Lehman Alumni Helping the Next Generation
Peter Pan Grows Up and Gives Back
First Endowed Scholarship for New School of Business
Lehman College’s newly launched School of Business has its first endowed scholarship, thanks to alumnus Nelson Gisbert ’69. The scholarship, named for his parents, Juana and Hermenegildo Gisbert, was established for students pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree. The School of Business—launched last August—is the first and only public business school in The Bronx and Westchester.
As an immigrant and first-generation college graduate, Mr. Gisbert’s story is reminiscent of many Lehman College alumni. His story, however, is unique. At the start of the Cuban revolution, when he was just 16, Nelson’s parents sent him to live with relatives in Florida under what was referred to as Operation Peter Pan. During this time, parents sent unaccompanied Cuban minors, aged 16 to 18, to the United States for fear that Fidel Castro and the Communist party were planning to terminate parental rights and place their children in communist indoctrination centers, commonly referred to as Patria Potestad.
That experience formed Nelson’s resolve to make his parents proud by pursuing higher education and subsequently becoming a successful businessman and CEO. He established Nelson Services shortly after completing his degree, though the path there was not easy
“My application to Lehman College was initially rejected due to my low SAT scores and poor English.”
Undeterred, he enrolled in several non-matriculated courses to improve both. The courses were challenging, but he never forgot the patience, care, dedication, and support he received from his professors, which provided him the confidence to apply again. He was finally admitted in the spring of 1966.
To this day, Mr. Gisbert remembers his experience at Lehman College fondly, most notably professors William Bosworth and Blank Conway, both of whom left an indelible mark.
“I want to provide business students with the same opportunity that I had back in the 1960s to receive a college education and obtain a degree. I think there are so many people out there that want to pursue it but don't have the means, and I want to be able to do that just as I have for my own children.”
The Juana and Hermenegildo Gisbert Scholarship is expected to be awarded in the fall of 2023.
“We are very grateful to Mr. Nelsen Gisbert for his very generous scholarship gift for business students. This first significant gift for the new School of Business will benefit many of our students who have a similar background to Mr. Gisbert, who came to Lehman College as a young immigrant to study accounting and economics. That the gifts comes from an alumnus makes this gift even more meaningful for us and our students. Having access to this type of scholarship fund is a game changer, allowing them to complete their degree in a timely manner.“ Dene T. Hurley, Interim Dean, School of Business
Beginnings: The Last Mile Scholarship Fund
Cecelia Beirne '68 is a proud alumna of Hunter College in The Bronx (renamed Lehman College in 1968), graduating with a B.A. in mathematics. Since then, one constant in her life has been gratitude to her alma mater for introducing her to a wider perspective and nurturing the development of skills necessary to become a better person.
Ms. Beirne has a deep appreciation of the education she received from Lehman and is proud to have the opportunity to give back with The Last Mile Scholarship. Her commitment to the Herbert H. Lehman College Foundation includes an endowed fund to provide scholarship support to undergraduate students pursuing a degree in nursing or education, and for seniors experiencing a financial shortfall in their final semester. This fund will be essential for students to realize their dream of completing a degree.
Ms. Beirne had a successful career in education and finance, beginning after graduation by joining V.I.S.T.A., where she worked on criminal justice reform for four years. She then taught secondary school mathematics for over a decade in New York City and Westchester County. In 1985, after earning an MBA from Baruch College, she secured a position in structured finance which began a career that would last for over 25 years. She volunteered for several years at the International Rescue Committee, counseling asylees and refugees on the broad range of educational opportunities available at CUNY.
The Last Mile Scholarship is expected to be awarded in the fall of 2023.
We at Lehman College thank Cecelia Beirne for her generous contribution to our students’ education and continued success.
After a Long Nap
Recollections from Alumnus Michael P. Mahony '75
When Rip Van Winkle woke after a twenty year nap, he was bemused by a world that had changed so thoroughly while he slept. He was no longer the subject of King George but a free citizen of a new country where the residents of his old village dressed differently, changed the portrait of the King to General Washington, and were quick to question whether he was a democrat or a federalist.
When I visited Lehman College after forty years, my amazement was even more intense than Rip’s.
I graduated from Lehman in 1975. When I was a freshman in 1971, Carman Hall was my main haunt, a recent addition to the campus that stood above ground on pillars creating a windswept plaza. In its classrooms I took medieval history, French, and Latin to complement my English major. I spent much of my time northward on campus in the library, a large, open space with stacks of books and tables. Its furniture was austere but functional. The building, to the west, looked out to the reservoir, and to the east was a large, flat quadrangle with grass that always seemed to be browning. I took a few classes (calculus, geography, chemistry) in the other gothic buildings in the north part of campus and regularly went off campus under the El to Joe’s College Luncheonette for coffee and a delicious danish.
Four years in a nutshell—my teachers were inspiring, demanding, and supportive. Afterward, I went off to Indiana University to pursue graduate work.
When I “awoke” on campus in 2023, Lehman presented a brave new world. Carman Hall had aged, and now it had ground level facilities.
The formerly dusty underground tunnels that connected the buildings on campus were now replete with film and TV production facilities, state-of-the-art sound studios, and halls remarkable for the sunlight flooding the old passageways.
The library was refurbished into a Fine Arts complex and sits across from what is now a sunken quadrangle that leads to a concert hall and a magnificent new library. Inside the library, there are spaces for students to work quietly, alone or in the common center, where a table shaped as a question mark is surrounded with reference guides and computers available to everyone (much different from my day which was a little more analog). There is even a place to snack—yes, in the library—if too much thinking piques an appetite.
A sparkling new building, between Shuster and Davis Halls, offers daycare for the children of students, faculty, and staff.
The science building looms tall behind Gillet Hall on the north part of campus (a section I don’t remember even existing) and across from it is a speech and theater building that is striking but outdone by a remarkable athletic facility of steel and glass. It stands at the northernmost corner of campus and houses an Olympic-sized swimming pool, racquetball courts, and basketball courts with tennis courts just outside on the way to the music building.
Mike and Elizabeth Mahoney with Martin Greenberg on their tour.
Lehman’s vibe after 48 years away is stunning. In the 70s, my classmates were a mix of Jewish, Irish, and Italian, with a smaller number of African American, Asian, and Latino students. Everyone wore t-shirts and denim. Life involved studying, protesting the war, and envisioning how to save the world. Most of us finished in four years or dropped out to pursue other paths. Today’s student body truly reflects the diversity of New York City and the Bronx, and students’ ages can be anywhere from 18 to 40+. Graduating in four years is not as seamless as it was when I was on campus. Lehman students today have a multitude of responsibilities that often include raising children, supporting their families financially, all while finding time to focus on schoolwork. Their busy lives can affect how quickly they are able to obtain degrees.
Lehman works its magic by knowing what students need and in turn providing critical support. The faculty and staff I met during my visit shared a vision of empowering students to the fullest. They have a keen sense of the challenges students face. Availability and accessibility have become increasingly important. Faculty and staff have made sure that online tutoring is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, in every subject. At the southeast end of campus, behind the old gym building, sits an athletic field for soccer and baseball that leads to a new Student Life Building which houses a food pantry with fresh produce and canned and ready to eat meals. Students make appointments to pick up what they need to supplement what they can’t afford.
Lehman College is an invaluable gem in The Bronx, a borough that has long been vibrant, diverse, and adaptable. I didn’t know until my visit that Lehman had been ranked as high as third in the country as a top performer in social mobility. It is remarkable how its staff and faculty continue to meet challenges with grace and determination, a dynamic leading ultimately to the betterment of students’ lives. I have always appreciated the world class and tuition-free education Lehman gave me, but at the end of my awakening tour of the campus I felt for the first time an exuberance from being an alumnus, a sense of pride that still has me grinning.
In Memory of Ademola Seriki ‘84, MS ‘86
A champion of human rights, with a career spanning three continents, and ranging from education to finance and international relations, Lehman College proudly remembers alumnus Ambassador Ademola Rasaq Seriki (CON) ‘84, MS ‘86.
Born November 30, 1959, on Lagos Island, Nigeria, Seriki’s humble beginnings were as a clerical officer in Lagos City Council before coming to Lehman College where he earned a BA and MS while studying Accounting, Finance, and Management.
After graduation, he immediately began helping others, teaching accounting and business mathematics at various New York City high schools before getting a job with an accounting firm, then regional bank.
From there, Seriki went home to Nigeria, embarking on a decades long journey between private business and government work, where he championed gender sensitivity in politics and public service and fought for housing, infrastructure development, and security for all Nigerians.
He put his expertise to work in a wide variety of government sectors, from athletics to international peacekeeping. Another project was working with the United States Ambassador to provide resources and support for AIDS/HIV patients.
More recently Seriki worked to revamp and reform several federal ministries, including Agriculture and Water Resources, Mines and Steel, Defense, and the Interior. In 2021 he was appointed Ambassador to Spain; a position he held until his death December 15, 2022.
He was awarded Commander of the Order of the Niger (CON) by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and a Civil Merit Award (posthumously) by the Kingdom of Spain.
Ademola Seriki is survived by his children and grandchildren.
The family is establishing an endowed scholarship in Ambassador Seriki’s name so that other Lehman College students can pursue a career in public service and have a similar positive impact in politics and public service.
Building a Community
Lehman students were treated to a free book, lemonade, and the chance to see a free show at the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts, all courtesy of the Alumni Association Advisory Board and Yini Rodriguez from the School of Art & Humanities, as well as Lisette M. Diaz (Journalism and Media Studies) and Anyelina Fermin (School of Business).
The goal was to introduce themselves to students as the first point of contact for each respective area. Through a series of Meet & Greets like this one, the group hopes to build a collaborative community of networking and interdepartmental connections.
All attendees selected a free book and entered a raffle to win prizes including two $50 bookstore gift cards and tickets to upcoming Lehman Center shows—the Tito Puente Centennial, and Invincible: A tribute to Michael Jackson.