Gilder Lehrman American History Institute
Celebrates 10th Anniversary at Queens HS
And you thought that October 12 was just Columbus Day! According to a proclamation issued by Mayor Bloomberg last month, October 12 is now officially also to be known as Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History Day, and nowhere could that announcement have been greeted with more heartfelt enthusiasm than at The Academy of American Studies, located in the Newcomers High School Building in Long Island City. Students cheered at the news, balloons tightly clutched, as beaming teachers, staff, parents and various education administrators and political leaders joined in the wild applause and cheers. A program booklet, listing the afternoon’s activities, included greetings from, among others, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, who praised the Academy and its sponsoring Institute for being a “model” nation wide. Of course, no one could have been prouder of the Academy than those involved in its new Gilder Lehrman Research Center, especially its six young interns, all from the school’s A.P. program, who have already been trained to staff the center after school and on Saturdays: Gloria Choi, Hager Eldaas, Paula Kaczmarczyk, Basira Miah, Jessical Pham and Robert Wohner. Their faculty advisors are Nancy Condon, Brian Loesch and John Maggio.
On October 12, 2006, the Academy of American Studies, the flagship institution of the Gilder Lehman Institute, marked its tenth anniversary as the first high school in The United States devoted to American history. It also honored the inauguration of the student-run research center that will serve Academy students and also students from Long Island City High School, Frank Sinatra High School of the Arts, and Newcomers High School. In the words of Professor James G. Basker, the Ann Whitney Olin Professor of English at Barnard College, Columbia University, a literary historian with special interests in The Civil War and Reconstruction periods, who is President of The Gilder Lehman Institute of American History, “of no school could we be prouder than this one,” remarks that, once again, brought students and faculty to the edge of their seats whooping. In just ten brief years, as the school’s principal Ellen Sherman pointed out in her welcoming speech, the Academy went from 125 students and 7 faculty to 620 students and 51 faculty and staff. The data are impressive—100 percent of graduates accepted to higher education, 3,000 applications for 150 open seats.
The joyous celebrations began with a ribbon-cutting ceremony—at which a red, white, and blue band was snipped in several places (with red and blue scissors) by a group of broad-smiling dignitaries who joined Principal Sherman, including Superintendent of NYC DoE’S region four, Reyes Izirarry; top executives from Gilder Lehrman, including Lesley Herrmann and Michael Serber, founding principal of the Academy; Professor Basker, Michael Harkins, a significant funding supporter; and Robert Wohner, representing the students. In casual conversation with Education Update, the students noted various career goals, among them broadcast journalism and medical school and the not-unwelcome favorite, undecided. All were excited about working with original documents—the advantage of getting a “closer look at American history” (Paula), working peer-to peer, students with students (Hager), and mentoring in the form of “putting” callers (as distinct from “leading” them) on the right path, assisting them in refining research topics and advising on available and appropriate materials in print and online (all).
The Gilder Lehrman network, as of 2006-7, boasts 43 history high schools and programs (schools within schools) across the country, many concentrated in the Metropolitan area, and 20 Saturday Academies. Dedicated to promoting the study and love of American history by way of lectures, conferences, exhibitions, scholarly research and—a first for students, to begin next summer—a competition that will send the lucky winner to Oxford or Cambridge. The Institute also runs summer seminars for teachers, publishes research resources (primary and secondary) in various media, and offers an annual prize for the best book on Lincoln and his time. Its advisory board constitutes a veritable who’s who in American history and letters.
The Institute is named for its two founders. Richard Gilder heads the brokerage firm Gilder, Gagnon, Howe & Co. He serves on the Executive Board of the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture and is a trustee of the New York Historical Society, the Morgan Library, the American Museum of Natural History, the Central Park Conservancy, and the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. Speakers at the ceremony noted that he spent two years teaching a course at the Academy. Lewis E. Lehrman is a partner in L.E. Lehrman & Co. A former candidate for governor of New York, he is trustee of the New York Historical Society, and former trustee of the American Enterprise Institute, the Morgan Library, and the Heritage Foundation. He is former Chairman of the Committee on Humanities of the Yale University Council and served as Visiting Lecturer in American History at Gettysburg College. For information, readers should go to: www.gilderlehrman.org.#