The Ninth Annual CSI Foundation Celestial Ball was held at the Richmond County Country Club on December 1.

The College of Staten Island received an outpouring of support from the College and Staten Island communities at the Ninth Annual CSI Foundation Celestial Ball on December 1 at the Richmond County Country Club. [See event gallery.]

Attendees basked in the warm glow of the beautiful venue to socialize; enjoy raffles, a silent auction, and the Casale Jewelers Casino Table; dine on delicious food; and listen to the event program, which featured a combination of speeches and video presentations.

College President William J. Fritz, after a few initial remarks, introduced a very special guest, CUNY Interim Chancellor Vita Carulli Rabinowitz, a native Staten Islander. After discussing her history on the Island, the Chancellor provided a long and impressive list of the College’s accomplishments and assets, concluding that “A CUNY Chancellor doesn’t have to be State Island born to understand the importance of this College to The City University. No other CUNY college has the potential to transform an entire borough as this College has.”

After he returned to the lectern, Dr. Fritz provided a status update on the College’s Strategic Plan, titled Opportunity to Ascend, as it has been applied in its first year, providing examples from each of the document’s six Strategic Priorities: Student Success, Global Engagement, Borough Stewardship, Destination Campus, Scholarship-Driven Education, and Resource Management. In discussing “Student Success,” the President noted that “Because of our commitment to “Student Success” our students go to the best med schools, law schools, serve in the most prestigious not-for profits, and get the best jobs on Wall Street and elsewhere. In the past several years, we have ranked in the top 20 in the entire nation for taking students from the lowest two quintiles of wealth and moving them to the upper levels. Our alumni make in the top 15% of salaries as the graduates from ANY institution in the country!”

Following Dr. Fritz was student-scholar Elissa Tavarez, who is currently enrolled at CSI in the Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling program. In a moving speech, Tavarez told the audience how she was able to surmount debilitating anxiety issues to succeed in her academic career. She thanked the Staten Island Performing Provider System, one of the evening’s honorees, for a scholarship that is helping to ensure that she remains in her graduate program. In addition, she mentioned the College’s contributions to her academic goals. “I have found a program here where the faculty are always there for me and my fellow students. Their accessibility, expertise, and the caring culture they create, make it feel like more than a program – it feels like a family that wants you to be the best you can be.”

The next portion of the program featured the presentation of President’s Medals by Dr. Fritz and Vice President for Economic Development, Continuing Studies, and Government Relations Kenichi Iwama to the evening’s honorees: College event volunteer Oswaldo Peña, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Gary Reichard, Staten Island Advance/SI Live (represented by Caroline Diamond Harrison and Brian Laline), and the Staten Island Performing Provider System (represented by Joseph Conte and William Myhre). Prior the awarding of the medals, the attendees viewed pre-recorded statements from each of the honorees. Mr. Laline, after he received his medal, shared with the audience a portion of a 1971 article from then reporter Jane Kurtin titled “Willowbrook: Inside the Cages,” which exposed the brutal and inhumane conditions at the Willowbrook State School. Ms. Kurtin was in attendance at the Ball and was warmly recognized by Mr. Laline and applauded by all in attendance.

Following Dr. Fritz’s concluding comments and dinner, guests at the Ball danced to the music of Crossing Midnight.

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.