Parsons alumni find success near and far
Note: This is the fifth of a five part series regarding the upcoming Parsons College Wall of Honor induction and All-Class Reunion weekend.
Ten distinguished student-alumni will be inducted into the Parsons College Wall of Honor during the fifth annual ceremony at 10 a.m. Saturday at the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center.
Interested people, history buffs and friends of Parsons College are all invited to attend.
Among the 10 people being inducted into the Wall of Honor are Phil Suarez and Vera Price Young.
These final two inductees may have made their impact internationally and locally as a restaurateur and an educator, but both have the youth of the country as top priority in their lives.
Phil Suarez graduated from Parsons College in 1965 and now lives in New York City.
Born and raised in New York City, Suarez’s first job was delivering dry cleaning to the affluent in upper Manhattan. He came to Parsons in 1960 on a basketball scholarship and graduated in 1965. Upon returning to New York, he worked in public/community relations with the Puerto Rican community for Shafer’s beer. His big break came when he learned Trans-National Sports Communications, a marketing and advertising firm, was looking for a fast-pitch softball pitcher and he fit the bill. The connection led to a sales representative job and experience in commercial video productions.
Several years later, Suarez met Bob Giraldi, and they formed Giraldi-Suarez Productions. They posted award-winning video commercials including the Michael Jackson “Beat It” commercial, Miller-Lite Beer’s “Taste Great, Less Filling” and spots for Lionel Ritchie, Paul McCartney and Pat Benatar. Next, he found himself as executive producer of a full-length movie titled “Dinner Rush.”
Suarez, always the charismatic entertainer, had a personality and loved the spotlight. His job involved entertaining clients, but when he became disenchanted with the restaurant choices on Long Island, he opened his own. He named it Le Dock.
Actually, Suarez’s first encounter in the restaurant business, short-lived due to graduation, was a partnership in Fairfield. Phil and Chick’s Wedge Inn was a submarine sandwich shop on Fourth Street, wedged between The Den and Why Not taverns.
As Suarez’s New York role and confidence grew, along with his interest in restaurants, he was inspired to take a step into the big-city restaurant circle. He traveled to Italy a second time in search of a chef. In the village of Positano, he found that chef, brought him back to NYC, sent him to school and opened Positano’s on Park Avenue South. This laid the foundation for the Suarez Restaurant Group LLC and the evolution of what has become an empire. Suarez has grown his collection of restaurants to 32, in New York City and worldwide. In 1990-91, he opened the famed Jo-Jo’s on the upper East Side of Manhattan, and the following year, Esquire Magazine named it Restaurant of the Year. Other restaurants in the Suarez Group include Jean-Georges in the Trump Hotel & Resort, Vong’s in Hong Kong, Gigino Trattoria, Mercer’s Kitchen, Spice Market, Prime Steakhouse in Bellagio Hotel Las Vegas, ABC Kitchen and the list goes on.
Suarez has now partnered with the internationally famous French Chef Luigi Vongenchten, along with Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, and Catterton Partners, to create an international multi-concept restaurant and licensing business called Culinary Concepts by Jean-Georges.
Suarez, a New York Knicks season-ticket holder at Madison Square Garden for 40 years, is now exploring a concession and specialty menu business called Simply Chicken. The concept would include concession service to all areas of Madison Square Garden and possibly expand to airports.
In the community, Suarez serves on the board of the NY Police Athletic League, NY Urban Coalition and John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York. He is a member of the NY State Commission on Human Rights, acting president of Catholic Big Brothers Association and is committed to the revitalization of Harlem.
His awards are many and include: the Ellis Island Medal of Honor; Outstanding Leadership Award; James Beard Award as Best Restaurant in the Country, being named by Crain’s New York Business as one of the 100 Most Influential Business Leaders in NYC; and in 2007, he joined the list of 100 Most Powerful Minority Business Leaders in NYC.
At Parsons, he was a member of the Wildcats basketball team and Phi Sigma Epsilon fraternity.
Suarez resides with wife Lucy in the Big Apple.
John Blackstock will present Suarez to the Wall of Honor.
Vera Price Young
Vera Price Young graduated from Parsons College in 1946 and now lives in Fairfield.
For more than 60 years, Young has been an inspiration, uplifting and strengthening the lives of others. She’s been a pillar in the growth and success of her community. Upon graduation from Parsons, where she was president of her Empyrean Sorority, honored in “Who’s Who in American Colleges and Universities” and graduated cum laude, Young journeyed off to Sigourney High School to teach, but her alma mater came calling and she accepted a position at the college in the women’s physical education and health departments. At the end of the first year, Young received a scholarship from Parsons to take graduate courses at the University of Iowa, while continuing her duties at the college. Upon completion of a longitudinal study and obtaining her master’s degree in physical education and health, Young was awarded an assistant professorship at Parsons. Her affection and dedication to the college spilled over while working with both faculty and students to resolve, on- and off-campus issues. During the final years of Parsons, when the college reduced faculty salaries by 50 percent, Young and her husband Tib, who was also a popular member of the faculty, made the sacrifice and stayed on, hoping for the miracle that could save the college.
After Parsons closed, Young joined the Fairfield High School faculty. For the next 15 years, she taught biology, anatomy and physiology, all the while making herself available to tutor, guide, encourage and support the students needs, and those of community groups as well.
Young has served in leadership roles for many organizations within the community. She’s contributed countless hours and time to the Presbyterian church, hospital auxiliary board, Wit and Wisdom Club, Delta Zeta, Friendship Force hosting exchange families, and she has been recognized by the American Lung Association for sponsoring a club to educate students on the danger of smoking.
Young is known by many as “The Quiet Philanthropist.” She simply walks softly and spreads smiles and joy as she works her many community projects.
Young has three daughters, and will be presented to the wall of honor by Kay McPherson Ferguson.
Additional information regarding registration for the events of the weekend can be obtained by contacting David Neff at 919-4640 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Information about inductees Narda Simonsen Murphy and Ray Stolarczyk was printed Monday in The Fairfield Ledger. Information on David Harding and Larry Litwin was printed Friday. Information about David Elliot and the late Edwin Green was printed Thursday, and information about William Bangham and Dorothy Bell was printed Wednesday.
Following the unveiling of the Parsons Wall of Honor plaques, the Barhydt Chapel window dedication in the convention center will begin at about 11:30 a.m. Recognition of the Hickenbottom family’s significant donation toward the completion of the window will be announced.
The public is invited to attend.