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Mike BarryEye on the Island

By Mike Barry
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Hofstra’s History

Scholars with an expertise on what the world looked like in the 1930s are traveling to Hofstra University starting on Thursday, April 7, and many are staying through Saturday, April 9 for a three-day conference being billed as 1935: The Reality and the Promise.

The 1935-1936 school year was Hofstra’s first so 1935 holds special meaning for the Hempstead institution, which has expanded dramatically over the past 75 years from a regional school to one with a national profile.

One of the Hofstra Cultural Center events’ biggest names is a UCLA graduate who majored in history but is best known for his Hall of Fame career in the National Basketball Association, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. The New York City native, who will deliver the gathering’s banquet address on Friday evening, April 8, is the author of 2007’s On the Shoulders of Giants: My Journey Through the Harlem Renaissance and was the executive producer of a documentary film called On the Shoulders of Giants. The latter told the story of the Harlem Rens, an all-black professional basketball team which encountered racism in the U.S. before World War II. Both will be available for purchase, with the net proceeds benefiting the Hofstra University Scholarship Fund. In addition, Abdul-Jabbar has agreed to sign the book and the DVD after the dinner has ended. Tickets to the April 8 banquet, which gets underway at 7 p.m., are $65 per person. It’ll be held in the main dining room of Hofstra’s Mack Student Center, North Campus.

The registration fee for attending the entire conference, separate from the banquet, is $50 per person for Nassau residents, and there is no charge for current Hofstra students, faculty and staff.

Academia also has all-stars, and Hofstra is spreading out the appearances of its three special invited scholars over the three days. Susan Jacoby, author of the just-published Never Say Die: Myth and Marketing of the New Old Age and Kirstin Downey, a former Washington Post business reporter, are participating in a Thursday, April 7 afternoon panel discussion on Social Security’s origins and the financial issues confronting retirees today. The Post veteran will return to the conference on Friday afternoon, April 8, to speak about the ‘Women of the New Deal.’ Downey is the author of The Woman Behind the New Deal: The Life and Legacy of Frances Perkins—Social Security, Unemployment Insurance and the Minimum Wage. Perkins was President Franklin Roosevelt’s Labor Secretary. On the conference’s final day, Saturday, April 9, Queens College Distinguished Professor Morris Rossabi will discuss ‘The Far East in Flux,’ assessing Japan and China in the 1930s.

The April 7-9 agenda can be found at There are some other familiar names at that web link, such as former Vermont governor Howard Dean, who will be joined by CNN political commentator Ed Rollins for a Thursday afternoon, April 7 panel discussion comparing the Obama and FDR administrations. Dean and Rollins are senior presidential fellows at Hofstra. While U.S. governmental history is a running theme, the conference will include looks at literature, science, and movies too, so there’s something for just about everyone.

Mike Barry, a corporate communications consultant, has worked in government and journalism. Email: