By: Dale King Contributing Writer
The Rotary Club of Boca Raton celebrated its 20th annual Outstanding People and Leaders (OPAL) Awards Gala this year by adding the names of eight specially selected recipients – three civic-minded couples among them – to the roster of people recognized for their community contributions.
“The purpose of tonight’s event is both to celebrate the honorees and to provide scholarships to economically vulnerable students who might not otherwise have an opportunity to attend college,” said 2018 OPAL co-chairs Peter Baronoff, Neil Saffer and Spencer Siegel, in the event’s program.
This list of 62 past honorees grew to 70 with the addition of this year’s recipients: Bernie Marcus, co-founder of Home Depot and his wife, Billi; Jerry Glassman, founder and CEO of the Grotta, Glassman & Hoffman boutique law firm and wife, Joan; Frank Frione, chief executive officer of GFA International, an engineering consulting firm, and wife, Laura; Summer Faerman, longtime volunteer who is currently director of the Meryl and Ron Gallatin Tzedakah Learning and Chesed Program at Congregation B’nai Torah and Bill Mitchell, pastor at Boca Raton Community Church since 2003.
Rotary President Henry Ferguson welcomed the wall-to-wall crowd to the banquet hall of Boca West Country Club the night of Jan. 20 where honorees received awards, Saffer conducted an auction that brought in about $200,000 that evening alone, the crowd enjoyed hors d’oeuvres and a gourmet dinner and capped the night with dancing.
Thanking the many donors seated at tables throughout the hall, Ferguson noted that the Rotary has “supported 294 students and awarded $1,128,713 in scholarships since the inception of the Boca Raton Rotary Fund. However, our ultimate goal is never to turn away any qualified student in needs.”
The three co-chairs pointed out that the Rotary Scholarship Program “was among the first to provide not only economic assistance, but life skills training and counseling from dedicated Rotary mentors. Proceeds from this event benefit the Rotary Club of Boca Raton’s Service Missions, including Youth Scholarship Program.”
Ferguson noted that U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, who was unable to attend because of pressing business in Washington, D.C., promised to enter the names of this year’s OPAL recipients into the Congressional Record.
While the mood was generally light and humorous, the crowd did take time to pay a solemn tribute to Bill Allen, an OPAL winner from two years ago who passed away last year. The 2016 video of his talk about the award was replayed, and Ferguson said the Rotary is raising money for a scholarship in Allen’s name.
Award winners stepped to the podium at the front of the packed hall to receive recognition. All were introduced by friends and colleagues who offered highlights from their lengthy resumes.
Bernie Marcus said he was “blown away” by the honor. He and wife, Billi, established the Marcus Neuroscience Institute at Boca Raton Regional Hospital, which provides programs for families of children with brain disorders. Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta has joined forces with the institute to create The Marcus Autism Center.
The Marcus Foundation has provided grants to a number of healthcare concerns. It gave Piedmont Heart Institute funds to create the nation’s first heart valve reference center. The Foundation also donated money to American Friends of Magen David Adom for a national blood center in Israel.
Arthur Adler, chairman of the Boca West Foundation, introduced OPAL recipients Jerry and Joan Glassman, have aided his group that has provided millions of dollars in aid to needy children. The Glassmans, married 61 years, have been volunteers serving on various committees at Boca West. Jerry is also on several boards at Boca Regional Hospital; was named to the list of “Super Lawyers” by New Jersey Monthly Magazine and received a “Preeminent Attorney” rating from Martindale Hubbell.
Frank and Laura Frione have benefitted the community in many ways. She volunteered to help local children and served as president of Place of Hope’s Angel Moms. Her husband has mentored young men at the Haven (now Place of Hope) and established the Frione Family Foundation through Everglades University, which provides four-year scholarships to qualifying students. He has also served such area committees as the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority, Boca Raton Improvement District Steering Committee and Downtown Boca Raton Advisory Committee.
Faerman told the audience she tries to “help the hungry and homeless.” She encouraged others to “find your gift and give it away. Be good, not because you have to, but because you want to. We will make the change happen.” She is also involved in all branches of Congregation B’nai Torah and was active during Hurricane Irma relief efforts.
Award winner Mitchell had a long real estate career before becoming a clergyman. He has traveled to more than 85 countries and works with WorldLead, which has mentored 125 young leaders of organizations around the world.