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Landmark College Gala Raises $1.5 Million for Science, Technology & Innovation Center

PUTNEY, Vt. – Landmark College’s “Uncut Diamonds: Celebrating Brilliance Through Innovative Education” fundraiser put the College $1.5 million closer to its goal of building a new Science, Technology & Innovation Center. The event, held April 29 in New York City to support Landmark College’s $10 million capital campaign for its new STI Center, was attended by Academy Award winner Whoopi Goldberg, who accepted the inaugural Landmark College LD Luminary Award from Dr. Peter Eden, president of the College.

“Students with LD can often be in the dark, seemingly buried and under pressure, until they are discovered and polished to show their brilliance to the world,” Dr. Eden said after the event, which was held at Robert, The Museum of Arts & Design, overlooking Central Park. “This analogy to uncut diamonds is often very true with our students, and the event in New York City, in which we celebrated our ‘uncut diamonds’ and the brilliance of innovative education at Landmark College, was inspiring.”

A real uncut diamond pendant was created especially for the event by Simon Teakle Fine Jewelry and Objects, and sold during the evening’s auction for $6,000. The auction, overseen by Teakle himself, included original paintings, ceramics, and woodwork created and donated by Landmark College students. The student artwork sold for a combined total of $7,150.

The money raised by the live auction, combined with ticket sales, a silent auction, and pledges made during the evening, brought the evening’s total to $730,000. That amount was matched by a pledge from the Tambour Foundation to support the College’s capital campaign, “Pioneering Pathways, Changing Lives,” bringing the evening’s total to just under $1.5 million.

The Tambour Foundation pledge was motivated by Landmark College alumna Nicole Goodner MacFarlane, who attended the gala and was presented with the Landmark College Accolade by Robert Lewis, chairman of the Landmark College Board of Trustees. The new STI Center, which will break ground this August and is expected to open in August 2015, will be named the Nicole Goodner MacFarlane Science, Technology & Innovation Center in honor of her support for the College.

A highlight of the evening was the appearance of Whoopi Goldberg, who accepted the Landmark College LD Luminary Award from Dr. Eden. The award is given to an individual in the public eye who is committed to raising awareness of the prevalence of learning disabilities, or learning difficulties (commonly referred to as LD), and who has demystified LD by demonstrating that it’s an example of how everyone learns and operates differently. Goldberg’s public discussion of her struggles with dyslexia has inspired people to better understand the difficulties faced by students with LD, Dr. Eden told the audience.

During her acceptance speech, Goldberg related the painful experience of being called “lazy” and worse by teachers who didn’t believe she had trouble reading. “They thought I was lazy so they put me in the slow class,” she said. “But my mom was a Head Start teacher, and she told me, ‘You’re not slow, you’re just different’. I was lucky enough to have a mother who understood. She has always been my hero.”

Many students, though, end up frustrated and discouraged by adults who “don’t believe kids when they say, ‘This looks different to me’,” Goldberg said. “You spend so much time convincing people, then you just give up.”

Goldberg praised Landmark College for “talking to kids like they’re smart. I love that. Anytime I find people who get it, I’m grateful.”

The following day, Goldberg showed her gratitude to the College by talking about its mission, and the LD Luminary Award she received, on ABC-TV’s The View, which she co-hosts. “These guys have put this college together, and it’s so magnificent when you see these kids saying, ‘I came in here with my head down, and now my head is up.'

“I was happy to get this award. I just wish (Landmark College) had been around … I periodically wonder what it would have been like to go to college.”

Dr. Eden also introduced several alumni who expressed their support for the College, including Lissa Piercy, who performed a slam-style poem to a standing ovation; Daniel Lewis; and Russell Cosby (pictured at right), who told the audience that he was diagnosed with dyslexia at the age of 52, thanks to his nephew Ennis, the late son of world-renowned actor and author Bill Cosby. Ennis was attending Landmark College at the time, and he urged his uncle Russell to get tested for dyslexia and ultimately enroll at the College. Cosby grew emotional as he recounted his longtime inability to read, his gratitude to Landmark faculty members, and his joy at now being able to read to his grandchildren.

“Landmark College is an institution I thank God for,” Cosby said.

After the fundraiser, Dr. Eden said the overwhelming support for Landmark College and its new STI Center has better positioned the College to change the “one-size-fits-all” approach to education.

“From Whoopi Goldberg’s acceptance of the first-ever Landmark College LD Luminary Award, to the tremendous generosity shown by those who pledged financial support for our STI Center, to our alumni and many friends in attendance, the evening provided an opportunity to recognize that Landmark College has many, many supporters and truly does follow its mission to change the way the public thinks about education,” Dr. Eden said. 

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