Gala at the College of Staten Island with President William Fritz
(L-R) Dr. Christine Cea, NYS Board of Regents, Pres. William Fritz, The College of Staten Island & Dr. Vita C. Rabinowitz, Interim Chancellor, The City University of New York
(L-R) Caroline Diamond Harrison (Advance Publisher); President William Fritz; Alice Diamond, Brian Laline, Editor, Staten Island Advance; and Jane Kurtin (Reporter who broke Willowbrook story)
Few readers recall the heart-breaking news story about the terrible conditions at Willowbrook, a center for students and people with difficulty functioning in society in Staten Island which first appeared in the Staten Island Advance. The school was open from 1947–1987. Conditions prompted Senator Robert Kennedy to call it a “snake pit.”
Fast-forward to 2018: In addressing the crowd, City University of New York interim chancellor, Vita C. Rabinowitz, explained:
“I am delighted to be here tonight and today I mark six months as chancellor. My parents grew up here and my grandfather was one of the partners in Three J’s Restaurant and I follow the culture here on Staten Island. And the Staten Island Advance could be an honoree each day and not just this evening.”
She added, “The College of Staten Island is growing by leaps and bounds under William Fritz’s leadership and it is ranked one of the top 50 colleges in the nation. ”
Amid the beauty of fragrant holiday wreaths and fresh winter garland, the Richmond County Country Club provided the perfect setting for more than 250 revelers who flocked to the former Italianate mansion Saturday evening to celebrate the College of Staten Island’s ninth annual Celestial Ball.
The Celestial Ball is the college’s only annual event that raises much needed funds to benefit all aspects of the college — from support for students and faculty through program enhancements to infrastructure improvements.
Honorees included Oswaldo Peña. Since arriving on Staten Island four years ago, Peña has guided and supported a variety of initiatives across the borough and his contributions to Foundation events — among other organizations — have helped the Foundation achieve important milestones. Since then, he’s volunteered as an event and logistics planner for the College of Staten Island and the CSI Foundation.
He also helped with logistics and artistic arrangements for several Staten Island nonprofits, including the Staten Island Museum, Snug Harbor, and the Greenbelt Conservancy — often teaming up with Gustavo Galván Events.
In the near future, Peña is looking forward to traveling to different destinations with his husband, Gary W. Reichard. “Anytime there is a way I can contribute to the community, where I can provide support, it’s very satisfying to apply my knowledge,” Peña said. “I feel honored and blessed to be recognized.”
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Gary W. Reichard is also an honoree at this year’s Celestial Ball. He has been credited with transforming the College of Staten Island’s academic culture by driving the recruitment of outstanding faculty, particularly deans.
During a distinguished career, Reichard served in a succession of leadership positions in the California State University system, including associate vice president for academic affairs, and then provost at Cal State Long Beach, and finally as executive vice chancellor and chief academic officer for the 23-campus CSU system.
Reichard is an accomplished political historian and the author of numerous books and journal articles, including “Politics as Usual: The Age of Truman and Eisenhower” (1988; revised ed., 2004), and, most recently, “Deadlock and Disillusionment: American Politics since 1968” (2016).
Caroline Diamond Harrison is president of Advance Local and publisher of the Staten Island Advance and its affiliated Website, SILive.com. Succeeding her father who led the newspaper for five decades, Harrison has enhanced electronic communications at the organization.
Prior to becoming publisher in 2004, Harrison was general manager of the publication from 1999 to 2004, overseeing the planning, purchase, and installation of a state-of-the-art electronic printing press, and a new press hall for the newspaper. Her experience with the Staten Island Advance began years prior with a college-level internship in the newspaper’s Lifestyle Department, writing feature stories and covering fashion events.
She serves as board member of a number of non-profit and industry organizations, including the Richmond County Savings Foundation, Alliance for Audited Media and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. She and her husband Tim have two children, a son Tim and daughter Alice. #