Albert Stanaj Receives Stepinac High School's Bob Fitzsimmons Memorial Scholarship

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The Bob Fitzsimmons Memorial Scholarship, this year, is being awarded to Albert Stanaj, a 2012 graduate of Archbishop Stepinac High School. He has been demonstrating an interest in theatre since the age of 9. Albert would come to Stepinac with his parents to pick up his older brother who was in rehearsal for SOUTH PACIFIC. Besides running around the theatre chasing other cast members' little sisters, Albert became a student of the theatre at that time.

He began his career in Stepinac theatre in the fall of 2008. Ensemble roles in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST and the musical, CURTAINS led to featured roles in MY SISTER EILEEN (Appopolous) and DROWSY CHAPERONE (Robert Martin). His star turns on the Stepinac stage came in junior and senior year, when he tackled roles such as Eddie in A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE, the Beast in BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, and most recently, the Phantom in Andrew Lloyd Webber's PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. The latter roles garnered him Metropolitan Award nominations as Best Leading Actor. This is no surprise! His superb understanding of tone adds great depth to his performances. Each character he creates is layered with subtle nuances that truly capture the imagination. His characterizations are authentic and not mere caricatures. And when he sings, he truly soars. Whether it is singing in the hallways at the top of his lungs (!) or performing on stage for 500 people, Albert has been our "angel of music" for the past four years.
As a person, Albert is most gracious humble man. He works diligently to motivate the entire cast to do their best work and challenges them by setting a high standard of excellence for them to follow. It is fitting then to award him the Bob Fitzsimmons scholarship. Bob was a theatrical giant – not just because of the size of his talent but also because of the size of his heart. And Albert certainly follows in that tradition!

The Scholarship is given annually to a college-bound senior who has excelled in the theatre arts programs while attending Stepinac High School. The prestigious Arts Scholarship is named after Bob Fitzsimmons, a graduate of Stepinac High School, who died suddenly at the age of 37 in March of 1992. He was the Public Relations Director of the Westchester Broadway Theatre, as well as a gifted actor, producer, writer and a director of shows at WBT and at numerous theatres throughout the County.

The scholarship was established in his name by the owners of Westchester Broadway Theatre, Bill Stutler and Bob Funking, the entire employee staff of WBT, and the many friends and relatives of Bob Fitzsimmons. Under the auspices of WBT, Allan Gruet, (former WBT Public Relations Director, who replaced Bobby Fitzsimmons) and George Puello spearheaded two fundraisers. The first & most successful fundraiser was held at WBT, the second was held at Stepinac High School. Mr. Puello was responsible for directing & producing the entertainment portion of the events, while Mr. Gruet handled the ticketing for the fundraisers & the continuing administration of the self-sustaining scholarship. Over the years, along with the assistance of producer Bob Funking, Allan has continued to manage the scholarship, making it possible to present the award consistently each year. In recent years, Frank Portanova,Vice Principal of Stepinac High School, has been extremely helpful and cooperative, making some financial donations to the fund to help ensure the life of the scholarship.

He also is responsible for selecting the student winner for this highly competitive award. Since it's inception, $20,000.00 in scholarships have been awarded. Unfortunately, due to the current financial climate, the Scholarship is no longer self-sustaining and monies need to be raised to ensure the continuation of this award. The annual scholarship in Bob's name is our collective way of keeping alive the memory of our dear friend, Bobby Fitzsimmons.

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