Each year, Wagner College recognizes alumni leaders for service to the college and the community, and in professional development. Normally, those awards are given at a special event during Reunion Weekend. This year, the college is proud to recognize these five outstanding daughters and son of their alma mater in our online Newsroom.
Donna Mollica New ’68
John “Bunny” Barbes ’39 and Lila T. Barbes ’40 Wagner Alumni Laureate
Donna has been focused on service to her alma mater since she was a student, organizing undergraduate fundraisers, and working in the Admissions Office, giving campus tours to prospective students. As float captain for her sorority, Alpha Delta Pi, she led the team that got their prize-winning homecoming float featured on the front page of the N.Y. Daily News.
Though she lives some 3,000 miles from Grymes Hill, in Southern California, she has continued finding ways to be of service, year after year.
“When asked to join the Alumni Board, I did,” Donna says. “When asked to be involved for several years in the Wagner vs. USD football games here in San Diego. I embraced it.”
And Donna New has continued to embrace the challenges of service to Wagner College, “purchasing” a locker in the women’s locker room in her stepfather’s name; planting a tree by the campus entrance in the name of her father and stepmother, and joining the Inner Circle of college supporters.
Donna endowed the Mollica Fund to support the work of faculty members with students on research projects that enhance Wagner’s relationship with the community. She has also worked to create scholarships for Wagner students, both as a founding donor of the AΔΠ Scholarship and as the benefactor behind the Tyor Scholarship, an annual grant honoring her mother that is given to a student employee of the college.
Donna has actively encouraged other alumni to follow her example of service, recruiting members for the Alumni and Trustee boards — and she has continued to serve in her own right.
Donna previously served on Wagner College’s Board of Trustees, from 2003 to 2012, when she chaired the Buildings & Grounds Committee during the reconstruction of Main Hall.
“I feel that the significance of Main Hall for all Wagner alums,” she says, “is the way it brings an immediate smile, a feeling of ‘coming home,’ to all graduates. I was grateful to be a part of its restoration.”
Donna New recently accepted a call to serve yet another term on Wagner College’s Board of Trustees.
Michael Muccino ’73
Dr. Kevin Sheehy ’67 M’70 M’92 H’99 Alumni Leadership Medal
Michael Muccino’s education as a history major was heavily influenced by two powerful educators: Jack Boies, chairman of the English Department, and Charlie Kraemer, a business professor widely loved and respected by his students.
Michael’s career path eventually led him to positions with the state of New York, first as a labor services representative with the Department of Labor (1991 to 2007), then as a job program specialist with the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (2007 to 2013). In both positions, Michael’s job was to help others navigate their way through some of the more challenging times of their lives.
Michael has served his alma mater in several capacities over the years. As a board member of our Alumni Association, he served on the New Members and Awards committees as well as completing two six-year terms as the board’s recording secretary. And since 2018, Michael has served as first vice president of the Wagner College Guild, our oldest affiliated support group.
Kathleen Gerbing ’70 M’74
Distinguished Graduate of Wagner College
Kathleen Gail Gerbing, an active member and president of Alpha Delta Pi sorority as a Wagner College student, graduated in 1970 with a bachelor’s degree in English, followed four years later by a master’s in education. The most memorable faculty members of her college career, she says, were women’s dean Jean Gaise and English professor William P. Willey.
“My experiences at Wagner helped me become a leader, both in the community and the corrections field,” Kathleen says. “It was women like Dean Jean Gaise who encouraged me to get involved. Because of her nomination, I attended a leadership conference at Wagner, and later took a trip to Missouri where I met other young women from around the country, exposing me to other viewpoints and walks of life.”
In 1970, Kathleen began her career with the New York State Drug Rehabilitation Program at the Arthur Kill Correctional Facility, serving as a teacher for all levels from non-reader to college student. From 1979 to 1993 she served as the facility’s education supervisor and director. Kathleen was Arthur Kill’s institutional steward from 1993 to 1997 before becoming deputy superintendent.
During that time, Kathleen was an active member and leader in both the International Correctional Association and the American Correctional Association. She also worked as a leader in the community, serving as a Staten Island Academy trustee and a member of Staten Island Community Board 3.
In 2012 Kathleen became the superintendent of the Otisville (N.Y.) Correctional Facility, a medium-security institution housing 580 men. At Otisville she has continued to actively advocate for inmate education, working with the John Jay College Prison to College Pipeline program.
For three years, starting in 2016, in addition to her responsibilities as Otisville superintendent, Kathleen served as the Sullivan hub superintendent for the New York State correctional system, overseeing four medium-security and three maximum-security facilities.
She is a member, past secretary and former vice president of the International Correctional Education Association; a past member of the College Education Review Team of the NYS Department of Corrections; and former treasurer and president of the New York Corrections and Youth Services Association.
Kathleen’s long history of service and leadership in the correctional field led the North American Association of Wardens & Superintendents to name her its 2017-18 Warden of the Year.
In addition to actively serving her sorority as an alumna member since 1970, Kathleen has become part of AΔΠ’s alumnae association over the past two years, engaging in its homecoming activities and raising money for the Michele Connors Tellefsen ’71 Alpha Delta Pi Leadership Award.
For all of these reasons, we are proud to recognize Kathleen Gerbing as a distinguished graduate of Wagner College.
Caitlin McGee ’10
Wagner Alumni Key
Like many of her fellow Wagner College Theatre graduates, 2010 alumna Caitlin McGee feels like she’s a part of a very large family of choice.
“The theater program at Wagner was my whole life for those four years,” she said, “and the people I met there are still my best friends to this day.
“After graduation, I struggled to keep my head above water for years. But once I started to find some success, I made sure to be available to help any and all alums who needed it. Nothing can truly prepare you for how hard this business will be, but your best chance to succeed is through community,” Caitlin said. “Wagner gave me that community, and I will continue to pay it forward to all the artists who come out of my alma mater.”
Of the professors who nurtured the growth of Caitlin McGee as a performing artist, she remembers one who made a special impact: “John Jamiel, an incredible acting teacher and support through my entire career. He believed in me since day one and never missed an opportunity to show up, cheering me on.”
Caitlin has earned much success for herself, with regular or recurring roles in seven television series, including “Grey’s Anatomy” and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” and the lead in the Amazon series, “Modern Love.”
Rev. Leila Ortiz ’05
Reverend Lyle Guttu Award
The ministry of Bishop Leila Ortiz arises from the position she occupies at the intersection of many things.
As a Wagner College student, Leila majored in psychology, with minors in English and gender studies, but it was her love of Spanish language, literature and culture, that led her to found the Spanish Language Club in 2002.
Her psychology studies were enlightened and enlivened by two legendary professors: Lawrence Nolan and Amy Eshleman. “Nolan was a master lecturer,” she said, “and Amy made the most complicated, overwhelming material comprehensible and relatable. They were a gift to me and to us all in the Psychology Department.”
The name of a podcast Leila produced in 2019, “La Luthercostal,” gives us hints of the flavor of her ministry and the nature of her spiritual formation. Raised in the Pentecostal Church, she says that she “was addressed by the Gospel anew in the Lutheran Church.” She pursued her graduate studies at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, earning a master of divinity degree in 2009.
Leila served as pastor in residence at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Herndon, Va., from 2013 to 2014. She was associate pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Gaithersburg, Md. from 2014 to 2016, when she joined the staff of the Washington, D.C. Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America as assistant to the bishop for mobility and candidacy. In June 2019, the Rev. Leila Michelle Ortiz Torres was herself elected bishop of the Washington Synod, serving 75 congregations and about 34,000 members. She was installed in September 2019.
“Thank you for the honor of receiving this award,” she wrote. “It is especially meaningful during such a difficult and interesting time in the world and in the Church.”
You can learn more about Leila Ortiz by visiting her on the web at leilamortiz.com.