Ed Stinson ’70 was recently inducted into the N.J.S.I.A.A. Hall of Fame. Best known for his coaching tenure at Hoboken High School, Stinson led the football team to consecutive conference championships during 1977-1979, and a state championship in 1980. In addition to the N.J.S.I.A.A. honors, Stinson has been previously inducted into athletic hall of fames for Hudson County Sports, The New Jersey State Coaches Association, and Hoboken High School.

He was also a 1986 inductee into the Jersey City State College’s Hall of Fame—and for good reason. He captained the first, full varsity team in 1969 and was selected for First Team All-N.J.S.C.A.C. that year, the first Jersey City State football player so honored. He was the holder of several pass receiving records at the College prior to 1984, and is still tied for the most touchdown receptions (three) in one game. After graduation, he served as an assistant coach at Jersey City State from 1970-1973.

Ron Bremner ’74 is the recipient of an honorable mention in the 2017 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Contest. The award is given by the Poetry Center at Paterson County Community College. His poem, “Slow Drip,” is about a hospitalized man in search of spiritual redemption.

He is currently working on two poems about Van Gogh, which will be part of an anthology at the Van Gogh Museum in The Netherlands.

Helen Easterling Williams ’78 was recently appointed dean of the Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology. Prior to the position at Pepperdine, she held the successfully led school reaccreditation efforts and initial accreditation for the School Psychology Program, established the Emerging Technology Center, and developed an international visiting scholar program. Williams also held senior academic leadership roles at the University of Delaware from 1997-2006.

She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in speech correction with a minor in biology from Jersey City State College and went on to earn a Master of Science degree in speech and language pathology from Towson State University. At the University of Delaware, She completed her Doctor of Education degree in educational leadership.

Most recently, the popular Los Angeles radio station, 94.7 “The Wave,” selected Williams to participate in “Making Waves,” their community achievers recognition campaign. This special series publicly recognizes the accomplishments of African Americans who have made a difference through philanthropic projects, corporate accomplishments, community outreach, and/or within the entertainment field.

In September, Owen Ryan ’85, a member of the NJCU Board of Trustees, was named CEO of AEGIS.

AEGIS is a leading mutual insurance company that provides liability and property coverage and related risk management services to the energy industry. Policyholders represent virtually the entire energy infrastructure in North America, including electric and natural gas utilities, related energy companies, oil and gas exploration and production companies, water utilities, and transmission and distribution companies.

Ryan previously served as chief executive officer of Deloitte Advisory, serving the company for 30-years. For the past five years, he worked as a strategic advisor to AEGIS and its Board of Directors.

At the 54th Annual Learning Disabilities Association of America (LDA) Conference in Baltimore, LeDerick Horne ’02 was honored with the Harry Sylvester Award for his strong dedication and commitment to advancing the issues of adults with learning disabilities. Horne was diagnosed with a learning disability and labeled as neurologically impaired in the third grade. At the conference, he shared his story, including his struggles through the New Jersey school system. In his speech, he also honored the teachers and mentors who helped him on his path to success.

Horne has worked for over a decade to make the world a better place for adults with specific learning disabilities. He is an advocate, speaker, writer, and spoken-word poet. He provides between 35 and 55 presentations each year at universities, conferences, and other events focusing on improving the lives of people with learning disabilities and other challenges. His appearances include Harvard University, national and state organizations centered on disabilities, and state departments of education. Recently, he was the closing keynote speaker at the 24th Annual World Congress of Learning Disabilities Worldwide at the University of Sunderland, London, UK.

Horne has released two poetry albums and co-created New Street Poets, a play about the effect of gentrification on urban culture. He was featured in the PBS documentary, Being You, a film about three young people with learning and attention issues. His most recent project is a textbook, co-authored with Margo Vreeburg Izzo, Ph.D., titled Empowering Students with Hidden Disabilities: A Path to Pride and Success.

Eldonie S. Mason, Esq. ’02, a founding member of Mason Firm, LLC, has been appointed to the Arts Advisory Board for NJCU’s newly created Center for the Arts.

She graduated from NJCU magna cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in political science and a minor in pre-law in 2002. At NJCU, she was actively involved in student government, where she was president of the Caribbean Students Association, a member of the University Senate, and president of the senior class, 2002.

Laszlo Nyitrai ’02 M.A., a 20-year veteran of the South Brunswick Police Department, was recently promoted to the rank of lieutenant. He has served in both the patrol division and the traffic services bureau. For the past four years, Nyitrai had been assigned as a patrol supervisor, where he served as an evidence technician and a field training officer. He has a master’s degree in criminal justice from New Jersey City University. During his career, Nyitrai has received several honors for exceptional service and firearms proficiency. He has previously served as a grant writer for the department, securing funds to hire three officers in 2002. He was also one of several officers sent by South Brunswick Police to New York City in response to the September 11 attacks.

Philip Fortenberry ’04, who has performed on the Las Vegas Strip and Broadway, debuted his first solo tour in Florida, “The Hands of Liberace.” Celebrating the musical genius of Liberace in his concert, Fortenberry played and shared stories and insights. The show was performed at the Aventura Arts and Cultural Center (Aventura, Fla.) and The Crest Theatre at Old School Square (Delray Beach, Fla.)

The show was inspired by Fortenberry’s appearance in HBO Films’ Behind the Candelabra, starring Michael Douglas as Liberace and Matt Damon. Fortenberry was literally the hands for Douglas, playing all of the piano music for the film. Fortenberry had played over 300 one-man performances of “Liberace and Me” as an artist-in-residence at the famed Liberace Museum. Producers of the movie were so impressed with his skilled interpretation of Liberace’s playing and technique that they sought him out.

Fortenberry has performed at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center, entertained Mikhail Gorbachev and George H.W. Bush at the White House, and played at the 40th Anniversary Celebration of the United Nations. His Broadway career includes performing in Jesus Christ Superstar, Cats, Rocky, Ragtime, and The Lion King. In Las Vegas, he was the full-time pianist and associate conductor of Jersey Boys until its closing in 2016.

Matthew Higgins ’08 was a member of the first accelerated BSN graduating class. Since earning his degree, he has worked as a nurse at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, St. Petersburg, Fla., and is now pursuing a Doctor of Nursing Practice at the University of Florida. He will graduate in spring 2018.

“I want to thank the faculty and administration of NJCU,” says Higgins, “especially the College of Nursing, for giving me an education that has taken me very far!”

Kate Griffin ’09 exhibited 16 original paintings in her solo show, Seen and Heard, at the Sandy Bennett Art Gallery at the Bergen Performing Arts Center in Englewood. The show, comprised of acrylic self-portraits of the artist, represent different feminist themes. Each piece was directly inspired by modern music and visitors were invited to listen to the songs while observing the works by scanning QR codes with their smartphones.

Griffin graduated from New Jersey City University with a B.A. in drawing and painting, and a teaching certificate in 2009. She graduated from Kean University with a master’s degree in studio art in 2015.

She teaches art at Watchung Hills Regional High School. To learn more about Griffin, check out her website at www.paintingwithbrains.com.

Alfa Demmellash ’10 (Hon.), the co-founder and CEO of Rising Tide Capital, was selected as one of 2017’s “50 Best Women in Business” by NJBIZ. Honorees were selected based on their leadership in the New Jersey business community and shaping the economic future of our state through their hard work and passion for what they do. Demmellash was recognized at a ceremony at The Palace at Somerset Park, Somerset, on March 20.

In March, artist and illustrator Narciso Espiritu, Jr. ‘11 unleashed monsters upon 313 Gallery. His exhibition, titled Monstrance, playfully explored doom and foreboding anxieties—transforming what are considered to be internalized and abstract elements of the human condition into menacing, greedy, or lost beasts.

The collection of new work is Espiritu’s reintroduction to traditional, tactile paint through watercolor and gouache, the first series of such in
nearly five years. It is not so much a “return to form,” but an expansion of boundaries previously set upon the artist by himself.

“Taking uncertainties in our current global environment and channeling them into paintings and drawings of beings from another world is a necessity that, I think, we all can benefit from, even if the core subjects themselves are unpleasant,” he says.

Shaddai Jaquez ’13 M.S. has been promoted to senior tax accountant at Weber, Shapiro & Company, LLP. Jaquez, who joined WS & Co. in 2014, previously served as staff accountant. With more than five years of experience in public and private accounting, Jaquez has developed expertise in a broad range of taxation services, including international and multi-state taxation.

In her new role, she will focus on corporate, partnership, and individual taxation, with a specialty in international taxation, including foreign reporting for corporations and U.S. citizens residing abroad.

Sean Kelly ’13 M.S. was recently promoted to captain in the Weehawken Police Department. He has served the department since 1997. NJCU

An Altruistic Awakening

When Ana Rodrigues ’13 first appliedto NJCU to earn her MFA in GraphicDesign, she made a promise to herself she would graduate debt free.

Her plan didn’t quite work out. The economy tanked and her freelance work dried up. So, at the start of her final semester, she set her jaw, headed to the Bursar’s Office, and handed over her credit card.

Her college debt was short-lived, however. Right after graduation, Rodrigues nabbed a job working for a political strategy firm in New York City and her tuition was paid off before the New Year. She saw her sudden good fortune as motivation to count her blessings. As she did so, she made another promise to herself: she would help other people find a few extra blessings in their own lives.

This commitment to help others was not an epiphany as much as it was a conscious effort to return to her roots. As a Girl Scout in her native Newark, Rodrigues visited the infirm and collected clothes for the needy. At her high school, St. Vincent Academy, community service was a key component of the curriculum. Rodrigues was also a member of her church’s Good News Youth Group, where she delivered food to the poor.

So Rodrigues used her limited post-NJCU spare time to design—and cover the printing costs for—1,500 holiday postcards to be sent to American troops in hospitals overseas.

“I asked friends to take as many cards as they wanted and write well wishes to our servicemen and women,” she remembers. “I posted on Facebook and, before I knew it, I had former Saint Vincent Academy classmates, former Our Lady of Fatima Girl Scouts, and Good News Youth Group members contacting me for cards.

I even had my students filling out cards,” says Rodrigues, who is also an adjunct professor at NJCU.

That was only the beginning. The holiday card initiative was followed by a slew of new efforts to help the residents of Newark: a book bag drive for local school children; a clothing drive for Wynona’s House, an organization dedicated to helping abused and neglected children; dog food donations for the local ASPCA; and tube sock donations to Covenant House, an organization that helps homeless youth.

Rodrigues primarily promotes herself through social media, posting on Facebook “religiously” and using humorous memes to remind friends and well-wishers that others are in need of goods. (Rodrigues never asks for monetary donations.) She is also willing to go out of her way to accommodate any potential donor’s schedule. “If the only convenient time to pick up their donations is 3 a.m., I’ll be there,” she says. “It’s really important to make it as convenient as possible for people to do their part.”

Aside from the benefits of helping others, Rodrigues’ ambitious efforts (4,800 pairs of socks, 5,000 handwritten holiday cards) have allowed her to reconnect with old friends and meet new ones.

“Hopefully, it makes them feel like they actually did something important—which they did,” says Rodrigues. “They cared enough to stop their lives, if only for a moment, to help someone less fortunate.”

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