In the Spirit of Achievement

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Playing in the "falling snow" of the Callery pear trees outside the American Museum of Natural History. Photo: JH.

Wednesday, the First of May, 2019. It was cold in New York yesterday. Partly sunny but chilly with temps in the low to mid-50s. The weatherman refered to the current weather in this neck of the woods (Northeast) as a “clash of seasons.” It might as well be Spring.

A couple weeks ago, JH and I had lunch at Michael’s with two women we had never met. We’d been introduced by our friend Melanie Seymour because, as Melanie put it, they have an interesting story. Or rather stories. 

Trudy Schlacter and Jodi Moise. Jody is a Curator for the Montefiore Hospital art program. She comes from the Malcolm Forbes days of collecting and more recently worked with the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s Arts for Transit, helping to curate  all those new wonderful subway art installations (ie Chuck Close on the Q).  Now, she is the Curator for the Montefiore art program. But more on that another day.

DPC, Jodi Moise, Trudy Schlachter, and JH at Michael’s.

Trudy is a broker for Douglas Elliman, but she’s a worker by nature. Her husband Marvin Schlachter was in the music business and was one of the owners of Scepter Records (The Shirelles, Dionne Warwick, Burt Bacharach, BJ Thomas, and Isley Brothers). He was also President of Chess Records (Chuck Berry and Etta James), and President of Prelude Records, Disco Studio 54 era (France Joli, Sharon Redd).

The music industry was their life. And “God Bless Rock & Roll” was her mantra. At 40 years old, Trudy decided she wanted to become a photographer. So off she went and started photographing most of Marvin’s album covers; she ended up taking hundreds of  portraits of many of the major players in the record business (Marty Bandier, Clive Davis).

Einstein College of Medicine Women’s Division co-presidents Trudy Schlacter and Terri Goldberg.

These days, Trudy serves as co-president, with Terri Goldberg, of the Einstein College of Medicine Women’s Division. The planned focus of our lunch was to discuss the upcoming Albert Einstein College of Medicine’s 65th Spirit of Achievement Luncheon that the Women’s Division is hosting two weeks from today, on Wednesday, May 15th at The Rainbow Room.

I’m not inclined to lunch just to talk about a charitable event, although I’m always interested in how things come together in the world of philanthropy and charity. What I have learned is the powerful influence of ambitious, hardworking women in this world. It is the opposite of modern world politics and proves that it’s within us.

It was this story: Albert Einstein College of Medicine was founded in 1955 by that Albert Einstein himself. Today it is one of the nation’s premier institutions for medical learning and biomedical research.

On March 15, 1953, the day following his 74th birthday, Professor Albert Einstein formally agreed to permit his name to be used for the first medical school to be built in New York City since 1897.

The college’s Women’s Division had been founded two years prior to the College of Medicine by a group of influential New Yorkers. They were inspired by the dream of a new medical school that would welcome gifted students regardless of race, religion, gender, or creed — a revolutionary concept at the time. 

The Women’s Division remains one of Einstein’s steadfast supporters. It lends its leadership and strength to the College of Medicine’s ongoing efforts to improve the health and quality of life for people in the Bronx and throughout New York City, the nation, and the world.

Just to show how far they’ve come: In 1955, three women graduated from Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Today, 54% of students graduating from Einstein  are women! 

Today, Einstein is home to 980 medical and graduate students and more than 1,800 faculty members. Over its six decades, the College of Medicine has conferred nearly 9,000 M.D. and 1,700 Ph.D. degrees. It also runs one of the largest residency and fellowship training programs in the medical and dental professions in the United States through Montefiore and an affiliation network involving hospitals and medical centers in the Bronx, Brooklyn and on Long Island.

Einstein’s first medical school class pictured here on graduation day in 1959.

This year’s Spirit of Achievement Luncheon will raise funds for comprehensive health care for women through cutting-edge research, discovery and teaching, as well as providing specialty care for all women.  The lunch honors notable achievements  of women in theatre, writing, philanthropy and medicine and has been since the inaugural  The first Spirit of Achievement Awards luncheon  was held in 1954 where they honored Marlene Dietrich and her daughter Maria Riva (it began as a mother-daughter luncheon). That, in 1954, was really the very first “benefit luncheon” in Manhattan.

Today it’s a powerhouse luncheon for women in all fields, from acting to journalism to medicine.  The list of names associated with the Spirit Luncheon is extraordinary. Past honorees include Eleanor Roosevelt, Meryl Streep, Barbara Walters, Sharon Stone, Christine Baranski, Anne Bancroft, Jane Pauley, Gloria Steinem, Twyla Tharp, Candice Bergen, Barbara Cocoran, Hoda Kotb, Cynthia Nixon, Whoopi Goldberg, Cindy Crawford, Katie Couric, Vera Wang, Iris Apfel, Shirley MacLaine, Elsa Peretti, Joyce Carol Oats, Diane Von Furstenberg, Patricia Field, Susan Lucci, Glenn Close, Diane Sawyer, Nora Ephron, Evelyn Lauder, Jill Martin, Donna Karan to name only a few.

Earlier this year, down in Palm Beach, the Women’s Division held two kick-off events hosted by various Trustees of the Board of Einstein College of Medicine. This kickoff event was hosted by Mr. and Mrs. Nathan Gantcher.
L. to r.: Stanley and Marilyn Katz, longtime benefactors of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine; Melissa Ceriale with Bill and Norma Tiefel.
L. to r.: Anurag Shrivastava, MD, Hayeem Rudy, MD Candidate, and Oren M. Tepper, MD; Mary Cirillo-Goldberg and Jay Goldberg.
L. to r.: Alice and Nathan Gantcher; Mary Cirillo-Goldberg, Esther Murray, and Sondra Mack.

At this year’s luncheon, they will honor 6-time Tony Award winning producer, performer, recording artist Jamie deRoy for her exceptional work on the stage and screen. She holds a place in the theatre elite with credits including Angels in America, Once on This Island, The Band’s Visit, The Play That Goes Wrong, Pretty Woman, Sunday in the Park with George (with Jake GyllenhallThe Front Page (with Nathan Lane), A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s  CinderellaFiddler On The Roof and many more, totaling 60 Broadway and 47 off-Broadway productions.

Novelist Michael Korda, and Simon & Schuster Editor-in-Chief Emeritus, will also be honored at the luncheon. Mr. Korda is best known as the author of Charmed Lives and Queenie, in addition to his nonfiction works.

In 1997, he published Man to Man: Surviving Prostate Cancer, recounting his experience after his diagnosis three years prior.  An editor for than five decades, his authors have included presidents Carter, Reagan and Nixon, Charles De Gaulle, Dr. Henry Kissinger, Mayor Ed Koch, the Duchess of York, and such stars as Cher and Kirk Douglas, media figures Phil Donahue and Larry King, historians David McCullough and Richard Rhodes, and novelists Jackie Collins and Mary Higgins Clark.

The other kick-off event in Palm Beach was hosted by Mr. & Mrs. John Ceriale, highlighting the ongoing relationship that Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine have managed to keep afloat for many years. There was lots of lots of support and love for both of these institutions.
Steven M. Safyer, MD, President and Chief Executive Officer Montefiore and Einstein.
L. to r.: John and Melissa Ceriale; Charlene and Gordon F. Tomaselli, MD, ’82 The Marilyn and Stanley M. Katz Dean, Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
L. to r.: Vicci and Jose Gonzalez; Ann Ames and Lisa Dennison.
L. to r.: George and Phyllis Asch; Ann Ames, Stacey Lane, and Barbara Lane.
L. to r.: Suzanne McMillan and Thomas Andruskevich; Lori Kramer and Stephen Fraidin.

Trudy Schlacter is now focusing her attention on how to help the Women’s Division move forward; to reinvigorate the organization to attract the future generation of women funding science.  With that in mind, they will be presenting a Junior Spirit award at the luncheon, to help recognize younger women looking to continue the incredible progress the Women’s Division has made over the last 65 years.

Since its inception, the Women’s Division has raised more than $100 million and has established: a Wing for Prenatal Studies and Research in Birth Defects, a Clinical Research Institute for Child Development, and funded major research in immunodiagnosis and immunotherapy in cancer.

Amazing considering this is an institution in the Bronx far from the comfort of home for many of their supporters. There are still tickets available. Go, support, or at least take note.

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