Originally published on Cualumni.com

Gural / Borkowsky Working Group Election

Nominees |Bios

School of Art
Candidate Bios
Taraneh Fazeli A’06“As a child my biggest fears were not the bogeyman in the closet or under my bed but, rather, I would lie awake at night wondering how I would ever be able to pay for college. When I did eventually enroll at Cooper as one of the first classes in the twenty first century, this fear was no longer just a precious reminder of how I was an adult trapped in a child’s body, but an indication of the shape our country’s education system was inevitably taking. I could elaborate here on what a fundamentally life-changing experience my Cooper education was but I feel this is a story we all share–Cooper attracts amazing individuals. I will say that I was drawn to the school not just because it was the only education I, as a financially independent transfer student, could afford with two jobs, but also because of the caliber of artists teaching and studying here and the school’s social mission.

Currently I work in Education at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, after working on alternative or extra-institutional pedagogical projects. My position here  on an international partnership allows me the opportunity to witness educational models across the globe and to understand the real importance of making Cooper’s historic ideals meet up with its contemporary administration. For example, I am currently working on a book project on international arts education and, of course, it’s financialization. Previously I worked with Working Artists in the Greater Economy (WAGE), a group of artists working towards the payment of artist fees at NY non-profits. We also worked with other international activist groups that were facing similar austerity measures and how this was changing funding structures from places like the UK to Russia. It should also be noted that the New Museum’s unique development model has exposed me to many of the recent developments in fundraising in the arts that go beyond government grants and courting large donors.

It is key that in devising creative financial solutions we also understand why people are not giving and how we have be conscious of the image damage that has been done to Cooper. As a critic and editor, I can say that the recent slew of press surrounding the occupation has done much to open up this dialogue and that we need to continue to show people why they should care about Cooper and what goes on here. (I am currently working on such a text for publication.) After attending all the public forums and some of the unofficial task force, and then seeing how this all was received by the board, I feel it is time for greater involvement by us all and it is imperative that we have a voice that is engaged in the contemporary art world to communicate with alumni and build alliances beyond.  It doesn’t have to be me, but please pick someone who will indeed do this!”

Michael Lebron A’76

Given presen economic and political realities, Peter Cooper’s ideal of an “education as free as air and water” is as relevant today as it was 150 years ago. Fully paid scholarships have been an expression of this ethos and are intrinsic to Peter Cooper’s mission of providing an “education equal to the best”. The school’s mission – and its status in the world of higher education – could be sorely tested if tuition commences. As beneficiaries of and heirs to Peter’s legacy, it is important for alumni to do everything possible to ensure that the mission continue to be the fullest possible embodiment of the ideal for the next 150 years.

I have had a 30 year career in graphic design and advertising in health care marketing. A notable accomplishment: as creative director, I was a key team leader in pitching, winning, and launching LIPITOR, the first, and to date, most successful direct-to-consumer national advertising campaign launch in the history of health care marketing.I have also had a lengthy career in the art community, with a string of site-specific public art and media projects that I have conceived, directed, produced and exhibited in the U.S. and overseas. Whether working in graphic design, advertising, or the art world, my career demonstrates an ability for developing budgets and ensuring that campaigns and projects adhere to them.

I have fought four 1st Amendment battles in order to site my work in my preferred public spaces. Of particular interest: Lebron v WMATA, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals – Robert Bork wrote the unanimous opinion in our favor, with Antonin Scalia and Kenneth Starr joining (yes, I hit the trifecta); Lebron v NRPC (Amtrak), The United States Supreme Court – Antonin Scalia wrote the majority opinion in our favor, with Sandra Day O’Connor the sole dissent. When the case was at the 2nd Circuit, Judge Newman took the extraordinary step of inserting into the record an argument that I was presenting that did not have to be reached: that the artwork in question was specifically constructed in such a way as to call into question the legal distinction between commercial and political speech, suggesting that I might prevail there as well. These two cases took 2 and 5 years to fight. As to catching Scalia twice: as they say, a stopped watch is right two times a day, and I may be the only person to catch Nino at both times. I spent 4 weeks in the northern Nigerian war zone collecting 150 drawings by young children describing their experiences of the contra war for a public service ad campaign displayed throughout the Washington metropolitan area transportation system and for distribution to Congress and the Senate, timed for a vote on contra aid. My congressman said the campaign helped him change 6 votes. My friends said I was nuts to go to the war zone, that I may not succeed in dodging the bullets and artillery shells. They were almost right.For five years, I have been an active organizer in the anti-fracking effort. Of note: A) I had a significant role in putting in place the now-five-year-old de-facto fracking moratorium in NY State. B) I organized families in Dimock PA whose water went bad concurrently with gas drilling in their area. I helped them identify a law firm from NYC, and I kept their lawsuit in the spotlight worldwide with a tactically supported public relations campaign, virtually turning Dimock into a global brand. C) My thirty second anti-fracking PSA has been run by Yoko Ono and Artists Against Fracking in the NYC and Albany markets on an as-needed basis D) I have testified before State and City environmental groups on the issue on a regular basis E) I am on the board of directors of Damascus Citizens for Sustainability, a not-for-profit founded to bring awareness to the issue These cause commitments demonstrate an ability to translate ideas and ideals into concrete tactics and strategies that can advance those ideas. They also demonstrate an ability to work pragmatically with people of very different cultural and economic backgrounds and political points of view, communicating and leading in a way that leads to the attainment of desired objectives. They demonstrate the patience to see things through to the end over long periods of time.

Though I am relatively new to the struggle here at Cooper, I bring a history
of creative problem-solving to challenging situations and the patience that comes with a pair of fresh eyes.”

Elaine Beckman Maldonado A’68

“Graduating in 1968, I benefited from a fantastic, tuition-free Cooper Union. It kept the stakes high, kept quality high and provided a level playing field, regardless of the student’s financial situation. It is unbelievable that an institution known for nurturing some of the greatest creativity on this planet has been unable to successfully navigate a short-term, economic down-turn.

I am the Director of Faculty Development at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT). Part of the State University of New York, FIT is a public institution that struggles with economic challenges every day. I have written and managed substantial educational grants and although I now oversee one of the college’s smaller budgets, I believe I have a good understanding of university finances.

I look forward to putting my knowledge, experience and love of Cooper Union to work to bring back a tuition-free Cooper Union.”

Sam Messer A’76

Sam Messer received a B.F.A. from Cooper Union in 1976 and an M.F.A. from Yale University in 1981. He is represented by the Gary Snyder gallery in New York. His work may be found in Public collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Art Institute of Chicago, and Yale University Art Gallery. Mr. Messer has received awards including a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation grant in 1984, the Engelhard Award in 1985, a Pollock-Krasner Foundation grant in 1993, and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1996. He has recently collaborated with Paul Auster onThe Story of My Typewriter, and with Denis Johnson on Cloud of Chalk. He is currently collaborating on a project with Jonathan Safran Foer. He was appointed senior critic at Yale in 1994 and in 2005 was appointed associate dean and professor (adjunct). He also serves as director of the art division of the Yale Summer School of Music and Art in Norfolk.

Isaac Moore A’97

I am from the borough of The Bronx, attended the Cooper Union Saturday Program for all four years that I attended Herbert H. Lehman high school in The Bronx. When I was accepted to Cooper I taught the Portfolio Preperation class for the four years that I was in school and then three pro bono years afterwards. After graduating from the Art Achool in 97, I went on to make art work, and still do and am employed with Ralph Lauren in the Creative Services department.

Victoria Sobel A’13

Victoria Sobel is a 22 year old artist and activist originally from MD, currently based in NYC. A recent graduate of the School of Art, Victoria has focused most of her energies on student advocacy and student debt rights campaigns with Free Cooper Union, working to promote open source and new media alternatives for activists and frontline communities. If elected to the Working Group Victoria is most excited about working to engage the broader Cooper community, she plans to work closely with community liaisons to make sure that a culture of inclusivity and open communications make the tasks of the working group and other adjacent initiatives accessible to anyone with an interest in being involved.

Carol Wolf (Robinson) A’84

“As a graphic designer with 30 years of experience creating and building brands for global clients in a wide range of industries, I believe my strengths in creative problem-solving and communication would be an asset to the Working Group. I am passionate about Cooper Union, and have been actively engaged in the efforts to avoid tuition since October 2011. While open-minded about possible solutions to the problems at hand, I believe that the most effective approach will be multi-pronged. Cost-cutting measures and aggressive fundraising initiatives will be key, together with a broader outreach campaign to promote Cooper Union’s unique value to the local and global communities and to solicit outside help from the industries that have benefitted most (and will continue to benefit) from the contributions that Cooper has made to their respective fields. Furthermore, I am firmly of the opinion that in order for any efforts to succeed, our leaders must understand and openly embrace the full scholarship model as a fundamental ideal of Cooper Union that is essential to maintaining its continued success.

I take very seriously the opportunity to serve on this Working Group, and I thank you for considering me as a representative for the School of Art.”

Architecture Candidates

Robert Tan AR’81

Robert is a Partner at Gerrard+Tan Architects. He serves on the Alumni Council and the Annual Fund and Nominating committees. He has served as Co-Chair of the Annual Fund Committee. He and Judy Gerrard AR’83 were Co-Chairs of the 2009 Founder’s Day Dinner Dance. He serves as CUAA Secretary/Treasurer.

Carmi Bee AR’67

Carmi Bee received his Bachelor of Architecture degree from The Cooper Union in 1967 and his MA in architecture from Princeton University in 1970. He has been an active member of The Cooper Union Alumni Council since 1975 and served as President from 2007–2009; Alumni Trustee from 2002–2006 and Vice President from 1990-1991. Among his most cherished honors was receiving the John Hedjuk Award from the Alumni Council in 2007 and the Distinguished Alumni Award in 1988. He is a partner with the firm RKT&B Architects. His association with the firm began in 1965 when he was hired, as a student, by Bernard Rothzeid (AR’49). Carmi was made a Fellow of the AIA in 1987. Mr. Bee is a Professor Emeritus at the City College of New York School of Architecture, where he taught for 38 years.

School of Engineering

Candidate Bios

George L. De Feis CE’82
“Dr. George L. De Feis has over 25 years of not-for-profit, academic, professional (corporate), and practical experience, covering the fields of management, education, association management (conference and exhibit), international affairs, and engineering. He has consulted to the for-profit and not-for-profit worlds, and to academia. Dr. De Feis completed his D.P.S. in management (marketing; international business) at Pace University. He also holds an M.B.A. in finance (1987) from Bernard M. Baruch College (CUNY), and a B.E. in civil engineering (1982) from The Cooper Union.

De Feis held the positions of executive director and CEO of the U.S. Chess Federation, Concrete Industry Board, and the American Management Association’s “Operation Enterprise” (youth program). He has published and presented articles on management and professional practice, not-for-profit management, global business issues, course development, distance learning, technology and sustainable development at a variety of venues, including: Academy of Management, Eastern AOM, UN Global Compact, IAMOT, and various American Society of Civil Engineers peer-reviewed journals, etc. His current interests include strategy and competitive advantage, decision making, marketing, international business, education (hybrid and distance learning), engineering, and not-for-profit issues.

Course specialties of Dr. De Feis are Global Business Strategy, Management & Organizational Behavior, Business Policy and Strategy, Managerial & Organizational Concepts, Organizational Behavior, Organizational Theory, International Business, Project Management, Entrepreneurism, and Management Science, for which he has written a textbook: Management Science: A Practical Approach For Today’s Business Management Student, 2nd Edition (Thomson/Cengage 2007).”

Barry Drogin EE’83/86“Fighting for a fair, risk-free austerity budget since November 2011” is the motto of The Alumni Pioneer and an accurate description of its publisher, Barry Drogin EE ‘83/86.  Behind-the-scenes, on-line, and in person, Barry has been engaging and informing the entire Cooper community while investigating, analyzing, and explicating essential historical and financial data.  For four years, Barry taught engineering full-time at the college level and acted as a union shop steward, for three years worked as an independent consultant, and the rest of his career worked as a full-time engineer and engineering manager at a government agency and at corporate, small and start-up firms.  For over ten years he has worked with and for architects and for thirty years he was a professional musician, creating, performing, and writing about new music-theater and vocal music.  Second-generation Cooper, he is Cooper Union’s first Tau Beta Pi Laureate for his diverse achievements in music and journalism.  No one sees the big picture, down to the smallest details, as well as Barry, nor is as uniquely qualified; he is eager to contribute his broad expertise to the Working Group while processing input and actively obtaining buy-in from all of Cooper’s constituencies, in order to preserve and sustain the mission of the college.

Michael B Gutierrez ChE’06

“Thank you to those who have nominated me to the ballot for the Working Group. I have been at Cooper Union continuously since 2002. I have worn many hats here: undergraduate student, graduate student, alumnus, night monitor, adjunct professor, co-advisor to graduate students, and research lab associate (stetsons are cool too). Cooper Union has been and always will be a part of my life. Everything I have done since leaving the student life here has been to give back in the ways that I can because I was gifted something truly valuable by those who came before me.

I have seen institution change in many ways in 11 years: faces, rooms, buildings, and ideas. Despite that change, I have known of one constant: free tuition scholarships. It is what this community cherishes and works to keep alive daily. As your elected alumni representative, I would work to bring transparency and fresh eyes to this problem. I would establish a line of communication between the alumni and the other stakeholders in the Working Group. I am not afraid to ask the hard questions that need to be asked nor am I afraid to delve deep into the finance sheets. I can work late into the night and will spare every available moment to solving the problem, talking with the constituents, and establishing a rapport with the other stakeholders . I would work openly with two goals: 1. preserving Cooper Union’s legacy and commitment to free tuition scholarships that we as alumni have cherished and will not let die, 2. to keep free tuition scholarships available for future students. If the Cooper Union community is going to solve its financial issues to preserve full tuition scholarship policy with the money it has right now, I think I would be the right person to represent the alumni.”

James Hladek ME’64

“I am not running for a political office or in a popularity contest where I want to “”sell”” my fellow graduates to vote for me. What is needed now is for a strong group of individuals, preferably ‘new blood”” , to steer Cooper Union through these next five years until the additional funds kick in.

Q1. Are you prepared to participate in person with the working group, with the understanding that it may meet at a minimum of biweekly in NYC with the possibility to meet more frequently?
A1. I presume the group will select for itself the times and location convenient for the participants.I agree to participate within the structure that is decided upon.
Q2. Are you prepared to sign a confidentiality agreement in order to access financial records?
A2. Yes, but why are the financial records secret? The reason we are at this point in time is a total lack of transparency regarding Cooper’s
financial information these many years.
Q3. Do you commit to relaying up-to-date and timely information to the Alumni Community through written mechanisms, to be determined later?
A3. The group should have a secretary whose job it is to do that. It is both premature and inappropriate to have individuals convey information unilaterally. All that will do is complicate an already difficult situation.
Q4. Do you agree to an understanding of the Alumni Community as an extension of the working group, to be called publicly upon to help solve the problems facing Cooper Union?
A4. Yes, but each of the groups at Cooper will be called upon to help solve the problems facing Cooper Union. These include the students, faculty, staff, trustees, administrators and alumni. If all work to solve the problem, there is a chance of success.
Q5. Are you prepared to be a community facilitator to ensure this level of Alumni engagement?
A5. I am prepared to be a facilitator with all the groups involved.
Q6. Do you agree to work diligently and with an open mind toward a solution that doesn’t include tuition for students who begin in 2014?
A6. The reason I and a group of fellow alumni have been meeting with key people regularly since this problem became public is that we believe in the original mission of Cooper Union, which is to offer a free college education to qualified students.”

Lynn Lander ChE’60 

I am a retired Director of Research. Among other activities, I have led cost reductions teams, trained and facilitated global project teams and developed risk management procedures. It is my belief that charging tuition will result in reduction in the quality of the student body and loss of donations from alumni. These unintended consequences threaten the viability of Cooper Union. Many small cuts will not do the job. Only big, bold and, unfortunately, painful cuts will be able to get us on a sustainable path. If the pain is spread broadly and fairly we may yet be able to preserve the tuition free institution that we love.

Steven L. Lerner ME’75

“As a beneficiary of Cooper Union’s free tuition and exceptional education, I am committed to preserving Cooper’s legacy. Free tuition provides life-changing opportunities, reaffirms our founding principles, and drives Cooper Union’s applicant pool quality, uniqueness and stellar reputation.

I hope to bring deep experience to the working group to help develop the right tuition-free solution. As an advisory board member for Princeton University, Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, chairman of the University at Buffalo Dean’s Council, and advisory board member for The Institute of Materials Science, UCONN, I have played key roles improving school rankings, student retention, and new graduate employment as well as obtaining over $50MM in grants. As chairman, vice chairman and treasurer of the Industrial Research Institute Inc., I worked to reverse declining membership and financials, achieving a substantial reserve fund and a firm member base with R&D spending of over $100B. As chief technology officer of Praxair Inc. (Fortune 250, $11B/year sales), responsible for R&D, market development, and licensing, I helped establish Praxair’s technical and market leadership, creating $22B in shareholder value. (Academic credentials include a BE from the Cooper Union, PhD from Princeton, and the executive program at Stanford.)

I am committed to spend the time and energy required to leave no stone unturned as we pursue this critical work.”

Albert Piesco ME’67

The things that make Cooper Union unique are the difficulty in entry and the free tuition. The education will become average when the student body becomes average which will be the result of the recently proposed tuition policy.  We need a bold decision in order to maintain the integrity of the education i.e., maintaining both difficulty of entry and no tuition. That is preferable to the mediocrity I foresee with the current path chosen.  I am willing to contribute my time to achieving this.  I live in Virginia and it will be hard for me to do what is needed.

Justin Spivey CE’98

I was honored by the nomination and was immediately interested in running because I’m good at objectively sorting and condensing information to communicate between different constituencies; in essence, being a faithful representative. The working group will call on other skills that I’ve learned from investigating contractual disputes (quickly reading and absorbing reams of information) and from construction project management (achieving compromise and maintaining focus on the goal). Given my variety of work and volunteer experience in the U.S. and overseas, I can readily understand and reconcile different viewpoints. Because I recently returned to the New York City area, I can offer a fresh perspective along with my usual enthusiasm and ability to generate new ideas. Please contact me at justin.spivey@gmail.com if I can say anything more to earn your vote!

Ira Whitman CE’61“I am a CE graduate from Cooper Union,1961, with a MCE from Brooklyn Poly, 1963, and a PhD from Johns Hopkins University in 1968.  I am a Licensed Professional Engineer in 6 states.  I served as the first head of the State of Ohio EPA, 1972-1975, as a member of the Governor’s cabinet.

In 1985 my wife and I founded an environmental engineering consulting firm in East Brunswick, NJ, still going strong 28 years later with younger associates at the helm, and with me still active as Principal of the firm, which now has approximately 65 employees, including engineers in all of the disciplines educated at Cooper at the time I was a student there:  Chemical, Civil, Electrical and Mechanical.  At age 73 I work full time in environmental engineering, specializing in Site Remediation and serving as an engineering expert in matters of litigation in this field.  I also serve as an original member of New Jersey Site Remediation Licensing Board, and I am a licensed LSRP.

A few years ago I was the recipient of Cooper Union’s Gano Dunn Award for engineering alumni.

Why I would like to participate:

When solicited for contributions by Johns Hopkins (to which I also contribute) I tell the JHU representative “I owe my career to Johns Hopkins, but I owe my life to Cooper Union”, which to my mind is a true statement and tells all anyone needs to know why I would like to participate.”