In Memoriam: Professor Fred Siegel

POSTED ON: May 12, 2023

Fred Siegel

Photo: Joanne Savio

Fred Siegel, professor emeritus of history in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, passed away on May 7. Siegel, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, was renowned as a public intellectual who regularly contributed to the New York Post (where he had a weekly column), The New RepublicThe Atlantic MonthlyCommonwealthTikkun, and TELOS.

Siegel may be best known for having shed his early liberal politics for a more conservative position, arguing that progressive politicians no longer served the city's working and middle class residents. He served as a political advisor to several political figures in New York City, including Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. He is the author of The Prince of the City: Giuliani, New York, and the Genius of American Life and The Future Once Happened Here: New York, D.C., L.A., and the Fate of America's Big Cities.

A Bronx native, Siegel earned his doctorate at the University of Pittsburgh after unsuccessfully trying his hand at professional pool. Besides The Cooper Union, where he taught from 1982 to 2010, he taught at campuses in the SUNY system, the Sorbonne, and at St. Francis College where he served as scholar-in-residence from 2011 to 2018.

Peter Buckley, professor emeritus of history, recalled his late colleague: "Though Fred gained the reputation of being a highly combative figure in the local political arena, among his colleagues at The Cooper Union he was always open-hearted and generous, witty rather than caustic. He made many friends across the institution and would always find time to recommend books and to question any received idea. Meeting Fred before a 9 am class was better than any cup of coffee to get the day going. Despite being seen as a figure of the right, it is also worth noting that he was a dedicated member of the faculty union."

Similarly, professor of history Atina Grossmann recalled Siegel's intellect and warmth: " Whatever our political differences, Fred was a wonderfully stimulating and challenging interlocutor as we sat in our little paneled HSS conference room in the old Astor Place building arguing about every single ID term for the HSS3 final. He really cared: about every question, every text, every essay question; for him, as for us, and no matter how infuriating his views could be,  history mattered. He was, after all, a New Yorker and a Mensch."

 Fred Siegel is survived by his wife Jan Rosenberg, who is a sociologist, his two sons, and four grandchildren.


  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.