West Windsor, N.J. – Mercer County Community College (MCCC) celebrated its students and its large community of friends on April 15 at The Stone Terrace in Hamilton as the MCCC Foundation hosted the college’s “50th Anniversary Gala.” A capacity crowd of more than 300 helped to make the Foundation’s annual Spring Into Student Success scholarship fundraiser an even bigger success, ushering in a year-long observance of MCCC’s 50 years of student service and success.
Net proceeds totaling more than $100,000 will be used to sustain and expand scholarship opportunities for deserving students.
Participating in the festivities were Gala Co-chairs Nina D. Melker, past president of the Foundation Board and a current board member, and Hon. Pasquale Colavita, Jr., of the Mercer County Board of Freeholders. Also addressing the audience with words of thanks were MCCC Foundation Board Chair Jeri Bogan Zielinski and MCCC President Jianping Wang, fresh from her inaugural ceremonies in the afternoon.
The event gave the college a chance to recognize three community partners. The Distinguished Benefactor Award was presented to Edward S. Kahn and the Albert B. Kahn Foundation. Edward Kahn, Esq., has carried on the rich legacy of generosity to MCCC established by his father, Albert Kahn, Esq., one of the founders and original members of the college’s Board of Trustees. Scholarships awarded by the Albert B. Kahn Foundation are among Mercer’s most enduring, providing funds to both continuing and graduating students from Trenton. Last year alone, 20 Trenton Central High School graduates were recipients of Kahn scholarships.
Jim and the late Fannie Floyd received the Spirit of Education Award. The Floyds were honored for their service to the community and their decades of support to Mercer. As a founding member of the MCCC Foundation Board of Directors, Mr. Floyd has been deeply committed to expanding scholarship opportunities for MCCC students, including the establishment of the Jim and Fannie Floyd Endowed Scholarship Fund in 2010.
Christoph Koenen, Vice President for Cardiovascular Medical Strategy, accepted the Distinguished Corporate Partner Award on behalf of Bristol-Myers Squibb. Bristol-Myers Squibb’s (BMS) grants, along with funding by the BMS Foundation, have significantly enhanced learning in science and technology at MCCC, including donations to support the expansion of science labs at the college’s James Kerney Campus, a grant for chemistry equipment and supplies, support for the Science Learning Center at the West Windsor Campus, and support for the purchase of a hazardous material vehicle for the Dempster Fire Training Center. BMS has also been a generous donor to MCCC’s annual scholarship fundraisers.
President Wang surprised guests with a Tango dance performance with Theatre/Dance Program Coordinator Jody Gazenbeek-Person. The theme of the performance – "It Takes Two to Tango" – was a tribute to Gala patrons for joining with the college to support scholarships for Mercer students.
Education major Kulubo Kokro was the student speaker for the event. Kokro, the recipient of a Wells Fargo Urban Scholarship, invited the audience to share her journey, which included an early exit from high school and then a return to the Daylight-Twilight High School to earn her high school diploma. When she started at Mercer, she saw it as her chance to move forward in her life and is now taking full advantage of the opportunity.
Kokro says becoming a teacher is her greatest wish. “I believe I can make a difference working in the inner city with middle school students, especially girls, who hopefully will be able to relate to me and have someone to look up to.”
Kokro noted that Mercer has become like a second home. “I am surrounded by other students who are pursuing their dreams and we support each other just like a family. Mercer has allowed me to strive, believe in myself, and never give up.”
Among the students who attended the Gala were scholarship recipients Brian Bueno ’16 (Architecture), Jennifer Cordone ’17 (Nursing), Brendon Pearsall ’16 (Liberal Arts), Ivett Figueroa ’16 (Education), and Akino Tomizawa ’17 (Culinology).
Community representatives on the Gala Committee members included Ehab Abousabe, Peter Crowley, Lori Danko, Tracey Destribats, Tatiana Dodge, Diane Grillo, Pat Hartpence, Peggy Iucolino, Linda Martin, Mark Matzen, Bob Prunetti, Wayne Staub, John Thurber and Jeri Bogan Zielinski.
The event garnered generous donations from a long list of sponsors. Major donors were Bristol-Myers Squibb, Dow Jones, Edward S. Kahn Law Offices, LLC, New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Company, PNC Bank, Educational Testing Service, Investors Bank, Thomas Edison State University and Wells Fargo. Other major donors were Fairleigh Dickenson University, Hill Wallak, LLP, PSE&G, Robert Wood Johnson, Rutgers University, Spiezle Architectural Group, Inc., Jeri Bogan Zielinski, Allies, Inc., Capitol Health, First Choice Bank, The Mercadien Group, PFM Asset Management, LLC, Princeton Management Development Institute, Inc., The Bank of Princeton, California Village, Fulton Bank, MIDJersey Chamber of Commerce, Princeton Air Conditioning, Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce, St. Francis Medical Center Foundation, and William Paterson University.
To view the Gala program book, which includes a complete list of donors, click here.