On Thursday, May 8 at 6:30 p.m., Wagner College’s Chai Society will mark its 10th anniversary at the annual Community Mitzvah Awards dinner, to be held in Foundation Hall’s Manzulli Boardroom. For information and tickets, call Betty McComiskey at 718-420-4014.
This year’s honorees are:
Chai Mitzvah Outstanding Student Award: RACHEL KAUFMAN — Rachel Kaufman ’14, of Marlboro, New Jersey, is a senior theater studies major with a minor in education. She is a member of the International Thespian Society, the Educational Theatre Association’s student honor society, and the Kappa Delta Pi education honor society. Kaufman has been actively engaged with Israel and Hillel programs on campus, serving as president of Wagner’s Hillel for a year and a half. During winter break of her sophomore year, Rachel took a birthright trip to Israel and fell in love with the country. She decided to return, studying abroad in Jerusalem during the second semester of her junior year. Rachel immersed herself in Israel’s language and culture, traveling to Haifa, Tel Aviv, Eilat and throughout the city of Jerusalem. On campus, Kaufman has been instrumental in reorganizing the Hillel student organization and revamping its executive board.
Chai Mitzvah Special Recognition Award: PRESIDENT RICHARD & CARIN GUARASCI — Richard and Carin Guarasci arrived at Wagner College in July 1997, when Richard took up the position of provost and vice president for academic affairs, which he held for five years prior to his selection as Wagner College’s 18th president. Native New Yorkers, Carin and Richard both attended Fordham University for their undergraduate education. Richard went on to earn his M.A. in economics and Ph.D. in political science at Indiana University, while Carin earned two master’s degrees from St. Lawrence University. Richard began his academic career at St. Lawrence as a professor, associate dean and founder of the First-Year Program, and Carin was a successful reading teacher and principal in the Northern Adirondacks area. At Wagner College, Richard’s achievements include establishing an innovative and highly acclaimed curriculum, the Wagner Plan for the Practical Liberal Arts; founding the Port Richmond Partnership, in which Wagner students and faculty collaborate with an underserved Staten Island community to meet community goals and enhance student learning; and leading the college’s first comprehensive capital campaign in its modern history, raising more than $50 million. Carin has also been instrumental in the college’s fundraising program, which has increased the endowment by 600 percent. She is also a member of the faculty in Wagner’s Education Department, and she is the founding director of New Educators at Wagner, a mentoring program for first-year public school teachers. Carin is active on numerous school boards in Staten Island, and Richard serves on several national civic engagement initiatives and the boards of national higher education organizations.
Chai Mitzvah Outstanding Community Member Award: SHELDON BLACKMAN — Retired clinical psychologist Sheldon Blackman served on Staten Island more than 40 years. He received a bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and a Ph.D. from Ohio State. Blackman was the director of research at the Staten Island Mental Health Society, director of program development at North Richmond Community Mental Health Center, and vice president of program development at Staten Island University Hospital. He is the author of more than 50 research papers, two books and several book chapters. He currently serves on the board of the Sara Chait Foundation and the executive boards of Community Resources and the John W. Lavelle Preparatory Charter School.
Chai Mitzvah Outstanding Community Member Award: RABBI ABRAHAM UNGER — Rabbi Abraham Unger is assistant professor and director of urban programs in the Department of Government and Politics at Wagner College, where he also serves as campus rabbi and faculty adviser to Wagner College Hillel. He writes and speaks on the intersection of politics, religion and economic development within the context of globalization. He has served as senior research associate for the Hugh L. Carey Institute for Government Reform at Wagner College. He is founding co-chair of the Faith and Public Policy Roundtable, an interfaith think tank based in New York City. Rabbi Unger has served in congregations as well as executive positions for NGOs.
Chai Mitzvah Outstanding Community Member Award: ED & ORLY WISEMAN — Orly and Ed Wiseman have been producing and directing quality television for over 25 years. They were the production team for the acclaimed PBS children’s series, “Reading Rainbow.” Together, they have been recognized with 17 Emmy Awards and over 50 nominations. Other projects include the PBS Holocaust documentary, “Teenage Witness,” the “Hooked on Baby” video series for direct DVD distribution, a mini-series focused on African-American culture on TV called “That’s What I’m Talking About” for TV Land, museum films for the History Channel, and “Miracle’s Boys” for the N channel with Spike Lee. Their groundbreaking 2004 documentary series about children in crisis around the world, “What’s Going On?,” produced for Showtime Networks in association with the United Nations, was sparked by the conflict in Israel and its effect on children. In 2008, Ed became the executive director of Historic Richmond Town in Staten Island. During his tenure, the museum has doubled its attendance, tripled its online visitation and secured over $12 million in capital funding. Orly brought her producing talents to Richmond Town as a volunteer and helped make the museum events the biggest and most popular on the Island. Orly also began working with the online giant, Groupon, in 2012, establishing a sustainable Staten Island market and expanding Groupon’s reach in New York. Ed is a board member of the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce, Camp Good Grief and Staten Island Academy. Orly serves on the Richmond County Fair committee and co-chairs the NYC BBQ Cook-off and NYC Chili Cook-off committees.