Retired businessman working to keep school ‘first-class’
By JOEL RIPPEL
Minneapolis Southwest High School has changed since Harvey Feldman graduated.
“I didn’t go to a diversified Southwest,” Feldman told the AJW. “Southwest (today) is not the Southwest I went to. It’s better.”
With Feldman’s help, his alma mater will continue to get better.
Feldman, who graduated from Southwest in 1961, has taken a primary role in raising money for several projects at Southwest.
Earlier this year, Feldman spearheaded a campaign to raise money to install lights at Southwest’s athletic fields. Feldman pledged to match donations up to $300,000 for the project.
At Southwest’s graduation in June, Feldman awarded scholarships, worth $5,000 each, to four student-athletes. The scholarships — to two members of the football team and one member from both the boys’ and girls’ basketball team — were awarded to student-athletes who were considered “most improved.”
In November, work on installing air conditioning in Southwest’s auditorium/theater will begin with funding raised by Feldman. And Feldman has committed $30,000 to pay for tutors for students studying for the college-readiness ACT test.
Feldman is also on a committee that will try to raise funds for the second phase of improvements to the athletic fields. The project will include a concession area, bathrooms, scoreboard and entrance area.
“I told the administration at Southwest, if [there is] anything in the school where the kids are not being treated first-class and money can fix it, I want to know about it,” Feldman said.
Dr. Bill Smith, the Southwest principal, told the AJW, “Harvey Feldman, Southwest Alumnus of the class of 1961, is a spark plug. His dynamic energy and school spirit sent a spark throughout the school community and all our alumni. Harvey is excited about investing in the future and is passionate about telling others of the needs and successes of Southwest and Minneapolis students and schools.”
But Feldman said the story of Southwest’s improvement isn’t about him.
“The story [is] what a great school Southwest is,” Feldman said. “There is something special about the place. Great parents and teachers. Wonderful principal and wonderful athletic director (Ryan Lamberty).
“Ninety-eight percent of Southwest’s graduates go to a two- or four-year [post-secondary] school – a diversified school like Southwest, that’s incredible. The Washington Post has named Southwest the top public school in Minnesota four straight years. Southwest is first-class.”
Feldman said he’s been inspired by his experiences at Southwest, which now has an enrollment of 1,428 in grades 9-12.
Feldman, whose father emigrated from Russia at the age of 10, grew up in North Minneapolis — attending Tifereth B’nai Jacob before his family moved to Southwest Minneapolis prior to his freshman year of high school.
Feldman played football at Southwest for coaches Dave Peterson and Art Fredrickson.
“They both cared for me in different ways,” said Feldman. “They nurtured me. I loved my experience at Southwest.”
Because of their positive influence, when the lighting project at the football field was completed, Feldman had the field renamed after Peterson and Fredrickson.
After graduating from Southwest, Feldman attended the University of Minnesota where he earned a degree in business. Feldman owned a bar in Minneapolis for 30 years. He also was a partner in two other bars and invested wisely.
Since retiring in 2007, Feldman has found a second calling.
“This has been so rewarding, because we’ve been able to affect so many kids,” Feldman said.
Max Fallek, a retired businessman and longtime member of Temple Israel in Minneapolis, said, “What Harvey is doing is something that many people have done for the colleges and universities that they went to. He’s an innovator — he’s doing it for his high school. It’s unique. He told me that he hoped what he is doing would be a role model for others to help their public school. I think this has given Harvey a whole new lease on life. It’s wonderful.”
Feldman’s “most-improved” scholarships have received national exposure.
“There is an athletic management magazine, a national magazine that goes to athletic directors of high schools and college, that is doing a story on this,” said Feldman. “I (just) tried to think of an award that I could have won while I was in high school. I thought, in football, I could have won ‘most improved.’ ”
Feldman has received one other thing from his efforts to benefit his alma mater: celebrity status.
“On Aug. 29 (before Southwest’s first football game), they honored me and the kids were chanting my name, ‘Harvey, Harvey,’ ” Feldman said. “Then last Saturday (Sept. 28) they honored me at the boys’ and girls’ soccer games. And the kids chanted my name again. In the last row of bleachers the kids spelled out my name. I’m like Elvis at Southwest — a one-name person.” (American Jewish World, 10.11.13)
Since 1912 the AJW has served as an important news resource for the Jewish community. The Jewish World unites the main Jewish communities in St. Paul and Minneapolis, as well as those in Duluth, Rochester and smaller cities, and bridges the divides between the various Jewish religious streams.