May 13, 2013
Great educators change the world, and at the Fifth Annual
Leaders in Education Awards Dinner (L.E.A.D.) – held at St. John’s
University’s Oakdale campus – five outstanding administrators were
honored for the impact they’ve had.
Anthony Ambrogio ’06Ed.D.
Administrator for the Arts and Human Resources, Manhasset Public
Gary D. Bixhorn
Chief Operating Officer, Eastern Suffolk BOCES
Serafino M. Celano ’09Ed.D.
Assistant Superintendent for Personnel, Garden City Public
Scott T. O’Brien ’08Ed.D.
Principal, Rocky Point Middle School
Florence D. Simmons ’11Ed.D.
Principal, Uniondale High School
Jerrold Ross, Ph.D., Dean of St.
John’s The School of Education, noted that this year’s group of
honorees, through their tireless dedication to teaching young men
and women, exemplifies the University’s own educational
“These individuals have already achieved a notoriety that others
can only hope to attain,” Ross noted. “They have paved new roads on
which the engines of learning can travel, and that’s precisely what
St. John’s also strives to do. And here at Oakdale, we continue to
serve as an academic center for intellectual exchange, with
tonight’s honorees fully exemplifying that same noble goal.”
Indeed, this year’s L.E.A.D. award recipients hailed from a variety
of different educational specialties and fields. Throughout the
night, each reflected on their unique personal journey which led
them to the field of Education.
“For me, it was the simple act of mentorship,” said Ambrogio, who,
before becoming an educator, studied with the percussion section of
the New York Philharmonic. “I
spent time with them and observed all that they did,” he continued.
“I think that’s what codified in my mind what leadership is all
about: a living model, not simply barking orders. That led me to
discover that I myself enjoyed being a mentor to young
O’Brien, meanwhile, talked about how his passion for
education began the very first time he stepped in front of a
classroom – an opportunity that, surprisingly, came on a
“It was completely unexpected,” he recalled. “I took an elective
class in Education, and one of my first experiences had me in an
elementary school classroom. I picked up a book, started a lesson,
and immediately thought, ‘Wow – this is amazing. This is what I
want to do for the rest of my life.’” Ultimately, O’Brien would go
on to specialize in Special Education, which he has found
“I never thought I’d be doing what I’m doing,” he said. “I’ve been
able to have an impact on children who truly need additional
support, so this has been the best decision I’ve ever made.”
Many of the honorees also spoke of the community atmosphere
surrounding St. John’s, the way the University emphasizes a
personal, one-on-one relationship with professors, especially at
campus. Celano, for example, discussed what initially drew him
to St. John’s, and how it profoundly influenced his career.
“Simply put, the professors treat you like family here,”
Celano noted. “My time here was a transformational event in my
life, in terms of my professional growth and career path, so to be
recognized tonight is such an honor.”
Once the awards were distributed,
Linda Faucetta ’75Ed, Administrative Director of The School of
Education, Graduate Division, pointed out that educators are not
often recognized for their achievements. That, she explained, is
what makes the L.E.A.D. events so vital, and what makes the St.
John’s community so special.
“Our honorees tonight are among those who are leaving a legacy for
future leaders,” she said. “They are models of educational
excellence – and if we don’t honor them, the public may not realize
all that they do. They create so many opportunities for those they
educate, and they take their students into their hearts and souls,
and we are so very proud of them.”