Philly politico reflects on his former professor, Bernie Sanders


The man who won the New Hampshire primary Tuesday night once taught sociology to longtime Philly activist and two-time Democratic city controller candidate Brett Mandel.

That’s right. In the spring of 1990, Mandel had Bernie Sanders as a sociology professor at Hamilton College in no place else than – ironically – Clinton, N.Y.

Mandel, who ran twice for city controller and has been active in city politics for nearly two decades, thought he was entitled to a few bragging rights after his former sociology professor from a quarter century ago won Tuesday’s Democratic primary.

At the time, Sanders had just finished his fourth term as mayor of Burlington, Vt., and decided to teach some classes while he explored a bid for Congress.

“I was a junior at the time. I graduated in 1991. He taught two classes – Sociology and Problems and Potentials of Urban Life,” Mandel told Metro.

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“There weren’t too many urban kids,” said Mandel, a former Center City kid. “So it was great to be talking about urban issues.”

Mandel is also a committeeperson in his 8th ward neighborhood, which is in Center City/Logan Circle.

He graduated magna cum laude as a public policy major from Hamilton College before receiving his master’s degree in government administration from the Fels Institute of Government from the University of Pennsylvania. He’s also authored two books on baseball, and calls himself the city’s “Bulldog Budget”-maker, having introduced plans to reduce the city’s debt and claims to haveshown areas where the city can save money.

“Sanders focused on the people,” Mandel said of his college days.

“He was in a profession where he would pontificate. It was a lot more discussion and hands-on than it was rigorous textbook analysis.”

One day Mandel visited Sanders in his office.

“I remember, he seemed like an old guy even then,” he quipped.

Jokes aside, Mandel plans to stump for Sanders on the campaign trail, though he admits he never saw the success he’s seeing now coming.

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“I certainly didn’t think it would catch fire like it has, and I certainly didn’t expect him to raise the money necessary to mount a national campaign.

Mandel said he reconnect with Sanders before he hit the presidential campaign trail.

“’Professor Sanders,’ I greeted him. ‘It’s been a few years and a few more gray hairs for both of us, but you look great.’

He gave me a close look, but showed no sigh of any recognition. Sanders only taught two courses in 1990, but there was no reason to believe that my face would stand out 25 years later.

‘I hope I gave you a good grade,’ he offered, as he moved to the next well-wisher.

‘You gave me an A!’ I responded.‘Now, you give ‘em hell!’”

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