December 3, 2020 FALL 2020

Tackling Educational Inequality

John Mara, President, CEO, and co-owner of the New York Giants, explains his passion for improving educational access opportunities.

By Andrea Dawn Clark

This year marked a big milestone for the New York Giants and John Jay College. It’s the first year of our New York Giants Touchdown Fellowship. The generous donation from the Giants speaks directly to John Jay’s justice mission and our commitment to social mobility. The $150,000 fellowship is payable over three years, and it supports a scholarship and paid internship for five undergraduate rising seniors from underrepresented populations, who are majoring in Criminal Justice. Students receive a scholarship of $5,000 for tuition, fees, books and supplies, plus a paid internship of $5,000, split over the academic year. Preference is given to students with justice-involved backgrounds or immediate family members currently or formerly incarcerated. Sitting down with John Mara, President, CEO, and co-owner of the New York Giants, we learned why he and his team started the fellowship program at John Jay.

Why was creating the New York Giants Touchdown Fellowship so important?

It started as a result of conversations with our players who wanted us to support their efforts to effect social change through social justice initiatives. One of their first thoughts was a scholarship program at John Jay. The idea behind it was to provide deserving students with an opportunity to get a degree, specifically students who are interested in criminal justice and social justice. The issue of mass incarceration in this country is certainly one that’s on the minds of a lot of people, particularly a number of our players. To be honest, it wasn’t really something that I was focused on until they brought it to my attention and I started doing some research. Then I realized that the incarceration rates in this country compared to other countries is way out of whack. One of the tools you need to improve that situation is education.

What were some of the biggest lessons you learned in college and law school?

Right after I got out of law school, I went to work for a law firm that represented labor unions. I spent most of my time representing the union members—hotel, restaurant, and cleaning workers—trying to win their jobs back. I grew up in a family business where we always treated people with dignity, respect, and compassion. It was a real eye-opener to be out in a world where people weren’t necessarily treated that way. There was nothing more gratifying for me professionally than winning somebody’s job back.

Why is philanthropy so important?

For me, it was just the way I was raised. I’m a big believer in the biblical verse, “to whom much has been given, much will be required.” I’ve been given a lot in my life. I’ve led a very privileged life, and with that comes responsibilities. It’s important to give back and to try to do what we can to give other people opportunities that maybe some of us have taken for granted. We have a lot of players who are very conscious of giving back and who do a remarkable job in their communities.

Do you have any fun Giants stories?

My family goes back with the Giants to 1925, when my grandfather purchased the franchise for the sum of $500. I’m in the third generation. When I was in college taking business classes, I remember taking a class that was focused on family businesses. One of the main principles of that class was that family businesses rarely survive the third generation. It’s usually the dope in the third generation that screws up the family business. I’m doing my best not to do that. I’m sure a number of our fans would say, “It’s too late, you already are.” We’ve had a tough stretch lately, but we’re hoping to turn things around and get better. We’ve had a lot of great thrills in this business—winning some Super Bowls, meeting a lot of great players and people. It’s all been a blessing. Hopefully it’s something that’s going to stay in our family for many, many years.

Photography: Courtesy of New York Giants

Contents

President’s Letter

“We’re living through challenging times.” I’ve found myself writing, saying, and contemplating those five words countless times this year.

Campus News

CUSP Takes Center Stage at 2020 Davos World Economic Forum

In the Media

“YOU’RE SEEING MORE PEOPLE OF COLOR, more working class folks starting to find their voice a little bit more. That’s...

Breaking the Cycle of Intımate-Partner Violence

In Kingston, New York, NNSC’s new approach has significantly reduced the deadliest forms of intimate-partner violence. By Michael Friedrich

Measuring the Impact of Reform

The Data Collaborative for Justice evaluates the success of New York City’s Criminal Justice Reform Act.

On the Front Line

Despite the hardships and health risks, John Jay students, alumni, faculty, and staff continue to keep our communities safe throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. By Andrea Dawn Clark

Educating Through the Crisis

How John Jay students, faculty, and staff successfully transitioned to a distance-learning model. by Mary Anderson

Charting New Territory

Olivia Orta, Ph.D. ’07 blazed a path for John Jay alumni, being the first John Jay grad to earn her doctoral degree from Harvard. By Andrea Dawn Clark

Responding to the Call

Alumna Shawyn Patterson-Howard ’05 makes history as the first female Mayor of Mount Vernon, New York. By Andrea Dawn Clark

A Voice for Victims

Political Science Associate Professor Verónica Michel Explores Victims’ Rights in Latin America. By Shirley Del Valle

Donor Profile: Living with Integrity

Nasser J. Kazeminy, Chairman of the Ellis Island Honors Society, shares how he’s faced every challenge in his life with curiosity, compassion, and integrity. By Andrea Dawn Clark

Flashback -1984

Reverend Jesse Jackson, a potential democratic nominee for president of the United States spoke at John Jay one evening in...

Understanding the Legacy

John Jay students, faculty, and staff visit the birthplace of the Civil Rights Movement and contemplate the unsettling history of race in America. By Andrea Dawn Clark

LEAP Forward

The newest student-success initiative that supports second-semester freshmen, through their sophomore year, with intensive academic advisement, experiential learning, and career-focused internships. By Mary Anderson

In Solidarity with El Paso

Through its ties with the University of Texas at El Paso and the El Paso Project, John Jay’s Latin American and Latinx Studies Department seeks to educate, encourage, and empower our Latinx community. By Shirley Del Valle

President
Karol V. Mason

Vice President for Public Affairs
and Strategic Initiatives

Laura Ginns

Chief Communications Officer
Rama Sudhakar

Senior Editor/Writer
Editorial Director

Andrea Dawn Clark

Writer/Editor
Shirley Del Valle

Contributing Writers
Mary Anderson
Michael Friedrich

Senior Designer/Art Director
Laura DeVries

Designer
Stephanie Birdsong

Copy Editor
Carey Ostergard

Photography
Arpi Pap
Andrea Dawn Clark
Gabriel Hernández Solano

Illustration
Victoria Stewart-Meyers