Alumni Reunion Celebrates the Then and Now

Alumni Reunion Celebrates the Then and Now

Alumni Reunion Celebrates the Then and Now

Hundreds of John Jay College alumni made their way back to their alma mater on April 15 and 16 for the annual Alumni Reunion Weekend, which included a special Founding Generation symposium to celebrate Distinguished Professor Blanche Wiesen Cook.

The awards dinner recognized six alumni, one professor emeritus and a current John Jay student, and was followed by another after-party hosted by Latin music impresario former John Jay student Johnny Marines.

President Jeremy Travis opened the festivities by saying of the Founding Generation, “without them, the College as we know it would not exist.” As the kickoff event for the reunion weekend, the symposium included a video tribute to Cook and guest appearances by several individuals who have special connections to Cook’s 48-year career at John Jay.

The event was moderated by Distinguished Professor Gerald Markowitz, with a roster of speakers that included City University and John Jay faculty members, John Jay Foundation trustees, and some of Cook’s former students. One of those, NYPD First Deputy Commissioner Benjamin Tucker, said of her, “You are one of the people who change people’s lives — and you certainly changed mine.”

The celebratory dinner, which filled the Student Dining Hall, opened with Alumni Association president Shauna-Kay Gooden’s observation, “Not many people can say that the very name of their college brings a smile to their faces. I can!”

Distinguished Professor Gerald Markowitz moderates a "This Is
Your Life" - formatted tribute to his faculty colleague, Distinguished
Professor Blanche Wiesen Cook (c.), joined by special guest  Professor
Sandi Cooper of the CUNY Graduate Center.

The annual Michael F. McCann Alumni Scholarship was awarded this year to Lesley Fernandez, a student in the Honors Program who expects to receive her B.A. in Forensic Psychology in 2018 and then move on to pursue master’s and law degrees. “The McCann Scholarship will allow me to put aside my barista cap and focus full-time on my academic success,” said Fernandez, who holds down a job with MBJ Catering along with her studies and extensive community service and internship engagement.

In a break with past practice, the Alumni Association this year recognized a group of five Outstanding Young Alumnae who are making names for themselves in the Washington, D.C., area: Kimberley Cox Crabbe (M.P.A. ’08), a program analyst with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security; Taniya Dewan (B.A. ’13), a data analyst with the Department of Homeland Security; Lashaunda Robinson (B.A. ’12), a teacher at the Cesar Chavez Public Charter School for Public Policy in Washington; Mayuri Saxena (M.P.A. ’13), a Presidential Management Fellow with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management; and Katie Spoerer (B.A./M.A. ’12), special assistant to the Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of Energy.

The 2016 Distinguished Alumnus honoree, Thomas C. Ridges (l.),
and his predecessor and presenter, Benjamin Tucker

Professor emeritus James Curran, who retired in 2011 after 41 years at John Jay, was honored with the 2016 Distinguished Faculty Award. Curran, a former Dean of Special Programs and long-time member of the Department of Law, Police Science and Criminal Justice Administration, told the audience, “Most of the people in this room share with me the feeling that CUNY did something very special in their lives.”

“It’s a delight for me to see the way John Jay graduates are making a difference all over the world,” said Curran.

Thomas C. Ridges, a former police officer and veteran prosecutor who is now Special Counsel to Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon, was named Outstanding Alumnus, an award he said was “appreciated but not necessary.”

“Nothing I’ve done in my career has been about the rewards,” said Ridges. “It’s about the victims.”

Ridges, who said he planned to continue in public service until “they carry me out toes up,” challenged the audience to get into public service, especially through mentoring. “If we don’t talk to young kids, we’re going to lose an entire generation,” he said.

The Alumni Reunion Weekend continued on Saturday with the 5K Race for Justice, followed by a brunch and Family Day Carnival on the Jay Walk.