Trained as an educator, he never lost his interest in business and the responsibility it has to share its workplace skills with students.
Member of Adelphi University’s Profiles in Success program.
Founder and President, School-Business Partnerships of Long Island, Inc.
Favorite professor: “Dr. Pickens E. Harris, Dean of the Education Department, who convinced me to consider a career in teaching.”
Adelphi memories: “Very few veterans had cars in ’47, ’48, ’49, so well-remembered are the two hour, one-way trips on the LIRR; Dr. Barrows and his world history survey course; Omega Delta Chi fraternity brothers in our campus quonset hut meeting house, and the lively chatter of students and teachers in the “A” building’s basement cafeteria…or was it ‘snack lounge’?”
Opening Doors and Minds on Long Island
Fred Breithut ’49 has always wanted to broaden and extend high school curricula for students. Trained as an educator, Mr. Breithut taught history and held administrative posts in high school districts on Long Island for 35 years. But he never lost his interest in business and the responsibility of the business community to share its workplace skills with high schools.
“I wanted to make sure students had a broader view of the world than the one they were experiencing in the classroom setting,” he says. “I wanted instruction to feed into the skill needs of the business world and for companies to provide educational opportunities to the young people who would go on to become their work force. Today these partnerships are commonplace but when SBPLI Inc. pioneered them in 1984, there were no others on Long Island.”
Mr. Breithut also started the first American Field Service student exchange program on Long Island. It may be remembered as the organization that brought foreign students to Island homes and high schools for one school year. In exchange, Long Island students spent extended time periods in those students’ countries. Some of the relationships started then still exist today.
In 1984, this out-of-the-box teacher forged his first innovative partnership with Doubleday Publishers. The publishing company brought its employees into his high school to help update aspects of the English curriculum, and the students and teachers found eye-opening internships at Doubleday.
Over the years, Mr. Breithut created and developed more than 100 similar partnerships. He has provided generations of Long Island students with unique hands-on learning experiences in the fields of banking, hospital careers, retailing, publishing, and more.
In 1999, in collaboration with Dean Kamen, the well-known inventor of medical and mechanical devices, like the popular Segway personal transportation vehicle, Mr. Breithut began planning for a FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) robotics competition that would pair Long Island mechanical and engineering corporations with eager high school teachers and students. Long Island became the first region in New York State to produce a FIRST robotics competition. The results have been impressive.
The first SBPLI, Inc.-Long Island robotics teams were founded in 1999. There were eight of them representing eight high school districts with a similar number of engineering-technical firms advising them. As the program grew, a site to house the competitions was needed. In 2000, Suffolk Community College opened its gymnasium facilities to the program. The program has grown to its current size of 45 school districts in 2008 and is now housed in a major university arena. The program’s ability to inspire students to become engineers is equaled by its ability to garner over $3,000,000 in college scholarships for participating students.
“It’s about far more than building, tinkering and putting into competition 130 pound robots,” says Mr. Breithut proudly. The students are called upon to demonstrate teamwork, professionalism, budget planning, resource allocation, and strategic thinking. These are lessons that will better prepare them for careers in engineering. It should be noted more 50 percent of the students in the robotics program do go on to engineering colleges. Upon graduation they are in demand by some of the largest engineering firms in the nation, including those Long Island firms that sponsor the program.
Mr. Breithut was a member of the first class of men to enroll at Adelphi after the college returned to its coeducational roots in 1946. Despite the time demands of finishing college in three years, he became an active member of the student body. He even met his wife, Rosetta, in one of his first English classes. An eager student, he found himself torn between business and education careers, ultimately taking the advice of Dean Harris in the education department. Fortunately for his students, this free-thinker is committed to expanding their horizons. He is dedicated to workforce preparation, and he has helped schools and businesses realize that working together will most successfully to prepare the next generations for the challenges of a one-world economy.
Mr. Breithut is the recipient of many honors and citations for his work. Examples include: Long Island Execuleaders Lifetime Career Award; Nassau BOCES Education Partners Award; Volunteers of Long Island Education Hall of Fame Award.
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