Mount to celebrate 50th annual commencement

May 03, 2013

Newburgh, NY -

William Kaplan, James Patterson, and Sandra Gerry to address Mount graduates

Entrepreneur and philanthropist William Kaplan, best-selling author James Patterson, and chair of Sullivan Renaissance Sandra Gerry

(Left) Entrepreneur and philanthropist William Kaplan. (Middle) Best-selling author James Patterson. (Right) Chair of Sullivan Renaissance Sandra Gerry.

Fr. Kevin E. Mackin, OFM, president of Mount Saint Mary College, will recognize more than 600 bachelor’s and master’s degree candidates during the 50th annual commencement ceremony on May 18.

The College will also confer honorary doctorate degrees upon best-selling author James Patterson, chair of Sullivan Renaissance Sandra Gerry, and entrepreneur and philanthropist William Kaplan.

James Patterson holds The New York Times record and a Guinness World Record for the most hardcover fiction bestselling titles – 89 total.

The prolific writer’s latest four books, all being published this year, are “12th of Never,” “Second Honeymoon,” “Mistress,” and “Middle School: How I Survived Bullies, Broccoli, and Snake Hill.”

The New York Times Magazine hails Patterson as having “transformed book publishing.” He’s had 19 consecutive #1 bestselling novels. He is the first author to have #1 new titles simultaneously on The New York Times adult and children's bestsellers lists. And he is the only author to have five new hardcover novels debut at #1 in one year: a feat he's accomplished year after year.

In total, Patterson’s books have sold an estimated 275 million copies worldwide.

His critically acclaimed “Maximum Ride” series debuted on The New York Times bestsellers list at #1 and the series has so far has spent more than 100 weeks on the list. He also created the top-selling detective series featuring fictional psychologist Alex Cross, including the Hollywood-adapted “Along Came a Spider” and “Kiss the Girls” starring Academy Award-winning actor Morgan Freeman.

In addition to being an author, Patterson is an advocate, with the James Patterson Pageturner Awards, rewarding others for spreading the joy of reading, and also James Patterson’s College Book Bucks.

Sullivan Renaissance began as Sandra Gerry’s vision. She believes that residents can use flowers and gardens to enhance the appearance of Sullivan County, while also cultivating community pride and spirit.

The importance of beautification has long been considered a fundamental component of tourism-related economic development.

Now completing its 13th year, Sullivan Renaissance has grown into a year-round community development program involving thousands of volunteers from all 15 towns in the county.

Sullivan Renaissance offers programs that work directly with municipalities, businesses and seasonal communities. There are also yearly conferences, monthly educational seminars, college scholarship opportunities for volunteers, and summer internship programs.

Innovative initiatives have included installation of solar lampposts, the testing of alternative energy vehicles, and development of community edible gardens in non-traditional neighborhoods.

In addition to beautification and environmental efforts as a “renaissance woman,” for many years Gerry has been an integral part of the Sullivan County Community College Foundation’s Annual Scholarship Benefit Gala. As an educator and having been involved in the teaching profession, the success of scholarship programs is one of her special concerns, raising more than $1 million in scholarship funds.

She is also Director of Allocations for the Beaverkill Foundation, established by the Gerrys to assist charitable causes in Sullivan County. She serves on the board of the Gerry Foundation, Inc., as well: the family foundation established in part to benefit the economy by developing the world class performing arts center, Bethel Woods, at the site of the original Woodstock Festival in Bethel, NY.

As a successful businessman, William Kaplan has provided employment for thousands: at the Regal Bag Corporation, which he started in Newburgh shortly after World War II, and then at A.C. Moore arts and crafts, which he co-founded and grew from a single store to 130 outlets.

He also generously collaborated to build numerous other organizations, serving on the Board of Trustees of St. Luke’s Hospital, Norstar Bank of the Hudson Valley, the Hudson-Delaware Council of the Boy Scouts of America, the Jewish Federation of Orange County, Hospice of Orange and Sullivan Counties, and Mount Saint Mary College.

Kaplan and his beloved late wife Elaine passed their sense of commitment along to daughters Joan, Sheila, Deborah, and Amy. Daughter Joan and grandson Jonathan graduated from the Mount and joined the College’s board.

Kaplan’s persistence encouraged the Mount Saint Mary College Board to take “a leap of faith” and acquire the properties for Hudson Hall and Sakac Hall. He has supported the Mount through scholarships and in projects including the Hudson Hall renovation; Elaine and William Kaplan Recreation Center and fields; the Mathematics, Science & Technology Center; and the Dominican Center.

The Kaplan Family Foundations have provided major funding for much-needed facilities via St. Luke’s Cornwall Hospital, McQuade and St. Christopher’s, Greater Hudson Valley Family Health Center, Habitat, Occupations, Inc., Hospice, Kol Yisrael Campus, and SUNY Orange, with which the Mount has an agreement for transfers.

Kaplan continues to show faith in the City of Newburgh, investing in projects which enrich the lives of residents. Long a catalyst for grassroots projects, he now serves as chair of the Board of Directors of the Newburgh Armory Unity Center: a collaboration of people from organizations and businesses – and with many Mount volunteers – with the aims of education and recreation.

Kaplan has also championed the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor.