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March 31 - RCC Foundation Leadership Award Luncheon

DATE: March 13, 2017
CONTACT: Maralin Roffino

March 31 - RCC Foundation Leadership Award Luncheon

Ramapo, NY— The Rockland Community College Foundation Leadership Award Luncheon will be held on Friday, March 31, at the Hilton Pearl River (noon-2pm). Please call Don Cairns, the Foundation’s Executive Director, to reserve your place, 845-574-4576.

Each of the honorees has made very significant contributions to RCC and or the greater community. Our alumni honoree for 2017 is Dr. Michael Gill, Principal at North Rockland High School; the faculty honorees are Professor Debra Tietze (teacher education), and Dr. Kevin Barrett (criminal justice). Our community honorees this year are the CEJJES Institute, the Susan & Edmund Gordon Family, and the Helen Hayes Nursing Department. Learn more about our honorees:

The theme of this year’s luncheon is “Educational Excellence,” and KeyBank is the presenting sponsor. The RCC Foundation’s mission is to provide support for the College and for RCC students. The Foundation’s tagline is “futures are built on our foundation,” helping students reach their career goals through the approximately $350,000 awarded in scholarships each year. Many high achieving RCC graduates are eligible for scholarship awards to continue their education at a 4-year institution. All proceeds of this luncheon help the Foundation to continue their important work. Find out why giving to the Foundation is so important or learn about RCC scholarship opportunities:



Michael J. Gill ’91, EdD

Currently the principal of North Rockland High School, his prior positions include principal of West Haverstraw Elementary School, assistant principal at James A. Farley Middle School in Stony Point, and Special Education coordinator at North Rockland. Throughout his education career, Dr. Michael Gill has continued to imparted this message to students: that “Hard Work = Success and that each student has the power to “Make It Happen!”

Gill really made it happen while attending RCC’s rigorous honors program, with the support of legendary educator Dr. Samuel Draper. In an interesting twist, Dr. Gill and his father both enrolled at RCC at the same time, his dad pursuing a second career in nursing after retiring as a NYC Fire Department captain. Continuing his education at SUNY Binghamton, Gill was pursuing a future career as an attorney. Halfway through his senior year, he felt the calling to teach, and switched from pre-law to education, saying that he “loved teaching and wanted to give back.”

His job at North Rockland, Dr. Gill says is a “dream job,” and he is especially proud of their new Academy of Engineering. As principal, he takes great pride in “guiding graduates of North Rockland High School to be prepared for the challenges of college, careers and citizenship.” He also teaches at Manhattanville and The College of Mount St. Vincent, with previous positions at the College of New Rochelle, City College of New York, St. Thomas Aquinas College, Rockland Teachers’ Center, and Fordham University. Dr. Gill earned an AA in Liberal Arts from RCC; a BA in Law & Society at SUNY Binghamton; an MS in Special Education at City College, CUNY; an Advanced Certificate in Educational Administration and Supervision at Hunter College, CUNY; and a Doctor of Education at Fordham University.

A dedicated community volunteer, Dr. Gill serves on the Town of Haverstraw Youth Board and also coaches CYO basketball at St. Gregory Barbarigo in Garnerville. He won a “Forty Under 40” award from the Rockland Economic Development Corp. in 2006. Dr. Gill lives in Garnerville with his wife, Colleen, and daughters Emily, a ninth grader at North Rockland, and Julia, a seventh grader at Fieldstone Elementary School.



Kevin Barrett, PhD, brings the wealth of real-world law enforcement experience to teaching as Assistant Professor and Chair of Criminal Justice at RCC. While previously serving the community for 32 years in the Englewood (NJ) Police Department, Barrett attained the rank of lieutenant. In 2009, he also became a certified instructor at the New Jersey Police Training Commission.

Rockland Community College is enhanced by Dr. Barrett’s commitment to bringing law enforcement professionals and their real-life experiences to the campus. Each semester there is a Career Mosaic panel with professionals from many organizations presenting information about a wide range of criminal justice career opportunities. Participants have included the FBI, the Rockland County Sheriff, Rockland District Attorney’s Office, the Center for Safety and Change, NYPD, and private security firms.

Stimulating and provocative guest speakers he has brought to campus include Dominick Polifrone, the undercover ATF agent who caught the infamous “Iceman” killer; Jeffrey Deskovic, who served 16 years in prison after wrongful conviction; and retired NYPD undercover detective Chucky “The Legend” Byam. Dr. Barrett also brings expert instructors to the classroom to enhance student learning, celebrated adjunct instructors include current NYPD Commissioner James “Jimmy” O’Neill, and Suffern Police Chief Clarke Osborn.

Central among Dr. Barrett’s achievements on campus has been co-chairing the 10-year Middle States Re-Accreditation Self Study, working with Professor Martha Rottman and a cross-campus committee since October 2014 in advance of the Middle States team’s visit in March 2017.

A full-time faculty member since Fall 2010, Dr. Barrett previously served as an adjunct at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, NJ, and John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY. He has presented at numerous conferences on police matters and was lead author in an article in the peer-reviewed journal Crime, Law and Social Change, titled “A Comparative Study of Urban, Suburban and Rural Police Officers in New Jersey Regarding the Use of Force.” Dr. Barrett holds a BA in Political Science from Montclair State College, and an MA, a Master of Philosophy and a PhD in Criminal Justice from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY.


Debra Courtney Tietze has been an educator for more than 40 years, three decades worth at RCC. She began in a small farming community in Illinois, teaching a variety of grades including kindergarten, second grade, sixth grade, fourth grade, and preschool. While taking a child-rearing leave to care for her own twin sons born in 1982, Tietze enrolled in Art courses at RCC towards NYS certification as an Art teacher. While at RCC, she was recruited by the Psychology department to teach classes in Early Childhood Development, and now, thirty years later, Tietze is completing her last year as full professor and former chair of the RCC Teacher Education program. One of her career highlights was leading the effort for the million-dollar childcare start-up grant which built the Theresa Morahan Simmons Center for Children and Families on the RCC campus. The Campus Fun & Learn Child Development Center provides convenient state of the art childcare for RCC students, faculty and staff and is also open to the public.

Among her achievements at RCC, Tietze and colleague Louise Schreier, coordinated a substantial FIPSE grant procurement from the U.S. Department of Education, “Preparing Adults for Careers in Teaching” (PACT). The funding allowed the Teacher Education department to follow the “communiversity” model, giving five groups of career-changing adults an affordable route to completing certification requirements toward their master’s degrees in Early/Special Education.

“I absolutely loved teaching," Tzietze said. "I'm lucky to have gotten paid for something I love to do. The beauty of RCC is the diversity of the students and the amazing stories they have to share. Against all odds, they are coming back to higher education for the first, second or sometimes even third time and actually succeeding despite all the challenges in their way. When they get excited about learning, I receive my greatest reward. To have played a small part in many of their success stories has truly been a privilege.”

Tietze earned a SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Teaching in 2000. She holds a Bachelor’s in Sociology and Teacher Education from Illinois State University and an MS Ed in Early Childhood Development from SUNY New Paltz. Her special interests include sharing the creative arts with young children, cooking, taking nature walks, and spending time with her young grandson, Tyson James. Upon retirement, she hopes to write nature books for children and continue to do adjunct teaching of her Creative Arts Workshop course at RCC.



As one of one of the nation’s leading specialty physical rehabilitation hospitals, Helen Hayes Hospital has helped hundreds of thousands of patients rebuild their lives following catastrophic accidents, traumatic injuries and disabling illnesses and surgeries. Through intensive rehabilitation, patients are able to resume “new normal” lives, returning to work, school, home and their families.

A key component in making these recoveries realities is the dedicated Nursing Department at Helen Hayes, which has called Rockland County home since 1900. This cohesive team of men and women includes registered nurses, nurse practitioners and licensed practical nurses, many of whom hold specialty certifications, such as in rehabilitation nursing and wound care. These highly skilled individuals care for patients with brain and spinal cord injury, stroke and amputation, as well as those recuperating from orthopedic and cardiac conditions. Additionally, nurses work in employee health, research and other areas of the hospital.

“Rehab nursing is truly an art,” says Patricia LeGeyt, BSN, Chief Nursing Officer. “As patients may be at the hospital over a week or more, our nurses get to know them and their families and many share strong bonds. Nurses work closely with each patient, reinforcing what the patient has learned during their therapy sessions, encouraging them to be as independent and mobile as possible. In a way, we also serve as life coaches and we are fortunate that our patients and their families and caregivers allow us into their lives at such a vulnerable and challenging time in their life.”

The hospital’s Nursing Department has also forged strong bonds with the Nursing program at RCC. Several members of the hospital’s administrative nursing staff teach at the College, and each semester the hospital offers clinical placements to RCC nursing students, furthering their professional education. “It is our honor to partner with our colleagues at Rockland Community College and share our knowledge and skills with the nurses of tomorrow,” says LeGeyt.


The CEJJES Institute and the Susan & Edmund Gordon Family
Founded in 2001 by the children of Susan and Edmund Gordon, The CEJJES INSTITUTE in Pomona honors and continues the work of their parents in promoting social justice, health, education, and the well-being of marginalized communities, and particularly their children. In 2006, Dr. Edmund Gordon and Dr. Susan Gordon were inducted into the Rockland County Civil Rights Hall of Fame. Programs include the Susan G. Gordon Nature Trail, the Charles White Gallery, the High School Graduate Awards Celebration and Annual Educational Summit, The Amistad Project and Kwanzaa Celebration (2006), Voices of the African Diaspora Film Festival (2007), the College and Career Mentoring Program, and the Coretta Scott King Book Club W.E.B. Du Bois Literary Collective (2007-2012).


DR. SUSAN ELIZABETH GITT GORDON (1924-2016) graduated Howard University College in Medicine in 1950. Her life’s work was helping children and their families towards a better and healthier life. She and her husband founded the Harriet Tubman Child Health and Guidance Clinic in Harlem before they moved to Pomona and she started a practice in Haverstraw as the first board certified pediatrician in Rockland County. She was an Associate Professor of Pediatrics, teaching at New York Medical College, and Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons, and Dr. Sue’s teaching and integrity inspired many. Several times honored as “Professor of the Year,” she also earned distinction for her work in developmental disabilities and childhood infectious diseases. She was a Licentiate of the American Board of Pediatrics and a Fellow of The American Academy of Pediatrics.

A passionate advocate for social justice, she served: the Lexington School for the Deaf; the World Health Organization (in Africa); and organizing clinics and health programs in Belize and Nicaragua. Locally she served the Martin Luther King Jr. Center in Spring Valley, was president and member of the East Ramapo Central School District BOE, and was a trustee of Nyack Hospital. She was a member of Physicians for Social Responsibility, the NAACP, and the American Association of University Women. Of all her stunning achievements, Dr. Sue Gordon considered her paramount accomplishment to be her family, and was most joyous in the company of her beloved husband, and as mother to sons Edmund Tayloe and Christopher Wyatt, daughters Jessica Gitt, and Johanna Susan; and as grandmother and great-grandmother to the next two generations of Gordon children who enjoyed her attention.


DR. EDMUND W. GORDON, developmental/cognitive/educational psychologist, began his early career mentored by W.E.B Du Bois. The John M. Musser Professor of Psychology, Emeritus, Yale University, the Richard March Hoe Professor of Psychology and Education, Emeritus, Teachers College, Columbia University, he is also the founder and Director Emeritus of the Institute for Urban and Minority Education (IUME) at Teachers College, Columbia University. His distinguished career spans more than six decades of professional practice and scholarly life as a minister, clinical and counseling psychologist, research scientist, author, editor, and professor. He served as Senior Scholar and Advisor to the President of the College Board, and developed and co-chaired their Taskforce on Minority High Achievement. He has served at the nation's leading universities including Howard, Yeshiva, Columbia, and Yale, with visiting professorships at City College of NY and Harvard. He is an elected Fellow of the American Psychological Association, the American Society of Psychological Science, the American Association for Orthopsychiatry and Fellow and Life Member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the National Academy of Education.

Professor Gordon, serving as the program’s research director under President Johnson, was instrumental in creating the nation’s Head Start program. One consistent theme throughout his career is fostering school success for children in socio-economic low-status populations. Finding a correlation between strong families/communities and school success strengthened Dr. Gordon’s advocacy for comprehensive, supplementary out-of-school learning components.

“The Professor,” has authored more than 200 articles and 18 books. Columbia University’s Harlem campus is named the Edmund W. Gordon Campus of Teachers College, Columbia University (2005). In 2016, he was honored as the Edmund W. Gordon High School for the Applied Sciences in Brooklyn (part of the Brooklyn Laboratory Charter Schools) came into being, and he remains active in this opportunity to see his educational ideals in practice. The school was founded through a $10 million grant awarded by virtue of its innovative curriculum design and primarily serves students of color from limited economic backgrounds.


EDMUND T. GORDON, PhD, chair of the African and African Diaspora Studies Department and Associate Professor, African and African Diaspora Studies and Anthropology of the African Diaspora, at University of Texas, Austin. He earned his Doctorate in Social Anthropology from Stanford University as well as an MA in Anthropology. He earned a master’s in Marine Sciences from the University of Miami previously. Teaching and research interests include: culture and power in the African Diaspora, gender studies (particularly Black males), critical race theory, race education, and the racial economy of space and resources. Publications include Disparate Diasporas: Identity and Politics in an African-Nicaraguan Community, 1998 UT Press. Dr. Edmund T. Gordon resides in Austin with his wife Daisy. They are the parents of son Edmund Wyatt and daughter Ishan.


CHRISTOPHER W. GORDON lives in Western North Carolina with his wife Lucy, and works at the School of Inquiry and Life Sciences at Asheville as a Special Education teacher. During his 21-year teaching career, he has worked with a wide variety of special needs children in grades 3 through 12.  Christopher and Lucy have 2 sons, Kenan, currently studying to be an Occupational Therapist, and Kai, serving as educational researcher and caregiver for his grandfather.

Christopher considers himself the product of a lifelong experiential approach to learning, having been a boat builder and carpenter/cabinetmaker before entering the formal education field and graduated from Regents College, State University of New York, an alternative institution whose conviction is, "What you know is more important than where or how you learned it."


JESSICA GORDON NEMBHARD, PhD, holds a PhD and MA in economics from the University of Mass., Amherst, a BA in Literature and African American Studies from Yale, and an MAT in Elementary Curriculum and Teaching from Howard. She is a Professor of Community Justice and Social Economic Development in the Department of Africana Studies at John Jay College, CUNY, and Director of their McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program. An affiliate scholar at the Centre for the Study of Co-operatives at the U. of Saskatchewan, she is also a member of the Canadian “Measuring the Difference of Cooperatives Research Network,” and was inducted into the U.S. Cooperative Hall of Fame in 2016. Her most recent book, Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice (2014) was a finalist for the 2014 Benjamin Hooks Book Award. A political economist specializing in community economics, Black Political Economy and popular economic literacy, Gordon Nembhard is the 2014 recipient of the “ONI Award” from the International Black Women’s Congress, and the 2011 recipient of the “Cooperative Advocacy and Research” Award from the Eastern Conference for Workplace Democracy. She is the proud mother of two children (Stephen and Susan) and two grandsons (Stephon and Hugo Nembhard).


JOHANNA SUSAN GORDON is a Women’s Health Care Nurse Practitioner and earned a BS in Nursing from Columbia University as well as an MS in Nursing from the University of Pennsylvania. She has lived in California since 1998, and practices at the UCLA medical center, teaching students and helping families bring their new babies into the world. Johanna is also a certified childbirth educator, lactation consultant, and parenting counselor. She is the proud Mom and Grandmother to Scott, Jade, Devon, Kennedy and Dorian.