Founder’s Day 2014 : The Peter Cooper Block Party

Founder's Day 2014 Block Party Stage

Founder’s Day 2014 Block Party Stage

On Sunday, April 13th, the CUAA proudly presented its Founder’s Day celebration “Free and Open to All”. After a beautiful breakfast and award ceremony in the prestigious Great Hall of the Cooper Union, a ribbon cutting opened the street fair on Astor Place between Broadway and Lafayette. For the rest of the day, we celebrated with the community in a public street fair with delicious food, music, art and a variety of activities. The weather was gorgeous and it was wonderful to see our community come together. Together, we honored the achievements of our alumni and celebrated the legacy of Peter Cooper. When we began planning this event, we had three goals: to honor alumni achievements, to celebrate in the spirit of Peter Cooper, and to share his legacy with the public. With the countless hours of hard work from our team members, our volunteers, and generous donations from our supporters, we were able to meet these goals. We are thankful for each and every person who helped make this event happen, and for the opportunity to create and share this event.

Special Thanks to all of our Donors! The CUAA and the Founder’s Day Team is especially grateful for the in-kind support of Duggal, The Fourth Arts Block, Blick Art Materials, and The Cooper Union. And all of our individual supporters! Jeffrey Gural • Andrew Okuneff • Michael Borkowsky • John Leeper • Ira Silfin • Robert Tan • Darrell Low • Christine Moh • Jay Moskowitz • Carmi Bee • Peter Ross • Malcolm King • Nicholas Agneta • Rocco Cetera • Susan Shaw • Richard Benini • Lee Skolnick • Xenia Diente • Kelly Occhiuzzo Zack • Yinna Wang • Mina Greenstein • Edward Abaid • Philip Brandon • Dennis Kong • Charles Morgan • Don Toman • Reid Betz • Gordon Chang • Mishel Greenberg • Eric Hirschhorn • Sangamithra Iyer • Hemangi Joshi-Deodhar • Scott Lyne • Steven Rawlings • Ju-Young Suh • Gerald Juzdan • Shankar Venkataraman • Nancy Huang • Maisha Walker • Cindy Qiu • Karen Sandler • Sean Cusack

We would also like to thank all of our team of volunteers! Ed Abaid •  Nick Agneta and Family • Nico Castro • Rocco Cetera • Toby Cumberbatch • Sean Cusack • Athena DeNivo •  Xenia Diente • Paul Garrin • Connie Guo • Vincent Hui • Shotaro Imazu • Sangamithra Iyer •  Rich Johnson • Omri Klienburger • Dennis Kong • Claudia Giordano Lasky • John Leeper • Alexis Lenza • Scott D Lyne • Margaret Matz • Laura Napier •  Michael Nucatola • Andy Overton • Isha Patel • Emilie Rannou •  Anastasia Rudman •  Laura Mircik-Sellers • Laura Spinner •  Theo Stewart-Stand • Karina Tipton • Jennifer Tsang •  CB Wayne • Yinna Wang • Carol Wolf  • Kelly Occhiuzzo Zack

Founder's Day Block Party Art Table sponsored by Blick

Founder’s Day Block Party Art Table sponsored by Blick

Founder’s Day 2014: The Award Ceremony

The Peter Cooper Block Party began in The Great Hall.

After introductory remarks by Event Chair Yinna Wang A’07, Cooper Union President Jamshed Bharucha, and Board of Trustee Chairman Richard Lincer, the award ceremony was gracefully led by the CUAA President John Leeper AR’85  who had the unprecedented task of officiating twelve awards. Remarking on the twelve awards, Lincer stated: “…what the number of awards today does bespeak is the activity and the prominence and the achievements of the alums of this great school with which I am so proud to be associated and to work to continue with its greatness.” With the traditional awards, the CUAA would add three awards of special recognition and inaugurate the Peter Cooper Award for Public Service; that according to Leeper, “We’re hopeful that this will be the first of a tradition that we’d like to start today.”

Receiving the 2014 Alumnus of the Year award, Sean Cusack, BSE 98, asked the audience to make a pledge, “Every year, do one thing FOR Cooper…do one thing WITH Cooper…and finally, once per year, I would love to see every single person do one thing AS Cooper. Do one pure, selfless act per year, and sign it a gift of Peter Cooper.” There were three Young Alumni recognized by the CUAA, Alexis Lenza CE’05, Henry Chapman A’10, and Victoria Sobel A’13. Each spoke about the community that they helped nurture. Lenza took the opportunity to thank her mentors and peers who helped her in her tireless work for the CUAA. Chapman spoke about his efforts with The Friends of Cooper Union, “Our dream was, and is, to better Cooper Union, to preserve its scholarship and to articulate what is vital in its possibility as an institution.”

In an emotional introduction, Mr. Leeper praised the youngest alumna for her for her strength and positivity in the face of so much negativity. Ms. Sobel accepted the award with thanks and appreciation as well as a few words on The Great Hall; “I remember sitting in this space as a prospective student with my parents, as an accepted student by myself and with my peers…and also last year for the announcement of tuition, so this space is deeply meaningful to me and also very bittersweet.”

FD 2014  John Leeper

CUAA President, John Leeper

In continuing a new tradition, students selected by each of the Deans to represent each of the three schools presented the professional awards to each of the awardees. Maxine Chikumbo A’14 and Rachel Mendelsohn A’14 presented the Augustus Saint Gaudens Awards for Art. Ariana Revilla AR’14 presented the John Q. Hejduk Award for Architecture. Sharang Phadke EE’14 presented the Dano Gunn Award for Engineering. Each of the Awardees took the opportunity to speak about their the influence Cooper Union had on their work. Dano Gunn Awardee, Jay Moskowitz PHYS ’70, jokingly bemoaned Cooper’s failure to “cure him” of his need to learn, explore, invent. Julian Laverdiere A’93, in accepting the 2014 Augustus Saint Gaudens Awards for Art said, “Most importantly, Cooper taught me to have a social conscience, to consider the political implications of what it is I do and say through art and work. I still weigh my choices on the moral scales Cooper gave me.” Leslie Gill AR’82, spoke about Cooper through her relationship with her mentor: “The true gift that (John Hejduk) gave us was the understanding that education itself was a reciprocity. That effectively, you learn as much as you’re willing to give…..John tied his legacy to Peter Cooper’s legacy in the sense that he taught us that all of us can make a difference, whether we are teaching our own children, whether we are teaching the people who are in our studios and offices, or whether we  are teaching our students in other institutions. And so I join all of us here in saying that legacy is Peter Cooper’s true gift all of us, and that we all participate in that over and over again in our daily lives.”

In recognizing Augusta Savage A’25 posthumously with the Saint Gaudens Award, Rachel Mendelsohn A’14 praised her: “It is always encouraging to find a strong female who has lived and worked against challenges and overcome prejudice to create a body of work that lives on indefinitely. Not only was Augusta Savage a talented artist, but also an activist and arts educator.” Marina Gutierrez A’81, reading from a letter accepting the award from Roy M. Timberlake, Jr., Mayor of Green Cove Springs, Florida: “Mrs. Savage’s summation of her legacy and work with children is exemplified by the quote, ‘If I can inspire one of these youngsters to develop the talent I know they possess, then my monument will be in their work.'” To inaugurate the award, Milton Glaser A’51 presented the Peter Cooper Award for Public Service to Patricia Buckley Moss A’55. In her absence, her son Christopher Moss, accepted the award. On his mother’s childhood dream of attending Cooper Union, he remarked “The fulfillment of that dream really provided her with the foundation to achieve more than she could have ever dreamed at the time. That foundation of education and compassion and service helped to shape who she would become and who she still is today.” Thanking the Association on his mother’s behalf, Moss affirmed: “Peter Cooper was the very embodiment of genuine dedication and commitment to public service, and Pat could not be more humbled or more honored to be the inaugural recipient of the Peter Cooper Public Service Award.”

Milton Glaser presenting the Peter Cooper Service Award

Milton Glaser presenting the Peter Cooper Service Award

Three awards for Special Recognition for Extraordinary Service to The Cooper Union and its Alumni were presented by John Leeper to Barry Drogin EE’83/MEE’86, Mike Borkowsky ME’61, and Jeffery Gural. In his remarks, Drogin repeating his plea that he had included in a letter to the Trustees: “Of all these awards and honors the full tuition scholarships in addition to the education I got from Cooper are what I am most proud of to put on my resume. I find it interesting that of all my awards and plaques, the one I am most proud of is the one that all alumni also receive. If you take away the merit scholarship, then the diploma is just another diploma from another college.” John Leeper, accepting for Jeff Gural, stated: “(Jeff Gural) is a man who has been generous with his time and his family money, and we’re deeply appreciative of that, and also for his pushing us to remember our own heritage, and to find a way to return to it or honor it, collectively.” Mike Borkowsky asked the audience for a promise: “I want you to promise me that this community will continue to fight for the unique heritage and mission that has kept Cooper Union in the highest echelon of American colleges, and not with empty promises but with a real plan and a real timetable that will restore our faith that Cooper Union will be forever great, forever free.”

Founder’s Day 2014: STREET FAIR SUCCESS

With a cutting of a ribbon, Yinna Wang A’07, John Leeper AR’85, President Jamshed Bharucha, Chairman Richard Lincer, the alumni awardees and sponsors opened the Founder’s Day 2014 : The Peter Cooper Block Party Street Fair on Astor Place between Lafayette and Broadway.

On the main stage, made possible by a generous donation from Jeffrey Gural, student groups: The CooperTones and CooperNova performed before Nick Agneta AR’80 and the Daddy Long Legs Blues Band provided music while the public was invited to explore the many activities, workshops, booths and demonstrations at the fair hosted by alumni, faculty, students and friends.

The public was invited to explore inventions and view art. The Rodi Gallery, with Aaron Graham A’13, hosted a portable art show within a truck. Laura Napier A’98 conducted a performance piece. Inventions addressing shelter, light and emergency support solutions at the Cooper Lumen, Ramesses, Socialite with Toby Cumberbatch, Paul Garrin A’82, Isha Patel ChE’14. Theo Steward-Stand A’99 demonstrated his Unitensil.

Other activities included, Learnosaurus with Sean Cusack BSE’98, Oral History Project with the Cooper Union Associates (Sangu Iyer CE’99, Noemi Charlotte Thieves A’11, Laura Napier A’98, and CB Wayne AR’75), Tealightful, Ping Pong with SPiN, The NY Knicks Groove Truck, Art Showcase, Susan Detrich A’66, The Saturday Program, Milestone Architecture (Margaret Matz AR’83) – The Torcello Project, Green Festivals, The Cooper Union Student Origami Club, NEXTDOOR, and Susan Pillay. Works In Progress, provided free T-Shirt Silkscreening of the Official Peter Cooper Block Party T-Shirt.

Did we mention the food? NYDosas, Snow Day, La Bella Torte, and NYC’s Department of Environmental Protection provided a free water fountain through its program Water on the Go. This was a special nod to Peter Cooper’s involvement with the founding of the New York City Water Supply – Croton Aqueduct. Recycling stations were provided by GrowNYC.

The Community Table was a big success. With supply donations from Blick Art Supplies, and managed by Kelly Ochiuzzo Zack A’89 and Claudia Giordano Lasky A’76, families drew, painted, and chalked squiggles, shapes, and Peter Cooper’s on paper, surfaces, and the pavement.

The Inaugural Peter Cooper Jello Challenge had captured the imagination of the street fair with three entries that would all take home a prize. Judges Julian Laverdiere A’93 (2014 Saint Gaudens Award Recipient) and Honorable Borough President Gail Brewer handed out awards to Carol Wolf A’84 (Jell-o: The Most Important Meal of the Day), Barry Drogin EE’83/MEE’86, and Chuck von Schmidt A’73.

Founder’s Day 2014: The Cooper Union History Project

 The Cooper Union History Project (CUHP) is a joint effort between the Cooper Union Alumni Association, the Ad-Hoc Committee of the Associates of Cooper Union, and Friends of Cooper Union, with the goals preserving and sharing Cooper Union’s history. One initiative of the CUHP is an oral history project, which kicked off during Founder’s Day 2013, when Noemi Charlotte Thieves (Art ’11) recorded mini-videos of participants answering the question, “Where would you be without Cooper?”

The CUAA Ad-Hoc Committee on the Associates continued the Oral History project at the Peter Cooper Block Party. About a dozen alumni from every school shared their stories with Noemi Charlotte Thieves about how they got into Cooper Union, what their favorite memories were, and what they have been up to since. Some applied in the Great Hall in the mid-fifties, others in the late eighties, one in the mid-forties, and one was a fourth-generation Cooper alum, her parents, grandparent, and great-grandparent having graduated all through the twentieth century back to the class of 1892!” The hardest question for everyone was provided by alum Rocco Cetera, “How would you describe Cooper Union to someone who never attended it?” We know there are plenty of other alumni who would love to share their stories about Cooper on camera, so look out for us at future events! Contact us at