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Suffolk Closeup

Dr. Allen L. Fein

Dr. Allen L. Fein

by Karl Grossman

Donald Trump, who is to become president of the United States this week, considers the four years he spent at the New York Military Academy pivotal in his life—as does a Suffolk County-based doctor who also is a graduate of NYMA.
Indeed, not only did Dr. Allen L. Fein, a clinical assistant professor at Stony Brook University School of Medicine and a specialist as a family physician, go to NYMA, but so did his two older brothers. And his brother, Jared Fein, was in the same graduating class as Mr. Trump.
There is also another governmental angle to Dr. Fein’s attendance at NYMA. One of his various roommates and friends there was David Zeldin, father of Congressman Lee Zeldin of Shirley. This month, Lee Zeldin, who served as an officer with the U.S. Army in Iraq, will begin his second term representing a district of the House of Representatives that includes all the eastern and much of the central portion of Suffolk County and encompasses all of Brookhaven Town.
Dr. Fein says NYMA “was fantastic, a great experience. I was very happy there for four very good years. It was the real deal, a serious military school. I loved the small classes and the very outstanding committed academic and military staff.” And it was very important, he said, to his subsequent academic life which included attending and receiving his M.D. from McGill University in Montreal, Canada.
NYMA is located in the village of Cornwall-on-Hudson 60 miles north of New York City. It was founded in 1889 and has been one of the oldest military schools in the U.S. Its graduates include bandleader Les Brown and among those who attended but did not graduate were film director Francis Ford Coppola and composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim.
Dr. Fein’s father was from Flushing, Queens, went to military school himself and served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. His mother, from Canada, and father met in Florida. And the family subsequently settled in Montreal.
Although his older brothers went to NYMA, the decision for him to also go there was made late. “I had completed my first year of high school in Canada,” Dr. Fein said. And then his father mentioned that there was a possibility of receiving a “band scholarship” at NYMA. He played clarinet and oboe in its band, and also played the school’s noted pipe organ at Catholic services.
There were “kids from all over the world” at NYMA, he recounts. “We all got along.” He encountered “no racism”—and in the case of he and David Zeldin, both Jewish, and who both also served at NYMA as “rabbi aides,” no anti-Semitism.
There was hazing, he acknowledged, but this involved “having to do push-ups and going for walks in the snow” and no major violence. “There was, of course, minor physical violence and serious mental intimidation, much like real military boot camps.”
“It was not a country club. If you screwed up, you were held accountable. There was no mommy or daddy to run to,” he said. “We didn’t have TV…I’m convinced that the structured time definitely helped me academically.” He was at NYMA from 1966 to 1970.
Dr. Fein and his wife, Beverley, are the parents of three and reside in Water Mill.
Although he is a great fan of NYMA, Dr. Fein is highly critical of Mr.Trump.
Dr. Fein comments that “it’s hard for me to understand how someone who spent four formative years living with people from so many backgrounds—and NYMA was a real melting pot—could have turned out to be so divisive.”
He is especially “concerned about Trump’s impact” on health care. “I was a Bernie Sanders supporter,” said Fein, and highly impressed and supportive of the Vermont senator’s plan for national health care. The U.S., he notes, is “the only major industrialized nation in the world that treats medicine as a private for-profit business, not a right.”
He finds as “absurd” Mr. Trump’s assertion that “he had more military training at military school than soldiers in the Army.” Overall, he has been “not impressed” by Trump statements. “It’s show-biz that has to be taken with a grain of salt.”
Furthermore, he sees Mr. Trump’s activities over the years as not adhering to two basic mottos at NYMA—that “a cadet does not lie, cheat or steal” and “I expect to pass through this world but once… any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any fellow cadet, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”
NYMA, although it thrived for more than a century, filed for bankruptcy in 2015—its enrollment having sunk to 100 compared to more than 500 in the 1960s. It was closed, and then sold at auction to a group of investors from China who reopened it on a tiny basis (29 students) last year as a private business.

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