Class of 1933, 1934MSE
Inducted 1998 Inaugural Group
He is fondly remembered as City College’s “one-man school of journalism,” a beloved mentor to thousands and the founding father of what is now known as the Communications Alumni Group.
So many of his students have achieved all-star status in the media world that Professor Rosenthal, who taught journalism for 40 years at CCNY, has been described as one of the more profound influences in American journalism, all the while shunning the spotlight that would later shine on many of the youngsters who sat in his classroom. He imbued his students with the idea that journalism was a calling, that it meant something important. The lessons he taught — from being fastidious about facts to honoring the ethics of the craft — would come into play every day of one’s professional life. He took enormous pride in his students, but never claimed credit for their accomplishments. Yet, there is still no end to their testimonials about his influence on them.
The late Daniel Schorr ’39, himself a Hall of Famer who became internationally known for his broadcasts on CBS and NPR, put it this way: “What I remember is a ‘Rosenthal aura,’ the teacher who thought newspaper work was God’s work and made us feel that way about it, too.”
Just a few of the many luminaries who studied with him include A. M. Rosenthal ’49 (no relation), the late executive editor of The New York Times; Marvin Kalb ’51, of CBS and NBC News and the founding director of the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy; Stephen B. Shepard ’61, founding dean of the Graduate School of Journalism of the City University of New York and the former editor of Business Week; Edward Kosner ’58, who became the editor of Newsweek, New York magazine, Esquire and the New York Daily News; and Carl Spielvogel ’52, a former ambassador to the Slovak Republic and an advertising executive. Rosenthal helped many students get jobs, and kept in touch with them for decades.
It might have been different had Rosenthal allowed his own newspaper career to blossom. Born in Manhattan in 1912, he started as a reporter while still a student, with a part-time job writing sports articles for the old Brooklyn Eagle and The New York Herald Tribune. At City College, he wrote for The Campus. He had a brief stint with The New York Times but soon gave up the newsroom for the classroom, joining the CCNY faculty as a full-time English instructor shortly after he graduated with a degree in English. He remained a teacher for the rest of his life.
In 1936, he launched English 51, the College’s first journalism course. With that single offering, he began to change many lives. He later expanded the program to include courses in editing, broadcasting, public relations and advertising. During those years, he was also a faculty advisor to various student publications, ran the College’s publicity department and served as chairman of the Alumni Association’s editorial advisory board.
He was an Army officer during World War II, writing for the quartermaster general’s office in Washington before returning to the College.
Following his retirement in 1976 as a professor emeritus of English and chairman of communications and mass media, he founded the Communications Alumni and from 1968 to 1992 he continued to teach an innovative broadcast journalism course for minority students from the City University of New York’s SEEK program at WCBS-TV’s Channel 2. Rosenthal was the co-author of two books: “Business English Made Simple” (1955), with Harry Rudman, and “The Art of Writing Made Simple” (1958), with Morton Yarmon ’34. He also wrote articles for The Saturday Review, The Times, The New York Herald Tribune, Public Opinion Quarterly and other publications.
In 2006, when CUNY’s Graduate School of Journalism opened, former student Shepard founded the Irving Rosenthal Scholarship Fund.
Irving Rosenthal died in 2008. He was 95.