The Science Survey

Howard Jonas ’74

Businessman and Philanthropist Returns to Bronx Science

Mr.+Howard+Jonas+poses+with+his+award%2C+principal+Dr.+Jean+Donahue%2C+and+student+ambassador+Natasha+Stamler+in+front+of+the+Hall+of+Fame.
Mr. Howard Jonas poses with his award, principal Dr. Jean Donahue, and student ambassador Natasha Stamler in front of the Hall of Fame.

Mr. Howard Jonas poses with his award, principal Dr. Jean Donahue, and student ambassador Natasha Stamler in front of the Hall of Fame.

Alexis Pan

Alexis Pan

Mr. Howard Jonas poses with his award, principal Dr. Jean Donahue, and student ambassador Natasha Stamler in front of the Hall of Fame.

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“I wanted to be a scientist – that’s why I came to Bronx Science,” said Howard Jonas ’74, during his visit to Bronx Science on November 17, 2017 to receive recognition as a distinguished alumnus in the Hall of Fame.

Jonas, now a successful businessman and author of three books, began his story in the halls of Bronx Science. While here, he was Student Body President, and a member of the debate team, which is where he met his wife. During his sophomore year, Jonas won the National Young Inventors Award. Jonas also started his own ad agency, mail order firm, and insurance business by the end of his junior year, which pushed him further into the business world.

“Bronx Science was the best institutional place I’d been. It was better than Harvard, or any schools I’d gone to beforehand, and I was part of a large circle of people I was friendly with who were smart.”

Being part of the debate team greatly influenced Mr. Jonas’ life and decision to go into business. He said that though he has not debated for decades, he still takes notes debate-style on a legal pad on his desk. “Although I originally wanted to go into the sciences, the debate team helped to push me into business, and by the time that I graduated, I had already started my own ad agency.”

Throughout his business career, Jonas served as the head of multiple corporations, including founder and CEO of IDT Corp and Genie Energy, and helped to develop telecommunications as we know it today. Jonas also wrote three books, with two about his business experiences, and one about how his faith helped him go through a time of depression in his life.

“Never relent, because everything will go wrong in the beginning, and you’ll have to overcome a lot of hardships to make it. Don’t worry about what college you get into or labeling yourself, because you’re your own product, and you can make yourself however you want, and you don’t have to fit a certain mold.”

However, Jonas always had a passion to be active in the scientific fields, specifically pharmaceutical endeavors.“I always believed that the purpose of business was to provide jobs, to help invent, and I wanted to help make stuff. But up until now, I had only been in telecom and entertainment. I had wanted to be on the board of a pharmaceutical company for a while, but was turned down multiple times.” Despite being rejected, Jonas continued to look for an opportunity to join the scientific community.

Through one of his son’s contacts, he was introduced to the board of a pharmaceutical company that he wanted to invest in, and as the company began to fall apart, he was called upon for assistance. “Management wanted to shut down the company, because there wasn’t enough funding, so I decided to buy two-thirds of the company, and now we’re working on a drug to help with leukemia and pancreatic cancer.”

With this new pharmaceutical project now in his hands, Jonas described how his experience at Bronx Science allowed him to get into the field he always wished to pursue.
Citing Bronx Science as one of the biggest influences in his life, Jonas looks back fondly on his time at the school.

Jonas’ advice to current students is, “Never relent, because everything will go wrong in the beginning, and you’ll have to overcome a lot of hardships to make it. Don’t worry about what college you get into or labeling yourself, because you’re your own product, and you can make yourself however you want, and you don’t have to fit a certain mold.”

Alexis Pan
Mr. Jonas is joined by students in front of the Bronx High School of Science’s newly created Hall of Fame.

Alexis Pan
Mr. Jonas unveils his plaque in the Hall of Fame for notable alumni.

Alexis Pan
Mr. Jonas receives his Hall of Fame award from Dr. Donahue.

Alexis Pan
Howard Jonas, class of ’74, responds to a question from student ambassador Natasha Stamler.

 

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Howard Jonas ’74