In tribute to Michael Sorkin and David Nocera

Dear Members of the City College Community,

Many of you will have by now heard the heartbreaking news that we lost two members of our faculty yesterday.  Michael Sorkin, the renowned architect was a member of the Spitzer School of Architecture, and succumbed to the coronavirus on March 26th.  He was possessed of an elegant mind and an expansive imagination, and the architectural community lost, in his passing, a true giant.

On the same day, David Nocera, who taught in our Media and Communications Arts Department, passed away.  David was a careful and astute archivist, and had a talent for blending the care of precious documents with the teaching of his craft to a new generation. We will miss his careful and kind presence on campus.

These two sad deaths focus our attention on this new and dangerous moment in which we live. Professor Nocera had not contracted the coronavirus, and his death reminds us that a society struggling to cope with a pandemic is rife with dangers not confined to the disease itself.  People in isolation are still vulnerable to the usual range of threats to their health, even as our system of care grows daily overburdened. 

Professor Sorkin’s passing should bring the specific dangers of the moment more sharply home.  As the days pass, we risk becoming inured to the mundane ways in which we make ourselves vulnerable to COVID-19, because the danger is invisible, because we live more in isolation from one another.  Let us recommit, at this moment, to the myriad, sometimes tedious ways in which we make ourselves and those around us safer during this outbreak.

I want to encourage each you us to think how we can help one another by providing peer support, by devising ways to keep our spirits up, and by extending what material assistance we can to those in need.

All of us have been deeply occupied with our initial response to this crisis—moving classes online, reducing to a bare minimum the number of people on campus, and distributing computers and tablets to those with connectivity issues. There has, in truth, been little time to do anything beyond coping with the leading edge of the crisis. When the recalibration period ends on Wednesday, and before if possible, I believe it will be time for us to expand our focus to include another task: the work of thinking creatively about how our college, and the talents we have here, can serve our society in expanded ways. Some of this work us already underway.  We will graduate our first class of doctors early so they may volunteer to serve in local healthcare facilities.  Our scientists, engineers, and others have made themselves available to serve. But I believe we should now begin more systematically to organize those efforts to expand our impact and draw in as many contributors as can usefully play a role.

I’ll have more to say about this after the weekend.  For now, let’s take a moment to mourn our lost friends and to remember the light they brought into our lives. I’m wishing you all a safe and secure weekend. 


Vincent Boudreau Signature

Vince Boudreau

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