Catching up with Professor Emeritus Frederick Binder

Professor emeritus Frederick Binder has had a positive impact on many aspects of CSI during his 24-year tenure with the College.

Professor emeritus Frederick Binder made quite an impact on CSI during his 24-year tenure with the College (from 1974 to 1998). Beyond teaching at the undergraduate and graduate levels, and chairing the History Department, he founded the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies [MALS] program, was instrumental in gaining approval for the MA in History program, helped to establish the General Education program, assisted in bolstering the number of faculty in the History Department, and served on the College Council and University Senate. He also was an associate dean for five years prior to the merger of Staten Island Community College and Richmond College.

Although he is retired, Prof. Binder still stays in touch with CSI, attending retirement and Christmas parties, and maintaining connections with some of his students. This is no surprise as he says that he has “very strong wonderful feelings about this College, the 24 years [that I spent here, out of 43 total]…I loved teaching, I loved the students.”

A self-described “natural-born ham and a bit of an actor,” who loves the classroom, he recalled that he used to tell his students, “I come from Massachusetts. I’m here to convert you to high culture. So it was fun.” Prof. Binder was so effective in the classroom that he received a Dolphin Award for teaching in 1983.

He also looks back fondly on his time in the History Department. “Being in the History Department, which is one of the strongest in the College, I had great colleagues. To this day, you have a perfect balance of scholarship–people who write books and publish books, but people who are also totally dedicated to teaching.  This is what makes this College wonderful.”

Another thing that makes the College wonderful is the MALS program, because it encourages people to go back to college and earn an advanced degree. Prof. Binder blazed the trail for the program at CSI in the early ‘80s. He notes that back then, MALS “was a new program developing at some of the best colleges in the country, geared toward adults, particularly adults who did not have a liberal arts background, but might have had a professional background. I knew that there was a large population of adults on Staten Island who would love to come back to school. The majority were women, but not all, I’d say about 60/40, who just had time on their hands and interest in studying things they had never studied before and I thought this would be the ideal program. We attracted people from all backgrounds and it’s been extremely successful. It’s a rigorous program, but it’s a delightful program.”

The program was a success then, as it is now. Prof. Binder notes in the beginning that MALS was received “very well. We had no problems filling the classes at that time and many of the students had graduated from other colleges, lived on Staten Island, but really didn’t know the College that well.” Others came from CSI or elsewhere and some went on to get PhDs.

Prof. Binder also attended and spoke at the November 2008 MALS 25th Anniversary Reunion on campus, stating that the event “was really something because I had students whom I had 25 years ago come back. Even secretaries who had come and gone came back.”

So, now that he has been gone for a while, what does he miss most about CSI? “I miss the students and standing in front of the class,” he says, adding with a chuckle “I don’t miss grading papers, because I gave only essay questions.”

Even though he is no longer in the classroom, Prof. Binder is keeping current in his field. He is co-editor of a two-volume social history called The Way We Lived: Essays and Documents in American Social History, now in its sixth edition, a work that joins the five books that he wrote while he taught at CSI.

Prof. Binder continues his contributions to the College, including a planned gift. He is among a group of donors who have made financial or estate gifts of any size through wills, trusts, and other planned gifts. These donors are members of CSI’s Legacy Society. To request information on how you can make a planned gift, please call 718.982.2365 or email foundation@csi.cuny.edu.

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