Name: Barry Pitegoff

Major at Baruch College: BBA - Statistics
Graduation Year: 1971, Valedictorian
School within Baruch College: There was only one then. It was the Business School of CCNY when I started, and had just become Baruch College when I graduated
Company and Title: Staff Chaplin at Bon Secours Community Hospital

1. Tell us about your current position.

A professional chaplain serves the spiritual and emotional needs of all the patients/residents, their visitors, and the staff. We work with all faiths and no faiths. There are three Boards recognized for certification in chaplaincy. I passed the Boards at my first appearance in May 2019, and am now BCC, Board Certified Chaplain, credentialed by NAJC (Neshama: Association of Jewish Chaplains). I am active in NAJC, was just elected to the Board of NAJC, sit on Chaplain Certification Committees, Peer Review Committees, and facilitate a monthly conference call of Jewish hospital chaplains nationwide. 

2. What Drives you in your current profession?

I am driven by two commandments that appear each morning in the synagogue liturgy: to visit the sick and to comfort the bereaved. I am driven by the support of my family, especially since my current profession includes “On Call,” meaning sometimes I have to return to a hospital in the middle of a night to triage a spiritual and emotional crisis. I am driven by the support our peer groups give each other through self-care, what we sometimes refer to as, “Who’s your rabbi?” An important life lesson is that the helper needs help also. 


3. What were some unique challenges you faced in your career?

In my long professional career as Vice President of Market Research for Visit Florida, the two biggest challenges were: losing a job through a large downsizing, and acclimating to “telling it like it is” through the support of solid research, which may displease some. A great Tourism Marketer once introduced me as, “These are the kind of people you hire to tell you what you may not want to hear.” In my Chaplaincy passion, both volunteer and now professional, the biggest challenges have been helping patients and families deal with miscarriages, suicide attempts, estrangement, and dementia. My grounding in statistics and trends, sowed at Baruch, feed my passion for constantly reading academic journals in my new field, and understanding the statistical tests and research presented (a documented recommended growing edge for most professional chaplains) and for the flexibility needed to acclimate to changing trends, e.g., reduced affiliation to houses of worship, the increased rate of cremation, addiction of many forms in the younger populations, and loss in its increasingly many formats. 


4. How was your experience at Baruch like? how do you feel it benefited you and your career?

My experience at Baruch was phenomenal. I entered 53 years ago, and exactly seven months after my father died. I received the essential tools for my first career, etc. and the foundation for the rest of my life. I had the best professors who had a passion to teach. There were no lecture-only classes. All of the major introductory classes were two days a week in a lecture with a Distinguished Professor (e.g., Dr. Mortimer Feinberg of Psychology, Dr. Abraham Briloff of Accounting, and Dr. Maurice Benewitz of Economics) plus two days a week with an instructor. As for the outstanding professors who were classroom/small lecture only, not grand lectures, my deepest appreciation go to Professor Walter E. Nallin, now alas of blessed memory, and to Professor Lew (M. Lewis Temares) of Statistics, who later went on to a very distinguished career at the University of Miami. In the pre-PowerPoint Days (yes, there were those), Baruch required four public speaking courses knowing we would need them later on in life. I have addressed large audiences and I have conducted many funerals. Recently, I was the guest speaker at a Catholic Church in Brooklyn (really) and I contribute articles regularly to JewishSacredAging.com. Baruch had the kindest sensitivity to those, like me, who were the first in their families to attend college. My commute was two subways and a bus each way; I learned to read and study en route. My closest friend to this day, whom I met when we journeyed through Junior High School and High School together, attended Baruch with me and I treasure the friendship and how it has helped me throughout life. At our 1971 Baruch graduation, I was Valedictorian and he was Salutatorian. We pray to be able to join you at your 2021 graduation, which will be the fiftieth anniversary of our special BBA day. (Carnegie Hall was large enough to accommodate your entire graduating class in 1971.) 


5. What is one of your favorite memories you have from your time at Baruch?

There are so many. The top one has to be the kindness and mentoring of Dr. Walter E. Nallin, who was the Chair of the Music Department at that time, and the Grand Marshall of the College. Just as I was starting my last semester of high school, my father died. After I was accepted at Baruch, a friend’s father, who knew Dr. Walter Nallin, called him to take care of me at Baruch. Dr. Nallin rose to the responsibility with compassion. His memory is truly a blessing. When I visit Baruch, I stop at the music recital hall in 17 Lex that is now named in his honor, touch the plaque with his name on it, pause, and reflect. (I also stop at the Hillel office to see if I can help any of today’s students.) My most transformative moments in life have occurred the few times someone, like Dr. Nallin, have instinctively uttered, “I will help you” and for those moments you know they care more about your than about themselves, a concept articulated beautifully by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks of the United Kingdom. My advice is to learn the phrase “I will help you” and, as they say today, “pay it forward” noticing and responding with the sensitivity to the few opportunities you will have in life to transform someone else. I call those “Spiritual Moments.” 


6. If you could change one thing during your time at Baruch, what would it be?

Some of the required classes were scheduled at 8am, challenging with long commutes. A change which has already occurred was the swimming classes were in the basement at 17 Lex but the locker rooms for swimming were on the sixth floor (really). 


7. Do you have any advice for present and future Baruch Alumni?

Equip yourself for flexibility. Your careers will change, your employers will change, and your interests will change. Build on your roots. The two greatest lessons my Baruch BBA in Statistics taught me for my present professional career in chaplaincy are: a) the ability to learn from academic journals with statistical studies; and b) although equations have constants and variables, sometimes in life, constants transform into variables. Rabbi Hillel taught, “Separate thyself not from the community.” Try a variety of volunteer opportunities until you find one that truly resonates with you, so that you refer to it as your “volunteer passion” and not as your “volunteer work.” Always learn, and stoke a passion for reading. I am proud that the Professor of Gerontology at the University of South Florida, with whom I studied, cites me as a class example in the “longevity revolution” as I did most of my second Master’s Degree after beginning to collect Social Security. On my trips into the city now, I often use my Alumni Card to learn at the Baruch Newman Library. Kudos to the Reference Librarians there who help me locate the research publications that help me to be a better chaplain and a better person. Finally, surround yourselves with “cheerleaders,” be sure to thank them, and be a cheerleader for others. We need one another more than we realize. (See George Odell’s poem on this.) 


8. How can people contact you?

Email: [email protected]