From the YU Archives
The following is excerpted from an articlewritten in 1979 by Roy Campbell, then directorof publicity for YU’s public relations depart-ment, to help commemorate Yeshiva College’s50th anniversary.
t was a small college then, sufferingthrough America’s Great Depression at thetop of Manhattan in what one early studentremembers as “the middle of nowhere.” In June 1932, in the one building that housedall the college’s facilities, 19 young men receiveddegrees. Eight graduated either
and that achievement prompted onefaculty member to rise from his chair and ex-claim, “Never has better collegiate work beendone anywhere or at any time.”Those 19 young men were the first graduatesof Yeshiva College—the small institution thatlater grew into Yeshiva University…. Many hadpredicted that Yeshiva College was doomed—even before those first students enrolled. In theearly 1920s, Dr. Bernard Revel, president [of thefaculty] of Rabbi Isaac Elchanan TheologicalSeminary, first talked about such a college whenhe saw many of his best students graduating hishigh school and going on to traditional collegesand universities.…The early years of the College coincidedwith the Great Depression, and one former stu-dent recalled that “from year to year there wasno assurance that the College would reopen.”As the Depression ravaged the economy,money dried up. In addition, some Orthodoxleaders withdrew their support because of theCollege’s secular nature. Many who had pledgedmoney were unable to meet those pledges be-cause of their own financial problems. Profes-sors went unpaid, yet no one resigned. Dr.Revel, who, during the worst of times, rode thesubway to work and refused to take a salary,would look out his window and see his dreamsfor a large university being undermined as anapartment complex went up on land he hadonce planned to use for the campus….The 1940s brought new prosperity to Amer-ica and Yeshiva College…. When Americaentered World War II, many Yeshiva Collegestudents and recent graduates signed up andserved as officers, chaplains, and common sol-diers. When the war ended…veterans appliedfor admission to the College…. [It] started aprogram for those students with little Judaicbackground, and that program grew into the pio-neering James Striar School of General JewishStudies.In 1945, Yeshiva College became YeshivaUniversity…. Dr. Revel did not live to see thegrowth of the university. He died in December1940, a few days after collapsing in a classroomwhere he was teaching.
Voices from the Past
o Harry Steinberg and Judah Washer,the history of Yeshiva College repre-sents a personal journey of achieve-ment and continuity. Among the lastsurviving members of Yeshiva College’sfirst graduating class, their recent reminiscesform a time capsule into early 20th-century ad- vances in Jewish higher education.Harry Steinberg ’32Y, a public relations pro-fessional who helped devise and implement
Theodore Gross ’40Y, then a sophomorestudent in Yeshiva College, addresseshis class in public speaking.
14SUMMER 2004 • YESHIVA UNIVERSITY REVIEW