The Barbara and Harry Sperber Scholarship

Published: November 07, 2022

Barbara and Harry Sperber family pic at lake george

Barbara and Harry Sperber put down roots in Flushing in 1957 and enjoyed raising their family in Queens. They were “non-traditional” students, each seeking education when the time was right. Recognizing that “life happens” at different times for different people, this scholarship was created for part-time students at Queensborough, who, like Barbara and Harry, are determined to pursue education to better their lives.

Barbara Lee Sperber (1932-2001) grew up in Elmhurst, NY and attended Columbia University College of Pharmacy, leaving when she married at age 19. Fifteen years later, when she was 34 and managing a household, she enrolled at Queens College, earning her BA five years later and her MSED at age 42. This was no small feat in the 1960s and ‘70s when women strove to redefine their traditional roles. Her 24-year journey through college was well worth it – a wonderfully talented craftswoman, after substitute-teaching art in Queens high schools, she was the Administrator of the Queens Museum of Art in Flushing Meadow Park for over 15 years, a career that fulfilled her passion.

Harry Sperber (1924-2020) grew up in the Bronx during the Depression and left high school to help his parents. During WWII, from 1943-1945, he served in the Army Air Corps as a high speed radio operator, intercepting and decoding messages, while traveling the world. Back home, at age 22, Harry tackled unfinished business – he earned his GED and even enrolled in classes at Pace University on the GI Bill. Combining life smarts with his education, Harry worked at Macy’s Herald Square and enjoyed a rewarding 49-year career, advancing from “stock boy” to a top commissioned salesperson.

Barbara’s academic persistence provided a strong model for her kids, who also followed non-traditional routes. Their son Joseph Leigh Sperber (1955-2019) attended SUNY Purchase for several semesters after high school, earned his AAS (Architectural Technology) from Orange County Community College when he was 23 and returned to SUNY Purchase, graduating with a BA in Urban Studies at age 27. Joe then worked 37 years in pivotal public sector roles as an energy analyst, rehabilitation specialist/planner, and an assistant engineer/building inspector and assessor for towns in Westchester County.

Their daughter Caryn Beth (Sperber) Giananti (1957 -) attended SUNY New Paltz three semesters after high school, went back to school to earn a BS (Information Systems, CUNY BA program) at age 30, an MS (Social Research, Hunter) at age 38, and an MA (Disability Studies, School of Professional Studies) when she was 54. She worked at CUNY for 34 years, starting as a programmer in Hunter’s IT office and retiring from Central Office Institutional Research in 2021, where she worked as a research analyst.

In the latter years of his life, Harry enthusiastically supported the idea of creating a CUNY scholarship in Barbara’s name to help students expand their education and increase their chances for upward mobility. This scholarship reflects both Barbara and Harry’s commitment to Queens and their support of students striving to improve their lives through education.


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