Queens Magazine

Queens Magazine Fall/Winter 2012/13

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One for the History Books Frank Warren taught at QC for half a century By Leslie Jay An institution in his own right, former History Department Chair Frank Warren retired in the spring after 50 years at QC; as chief marshal for Commencement, his last official act was to issue brief directions at the end of the ceremony. Graduates and guests who heard his accent, or lack of it, would have been surprised to learn that Warren is a native New Yorker. Born upstate, he lived in the metropolitan area while his father taught at Westchester County high schools. When his dad took a job at Springfield College, the family moved to Massachusetts. There, oddly, Warren became a fanatic Brooklyn Dodgers fan, and because the Yankees were the Dodgers' nemesis, he grew partial to the Boston Red Sox. Now a long-suffering Mets fan, he is set apart from much of the QC campus by his passion for the Red Sox. But, he says with a smile, "I have a lot of fun with Yankees fans." After a year at Alfred College, Warren transferred to Rutgers University and earned a bachelor's in English. He admits that as a senior, "I didn't know what I wanted to do." So he applied to graduate programs in English at Columbia, social work at Rutgers, humanities at Chicago, and American studies at Brown. The determining factor proved to be money. The only university that gave him any funding was Brown, where Warren focused on the intellectual and political history of the 1930s. His dissertation and first book, Liberals and Communism, grew out of this interest, as did his later book on the Socialist Party in the 1930s, An Alternative Vision. He would extend his study of liberal intellectuals into the 1940s in Noble Abstractions. When Warren completed his PhD, the job market was tight. Connections forged in grad school paid off in 1962 when he began looking for a job. "An old-boy network operated then," he observes. "I knew one professor from Brown who was at Queens. I've been here ever since. I was happy here." Based in the brand-new Social Science Building, yet to be named after anthropologist Hortense Powdermaker, Warren was impressed by the caliber of QC students. In a recent newsletter sent to the department's alumni, he described the members of his very first class, on American history, as some of the best he ever taught. Before the decade was over, as the campus was engulfed in dissent, he would face a different type of challenge. "The protest years were important for me," says the professor, who rose to his feet Warren stands behind his research (top during the 1969 right). He also stands up for his beliefs. In the center of the bottom shot, he's looking back Commencement, while being led to the paddy wagon with providing the signal others arrested at a sit-in; at top left, he's for sympathetic addressing student protestors. students and faculty to walk out and attend the counter-commencement organized in support of student demonstrators who had been arrested earlier that spring. "I'm still proud of the role I played in that." Warren is also proud that during his 18 consecutive years as chairman he led a congenial department that integrated new faculty members and old, all of them dedicated to students' needs. "I used to say that we were not the most efficient department, but we were the most student-friendly," he notes. In his time here, Warren has seen QC evolve from a white, middle-class enclave into a heterogeneous school that welcomes people from all backgrounds. "It's a remarkable student body," he says. "In some ways, it's more interesting, with all the diversity." He's particularly delighted by the achievements of individuals who have to struggle academically, often because they come from families and neighborhoods where no one had gone to college. "You feel great for these students," Warren concludes. "Their success is one of the most rewarding experiences in teaching." QUEENS: The Magazine of Queens College 15

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