JUNE 2015

Gooden Wins New Term as Alumni President

Shauna-Kay Gooden (B.A./M.P.A. ’04) has been reelected to a two-year term as president of the John Jay Alumni Association, following an election that was conducted electronically ending May 30.

Gooden, who is Associate Counsel, Metropolitan Transportation Authority, was one of five incumbent executives to win reelection. Also returned to office by association members were first vice president Richard Gallo (B.S. ’79, M.P.A. ’82, M.A. ’85); second vice president Teresa Coaxum (B.A.’93, M.P.A. ’08), third vice president Raymond Maniscalco (B.S.’77, M.A. ’87), and secretary Linda Reynolds (M.A. ’80).

Other officers who won election were the association’s new treasurer, Andrew Schweighardt (M.S. ’09, Ph.D. ’12), and historian, Danielle Barrett (B.A. ’04).

The officers, whose election is subject to ratification by the John Jay College Foundation Board of Trustees, will serve a two-year term beginning July 1, 2015.

Undergraduate or graduate alumni who wish to get involved as Leadership Committee volunteers are asked to contact Jerylle Kemp, Alumni Relations Director, at 212-237-8964, or via e-mail at jkemp@jjay.cuny.edu.  

A fond farewell. . .

An event that, for most, was years in the making, John Jay’s Commencement ceremonies on June 3 provided a festive send-off for more than 3,000 students who earned undergraduate and graduate degrees.

Commencement returned to the Theatre at Madison Square Garden, where honorary doctorates were presented to Chief Judge Robert Katzmann of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and William Ramirez, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Puerto Rico.

In keeping with the College’s year-long 50th anniversary celebration, alumni from the “Founding Generation” occupied places of honor on the podium alongside faculty and administrators.

Click here for a complete recap and photo gallery.

Happy birthday to us!

The celebration of John Jay College’s 50th anniversary concluded in an explosion of confetti and streamers at the annual Commencement ceremonies, capping an academic year filled with special events, commemorative publications, public service, works of art, and visits, proclamations and congratulatory wishes from an array of public figures and celebrities.

The suite of anniversary offerings conceived by a committee chaired by Professor Allison Pease, chair of the English department, was designed to promote John Jay’s proud tradition and promising future by engaging students, highlighting faculty, celebrating alumni and raising the College’s profile.

“Wow! What an amazing celebration this past year has been!” said President Jeremy Travis. “From the opening event — our Convocation with Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor — to the wrap-up at Commencement on June 3, every step along the way as we marked John Jay’s 50th anniversary has served as a vivid and valuable reminder of how proud we can all be of our amazing college and its rich history, and how important it is for us to continue to be shining examples of “fierce advocates for justice.”

As the College’s guest for the official opening of the anniversary festivities, Justice Sotomayor spoke to several hundred new students in the Gerald W. Lynch Theater, and later met with a select smaller group of students in the Moot Court. She was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree during the Convocation.

Over the ensuing weeks and months, the celebration went on to include the introduction of Li’l Jay, a whimsical bobblehead that was photographed in locations around the world, from Yankee Stadium to the Lincoln Memorial to a Venetian gondola. On Dec. 8, Li’l Jay was complemented by the unveiling of a life-size bronze statue of Chief Justice John Jay, which occupies a prominent place of honor in the Kroll Atrium.

Media played an important part in the anniversary celebration, including the production of a new film that commemorates the College’s 50 years and features interviews with students, faculty, alumni, administrators and trustees discussing John Jay’s impact on their lives and our communities. In the lobby of Haaren Hall, a timeline of John Jay history was unveiled in early September.

Special-edition publications that celebrated the milestone year included an expanded issue of Justice Matters, the John Jay alumni magazine; 50 at 50, a coffee-table book that profiles dozens of alumni and their achievements; the compendium Fifty Years of Research; and John Jay at 50, a compact overview of the College.

Art and expression were also significant components of the anniversary, beginning with the installation of a solar-powered kinetic artwork, “Dancing Solar Flowers,” by acclaimed environmental artist Alexandre Dang. During the fall semester, students were invited to participate in “The Future of Justice” expression contest, which produced an array of written and visual works that were displayed in the President’s Gallery in Haaren Hall.

Public service — always an important aspect of the John Jay College community — was emphasized in the anniversary celebration, with the yearlong community service initiative “Acts of Justice.” Each month, a new theme was adopted for acts of service on- and off-campus, including Stop Hunger Now, Treats for Troops and other civic engagement and community-building campaigns. In December, the first annual Day of Giving was held to raise funds for student-support programs.

Such support was also a key focus of the 2015 Educating for Justice Gala, which raised more than $700,000 for the John Jay Honors Program and student scholarships. The event honored alumnus Jim McCann of 1-800-FLOWERS, actress and activist Mariska Hargitay, and the Ford Foundation. [See related article.]

And, to be sure, John Jay’s sprawling, worldwide alumni community was involved in the anniversary. As part of the celebration, the annual Alumni Reunion was expanded for the first time to a weekend-long series of events, including an inaugural 5K Race for Justice and a family carnival on the Jay Walk. At Commencement, alumni from John Jay’s Founding Generation marched in the opening processionals, adorned in gold academic robes.

For more on the College’s 50th anniversary events, click here.


Annual Gala Is a Night of Stars

John Jay College’s 50th anniversary Educating for Justice Gala on May 19 honored an award-winning TV actress and activist, an alumnus and familiar entrepreneurial icon, and a foundation with a long track record of supporting social-justice causes.

Roughly 350 friends and benefactors of John Jay were on hand for the Gala, with preliminary figures showing that more than $700,000 was raised. “The evening was a wonderful success,” noted President Jeremy Travis, “with proceeds from the Educating for Justice Gala earmarked for the John Jay Honors Program and student scholarships.”

The Gala honorees were alumnus Jim McCann (B.S., ’75), the founder and CEO of 1-800-Flowers.com; the Ford Foundation, and Mariska Hargitay, star of the long-running series “Law & Order: SVU” and founder of the Joyful Heart Foundation.

McCann was a freshly minted John Jay graduate, alternately working as a juvenile case worker, bartender and home remodeler, when he got an unexpected opportunity to go into the flower business. Through good fortune and business acumen he parlayed that opportunity into what would become 1-800-Flowers, which today is the world’s leading online flower-and-gift retailer. His success has allowed him to become a philanthropic fixture in the Greater New York area.

McCann thanked the College for having given him a second chance at higher education. “John Jay had an enormous impact on my life,” he said, paying special tribute to his former professor Blanche Wiesen Cook, who he said “taught me to think outside the box.” Cook, now a University Distinguished Professor of History and Women’s Studies, was McCann’s special guest at the Gala.

The Gala also honored the Ford Foundation with a Global Leadership Award for being “visionaries on the front lines of change.” The award was accepted by Doug Wood, the Ford Foundation’s program officer for higher education issues, with an emphasis on the needs of students from poor and marginalized communities in the United States.

Hargitay was inspired by her work on Law & Order to create Joyful Heart, whose mission is to heal, educate and empower survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence and child abuse. In introducing the honoree, John Jay College Foundation Trustee Peter Beshar credited the Law & Order franchise with helping John Jay “to attract the very best students and recruit the very best faculty.”

SVU frequently does location shoots on the John Jay campus, prompting Hargitay to note in her acceptance remarks, “I feel like I'm enrolled in this school by association.”

“I am so grateful for the young people that John Jay has sent and continues to send out into the world,” she said. “God knows we need them.” She called on attendees to continue to be fierce advocates for justice, “to be bold and dig deep into the hard topics. . . to be the brave ones that represent those whose voices have been compromised in society, for whatever reason.”

Click here for a gallery of photos from the event.

Scholars in the Making

Two doctoral students — one a John Jay alumna now studying at the University of Cincinnati, and the other in the John Jay/CUNY Graduate Center criminal justice program — have been awarded prestigious scholarships to support their research efforts.

Susybel Roxana Pimentel, who graduated from John Jay in 2012 with a B.A./M.A. in Forensic Psychology, recently won a highly competitive National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, which provides annual stipends totaling $138,000 over three years. A doctoral student at the University of Cincinnati, she is conducting research into the impact of police contact on youth, such as being stopped or arrested, and its policy implications on policing strategies.

Through her doctoral research, Pimentel hopes to understand whether aggressive police contact affects later delinquency and criminal activity, as well as the role of perceptions and attitudes in shaping such interactions.

Pimentel is no stranger to the world of research. As a McNair Scholar at John Jay under the mentorship of Professor Maureen Allwood, she wrote her master’s thesis on “Exposure to Trauma and Academic Performance: Examining the Role of Sleep,” and presented her project at a number of academic conferences. She has been a cognitive skills facilitator for the Osborne Association, working with incarcerated youth at Riker’s Island; a research assistant with the Vera Institute of Justice, surveying young adults from several New York City neighborhoods on the impact of stop, question and frisk practices; a field interviewer for NYU Langone Medical Center, and a college assistant with John Jay’s Pre Law Institute.

Jennifer Peirce, a John Jay/CUNY Ph.D. student, was named on June 9 as one of 16 winners of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation’s coveted doctoral scholarship in the social sciences and humanities. The Trudeau scholarships are awarded to exceptional Canadian students who have distinguished themselves through academic excellence, civic engagement and a commitment to reaching beyond academic circles.

Peirce, who earned her master’s degree from Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, is a specialist in international affairs whose doctoral research explores how prison governance reforms in Latin America and the Caribbean over the past 20 years have improved detention conditions and increased rehabilitation.

Prior to beginning her doctoral studies, Jennifer was part of the Citizen Security and Justice team at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), where she worked on the design, implementation, and evaluation of crime prevention, juvenile justice, prison reform and restorative justice projects in Latin America and the Caribbean. She has been an analyst with the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, where she worked on bilateral relations and political and human rights issues, and has managed program funding for transitional justice, victims’ rights, conflict mediation and police reform issues in Guatemala and Colombia.

Her writing has been published in The Paterson Review and Studies in Religion, among other media outlets.

Yay Team! Student-Athletes Are Celebrated at Annual Banquet


John Jay College celebrated its dedicated student athletes on May 13 at the 42nd annual Awards Banquet, at which an award-winning cross-country runner and a standout baseball player were named Female and Male Athlete of the Year, respectively.

More than 65 awards were presented, including Most Valuable Player and Most Improved Player for each team, conference all-star and scholar-athlete recognitions, and an award for the team with the highest aggregate grade-point average, which went to the men’s tennis team for its collective 3.387 GPA.

The Athlete of the Year honors went to sophomore runner Kaitlin Hicks, who took the prize for the second straight year, and senior first baseman and pitcher Nico Rivera. Hicks and Rivera were each MVPs of their respective teams.

Freshmen Zach Hyde of the men’s baseball team and Lisa Pellegrino of women’s softball were named college Rookies of the Year.

The co-ed rifle team and its head coach, Vincent Maorino, were recognized for recently capturing their 11th Mid-Atlantic Conference championship, the most by any team or coach in John Jay history.


Scholars, Fellows and End-of-Year Honors

Several John Jay College of Criminal Justice students – including three graduating seniors – and one recent alumna — have won prestigious academic scholarships and fellowships.

The end-of-year listing announced by John Jay College and the City University of New York includes a winner of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, which provides annual stipends totaling $138,000 over three years.

Click here for a complete listing and description of the academic honors.


PLI Director Vielka Holness, 1966-2015

Vielka Holness, who in her role as Director of John Jay’s Pre Law Institute has helped hundreds of John Jay students win admission to law schools nationwide, died June 4 of complications relating to cancer. She was 49.

At the time of her death, Holness was Director of the Office of Fellowship and Scholarship Opportunities, which she established in 2011 to help students become competitive for national and international fellowships. She joined John Jay in 2009 and was instrumental in building the Pre Law Institute into the robust program it is today. Under her leadership, the law school acceptance rate for John Jay students doubled, and students won nearly $10 million in scholarship awards last year from scores of law schools.

“She cared deeply for our students and was dedicated to their success,” said Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Jane Bowers. “Vielka will be sorely missed by the many students she touched and by the faculty and colleagues who had the pleasure and honor of working with her. Her passion for her work was inspirational to us all.”

Holness earned her law degree from the University of Michigan School of Law and an M.P.A. from Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs. She devoted much of her career to career development, continuing legal education and post-graduate opportunities at such institutions as New York University, Columbia University, Pace University Law School and Cardozo Law School.

Donations to the Vielka Holness Fund created in her honor may be made to the John Jay College Foundation, 524 West 59th Street, New York, NY 10019. All donations are tax-deductible.


Presidential Scholar Designation Is Latest Honor for Kovera

Professor Margaret Bull Kovera, one of the country’s leading scholars in psychology and law, has been appointed as a Presidential Scholar at John Jay, effective fall 2015.

The appointment recognizes Kovera’s innovative research in the areas of eyewitness identification, jury decision-making, and perceptions of expert witness evidence, which has influenced legal policy nationwide and helped to shape the international debate on the influence of social interactions in legal decision making.

A member of John Jay’s Department of Psychology since 2004, Kovera earned her Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of Minnesota, where she won the first-place dissertation award from the American Psychology-Law Society (APLS). 

In 2004, she received the award for Outstanding Teaching and Mentoring in Psychology and Law from the APLS, and she was elected president of the APLS in 2007. She also won the 2010 Distinguished Teaching Award from John Jay. Most recently, she was elected by her peers as editor-in-chief of Law and Human Behavior, the leading international journal in psychology and law.

As a Presidential Scholar, Kovera will deliver an address to the college community during the 2015-2016 academic year. 

New Trustees Join John Jay Foundation Board

Two new trustees — a prominent member of the John Jay faculty and a leading advocate for people with disabilities — have joined the board of the John Jay College Foundation.

Professor Alisse Waterston, chair of the Department of Anthropology and president-elect of the American Anthropological Association (AAA), and Charles D. Hammerman, president and CEO of the Disability Opportunity Fund, were elected to the foundation board at its May 27 meeting.

Hammerman, who holds a J.D. degree from Fordham University, was a senior member of Private Executive Services, a division of Merrill Lynch’s Global Private Client Group. While at Merrill Lynch, he spearheaded the creation of its headquarters-based Disability Awareness Professional Network. His leadership helped Merrill Lynch win recognition from Diversity Inc. magazine as the “number one company for employment of people with disabilities” in 2005 and 2006. 

Prior to the creation of the Disability Opportunity Fund, Hammerman founded the Burton Blatt Institute at Syracuse University, an organization to advance civic, economic and social participation of persons with disabilities in a global society. The institute is named for Hammerman’s uncle, Dr. Burton Blatt, an advocate for integration of the disabled community and the inspiration for the DOF.

Waterston is a cultural anthropologist whose most recent work focuses on the processes and aftermaths of political violence, ethnic and religious conflict, displacement and transnationalism, remembering, diaspora, cultural trauma and identity formation. Waterston is author of My Father’s Wars: Migration, Memory and the Violence of a Century (Routledge), an intimate ethnography.

Due to serve as AAA president in 2016-2017, Waterston is also the editor of Open Anthropology, the association’s public journal. She earned her Ph.D. from the CUNY Graduate Center, and is a Soros International Scholar affiliated with the Gender Studies Department at Tbilisi State University in the Republic of Georgia.

Waterston serves as chair of the Faculty Campaign at John Jay, a role in which she helped create the Rising Star Fellowship, which supports students who are offered unpaid internships, research assistantships or study-abroad opportunities.


Sentencing Reform Gets a Careful Examination


On May 27, John Jay College hosted a panel discussion at which New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman announced plans to reform New York’s “ad hoc and piecemeal” sentencing laws. Lippman acted on proposals developed and presented by the New York State Permanent Commission on Sentencing, including a move toward full determinate sentencing for all but the most serious homicide offenses. Lippman’s announcement was complemented by a distinguished panel that included many members of the Permanent Commission.

Click here to read the full report.