More than 260 community members helped celebrate Brookdale Community College’s 50th anniversary and raise a record amount for local students during the Brookdale Foundation’s 2017 Scholarship Ball, held June 9 at Eagle Oaks Golf and Country Club in Farmingdale.
The event, which featured dinner, dancing, live entertainment and more than 100 prize auctions, raised $124,162 for student scholarships and support services at Brookdale. The net proceeds topped the scholarship ball’s previous fundraising record by nearly $30,000.
“I could not imagine a more fitting tribute to Brookdale’s 50th anniversary than the outpouring of generosity and support we saw this year,” said Timothy Zeiss, executive director of the Brookdale Foundation. “On behalf of my colleagues and the hundreds of students who will receive foundation scholarships this year, we express our sincerest thanks to everyone who helped make this event a historic success.”
Foundation members also presented five awards to local education advocates, philanthropists and government officials who have worked to support the college and local residents since Brookdale’s founding in 1967.
Honorees included Bob and Joan Rechnitz, local philanthropists and founders of the Two River Theater; The Anabel Foundation, a Fair Haven-based charity supporting a variety of nonprofits across Monmouth County; and Zodiac Aerospace, a Wall Township-based world leader in aerospace equipment and a longtime supporter of Brookdale students and the foundation.
“Receiving this award is very humbling and very honoring,” said Anabel Foundation founder and executive director Jack Privetera, who announced on June 9 that the foundation would be sponsoring a new Brookdale scholarship fund in the name of scholarship ball co-chair Carol Stillwell. “It’s great recognition for the Anabel Foundation and it’s also for a great cause. Brookdale Community College is part of my past, and it’s part of the past of many people I know.”
Those sentiments were echoed by representatives of Zodiac Aerospace, which has partnered with Brookdale for years to provide custom training and comprehensive degree programs to many of the 300 local employees working at its Wall location.
“I think the Brookdale Foundation is very important for us to support,” said Scott Ernst, VP of HR for Zodiac Aerospace. “At recent events we have heard from students, who have spoken about the obstacles that they have had to overcome to achieve their education desires… We at Zodiac Aerospace are very humbled to receive this award. It’s even more of an honor to happen in the college’s 50th anniversary year.”
The Rechnitz’s, who were unable to attend in person due to the June 9 opening of “The Ballad of Little Joe” at the Two River Theater in Red Bank, addressed the audience via a pre-recorded video message.
“It’s a great feeling to give, and we have been thrilled to do it for a good portion of our lives together,” said Bob Rechnitz, who along with his wife funded the groundbreaking Poseidon Early College High School program in Neptune through an unprecedented $1 million donation to the college. “We are very, very happy to have won this award from Brookdale.”
In recognition of the college’s 50th anniversary, special Founders’ Awards were also presented to the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders and the Northern Monmouth Branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW), which were instrumental in establishing a public community college in Monmouth County five decades ago.
Freeholder John Curley, the county liaison to the college and a Brookdale alumni, took time out to recognize the members of the 1967 freeholder board – director Joseph Erwin and freeholders Eugene Bedell, Marcus Daly, Benjamin Danskin and Harry Larrison – who voted to establish an open access college for the residents of Monmouth County.
“I was very fortunate. I lost my parents right out of Christian Brothers Academy, and Brookdale was my only option at that time,” said Curley. “We are very proud, here in 2017, in supporting this magnificent institution and all that it does and provides… It’s an honor and a privilege to receive the Founders Award on Brookdale’s 50th anniversary. We are certainly accepting it on behalf of the freeholders of the past, who had the insight and the foresight to put forth a wonderful learning institution here in Monmouth County.”
Northern Monmouth AAUW branch co-presidents Mary Lea Burden and Karen Topham also provided a look back at the founding of the college, which came after years of research and advocacy by local AAUW members such as Audrey LaTowsky, who was later appointed as a founding member of the Brookdale Board of Trustees. Today, the Northern Monmouth chapter of the AAUW sponsors two Brookdale Foundation scholarship funds for local students.
“Receiving the Founders Award is indeed a great honor for our branch, especially in recognition of the founders who put so much hard work into the development of the college,” said Burden.
In recognition of the college’s 50th anniversary, the scholarship ball also featured a special cocktail hour musical performance by speech professor Barbara Baron and music professor Joseph Accurso, two members of the Brookdale Big Band, and a “50th Anniversary 50/50 Raffle” that raised more than $4,000 for the foundation’s scholarship fund.
Recent graduate Sameerah Wahab, who was named one of the top 20 community college students in the nation in 2016, drew the 50/50 winner after thanking those in attendance for their support of Brookdale students.
“I could not imagine starting my college career anywhere else,” said Wahab. “On behalf of all the current and future students who will benefit from your support here tonight, I thank you all.”
The Brookdale Foundation’s “Building Minds, Building Futures” scholarship fund provided nearly $430,000 in scholarships and grants to more than 560 Brookdale students this past academic year. Over the past fifteen years, the Brookdale Foundation has provided over $4.4 million in scholarships and grants to nearly 7,000 students.
The 2017 scholarship ball was co-chaired by Carol Stillwell, of Stillwell-Hansen Inc., and foundation board trustees Candy Langan-Sattenspiel, of Sattenspiel Surgical Arts Pavilion, and Karen Escobedo of New Jersey Natural Gas.
For more information on the foundation and its scholarship programs, click here.
Check out more photos of the 2017 Scholarship Ball here.