Joseph Reich of Brooklyn was named the 2013 valedictorian of the men’s division of the Lander College of Arts & Sciences in Flatbush (LAS) and was the student speaker at the Lander College commencement at Avery Fisher Hall.
“All of us are extremely proud of Joseph Reich’s achievements and are confident that he will become a respected practitioner in the field of psychology,” said Dr. Robert Goldschmidt, dean of LAS and the vice president for planning and assessment of Touro College. “Through his pursuit of excellence, Joseph, a true ben Torah, is a role model for other students at our college.”
Before coming to LAS, Reich spent several years learning in prestigious yeshivas in Queens, Jerusalem, and Lakewood, NJ. Based on his superb SAT scores he received a full academic scholarship to attend Touro and matriculated in 2010, majoring in psychology as a member of the honors program. He made dean’s list every semester on his way to a 4.0 grade point average and also served as the general editor and technology columnist of Round Table, the LAS student newspaper.
Under the tutelage of Prof. Leib Litman, Ph.D.—whom Reich thanked profusely in his valedictory address—he presented several papers and posters at professional conferences as part of his research in the field of psychology. At the 23rd Greater New York Conference on Behavioral Research in 2011, Reich was awarded with the Tony Guzewicz Award for Outstanding Cross Cultural Research for presenting a paper entitled “Halachic Thinking and the Trolley Dilemma.”
The Trolley Dilemma is a hypothetical scenario commonly used by psychologists and neuroscientists to explore aspects of moral reasoning, in which a speeding train is about to run over five people lying on the track. The conductor has the option to switch tracks and run over just one person; participants are asked to decide if he or she would change tracks. Thus the participants can choose whether to let five people die because of circumstances beyond their control or be directly responsible for killing another. Reich examined the quandary from the perspective of Orthodox Judaism in contrast to other cultures.
Reich is a member of Psi Chi-The International Honor Society in Psychology. In the fall he will enroll in Pace University in a psychology doctoral program. In his address, Reich said that he is choosing a career in psychology because of his belief in the “majestic potential of the human being.”
“Too often there are people whose strengths are locked up inside of them,” said Reich. “I can think of no higher calling than helping such individuals unleash the awesome power that lies within them.”
Though Reich graduated at the top of his class, he was not the first member of his family to achieve such a distinction; his brother Yitzchak was the 2005 valedictorian of LAS and went on to earn his M.D. degree at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. During his speech, Joseph joked that his standing in the same spot as Yitzchak stood eight years earlier was an example of “just how far I would go to upstage my dear brother.”
Reich lives in Manhattan Beach with his wife, Elisheva, and two children. v