December 2023

Frankly Speaking Banner

The end of the semester—and the calendar year—always seems to arrive with a bit of surprise, as if the last weeks proceed more rapidly than their predecessors. Yet it is great to feel the change of seasons, a sign of our progress toward our goals. For our students, that means they are all the closer to their careers we have enabled. We also can look forward to the winter break. The holiday season offers us time with family and friends and community.

I spent a busy Thanksgiving Day weekend in California. I visited with amazing Queens College alumni. In Santa Monica, I dined with Peter and Barbara Rothholz, members of the classes of 1950 and ’55, respectively. Peter, a highly regarded public relations executive who taught in our BALA minor for eight years. He told me more about his professional journey in an essay, "Memorable Moments in my Memorable Career" I’m sharing here. Barbara had a wonderful and rewarding career as a teacher and a painter. I admired several of her canvasses hanging in their home, and she has others displayed by the gallery which still represents her. Peter and Barbara are an example: they told my wife and me about how they met and have been married for more than a half century now. They traveled the world together, including a memorable stint in Egypt.

I barely readjusted to East Coast time on Wednesday, November 29, when I had the privilege of hosting Greek Consul General Konstantinos Konstantinou. Our borough boasts one of the world’s largest Greek-American and Greek diaspora communities and the college has robust programs in the language, history, and culture of Greece. I have visited with the advisory board for the Center for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies, founded by the legendary Professor Harry Psomiades, and look forward to its fiftieth anniversary celebration this spring.

From left: Gerasimus Katsan (Modern Greek), Ferronia Soumanis, Neophytos Ioannou (Center for Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies), President Frank H. Wu, Warren Woodfin (History/Art History), Greek Consul General Konstantinos Konstantinou, George Giannopoulos (FNES), Maria Athanasopoulou (Modern Greek), Nicholas Alexiou (Sociology/Hellenic American Project), Eumorfia Argyropoulou, Assistant Vice President Jeff Rosenstock

Adam Behlman ’90, president of Starwood Property Trust’s Real Estate Investing & Servicing segment, president of Starwood Mortgage Capital, and past chairman of the Commercial Real Estate Finance Council—the leading trade organization for the commercial real estate finance industry—exemplifies what is possible with a degree from Queens College. I’m grateful that he returned to his alma mater to speak at the Business Breakfast on Thursday, November 30, and I’m sure students found him inspiring.

Every sector of the economy relies on talented computer professionals, and higher education is no exception. I was delighted to join members of Queens College’s IT team as they were honored on November 30, the first day of the university’s two-day IT Conference, held at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. The office received the CUNY IT Innovation Award for leveraging the CUNYFirst login as a cloud identity management tool across email and telephone systems. Transitioning to the cloud brought about a multitude of benefits, including $5,000,000 in cost reduction, establishing a unified CUNY ID System, facilitating a more mobile workforce, enhancing business continuity, bolstering cybersecurity, and simplifying how and where QC community members access and use technology. In addition, Noel Pena of the IT Telecommunications Team was given the IT Exemplary Service Award, in recognition of his service to the college community in the past year.

From left: CIO/AVP Troy Hahn; IT staff Karl McIntyre, Buddy Sanichar, and Noel Pena; President Frank H. Wu; IT staff Jason Kong and Evelyn Alvarenga; CUNY Vice Chancellor for Information Technology and University Chief Information Office Eusebio Formoso

CUNY Trustee Angelo Vivolo came to campus on December 1. Angelo taught in public high schools in Queens and Brooklyn for almost a decade before joining his family’s successful restaurant business. A strong and longtime advocate of educational opportunity and community service, he supports numerous programs and student scholarships, including the hospitality, culinary and hotel management program at CUNY’s New York City College of Technology. As an advocate for Italian Americans and noted philanthropist, he was especially thrilled to meet our talented faculty teaching Italian and their students, as well as Dean and Distinguished Professor Anthony Tamburri and Distinguished Professor Fred Gardaphe of the Calandra Institute, which serves all of CUNY and is administratively housed within CUNY. Our campus tour included meetings with faculty, students, and staff.  

From left: Jay Hershenson (Communications and Marketing), Morena Corradi (Italian), Fred Gardaphe (Calandra Institute), Eugenia Paulicelli (Italian, Comparative Literature, and Womens Studies), President Frank H. Wu, CUNY Trustee Angelo Vivolo, Elena Luongo (Italian), James Vacca (Urban Studies), and Anthony Tamburri (Calandra Institute)

Vivolo (second from right) speaking with students, faculty, and staff

Later that day, Queens College celebrated the retirement of Nancy Foldi, a member of the psychology faculty since 1999. As director of the Neuropsychology Laboratory of Aging and Dementia, Nancy has trained members of the next generation of neuropsychologists. I’m grateful for her dedication to her field and our students, and I wish her the best of luck in her endeavors after QC.

Sharing a photo op are, from left, soon-to-be graduates Vivian Chu and Melissa Pocsai, QC alumna Isabelle Avildsen, Nancy Foldi (Psychology), Olga Nikelshpur (Psychology), Aditya Kulkarni (Psychology), and QC alumna Clara Vila Castelar, all associated with the Neuropsychology Laboratory of Aging and Dementia.

No, that wasn’t a spaceship on campus on Saturday! A drone was used to survey the Delany Hall façade in preparation for New York State-funded improvements, including work on the roof and masonry and window replacement.

In sports news, I offer congratulations to two members of our men’s soccer team, Adolfo Martinez Paquet and Jose Mendez, who were both named to the Division II Conference Commissioners Association All-East Region Team. Pacquet was selected to the first team, and Mendez earned second-team honors. It is the first time in school history that the Knights had two players earn All-Region honors in the same season. The pair led the Knights to an East Coast Conference Championship and a trip to the NCAA Tournament earlier this year.

In closing, I wish students great success on their exams, and I extend the warmest holiday greetings to everyone in the QC community. Many thanks to our dedicated faculty and staff for all the support throughout the semester and beyond. Collectively, we have been impacted by international events; through constructive dialogue, we must maintain our values and face the new year with even greater appreciation for our vibrant, diverse campus community within the world’s borough.


PS: Please join me in the Student Union Ballroom today—Tuesday, December 5—anytime from 3 to 5 pm, for the college’s holiday party.

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