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City School District of Albany Hall of Fame

Ben Becker

Philip Schuyler High School Class of 1925

Olympic boxing coach, high school football coach, teacher, principal

 

In Ben Becker’s mind, there were no problem kids. Just kids with problems.

 

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.

 

Becker’s work extended beyond our schools, too.  He co-founded the Big Brothers of Albany chapter during the 1950s and also was vice president of the Albany County Cerebral Palsy Association.  He also founded and was president of Camp Nassau in Guilderland.  He died in 1987 at the age of 80.

 

 

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