SELECTION COMMITTEE 2012 – 2017
Joseph E. Mohbat Prize for Writing in Memory of Verdery Knights
Our Selection Committee members consist of jurors with impressive writing backgrounds in a variety of fields. They are both professional writers – journalists, authors – but also those who use writing extensively in their careers that range from the fields of finance, education and entertainment to the environment and the non-profit world. Below are brief profiles of those who have served as judges for the Mohbat Prize.
Richard Anderson (2015-2017) is a communications expert specializing in financial services. Through his own firm, R.L. Anderson, he represents a broad range of organizations from multinationals to non-profits, helping them enhance their business and reputation through effective public relations and marketing communications. He helped launch Zillow.com, a popular public interest website. Good writing has always been central to his work, much of which has appeared in some public space. Rick is a founding member of the Mohbat Prize. He lives in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn.
Dolores Barclay (2013, 2014) has had a distinguished career in journalism, primarily with the Associated Press where she worked as a feature and national writer, serving as editor of its Arts and Entertainment page, and most notably as an investigative reporter. Her work on the prize winning investigative series “Torn From the Land” rewarded her deep interest in social justice journalism. Dolores has taught journalism at Rutgers and is currently an adjunct professor at Columbia University. She is also a published author. She lives in Manhattan.
Marcia Y. Cantarella (2012-2017) has an extensive writing background both professionally and as a published writer and in teaching. Her career as an educator, which includes serving as a Dean at Princeton and the Dean’s staff at NYU College of Arts and Sciences, has focused on enhancing students’ academic experience and outcomes. Her background also includes a career of speaking, writing, consulting and training on leadership and entrepreneurship. Dr. Cantarella is the daughter of Whitney Young, the late civil rights activist. She has served as a judge for the Mohbat Prize from the outset. Marcia lives in Manhattan.
Askia Egashira (2012, 2013) is a dedicated teacher of English at Benjamin Banneker Academy, a public high school in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn. Prior to returning to teach high school English at Banneker, he taught and pursued graduate studies at Brooklyn College. Askia was instrumental in helping launch the Mohbat Prize in honor of Verdery Knights, who was a senior at Banneker and a protégé of Joseph Mohbat. Askia was Verdery Knights’ English teacher for two of her three high school years. He lives in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.
Marilyn Gelber (2015, 2016) was the founding president of the Brooklyn Community Foundation where she led a major investment initiative in support of exceptional and promising not for profit organizations in Brooklyn. Her philanthropic career was preceded by a long career in urban planning, where among many responsibilities, she oversaw the development of a watershed protection plan for NYC’s vast water system. Writing has played an important part in her many professional roles. The writings of young people came to her attention at BCF, which funded young writers’ scholarship projects. The Mohbat Prize is administered by the Brooklyn Community Foundation as the Mohbat Fund. Marilyn lives in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn.
Thomas Giovanni (2016, 2017) is the Executive Assistant Corporation Counsel for Government Policy for the NYC Law Department, and the Chief of Staff. He also is the executive responsible for the Law Department’s Family Court Practice. His work focuses on seeking policy-based solutions to large-scale issues that re-occur in agencies, that often cost agencies money, time and public support. Thomas began his career in social justice as a public defender at the Neighborhood Defender Service of Harlem, as a staff attorney, then a supervising attorney. After nearly 10 years, Thomas went to the Brennan Center for Justice, where he served as Counsel to the Justice Program and the Director of the Community-Oriented Defender Network. After that he was the Supervising Attorney for the Legal Aid Society of New York’s Anti-Gun Violence Initiative. He has experience in criminal law, justice policy, criminal procedure and trial practice, public defense, and pretrial proceedings. Thomas has been featured on The Rachel Maddow Show, PBS’s Need to Know, and NY1’s Inside City Hall. He holds a B.A. (1994) from Morehouse College, a Historically Black College, and a JD from Georgetown University Law Center (1998). Thomas is a resident of Brooklyn.
James Houtrides (2013) is retired from a distinguished career in print and broadcast journalism. Starting out as a reporter for a daily newspaper in Louisiana, he moved into an editor’s position at McGraw-Hill. For the last 30+ years of his career, he worked as a writer and producer at CBS News (Charles Kuralt and later Charles Osgood). In his spare time, he has returned to an old love, writing poetry. Jim lives in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn.
Nancy Kirk (2015, 2017) is an experienced editor with a long and distinguished career editing the works of significant figures in the fields of health and higher education. Robert Fogelson, professor of history at MIT and Katherine Schwartz at Harvard’s School of Public Health, among others, have entrusted her with their most significant work. She also assisted Henry Grunwald, former editor of Time Magazine, in preparing One Man’s America. Nancy is active with the Bryn Mawr Club of New York. She lives in Manhattan.
Henrik Krogius (2012, 2013) is the past editor of the Heights Press, an old and venerable weekly newspaper focused on news about Brooklyn Heights, downtown Brooklyn and beyond. Articles written by Joseph Mohbat for the Heights Press were considered by some to be among the best the paper published. Henrik is the author of The Brooklyn Heights Promenade, the first book to delve into the curious history of that very visible project. He is currently working on a history of the Brooklyn Bridge Park. Henrik lives in Brooklyn Heights.
Mitchell Pacelle (2013-2016) is an award winning journalist with a long career as a reporter and staff writer for the Wall Street Journal. In that role, his writing has covered a broad range of subject areas, including extensive writing about the world of finance. In addition to his journalism work, he is a published author of a popular book entitled Empire: A Tale of Obsession and Betrayal, and the Battle for an American Icon. The book tells a compelling story about the Empire State Building. Mitch lives in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn.
Matt Schudel (2015, 2016) has had a long career as a journalist at The Washington Post. He has been serving on the obituary desk of the Post since 2004. Among his many and notable obits are those on Robert Bork, Ben E. King, William Zinsser, author of the classic guide ‘On Writing Well,’ and Joseph E. Mohbat, namesake of the Mohbat Prize for Writing, and many more. Besides his role writing these fascinating human stories, Matt has been a feature and magazine writer, jazz and art critic and editor of all types of writing. He likes obituaries because he believes that nothing is more interesting than people’s lives. Matt lives in Maryland.
Jo Anne Simon (2014) is a lawyer specializing in disabilities rights. She has spearheaded many local causes important to her Brooklyn district that include land use, public health and transportation. In 2014, she was elected as our new Assemblywoman from the 52nd Congressional District in Brooklyn and has become an active and influential legislator in her freshman year in Albany. She is past president of the Boerum Hill Association and Everyone Reading, an advocacy group for the learning impaired. Her writing skills have been honed from years of writing and editing public submissions, legal briefs, speeches and more. She is a founding member of the Mohbat Prize. A familiar face to local leaders, political, educational and otherwise, Jo Anne resides in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn.
Patti Sullivan (2015) was a screenwriter in the Hollywood film world for 26 years. She wrote, pitched and sold mostly original content, adapted works by well-known authors like Joyce Carol Oates and did many rewrites for actors familiar to us. She has written and sold pilots for major directors and taught a graduate film seminar at NYU with John Schlesinger on how writers and directors collaborate to make a story come to life on film. She taught seniors at YABC second chance school in Canarsie, Brooklyn and this summer is teaching creative writing to women prisoners on Rikers Island. Patti lives in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn.
Joanna Underwood (2012-2017) is a noted environmental writer and head of the environment research group Energy Vision. Over the last three decades, she has written and edited numerous books and articles on a broad range of topics generally focused on saving our planet. Her expertise is sought by governments and corporations across the country. Joseph Mohbat wrote and edited volumes of material with Ms. Underwood during the 1980’s and 1990’s. Her current initiative seeks to persuade municipalities to begin using household waste as an environmentally friendly fuel source. She is a founding member of the Mohbat Prize. Joanna lives in Manhattan.