Bree J. Legendre-Frank B'00
During her time as a journalism major at the LIU Brooklyn campus, Bree J. Legendre-Frank B'00 never dreamed that she would use the knowledge she gained to work in the fast-paced world of reality television. Yet, she is now the production coordinator for RDF Media's popular reality series, "Wife Swap," which airs Friday nights on ABC. The hit show takes viewers into the heart of the American home, revealing the different ways in which families conduct their lives. Mothers literally swap roles, taking on all that goes with running another woman's household.
Ms. Legendre-Frank is responsible for coordinating the travel arrangements for the crew and the staff, obtaining permits and location agreements, tracking budgets and calming the nerves of anxious family members. This often involves fielding phone calls from jittery participants at 3 a.m., many of whom are very nervous about publicly exposing the way in which they live. "I comfort them by stressing the fact that this is a learning experience," she explained.
Working this type of job requires a great deal of juggling schedules, enduring long hours and traveling around the country. "It can be very tough and unsettling, but for me, I enjoy the pace," she admitted. She also has had the opportunity to pitch some of her own ideas. Collaborating with the producers, she is hopeful that one of her concepts for a new reality show will be developed and on the air soon.
Born in Harlem and raised in Queens, Ms. Legendre-Frank was the first in her family to attend college. She credits her education at the Brooklyn Campus with helping her to find herself. "With guidance, you can control your circumstances if you work hard at it."
"What I loved most about LIU, was that it was such a diverse environment," she noted. "It was the first place where I was exposed to people that were not like me." While a student, she immersed herself in professionally related activities - working for LIU-TV, the Campus television station; Seawanhaka, the student newspaper; and BCAT, the community-access cable station. She also was a residence hall assistant. Although her schedule was busy, she had an active social life, eventually meeting her future husband Jonathan Frank, a business major who played basketball for the Blackbirds. Now settled in Brooklyn, the couple lives with their two-year-old daughter, Sydney.
This past December, Ms. Legendre-Frank, visited LIU Brooklyn during which time she spoke to journalism students, offering lively anecdotes and dispensing helpful career advice. Said her former professor, Dr. Donald Bird, "The students listened very carefully to her - she had tremendous credibility with them." He added, "It's no wonder, she's such a high-octane type of person!"
Phil Brown B'70
Phil Brown B'70 spent most of the summers of his youth working at hotels like the Seven Gables, the Cherry Hill and the Commodore in New York's Catskill Mountains. Currently a professor of sociology and environmental studies at Brown University, he became an expert on this resort area, once so popular with Jewish families of Eastern European descent that it was dubbed the "Borscht Belt."
According to Dr. Brown, the hotels and bungalow colonies of the Catskills played a critical role in the American-Jewish immigrant experience from World War II through the early 70s. "These institutions helped to shape American-Jewish culture, enabling Jews to become more American, while at the same time, introducing the American public to immigrant Jewish culture," he explained. The region became a training ground for great comedians such as Milton Berle, Red Buttons, Jackie Mason, Jerry Lewis and Jerry Seinfeld, who learned their trade, as did many performers, in "the Mountains."
In 1995, Dr. Brown and several other Jewish academics formed the Catskills Institute, an organization that promotes the significance of the Catskill Mountains in American-Jewish life through research and educational programs. Since then, he has organized Institute conferences, has authored "Catskill Culture: A Mountain Rat's Memories of the Great Jewish Resort Area" and has edited "In the Catskills: A Century of Jewish Experience in 'The Mountains.'"
In addition to his books on Catskills culture, Dr. Brown is an expert on the subject of environmental hazards and their relation to health. He is the author of "No Safe Place: Toxic Waste, Leukemia and Community Action" and "Toxic Exposures: Contested Illnesses and the Environmental Health Movement," and he is co-editor of "Social Movements in Health."
Dr. Brown attended the LIU Brooklyn campus on a full scholarship and graduated cum laude with a B.A. in history in 1970. A vehement opponent of the Vietnam War, he was a member of the Students for a Democratic Society and was arrested during a demonstration when then-President Johnson was speaking near the Campus.
Professor Brown went on to earn an M.A. in U.S. social history from New York University and a Ph.D. in sociology from Brandeis University. He and his wife, psychologist Ronnie Littenberg, live in Cambridge, Mass.
Florence Dorwie B'93, '99 (M.S.)
Florence Dorwie is a well-respected nursing professional at a major New York City hospital, an adjunct professor at the LIU Brooklyn campus and the co-founder of a successful nonprofit organization, but acquiring her American dream was a rocky road that began in a remote region of Sierra Leone.
Ms. Dorwie, now 47, describes how she grew up as part of a large extended family in a village that had no paved roads and in a home that had no plumbing. Her father died when she was just eight years old. Despite her good grades, her education was cut short due to a lack of money.
In 1983, on the pretext of pursuing an arranged marriage, Ms. Dorwie came to New York, where she expected to find streets paved in gold. Instead, snow and slush greeted her on the freezing February day that she arrived. With only flip-flops for shoes, she made her way in this new world where she knew no one.
Against all odds, Ms. Dorwie took control of her life and enrolled at LIU Brooklyn, where she earned a B.S. and an M.S. in nursing and became an adjunct professor. Today, she is a triage nurse practitioner at New York Presbyterian Hospital and is pursuing her doctorate at a school close to her home in Fairview, N.J.
Energetic and intensely focused, in 2004, Ms. Dorwie founded Sa Leone Health Pride, a nonprofit organization that strives to improve health care and reduce the extraordinarily high rates of maternal and infant mortality in her native country. "We are going to transform the field of nursing in Sierra Leone," she declares. Beyond soliciting donations and volunteering her support, she appeals to government officials in Sierra Leone to improve public health practices. With School of Nursing Dean Dawn Kilts and other health care professionals, Ms. Dorwie organizes health missions that provide direct care to children and to pregnant women. In addition, she has worked to deliver vital teaching programs to the many undertrained health care workers in the region.
Dean Kilts, who has known Ms. Dorwie as a student and as a colleague and a friend, acknowledges her dedication to giving back to her country and to her people. "Florence is a person of vision."
John Welton B'82
John Welton is a survivor. In 1953, he contracted polio, an illness from which he never fully recovered. Today, atrophied from the waist down, he walks with the support of leg braces and crutches. Yet this has not deterred him from engaging in a challenging profession that requires great compassion for others. A physician assistant (P.A.) for 26 years, Mr. Welton, 60, works the late shift in the palliative care unit at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, helping patients suffering from progressive, incurable illnesses. P.A.s perform many of the duties of a physician - from physical examinations and interpretation of diagnostic tests, to management of a patient's health problems, under a doctor's supervision.
What makes Mr. Welton so successful in how he relates to his patients? "They see me as a fellow struggler," explained the married father of two. For him, the ability to communicate with patients and their families is part of the appeal of his vocation.
Entry into this field of highly trained professionals was not easy. While most individuals studying to become physician assistants are challenged by rigorous academic and clinical demands, Mr. Welton also was challenged by physical demands. He might not have succeeded had he not chosen to attend the physician assistant program at the LIU Brooklyn campus.
He recalled fearing defeat when he was unable to physically perform an eye exam on a patient. "That night I said to myself, 'Okay, John, you blew it! They're going to throw you out of the program.'" But far from asking him to leave, his professor worked with him until the two of them found a solution; if the patient were lying down, he could do the examination. "During my training in the program, I encountered only encouragement from everyone on the Campus about working with a disability," acknowledged Mr. Welton, who completed his P.A. degree in 1982. He has dedicated much of his career to those in need.
Prior to becoming a physician assistant, he earned a master's degree in public health from Loma Linda University in California and worked for seven years for the New York City Health Department. He also has served as a physician assistant at Rikers Island, the Manhattan Detention Center and Spofford Juvenile Detention Center, and treated some of the very first AIDS patients.
Elizabeth Salzer, the director of the Physician Assistant Studies Division at LIU Brooklyn, is very proud of this alumnus. "Despite his physical limitations, John puts his patients first without considering his own pain and disability," she said. "In his dedication to serving those in need with skill and compassion, he embodies the program's mission and goals."