Feature stories

50 years of launching successful careers

Since 1969, UFT college scholarships have been helping New York City public high school students from low-income families. Many of the winners have gone on to distinguish themselves in amazing careers. Here are six examples.

1973
Gary Davidian, software engineer

Gary Davidian, software engineer

1973 UFT scholarship winner Gary Davidian, a graduate of Benjamin Cardozo HS in Queens, used the $1,000 a year he received to help cover room and board at SUNY Buffalo, where he studied computer science.

From there, he embarked on a career as a software engineer that included a stop at Apple, where he was a key contributor in the development of the Power Macintosh. He went on to run his own consulting company and today is semi-retired in Los Altos Hills, California.

“That so many people got to use products that came as a result of my work is very satisfying,” Davidian said.

1988
Jerry Goldstein, space scientist

Jerry Goldstein, space scientist

“The universe is a wonderful place,” said Jerry Goldstein, a space scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, where he helps develop instruments and spacecrafts for NASA.

Growing up in Coney Island, Goldstein made the most of his public school education. After graduating from John Dewey HS in 1988, he went on to get a bachelor’s degree at Brooklyn College and a Ph.D. at Dartmouth College.

“I used my UFT scholarship money toward rent or books, or maybe just a slice of pizza so I didn’t starve all day,” he said.

When he started his postdoc at Rice University in 2000, Goldstein had the opportunity to work on the NASA Image mission, “the first mission to take pictures at various spectral wavelengths of the space environment of the earth,” he said.

1971 & 1975
Randolph McLaughlin, attorney, law professor

Randolph McLaughlin, attorney, law professor

Randolph McLaughlin graduated from Columbia University and Harvard Law School with help from UFT graduate and undergraduate scholarships in the 1970s.

He went on to a distinguished career as a trial lawyer. Working with renowned civil rights lawyer William Kunstler, McLaughlin handled murder cases and filed a successful lawsuit against the Ku Klux Klan on behalf of five black women who had been attacked in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

McLaughlin, now an attorney and faculty member at the Pace University School of Law, credits Coach LaValle, his track and field coach at Newtown HS in Queens, for seeing his promise and putting him on the right track. “I was in a situation one day with some unsavory characters, and he came along and rescued me out of nowhere,” McLaughlin said. “I’ve been on a straight path ever since.”

1987
Dr. Juliet Lee, general surgeon

Dr. Juliet Lee, general surgeon

Dr. Juliet Lee used her UFT scholarship to pay tuition to study pre-med at New York University. She went on to earn a medical degree at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

Today, the Midwood HS graduate works as a general surgeon and member of the medical school faculty at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Lee comes from a large immigrant family and her parents, from China and Hong Kong, stressed education “as a way to move up in life.”

Some of her greatest influences growing up in Brooklyn were her public school teachers.

“All of them taught me that I had no limitations,” Lee said.

2014
Dikyl Wangmo, physical therapy assistant

Dikyl Wangmo, physical therapy assistant

Dikyi Wangmo was 12 years old when she arrived in the United States with her family from Tibet. Fast forward 10 years, and she is now a college graduate, a physical therapy assistant and bent on proving there are no limits to what a woman can accomplish.

“Coming from Nepal, there are certain things people think girls can’t do,” said Wangmo. “I want to prove those people wrong. If you are given the resources, you can achieve your dreams.”

One of the resources Wangmo received when she graduated from Brooklyn International HS in 2014 was an Albert Shanker College Scholarship, which helped pay for her education at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York.

“It helped me ensure I always had money for books and could take the courses I needed to take,” said Wangmo, who majored in health and exercise science.

1981
Wayne Lydon, Fare Payment Programs director at the MTA

Wayne Lydon, Fare Payment Programs director at the MTA

Wayne Lydon, who received a UFT scholarship in 1981, was on the New York City Transit team that developed the MetroCard system in the mid-1990s and has helped head up development of the “tap and go” fare payment system that just began its limited rollout.

“Back then, the scholarship was a significant chunk of change,” said Lydon, a New Utrecht HS grad and now the director of Fare Payment Programs for the MTA, where he has worked for more than 30 years.

The scholarship, he said, “helped me not have to pay a dime my first three years of college” at Polytechnic University in Brooklyn, where he majored in computer science and minored in mathematics.

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