Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC/CUNY) and the BMCC Foundation raised $1,014,935 for student scholarships on May 15 at the Invest in a Future: Empower Success Gala, held at Cipriani, 25 Broadway in lower Manhattan.
The total amount raised included approximately $100,000 from a scholarship auction that was part of the event and garnered donations including a $15,000 gift from Stephen Meringoff, a Presidential Medalist at the 2015 BMCC commencement. Also included in the total funds raised was $18,655 generated during the Gala with a live Text-to-Pledge.
The 2018 Gala was emceed by Fox 5 News entertainment reporter Baruch Shemtov. The Honorees—Boxed.com founder Chieh Huang and Merchant House International Chairwomen Loretta Lee—were introduced by BMCC President Antonio Pérez, who presented them with the BMCC Award of Excellence.
Special Guest Star Honoree Liev Schreiber, known for his award-winning, starring role in Showtime’s powerful family drama, Ray Donovan, was introduced by David Steingard, who co-chaired the Gala with fellow BMCC Foundation Board Member Miles Fiterman II and Gala Chair Anthony Portannese.
Honoree Liev Schreiber: An exemplary role model
“Having grown up on New York’s Lower East Side, the son of a single mother on welfare, there is no doubt in my mind that without her perseverance and steadfast commitment to getting me the education I needed, I wouldn’t be standing in front of all of you here tonight, and that’s why I support BMCC,” Schreiber said. “At the end of the day, it really is about leaving your community and your world in a better place than you found it. I walk my children past this building every morning, so this is my community. I am incredibly grateful to the Borough of Manhattan Community College, and to all of you, for caring so profoundly about the minds, hearts and souls of those who will ultimately inherit it.”
President Pérez presented the BMCC Award of Excellence to Schreiber. “Your dramatic talents, your integrity and your generosity make you an outstanding honoree and exemplary role model for BMCC students,” he said. “We are proud to have you as our friend.”
Honorees Chieh Huang and Loretta Lee: Improving lives through their success
Honoree Chieh Huang was introduced by President Pérez, who presented him with the BMCC Award of Excellence. He congratulated Huang for his success as an e-commerce entrepreneur and expressed admiration for "the example you set in furthering the education of your employees and their families.”
As he introduced BMCC Gala Honoree Loretta Lee, President Pérez said, “I have had the pleasure of knowing Loretta for the past five years. She was introduced to me by my good friend and fellow Board Member Elizabeth Butson. We are fortunate to have such wonderful friends as Loretta and Elizabeth at our college. In all that she does, Loretta Lee thinks of the good of others.”
While presenting the BMCC Award of Excellence, President Pérez thanked Lee for her dedication “in improving the lives of young people by providing educational opportunities, mentoring and philanthropy.”
Foundation Scholars and alumnus James St. Germain share their BMCC experience
Fifteen BMCC Foundation Scholars circulated throughout the Gala, and three BMCC Foundation Scholars; Etty Ausch, Pierce Hunter and Babatunde Joseph Ogunniyi, spoke as part of the program.
Gala Chair Portannese introduced the student speakers, referring to their “hard work, tenacity and hope the BMCC student embodies.” BMCC ranks number three among all community colleges in the nation, he said, in terms of the economic mobility it provides its graduates.
“The scholarship dollars we raise tonight are an investment that speeds the time to graduation for some of the hardest-working students in our city,” Portannese said.
Gala Co-Chair Miles Fiterman II introduced James St. Germain, a BMCC alumnus who co-wrote a book gifted to each Gala guest, A Stone of Hope: A Memoir.
“Jim St. Germain’s story is one of courage, guts and perseverance,” Fiterman said. St. Germain spoke about being born into poverty in Haiti and moving to Brooklyn’s Crown Heights with his family, where he “fell into a crowd that led me to a life of drug dealing and continual arrests,” he said.
Placed in juvenile detention, St. Germain connected with mentors and "slowly found my way and made the bravest decision of my life: To live and to reform myself.” He went on to start the non-profit Preparing Leaders of Tomorrow (PLOT), a mentoring program for at-risk youth. He also earned an Associate degree in Human Services at BMCC, and thanked his mentor, Professor Lisa Rose, who was in attendance at the Gala.
RELATED ARTICLES: BMCC Foundation 2018 Gala, Invest in a Future: Empower Success, Set for May 15, BMCC Foundation Gala Raises More Than $1.12 Million for Student Scholarships, BMCC Foundation 2016 Gala Raises More Than $1.18 Million for Scholarship Fund.