At Prep for Prep’s Lilac Ball last night, honoree Ralph Schlosstein, chief executive officer and president of Evercore Partners Inc., said math was his favorite subject at Central High School in Philadelphia.
“My father was a bartender,” said the 62-year-old, who co-founded BlackRock Inc., on a pause from mingling at the Waldorf Astoria. “My parents, they were German immigrants from well-off families who lost everything when Hitler came to power. They wanted a better life for me so they always sent me to the best public schools.”
The same desire is at the core of Prep for Prep, which sends children from poor neighborhoods to private high schools, providing support -- two years of academic preparation in middle school, internships, travel -- to help them thrive. The senior class this year has 145 members.
The nonprofit, founded by a South Bronx school teacher 35 years ago, counts 3,100 students and alumni. One is Cesar Perez, who just enrolled his 5-year-old son at Trinity, his Prep for Prep alma mater. And so the opportunities multiply.
“What this organization does makes a massive difference for a relatively small number of super-talented kids,” Schlosstein said.
Yale-bound Roger Ng-A-Qui, 18, is a fine example. He arrived in the U.S. at age 6 from Guyana, after his mother died in childbirth. At Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire he studied Mandarin. At Yale he wants to pick up Arabic.
Over the summer, he’ll vacation in Georgia with an Exeter friend -- his freshman-year roommate -- then work at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in global financial-crimes compliance.
Other Prep for Prep role models dining on chicken, mashed potatoes and string beans were Phillip Yao, a Harvard graduate and Rhodes scholar who will study education technology and philosophy at Oxford, and Eni Popoola, who said she started out as a “shy girl” at Spence, found her voice, and is headed to Harvard.
Schlosstein went from Central High to study economics at Denison, paying his tuition with four scholarships and a 40-hour-a-week job in the dining hall. Sharing the honor with his wife, Jane Hartley, CEO of the Observatory Group LLC, the couple helped raise $3 million.
Among the 1,200 guests were Scott L. Bok, CEO of Greenhill & Co. and Prep for Prep board chairman; Daniel S. Loeb, CEO of Third Point LLC and a Prep for Prep board member; and Dick Cashin, founder of One Equity Partners LLC, whose wife, Lisa, is president of the Prep for Prep board.
The night ended with a slew of smart, inbound college freshmen dancing to Drake courtesy of a DJ.
At the Apollo Theater Spring Gala the adults were the ones dancing after an ’80s-flashback concert celebrating Chaka Khan.
Jennifer Holliday of the original Broadway production of “Dreamgirls” brought in “Through the Fire,” R&B singer Deborah Cox chose “Ain’t Nobody,” and Alexandra Burke -- if you haven’t heard of her you will -- joined them for “I’m Every Woman.”
In the audience were Apollo board members chef and restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson and hedge-fund manager Paul Tudor Jones.
Mary J. Blige said at first she was scared to record a cover of “Sweet Thing.” Then she met Chaka Khan, who urged her to make the song hers. The Apollo is one of those places that have room for both of them.
(Amanda Gordon is a writer and photographer for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. Any opinions expressed are her own.)
Muse highlights include Daniel Akst on books, Lili Rosboch on art.