At the intersection of Broadway and Central Park South in New York City, Jazz at Lincoln Center is home to concerts and milestone performances by musicians from around the world. On Nov. 29, the star of the evening was an institution celebrating its own milestone and making a national and international impact: Franklin & Marshall College.
Generations of F&M alumni joined President Daniel R. Porterfield, trustees, members of the faculty and professional staff, students and friends of the College for a 225th Anniversary Gala in the Jazz at Lincoln Center's Frederick P. Rose Hall. Conceived and spearheaded by Trustee Ray Sanseverino, Esq., '68, the gala featured a look back at F&M's origins and showcased present-day initiatives and accomplishments by students and faculty members. Highlighted by a reception and dinner overlooking Columbus Circle and Central Park, the gala was one of the signature events in F&M's yearlong celebration of 225 years of academic excellence, scholarship and service.
In remarks to more than 300 guests in attendance, Porterfield and Sanseverino spoke of the legacy of the College -- which was founded as Franklin College in 1787, a few months before America adopted the Constitution in September of that year -- and the impact F&M alumni currently make across the U.S. and around the globe.
"American at the core, and inspired by our namesakes -- Benjamin Franklin & John Marshall -- Franklin & Marshall College has no ordinary calling," Porterfield said in his address to guests at the reception. "Our mission is to boldly advance the human condition -- elevating students, families, communities, this country and the world. This College must have national reach and global renown just like the iconic Americans in whose names we work."
For Sanseverino, partner and chair of real estate at Loeb & Loeb LLP in New York, the event was a festive culmination to an extensive planning process sparked by his longstanding love for the College. Four years ago, Sanseverino began thinking that a large-scale event could inspire pride among F&M alumni in what he calls the College's "second home," as the New York metropolitan area is home to more than 5,000 F&M alumni, and almost 300 of the College's current 2,400 students. F&M's 225th anniversary provided the perfect opportunity to organize an event that would reconnect alumni with F&M and encourage future engagement with the College, Sanseverino said.
"It's important for us all to remember that we're part of a legacy that's almost as old as our nation. That should be a great source of pride for alumni," Sanseverino said after the event. "We're all linked to one another by the knowledge that we've gained at F&M and the opportunities the College afforded us. By remaining engaged with the College, giving back financially, and providing opportunities for students and alumni to network, we can pay a debt of gratitude to those who came before us."
Sanseverino said his own education would not have been possible without financial aid. "I didn't make it alone," he said. "Someone before me was generous enough to support me."
During the gala dinner, Chair of the Board of Trustees Lawrence I. Bonchek, M.D., P'91, announced that proceeds from the gala would enable F&M to create a new endowment of more than $200,000 to support need-based financial aid at F&M. Bonchek then introduced Donnell Butler '95, senior associate dean for planning and analysis of student outcomes, who led a live "auction" for the crowd to have another opportunity to raise money for financial aid, as well as two initiatives for students: F&M College Prep, a pre-college immersion program designed to transform rising seniors into college-ready students, and a summer internship at New York-based financial data firm Bloomberg L.P.
F&M students Prescott Owusu '16 and siblings Alex Welbeck '16 and Sandra Welbeck '16, who participated in the inaugural F&M College Prep in 2011, spoke to the crowd about how the summer program helped them build qualities of leadership. All three are natives of New York.
"F&M College Prep gave me the chance to create a better future for myself and my family," Alex Welbeck said.
Inspired by the students' stories of how they hoped to be role models for other students, the audience members lifted their auction cards again and again, raising almost $100,000 in additional donations for F&M College Prep, the Bloomberg internship and financial aid.
The gala also provided an opportunity for F&M alumni to reconnect with the College and one another. Samara Valentine '10, a native of New York, enjoyed seeing several members of the Class of 2010 at the reception. An active member of the New York chapter of the F&M Alumni Association, Valentine said she is proud of her ties to the College.
"My F&M education gave me the confidence to go out in the world," said Valentine, who holds contract jobs with Yahoo! and the U.S. Fund for UNICEF. "It's inspiring to hear all the things President Porterfield said about Ben Franklin and John Marshall. It makes me feel good to be rooted in something so amazing."
Clark McSparren, M.D., '55, who served on the F&M Alumni Board for eight years, attended both the event in New York and F&M's 225th anniversary celebration in Lancaster on Nov. 16. He said the events reminded him of the strong role F&M has played in his life and kindled his desire to continue to support the College.
"The Lancaster event was grand, and [the New York gala] was superb," said McSparren, who began practicing pediatrics in Lancaster in 1964. "There are so many opportunities at F&M for students today. Students can be overwhelmed by the cost of education, and part of what I can do is help increase the endowment to help students in the way F&M helped me."
Sanseverino chaired the New York-based 225th Gala Committee, which comprised nearly two dozen trustees and alumni. The committee worked closely with F&M's Office of the President and Office of College Advancement to plan the gala.
Deborah Murray Martin '72, F&M's director of special events and assistant secretary to the Board of Trustees, said the commitment of Sanseverino and the gala committee was "inspiring and admirable." Martin, who co-chairs the College's 225th Anniversary Planning Committee, was also inspired by members of College Advancement -- especially Cathy Roman '77, director of alumni and parent relations; Katie Guild, stewardship coordinator; and Donna Pflum, associate director of alumni relations -- who worked "tirelessly for months" to bring the gala to life, Martin said.
"I have never been more proud to be a member of the Franklin & Marshall family than I was that evening," said Martin, who was among the first female graduates of F&M in 1972 after the College became coeducational in 1969, and who has strong family ties to F&M. "The energy and excitement of all the guests at the gala was overwhelming."
A Special 'Treat'
The evening also featured the premiere of a video that promotes the theme of the College's 225th anniversary, "Beyond 225: Inspired for Life." Narrated by F&M alumnus and Golden Globe-nominated actor Treat Williams '73, the video takes viewers on a journey from the College's origins as a school with approximately 100 students at its founding in 1787 to an internationally respected institution with more than 25,000 alumni around the world today.
The video features faculty members, coaches and administrators who have taught and mentored F&M students throughout the generations. This included former F&M Associate Dean David Stameshkin, who retired from the College in June and led the guests in singing the F&M alma mater to close out the festivities.
Roman, who was a key part of the planning process from the concept stage to the evening of the gala itself, said the most exciting part of the whole process was the way a group of volunteers, including F&M alumni and parents, "embraced the idea of this event and the time and energy they all put into such a special night for Franklin & Marshall."
Roman particularly lauded the gala committee, comprising Sanseverino, Joseph Andreassi Jr. P'14, Charles R. Bendit P'15, Karyn K. Bendit P'15, Ryan A. Becker, Esq., '98, Sarah Mullane Becker, Esq., '98, Neil B. Davidowitz, Esq., '78, P'14, Doreen Davidowitz, Esq., '78, P'14, Professor Joel P. Eigen, Laura Ensler '77, John W. Greene Jr. '99, Barry S. Lafer, Esq., '69, David H. Lehman, Ph.D., '68, P'01, Thomas Wade Nissley, M.Div, '55, William L. Platt '77, Jodi M. Pulice P'15, Greg B. Smith P'15, Shadoe G. Tarver '10, Franklin J. Walton, Ph.D., '73, Paul J. Weinstein '53, Colleen Ross Weis '85 and Linda Yarden, Esq., '81.
"This night showed the enduring love and deep commitment our alumni have for Franklin & Marshall," Roman said. "One of the College's biggest assets is its alumni, and their participation demonstrates that they are truly dedicated to sustaining F&M's excellence today and into the future."