November 03, 1975 12:00 PM

Despite the rows of folding chairs, the caps and gowns and the speeches, it was hardly a typical graduation ceremony. The stage, for one thing, was set up between the tracks at New York’s Penn Station, and the class song, for another, was I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.

The occasion was another chapter in the success story of Adelphi University’s Classroom-on-Wheels, which in its five years has awarded master’s degrees in business to 77 New York area commuters and B.B.A.s to five others. The program now has 200 students. “My dream,” says its 29-year-old director, Gregory Gutman, “is to have a magnificently designed commuting classroom with audio-visual and acoustical units and special desks.”

At present Adelphi has to be content with special commuter cars equipped with frosted windows, microphones and blackboards. They are rented from a company started by Mathew Kiernan, a frustrated Long Island commuter who wanted to put his train-bound hours to use and sold the Garden City, N.Y. university on the idea. Gutman, an associate professor, teaches marketing, administration and “creative problem solving.” They require him to ride for about an hour twice a week depending, of course, on whether the often laggardly Long Island Railroad is running on time.

Something of a professional swinging single—”I was almost engaged once”—Gutman says he became a teacher to stay out of Vietnam. Now he is hoping the commuter classes may help him fulfill another ambition—to become an actor, if any movie industry executives should happen to matriculate at the Classroom-on-Wheels. “Teaching brings out the ham in me,” he says contentedly, “and here the audience can’t walk out.”

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