It was a night like no other at the Museum of American Natural History where Bronx High School of Science students dressed their best in stylish gowns and suits. Alumni were no different while together walking down the steps to the hall of ocean life, dining under the Blue Whale.
Bronx Science Alumni Foundation held a gala at the prestigious midtown museum June 1 and raised more than $5 million for the school. The specialized high school in Kingsbridge Heights is one of the city’s eight elite specialized schools.
Bronx Science was the school to be in, alumni told The Riverdale Press. People would travel from Queens and other parts of the city. Commuting for two hours was the norm for them.
And now, with more than 40,000 alumni, several of them are “giving back” to the school that shaped them into who they are today.
The alumni’s goal was to raise $5 million, which they exceeded. This year was a “phenomenal success,” said 1995 alumnus Tim Maliyil, who serves as the secretary of the foundation.
A technology lover, Maliyil is the chief executive of a company that develops internet-enabled encryption software. He expressed that Bronx Science draws in people like a magnet for success.
“I loved it more than college. I loved it more than junior high school. I’m really honored to be here,” fellow alumnus Min Jin Lee said. “I was constantly around other people who were very much like me, we had a lot of questions, and we were really curious and super nervous.”
A 1986 alumnus and author, Lee said she felt “normal” while studying at Bronx Science. It had the most significant imprint than any other institution.
Lee immigrated from Seoul, Korea, at 7 in 1976. She was settling in Elmhurst while her parents worked in Koreatown. After Bronx Science, she enrolled in Yale and then went to Georgetown Law. After working as a lawyer, she quit and began writing.
For two decades, she worked endlessly on Pachinko, a book that follows a Korean family immigrating to Japan.
Their story features poverty and tragedy in Japan. After it was published, her life changed.
Pachinko became a national and New York Times best-seller. In 2018, Apple announced it would turn the novel into a television drama series, and Lee would serve as its executive producer.
“I feel really lucky to be with other alumni,” she said.
“When I meet other alumni from Bronx Science, I feel immediately happier.”
Lee was one of the Atom Award Honorees at Bronx Science Foundation 85th anniversary gala alongside actor and producer Jon Favreau, best known for his role in Iron Man; and Lisa Su, chief executive of Advanced Micro Devices.
Other Atom honorees are Wanda Austin, an engineer recognized for her work in aeronautics; George Yancopoulos, co-founder of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and biomedical scientist; and Daniel Libeskind, a world-renowned architect.
With their contributions, students receive additional services that the city education department would not provide. Such as “trips they go on, robotics, speech and debate — they are not part of the city budget,” said school principal Rachel Hoyle.
Bronx Science alums fill the missing gap without stepping on the city’s toes. “Science research labs and expensive things the city doesn’t cover,” Maliyil said.
He added that despite having around the same budget as another public city school, Bronx Science tends to be lower because it doesn’t have special education or remedial courses to pay for.
Maliyil looked back in the years as he was applying to colleges, and he was only able to apply to six because the school couldn’t afford more applications in 1995, and “now there’s no limit.”
For the fiscal year 2023, nearly $22 million was allocated to the city schools budget — a cut of more than $480,000 after Mayor Eric Adams cut more than $370 million from the school’s budget in 2022. For fiscal year 2024, they have more than $22 million in budget allocation.
That cut comes a year after Stanley Manne gave back to where he came from. A 1952 alumnus generously gifted the school with $22 million — the largest donation in public school history — to build a state-of-the-art scientific research facility.
It’s my dream to kind of pass on what I have and lead others to do similar things,” Manne said in 2021, which he adds “will exponentially improve the U.S., America and the world.”