On May 3rd, 2017, Queens College held its annual Gala at Gustavino’s on East 59th Street in Manhattan. This year’s Gala honored three women whose work has enriched the arts, education and community revitalization, and philanthropy.
In a celebration that coincided with the college’s 80th anniversary, Emmy nominated-actress, author and advocate for cancer awareness, Fran Drescher, was recognized with the college’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
Foreign language educator and community revitalization activist, Evelyn M. Strauch, received the President’s Award and philanthropist, Muriel Sapir Greenblatt, was honored with the Alumni Award.
The Gala, Queens College’s principal fundraiser, raised over $1 million in scholarship funds for a richly diverse student body representing more than 150 nations. Students played a pivotal role in the Gala by serving as performers, artists, and guest liaisons, which gave them the opportunity to interact with the honorees and other alumni.
The event was hosted by Juliet Papa, award-winning 1010 WINS radio reporter. This was her third year serving as the emcee of the Gala.
The night began with Queens College alumni performing songs from West Side Story, before Juliet Papa commenced the evening and introducing the honorees.
Fran Drescher is best known for her Emmy & Golden Globe nominated role as Miss Fine in The Nanny, a smart fashionista from Queens who serves as a nanny to her rich employer. Drescher is more than an actress and executive producer; she is also a cancer survivor. Drescher documented her battle against cancer in her New York Times best-selling memoir Cancer Schmancer. She advocates for prevention and early detection through her nonprofit organization also called Cancer Schmancer.
Drescher is from Flushing, Queens and attended Queens College. She recollected on her times as a college student before she had hit stardom.
“I kind of put Flushing on the map with The Nanny, before then people were a little embarrassed to admit it,” she continued, “Flushing means a lot to me and so does Queens College. I felt very lucky to have such a beautiful campus within walking distance of my house. My very first concert that I ever went to was at Queens College with Don McLean. I loved looking at the view of Manhattan, because I already had dreams of going there as an aspiring actress. I loved the Student Union and the Chinese chicken salad, and I loved my classes.”
Muriel Sapir Greenblatt earned her first degree in Economics at QC in 1954. She advised Chase Manhattan Bank on how to accommodate elderly customers by recommending a change in bank hours. She also founded the You and Your Aging Parent program and has held leadership roles at her synagogue. Greenblatt established University Day, a day program in which QC professors give lectures on various topics to more than 100 Queens College alums and their guests.
“It is so unbelievable to me that I am receiving this award. It’s mind-boggling to me because I’ve worked for Queens because I love Queens College and I owe it a great deal but I never expected this honor and I’m humbled by it,” she continued, “I wish for every student to love the college the way I do and value what you’re getting there. It is a quality education.”
Evelyn M. Strauch graduated from Queens College in 1960 and studied at the Sorbonne and Columbia University. She devoted thirty years to teaching French, Spanish, Russian, and English as a foreign language. Strauch established foreign language departments and designed curricula as well as teaching material for public and private schools. She served as chair of Community Relations for the Community Development Support Collaborative.
“We had a two year required core curriculum when I was here at QC. It taught us how to think critically, which is very important these days and it also peaked our interest in leader activities such as music, art, and philosophy. It definitely prepared us for life and for our vocations,” she continued, “Diversity plays a very essential role in Queens College. There were people from different ethnic, religious, and financial backgrounds which is the true definition of community.”