The College of Staten Island Foundation celebrated some of the stars of CSI and the Staten Island community, and raised critically needed funds on December 7 at the Eighth Annual Celestial Ball. The very well-attended event took place at the Richmond County Country Club. [View the event gallery.]
A highlight of the program included remarks by CSI President William J. Fritz, who focused on the College’s numerous accomplishments, including $57M in ongoing State Construction projects at the Willowbrook campus, the opening of CSI St. George, the economic contributions of CSI’s new Tech Incubator, the achievements of faculty and students, and continued national recognition for value and excellence.
A key element of Dr. Fritz’s speech was CSI’s new Strategic Plan, titled Opportunity to Ascend. The President described the title’s significance, saying that it “has a dual meaning – since our earliest days of SICC in 1956 and later Richmond College, our mission has been arrow-straight – to provide access to the highest quality education and the “Opportunity to Ascend to our students.” After a discussion of the Plan’s six Strategic Priorities, which include Student Success, Global Engagement, Borough Stewardship, Destination Campus, Scholarship-Driven Education, and Resource Management, Dr. Fritz emphasized that because the College strives to keep tuition levels low, it is necessary to have many supportive friends.
This year’s Celestial Ball honorees included Bernard Carabello, Advocate, Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, and Founder, Self-Advocacy Association of New York; Anthony C. Ferreri, DBA, Senior Advisor for Strategic Initiatives to Staten Island Borough President James S. Oddo, as well as Executive Vice President, Northwell Health (retired), and President and CEO, Staten Island University Hospital (2003 – 2015); Ira Persky, Vice President for Finance and Administration (retired); and Nan M. Sussman, PhD, CSI Professor of Psychology, and former CSI Dean, Humanities and Social Sciences.
Although all of those honored presented heartfelt remarks, the standout speech came from Bernard Carabello, who lived at the Willowbrook State School for 18 years and now works to advance the interests of people with disabilities. In his brief, but emotional comments, he thanked those who helped him through the many obstacles that he had encountered in his life, including Dr. Mike Wilkins, who was a physician at Willowbrook who eventually became Carabello’s legal guardian and arranged for Carabello’s release from Willowbrook. Dr. Wilkins was in attendance at the Ball.
This year’s student speaker, David Jordon, also captivated the audience. The 63-year-old Vietnam veteran used to work at the Willowbrook State School, and has been employed by Cerebral Palsy Associations of New York State for the past 40 years. He earned a BA in Sociology/Anthropology from the College and is now pursuing a Master of Liberal Arts degree at CSI. He concluded his speech by noting how his CSI education had affected his life. “When I got my degree in 2016, I had been planning to retire from Cerebral Palsy, but when word got around about my plans, because I had earned my BA, I was offered an upper-level position as a Support Specialist. Prior to that, because of my long tenure with the agency, I was well respected, but in board meetings, I sometimes felt that that my opinion wasn’t taken seriously, most likely because I didn’t have the credentials. Suffice it to say, I took the offer, and the $12K raise that came with it, and no longer feel left out in the boardroom.”
In addition to the program, the Celestial Ball also featured a Silent Auction and raffle opportunities for attendees to win a variety of wonderful prizes.
This year’s Ball Committee Chair was Marilyn Caselli, Senior Vice President for Customer Operations, Consolidated Edison, Inc., and a member of the CSI Foundation Board of Directors.