Satellites and Bennett grads

Date: Sat Oct 01 2005 - 20:08:08 EDT

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    I recently finished printing out and looking  through all 554+ of Jonathan 
    McDowell's satellite reports. A truly remarkable  record of the world's space 
    programs, they fill four large three-ring binders  and a little bit of a fifth, 
    wherein I'll continue to collect the latest ones as  he produces them. Between 
    my recently augmented set of TRW Space Logs (still  need Volume 1 number 6 
    and volume 2 number 1, though) and Jonathan's reports, I  should have a detailed 
    handle on all the world's space launches since Sputnik 1  (now just three 
    days away from its 48th anniversary October 4). (Not that there  aren't dozens of 
    websites that already have lots of that kind of  information!)
    In looking through Jonathan's reports, I encountered the  name Harvey 
    Tananbaum, who is currently director of the x-ray astronomy  department at the 
    Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (or something like  that)--in other words, 
    apparently Jonathan's boss. This brought back some  memories, because Harvey is 
    originally from Buffalo, NY, my home town, and we  both attended the same high 
    school, Bennett High. He was class of 1960, I was  class of 1963, so he was in 
    his senior year when I began there as a freshman.  Harvey was perhaps 
    Bennett's most academically gifted student ever. He graduated  with something like a 
    99.2 GPA, a record that as far as I know is unequalled at  Bennett before or 
    since. (Those were the days when GPAs were scored numerically  on a scale of 
    0-100, and anything 90 or over was an A.) To retain this high a  GPA he would 
    have had to submit perfect or nearly perfect homework assignments  and exams 
    >every time< in >all< of his subjects--the sciences,  English, foreign languages, 
    history/social studies, and math--in >all four  years< as a student. Not 
    merely A's but mainly 100's. All of us honor  students had A grades, but Harvey's 
    scores simply blew everyone else's out of  the water. The gulf between a 
    "routine" honor student's four-year 96.5 GPA, say,  and a 99.2 GPA is truly 
    astronomical. My first year at Bennett, Harvey's name  was >invariably< at the top of 
    the Honor Roll, every report-card period.  The kind of focus it takes to 
    maintain a 99+ GPA over four years of schooling is  rare indeed in a high-school 
    kid, and it has evidently stood Harvey in good  stead throughout his career.
    At Bennett it was a tradition for each  year's National Honor Society to 
    publicly perform a play of some kind, often a  funny adaptation of some Broadway 
    production or other. The class of 1960 NHS  play was called "Darn Yankees," and 
    as I recall Harvey starred as Mr. Applegate,  that is, the Devil. ("Damn" 
    was, of course, a proscribed utterance for  high-school students in those early 
    1960s days.) I also recall Harvey was top  scorer from western New York in the 
    1960 MAA high school math contest (dunno how  he ranked nationwide, but he 
    must have been pretty high). He was profiled as an  exceptional student by the 
    Buffalo Evening News (now just known as the Buffalo  News). Graduating as class 
    valedictorian, he went on to Yale and thence to a  doctorate at MIT, after 
    which he embarked on a lifetime in x-ray astronomy. I  recall crossing paths with 
    him at MIT once or twice when I was an undergrad. I  heard that he married a 
    Bennett classmate named Rona Lichtman, but I cannot  confirm whether that's 
    true or not. Rona is the elder sister of Jeffrey  Lichtman, with whom I shared a 
    homeroom at Bennett for four years and who is  now, I believe, a physician 
    somewhere in upstate New York.
    I recently saw  a medical TV show on one of the local San Diego educational 
    channels that  featured another Bennett grad, Ronald Krauss. Ronald was also 
    class of 1960 and  graduated as class salutatorian (the number two GPA person) 
    behind Harvey  Tananbaum. Whereas Harvey went to Yale, Ronald went to Harvard, 
    and he  eventually became an MD. He has had an illustrious medical career, as 
    you can  discover by Googling his name online. Ronald was president of the 
    Bennett math  club in 1960, a post I subsequently occupied in 1963, my own senior 
    Finally, and I hope readers aren't totally bored to tears by these  
    45-year-old reminiscences, let me bring up just one more Bennett grad who might  be 
    familiar to some list members: Laurence A. "Larry" Marschall, who presently  
    occupies a chair in astronomy and physics at Gettysburg College. Larry was the  
    valedictorian of Bennett's class of 1962 (the year ahead of mine). In the late  
    1950s Larry and I lived on the same street in Buffalo and attended the same  
    public school, PS #54. For many years during the 1990s he regularly reviewed  
    books for the New York Academy of Sciences magazine, and when that ceased  
    publication, he continued his reviews in Natural History magazine, where his  
    column presently appears. I have often read his reviews and I must say he has  
    sold me more than one book over the years for my personal library. He also wrote  
    a pop-sci book himself, which I own and read with enjoyment, on the Large  
    Magellanic Cloud Supernova 1987A. At Bennett his book bag, which accompanied him 
     to his various classes, became so huge and heavy that he mounted it on 
    wheels  and towed it around behind him, much to the amusement of us other students. 
     Larry and his book bag appeared in the 1962 NHS school play, Oedipus Rex, 
    whose  theme song was "I Want a Girl Just Like the Girl That Married Dear Old  
    Oh, yes. The 1963 NHS school play was Romeo and Juliet, done as a  musical 
    comedy, written and directed by yours truly, in which I played Romeo and  spoke 
    with a Kennedy accent. (Vaughn Meader's record "The First Family" was big  in 
    1963: "Now, er, JULIET, let me say this about THAT...") It left them rolling  
    in the aisles. Thankfully, it was the only play I ever had anything to do with 
     in my life.  
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