On the eve of his retirement, Melvyn Drossman, Ph.D., recalls how he taught computer programming before there were computers to program.
It was 1968, and the young professor had just been hired to teach computer programming and serve as a department chair for NYIT's School of Engineering and Computing Sciences at the Old Westbury campus.
"At the time, there were no personal computers around to test programs," he says. "So students wrote the computer code longhand on paper. I had to manually check their answers."
It was a laborious process, though mercifully short lived once personal computers grew in popularity and affordability in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Drossman learned of NYIT by searching the local classified ads in the late 1960s. At the time, he worked for a medical center in Brooklyn, N.Y., as part of a team studying the effects of dreams. "The school was looking for someone with a background in electrical engineering and computer science as well as biomedical expertise," he says. "It was like they wrote the position just for me."
Over the next 43 years, Drossman would contribute greatly to the university's academic achievements, from co-authoring the Bachelor of Technology curriculum to helping pave the path to accreditation for the school's academic programs as well as the creation of a master's degree program in computer science. He is also the recipient of the 1992 IEEE Region I Award and earned Engineer of the Year honors in 1990 from the Long Island Joint Committee.
Drossman grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., where as a child he was drawn to magic. Later, he turned his attention to technology, which he describes as magic for the modern age. He began his teaching career in 1958 at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, where he also earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering. Today, the NYIT professor looks back on a career that has been defined by a commitment to making professional dreams come true.
"One thing I emphasized is that a deep understanding of the material is more important than memorization," says Drossman. "If you only learn how to solve the same problems, you're not going to succeed in this field. You've got to learn how to think."
From 1984 to 1992, Drossman served as dean of NYIT's School of Engineering and Computing Sciences (then called the School of Engineering and Technology). He has been privileged to witness tremendous growth of technology in the classroom. "The progress has been absolutely amazing," he says.
For his former students, Drossman's classes held lessons for a lifetime. "Dr. Drossman is a legendary professor," says Aaron Feingold (B.S. '04), president and CEO of AFX Network Consultants on Long Island, N.Y. "The knowledge that I gained in his Database Management Systems class was essential to my work at a startup, and enabled me to start my own company two years later. Most professors are smart, but few have the wisdom that Dr. Drossman imparted to his students."
"Working with young people and helping them start their careers, I look back on it feeling very good about what I've done," says Drossman, who-between vacationing with his wife, Norma, and practicing his golf swing at the Eisenhower Park driving range in East Meadow, N.Y.-is already set to give a lecture to seniors this fall on critical thinking and problem solving.
"I couldn't have picked a better life for myself," he says.
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