Honoring Retired Faculty

By Kelli B. An '04, December 4, 2020
Three IC professors are leaving a legacy through scholarships and program funds that bear their name.

An amazing professor can make a lasting impact, imparting lessons that resonate with students not just during their years on campus but throughout their careers as well. And, as three well-loved Ithaca College professors reach the end of their teaching careers, they are leaving an equally powerful legacy through scholarships and program funds that bear their names.

When Jamal Rossi ’80 heard that Steve Mauk was retiring and his family members were raising money to establish a scholarship in his honor, Rossi’s reaction to the news was unequivocal: “I just simply said, ‘Yes, absolutely. Count me in.’”

“I don’t think there was a lot of arm twisting,” Rossi said of the fundraising in tribute to the professor who taught saxophone at IC for 44 years. “I imagine many, many former students reacted just as I did.”

Now the dean of the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music, Rossi noted that “the person with whom you will study your instrument is your teacher for four years and your mentor and friend for 40 or 50 years. That’s definitely been my relationship with Steve Mauk.”

Indeed, gifts for the Steve Mauk Endowed Scholarship for Music poured in—from professors, alumni, students, family, friends, saxophone colleagues, and other members of the Ithaca College community. Here, current and former students recall what makes these professors so special and how their awards will continue to make a difference.

Leaving a Legacy

Do you have a favorite professor whose influence has lasted beyond graduation? Do you want to help future students get the most out of their experience at IC?

For more information on establishing an endowed scholarship or program fund, email philanthropy@ithaca.edu or call (607) 274-1388. The minimum amount needed to establish an endowed scholarship is now $25,000

Steve Mauk Endowed Scholarship for Music

Namesake: Steve Mauk, emeritus professor of saxophone who retired in 2019.
Awarded to: A saxophone student with financial need.

“We were incredibly lucky to have [Mauk] as a teacher,” said Connie Frigo ’97, an associate professor of saxophone at the University of Georgia. “His teaching keeps giving and giving and giving. There’s not a day that goes by that his teaching is not present—that he’s not present in the way I carry myself.”

Frigo has known Mauk for 30 years, since she was a high school student. “He has been a part of every decision of mine,” she said, starting with her choice to attend Ithaca College.

Mauk was the one who encouraged Frigo, as a junior at IC, to audition for a rare opening in the United States Navy Band. “I was so young. I knew none of that world,” she said.

Mauk’s help proved invaluable. “He literally wrote my résumé,” she said. “He set up the recording session for the tape you had to send in to be invited for a live audition.” And after she was selected to audition, they practiced nonstop. 

Although Frigo wasn’t selected after that first round of auditions, the Navy invited her back for another chance three months later. In the interim, Mauk helped her “prepare deeply” based on the Navy’s feedback from her first audition. “And that’s when I got the position,” she said. 

“To those of us who have studied directly under [Mauk], he is Ithaca College. He’s our role model in all ways.”

Connie Frigo ’97

“To call him a father figure is partially accurate,” said Frigo. “He’s someone who cares deeply about the success of his students, and he is willing to do whatever each student needs to help them.” So when Mauk told Frigo he didn’t want a retirement party, Frigo was surprised: “I immediately called his wife and said, ‘Is he serious about this?’”

Judy Pizik Mauk ’69, a former administrative assistant for the college’s Robert R. Colbert Sr. Wellness Clinic and a School of Music graduate, let Frigo in on a secret. The family was working to create an award recognizing Mauk’s extensive contributions to the college, which also included serving as faculty trustee on the Ithaca College Board of Trustees and interim dean for the School of Music.

“We wanted something that would live on at the School of Music with his name on it,” said Mauk’s daughter, Jenna Mauk Reynolds ’04, who was a senior prospect researcher in the college’s philanthropy and engagement division at the time the endowment was established.

Frigo jumped in to help them covertly reach out to alumni. The surprise held until Commencement weekend, when the family hosted a party for donors to share the news with Mauk. Also, as part of the celebration, Frigo and dozens of former students and colleagues submitted letters for a memory book celebrating Mauk’s impact.

“To those of us who have studied directly under [Mauk], he is Ithaca College,” Frigo said as part of her remarks at the scholarship announcement. “He’s our role model in all ways.”

The first award is still a few years out, as pledged gifts continue to come in.

“It’s a great honor for me,” said Mauk, who was awarded his emeritus status last winter. “More importantly, it will help students who may be struggling financially to continue at the college or to even attend in the first place. That to me is much more important than the namesake.”

Greg Bostwick Fund for Artistic Excellence

Namesake: Greg Bostwick, emeritus professor of theatre arts who retired in 2019
Used to: Fund special projects in the Department of Theatre Arts

“I really believe that Greg gave me every single brick in my acting foundation. I really owe my career in many ways to the things he taught me when I was 18,” said Jen Waldman ’97, a theatre coach who runs her own studio in New York City.

Waldman met Bostwick during her first acting class on campus. And after she graduated from IC, her first paid acting job was in a production Bostwick directed. Years later, she directed him in another show, and they still talk regularly. “He’s definitely a staple in my story,” she said.

Ben Feldman ’02, who is currently starring in the NBC sitcom Superstore, recalled Bostwick as a professor with “incredible heart, incredible passion, and incredible energy.”

“Greg cast me in a main-stage play right at a pivotal moment where I was thinking, ‘Maybe I suck as an actor—maybe this was a bad idea,’” Feldman said. “It was a saving moment for me, and that stuck with me.”

Over his 42 years at Ithaca, Bostwick directed 36 shows in the Dillingham Center for Performing Arts. So when his wife, Julie Bonney ’72, started mulling over the idea of creating an award in Bostwick’s name to surprise him for his retirement, it felt fitting to support the program’s productions.

“I am deeply honored to have my name associated with an initiative of this kind. I cannot think of a better way to support the education of a broad range of theatre arts students in one fell swoop.”

Greg Bostiwck, emeritus professor of theatre arts

“I wanted to create a fund that would benefit the students, obviously, but that would also provide resources to Greg’s colleagues, so they can think outside the box a little bit,” she said.

The aim is that the department will be able to tap the fund every three or four years so that each student “would benefit from some bigger, more ambitious project” at some point before graduating. “This will enable them to expand the scope of plays they can consider,” she said.

Bonney kept her efforts under wraps until the end of the academic year, when the theatre arts department held an event to honor Bostwick—who, among other accomplishments, had chaired the department several times over the years.

“I am deeply honored to have my name associated with an initiative of this kind,” said Bostwick, who was named professor emeritus last winter. Theatre productions serve as “learning labs” for students, enhancing what they pick up in classes, he explained. So having extra funding in that area can make a powerful impact. “I cannot think of a better way to support the education of a broad range of theatre arts students in one fell swoop,” he noted.

“I was treated like a professional actor by Greg when I was 18. And because of that, I was able to develop the skill set to believe I can do this.”

Jen Waldman ’97

Waldman said the focus of Bostwick’s award makes sense because “when I think about the plays that I did with him, they were big. As a student, I think that the scale of those shows trained me for my Broadway experience.”

“Now that I have two decades of life between me and my college days, I’m able to see with more clarity and hindsight the real gifts I was being given in college, beyond the technical training,” she said.

“There was never a day that Greg allowed any of us to be lazy in our work. There was never a day where he let us use our youth as an excuse for not doing well,” Waldman said. “I was treated like a professional actor by Greg when I was 18. And because of that, I was able to develop the skill set to believe I can do this.”

Namesake: Carole White Dennis, professor of occupational therapy who retired in 2020
Awarded to: Occupational therapy majors who have financial need and are studying abroad

Scholarship recipient Renee Manosh ’22 wrote from her spring study abroad in South Africa that Dennis’s investment brought her “so much opportunity. The funding I was granted for this scholarship has made the entire experience possible for me.”

That was the aim for Dennis, who taught at the college for 21 years and served as her department’s chair and program director. She started thinking about funding a scholarship in 2018, inspired by the experiences she had while teaching IC students in the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, and Morocco.

“Stepping outside of where we are sometimes gives us a broader view,” she said. “The opportunity to do things in other countries and other places, particularly with cultural differences, helps us to grow and appreciate difference, which is really good when we get home.”

“Stepping outside of our own culturally bound lives in the U.S. can help us appreciate difference, and hopefully better able to respect the individual values, beliefs, and experiences of those we serve.”

Carole White Dennis, professor of occupational therapy

For budding occupational therapists in particular, the opportunity to study abroad in a developing country can go along way in making them more effective health care providers, she said.

“In order to help those we serve to participate fully in their lives, as they wish to live them, we must respect individual values, beliefs, and experiences,” she said. “Stepping outside of our own culturally bound lives in the U.S. can help us appreciate difference, and hopefully better able to respect the individual values, beliefs, and experiences of those we serve. About 13% of the people who live in America were born outside of the U.S., and people born here differ in their ways of living, their values, religions, and politics.”

But studying abroad is an experience not every student gets to have, Dennis pointed out: “I thought that a scholarship might encourage people who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity.”

The scholarship’s first recipient was Emily Lighthall ’22, who traveled with Dennis to study in Morocco last year. In her scholarship thank-you note, Lighthall wrote, “Being a part of this trip opened my eyes to so many new ways of life, solidified my passion and excitement for occupational therapy, and definitely gave me the travel bug.”

She said the opportunity to work and observe therapists in Morocco under a different set of standards gave her a new appreciation for what occupational therapists can do and are capable of doing. She hopes to work as an occupational therapist in an elementary or middle school.

“In providing me this scholarship, you have further shown the kind, amazing woman that I got the opportunity to meet in Morocco,” Lighthall wrote. “Thanks again for everything you do and continue to do for your students in helping them discover new things about themselves and the world around them.”