Michele Hirshman ascended the stairs to the stage and approached the dais, taking her place in history as the first woman to finish at the top of her graduating class at Rutgers University in New Brunswick.
Once on stage, she saw the hand reaching out with her diploma belonged to none other than her own father.
“I can remember looking at her with such pride,” said Harold Hirshman, who served for decades as a high-ranking administrator at Rutgers. “As a father, I was bursting with such happiness. I knew the dean well and he knew she was graduating first in his class, so he let me hand her the diploma. I’ll always be thankful to him for that.”
Father’s Day will be a time when Michele, as well as her brothers Elliot and Ken, will reflect on all the ways their lives were shaped by their father Harold – a cerebral, tireless and gracious man who led by example. His children often watched him working late at night at the dinner table, or making deliveries for the Meals on Wheels program. Harold Hirshman also served for five years on active duty in the U.S. Navy, and decades more as a reservist.
But truth be told, Harold Hirshman, who lives at the Parker at River Road nursing home in Piscataway, says his children have already said “thank you” this Father’s Day in the best way possible.
“They have gone on to live great lives and become very successful, good people and good parents,” he said. “What more as a father could you ever want?”
Michele Hirshman is a Yale-educated partner in the litigation department for Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP, where her clients have included 21st Century Fox, Bank of New York Mellon, and Columbia University.
Elliot Hirshman, who earned his Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from the University of California, became the seventh president at Stevenson University in Maryland in 2017. Prior to that, he served as president of San Diego State University for six years.
Ken Hirshman earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Johns Hopkins before serving as a CEO for many years.
They grew up in North Brunswick, where one of the most important lessons they learned from dad was to always make time for family.
That was no easy task for Harold Hirshman. As the associate vice president for Registrar and student services at Rutgers Camden, his responsibilities included everything from admissions to financial aid to student disciplinary issues.
Ken Hirshman, who was a collegiate football player, said his dad and mom, Edna May, attended every game for four years except the one that fell on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement.
“I can remember he was somewhere maybe like New York or Boston, and he had a meeting on a Friday or Thursday, and I had a game Friday night or Saturday,” he said. “Somehow, he made it. That was really impressive how he would do that.”
Michele Hirshman remembers how her dad made it a point to be home every night for dinner with the family.
“There would be some late nights where I would come down for a drink of water,” Michele Hirshman said, “and he would still be at the dinner table, doing work.”
About five years ago, the man who was always there for them needed their support.
Michele Hirshman said Harold’s diagnosis of prostate cancer when he was 85 shook the family.
“The doctors told us they weren’t going to do anything unless it would give him another five years to live,” she said.
The radiation was effective on the cancer, but the treatment and a series of back surgeries seemed to have potentially precipitated the onset of dementia, Michele Hirshman said.
Soon after Harold Hirshman into Parker at River Road in October 2017, the family noticed his spirits rising.
“He and my mom made friends with other couples, and my father has totally regained his mental faculties,” Michele Hirshman said. “He’s totally cognitively well. He knows exactly what’s going on in the world and with his family.”
“Mr. Hirshman is a very special dad; he loves and encourages, he is the maker of the biggest laughs, and has the kindest heart. It’s an honor to have Mr. Hirshman, his wife, Edna May, and their children to be a part of the Parker Family”, said Sonam Naik, Administrator of Parker at River Road.
Harold Hirshman proudly displays photos of his kids, his seven grandchildren, his three great grandchildren and, of course, Edna.
The former captain of the Rutgers baseball team still keeps up with his beloved Philadelphia Phillies in the summer, and the Philadelphia Eagles when the calendar rolls to fall.
“You see these?” Harold Hirshman said, holding up some newspapers. “My daughter gave me these sports sections from various papers. I like to read them because it keeps my mind sharp. My kids are the best. What more can I ask?”
- This article was provided by Parker Life.