Annual Gala Awards Ceremony Reflects on School’s Remarkable Accomplishments
On Wednesday, May 2, more than 300 students, staff and faculty gathered at Espace in Midtown Manhattan for the annual Sy Syms School of Business Gala Awards. The event honored 27 people in 16 different categories, debuted a video retrospective of significant people and events in the school’s three-decade history, and offered touching tributes to Rabbi Ozer Glickman z”l, Rosh Yeshiva at the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary and a professor at Sy Syms, who passed away in March, and Rabbi Dr. Joel Hochman z”l, the Philip H. Cohen Professor of Accounting at Sy Syms, who passed away suddenly last year.
Yael Saban and Yehoshua Zirman, presidents of the Sy Syms School of Business Student Council, kicked off the evening with a spirited salute to the purpose and mission of the school. Saban praised the school for giving each student in the room “a set of powerful tools that will help us build an ethical framework of Jewish values to guide us through the toughest of decisions.” Zirman added that “because of the seeds planted 30 years ago, students today reap benefits that they also pay back by becoming ethical members of the workforce.”
Michael Strauss, interim dean of Sy Syms, noted that this evening was “truly a momentous occasion—30 years later, we are living Sy Syms’ dream in a school where the students learn the best of the business world while nourishing their Jewish souls. And we are endlessly proud of our students, who are bright, ambitious, dedicated, determined and driven to succeed.”
He thanked Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman, President of YU, for being “a true friend of the school” and Marcy Syms, daughter of Sy Syms and president of the Sy Syms Foundation, for being a “true champion who has extended the vision of her father and whose creativity, innovative thinking and tireless commitment to the synergy of the business school and Jewish values have steered our school to great heights.”
Strauss tallied the improvements being made by the school to its programming, which include adding new undergraduate and graduate majors, expanding course selection and bringing on dynamic new faculty, such as Dr. Sharon Poczter, the new chair of strategy and entrepreneurship. “Education for the 21st-century classroom must emphasize innovation, entrepreneurship and application, and this means that we must continue to innovate to remain relevant. At Syms, we prepare our current and future students for this brave new world by providing them with the timeless tools of critical thinking, active learning and an ethical framework that will sustain them for life.” He reminded the students that “wherever your path takes you, Sy Syms will remain your home, your community, your network and your family.”
The audience was next treated to an eight-minute video testimonial about Sy Syms himself and the school he helped establish. It featured over two dozens speakers, including alumni, former deans and board members, and presidents emeriti; current students and administrators; and Rabbi Dr. Berman, who riffed on Sy Sym’s famous motto about an educated consumer being the best customer by saying that “An educated student is our best customer.” The video also presented archival footage and photos of Sy Syms, who said, in explaining the core philosophy of the school he founded, that “in today’s world, hanging on to one’s Jewishness and being proud of it is so important—you have to know who you are and where you come from in order to move forward in life. And that is really the essence of Yeshiva University and the Sy Syms School of Business.”
After the showing of the video, Marcy Syms spoke movingly about the qualities of her father that made him the ideal founder for the school. She noted that her father was proud to be a salesman because he felt that it gave him an opportunity to educate people to make choices that would improve their lives. She also characterized him as a disrupter, but “in a good way,” because he was constantly looking for ways to “adapt, evolve and innovate his business,” not just to improve profits but also “to make a good contribution to the culture, the community and the family.”
She exhorted the students to “bring it forward and stay involved—we need you to share your time, your voices, your successes with the school. Thank you for being part of the continuing story of the school’s success.”
The highlight of the evening was an awards ceremony celebrating outstanding students and faculty. Two of the awards conveyed a poignant message. The Peter Lencsis Adjunct Professor of the Year was given posthumously to Rabbi Ozer Glickman z”l, who passed away suddenly two months ago. Ron Glickman, Rabbi Glickman’s son, paid touching homage to his father, saying that there were three rules his father said he should always follow: “Stay true to Jewish values, act with integrity, and don’t embarrass your mother. I hope I have managed to do that tonight.” The audience gave him a warm round of applause.
The Joel Hochman Award for Character, Service and Dedication to Accounting Education was a new award crafted to honor Rabbi Dr. Joel Hochman z”l, who died in June 2017 after serving as a member of the University faculty for 23 years. Leonard Fuld, assistant professor of accounting and director of the master’s program in taxation, spoke movingly about Rabbi Hochman, whom he said represented the best of Torah U’Madda.
Brandon Emelfarb, treasurer and secretary of the student council, and Shirel Swissa, vice president, closed out the evening with a broad thank you to everyone who helped make the evening the success that it was.
A complete list of student honorees can be found below:
Dean Harold Nierenberg Valedictorian Award: Michael Klein, Shany Hava
Salutatorians Award: Charles Friedman, Andrew Lent, Michael Rosenfeld, Jeremy Shevach, Ethan Stern
Bernard Brown Award for Excellence in Business Studies: Jessica Green
Dr. Joseph Kerzner Award for Outstanding Achievement in Accounting: Shany Hava
Harry R. Mancher Award for Excellence in Accounting: Evan Jaffe
Henry Brent Award for Superior Scholarship in Accounting: Raphael Neuberger
Joseph Herbst Award for Excellence in Accounting: Jesse Salver
Dean’s Award for Scholastic Achievement in Business Intelligence and Marketing Analytics: Chana Gold, Shany Hava
Dean’s Award for Scholastic Achievement in Finance: Jessica Green, Michael Klein, Michael Rosenfeld
Peter Lencsis Adjunct Professor of the Year: Rabbi Ozer Glickman z”l
Dean’s Award for Scholastic Achievement in Management: David Simpser, Eliezer Weinstein
Dean’s Award for Scholastic Achievement in Marketing: Avraham Borgen, Jessica Green
Joel Hochman Award for Character, Service and Dedication to Accounting Education: Shlomo Frishman
Dean’s Award for Service and Character: Asael Ehrenfeld, Nathan Feifel, Refael Hizami, Whitney Kagan, Chloe Levinson, Meredith Shapiro, Chananel Yosef
Lillian and William Silber Professor of the Year Award: Robert Tufts
Dean’s Award to Student Council Presidents: Yael Saban, Yehoshua Zirman