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Liessem, Katherine Memorial Scholarship

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Katherine Liessem joined the staff of Ramapo College in 1972, just three years after the College’s founding. Ms. Liessem worked as secretary to vice president Arthur Jacobs while studying toward a degree in social science. Sadly, in 1982 she died unexpectedly at age 46. Katherine Liessem touched many on the Ramapo campus: “Her joy in living and her very real enthusiasm for Ramapo and its people — faculty, staff and students — were deep-rooted and tangible” wrote one of her colleagues at the time.

The entire College community sought to join Mrs. Liessem’s husband, Robert, and their children to launch a scholarship fund in her memory and this endowed scholarship was created. Faculty members, students and staff, together with friends, family, neighbors and business associates contributed to the fund. To best honor his wife, Mr. Liessem determined that the Liessem Scholarship be awarded to a mature Ramapo senior with an excellent academic record, financial need and a strong interest in the field of psychology and human services. The first awards were presented in 1983. “Katherine crossed many paths here at Ramapo College,” wrote then-president George Potter, “and touched many people with her generous spirit.”

  • For seniors age 40 or over with an excellent academic record
  • GPA 3.5+
  • Financial need
  • NJ residents, with a strong interest in psychology or human services
  • Recipient selected by the Office of the Provost

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2020 Recipient

Robertson Guercy

Robertson Guercy of Mahwah, N.J. is a Contemporary Arts major in Professional Communications in the Adult Degree Completion Program. He has a 4.0 GPA.

At Ramapo, Robertson has been active in Golden Key International Honour Society. Robertson has also been involved in nonprofit organizations, including The United Cerebral Palsy (UCP) of Long Island and Volunteer New York in partnership with his employer Sterling National Bank.

He enjoys spending his leisure time with his wife and three beautiful children and is also active in his local church community in Rockland County, N.Y.

After he completes his undergraduate degree, he hopes to continue his studies at Ramapo pursuing his MBA, and continue to thrive in his career in Finance.


2019 Recipient

Rodrigo Barrera

Rodrigo Barrera left his home town of Medellin, Colombia eighteen years ago with the dream of starting a new life in the U.S. “My first goal was to adapt to American culture and learn the language.” Rodrigo worked a range of jobs, including waiting on tables, landscaping and cleaning, and was able to pay for an Associate degree. “Along the way, I met people in the social work field, and starting working for a non-profit that provided services to individuals with developmental disabilities.”

He plans to continue his education to earn a Master in Social Work and become a family therapist. “Receiving a scholarship is recognition that good things happen when people are moved by hope, and I am one of those people.” Rodrigo lives in Teaneck, N.J.


2018 Recipient

Mindi Yeger

Mindi Yeger of Brooklyn, N.Y., is a Social Sciences major. She has a 4.0 GPA. She is a proud member of The Golden Key International Honor Society. After graduation she plans to pursue a Masters in Social Work at Ramapo.

Mindi is a proud single mother to three adult children living abroad.

Committed to empowering people to live a life of their choosing, Mindi has been involved as a volunteer and mentor for Footsteps, an organization that supports individuals who are looking to leave their ultra-orthodox Jewish communities. She has also been working with Volunteer Counseling Service of Rockland as a volunteer counselor for two years. She works full time as a legal research/analyst for a large software publishing company and attends Ramapo part-time as part of the Degree Completion Program cohort.

2017 Recipient

Marisol De La Paz

Marisol De La Paz of Emerson, NJ is a Social Science major. She has a 4.0 GPA.  This is her first semester at Ramapo upon graduating from Bergen Community College with a 3.975 GPA, where she was inducted into the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society.

Marisol has enjoyed volunteering for the American Cancer Society, several non-profit organizations, but mostly her fundraising and volunteer work at Autism Speaks. She is married, works full time and takes care of her parents and her kids.  “My primary focus is my family; I enjoy spending time with them,” said Marisol. “What started out as a journey for me to complete my Associates Degree has escalated and I am very proud to continue my educational journey and continue to succeed as an adult learner at Ramapo,” added Marisol.

2016 Recipient

Tammy Smith

Tammy Smith of Fair Lawn, NJ is a Social Work major.  She has a 3.96 GPA.  She was awarded the 2015 NASW Harriet Bloomfield Memorial Scholarship and the 2015 CSWE BSW Student Travel Scholarship Award for her academic achievements in social work. She was awarded the 2014 and 2015 Fair Lawn Sunrise Rotary Continuing Education Scholarship.

At Ramapo, Tammy has been active in several organizations and activities, including the Social Work Club, where she recently served as vice-president.

Tammy has also been involved in off-campus activities and organizations, including serving on the Board of Directors for NAMI Bergen County and on the town of Fair Lawn’s Stigma-Free Task Force.

2015 Recipient

Tammy Smith

Tammy Smith of Fair Lawn, N.J. is a social work major. She has a 3.92 grade point average.

At Ramapo, Tammy is a member of Active Minds and the Social Work Club. Off campus, she is a board member of the Bergen County National Alliance for Mental Illness and a volunteer at Bergen Regional Medical Center.

Tammy sees herself as an advocate for the rights of the mentally ill. Her career goal is to work in community mental health and to implement policy changes in the field.

2014 Recipient

Maribel Tapia

Maribel Tapia of Fairview, NJ is a Social Science major enrolled in the Degree Completion Program. The program is designed for adults 25 and older who have earned at least 64 credits from previous institutions. Students in the program complete their bachelor’s degree in an adult-friendly environment with guaranteed evening courses, a clearly outlined academic path and a learning environment comprised entirely of adult students. She will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Social Science. Maribel has a 3.74 grade point average.

As a mom, wife and student, Ramapo provides the diversity and learning flexibility to meet my demanding schedule and allow me the ability to succeed in my career.

2013, 2012 Recipient

Susan Vanino

“This award has changed my life, and allowed me to pursue my dreams,” said Susan Vanino who graduated with a degree in Social Work in 2013. “While it was challenging to return to college as a non-traditional student, as a person with a significant disability, I was motivated during my undergraduate studies by my goal to eventually earn a MSW. Last spring, as graduationneared, my plans for graduate school became overshadowed by looming worries of mounting student debt. Being selected for this award not only provided financial support towards graduate studies, it gave me the confidence to move forward,” she said. Susan began the Advanced Standing Program at New York University’s Silver School of Social Work last fall and will graduate in May. She is completing a year-long internship at Comprehensive Behavioral Health Care in Hackensack. She plans to work in an agency setting, where I can assist people with disabilities in realizing their full potential. “I will be forever grateful to Carol Schaefer for making the Carol Schaefer Human Services/Shepherd Foundation Award possible, and to those at Ramapo College who encouraged me to apply for this remarkable award,” Susan said.

2011 Recipient

Lisa McKearnin

Lisa McKearnin of Wyckoff, NJ worked in the corporate world for more than 20 years, but left to pursue a new career in psychology and education. She recently completed her bachelor’s degree, graduating magna cum laude. At Ramapo Lisa is a Psychology major also pursuing Teacher Certification in Elementary Education. She has earned a 3.79 grade point average and has received the Psychology Faculty award. She is working on a research project with Professor Lysandra Perez-Strumolo. She plans to earn a master’s degree in either School Psychology, Guidance or Special Education.

Receiving this scholarship is an honor and I thank everyone who has supported me. While its monetary value will help finance my remaining studies, it is also an inspiration to work hard and help others through my work.

2010 Recipient

Jacqueline Auriemma

Jacqueline Auriemma, of Emerson, NJ is a Social Work major. She volunteered at a halfway house for women struggling with addiction. After obtaining certification as an alcohol and drug counselor she was offered a counselor position there. Jacqueline continued her education at Ramapo College to improve her skills as a clinician. Now, as a senior with a 3.75 grade point average, Jacqueline is intent on enrolling in graduate school. “I got here because many people believed in my abilities when I was uncertain,” she says. Jacqueline believes there is great value in supporting other’s abilities.

The generosity of the Fanale and Liessem families allows me to further my education and inspires me to touch the lives of others. For this I am truly grateful.

2009 Recipient

Lovely Joy

Senior Lovely Joy is from New Milford, New Jersey. She already holds a degree in physics with minors in chemistry and mathematics, and worked in her native India as a teacher in Bombay. “My dream was to become a nurse,” she says.

When she was laid off from her job in a bank she got a job in a hospital working as an emergency room secretary during the night shift.  She attended Bergen Community College during the day studying nursing, then enrolled at Ramapo. To date she has earned a 3.46 grade point average. “My goal is to work with people who can’t help themselves,” she says. “When I come back from my clinical experiences it gives me such satisfaction to see smiles on my patients’ faces; I think this is one of the most satisfying jobs I have ever had.”

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