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Alice Gets Her Stuyvesant Diploma 40 Years Late

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I was in the last all-male graduating class at Stuyvesant High School in New York City - Class of 1971. Stuyvesant was/is the premier public science school in the United States. ('Inmates' at Bronx Science say they are but they are wrong.)

In the era of protest marches, and awakening civil rights and liberties, the decision to finally admit female students was not made by an enlightened Board of Education. The decision was made by a judge responding to a law suit because a 13 year old girl, Alice DeRivera, decided that it was not fair that she could not go to this prestigious public science high school.

Alice scored in the 99th percentile in her mathematics examination, but when she then applied for admission to Stuyvesant, her application was rejected because she was a girl. So she took the New York City Board of Education to court. The Board battled little Alice for 3 months and ultimately lost.

I remember at the time the contentious atmosphere this decision created. Ultimately on September 9, 1969, 10 girls came to school on the first day of class to join Stuyvesant High School's 2,400 boys. Alice was not among the 10.

Her parents took Alice and moved from New York City. They told her it was for other professional opportunities, but I believe it may have been to protect her from the threats she received during and after the court decision.

Alice never ended up getting a high school diploma. She got her GED and then went to college and later to medical school.

Tomorrow, along with 800 students of Stuyvesant's class of 2013, Dr. Alice DeRivera Haines, MD will finally get her high school diploma.

In organizing the Stuyvesant Class of 71 40th re-union, I invited Alice to address the last all male class. Hearing her story and re-reading the articles at the time about her was riveting.

My deceased friend Margaret Mead said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful people can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." And Alice wasn't even a group, just a 13 year old girl, acting alone. Alice is a hero for having broken the glass ceiling that kept females from the same educational opportunities provided to males in the public school system. So many amazing and accomplished women have graduated from Stuyvesant since then. I am so glad she is finally being publicly acknowledged for her bravery and her actions.