By Steve Seepersaud
What is the Binghamton University spirit? To many, it's a sense of risk taking, creating opportunity where others see challenge, and working in relentless pursuit of a goal.
The Alumni Association's Special Recognition Awards Ceremony, held May 2 at the Edison Ballroom in Manhattan, was filled with stories of alumni accomplishment fueled by the Binghamton spirit.
One of these stories came from Michael Timmeny '73, the event's special guest speaker, and senior vice president and chief government strategy officer at Cisco. After graduating from Binghamton, he drove to Washington, D.C., and roamed the halls of Congress searching for a job. An offer from Rep. Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman elected to Congress, started him on a 21-year career on Capitol Hill before he joined Cisco.
"One of the reasons I got that job was that I had been an RA and residence hall director," Timmeny said. "I had to give counsel to people in the military, and they figured [because of my background] I could give good counsel. I don't know that it was necessarily true, but it got me the job. The other thing that helped me get the job was the pedigree of Harpur College. When I was in the office, they looked at my resume and said, 'Harpur College, this guy must be smart.' Sure enough, it worked out."
The Alumni Association presented its four signature awards and 10 Medals of Distinguished Service, recognizing Binghamton University graduates who have excelled in their professions while giving back to their alma mater.
Stuart F. Koenig '73, who recently retired from a career in real estate private equity spanning more than 40 years, received the Glenn G. Bartle Distinguished Alumni Award. He was most recently a senior partner in the real estate division of Ares Management, LP, a global alternative asset manager with more than $100 billion of assets under management. Koenig is one of the founding supporters of Harpur Edge, which provides students with high-impact learning experiences. He recently made gifts to Binghamton to establish the Koenig Family High Impact Learning Endowment - providing ongoing support for Harpur Edge - and a recognition wall at Harpur.
"I came to Binghamton as a first-generation college student without a real sense of what I wanted to study or the direction I would take post-graduation," Koenig said. "I'm very grateful for the well-rounded liberal arts education I received which gave me a terrific foundation to build on...I look back at Binghamton with much fondness and gratitude."
David Wexler '61 received the Alumni Achievement Award for his work in therapeutic jurisprudence. He's professor of law and director of the International Network on Therapeutic Jurisprudence at the University of Puerto Rico in San Juan, and distinguished research professor of law at the Rogers College of Law in Tucson, Ariz. He is an honorary president of the International Society for Therapeutic Jurisprudence. He first developed the concept in a paper published in 1987.
"Harpur really did encourage people to find themselves and go their own way," Wexler said. "My work in therapeutic jurisprudence combines law with a lot of the social sciences. [At Harpur], my chief interests were philosophy, logic and political science, criminology, anthropology and especially sociology."
Mabel Payne '71 received the Edward Weisband Distinguished Alumni Award for Public Service or Contribution to Public Affairs. She is owner and principal of RADE Associates LLC. She has 30 years of experience in program evaluation and data analysis; grant proposal development; design and implementation of professional development and train-the-trainer events; design and implementation of educational accountability metrics and procedures; research and analyses of STEM and collaborative learning paradigms, and the impact of globalization and work-based learning; post-secondary career and educational group and individual counseling, and program design and administration.
"As early as I could recall, I had the urge to help others," Payne said. "I've always worked in human services and felt an urge to help others live their best lives. Through the years, I have come to realize we are all one human race. The improvement of one is the betterment of all."
Gigio Ninan '08 received the Lois B. DeFleur Distinguished Young Alumni Award. Ninan, who came to the United States from India with his family at a young age, co-founded the boutique New York City firm Shankar Ninan & Co. LLP. He was named a SuperLawyers® Rising Star 2016-19, and in 2017 was the youngest recipient of the New Jersey Law Journal "New Leader of the Bar" award. He actively mentors Binghamton University students.
"Success is a wonderful thing, but it tends not to be something you learn from," Ninan said. "We enjoy it, perhaps we deserve it, but we don't acquire wisdom from it. I believe the true path to success is through the fear of failure. All of us experience it, so let's use it to succeed."
The following alumni received Medals of Distinguished Service in recognition of their contributions to specific areas on campus.
Diane L. Brown '74, MA '02
Scott M. Eckers '02, MSEd '04
Glenn M. Engelmann '77
Michelle Tuman-Engelmann '77
Yohansa Fernández '08
Ameya N. Hete, MS '99
Michael F. Lane '89
Constance A. Olson '90
Andrew P. Vaccaro '15
William M. Voelkle '61
Read more about our award recipients.
Neil Berg '86 and Pat McGuinness '85 produced the musical entertainment and assembled a group of performers that included noted soloist Rita Harvey as well as 12 alumni. Visit the Alumni Association Facebook page to see the opening number from the event as well as a photo gallery.
Want to nominate someone for a 2020 Alumni Association award? Do so online by Aug. 30.