (media outlets buzzed with the news), the power to imbue other alumni and friends with pride and the spirit of giving (additional alumni stepped up), and ultimately the opportunity to transform Baruch for the 21st century.
What’s in a Name? The Groundwork for Ambitious Goals
As Baruch College celebrates the anniversary of the naming of the Zicklin and Weissman Schools, we find ourselves asking anew, “What’s in a name?” With the vantage point of 15 years, we knowingly answer, “Commitment, partnership, a vote of confidence.”
The Zicklin and Weissman gifts continue to matter. Few would deny, for example, that their generosity in 1998 helped ensure the success of Baruch’s 2007–13 campaign, which exceeded its $150 million goal.
“The names of the Zicklin and Weissman families will forever be held in high esteem by the Baruch College community. We are deeply grateful for their generosity,” says College President Mitchel Wallerstein. “We promise to stay true to our great traditions as we pursue continuous improvement and innovation.”