Wheatley Alumni Newsletter

Number 20:  June 26, 2018

Dear Wheatley Wildcats and Other Interested persons,

Welcome to The Wheatley School Alumni Association Newsletter # 20.

Thanks to our fabulous Webmaster, Keith Aufhauser (1963), you can regale yourself with the first nineteen newsletters (and other Wheatley data and arcana) at http://www.wheatleyalumni.org. Alternatively, if you are completely uninterested in Wheatley matters, don't hesitate to ask me to remove you from my general distribution list. The items below are set forth in the following order:

  • Administrators;
  • Faculty;
  • Graduates (chronologically/alphabetically);
  • Fan mail (which I always appreciate) (chronologically/alphabetically).

Once again, I have allowed myself the liberty of editing all submissions, even material in quotes, for clarity and concision, without any indication thereof.


Principal – Norman Boyan – Milestone.

July 10, 2018,  will mark his and his wife’s 75th wedding anniversary!

David J. Helme – Personal Note

“I graduated from Mineola High School in 1956 little realizing that at some future time (1988) I would be the Principal/"Head Master" of The Wheatley School, also opening circa 1956.  Wheatley was a treasure, and serving as its administrator was the happy apex of my professional career.  I retired as the district’s Superintendent of Schools in 1999, only shortly afterwards to become the interim superintendent of the Roslyn Schools— our close neighbor/rival— after its superintendent left in disgrace and wound up in jail. (Imagine!)  I now live in Manhattan next to the United Nations campus and teach at Stony Brook University, telling my graduate students to do things I am not sure I could ever do myself. So be the joys of theory!

My best wishes to all the Wheatley family members, including the staff, both past and present!  “Thanks for the memories…."

Gordon M. Ambach – Deceased.

Mr. Ambach taught 7th and 8th Grade Social Studies from the fall of 1958 until the spring of 1961.  He went on to bigger, if not better, things as New York State Commissioner of Education.  Here’s his NY Times obituary (which, towards the end, briefly mentions his time at Wheatley):

Gordon M. Ambach, New York Education Chief in ’80s, Dies at 83


Gordon M. Ambach, the New York State education commissioner, at an event celebrating the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday at Public School 34 in Manhattan in 1981.

NY Times Obituary

June 6, 2018

Gordon M. Ambach, who, as the New York State education commissioner in the 1980s, drafted what were then the nation’s most demanding academic standards for high school graduation, died on May 25 at his home in New Haven.  He was 83.  The cause was complications of a stroke, his son Kenneth said.

Mr. Ambach developed a reputation for meticulousness during his 10 years as education commissioner from 1977 to 1987< , and later as the executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers in Washington.  As head of that group he helped preserve the federal Department of Education by lobbying against a Republican campaign in Congress to abolish it.

Diane Ravitch, the education historian, said in an email that Mr. Ambach had been “greatly respected for his common sense and wisdom.”  The centerpiece of Mr. Ambach’s tenure in Albany was his pivotal role in persuading the state Board of Regents in 1984 to approve a new set of academic standards as put forth in an  Action Plan which he had been instrumental in drafting.  It built on minimum competency tests for students that had been introduced in the mid-1970s.  In an analysis produced in 2009, Carol Siri Johnson, a professor in the humanities department of the New Jersey Institute of Technology, called the plan “the first official step toward a universal academic curriculum for all students” — one that “made universal competency in all academic subjects required, rather than optional.”  The requirements included two years of science and math instead of one, four years of social studies instead of three, and, for the first time, a foreign language requirement.  Moreover, the plan also called for periodic performance reviews of teachers and individual schools, letting educators, elected officials and parents measure one school’s performance against another’s and compare richer and poorer districts.  A booming economy and a national focus on failing schools generated political support for the proposals. But the Regents rejected as too costly Mr. Ambach’s call for a longer school day and an extended school year.

In an article in the Peabody Journal of Education in 1986, Donald H. Layton, of the State University of New York, Albany, wrote, “The Action Plan’s architects realized that in order to capitalize fully on the widespread national interest in education and the likelihood of increased financial support for educational initiatives, a comprehensive approach to reform not only made good educational sense but good political sense as well.”  “In retrospect,” he added, “this strategy seems to have been sound.”

Gordon MacKay Ambach was born on Nov. 10, 1934, in Providence, R.I., to Russell Ambach, an engineer, and Ethel (Repass) Ambach, a teacher and school administrator.  He graduated from Yale in 1956 with a bachelor’s degree in American studies and earned a master’s in teaching and an advanced certificate in education administration from Harvard.

Mr. Ambach taught history to seventh and eighth graders at the Wheatley School in East Williston on Long Island for three years, then served in education jobs in Washington and Boston before joining the New York State Education Department in 1967. He retired from the Council of Chief State School Officers in 2001.

In addition to his son Kenneth, he is survived by his wife, the former Lucy Emory; another son, Douglas; a daughter, Alison Illick; and 10 grandchildren.

Writes Elizabeth Stone Matho (1963):  “Gordon Ambach taught me 8th grade Social Studies.  I remember him fondly as a very fine teacher and gentle, kind and intelligent man.  He was very young at the time, probably just out of college, and quite handsome.  From reading his obit, I learned that he later went on to develop an outstanding and highly influential career in educational policy and administration that was on the state, national and international levelsI hope that other Wheatleyites remember him as warmly as I do.  Would have been nice to have known him better as he had so much to offer. 


1960 – Paul Mann – Deceased.

Writes classmate Ken Martin - Charlie Zimmerman emailed me this morning that Paul Mann’s daughter called him last night to inform Charlie of Paul’s passing. He died of complications from pneumonia.

It was a blessing for all who attended last month’s mini reunion in Georgia to have Paul with us. Most of us knew at that time that Paul was facing many physical challenges.  He did enjoy himself because Paul was a very sentimental person who loved his Wheatley upbringing and friends.

So my condolences and well wishes go out to his wife, Pat, and his family and friends and especially to his close friend Charlie Zimmerman.  Charlie was extremely close to Paul and was steadfast in his support of him-especially in later years as Paul’s health deteriorated.  At one of the mini reunions we held recently we had dinner at a lovely restaurant, and Charlie, always the gracious host, insisted on picking up the tab.  We all vociferously objected, but Charlie would have it no other way. But he did say the following:

“Listen, instead of you people helping with the tab I have a special favor to ask of you-please, when you have a chance, give Paul Mann a call down in Kentucky-he is lonely and loves hearing from his old buddies.”

That is the kind of friend Charlie was.

Paul Mann, rest in peace and may your family and friends be comforted by your memories.

Writes classmate Linda Sue Beattie Koole - RIP Paul. The following makes me think of Paul, Charlie and all of us. “Think where man’s glory most begins and ends and say my glory was that I had such friends “. Yeats

Writes classmate Patricia Birckhead Suarez - We were lucky enough to be staying at Charlie's for the mini-reunion and enjoyed the company of Paul, who stayed there, too.  He was a trooper and lived his life with courage.  We will miss him.

Writes classmate Martha Corbett Leith - Sorry to hear about Paul and happy you all got to see him last month. Rest In Peace, old friend.  I will always remember him walking the hallways with Zimmey.  I’m sorry to have missed seeing him in St. Simons, but I’m glad the rest of you did. Paul, you we’re a part of our youth. You will be missed.

Writes classmate Jay Cummings:  Amen!  The days of Wheatley still seem like yesterday.  Memories are so fresh.  Good we have them.  Innocent times.  Health to all!  Sincerely, Jay

Writes classmate George Howell:  I was saddened to hear that my friend Paul Mann had passed away.  I felt like we had only recently started to get to know each other again.  Paul persevered through a lot of challenges in his life, and that is a real measure of his character.  In high school a group of us treated Paul badly by teasing him (I regret doing that and feel ashamed, now).  At the same time, he came through that and remained a part of the group, through his own efforts more than ours.  

I know that Paul later had serious physical problems but also stuck with it through them.  I remember talking with him by phone once, not too many years ago, a few days before he was going to have serious surgery - I asked him how he felt about it, and he was honest enough to say that the thought of it frightened him, as it was not certain if he would make it through and wake up.  To his credit he did and continued to carry on.

At the gathering we had in Florida at Kenny and Cheryle's place I sat next to Paul and his wife, Pat, at a dinner.  We had a tremendous conversation about many subjects other than ourselves.  It was the first time I had seen Paul since high school and I was very impressed by his intelligence and knowledge.  I believe he earned a Doctorate Degree in Psychology.  At that time, he had taken leave from his counseling work - I think addiction counseling.  He said that being forced by his poor health to stop that work was a big disappointment for him, as it was the center of his life.  He hoped to regain his health and start again, but I don't think he was able to do that.

He was a good human being -  George aka Dixie

Classmate Lucy Mullman writes - I too lend my heartfelt wishes to his family. I know Dix spoke to him a fair amount and Paul always asked about Wheatley contacts.  Although I did not know Paul, coming to Georgia, even though he was ailing, took great courage.  We will remember him.  Peace, Lucy

Writes classmate Ray Roller - Very sorry to hear of the passing of Paul Mann.  Glad we got to spend some time with him at one of the mini-reunions.

Writes classmate Carl Stewart - This is very sad news, and sadly, it was not unexpected.  I remember talking to Paul at our 50th (which now seems such a long time ago) and he was struggling with some serious health issues then.  It is an unfortunate...I suppose...fact that we have all reached an age when no one will mourn our passing at a "young age."  I recently heard some philosopher opine that we die twice; first, when our hearts stop beating, and second, when the last person who knew us is no longer alive.  It makes sense because we are all thinking of Paul right now.  I didn't know Paul very well, but I liked the bit I did know.  My condolences to his family and, in particular my thoughts are with Charlie, who was such a caring friend.  

1960 – Ray Roller – Remembers

My next-door neighbors on Atlanta Avenue (East Williston) were the Rushmore's.  They owned a farm on the west side of Roslyn Road in Roslyn Heights, which I visited a number of times.  In the early 1950s the farm became houses.

1961 – John J. Cornelius – Deceased

LAKELAND - John Joseph Cornelius, Jr., of Lakeland, FL, went home to be with the Lord on Thursday, May 10, 2018. He passed peacefully at Tampa General Hospital with wife Linda, daughter Barbara Bennett, and nephew and wife Tony and Lisa Sparacino at his side. John was born July 20, 1943, in Mineola, NY, to parents Mary and John Joseph Cornelius, Sr. 
Survivors include his beloved wife Linda, cherished daughter and son-in-law, Barbara and Joseph Bennett, adored granddaughters Devin and Katie Bennett of Lakeland, sister Gloria (Tom) Camp of New Jersey, many nieces and nephews, and many other dear friends.  In addition to his parents, he was preceded in death by his sisters Marion Rossi and Linda Marchello of St. Petersburg, FL. 
After his early years on Long Island, NY, he became a Lakeland resident in 1973.  He began a long and varied career in the automotive and RV industries.  For over 25 years, John was passionate about providing non-profit charitable support for the forgotten senior citizens of Polk County.  Anyone who met John quickly learned of his infectious love for classic cars and hot rods, about his love and happiness with Linda, and about his thankfulness to God for life itself.  He loved Saturday nights with Linda and his hot rods at Old Town.  His skill and expertise regarding hot rods and classic cars were highly recognized and rewarded by the hot rod community.  He never hesitated to share his knowledge with anyone, nor did he hesitate to help anyone in a time of need.  He was larger than life and enjoyed everything that he did. He was humble, kind and loving and a true and loyal friend. 
Having received a heart transplant in 2003, he was truly thankful to the Lord for giving him a second chance at life.  He made each and every day count. (A memorial was held on June 7, 2018, at Crestview Baptist Church in  Lakeland, FL, 33809.

Writes classmate Bob Cullen:  “It is with deep sorrow that I inform you of the passing of John J. Cornelius.  John had been ill on and off for the last year.  He’d had had a heart transplant 16 years ago, but, ironically, he died of kidney and other organ shutdown, not heart failure.  At John's request, there was no formal funeral service; he was cremated.” 

In case anyone wants to send a card to the family, including his widow Linda, the address is: 229 Bay Berry Drive,Polk City, FL 33868

1964 – Robert Kirk – Musician

Dr. Wills was my favorite at Wheatley.  He created the Varsity Reviews of '62 and ‘63.  I was part of "the chorus line" when Dr. Wills choreographed and presented "There's Nothing Like a Dame" in one of those productions.  I still remember the moves.  As with many of my contemporaries, I played the accordion.  Dr, Wills taught me how to turn that skill into playing the National Anthem on the school's organ and allowed me to practice during study halls.  I played the Star gled Banner at all our assemblies after that.  The organ was stored in a locked room in back of the music room, and he gave me the key.  With that key, I was able to both practice the organ and to smoke at school with near certain security.  He also played Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique in class one time and hooked me on classical music.  I admire Benjamin Franklin more than Dr. Wills, but not by much. 

1966 – Linda Cornelius – Deceased

1966 – Harold Whack – Memories

I find it hard to believe how the time has flown by.  While a student at Wheatley I’d met Robert Kennedy when he ran for New York Senator.  In June of 1968 I had just started a summer job at Newsday when he was killed.  Earlier that year I had signed a Harvard student petition stating I would not serve in military if drafted.

When you open this article from the May 11, 2018 Harvard Gazette and scroll down you will see my name with other Harvard classmates stating our opposition to the war in Vietnam. The listing is alphabetical so it’s not difficult to find my name. When I graduated from Harvard in 1970 and worked my first job as a Vice President/community organizer with Roxbury Action Program in Boston, I helped organized a national anti-war organization, National Black Draft Counselors, which provided legal information for members of minority communities to legally avoid the draft.  I’m impressed with how many Wheatley graduates looked at the world from a perspective of how we could make it better and more just for others and not just for ourselves. Harold Whack '66: Halwhack@gmail.com

1967 – Art Engoron – In the (Daily) News

City cops can sue to keep disciplinary records secret, judge says:

A judge decided Tuesday he will let NYPD rank-and-file cops pursue their lawsuit over department plans to disclose their disciplinary records.  Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Arthur Engoron’s decision stems from a dispute over whether police officers can sue to prevent NYPD brass from releasing redacted disciplinary filings.  The Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association lawsuit maintains that releasing the files violates Section 50-a of the 1976 state civil rights law — which bars releasing disciplinary files.  The PBA filed suit in April, shortly after NYPD honchos revealed their plans — which also marked a dramatic change from previous department policy to keep those documents under wraps.

City lawyers had asked Engoron to throw out the case, claiming cops don’t have the right to sue over the policy under 50-a.  Engoron disagreed.  He will let the PBA’s case go forward for now, writing that “based on the law, common sense, and simple justice, the cross-motion is denied.”  PBA President Patrick Lynch lauded Engoron’s decision, saying in a statement, “We are hopeful that the judge will uphold the will of the Legislature when he rules on the merits of our suit."  The city Law Department issued a statement regarding the ruling.  “While the Court did not elect to dismiss this case based on the procedural infirmities we raised, we believe that, on the merits, dismissal remains warranted, and we look forward to presenting those grounds to the court,” it said.

[Editor’s note – The Civil Rights Law does not exactly “bar” releasing the files.  It says they are “confidential” and provides for release by waiver or court order.  But all in all, the article summarized the decision well] http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/ny-metro-nypd-disciplinary-records-20180619-story.html]

1967 – Bob Jacobs – Classic Photo

That's Bob just to the left of the teacher, and Steve Asquith just to the right.

1968 – David Hechler - Successful Reunion

David Hechler, Arlene Rappaport Vezza, Ken Gallard, David Pinter (and a cast of thousands) organized a terrific 50th-year reunion that was held last month.Photos Here.

Here are two I picked out almost at random (well, actually, because I could identify the subjects, who look pretty much the same as they did back then):

Eva Resnicow, Ken Gallard (back) and David Hechler (right).

Andy Forstenzer and Eric Reuben.

1972 - Mindy Kay Buckner – Fuller obituary

[Editor’s note – Newsletter # 17 recognized Mindy Buckner’s passing with a short note from her family.  Classmate Steve Krakauer forwarded me this fuller obituary, which was published in the Washington Post]

Mindy Kay Buckner passed away on January 30, 2018 at her home in Alexandria, Virginia, after living with cancer for nearly a year.  Born in 1954 in Queens, New York, Mindy earned a bachelor's in Business Administration from American University in 1976 and a master's degree in Occupational Therapy at the Medical College of Virginia in 1986.  She practiced OT (Occupational Therapy) in Northern Virginia hospitals and then switched to a school-based practice in the Fairfax County Public Schools, where she helped learning-disabled children gain educational skills.  Mindy is survived by her loving husband of 37 years, Ralph Goldstein; her children Dylan Goldstein and Katrina Rose; sisters Toni LaPietra, Janice Buckner and Leslie Strauss; brother Harold Buckner, and many additional loving family members and friends. Washington Post Obituary.

1972 - Howard Davidson – Proud Poppa

“My daughter, Delaney, graduated Cum Laude from Pace University on May 22, 2018, with a BFA in costume design.”

Fan Mail:

Administrator (David J. Helme) - Commendations to you for your masterful editorial leadership of the Wheatley newsletters.  I especially enjoyed a recent issue reflecting on the founding history of the school.

Parent (Leah Tchack) (widow of Ted Tchack, legendary Wheatley English teacher; mother of Sara Weiss Danzi Engoron, 1973, Daniel Weiss, 1975, Brian Reynolds, 1976, William Reynolds, 1980, and Matthew Reynolds, 1981) -Thanks so much for the current newsletter, an excellent production, as usual.

1959 (Deborah (“Dee”) Anderson Webber) - Thanks again for all you do for the alumni!

1960 (Renee Gershen Nadel) - Thanks again for yet another newsletter connecting us all to our roots.

1960 (Ray Roller) - Thank you for doing this newsletter.  It brings back many GOOD memories of my public school days (all 13 of them in the East Williston School District).

1961 (Patricia Kirk Hefferan) - Well done!  The newsletter was a champion job.

1961 (Mark Luria) - Thanks for the interesting newsletter.

1961 (Bari Mittenthal Mears) - As always…..thank you!

1961 (Gail Yokell McIntosh)1 - So great to read all the news and updates.  It warms my heart to relive pieces of the past....our history...our roots.  The older we are the more it means!  Thank you.

1962 (Carol Keister McCormick) – Thanks, Art.

1962 (Leo Smith) - I enjoy the newsletters and learning how people spent their post-graduation years.

1963 (Elizabeth Stone Matho) - Many thanks for editing and producing the always interesting newsletter that you recently sent out. 

1965 (Saleem Pernath, formerly known as Gibb Geery) - Thanks a bunch, Art and Keith

1966 (Merril Schindler) – Thanks for keeping track of all this.

1966 (Bette Spiro Neuman) - Thank you for what you do for us.  Terrible news about David Hurvitz and Alan Orling, but appreciate your creating a community in which we can hear these things.

1966 (Suzanne Stone) - Thanks for the poignant, educational, and enlightening contents of your newsletters - and for inspiring so many Wildcats to share their personal and professional memories, experiences, accomplishments and losses.  My eyes are always teary after digesting each extraordinary installment!  < style='background:white'>Bless you for keeping our childhood roots alive!  And, much appreciation to Keith for his technical genius!

1966 + 1967 (Anne Flicker-Tartaglia and Joe Tartaglia) - < style='font-size:18.0pt;color:black'>Thank you for the memories and for keeping us informed!

1967 (Scott Frishman) – Thanks, Art!  Great as usual!!!

1967 (Marjorie Hope Gross) - Thanks for keeping us all so up-to-date!

1968 (Ricki Spier Cohn) - Thanks for keeping everyone informed!  I enjoy receiving the newsletters.

1970 (Robin Halpern) - Thank you for taking on the task of being the collector of alumni tales.  It affords us the opportunity to recollect memories and have some continuity in our lives.  Hearing about people passing early is so sad, even if I am not familiar with many of their names.

1972 (Joel Harris) - Great newsletter……Thank you for all you do!

1973 (Edward B. Ryder) – Thanks, Art.

1974 (Victoria Abbott Pitcavage) - Thank you for newsletter #19: I appreciate the effort you put forth.

1974 (Vivien Bergl) - Thanks for doing this and sending it!

1974 (Ellen Marie Barnett Diana) – I love getting the newsletters…..you’re such a Wildcat.

1974 (David Caine) - Thank you for the outstanding work keeping us, Wheatley Alumni, informed about the accomplishments and life stories of our classmates and teachers.  I know that I am not the only one who greatly appreciates your hard work.

1974 (Cathy Michaelson Lieblich) - Thanks so much for continuing to do this newsletter and send it to us, Art! The time and effort that you put into it is greatly appreciated.

1980 (Lisa Ehrenberg) - I so appreciate all the work you put into keeping us informed of what's going on with our fellow Wildcats - thank you! 

1985 (Matthew Littman) - Arthur, I read every one of these.  Thanks for taking the time and care to put it together - Matt

1991 (David Sakhai) - Thanks for being committed to the Wheatley school newsletter and keeping all us Wildcats in the loop on one another!!  Keep up the great work!

1992 (Kristina Effron) - Thanks so much for starting this thoughtful blog-esque email. While I have mixed feelings about my time at Wheatley (puberty is a b*tch), I do truly value the superior education I received at Wheatley, and this newsletter keeps the legacy of our little school alive and treasured.  I live in California (going on 14 years) now, and haven't been able to attend any alumni events, but thanks to this, I still feel fondly connected.

1999 (William Corrigan) - Great stuff.

2009 (Amanda Hartman) - I just read through the most recent newsletter.  Wonderful, as always!!!  I cannot believe Wheatley's first principal has been married almost 75 years!!


That’s it for the Wheatley School Alumni Association Newsletter # 20.  Please send me your autobiography before someone else sends me your obituary.

Art Engoron,   Wheatley 1967,   646-872-4833,  WWW.WHEATLEYALUMNI.ORG

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