The Unknown Political History of MC Alumni

By Adrianne Hutto, Production Editor

Manhattan College has a rich network of alumni involved in governments and public policy from mayors to representatives, even an alum who served as Prime Minister of South Korea. These politicians stand out today among the graduates of MC, paving way for the next wave. 

Chang Myon was born in 1899 in Seoul, South Korea and graduated from Manhattan College in 1925. After leaving college he joined Pyongyang Catholic church, where he translated religious terms for Catholic teaching into the Korean language and published The Summary of Religious Terms in November 1929. 

After 15 years as an educator, he was appointed a member of the Democratic Conference. In December of 1949, he was appointed the first ambassador of the Republic of Korea to the United States. Then in April 1950, he was designated a special envoy of the Republic of Korea to Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines. Immediately following the outbreak of the Korean War and on June 25, 1950, he actively solicited urgent aid from the United States and the UN.

In November 1950, Chang was appointed the second Prime Minister of the First Republic of Korea. This was a role he initially denied but was later convinced by a political ally. He finally accepted and served from 1951 until 1952.

In a letter from Dwight D. Eisenhower, the president, remembered his visit to meet Myon. “I remember with pleasure our enjoyable and useful conversation at breakfast during my visit to Seoul, and I wish you every success in carrying out the heavy burden of your office and in fulfilling the trust which has been placed in your hands,” Eisenhower said in his letter.

According to Kim Dae-jung, former President of South Korea, Myon was a devout Catholic even helping Kim convert to Catholicism. 

James ‘Jim’ Rispoli is a Manhattan College graduate who currently teaches at North Carolina State University as a professor, but has had a unique political career despite not intending to go down the political path. 

Rispoli has worked with politicians since 1983 when he became the naval officer in charge of Camp David. “I worked directly with President Ronald Reagan at the time,” Rispoli said. “You know how many people can say they have bowled on a two lane alley with George Bush.”

Through his political involvement, Rispoli was able to be involved with two presidents, Ronald Reagan and George, and serve as assistant secretary of energy. Rispoli explains that through this role he was able to get to know both Presidents on a personal level. 

“It really gave me insights,” Rispoli said. “I still remember to this day, how you see people on TV and they are doing one thing, but when you get to know them as people, it’s quite a different perspective that you get.”

Rispoli explains that students should be prepared to be involved in politics in their life in one form or another, regardless of the career path they decide to go down. “No matter what our chosen field is, it’s very possible that we will be in a position at some point to become engaged with elected politicians or appointed people in politics,” Rispoli said. 

Hugh J. Grant was born in 1858 and attended Manhattan College in the early days of the school. While Grant only served as mayor of New York City for one term, he is still the youngest man to ever hold that position. According to the New York City Park’s website, Grant believed parks were too expensive and the line was too difficult to acquire. Ironically, he was against the acquisition of Van Cortlandt Park and ultimately had a park named after him in The Bronx.

Thomas Michael Whalen III graduated from Manhattan College in 1955 and served as a three-term major for Albany. As mayor, his legacy remains, having founded the Albany-Tula Alliance with Tula, a city in the then U.S.S.R and now Russia, in 1991. Additionally, under his leadership Albany was designated an “All-American City,” due to the success of several cultural events in the city’s downtown. 

There is a legacy of alumni who are proof that MC students have the ability to achieve great success. Students who are interested in a career in politics should check out the political science major/ minor or the Government and Politics Club (email margaret.groarke@manhattan.edu. If you are interested).