James Madison High School honors famous alumni with ‘Wall of Distinction’

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This school is great from wall to wall.

Television stars, renowned doctors, and notable musicians received spots on James Madison High School’s “Wall of Distinction” on April 29. The wall, which honors many of the Madison school’s inordinate number of famous graduates, serves as a reminder to the current student body that they too can achieve greatness.

“These people received a public education and went on to do great things,” said school spokesman Lawrence Melamed. “I think it’s inspiratio­nal.”

The Wall of Distinction is a wall in the school that gets added to each year. On it hangs pictures of some of James Madison’s most notable alumni, including U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and singer Carole King. The April 29 event was the 10th recognition ceremony, and was open to students, graduates, and staff so they could celebrate the school’s impressive legacy.

“It lets people know these are people making a positive impact who came from the same humble beginnings they did,” said Melamed.

This year’s 14 alumni honorees included songwriter Buddy Kaye, television host Sonny Fox, and nurse and author Sylvia Kleiman Fields. Academy Award-winning actor Martin Landau, who died in 2017, was honored posthumously. Some, including Fox and Fields, gave speeches at the ceremony. Borough President Adams also attended.

The chairman of the school’s alumni association, Dick Kossoff, first came up with the idea for the wall. Honoring 14 people is higher than the usual number of around eight people in years past, said the association’s president.

“There were so many spectacular people,” said Martha Weinstein Alpert, who graduated in 1957. “They just keep coming. It’s Madison.”

Every year Alpert and alumni association volunteers sort through several dozen nominees for the wall, with other alumni often doing the nominating. In the future, Alpert expects to put more younger graduates on to the wall.

“I know they’re out there doing wonderful things,” she said.

Reach reporter Adam Lucente at or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow him on Twitter @Adam_Lucente.
Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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