Amazing Alumni Applauded

By Dan Verderosa, October 12, 2018
The 2018 Alumni Awards honored graduates’ professional achievements and volunteer contributions to Ithaca College.

The winners of Ithaca College’s 2018 Alumni Awards include an accomplished stage and screen actor, a medical doctor with a rare specialty, and a longtime member of the college’s faculty in the School of Music.

The six award winners were honored at the annual Ithaca College Alumni Association Recognition Dinner on Saturday, October 6, during the college’s alumni weekend.

“We are here tonight to celebrate our IC community and the incredible and varied accomplishments of our award winners,” IC Alumni Association Board of Directors president Ami Maki ‘94 said at the dinner. “In doing so, we honor our connections to one another, and our connections to our alma mater. Our vibrant alumni community nurtures and sustains these deep connections among alumni across the globe.”

The 2018 Alumni Awards winners are:

Stephen “Steve” Brown ’64, MM ’68

The recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award, Brown graduated from IC with a degree in music education, and then became heavily involved in the New York jazz scene — performing with Chuck and Gap Mangione, Joe Romano, Sal Nistico and many others. After being hired as a faculty member at IC, he launched the college’s classical guitar and jazz studies programs and was the first recipient of IC’s master of music degree in classical guitar.

Since his retirement, Steve has been writing, recording, teaching, publishing music and playing jazz in New York and internationally. He says his 40-year career teaching at IC has rewarded him with lasting friendships with students and colleagues, and he feels honored to have contributed to a small part of their achievements as musicians.

Stephen “Steve” Gonick ’85

Gonick, who received the Volunteer Service Award, graduated from IC with a degree in personnel administration and industrial relations. Among his many career accomplishments was his work as a founding partner of Passport for Good, a socially responsible company that encourages volunteerism in communities across America and quantifies the positive good every person stamps on society. Currently, much of Steve’s time is dedicated to the investment company he set up with his wife, Denise, which invests in socially responsible start-up businesses that have female founders.

Known on IC’s campus for his role as the executive and entrepreneur in residence for the School of Business, Steve works with students to help prepare them for careers. He also facilitates communication within the IC alumni network. He is a popular lecturer and guest speaker for classes and organizations, and mentors several student organizations.

At IC, Steve is part of the dean’s Business Advisory Council and is a member of the Investment Advisory Board. In 2016, he received the Alumni Volunteer of the Year Award from IC’s Business Advisory Council and was honored with an induction into Beta Gamma Sigma for his work with students in the IC community.

Michael Serventi ’72

Serventi, who passed away in 2012, was honored with the Edgar “Dusty” Bredbenner Jr. ’50 Distinguished Alumni Award. After graduating from IC with a degree in business administration, Serventi earned his MBA and began a career with Johnson & Johnson before returning to his family’s business, Lew-Mark Baking.

Serventi was involved with IC throughout his adult years, teaching a course on entrepreneurship and serving as a local area representative for the Office of Admission. He was a member of the IC Board of Trustees for more than 10 years, co-chaired the President’s Associates with his wife, Gail Weir Serventi ’72, from 1992 to 1997, and was instrumental in getting many of his fraternity brothers engaged with Ithaca College.

A member of numerous IC committees — including the Business Professors Alumni Advisory Committee, the Audit and Finance Committee, the Fiduciary Best Practices Subcommittee and the Young Alumni Leadership Council — he was also a distinguished executive lecturer in the School of Business. He also led the charge for the building of the IC Athletics and Events Center, the college’s largest construction project to date. His determination resulted in $65.5 million being raised in support of the center.

Erin Stevens ’00

The winner of the Professional Achievement Award, Stevens was a thrower for the track and field team at IC. After graduating from medical school, she joined the Billings Clinic Cancer Center as the second gynecologic oncologist practicing in the state.

Knowing that the Billings Clinic was the only center providing gynecologic oncology treatments for residents of Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota and half of South Dakota and Idaho, Erin dedicated herself to meeting the needs of her community. While in practice, she led the expansion of outreach clinics to five other communities in order to help a large, often underserved area of the United States.

Erin’s philanthropic efforts began with Team in Training, where she raised money in honor of her college roommate. She also volunteered in Nicaragua, doing surgery and cervical cancer screenings. Most recently, Erin has been the physician advocate for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life of Yellowstone County.

Christopher H. Toone ’13

Humanitarian Alumni Award winner Toone is an athletic trainer who has worked with the U.S. Ski Team. He is also chief executive officer of the Senase Project, a nonprofit organization he helped found in 2010 that aims to eradicate poverty through community development.

Toone was inspired to create the Senase Project after visiting a village in Ghana while studying abroad. In 2015, he led the launch of the Sponsor a Student program, pairing donors in the United States with families in Ghana. The next year, he managed a partnership that resulted in the community-wide distribution of over 120 solar lanterns, allowing students to study after dark.

Toone continues his work with the Senase Project, leveraging relationships with the local government, village elders, teachers, and the local parent-teacher organization to create a collaborative environment that promotes accountability and sustainability in the village.

Aaron Tveit ’05

The recipient of the Outstanding Young Alumni Award, Tveit is an accomplished actor who has had starring roles in stage productions of “Rent,” “Hairspray,” “The Three Musketeers,” “Next to Normal,” “Saved!,” “Wicked,” “Catch Me if You Can,” “Anastasia,” “Assassins” and “Company.” He has made appearances on television shows such as “Gossip Girl,” “Ugly Betty” and “Law and Order,” and had a starring role in “Graceland” in 2013. He recently garnered rave reviews for his performance in the musical “Moulin Rouge!”

Tveit has been the recipient of several awards in film, television and theatre, including the San Diego Film Critics Society’s Best Ensemble award and the National Board of Review’s Best Cast award for “Les Misérables,” as well as the Most Promising Male Performer award from the Actors’ Equity Association for “Next to Normal.”