Independent Public Mission Schools

Bloomfield: Announces Seven Figure Investment From Leadership

bloomfield_levaoSince arriving at Bloomfield College, College President, Richard A. Levao and Chairman of the Board of Trustees, William H. Turner III, have established their leadership in many ways, including embracing and encouraging the importance of philanthropy for the College’s future.

For many donors, the most realistic way to make a significant gift to Bloomfield College is through their estates. Levao and Turner have quietly made the selfless pledge to bestow nearly $1.5 million dollars combined to the College.

“This seven-figure investment from the leadership of Bloomfield College speaks volumes to the level of commitment both these dignified leaders have made to the College, its students, and its mission,” said Jackie Bartley, Vice President for Institutional Advancement.  “As we near the College’s 150th anniversary, I have no doubt the legacy they are leaving behind will continue to positively impact the College for the next 150 years.”

Levao and Turner, both alumni of other institutions, believe in the charge of Bloomfield College and its students. Since 1868, the institution has been dedicated to supporting the underrepresented youth of New Jersey, and beyond, in acquiring skills, fortitude, and services needed to access and succeed in college.bloomfield_turner

“Many years ago, my wife, Judy, and I made a commitment to put a percentage of our income toward our philanthropic interests,” said William H. Turner. “Bloomfield College is an extraordinary place that transforms lives, which is why Judy and I consider this a very significant philanthropic endeavor.”

Turner, with successful careers in both Banking and Education, joined the Bloomfield College Board of Trustees in 2011 and was elected Chair in 2015. He was designated Chair because of his devotion to the College as well as his adoration for the students.
For over 34 years, Turner served in many capacities with Chase Bank and its predecessor, Chemical Bank, including Senior Vice President of the International Division-Middle East & Africa. He later assumed the position of Vice Chairman of Chase. He served as President and Co-CEO of Franklin Electronic Publishers, and President and CEO of PNC Bank. He also formerly served as Senior Advisor for Opera Solutions.

After retiring from banking, Turner was the Founding Dean of the College of Business at Stony Brook University and later assumed the role of Acting Dean of the Business School at Montclair State University. In addition, for over 35 years, he has served on the board of International College of Beirut, including the role of Chairman for the past 30 years.

Richard A. Levao, who practiced law for 29 years and was a partner at the national law firm Drinker Biddle & Reath, has served as President of Bloomfield College for the last 13 years. He is a fixture on campus, attending many student and faculty run events, including the students’ Capstone presentations at the end of each spring semester. He is front row center at many a function, always smiling and knowing most of the community, students included, by name. He is dedicated to bettering the lives of all who enroll at the College.

Levao currently serves as Chair of the New Jersey Presidents’ Council. He is also a member of the Executive Board of the World Technopolis Association, an affiliate of UNESCO, located in Daejon, South Korea.

Bloomfield College is on the cutting edge of innovation in higher education, offering over 60 majors and concentrations in seven academic divisions. The College is ranked as one of the most diverse liberal arts colleges in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Bloomfield College is a unique institution offering students access to a private, affordable college education.  About 52% of students are African American and 27.5% of students are Hispanic. Bloomfield College is a wonderful institution where bold and courageous students from all corners of the globe find success they might not have otherwise achieved.

With the College in the midst of a Capital Campaign, both gifts from these honorable front runners demonstrate tangible philanthropic leadership.

Bloomfield Community Theatre to Celebrate 20 Years

Many community theatres come and go, but New Jersey’s 4th Wall Theatre will celebrate its 20th anniversary this year.

“4th Wall feels like my baby,” said Gwen Ricks-Spencer, Executive Director of 4th Wall Theatre, Inc. “I’m still here. This baby has grown, and I want to see it grow more. I am so proud of what we managed to build.”

Ricks-Spencer was one of the founding members of 4th Wall in 1996.

According to the theatre’s website, the idea began with eight friends, who all worked as performers or artistic staff members at the Montclair Operetta Club in Montclair, NJ.

The original founding members included Mark Frawley and Deborah Martin, with Trustees Richard Colonna, Lisa Hughes, Kathi Iannacone, Ed Kamholz, Nancy Marino and Gwen Ricks-Spencer. Joining them in forming the group were Beth Vecchio and Charles Alexander Hay. Since its inception, members have come and gone, and in 2005 Ricks-Spencer, a member of the original Board, assumed the role of Executive Director.

4th Wall was incorporated in 1997 and began its residency at the prestigious Morristown-Beard School in Morristown New Jersey. During 4th Wall’s early years, the group continued to fine tune its mission and saw both audience growth and critical recognition for its presentations.

What immediately sets 4th Wall apart is that 4th Wall’s mission was distinctly changed from focusing on ensemble, non-star works to focusing on edgier, lesser known works.

4th Wall’s slogan is “theatre on the edge” and lives up to that. Even the well-known shows get the 4th Wall treatment by incorporating creative twists like cross-gender casting and changes to the setting of the original work.

For instance, when 4th Wall produced Funny Girl, a musical linked to Barbara Streisand and performed and produced time and time again, they cast nine women as Fanny Brice, each with a different sound and body type. When they produced Sweeney Todd, they cast an African American male as the lead.

Since leaving Morristown-Beard School, 4th Wall has held residencies at the Bickford Theatre, Kean University, and 12 Miles West. In the winter of 2006, the group made its current move to be the theatre in residence at the Westminster Arts Center (WAC) on the campus of Bloomfield College.

4th Wall originally caught the attention of Bloomfield College President, Richard A. Levao, when he attended one of their productions in downtown Bloomfield. Levao approached the team about the available space at the Westminster Arts Center at the College, an intimate proscenium theatre with seating for 300 inside a turn-of-the-century brownstone church.

“One of the reasons I love directing and seeing shows at 4th Wall is that, in the space at WAC, the thrust stage helps us get closer to the audience, to break through that fourth wall that so often distances an audience from the emotions of the show they are seeing,” explained Kate Swan, Artistic Director. “We often use the aisles and sit on the edge of the stage for various scenes. We love that intimacy, and we are so pleased with WAC because of the opportunities it allows us.”

Since moving to Bloomfield College 10 years ago, 4th Wall has expanded with the addition of a “Musicals in Development” (M.I.D.) series to present the works of new composers and writers and an “Off the Wall” series, which allows the group to present both plays and musicals which are artistically interesting, but not right for mainstage production.

Another audience draw is the diversity of each cast. 4th Wall tries not to cast the same people over and over again. More so, the casts are a nice mixture of high quality professional actors and others like bankers, lawyers, and executives who were maybe performers in a previous life. 4th Wall attracts actors from New York City because of Bloomfield College’s 12-mile proximity to the City as well how easily accessible the College is by all forms of public transportation. Also, many of these actors can land their “dream role,” with 4th Wall since they put on shows that are not produced by many theatres.

“It’s been my home for 10 years, an extended family,” said Martha Thalheimer, Business Manager. “It’s fun to be a part of all of this. There is a whole different caliber to 4th Wall.”

Ricks-Spencer, Swan, and Thalheimer are a united front, sharing the passion, professionalism, and business sense needed to keep a community theatre afloat for two decades. More importantly, they are friends who love what they do.

In 2016-2017, 4th Wall will be putting on Guys & Dolls (Off the Wall), in concert, Take One (M.I.D.), written by former Saturday Night Live writer Jeff Ward, and It Shoulda Been You, which ran on Broadway in 2015, on their main stage.

The theatre will also host two bonus programs in 2017. 4th Wall Theatre will celebrate Black History Month with a one-night play reading of For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf  by Ntozake Shange and will follow-up their successful 2014 Showcase with the NJ Musical Theatre Composers Showcase.

For more information on 4th Wall or to purchase tickets, visit their website.

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