Lorraine Bertan has been involved in the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH)
seminars on Science Graduate courses since 2003, aligning exhibits with the New York State
Regents Syllabus. She’s been an instructor in Summer Institutes on Learning and Teaching
at AMNH in both Earth Science and Biology and taught high school biology, chemistry and
earth science at the Bronx High School of Science and the East Meadow school district.
She’s enthusiastic about online teaching, especially courses which allow students to view
museum collections and meet with enthusiastic curators. Many high school science teachers
take her online courses for graduate credit.
BY FRED CHERNOW
Photo courtesy of Lorraine Bertan
WHERE DID YOU GROW UP?
I grew up on the Upper West Side of
Manhattan and went to PS 165 on West
109 Street, just three blocks from Columbia
University. From there, I was accepted into
the Bronx High School of Science. It was
like attending any New York City public high
school, with traditional sports and clubs, but
with a powerful emphasis on subject matter.
We had highly qualified and demanding teachers.
I think there was a special atmosphere at
the school which encouraged us to achieve.
Two of my classmates went on to win the
Nobel Prize in Physics. Six of our alumni live
in North Shore Towers: Susan Netter, Roberta
Prashker, Dorie Kronwith, Sandra Muller and
During junior and senior high school, I
attended the Julliard School of Music where
I had piano lessons during the week and spent
Saturday morning studying music theory. After
high school, I earned both my BA and MA
degrees at NYU. While at NYU I met Lester, my
future husband at Rodeph Sholom Synagogue
in Manhattan. We married in 1956.
WHERE DID YOU LIVE
BEFORE COMING TO NST?
In 1960, we moved to New Hyde Park. Soon
after, we moved to Upper Brookville where we
spent 32 happy years. It seemed like a giant
leap to give up our large house and move to
an apartment. We knew a few residents at NST,
when we moved here in November 2015. After
we settled in, I thought it would be nice to
host a party in our new apartment. We set up
a three-prong filter for our guest list. We only
invited people who met all three criteria. They
had to live at NST, they had to be members of
our synagogue, Temple Tikvah, and they had to
be eligible for Medicare. This became a list of
35 invitees. We sent out email invitations. I still
have a copy as well as a copy of the menu—I
did all the cooking. Lester tended bar and I
hired help to assist in serving and clean-up. It
was a huge success.
WHAT DID LESTER DO BEFORE HE
Lester was an electrical engineer who graduated
from CCNY. During the Korean War, he
was a lieutenant in the Signal Corps and served
in the Far East. He and his brother, Howard,
started Bertan High Voltage, a company in
Hicksville, N.Y. Their company was a pioneer
in the field of precision, high voltage power
supplies. Many of their original designs are still
in use today in research laboratories around
the world. Their medical instruments include
radiation monitoring devices and components
for CAT scans. Lester now joins Lorraine on
their Thursday trips to the Museum where he
is involved in the Hall of Plant Earth.
WHERE DO YOUR CHILDREN LIVE?
Our son Brian is also an engineer and lives
in Merrick with his wife and three sons. David,
an attorney lives in Hastings, N.Y., with his son
and daughter. Matthew, our oldest grandchild,
attended Stonybrook University, where he
wrote symphonies. He is Modern Orthodox
and went to Israel, where he studied Hebrew
on a Kibbutz. When proficient, he joined the
Israeli army, the IDF, and was accepted into the
Givati Brigade. The Givati is an elite branch of
the infantry and serves as its amphibious force
as well. Givati soldiers wear purple berets and
Lorraine & Les
are highly respected because they execute dangerous
missions. He completed his service and
came back to the U.S., earned an accounting
degree, and now lives and works in Manhattan.
YOU ARE NOW A PAID FACULTY MEMBER
AT THE AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL
HISTORY, ONE OF THE LARGEST MUSEUMS
IN THE WORLD. HOW DID THIS COME
I began as a volunteer tour guide, called
“docent” in some museums. That was 26 years
ago. It was my job to lead a group of 12 to
25 visitors, many from foreign countries, to
specific exhibits. I’ve been doing that every
Thursday since. After several years, I became
interested in online teaching, instructing
courses high school teachers take for graduate
credit. Through the internet, they view museum
collections and meet with museum curators.
It’s conducted like a campus-based course
with detailed readings and a required paper,
which I read and grade. I introduce each lesson
and am available for individual questions and
conferences. The topics are quite esoteric.
My specialty is phylogenetic trees, sometimes
call evolutionary trees. They are not forest
trees, but rather, a branching diagram or “tree”
showing the evolutionary relationships among
various biological species. This is based on
similarities and differences in their physical
or genetic characteristics. The concept of
an evolutionary tree was first introduced by
Charles Darwin in 1859.
Living at NST provides us with many leisure
activities we pursue together, like a class
offered by Mary Grace in ballroom dancing
and other Country Club amenities. I’m also
a regular at the Aquacize class, given at the
pool. This was a great move for us.
Bertan and friend
4 NORTH SHORE TOWERS COURIER ¢ November 2018