At Gala, Community Celebrates Dr. Farvardin and Honors Distinguished Alumni
A jubilant gathering of the Stevens community, numbering more than 400 alumni, faculty, students and friends of the Institute, turned out for the university’s Presidential Inauguration Gala on Saturday to celebrate the installation of Dr. Nariman Farvardin as the seventh president of Stevens.
At the event, Gala attendees expressed enthusiasm for what they described as a new era at Stevens, as well as their confidence in Dr. Farvardin’s commitment to strengthening the university’s core programs while expanding its reach.
Held at the Westin Hotel along Jersey City’s waterfront, the Inauguration Gala coincided this year with the annual social event of the Edwin A. Stevens Society, the university’s leadership annual gift club. Society members said attendance at the Gala had shattered previous records.
In keeping with longstanding tradition, the Stevens community gave out two of its most prominent awards for achievement at the event. This year, both honorees were alumni. John G. Puente M.S. ’60, a pioneer in the satellite communications industry, received the Charles V. Schaefer, Jr. Entrepreneur Award. J. Scott Swensen ’74 collected the Stevens Honor Award for his trailblazing career as an investor in Latin America.
In his remarks to Society members and guests, Dr. Farvardin called the Gala “the brilliant culmination of a truly memorable series of events surrounding my inauguration,” and thanked the community for receiving him and his family so warmly since he was appointed president on July 1. In turn, he vowed to “elevate Stevens to ever greater heights of excellence, achievement and distinction."
“Our plan will be bold, ambitious and far-reaching, yet realistic and achievable. Students will be front and center in our planning priorities. The plan will raise expectations for all and emphasize accountability,” he said. “It will be designed to aim high, engender excitement, create a strong sense of ownership, build communities, embrace and value diversity, challenge convention, turn talking into doing, move boundaries and make an impact.”
In order to achieve long-term strategic goals over the course of the "Stevens Decade” leading up to the university’s landmark 150th anniversary - and to ensure broad community input - Dr. Farvardin said he was determined to “build a larger and more engaged alumni family, one alumnus or alumna at a time.”
Annmarie Rizzo ’86, chair of the EAS Society, said the president's message had struck a responsive chord with alumni.
"I was thrilled by the phenomenal, record-breaking turnout at this year’s Gala. This show of enthusiasm is clearly a testament to the genuine excitement felt by so many in the Stevens community, including our alumni, at the inauguration of Dr. Farvardin as Stevens' seventh president," she said. "We see this as a time of transformational change for Stevens, and we are determined to work together as a community to bring this great institution to the next level of academic achievement, research, and technological innovation."
She added, "As a proud alumna, I am delighted to see that Dr. Farvardin recognizes that Stevens' greatest assets are its students and alumni. In turn, we will redouble our efforts to expand our membership in support of our beloved alma mater.”
In granting its major awards this year, the university honored two pioneers.
The Honor Award, given by the University and the Stevens Alumni Association, recognizes an individual’s notable achievement in any field of endeavor.
Swensen, this year's recipient, is the chairman of Conduit Capital Partners, which invests private equity in electrical generating plants and pipelines in Central and South America and the Caribbean. The firm was formed in 2003 to continue the Latin power business that Swensen had started 10 years earlier at Scudder, Stevens & Clark. His first fund, Latin Power I, was in 1993 the first institutional-sized private equity fund focused exclusively on Latin America.
Swensen credited his Stevens education with teaching him the satisfaction in accomplishments that flow from hard work and perseverance, noting, "This has stayed with me for my entire career.” But he added that the most important career lesson he had learned at Stevens was an unlikely one “to take from an engineering school."
"I discovered that I loved to work with other people to solve important things," he said, noting that he runs his private equity firm very much “as a group of people.”
The Charles V. Schaefer, Jr. Entrepreneur Award honors Schaefer '36, a loyal and involved alumnus for 60 years, who served as chairman of the university’s board of trustees. The University gives the award to noteworthy members of the community at large.
Puente is the director of Micros Systems, a provider of enterprise information systems to the hospitality industry. Earlier in his career, he led the team that launched the first private telecommunications satellite into space through a company he founded, Orion Networking Systems, and went on to form several satellite telecommunications companies.
Puente, who called his Stevens education "an important step in my career as an engineer and entrepreneur," said he applauded the university's direction.
"It's clear that Dr. Farvardin is the right man at the right time for the technological era we've entered. There will be great changes over the next 10 to 15 years and we will need leadership," he said in his remarks after receiving his award.
His comments were echoed by a broad cross-section of the Stevens community in attendance at the Gala.
“What he says about our country’s lack of science and technology expertise is exactly right, and the school can attract the sort of people who will help to build that up,” said David Hershberg ME ’68, the founder and CEO of Globecomm Systems, Inc., a satellite communications company, who attended his first gala this past weekend. “He also wants to make sure the school teaches students not just engineering, but entrepreneurship. He’s got the right idea.”
“His credentials are truly impressive,” said Michael Bertucci ’09, a doctoral student in organic chemistry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who said he returns to Stevens once a semester.
The Society is named for Edwin A. Stevens, the Hoboken-born inventor, engineer and entrepreneur who bequeathed the land and start-up funds to establish Stevens Institute of Technology 141 years ago. Its members continue this tradition of philanthropy with donations throughout the year that have an immediate and powerful impact on every aspect of student life, from scholarships, to athletics, to academic programs.
In a roundly applauded announcement at the Gala, Edward Eichhorn ’69, the vice president for development, reported that the university had succeeded "with the help of a lot of people in this room" in raising more than a third of the money toward a three-year $30 million fundraising effort conceived earlier this year and known as the President’s Initiative for Excellence. The Initiative, Eichhorn said, is aimed at "immediate and pressing priorities focused on improving the student experience."
It will be used to expand scholarship programs, upgrade infrastructure and technical capabilities, and boost the university’s ability to pursue outstanding new faculty members, among other priorities.