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Date: Mar 12, 2010
Hempstead for Hofstra/Hofstra for Hempstead to Host 36th Annual Scholarship Dinner
Ronald Bekoff, Jean Bligen, Brandon Michael Cruz, Steven Mills, Charles E. Renfroe and John J. Senko, Jr. to be honored
Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY--The 36th annual Hempstead for Hofstra/Hofstra for Hempstead Scholarship Dinner will honor six community leaders for their service on Thursday, April 8, 2010 at 6:30 p.m. in the Main Dining Room of the Sondra and David S. Mack Student Center, North Campus.
To make a reservation or donate to the scholarship fund, please call 516-463-6636.
For more than three decades, the scholarship dinner has celebrated and cemented the bond between the University and the Village of Hempstead, while raising money to help Village students attend Hofstra.
Among the highlights of the event is the presentation of the Unispan Awards, which are named for the first pedestrian bridge over Hempstead Turnpike connecting Hofstra's North and South campuses. The award recognizes individuals or organizations for service to the community. This year's recipients are Ronald Bekoff, Jean Bligen, Brandon Michael Cruz, Steven Mills, Charles E. Renfroe and John J. Senko, Jr.
"We look for people who have made significant contributions to the community," said George Sandas, chairman of the scholarship dinner committee. "This year's group - you couldn't ask to honor better people. They are all just good people with good, solid Hempstead roots."
Ronald Bekoff. Founding Member, Hession, Bekoff, Cooper & Lo Piccolo, LLP
Ronald Bekoff is a litigation attorney for Hession, Bekoff, Cooper & Lo Piccolo, LLP. Prior to founding his private practice, he was a distinguished Nassau County prosecutor for six years. Mr. Bekoff has successfully defended multiple clients at trial in New York State and Federal Courts on criminal charges ranging from murder and narcotics charges to driving while intoxicated and conspiracy. Mr. Bekoff is one of the most respected members of Nassau and Suffolk County's Criminal Defense Bars. In 1995, he received the Honorable Frank A. Gulotta Criminal Justice Man of the Year Award. He has also been a guest commentator on Court TV and served as a commentator for News 12 Long Island during the People v. Colin Ferguson trial.
Mr. Bekoff has long-standing ties with both Hempstead High School and Hofstra University, having lectured to students about the criminal justice system. He has also represented deserving Hempstead youths, who were otherwise unable to afford counsel, on a pro-bono basis. Mr. Bekoff remains active in Hempstead athletics, and in 1993 was an assistant coach to Don Ryan on the Hempstead Salvation Army Biddy Basketball Team, which won an international tournament in Helsinki, Finland.
Mr. Bekoff graduated from Hempstead High School, and received his Bachelors of Business Administration in 1965 from the University of Toledo and his Juris Doctorate from Brooklyn Law School in 1968. In 2008, he received the E. David Woycik, Jr. Award for leadership and skills in the Hofstra Law Advanced Trial Techniques Program. Since 1983, Mr. Bekoff has lectured at the Hofstra Law School Trial Advocacy program.
Jean Bligen, Principal, Barack Obama Elementary School (formerly Ludlum School)
Jean Bligen's 38 years in the field of education have been sprinkled with successes that are a testimony to her commitment to young people. After graduating from North Carolina Central University, Mrs. Bligen was offered her first teaching position in the Hempstead Public School District. Bligen earned her Masters Degree in Education from the C.W. Post campus of Long Island University and continued her education at the College of New Rochelle, where she received a Professional Diploma in Education Administration and a Masters Degree in School Administration.
As principal of Barack Obama Elementary School, Mrs. Bligen believes that it is her responsibility to keep the staff motivated to ensure that they provide the students with an interactive, motivating, and nurturing environment that promotes social, emotional, and intellectual growth.
She has received numerous awards and citations throughout her career; Teacher of the Year - Village of Hempstead, Educator of the Year- National Council of Negro Women, Educator of the Year - Key Women of Hempstead, Educator of the Year - NAACP, Hempstead Branch. She is an active member of Jackson Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church, where she has served as Director of Christian Education, Director of Drama Club, and member of the Chancel Choir. She is an active member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She is also founder of the Hempstead Acapella Ensemble.
Jean Bligen and her husband, Lennitt, have two children, Lenique and Lennitt, Jr., and a grandson, Andrew Webb Jr.
Brandon Michael Cruz , partner, The Bongiorno Law Firm
Brandon Cruz joined the Bongiorno Law Firm in 1997 and was made partner at 28 years old after just four years there. Since then, The Bongiorno Law Firm has continued to flourish, nearly quadrupling in size, and has been a consistent supporter of local community and charitable events.
After earning a full scholarship to attend St. John's University School of Law, Cruz received his Juris Doctorate in 1997. Prior to that, he received a Bachelor's Degree in Finance from The University of Hartford, where he spent 4 years as an NCAA Division I scholarship soccer player. Brandon was the team captain when he graduated in 1994.
Cruz has been actively involved in charity and community assistance for the last 10 years, mainly in Hempstead and Freeport. When the African American Museum in Hempstead needed help with its Holiday Toy Drive, Cruz and The Bongiorno Law Firm provided gifts and toys for children in the Hempstead community. At a recent annual block party on Terrace Avenue in Hempstead, Brandon assisted the Village Police Department by sponsoring the event and serving hamburgers and hotdogs to local residents.
He is also a regular sponsor of several other local charitable events, including the Nassau County Police Department GUN STOPPERS program and Freeport's ADOPT-A-COP. His philanthropy has been recognized by Hempstead, Freeport, and Nassau County officials over the last several years.
Cruz was born in New York City and raised on Long Island where he lived with his mother and father, Norma and Robert Cruz, and his older brother Bob Jr. before leaving for college for Connecticut. Brandon presently resides on Long Island with his beautiful wife, Sara, and his children, Brandon Jr. and Juliana.
Steven Mills, Consultant, Magic Johnson Enterprises
Steve Mills has enjoyed a twenty-six year career in the sports and entertainment industry. During his career, he rose from an entry-level account executive at the National Basketball Association to one of the highest-ranking African-American executives in professional sports.
Mills is currently teaching a course at his alma mater, Princeton University, with Prof. Harold A. Feiveson. The course "Dilemmas in Athletics" explores selected ethical, educational, social and economic issues in collegiate and professional sports. He is also consulting with Earvin "Magic" Johnson on ways to expand the scope of Magic Johnson Enterprises.
Mills joined the Madison Square Garden organization in 1999 as Executive Vice President of the New York Knicks and over a ten-year span rose to the position of President and COO of MSG Sports. He had full profit and loss responsibility of the Knicks, Rangers, Liberty and Hartford Wolfpack. Mills was also responsible for all other sports-related activities at the Garden including college basketball, boxing, tennis and track & field.
During his tenure he led the reestablishment of Madison Square Garden as the "Mecca of Boxing" with numerous high-profile fights, beginning the return of Felix "Tito" Trinidad in the fall of 2004. He led in the creation of the Liberty Outdoor Classic played at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing Meadows Park, which was the first-ever regular-season professional basketball game played outdoors. He oversaw the return of professional tennis to the Garden with the "Net Jets Showdown" featuring Peter Sampras and Roger Federer.
Prior to his move to the Garden Mills played an integral role in the National Basketball Association's development for over 16 years, most recently as Senior Vice President of basketball and player development. Mills played a key role in the creation of the Women's National Basketball Association and served on the team responsible for negotiating numerous NBA and WNBA Collective Bargaining Agreements.
Mills was actively involved in the establishment of the NBA's participation in the 1992 Olympic Games and the creation of the "Dream Team". He also was appointed by FIBA and the Atlanta Olympic Organizing Committee to the positions of Sports Advisor and Competition Supervisor for the 1996 Olympics.
Mr. Mills earned a degree in sociology from Princeton in 1981 and has served on the Board of Trustees for the Basketball Hall of Fame and the Board of Directors for USA Basketball. He and his wife, Beverly, have two daughters.
Charles E. Renfroe President, Board of Education, Hempstead Public Schools and President, Redeana Maintenance Service, Inc.
Charles E. Renfroe's professional career began in 1964 at Diamond International Printing & Lithographing Co. While at Diamond International, he attended Local 119-43B Printing School in New York City and remained there until he was transferred to Grinnell Lithographing in Islip, New York. Charles Renfroe was employed at Grinnell from 1978 through 1988. He then went on to earn a masters degree in facilities management. He later attended Farmingdale State College, and went on to pursue distance learning with the University of Palmers Green, where he earned a bachelor's degree in Human Resources. He then went on to earn a Master's Degree in Facilities Management. He has also operated his own business, Redeana Maintenance Service, Inc., since 1985.
Long before he began his career with the Hempstead Union Free School District in 1980, Renfroe was a parent volunteer. Upon retiring from the district in 2006, he was elected to as a Board of Education trustee, and became the panel's president. He has held that position for the entirety of his three-year term. Renfroe was a PTA parent during the years his children attended school and has not only actively championed for academic excellence for the children of his community, but for the Hempstead Community at large. He has been the recipient of many prestigious awards; the most important to him was the Father of the Year Award, which he received in 1979 from the Marshall School.
He is currently a Deacon at the Judea United Baptist Church in Hempstead. He and his wife, Leslie Lewis, have five children, four of which are graduates of the Hempstead Public School system and have successfully entered college. He has four grandchildren and one great granddaughter.
John J. Senko, Jr., Owner, Hempstead Funeral Home & Senko Funeral Home
John J. Senko, Jr.'s upbringing and experiences have always been cross-cultural. Through the years, integrating multiculturalism into his end-of-life services became the focal point of his firm's philosophy. John Senko and his businesses have been selected to conduct international and national services for premiers and presidents of European countries, heads of state, Rotary International, Gift of Life and more. Mr. Senko continues to be an interactive communicant with all traditional religions, as well as the emerging religious models.
Mr. Senko also serves as a board member for several cemeteries. Touched by disasters in Central America, Europe and the Pacific Rim, Mr. Senko, his family and firm have responded not only financially, but with necessary equipment to carry on the ancient corporal work of creating final resting places.
John J. Senko holds the position of Chairman of Nassau County Civil Service Commission, serving the County with distinction for over twenty-three years. He and his wife, Wanda, have three children and four grandchildren. A daughter and granddaughter are alumnae of Hofstra University.
Hofstra University is a dynamic private institution where students can choose from about 150 undergraduate and more than 160 graduate programs in liberal arts and sciences, business; engineering; communication; education, health and human services; and honors studies, as well as a School of Law. The University also provides excellent facilities with state-of-the-art technology, extensive library resources and internship programs that match students' interests and abilities with appropriate companies and organizations. The Hofstra community is driven, dynamic and energetic, helping students find and focus their strengths to prepare them for a successful future.