President’s Community Breakfast
October 13, 2016

Welcome and Introductory Remarks

  • Good morning and welcome to the 49th annual Community Breakfast at Marist – longest running community award – sole purpose is to salute those who have made the Hudson River Valley a better place to live, learn, and work.
  • More than 100 community leaders have been honored in the past – these individuals are listed in the program, and they represent a who’s who of Dutchess County over the past 49 years.
  • The large turnout today is testimonial to the high regard in which our honorees are held.
  • Leslie and I are new to Dutchess County, but we’ve seen firsthand that it’s a wonderful place for people to live, work, and raise a family.
  • Marist is proud to be a member of this community – going back to our founders the Marist Brothers, our philosophy and approach has always been to act as a good community citizen in all senses of the word.
    • Being of service to others is central to the Marist mission, so the College is extensively engaged with the local community and deeply connected to it:
    • We enhance the quality of life in the community through service projects, cultural performances, and athletic events.
    • Through board service, financial, and in-kind support, Marist and its employees support 48 different nonprofit community service organizations – everything from major medical centers to local historical societies to organizations that feed the hungry and shelter the homeless.
    • We provide tens of thousands of dollars a year in financial sponsorships to support the work of local nonprofits and provide space on campus for their meetings and events.
    • We provide technology support for local treasures like the FDR Library and Walkway Over The Hudson.
    • Our students volunteer and raise thousands of dollars a year for local charities like Dutchess Outreach, Family Services, and Miles of Hope Breast Cancer Foundation. They also provide in-kind consulting and professional services via student organizations like North Road Communications.
    • Our business students provide free tax preparation services for low-income filers.
    • Our Center for Civic Engagement and Leadership builds on the College’s legacy of volunteerism and offers students and faculty the opportunity to integrate community-based teaching methods into schools and departments across campus. This year, 14 professors are teaching 20 courses involving 425 students in 40 community-based learning projects.
    • Since 1992, our Center for Lifetime Study has provided 650 local seniors with opportunities for intellectual and cultural exploration.
    • Finally, Longview Park – which was built through a public-private partnership – provides the community with access to one of the most beautiful stretches of the Hudson River.
  • As you can see, I’m proud of Marist and the way it’s so deeply involved in the local community. I look forward to getting to know each of you better and to many years of continued community engagement.

Citations and President’s Awards

  • Now, I’d like to turn to our President’s Awards. Today, we honor two more individuals for their fine work in the Hudson River Valley:
    • >Bill Austin
    • Ellie Charwat
  • Let me now invite Bill Austin to come up to the podium.

Bill Austin, you are well known for your love of both the Hudson River and the Hudson River Valley community.

Your love of the Hudson was expressed through your instrumental role in leading a resurgence of crew racing on a river that was once the epicenter of the sport in America.

Your love of community is reflected in your decades of service as a volunteer, donor, and fundraiser for some our region’s most vital non-profit organizations – with an emphasis on improving the health and well-being of all who live here. Groups like the American Heart Association, the American Diabetes Association, and the Miles of Hope Breast Cancer Foundation, for which you’ve collectively raised hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years.

The vehicle for much of your community service and philanthropy has been Gold’s Gym Dutchess County, the company that you built through a combination of leadership skills and innovation. Your gyms in Fishkill and LaGrange are where your members go to get fit and stay healthy, but they are also where many in our community go to participate in the kinds of fundraising events that are the lifeblood of our local service organizations.

You and your wife Jane came to the Hudson River Valley from New Jersey after attending what was then Trenton State College to teach in the Poughkeepsie schools. You would later earn advanced degrees from Indiana University and Southern Connecticut State University.

In 1968, you came to Marist College to teach and coach the crew team. You also coached the U.S. Junior National team and later played a key role in building the Hudson River Rowing Association’s beautiful new boathouse, just downhill from where we sit today.

You also served on the board of the Mid-Hudson Civic Center and are currently a member of the Pleasant Valley Lions Club. You and Jane have been married 51 years and are the proud parents of two children and the grandparents of three.

Bill, in recognition of your dedication to the Marist principles of excellence in education, service to others, and belief in community, I am pleased to present you with the 2016 Marist College President’s Award for Community Service.

Let me now invite Ellie Charwat to the podium.

Ellie Charwat, your life has been defined by service to others, whether they be family, neighbors, or people in need around the world.

A proud Poughkeepsie native, you recognized from an early age that you had a responsibility to give back to the community that nurtured you. And you have done so prolifically – as a literacy volunteer teaching children locally and around the world, as well as teaching adult immigrants here at home; as a Town Councilwoman; as a board president at Adriance Memorial Library, where you led its renovation and expansion; and in so many other ways that have impacted the life of our local community.

You’ve given back to the global community, too. In fact, it was while working for the U.S. Agency for International Development in Puerto Rico that you met your future husband, Martin. You taught English as a second language to young people there and later in Brazil, Thailand, Italy, and Greece.

You graduated from Poughkeepsie Day School, Poughkeepsie High School, and Cornell University, and as a young woman you answered President Kennedy’s call to service by going to work for his Committee on Juvenile Delinquency.

Later, you and Martin returned to Poughkeepsie, where he practiced law and together you raised a family that now includes two children and seven grandchildren. As a young mother, you enrolled here at Marist and earned your MPA before eventually leading what was then called the School of Adult Education and working with our Center for Lifetime Study.

Here at Marist and throughout the community, you are known for your tireless efforts on behalf of so many worthy organizations: Arlington Rotary, Community Foundations, Literacy Connections, United Way, League of Women Voters, and the Eleanor Roosevelt Center at Val-Kill, to name several – but not all.

Your causes have been varied, but your motive has been constant – to empower others with the tools to improve their lives and be the active and informed citizens our democratic society requires.

Ellie, in recognition of your dedication to the Marist principles of excellence in education, service to others, and belief in community, I am pleased to present you with the 2016 Marist College President’s Award for Community Service.

Thanks to everyone for being here and have a great day!