Townsend Harris High School

Townsend Harris High School at Queens College (THHS) is a public magnet high school for the humanities in the borough of Queens in New York City. Students and alumni often refer to themselves as "Harrisites." Townsend Harris consistently ranks as among the top 100 high schools in the United States. In 2020, U.S. News and World Report ranked THHS at #1 in New York City, #1 in New York State and #5 in the nation.[1]

Townsend Harris High School at Queens College
149-11 Melbourne Ave.


Coordinates40°44′06″N 73°49′17″W / 40.735°N 73.8215°W / 40.735; -73.8215Coordinates: 40°44′06″N 73°49′17″W / 40.735°N 73.8215°W / 40.735; -73.8215
TypePublic (magnet) secondary
Established1904, refounded 1984
Color(s)Crimson and gold
NewspaperThe Classic
The Phoenix
YearbookThe Crimson and Gold


The school is named for Townsend Harris, who besides his many diplomatic accomplishments, had helped found the Free Academy of the City of New York, later to become City College, and was a strong proponent of free education. The Free Academy's introductory year gradually evolved and in 1904 became a full-fledged, 3-year high school, housed on three floors of what is now Baruch College (in the East Side Manhattan neighborhood of Kips Bay).[2] This original incarnation, known as Townsend Harris Hall, survived until 1942 when it was closed by mayor Fiorello La Guardia for budgetary reasons.[3]

Townsend Harris High School was refounded in 1984 thanks largely to the efforts of alumni of the original school, who had begun the process in 1980.

The first principal was Malcolm Largmann, a former high school English teacher with a strong belief in a classically styled education who also handpicked the school's original faculty. Largmann served as principal of Townsend Harris from 1984 until his retirement in 2001. [4][citation needed] The new school began life in a small building on Parsons Boulevard, originally intended as a temporary home until a permanent facility could be realized. In early 1995, the school moved into a new building located on the campus of Queens College.

Brian Condon became principal after a heated debate concerning Interim Principal Rosemarie Jahoda.

Entrance to the High School on 149th Street.


Well over 15,400 students compete for approximately 270 seats in the freshman class each year based on their middle school grades, standardized test scores and even attendance records. Admission is available to all New York City residents in 8th grade. A minimum grade point average of 95 is required of all applicants to be considered for admission. Minimum standardized reading and math scores at the 90th percentile are also required (4.3 on both English and Math).[5]

Some seats are available for 9th graders wishing to start Townsend as sophomores, though as the number depends on the number of students who decide to leave the school during freshman year the number varies significantly from year to year; in 2006, only 5 were available. In 2019, just 10 seats were available to 5,000 students who applied.[5]

Initially, the admissions process included an interview and a writing component, but this was eliminated by 1988. Upon matriculation, students take a writing and math exam.[citation needed] Students must fulfill prerequisite grade standards to earn admission in addition to the examination.


In addition to the standard three-year Regents English program, all students take a "fifth year" of English as freshman in the form of classes in linguistics and writing processes. In addition to the standard modern language requirement which may be fulfilled with classes in Spanish, French or Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and German. Students must have a two-year classical language requirement which can be fulfilled by classes in Latin or classical Greek (in addition, Hebrew is offered as an elective course). There is also a rigorous physical education requirement, especially freshman gym, and a senior project required of students. A variety of electives and AP classes are also offered to students. As of 2004, AP World History became a mandatory subject and replaced the Regents-level course. Every subject requires students to execute at least one major project a year, with history classes requiring one per semester and English several per semester. These projects are referred to as "collaterals."

In the 2008-2009 school year, Townsend Harris is offering the following Advanced Placement (AP) classes: World History, United States History, United States Government, Environmental Science, Psychology, Calculus AB/BC, Computer Science A,, Japanese Language and Culture, Latin: Vergil, Statistics, French Language, Art History, Computer Science Principles, AP Macroeconomics/Microeconomics, and Spanish Language, Spanish Literature.

The most notable feature of the school's curriculum is the senior "Bridge Year" program. Students in good standing may take up to 12 credits at Queens College at no cost to themselves. This includes a required humanities seminar co-taught by Harris teachers and Queens College faculty. The curriculum and format is foundationally fairly similar to the Great Books seminars required of liberal arts freshman at colleges around the world, with heavy emphasis on critical reading and writing.

Recently, a number of other New York City public high schools have been established that have similar "bridge year" programs. These include the High School of American Studies at Lehman College, Queens High School for the Sciences at York College, and Bard High School Early College.

Student bodyEdit

In sharp contrast with the original school which was open to male students only, the new school has been dominated by female students from its inception, today comprising approximately 70% of the student population.[6]

As of 2019, the school's minority population is largely Asian, with the New York City Department of Education's "Asian and other" category making up 44% of the student body total, comprising the largest segment of the school's population. White students comprise 37% of the population, Hispanic students 12% and black students 7%.[7]

48% of students at Townsend Harris are from an economically disadvantaged background.[1]

The school maintains a 100% graduation rate.[6][8]


The attendance rate is the highest in NYC.[9] Scores on standardized examinations are also high when compared to other public high schools; in the year 2005-2006, Harrisites had average scores of 628 and 632 on the SAT verbal and math sections, respectively, compared to 551 and 565 for what the city deems "similar schools" and 444 and 467 for students citywide.[10] In 2000 Eileen F. Lebow published a history of the original school, The Bright Boys: A History of Townsend Harris High School (ISBN 0-313-31479-9).


  • The Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence Foundation named Harris a 21st Century School of Distinction in June 2004.[11] In December of that year, the school was named a Lighthouse School by the same organization.
  • In 2005 and 2006, the school had the highest percentage of students passing Regents exams of any New York City Department of Education high school.[12]
  • 2006-2007 Highest Percentage Passing AP World History Scores in the USA for a Large School [13]

Notable alumniEdit


Science and technologyEdit

Writing and journalismEdit

Performing arts and entertainmentEdit

Business, economics, and philanthropyEdit

Law, politics, and activismEdit


  1. ^ "National Rankings Best High Schools"
  2. ^ "The school was still in its quarters at 23d Street and Lexington Avenue, occupying a spartan campus on the 9th to 12th floors of the building which now houses CUNY’s Baruch College." Summer 2005 Townsend Harris Alumni Magazine Archived 2007-08-11 at the Wayback Machine, p.10
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b New York City High School Directory
  6. ^ a b 2005-2006 Annual School Report
  7. ^ 2005-2006 New York State School Report Card Accountability and Overview Report Archived 2008-02-28 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ 2004-2005 Annual School Report
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ Archived January 17, 2005, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ The New York Times > New York Region > Image > The Test Results
  13. ^ College Board Advanced Placement report to the nation 2007, "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-06-05. Retrieved 2011-05-25.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link), 78
  14. ^ Roberts, Sam. "Morton Deutsch, Expert on Conflict Resolution, Dies at 97", The New York Times, March 21, 2017. Accessed March 23, 2017. "Raised in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, he read Freud and Marx when he was 10, graduated from Townsend Harris Hall and entered City College when he was 15 planning to become a psychiatrist."
  15. ^ James (ed.), Laylin K. (1995), Nobel laureates in chemistry, 1901-1992 (3rd ed.), American Chemical Society and Chemical Heritage Foundation, ISBN 0-8412-2459-5, (p. 674) Born ... in New York City, Hauptman received his early education there, graduating from Townsend Harris High School.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  16. ^ a b Lebow, Eileen F. (2000), The bright boys: a history of Townsend Harris High School, Westport, CT, USA: Greenwood Press, ISBN 0-313-31479-9, ISSN 0196-707X, (p. 21) A comparison of the two sets of grades indicates the intensity of scholarship that became a Townsend Harris trademark ... Future physicist William Nierenberg, Class of 1935, garnered five 100s ... Future Nobel Laureate Herbert Hauptman had three 100s ...
  17. ^ "Robert Jastrow: Astronomer, cosmologist, physicist and space scientist who was a well-known advocate of NASA", The Times (UK), 28 March 2008, retrieved 2 January 2011, Jastrow was born in 1925 in New York City. He attended the Townsend Harris High School, Flushing, New York, and went on to study physics at Columbia University
  18. ^ Schiffer, John; Charles Johnson (16 May 2007). "Death notice: Gilbert Jerome Perlow". obituary. Physics Today. Archived from the original on 24 July 2008. Retrieved 2 January 2011. Gilbert Perlow, one of the pioneers of the Mössbauer effect and an editor of the Journal of Applied Physics and Applied Physics Letters ... He attended Townsend Harris Hall (now Townsend Harris High School) in Queens
  19. ^ Naden, Corinne J.; Blue, Rose (2001), Jonas Salk: Polio Pioneer, Brookfield, CT, USA: Millbrook Press, Inc., ISBN 0-7613-1804-6, (p. 12) Twelve-year-old Jonas Salk passed the test and entered Townsend Harris High School in 1926. When he graduated three years later, he was not quite 15 ...
  20. ^ Schmeck Jr., Harold M. (24 June 1995), "Dr. Jonas Salk, Whose Vaccine Turned Tide on Polio, Dies at 80", New York Times, retrieved 1 January 2011, The family lived in the Bronx, where Jonas went to grade school, then to the Townsend Harris High School for exceptionally promising students.
  21. ^ a b c d e f Roff, Sandra Shoiock; Cucchiara, Anthony M. (2000), From the Free Academy to CUNY: illustrating public higher education in New York City, 1847-1997, New York, NY, USA: Fordham University Press, ISBN 0-8232-2019-2, (p. 19) Admission to Harris High was selective, and its graduates ... form a roster of high achievers. A few representative names are author Herman Wouk, actor Cornel Wilde, politician Adam Clayton Powell, lyricist Ira Gershwin, scientist Jonas Salk, news commentator David Schonbaum, and playwright Sidney Kingsley.
  22. ^ Milton, Kimball A. (9 October 2006), Julian Schwinger: Nuclear Physics, the Radiation Laboratory, Renormalized QED, Source Theory, and Beyond (PDF), pp. 4–5, The Depression did mean that Julian would have to rely on free education, which New York well-provided in those days: A year or two at Townsend Harris High School, a public preparatory school feeding into City College, where Julian matriculated in 1933.
  23. ^ Schweber, Silvan S. (1994), QED and the men who made it: Dyson, Feynman, Schwinger, and Tomonaga, Princeton, NJ, USA: Princeton University Press, ISBN 0-691-03685-3, (p.276) As Harold had done before him, Julian attended Townsend Harris.
  24. ^ Lagemann, Ellen Condliffe; Patricia A. Graham (1994). "Lawrence A. Cremin: A Biographical Memoir". Teachers College Record. New York, NY, USA: Columbia University. 96 (1): 102–113. ISSN 0161-4681. Lawrence Cremin was truly a giant among us. A man of boundless energy, ... Graduated from Townsend Harris at the age of fifteen and a half
  25. ^ Fowler, Glenn (5 September 1990), "Obituary; Lawrence Cremin, 64, Educator And a Prize-Winning Historian", New York Times, p. 2, retrieved 1 January 2011, A native of Manhattan, Dr. Cremin was a graduate of Townsend Harris High School and of City College.
  26. ^ Larrabee, Harold A.; Sterling P. Lamprecht (1954–1955). "Irwin Edman". Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association. Newark, DE, USA: American Philosophical Association. 28: 60–62. ISSN 0065-972X. Irwin Edman was every inch a New Yorker, appropriately educated at the Townsend Harris High School for the exceptionally gifted.
  27. ^ Widmer, Kingsley (1980). Paul Goodman. Boston: Twayne. p. 13. ISBN 0-8057-7292-8.
  28. ^ Barnes, Mike (2015-10-08). "Hy Hollinger, Former THR Writer and International Editor, Dies at 97". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2015-11-07.
  29. ^ John F. Kieran's biography at the SABR Baseball Biography Project
  30. ^ a b c Lebow, Eileen F. (2000), The bright boys: a history of Townsend Harris High School, Westport, CT, USA: Greenwood Press, ISBN 0-313-31479-9, ISSN 0196-707X, (p. 137) ... affirming the school's unique role and listing distinguished alumni: among them Justice Felix Frankfurter, Senator Robert Wagner ... Sidney Kingsley, playwright; and Edward G. Robinson, actor.
  31. ^ Fischer, Heinz Dietrich; Fischer, Erika J. (1998), The Pulitzer Prize Archive: Drama/comedy awards, 1917-1996: from Eugene O'Neill and Tennessee Williams to Richard Rodgers and Edward Albee, 12, part 4, Bodenheim, FRG: WS-Druckerei Werner Schaubruch, ISBN 3-598-30170-7, (p. 71) Sidney Kingsley (born Sidney Kirshner ...) first attended public school on the Lower West Side and then Townsend Harris high school, graduating in 1924.
  32. ^ Martin, Douglas (8 July 2006), "Anatole Shub, 78, a Researcher and Reporter on Russian Topics, Dies", New York Times, retrieved 2 January 2011, Mr. Shub attended Townsend Harris High School and then joined the Navy in 1945.
  33. ^ "The Classic (Vol. 14, No. 6 - June, 1998)" (PDF). Townsend Harris High School, Flushing, New York. June 1998. Retrieved May 12, 2017.
  34. ^ Negus, Steve (April 1, 2015). "'ISIS: Inside the Army of Terror,' and More". The New York Times. Retrieved May 12, 2017.
  35. ^ Yassin-Kassab, Robin (28 March 2015). "Isis: Inside the Army of Terror; The Rise of Islamic State – review". The Guardian. Retrieved May 12, 2017.
  36. ^ Beichman, Arnold (2009) [2004], Herman Wouk: the novelist as social historian (2nd ed.), Piscatawway, NJ, USA: Transaction Publishers, ISBN 978-0-7658-0836-3, (p. 15) Wouk was the youngest of three children ... He attended Townsend Harris High School, an elite public school for high IQ New York youngsters ...
  37. ^ Weber, Bruce (9 September 2009), "Army Archerd, Columnist for Variety, Dies at 87", New York Times, retrieved 1 January 2011, Armand André Archerd was born in New York City ... He attended Townsend Harris High School and City College of New York ...
  38. ^ a b Saperstein, Pat (14 May 2008). "Warren Cowan dies at 87: PR maven "father of Hollywood press agents"". obituary. Variety. Retrieved 2 January 2011. Daily Variety columnist Army Archerd and Cowan became best friends when they were 12 ... Cowan was born in New York to songwriter Rubey Cowan and wife Grace and attended Townsend Harris High School with Archerd.
  39. ^ a b Pollack, Howard (2006), George Gershwin: his life and work, Berkeley, CA, USA: University of California Press, ISBN 978-0-520-24864-9, (p. 224) By 1916, Gershwin had also begun writing songs with Irving Caesar ... Caesar, a tunesmith in his own right, had grown up on the Lower East Side, and like Ira had graduated from Townsend Harris ...
  40. ^ Weber, Bruce (16 May 2008), "Warren Cowan, a Star at Promoting Stars, Dies at 87", New York Times, retrieved 2 January 2011, Warren Jay Cowan was born in New York City on March 13, 1921. His father, Rubey, was a songwriter. He went to Townsend Harris High School in Manhattan
  41. ^ Bloom, Ken (2007), The Routledge guide to Broadway, New York, NY, USA: Routledge, ISBN 0-415-97380-5, (p. 58) Howard Dietz was born in New York ... He attended Townsend Harris Hall and Columbia University.
  42. ^ "Ervin Drake". biographic sketch. Song Writers Hall of Fame. 2011. Archived from the original on 18 December 2010. Retrieved 1 January 2011. He was born Ervin Maurice Druckman in New York City on April 3, 1919. He attended Townsend Harris Hall, and then the City College of New York
  43. ^ a b Bloom, Ken (2007), The Routledge guide to Broadway, New York, NY, USA: Routledge, ISBN 0-415-97380-5, (p. 106) E. Y. ("Yip") Harburg was perhaps Broadway's most complex lyricist ... He began as a lyricist while still at New York City's Townsend Harris Hall High School along with schoolmate Ira Gershwin
  44. ^ Riley, Sam G. (1995), Biographical dictionary of American newspaper columnists, Westport, CT, USA: Greenwood Press, ISBN 0-313-29192-6, (pp. 129-130) Hellinger was born in New York City ad attended the city's public schools. He was expelled from Townsend Harris High School for organizing a student strike.
  45. ^ Bloom, Ken (2007), The Routledge guide to Broadway, New York, NY, USA: Routledge, ISBN 0-415-97380-5, (p. 148) Frank Loesser was the most versatile of all Broadway composers ... He was educated at Townsend Harris Hall and dropped out of City College.
  46. ^ Rodgers, Richard; Rodgers, Mary (2002) [1975], Musical Stages: An Autobiography (3rd ed.), Cambridge, MA, USA: Da Capo Press, ISBN 0-306-81134-0, (p. 18) This victory in part was responsible in part for my downfall at Townsend Harris, and started a pattern I was to follow for the rest of my scholastic life: I always devoted too much time to nonacademic matters.
  47. ^ Hyland, William G. (1998), Richard Rodgers, New Haven, CT, USA: Yale University Press, ISBN 0-300-07115-9, Richard enrolled at the prestigious Townsend Harris Hall, a high school reserved for talented young boys ... Academic pursuits did not attract Rodgers, however, and he transferred to the more pedestrian De Witt Clinton High School
  48. ^ a b Strouse, Charles (2008), Put on a Happy Face: A Broadway Memoir, New York, NY, USA: Sterling Publishing Co, Inc., ISBN 978-1-4027-5889-8, ... in 1943, at the age of fifteen, I graduated from the academically prestigious Townsend Harris Hall ... Alumni included Richard Rodgers, Richard Loesser, Ira Gershwin, E. Y. Harburg, and actors Clifton Webb and E. G. Robinson.
  49. ^ Rothstein, Mervyn (1 September 2009). "A Life in the Theatre: Charles Strouse". interview. Archived from the original on 2 March 2010. Retrieved 2 January 2010. I went to P.S. 87 and Townsend Harris High School, and when it was time to go to college I went to music school.
  50. ^ Sponberg, Arvid, F. (1991), Broadway talks: what professionals think about commercial theater in America, Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, ISBN 0-313-26687-5, (p. 97) Charles Strouse the composer of By Bye Birdie and Annie, among other musicals, was born in New York City in 1928. He received his education at P.S. 87, Townsend Harris High School, and the Eastman School of Music.
  51. ^ "JOSEPH VOGEL, 73, OF M-G-M IS DEAD: PRESIDENT, 1956–63, GUIDED COMPANY IN MONEY CRISIS". The New York Times. March 2, 1969. p. 80.
  52. ^ Brody, Seymour "Sy" (18 July 2008). "Kenneth J. Arrow: Nobel Prize in Economics Recipient". biographic sketch. Florida Atlantic University Libraries. Archived from the original on 1 November 2014. Retrieved 2 January 2011. Arrow was born on August 23, 1921, in New York City. His parents were Jewish and very supportive of his education. He graduated Townsend Harris High School and went to City College of New York ...
  53. ^ Weiss, Samuel (10 June 1985), "THE NEW TOWNSEND HARRIS HIGH KEEPS OLD GOALS", New York Times, retrieved 2 January 2011, In 1942, Mayor Fiorello H. La Guardia ordered the closing of Townsend Harris High School as a nonessential educational unit. In its 36-year existence, the school had won a national reputation, producing such graduates as Dr. Jonas E. Salk, the discoverer of a polio vaccine; Kenneth Arrow, a winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science ...
  54. ^ "The Best Queens Celebirities 2002". list of notable persons from the Borough of Queens. Queens Tribune. 2002. Archived from the original on 1 November 2002. Retrieved 2 January 2011. Eugene Lang - The philanthropist graduated from Townsend Harris High School in 1934.
  55. ^ Levy, Leon; Linden, Eugene (2002), The Mind of Wall Street: A Legendary Financier on the Perils of Greed and the Mysteries of the Market, New York, NY, USA: PublicAffairs (Perseus Books Group), ISBN 1-58648-208-4, ... (pp. x-xi) I might as well 'fess up to some intimate details of my relationship with Leon Levy. Leon and I have known each other since high school and college ... just about all these qualities were visible when we were in Townsend Harris High School together sixty years ago.
  56. ^ Martin, Douglas (8 April 2003), "Leon Levy, Philanthropist, Dies at 77", New York Times, retrieved 2 January 2011, Leon Levy, a hedge fund pioneer ... went on to make many millions, enough to make him one of the main individual backers of archaeological research ... The younger Mr. Levy graduated from Townsend Harris High School in Manhattan in 1939 and from the City College of New York in 1948.
  57. ^ "Paid Notice: Deaths WEISSMAN, GEORGE", New York Times, 29 July 2009, retrieved 2 January 2011, George Weissman attended the famed Townsend Harris High School, located on the City College campus.
  58. ^ Cohen, Felix S.; Wilkins (ed.), David Eugene (2006), On the drafting of tribal constitutions, Norman, OK, USA: University of Oklahoma Press, ISBN 0-8061-3806-8, (p. xiv) Felix Cohen was born in New York City ... He attended Towsend Harris High School in New York.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  59. ^ a b "Education: Sit-Down Strike". Time. Vol. 37 no. 17. New York, NY, USA: Time Warner, Inc. 28 April 1941. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved 2 January 2011. ... a mob of pupils gathered before Manhattan's Townsend Harris High School ... Object: to protest against Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia's plan to economize by closing their 93-year-old school, alma mater of such celebrities as Mr. Justice Felix Frankfurter, Senator Robert F. Wagner
  60. ^ Moritz, Owen (24 June 1999), "RUDOLPH HALLEY STREAK OF LIGHT", New York Times, retrieved 2 January 2011, UT POLITICAL life did not turn out quite the way Rudolph Halley had hoped. He was a seminal New York story ... The child prodigy graduated elite Townsend Harris High School in Queens at 14[permanent dead link]
  61. ^ "NIX, Robert Nelson Cornelius, Sr., (1898 - 1987)". biographic sketch. Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved 2 January 2011. graduated from Townsend Harris Hall High School, New York, N.Y.
  62. ^ "Robert Nelson Cornelius Nix, Sr.: Representative, 1958–1979, Democrat from Pennsylvania". biographic sketch. Black Americans in Congress: Clerk of the United States House of Representatives. Archived from the original on 5 December 2010. Retrieved 2 January 2011. Nix graduated from Townsend Harris High School in New York City (also attended by Nix’s future African-American House colleague Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., of New York) ...
  63. ^ "Igal Roodenko, 74; Led Anti-War Group". New York Times. 1 May 1991. p. D24.
  64. ^ "Assemblywoman Nily Rozic Assembly District 25". State of New York. Retrieved 21 October 2014.
  65. ^ William Zeck, 87, Prosecutor at Nuremberg

External linksEdit