In Ben Becker’s mind, there were no problem kids. Just kids with
Born in New York City and raised in Albany, Becker graduated from
Philip Schuyler High School in 1925. He was the only one of six siblings
to graduate from college – Cortland State Teachers College in 1928 and
New York University in 1934.
Becker was a scrappy boxer who fought when the line between amateur
and professional boxing was invisible. While at Cortland, he boxed,
coached freshman boxing and was appointed chairman of the Amateur
Athletic Union Adirondack District.
He was head of the AAU for 50 years. During that time, he helped
develop the career of Sugar Ray Robinson and coached Muhammed Ali to a
1960 gold medal in the light-heavyweight division.
Becker’s love for boxing took him across oceans and continents as
coach of U.S. boxing teams.
But he always said that education was his first love.
Becker returned to his Philip Schuyler alma mater in 1930 as an
athletic coach. He stayed for two years before he returned to school at
NYU. He came back home to be
a phys ed teacher and coach, and eventually became vice principal and
principal of Philip Schuyler.
One of the first practitioners of “tough love,” Becker used a
combination of discipline and unwavering support of students. One
colleague referred to him as “a hard disciplinarian with a soft heart.”
Indeed, whether comforting a distraught parent, giving his own winter
coat to a student who came to school without one or keeping a closetful
of prom dresses for less fortunate students, Becker touched the lives of
thousands of Albany students until his 1970 retirement.