Three Brookdale employees joined a pantheon of outstanding Brookdalians on May 5 when they received the Alumni Association‘s prestigious Barringer Award, during the 32nd annual Barringer Awards Dinner at The Mill at Lakeside Manor in Belmar.
The award, named in honor of the college’s third president and long-standing champion of academic and student success Bob Barringer, is considered one of the college’s highest honors.
This year’s honorees – communication media professor Deborah Mura, chemistry professor Shahin Pirzad, and institutional research and evaluation director Laura Longo – received hundreds of nominations from colleagues and community members for their combined 55 years of outstanding service to the college and its students. View full bios of the honorees here.
“The people receiving awards tonight are remarkable. Simply remarkable,” said Brookdale president Maureen Murphy, addressing a capacity crowd of employees, alumni, friends and family during the awards dinner. “They reflect the highest values our college holds, and they have worked tirelessly throughout their careers to help students realize their fullest potential and succeed at the highest levels. I can’t think of any three people more deserving of this award.”
Following an introduction by Alumni Association president Lauren Watson, each honoree was introduced by one of the many Brookdale colleagues who had nominated them for the award.
Longo was introduced by long-time colleagues Norah Kerr-McCurry and Ann Tickner-Jankowski, who said Longo’s nomination was supported by nearly 100 Brookdale administrators, faculty and staff. Each of those nominees and many more, said Tickner-Jankowski, had benefited from Longo’s diligent research and evaluation of Brookdale courses, programs, student success outcomes, accreditation standards and other metrics since she joined the college in 1994.
Longo, who jokingly held up a sign saying “Thanks. Bye.” prior to giving her speech, remarked on the long, winding road that led her to Brookdale, beginning with a summer job at the college more than 30 years ago. While she initially wanted to be an educator, Longo said an unplanned housing crisis in 1994 led her to take what she thought would be a temporary job in Brookdale’s planning and research division. Now, more than 20 years later, she couldn’t imagine working anywhere else.
“I feel like the campus, the reservoir, the buildings, the students and the people have really become a part of me,” she said. “This nomination has really made me take stock of all the positive experiences and opportunities that I have had at Brookdale, and all the wonderful people that I have been able to work with. And I think that some of the things we see as obstacles, like a significant housing issue, are sometimes the things that put us exactly where we need to be. And for me, that’s being here, celebrating with you tonight.”
Mura was introduced by chemistry professor and fellow TIN (The Innovation Network) cofounder Thomas Berke, who remarked on Mura’s tireless dedication to students, social activism and global issues as advisor to the Stall Newspaper, a member of Brookdale’s Global Citizenship Project and member of the Center for Holocaust, Human Rights and Genocide Education (Chhange).
To the surprise of no one, Mura chose to dedicate her speech to the countless student journalists, environmental activists and community volunteers she has worked alongside for the past 19 years.
“This award means a great deal to me, because I know it is not about me, but rather an acknowledgement of the hard work work my journalism students did this year fighting that diversity be upheld as a core Brookdale value,” said Mura. “And it’s recognition for my TIN students, for their countless hours of work with Habitat for Humanity and with the Helping Hands initiative, where they are fighting food insecurity at Brookdale, and for their greening of Brookdale initiative. On behalf of them, I will accept this.”
Pirzad was introduced by Berke and engineering and technology professor Michael Qaissaunee, who remarked on Pirzad’s myriad accomplishments as department chair, a supporter of college grant programs and advisor for Alpha Pi Theta, Brookdale’s chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa international honor society. Under his leadership, they said, Alpha Pi Theta has produced two New Century Scholars in the last two years, establishing Brookdale PTK students as some of the top performers in the nation.
Pirzad, who was surprised at the ceremony by a large contingent of his former PTK students, remarked on his own journey as a young immigrant student and educator from Iran. Early in his career, he said, his immigration attorney forgot to file a visa renewal form, putting Pirzad’s immigration status, employment, and young family in jeopardy. Hesitantly, he decided to reach out to former Brookdale president Peter Burnham, who he had only briefly met, and ask for assistance. Burnham wrote him a “powerful” letter of reference the following morning.
“He made a big difference for me,” said Pirzad. “So I should never forget that people can make a big impact. A letter made a big impact in my life. And now I write my little recommendations for my students based on what that letter from Dr. Burnham did for my life…. I just want to thank all of you, the Alumni Association, and the wonderful family of Brookdale, and all of you who made a big impact in my life. Twenty-four years really flew by. Thank you.”
In addition to dinner and the awards presentations, the 32nd annual Barringer Dinner also offered an opportunity for past and present Barringer winners to meet with Alumni Association board members and current employees. Tickets were also sold for the Brookdale Foundation‘s “50th Anniversary 50/50 Raffle,” which will be drawn at the 2017 Foundation Scholarship Ball on June 9. Learn more about the Scholarship Ball and the 50/50 raffle here.
Learn more about the Brookdale Alumni Association and the benefits of becoming a member here
Check out more photos from the 32nd annual Barringer Awards Dinner here