The Yankees... the zoo... the Botanical Garden...the United Nations? The Bronx is well known as the home of many famous institutions, but most New Yorkers are unaware that the Lehman College campus is the original home of the UN in the United States and a place where history was made.
As part of Lehman's 40th anniversary, the College's place in the history of the UN will be commemorated on Wednesday, May 21, from 1:30 and 4:30 p.m., with a program honoring the members of the U.N. Secretariat who served on the campus. Entitled "The United Nations at Lehman College: A Homecoming," it is free and open to the public.
"The history of the United Nations on our campus predates Lehman College," noted Lehman President Ricardo R. Fernández, "but the legacy of those months remains an important part of our history, institutional mission, culture, and values."
In 1946, the media described this corner of the Bronx-then housing the uptown branch of Hunter College-as the "diplomatic center of the universe." During this time, the Soviet Union staged its first walkout, the Atomic Energy Commission was formed under Bernard Baruch, and Eleanor Roosevelt began the work that would culminate in the UN Declaration of Human Rights.
The program will begin with a symposium on "The United Nations: Past, Present and Future," at 1:30 p.m. in the Old Gymnasium, where the Security Council held its meetings. Taking part will be Sir Brian Urquhart, former UN Undersecretary General for Special Political Affairs; Margaret K. Bruce, who worked for human rights and women's rights during her 32 years of service for the UN; and Betty Teslenko, former Deputy Head, Verbatim Reporting Section, who began her UN work at its founding conference in San Francisco in 1945. President Fernández will moderate the discussion.
The program also will include a rededication of the Peace Grove, created in 1996 on the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations, and the opening of a Library exhibition featuring photos from the U.N. Archives.
Robert Carling of the English Department, who serves on the committee planning the event, observes that "sixty-two years ago, the walls of our Old Gymnasium rang with UN Security Council debate about Iran, Syria, Lebanon and atomic weapons. Things change and do not change. May 21 is a rare opportunity for members of the community to hear speakers who have lived the whole history of the United Nations, speaking in a place where history was made."