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Alumni of the Month

December 2013
Andy Pritikin

Andy Pritikin Q & A:

What was your favorite class, who was your favorite professor, or what is your fondest memory of Hofstra?

My favorite classes were those in the realm of Jazz Improvisation and Arranging with Dr. Dave Lalama, who began his teaching career at the same time that I began my collegiate career. Dave was transitioning from being a professional musician to an educator - something that I would be doing a few years later. He was a trip - called guys “cats”- but such a knowledgeable, inspirational, and dynamic teacher.

My favorite singular class though, was probably the “Philosophy of Love” with the eccentric Dr. Cernick. Besides the often bizarre learning environment, the class teetered between terrifying, enlightening, insulting, and bursting all kinds of our pre-conceived notions on such an important subject. This class stretched my mind, and was a true learning experience in so many ways

My fondest memories are mostly ones that took place with my close friends. People whom I was randomly placed with as a freshman in the Netherlands, and some stragglers we picked up along the way in my five years at Hofstra. Many of these friends are still close to me, 25 years later - and in many ways have helped shape the person I am.

What was your first job after graduating from Hofstra, and what was the most valuable thing you learned there?

My first job was as an instrumental music teacher in Wall Township, on the Jersey Shore. I taught all the instruments and concert band at five elementary schools, and assisted the marching band at the high school. I also wrote an arrangement of “The Wall” for the high school concert band, which I think solidified me obtaining the job in the first place! The job was very challenging - traveling from building to building, teaching every instrument, dealing with personalities of five different principals, but I learned that I was capable of getting a lot done in a small amount of time. I also started teaching jazz improvisation to elementary school children, with great success - something that is not done very often, anywhere.

What is your field of specialty, and how did you come to work in the industry?

As a summer camp operator, I have to have a wide array of talents in order to be successful such as marketing, management, human resources, facility management, budgeting, technology, communication, etc. But I think that the skill that brings this all together is - leadership. Being able to inspire people, to get them to believe that they are capable of doing more than they think they can, to motivate, to understand why, to buy into the culture … these are the skills that I study and hone, and will continue to do so for the rest of my life.

What advice would you give current Hofstra students?

Be aggressive. Don’t wait for opportunities to come to you … find them, and go to them. There are very few super-motivated young people out there in the marketplace. Most just do what they have to do to get by. If you want to get a specific job, you need to study the business inside and out, email, call, show up and offer to sweep their floors for free - just to get your foot in the door for the slight possibility that you might show them what you can do. Be creative, be different, and let everyone know about it!

In one word, how would you describe Hofstra?

Opportunity.
At Hofstra you have great professors, a wide array of learning opportunities, and a close proximity to the greatest city in the world. Embrace the opportunity to do as much as you can to learn, and put yourself in a position to be a valued commodity in the job market when you graduate.

What is the single most rewarding/exciting experience in working with children and counselors at your day camp?

The single most rewarding part of working with young people is watching them grow up from being wide-eyed, tentative children, dependent on their counselors and their parents, to being confident, capable, and beautiful young adults, capable of directing a group of children, and brimming with potential to make an impact on the world. Liberty Lake is only 12 years old, and yet half of our 200 staff members are former campers, which is simply awesome - for me, for them, and for the campers.

What was a major obstacle you were able to overcome to open a day camp?

Many of my colleagues (especially on Long Island) run beautiful and amazing camps, which are priced so that most regular, middle class families could never afford them.  When starting Liberty Lake, I had a piece of land that didn’t have anything on it besides some tents, pavilions, a small lake and a pool. But I knew in my heart that “camp” wasn’t about “stuff.” it’s about people and relationships, and a creative program. So I was able to create a magical place with a minimal amount of bells and whistles. Once the recession is over, I’d like to find a property in which to start a camp that’s even more affordable with just great staff, creative programming, and a focus on teaching children life skills life they need to succeed. I believe that the more children who attend summer camp, the greater amount of people we will have in society who are capable of greater things.

What is a typical day like a Liberty Lake day camp?

Besides the program of swimming, athletics, fine and performing arts, adventure, nature and STEM-type stuff, a day of camp is hardly typical.  When you put 600-800 kids together with 200 staff, with 100 degree weather and a threat of rain (we call it “liquid sunshine”) – anything and everything can happen. There are constant challenges, compromises, conflicts, victories, defeats, frustrations, friendships, new experiences, surprises, and lessons learned. It’s a magical experience that takes modern-day kids back to a time like when I was a kid - before technology was tied into your brain, back when parents would kick you out of the house in the morning and not worry about where you were until dinner time. It’s good, wholesome fun, with the goal of molding the future leaders of the world.

Andy Pritikin

Andy Pritikin grew up in Caldwell, NJ as a high school athlete and musician for his school. At 17, Andy joined an accomplished local rock band, and began performing throughout the NY/NJ areas, culminating with an appearance on Star Search with his Long Island–based band, Absolut Drama, who performed at Hofstra numerous times in the mid-1990s. Andy majored in music merchandising at Hofstra. He stayed for a fifth year of school and obtained a MS in Education, and embarked on a relatively short but impactful teaching career as a band director in Wall Township and South Orange, NJ. Working at camp during the summers, Andy was offered a full-time job working for the most successful camp entrepreneur at that time, Ben Appelbaum. Thus began his 20-year career as a camp professional, which now includes the title of president of the American Camp Association, NY/NJ.

Andy is the owner/operator/founder of Liberty Lake Day Camp, in Bordentown, NJ – one of the largest summer day camps in NJ, and a founding partner at Everwood Day Camp, in Sharon, MA. Andy has served as a board member of the American Camp Association, NY/NJ and chair of the Tri-State Camp Conference (the largest gathering of camp professionals in the world), and for the past decade as the professional development oversight chair. Andy has been an active member of numerous ACA committees including the "Heal the Children" program planning team, which provided camp scholarships to children of families greatly affected by Hurricane Sandy. Andy is also known in the industry for facilitating cutting-edge workshops for both regional and national summer camp conferences. He is an active supporter of Morry's Camp and SCOPE, two non-profit organizations that raise money to send underprivileged youths to camp each summer, and in 2012 created the Liberty Lake Foundation to do the same for children in the areas local to Liberty Lake. Andy is also the founder, former president and current board member of the New Jersey Camps Government Affairs Project, an organization created to protect the interests of all New Jersey summer camps. Andy consulted with two successful camps for the Foundation of Jewish Camps "Incubator" program, is a board member of his local Chamber of Commerce and is active with his local Watershed Association. This past June, New Jersey Leukemia and Lymphoma Society named Andy "2013 Man of the Year" for helping to raise $250,000 for blood cancer research in tribute to his son's recent diagnosis and recovery.

Andy has two beautiful children and a wonderful wife, Jill. Andy believes that busy people get things done, and still finds the time to enjoy music, sports, and working out. He stays in touch with many of his Hofstra Netherlands "suitemates," and still wishes he was half as cool as his former mentors and piano teachers, Dr. Dave Lalama and Mortin Estrin.