Lehman welcomes home UN staffers from 1946

Lehman College president Ricardo Fernandez (far left) is joined by two of the original “Mohicans” Margaret Bruce and Sir Brian Urquhart during a special rededication ceremony honoring a time when the United Nations called the facility home. - Photo by Walter Pofeldt

A memorial grove honoring workers of the United Nations, which took up residence on the campus of Lehman College from March to August 1946, was given a new lease on life at a rededication ceremony on Wednesday, May 21.

Seven members of the original staff of the U.N., which set up shop for several months on the campus of what was then the uptown Bronx campus of Hunter College for women, came back to the renamed Lehman College for the rededication of the grove, originally planted in 1996.

A new group of trees, different from those planted on the 50th anniversary ceremony of the United Nations in 1996, were planted at the grove in honor of the Mohicans, a group of young staffers who came to work at the U.N. when it was first created after World War II.

“During this event, we are adding five budding rosebud trees to our memorial grove,” Lehman president Ricardo Fernandez said at the planting. “The history of the United Nations predates Lehman College, but the legacy of those months remains an important part of our history, institutional mission, culture, and values.”

A new plaque placed at the site joins the five rosebud trees.  

The rededication was part of Lehman’s 40th anniversary celebration, honoring the members of the U.N. Secretariat who served on the campus. The program was entitled “The United Nations at Lehman College: A Homecoming.”

 Mel Silverman, one of the original members of the U.N. at the Lehman campus, and others, organized the Mohicans. The group was named after a character named Uncas from the James Fennimore Cooper novel “The Last of the Mohicans,” because the initials of the U.N. are in the name of the character.

The non-profit group, which disbanded two years ago, vowed to always remember their time on the Lehman campus during the spring and summer of 1946 prior to the United Nations’ move to Lake Success, New York on August 15, 1946.

“Originally, there were about 500 Mohicans at Hunter College,” Silverman stated. “There are at least 80 that I have in a database who worked here and are still around.”

Silverman said that despite the dwindling numbers of Mohicans due to old age, the group met together every year up to and including the 60th anniversary of the group’s presence on the Hunter College uptown campus, now Lehman College. 

 “I look at that gym building, and I remember walking in for my interview with personnel,” Silverman noted. “I feel nostalgic. It is heartwarming to experience the trees and the plaque, and to be standing here to see this.”

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