Monday, November 22, 2004

# Posted 2:46 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE HARVARD OF THE PROLETARIAT: This coming spring, my father will return to the City College of New York to celebrate his forty-year reunion. For my father, as well as for countless other children of working-class immigrants from Eastern Europe, City College occupies a mythic place in American life.

The College is an institution that opened its doors to those didn't have the financial resources or social connections necessary for admission to the Ivy League. Nonetheless, the intellectual standards for admission to the College were almost impossibly high because there was so much talent waiting to be discovered among the new Americans of New York, Eastern European or otherwise. As a result, City College became known as 'The Harvard of the Proletariat'. It graduates include numerous Nobel laureates as well as the current Secretary of State.

Sadly, the College stumbled into a long era of decline in the decades after my father's graduation. Yet today, there is cause to celebrate once again. This weekend, Lev Sviridov of the Class of 2005 was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship:
For Mr. Sviridov, who scavenged for cans and bottles in trash barrels in his early years in New York, the Rhodes represents not just prestige but a windfall.

His mother, Alexandra Sviridov, was a journalist and filmmaker in Moscow who exposed Russian government officials who were former KGB operatives. They came to New York for a visit in 1993, when Mr. Sviridov was 11, then stayed, afraid to return home when tanks rolled in. He was homeless for a time as his mother fought for the right to stay in the United States and searched for a job. Mr. Sviridov has himself held many jobs to bring in income; he said he would probably send part of his Rhodes stipend home to New York to help his mother...

Mr. Sviridov said that he had found the City College faculty very supportive, and that many professors told him they had followed paths like his.

"No one was born into something," he said. "They were all self-made people. My education there is terrific."
I am proud to see that once again, City College has been able to serve as a gateway to the most ambitious of American dreams.
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