The Bright Boys: A History of Townsend Harris High School

The Bright Boys: A History of Townsend Harris High School

The Bright Boys: A History of Townsend Harris High School

The Bright Boys: A History of Townsend Harris High School

Synopsis

Townsend Harris High School in Manhattan was no ordinary high school. Named for the man who brought free higher education to New York City, students like Ira Gershwin, Yip Harburg, Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Herman Wouk, Jonas Salk, and three future Nobel Laureates commuted from all five boroughs of the city in order to attend.

Excerpt

Too many of our youth are brought up in utter ignorance.

—Regents report

The article leaped at him in the morning paper. He read with disbelief, then rising anger.

The Honorable Mr. Grady introduced a bill to abolish City College because of a passage in Governor Robinson’s message, which questioned whether the State was called upon to furnish to children of its citizens any education other than such as is given in our public schools.

The imbeciles! The victory of long ago, so hard to come by, was threatened now by this bid to call the Governor’s bluff. Memories engulfed him, then, reassured, he dozed as old men do. Outside the Union Club, a busy city hurried by.

Townsend Harris need not have worried. The Academy, established in 1847 by the New York State Legislature to offer free higher education to the youths of New York City and renamed the College of the City of New York two decades later, would survive, change with new conditions, and flourish in the twentieth century. A preparatory high school—Townsend Harris High School to prepare boys for the College would honor him and win a reputation for excellence unmatched by other secondary schools of its time in New York City.

On June 10, 1846, New York was uncomfortably warm for late spring, but propelled by civic duty, groups of perspiring men hur-

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