Class of 1967
Charles DeCicco spent a decade as the right-hand man to the late Israel Levine, City College’s legendary public relations director. DeCicco’s 36-year career in the PR office encompassed the administrations of 10 presidents of the College and included perhaps the most tumultuous years in its history: the South Campus seizure, open admissions, the imposition of tuition, controversies surrounding racially inflammatory remarks by two professors, and the horrific tragedy at Nat Holman Gym at the end of 1991 when nine people died in a stampede.
To be sure, there were also triumphs. One of them was his chance meeting with a student named Chi Luu and how it led to an invitation to visit President Reagan at the White House. It was in 1984 and, as DeCicco recalls it, he happened to bump into Luu one day and “learned about his remarkable story.” Luu, who adopted Christopher as his American name, had come to the U.S. in 1979 from Vietnam, one of the “boat people.” Although his command of English was almost non-existent, he was now about to graduate as class valedictorian, having compiled a 4.0 average, straight A’s, in electrical engineering, his major, and a 3.98 average overall. He had gotten a B in a freshman English course. DeCicco interviewed Luu and chronicled his story for the Alumnus magazine. The New York Times picked up on that with a front-page article of its own. Other media coverage followed. So did a call from the White House.
“It was a day or so before commencement,” wrote DeCicco. “They asked us to bring Chi Luu and his parents to meet President Reagan after the commencement ceremony. So we hired a limo (pretty fancy for CCNY!) that whisked us to LaGuardia for the flight to D.C. When we got to the White House, Chi Luu and his parents were taken in to see the president.”
Although DeCicco did not get to accompany the Luu family for the presidential greeting, he was gratified to see that the occasion produced additional coverage on national television that night.
DeCicco was born and raised in the Bronx and attended Theodore Roosevelt High School. He joined the Public Relations office at the College after graduating in 1967 with a B.A. in comparative literature and journalism. Early in his career, he was also the College’s sports information director. From 1978 to 1985, he was associate director in charge of media relations and served as acting director following Israel Levine’s retirement. Named public relations director in 1985, he was also a speechwriter and consultant to the administration and the College community on public relations and communications matters.
He took the lead in establishing the College’s Media Division in the early 1990s. It produced recruitment and fundraising videos that won eight awards. He was a senior member of The City University External Relations Officers organization; served on the College’s Policy Advisory Council; played a central role in planning the inaugurations of Presidents Bernard W. Harleston and Yolanda T. Moses; served on the Strategic Planning Committee and other CCNY bodies; and represented City at numerous professional meetings. After retiring in 2003, he served as 1st vice president of the Alumni Association and was a member of the Alumni board of directors, the Finley Nominating Committee, and the board of the Communications Alumni Group.
DeCicco was editor of the College's Alumnus magazine from 2003 to 2015, when he retired. He won a Joseph Pulitzer Scholarship from Columbia University, and was given an Alumni Service Award in 2005 for dedicated service to the Alumni Association and City College.