GI Stories

Irwin Gonshak '49

I graduated from Jamaica High School in NYC at age 16 in 1943 and looked for a college where the tuition was free. I discovered that the School of Agriculture at Cornell University had free tuition and I enrolled in the Ag. school. I wasn't interested in farming so I majored in bacteriology (which didn't interest me much either). Just before I was 18, I enlisted in the US Navy in 1945. World War II ended in August of 1945 when I was at the Great Lakes Naval Station and I was then assigned to a troop ship carrying the troops home from the Far East. I received an honorable discharge from the Navy after 16 months of service.

During my service in the Navy, I read a book that changed my career outlook-- Mortimer J. Adler's How to Read a Book–why the great books were made for the average reader to read and enjoy. I wanted to learn about the classics... and become a writer; so I decided to enroll in Liberal Arts majoring in History and English. I could do this now with free tuition from the GI Bill. But Cornell told me that I had to return to the School of Agriculture and wait a year or more before I could transfer to Liberal Arts.

So I looked around for a school which would admit me as a student in its Liberal Arts Department. Adelphi University was just what I was looking for. GIs were making the college co-educational. The GI Bill would pay for my tuition, my completed Cornell courses were accepted, and I could major in the Liberal Arts... and have many opportunities to become a writer.

The Adelphi professors were great; my education in the Liberal Arts took off; and I wrote for the college newspaper and literary magazine. I wrote a weekly column called "Under the Sun"-- about any subject imaginable (which become the talk of the campus) and won a Newspaper Guild Collegiate Press award.

I graduated from Adelphi in 1949 with a B.A.; went to Teachers College/Columbia for my M.A–still under the GI Bill–and become a social studies teacher in the NYC Public Schools (my day job). While teaching, I wrote 41 radio drama scripts for NBC's "Eternal Light" series, broadcast live coast-to-coast. The NYC Board of Education radio station WNYE-FM heard about my NBC programs and I was transferred to WNYE-FM as script supervisor. I wrote hundreds of educational radio dramas (many received national media awards), won many grants for the station, and had the best job in the whole school system.

Now I am radio producer for Teachers & Writers Collaborative (with two series on WNYE-FM-- Everything Goes? and Teacher As Historian); and I am also chair of the Writers Guild of America East Radio Drama Committee (where I am now preparing a festival called WGAE College/School Radio Drama Festival... Coast To Coast... 100+ College/School Participating). I hope Adelphi will be one of the colleges producing a half-hour of radio drama for the festival on the subject of "Private Eye on America."

And I owe my success in writing and producing for radio to...How to Read a Book...the GI Bill... and Adelphi University.

Please Note: Irwin Gonshak passed away in January 2008 at the age of 80. Adelphi University treasures his many contributions to our community and this memory that he shared with us.

This page was last modified on January 6, 2011.
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