Saturday, May 21, 2016

Class of 2011 Jeffrey Fazzolari Memorial Award by Carol Wittmeyer


Simon Dietrich, student honoree, and Paul Rose, Director of Buildings & Grounds & Dear Friend of Jeff!

My cousin Carol attended the Gow Awards Ceremony...she took the time out to document the day's events and how she felt as she listened to the special moment when Gow awarded Jeff's award. Thank you so much for sharing, Carol!

Class of 2011 Jeffrey Fazzolari Memorial Award - By Carol Wittmeyer

This award is given by the class of 2011 to honor that student, faculty, or staff member who always exhibits a positive attitude and humor, no matter the circumstances. This award is given in memory of Jeffrey Fazzolari, Gow's former Executive Chef and a cherished friend to the Gow Community.

So I was able to attend the Gow event on Thursday, for the 2nd time. Once again, I enjoyed it immensely.

Taking some time out of life to honor my special cousin, Jeffrey Fazzolari, was enough of a reason to enjoy the event...

...but there were many other gifts there for me at the ceremony!

Like so many others I often go through life appreciating all of the many blessings that I have.

I would like to focus on one:

Parenting healthy, happy children.

The foundation of the American Dream is that if we work hard, and do our jobs properly, the next generation will have it better than ours.

It turns out that not everyone is able to realize that dream.

Whether it is because of illness, or disability, or other battles (and there are many) it takes special parenting, teaching and coaching to provide the tools to some of the children who are faced with tremendous challenges - and it turns out, opportunities! - with the right support!

Years ago, when I heard that Jeff left a big Executive Chef job at a large organization to take the position at the Gow School, I was perplexed.

Why would he give up the chance to build a big program, and make his mark, to take the position at Gow?

It turns out that I had it all wrong!

Jeff had figured it out!

Jeff found a place where his life's work mattered!

In a profound and lasting way!!

A mother of one of the Gow Students asked me why I was recording Jeff's Award Presentation. She asked me if I was a parent, like her.

I explained that I was Jeff's cousin, and that I was representing the family this year because they were unable to attend. I asked her to tell me about herself and why she was there. She told me that her son is a student and then she stunned me by saying:

"This place saves lives."

She spoke of the changes in her son since he enrolled, and she told me of the caring people, who, in her mind, were the only ones on earth who were equipped and motivated to help her boy...and other students like him.

Her son is a "day student" because the family lived close to the school, but she explained that the cost of the tuition required a significant sacrifice.

A sacrifice that these parents made so that their children could enjoy the American Dream that the rest of us can so easily take for granted.

Simon Dietrich and Julie Struzynski were the recipients of the 2016 Jeff Fazzolari Memorial Award.

Simon was a student leader and Julie was honored as a Gow staff member (she is also related to the late Father Bob of St. Bonaventure - a small Franciscan world!).

I was able to speak with both Simon and Julie, and Julie, who knew Jeff, told a story that I would like to note:

"It was just before Cinco de Mayo, and Jeff decided to try some new dishes and he set up several food items with small cards in front of each plate. The student headwaiters asked Jeff about the cards and he stopped what he was doing and took the time to explain and teach the students. The students thanked him for taking their diner experiences to the next level."

Jeff would not have been able to enjoy that teaching moment at any other place.

As simple as the example seems to be it symbolize the love and learning at Gow, where folks like Jeff were able to prepare them for the real world.

Jeff was investing in the life of the students. His life and work providing a huge Return On Investment!

I also learned one other thing!

It runs out that dyslexia can be an asset.

Virgin CEO Richard Branson was interviewed for a Fortune Magazine Article. He also penned a blog post to raise awareness for dyslexia, and how it inspired him to be a better businessman:

"I struggled with dyslexia when I was at school, long before it was widely known - my teachers believed that I was just stupid, or lazy, or both. Words just looked like jumbles of letters on the chalkboard to me."

He added:

"There are still many dyslexics out there, especially young people, who feel held back by their condition. I used my dyslexia to my advantage and learned to delegate those tasks that I wasn't so good at. This fired me up to look at the bigger picture, and is one of the main reasons I have been able to expand the Virgin brand into so many different areas."

Former Cisco CEO, John Chambers, disclosed that he had dyslexia, accidentally, at a work event, and it led to his becoming a spokesperson for it. Chambers said that the condition allowed him to become a more savvy and efficient person:

"Because of my weakness I've learned other ways to accomplish the same goal with faster speed. So in math I can do equations faster by eliminating the wrong answers quicker than I can get the right answer."

It is too early to know the accomplishments of the Gow Students who were coached by Jeff.

But it is clear that Jeff understood that he had the ability (and the humor) to help them to gain the confidence and experience to understand that dyslexia can, in fact, be a gift that may distinguish them from their peers.

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