The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire Memorial (TSFFM) has named twenty-five Triangle Scholars for the Academic Year 2011-12.
Each grant is in the amount of $2,000 bringing TSFFM’s total awards to $310,000 since inception of the program in 2003. Scholarship funds are raised through the organization’s annual memorial journal and dinner held each year on March 25th in New York City at the Fire Museum on Spring Street in lower Manhattan to commemorate the tragic Triangle factory fire on March 25, 1911.
John Sciortino, a Rochester attorney and Chair of the Scholarship Committee, noted that 11 of this year’s recipients have been previous recipients and 6 are in their fourth year of study. “We are proud of the students and believe that those completing their degree studies represent the aspirations of their families who are dependent upon workers’ compensation to survive in this dreadful economy,” Sciortino said. “The arithmetic is simple: these students range in age from 17 -21 which means their families may be receiving compensation benefits as little as $200-300 per week,” he continued referring to the benefit limits in effect in previous years.
This year’s class of scholars pursues studies in institutions of higher education from Buffalo, to Rochester, to Potsdam, to St. John’s on Staten Island, to SUNY at Stony Brook and is in attendance at six private colleges and eight public institutions.
The 2011-2012 Triangle Scholars include 15 who received Named Scholarships, including 5 funded by friends and family of Clara Lemlich in whose name TSFFM annually confers public service awards. Other Named Scholarships were funded by the Workplace Injury Litigation Group [WILG], Society of NYS Workers’ Compensation Bar Association, the Ann and Arthur Grey Foundation, and several law firms and individuals.
Ten members of the Class of 2011-2012 are siblings from five families and five are in their fourth year of study. TSFFM’s scholarship program has benefitted 83 individual students with 155 annual grants at 33 different institutions since 2003.
TSFFM was founded by attorneys from the NYS Injured Workers Bar Association (IWBA) which counts members throughout NYS. Barbara Levine, an attorney and Vice President of TSFFM observed, “I believe TSFFM and its Scholarship Program speak directly of our bar’s commitment and recognition that career-ending injuries affect more than the income of hard working citizens. Although the Triangle fire and the legislation that it spawned pre-date Social Security by two decades as a means to create a floor, a social safety net, to aid those who need the assistance of their fellow citizens, it isn’t always the complete picture.”
“We are so excited,” observed Levine, “and had no idea when we started this project that we would be able to sustain our ability each year to raise funds for such a worthy cause. I am awed and, when the scholarship checks are sent out, simply and absolutely gratified.”
The NYC fundraising event treats attendees to cocktails, a four-star dinner, and entertainment with themes relating to the 1900’s, the Triangle era and performed by an amateur theatre group lead by Mauro Contrastano, an IWBA member. The pre-dinner entertainment includes klezmer music and a processional by the NY Fire Department’s Pipes and Drums.
“In this way,” offered Alex Rosado, a NYC attorney and IWBA member, “we fulfill TSFFM’s mission to commemorate the Triangle fire and remind the public of the origin of laws that operate on a daily basis in the workplace. A Workers’ Compensation statute was one of the results of the Triangle tragedy and we must not forget how such innocent sacrifice so profoundly affects our lives today.”