Lou Borrelli ’77 is a cable television pioneer, media executive and steadfast supporter of SUNY Oswego. He continued his support this year with a gift of $25,000 to the Student Media Excellence Fund.
Giving to student organizations is important to Oswego, as it provides funding that cannot always be provided by the Student Association.
“I have been directing my annual giving the past several years to ‘Excellence Funds’ to provide support for WNYO and WTOP to supplement their SA budget,” Borrelli says. “My gifts over the years have provided equipment, travel expenses and fees for conferences and award competitions.”
These organizations, although mostly funded by SA, benefit greatly from philanthropic support by alumni. Excellence funds can be supported by anyone who wishes to designate their annual gifts to student organizations, and new excellence funds can always be established.
“Excellence Funds are a good way to get involved,” Borrelli says.
Borrelli supports student organizations as the founder of the Lewis B. O’Donnell Media Summit, which provides networking opportunities for students in media fields and attracts communication professionals from all over the country.
After the launch of the Summit, he established the Student Media Excellence Fund, as he saw the need to further provide for WNYO and WTOP. The majority of his most recent gift funded “a multichannel digital replay system used during Laker Hockey games,” which put WTOP on par with sports networks like ESPN and NESN.
Borrelli is also a member of the Oswego College Foundation Board and the School of Communication, Media and the Arts Advisory Board, and he was Reunion Giving Chair for his 35th Reunion cluster this year. He encourages other alumni to give back to Oswego and show their support for students.
“A little support goes a long way to help current students and student organizations,” he says.
—Kaitlin Provost ’12
Howard Olinsky ’81, a disability attorney and managing partner of Olinsky Disability, has given a gift of $50,000 to SUNY Oswego. Two-thirds of his gift will go
to the School of Communication, Media and the Arts Dean’s Fund, and one-third to where the need is greatest.
Olinsky serves on the first SCMA Advisory Board, and is a loyal supporter of SUNY Oswego. He says supporting his alma mater is an important part of his philanthropy plan, to give back to “the schools and universities that have helped me become successful.”
“Successful” is no exaggeration – Olinsky manages 16 full-time attorneys and 22 contracted attorneys at his firm, which is the largest filer of Social Security Disability federal court cases in the nation. He has offices in Syracuse and Orlando.
Olinsky got his start in Oswego, opening up his law firm on West First Street. The firm’s name still adorns the front of the Old Marine Midland Bank Building, where his office was for more than 15 years. He says the firm moved to Syracuse in order to expand, but Olinsky never lost his love for Oswego or the desire to give back to the college.
“I plan on being an active participant,” he says. Giving back is “a way of bringing additional money into the individual schools without having to raise tuition,” and he believes this is crucial to Oswego’s success.
His goal for this gift is to help students who graduate with a communication degree become more marketable. He and Dean Fritz Messere ’71 M ’76 are working on a plan to create a PR program that can help students get experience with all aspects of advertising and media.
“It’s a big goal,” he says, “but you’ve got to start somewhere.”
—Kaitlin Provost ’12
Landing a job in Los Angeles after graduation, Michelle Rene Garcia ’06 continues to work for a cause she values. At The Advocate, a gay rights magazine, she began as a temporary hire and advanced to commentary editor.
“We’re on the front line of history,” she says. “In the seven years I’ve been here, I’ve witnessed a massive sea change in the way Americans view gay rights.” She notes the milestones of justice: a president who supports the freedom to marry and still gets re-elected; positive representations in the media, a dozen states legalizing marriage equality, and LGBT people, including celebrities and athletes, coming out to their families, friends and coworkers.
“Equality isn’t just an issue of the gay agenda or some lobbying group, a faceless ‘they.’ Now, it’s about someone’s son, or sister or best friend. It’s personal, and people are remembering that personal is political again.”
After graduation, Garcia, who was active on the Oswegonian and worked as a resident assistant, and her husband, Adam Campbell-Schmitt ’06, headed to L. A., where Adam, a broadcast major, works as a stage director and comedy writer.
“We met at Oswego, doing improv. ‘Cause that’s what the cool kids do.”
Garcia, who majored in Journalism with minors in Political Science and Women’s Studies, says all her interests, education and experience have come together in her career and in the screenwriting she’s doing on the side.
“Thirty years from now, I can look back at this time and say: I was there. I was part of history.”
—Linda Loomis ’90 M ’97
We call it “serendipity” when dreams come true. Nicole Castro Pursel ’09 says she’s had a brush with that unexplainable good fortune in her career. After completing an internship at Time Warner Sports and earning her degree in journalism, she accepted an administrative assistant position at Wegmans in her hometown of Rochester.
One lucky day, she was asked to help out with the monthly “Wegmans Cooks” segment on Bridge Street, a Syracuse-based morning television show, where Chris Brandolino ’96 is one of the hosts. Pursel says all her experiences and education kicked in once she was suited up and on the set.
“My Oswego experience as an on-air talent for WTOP and my journalism background in gathering and presenting information clearly and accurately really helped.”
Inspired by her experience on Bridge Street, Pursel applied for a transfer from desk to kitchen, and she’s now an administrative cook for the Rochester-based retail grocer, working in the Liverpool store. With the head chef, she oversees food preparation, organizes ordering and helps train food workers.
“I love my job,” she says. “It’s a dream come true.” As for that cooking show of her own. Well, someday, perhaps. But for now, she and her husband, Robert Pursel, a teacher at West Carthage Elementary School, enjoy their Central Square home and reap the benefits of Pursel’s passion for preparing wholesome delicious food.
— Linda Loomis ’90 M ’97