Six area community leaders, professionals and volunteers will be honored on April 6 during the 33rd annual Wilbur Ray Scholarship Dinner at the Jacques Reception Center in Hazlet.
The event, hosted by Brookdale Community College, recognizes significant contributions by county residents and organizations that, while substantial, do not always result in public recognition.
Proceeds from the dinner benefit the Wilbur Ray Scholarship Program, which awards scholarships to students of color. The awards are named for the late Wilbur Ray, former Brookdale police sergeant and an active volunteer in the Long Branch community.
This year’s honorees include volunteers, professionals and community leaders in communities including Asbury Park, Red Bank, Shrewsbury, Neptune and Ocean Township, representing organizations such as the Parker Family Health Center, the youth-centered Program for Acceleration in Careers of Engineering (PACE) and Pilgrim Baptist Church.
John M. Jones
John M. Jones currently serves as the executive director for the Monmouth County Branch of the PACE program. He has been a volunteer with the PACE program for nearly 29 years and has served as director and deputy director for twelve of those years. He’s also served as president of the PACE Youth Development Corp, a parent organization formed to coordinate activities across PACE branches and to grow the PACE program.
John has served many roles within the PACE program, including teaching as an instructor of algebra and computer science, serving as the recruitment coordinator, managing student admissions for the past 20 years, serving as director of mathematics programs, and serving as a co-designer and co-contributor for the PACE Monmouth website. He has been instrumental in formulating many of the policies, practices, and planning tools used by the leadership team, and has helped forge strategic relationships with some of the schools and organizations with which PACE coordinates.
During John’s “day job” he serves as business systems analyst for Computer Aid, Inc, supporting the Educational Testing Service (ETS) account. He has spent most of his career in IT and software development helping to create software-based solutions for companies and organizations such as Hewlett Packard, Novell Inc, AT&T and the U.S. Government at Fort Monmouth.
John’s other love is music – both instrumental and choral. Until recently, he served as the assistant director of the HERITAGE Chorale, for which he wrote and taught choral arrangements for music ranging from spirituals and South African choral music to classical standards and even a choral arrangement of Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry.” John loves working with his PACE students and considers each of them as nieces and nephews – part of his extended family. He still mentors and maintains relationships with PACE graduates from fifteen years ago and prior. A resident of North Plainfield, John enjoys getting up every Saturday morning during the school year to visit with his “PACE Family” down at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft.
Mary J. Nicosia
Mary J. Nicosia has dedicated almost her entire life, since 1983, to the health are system. She resides in Red Bank. Mary has been providing health services at the Parker Family Health Center (PFHC) in Shrewsbury since the center’s founding in 2000. PFHC is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to provide healthcare to those within the Monmouth County community who do not have access to health insurance. As clinic director, Mary coordinates the daily operations of the center while providing patient services as a family nurse practitioner. In her role as nurse practitioner, Mary’s responsibilities include diagnosing, treating, and helping patients manage acute and chronic illnesses, conducting physical examinations, obtaining medical histories, and ordering diagnostic tests and procedures, among other duties. She has the heart, sensibility, and kindness needed to treat her patients as humans in need.
Mary has also worked as a nurse practitioner for the Unites State Veterans Administration at the James J. Howard Clinic in Brick, where she focused on internal medicine.
Mary has also practiced at other health care institutions including the Escalante Health Clinic in Tempe, Arizona, where she served as clinic director; with Dr. Raj Singh in Phoenix, Arizona, where she specialized in advanced practice nursing in neurology and physiatry; with Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona, where she served as operating room nurse manager; and at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, where she was the operating room nurse manager in neurosurgery, orthopedic surgery and plastic/reconstructive surgery.
Mary holds professional affiliations with The American Academy of Nurse Practitioners and the Arizona State University Alumni Association. Beginning her education at Delaware County Community College in Pennsylvania, Mary has earned professional degrees and certifications in nursing and nursing administration from Arizona State University, Fairleigh Dickinson University, and New York University. She was inducted as a member of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society, Beta Upsilon Chapter, and received the “The Escalante Health Partnership, Vanguards of Community Health: Vision, Vitality and Valor” Award through Arizona State University Community Health Nursing in Phoenix, Arizona. Mary has also authored numerous publications centered on healthcare and nursing standards.
Michael Perry is the engineering program director at PACE (Program for Acceleration of Careers in Engineering), a private engineering contractor and consultant, and an adjunct professor of mathematics. He also serves as a part-time instructor for Brookdale’s readiness program at Neptune High School and the college’s Freehold campus. His “career” at PACE spans more than thirty years. It all began after being recruited by the PACE founders to teach math and engineering, as well as provide support and guidance on the administrative, structural, and academic aspects of the program during its infancy.
During his tenure at PACE, Michael has had the opportunity to teach and mentor hundreds of students who have graduated from the program, then attended major colleges and universities throughout the United States, and ultimately moved into STEM and other rewarding careers. Although he has personally won many “awards” (including multiple “Teacher of the Year” and “Engineering Role Model” awards) throughout his years at PACE, Michael most cherishes the “rewards” of helping the many students he has taught achieve academic success and realize their ultimate career goals and dreams.
Michael’s background includes over 25 years of experience as an engineer in telecommunications, specializing in the design and development of high-technology telecommunications equipment, products, and processes. As a distinguished member of technical staff at Tycom, Ltd. (now TE Subcom), he led teams in various activities related to the design and development of advanced fiber optic transmission and network management equipment. His responsibilities included product planning and development, process development and management, documentation development, and product qualification. During the time he was at Tycom, he had major responsibility for the design and development of much of the land-based terminal equipment developed and deployed by the company as part of the world’s major transoceanic fiber-optics networks, which encompass the globe.
Prior to joining Tycom, Michael was also a distinguished member of technical staff at AT&T Bell Laboratories and AT&T Submarine Systems, Inc., where he was involved in the engineering and development of undersea and terrestrial fiber-optic products and systems, the development and management of quality processes, and project management and engineering. During his career at AT&T Bell Laboratories, he was the recipient of a major patent for a thermally enhanced amplifier structure which helped to establish the viability of the world’s first transatlantic undersea optical fiber transmission system. He is also a contributing author to the book Undersea Lightwave Communications published by the IEEE Press. While at AT&T, Michael had the honor of being selected to serve as a visiting professor for the Urban League’s Black Executive Exchange Program (BEEP), a program in which a team of industry professionals visited HBCU schools and lectured students on how to succeed in college, and ultimately in the business world.
Michael is a proud graduate of North Carolina A&T State University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, the University of Illinois, where he earned a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, and Rutgers University, where he earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering. He lives in Ocean Township.
Pastor Terrence K. Porter
Pastor Porter was installed as the 14th pastor of the historic Pilgrim Baptist Church in 2003. Prior to Pilgrim, he served as the assistant to the pastor at Fountain Baptist Church under the mentorship of Rev. Dr. J. Michael Sanders. Since his installation he has guided the congregation through a period of transformation which has led to unprecedented spiritual and numeric growth. With over 40 active ministries/auxiliaries designed with “People In Mind and the Community at Heart,” Pilgrim has become a place of “Praise, Prayer and Preparation.” With the affirmation of faith and the foundation set by his predecessors, Pastor Porter has led Pilgrim to utilize its facilities and properties to galvanize community relationships in order to extend Pilgrim’s christian witness in the community of Red Bank and beyond. Since 2003, Pilgrim has contributed over $205,000 to mission, benevolence, crisis intervention and student scholarship efforts, both domestically and abroad. Pilgrim has also added a third worship experience on Sundays for the Hispanic speaking community, as part of a community-centered ideology that “we can achieve more in partnership – rather than in isolation.”
Since 2007 Pastor Porter has also served as president of the Red Bank Affordable Housing Corporation, which recently completed the construction and sale of 36 townhouses in Red Bank. The $8 million development, named Cedar Crossing, provides new, affordable homeownership opportunities to families from the shore region. Pastor Porter also led the community of Red Bank and other regional churches and agencies to respond to the needs of individuals and families impacted by Superstorm Sandy. This coordination and housing of national work-teams has become a model for church-based partnerships throughout the country, and has led to the establishment of the Community Collaborative Initiative, which galvanizes public, private and religious institutions to address the needs of the underserved and marginalized in Monmouth and Ocean Counties.
Pastor Porter also led a community-wide mobilization of resources to aid those affected by the natural disasters in the Gulf Coast region in 2005 and is currently leading the community in an effort to help build a medical clinic and church facility in Quanaminthe, Haiti, in partnership with other local agencies. The Haiti Mission effort also includes the “Grains of Grace” food program and educational support to students in Haiti. As an international missions instructor for the Lott Carey Missionary Convention, Pastor Porter also gives instruction to missionaries from around the world at its annual convention, and he has led medical mission and mission work teams to rural areas of the West Indies.
In 2015 Pastor Porter was appointed to serve as chaplin for the Monmouth County Police Chiefs Association and, in 2016, he developed the Shore Region Interfaith Prayer Breakfast which is held at Brookdale Community College. Pastor Porter has also served as an instructor for a variety of organizations, including The Institute for Christian Discipleship and the General Baptist Convention of New Jersey. He also established the Academy of Christian Education in Red Bank and has partnered with Pillar College to bring an accredited christ-Centered academic program to the shore region.
Pastor Porter is a graduate of Montclair State University and has received his master’s degree from the New Brunswick Theological Seminary. He intends to continue his education as a doctrinal student focusing on “The Tradition of Pastoral Care and Counseling in the African American Context.” He has received numerous awards and recognitions for his service, however he is most proud of his inductions into the Mahwah High School and Montclair State University Athletic Halls of Fame. He cherishes his athletic career, because it was as a professional athlete with the Chicago Bears that he was led to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
He is native of McDowell County, West Virginia and currently resides in Scotch Plains with his wife Wilma. They have three children: Ayesha. Nehemiah James, and Naomi Olivia.
Sheri Lynn Stanford
Sheri Lynn Stanford is the daughter of Lorenzo and Tillie Stanford and a proud alumna of the Neptune Public School System. She earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Longwood University, where she became a charter member and president of the Pi Mu chapter of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc. Her undergraduate experience was integral in shaping her commitment to educational empowerment and community stewardship.
After graduating, Sheri joined Brookdale Community College as a learning assistant in the college’s Writing Center. Currently she is a senior staff member and tutors students from diverse backgrounds, including English language learners, those with learning disabilities, returning students, and, most often, the academically underprepared. Sheri also proves her dedication to at-risk students in the classroom, teaching foundational writing classes. In addition, she has led initiatives to improve access to student support and was one of two recipients awarded a grant to implement online tutoring and connect students with tutors in a virtual environment. As an alarming percentage of high school graduates are unprepared for college-level courses, Sheri is driven to teach these students the skills necessary to succeed. This commitment is found in her work with Brookdale’s Educational Opportunity Fund program, where she instructs writing for its Summer Bridge program. Her class prepares incoming students for the rigors of college and, upon completion, ninety-eight percent of these students pass the national basic skills test. As a result, these students are able to bypass remedial English and begin their degree program immediately upon enrolling. Additionally, Sheri teaches for Neptune’s Early College High School program, equipping sophomores with the skills and confidence to become successful college-level writers who go on to earn associate degrees by the time they graduate high school.
Beyond the classroom, Sheri served as an advisor to Brookdale’s Black Student Union (BSU), where she developed student leaders and received awards for extraordinary contributions to college life. She coordinated annual tours to HBCUs and initiated and led the first of many trips to the National Black Student Union Conference. She also assisted BSU students in volunteerism initiatives with the Children’s Defense Fund’s Freedom School, the Boys and Girls Club, and Lunch Break.
Within the community, Sheri advances the importance of education in her work with the Zenobia/Xenia Ware Scholarship Committee of Second Baptist Church of Asbury Park. As a past chair and current fundraising chair, she has headed fundraising efforts that helped provide $150,000 in scholarships to deserving students.
Blending her passion for education with her passion for travel justice, Sheri develops tours benefitting host communities socially and economically. Sheri holds a master’s degree in tourism administration with a concentration in sustainable destination management from the George Washington University School of Business. She conceptualized and helped to create Brookdale’s first study abroad program to Africa. It was the first to integrate volunteerism as a service-learning component and had the highest participation by African American students, a traditionally underrepresented group in study abroad. To assist students, Sheri developed several fundraising initiatives to defray program costs. As a member of Brookdale’s International Education Advisory Committee, she chairs the Elaine Baran Scholarship Committee, which awards international education scholarships. Sheri also coordinates affinity groups tours and travel fundraisers for non-profits.
Presently, along with the pastor and youth minister of Second Baptist Church of Asbury Park, Sheri is engaged in an initiative to design a year-long program focusing on ethnically relevant academic, cultural, socio-political, and personal empowerment of African American youth, culminating with an eight-day journey to Ghana. She lives in Trenton.
Maureen E. Taylor
Maureen Taylor worked for 40 years in the telecommunications industry, retiring in March of 2017. She obtained her Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics from Drexel University in 1977. In 1981, Maureen earned her Master of Science degree in engineering with a major in computer and information science from the University of Pennsylvania. She received her PMP certification in 2013.
Maureen’s professional career in telecommunications began in 1977 at RCA in Camden, where she helped develop and test a digital voice communications switch for the U.S. Navy. In 1982, Maureen joined Bell Labs and through several corporate transitions was employed by AT&T, Lucent Technologies, Alcatel-Lucent and Nokia. Maureen spent 13 years in the field of data communications.
Some of her major accomplishments were on the Datakit local area network product, for which she served as architect and a lead software developer. The product provided a communications backbone for many of the Bell System operating companies. Maureen spent another 22 years in the field of wireless communications. As a senior director, she led large global teams in the development and delivery of 3rd and 4th generation wireless products (CDMA and LTE). These systems provided high-speed, high-capacity, and high-performance wireless data to service providers such as Verizon Wireless, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile. Maureen also led the “Wireless” summer internship program at work for over 20 years.
Well recognized for her leadership and her ability to deliver for her customers, Maureen received two Bell Labs President’s Gold Awards, among other honors. She was also recognized in the Winter 2011 issue of Minority Engineer and the June/July 2012 issue of Diversity/Careers magazine. Outside of work and continuing since retirement, Maureen has demonstrated a strong commitment to community service. Maureen is active in the Central Jersey Alumnae chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She has led and supported the Delta Academy program in which she served as a role model for young girls aged 11-14. She currently chairs the technology committee for her chapter and received the Eastern Region 2017 Transformative Technology Award for the chapter’s website and social media platforms.
Maureen has volunteered with PACE (Program for Acceleration in Careers of Engineering) since 1987 and served as teacher and administrator for their Central Jersey branch. She has also served as board chair and president of the PACE Youth Development Corporation and is currently the corporate treasurer. Maureen has volunteered with Habitat for Humanity, serving in both Plainfield, New Jersey, as well as participating in week-long housing builds in New Orleans and Baton Rouge after Hurricane Katrina. She has also supported the Franklin Township Food Bank and was awarded two years in a row for raising the most money as an individual cyclist during the Tour de Franklin. Maureen’s interests include photography, travel, sports and music, especially jazz. She’s visited over 25 countries and five continents, including five trips to Africa and most recently to Iceland. Born in Philadelphia and raised in Concord Park in the Philadelphia suburb of Trevose, Maureen is also a Philadelphia sports fan. She is currently a resident of Somerset.