Famous Alumni From The Sixties and Seventies
Famous Great Neck Alumni Pages include those graduates who have achieved success and prominence in their chosen field of endeavor. They are role models to past, present and future students because of their intellect, talent, creativity, skill, diligence, and commitment to excellence. They exemplify the capacity in all of us to aspire to greatness, follow our dreams and make a contribution to society. Their distinguished careers and lives are both a source of school district and community pride, and are also an inspiration to current students as well as to our individual and collective potential.
Great Neck Public Schools
1960s Alumni Spotlight
David Yurman, Artist and Jewelry Designer
Class of 1960, Great Neck South High School
100 Most Influential People in Fashion
David Yurman first began his design and business career in the Great Neck South High School cafeteria selling sculptures. Following a year at NYU, he hitchhiked to California and spent time in the artist colony of Big Sur. At the end of the decade, he returned east to work with sculptor Hans Van de Bovencamp in Greenwich Village and met Sybil. a talented painter. She wore one of David's pieces to an art opening and was asked if it was for sale, which triggered their future career. In the early 1970's, they moved to the countryside and formed Putnam Art Works where they displayed their designs and paintings at craft fairs throughout the decade and laid the groundwork for founding their own company. They married in 1979, and in 1980, they founded David Yurman, the brand and the company. In the mid-1980s, David made a name for himself with his signature design -- the cable bracelet -- which became iconic in the industry. His company produces various jewelry and watch collections for men and women, as well as his own signature fragrance and eyewear collection.
Mark Green, Politician
Class of 1963, Great Neck South High School
Candidate Detail: Mark Green
Mark Green graduated from South High School in 1963, Cornell University in 1967 and Harvard Law School in 1970. He worked as Ralph Nader's top aide in Washington for the next decade and later served as New York City's Commissioner of Consumer Affairs. He has written or edited sixteen books, including a #1 bestseller, "Who Runs Congress?" and was the city's first Public Advocate. Mark made unsuccessful bids for the Democratic U.S. Senate nomination in 1988 and New York City Mayor in 2001, losing to Charles Schumer and Michael Bloomberg respectively.
Talia (Coppola) Shire, Actress
Class of 1964, Great Neck South High School
IMBD: Talia Shire Biography
Talia (Coppola) Shire graduated from South High School in 1964 and attended the School of Drama at Yale University on a scholarship. She achieved acclaim as a successful film actress and is best known as Adrian, the wife of prizefighter Sylvester Stallone in the "Rocky" movie series, and also the volatile daughter of Marlon Brando in the "Godfather" trilogy. She was nominated for an Oscar for her performance in Godfather: Part II and the original "Rocky." She has also been nominated for Golden Globe and Tony awards. Talia is the sister of director Francis Ford Coppola, another famous GNPS alumnus from the 1950s, and the aunt of actor Nicholas Cage. With her late second husband, Shire cofounded a production company called Taliafilm II.
Dawn Steel, Producer
Class of 1964, Great Neck South High School
Dawn Steel, Studio Chief and Producer, Dies at 51
Dawn Steel graduated from South High School in 1964 and attended New York University. In 1978, she went to work for Paramount Pictures, where she planned marketing tie-ins for Star Trek: The Motion Picture and was responsible for the making of Fatal Attraction. She oversaw production of the 1983 hit "Flashdance" which established her standing as a producer. In 1985, she was named head of production at Paramount, only the third woman in history to assume that title, and in 1987 she became head of Columbia Studios, the first woman ever to hold that position. She hired many female executives, directors and producers during her tenure and produced many hit films, including Top Gun, The Accused, When Harry Met Sally, Awakenings, and Flatliners. In 1989, she was awarded the Women in Film Crystal Award for outstanding women who helped expand the role of women within the entertainment industry. She died in 1997 at the age of 51 of brain cancer. Her film, City of Angels, was dedicated to her memory.
Roger Tilles, NYS Board of Regents
Class of 1964, Great Neck North High School
NYSED: Roger Tilles Bio
Roger Tilles, a 1964 graduate of North High School, went to Amherst College and earned a law degree from the University of Michigan in 1971. His career spans education, law, and politics. He was a professor of education and law at several universities in Michigan, the Director of Law and Legislation for the Michigan Department of Education, a member of the Michigan State BOE, Executive Secretary to the Speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives, and a candidate for U.S. Congress. He practiced law in Washington, D.C. for many years. He was a founding member of the Association for a Better Long Island, chair of the LI Regional Planning Board, chair of the LIU Board of Trustees, and served on the Boards of WNET and WLIW. He has been the Director of Tilles Investment Companies, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Tilles Center for the Performing Arts, and is currently a regent for the NYS Education Department.
Dr. Mary Cleave, Astronaut
Class of 1965, Great Neck North High School
Dr. Mary Cleave: USASEF
Dr. Mary Cleave grew up in Great Neck and graduated from North High School in 1965. She received a Bachelor's Degree in Biological Sciences from Colorado State University, a Master's Degree in Microbial Ecology and a Doctorate in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Utah State University. An astronaut since 1980, she has logged 262 hours in space including two space shuttle flights. She is currently assigned to the Johnson Space Center as a Special Assistant for Advanced Programs and was recently elected to the Hall of Fame.
Jon Avnet, Producer/Director
Class of 1967, Great Neck North High School
IMBD: Jon Avnet Biography
Jon Avnet graduated from North High School in 1967 along with future entertainer, Andy Kaufman. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, Jon went on to become a successful film producer and director. His directorial credits include "Red Corner" with Richard Gere in 1997, "Up Close and Personal" with Michele Pfeifer and Robert Redford in 1996 and "Fried Green Tomatoes" with Kathy Bates and Jessica Tandy in 1991. His production credits include "George of the Jungle" in 1997, "Tango and Cash" in 1989 and "Risky Business" in 1983.
Andy Kaufman, Entertainer
Class of 1967, Great Neck North High School
Andy Kaufman: A Tribute
Andy Kaufman grew up in Great Neck, attended Saddle Rock and Baker elementary schools and graduated from North High School in 1967. He went on to become an eccentric comedic entertainer, getting his big break as Latka on the hit TV series Taxi. He gained notoriety on Saturday Night Live, doing Elvis impressions, wrestling with women, lip synching to the Mighty Mouse theme song, and for becoming his alter ego, lounge singer Tony Clifton. Andy's fame lives on even after his tragic death from lung cancer at the age of 35 in 1984.
Neil Portnow, Music Producer
Class of 1967, Great Neck South High School
Neil Portnow 59th Grammy Speech: Music Binds Us Together
Neil Portnow grew up in Great Neck and attended South High School, where he was elected student body president and played bass guitar in a rock band, The Savages. He graduated in 1967 and matriculated to George Washington University where he was elected as program director and student body president. He graduated in 1971 and began his career as a music supervisor for RCA, Arista and EMI America. He became Vice-President of the West Coast division of Jive Records and spearheaded the careers of many famous performers in the 1990s. In 2002, he became the president and CEO of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences (NARAS) which organizes the Grammy Music Awards. He is a recipient of the United Jewish Association Federation of New York's annual Music Visionary of the Year Award.
Jamie S. Gorelick, Lawyer
Class of 1968, Great Neck South High School
Jamie S. Gorelick, 9/11 Commissioner
Jamie Gorelick, a 1968 graduate of South High School, has had an accomplished career in the public and private sector. A Harvard College and Law School graduate, Jamie served as a Washington, D.C. litigator from 1975-1979 and 1980-1993 when she joined the Department of Defense as general counsel. In 1994, she became the U.S. deputy attorney general under Janet Reno. She joined Fannie Mae in May, 1997 and later became vice chair. She is currently a partner at Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering and is serving as one of the ten members of the 9/11 Commission investigating the terrorist attacks.
Dr. Louise Mirrer, University Administrator
Class of 1969, Great Neck South High School
New York Historical Society: About Louise Mirrer
Dr. Louise Mirrer, 1969 graduate of South High School, is a widely published scholar in the fields of Spanish and Sephardic language, literature and women's studies. She is currently the Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs for the City University of New York. In the 1990's, Dr. Mirrer served as the Vice Provost for Arts, Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities and was also Chair of the Humanities Division at Fordham University. Dr. Mirrer has written numerous articles, presented scholarly papers at conferences and has published several books. Louise Mirrer joined the New-York Historical Society as President and CEO in June 2004.
Stewart F. Lane, Broadway Producer
Class of 1969, Great Neck North High School
Stewart F. Lane, Mr. Broadway, was born in New York City, raised in Great Neck, and graduated Great Neck North High School in 1969. After attending CW Post for one year, he went on to Boston University and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Acting in 1973. He began his career as an actor but achieved acclaim as a producer. Lane is a six-time Tony Award winner for the following: 1991 Best Musical for The Will Rogers Follies, 1994 Best Musical for La Cage aux Folles, 2002 Best Musical for Thoroughly Modern Millie, 2006 Best Theatrical Event for Jay Johnson: The Two and Only, 2011 Best Play for War Horse, and 2014 Best Musical for A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder. Lane also won the Olivier Award in 2013 for Best Musical for Top Hat. Currently, Lane is President and CEO of Stellar Productions International, Inc. and Steward F. Lane Productions, Inc. Lane is married to fellow producer Bonie Comley and they live in New York City with their five children.
Great Neck Public Schools
1970s Alumni Spotlight
Jimmy Roberts, Composer/Pianist
Class of 1970, Great Neck North High School
The Bios: Jimmy Roberts
Jimmy Roberts, Class of 1970, Great Neck North High School, started playing piano by ear around the age of 7. By 11, he was playing songs in restaurants and as a teenager, he was a member of a rock band. Jimmy graduated from the Manhattan School of Music in 1977, where he studied with the noted pianist, Constance Keene. Jimmy is an acclaimed composer and pianist, whose original score for the 1996 production, "I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Change," contributed to the artistic and box office success of this second longest running Off Broadway musical, which received both the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle nominations for Best Musical. The production has been performed in 25 countries outside of the United States, as well as in all 50 states. His other musical scores include "The Thing About Men," a children's musical, "The Velveteen Rabbit," individual songs to two other Off Broadway revues, "My Name is Alice" and "Pets!," and the theme music for the weekly PBS TV show, "Theater Talk."
Kenneth Cole, Designer
Class of 1972, Great Neck North High School
Kenneth Cole on Why Going Private Was the Smartest Thing He Ever Did
One decade after graduating from Great Neck North High School in 1972, Kenneth Cole founded his own fashion company, Kenneth Cole Productions, in 1982. Beginning with a ladies' footwear collection, the company now manufactures and distributed men's and women's footwear, accessories and clothing. In 1985,he was the first member of the fashion community to take a public stand in the fight against AIDS and his advertising campaigns garner worldwide attention for their humor and social consciousness.
Dan Raviv, Journalist
Class of 1972, Great Neck North High School
Dan Raviv Exclusive
Dan Raviv was locally focused as a Great Neck North High School student, but his reach expanded to an international audience as a reporter and author. Following his graduation from Harvard University in 1976, Dan began a career in broadcasting that would span over two decades in 35 countries as a foreign correspondent for CBS News. He is now a Washington-based National Correspondent on CBS Radio. He anchored much of the coverage of 9/11, and won a Sigma Delta Chi award from the Society of Professional Journalists for his coverage of the 2000 Bush-Gore election. His book, "Every Spy a Prince: The Complete History of Israel's Intelligence Community," was on the New York Times list for four months. His latest book, Comic Wars, is the story of the Marvel Comics bankruptcy.
Amy Bloom, Author
Class of 1974, Great Neck North High School
About Amy Bloom
Amy Bloom grew up in Baker Hill and Kings Point in Great Neck and was one of the editors of an underground newspaper called "The Rat" at North High School before graduating in 1974. After completing her studies at Wesleyan University, Amy went on to become a successful author and psychotherapist. Her publishing credits include "Come to Me," and a novel entitled "Love Invents Us," which is set in Great Neck. Her most recent collection, "A Blind Man Can See How Much I Love You" was published to critical acclaim.
Dr. Ned Witkin, Optometrist/Inventor
Class of 1974, Great Neck South High School
Emory Eye Center Faculty: In Memoriam
Dr. Ned Witkin had vision even as a senior at Great Neck South High School in 1974. It's not surprising, then, that he went on to become a world-renowned optometrist and inventor. He was, until his passing on January 29, 2004, Director of Optometric Services and Low Vision at Emory University's Eye Center, where he pioneered the joining of optometry with ophthalmology in Emory's medical school. He co-developed the Jordy, high-tech "eyeglasses" that improve vision for the legally blind, and reported its beneficial results on "Good Morning America." Patients from around the world consulted with him, including Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He developed vision screening programs at the neighborhood health clinics of Grady Memorial Hospital and created the vision plan for Emory employees. Before he died, he planned and designed the state-of-the-art new optometric and low vision clinic that is opening as part of Emory's Eye Center in 2004.
Seth Swirsky, Song Writer/Baseball Author/Filmmaker
Class of 1978, Great Neck South High School
Seth.com: My Story
At the 2011 Gold Coast International Film Festival, Seth Swirsky thanked his Great Neck Public Schools fifth grade teacher, Marion Grief. The Great Neck native won a jingle contest for Thomas's English Muffin at the age of 20 while a student at Dartmouth University and went on to become a pop music songwriter for Chappell Music, best known for Taylor Dayne's Grammy-nominated hit "Tell It to My Heart" and "Prove Your Love," as well as Air Supply's "After All," Al Green's "Love is a Beautiful Thing," and Celine Dion's "You Give Enough Love." Seth is the author of three books, "Baseball Letters," "Every Pitcher Tells A Story," and "Something to Write Home About." In 2004, he released the album "Instant Pleasure" which won an L.A. Music award for Best Pop Album. In 2007, he released a second album "The Red Button" and later released "As Far as Yesterday Goes" and "Watercolor Day." In 2012, he became a filmmaker with the release of "Beatles Stories." Seth has three children and lives in Los Angeles.
Dr. Peter Diamandis, Spaceflight Pioneer
Class of 1979, Great Neck South High School
XPrize: About Dr. Peter Diamandis
Peter Diamandis daydreamed about space travel as his fifth grade teacher discussed the planets. He was inspired by the Apollo 11 moonwalk to build a four-stage rocket and try to launch it from Roosevelt Field. A graduate of Great Neck South High, Diamandis went on to study premed and earn a degree in aeronautics and astronautics from M.I.T., and then went on to Harvard Medical School. He co-founded the International Space University in Strasbourg, France in 1987, International Microspace in 1988, Zero Gravity in 1984, and the X Prize Foundation in 1996, which today holds competitions in education, global development, energy and the environment, life sciences, and space and undersea exploration. His larger goal of launching private space travel is becoming a reality.