Hello, Class of 1971. It has been 55 years since we set foot on the Morningside Heights campus to start our journey toward graduation. At times it feels longer and at times it feels as though it never happened, but here we are.
Robert Bobrick entered with the Class of 1967 but he did not graduate until 1971, receiving a degree in Chinese language and culture. He pursued this line of education, attaining two master’s, one in Asian studies from Seton Hall University and the other in historical studies from The New School. He spent six years teaching English and social studies in Japan. During that time, he received a compliment from one of his students: “You are half Japanese!” He married a lady from Guangzhou. Robert lived in China for considerable lengths of time in the recent past. For the last 14 years, his teaching career was spent in New York City, mainly at Lafayette H.S. He lives in Chelsea, and, ironically, after all his world traveling, it is close to the West Village, where he was born. His newest endeavor is to increase his proficiency in Latin so that he can read Caesar and Virgil from the original text.
Robert spearheaded the successful campaign to lift the Covid-19 vaccine mandate and testing requirements at the Success Academy Charter School last winter. This inspired him to run for the New York State Senate, District 47, as a candidate for the Medical Freedom Party. His district would have run from Waverly Place to West 103rd Street along the entire West Side of Manhattan. Because of his fluency in Chinese, and the diverse constituency of the district, he had his campaign material translated into Spanish and Chinese.
Robert offers to meet classmates for tea or coffee and to get acquainted, or reacquainted as the case may be. He is always up for a good conversation.
Dr. Tony Kestler, one of our class’s fencing greats, and a neighbor from my New Jersey county, reports, “The Irving Martin Preschel Trophy was reinstated several years ago.” My family and I are eternally grateful to Tony for his efforts in that quest. We also thank Coach Mike Aufrichtig for its renewal after 40 years of hibernation. Tony tells the story of his hard work every year at the fencing dinner.
My father, Dr. Sheldon Preschel ’43, endowed the trophy initially. It memorializes my Uncle Irving, who attended NYU. During WWII, the brothers came up with a plan. My father, the older of the two, would attend college and then medical school while his brother discharged the family obligation for military service as an Army Corps medic. Once Irving returned from the war, my father would provide the monetary wherewithal to put Irving through school and then they would practice medicine together. This plan failed to be realized when Irving was killed during the war. My father set up the trophy in his memory.
Tony was the 1969 NCAA Foil Champion. That team included several close friends of mine, including Mark Haselkorn. He set my wife, Carole, and me up on a blind date in 1970. It will be 50 years of marriage in June. Not many creations last happily that long anymore.
However, getting back to Tony, he retired from the practice of general dentistry, in Plainfield, N.J., in 2019. He has been coaching young champions at the Freehold Fencing Academy for 15 years, transmitting his insights and talent with the passion he holds for his sport. Tony remains active with Columbia fencing and gives the annual Kestler Award at the team dinner every spring. He is on the Governor’s Council of the Jewish Federation in the Heart of N.J. He chaired its Overseas Allocations Committee for 16 years. He and his wife, Barbara, have four children and five grandchildren. Tony enjoys retired life in Manalapan, N.J.
I love how our class has been and is making waves in the political process locally and nationally. We haven’t stopped being that group that spoke out against what we felt was wrong. I believe that moral sense was driven by our CC courses and the Humanities course from our freshman year.
If you have an interesting story or biographical information that you wish to share, please send it to me at the email at the top of the column. Be well and be safe.
Columbia Alumni magazine, Columbia College Today