By: David Rubinstein with Judah Stiefel and Avi Strauss  | 

Two Senior Biology Professors to Retire after Illustrious Careers at Yeshiva

Senior faculty members Drs. Carl Feit and Barry Potvin will be leaving the biology department after this spring as they retire. Together, they have taught at Yeshiva for more than a combined 60 years.

Dr. Feit, 70, is Assistant Professor of Biology and holds the Dr. Joseph and Rachel Ades Chair in Health Sciences, and first came to Yeshiva College as an undergraduate, from where he received his B.A. in 1967. After receiving his Ph.D. from, and doing postdoctoral research at, Rutgers University, Dr. Feit was a research scientist at the Laboratory of Immunodiagnosis of the Sloan-Kettering Institute for Cancer Research.

Dr. Feit returned to Yeshiva in 1985 as associate professor of biology, a position he has held since. Two years later, he was named the chair of the department of health sciences.

In his 31 years as faculty of Yeshiva College, Dr. Feit had a transformative impact on the department of health sciences. He oversaw the construction of the biology labs in Belfer Hall, which were previously all in the basement of Furst Hall. He also created the “Principles” curriculum. In addition, Dr. Feit was an active student advisor.

Cancer has been the principal focus of Dr. Feit’s research throughout his career. Most recently, he has been investigating monoclonal antibodies as well as human tumor antigens. His doctoral dissertation, which he presented in 1973, is titled, “Immunogenicity of Ribosomes from Histoplasma capsulatum.” His curriculum vitae lists over 80 publications of which he is either author, coauthor, or editor.

An ordained rabbi, Dr. Feit has also published on the interface of science and religion. He was one of the founders of the International Society for Science and Religion and currently serves on its executive committee. In addition to the scientific publications in which he is involved, he serves on the editorial board of Theology and Science.

Dr. Frederic Sugarman, Yeshiva College Associate Dean, called Dr. Feit his “closest friend at Yeshiva College.” Dean Sugarman said that Dr. Feit “mentored me and taught me the meaning of Torah U’Madda. Words fail me in trying to describe him.”

Hillel Ziegler, a pre-dental junior majoring in biology, shared that, “Dr. Feit was always able to present the material in an interesting and engaging way. He was dedicated to connecting with his students and loved to see them succeed. He really was an amazing professor and he will definitely be missed.” Mr. Ziegler took Principles of Biology II and Cell Structure and Function taught by Dr. Feit.

Dr. Potvin, who is Professor of Biology, is retiring after 36 years at Yeshiva University, including Yeshiva College, Stern College for Women, and Albert Einstein School of Medicine. He cited as impetus for his retirement his “desire to return to New England and have time to travel and pursue other interests and hobbies.”

The retiring professor recalled two of his fondest memories from his time at YU: receiving the letter awarding him tenure from then-president Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm, and the lengthy ovation his students recently gave him after his last lecture at Yeshiva.

Dr. Potvin studied biology as an undergraduate at Brandeis University and received his Ph.D. in genetics from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Between 1973 and 1980, he was a post-doctoral fellow, research associate and instructor in the Department of Human Genetics and Development at Columbia Medical School.

At Yeshiva, Dr. Potvin taught numerous lecture and lab courses in subjects including genetics, epidemiology, biochemistry, and microbiology. In addition to serving as a pre-health advisor for many years, he designed the public health minor and taught its classes. Since 1987, he was Visiting Professor of Cell Biology at Einstein, where he did most of his research.

Outside of the classroom, Dr. Potvin was the pre-health advisor for both Yeshiva and Stern Colleges from 1984 to 1989 and again at Yeshiva College from 2004 to 2007.

“Teaching and advising here has given my life both purpose and meaning over 36 years,” Dr. Potvin reflected. “I feel a real sense of deep sadness at leaving YU even though I hope I have made positive contributions to the lives and future careers of many wonderful, talented, and highly motivated young [students].”

As a parting word for past, present, and future students, Dr. Potvin urged that they never lose their “sense of wonder and love for learning.” Additionally, quoting Star Trek, he reminded students that “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few – or of the one.”

Dean Sugarman called Dr. Potvin “the consummate gentleman and professor.” Dean Sugarman reported that Dr. Potvin “showed deep concern for his students and colleagues and never said no to any request I made of him.  He is another dear friend.”

Dr. Josefa Steinhauer, Assistant Professor of Biology, said that it was “wonderful” working with Dr. Feit and Dr. Potvin.  “I feel very lucky to have been recruited and mentored by them,” she remarked.  “They are both extremely committed to the department, the younger faculty, and the students here at YU. It's hard to overstate the contributions both have made to our department.”

Yeshiva College has already begun the process of filling the newly vacated roles. Recently, Dr. Somdeb Mitra was hired as Adjunct Professor in Biology. Dean Sugarman reported that Dr. Mitra, currently a postdoctoral research scientist at Columbia “has successfully taught courses at YU” and is “a promising young biologist.”

“Drs. Feit and Potvin leave big shoes to fill,” Professor Steinhauer said. “But, we in biology promise to continue their legacy by delivering a top-notch education and by supporting our hundreds of majors.”

Dean Sugarman noted that finding two “new professors of excellence” to replace the retiring faculty   “is not easy.” He is confident, however, that “it will be done using both Professors Feit and Potvin as our role models.”