On May 4, 2023, guests at the Mercy College 42nd Annual Trustees’ Scholarship Gala enjoyed a celebratory and heartfelt evening. Individuals whose leadership paved a promising future for Mercy College and the former College of New Rochelle (CNR) were honored, and critical funds for Mercy College students were raised with enthusiasm. The gala, which took place at Glen Island Harbour Club in New Rochelle, New York, drew nearly 300 attendees and raised more than $400,000 for student scholarships.
This year’s honoree lineup was of a special nature. Mercy’s President Tim Hall, who has served Mercy College since 2014 and will retire on June 30, 2023, and his wife, Mrs. Lee Nicholson Hall, were bestowed with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Dr. Marcelle Willock CNR SAS ’58, was honored posthumously with the CNR Legacy Award and Jadelyn Alers ’23, was presented with the Student Achievement Award.
President Tim Hall was also presented with a proclamation by Westchester County Executive George Latimer and Westchester County Legislator David Imamura for his many contributions to the community. Imamura also proclaimed May 4 “President Tim Hall Day” in Westchester County, New York, where Mercy’s Dobbs Ferry Campus is located. “Mercy College has brought incredible resources to our community and to its students under President Hall,” said Imamura.
Alers was the first honoree to be recognized. In addressing the crowd, she said, “The growth I have experienced at Mercy has gone beyond professional and academic…I’m intentional. When I know what I want, I reject anything that doesn't fit the description. I’m curious. I outgrew the commonalities of my [home] city and continued to take leaps towards newness.”
Chairman of Mercy College Board of Trustees Joe Gantz followed, citing the goal of the gala: raise scholarship dollars to enable Mercy students to fulfill their dreams of becoming college graduates. In his remarks, he also noted Hall’s efforts of service to the College through improving career success outcomes, ensuring financial stability, solidifying the agreement with CNR to teach-out 1,800 students, expanding and fully renovating the MercyManhattan Campus and launching the Division of Workforce Credentialing and Community Impact.
“Above all,” Gantz said, “Tim’s commitment to student success has left an indelible mark on Mercy. His leadership challenged each of us to put students at the center of our thinking and decision-making.”
Mercy College student Michael Johnson, who benefited from funds raised at last year’s gala, gave attendees a glimpse into how a tuition scholarship changed his life’s trajectory from harrowing to hopeful. “In 2007, my father died of lung cancer. Losing him turned my whole world upside-down,” he explained. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think I'd be the recipient of a scholarship, especially not at 34 years old.”
Johnson is an English Literature major, with aspirations to elevate his many science fiction novels – one paying homage to his father – to a professional level. “I promise you that with the academic and financial support of Mercy College keeping my fires lit, I will complete my training in English Literature… And I will take all your beautiful generosity and pay it forward as best I can,” he affirmed.
Then, Tristan Denley, deputy commissioner of academic affairs and innovation for the Louisiana Board of Regents and long-time friend of the Halls, noted: “Leaders they see further, they see more, they see quicker. And that’s Tim Hall…It’s never a personal vision with Tim Hall, it’s a community vision,” said Denley.
Mrs. Lee Hall, in summarizing the motivation for her husband’s illustrious career as an attorney, law professor and higher education administrator, affirmed, “He is passionate about students. He’s got a kind of passion that I don’t think is ever going to leave him. I suspect this is probably our first retirement.”
President Tim Hall took the stage on the heels of a standing ovation. In his speech – his final trustees’ scholarship gala speech delivered as president of Mercy College – he said, “I am continuously amazed by the people I have the fortune to work with…I have had the privilege of working with astonishingly devoted and learned faculty.”
Hall stated that he has been particularly moved by the pride shown by Mercy alumni: “I’m so proud of how proud our alumni are for their degrees of Mercy College.” He added, "The students, you’ve heard from some of them tonight. I want you to know that they are representative of other students whose names you’ll never know, and whose faces you’ll never see, but they are what happens at Mercy College. This is a place where things are going to happen. I hope you’ll continue to support it, just as you have during the time that I’ve been here. This is a place worth supporting because it’s doing something worth doing."
Following President Hall’s remarks, Gary Brown, Trustee Emeritus and former chairman of Mercy’s Board of Trustees, presented a resolution on behalf of the Board to confer President Hall’s title of president emeritus. “One of the greatest things we did as a board was bring Tim Hall on as president of Mercy College,” said Brown.
Among many accolades, the resolution commended President Hall’s leadership in “…creating an environment in which student success has flourished and the College experienced significant increases in retention and graduation rates and in efforts to close equity gaps.”
Like Brown, Mercy Trustee Marlene Tutera CNR SAS ’71 expressed her gratitude toward President Hall. Specifically, Tutera cited his outstanding leadership in driving Mercy’s agreement with CNR, which allowed CNR students the opportunity to transfer to Mercy College and obtain their college degrees uninterrupted after CNR closed its doors in 2019. In particular, she admired his primary goal, which was “…to take care of every CNR student.” She also said she was fortunate to have “…found a friend who cared about the legacy of our alumni community.”
The program continued, honoring, posthumously, and memorializing the life and legacy of a trailblazing CNR alumna. Dr. Marcelle Willock CNR SAS ’58, who unfortunately passed away last year, came from Guyana to CNR at the age of 16 to follow her dream of becoming a doctor. She graduated with a degree in Biology in 1958 and then earned her M.D. at Howard University College of Medicine in 1962 as one of nine women in her class.
She went on to have an accomplished career in medicine as the first woman to chair the Department of Anesthesiology at Boston University School of Medicine and as the first female dean of the College of Medicine at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles. Upon her retirement as dean, she was the first woman of color to be named professor emerita at Boston University.
“In recognizing Dr. Marcelle Willock tonight, the Mercy College Trustees have chosen someone who epitomizes CNR’s finest – an alumna with a distinguished career and a lifetime dedicated to the Ursuline motto of ‘Serviam,’” said Rosa Napoleone CNR SAS ’75 and last year’s honoree.
Edie Magnus, M.S. ’14, Mercy’s executive director of media and innovation, was the gala’s mistress of ceremonies. She concluded the evening by quoting a friend’s expression, one that she believes embodies Mercy College’s mission: “Wherever you are in life, we welcome you."