Celebrating 60 Years and Imagining the Future at Gaynor Gala 2022

Posted on Tuesday, May 24th, 2022

On May 23, the Gaynor community joined together in person at Pier Sixty, Chelsea Piers, for Gaynor Gala 2022. Pier Sixty was an apt location for the Gala this year, as the school celebrated its 60th anniversary. 

Guests walked the red carpet to enter the venue and were greeted by beautiful, large-scale portraits of Co-Founders Dr. Miriam Michael and Yvette Siegel-Herzog, and colorful balloons representing Gaynor’s clusters. Upon entering the event space, Gaynor parents were encouraged to find their children’s names attached to beaded bracelets (many of which were made by the students themselves), and began the evening with drinks, hors d’oeuvres, and buffet stations.

Soon thereafter, hosts Kelly Ripa, Mark Consuelos, and Joaquin Consuelos ‘17 took the stage to welcome guests to the event. The three shared memories of Joaquin’s journey before, during, and after his time at Stephen Gaynor School, and expressed their gratitude for the faculty and staff who provided Joaquin with the tools he needed to thrive in high school and now at college. (The next morning, Kelly joined her co-host Ryan Seacrest on LIVE with Kelly and Ryan to speak about the event and their gratitude to Gaynor. Read more here.)

Joaquin shared one of his core memories from his time at Gaynor, saying, “My first few months at Gaynor I was a little bit of a troublemaker, and I had found myself in some trouble as a troublemaker does, and one of my teachers, who I went on to have a long educational relationship with, pulled me aside and explained to me why what I did was wrong, and she was right.”

He continued, “But she did more than that. She said something really specific to me, she said, ‘The skills you will be given in this school will allow you to go anywhere and do anything with your life.’ And at the time I was a second grader. And not just any second grader, but as my parents said, I was a second grader who had truly profound dyslexia.”

Now that he is finishing his first year of college, Joaquin said, “Those words ring true. I mean, I learned so much. I learned how to read. I learned how to write, I’m alright at math. I learned patience, I learned how to communicate with teachers, how to communicate with peers. I learned how to make friends. I learned to love the process of learning. I learned to learn. And I learned the massive strength of self advocacy.” He concluded by saying, “I really just wanted to say a heartfelt thank you to all the teachers who helped me throughout the years at Gaynor and are still helping students. And a sincere thank you to Yvette Siegel and Dr. Gaynor, because without you, there would not be a place where every child can learn to love learning.”

Joaquin then introduced Head of School Dr. Scott Gaynor, who relayed a story about a recent visit to Cornell University, and in particular to a bench donated in honor of the school’s namesake, Stephen Gaynor. Stephen passed away in 1961, when he was a first year student at Cornell. When Mimi and Yvette started the school in 1962, they named it in Stephen’s honor. 

Dr. Gaynor still has a watch worn by his uncle Stephen, and said, “On our 60th anniversary, I am proud to wear Stephen’s watch and represent in some small way the legacy of his name on our beloved school. We all have our journey that brought us here tonight. I am so grateful that Mimi, Yvette, and Stephen have built a bench big enough for all of us. In our 60 year history, this school has allowed thousands of students to reach their true potential and go on to find success in school and in life. Thank you for joining us tonight in celebrating 60 years of success, one child at a time.”

In his remarks, Dr. Gaynor thanked the Gala Co-Chairs, Nicole Coslov and Charly Jett Silver, for their time and leadership in making the event a success. He also expressed his gratitude to Gaynor’s faculty and staff for bringing Mimi and Yvette’s vision to life every day in the school’s classrooms.

After a sweet and uplifting video celebrating Gaynor’s 60th “birthday,” which included a very special appearance by Co-Founder and Director of Education Yvette Siegel-Herzog, the live auction began. The funds raised this year will be used to support the school’s endowment, helping to provide long-term financial security and a perpetual source of revenue for Gaynor. The endowment helps Gaynor create a steady stream of support for financial aid, faculty and specialist salaries, and will help to keep Gaynor affordable for generations of students to come. The impact of dollars invested in the endowment today is magnified over time and will help secure the financial future of the school.

While Yvette was not at the event in person, she shared some sentiments with Dr. Gaynor, saying “We ancient sages know a thing or two. We do not discard what came before. We build on the strengths that stood the test of time. Yes, I am and shall remain in your midst. Sixty years of caring. Sixty years and I still owe you a debt. All of you, those who came before you, and those who will follow in your footsteps. You shaped my existence and added meaning to my survival.” 

This year’s live auctioneer was Charles Antin, and attendees donated generously during the live auction. A burst of confetti appropriately signaled the successful closure of The Legacy Campaign as the auction and event donations well exceeded the school’s goals.

Dr. Gaynor said, “I am blown away by the generosity in the room tonight, and we want to thank each and every one of you for giving so enthusiastically. We started The Legacy Campaign five years ago with the goal of raising $16 million to complete the Performing Arts Center (PAC), which we did in 2020, and to grow the endowment. And with all of your help, we have surpassed our goal and collectively have raised over $18 million total during these five years for which $12 million was used to build the PAC and the remaining funds will go directly to the endowment.” He extended a special thank you to Hamburg Tang and Hillary Blumberg for co-chairing The Legacy Campaign and bringing it to a successful conclusion.

Following the live auction, guests laughed along with comedian Colin Quinn, as they commiserated over the joys and challenges of outdoor dining in New York City during the pandemic (watch out for that bike lane!). Following Colin Quinn’s set, the venue filled with the sounds of New Orleans as the Preservation Hall Jazz Band closed out the evening and had the entire room second-lining along with them.

We would like to sincerely thank all of our generous sponsors, individuals and businesses alike, who supported Stephen Gaynor School and Gaynor Gala 2022.

Photos: Brett Deutsch Photography