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 People in the News


People In The News - March Is Women's History Month Abdel Fattah


By Hadley Meares

Abdel FattahIn 2008, Abdel Fattah started a Facebook group in support of a textile workers’ strike in Egypt. Her gutsy activism gained her fame—and a nickname— “the Facebook Girl.” It also landed her in jail. But it was her revolutionary actions in 2011 that would make her a profound symbol of social action—and a target of Egypt’s government—to this very day.

As one of the leaders of 2011’s January Revolution and Arab Spring, Abdel Fattah led a small group of protesters into Tahrir Square, protesting the regime of President Hosni Mubarak. As their numbers swelled to the thousands, she bravely recorded her experiences in the Square on Facebook and Twitter, bringing the Egyptian revolution into the world’s consciousness. “We feared being arrested or killed,” she recalled later that year, “but we were achieving the dream of justice and democracy.” For her actions, which helped lead to the overthrow of the Mubarak government, she was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

However, Abdel Fattah has seen her dream of democracy replaced by a repressive regime much like the one she fought to overthrow. She has been persecuted by the government, and in the fall of 2017 was referred to military prosecution and is not allowed to leave Egypt. “I lived through those 18 days in 2011 like a wonderful utopia,” she said in January 2018. “But we were idiots—idiots to believe Morsi’s promises of democracy. Sometimes I think there’s no hope… But if I stopped my activism, I’d feel I was betraying everyone who’s died or gone to prison.”


People In The News - Commack HS Teacher Derek Pope "Distinguished Teacher Of 2019"

Derek Pope, a Town of Smithtown resident and Math teacher at Commack High School, has been named a “Distinguished Teacher of 2019” by the Harvard Club of Long Island.  

“This award honors teachers who transform lives,” explained Dr. Judith Esterquest, Chair of the Distinguished Teacher Selection Committee. “Devoted teachers like Derek Pope offer Long Island students deep expertise, extraordinary talents, and countless hours of attention.  By capturing the minds and imaginations of our children and preparing them for challenges that were unknown even a few decades ago, these teachers shape the future of our country.”    

Derek Pope will be honored at the Harvard Club of Long Island’s annual University Relations Luncheon on March 30, along with eleven other teachers from across Long Island. Harvard Professor Matthew Baum will speak on “The Fourth Estate and the Current Political Climate,” exploring how the media performed in their role as watchdog of democracy, with a focus on the period leading up to and since the 2016 presidential election.

Mr. Pope obtained undergrad and graduate degrees from Seton Hall University and SUNY Stony Brook, respectively. In addition to his dedication to the students at Commack High School, he is an Adjunct Professor for Math Education at SUNY Stony Brook. Outside of the classroom, Mr. Pope is an avid outdoorsman who enjoys skiing, hiking and travel experiences in his free time. 

“Effective teachers are typically very well-versed in their subject matter, or truly enthusiastic about teaching,” commented Matthew Ciurleo, a former Commack High School student who is expected to graduate from Harvard College in 2022. “Mr Pope is exceptional because he excels at both.” 

He added “Mr. Pope’s ability to simplify complex mathematical lessons, and guide students in understanding how challenging math concepts have real-world application, creates a highly engaging and interactive learning experience.”

When Commack Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Donald James, learned of this award, he commented that “Derek is a leader in the math department and on the forefront of instructional strategies to promote student inquiry and engagement. His innovative teaching style promotes true understanding of difficult concepts and motivates his students to succeed.”

Dr. James continued stating “He is an asset to his coworkers and the Commack School District, a NYS Master Teacher, and an excellent mentor who sets the highest example of teaching for all to emulate. We are #CommackProud that his work and dedication are being recognized by the Harvard Club of Long Island.”

At the ceremony on March 30, the Harvard Club of Long Island will announce the Distinguished Teacher of 2019 who will also receive a scholarship for a “Harvard experience” at the Harvard University campus in Cambridge, MA. Past winners of the scholarships have enhanced their teaching by sampling the resources available to Harvard students: meeting with faculty; visiting research laboratories, rare book archives, and specialty museums; and enjoying visual and performance art. The scholarships are funded by contributions from Harvard alumni living on Long Island.

This year’s dozen Distinguished Teacher Award winners were nominated by current Harvard undergraduates and then selected by Harvard Club of Long Island board members. They teach biology, chemistry, earth science, English, government, history, Italian, math, Music, 7th-Grade Science, and coach cross country.  The winners teach in Baldwin, Brentwood, Commack, East Hampton, Garden City, Huntington, Jericho, Manhasset, Port Washington, and Syosset in grades seven to twelve. 

Commack High School teachers have been well represented in recent years by Harvard’s Distinguished Teacher Award program for their excellence both in the classroom and as lifelong mentors to their students. Prior honorees have included Barabra Gerson, Math teacher in 2012, Christina Semple, English teacher in 2011, and Richard Kurz (2009) and Alan Baum (2006), both Science Research Advisers. 



People In The News - March Is Women's History Month - Chien-Shiung Wu

Chien-Shiung Wu (1912-1997) was a Chinese American physicist.

Reprint from Atomic Heritage Foundation

During the Manhattan Project, she worked at Columbia University, helping develop the process for separating uranium metal into U-235 and U-238 isotopes by gaseous diffusion. This process was replicated at a grand scale at the K-25 Plant in Oak Ridge. She also developed improved Geiger counters for measuring nuclear radiation levels. She is believed to have been the only Chinese person to have worked on the Manhattan Project.


Born in a small town near Shanghai, Wu attended a school started by her father, who believed in education for girls, despite it being an uncommon belief at that time. Wu went on to study physics at a university in Shanghai, where one of her professors had worked with Marie Curie. After graduation, she became a research assistant when her supervisor encouraged her to pursue advanced education in America. 

In 1936, Wu arrived in San Francisco, with some financial assistance from an uncle. She enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley where she completed her Ph.D. in 1940. She married Luke Yuan, a fellow physicist, in 1942. 



Unable to find a research position at a university, Wu became a physics instructor at Princeton University and at Smith College. In 1944, she joined the Manhattan Project at the Substitute Alloy Materials (SAM) Lab at Columbia University, focusing on radiation detectors. When the B Reactor at Hanford mysteriously shut down soon after it began operating, Wu helped identify poisoning by xenon-135 as the culprit. 

After the war, Wu was offered a position at Columbia and began investigating beta decay, which occurs when the nucleus of one element changes into another element. She made several significant contributions, including making the first confirmation of Enrico Fermi’s theory of beta decay. 

In 1956, she was approached by theoretical physicists Tsung Dao Lee and Chen Ning Yang who knew about her expertise in beta decay. They asked her to devise an experiment to prove their theory that the law of conservation of parity did not hold true during beta decay. The law of parity states that all objects and their mirror images behave the same way, but with the left hand and right hand reversed. Wu’s experiments, which utilized radioactive cobalt at near absolute zero temperatures, proved that identical nuclear particles do not always act alike. This resulted in Lee and Yang receiving the 1957 Nobel Prize in Physics for their theory, but Wu’s work was not acknowledged.

Wu continued making significant contributions throughout her life and won several awards and honors. In 1958, her research helped answer important biological questions about blood and sickle cell anemia. She was also the first woman to serve as president of the American Physical Society. Her awards include the National Medal of Science, the Comstock Prize, and the first honorary doctorate awarded to a woman at Princeton University. She also won the Wolf Prize in Physics in 1978. Her book Beta Decay, published in 1965, is still a standard reference for nuclear physicists. 

Information contributed by Ronald K. Smeltzer. 


People In The News - March Is Women's History Month - Sybil Ludington

Statue of Sybil Ludington in Carmel, New York by Anna Hyatt Huntington Wikipedia

Reprint of article by Brynn Holland

On the night of April 26, 1777, 16-year-old Sybil Ludington rode 40 miles to warn approximately 400 militiamen that the British troops were coming. Sound like Paul Revere? It was, except she rode twice as far, was half his age and was seldom given credit for her heroic act. 

The daughter of militia leader Colonel Henry Ludington, Sybil leaped into action on that fateful day in 1777 when a rider came to the Ludington house to warn them of an upcoming British attack. With Col. Ludington’s men on leave and the messenger too tired to continue, it was Sybil who rode through the night gathering almost the whole regiment by daybreak. 

While Paul Revere’s ride was immortalized by Longfellow’s epic poem, Sybil’s tributes have been on a somewhat smaller scale. She was honored with a postal stamp in 1975 and had a poem written in her honor in 1912. But she did receive the appreciation of a grateful general, when George Washington himself came to her home to say “thank you.”


People In The News- Jo-Anne Taormina Appointed Civil Service Personnel Officer



Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone today announced the appointment of Jo-Anne Taormina as Personnel Officer for the Suffolk County Department of Civil Service.  In accordance with the specifications set forth in Suffolk County Civil Service classifications, Jo-Anne has been deemed qualified for the position with technical guidance provided by the New York State Department of Civil Service.  The appointment comes with the expiration of the sixth six-year-term of Suffolk County Personnel Officer Alan Schneider.  

The County Executive also announced that Barry Paul, Director of Performance Management for Suffolk County, will be temporarily reassigned to the Department of Civil Service to work with Jo-Anne on the transition.  Jo-Anne and Barry will lead a top to bottom review of the department over the next two months.  They will both work to develop a series of recommendations on its operations. The objective is to incorporate new ideas and innovations, utilizing best practices to create a 21st century civil service office that is efficient, effective, and transparent.  

Jo-Anne previously served as Chief of Staff in the Town of North Hempstead for ten years.  In this role, she was responsible for overseeing the actions of all town personnel while creating and maintaining a positive and unified working environment to inspire confidence in achieving initiatives of town policymakers. She served as the primary strategic liaison to a staff of more than 400 employees, managed personnel office functions in compliance with NYS Civil Service Laws and Rules and supervised the administration of employee medical benefits, certification of payroll, Workers Compensation and employee record keeping.  She also created the first Town of North Hempstead handbook and policy manual for exempt employees, respectively, along with training and workplace violence programs.  In addition, she was a Commissioner of Finance and Human Resources.

Prior to North Hempstead, Jo-Anne served as the Director of Public Affairs with the Nassau County Office of Economic Development where she served as liaison to elected officials and high-level civic and business leaders on Long Island.  She also served in a number of high-level positions in the private sector with KeySpan Energy and Long Island Lighting Company. Jo-Anne resides in Huntington and received a BS in Business Communications & Marketing from SUNY Empire State College.

Barry currently serves as the Suffolk County Director of Performance Management.  In this position, Barry is responsible for delivery of the Suffolk STAT Program and the County-wide Continuous Improvement Initiative to provide the common language, data, and tool sets necessary to create a self-sustaining high performance county government.  Barry previously led the Suffolk County Police Department Overtime Improvement Team, oversaw the County Parks team project that authored the Concessions Contracts Compliance Manual, and supported the implementation of the SuffolkShare initiative that is projected to save tens of millions of dollars among participating municipalities.

Prior to this, Barry served as Suffolk County Treasurer, which was the former head of the Department of Finance and Taxation. Under his leadership, Barry facilitated the merger of the offices of Suffolk County Treasurer and the Suffolk County Comptroller, which captured staff savings of over $1 million on an annual basis.  Among his many accomplishments in this role, Barry eliminated a nine month backlog in tax adjustment refunds securing $1 million in interest savings, implemented an automated call system to direct constituents to the appropriate office, strengthened the enforcement policies for the Hotel Motel Tax Program, and renegotiated the Tyler Munis contract that saved $20,000 while securing two annual onsite training days at no cost.

Barry has worked in both public and private sectors over the course of his career.  He served as Deputy Commissioner for the Suffolk County Department of Health Services before serving briefly as the Suffolk County Director of Performance Management.  Formerly, Barry was the Director of Business Management for Long Island offices with Covanta Energy Corporation.  Previous to that, he served in a number of important financial roles with Nassau County, including as Director of Projects and Performance Management, Chief Deputy Budget Director, and Deputy Budget Director/Chief Financial Officer with the General Services and Shared Services department at the County.  He began his career honing his budgetary skills with Grumman Aerospace Corporation. He holds a BA in Economics from SUNY Stony Brook.