Long Island City, NY—June 13, 2013—Marilyn Skony Stamm, the CEO of Stamm International Corp., and a former LaGuardia Community College Foundation board director whose fundraising efforts have helped raise over $700,000 for student scholarships, was honored at the Foundation’s Innovative Leadership Award reception.
“I cannot tell you how important Marilyn has been to our Foundation and our students,” said Dr. Gail O. Mellow, president of LaGuardia Community College, to the faculty, staff, students, Foundation members and friends who attended the annual fundraiser at the United Nations on June 4. “Marilyn has been a driving force in our organization. She has increased awareness of the College and the Foundation’s commitment to open doors to opportunity for the students and has created the highly successful Spring into Action scholarship campaign that is providing much needed financial support for our students. At LaGuardia we treasure and celebrate all she has given to us.”
Since launching her brainchild in 2009, the Foundation has awarded over 300 full-tuition, Spring into Action scholarships to new and returning students.
One of the scholarship recipients, Freda Raitelu, a single mother who had to put her college education on hold for 10 years while she was on dialysis awaiting a kidney match, explained to the audience how the scholarship helped change her life. “I struggled every day to pay tuition and cover the cost of books and school supplies. Even affording a weekly Metrocard was a challenge. When I was awarded a Spring into Action scholarship, it paid my tuition in full, my college career blossomed.”
As Freda continued to describe the joy she experienced immersing herself in her studies, her emotions took over and she choked back tears as she tried to finish her speech. Marilyn quickly walked up to the podium, embraced Freda, and said, “This is what makes giving so worthwhile,” she said. And to the honor student who is transferring to Smith College in the fall, she said, “We are so proud of you.”
Speaking directly to Freda and the other scholarship recipients who face equally formidable challenges, Ms. Stamm said, “I thank you for the inspiration you give to us. Your determination, hard work, positive attitude and ability to overcome significant challenges in your lives are motivators for us all.”
She then directed her praise to LaGuardia for being a role model for all community colleges, describing them as “the unsung heroes of the educational world.” And hailed President Mellow for her leadership and vision and offered this advice, “Keep your innovation and openness to new ideas; continue to build bridges between the private sector and LaGuardia; and keep moving the bar higher and maintaining your high standards of excellence for your students and the school.”
Ms. Stamm understands the challenges LaGuardia students face because she, too, was a scholarship recipient. “I know what it is like to work and go to school; what it is like when every dollars counts,” she said.
She went on to say, “much of who I became was the result of receiving scholarships. Scholarship money was very important to my achieving my educational dreams, both as an undergraduate and graduate.”
The “scholarship kid,” as she describes herself, began her undergraduate experience at Northwestern University with the help of a generous scholarship. After a false start as a chemistry major, she switched over to political science and earned her degree in 1973.
She went on to pursue her master’s degree at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, where she was a Celia M. Howard Fellow. Satisfying her deep passion for global finance, law and business, she earned a degree in International Law and Finance in 1974.
With her credentials in hand, Ms. Stamm returned to Chicago where she landed her first job at the First National Bank of Chicago. There she trained as a foreign exchange trader, making her one of the first women in the U.S. to do so, and went on to become an assistant vice president charged with managing the Corporate Foreign Exchange trading desk.
After four years at the Chicago bank, she moved to New York and joined Marine Midland Bank as vice president of international treasury management. She left banking in 1982 to join the Continental Grain Company, one of the world’s largest privately held commodity companies, where she was vice president of Conti Currency, a subsidiary specializing in risk management and currency arbitrage.
In 1984 she once again returned to banking to become vice president and curriculum development officer at Chase Manhattan and three years later joined Stamm International Corp., a 70-year old privately held global mid-sized manufacturer and distributor of industrial and commercial heating, ventilating, air conditioning equipment, chimney and flues.
Throughout her career, Ms. Stamm noted that she has been actively involved in setting up scholarship programs or supporting scholarship programs at her alma maters, medical centers and organizations. And now LaGuardia.
Asked how her relationship with the community college began, Ms. Stamm replied, “It can only be described as serendipity.”
“I inadvertently received a friends-of-LaGuardia e-mail from President Mellow that included an essay she wrote on educational reform,” she said. “Being a strong advocate of educational reform, I started reading the piece. I liked her ideas and vision, so I e-mailed her back. Gail gets an e-mail from a woman she did not know, but was impressed with what she wrote and called her.”
The two met for lunch where they exchanged ideas and visions. “There was instant chemistry,” added Ms. Stamm. “I was drawn by her vision and her great leadership skills. She got me hooked on LaGuardia.”
That was in 2008. Ms. Stamm joined the Foundation board and the first major initiative that she created was the Spring into Action campaign.
“The Foundation needed a more formal approach to raising money for scholarships,” said Ms. Stamm who explained that the fundraising arm of the College was relying primarily on its annual fundraising event. “Spring into Action runs at a perfect time—from March 1 through May 29—so we know exactly what type of funding we have.”
Ms. Stamm said she plans on continuing to work with President Mellow on developing other creative ways of raising money that will benefit students.
“You cannot help but be moved by the students,” said Ms. Stamm. “I was a scholarship kid, but I did not have anything near some of the challenges these students face. So, if we can help them achieve their dreams, as I did mine, that is what it is all about.”
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LaGuardia Community College located in Long Island City, Queens, was founded in 1971 as a bold experiment in opening the doors of higher education to all, and we proudly carry forward that legacy today. LaGuardia educates students through over 50 degree, certificate and continuing education programs, providing an inspiring place for students to achieve their dreams. Upon graduation, LaGuardia students’ lives are transformed as family income increases 17%, and students transfer to four-year colleges at three times the national average. Part of the City University of New York (CUNY), LaGuardia is a nationally recognized leader among community colleges for boundary-breaking success educating underserved students. At LaGuardia we imagine new ideas, create new curriculum and pioneer programs to make our community and our country stronger. Visit www.laguardia.edu to learn more.