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The Newsletter of The General Society of Mechanics & Tradesmen Founded in 1785, The General Society of Mechanics & Tradesmen is dedicated to improving the educational and cultural opportunities for people in the City of New York • Fall, 2012

Mechanics’ Institute Festive Graduation Marked Many Varied Achievements

Hugely Popular Artisan Lectures to Continue for 2012-2013 Season Seven artisans have signed on to talk about their different skills during the coming Tuesday night lecture season. Curator of the program, Jean Wiart, master ornamental metal work designer, has recruited celebrated craftsmen, well known in their field, who will provide detailed descriptions of their art. Marie Pascale Foucault, master stained glass artisan, will open the series on October 9.Tomas Tisch, master glass engraver, will present on November 13, and Clarissa Barnes DeMuzio, master of drapery and needle arts, will speak on January 8. Biographies of this first group of artisan/lecturers appear on page 3.

Mechanics’ Institute Fall Courses To Begin on September 10 The graduates listening to keynote speaker Yvonne Thurman-Dogruer, executive director, Women Builders Council, Inc; On the dais, Gottfried Weissgerber, GSMT vice president; Victoria Dengel, GSMT president; Gerard Drohan, Jr. chair, Mechanics’ Institute and James Loriega, Mechanics’ Institute director This year, forty-seven graduates from various programs celebrated their completion of two-and-three-year programs at the Mechanics’ Institute. They proudly marched into the GSMT Library for a traditional cap-and-gown ceremony. Class valedictorian, Winston A. Rollock, thanked the school and the faculty for the “valuable education that would serve as a strong foundation for his work in years to come.” He said he was now able to take on more complex assignments in his field of electrical technology. Classes at MI had not taught him “what to think,” but rather “how to think, how ...continued on page 5

A record number of students are expected to attend Mechanics’ Institute classes this fall. Our tutition-free courses, unique in the city, are all taught by instructors who have handson experience, are currently working in their trade and can teach the latest techniques used. Eight certificate programs are offered. Call 212-840-1840 ext 1 for a school catalog or visit

BIM for the TRADES: A New Pilot Program at Mechanics’ Institute

...see story on page 3

Charles D. Avolio named 2012 Craftsmanship Honoree Donald Rubin to receive Annual Civic Leadership Award Jay Rubin to receive Civic Award posthumously The General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen will hold its annual award ceremony and Mechanics’ Institute benefit in own beautiful, soaring, 3-story Library space. For profiles of our honorees, see page 2

SAVE THE DATE: Thursday, November 15, 2012

Donald Rubin Named 2012 Civic Leadership Award Honoree by The General Society Donald Rubin is a New Yorker who cares profoundly about the people of New York and about the art that delights and challenges them. He and his wife, Shelly Rubin, have been collecting Himalayan art for more than 30 years. This hobby became a passion, and, as their collection grew, so did their sense of responsibility to preserve and share the art they loved. The Rubin Museum of Art opened in October, 2004. Founded on the premise that art gives us pathways to the ideas, values and sensibilities of others, the Museum’s mission is to collect and preserve Himalayan art and to create exhibitions and programs designed to explore its connections with neighboring regions and with other world cultures. As a hands-on philanthropist and manager, Donald Rubin retired in 2006 as the CEO of MultiPlan, Inc., one of the largest health care networks in the country, which he founded in 1970. He presently serves as both Co-Founder and CoChair of the Rubin Museum of Art. His father’s interests led him to initiate The Labor Arts Project,, to gather identify and display examples of the cultural and artistic history of working people and to celebrate the trade union movement’s contribution to that history. Mr. Rubin is a member of the Global Philanthropists Circle (GPC). He and Shelly Rubin have broad interests ranging widely, from health, human rights, and culture, with special attention to philanthropy that is strategically effective.

Jay Rubin, President Emeritus of New York’s Hotel Trades Council, to Receive Posthumous Award for Civic Leadership Jay Rubin died in 1990. His years of service to the Labor Movement followed from his early days in America. He arrived here from Poland at age 21 and worked as an upholsterer and baker before becoming a union organizer. He was the chief figure in a 1937 drive to organize 25,000 hotel workers, and in 1939 he became president of the New York Hotel Trades Council which negotiates and enforces the city-wide contract covering hotel workers. He held this position for almost 40 years. The council’s first contract in 1939 raised the pay of hotel maids to $14.50 for a six-day, 48-hour week. Benefits included a new health-care system in which workers and their dependents received free care, resulting in Mr. Rubin’s becoming one of the state’s principal union leaders involved in medical benefits. He was a visionary who worked within the political system to effect change.


2012 Craftsmanship Honoree, Charles D. Avolio, Turner Construction Company V.P., has Strong Ties to New York’s Construction Industry. Mr. Avolio, has over 25 years experience in the construction industry. And now, as Vice President and Operations Manager at Turner Construction, his responsibilities include oversight of all project operations, site safety, personnel, risk management and labor relations. He also serves as Principal-in-Charge for several of Turner’s on-going projects, including 2 World Trade Center, John Jay College Expansion Project and St. Mary’s Hospital for Children. Mr. Avolio joined Turner’s New York Office in 1986 after graduating from Villanova University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Over his years with the company, he has progressed through various fields and managerial positions. He is a Founding Director of USGBC’s New York Chapter, is on the Board of Governors for the Building Trades Employers’ Association (BTEA), and is an Officer of the Contractors’ Association of Greater New York (CAGNY).

Honor Graduate Thanks Mechanics’ Institute for Everything Learned Here Lisa Wolf graduated from Oswego State University and spent her early years in sales for a major cosmetic company. In search of a more family friendly job, she became a receptionist for Skanska USA. A colleague told her about the Mechanics’ Institute – said it was a great place to learn about the construction industry — and the courses were free. Four years later she was a proud graduate, receiving the Alan Senzer Award given for achievement in Project Management. She says, the courses were tough. At Skanska, she has worked on projects at the United Nations and now at Columbia University. She has recently earned the new title of Project Engineer. Lisa is confident that the education provided at Mechanics’ Institute has provided a strong foundation for her new career. Her admiration and kudos for the teachers is boundless. She says their passion for their subject, understanding of the business, and their willingness to really engage every student, assured her success here. Lisa asked to speak at the graduation to convey appreciation to each of the instructors who had inspired her.

Meet the Artisans in GSMT’s 2012-13 Lecture Series To open the lecture series, on October 9, Stained Glass Artisan Marie Pascale FoucaultPhipps will share the details of her craft. Ms. Foucault began her studies in her native Paris at the National Superior School of Arts and Crafts Applied to Industry from 1976 to 1979. Later, at the Mauret Studio, she was in charge of the conservation of two 13th century lancet windows from The cathedral of Bourges. In 1984, Ms. Foucault moved to the United States. Her private practice as Conservator led her to an assignment from The Metropolitan Museum in New York to inventory and chart their pre-17th century Corpus Medii Aevi stained glass collection. Other commissions included assignments from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Duomo of Pisa in Italy, and conservation of the stained glass collection of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. In 1995, Ms. Foucault married and moved to a cattle ranch in Colorado where she continues her interests - jumping horses with the Arapahoe Hunt while still working with glass. She is part of the “Women’s International Stained Glass Workshop” along with a fabulous group of other globetrotting glass artists and also part of the American Glass Guild. Googling will lead to further information about her career. On November 13, Tomas Tisch, Glass Engraver Artisan, will provide insights into his skills in the design and manufacture of fine wheel-cut and engraved glass. He trained in his family’s glass studio in Austria and studied art at the University of Applied Arts in Vienna and at the Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester, NY. His training includes a life-long study of art history and extensive world travel. His curiosity about the cultures of the world and his dedication to craftsmanship form the basis for his contemporary designs. Mr. Tisch established his first studio for fine glass work in California in 1979 and later relocated to Brooklyn’s historic waterfront overlooking New York Harbor. His artwork is represented in the collections of the Corning Museum of Glass, the American Craft Museum in New York, and many private collections. He has collaborated with many designers in a variety of fields, including Albert Hadley, Philippe Starck and Peter Marion. You may visit his website at

The January 8 lecturer, Clarissa Barnes DeMuzio, Drapery Artisan has been a life-long practitioner of the needle arts. She has been creating soft furnishings such as window treatments, bed hangings, cushions, pillows and slip covers for historic and designer interiors for fifteen years. Ms. DeMuzio’s degree in Color and Design from Philadelphia University (formerly Philadelphia College of Textiles and Design) have given her a strong foundation in textile production, dying and finishing. She has learned fabrication methods for drapery from examining historic and contemporary examples in decorative arts collections in the USA and Europe. Her work can be found in private residences throughout the United States as well as in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Winterthur Museum, the John Warner House and many of the Fairmount Park houses in Philadelphia. Her website is

“By Hammer and Hand All Arts Do Stand” BIM for the TRADES: New Pilot Program Knowledge of BIM (Building Image Modeling ) is becoming essential for many building projects. To provide Mechanics’ Institute students, who already have skills with CAD programs, with the latest technology, MI plans to offer a comprehensive BIM program by Spring, 2013. To accomplish this, the School Committee has been working with BIM experts to develop a pilot program with two classes to be held this fall to establish procedures and requirements to produce a meaningful curriculum for the spring program. The Committee wants to make certain that the Mechanics’ Institute spring course will meet the needs of both their students and industry. It is hoped that donors will be found to help fund the cost for BIM Software. This new Mechanics’ Institute program, and computers used in our present CAD classes will also require system upgrading. Please contact Gerard Drohan, School Chair, if you would like more information about helping to sponsor this new program at 212-840-1840 ext.2.


Three Lectures Attract Enthusiastic Audiences

An Inspiring Independence Day Celebration

Industrial and engineering historian, Clifford Zink’s May 22 illustrated presentation described the Roebling inventions which made possible the long, thick, spun wire cable spans that supported the Brooklyn Bridge and later the George Washington and Golden Gate Bridges. His book, The Roebling Legacy, provides a detailed history on the company and the inventor who built it. On June 12, Sara B. Sherrill, Oriental rug historian and author of “Carpets and Rugs of Europe and America,” talked about her field work in tribal and village carpets and related weavings in Turkey and Iran where she recorded the twilight of these traditional crafts. Visuals introduced the audience to the intricacies of this ancient weaving. Michael Miscione, official Manhattan Borough Historian, spoke on June 26 about the controversies and fierce political battles that surrounded the joining of five rival boroughs in 1898 to create Greater New York. Advocates of the merger claimed that the fast growing, rival city, Chicago, “would be left in the dust.”

Memorial for Melanie James, Popular Librarian Melanie’s many friends, members of the Library, and General Society members joined together in the Library on July 26 to remember and relate the joys of having known Melanie. One of her fellow workers observed that “Melanie’s kindness, thoughtfulness and warmth made her a central figure amidst the General Society staff. She was the backbone of the Library. She had a wonderful sense of humor, often very dry, and the most infectious laughs and was always able to see the humor in most situations.” Melanie’s reassuring and constant presence behind the Library desk, her readiness to help and advise, her uncanny ability to lead a reader to a book they would thoroughly enjoy, and her amazing mine of esoteric information endeared her to everyone. Few people knew she had been a classical scholar. Melanie was one of the world’s great proofreaders and was always willing to use these skills to make sure that published material really represented The General Society. In her memory, books by some of her favorite authors are now in The Society’s windows.


Our annual Independence Day celebration this year had special significance for New Yorkers. Following a full reading of the Declaration of Independence, the evening’s speaker, Jeff Parness, was introduced. He is the founder of the New York Says Thank You Foundation, which sends a bus load of firemen and construction workers to disaster sites around the nation as New York City’s way of thanking the many fire fighters and skilled individuals who found their way to New York City to help with the clean-up work after the 9/11 tragedy. Mr. Parness related the story of our generation’s “Star Spangled Banner” to the audience. GSMT member, Charlie Vitchers, who spent nine months supervising the 9/11 clean up at Ground Zero, had rescued the tattered “last flag flying” over the ruins as the final steel work came down. Seven years after the planes struck the World Trade Center, the flag was carried on a bus to a tornado site in Greensburg, Kansas, where tornado survivors stitched it back together. Since then the National 9/11 Flag has traveled to 50 states where threads from other historic flags were added to this banner: bits from the original Star Spangled Banner, the flag that cushioned Lincoln’s head after he was shot, and the celebrated flag left flying after Pearl Harbor. Service men from every state added their stitches. And this year we were privileged to have this huge 20” x 30” flag, lovingly restored, hanging from our Library’s three-story stacks. Attendees were invited to each put their stitch in the flag before it is delivered to the 9/11 museum. It was an event to be remembered.

General Society Library is Rain Venue For Bryant Park Summer Events Since 2008, The General Society Library has been the rain venue for a literary series produced and held in Bryant Park. When a call comes in from Susan Siegel, The Special Project Producer, that our space is needed because rain threatens, this safe haven is quickly set up with chairs in place and 75/100, often dripping people, settle in to hear one of the Park’s “Word for Word” presenters who covers literary topics from poetry to nonfiction, from story telling to workshops for writers. It’s a welcoming space.

Popular Instructor Sponsors Prize for Project Management Students Alan Senzer has been teaching classes at the Mechanics’ Institute for thirty years. While he recently retired from his job with the NYC School Construction Authority as chief project officer, his love for the Mechanics’ Institute will see him back this fall teaching and encouraging students in his Tuesday/Thursday classes. Mr. Senzer graduated from City College in 1975 with a 5-year degree in architecture. Those were the days of T squares and pencils. His career has been focused on architecture, construction and construction management. At MI he teaches Sustainable Architecture and Construction Methods and Materials. Classes run from 20 to 30 students, all of which have had some experience in the construction field and want to hone those skills to move on to higher paying jobs. Mr. Senzer noted that one of the stimulating things about his students is, they are all here to work hard, to learn. There is a very low drop-out rate. Over the years benefactors have sponsored prizes to high achieving students in H.V.A.C., plumbing and electricity. Project Management, one of the Institute’s professional programs, offered no recognition for an outstanding student, so Mr. Senzer has filled that void. This year’s winner of the award for outstanding graduate in the program was awarded to Lisa Wolf who attended classes for two years to earn her graduate certificate. Take Your C areer To The Nex t Lev el

BUILD YOURSELF • BUILD NEW YORK Several New York Schools offer expensive classes to teach skills needed by the construction industry. At The General Society’s MECHANICS’ INSTITUTE, courses are TUITION FREE. MI offers a practical approach to advanced training. Courses are taught by professionals with sophisticated knowledge of industry practices. Leading New York construction companies value our students and graduates. Visit MECHANICS’ INSTITUTE a program of The General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen of the City of New York 20 West 4 4th S treet, New York, NY 10036 212-840-1840 Ext 2

Mechanics’ Institute Industry Training Course Holds First Graduation Ceremony in Library

DAIS speakers: James Pisaniello, NYPL VP, Facilities Operations & Security; Barbara Kairson, Ph.D, Administrator, DC-37 Education Fund; Victoria Dengel, President, The General Society; Anthony Marx, Ph.D, President, New York Public Library; David Offensend, Chief Operating Officer; Terrance Neal, Director of Employee & Labor Relations, NYPL and speaking to the graduates, Cuthbert Dickenson, President, Local 374

On August 1st, forty-two employees from the New York Public Library Facilities Department received certificates to highlight their completion of a fifty-hour training program developed for them by The Mechanics’ Institute. The pilot program in Facilities Maintenance was jointly sponsored by the New York Public Library and the DC 37’s Education Fund. Taught by five of the Institute’s veteran instructors, the program gave Library employees a comprehensive overview of the skills they need to advance in their fields. Representatives from the Library and DC-37 were present at the graduation ceremony. Anthony Marx, president of the New York Public Library, delivered the commencement address. Cuthbert Dickenson, president of Local 374 and Dr. Barbara Kairson, administrator of the DC-37 Education Fund, were keynote speakers. Both encouraged the program participants to continue pursuing training that would enhance their skills and advance their careers. Three representatives from the Library’s Human Resources and Labor Relations departments also urged the graduates to enroll in specialized courses at The Institute.

Mechanics’ Institute Festive Graduation Marked Many Varied Achievements Continued from Page 1 to ask questions, how to reject assumptions” and how to exercise reason in approaching a problem – valuable lessons in any field. Keynote speaker for the evening Yvonne Thurman-Dougruer, executive director, Women Builders Council, Inc., recognized the graduates’ hard work and dedication. She also reported that workers in the construction industry are building New York and keeping its operations going. This ties into Mechanics’ Institute’s new slogan:


Locks from down under added to Mossman Museum

GSMT Represented at Flag Day Parade

Alan Lake, a representative of the Chubb Lock Company in Australia and lock collector, began corresponding with The General Society about our lock museum in 2007. He had learned about us through The Lure of the Lock, GSMT’s 1928 book describing the collecMossman Lock Curator, John Erroll Accepts tion. On June 11 of 2012, Rare British Chubb 1906 Catalogue from on a visit to America, he Australian Visitor was finally able to meet our curator, John Erroll, here for a tour. It was exciting to watch as these two knowledgeable collectors walked along our thirteen antique mahogany cases with brass shelves, exclaiming over the many variations of time locks and ancient keys, dating back to 1000 BC. This early Egyptian lock had been donated by the Chubb Lock Co. in the UK around 1912. Mr. Lake managed to get four Australian-made locks through customs, to add to the Mossman Museum collection – one an important cutaway combination lock which we did not have. Mr. Lake also presented The General Society with a rare 1906 illustrated catalogue titled Chubb’s Price List of Locks and Safes, along with a thick file describing numerous locks from other countries. In return, Mr. Erroll gave our visitor a copy of his own 2006 book, American Genius, Nineteenth Century Bank Locks and Time Locks, which is available in The GSMT Library.

New York’s patriotic and heritage organizations have long recognized Flag Day on June 14 by parading down lower Broadway carrying both the American Flag and the flag of their organization. This year The General Society was represented by our president, Victoria Dengel and three members, William Gonzalez, Erwin Schaub, and Tom Szekely who each took a turn carrying the colors and the GSMT flag. General Society members marched in position 4, following older New York organizations: St. Andrews Society, St. George’s Society, and the Society of the Cincinnati. The event honors the 1777 adoption of the American Flag by the Second Continental Congress. It is sponsored each year by the New York Sons of the American Revolution who carry flags from America’s Revolutionary War period.

Mechanics’ Institute Catalog Now Online The complete school catalog for 2012-13 is now on our web page. Students who registered early attended an orientation session on August 23 and were introduced to many of their instructors. About 350 students will be attending MI’s fall courses.

Current Best Sellers Always Welcome Gifts to General Society Library Since storage space in New York City is always in short supply, many book buyers dispose of their used current fiction by donating their books to hospitals, senior centers or thrift shops. Our General Society Library would deeply appreciate any of your book contributions. Any “best sellers” you care to donate will be put into our catalog and be available to our Library member readers. For the past several years, in order to make our Library more useful to Mechanics’ Institute students, we have concentrated on acquiring books with a technical bent. While you’ll find all the classics and many recent books on our shelves, there are gaps when it comes to fiction from the past several years. So please consider us when you’re clearing your shelves.

Transform Your Event From the Ordinary to Extraordinary The historic GSMT building has space to rent for meetings, special events and photo shoots. ■ Our grand three-story library... ■ Balcony/Musem... ■ The Assembly H all... ■ Conference Rooms for smaller meetings. ■ Classrooms available for regular day time use or evening lectures, classes, receptions and more...

For more information, call The General Society office, (212) 840-1840 ext. 2, or visit our website at and click Rent Space.


Photos by Amiaga Photography

Hammering On... Historic Structure Report Preparation Goes To Lisa Easton of Easton Architects With financing from the Environmental Fund, NewYork State Department of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, administered through the New York State Regional Economic Development Council and from the National Endowment for the Arts, preparation of a Historic Structure Report has begun. This report will not only guide the renovation, restoration and preservation of The General Society’s 1890 Beaux-Art building which is listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Places, it will help the General Society in securing much needed funding to perform the work . With the new Historic Structure Report, future renovations to the building will preserve its historic characteristics while complying with current building codes and reconciling energy codes with preservation requirements.

Archivist’s Corner: News on GSMT Website

The recent surge in genealogy interest, made possible by myriad sources on the internet has brought a number of e-mails to The Society requesting information about long-ago members. This has caused our archivist to dig into early records to see what we can add to various relatives’ knowledge about deceased family members. A new feature is being added to our web site to cover some of these stories. Because searching the archives of our rare book room has become time intensive, in the future we plan to ask anyone requesting information to become a friend or member of The GSMT Library.

First Fashion Show Mounted in GSMT Library

General Society member Marisol Deluna held her fifteenth anniversary fashion show for buyers in the accessory trade here. The traditional runway set-up worked beautifully in our space. Ms. Deluna is the designer of the The Society’s couture scarf and tie which are for sale in the Library.

The General Society of Mechanics & Tradesmen of the City of New York “By Hammer and Hand All Arts Do Stand” Officers President - Victoria A. Dengel Vice President - Gottfried Weissgerber Secretary - Penny Speckter Treasurer - Nili L. Olay

Board of Governors Eben Bronfman – Chair, Audit Kent Butler – Chair, Library/NYCIP Gerard Drohan Jr. – Chair, School Rella Fogliano – Chair, Facilities Joseph McElroy – Chair, Development

The General Society Newsletter Fall, 2012

Fall Reading List for GSMT Book Group

Barbara Hellering has announced the six books to be covered during the coming season. Scott’s Ivanhoe will be the first book discussed on September 8. This will be followed by Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof on October 4, J. F. Cooper’s The Spy on November 1, Nancy Mitford’s Love in a Cold Climate on December 6, Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting on January 3 and Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse on February 7.

Editorial Committee: Penny Speckter – Editor Victoria A. Dengel, James Loriega Charlie T. – Photo Editor Dan Luhmann – Photography

GSMT Member Authors Book about 9/11 Cleanup Nine Months at Ground Zero, a 2006 oral history of the day-to-day happenings at Ground Zero, narrated by GSMT’s Charlie Vitchers and coworker, Robert Gray and edited by Glenn Stout has been placed in the Library. The book is a page turner from the beginning. Vitchers and Gray arrived at the site, eager to help, shortly after the planes hit. The book relates the day-to-day travails and dangers of work at the site as Charlie Vitchers became the go-to guy who organized daily tasks for hundreds of workers. The book describes the enormity of the task -- removing 400 million pounds of steel and 600,000 square feet of broken glass -- the remains of 2,700 feet of vertical building, that had been reduced to a pile of burning debris. The book dramatically relates the sensitivity of the workers in dealing with victims as well as the dangers and complexities of restoring order to the site. It is a fitting memorial to all the people diligently worked there.

News, photos and editorial suggestions from members are welcome and can be sent to The General Society of Mechanics & Tradesmen 20 West 44th Street New York, NY 10036 T 212.840.1840• F 212.840.2046 For GSMT Event Calendar, visit the General Society website at


non-profit org. U.s. postage paid Union, nj permit no. 451

The General Society of Mechanics & Tradesmen 20 West 44th Street New York, NY 10036

Check our web site for current updates on General Society Events and send us your e-mail to receive event information:

Historic GSMT Record Book Contains Members Signatures from 1786

There it is: the signature of The General Society’s first chairman, Robert Boyd dated 1786. The scuffed brown leather binding of The General Society’s original memberregistration record is no longer pristine, but this book records the numbered names of every member who joined The General Society since its founding. Our next member will be #4417. Earlier this year the GSMT received exciting correspondence from George Boyd V, who lives in Philadelphia. He is a consultant and author in industrial safety, health and environmental matters and was president of the New York Society of the Cincinnati, 1995 to 2005. Continuing his ancestor’s interest, he is an active member of the St. Nicholas Society, founded in 1835, to commemorate the history and heritage of New York. Mr. Boyd has recently traced the genealogy of the original Robert Boyd through five successive generations and this documentation has now been made part of the archives at The General Society. Register of The General Society of Mechanics & Tradesmen of the City of New York from 1786


General Society Fall 2012 Newsletter  

The Fall 2012 Newsletter for the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesman of the City of New York.

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