Lorraine Colville, 88, educator, active in politics

Lorraine Colville.
Lorraine Colville.

BY ALBERT AMATEAU  |  Dr. Lorraine Colville, a retired John Jay College of Criminal Justice professor and former regional director of the U.S. Department of Education, died at the age of 88 of heart failure in New York-Presbyterian/Lower Manhattan Hospital on Jan. 20.

A resident for decades of Thompson St. in the South Village, she was active in local, state and national Democratic politics over a span of 50 years.

“Lorraine was one of my closest and dearest friends and advisers, both personal and political,” said Louis O. Schwartz, a former secretary of the New York City Department of Public Works in the administration of Mayor Robert Wagner Jr.

“She was a valuable assistant while I was deputy campaign manager for Pat Moynihan the first time he ran for U.S. senator,” said Schwartz.

Schwartz was a co-guardian for personal needs and property management for Colville during her extended illness.

“Her love and passion for the success of the American Sportscasters Association is part of the reason the association has continued to flourish for 35 years,” added Schwartz, a founding member and current president of A.S.A. “Lorraine was involved in planning the A.S.A. Hall of Fame dinners,” Schwartz recalled.

“She knew everybody, from Carmine DeSapio to Mayor John Lindsay to Matilda Cuomo, Mario Cuomo’s wife,” Schwartz said. “At the 1998 Hall of Fame dinner, we invited Henry Kissinger to present an award to Joe DiMaggio and I wanted to introduce Lorraine to Kissinger. Before I could make the introduction, Kissinger said, ‘Oh, hello Lorraine.’ We made Lorraine an honorary member of the A.S.A. in 2005,” Schwartz said.

Sid Davidoff, a lawyer and lobbyist who was an assistant to Mayor Lindsay, said that Lorraine Colville had one of the best political minds of the past 50 years when it came to local politics.

“She was a confidante not only of Lindsay but also of former Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, former U.S. Secretary of Education William Bennett and former Police Commissioner Ray Kelly,” Davidoff said.

“Before she was at John Jay, she taught at Baruch College where she was my political science professor and mentor,” said Davidoff, who was co-guardian with Schwartz during Colville’s illness.

She was a founding member of the first faculty of the Police College (renamed John Jay) in 1965 when nearly all the students were police officers.

In a history of the school, Colville is quoted about one session in which she noticed someone who hadn’t been there before. After the class she asked a student sitting next to the stranger who he was. The police officer student explained he had made an arrest earlier but would have missed the class if he had taken the suspect immediately to central booking, “so I brought him to class with me.” Colville added that the “suspect” had appeared to have been the most interested person in the class.

Dr. Sandy Lanzone, a professor of communications and theater arts at John Jay and a longtime friend, recalled Colville’s efforts during the municipal fiscal crisis of the 1970s to prevent the city from shutting down the school.

“Not only was she instrumental in starting the school, but she played a pivotal role in keeping it open,” Lanzone said.

“Lorraine’s politics transcended political parties,” said Robert Armao, who worked for the Republican standard bearer Nelson Rockefeller when he was New York State governor in the 1960s and U.S. vice president in the 1970s.

“Lorraine’s guidance, political acumen and knowledge of government were invaluable to me in those days,” said Armao, who remained a close friend of Colville’s to the end.

Colville retired from John Jay in 2001 when she was appointed director of the U.S. Department of Education for Region II (New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands), serving until 2004.

Hugh Wyatt, former health affairs editor of the Daily News and publisher of The Medical Herald and The Spiritual Herald, and Charles Slepian, a lawyer and security expert, also paid tribute at her Jan. 30 funeral Mass at St. Anthony of Padua Church on Sullivan St.

Born in the Bronx to Russian immigrants, Isidore and Rose Osias Coldwell, she went to public schools and earned a PhD from New York University.

Lorraine Colville converted to Roman Catholicism several years ago and her mentor in the faith, Father Eugene Swizkey, officiated at her funeral. A brother died 10 years ago and there are no surviving family members.