Italian Heritage Celebrated in College Gala

A night of Italian music and great food is planned for Friday, September 23rd at 8 p.m. at the College of Staten Island, as CSI celebrates the borough’s Italian heritage and honors two Italian-Americans who have left an indelible mark on Staten Island.

Called La Notte della Canzone, or Night of Songs, the evening will feature performances by members of the cast of the Bronx Opera and include a concert of arias and popular Italian songs.

The performance will be followed by a dessert and wine reception, with proceeds from the evening going to the College’s Italian Studies Overseas Language Award (ISOLA), a program to support study in Italy for high-achieving CSI students of Italian language and culture. Tickets for the evening are $50 per person. Both the concert and reception will be held at the College’s Center for the Arts, heralded by one critic as one of the premier performance spaces of any college in the East.

“This is an affordable and thoroughly enjoyable way to recognize one of the world’s great cultural traditions,” said Dr. Marlene Springer, CSI president. “In one wonderful evening, we support our students in their academic journey, rejoice in our Italian heritage and honor important community members.”

This year’s honorees are Mae Seeley and Frank Naso.

Ms. Seeley has been a long-time friend of the College and an important community activist on Staten Island. She is the past administrator of the Staten Island Institute of Arts and Sciences (where she developed a joint arts program with CSI) and a member of many Staten Island cultural organizations, including the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum, where she was curator/director. During her leadership of that organization, she introduced an Italian language program for adults and children, while restoring the museum’s Rosebank facility. She was also one of the leaders in the community effort that preserved the Staten Island Greenbelt. At CSI, she was active in Friends of the College. Through her work with that organization, she was able to raise significant funding for the school’s library. A graduate of Barnard College, she is married to Dr, David Seeley, a professor of education at CSI, and lives in New Brighton.

“Mae’s contribution to our borough is huge,” Dr. Springer said. “If she had done nothing else except dedicate her time, talent and energy to preserving the Greenbelt, her legacy would be secure. But when you consider that in addition to this remarkable achievement, she was a driving force in many other cultural organizations, including fundraising for our college, you see just how important she has been in the history of our borough.”

Frank Naso is vice president of the Naso Organization and has been active in the real estate industry on Staten Island for 17 years. His organization has provided quality housing for more than 500 Staten Island families. He is a community activist, supporting the Boy Scouts of America, Eden II, the Community Resource Center, Project Hospitality, the March of Dimes and the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. He is a graduate of St. John’s University and is a past president of the Building Industry Association of New York City and is chairman of the 2003 Chamber of Commerce Building Awards. He and his wife, Danielle, have three children and live in Castleton Corners.

“Commitment to community is a key element in selecting our honorees,” Dr. Springer said. “Frank Naso not only meets that standard but far exceeds it. His commitment to our borough extends over years and is driven by a dedication to enhance the quality of life in our community.”

For more information about the evening, contact the CSI Advancement Office at 718-982-2365.

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