The 2018 Leadership Council Celebration Dinner
On May 17th, Graham marked its 212th anniversary with an extraordinary celebration at The American Museum of Natural History. Over 400 members of the Graham community joined us at our annual Leadership Council Celebration Dinner that this year raised over $1.9 million to benefit our kids and families!
Our President and CEO, Jess Dannhauser, opened the celebration with a surprise special recognition of Board Chair Georgia Wall, “our modern-day founder,” whom he thanked for “leading the Board for the past 13 years with a combination of tenacity, wisdom, generosity, and grace and for insisting that each of our 5,000 kids and their families deserve the very best and for working tirelessly to make it so.” Ms. Wall then received a well-deserved standing ovation.
Paloma Hernandez, Graham School student and talented poet, then moved the audience by reading an inspiring poem she had written about overcoming personal struggles with the help of the Graham staff, “For once in my life, the future seems unlimited…I now have a chance to reach big, and I’m not throwing away my shot.”
Georgia Wall, Board Chair, then presented the keynote about the enduring legacy of our founder Eliza Hamilton for whom “social responsibility and her work on behalf of orphaned immigrant children became a moral imperative. Because of her commitment, thousands of young lives were saved and transformed.” Ms. Wall announced that the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, as part of their Philanthropy Initiative, had commemorated the impact of Eliza Hamilton on giving in American life by recognizing her as America’s first female philanthropist. As part of this recognition, Graham donated a portrait of Eliza to the Smithsonian which will be on display beginning July 31st. In addition, a costume of Alexander Hamilton worn by Lin-Manuel Miranda in the award-winning play, HAMILTON, will be on display at the museum through July 29th.
Ms. Wall then introduced a video about the impact of Graham’s transformative work on the lives of our young people featuring Dashawn Johnson who next took the stage. Graham student Dashawn Johnson shared his life story and challenges he faced in foster care and how with the support of Graham staff he was able to turn around his life. “My life’s journey has taught me that if you have a support system you can overcome any obstacle…. so I’m living my life to the fullest right now and I’m thankful for my shot. Even with a tough start, I know I will finish out front.”
Antonio Lucio, Global Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, accepted the Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton Legacy Award on behalf of HP Inc. Graham honored HP Inc. for its incredibly generous and transformative donation of building a state-of-the-art HP Learning Studio for Technology and their commitment to building a first-of-its-kind HP Learning Studio for Computer Science and Coding, both at The Graham School. These innovative educational hubs are truly classrooms of the future offering creative inter-active technology and coding classes so our students can become highly skilled in technology and communicate with students from around the world.
Our special guest speaker was Soledad O’Brien, CEO of Starfish Media Group and Host of Matter of Fact with Soledad O’Brien. Ms. O’Brien told the celebrated story of the starfish and stated that to her its meaning was that, “we are all in a position to affect change…whether on a grand scale or a small scale.” She then thanked everyone in the audience for all they do, “together we can continue to make the changes that were envisioned 212 years ago by Graham’s founders.”
Luis A. Miranda, Jr. led a lively auction of two exclusive prizes – which he had donated – of special HAMILTON ticket packages to see the show and meet the cast in London and in Puerto Rico where his son Lin-Manuel Miranda will reprise his award-winning role of Alexander Hamilton.
In closing, Jess Dannhauser thanked Dr. Luz Towns-Miranda and Luis A. Miranda Jr., “You are angels for our kids and families. You keep our kids close to your hearts with your generosity and all that you do to connect them to so much opportunity. Thank you so very much.”
The 2017 Leadership Council Celebration Dinner
On Thursday, May 4th, 2017, over 400 members of the Graham community gathered at The American Museum of Natural History for our annual Leadership Council Dinner to mark our 211th anniversary at an extraordinary celebration to benefit our kids and families. We proudly honored Jeffrey Seller, four-time Tony Award winning producer of Rent, Avenue Q, In the Heights and the the smash-hit Hamilton.
Established in 2006, by the Board of Directors of Graham Windham, the Leadership Council recognizes and celebrates those who, like our visionary founder Elizabeth Hamilton, have made a significant, lasting contribution to our organization.
Our dedicated Chairman of the Board Georgia Wall and her husband Don Gogel and Dr. Luz Towns-Miranda and her husband Luis A. Miranda Jr. served as Honorary Chairs. Gayle King, CBS This Morning Co-Host and Editor at Large at O, the Oprah Magazine was our Special Guest.
Our Senior Vice Chairman John Cecil and his wife Celia Felsher, CITI, and Vice Chairman Jennifer Mackesy and her husband Scott served as the Chairs. Board Members André Koester and her husband Michael; Melissa McKeithen; Heather McVeigh and her husband Brian; Carmen Paolercio and her husband Anthony; Jennifer Russo and her husband Jim all served as co-chairs of this annual event that raise $1.7M to support our mission to provide each child we serve with a safe, permanent, loving family and the opportunity to succeed in school and life.
The celebration dinner began with a special performance showcasing the very talented Danny Basin, a former student at our Graham School Campus, who performed an original song called “Cold Word” – “No matter where you are in life. Never give up. Keep your head in the game … and believe that you will make it.”
Georgia Wall inspired guests describing Graham Windham’s “unconditional commitment” to our young people.
Jess Dannhauser, President & CEO said: “Jeffrey, on behalf of the entire Graham Community, we are grateful and proud to honor you tonight.” He went on to say: “You are changing this world with your art and you’re changing our kids’ lives with your heart. Thank you from the very bottom of our hearts.” Jess also thanked the Mirandas for “being constant ambassadors for our kids.”
Graham alumnus Zinyusile, who with support from Graham is thriving in school and preparing for a career in culinary arts, gave a moving speech about the difference Graham Windham made in his life and encouraged those in attendance to donate funds to support our vital mission – “because of people like you, people like me are able to have hope … Umuntu, ngumuntu ngabantu which translates to A person is a person because of other people. I am where I am because of who you are! Thank you for your support.”
With deep gratitude, we thank all of the members of the Graham community who joined us on this historic occasion to support our efforts to help children and families thrive.
The 2016 Leadership Council Celebration Dinner
On Thursday, May 12th, 2016, 400 members of the Graham community gathered at the Museum of Modern Art for a dinner to benefit our kids and families and to honor Pulitzer Prize-Winning author of The New York Times bestseller “Alexander Hamilton,” Ron Chernow, Tony, Grammy and Emmy Award-winning Composer, Lyricist and Actor Lin-Manuel Miranda and Lucille Lortel Award-Winning Actor and Singer Phillipa Soo who portray Alexander and Eliza Hamilton in the smash Broadway Musical Sensation “Hamilton.”
The celebration dinner began with a reception showcasing the transformative work we are doing with members of our Graham School Bengals peer leadership group and scholars from our Graham SLAM program that helps young people successfully complete high school and post-secondary education and training, and enter a living-wage career path. Our Chairman Georgia Wall spoke about the life changing difference members of the Graham community are making in the lives of our kids and introduced this year’s student speaker Tamaine Hamilton who thanked the dedicated staff at Graham for making a difference in his life and for helping him achieve his educational and career goals: “Thank you for being here tonight to carry on Eliza’s legacy and to listen to my story. Let’s work together to help this agency continue to help many others for many years to come.”
Jess Dannhauser, our President & CEO shared his reflections on our work and our focus for the future: “We know that you don’t solve a lifetime of instability and trauma with short-term solutions that cut ties with kids and families as soon as they make progress. Instead, we — you– are investing for the long haul with the Graham SLAM program that coaches our kids all the way to the age of 25 and into living wage careers. We’re doing the same for our families. Families who graduate from our services continue to thrive with over 95% of them remaining safe and intact a year after they graduate from our programs. Our Forever Families initiative is making sure our parents have the ongoing social support all of us rely on.” Jess recognized Lin-Manuel Miranda, Phillipa Soo, and Morgan Marcell by honoring them with the Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton Legacy Award for their generosity and enduring commitment to our kids and families and for continuing the legacy of our founder Eliza Hamilton. Lin-Manuel and Phillipa were not able to accept the awards in person but recorded a video thanking those in attendance for their continued support of Graham Windham vowing to continue to tell Eliza’s story.
Jess went on to recognize Luis A. Miranda, Jr. with the Eliza Schuyler Hamilton Legacy Award for his ongoing commitment to improving the lives of our kids and families: “Luis has opened people’s hearts to support our kids. He is a Graham Angel.”
We also honored Ron Chernow, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author of “Alexander Hamilton,” the inspiration for the hit Broadway musical. During his remarks, Chernow stated: “I’m so deeply touched by this honor and so delighted to be here with you tonight to celebrate Eliza’s proudest achievement, the first private orphanage in New York City, today’s Graham Windham.”
It is with overwhelming gratitude that we thank The Leadership Council and all of the members of the Graham Windham community who joined us on this very special evening to support our efforts to effect change not just in individual lives, but in the course of family histories across our City.
Special thanks to our Honorary Chairs Georgia Wall and Don Gogel, Chairs Celia Felsher and John Cecil, CITI, Jennifer and Scott Mackesy, and Co-Chairs André and Michael Koester, Melissa McKeithen, Heather and Brian McVeigh, Carmen and Anthony Paolercio, Jennifer and Jim Russo for helping raise $2.1M for our events so far this year that support our mission to provide each child we serve with a safe, permanent, loving family and the opportunity to succeed in school and life.
Celebrating our Founder Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton
On Tuesday, October 27th, 2015, over 200 members of the Graham community gathered at the New York Historical Society for a luncheon to benefit our kids and families and to celebrate Tony, Grammy and Emmy Award-winning Composer, Lyricist and Actor Lin-Manuel Miranda and Lucille Lortel Award-Winning Actor and Singer Phillipa Soo who portray Alexander and Eliza Hamilton in the smash Broadway Musical Sensation “Hamilton.”
Established in 2007, by the Board of Directors of Graham Windham, the Elizabeth Schuyler Hamilton Luncheon recognizes and celebrates those who, like our visionary founder, have made a significant, lasting contribution to our organization. Our dedicated Chairman of the Board Georgia Wall, Board Members, André Koester, Heather McVeigh, Jennifer Mackesy, Jennifer Russo, and Corporate Chair Citi served as co-chairs of the event that raised over $425,000 to support our mission to provide each child with a safe, permanent, loving family and the opportunity to succeed in school and life. The celebration dinner began with a special performance showcasing the very talented Natalie, Dymond, Jahmori and Juan, students at our Graham School Campus, who performed an original song inspired by our founder Eliza Hamilton – “Eliza, Eliza, Eliza you have done enough. Every day we tell your story. Graham is our shot at glory … Even though I’m young my story’s very long. Growing up with trials I had to stay strong. Trying so hard to feel and look alive, but Graham showed me how to live again and survive.” Jess Dannhauser, President & CEO, and the afternoon’s keynote, said: “In his musical masterpiece, Lin-Manuel celebrates the community that gave Alexander Hamilton his opportunity to thrive. “They passed a plate around, he sings. Total strangers moved to kindness.” Lin-Manuel Miranda and Phillipa Soo were total strangers two years ago when we met…on Twitter.” He went on to say that “Electrified by the brilliance and generosity of Lin-Manuel Miranda, Luis and Luz Miranda, Phillipa Soo, Ron Chernow and the entire amazing Hamilton Broadway team who has breathed new life into the story of our founding mothers…we thank you for being here and for being a part of this community that is committed to doing right by today’s generation of children. For your generosity and enduring commitment, we are filled with gratitude.” Lin-Manuel Miranda and Phillipa Soo accompanied by Tony and Grammy Award winning musical director and orchestrator Alex Lacamoire gave a stunning special performance of the song “That Would Be Enough” from the Broadway Hit “Hamilton” and thanked those in attendance for their support. Ron Chernow, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author signed copies of his landmark biography about Alexander Hamilton which was the inspiration for the musical, “Hamilton.”
It is with overwhelming gratitude that we thank all of the members of the Graham community who joined us on this historic occasion to support our efforts to effect change not just in individual lives, but in the course of family histories across our City.
The 2015 Leadership Council Celebration Dinner
On Tuesday, May 12th, 2015, over 380 members of the Graham community gathered at the Museum of Modern Art for an evening to benefit our kids and families and to celebrate our successes from the past year. The celebration dinner began with a reception showcasing the transformative work we are doing with members of our Harlem Beacon After-school Center Robotics Team, “The Medabots,” the Bengals peer leadership group and scholars from our Graham SLAM program that helps young people successfully complete high school and postsecondary education and training, and to enter a living-wage career path.
Our President and CEO, Jess Dannhauser, shared his reflections on our work and our focus for the future: “Our kids want to thrive; they want to be defined by what their success and their contribution. An essential part of our work is to help them to heal from what they’ve endured, pain that I’m sure will never fully go away, ultimately though they want their tough start in life to define what they’ve overcome not who they are or what they can be.” Chairman Georgia Wall spoke about the life changing difference our supporters are making in the lives of our kids. “Your support means that you really believe in them, that each one of their lives has value and meaning, and that each one of them has a future worth struggling for.”
We were honored to have Nicholas Kristof, two-time winner of The Pulitzer Prize, Op-Ed Columnist for The New York Times, and best-selling author of A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity as our keynote speaker. During his remarks, Kristof stated: “It’s an honor to be here supporting an organization which is so dedicated to improving the lives of New York City’s children.” And reminded those in attendance that by “participating in a cause larger than ourselves affirms a purpose for our own lives on earth.”
It is with overwhelming gratitude that we thank The Leadership Council and all of the members of the Graham Windham Community who joined us on this very special evening to support our efforts to effect change not just in individual lives, but in the course of family histories across our City. A special thanks to our dedicated Chairman of the Board Georgia Wall and Board Members Fran Eigendorff, André Koester, Heather McVeigh, Jennifer Mackesy, and Jennifer Russo for serving as co-chairs of the event that raised over $1.8M to support our mission to provide each child with a safe, permanent, loving family and the opportunity to succeed in school and life.
The 2014 Leadership Council Celebration Dinner
Our Leadership Council Celebration Dinner on April 8th, 2014 raised an unprecedented $2M!
On Tuesday, April 8th, 2014, Graham Windham honored Edward Skyler, Citi’s Executive Vice President for Global Public Affairs, at our annual Leadership Council Celebration Dinner at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Our Chairman of the Board Georgia Wall and Board Members Fran Eigendorff, André Koester, Heather McVeigh, Jennifer Mackesy, and Jennifer Russo served as co-chairs of the event that was generously underwritten by members of The Leadership Council.
Thanks to the incredibly generous support of our wonderful donors, our Leadership Council Celebration Dinner, raised an unprecedented $2M to support our children and families!
The celebration dinner began with a reception in The Great Hall showcasing the positive work we are doing with our youth from our Harlem Beacon After-school Center and featured a demonstration by our award winning robotics club, “The Mighty Medabots.”
Our renowned Vintage Quality Dance Crew then premiered a celebratory dance piece inspired by The Temple of Dendur. Adorned in Egyptian-themed costumes, the dance crew performed a medley to a musical compilation of African drums, “The Circle of Life” from “The Lion King,” Michael Jackson’s Egyptian-themed “Remember the Time,” all culminating with the inspiring “I Believe.”
A gala dinner and special program followed in the spectacular setting of the Temple of Dendur. Chairman Georgia Wall announced the establishment of The Andrew Francis Makk Youth Opportunity Scholarship in memory of dedicated and compassionate Board Member, Andrew Makk, and introduced the five inaugural winners.
One of the scholarship recipients, LaTanya Smitherman gave a moving speech stating, “My life’s journey has taught me that if you have a network of caring and committed adults you can overcome any obstacle. I also learned that challenges are part of life and the ones we overcome help us build character. I now know that if I had not tackled the obstacles presented to me by the foster care system, I would not be strong enough to share my story with you tonight. I am no longer afraid of failing and am determined to accomplishments great things and contribute to society. I would like to thank Gloria, Danielle, Danae and all of the difference makers at Graham Windham for their love and support. And a very special thanks to all of you in the audience for being here to share my story, and celebrate Graham Windham.”
Our President and CEO, Jess Dannhauser, stated, “Graham Windham enters the lives of the children and families it serves in their toughest hour, when all can feel hopeless. We restore hope by teaching and supporting families as they heal and grow stronger, and we change the odds by sticking with their children into adulthood, providing them the preparation and opportunities they need to reach their fullest potential. We are able do all of this because of our incredible supporters. We are especially grateful for our long-term partnership with Citi and for Ed Skyler’s incredible generosity this year, raising over $400 thousand dollars and propelling us to our $2M goal. These resources will help us bring opportunity where it is needed most and change the lives of thousands of children and their families.”
Jess Dannhauser then presented Ed Skyler with the Champion for New York City’s Children Award in recognition of his significant contributions to improving the lives of New York City’s children. Upon accepting the award, Skyler stated: “Organizations like Graham Windham provide essential support to New York City children who may not otherwise have access to the opportunities to achieve what they are capable of.” “Citi and Graham Windham share a mission and a 200-year history of strengthening communities. It’s an honor to be recognized by an organization which is so dedicated to improving the lives of New York City’s children.”
The 2013 Leadership Council Celebration Dinner
The Leadership Council Celebration Dinner at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Tuesday, April 23rd, was an incredible success! This special evening, benefiting the children and families we serve, was a night to celebrate all that we have achieved with the help of friends like you, and to share our vision for go even further in the years to come. Guests enjoyed docent-led tours through the Greek and Roman galleries, cocktails in The Great Hall of the museum, dinner in the breathtaking Temple of Dendur area, and inspiring words from Anais and Brian, two of the young adults whom we have helped to succeed in life despite the obstacles they faced. Georgia Wall, Chairman of the Board, and Jess Dannhauser, President & CEO shared their reflections on our work and Graham Windham’s focus for the future.
On behalf of Chairman Georgia Wall and Board Members Fran Eigendorff, André Koester, Heather McVeigh, Jennifer Mackesy, and Jennifer Russo, and most important of all, the more than 4,500 children and families we serve each year, we thank everyone who helped to make our Leadership Council Celebration Dinner an unforgettable evening!
The 2012 Leadership Council Celebration Dinner
A Tribute to Difference Makers
On Wednesday, April 25, 2012, over 400 of Graham Windham’s friends gathered at the Museum of Modern Art for a celebration of difference makers – those who make a lasting change in the lives of others.
Co-chaired by Graham Windham’s Board Chair Georgia Wall and Board Members Jennifer Mackesy and Heather McVeigh and underwritten by The Leadership Council, the dinner raised over $1.3M to support our mission to “provide each child with a safe, permanent, loving family and the opportunity to succeed in school and life.”
Our evening’s Honoree was our very own CEO Poul Jensen in recognition of his more than 15 years of transformative leadership at the helm of Graham Windham and in the field of child welfare. After a moving tribute, our Chairman presented him the Children’s Champion award for his outstanding service to the children and families of New York City.
We were joined by special guest speaker Wes Moore, a youth advocate, war veteran, Rhodes Scholar and White House Fellow, and author of the bestselling The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates. Wes brought the audience to its feet with his compelling and compassionately told story of another man with his name who grew up under similar circumstances, but whose life took a very different turn from that of Wes. He shared his reflections on what made a difference in his life, inspiring and empowering all of us to be difference makers in the lives of others.
In the Press
Thank You for Making a Difference!
This spectacular event was generously underwritten by The Leadership Council, a group of distinguished leaders in the philanthropic and business worlds committed to shaping and securing Graham Windham’s future for our third century of service.
It is with overwhelming gratitude that we thank The Leadership Council and all of the difference makers who joined us on this very special evening to pay tribute to Poul’s leadership and to support our efforts to effect change not just in individual lives, but in the course of family histories across our City.