On May 7, 2019 Rabbi Topek was honored at the Jerrold L. Stein Student Life Awards.
In Spring 2009, our former University President, Dr. Shirley Strum Kenny was celebrated upon retirement for her many contributions to student life, including beautifying the campus, enhancing facilities such as the SAC, Staller Steps, & LaValle Stadium, & investing in the creation of Spirit of Stony Brook Marching Band. To pay tribute, a new award was presented to her & in her honor – the Steel Magnolia Award. Why the term “Steel Magnolia”? Dr. Kenny was from the south where magnolias are plentiful. The expression suggests the person can be as delicate as a magnolia plant, but as tough as steel. This award honors someone who displays concern and love for their students and also pushes them to reach their fullest potential. Some of the past recipients of this award have been Cheryl Chambers, Al de Vries, Rob Pertusati and former Dean of Students Dr. Jerry Stein.
This year’s recipient has worked at Stony Brook since 1982. As a servant leader, this individual directs the Hillel Foundation, represents our Jewish community, and chairs and serves as a chaplain in the Interfaith Center. And now, after 37 incredible years, this person is retiring from Stony Brook. He is a voice of wisdom and reason, a supporter of dialogue and peace, and an advocate for diversity. He has been an integral part of the fabric of Stony Brook and is leaving a lasting legacy. And he will forever be a Seawolf.
"I am incredibly honored to have been presented with the Shirley Strum Kenny Steel Magnolia Award by Stony Brook University at the Jerrold Stein Student Life Awards ceremony last night. My deepest thanks to my dear colleague Sister Sanaa Nadim, our Muslim Chaplain, for her most kind and thoughtful words, and to our VP for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Dr. Richard Gatteau and his team for this honor. It is also very meaningful that the award is named for Shirley Strum Kenny, our past University President, and the ceremony for Jerry Stein, our past VPSA and Dean of Students, both dear colleagues who preceded me into retirement. Stony Brook has been a wonderful place to work with outstanding committed colleagues and fabulous students. Thank you for the opportunity to serve here and to be part of this community." - Rabbi Joseph S. Topek