Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hofstra on the Map

Like many people of my age and older, I first heard of Hofstra University when I listened to Bill Cosby's routines about going to Temple University and playing football. Hofstra would beat Temple 900 to nothing. It's a very funny routine and can be found on one of Cosby's first L.P.s (remember those?)

The Hofstra I attended was no sports powerhouse. The days of football glory were behind them and the days of basketball greatness could only be seen in a crystal ball. I went there because they had an experimental program called New College, where I could earn my B.A. in three years. I was in a great hurry to get to law school. So was most of my first year class. As those of you who've read my blog know, I took a few detours before entering law school 20 years after I started Hofstra. I did, however, get my B.A. in three years at New College.

Tonight, Hofstra takes the stage as the location of the third debate in this presidential season. I'm looking forward to exterior views of the campus, which has changed a lot since I went there. The photograph above, which I found online, is the Unispan, the foot bridge that connected the north campus, with its community center and dormatories, to the south campus where the library and most classrooms were when I attended. I hear there are now two of them.

Robert Davi (whose time at Hofstra overlapped mine) used to sing opera on the Unispan because of the great accoustics when it was empty. The place was pretty much deserted on weekends when I went there because so many of the resident students were from Long Island and would go home on the weekends. I rather liked the quiet.

The law school was founded right after I graduated and quickly rose to national prominence, but before that, the school had a noted theatre program and graduates who went on to stellar careers in entertainment: Francis Ford Coppola, Lainie Kazan, Madeline Kahn, Christopher Walken, and Susan Sullivan. Overlapping my time were Peter Friedman (who was the star of the theatre department my first two years at Hofstra), Mike Starr, and Ron Kovic. The founder of Digital Domain, Scott Ross, was in my first year class at New College (he had a lot more hair then) where all 150 of us took lecture classes together in the morning. Phil Rosenthal, creator of Everybody Loves Raymond, is a more recent graduate.

I spent a lot of time with theatre majors, many of whom did reside in the dorms and I was good friends with a theatre tech major named Arturo Porazzi, whose name I often see attached to Broadway productions. Dinner with the theatre majors was always a lot of fun and the shows at Hofstra were professional-level. Hofsta holds the oldest college Shakespeare festivals in the country and I saw Peter Friedman star as Hamlet and later in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead. There was a great production of Richard III a couple of years later. My first year, Spectrum (the musical comedy production) did A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and my third year it put on Patience. The Hofstra production of Three Penny Opera went on to win many awards in a national college theatre competition.

I occasionally run into fellow Hofstra Alumni, but rarely run into people who went to New College. My good friend Karen is one of the great exceptions. We became friends after meeting at an interview when I was looking for a clerkship during law school. We graduated together, but she was a year ahead of me. I recognized her name because of her nick-name. We had actually taken an elective class together, but we travelled in different circles.

So tonight, I have a choice of watching the debate at home or heading over the hill to Century City to watch the debate with a group of Hofstra Alumni at an accounting firm. I was rather enthusiastic about this until I realized it would probably not be an Obama crowd like the Al Franken party was. Despite our anti-war protests back in the late 1960s, Nassau County was Republican territory. New College contained most of the long-haired, hippie-freak, anti-war contingent. Hofstra proper had a strong ROTC program and a big Greek contingent when I was there. New College students were, and alumni still are, insistent upon referring to themselves as "New College" as opposed to "main campus" students.

I just read about a huge reception Richard Nixon got at the Nassau Coliseum in 1972--the Coliseum borders Hofstra to the West--and about the 5000 doners who attended a fund raiser right on the campus for Bob Dole during his run for President. Democratic voter registration has just exceeded Republican registration by a few hundred voters in Nassau County, and local Republican party officials try to downplay that fact.

I think I might be better off going to a non-political alumni event another time and looking for a Move-On party here in the Valley tonight.

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