Growing up, Michael Rosenbaum ’23 was familiar with the enchanting story of how his father, Dan ’78, got into journalism with a push from longtime Union political science professor Charles Tidmarch.
Michael was also slightly aware of the connection between his grandfather, Herb Rosenbaum, and Tidmarch. A professor of political science at Hofstra University for 39 years, Herb became friends with Tidmarch and other Union faculty through his role as chairman of the New York State Political Science Association. This led to Herb serving as an outside juror for Union’s honors political science theses.
So, when Michael received the Charles M. Tidmarch Prize at Prize Day Saturday, he became the third generation of the Rosenbaum family with their own unique connection to the man known as “Charley T.” First awarded in 1996 to the senior political science student who has written the best thesis, the prize honors the distinguished career of Tidmarch.
“I am truly honored to have won this prize,” said Michael, a history and political science double major from New York City. He was nominated for the award by Clifford Brown, the Robert Porter Patterson Professor of Government.
“I consider it to be the crowning achievement of my time spent at Union. It is a profound reminder of how small the world is and certainly speaks to the coincidences that can arise from the legacy system. I’m also grateful to Professor Brown, who had faith in the caliber of my work.”
The Rosenbaum – Union connection began in earnest in the summer of 1972, when Dan, a high school junior exploring college, accompanied his father, Herb, to campus during a work-related visit. Dan was deciding whether to pursue a liberal education or find a specialized journalism program. A neighbor who worked as an anchor for CBS Radio News said any news operation could teach him the mechanics in two weeks. What they needed were smart and informed people who could write and were familiar with history, literature and politics.
At one point during the visit, political science professor Byron Nichols confidently told the young Rosenbaum he would attend Union.
“As with so many things Professor Nichols decreed, that’s just what happened,” Dan joked.
An English major with an eye toward journalism, Dan also showed an intellectual interest in history and political science. Tidmarch took notice and would often find an open seat for Dan in political science seminars normally closed to non-majors.
In January of his senior year, with the help of Tidmarch, Dan started an unpaid internship in the Albany bureau of United Press International. Tidmarch had promised him that if no political science major was interested, he would help him apply.
Dan did so well with what was then the world’s second largest news service, that when a staffer retired, he was offered a full-time job in March on the night shift.
However, the good news prompted a host of complications. Union had a rule that interns, who received class credit for the experience, could not be paid. The Wire Service Guild insisted that a staffer must be compensated.
Further, Dan needed the credits from the internship in order to graduate in June. If he took the job and forfeited the internship, he would have to leave Union.
To unsnarl the situation, Tidmarch did not tell anyone that the internship had morphed into a full-time job. He also let Rosenbaum enroll in one of his spring term classes to help secure the needed credits. Working until 1 a.m. most nights, however, Rosenbaum missed a number of the 9:30 a.m. classes.
For the class final, Tidmarch told students it would either be waived or given orally. Dan had not earned a waiver, which led to a pivotal and transformative conversation in Tidmarch’s office.
“Dan, we have two choices,” said Tidmarch, a man revered for his generosity, intellect and humor. “You could pretend that you did the reading and I’ll fail you, and we’ll be back where we started. Or, we could have an interesting and adult conversation about what it’s like being a wire service reporter, I’ll give you a D, we’ll have a fine time, and you’ll graduate. What do you want?”
The choice was easy.
“It was indeed a lovely conversation,” said Dan, who had to take a vacation day from UPI to attend Commencement.
Dan has been a journalist and writer for 45 years. He said it may have happened without Tidmarch’s influence, but it would have taken longer and not been as much fun.
Michael and his dad were unable to attend Prize Day. They were at the graduation of Syracuse University for Michael’s twin brother, Jeremy.
In addition to the Tidmarch prize, Michael also received the Albert C. Ingham (1847) Prize, given to the student in social sciences judged to have done the most outstanding piece of scholarly work, and the Anthony C. LaVecchia (1998) Memorial Award, presented to a student who demonstrates a keen interest and passion in journalism, especially with a focus in political journalism. Michael had served as editor of the Concordiensis.
Tidmarch taught at Union from 1970 until his death in October 1993 after a two-year battle with cancer. He was 50. A week before his death, he was still on campus to advise his thesis students and visit with colleagues.
“I firmly believe that there are people in everyone’s life who act as guardian angels, some major and some minor,” said Dan. “Charley was a major angel for me, and Michael’s winning an award named in his honor means more to me than I can say.”