Abram N. Kerner



    Abram N. Kerner, CCNY 1912, regularly attended the annual New York Founders Banquets and other events in the city. Personable and voluble, he enjoyed repartee with fellow fraters and an invitation to a New York alumni club lunch meeting was never ignored. When Founder Ira Lind died in January 1968, Abe Kerner wrote a tribute to Fra Lind in The Octagonian. In it he referred to the three survivors, and wrote, "Who will be next?….those of us remaining are all living on borrowed time…" Four months later he passed away, only a few days after he had regaled fratres at an alumni luncheon with evidence of his still brilliant wit and reminiscences of the Fraternity's early days.


    Born in 1888, Fra Kerner came to the United States with his family from his native Austria in 1900 and entered City College in 1908 to study chemistry. Following graduation he became a chemist with the Bureau of Standards in Washington. He later switched his field briefly to accounting but soon decided chemistry was his first love. In 1927 he began teaching chemistry at Stuyvesant High School and there he remained. In 1958 he won the American Chemical Society's Nichols Foundation Award for "outstanding contribution to chemistry through inspirational teaching." He had become something of a legend. Students loved him. One of them wrote this about him: "In this wonderful school called Stuyvesant, we have a chemistry teacher who fills the room with laughter….he makes jokes out of things and things out of jokes. With this asset in his possession, he turns our minds toward the study of chemistry."


    When he retired, The Octagonian said of Fra Kerner, "Many of his former students who have distinguished themselves in the field of chemistry credit him with stimulating their interest in chemistry." The truth of that statement was reiterated recently, a half century later. Amazingly, a former Kerner student has come forward, only months ago, saying Kerner was a most important influence in his life. He has endowed at Stuyvesant High School a permanent annual Abram Kerner Award for excellence. More honor to his name forty years after his death.