Midwood High School’s 75th Anniversary Jubilee to honor former N.Y. first lady Matilda Cuomo

Milestone Celebration for One of Brooklyn’s Finest Schools

October 5, 2016 By John Alexander Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Midwood Jubilee honoree Matilda Cuomo with Mary Sansone. Eagle photo by John Alexander
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One of Brooklyn’s finest schools is celebrating a milestone birthday. Midwood High School is 75 years old, and the Brooklyn Eagle was there at its inception.  Since then, the Eagle has followed the school’s accomplishments from the start. This year, the school will host a 75th Anniversary Jubilee to honor the 1941 founding of Midwood High School.

Midwood is consistently ranked among Brooklyn’s top public high schools.  When Midwood opened its doors in 1941, there were 2,700 students enrolled that first year. Today there are more than a thousand more students enrolled, and the school boasts such distinguished alumni as actor and director Woody Allen, filmmaker Noah Baumbach, U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries and former NYC Comptroller Bill Thompson.

This year’s distinguished honoree is Matilda Raffa Cuomo, wife of former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo and mother of current Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo has dedicated her life to education. She and Mario had five children together: sons Andrew and television journalist Chris Cuomo, and daughters Margaret, Madeline and Maria, who is married to fashion designer Kenneth Cole.

Cuomo founded the child advocacy group Mentoring USA, a nonprofit child advocacy organization that has helped change young people’s lives through mentoring. Children are empowered and given the opportunity to realize all of their dreams. The program pairs children with their own steadfast role model to help inspire and guide them in their educational pursuits.  Cuomo has been in charge of the program since 1984, and has helped prevent students from dropping out of school and has cut the high rate of incarceration among teenagers in New York state.

Midwood High School was built as part of the Work Projects Administration (WPA), according to Elaine Reiss, who served for more than 20 years as executive vice president and general counsel at Ogilvy & Mather, and is a graduate of Midwood’s Class of ’57.

“There were five high schools that emerged from that program, and given our current politics, it’s fascinating this was an agreement between a Democrat (President Franklin Delano Roosevelt) and a Republican (Mayor Fiorello Laguardia),” Reiss said. “Midwood is the only one, we believe, that is still a whole high school. All the others have been broken up. And Midwood has just been cited as one of New York’s best high schools in an article in the New York Post.

Michael Davidson, a lawyer in Washington, D.C. who just retired from being a counsel to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and is also a graduate of Midwood, explains, “It’s very important to remember that Midwood came into being as the nation went to war. And that helped shape an enormous part of what the school became.”

And that rich history will be on display at the Jubilee, where the school will honor distinguished alumni and their accomplishments. Reiss added, “The Jubilee will honor some of those teachers of the day that we still remember.”

Among those distinguished alumni who will be attending is Mimi Sheraton, New York Times food critic from the class of ’43. Harris Sarney, head of the Midwood Alumni Association and a former principal at Bayside High School in Queens, says that Sheraton “will be signing her books at a silent auction at the Jubilee. She is one of the earliest of the vice presidents of the alumni association.” She now serves in an advisory capacity. She just published her latest book, “1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die.”

The 75th anniversary celebration will begin with a convocation and continental breakfast at Midwood High School, and will continue as an evening affair with entertainment at the Grand Prospect Hall in Park Slope. Tickets are still available to Midwood alumni who wish to come to event on Oct. 15. They can register by going to midwoodjubilee.eventbrite.com.


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