The office of International Education at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College (MEC), City University of New York (CUNY) last Thursday held its inaugural International Education Awards Ceremony amid much fanfare, honoring four outstanding individuals.
The honorees were a faculty member, a student, an alumna (posthumously) and a corporate sponsor.
Dr. Maria-Luisa Ruiz, chair of the college’s Foreign Language Department, received the International Education Faculty Award; Dominican-born Certified Public Accountant Jean Joseph received the International Education Corporate Sponsor Award; Business Major Sharmony Gibson received the International Education Student Award; and Dominican Agnes Madalene Abraham, a Medgar Evers College alumna, was honored posthumously with the International Education Alumni Award.
The ceremony, which was held in the college’s Founders Auditorium, preceded the keynote address by Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley. The proceedings were chaired by former Grenada United Nations Ambassador, Eugene Pursoo, MEC’s director of International Education.
“It is truly an honor for our college to host this inaugural International Award Ceremony,” said the college’s President Dr. Rudolph F. Crew, a former chancellor of New York City’s public schools, who, in August, will mark three years in leading the predominantly Black institution in Central Brooklyn.
“Clearly, it is with your assistance and the amazing work of this evening’s honorees and our distinguished guests that we take another significant step in realizing our quest to transform MEC students into global citizens,” he added.
CUNY Board Trustee, Jamaican-born Dr. Una S.T. Clarke, a former New York City Councilwoman and the first ever Caribbean-born woman to be elected to the City Council, said she was one of the founders of the college in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn.
She also said that she had “walked the streets of New York” in ensuring that the college, named after a slain civil rights leader, became historic.
Rowley – Trinidad and Tobago’s 7th prime minister, who was introduced by Dr. Sheilah Paul, MEC’s Associate Dean of the School of Liberal Arts and Education – said the “community spiritedness and generosity have come at a critical milestone and must be rewarded.
“I can see the Medgar Evers energy – thinking back to the origins of the college,” he said. “Congratulations to the honorees!”
Dr. Ruiz, who has been leading MEC students on study abroad trip to Paris since 2008, said it was “great to be appreciated.
“It’s a great honor,” she said, dedicating the award to her students and her mother, who sent her to Germany to study German.
“What I’m doing with them is putting them on the road,” added Ruiz about her students.
Joseph – founder and chief executive officer of Joseph Tax and Consulting Services, LLC, considered one of the leading tax services in Central Brooklyn – said she has been “a friend” of MEC for the past 25 years.
She said she has taught accounting pro bono at the college, offered internship to MEC accounting students, and made financial donations to various causes at the college.
“It has been an extraordinary journey for me,” said Joseph after receiving her award. “Medgar Evers College gives me a source of encouragement.
“Medgar Evers College has stood the test of time as a beacon of hope,” she added. “I plan to support the international program at Medgar Evers College.”
Gibson, who has successfully completed study abroad programs in Japan and Italy, thanks to the signing of a $1,600 promissory note by Pursoo, the amount of which was repaid, complimented the former diplomat for helping to realize her dreams.
“Hopefully, this year, I’ll be able to go to Africa,” she said after breaking down in tears.
Dr. Rowley also urged her to consider travelling to Trinidad and Tobago.
There were lots of teary eyes, as well, as Alejandra George, a MEC Alumna, read a brief biography of Abraham, a “very highly regarded” ex-MEC student leader, who, on Dec. 22, 2015, “suffered an accident in her bathroom and died,” as she was preparing for work.
Abraham’s only sister, Astazie Abraham, cried aloud when called to accept the award on behalf of her late sister and had to be consoled by Dr. Drew and other officials on the stage.
“Thank you for this in my sister’s name,” said Astazie’s tersely afterwards.
The Office of International Education at Medgar Evers College provides students with global knowledge and experiences, Pursoo said.
He said the office “organizes and manages educationally enriching internationally learning opportunities” through, among other things, study abroad programs to diverse destinations and cultures; student and faculty exchange programs; joint student and faculty research programs; and international internships and experiential learning.