By Ted Waddell
LOCH SHELDRAKE September 2, 2003 At Sullivan County Community College, dreams turned into reality on Thursday afternoon as the two-year institution of higher learning hosted a double dedication ceremony celebrating the new 320-student Lazarus I. Levine Residence Hall and the naming of the freshly revamped Benmosche Family Dining Hall.
In unveiling the anonymous donor who contributed an outright gift of $2 million and pledged an additional $1 million in matching funds to the dormitory project, SCCC Foundation chairman and co-chair of the colleges capital campaign Robert J. Ernst confirmed the long-standing word on the street that the secret benefactors were Alan and Sandra Gerry and the Gerry Foundation.
The $10.8 million dormitory construction project is being funded by a $3 million gift from the Gerrys, a $1 million match through local contributions and a portion of the sale of $8.7 million in bonds.
The move-in date for students was yesterday. Except for resident assistants (RAs), all the inhabitants will be freshmen.
The Gerrys are also serving as honorary co-chairs of the capital campaign that is charged with raising funds for the match.
On Tuesday, August 5, the college officially launched its $1.5 million The Start of Something Great Capital Campaign as it dedicated The First National Bank of Jeffersonville Education Center.
The banks gift of $150,000 funded the new education center, located adjacent to the Hermann Memorial Library. It is the largest gift to date for the campaign.
In opening the dedication ceremony for the colleges state-of-the-art dormitory, Vice President for Administrative Services Elizabeth Kubenik said, Thirty-seven years ago in 1966, the Sullivan County Community College Dormitory Corporation was founded for the purpose of owning, leasing and operating the student residence facilities. . . . Even before 1966, students were living in privately owned dormitories, including homes, bungalows and motels.
But as early as 1980, it was evident that the quality of resident student life was impacted by the lack of modern, supervised, secure housing, she added.
According to Kubenik, in 1995, the colleges board of trustees laid the foundation for the new residence hall by commissioning a feasibility study for a new on-campus dormitory to develop the vision that the further success of this college was to undertake the enormous task to build a state-of-the-art residence facility adjacent to the campus.
Today, we make history! said Scott Samuelson, president of the SCCC Dormitory Corporation, the organization that owns and operates the new residence hall.
This year, the college celebrates the 40th year of its being and the 30th year of being at its present location, he added. Today, we celebrate past, present and future. We give thanks to the visionaries who knew years ago that this was a community college that needed a residence hall.
There were bumps and major roadblocks . . . [but] everyone kept pushing forward, not letting anything or anyone get in the way, said Samuelson of the often arduous process of making the dorm spring to life on campus.
Bernard Moody, student representative of the colleges board of trustees and one of the newly appointed RAs, addressed the large assemblage of dignitaries and local folks gathered on the lawn in front of the new dorm.
It is great to be part of such of a great opportunity, he said. This is the start of something great.
Having a dorm so close to the school is going to help a lot of our students pull up their grades [and] be more active in the community, said Moody.
Following her acknowledgement of the long list of the folks who made it all happen, Kubenik introduced NYS Senator John J. Bonacic (42nd Senatorial District).
What a facility to have college parties in, he said jokingly in a comment that caused a ripple of laughter amongst the crowd.
Sen. Bonacic related first meeting Lazarus Laz Levine as a young attorney in Orange County on the other side of some litigated matters.
This was a gentleman who was smart and dead tough, he recalled. I got to know him as I grew up. . . . He was a great humanitarian.
Looking ahead to the Labor Day arrival of the new dorms residents, Sen. Bonacic said, When students live and learn on campus, they have a higher commitment to education and increased pride and respect of the institution.
Denise Bukovan, assistant vice chancellor of community colleges for the State University of New York (SUNY), was on hand representing the SUNY Chancellors Office.
This is a benchmark in the history of Sullivan County Community College . . . the beginning of a new, successful era in your development, she said. It is a visible testament to your dedication, tenacity and the great generosity of your many supporters.
Robert Kunis serves as chairman of the Sullivan County Industrial Development Agency (IDA) and represents District 9 on the County Legislature.
In recalling the colleges early days at the old Fallsburg High School, he told the audience that his father, the owner of a restaurant in South Fallsburg, used to name sandwiches after some professors, many of whom were regular lunchtime patrons.
After introducing his fellow legislative colleagues in attendance (Chairlady Leni Binder and legislators James Carnell Jr., Christopher Cunningham, Rodney Gaebel and Kathleen LaBuda), Kunis said, These are good times for Sullivan County. . . . This project is evidence of major change [in the county].
This is a result of forward and progressive thinking of a collective group of businesspeople, professionals and educators who make up the board of trustees of a college that has yet to reach its potential, he added.
Joyce Salimeno, a member of the SCCC Foundation and co-chair of the capital campaign, told the crowd that the committee has secured about $750,000 in gifts and pledges toward their goal of matching the Gerrys $1 million donation.
We are confident we will reach our goal, she said.
Bob Ernst wears several hats at the local community college: chair of the foundations board of directors, vice chairman of the board of trustees and co-chair of the capital campaign The Start of Something Great.
Ernst said the new dorm made many dreams become reality: the colleges 40-year vision of having a residential hall, his dream after serving on the Dormitory Corporation Board for more than 30 years and helping to fulfill the dreams of generations of students to come.
He then introduced Alan Gerry, cable visionary and long-time supporter of Sullivan County Community College.
What a great afternoon this is, said Gerry. The board has done proud by Laz.
He then went on to recall Levine as a man with an innate ability and sensitivity to help people that had lost their way ordinary people he grew up with and met in his everyday life.
He had the wisest words of any man I ever knew, said Gerry in recollecting a man he first met as a teenager.
He wasnt complicated, said Gerry. He was plain, straight from the shoulder. . . . He told me to set my goals and go out and try to meet them.
To Lazarus, I say thank you for your help and friendship, he added. I still miss him today, and I know hes here with us today.
In calling forward several people to join her in the ribbon-cutting ceremony Kubenik, Board Chair Ken Klein, Samuelson, Ernst, Salimeno, Sen. Bonacic, Binder and Levines daughter Dolores Seiler college President Dr. Mamie Howard Golladay called the dedication a historic event in the history of the local community college.
I am indeed pleased to see the name Lazarus I. Levine displayed on the student residence hall for generations to come, she said. Today, this dream is realized.
After the double ribbons were cut, an honorary plaque was presented to Seiler.
In his closing remarks, Klein said he first met Levine when he was a 24-year-old kid fresh out of law school.
He was approaching his 80th birthday, and I was wet behind the ears, he recalled of landing a job as an associate attorney in the law firm of Levine, Silverman and Jaffe in Liberty.
Over the years, Laz became my teacher, my mentor, my partner and most of all, my friend, he said of the man who gained a reputation for dispelling the notion that he was just a country lawyer.
He was a man who knew and understood the importance of education, said Klein. He came from modest and humble beginnings to create a legend by nurturing his great intellect through education.
After the ceremonies were all over, everyone headed up the grassy hill to attend the dedication and naming of the Benmosche Family Dining Hall.
As Gerry walked alone toward the second dedication of the day, he paused to look back on the colleges new dormitory.
Im very gratified by the communitys turnout to support this project, he said. I think it will make a dramatic difference [in our ability] to attract out-of-town students. . . . Hopefully, it will be an inspiration for these kids to dig into their studies to accomplish their goals and aspirations.
In noting that last winter was one of the hardest to hit the county in decades, he credited the perseverance of architect Joseph Hurwitz and builders Alan and Irving Zuckerman of Monroe with getting it done.
Our hats off to them, he said. I think weve got a real winner here!