Francis Lewis High School 1975-1978

Welcome to my attempt to recall the glory days that we, the class of 1978, enjoyed when Francis Lewis was the rising star of the NYC public high schools.
We're mighty proud to have made history as the first graduating class with IB honors.
In 1978, Francis Lewis High School was the first public school accepted into the International Baccalaureate.

UPDATE: principal Melvin Serisky was interviewed for the March 2016 issue of IB World.
The images from this web page were used with permission.
click here for the 2 page interview in PDF

Galaxy is the Francis Lewis High School yearbook.
The Patriot is the school newspaper.
(The knickname FrannyLew wasn't invented yet).
Since 1960 (just like us!), the address is
58-20 Utopia Pkway
Fresh Meadows NY 11365

See also:

The Francis Lewis High School 50th Anniversary Reunion was held on 15-May-2010.
My pix are here.
See also: Francis Lewis High School Alumni on Facebook
The official alumni web site "" is abandoned.

The Galaxy yearbook

This is my yearbook. There are many like it but this one is mine!
This may look like an ordinary high school yearbook, but to those of us there at that time, it's a snapshot of a glorious time when everything was truly going our way.
My classmates were really at the top of their form, excelling in nearly everything we did, bringing extreme honor to the school.
We won Westinghouse Scholarships, Regents scholarships, math and science fairs; staying on the top along with our chief rivals Cardozo, Stuyvesant (wiki), and Bronx High School of Science (wiki).
The performing arts center put on numerous plays, winning "Sing" 2 consecutive years with "A Knight To Remember" and "Keep It Under Wraps" (a Twilight Zone spoof of the then-current King Tut exhibit).
There are only a few color pages, but we had NO ADS thanks to the student senate's wise budgeting.
It's composed very artistically with function and purpose.
This says it best
remember the time when you were a sun, in the lewis galaxy
The headlines summarize the major events of the time.

clubs / activities

I was in Arista! Whoopie!
Completing Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses were more important to me.

I have the pins to prove it!
Arista is the two-tone-tic-tac in the school colors of orange & green.
The service pin is green!
The orchestra pin is from Ryan.
Mathesis: the math dept magazine
I was on the track team! I was a fraction of a second too slow to compete at meets, but I didn't care. I just wanted to show that I could do things outside of the computer center.
Josef Lavin inspired me to try for track since I knew him from Jr. high school
(he played cello, I played clarinet), so it was nice to be among honor students in sports.
I find no yearbook photo of the Math Team or computer club.
I was active with the "Math/Science Institute" and helped (a little) with their publications (mostly collation/stapling/binding).


At the time, few of us students took all that kindly to "Swell Mel" particularly the Patriot newspaper where he was taken to task for new and strict security measures, but in retrospect, that was really mild compared to today's situation. Behind the scenes, he was extremely clever in obtaining funding for the Math-Science Institute (we had our own PDP8/e computer at a time when few high schools had their own in-house computer), creating a "brain drain" by attracting teachers from other high schools and using that talent to make us the FIRST public high school to offer the International Baccalaureate along with Advanced Placement (click here to skip to the footnote).
William (Bill) Dobkin's humanities/social-studies classes really brought out aspects of myself that I never knew. All the PSAT and aptitude tests showed peaks for math and science and "average" for everything else. But his enthusiasm, dedication and devotion created a constructive and creative classroom atmosphere that fostered us to excel in unanticipated ways. I learned not just how to conduct research but how to give class presentations and summarize things into position papers; skills that I use to this day. His belief in us caused interesting results: at the end of the year I scored higher on the IB tests in Modern History than English or math!
See Halia Melnyk's comments and my masters' thesis acknowledgement.
One day I brought in my cowboy hat, creating "Wild Bill" Dobkin!
That's a great photo of him as we remember him, at the lecturn.
And the other half of humanities: the English dept, remembering the human part of technology.
30 years later, I'm still amazed by issues of technology and society and ways to keep computers OUR servants.
You've created a monster!
The photo of Theodore Liebersfeld and Howard Sardis was too unflattering to include, which is a shame because they were the ones with whom I spent the most time. I really enjoyed being in the computer room, not just operating the machines and learning everything I possibly could about computers but also exploring my role in creating an atmosphere where others were put at ease with an alien and threatening technology (at the time). The computer room was a community. A functional community open to anyone who wanted to learn. Most of my classmates knew me in that environment. The few that knew me in other ways felt distinguished.
I cited Liebersfeld et al. in my masters' thesis acknowledgement.

classmates and friends

Even though Robert Kasman attended Jamaica High (wiki) (boo!)
we were best friends, so he got the best autograph spot in the book.
He married Sharon Lupsher, a Francis Lewis grad, so it's all in the family.
Robert's graduation gown is blue (Jamaica High), I'm in Francis Lewis green.
Tony Blanco and I were good buddies mostly during International Baccalaureate history class.
I can't see if we shared rooms during the Washington DC trip or merely had adjacent rooms.
Tony later learned puppeteering, juggling and magic,
performing on the Rapid T Rabbit and Friends TV show
years before I was involved with puppetry and became a regular on the show!

28-May-2012: the magic is over.
Tony Blanco died of colon cancer
precisely one week before his 52 birthday (4-June-1960).

More is on this page I made just for him.
Alicia Rudin
Ah yes, we were Star Trek and Star Wars fans.
Anne Silberberg (blush!) I remember that well:
Anne "volunteered" me to go up in front of the English class for an exercise where we had to make up stories for some photos.
Inspired by MAD magazine, I did silly commercials. I still do.
And that overcame my inhibitions enough to enjoy performing short ad-libs and presentations.
Barbara Zolot
"Simpkins" was the "five and dime" store where she worked.
Evan Barouh mentions feeling "distinct" by knowing me via social studies instead of math or computers,
and for being on the team together during the Cuban Missle Crisis re-enactment.
We both attended Ryan Jr. High school.
Halia Melnyk wrote the most memorable autograph,
summarizing all the position papers and class presentations we did for Dobkin:
"Dear Jeff, This should be put down on our permanent record:
Mr. William Dobkin referred to his two history students Halia & Jeff
as the only ones in his class who could write an essay with that special touch of personality, human interest and originality"
Harry Aziza wrote "you really have a special talent with computers". That's very insightful and still true!
Harry and I were together in many classes (math, computer, Math Team, probably others).
I think he's referring to my working with him on a computer program correlating blood pressure to other factors. Since blood pressure is 2 numbers, I asked a cardiologist for help and was given a weighted average that's statistically acceptable.
Helen Deutsh
I guess I was going thru a Mr. Spock "everything's logical" phase, but she saw thru that veneer.

Update: Dr. Helen E. Deutsch is now a UCLA Humanities Professor,
not to be confused with the dead screenwriter, journalist and songwriter.
Yes, I was the kid with the big velvet bow ties, hiding behind the mis-spelled last name.
And I'm on the same page as my home-room classmates!
I wish I had a clue what to have written there instead of just listing my awards and clubs.
Jerry Esses
I think he's the only one to mention my sense of humor instead of seeing me as the computer expert.
Peter Dong, Kathryn Draves
You're right, computer programming is hazardous to my sanity.
Josef Lavin: it's kinda sad that he already saw us drifting apart, but he's right.
I met him in Ryan Jr. High orchestra but I had no time for orchestra or band in High School once I went full-speed-ahead for math, science and honors classes (AP/IB humanities).

Lisa Leibowitz was one of the many classmates who also attended
  • Lewis Carroll School PS 179 for kindergarten - 6th grade
  • George J. Ryan Junior High 216 for 7 - 9 grade
  • Francis Lewis High school for 10 - 12 grade
Patrick Howley: we were in homeroom together and for our own reasons,
we both wore a rabbit's foot every day.
He wore a blue one, I wore a red one.

Nancy Ingram: another math major!
Wendy Cohen: "It's really been great knowing you
(even though sometimes you went overboard with the computers)"
Well, yea! This web page is proof of that!

The Patriot: school newspaper

The Patriot masthead.
A very talented bunch, there! I wonder if any collaborated afterwards.
December 19, 1977  Volume XVIII Number 2
Computer For All: Tom Draves (Kathryn's kid brother)
mentions me among those who welcome them to the computer center.

News Briefs: on 31-Oct, Francis Lewis hosted an IB seminar.
Kathryn A. Draves' Marked For Life predicted RFID tracking
and the "Patriot Act" in the "Patriot" newspaper. How prophetic.

Barbara Zolot's The Night Before New Year's salutes the events of 1977.
Helen Deutsch really hit the nail on the head:
We find ourselves boxed in by the security regulations
that the administration enforces for our own good
… the freedom we once had is gone …
After we leave Lewis, there will be other things to fight against,
more important things. And we will look back at high school
and realize that our resentment of the restrictions
has faded away, and all that remains is the love.
Steve Greenberg's poignant A Poem.
I also knew him from Young Judaea.
He is founder and CEO of the S-Curve Records label.
and Faculty Directory of Recorded Music at Tisch NYU.
(wikipedia entry)
Ooh-la-la, Sasson!
(referring to the designer jeans craze)


Many of us grew up together, living in Fresh Meadows,
walking to school from kindergarten to 12th grade, attending But then we scattered to the wind.
Do kids these days have any such concept of growing up for 12+ years with all the same friends and neighbors?
Or is everyone too mobile to have such deep roots in the neighborhood anymore?

I've tried and but they pissed me off. The "free registration" only entitles me to receive email and their advertising/spam. Only paid accounts may send email and in all these years I've never received any actual contact from any classmates.

linkedin and LiveJournal are free and useful if enough folks participate.


The International Baccalaureate Program

Francis Lewis High School was the first public school accepted into the International Baccalaureate (wiki).
My classmates and I were the first class to participate and graduate with IB honors.
It served me well, for The Cooper Union granted me 9 credits (6 humanities, 3 math).

IB article: The Long Island Press (Sunday March 13, 1977).
Photo: Chris Stathapoulis, Harry Aziza, Bruce Zagelbaum, William S. Dobkin.
Helen Deutsch is quoted in the text.

The International Baccalaureate is recognized throughout the world as a very comprehensive and challenging high school curriculum …
The International Baccalaureate was originally conceived and designed to meet the needs of the children of members of the international diplomatic and business communities. Since those students are often highly mobile, it was not uncommon for them to experience schools where the curriculum and expectations were deemed inadequate. Since European countries in particular required secondary students to pass a rigorous series of exams, such as the British "A Levels" or the French "Bach," a consistently high level of preparation was necessary. …
The project received unanimous recognition by UNESCO's General Conference in 1975 and was confirmed at the first Intergovernmental Conference at The Hague in 1976 where fifteen countries agreed on a plan of action and offered moral and financial support. Rapid expansion quickly followed. One of the most pivotal events in the early growth was the acceptance into the IB in 1978 of the first public school, Francis Lewis High School in Queens, New York. Greatly encouraged by the experience, the school began to publicize broadly the benefits of the IB in various periodicals and journals.

And we're in the book
Schools Across Frontiers: The Story of the International Baccalaureate and the United World Colleges
By Alexander Duncan Campbell Peterson
Edition: 2, illustrated, revised
Published by Open Court Publishing, 2003
ISBN 0812695054, 9780812695052
Page 140:
but a word is due here to the pioneer. The first high school to introduce the IB was Francis Lewis in the borough of Queens, New York. The principal, Mel Serisky, had read about it in the press and after attending a conference on education for the talented and gifted, and visiting IB classes at UNIS, decided to introduce an IB track at Francis Lewis in 1977, the first year after the conclusion of IB's "experimental period". I remember him saying at the time: "I had programmes for the ethnic, programmes for the handicapped, programmes for the deaf, programmes for the semi-literate, special programmes in computing, but no programme for the brightest students aiming at the best colleges. The fact that IB would admit them to universities overseas was simply a bonus." … UNIS had been the pioneer in introducing the IB to the educational world in the USA: Francis Lewis was the pioneer in introducing it to the public high school.

The IB program is NO LONGER AVAILABLE at Francis Lewis, ending in the 90s so this 1989 article is out of date
New York Times
October 1, 1989
Curtis High School is one of only two schools in the city - the other is Francis Lewis High School in Queens - to participate in the International Baccalaureate Scholarship Program for juniors and seniors, which is governed by a group of scholars based in Geneva. Students in the program, selected through an examination drawn up by the International Baccalaureate board, take advanced-standing courses in history, biology, art and other disciplines. The International Baccalaureate degree is awarded to students who complete the program and pass rigorous examinations. This year six to eight of Curtis's 1,600 students are expected to take the exams.

updates: 2012

February: Francis Lewis principal Musa Ali Shama announced on Facebook that SING! is back at Francis Lewis High School!

Your Story Here

I created this web page to honor and cherish the classmates and teachers
who collaborated during a wonderful, creative time in our lives.
I strived to focus on my classmates and teachers, not on myself.
Please share your stories either on your own web pages (and TELL ME so I can link to them), or I'll gladly add them here!

-- Jeffrey Jonas (remove FOOT for real address)

updated 15-May-2020