$100,000 GIFT IN HONOR OF ARENTS AWARD WINNER WILL SUPPORT INTERNSHIP PROGRAM
Bernie Wohl '51, a 1999 Arents Pioneer Medal recipient, and Barbara Richman Mirken '51 grew up in the same New York City neighborhood, attended SU together, and then lost touch for more than 40 years. They met again in 1991, discovered a shared commitment to social service, and revived their friendship.
Now, those ties link them to the School of Social Work as Mirken and her husband, Alan, have pledged a $100,000 gift to the school to honor Wohl for his numerous contributions to the field of human services.
School of Social Work Dean William Pollard, who nominated Wohl for the Arents award, says the gift will support a new summer internship program geared toward social advocacy and policy work. The program will provide stipends and living expenses for at least one student intern each summer. "The idea is to give students an opportunity to participate in internships that focus more on the social policy issues of social work," Pollard says. "That is an aspect of the curriculum that we will be placing greater emphasis on, and Bernie spent many years devoting himself to that kind of work."
Wohl's devotion to the field of human services spans nearly 50 years. As a psychology major at Syracuse, he was a group leader with the Huntington Neighborhood Association. After earning a master's degree at the University of Buffalo in 1953, he served as a social worker for the U.S. Army, and directed community centers in New York City and Columbus, Ohio. He was executive director of the Goddard Riverside Community Center, a multifaceted community service agency, for 26 years before retiring in 1998. A founder of the New York State Association of Settlements and Community Centers, Wohl remains active in the settlement house movement at the national and international levels.
Pollard also plans to tap Wohl's expertise as a new member of the school's Board of Visitors. "I hope to help the school reach new heights. There is a lot of potential," says Wohl, who looks forward to renewing his relationship with the University. "I would like to stay involved with the internship program once it is in place. Certainly, I may be able to help them establish contacts for internships here in New York City. Also, by serving on the Board of Visitors, I will have an opportunity to spend more time on campus. That is something I will enjoy. It's been a long time."
Nearly as long, perhaps, as it was between visits for Wohl and Mirken. But after meeting in 1991, Mirken took a strong interest in Wohl's work at the Goddard center and later served on its board of directors. The two, along with their respective spouses, now get together quite frequently. Still, Wohl says his friend's gift caught him by surprise at the Arents Award dinner in June. "I was in shock when Chancellor Shaw announced that the Mirkens had given such a generous gift in my honor," Wohl says. "There were no words to express my gratitude. I simply said, 'Thank you.'"
BIG SCREEN SUCCESS AND NEW OPPORTUNITIES
BRING SUBTLE REVISION TO THE DRAMA DEPARTMENT
In recent years, Department of Drama alumni have starred in a steady stream of feature films. These big-screen success stories have not gone unnoticed by drama department professors and students. Department director James Clark says today's actors have more options than ever before for building a successful career. For him, the challenge is to offer students opportunities to develop the flexibility they will need to apply their craft in theater, film, or television. "Students seem interested in all three media, as opposed to just the stage or movies," Clark says.
The drama program has been undergoing subtle changes to reflect the needs of today's actors, but faculty members remain committed to a classical approach. "Our goal is still to give students the tools that enable them to communicate characters from the stage," Clark says. "If you can act for the stage, you are well prepared for television or film."
Demographics plays a role in shaping the curriculum. Many students who come to the University plan to launch careers from the theatrical stages of New York City, not the sound stages of Los Angeles. Students enjoy following the careers of well-known alumni like film actors Taye (Scott) Diggs '93 (How Stella Got Her Groove Back),and Tom Everett Scott '92 (That Thing You Do),but they also meet alumni who have succeeded on stage or behind the cameras.
Lauren Ruggiero '99 says most students still see feature films as a career pinnacle to aspire to. But when a recent graduate lands a starring role, students take notice. "It gives us hope that it doesn't have to take 20 years to reach that point. It's possible to do it in five years," Ruggiero says.
While actors employ many of the same techniques regardless of medium, Clark says they must adjust to the technical aspects of film and television. Faculty members keep up with the latest technology and how it affects the actor. One of last year's most popular classes, for instance, was Malcolm Ingram's film lab. The class allowed students to get a feel for how their expressions and movements translated to different kinds of film. "As more students start their careers in television or film, the program will have to include more classes like this," Ruggiero says.
One way or another, new information is incorporated into the curriculum. "It is a well-rounded program," Clark says. "And for us, the fine-tuning continues."
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