Asa Aarons, former consumer reporter for WCBS-TV, NY1 News, WNBC-TV and founder and co-creator of JustAskAsa website, presents Benedict Fernandez ’87, with the Citizen Laureate Award.
(NEW YORK CITY – July 1, 2013) SUNY Empire State College alumni and faculty were honored at “Made in America: An Evening of Art, Music and Literature” with prestigious collegewide awards for their contributions to the college and society, particularly for the impact they have had in documenting, chronicling and giving voice to black history, as well as for teaching, mentoring and service to the community.
One of the college’s events celebrating Black History Month and originally scheduled to take place February, “Made in America: An Evening of Art, Music and Literature,” was postponed because weather conditions made travel hazardous. The event took place Friday, June 28, at the Dweck Center for Contemporary Culture, Brooklyn Public Library, 10 Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn.
Photographer Benedict J. Fernandez ’87, best known for his photographs of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the last year of King’s life, was presented with the college’s Citizen Laureate Award.
Khalil Gibran Muhammad, director of The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a research unit of The New York Public Library, presents Walter Dean Myers ’84 with the Distinguished Alumni Award.
Walter Dean Myers ’84, critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling author of more than 100 books for children and young adults, was presented with the Distinguished Alumni Award.
Emil Moxey, mentor emeritus at the Metropolitan New York Center, is presented with the Heritage Award by Lear Matthews, a Metro Center mentor in community and human services and past recipient of the Altes Prize for Community Service.
Emil Moxey, Ph.D., emeritus professor and mentor in community and human services and social sciences at the college’s Brooklyn Office, was presented with the Heritage Award.
Mentor Emeritus Joe Washington stands with Laurel Massé ‘05, after she received the Distinguished Alumni Award.
“College alumni, such as Ben Fernandez, Laurel Massé and Walter Dean Myers, are a cornerstone for the college, and faculty mentors such as Emil Moxey are the bedrock upon which all our success is built,” said former Acting President Meg Benke. “Their achievements highlight the importance of celebrating diversity in our society and the college takes great pride in honoring them.”
"I am very grateful to Empire State College for this honor and for providing me with the opportunity to earn my college degree," said Fernandez.
“ESC opened a door I had long thought to be closed; my mentor, Steve Lewis, guided me through it,” said Massé. “I will always be grateful for the freedom of being encouraged and expected to explore the ideas that mattered to me in a way that I could not have done in a more conventional academic setting."
“Empire State College was a major influence in my life,” said Myers. “Although I enrolled with an offhand interest in getting a degree, I was introduced to the role of prisons and their effect on young people, an interest I have written about extensively. I was also introduced to photography and the collecting of photographs. I have had my collection of historical African-American photographs exhibited at the Schomburg in New York, the Apex Museum in Atlanta and the Anacostia Museum in Washington, D.C.”
“Receiving the Heritage Award this year was totally unexpected,” said Moxey. “Although I was awestruck over such a wonderful honor, it also stirred up some anxiety in me over being so conspicuously noticed. Suddenly, my 26-odd years with the college confronted me in a long, productive flash. Throughout my involvement with the college over the past years, I was always amazed at the sheer volume of the ever-so-rich knowledge, skills and occupational experiences that mature, diverse students brought to the table. I personally gained a great deal of satisfaction from challenging them to develop their own unique analytical mettle by emphasizing conceptual self-analysis of critical reading and writing skills, instead of providing them with easy answers to identified problems or issues.”
About the Honorees and the Awards
Benedict J. Fernandez - Citizen Laureate
Photographer Benedict Fernandez, a native of East Harlem, received his first camera at the age of six.
His photographs of fellow workers at the Bethlehem Steel Shipyard, where he was employed after high school, served as the basis for his first major photographic portfolio, “Riggers.”
Fernandez then covered landmark historical events as a self-described “photoanthropologist” during the 1960s.
Fernandez is perhaps best known for the photographs he took of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the last year of his life. An exhibition of his photographs of King, “Countdown to Eternity,” continues to tour the world.
Fernandez is the founding CEO of the Hoboken Almanac of Photography and The Almanac Gallery in Hoboken, N.J. and is currently a senior fellow in photography at the Corcoran Museum in Washington, D.C. Collections of his work can be seen at the Smithsonian, National Portrait Gallery, Museum of Modern Art, Houston Museum of Fine Arts, Norton Simon Museum of Art, Schomburg Center, King Center, University of Tokyo and Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris.
Fernandez is a 1987 graduate of the college’s Metropolitan New York Center, with a B.S. in the arts.
About the Citizen Laureate Award
The college’s Citizen Laureate Award recognizes and honors distinguished leadership and outstanding contributions to education, communities and society. This is one of the highest honors the college bestows.
Criteria for the award is based on exemplary commitment to shaping a humane future through education and community service to address and help solve pressing social problems.
Laurel Massé - Distinguished Alumna
Vocalist Laurel Massé, founding member of the vocal group Manhattan Transfer, is an internationally recognized solo artist now celebrating her 40th year as a professional singer. She is held in high esteem by audiences, critics and fellow musicians as both a performing and recording artist, and is also a sought-after teacher, speaker and writer.
She appears frequently on television and radio, and was the creator and host of “The Laurel Massé Jazz Show,” which ran for two years on WAMC Northeast Public Radio. Her numerous television appearances include Mary Tyler Moore’s 1974 television special “Mary’s Incredible Dream” and the “Manhattan Transfer Show” on CBS-TV in 1975.
In 2004 she was recognized for her contribution to music when she, along with the four current members of the Manhattan Transfer, received the prized Manhattan Association of Cabarets and Clubs Lifetime Achievement Award and she was nominated Major Jazz Artist of 2006.
Massé graduated from the college’s Hudson Valley Centerin 2005 with a B.A. in the arts.
About the Distinguished Alumna Award
The Distinguished Alumna award recognizes and honors an alumna of the college who has distinguished herself in any field of endeavor since graduation. The criteria for the award include distinguished service to her craft or profession, or distinguished service to a local community, the state, nation or in world affairs.
Walter Dean Myers – Distinguished Alumnus
Author Walter Dean Myers was born in Martinsburg, W. Va. His mother died when he was a toddler and he was given to Herbert Dean and his wife, Florence, who lived in Harlem, to raise.
He dropped out of high school and joined the army on his 17th birthday. Later, while working on a construction job, he began writing for magazines at night.
A winning contest entry with the Council on Interracial Books for Children became his first book, “Where Does the Day Go?”
Myers went on to become a critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling author of more than 100 books for children and young adults, including “Sunrise Over Fallujah,” “Fallen Angels,” “Monster,” “Somewhere in the Darkness,” “Slam!,” “Jazz,” “Harlem” and “Amiri and Odette: A Love Story,” a modern retelling of “Swan Lake.”
He has received two Newbery Honors and five Coretta Scott King Awards; was the inaugural recipient of the Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement; won the first Michael L. Printz Award; was the 1994 recipient of the American Library Association’s Margaret A. Edwards Award honoring an author for a "significant and lasting contribution to young adult literature;" and is considered one of the preeminent writers for children.
Myers was named National Ambassador for Young People's Literature in 2012. A program sponsored by the Library of Congress and the Children’s Book Council, candidates are selected based on their contribution to young people’s literature and their ability to relate to children.
He graduated from the college’s Metropolitan New York Center in 1984 with a B.A. in cultural studies.
About the Distinguished Alumnus Award
The Distinguished Alumnus Award recognizes and honors an alumnus of the college who has distinguished himself in any field of endeavor since graduation. The criteria for the award include distinguished service to his craft or profession; or distinguished service to a local community, the state, and nation or in world affairs.
Emil Moxey - Heritage Award
Faculty Mentor Emil George Moxey, Ph.D., ACSW, was born in Nassau, Bahamas and graduated from St. John's College Anglican Secondary School in Nassau after earning his Cambridge University Overseas Senior School Certificate.
After relocating to the United States, Moxey received a B.A. in sociology from Virginia Union University, an MSW at Fordham University and a Ph.D. in clinical practice from New York University School of Social Work in 1977.
He is a member of the Academy of Certified Social Workers and a tenured professor of community and human services and of social science at the college’s Metropolitan New York Center’s Brooklyn office.
As a faculty mentor, Moxey worked extensively with students of color and for many years served as a social worker.
Moxey's prior positions have included senior social worker clinician at the Youth Consultation Service of Newark (for the New Jersey Episcopal Diocese), Plainfield Consultation Center (Plainfield, N.J.) and the adolescent clinic of Brooklyn Jewish Hospital and Medical Center. He was also assistant director and coordinator of field work for ANSWER/Bachelor of Social Welfare Program at the Manhattan Center of Adelphi University, 1985-1989, where he taught graduate social work courses, as well as at New York University.
Moxey was honored for more than 35 years of community service as a social worker, professor and chorister by its Crusaders Guild Brotherhood.
Moxey is a member of the Bahamian American Association through Samana College and vice chairman of the Bahamian American Association Inc., a growing and evolving organization of like-minded kindred spirits, many with strong roots in the Bahamas, who have survived a long history of political and social challenges with a foundation of perseverance, tenacity and courage.
About the Heritage Award
The college’s Heritage Award recognizes and honors individuals who have given of themselves, their energy and their ideals to make Empire State College a distinctive and exemplary institution within American higher education. Criteria for the award include distinguished service to the college; enduring impact on the college’s academic program or institutional advancement; or a forward-looking vision of what the college might become.
Live jazz was performed at the event by the Mansoor Sabree ’00 Jazz Ensemble and the Marcus McLaurine ’09 Quartet, featuring Dee Daniels, with an introduction by Joe Washington, faculty mentor emeritus and jazz historian.
SUNY Empire State College was established in 1971 to offer adult learners the opportunity to earn associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the State University of New York.
In addition to awarding credit for prior college-level learning, the college pairs each student with a faculty mentor who supports that student throughout his or her college career. Students engage in guided independent study and course work onsite, online or a combination of both, which provides the flexibility for students to learn at the time, place and pace they choose.
The college serves more than 20,000 students worldwide at more than 35 locations in New York state and online. Its 70,000 alumni are active in their communities as entrepreneurs, politicians, business professionals, artists, nonprofit agency employees, teachers, veterans and active military, union members and more. More information about the college is available here.
About Black History Month
Black History Month, or National African-American History Month, is an annual celebration of achievements by black Americans and a time for recognizing the central role of African-Americans in U.S. history. The event grew out of Negro History Week, the vision of noted historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African-Americans. Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month.*
* (source: the History Channel)
Media contact: David Henahan, director of communications
518-587-2100, ext. 2918