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Townsend Harris High School


Townsend Harris High School

Townsend Harris High School
149-11 Melbourne Ave.
Kew Gardens Hills, New York, 11367
United States
Type Public (magnet) secondary
Established 1904, refounded 1984
Principal Anthony Barbetta
Grades 9–12
Enrollment 1108
Color(s) Crimson and gold
Mascot Hawks/Turtles
Newspaper The Classic
The Phoenix
Yearbook The Crimson and Gold

Townsend Harris High School is a public magnet high school for the humanities in the borough of Queens in New York City. Students and alumni often refer to themselves as "Harrisites." Townsend Harris consistently ranks as among the top 100 High Schools in the United States. Its most recent U.S. News and World Report ranking is #40 in the nation,[1] and it was recently named #1 high school in New York City by the New York Post.[2]


  • History 1
  • Admissions 2
  • Academics 3
  • Student body 4
  • Tradition 5
  • Miscellaneous 6
  • Accomplishments 7
  • Notable alumni 8
    • Science and technology 8.1
    • Letters 8.2
    • Performing arts and entertainment 8.3
    • Business, economics, and philanthropy 8.4
    • Law, politics, and activism 8.5
    • Military 8.6
  • References 9
  • External links 10


The school is named for Townsend Harris, who besides his many diplomatic accomplishments, had helped found the Free Academy of the City of New York, later to become City College, and was a strong proponent of free education. The Free Academy's introductory year gradually evolved and in 1904 became a full fledged, 3-year high school, housed on three floors of what is now Baruch College [3] This original incarnation, known as Townsend Harris Hall, survived until 1942 when it was closed by mayor Fiorello La Guardia. La Guardia's officially stated reason was budgetary concerns, but it has been suggested that he had ulterior motives.[4]

Townsend Harris High School was refounded in 1984 thanks largely to the efforts of alumni of the original school, who had begun the process in 1980. The first principal was Malcolm Largmann, a former high school English teacher with a strong belief in a classically styled education who also handpicked the school's original faculty. The new school began life in a small building on Parsons Boulevard, originally intended as a temporary home until a permanent facility could be realized. In early 1995, the school moved into a new building located on the campus of Queens College.


Originally entrance to the school was based on competitive examination.[5] Today high grades are required.[6]

Today, well over 5,000 students compete for approximately 270 seats in the freshman class each year based on their middle school grades, standardized test scores and even attendance records. Admission is available to all New York City residents in 8th grade. A minimum grade point average of 90 is required of all applicants to be considered for admission. Minimum standardized reading and math scores at the 90th percentile are also required (682 for reading and 713 for math).[7]

Some seats are available for 9th graders wishing to start Townsend as sophomores, though as the number depends on the number of students who decide to leave the school during freshman year the number varies significantly from year to year; in 2006, only 5 were available.[7]

Initially, the admissions process really included an interview and a writing component, but this was eliminated by 1988. Upon matriculation, students take a writing and math exam.


In addition to the standard three-year Regents English program, all students take a "fifth year" of English as freshman in the form of classes in linguistics and writing processes. In addition to the standard modern language requirement which may be fulfilled with classes in Spanish, French or Japanese, students must have a two-year classical language requirement which can be fulfilled by classes in Latin or classical Greek (in addition, Hebrew is offered as an elective course). There is also a rigorous physical education requirement, especially freshman gym, and a senior project required of students. A variety of electives and AP classes are also offered to students. As of 2004, AP World History became a mandatory subject and replaced the Regents-level course. Every subject requires students to execute at least one major project a year, with history classes requiring one per semester and English several per semester. These projects are referred to as "collaterals."

In the 2008-2009 school year, Townsend Harris is offering the following Advanced Placement (AP) classes: World History, United States History, United States Government, Environmental Science, Psychology, Calculus AB/BC, Computer Science, Japanese Language and Culture, Latin: Vergil, Statistics, French Language, Art History, and Spanish Language, Spanish Literature.

The most notable feature of the school's curriculum is the senior "bridge year" program. Students in good standing may take up to 12 credits at Queens College at no cost to themselves. This includes a required humanities seminar co-taught by Harris teachers and Queens College faculty. Though the class is offered by the college, it is open exclusively to Harris students. The curriculum and format is fairly similar to the Great Books seminars required of liberal arts freshman at colleges around the world.

Recently, a number of other New York City public high schools have been established that have similar "bridge year" programs. These include the High School of American Studies at Lehman College, Queens High School for the Sciences at York College, and Bard High School Early College.

Student body

In sharp contrast with the original school which was open to male students only, the new school has been dominated by female students from its inception, today comprising approximately 70% of the student population.[8]

As of 2006, the school's minority population is largely Asian, with the New York City Department of Education's "Asian and other" category making up 44% of the student body total, comprising the largest segment of the school's population. White students comprise 37% of the population, Hispanic students 12% and black students 7%.[9]

The school maintains a 100% graduation rate.[8][10]


Fitting this classical standard of education all new students are required to recite the Ephebic Oath during the Founders' Day ceremony, celebrated each fall. Students recapitulate the oath at the commencement ceremony upon their graduation. The translation employed by the school is as follows:

I shall never bring disgrace to my city, nor shall I ever desert my comrades in the ranks; but I, both alone and with my many comrades, shall fight for the ideals and sacred things of the city.
I shall willingly pay heed to whoever renders judgment with wisdom and shall obey both the laws already established and whatever laws the people in their wisdom shall establish.
I, alone and with my comrades, shall resist anyone who destroys the laws or disobeys them.
I shall not leave my city any less but rather greater than I found it.


The attendance rate is the highest in NYC.[11] Scores on standardized examinations are also high when compared to other public high schools; in the year 2005-2006, Harrisites had average scores of 628 and 632 on the SAT verbal and math sections, respectively, compared to 551 and 565 for what the city deems "similar schools" and 444 and 467 for students citywide.[12] In 2000 Eileen F. Lebow published a history of the original school, The Bright Boys: A History of Townsend Harris High School (ISBN 0-313-31479-9).


  • The Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence Foundation named Harris a 21st Century School of Distinction in June 2004.[13] In December of that year, the school was named a Lighthouse School by the same organization.
  • In 2005 and 2006, the school had the highest percentage of students passing Regents exams of any high school in the city.[14]
  • 2006-2007 Highest Percentage Passing AP World History Scores in the USA for a Large School [15]

Notable alumni

Science and technology


Performing arts and entertainment

Business, economics, and philanthropy

Law, politics, and activism



  1. ^ "National Rankings Best High Schools"
  2. ^ [4] "The top 10 -"
  3. ^ "The school was still in its quarters at 23d Street and Lexington Avenue, occupying a spartan campus on the 9th to 12th floors of the building which now houses CUNY’s Baruch College." Summer 2005 Townsend Harris Alumni Magazine, p.10
  4. ^
  5. ^ newexam
  6. ^ [5]
  7. ^ a b New York City High School Directory
  8. ^ a b 2005-2006 Annual School Report
  9. ^ 2005-2006 New York State School Report Card Accountability and Overview Report
  10. ^ 2004-2005 Annual School Report
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^ The New York Times > New York Region > Image > The Test Results
  15. ^ College Board Advanced Placement report to the nation 2007, [6], 78
  16. ^ James (ed.), Laylin K. (1995), Nobel laureates in chemistry, 1901-1992 (3rd ed.), American Chemical Society and Chemical Heritage Foundation,  
  17. ^ a b Lebow, Eileen F. (2000), The bright boys: a history of Townsend Harris High School, Westport, CT, USA: Greenwood Press,  
  18. ^ "Robert Jastrow: Astronomer, cosmologist, physicist and space scientist who was a well-known advocate of NASA", The Times (UK), 28 March 2008, retrieved 2 January 2011, Jastrow was born in 1925 in New York City. He attended the Townsend Harris High School, Flushing, New York, and went on to study physics at Columbia University 
  19. ^ Schiffer, John; Charles Johnson (16 May 2007). "Death notice: Gilbert Jerome Perlow". obituary. Physics Today. Retrieved 2 January 2011. Gilbert Perlow, one of the pioneers of the Mössbauer effect and an editor of the Journal of Applied Physics and Applied Physics Letters ... He attended Townsend Harris Hall (now Townsend Harris High School) in Queens 
  20. ^ Naden, Corinne J.; Blue, Rose (2001), Jonas Salk: Polio Pioneer, Brookfield, CT, USA: Millbrook Press, Inc.,  
  21. ^ Schmeck, Jr., Harold M. (24 June 1995), "Dr. Jonas Salk, Whose Vaccine Turned Tide on Polio, Dies at 80", New York Times, retrieved 1 January 2011, The family lived in the Bronx, where Jonas went to grade school, then to the Townsend Harris High School for exceptionally promising students. 
  22. ^ a b c d e f Roff, Sandra Shoiock; Cucchiara, Anthony M. (2000), From the Free Academy to CUNY: illustrating public higher education in New York City, 1847-1997, New York, NY, USA: Fordham University Press,  
  23. ^ Milton, Kimball A. (9 October 2006), Julian Schwinger: Nuclear Physics, the Radiation Laboratory, Renormalized QED, Source Theory, and Beyond (PDF), pp. 4–5, The Depression did mean that Julian would have to rely on free education, which New York well-provided in those days: A year or two at Townsend Harris High School, a public preparatory school feeding into City College, where Julian matriculated in 1933. 
  24. ^ Schweber, Silvan S. (1994), QED and the men who made it: Dyson, Feynman, Schwinger, and Tomonaga, Princeton, NJ, USA: Princeton University Press,  
  25. ^ Lagemann, Ellen Condliffe; Patricia A. Graham (1994). "Lawrence A. Cremin: A Biographical Memoir". Teachers College Record (New York, NY, USA: Columbia University) 96 (1): pp. 102–113.  
  26. ^ Fowler, Glenn (5 September 1990), "Obituary; Lawrence Cremin, 64, Educator And a Prize-Winning Historian", New York Times: 2 of 2, retrieved 1 January 2011, A native of Manhattan, Dr. Cremin was a graduate of Townsend Harris High School and of City College. 
  27. ^ Larrabee, Harold A.; Sterling P. Lamprecht (1954–55). "Irwin Edman". Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association (Newark, DE, USA: American Philosophical Association) 28: pp. 60–62.  
  28. ^ Widmer, Kingsley (1980). Paul Goodman. Boston:  
  29. ^ a b c Lebow, Eileen F. (2000), The bright boys: a history of Townsend Harris High School, Westport, CT, USA: Greenwood Press,  
  30. ^ Fischer, Heinz Dietrich; Fischer, Erika J. (1998), The Pulitzer Prize Archive: Drama/comedy awards, 1917-1996: from Eugene O'Neill and Tennessee Williams to Richard Rodgers and Edward Albee, 12, part 4, Bodenheim, FRG: WS-Druckerei Werner Schaubruch,  
  31. ^ Martin, Douglas (8 July 2006), "Anatole Shub, 78, a Researcher and Reporter on Russian Topics, Dies", New York Times, retrieved 2 January 2011, Mr. Shub attended Townsend Harris High School and then joined the Navy in 1945. 
  32. ^ Beichman, Arnold (2004, 2009), Herman Wouk: the novelist as social historian (2nd ed.), Piscatawway, NJ, USA: Transaction Publishers,  
  33. ^ Weber, Bruce (9 September 2009), "Army Archerd, Columnist for Variety, Dies at 87", New York Times, retrieved 1 January 2011, Armand André Archerd was born in New York City ... He attended Townsend Harris High School and City College of New York ... 
  34. ^ a b Saperstein, Pat (14 May 2008). """Warren Cowan dies at 87: PR maven "father of Hollywood press agents. obituary. Variety. Retrieved 2 January 2011. Daily Variety columnist Army Archerd and Cowan became best friends when they were 12 ... Cowan was born in New York to songwriter Rubey Cowan and wife Grace and attended Townsend Harris High School with Archerd. 
  35. ^ a b Pollack, Howard (2006), George Gershwin: his life and work, Berkeley, CA, USA: University of California Press,  
  36. ^ Weber, Bruce (16 May 2008), "Warren Cowan, a Star at Promoting Stars, Dies at 87", New York Times, retrieved 2 January 2011, Warren Jay Cowan was born in New York City on March 13, 1921. His father, Rubey, was a songwriter. He went to Townsend Harris High School in Manhattan 
  37. ^ Bloom, Ken (2007), The Routledge guide to Broadway, New York, NY, USA: Routledge,  
  38. ^ "Ervin Drake". biographic sketch. Song Writers Hall of Fame. 2011. Retrieved 1 January 2011. He was born Ervin Maurice Druckman in New York City on April 3, 1919. He attended Townsend Harris Hall, and then the City College of New York 
  39. ^ a b Bloom, Ken (2007), The Routledge guide to Broadway, New York, NY, USA: Routledge,  
  40. ^ Riley, Sam G. (1995), Biographical dictionary of American newspaper columnists, Westport, CT, USA: Greenwood Press,  
  41. ^ Bloom, Ken (2007), The Routledge guide to Broadway, New York, NY, USA: Routledge,  
  42. ^ Rodgers, Richard; Rodgers, Mary (2002) [1975], Musical Stages: An Autobiography (3rd ed.), Cambridge, MA, USA: Da Capo Press,  
  43. ^ Hyland, William G. (1998), Richard Rodgers, New Haven, CT, USA: Yale University Press,  
  44. ^ a b Strouse, Charles (2008), Put on a Happy Face: A Broadway Memoir, New York, NY, USA: Sterling Publishing Co, Inc.,  
  45. ^ Rothstein, Mervyn (1 September 2009). "A Life in the Theatre: Charles Strouse". interview. Retrieved 2 January 2010. I went to P.S. 87 and Townsend Harris High School, and when it was time to go to college I went to music school. 
  46. ^ Sponberg, Arvid, F. (1991), Broadway talks: what professionals think about commercial theater in America, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press,  
  47. ^ Brody, Seymour "Sy" (18 July 2008). "Kenneth J. Arrow: Nobel Prize in Economics Recipient". biographic sketch. Florida Atlantic University Libraries. Retrieved 2 January 2011. Arrow was born on August 23, 1921, in New York City. His parents were Jewish and very supportive of his education. He graduated Townsend Harris High School and went to City College of New York ... 
  48. ^ Weiss, Samuel (10 June 1985), "THE NEW TOWNSEND HARRIS HIGH KEEPS OLD GOALS", New York Times, retrieved 2 January 2011, In 1942, Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia ordered the closing of Townsend Harris High School as a nonessential educational unit. In its 36-year existence, the school had won a national reputation, producing such graduates as Dr. Jonas E. Salk, the discoverer of a polio vaccine; Kenneth Arrow, a winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science ... 
  49. ^ "The Best Queens Celebirities 2002". list of notable persons from the Borough of Queens. Queens Tribune. 2002. Retrieved 2 January 2011. Eugene Lang - The philanthropist graduated from Townsend Harris High School in 1934. 
  50. ^ Levy, Leon; Linden, Eugene (2002), The Mind of Wall Street: A Legendary Financier on the Perils of Greed and the Mysteries of the Market, New York, NY, USA: PublicAffairs (Perseus Books Group),  
  51. ^ Martin, Douglas (8 April 2003), "Leon Levy, Philanthropist, Dies at 77", New York Times, retrieved 2 January 2011, Leon Levy, a hedge fund pioneer ... went on to make many millions, enough to make him one of the main individual backers of archaeological research ... The younger Mr. Levy graduated from Townsend Harris High School in Manhattan in 1939 and from the City College of New York in 1948. 
  52. ^ "Paid Notice: Deaths WEISSMAN, GEORGE", New York Times, 29 July 2009, retrieved 2 January 2011, George Weissman attended the famed Townsend Harris High School, located on the City College campus. 
  53. ^ Cohen, Felix S.; Wilkins (ed.), David Eugene (2006), On the drafting of tribal constitutions, Norman, OK, USA: University of Oklahoma Press,  
  54. ^ a b "Education: Sit-Down Strike". Time (New York, NY, USA: Time Warner, Inc.) 37 (17). 28 April 1941.  
  55. ^ Moritz, Owen (24 June 1999), "RUDOLPH HALLEY STREAK OF LIGHT", New York Times, retrieved 2 January 2011, UT POLITICAL life did not turn out quite the way Rudolph Halley had hoped. He was a seminal New York story ... The child prodigy graduated elite Townsend Harris High School in Queens at 14 
  56. ^ "NIX, Robert Nelson Cornelius, Sr., (1898 - 1987)". biographic sketch. Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 2 January 2011. graduated from Townsend Harris Hall High School, New York, N.Y. 
  57. ^ "Robert Nelson Cornelius Nix, Sr.: Representative, 1958–1979, Democrat from Pennsylvania". biographic sketch. Black Americans in Congress: Clerk of the United States House of Representatives. Retrieved 2 January 2011. Nix graduated from Townsend Harris High School in New York City (also attended by Nix’s future African-American House colleague Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., of New York) ... 
  58. ^ "Igal Roodenko, 74; Led Anti-War Group".  
  59. ^ "Assemblywoman Nily Rozic Assembly District 25". State of New York. Retrieved 21 October 2014. 
  60. ^
  61. ^ Smith, Renee (photographer). "French Ambassador to the United States Francois Delattre posing with Florida State Representative Lake Ray and French Legion of Honor medal recipients during ceremony at the Old Capitol.". Florida Memory, State Archives of Florida. Retrieved 17 July 2013. 
  62. ^ Crimson and Gold. Townsend Harris High School. June 1936. p. 35. 

External links

  • Townsend Harris High School Official Website
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