By Artem Osherov and Carolyne Ricardo
The center lobby was bustling on the evening of May 1st, 2013, when seven esteemed Technites were inducted into the ranks of the Alumni Hall of Fame.
Lining the western hall of the first floor, current hall of famers’ portraits greet passersby along with descriptions of each individual’s accolades.
Of the more than 80,000 graduates in the school’s history, only 31 have previously been inducted. This select group includes two Nobel laureates, an Olympic medalist, a NASA astronaut, and a U.S. Air Force Four Star General, among other inventors, authors, scientists, and industry leaders.
This year’s inductees did not disappoint – a Tuskegee Airman, a philanthropist and founder of Remco Toys and Heller Industrial Parks, an Astrophysicist and Harvard professor, the developer of the Global Positioning System (GPS), the inventor of the digital camera, a video and broadcast innovator, and a physician and public health leader who is the first female graduate to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Each was given time during the celebratory evening to speak at the podium. Addressing a room filled with alumni, administrators, faculty, press, and a select group of current students, the inductees reminisced on their high school experiences, impressing the crowd with their individual talents and charisma.
“The Hall of Fame induction was more than just about honoring Technites that had excelled in the professional world,” said Emma Costa ’14. “For me, it was about inspiring future Tech alumni to achieve greatness and encouraging them to contribute to the nurturing community that we call our home.”
Following a welcome address by the Executive Director of the Alumni Office, Elizabeth Sciabarra, Principal Randy Asher and Larry Cary ’70, President of the Brooklyn Tech Alumni Foundation, gave the opening remarks for the ceremony.
“Listening to what this group of people who is on the wall right now has accomplished – that’s a mark for present day students as they look around and look at what they’ve accomplished. All I could think of as I listened was that the sky’s the limit,” said Richard Schwartz ’53, Alumni Hall of Fame Inductee ’13, whose team built and launched the first GPS satellites in 1978.
“All of the inductees were amazing,” said Kamara Swaby ’13, who attended the ceremony. “Each has done something to impact the world we live in today. I felt honored to be in their presence and proud that we come from the same high school.”
The Hall of Fame inductees were introduced to the podium by current students Chyanne Garcia ’13, Rebecca Dall’ Orso ’13, Nikita Dubnov ’13, and Emma Costa ’14. Each student presented a self-composed background of the inductees they presented.
“I had the honor of introducing two of Tech’s most esteemed alumni– Steven Sasson [‘68], the inventor of the digital camera, and Laurie Zephyrin [‘92], the first female inductee into the hall of fame,” said Costa. “It’s not easy to fathom what it’s like to shake the hand of someone who invented something so familiar, and so commonplace to our generation, but had been extremely novel and revolutionary at the time of it’s creation.”
Each inductee, success aside, made their high school a central part of his or her speech.
“To be honored by going into the Tech Hall of Fame has to be one of the highlights of my career,” said Louis Siracusano ’60, founder and CEO of 47 different companies.
“I was very lucky to go to Brooklyn Tech. It really fit in with who I was,” added Steven Sasson ’68.
“I did not realize it at the time, but Tech was filling my toolbox. It was a toolbox of knowledge that I could carry on with me and open it whenever I chose to,” said Richard Schwartz in his award speech. “You got to play with a bunch of all-stars. Every student was smart, and rubbing elbows with them and talking to them, you’d say that was lucky in itself.”
The highlight of the night came when Laurie Zephyrin was introduced to the podium as the first female inductee to the Alumni Hall of Fame.
“All of my academic life, I’ve felt this stereotype looming over my head–that whatever I achieve as a woman, there will always be a man that achieves something higher,” said Costa. “Introducing the first female inductee into Tech’s hall of fame blurred the line of demarcation between the genders, and really was an inspiration to me.”
Zephyrin, on her part, did not disappoint with her short speech.
“As my classmates on Facebook put it, this honor puts the class of ‘92 on the map,” she said, humoring the audience before highlighting the progress that women are making in society, as well as her own achievements in healthcare. “Education in my family was an expectation. There was really no gender distinction or other distinction regarding ability. There was an expectation of continued perseverance.”
“A woman who strives to be equal with man isn’t really striving for anything. Women have to strive to be better than men,” commented Schwartz.
Women have been a part of the Tech community since 1970. That September, the first two female Technites walked the halls among 6,000 male students.
Being the first woman inducted to the Alumni Hall of Fame, Zephyrin inspires the current generation of women at Tech, over 2,200 strong (41% of the student body), to achieve in whichever field they choose to pursue. She is a prime example of a successful woman, who uses her Tech “toolbox” to make an impact on society ever day.
After her speech, Zephyrin and the other inductees mingled with the audience while refreshments were served in the lobby. Current students were given an opportunity to meet with the distinguished alumni. Although generations separated the two groups, the Hall of Famers eagerly shared their stories and offered advice to the Technites present.
“I think it’s important to live in the moment,” said Zephyrin. “Learn and absorb as much as you can. The books are obviously important, but it’s just as important to learn from one another. That could take you just as far.”
Schwartz proposed a simpler solution, telling students to “find a passion and do it.”
The Hall of Fame will be expanded and refurbished to accomodate the growing number of inductees and their respective plaques.