Scholarship and Ultramodern Technology Celebrated as Innovation Lab Dedicated

Innovation Lab showcase
January 18, 2019

“At St. John’s, we have student and faculty entrepreneurs working together on research projects with direct socio-economic impact and value. We have the people. This is the time. Today we celebrate the place.”

That was the message from Simon G. Møller, Ph.D., Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, as he welcomed guests to the Celebration of Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiatives, held on October 19 in St. Augustine Hall on the Queens, NY, campus. Showcased at the event was the dedication of the Farella Innovation Laboratory and the Joseph and Ellen Tufano Control Office, as well as the establishment of The Professor Sumitra Janorkar Shah Memorial Scholarship.

Dr. Møller stated that innovation and entrepreneurship are interwoven. “They encompass, but are not limited to, the successful implementation and commercial use of new ideas, knowledge, and technology.”

The Farella Innovation Lab is a hands-on design and test space where students learn how to develop new ideas and products and how to transform them into final, “sellable” content/output. Steve Farella ’77SVC is the founding CEO of Havas Media and Chair of the Advisory Committee for the College of Professional Studies. His son, David Farella ’15CPS, is also a graduate of St. John’s and majored in Communication Arts.

“Innovation,” Mr. Farella stressed, “is the key to many things. It will differentiate you, your team, and your business. It will give you a sense of ownership and pride. It will also allow you to make your mark in the world and help you succeed.” He added that, for him and for his son, St. John’s provided “outstanding support that guided us through graduation. From great teachers to great administrators, St. John’s gave us the tools we needed to get our careers started.”

Katia Passerini, Ph.D., Dean of CPS, noted that Joseph J. Tufano ’73C, ’75G was “an incredible ally” in helping get the new labs built. He is a former Vice President and Chief Information Officer at St. John’s, and his wife, Ellen Tufano, Ph.D. ’74C, is a former Associate Dean and Associate Professor in the Division of Computer Science, Mathematics, and Science. Dr. Passerini noted that Dr. Tufano assisted her in acclimating to St. John’s shortly after her installation as Dean. “It is symbolic that the heart of the labs—the control room—is named for the Tufanos.”

During her remarks, Ellen Tufano called the new spaces “a wonderful addition to the College that provide outstanding learning opportunities for our students. Our professional programs have become much richer with the incorporation of hands-on, active learning experiences.” Joseph Tufano added, “In today’s world, the experience the labs will offer our students is critical. During the time I was a member of the University’s technology team, providing the best technology for students, faculty, and administrators was always one of the University’s highest priorities.”

Professor Shah, who passed away in 2014, was a retired Associate Professor in the Division of Administration and Economics in the College of Professional Studies. Dr. Passerini said that Dr. Shah possessed a passion for social entrepreneurship, especially among women. “It is very important that we celebrate this scholarship today because this week marks Women Entrepreneurship Week worldwide.”

The scholarship’s goal is to provide financial support to students interested in research involving small organizations that solve social issues, or, to a woman entrepreneur in the developing world who has made a positive social impact.

Dr. Shah’s husband, Shashi K. Shah, Ph.D., a retired Professor of Maritime Business at the US Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Park, NY, spoke on behalf of his late wife. “Sumitra was totally devoted to her students, and her research interests were focused on women’s economic status,” he said. “As a family, we felt that establishing this memorial scholarship will encourage female students to explore the field of entrepreneurship and give Sumitra a lasting legacy and a footprint for a long time to come.”

Communication Arts major Chelsea Coote, the inaugural recipient of the scholarship, thanked the Shah family for their generosity. She stated, “In future years, this scholarship will provide access for more of my peers to unleash their creativity and allow them to become entrepreneurs.”