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AS PRINCIPAL of Brooklyn Technical High School, the nation’s largest specialized public high school for science, technology, engineering and mathematics, Randy Asher, BS ’95, often starts his day online at 4:45 a.m. and ends it after 11 p.m.
“It’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle,” says Asher. He embraces the challenges of running the extremely competitive school, which enrolls 5,200 of New York City’s brightest students, because of the rewards in watching them graduate knowing he had a hand in giving them the tools for success.
Favorite UB class or professor?
Gary Scott Danford for Environmental Design, Robert Shibley for Introduction to Architecture, the late Charles Ebert for Disasters: The Study of Hazards and Donald Glickman for Foundation Studio.Randy Asher
Previously, Asher founded the High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering at the City College of New York, creating it “from scratch” and becoming the youngest high school principal in New York City at that time.
His UB degree in architecture (he customized his major to focus on facilities management) has been useful in his current position since he also oversees Brooklyn Tech’s 600,000 square feet of space. His master plan includes such projects as a DNA lab for advanced genetics courses and wind tunnels for the aerospace majors. “We are working to create a 21st-century learning environment with the best instructional facilities possible.”
—Mara McGinnis , BA ’97, with photo by Chris Casaburi
Do you have a favorite career moment?
There are so many, but they all revolve around working with students. It’s incredible to see the intangible look in the eye of a student who finally understands a new concept, which is like an awakening.
What do you miss most about your time as a student?
Freedom and the lack of time constraints.
What do you think is different (both better and worse) for students today compared with when you went to UB?
The campus is far better developed in terms of technology, equipment and overall facilities, including academic space and housing.
How did UB influence your life and career?
I learned to get involved in extracurricular activities and pursue areas of interest that I continue to engage in 20 years later. I also learned a great deal about public speaking and formal presentations from those brutally competitive “critiques” in design studio.
If you could have had one technological advancement/device here now that wasn’t around in the 1990s, what would it be?
Portable technology like iPads and smartphones. I carried a pager when I first moved to campus.
What’s your impression of the university today?
UB is bigger and better than ever—it’s a place on the move. The UB 2020 plan has brought new recognition and prominence to an already outstanding institution. UB as a whole continues to excel, and I am proud to be an active alumnus.
Would you still select the same major if you had to do it all over again?
Maybe. There are so many new and exciting fields that have emerged in the last 20 years that it is hard to say.
Last book read? Do you use an e-reader?
“The Desert Spear” by Peter Brett, who graduated from UB in 1995. I have used the Sony e-reader but prefer an actual book.
What advice do you have for current UB students? “If I knew then what I know now...”
Work hard and learn, learn, learn. Don’t study to “get through” the exam—master the content. College is about more than transcript grades. It is about building skills, relationships and character.
Do you keep in touch with UB friends today?
I regularly talk to many of my friends from UB, and social media have made it much easier to stay in casual contact. Some of my closest friends today are people I met at UB.
When was the last time you visited UB?
I was on campus in fall 2010 and return semi-regularly. I’m a member of the UB Alumni Association board of directors so that brings me back to campus four times a year.
How did you do your homework and/or research papers before Google or the Internet?
Many hours in the library and days in the architecture studio.
Any distinct memories about Buffalo winters?
Cold and windy. I never minded the snow, but the wind …. In 1994, when I returned to campus during winter break as a resident adviser, the wind chill was nearly 50 below zero. That was the coldest I have ever been in my life.
David Dorsey is a Rochester-based freelance writer whose credits include Esquire and Fast Company (Dilek Cindoglu, Dexter Johnson, Atif Zafar); Grace Lazzara is a Buffalo-based writer and public relations strategist (Andra Ackerman, Gwen Howard, Bridget Cullen Mandikos); Mara McGinnis, BA ’97, is executive director of communications at Pratt Institute and a New York City-based freelance writer (Randy Asher, Steve Marchese, Rodney Sharman).