Pearl Gnesin’s photo in the 1946 Lexicon.

Nearly 70 years ago, on the evening of May 4, 1945, Pearl Gnesin, an upper senior majoring in advertising and retailing at City College Downtown (today’s Baruch), was crowned “Campus Queen of New York City.”

Born and raised in Brooklyn, Gnesin competed against 11 other women from such city schools as NYU, Columbia, and Juilliard. And though the phrase “campus queen” connotes glamour, the WWII-era event (Germany’s surrender to the Allies was still three days away) reflected the serious tenor of the times: the ball at which the winner was chosen was a fundraiser for the Infantile Paralysis Fund.

Pearl and David Ribet with their daughter, Claudia, circa 1960.

So what did Pearl win? A cosmetics kit, a bottle of Prince Matchabelli perfume, a session with a top hairstylist, a radio interview, lunch at the Stork Club, a ticket to Broadway’s Laffing Room Only, and supper at celebrity eatery El Morocco.

We suspect, though, that Campus Queen Pearl valued another “prize” far more. At the time of the pageant, she had won the heart of and was engaged to fellow student David Ribet (’44). The two met in a Baruch business administration class and have been married since 1946.

—Diane Harrigan

Related Article:

The CPA and the Campus Queen: Long-Wed Couple David Ribet (’44) and Pearl Gnesin Ribet (’46) 

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