On May 14, 2015 the Foundation Board of the Borough of Manhattan Community College/CUNY hosted the 2015 Scholarship Gala in the new Cipriani at 25 Broadway in Lower Manhattan, raising $1,113,000 in funds for student scholarships.
Close to 500 guests celebrated alongside BMCC President Antonio Pérez, who presented the BMCC Award of Excellence to Special Guest Star Honoree, Emmy®- and Tony®-Award winning comedian, actor, producer, writer and director Billy Crystal. The Gala also featured Honorees Marianne Brown, Sungard Financial Systems COO, and SL Green Realty Corp CEO Marc Holliday.
President Pérez presented the BMCC Award of Excellence to all three Honorees.
Reading to Billy Crystal from the Award inscription, the President thanked him “for the laughter you have brought into our lives. The world is a better place because of your talents and compassion for those in need.”
To Marianne Brown he said, “We are truly grateful for all you have done to support tonight’s scholarship Gala and for all you do to support others in the world,” and he thanked Marc Holliday for his “generosity, friendship and heartfelt support of BMCC and its students.”
Crystal applauds community colleges
Paul Schaffer, bandleader for Late Night With David Letterman, introduced Crystal, who returned to TV this year in the FX “mockumentary-style series, The Comedians and who was congratulated in a video featuring last year’s Special Guest Star Honoree Robert De Niro.
Others featured in the Billy Crystal tribute video were actress Whoopi Goldberg; Josh Gad, Crystal’s co-star in The Comedians; Joe Torre, a former manager of the New York Yankees, and TV executive producer Dick Ebersole. Crystal’s long-time friend and sportscaster Bob Costa also provided a congratulatory video.
Three BMCC students who received Foundation Scholarships told their story at the podium before Crystal went on. “I was really moved, because I was them,” he said as he took the stage. “Fifty years ago I was one of them.”
He shared that after his father passed away and he graduated from Long Beach High School in Long Island, New York, he entered Marshall University in West Virginia. “I did okay, not great,” he said. “I was homesick; I was still grieving, and the bottom line was, nothing against the school; it was great—but West Virginia was just a little too ‘Off Broadway’ for me.”
After returning home to Long Island, Crystal attended Nassau Community College, then New York University. He earned his bachelor’s degree in 1970 and joked, “Last week, I finished paying off my student loans.” Segueing to a more serious note, he spoke highly of the opportunity to earn a quality education at a reasonable cost, that community colleges such as BMCC provide.
Business and real estate leaders Marianne Brown and Marc Holliday honored
BMCC Foundation Board member Tony Portannese, Managing Director of Human Resources at Depository Trust & Clearing Corporation, introduced a short video about his colleague, Honoree Marianne Brown.
Craig Hatkoff, a co-founder of the Tribeca Film Festival and also a BMCC Foundation Board Member, gave remarks before a video about his former Columbia University student, Honoree Marc Holliday.
The evening’s emcee, Cindy Hsu, Emmy Award-winning anchor and for CBS 2 News said, “BMCC bridges the economic and educational opportunity gap for many people who would not otherwise be able to access higher education.”
Three BMCC Foundation Scholars spoke at the event: Liberal Arts major Randy Ramphal; Accounting major Chadrick Frederick and Business Administration major Ya Ru Xie. Over a dozen Foundation Scholars circulated throughout the vast Cipriani dining hall—which features a sixty-foot-tall, Italian Renaissance-style domed ceiling—greeting guests and escorting Honorees to the stage.
The event included a Text-to-Pledge option, in which guests dialed a number, typed their pledge amount and short message. The Gala raised $1,113,000 altogether, and about $30,000 of that amount was raised in these spontaneous donations marked by texts appearing on several screens around the enormous room. Gifts ranged in dollar amounts from the tens of thousands to one pledge of $20 “from a BMCC student.”