Mary Ann Avella
Keeping the Legacy Strong
For Mary Ann Avella, a clear path led her family from Brooklyn to the Riverdale campus of Manhattan College. It began, she notes, when her brother, John V. Avella ’64, announced his interest in engineering to the Christian Brothers at Bishop Loughlin Memorial High School.
“When the Brothers heard that,” Mary Ann recalls, “they said, ‘Manhattan’s the college for you.’ That was the start.” John excelled as a chemical engineering major. Upon graduation, he was recruited by Doyle and Roth Manufacturing Co., which produces heat transfer equipment. He rose through the corporate ranks, from chief engineer to vice president and president. Ultimately, he purchased the company.
“Manhattan was much more than a college to John,” says Mary Ann. “It was family. The Brothers modeled that supportive atmosphere by example. John brought that same sensibility to Doyle and Roth — and he always thanked Manhattan for giving him his start as an engineer and a businessman.”
Today, as the current president of Doyle and Roth and a generous friend of Manhattan College, Mary Ann keeps her brother’s legacy strong. When John suddenly passed away in 1995, she and her family established the John V. Avella ’64 Memorial Scholarship for students in the chemical engineering program. “Making a difference was so very important to John,” Mary Ann says. “We felt the best way to make a real difference for Manhattan and its students was to establish a scholarship on his behalf.”
Mary Ann also has made an extremely generous pledge of support for the construction of the Patricia and Cornelius J. Higgins ’62 Engineering and Science Center at Manhattan. Fulfilling a longstanding goal of the College, the 30,000-square-foot facility features 14 state-of-the-art laboratories and other sophisticated academic resources for the Schools of Engineering and Science. “It’s magnificent,” Mary Ann says. “John would be so proud of the way his College continues to grow.”
Mary Ann was a teacher and assistant principal at C.S. 102 in the Bronx when John passed away. “Everyone at the company was in shock — we all were,” she says. Thanks to her brother’s work, Doyle and Roth was strong. “John had put everything in place for the company to flourish.” Still, she recalls, the company needed “someone to step in. To keep that faith, that morale going.”
So for the next eight years, Mary Ann held two jobs. She continued to work at C.S. 102 while taking the helm at Doyle and Roth. “At the time,” she says, “I didn’t know a thing about engineering or heat exchangers.” But when school ended every day, she drove down to the Lower West Side from the Bronx. “I’d sign the checks, see if there was anything that needed attention,” she says. “It kept going because of everything my brother put in place.” When she retired from teaching, Mary Ann turned her full attention to the company.
Today, a new generation of the Avella family is making its mark at Doyle and Roth. Mary Ann welcomed her cousin and godson, Jason Stern ’03, into the company. Like John, he is a graduate of the School of Engineering. “It’s extremely gratifying to see everything continuing this way,” says Mary Ann. “We may have lost John, but we’ll never lose what he stood for.”
Kenneth ’90 and Shorn ’03 Bouyer
"Lifting as We Climb"
As a student-athlete at Manhattan in the late 1980s, Ken Bouyer ’90 aimed to excel at everything he did, both in class and on the court. In fact, the accounting major refused to accept anything less.
“It’s how we all felt,” he says of his men’s basketball teammates. “That’s the Manhattan College way.” He pauses with a smile.
“Besides,” he adds, “I do have quite a competitive streak myself.”
Ken’s persistence impressed his wife Shorn ’03 (née Henderson) when they first met as undergraduates. Shorn, an English major, was studying in the library when Ken introduced himself. “I really just wanted to do my reading,” she says. “But there was something special about him. He was smart, confident — I found it very attractive.”
Those qualities are evident in Ken’s long career at Ernst & Young (EY), the multinational professional services firm he joined in 1990. Ken was a senior when EY came to recruit at the Riverdale campus. After a couple of interviews, the firm offered him a position. “I had six or seven other job offers at the time,” Ken recalls. “But I had a strong sense about EY. I’ve been with them ever since.”
Launching his career in EY’s Assurance Services practice, Ken rose through the ranks, ultimately becoming a director in EY America’s Advisory Services practice. He enjoyed working with internal audit clients around the world. One day, he received a call from the firm’s U.S. chair. “He explained that EY wanted to foster a climate of even greater inclusiveness,” Ken says. “Then he asked if I would want to take on that role.”
Ken accepted. Today, as EY America’s director of inclusiveness recruiting, he leads efforts to attract and retain diverse pools of professional talent. Creating and implementing strategies internally and with EY clients, Ken also visits and works with colleges and universities, encouraging students from underrepresented communities to pursue business careers.
“Lift as you climb,” says Ken, who grew up in Jamaica, Queens. “Using what I’ve learned, I can help bring opportunities to a new generation.” His work in higher education also led to one of his proudest moments: the senior class of Syracuse University’s School of Information Studies (iSchool) invited him to deliver its 2016 commencement address.
“It was an honor I’ll never forget,” says Ken. “And it was wonderful that Shorn and our daughter were there to share it with me.” Creating opportunity also is Ken’s goal as a member of the College’s Board of Trustees. Working with Dean Donald Gibson, Ph.D., Ken helped to establish the O’Malley School of Business Summer Program. With EY’s support, it will encourage New York City high school students to pursue business careers. In addition to other major College initiatives, Ken and Shorn generously fund a scholarship for business students.
“We believe in giving back,” notes Shorn, who was raised in Riverdale, a short distance from the College. “I loved being a student at Manhattan — the College made a significant difference in both our lives, as it did for so many others. We’re both grateful that we’re able to help make a difference for new generations of Jaspers.”
Ken also dedicates time to other volunteer efforts. Along with membership on the Executive Leadership Council, he serves on the corporate advisory boards of the National Association of Black Accountants and the Association of Latino Professionals for America, which honored him with its 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award. He is on the Dean’s Advisory Council at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University; Arizona State University’s Accounting Advisory Board; and the Corporate Advisory Board of Ascend, a nonprofit professional organization for Pan-Asian leaders.
As busy as Ken’s schedule is, says Shorn, he always has time and energy for his family. “He’s always there to connect. It’s that persistence, that caring. Ken’s never too tired or too occupied for others — especially the people he loves.”
Christina Costas ’12
Setting Herself Apart in Work and Service
Eight years after receiving her business degree at the Riverdale campus, Christina Costas ’12 finds that Manhattan College remains a strong presence in her personal and professional life. “The connections are everywhere,” she says.
As chief of staff in the U.S. Commercial Card division at American Express, Christina continues to meet colleagues who also are Manhattan alumni. “There’s a number of us at the company,” she says. They range from a member of her own team to the chairman and chief executive officer, Stephen Squeri ’81, ’86 (MBA), whom she describes as “a really inspiring example of what it means to be a Jasper.”
Christina’s enduring Manhattan connections also are evident through her service in the College’s Mentor Program, which pairs undergraduates with successful alumni. “It’s a great way to make an impact,” she says. “I remember how important my mentors were when I was a student. They listened, gave great advice — it’s one of the special things about the College.”
The reputation of the O’Malley School of Business drew Christina to Manhattan. “A relative of mine was a Jasper and highly recommended the College,” she says. As a student in the Academy of Finance at New Hyde Park Memorial High School, she interned at Smith Barney, now known as Morgan Stanley Wealth Management. She also volunteered at a local hospital. “For a while,” she says, “I was torn between business and health care. But I realized fairly quickly I couldn’t quite handle the sight of blood.”
At Manhattan, Christina majored in finance and economics. She also distinguished herself through campus activities. “I liked getting involved, setting myself apart,” she says. In addition to leading the New York Fed Challenge team, Christina was treasurer of Pen and Sword and president of the Finance and Economics Society. A firm believer in the value of service, she helped found Manhattan’s chapter of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program, and the campus chapter of the Volunteer Financial Literacy Program.
Attesting to her academic achievements, Christina was inducted into the economics honor society, Omicron Delta Epsilon, and the Financial Management Association’s National Honor Society. In 2012, she received the College’s prestigious Joseph J. Gunn ’30 Alumni Medal.
An internship led Christina to American Express. Starting as a full-time analyst in Corporate Development and Strategic Investments, she rose to manager in the Strategy for Global Corporate Payments unit, where she received the 2016 Chairman’s Award for her work, then to senior manager in Strategic Partnerships and M&A for Global Commercial Services, and most recently, her current post as chief of staff in the U.S. Commercial Card division. “One of the great things about American Express,” Christina observes, “is that they recognize hard work.”
Today, in addition to serving as a mentor at her alma mater, Christina also contributes to the Fund for Manhattan. “I want to do whatever I can,” she says. “Anything you give is valuable — mentoring, donating, whatever will help students. It’s giving back for everything we gained, a way of expressing how much we appreciate the College’s role in our own lives.”
Steven B. Eriquez ’95
"Pillars" That Last
When Superstorm Sandy hit New York on October 29, 2012, it inflicted severe damage, flooding subways, streets and commuter tunnels. Businesses, homes, schools and hospitals lost power. Like many institutions at the time, the NYU Langone Medical Center kept emergency power distribution systems on its lower levels.
“It was a common practice,” says Steven B. Eriquez ’95, a graduate of Manhattan’s School of Engineering. “But the storm showed how vulnerable those spaces actually are.” It also flooded his own home.
As a senior project manager at Lendlease, a multinational property and construction company, Steven served on Langone’s Superstorm Sandy Mitigation Project to ensure the center’s operation during a similar hurricane. First, Langone installed rooftop generators and flood-resistant pumps to provide power and minimize flooding if the city’s resources falter. “My role came after that,” Steven notes. He supervised efforts to connect two research centers, Skirball and Smilow, to Langone’s principal co-generation resources.
Today, Steven continues to apply his engineering and management skills to strengthen local health facilities in times of crisis. He supervises a design project at Northwell Health’s Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens, New York, that will further protect physicians, staff and patients through campus-wide emergency power and fire alarm systems upgrades. Categorized as essential construction, the work is permitted to continue during the COVID-19 pandemic. Challenges include adjusting work schedules to avoid affecting patients.
Over the years, Steven’s professional focus has shifted from electrical engineering design to construction management. “My Manhattan education prepared me for new challenges,” says Steven, who joined Lendlease in 2017. Before that, he spent more than 15 years as an electrical engineer and project manager at AKF Consulting Engineers. His career began at Syska Hennessy, a “home” to many Jasper engineers — including John V. Magliano ’66, Syska’s chairman emeritus and a former Manhattan trustee. “When it comes to the construction industry, especially in New York City,” Steven observes, “the Jasper connection is invaluable to success.”
A Brooklyn native and Xaverian High School alumnus, Steven says the College had a profound influence in other ways as well. “I found my pillars there,” he says. Forming strong bonds at the Cornerstone in Miguel Hall, Steven served as a facilitator on the College’s Catholic Leadership Team. Through Campus Ministry, he made friends who played a powerful role in his faith development — including Brother James Loxham, FSC; Brother Robert Berger, FSC; Sister Kay Hennessy, MSC; and the late Rev. Eugene Hamilton ’94. “I can’t imagine what my campus experience would have been like without them,” he says.
Today, Steven, his wife, Gina, and their two children live in Howard Beach, Queens, where he volunteers as a youth minister and youth choir director at Our Lady of Grace Church. He has led the choir in performances at Citi Field and Radio City Music Hall. He also remains close to alma mater. When the 2020 Reunion Weekend was cancelled due to COVID-19, Steven and his 25th anniversary classmates held a “Zoom reunion.” A consistent contributor to the Annual and Anniversary Class Funds, Steven is chairman of the College’s Mentor Program Advisory Board. “Everyone can ‘give back’ in some way,” Steven reflects. “I try to do whatever I can.”
Marybeth McCall ’74, M.D.
"Humbled to Make a Difference"
A few years ago, a friend uncovered an old photo of Marybeth McCall ’74, M.D., at 21 years old. Clad in a formal academic robe, she marched alone past a throng of students lining Manhattan College’s iconic Senior Walk.
She laughs when she recalls showing it to her grandchildren, who likened the scene to the Harry Potter films: "They shouted, Grandma! You look just like Hermione at Hogwarts!"
The photo captured an important chapter in the College's history. Marybeth was the first woman inducted into Manhattan’s Pen and Sword honor society. She also is a member of the groundbreaking first generation of young women to fully matriculate at the College.
Marybeth went on to success as a physician, healthcare executive and U.S. Air Force veteran. In 2016, she retired as vice president and chief medical officer at Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. Today, in addition to serving on Manhattan’s Board of Trustees, she shares her expertise on the College’s Return to Campus Task Force, which coordinated the campus’s safe reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's delightful to work with such a dedicated group,” Marybeth says of her fellow trustees and task force colleagues. “This is one of the many ways that alumni and friends can give back to the College — and it does make a difference.
Marybeth grew up in Yonkers, N.Y., with three brothers and two sisters. Her brother Thomas is a 1972 Manhattan graduate, as is her older sister, Catherine, who earned her master’s degree that year. As a junior at Sacred Heart High School, Marybeth attended a National Science Foundation summer program on the Riverdale campus. The experience introduced Marybeth to her future husband, Frank Dubeck, M.D., a fellow participant. It also sealed her interest in engineering — and Manhattan.
"Actually," she observes, "I snuck in the back way. Women were unable to attend full-time until 1973, so in 1970 Marybeth matriculated at the nearby College of Mount Saint Vincent. She took all her classes except for gym at Manhattan. A few years later, she and several young women transferred to the School of Engineering, where Marybeth served as president of the Tau Beta Pi honor society.
Earning her bachelor's degree in chemical engineering, magna cum laude, Marybeth decided to become a physician. She graduated from Georgetown University’s School of Medicine — as did Frank — and completed her residency at the University of Pittsburgh. A member of the Air Force Reserves, she saw active duty at Offutt Air Force Base and was promoted to major.
In 1985, Marybeth and family moved to Utica, N.Y., where she served as a physician at a local rehabilitation center. She went on to positions as a chief medical officer at nearby Crouse Hospital and Rome Memorial Hospital. In 2007, she joined Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, rising to vice president and chief medical officer of the company's Central New York and Southern Tier Regions. Meanwhile, she earned a master’s degree in medical management at Carnegie Mellon University and taught at the State University of New York.
Today, Marybeth and Frank have two children and three grandchildren. Marybeth serves on the boards of the Health Foundation of Western and Central New York, the Boy Scouts of America and the Central New York Health Home, as well as Manhattan College. She also has received many honors, including the YWCA Salute Award in Healthcare, the Immaculata Award from the Diocese of Syracuse and, in 2015, an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Manhattan.
As an alumna and trustee, Marybeth enjoys playing an important role in her alma mater’s continuing success. “Everyone can help to keep the tradition strong,” she says. It's humbling to know how much of a difference each of us can make.
Russell Schriefer ’80
Helping to Shape History's "First Draft"
A veteran political consultant, Russell Schriefer ’80 has led some of the nation’s highest-profile campaigns. So, he is surprised that one experience still draws the attention of friends and colleagues: the time he turned away from lobbying after being asked to defend a product deemed harmful to wildlife.
It was early in his career. Russ, having already made a mark in campaigning, briefly joined a small lobbying firm. One client was a chemical manufacturer with a product that contributed to “aviary death incidents” — lobbyist-speak for dead birds. When a congressman wanted to ban it, Russ was expected to help change his mind.
“I remember thinking, this is definitely not what I want to do,” he says.
He returned to his original path, earning acclaim as a gifted strategist and a communicator who shapes messages to convey his clients’ goals and values. Since graduating from Manhattan in 1980, he has produced the 2004 and 2012 GOP conventions and advised several presidential candidates, including George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, Mitt Romney and Robert Dole.
Russ has guided other prominent campaigns as well, such as Larry Hogan’s 2014 and 2018 gubernatorial wins in Maryland (he was the first Republican candidate to be re-elected since 1954); Elise Stefanik’s successful 2014 run for New York’s 21st congressional district; and Governor Chris Christie’s 2009 and 2013 New Jersey victories.
“There’s a saying — ‘journalists create a first draft of history,’” Russ notes. “It’s exciting to help shape the story, especially working with people who make a difference.” Today, as the founder of the consulting firm Strategic Partners and Media, he continues to serve political figures, as well as major corporations and national associations.
Russ grew up in Bayport, N.Y. Like many students at Manhattan, Russ was the first in his immediate family to attend college. His father was a butcher at a local A&P supermarket; his mother, a homemaker. When a neighbor campaigned for Congress, Russ volunteered to drive him to events. The candidate was Peter Fox Cohalan ’59, an Islip town supervisor who became Suffolk County executive and a state Supreme Court judge. “When I told him I was considering Manhattan College,” Russ recalls, “he said, ‘my whole family went there!’”
A campus visit sealed Russ’s decision. The government major befriended his professors, including Brother John Muller, FSC, and the late Brother James X. Collins, FSC. Rising to vice president of Student Government, Russ also worked on the social life committee, starting programs like “Broadway Nights” so Jaspers could preview shows at a reduced cost.
Russ had just graduated when Cohalan and others recommended him to Guy Molinari’s first congressional campaign. Molinari won in 1980 and asked Russ to be his legislative assistant in Washington, D.C. In 1988, Russ was mid-Atlantic political director for George H.W. Bush. He went on to work with the late Peter J. Powers ’65 on the first mayoral run of fellow Jasper Rudolph W. Giuliani ’65. With consultant Stuart Stevens in 1991, Russ founded the firm of Stevens and Schriefer. In 2013, Russ, Stevens and Ashley O’Connor co-founded Strategic Partners and Media.
Russ lives in Maryland with his wife, journalist, author and entrepreneur Nina Easton, and daughter, Elizabeth Rose. He has two stepsons, Danny and Taylor. A former George Washington University adjunct professor, Russ remains close to his alma mater. In 2019, he returned to Manhattan to lead a well-attended panel on political issues. He also is a generous contributor to initiatives including the Annual Fund, Anniversary Class Fund and the Raymond W. Kelly ’63 Student Commons.
“Manhattan has prepared me, and so many others, for the challenges of a diverse and demanding world,” says Russ. “We owe it to future generations — especially first-generation college students — to give back, so they can have the same experience.”
Kevin Brooks ’66
Elevating Service to Heroism
Long after earning their degrees, Jaspers carry the Lasallian Catholic values of excellence and service into every aspect of their lives. Kevin P. Brooks ’66 elevated these qualities to the level of heroism.
A U.S. Marine veteran who dedicated 30 years in the reserves after serving in Vietnam, Kevin rose to prominence as a widely respected executive in the insurance industry. He also was a devoted family man, community leader and longtime supporter of Manhattan College. Kevin passed away on April 3, 2020, in Southampton, N.Y., due to complications from the coronavirus.
Kevin achieved prominence as chairman, president and CEO of General Star Indemnity Co., the “surplus lines” unit of the General Reinsurance Corp. He joined the company as an underwriter after returning from Vietnam in 1969. A past president of the National Association of Professional Surplus Lines Offices (NAPSLO), he received the industry’s Charles McAlear Award in 1999. In 2001, the Aon Corporation tapped him to lead the specialty property and casualty unit of its Combined Specialty Corporation.
While ascending the corporate ranks, Kevin won admiration as a community leader in Park Slope, Brooklyn, where he and his wife of 53 years, Ginny, raised three children: Kerry Brooks Mitchell ’93, Kieran Brooks ’01 and Michael Brooks. They and their seven grandchildren also spent time at their home on Shelter Island, N.Y.
One of five siblings, Kevin grew up in New York’s Washington Heights section. At Manhattan College, he earned a degree in psychology while completing the Marines’ platoon leaders program. Commissioned as a second lieutenant, he served as an artillery forward observer in Vietnam from 1967–68. He retired as a colonel and battalion commander in the Marine Corps Reserves in 1992.
Kevin’s fellow Jaspers know him best as an outstanding alumnus. From 1989 to 2006, he chaired the Board of Consultors to the Schools of Arts, Science and Education. Along with serving as a consultor for the School of Business, he was a founding member and longtime chair of the College’s Financial Services Advisory Council. Kevin also was an extraordinarily generous supporter of major College initiatives, including the Annual Fund, the De La Salle Medal Dinner, the Raymond W. Kelly ’63 Student Commons and the Patricia and Cornelius J. Higgins ’62 Engineering and Science Center.
“Manhattan has never had a more faithful friend and dedicated alumnus,” said President Brennan O’Donnell. “I never met him without feeling his tremendous love for his alma mater. He was a man who always went out his of way to support the people and causes he believed in. We are forever grateful that Manhattan College and its Lasallian Catholic heritage were among those causes.”
John McDonnell ’59
A Legacy of Enduring Leadership
For more than 167 years, Manhattan College graduates have made a positive difference in virtually every field that touches our lives. John “Jack” McDonnell ’59, however, was among the visionary few who actually helped to create a new industry for a changing world.
An entrepreneur and corporate leader, Jack pioneered the use of electronic transactions to effectively process credit card, ATM and other financial payments. He also drew wide admiration as a generous philanthropist, loyal Jasper and devoted family man. Jack passed away at the age of 82 on March 1, 2020.
Like many Jaspers, Jack was a child of immigrants. Earning his bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering at Manhattan in 1959, he then served in the Air Force before launching a career in telecommunications. Three decades later, he reshaped the industry by founding communications giant Transaction Network Services (TNS). As president, CEO and director, Jack guided its growth by developing electronic data services for clients at the dawn of the Internet era.
Jack eventually took the company public, sold it to PSINet for $720 million and led investors in buying it back after PSINet folded. Later, he headed other technology companies while dedicating time to philanthropic causes such as the Electronic Funds Transfer Association, the Shakespeare Theater, Marymount University in Virginia — and Manhattan College.
A friendly man with a quick smile, Jack — along with a brother and sister — grew up in the Woodside section of Queens, New York. Their parents had emigrated from Ireland. After graduating from Regis High School, Jack enrolled at Manhattan (which he often thanked for his education) and earned his master’s degree in electrical engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He held an honorary doctorate from Marymount University.
The Air Force introduced Jack to telecommunications. Trained as a pilot, he helped design satellite systems for the National Security Agency. Later, he led a technology peripherals business and was appointed to the former National Commission on Electronic Fund Transfers. Jack went on to executive positions at BT Tymnet and Citicorp before founding TNS in 1990. During his second term, from 2001 to 2006, he served as chairman and CEO. He then headed ExaDigm Inc. (now Nexgo) until his 2010 appointment as CEO and director of Phoenix Managed Networks. He received many awards and honors, including the William F. Glaser ’53 2002 Rensselaer Entrepreneur of the Year and KPMG Peat Marwick’s 1997 High Tech Entrepreneur Award.
Jack demonstrated a lifelong commitment to Manhattan College. He generously gave to the Annual and Anniversary Funds, established the John J. McDonnell Jr. Scholarship and supported initiatives such as the Sesquicentennial Campaign and Raymond W. Kelly ’63 Student Commons. Above all, he loved spending time with his family: his wife of 58 years, Marian “Jackie” Hayes McDonnell; four children — Sheila Bates, Kerry Mudd, John and Kevin; 14 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.
“Jack was an extraordinary man, someone who could brighten a room merely by walking into it,” said President Brennan O’Donnell, Ph.D. “He also cared deeply about our College — and the young men and women who will follow in his footsteps. Jack’s generosity will continue to benefit new generations of Jaspers far into the future.”