A Ghost in the Class of 1999
I’m certain my father would have wanted me to graduate from college. But that was perhaps the last thing on my mind on that wintry day (1964) when my mother called me at the University at Buffalo to tell me he had taken, in her words, “a turn for the worse.”
Then came this notion after the funeral that I should leave school, go to work at my father’s company and continue my education at night in Manhattan. As the oldest of three children, I was expected to carry on for my father, take up his cause and become a businessman in the Garment Center like him.
Years later, [rock star] Alice Cooper’s manager, Shep Gordon, my fraternity brother at Buffalo, called to say he’d given my name to Ronald Stein, a vice president at UB who was attempting to reach out to former students as a way of building a stronger relationship with alumni.
It had always been Shep’s opinion that my leaving school when I did had served as a wake-up call to the friends I left behind. We had stuffed our faces with Bocce pizza and Buffalo chicken wings and argued over such weighty matters as whether there was enough money in our fraternity kitty to land James Brown for our next beer blast. Nobody was supposed to get hurt back then, much less die.
Two Sundays ago (5/16/99), my wife and one of my sons came with me to Buffalo and watched me graduate from college with the Class of 1999. As Stein said, “At least you’re graduating in this century.”
I had done it: I had graduated from college with a degree in journalism. As good as it felt for myself and my family, I could think only of my father and how thrilled and proud he’d be.
Mitchell Fink received his B.A. in journalism from UB in 1999. He is currently a columnist for the New York Daily News. (Text edited and reprinted with permission of the New York Daily News.)