Manhattanville College Holds Reception for Doctoral Graduates and the Incoming Doctoral Class

October 01, 2021

Glasses of champagne on long decorated table in Reid Castle.Manhattanville College Holds Reception for Doctoral Graduates and the Incoming Doctoral Class

Students, faculty and staff gather to celebrate new and future doctors of education;Kerry Kennedy spoke in recognition of the new Ethel Kennedy Award for Human Rights Leadership

PURCHASE, NY, October 2021 – The Doctoral program in Educational Leadership in the School of Education at Manhattanville College recently held a virtual reception where students, faculty, staff, and guests gathered to honor award-winners, celebrate new doctoral students, and applaud the cohort that graduated in August. Among the special guests was Kerry Kennedy who joined on behalf of her family to help celebrate the first winner of the new Ethel Kennedy Award for Human Rights Leadership.

Assistant Director of the Doctoral program, Renee Gargano, set a positive tone for the event with her welcoming remarks. “This evening's celebration continues our tradition of welcoming our new doctoral students to the Manhattanville College community and honoring our current doctoral students, now totaling over 130, in addition to over 100 graduates, who have achieved so much and who make us proud every single day,” said Gargano.

Shelley Wepner, Ed.D., dean of the School of Education, welcomed the 13th cohort of doctoral students. She spoke about the challenges she faced while pursuing her doctorate and concluded by saying, “I finally made it, and I know so can you. Just remember that your doctoral team believes in you.”

President Michael E. Geisler, Ph.D., addressed the new students as “future superintendents, … future state commissioners, and future ministers of education.” He offered a mix of humor and encouragement, reassuring them that they have a robust support structure at Manhattanville. “Just think of us as your personal cheering squad.”

The Ethel Kennedy Award for Human Rights Leadership was presented to doctoral candidate Jennifer Wesolowski for her work promoting human rights in the field of education. Wesolowski has worked tirelessly to improve conditions for economically disadvantaged communities in Honduras and Mexico through more than 20 service trips. She serves as District Coordinator of Academic Intervention and 504 Services for the Lindenhurst School District on Long Island. Wesolowski is the first recipient of the award created last year to honor Manhattanville alumna Ethel Kennedy from the class of 1949. Kerry Kennedy addressed the group as part of the presentation of the award, acknowledging the bright futures of all the doctoral candidates. “You are going to transform the next generation,” said Kennedy.

Joanne Marien, Ed.D., a faculty member in the doctoral program, provided the support to launch the award and was on hand to introduce Wesolowski and provide an overview of her work.

Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Education, Judith Johnson, was a doctoral student at Manhattanville at the time of her passing and was honored with the creation of the Judith Johnson Memorial Scholarship Award. Attending in honor of Johnson were the honorable New York State Regent, Frances G. Wills, Ed.D., 9th Judicial District, and Judith Johnson’s son and daughter Pamela and Paul Johnson.

“I just want to thank everyone for the kind words in remembrance of such a great leader we had among us,” said Pamela. “At some point we will have the equity for the underserved population that my mother wanted.”

Kenneth Mitchell, Ed.D., Associate Professor of Educational Leadership at Manhattanville, presented the award to the recipient, Sagrario Rudecindo-O’Neill, a former principal and current Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Instruction in Beacon.

Manhattanville Board of Trustees Vice Chair Bill Humphreys joined the reception to participate in the presentation of the Mary Humphreys Endowed Scholarship Award for dissertation research in Special Education given in his wife's memory to those with a passion for special education. This year’s award went to Jamal Doggett, a member of the 10th cohort who works with Mount Vernon’s special needs youth, whose research is on positive behavioral interventions and support in an urban school district.

“Mary had a very high passion level, not just for special education, but for severe special needs children,” said Humphreys who noted the history of the scholarship going back to 2009. “It’s an honor for the family to work with Manhattanville, and I would like to extend my congratulations to Jamal.”

Susan Iverson, Ed.D., director of the doctoral program in Educational Leadership, closed out the evening by recognizing recent graduates Matthew Baumoel, Katie Kelley, and Ian Wolf. Iverson thanked all who participated noting that, “It is with panache and good humor that you make these things happen.”

A video of the event can be viewed here.

About Manhattanville College: Manhattanville College is a small, private liberal arts institution dedicated to academic excellence, purposeful education, and social justice. Located 30 miles from New York City on a 100-acre suburban campus in the heart of bustling Westchester County, Manhattanville enables easy access to robust entertainment offerings, educational resources, and business opportunities for its primarily residential and diverse student body. The College serves more than 1,500 undergraduate students and nearly 1,000 graduate students from more than 44 countries and 33 states. Founded in 1841, the College offers more than 75 undergraduate and graduate areas of study in the arts and sciences, education, business, and creative writing, as well as continuing and executive education programs. Graduate students can choose from over 70 graduate and certificate programs. Extracurricular offerings include more than 45 clubs and 20 NCAA Division III teams. To learn more, visit

Contact: Cara Cea,, 914-323-1278 or 914-906-9680