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Over the Top: Scholarship Tribute Dinner a Smashing Success

5/18/2022

Mount Raises Nearly $700,000 in Support of Student Scholarships

Monday, May 2, 2022 was a momentous day in the history of the College of Mount Saint Vincent: the annual Scholarship Tribute Dinner returned after having been postponed (not once, but twice!) as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Once again, the event was held at Cipriani 25 Broadway and welcomed hundreds of eager donors, local leaders in business, campus constituents, students, Sisters of Charity, and alumnae/i.

Two Dinner attendees "cheers" to the evening's festivitiesA resounding success, the College raised nearly $700,000 in support of student scholarships—including substantial contributions to the College’s first ever text-to-pledge campaign, which lit up the screen throughout the evening as members of the community joined in celebrating the third-most successful Scholarship Tribute Dinner in Mount history.

For College President Dr. Susan Burns, the evening was particularly joyful as it marked the first Scholarship Tribute Dinner held during her presidency. She, alongside all guests in the audience, soaked it all in.

“Being here, being part of the Mount community, and being involved in the work of this great institution is a tremendous privilege and joy,” said Dr. Burns as offered her remarks. “I am thrilled and am inspired by each and every one of you—though I cannot believe that this is only my first Scholarship Tribute Dinner, and that we’re finally able to host the event again after the pandemic sidelined us.”

She continued, “I hope tonight, as you meet our students and many of our alums, that you enjoy learning more about why the College of Mount Saint Vincent will remain the right place for every student—the right place for our graduates, who are proud to be Mount Made; the right place for the cultivation of ethical servant leaders who are devoted to the common good; and the right place for defining and achieving dreams, with the greatest opportunities to cultivate independent thinkers in and outside the classroom. We’re the Right Place on the River for a reason.”

The event was headlined by Susan Chiaviello DiDonato ’82, Gerald DiDonato ’83, Ph.D., and Grace Vandecruze, who were each selected as honorees. Susan and Gerald, both alumni (and husband and wife!), serve as a Senior Vice President for WPP and a Senior Director at Bristol Myers Squibb, respectively, and Grace is the Founder and Managing Director of Grace Global Capital, LLC.

Susan and Gerry Didonato stand on stage at the Dinner Grace Vandecruze stands at the podium to offer her remarks

And even with such influential industry leaders, it was (of course) our talented and deserving students who stole the show.

Gesselle Sanchez and Diamond Martin—both members of the Class of 2022—each took the stage to share powerful and inspiring words which didn’t just highlight why they chose the Mount, but also what they’ve learned from their experiences.

Gesselle Sanchez stands on stage to talk about her Mount experienceGesselle, a Texas native, detailed her journey to Riverdale—which began when she took a one-way ticket to New York City after applying to the Mount without even visiting campus. Throughout her four years, she spoke about her various campus roles and how she developed into the student leader she is today, including her involvement with the Student Government Association, as a tour guide with the Office of Admission, and as a resident assistant, among many others. Now, as she looks ahead, her long-term goal is to obtain her Ph.D. in neuropsychology—an undertaking she will begin after she graduates cum laude with a double major in psychology and Spanish, a double minor in general science and international studies, and as a member of the prestigious Honors Program at the 2022 Commencement Ceremony.

“Being able to declare that double major and double minor was an incredible moment for me because I was able to show people that no matter what you are up against, or the number of doors that close, there will always be someone in your corner continuing to motivate you to do more,” reflected Gesselle. “And although my time at the Mount is slowly coming to an end, none of it could have been possible without the continued support of each and every one of you in this room. The amount of dedication you continue to give to the College allows students like me to receive scholarships that can be life-changing—and I can confidently say that, in my last four years at the Mount, I have been able to grow immensely compared to the 18 years before that. So, thank you for all the work you have done to support these scholarships.”

Diamond Martin stands at the podium to tell her storyDiamond, a sociology major, graduate of the College’s Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP), and a recipient of the Mott Street Scholarship, described her troubled upbringing and her fate-filled journey to Mount Saint Vincent. Diamond noted that her decision to transfer to the Mount after overcoming many personal demons at another institution was “not easy, but worth the ride.” After officially graduating this past January, Diamond expressed her profound love for the Mount and the people she met along the way. Those feelings drove her to apply for a position to work with the College’s Bridge Program—where she could remain connected to the place and people that gave her so much. And her work with the Bridge Program has driven her to pursue a career alongside those with developmental disabilities.

“The day I was able to call the Mount my home gave me the confidence I needed to finally take charge of my life,” said Diamond profoundly. “Since the start of my journey here, I—like each of my fellow HEOP and Mott Street Scholars—have had an amazing group of supporters in my corner who’ve pushed me at my lowest moments and congratulated me at my highest. And as I look back on my accomplishments here, I am proud that I embraced the hard times: the moments where I stayed up all night with the fear of being in a new place; developing the courage to take classes I’d always been interested in, but never dreamt of taking; and the courage I gained to open up to different groups of friends and share who I am, where I came from, and where I plan to go. I wouldn’t have made it this far without being me, but I also would not be here without the Mount Saint Vincent community, which includes all of you for making scholarships possible.”

Both students received resounding applause—and a standing ovation—from the packed room of guests. We are immensely proud of Gesselle and Diamond, as well as all of our students and graduates at the College. The event welcomed 31 students, who represent the more than 1,400 undergraduates who received scholarships this academic year—cumulatively valued in excess of $37 million in institutional aid.

And of the $670,760 raised at the gala, every single dollar goes directly to student scholarships and aid, giving all students—regardless of family or financial means—yet another avenue to call the Right Place on the River home.

Thank you—to all our donors—for supporting yet another exceptional, life-changing Scholarship Tribute Dinner.

About the College of Mount Saint Vincent
Founded in 1847 by the Sisters of Charity, the College of Mount Saint Vincent offers nationally recognized liberal arts education and a select array of professional fields of study on a landmark campus overlooking the Hudson River. Committed to the education of the whole person, and enriched by the unparalleled cultural, educational, and career opportunities of New York City, the College equips students with the knowledge, skills, and experiences necessary for lives of professional accomplishment, service, and leadership in the 21st century.