Alumnus Stephen Somers ’82 makes remarkable gift for Brooklyn and Long Island programs

BROOKLYN and PATCHOGUE, N.Y. – March 25, 2024 – St. Joseph’s University, New York (SJNY) is pleased to announce that it has received a $1 million gift from alumnus Stephen Somers ’82 to establish endowed student scholarships for the Brooklyn Campus ACES program, as well as the nursing programs on both the Brooklyn and Long Island campuses of St. Joseph’s University, New York.

Through his incredible generosity, the Somers ACES Endowed Scholarship provides $500,000 for student scholarships that will benefit students enrolled in the Brooklyn campus’ ACES program, an intensive reading and writing learning community for high-achieving immigrant students for whom English is a new language.

Similarly, the Somers Endowed Nursing Scholarship provides $500,000 for undergraduate student scholarships for high-need, high-achieving upper level nursing students during their junior and senior years.

“I hope the students who receive these scholarships realize the gift they have been given and reach back to support the University with whatever help they can give,” said Somers. “That may be their time, talent, mentorship or financial gifts. If you have the good fortune to live your dreams like I have, then in turn, you need to pay it forward so others can do the same.”

With a long history of philanthropic giving to St. Joseph’s, these are the fourth and fifth scholarships that Somers’ donations have established for the University, and because these new scholarships are endowed, they will be awarded for generations, benefitting countless students.

“This wonderful gift from Steve will have a profound impact on our students, many of whom depend on additional financial support to attend St. Joseph’s,” said Donald R. Boomgaarden, Ph.D., SJNY president. “His continued generosity to his alma mater, and his love for our students, is remarkable. We are very grateful to him for all that he does for St. Joseph’s University, New York.”

Stephen Somers graduated from SJNY’s Brooklyn campus in 1982 with a B.S. in Chemistry and began his career in the flavor and fragrance industry. He went on to earn a master’s degree in analytical chemistry from St. John’s University and purchased Vigon International, Inc., in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.

Under Somers’ leadership, the company became one of the industry’s fastest growing companies and the leading manufacturer of high-quality flavor and fragrance ingredients. He sold the company in 2021 but remains involved, serving as head of technology. In living out a lifelong dream and his love of baseball, he recently became an ownership partner with the Fenway Sports Group, owners of the Boston Red Sox.

“This gift is a testament to Steve’s belief and commitment to a St. Joseph’s education,” said Rory Shaffer-Walsh, vice president for institutional advancement. “Thanks to his generosity, the University will be able to provide impactful opportunities to students, and we are forever grateful.”

Somers resides in Hackettstown, New Jersey with his wife, Sharon, who also attended SJNY and graduated in 1982.

For more information about SJNY, visit

St. Joseph's University-New York - Brooklyn, NY | Appily


St. Joseph’s University, New York has been dedicated to providing a diverse population of students in the New York metropolitan area with an affordable education rooted in the liberal arts tradition since 1916. Independent and coeducational, the University provides a strong academic and value-oriented education at the undergraduate and graduate levels, aiming to prepare each student for a life characterized by integrity, intellectual and spiritual values, social responsibility and service. Through its Brooklyn, Long Island and online campuses, the University offers degrees in more than 100 majors, special course offerings and certificates, affiliated and pre-professional programs.

Inside Greenpoint YMCA’s Spirit of Community Awards

Honorees include Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, Greenpointers and Apple Bank

By Oona Milliken

The Greenpoint YMCA held its sixth annual Spirit of Community service awards dinner and auction at Giando on the Water on Wednesday Oct. 4 to celebrate important community leaders within the neighborhood. The honorees at the event included Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, Apple Bank’s Maureen Douglas, Executive Vice President, Debbie Hootam, Vice President, Business Relationship Manager and Monika Nowicka, Assistant Vice President, Branch Manager as well as those of the Greenpointers blog, Julia Moak and her team.

Poster honoring Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez. Photo credit: Oona Milliken

Tatiana Terzouli, Regional Director for Communications, Marketing and Fund Development at the Greenpoint YMCA, said the event was a chance to highlight another year of the YMCA’s goal of making a difference in the community.

“I thought this year’s Greenpoint Y’s ‘Spirit of Community’ Service Awards Dinner was another success, providing us with a great opportunity to come together, connect with old and new friends, celebrate, and fortify our commitment to another year of making a positive impact on the community we love. The event was filled with camaraderie, inspiration, and a shared sense of purpose as we gear up for another year of giving back,” Terzouli said in an email.

La-Asia Hundley, the co-master of ceremonies, said the honorees were exceptional, not only in their fields of work and passion but also in their commitment to providing for their communities.

View from Giando on the Water. Photo credit: Oona Milliken

“These honorees are not just exceptional leaders, and I will say they are exceptional in their own right, in their own fields, but they are role models for the young people at the Y. Their everyday actions aligned with the core values of the Y: respect, honesty, responsibility and caring. They are driven by a deep passion for serving others,” Hundley said.

Elaine Brodsky, the former co-founder of Citistorage, a Brooklyn-based archival storage and records-management company, the chair of the North Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, and keynote speaker at the event, said the YMCA was an important part of her upbringing and wanted to give back to the organization.

“I was a little girl when I learned how to swim at the YMCA upstate in Elmira, New York. The was a central location for all activities back in the day, much as it is in Greenpoint now. We are so fortunate to have such a strong culture of diversity, acceptance, and solidarity in our neighborhood,” Brodsky said.

Elaine Brodsky speaking at the event. Photo credit: Oona Milliken

Terzuoli said it was important to hold community events in order to both recognize community members, bring people in the community together as well and inspire others to dedicate some of their time to service and helping others.

“First, it makes people feel valued and appreciated for the good things they do in our community. Recognizing and celebrating influential individuals acknowledges their efforts and motivates them to continue their support and involvement,” Terzouli said in an email. “Additionally, recognizing influential community members at these events can serve as an inspiration to others. When people see others getting involved with organizations like the YMCA, it encourages them to become actively engaged, volunteer, and contribute to causes they are passionate about, not just the Y. This means more support for essential community programs and services.”

Disclaimer: Walter Sanchez is a board member of the Greenpoint YMCA

Bike Mechanic Training Program Helps Formerly Incarcerated Find Stable Jobs

A group of around 20 people poses for a group photo during the graduation ceremony. Many of them hold white certificates in thin black frames.
A group of around 20 people poses for a group photo during the graduation ceremony. Many of them hold white certificates in thin black frames.
The graduates of the program during the ceremony.

By Carmo Moniz |

A program that helps connect justice-involved people with stable jobs welcomed its most recent graduating class, which will work to maintain the Citi Bike fleet all across New York City, at the Brooklyn Navy Yard on Friday.

The program, called Bike Path, teaches participants how to maintain bikes and become certified bike mechanics in just five weeks, providing them with a direct path to employment afterward.

“This is a lifeline for me, personally,” David Bonet, one of the recent graduates, said. “I’ve been going through a lot of health issues and I’ve been out of work for some time. My daughter passed away in 2019 so I haven’t been fully there, but I’ve been looking to go back to the workforce for some time and this is allowing me to do so.”

The group of 18 graduates began working at their new jobs on Monday, according to Bike New York community outreach manager Jeremy Lockett. Lockett said that graduates spend four days per week learning in the five-week course, and that the positions they are going into are union jobs that pay weekly.

“This can be one of the best workforce development programs for those that are coming back from primarily being formerly incarcerated, and it’s been a success so far,” Lockett said. “It’s an incredible program, and we just want to expand it.”

The Bike Path program came from a 2019 partnership between One Community, an organization working against inequality in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, and Bike New York, which looks to increase access to biking and ridership across New York City. The two groups created an intensive bike mechanic training program which would help formerly incarcerated people find stable employment.

Justin Vega, another graduate of the program, said he found out about it through a friend of his, and that he enjoyed learning about the importance of different bike parts and getting to know the others in his class.

“I can’t wait to get started on this,” Vega said. “I see where I can do good as much as the next person, just like fixing an apartment, fixing a bike — everybody uses a bike everyday. For me to fix something and be proud of knowing that I fixed that, and somebody is going to ride it safely, that’s my biggest goal.”

More recently, Bike Path has educated participants on how to repair and maintain the Citi Bike fleet in the city. The program partnered with the organization that oversees the maintenance of these bikes — Motivate — to allow participants to work on the Citi Bike maintenance team once they graduate.

Ben Goodman, an instructor in the program, said that this is his favorite group of students in his 15 years of teaching people how to fix bikes.

“This is the first program I’ve ever taught that is directly related to an employment program,” Goodman said. “I’ve done a lot of teaching for high school students and some adult programming, but it’s just a thing they do in the summer, just for the fun of learning. This is great because there’s an end goal that’s more than just the education, its actual opportunities for them. That’s the best.”

In their new jobs, graduates start with pay at $23.25 per hour, and are eligible to work full time and overtime, and they are eligible to become union members after 30 days, Lockett said in an email. Lockett also said that there are roughly 600 bike mechanics employed at Motivate, which is the largest bikeshare company in the United States. He added that there have been around 200 graduates of the program since 2020, and of the 55 that graduated this year, 46 are hired.

The union representing Citi Bike mechanics, Transportation Workers Union Local 100, negotiated the first union contract in the country for bikeshare workers in 2015, securing wage increases and paid parental leave, vacation time and holidays for union members.

Graduate Rasheem Benjamin said he is looking forward to working for Motivate, and also hopes to learn more about the inner workings of electric bikes in the future. He said that most of the graduates in his class will be on the same work shift, so they’ll continue to see each other in their jobs.

“Day by day I’ve learned something new, and by now I feel like I can make an entire bike with my eyes closed,” Benjamin said. “I very much would like to put other people on, try to let them know about this program. In five weeks you can literally learn a skill, something that you can utilize anywhere, not in just New York City. You can go somewhere else and fix your child’s bike. That feeling, to be able to use my hands and craft something, is something great — it’s powerful.”

Stella Artois offers luxury commute home

By Salvatore Isola

Last week, there were three ways to cross the East River: by sitting in car traffic to cross a bridge, by cramming into a hot subway, and by voyaging in a luxury boat.

Stella Artois provided New Yorkers with an experience where a standard commute home was transformed into an unforgettable nautical ride.

This event, called the East River Riviera, provided 20-minute, one-way commutes in New York Harbor between ONE°15 Brooklyn Marina in Brooklyn Bridge Park and North Cove Marina in Battery Park City.

“Summer Like You’re On Vacation”

Stella fully embraced the Riviera theme. Their fleet consisted of four vintage Riva-style wooden boats that seated no more than six. The captains of each sported black and white striped Polo shirts, and each of the stops featured immersive theming.

The East River Riviera is part of Stella’s summer marketing campaign, “Summer Like You’re On Vacation.” On why Stella decided to undertake this campaign, Lacey Clifford, Communications Director at Anheuser-Busch, said “We thought, ‘What a more fun way would be than to elevate New Yorkers’ commute on the hot, sweaty subway, and in favor of these luxurious European vacation vibes on our very glam Riva boats?’”

Clifford explained that Stella was deciding on a theme that mimicked “the feeling you get when you’re out here on this beautiful dock,” at sunset and surrounded by water and luxurious buildings. And of course there was a large European influence, since Stella is a Belgian lager.

“The Riviera made sense because [this location] had a lot of those same elements,” Clifford said. “It was an aspirational location for a lot of people, but maybe they’ve never been [a European riviera], so now is their chance.”

For people who chose Brooklyn as their starting point, their experience began on a large pier decorated in Stella logos and striped red and white colors. A four-piece jazz band with guitars and clarinets played relaxing tunes that were only broken by the occasional honking, a reminder that this event still took place in New York.

When a boat pulled up, Stella employees would direct the next party to the vessel, and after a brief safety instruction, off they went.

The boats slowly exited the marina, providing unobstructed views of the Lower Manhattan skyline. Captains then upped gears and sped over the waves of New York Harbor, passing docks and other boats in the journey to Manhattan’s western waterfront.

Following the ride, guests were invited to a larger, docked vessel offering small bites and Stella beverages, allowing them to further enjoy being on the water.

Manhattan’s North Cove Marina

While a linear trip from Brooklyn to the Wall Street ferry would have been significantly shorter in length and therefore allowed more riders, Stella decided to end at the North Cove Marina by Vesey Street. This allowed guests to have an immersive experience instead of a rushed shuttle.

“There were a lot of other marinas down there,” Clifford said. “But we thought once people got on these boats, they want to have that vacation experience just a little while longer. We didn’t want people to feel maybe they had come all this way and the ride is over in five seconds. We have a nice, leisurely, 20-minute ride.”

As with any limited, unique experience in New York, the free tickets for the event went quick, selling out in minutes. For Clifford, this was a relief.

“Any time you start something, you’re never sure what the response is going to be,” she said. But after seeing how fast reservations went, “That’s when we sort of realized, maybe we have something here.”

The East River Riviera was Stella’s first time hosting an event like this, and the reception has been overwhelming positive.

“I would definitely prefer taking a Riviera boat when I work in Manhattan every day,” said Riviera commuter Thomas Sullivan. “It beats the everyday traffic on the streets.”

Captain Vincent Mattiola of the Bagheera boat recalled being pleasantly surprised when one of his passengers, an older woman from Italy, requested that he drive the boat as fast as he could.

Captain Vincent Mattiola and his passengers Friday night.

“The best part are people who have never been on the water before, who have never even been on a boat like this before,” Mattiola said. “So for them to tie this to experience Stella, to the brand, every time they go on New York Harbor, [and] they see the water, they will think of Stella.”

For Clifford, the response she has heard from guests is that they had forgotten that Manhattan is on an island and that New York is surrounded by so much water.

“Isn’t it amazing that you get to change up your perspective and get on this boat and think, ‘oh my gosh I’m seeing my city in such a different way,’ almost as a tourist would, almost as if you’re on vacation,” Clifford said.

The fleet Stella used for this event were all Riva-style boats. Three of the boats were original Chris-Craft boats, made by the Florida company that pioneered the style, “loving restored” from the 1950s, Clifford said. They have new engines that allow them to brace the often-choppy waters of New York Harbor.

The fourth boat, the Bagheera, driven by Mattiola, is the “Rolls-Royce of our fleet.” It was built in 2008, designed in the 1960s Riva style. It is the biggest, carrying up to six plus the captain.

The “Rolls-Royce” of the fleet: the Bagheera.

Mattiola said that he has driven similar vessels but only on lakes. The difference, he noticed, is that “on the lakes [with] flat water, the boat tends to throw the water off to the sides, [since] that’s how she’s designed,” but in New York Harbor, the boat has to ride atop the waves. He said that the larger size of the boat allows it to ride nicely, enthusiastically adding that he would “absolutely” captain the vessel again if asked.

As for the three restored boats, Clifford said, “you really feel the world is your oyster when you ride one.”

When asked why New Yorkers should opt for Stella next time they are looking for a refreshing beverage, Clifford said “When you have a beer like Stella Artois…[which might] cost a little bit more, [and] be a little bit more special, sometimes people might have a tendency to save that item for a special occasion. What we want to do is remind people that, yes we are a special beer, but we’re a special beer that makes any occasion a little bit more fun.”

“We are continuing that idea of changing up your usual, which really means with just a small change in perspective, you can have such a better experience than you even know you would,” Clifford said.

Stella, meaning “star” in Latin, has over 600 years of heritage, first being created in Leuven, Belgium as one man’s holiday gift for his village.

As for what this means for next summer and future events, Clifford held her tongue, only saying, “you’ll have to wait and see.”