Mortola’s First Human Library


Some of the persons featured at the event. From left to right; Professor Diane Cypkin, Professor Demosthenes Long, Professor Connie Knapp.

Joseph Tucci and James Miranda

Pace hosted its first Human Library event at Mortola Library, an event that allowed students to take out “human books” from the library, rather than just paper ones, on Thur., April 16.

Steven Feyl, Associate University Librarian, and Phil Poggiali, Instructional Services Librarian, brought the Human Library event together; drawing inspiration from other libraries that have done similar events.

Students could choose from a selection of Pace’s students and staff with some of the most unique stories, and have an open conversation with them for up to 30 minutes.

Feyl and Poggiali brought the event to fruition by reaching out to their friends and colleagues, marketing it to student leaders, and talking to students about the types of people they would want to talk too. They plan on using what they learned from this event to make the next one even better.

“We know that this is just the tip of the iceberg of the stories that people have to tell. These are just people we knew overtly,” Feyl said. “Now we know we can build off this, invite our books to come back, and maybe people that they know, and maybe people that you know.”

Here are some of the breathing volumes that were available at the library.

Diane Cypkin

Media and communication arts professor Diane Cypkin is a Pace veteran, having taught for 26 years.

Cypkin’s family is one of the Jewish families that survived the Holocaust. Her mother wanted to break the housewife expectation for women at the time and searched for work. But she met Cypkin‘s father, who was a wealthy businessman, and married him. However, the Nazis took his business.

On Oct. 28, 1941, Cypkin’s family was spared execution because the Nazis thought they would be effective workers, and were instead sent to the ghetto.

Cypkin’s father was made a leader of one of the slave labor camps, because he knew seven languages and could effectively communicate.

“Sadly, a lot of Americans don’t realize what America is,” Cypkin said. “Many immigrants that come here take full advantage because they realize the gold that America offers. You can be anything or anyone, it’s true that you have to work hard, but in other places even working hard wouldn’t help you.”

On August of 1944 the Germans decided to kill everyone in the ghettos by burning them down, however, Cypkin’s family survived because her uncle was an engineer and built an underground bunker. Their family was led to an American Displaced Persons Camp, where Cypkin was born. The family then moved to American October 1949.

Demosthenes Long

Long is an adjunct criminal justice professor and a retired two star Assistant Chief of the NYPD after serving for 21 years. He also was First Deputy Commissioner in the Westchester County Public Safety division.

Long considers himself a jack-of-all-trades because he has a lot of experience in different areas, including experience in administration, training, buildings, and cars. Long often found that his vast knowledge supplemented for any experience that his commanding officer lacked, so when it was time for selection of positions, he would often be chosen as second in command. By the time he retired he was ranked No. 11 out of the 40,000 officers.

Being one of the top ranked officers, Long commented on the issues with cops and race that have made news within the last year.

“What happens is, it’s the way you think. Often times people think that the solution is that the police department has to reflect the demographics of the neighborhood, but I don’t think that’s going to solve all the problems,” Long said. “When I was in policing, and there were certain neighbor hoods that I worked in, if you asked me what your perpetrator was, I would tell you that my perpetrator is probably going to be someone who’s in their teens or early twenties and probably going to be a person of color. I think the solution is that you have to change the way police think.”

Sister Susan Becker

From one teacher to another, the Campus Chaplain, Sister Susan Becker was there to talk about her philanthropic works over the years.

She is a Sister of the Divine Compassion. She has worked in many parishes including Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Elmsford. She also worked in St. Vincent’s in Harrison as a psychiatric social worker.

Becker often goes on spiritual retreats in order to make herself more aware of the presence of God around her. In 2010 she wanted to have an experience of deeper solitude and discovered Cascabel Conservation Center, which buys and protects the natural desert areas 70-miles east of Tusayan, Arizona. They offer cabins out in the desert that lets its occupants

Becker came to several realizations during the 30-day retreat. She realized how much she was controlled by time, often checking her watch even though there was no need. She also realized that during her every day life she would never really take the time to appreciate the beauty of nature because of how busy she was. Lastly, she realized how mindless and automated her daily life had become; she did things automatically without knowing.

“You become very conscious and very aware of the things we just take for granted here, you also become aware of the fact that since you have no schedule, it’s very hard to go through a day without tasks to complete,” Becker said. “I found letting go of accomplishing tasks very hard because that’s how I know I had a good day. When you’re out there, you just are. You’re not achieving anything besides survival, but you’re free of all the things that you’re so use to doing here.”

Connie Knapp

Programming professor Connie Knapp wanted to become a pastor, but needed the appropriate level of education to qualify. So, she got her certificate in theology and ministry by combining her love of technology and religion taking an online class.

This was how she transformed herself from a programmer to a professor, and finally to a preacher over the course of her life.

“I’ve always loved learning, and I’ve always loved teaching, that’s the thread the runs through this, and that’s where I am,” Knapp said.

After being in the programming business for 15 years, she became a professor, and ended up teaching at Pace.

Norika Barnes

Veteran senior nurse and nursing tutor at Pace Norika Barnes graduated in 2008 after returning from the Navy.

Barnes originally left Pace in 1999 to join the Navy, where she served for eight years. She was a hospital corpsman and also worked with the Marines. Barnes was first stationed in Okinawa, Japan and aided in the tsunami relief.

“Looking at it, the field that you’re going into demands that you can handle that sort of pressure. It’s stressful, but at the end of the day I’m still stressed,” said Burns, on the stress of being a nursing major. “I’m not a perfect student. I’ve been on the verge of ‘holy s***! I need to get this high of a grade to pass.’ But since the military I’ve adapted and overcame.”

AJ Beraa

AJ Beraa went through a similar path as Barnes. He is a veteran nursing major who left school in 2009 to find work in New York City and ultimately ended up joining the Navy, too.

Beraa spent four years in the Navy. He was stationed in Virginia Beach and Chicago, but was able to travel around the globe including Israel, Greece, Turkey, and Spain.

“It was [the best] experience, definitely,” Beraa said. “If I had to do anything over differently, I wouldn’t. It is what it is. But would I do it for 20 years? This was a question I couldn’t answer myself, so I said, let me get out, live a little, because you can always come back.”

Beraa returned to New York after four years and decided that going back to school made the most sense with his benefits. One of those benefits was being at Pleasantville’s peaceful campus.

Jason Tannenbaum

From traveling the world to teaching English in Japan, Associate Director of English Language Institute of Westchester and Pace Jason Tannenbaum was available to tell his unique story.

Tannenbaum first visited Japan 25 years ago after getting a job teaching English in Japan through a friend. He struggled during his first year in Tokyo because of the language barrier, the culture, and the fact that he was replacing a very popular teacher.

He began to slowly adapt to the culture.

One of the things he struggled with was being careful about what he spoke about, since he was used to a family who spoke their minds often and not the reserved Japanese culture.

He made it a goal to learn the language, so he started dating a Japanese woman who virtually only spoke Japanese to motivate him to learn the language. Everything from television shows to forcing himself into social situations, his language started to develop.

“I think that’s the reason people get into teaching,” Tannenbaum said. “When you see people’s success that’s based on stuff you taught them, not money, not anything can duplicate that experience. Listen, I like making money like everyone else, and I have two kids and blah, blah, blah. But that’s not the reason why I’m into teaching. I’m into education because I love to see where the teaching takes students.”

Tannenbaum’s improved language skills helped him get a job at Keio Academy, a Japanese high school near Pace. His skills in Japanese certainly put him above a resume and gave him a leg up on the other teachers at Keio.