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Townsend Harris High School

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1904, refounded 1984

Crimson and gold


+1 718-575-5580



The Crimson and Gold

Public (magnet) secondary

The Classic The Phoenix

149-11 Melbourne Ave, Flushing, NY 11367, USA

New York City Public Schools

Francis Lewis High School, Benjamin N Cardozo High Sch, Forest Hills High School, Bayside High School, John Bowne High Sch

Trip to townsend harris high school

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, and it was named #1 high school in New York City by the New York Post in 2010.


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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 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.

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. Today high grades are required.

Today, well over 10,000 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).

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.

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.

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%.

The school maintains a 100% graduation rate.


The attendance rate is the highest in NYC. 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. 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. 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 New York City Department of Education high school.
  • 2006-2007 Highest Percentage Passing AP World History Scores in the USA for a Large School
  • Scholars

  • Manfred Halpern, political scientist expert in modern Middle East
  • Science and technology

  • Morton Deutsch (1920-2017), social psychologist who was one of the founding fathers of the field of conflict resolution.
  • Theodore Hall ('40), physicist and one of the most infamous atomic spies for the Soviet Union.
  • Herbert Hauptman ('33), mathematician who shared the 1985 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his application of mathematical models to determine crystal structures.
  • Robert Jastrow, cosmologist and author who was first director of NASA's Lunar Exploration Committee and the first director of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies.
  • Sidney H. Liebson ('35), physicist and inventor of the Halogen Geiger Counter. Developed the first equipment used to detect enemy radar, for which he received a U.S. Navy award.
  • William Nierenberg ('35), physicist known for holding several government posts in addition to serving as director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and co-founding the George C. Marshall Institute.
  • Gilbert Jerome Perlow, physicist who was a pioneer in studies of the Mössbauer effect. He later served as editor of the Journal of Applied Physics.
  • Jonas Salk ('31), virologist and medical researcher best known for producing the first safe and effective polio vaccine.
  • Julian Schwinger ('33), theoretical physicist who shared the 1965 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work in developing QED theory.
  • Writing and journalism

  • Bennett Cerf (1898-1971), publisher who was one of the founders of American publishing firm Random House.
  • Lawrence Cremin ('41), educational historian who received the 1981 Pulitzer Prize for History for American Education: The National Experience, 1783-1876.
  • Irwin Edman, professor of philosophy, author, and mentor.
  • Paul Goodman ('27)
  • Hy Hollinger, editor and journalist covering the entertainment industry, international editor of The Hollywood Reporter (1992–2008).
  • John F. Kieran, columnist for the New York Times and panelist on the radio show Information Please
  • Sidney Kingsley ('24) was a dramatist (The Patriots, Detective Story, Darkness at Noon). He received the 1934 Pulitzer Prize for Drama, for Men in White.
  • Samuel Menashe '42
  • Irving Singer was a professor of philosophy at MIT.
  • Anatole Shub was an author, journalist, editor, and analyst who was an expert on Russian society during the Soviet era.
  • William Steig '22
  • Herman Wouk ('30) is an author (The Winds of War, War and Remembrance). He won the 1952 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for his novel The Caine Mutiny.
  • Performing arts and entertainment

  • Mason Adams was an actor best known for the TV series Lou Grant and his voice-over work in animation and commercials.
  • Army Archerd ('37) was a columnist and blogger for Variety (1953–2009).
  • Irving Caesar ('10) was a lyricist whose works include: "Swanee," and "Tea for Two". He co-wrote the songs in the musical No, No, Nanette, and was an early collaborator with George Gershwin.
  • Bennett Cerf was a publisher and humorist also known for being a panelist on the TV quiz show What's My Line?
  • Warren Cowan was a Hollywood publicist, and co-founder of the public relations firm Rogers & Cowan.
  • Howard Dietz was a lyricist, best known for his collaborations with composer Arthur Schwartz. Among his songs are "Dancing in the Dark" and "That's Entertainment!".
  • Ervin Drake ('35) was a composer and lyricist ("I Believe", "Good Morning Heartache", and "It Was a Very Good Year"). Drake also composed the school's Alma Mater.
  • Ira Gershwin was a lyricist, best known for songs written with his brother George Gershwin ( "I Got Rhythm", "Embraceable You", and "Someone to Watch Over Me"). He also collaborated on the libretto of Porgy and Bess.
  • Yip Harburg was a lyricist known for writing songs such as "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?", "April in Paris", and "It's Only a Paper Moon". He also wrote all of the songs for The Wizard of Oz, most notably "Over the Rainbow".
  • Mark Hellinger (expelled) was a film and stage columnist and film producer.
  • Sam Jaffe was an actor known for films like Gunga Din and The Asphalt Jungle and the TV series Ben Casey
  • Hari Kondabolu (2000) is an American stand-up comic.
  • Frank Loesser is an Oscar, Tony, and Pulitzer prize award winning composer and songwriter best known for Guys and Dolls and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.
  • Edward G. Robinson ('10) was an actor known for films like Little Caesar, Double Indemnity, Key Largo and The Ten Commandments.
  • Richard Rodgers (attended) was a composer, best known for his work with lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II (Oklahoma!, The King and I, The Sound of Music).
  • Charles Strouse ('43) is an Emmy, Grammy, and Tony Award winning composer and lyricist best known for composing the musicals Bye Bye Birdie and Annie, as well as film scores (Bonnie and Clyde), and the song "Those Were the Days" for the TV series All in the Family.
  • Clifton Webb is a Golden Globe winning actor (The Razor's Edge, Laura, Three Coins in the Fountain).
  • Bernie West was a television writer (All in the Family, The Jeffersons)
  • Cornel Wilde was a director and actor (The Greatest Show on Earth, A Thousand and One Nights, The Naked Prey).
  • Business, economics, and philanthropy

  • Kenneth Arrow ('36) is an economist who shared the 1972 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his work on social choice theory. He proposed his eponymous Arrow's impossibility theorem.
  • Eugene Lang ('34) is a philanthropist, associated with Project Pericles, among others. The Eugene Lang College The New School for Liberal Arts is named for him, and he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996.
  • Leon Levy ('39) was a financial analyst and hedge fund pioneer with Oppenheimer & Co. (1951–82). He was a philanthropist, predominantly in education, art, and archaeology.
  • Divya Narendra '00
  • Alexander Sachs was a banker and economist, best known for delivering the Einstein–Szilárd letter to Franklin Roosevelt, and convincing him to begin research into the construction of a nuclear weapon.
  • Bernard L. Schwartz (c:a 1936) businessman and Democrat donor activist.
  • George Weissman was a businessman and philanthropist who served as president of Phillip Morris USA.
  • Law, politics, and activism

  • Felix S. Cohen was a lawyer, legal scholar, and activist who specialized in federal law as it related to Native Americans.
  • Joseph H. Flom was an American lawyer and last surviving named founder of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom
  • Felix Frankfurter was an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (1939–62).
  • Rudolph Halley was an attorney who worked on both the Truman Committee (investigating defense spending waste) and Kefauver Committee (investigating organized crime). He served as President of the New York City Council (1951–53).
  • Robert N.C. Nix, Sr. was a United States Congressman (1958–79). He was the first African-American Congressman elected from Pennsylvania.
  • Maurice Paprin '36
  • Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. was a United States Congressman (1945–71). He was the first person of African-American descent elected to Congress from New York.
  • Igal Roodenko was a printer, a radical pacifist, a member of the executive committee of the War Resisters League from 1944 through 1977, and its director from 1968 through 1972.
  • Robert Wagner was an U.S. Senator from New York (1927–49). He was responsible for proposing many pieces of New Deal legislation, and several important bills from that era bear his name.
  • Nily Rozic is a New York State Assemblywoman
  • William A. Zeck, a retired New York State judge and political official who was a prosecutor at the Nuremberg war-crimes trials
  • Military

  • John Ripandelli ('36) served in World War II and received the Légion d'Honneur for his service in 2013.
  • References

    Townsend Harris High School Wikipedia