CANDIDATES FOR PRESIDENT
Donna K. Ramer
My road to Quest started in Queens, where I was born, grew up and launched my career in communications as a reporter for my hometown paper, The Bayside Times, at the age of 15. As an adult, and after several years living in other states and countries, I returned to New York City and recently celebrated 46 years in my Union Square apartment.
I joined Quest in 2018 and quickly became involved. My first semester, I jumped in to help others by filling the gap while Quest’s admin position was vacant and, very quickly, become acquainted with numerous members as well as our governance. In my second semester, I began to present and, during the lock-down, I was active on Zoom by presenting and leading discussions. Returning to Quest, I was involved in creating on-site activities as well as ways to engage members unable to return.
Currently, I sit on the council and am Acting Vice President; I chair the Membership Committee; I am editor of Prose for QReview and contribute to QNews fairly regularly; and I am a member of the Curriculum Committee. I also lead or co-lead the Creative Writing workshop, Symposium, and Toni Morrison courses. Other classes I have led or co-coordinated include Mythology, British Empire and British Culture.
Professionally, I am an award-winning communications specialist with an expertise in strategic planning, crisis and reputation management, and communications training. I have contributed to several books, professional publications, and Congressional set-aside programs. I have volunteered and held a number of board positions, and have a long history mentoring others.
I felt at home from my first day at Quest and a camaraderie with other members. My interest in being president is simple: I believe Quest has so much to offer and I want to continue to lend my expertise to maintain the integrity of Quest as we reach out to a wider audience and more actively engage Questers, at home and at 25 Broadway.
Question: Why do I want to be President of Quest? Because I love this organization and I want it to achieve the lofty goals envisioned by its founders.
Question: Why do I think I’m qualified for the job? Quest member for 14 years; have given 175 presentations; founded Culture-Quest; co-founder Technology committee; initiated Zoom classes during pandemic; coordinated Artists and their Work (4 years); coordinated History of Architecture (4 years); contributed to every issue of QReview since 2009; edited QNews; managed 100 engineers and technicians for transportation consulting firm; served as President, Reconstructionist Synagogue of the North Shore.
Question: What is my vision for Quest? From our by-laws: Quest is a self-governing, adult oriented, peer-learning community, offering courses designed and delivered by its members as active participants in a shared educational and social environment. I am responsible for inserting the underlined words in the most recent revision of our by-laws as I recognized the importance of social opportunities for our members. However, I believe that first and foremost, we are an educational enterprise and should strive for academic excellence.
I also believe that we should integrate on and off-campus members into one community. We should advance a culture where each of these groups has equal status and benefits of membership. We should maximize accessibility to classes for all our members, whether they be off-campus or at 25 Broadway. The goal should be delivery of our classes to the maximum number of members, regardless of where they are physically located.
Question: What is the first thing I will do if I am elected? Ask for a recount. Seriously, with Council’s concurrence, I will appoint an Ombudsperson to act as advocate for our members who prefer to participate via Zoom. If the appointee so desires, she will form an ad hoc committee to identify specific needs of on-line attendees and bring those needs to Council’s attention.
CANDIDATES FOR COUNCIL
Mary Ann Donnelly
I have been a member of Quest for so long (over 13 years) that I find my previous work life a distant memory. For the record, I retired from the New York Department of Insurance as claims manager. Prior to that I taught reading at a New Jersey middle school. As a teacher, I was a member of the union where I served in various ways including serving on the public relations, grievance, and election committees
As I planned retirement, I knew it would include taking a class or two and Quest seemed to fit the bill and it has.
I began my Quest career slowly by being a strong participant in classes and finally taking the big step to a full presentation. I also began volunteering for committees like the Curriculum Committee, the Emergency Response Team and the Election Committee and eventually became a lead and co-coordinator for various courses. I joined the Actors Workshop and lived my dream of being on stage. I also joined the Poets Workshop and began writing poetry and contributing my poems to the QReview eventually becoming poetry editor and the co-coordinator of Creativity Day each year.
Through my many years at Quest I have been able to observe how it works as an organization. Through my involvement in committees, courses and Quest’s outside activities, I have had the opportunity to hear the thoughts and opinions of many members.
I was elected to the Council in 2021 and I believe my experiences helped me to be a contributing member, especially in these extraordinary times. I recently joined the Membership Committee and explaining Quest to prospective members has renewed my awe of the organization. I tell new members that Quest offers intellectual stimulation as well as social interaction. My goal as a council member is to see that Quest continues to grow but also that it maintains its unique qualities.
It is an honor to be invited for consideration to be on the Quest Council. Since joining Quest in the Fall 2018, shortly after returning to the City from the Hudson Valley, I have had the opportunity to develop and present four different courses: on Hebrew and Christian Scripture, the Talmud and the Neighborhoods of New York. I have also served on Curriculum, Membership, Diversity and Caring Community Committees, and was on last year’s Nominating Committee. Quest is now an important part of my life.
I am familiar with a number of learning initiatives, but nothing quite like Quest. It is a true peer learning center where members take on all the responsibilities of teaching and/or leading the courses. It is a remarkably open structure in which one need not and does not obligate oneself to a single course over a semester. It is also remarkably dynamic, with changes and decisions constantly being made, thus defying the imposition of any oversight structure.
So, what does a leadership role in Quest entail? I think I have a sense of it after a forty-year career as a rabbi. In that role, it was my task to bring expertise, not simply in areas of religious sources and practices (the easy part), but in responsiveness, active listening, and in finding the spiritual place where we could all be growing together. The trick was always to be open to disagreement but never have it descend into acrimony. I personally derive much satisfaction from my scholarship, but particularly cherish my success in maintaining menshlichkeit.
Ask me about my college days, and I will tell you that I learned a great deal, and some of it was even in the classroom. I find the same to be true at Quest. The give-and-take in the courses is a pleasure, and yet more of Quest takes place in the halls and lunchrooms, where we have the opportunity to become a community.
I grew up in a small town in Michigan and attended the University of Michigan, graduating with a BA in Political Science. After college I moved to New York City and knew within three days this is where I wanted to live.
I immediately got a job as a programmer and during the next 40 years I programmed, performed systems analysis and designed applications for many major corporations.
I formed my own consulting company in the mid 1980s to provide technology services to clients. I was very good at both communicating with the business experts and translating business requirements into technology designs. This required making compromises due to budgetary, business requirements and technology limitations.
As a member of Quest for the past ten years I have co-coordinated a course on the Second Wave of the Women’s movement; proposed, setup and maintain our Quest Community Group; have given several presentations; was a member of the membership committee; am a member of the summer Encores committee and lead coordinator of Oral Interpretation of poetry.
When we returned to Quest in the fall of 2021 I was concerned about whether Quest would be able to return to the wonderful pre-pandemic Quest that I loved. It has taken a tremendous amount of effort on the part of our technology committee in particular but also the participation of so many Quest members to get where we are today. Membership is up, class participation is up and the sense of community has returned. I am happy.
Quest is going through changes exacerbated by the Covid lockdown. There are issues causing conflict that need to be addressed in productive ways. Most problems / issues are solvable but involve compromise to get to an acceptable solution. One of the issues I would like to address is how to integrate “at home” members into our classes in a way that sustains or even increases community feeling. I also want to encourage co-operation and compromise amongst all our members.
Although I treasure my Chicago childhood, I am a New Yorker at heart and to the core.
The most important part of my 55 years here, of course, is that this is where we raised our children — in spite of the fact, that, and I know I’ve told a number of you this story — that my sweet midwestern father-in- law said, when my husband called to tell him we were moving to Greenwich Village where he would be teaching at NYU, “… is New York City any place to raise children?”
It is, of course, and we did. During those early years I volunteered at my children’s coop nursery school — which the children of two other Quest members attended. I also continued graduate work.
Before we knew it the kids were in school full time, and I was an administrator, first at NYU’s Dental School, and then for two dozen years plus years until I retired, the dean of admissions at NYU School of Law. One aspect of that experience particularly relevant to Quest, is that I served on several committees and on the Board of Directors of the Law School Admissions Council.
As the years passed and the kids, as they will, grew up and went to college, I became involved in other volunteer work, both as a volunteer and on several non profit organizations; boards or councils of non profit organizations.
It was incredibly fortuitous that I found and joined Quest in 2015. I served on its Long Range Planning Committee my first year. I then co-chaired the Nominating and Elections Committee, which I chaired the following tear. I served on and then chaired the Membership Committee, and two years ago was honored to be nominated for the Council.
It has been an “interesting” two Covid years. I have been so impressed, even when we don’t agree on particular issues, by the Council’s commitment to maintaining, supporting, building on that which we value the most. We will face challenges, but whatever they are I will be guided by building on those values — our wonderful community, and the amazing opportunity to learn from each other.
I am a born and bred New Yorker who grew up in the Bronx. I graduated from Lehman College (CUNY) with a BA in Education/English, but there were no teaching jobs to be found. So I went into the publishing field working for a small publisher. There I learned everything about magazine production (remember the days of hot type?). I retired in May 2016 from Remedy Health Media where I was Production Director.
I first learned about Quest from Pam Mahl, a former Quester. I spent a day in the summer of 2016 attending class and decided this was the place for me, both educationally and socially. I have been actively involved on the Distinguished Guest Lecturer Committee and CultureQuest. A considerable amount of work goes into making these events happen. Some of the speakers I have found for us are Jamie Bernstein, Ivan Schwartz, Nina Krushcheva, Joshua Greene, Georgina Pazcoguin, Peter Gelb, and most recently Andrew Meier.
When I interviewed Peter Gelb, General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera on Zoom during COVID, I asked him if we could take him up on his offer to host us for a dress rehearsal at the Metropolitan Opera House. Peter helped arrange for us to see La Boheme in November 2021, and most recently Norma in February 2023. All these tickets were complimentary and Questers loved both operas. These were just two of the CultureQuest events I made happen. I have arranged tours at the New York Historical Society, the Eldridge Street Museum and an online tour of Winterthur in Delaware.
I love the arts and in my “spare” time I attend as many ballet, theater, and music events as possible. It would be an honor to serve as a council member.
I grew up in Providence (Mom was from Brooklyn) and attended Bryn Mawr College, majoring in history, and becoming active in the peace and civil rights movements, a commitment that has guided my life since then. After graduation I moved to New York. I was one of the first women hired into the skilled “men’s” jobs after AT&T was forced to open these jobs to women and minorities in the early ‘70s. I worked for New York Telephone for 28 years on computerized telecommunications equipment and was a union shop steward and member of the union’s women’s committee. After 9/11 I worked in downtown Manhattan on the restoration of phone service, which classifies me as a first responder, and retired at the end of that year. Now I am the secretary of my union local’s retiree chapter.
After retirement I enrolled in an interdisciplinary MA program at New York University, focusing on social history. I also volunteered for SHARE, a women’s cancer support organization, since I had been diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000. In 2003 I began working at SHARE, eventually becoming the Breast Cancer Program Director. I supervised the helpline and support groups and trained volunteers, so I have administrative experience. I retired from SHARE in 2012.
At Quest I was able to draw on my computer background to join the Technology Committee and run zoom classes during the pandemic. I have given presentations in several courses, became a coordinator of Reading Black Lives and then the Lead Coordinator and a presenter for Black Women’s Voices. Preparing for and presenting all these talks has been a joy, in a way I hadn’t expected at this age, and I’m grateful to Quest for the opportunity. I also belong to the Hearing Committee and I want to ensure that all Quest members, at 25 Broadway and at home, are able to participate fully and that we continue to pursue diversity and inclusion in our membership and our curriculum.