Sy Syms Gala Celebrates Success, Ethics

Business School Honors Students and Faculty at Annual Awards Dinner

Yeshiva University’s Sy Syms School of Business celebrated its 27th anniversary and the graduating class of 2014 with a gala awards dinner on April 30 at the Museum of Jewish Heritage. The evening honored students and faculty who excelled academically and professionally, demonstrated exceptional character and exemplify the significant strengthening of Sy Syms.

The accomplishments of the past three years, as noted by Associate Dean Michael Strauss in his opening remarks, include Syms receiving AACSB accreditation in March 2013, one of only 672 out of 10,000 business schools to be so accredited; the creation of the Executive Masters of Business Administration (EMBA) program, now welcoming its third cohort; an increase in enrollment from 412 to 575 students;  four new tenure track positions; and new courses like “Managing a Growing Business,” which gives students the unique opportunity to work as a consulting team together with a faculty adviser to develop solutions for a business client on a chosen project.

Strauss then introduced Dr. Henry Kressel ’55YC, YU’s Chairman of the Board of Trustees.

“Dr. Kressel has always been a strong supporter of the Sy Syms School of Business and has been intimately involved in its growth,” said Strauss. “At Syms, our vision is to excel in the business community as well as to give back to the Jewish community and support Jewish causes. Dr. Kressel, managing director of Warburg Pincus and Chairman of the Board at YU, is an outstanding role model in these areas for all of us here today.”

Kressel, a scientist and engineer with graduate degrees from Harvard, Wharton and Penn, spoke of his pride in the progress of Syms. He described his own background, receiving a business education before concentrating in engineering and finance. “I’m proof that a business education is valuable,” he said. “It is a wonderful framework on which to build your education, for whichever career in which you ultimately find success.”

Marcy Syms, president of the Sy Syms Foundation and daughter of the late Sy Syms, spoke next. “My father’s favorite thing was meeting with students,” she said, “and I know he would be so proud to see you all here tonight.” After reading aloud from a 1987 Wall Street Journal article that showcased her father’s innovation and foresight to create a business school with a strong foundation in Jewish values, Syms gave a framed copy of the article to Yaffa Jarshaow and Jesse Nathanson, co-presidents of the Sy Syms Student Council, who will leave it on display at the school.

The responsibility that Syms students have as Jewish businessmen and women was a constant theme of the night, as well as a recurrent idea in the address of Malia Weiss, one of two Syms valedictorians, to her peers.

“The Sy Syms School of Business is unique. We have spent the last few years not only engaged in secular studies, preparing for our careers, but also grappling with Jewish studies, and at particular times with texts and halachot [Jewish law] that provide ethical and religious underpinnings to guide us as we seek a foothold in the world of business,” said Weiss, who plans on attending law school in the fall. “It is especially relevant today, as our Jewish world has been rocked by, sadly, too many examples of businessmen who have forgotten that ethics goes hand in hand with religious observance. It behooves us, then, to ask ourselves not merely what YU represents but what we represent as graduates of YU.”

“Your generation must strive to repair the world and create opportunity for the maximum number of people, and you must use your business not just to create wealth but to create opportunity,” said President Joel. “You have not attended just any business school. You are b’nei yeshiva, b’nei Torah. You form a network that will not only build the Syms and Yeshiva University reputations, but enhance the role of Jewish people in contributing to the welfare of the world.”

Sy Syms Dean Dr. Moses Pava also focused his remarks on the responsibility students have to elevate the mundane to the sacred and the ethical framework in which business must be conducted, a subject he is well-suited to address as the author of books like Jewish Ethics In A Post-Madoff World, Business Ethics: A Jewish Perspective, and Leading With Meaning, among others.

“To experience heightened levels of holiness we are not asked to retire from the world like a monk in a monastery, but just the opposite: we are asked to deepen our engagement with the everyday and the mundane,” said Pava. “The idea of deepening our engagement with the everyday is an important message for everyone, but I believe it is particularly important for those students like you embarking on a business career.”

Throughout the evening, evidence of the strong bonds between faculty and students, and among the students themselves, was on display. Both Galit Ben-Joseph, who received the Lillian F. and William L. Silber Professor of the year Award, and Constance Crawford, who received the Professor Peter Lencsis Adjunct Professor of the Year Award, spoke of their gratitude to their students for making teaching a fun and meaningful experience.

“This is a celebration of how much success Sy Syms is having,” said Jesse Nathanson, who will be working at Ernst & Young in the transaction advisory services following graduation. “Our students are being educated by the best faculty in New York, but more importantly, we are a family where everyone cares for one another. The faculty, staff and administration have a very strong relationship with the students, and this is something that I doubt very many other schools can tout.”