David Wittes

David WittesDavid Wittes

If your idea of an accountant is a conservative, number-crunching nerd, you should have known Dave Wittes.

"He was a fire brand and an old radical," recalls George Altomare. "When Al Shanker and I first saw him in action at Guild meetings we were in awe. Dave had this deep, booming voice and an animated style of delivery. On top of that, he was a theoretical heavy weight, having spent years in communist sects of one stripe or another."

A communist accountant? Now, there’s a concept!

Wittes was very much a product of the times. With little call for an accounting degree during the Depression, he’d turned to teaching for a living. Wittes found not only a paycheck but a cause. "He was at the center of all the political and ideological wars within the Teachers Union," says Altomare.

Though Wittes would sour on communism, he remained a socialist — albeit a hard-nosed pragmatic one. Nevertheless, it was in the world of money that Wittes left his most lasting contribution. He was the architect of the present pension system that reduced eligibility to 20 years of service and lowered the retirement age to 55. "Every retiring teacher should make a pilgrimage to his grave," says Altomare.

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