Tony Mullen '90
LIU Post graduate Tony Mullen, a former New York Police Department captain who is now a special education teacher at the ARCH School in Greenwich, Conn., was named the 59th National Teacher of the Year by President Obama. Mullen received a Bachelors of Arts in Criminal Justice with honors from the LIU Post campus in 1990 and also was named Most Outstanding Graduate that year.
Mullen's mother and father, who survived the Great Depression, Nazi attacks, and served in World War II, but passed away when he was young, had dreamed of Mullen being the first of the family to attend college. Mullen worked in a factory to support himself and then joined the NYPD as a police officer. He served on the force for 20 years, climbing the ranks to captain.
One day in Queens, Mullen met Sean Grennan, a retired police officer and an associate professor of criminal; justice and security administration at C.W. Post, who told him that he could earn a degree while working full-time.
"The LIU Post campus offered a special degree program that accommodated the fluctuating schedule of police officers and firefighters, and I jumped at the opportunity to be accepted to this unique program. I was proud to achieve the hope and aspirations of my parents and prove that childhood obstacles are not destiny, a belief that I would later instill in my at-risk students," Mullen wrote in his application for the National Teacher of the Year Award.
Going to college while working full-time was challenging and Mullen began to wonder if he would finish his degree - until the night he was called to the scene of a 16-year-old girl threatening suicide in Harlem. He found her on the sixth-floor fire escape and tried to talk her down, but she jumped. Mullen lunged after her, caught her with one hand, and with his partner on the fire escape below supporting her feet, pulled her back over the railing to safety.
"There we were, two people huffing and puffing on a fire escape," he said. "I had given her an opportunity to live again and to be what she was supposed to be, a teenager hanging around with her friends. And she had given me the renewed energy to finish my degree."
After graduating from LIU Post, Mullen went on to earn a master's degree at Mercy College in 2001. He became a teacher at Northern Westchester BOCES that year and joined the faculty of the ARCH School, an alternative high school, in 2002.
Mullen, who teaches grades 9-12, received the 2009 Connecticut State Teacher of the Year Award, along with several Greenwich teaching awards throughout his seven-year teaching career. He continues to draw upon his background dealing with at-risk kids as a police officer to help students with severe behavioral or emotional problems to succeed in the classroom and beyond.
Mullen and Dr. Grennan have remained good friends all these years. "I found out he was a contender for National Teacher of the Year, so I called him and said 'I hope you get it," said Dr. Grennan. "And, God bless him, he did. It's an honor to our department."
Mullen was named National Teacher of the Year by President Obama in a Rose Garden ceremony in April 2009.
Gloria Garayua P'00
If you're a fan of the ABC hit series "Grey's Anatomy," you may have noticed a new character last season, an intern named Graciela, played by LIU Post's own Gloria Garayua '00. Having left her native New York after graduating summa cum laude to pursue an acting career in Los Angeles, Ms. Garayua has been busy and successful, landing roles in films such as "Fun With Dick and Jane," "Henry Poole Is Here," "Stepford Wives" and "House of D." She's also been seen on popular television series such as "Desperate Housewives," "NYPD Blue" and "Six Feet Under."
Ms. Garayua, who has done very well in Hollywood, got her start with the Post Theatre Company. She was part of the cast of Carol Churchill's "The Skriker," a show that won the regional Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival (KC/ACTF), and was performed at the Kennedy Center during the KC/ACTF National Conference in 1998. She recalls the experience as "one of the most fun productions of my life."
Ms. Garayua reflects on her years at LIU Post with great fondness. "I remember putting on a one-woman show, the first to be done there in years, and having it be a huge success with incredible backing from the department heads, the teachers and the student body. I also remember the fun of opening nights, traveling to an international theatre festival in Canada in 1997 and the amazing Irene Ryan competitions!"
"Best of all," said Ms. Garayua, "I always knew that I could walk into any one of my professors' offices, be welcomed with a smile and allowed to talk about anything! That made LIU Post home to me."
David Stephen Simon P'74
David Stephen Simon '74, spent 25 years in Tinsletown, writing and producing for television and film. Mr. Simon wrote for popular shows during the 1990s including "Full House," "Sister, Sister," "Mad About You" and "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." More recently, in 2007, he served as the executive in charge of production for "The 59th Primetime Emmy Awards."
"My life at LIU Post was simply amazing," recounted Mr. Simon. "The training and discipline I learned in the theatre program quite literally made the world my stage."
Looking back on his career in Hollywood, he admits "I may have helped America slip into a 'sitcoma' - but I had a great time doing it."
Mr. Simon recently returned to his alma mater to speak as part of the Campus' Brown Bag Lunch Series. Alumni like Mr. Simon are an important resource for current students. "Our alumni return often to campus to provide valuable advice to our current students," said Rhoda Grauer, the dean of the School of Visual and Performing Arts at LIU Post.
Andrew Gonzalez P'85
Andrew Gonzalez began his distinguished legal career in public service. For 20 years, he devoted his energies to the City of New York, serving in many capacities including deputy commissioner for the Department of Juvenile Justice, general counsel for the Department of Probation and chief of staff and associate commissioner for the Department of Probation.
Additionally, Mr. Gonzalez was appointed an administrative law judge and presided over civil matters concerning the City. He also served as an assistant district attorney for the Richmond County District Attorney's Office, the prosecutor in the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor, a special prosecutor for the Kings County District Attorney's Office and a confidential investigator assigned to the prestigious Major Case Unit under the Department of Investigation.
Today, he is a partner at Gonzalez Oberlander & Holohan LLP, where he focuses on criminal defense work. What Gonzalez enjoys most about being a defense attorney is the cerebral, puzzlelike nature of his work. "I was never good at building things with my hands, but I can build things with my mind," he said. "That's how you work when you are defending someone. You build a case and then you have an opportunity to present it in the courtroom."
Mr. Gonzalez, who holds a B.S. in criminal justice from LIU Post and a J.D. from New York Law School, grew up in Rockland County. "I wasn't even thinking about going to college until my brother literally picked me up, put me in his car and took me to the campus," he recalled. "I walked around with him, and I liked what I saw."
LIU Post's strong program in criminal justice was a perfect fit for Gonzalez who always had an interest in law enforcement. "What I liked about the education at LIU Post is that it was more than just learning from books," he said, citing the opportunities he had to work closely with professors who possessed impressive, real-world credentials (his favorite was "an ex-FBI guy") and to get hands-on experience through internships. "You got a really good perspective about the field - you didn't just read about it."
While pursuing his bachelor's degree, he worked for the catering division of Lackman, the company that provided food services on campus at the time, and as a bartender at the Barefoot Peddler, which was - and still is - a popular hangout for LIU Post students. In his free time, he played rugby and spent time with his friends. On a typical night, he said, "We'd meet up at my place - I had a suite in Post Hall - and from there we'd go down to the Ratt."
He advises current students to develop specialized, in-depth knowledge in their respective fields. "You really have to know what you're talking about. Today, almost anyone can go online and get the basics, the 101 and then some of any area, including the law," he stated. "You can't skim the surface. People can see through that. Years ago, you could get by with less information and get more info along the way, but now, from day one, when somebody comes into your office, you need to be well prepared."
Beth Shaw P'88
One of the superstars of modern personal fitness, Beth Shaw parlayed a love of yoga into a multimillion-dollar enterprise.
After graduating with a B.S. in business from LIU Post, Shaw worked in advertising, marketing and public relations. In her free time, she began seriously studying yoga, earning many certifications and eventually becoming a yoga teacher.
Shaw discovered that because of differences in body type, fitness level and age, traditional yoga didn't meet the needs of many of her students. So she set out to develop her own technique. The result was a blend of yoga, strength training and stretching that would take the fitness industry by storm.
In 1994, she launched YogaFit by selling t-shirts and books out of the trunk of her car. Today, the company she built has trained more than 50,000 yoga fitness instructors in studios across the United States and abroad, and has been featured in magazines and major newspapers, including Fitness, Prevention, Self, Entrepreneur and Variety. Shaw has become a much sought-after expert in her field, publishing a book, "Beth Shaw's YogaFit"; producing and starring in several popular workout videos; giving sold-out workshops at conferences across the country; and sharing her insights on television programs broadcast by major media outlets like ABC, CNN and the Style Network.
She credits her LIU Post experience with giving her a springboard to success, noting that her involvement in extracurricular activities on campus played a critical role in her professional development. Shaw wrote a health and fitness column for The Pioneer, and in her senior year, she became the newspaper's managing editor. She also held leadership positions in a number of campus organizations including the Honors Association and the Student Government.
"Going to a relatively small college gave me the opportunity to get involved and to become a big fish in a small pond," she said. "At LIU Post, my leadership skills blossomed." Looking back, Shaw feels that her college experience exceeded her expectations. "Coming out of high school, I wanted to go to college, so I could get a good job, but I ended up getting so much more - I became a well-rounded individual, and I learned a lot about myself as a person."
Shaw found mentors in the faculty at LIU Post, some of whom she is still in touch with today, including her favorite professor, Lorene Hiris of the Finance Department. Their insights and advice, had a great impact on her. So what is her advice to aspiring entrepreneurs? "Start small, keep your overhead low and spend as much money as you can on advertising and marketing."