Sy Syms School of Business Celebrates 30 Years

Michael Steinhardt Receives Sy Syms Humanitarian Award, Outstanding Students and Faculty Recognized at Gala

More than 350 students and faculty gathered at Citi Field on May 11 to celebrate the Sy Syms School of Business Annual Gala Awards Dinner. The event honored 26 student award winners and featured a fireside chat between Marcy Syms, president of The Sy Syms Foundation, and Michael Steinhardt, renowned investor and philanthropist, who received the Sy Syms Humanitarian Award in recognition of his technical practices in philanthropy and business and commitment to the welfare of the Jewish community and humanity.

In his introductory remarks, Sy Syms Associate Dean Michael Strauss lauded the late Sy Syms for ensuring that the largest institution of Jewish learning would also have one of the best business schools in the country when he helped establish the school in 1987. “After 30 years, we are well, we are alive and we are thriving,” said Strauss.

Strauss also thanked Marcy Syms for her passionate dedication to the legacy of her father, calling her a personal friend and mentor. “Everything that we do at Sy Syms is grounded on three central values: ethics, entrepreneurship and experienced-based learning,” he said. “When you talk to our students, you hear a sense of optimism, of energy and of excitement, and we are all extremely proud of them. I only wish Sy Syms were here to see how much his vision has accomplished.”

In his address to students, President Richard M. Joel said, “You are all as wonderful as you could possibly be and your futures are nothing but glorious for the world of business, for the Jewish people, and for yourselves as you build an integrated life based on Torah that will illuminate our world.”

President Joel praised Steinhardt not only for his investment prowess but also his reputation as a philanthropist “who is not a donor but an investor who creates and nurtures,” citing his work with Hillel and the founding of Birthright. “His impatient love of the Jewish people always has him trying to figure out how to ensure that we move forward and remain a strong, committed people of purpose,” said President Joel.

During his conversation with Marcy Syms, Steinhardt agreed that much of what drives his work as a philanthropist are the qualities of what Syms called “tzedakah [charity]” and “community,” qualities that became more important to him after he retired in 1995. “At that point, I vowed that I would be involved only in innovation within the Jewish world, in trying to figure out what wasn’t there and what should be there,” said Steinhardt. “That has been my world and my life: my major goal has always been to enhance the Jewish future.”

His advice for new graduates: “If you do what you love, if you do what it feels like you were put on this earth to do, you’re going to do it well and be successful. If you take chances, if you speculate, if you start new things, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. But when you win, you can win big, which is how I feel about having started Birthright. I believe Birthright saved a generation and it turned out to be one of my best gambles.”

The event featured a touching video tribute to Dr. Moses Pava, the Alvin Einbender Professor of Business Ethics, who will complete his tenure as dean this semester. “My deepest gemul [reward] as a teacher, researcher and writer, has always been to marry business and poetry, and I leave you with my most cherished piece of advice, from the singer Leonard Cohen: ‘There is a crack in everything/that’s how the light gets in,’ ” said Pava.

The highlight of the evening was an awards ceremony celebrating outstanding students and faculty.

“In accounting, I found a profession that satisfied my love of problem-solving, and I am so thankful to my teachers for giving me this path to follow,” said Avigail Goldstein, of Highland Park, New Jersey, who received the Dean Harold Nierenberg Valedictorian Award and Henry Brout Award for Superior Scholarship in Accounting.

In addition to Goldstein, the gala awardees also included:

Lillian F. and William L. Silber Professor of the Year: Jesse Itzkowitz

Peter Lencsis Adjunct Professor of the Year: Laizer Kornwasser

Harold Nierenberg Valedictorians: Jacob Klar and Erica Secemski

Bernard Brown Excellence in Business Studies: Jonathan Kaplan

Joseph Herbst Award for Outstanding Achievement in Accounting: Jacob Klar

Harry R. Mancher Award for Excellence in Accounting: Erica Secemski

Joseph Herbst Award for Excellence in Accounting: Jonathan Kaplan

Dean’s Award for Scholastic Achievement in Business Intelligence and Marketing Analytics: Matan Horenstein, Danielle Orenshein

Dean’s Award for Scholastic Achievement in Finance: Grace Bodner, Jonathan Kaplan

Dean’s Award for Scholastic Achievement in Marketing: May Arama, Hannah Eichen

Dean’s Award for Scholastic Achievement in Management: Mark Elias, Ilana Schiff

Dean’s Award to Student Council Presidents: Deena Fuchs, Akiva Koppel

Professor Richard Williams Memorial Award for Service and Character: Jakob Finkel, Dov Herzberg, Yossi Hoffman, Leora Mayer, Aryeh Minsky, Majorie Rasinovsky Martins Ferreira, Jonah Sieger, Saadia Tuchman