Evening of awards and celebration, highlighted by major gift for student emergency needs

It was a night of celebration and appreciation of Farmingdale State College, its outstanding alumni, students, faculty and staff, and their myriad accomplishments, in a room filled with hundreds of generous supporters.

Above all else, the 2022 President’s Gala held November 3 at Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury was a warm embrace for FSC’s students, some of whom were also in attendance. The evening was a showcase of emotional and financial support as the event raised $160,000 for the Farmingdale College Foundation, the not-for-profit corporation that supports the College’s mission and programs. 

Among the reasons for celebration: A donation announcement toward the end of the night, to a fund to help students with emergency expenses that might otherwise derail their education.

“Let me be the first on behalf of the College and my student peers, a number of whom are in the room with us this evening, to thank you for your support,” said Daniela Figueroa, ’24, winner of the President’s Award for Student Leadership, an applied psychology major, RAM and Sillcox Scholar, and Farmingdale State College Newman Civic Fellow for 2022. “Farmingdale State College is special to me because of the people, including you.” 

One of the College’s most faithful supporters, Bethpage Federal Credit Union, was the well-deserved recipient of the RAM’s Horn Award for Corporate Leadership, accepted by John Witterschein, Vice President for Consumer Credit and Vice President of the Farmingdale Foundation Board, for years of philanthropy to the College and Long Island, whose remarks included a $100,000 donation from Bethpage to the Nader-Wolverton Student Emergency Fund. The money is used to help students experiencing financial crises to remain in school.  

“Bethpage is a longtime supporter of Farmingdale State College as an institution committed to catapulting students to a bright future,” said Linda Armyn, Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer for Bethpage. “We are honored to have a role in helping these deserving students get the support they need to finish their college education and start their professional journey.”

The uncertainty of the COVID years has been replaced by steady growth for the College. “I’m elated to recognize the remarkable progress over the past 24 months in dramatically strengthening our College Foundation,” President Dr. John S. Nader, told the gathering of nearly 300 people.  He cited the efforts of Vice President Matthew Colson and the development team he leads. “We have expanded our scholarship offerings both in number and in size, received three of the largest gifts in college history, funded new initiatives, dramatically increased our endowment, raised the profile of the College, reimagined our events, and attained a record number of donors.”

"The strength and success behind a great college is often reflective of the support it receives from its community, as in its ability to leverage the impact of philanthropy," said Colson. “The growing support from Farmingdale’s alumni, business partners, friends of the college, and staff, is at the core of our students’ success. We’re proud to do our part to untap their full potential.”

The evening honored three other members of the FSC family: Rena Varghese, Esq., Executive Director of the Nexus Center for Applied Learning and Career Development, for Professional Leadership; Bill Steedle,’81, Assistant Dean of the School of Business and Associate Professor of Visual Communications, for Academic Leadership; and Dr. Eileen Magri, ’78, PhD, RN NEA-BC, Senior Director of Nursing at NYU Langone Hospital Long Island, for Alumni Leadership.

Varghese’s vision and direction helped make the Nexus Center the critical resource it is today.  A management adage says “first who, then what,” Nader noted. “Rena is the right who. She took our undefined vision for a center of applied leaning and created the Nexus Center.”

After accepting her award, Varghese praised her colleagues at the Nexus Center and the College for supporting their work because of the opportunities it provides students.

Varghese has FSC on her mind even in her spare time. She is playing in a World Poker Tour event in Las Vegas in December 2022, and if she wins, she plans to donate a percentage of her prize to the Farmingdale College Foundation.

President Nader admitted in his introduction that Steedle’s recognition was long overdue. “To be frank, this is an award that should have been bestowed on Bill Steedle earlier,” Nader said.  “When we reflected on all that Bill has done over his career, it seems we took for granted what should have been obvious—that Bill Steedle had excelled on behalf of his alma mater in myriad ways and on countless occasions.”

With experience as a student, professor, and administrator, Steedle is also well-known for his collection of FSC memorabilia, historical artifacts, and his extensive knowledge of the College, its history, and its people.

"The College has undergone many changes in the four decades he has been here," Steedle said in accepting his award, but he is thankful some things have remained the same. “The one constant is the people,” he said. “To me, Farmingdale is all about the people. I was fortunate to have been born into a large and loving family, and my second family is all of you, and for that, I am also grateful.”  

Magri illustrates just how far an FSC nursing degree can take graduates. As the Senior Director of Nursing, Women, and Children’s Services at NYU Langone Health-Long Island in Mineola, the alumna leads operations, projects, and planning for multiple inpatient units.  

“Her titles alone do not tell the full tale of her commitment to women’s health, or her work during COVID, or ability to put into practice research funding that will make patient care better,” according to Nader. 

Magri was also the keynote speaker at the first ceremony at which nursing students received their first stethoscope, and she spoke about how a stethoscope is a metaphor.

“It’s a symbol of not only how to care for patients, but also for how to proceed in life,” President Nader related. “Eileen pointed out that to use the stethoscope correctly one must stop, apply it without prejudgment or condition, and listen, truly listen, before making a judgment or diagnosis.”

FSC is fortunate that its present—and future—are in the hands of students such as Figueroa, who besides her other accomplishments, is involved with research, community service, and mentoring other students. 

“The beautiful campus would be nothing without the diverse stories walking its halls,” she said. “Every single individual has their own unique laugh, unique struggles, and unique achievements, and somehow, we were all destined to be on the same timeline on the same campus, sharing it with one another.” 

Enjoy reading a digital copy of the Gala Journal and viewing the Gala photos.