From the Board Chair: What Wagner Means to Me
I always enjoy describing what Wagner means to me. As an alumnus, the son of an alumnus, and the chair of the College’s Board of Trustees, I think about the Wagner not only of yesterday, but also of today and tomorrow.
Wagner’s fateful impact upon me began long before I was even around. My father, Waddie Procci ’36, a native Staten Islander, was the son of very poor Italian immigrants. When it came time for him to attend college, his family simply couldn’t afford to send him away, so he went to Wagner as a commuting student, a major part of the Wagner of that era. His Wagner education enabled him to attend medical school and to have a life filled with opportunities for himself and for his family.
When it came time for me to go off to college, I chose to follow in my father’s footsteps and also attend Wagner. I found an ever unfolding world of academic ideas and opportunities, as well as a chance to meet some wonderful classmates who remain friends to this day.
As good as Wagner was for my father and for me, the Wagner of today provides even more life-enriching opportunities through the Wagner Plan, learning communities, civic engagement, and internships. Wagner today gives our students the essential underpinnings for the world of tomorrow.
With all of our collective energies, Wagner will only continue to grow and expand, and be a source of ever greater opportunities for decades to come. Wagner has yet to reach its full maturity and potential as a center of educational excellence.
Please join me in appreciating all that Wagner has done in your life, and in celebrating what it is doing in the lives of students today.
Warren R. Procci ’68
Chair, Wagner College Board of Trustees
From the President: How Wagner Changes Lives
One of the best parts — perhaps the best part — of my job as president of Wagner College is that it gives me a chance to see, quite literally, just how this place can change the lives of its students in ways that they often could not imagine or predict.
Among the latest and best examples of this is the experience of Kellie Griffith ’14. A senior from Riverhead, Long Island, Kellie has always been energetic and engaged; but while here, Kellie has grown into someone who I think represents the very best of Wagner College.
In April, Kellie learned that she is the recipient of a highly selective, highly competitive Fulbright U.S. Student Award to Ecuador. There, she will work as an English teaching assistant, improving her own Spanish skills and knowledge of that country.ents the very best of Wagner College.
Since her first year at Wagner, Kellie has been active in Wagner’s civic engagement projects, and developed a love for and fluency in Spanish while she was here. A major in elementary education and Spanish, she served as a translator during one of Wagner’s Habitat for Humanity trips to Ecuador. She also made a difference in the lives of people in the Staten Island neighborhood of Port Richmond, where she coordinates our tutoring programs at El Centro del Inmigrante. Last summer, she spent eight weeks interning as a teaching assistant at a pre-school in Costa Rica.
When I spoke to Kellie about her Fulbright award, she told me that she was going to have the opportunity to do what she loves: to teach, to speak Spanish, and to build relationships. She said that the skill set she developed here at Wagner will help her to continue to be engaged and contribute to whatever community in which she will be living or working.
Those of us at Wagner will be following Kellie’s progress with great interest, and know she will represent our College well.
From the rural communities of Ecuador, I want to take you now to the streets of Newark, New Jersey, where our next student, Kenny Ortiz ’13, was raised, in the Baxter Terrace Houses. Widely known as one of the roughest neighborhoods in north New Jersey, the housing project was so blighted that it was demolished in 2009 to make space for urban renewal.
Raised by his mother while his father cycled in and out of jail, Kenny chose his own path, using his talents on the basketball court and his commitment to his academic pursuits to open up the opportunities to a better life.
In a Staten Island Advance profile, Kenny said that he knew he was the hope of his neighborhood. He worked hard to live up to those expectations and win his way to college. At Wagner, he achieved remarkable things on the basketball court. He became the heart of the Seahawks team as an all-conference starting guard and a record-setting three-time NEC Defensive Player of the Year. His senior class set the Wagner record for the most wins during their Seahawk careers.
Coach Bashir Mason, who recruited Kenny to Wagner, saw him transform from a withdrawn, street-hardened young man into a responsible, mature, and hardworking college graduate. He speaks of Kenny’s gifts not only on the court but also with people, such as participants in Lifestyles for the Disabled, for whom the basketball team did volunteer service, and the children in Wagner’s summer basketball camps, for whom Kenny became a role model. Bashir told me, “Kenny was the ultimate leader of the team, the mainstay. He’ll be the hardest player to replace.”
In May 2013, Kenny experienced his biggest win: Crossing the stage at commencement to receive his bachelor’s degree, in sociology with a concentration in criminal justice. Today, he is embarking on a career as a professional basketball player in Puerto Rico, with a three-year contract that will also allow him to travel and play throughout Europe. I have no doubt that, wherever he goes, he will inspire a whole new generation.
We are proud of Kenny and Kellie. In our 2013 Annual Report, you will find more stories of how Wagner can change lives. Thank you for your support of this College and our work.
Richard Guarasci, Ph.D.
President, Wagner College