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Gala Raises Nearly Half a Million Dollars in Scholarship Funds

May 13, 2011

BMCC recently held its 23rd Annual Gala, to benefit the BMCC Foundation Scholarship Fund. The event was held at The Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers, and featured a cocktail reception, Silent Auction, and formal dinner—all amid sweeping Hudson River views in spacious rooms abuzz with over 400 attendees.

BMCC Foundation Chair Elizabeth Butson welcomed guests to the event's program, which recognized two special Honorees; the Hunter Roberts Construction Group, and Francesco Vanni d’Archirafi, CEO of Global Transaction Services, a division of Citibank. CBS news correspondent Jim Axelrod was Master of Ceremonies, and the Student Speaker was Rebecca Panko.

“Building Lives”

The Gala’s theme, “Building Lives,” reflected the efforts of Hunter Roberts Construction Group, which broke ground last October on BMCC’s new Fiterman Hall.

The building stands now at its full 14 stories, and brick panels are being affixed to its facade. Slated for completion in Fall 2012, it will feature 400,000 square feet of academic space including classrooms, labs, offices, student lounges, and galleries.

“Hunter Roberts’ hard-working, talented men and women are not just building a building,” said BMCC President Antonio Pérez, “they’re building a stronger future for New York City, and for many generations of BMCC students to come.”

James McKenna, the firm’s President and CEO, accepted the award along with Senior Vice President, Mark Lamble.

Known for its community ties, Hunter Roberts also provides pro-bono support to groups such as Non-Traditional Employment for Women and the High School for Construction Trades, Engineering and Architecture.

“Hunter Roberts likes to make an impact on the future of New York’s educated youth, by building schools and universities—especially those that benefit underrepresented areas of the City,” said Orit Manham, the firm’s Senior Marketing Manager.

The Fiterman project also sets industry standards for workplace safety. “It’s not just about rules, about OSHA, and other regulations,” says Hunter Roberts’ Safety Director William Rose. “We’re there to support the project managers, help them set up the procedures they need. We communicate, we listen, and we care—because in the end, it’s about going home safe, getting back safely to your family at the end of the day.”

From the classroom to the board room

The Gala also honored long-time BMCC supporter Francesco Vanni d’Archirafi, who congratulated the BMCC Scholars and shared lessons from his own professional journey.

“My grandfather used to say, if it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger,” he said. “I am privileged now that my role takes me to interact with clients and companies in 150 different countries.”

He also spoke of BMCC’s mission, which has inspired him to support the College. “You offer educational opportunities to talented individuals from all walks of life,” he said. “BMCC gives students business experience they can take from the classroom to the board room.”

The secret to happiness

The Gala’s Master of Ceremonies, Jim Axelrod is a national news correspondent at CBS News and author of In the Long Run: A Father, a Son and Unintentional Lessons in Happiness, just published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

The book chronicles Axelrod’s experience running the New York City Marathon, and lessons it taught him about happiness—not just focusing on ‘finish time’, but “what can’t be measured in life,” as President Pérez observed.  

Axelrod shared his early impressions of BMCC, where students are often the sons and daughters of immigrants; first in their families, to attend college.

“Well, I simply fell hard for this place,” he said, and noting the Gala’s impressive turnout added, “There’s no gap in this room between ‘talk’ and ‘walk’. Everyone here is investing in the future of our City, and our nation.”

Goodie Bags including In the Long Run were made available to Gala guests through the generosity of event patron Christine Larsen; the bags also contained book lights and bookmarks donated by Citi.

Today’s scholars, tomorrow’s botanists

Students who have received BMCC Foundation scholarships were on hand at the Gala to assist the organizers, and mingle with professors and staff who have acted as mentor, advisor and friend, during their studies at BMCC.

The Gala’s Student Speaker, aspiring botanist Rebecca Panko, told of growing up as the child of National Park employees; born in Shenandoah National Park and attending high school in the Florida Everglades.

These experiences, she said, “made an important impact on who I want to be. I want to be a botanist. I want to make a difference in how we treat the planet.”

Panko, who dropped out of high school before getting back on track, academically, says, “The BMCC Foundation Scholarship has helped me to focus on attending school full-time in an environment where I have consistent support.”

She thanked Science Professor Nanette Van Loon, who mentored her through an honors project in genetics, as well as Science Professor David Krauss, English Professor Ingrid Hughes, who was “tough yet fair,” and BMCC President Pérez.

“We do not all get to meet with him individually, but we know our President is there,” she said. “We see him around campus and he attends many student events.”

Generous contributions

This year, the Gala raised $480,000 which will benefit the BMCC Foundation, enabling another wave of high-achieving students to attend college.

The Silent Auction drew close to $14,000 in the sale of 65 donated items, and ten $5,000 Named Scholarships were made possible by the following generous donors: Barnes & Noble, Vice Chancellor and BMCC alum Philip Berry, Joseph Castellano, Deloitte & Touche, Steven Fiterman, Larry Levine, Margery and Thomas Mueller, Paul Ross, and Karen Wasserman.

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  • BMCC’s 23rd Annual Gala generated $480,000; the Silent Auction, $14,000
  • Student Speaker, Science major Rebecca Panko is a BMCC Foundation Scholar
  • Honorees were the Hunter Roberts Construction Group, and Citibank CEO Francesco Vanni d’Archirafi

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