On November 1, Bloomfield College’s annual Scholarship Evening was held at Mayfair Farms in West Orange. This year, the evening honored Kevin Cummings, President and CEO of Investors Bank and Chris Martin, President and CEO of Provident Bank.
“Bloomfield College is a great institution. It is incredible to be here tonight for Kevin. He has developed Investors Bank into an incredible conglomerate,” said Honorable Nelson A. Diaz, partner at Dilworth Paxson, LLP, who works closely with Investors Bank.
“I think it is such a fitting honor for Chris. Everything he does as a leader embodies the spirit of giving back to the community, and what better place than Bloomfield College to recognize this,” stated Keith Buscio Assistant Vice President, Director of Public Relations at Provident Bank.
“I’ve known both Chris and Kevin for over 25 years. They are my friends. Both are hardworking gentlemen and a credit to the banking profession. They both are well deserving of this honor,” said Bill Taylor, President of Somerset Savings Bank.
With over 350 people in attendance, the evening was the biggest fundraising event in the College’s history, bringing in a quarter of a million dollars in scholarship support in just one evening. The wonderful occasion also brought together scholarship donors and their recipients, allowing them to meet and share their stories.
“This evening is the official kickoff to our 150th anniversary. Tonight we reflect on how this College, in many different ways over the last 150 years, has made a major impact on this region of our state,” said President Richard A. Levao in his opening remarks. “At this College, we teach our students not to just be successful in the various professions they will have, but to be critical thinkers. To think of new solutions to old problems, and new problems. We can make our society stronger by making our young people stronger.”
President Levao reminded the room that Bloomfield College holds the highest success rate among all New Jersey liberal arts colleges and universities in moving students forward in economic standing. The College was ranked #1 in New Jersey and #20 nationally (out of 2,200 colleges and universities) in lifting students from the poorest 20 percent in the country to high economic achievement. The study, conducted by experts from Harvard University, Brown University, Stanford University, and UC-Berkeley, as reported in the New York Times, was based on tax data of over 30 million taxpayers.
“Tonight we honor Chris Martin and Kevin Cummings for their longstanding support and dedication to our College,” closed Levao. “Provident and Investors Bank are such an important part of what we do at Bloomfield College.”
The College has received six-figure support from both banks over the years.
Three student speakers took to the podium to share their higher education journeys, truly capturing the direct connection between receiving scholarships and remaining enrolled at Bloomfield College.
“Everyone here tonight is not only making a difference in my life but the lives of hundreds of Bloomfield College students who are simply trying to get ahead. To get out of a dangerous neighborhood, to gain confidence, and to create a better life for themselves,” said Carlos Rodriguez ’19, who grew up in Newark and whose sister and three cousins also attend Bloomfield College. “At 18, I was the man of my family. This College has made such a difference in my life and I want to thank each and every scholarship donor here this evening for your generosity and commitment to what Bloomfield College stands for and I look forward to sitting where you are one day, a proud donor to the Scholarship Fund at Bloomfield College.”
“Finances are always a struggle for me and so many other students. The majority of Bloomfield College students do not come from backgrounds that afford us much. We do not have the financial support to make ends meet let alone pay for a college education,” expressed Yasmeen Mitchell, who first came to the College in 2009, left after her third semester, and returned five years later. During her absence from the College, Mitchell gave birth to her son. By 24-years-old, she was battling depression and contemplating death. “Do circumstances beyond our control mean that we are not worthy of a college education? Bloomfield College changes that and scholarships change our lives. You have changed my life and for that, I am truly and deeply grateful.”
“If you look around the room at the Bloomfield College students who are here this evening, chances are they’ve been hungry or homeless at one point,” said Desmond Mitchell ’19, who grew up in poverty in Camden and often went to sleep hungry. “I never had the luxury of being a kid. One evening I learned my cousin, who was leaving the next morning for Felician College on a full ride for basketball, was shot in the head in my neighborhood. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I decided that I did not want to be in that same situation and applied to every college in northern New Jersey.”
For the second year in a row, Trustee Jim Axelrod, Senior National Correspondent for CBS News, served as Master of Ceremonies.
“The guiding principle in my home, with my children, is they need to remember the concept ‘accident of birth.’ In other words, before you start patting yourself on the back for any kind of success you’ve had, understand that if you are born into good circumstances, you have an obligation to help other people not as fortunate,” said Axelrod. “This is a night about people who have the capacity to donate and to help others reach their own station in life that is an improvement over where they were born. I think what makes this night so special are the stories of these students – these stories articulate the mission of Bloomfield College more than anything else. This is nothing short of the American Dream, and it’s alive when you hear these students speak.”
The event concluded with Chris and Kevin sitting with Axelrod on the stage. The men discussed their rise as leaders, mentorship, and the importance teamwork.
“Having people to look up to is really a difference maker,” said Cummings, who credits his family, education, and role models for his success. “One of the most important things a leader could do is mentor.”
“When you think back on your career, you will remember the great things you’ve done for others as your biggest success,” said Martin. “As you gain success, take others along with you and don’t take it for granted. Kevin and I have great teams with us.”