Head of UJA New York to Address YU Commencement

Dr. John S. Ruskay will deliver the keynote address at YU's Commencement Ceremony on May 22.

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John Ruskay
John Ruskay
Courtesy of YU

Dr. John S. Ruskay, executive vice president and CEO of the United Jewish Appeal-Federation of Jewish Philanthropies of New York, will deliver the keynote address and receive an honorary doctorate at Yeshiva University’s (YU) 83rd Commencement Ceremony, which will be held on Thursday, May 22.

At the ceremony, YU President Richard M. Joel will also confer honorary doctorates upon Joshua Gortler, president of The Kline Galland Center Foundation and alumnus of YU’s Wurzweiler School of Social Work, and YU Benefactor Dorothy Schachne. Dr. Morton Lowengrub, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, will receive the Presidential Medallion.

Ruskay has served as the executive vice president and CEO of the UJA-Federation since 1999. He has served as the educational director of the 92nd Street Y; vice chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America; senior consultant to the Wexner Foundation and the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies; and chaired the Publication Committee of the Journal of Jewish Communal Service and the Professional Advisory Committee of the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program.

Ruskay has written extensively and speaks nationally on how the American Jewish community can most effectively respond to the challenges and opportunities of living in an open society, the critical role of Jewish philanthropy, and the central role of community.

“John Ruskay personifies all of our award recipients as an individual of stature, commitment, warmth, goodness, Jewish ideas and Jewish ideals,” said President Joel.

“In this way, all four recipients through their personal example serve as the final undergraduate lesson for our graduates,” he added.

Gortler is the former CEO of Kline Galland, a Seattle-based healthcare provider. Born in Poland, he and his family fled Nazi persecution, residing in Siberia and then Uzbekistan, until the end of World War II. In 1951, the family settled in Arizona and, with the guidance of a YU-trained rabbi, decided to send their son to pursue his studies at Yeshiva University High School for Boys, tuition-free. He continued his education at Yeshiva College and then Wurzweiler School of Social Work where he met his wife, Sarah Barash, a 1961 alumna of Stern College for Women.

Gortler, along with his wife, established the Joshua H. Gortler and Sarah B. Gortler Scholarship in Geriatric Social Work at Wurzweiler, to recognize the institution for having such a profound influence on his life and to express gratitude for the scholarship assistance that was afforded to him as a student.

A YU benefactor, Dorothy Schachne her late husband, David, have contributed more than $3 million to Yeshiva University.

The Schachnes support and service has focused on the Wurzweiler School of Social Work, where they have endowed the David I. and Dorothy Schachne and created several scholarship funds. Other beneficiaries of her generous and impactful philanthropy have included CancerCare, where she has served for many years as a member of the Board of Trustees; Gurwin Jewish Geriatric Center; and Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center.

Lowengrub has served as leader of the Yeshiva University academic team since 1999. A professor of mathematics, he was appointed provost and senior vice president for academic affairs in 2007. He has previously served at Indiana University, where he was chairman of the mathematics department, dean for research and graduate development, director of the Institute of Advanced Study, and dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

In all, some 600 students from Yeshiva College, Stern College for Women and Sy Syms School of Business, will be awarded degrees from Yeshiva University during its commencement season.