MAY 2015

Reunion Is So Big It Takes a Weekend!

An enthusiastic crowd of John Jay alumni — from the very first graduating class to the latest — came home to their alma mater on April 24 and 25 to celebrate the College’s 50th anniversary at the first-ever Alumni Weekend.

Reunion organizers offered alumni seven separate events to choose from, beginning with a Founding Generation symposium on Friday afternoon, and concluding with a Family Carnival on the Jay Walk the following day. In all, roughly 1,400 attendees participated in the weekend of information, entertainment and activities, with the common thread being reconnecting with John Jay.

Following the opening symposium [see related article], the business of re-establishing school ties began in earnest at a networking reception in the Kroll Atrium. The conviviality soon adjourned to Haaren Hall’s fourth floor, where more than 500 guests — including alumni, faculty, staff and even a scattering of current undergraduates — filled 65 tables spread throughout both the main and auxiliary gymnasiums.

“You have no idea how thrilled we are to host the first all classes, all majors, all states, two-day alumni reunion,” said Shauna-Kay Gooden (B.A./M.P.A. ’04), president of the John Jay Alumni Association. Gooden offered a number of salutes to special groups in attendance, including graduates of the John Jay-U.S. Marsha's Co-op Program, alumni who are current or former employees of John Jay College, and those who have traveled from outside the New York area.

Alumni were on hand from such far-flung locations as Washington, D.C., North Carolina, Florida, Georgia, California and Canada.

The roster of annual honorees began with Andrene Z. Wright, winner of the 2015 Michael F. McCann Alumni Scholarship. Wright, a junior majoring in Political Science, is a transfer student from Michigan State University. As a Fellow of the CUNY Service Corps, she is currently interning in the King’s County District Attorney’s Domestic Violence Bureau. Wright aspires to a Ph.D. with a research focus on discovering the variables that lead to African American women being underrepresented in government roles. “I’m honored and humbled to be this year’s McCann Alumni Scholar,” said Wright.

The Outstanding Young Alumna award, presented to a John Jay graduate under age 35, was awarded to Christina Benavides (B.A. ’04), who is Director of Operations for Girls Inc. of New York City, A former McNair Scholar, Benavides noted that John Jay provided an environment that helped her realize her dream of working in a career that combined youth, community development and criminal justice. Without John Jay, she said, she would not have the confidence and background to be an agent of change and inspire girls to be “strong, smart and bold.”

For the first time, the Alumni Reunion presented its Distinguished Faculty Award to a retired yet no less beloved professor, Peter De Forest, for 37 years a mainstay of the Department of Sciences. De Forest, a nationally recognized and respected expert in criminalistics, helped develop John Jay’s bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral programs in Forensic Science. The Distinguished Faculty honor was enthusiastically applauded by dozens of his former students who came back to John Jay for the occasion.

The centerpiece of the Alumni Reunion’s annual honors, the Distinguished Alumnus Award, was presented to First Deputy Commissioner Benjamin B. Tucker (B.S. ’77) of the New York City Police Department. Tucker, a former beat cop in Brooklyn, has held numerous top posts in city and federal government since he retired from the NYPD, including Deputy Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. He cited his John Jay education as a key factor in his professional growth, and said of his return to the Police Department, “I believe I can make a difference.”

On a beautiful spring evening, alumni and other guests wrapped up Day One of the reunion with an after-party in the Anya and Andrew Shiva Gallery in the New Building. The event was once again hosted by veteran music industry impresario — and former John Jay student — Johnny Marines, and guest DJ Camilo of Hot 97 radio provided the party’s entertainment, setting the tone for an evening of wall-to-wall music and dancing.

John Jay History Comes Alive at Founding Generation Symposium

For the fourth consecutive year, the John Jay College Alumni Reunion kicked off with a special Founding Generation Symposium, which this year featured unique perspectives and reminiscences from family of seminal figures in the College’s 50-year history.

After eliciting a show of hands from the many in the audience who were visiting John Jay’s new building for the first time, President Jeremy Travis introduced a panel moderated by Distinguished Professor of History Gerald Markowitz, described as “John Jay’s unofficial historian.” Markowitz presided with a light touch over a discussion that included Sandi Cooper, wife of the late Dean of Faculty John Cammett; Dr. Neil Blumberg, son of the late Professor Abraham Blumberg; Marc Reisman, son of John Jay’s founding President, Leonard Reisman, and Timothy Lynch, son of former President Gerald W. Lynch.

Reisman noted that his father, who died suddenly of a heart attack in 1967, had been serving as the NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner for Legal Matters when he was offered the appointment as John Jay’s first president. “He jumped at the chance,” said Reisman, who flew in with his family from California for the Alumni Reunion. “It combined two of his passions: policing and education.”

Cooper, a Professor of History at the College of Staten Island and a former chair of the University Faculty Senate, recalled her late husband’s role in shaping the humanities component of the John Jay curriculum, including the hiring of a number of key history faculty, including Distinguished Professors Markowitz and Blanche Wiesen Cook. Cammett, who died in 2008 at age 81, “showed that college, and this University, could serve a broader population, not just the elite.”

Blumberg’s father, a prominent sociologist and criminologist and former Dean of Social Sciences at John Jay, was at the center of a headline-generating controversy in 1970 when a classroom discussion led ultimately to a showdown with then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. Infuriated by criticisms that had come to his attention, Hoover demanded that Professor Blumberg be fired, and ordered all FBI agents attending John Jay to drop out. College President Donald Riddle firmly rejected Hoover’s demand.

“My father was a provocative man,” said the younger Blumberg. “He was not someone who sought trouble, yet trouble seemed to find him. It was a hard thing for him to have crossed one of the most powerful men in the most powerful nation on Earth.”

Timothy Lynch, now a prosecutor in the Bronx, was just a young boy when his father became President in 1975, just as John Jay confronted the municipal fiscal crisis that nearly closed down the College. A vigorous and successful “Save John Jay” campaign was launched, and President Lynch went on to serve 28 years as the College’s chief executive. “The joy that my father took in carrying out the mission of John Jay was self-evident,” Timothy Lynch recalled. “What made him effective was his passion — he believed in John Jay to his core — his kindness, and his audacious vision. He had a certainty that John Jay’s purpose was both noble and necessary.”

Lynch concluded, “John Jay’s purpose has never been more important than it is now.”

The Race Is On: Alumni & Friends Tackle First ‘Race for Justice’

It was a seasonable, if chilly, Saturday morning, but that didn’t stop some 80 hardy souls from assembling alongside the Hudson River Greenway at West 55th Street for the first annual Race for Justice.

Staged by the Office of Marketing and Development in conjunction with the Department of Athletics, the Race for Justice kicked off Day 2 of the inaugural Alumni Reunion Weekend.
Participants were amply fueled at the start with energy bars, fruit and Gatorade, and were able to rehydrate at the West 26th Street turnaround point of the five-kilometer out-and-back course. The course was staffed by student-athlete volunteers.

For those not up to the challenge of running 3.1 miles, the event also offered a one-mile walk open to walkers and “rollers,” including a wheelchair delegation from the CUNY Coalition for Students with Disabilities. Medals were awarded to top finishers in all three categories, and all participants were given a goodie bag that included a specially designed t-shirt and other commemorative items.

The Race for Justice was followed a day of family-oriented events, including a brunch that served more than 200 people and an outdoor carnival on the Jay Walk.


Commencement Beckons for Latest to Join Alumni Ranks

On Wednesday, June 3, the John Jay Alumni Association will welcome the newest additions to its ranks, as more than 3,000 students cross the stage at the Theatre at Madison Square Garden for the College’s 49th annual Commencement ceremonies.

“For almost fifty years, John Jay students and alumni from across disciplines have made a difference locally, nationally and abroad,” said President Jeremy Travis. “We know our newest graduates will make their own mark as fierce advocates for justice.”

The graduating class comprises 1,237 males and 1,852 females, ranging in age from 19-year-old Jason Colin to 63-year-old Jeff Smith. There will be 2,613 bachelor’s degrees awarded, along with 531 master’s degrees. The class also includes 126 military veterans and 396 international students representing 83 countries.

Five sibling pairs are members of the graduating class, including Gurjinder and Baljeet Singh, Ignace and Angela Joseph-Pauline, Allen and Enrique Santos, Christopher and Andrew Flores, and Selin and Senem Yigistoy.

The Class of 2015 will be led by valedictorian Elvira Kirilko, an Honors student who earned a perfect 4.00 grade-point average majoring in Forensic Psychology. Joining her on stage for the ceremonies will be dual salutatorians: Emily Ford, a Criminology major, and Daniel Destefano, a Criminal Justice (B.A.) major. Both also had 4.0 GPAs; the tiebreaker is based on credits earned at John Jay.

Honorary doctorates will be presented at the 10:30 AM and 3:30 PM ceremonies to two longtime “fierce advocates for justice”: Chief Judge Robert Katzmann of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, a champion of immigrant rights, and William Ramirez, a dogged fighter for police reform in his role as Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Puerto Rico.