NJIT held its annual black-tie benefit dinner Celebration on Nov. 14, 2008 at Pleasantdale Chateau, West Orange. Former New Jersey Governor and President of the New Jersey State Senate, the Hon. Richard J. Codey served as the special guest master of ceremonies. The world-renowned Duprees, who started their 1960s musical careers in Jersey City provided entertainment.
This year, 230 supporters attended and raised almost $400,000 for endowed scholarship funds to benefit NJIT students. Since 1995, this gala evening of dinner and dancing has raised over $3 million. In addition to raising funds for scholarships, Celebration also honors individuals for achievements of great benefit to New Jersey and the nation, and organizations that have been exceptional in their commitment to the university's mission.
Steve Kalafer, chairman of the Flemington Car and Truck Country Family of Dealerships and the Somerset Patriots, received NJIT’s highest honor—the President’s Medal. Beyond Kalafer’s entrepreneurial successes, he is widely recognized for his service to government, serving in various volunteer capacities under the past four governors. In entertainment, Kalafer’s production companies Flemington Pictures and New Jersey Studios have to date garnered three Academy Award® nominations for the animated short More (1998); the documentary Curtain Call (2000) produced with Peter LeDonne; the compelling feature film Sister Rose’s Passion (2004).
Edward Cruz, CEO of E.E. Cruz & Company, Inc, Holmdel, received NJIT’s Outstanding Alumnus Award. Cruz graduated from NJIT in 1963 with a BS in civil engineering and is a Professional Engineer. Today, Cruz owns and operates one of the region’s largest public works construction companies. Current projects focus on rebuilding significant aspects of Ground Zero at the World Trade Center including key parts of the 9/11 Memorial.
Wachovia Bank, NA, headquartered in Charlotte, NC, was named the outstanding corporate partner of the year. Wachovia Senior Vice President Stephanie Tonic was the honorary dinner chair. Tonic, who was born and raised in East Orange and still lives there, is a member of the NJIT Board of Overseers. Elysa Scharf, Wachovia senior vice president and NJ director for government banking, accepted the honor.
Wachovia Corporation (NYSE:WB) is one of the nation's largest diversified financial services companies, with assets of $812.4 billion and market capitalization of $33.5 billion as of June 30, 2008. Wachovia provides a broad range of retail banking and brokerage, asset and wealth management, and corporate and investment banking products and services to customers through 3,300 retail financial centers in 21 states.
Many NJIT students are the first in their families to attend college, and they rely upon merit and need-based scholarships,” said Jacquelynn Rhodes, associate vice president for development. Clifton native Aileen Davila, a senior in NJIT’s School of Management, representing such students, spoke at the event.
“Without the support of faculty, facilities and financial aid, I might not have made it to this point,” she said. “I consider myself blessed to have attended such a diverse and supportive university in which professors know me by my first name and students have a voice and constant support from faculty and staff.”
Codey, of West Orange, began his career in state government in 1973 upon his election to the NJ Assembly. He became a state senator in 1982 and while serving as Senate President assumed the governorship in 2004 when the former Governor James E. McGreevey resigned before his term expired. Throughout his career in state government, Cody has and continues to earn a reputation as independent thinker and champion of change to benefit public good.
For more information, visit the Celebration 2008 website.