Gary Cohn, president and chief operating officer of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., played an “okay” game of golf on Saturday, and an excellent game of baseball-themed gala last night.
Harlem RBI’s Bids for Kids raised a record $5 million with Cohn as honoree -- almost double what the event brought in last year. The funds will support academic and personal-development programs built around playing baseball or softball on a team.
Harlem RBI serves 1,500 children in East Harlem and is expanding to the South Bronx in July. It also spawned a baseball-themed Dream Charter School in East Harlem.
The real honorees, Cohn said, were the 39 teenagers who’ve played ball with Harlem RBI and are graduating from high school this year, defying the odds in their neighborhood, where the high-school graduation rate is 42 percent.
One of them, Gabby Alvarado, is headed to Cohn’s alma mater, American University in Washington.
“Gabby, I did the math, and in 2044, you are the honoree,” Cohn said to 800 guests at Cipriani 42nd Street.
Cohn sat for dinner -- impressive-sized steaks and daintily crafted peaks of mashed potatoes -- with David Solomon, a co-head of investment banking at Goldman, and Jay Baker, former president of Kohl’s Corp., who made one of the biggest “bids” of the night, $250,000 to sponsor teams in the South Bronx.
Solomon and Cohn talked of their love for eating peanuts at a baseball game.
“There’s something satisfying about throwing the shells on the ground,” Cohn said.
“I find it incredibly relaxing,” Solomon said.
To the lectern to accept his honor and a No. 1 Harlem RBI jersey, Cohn brought up some of the baseballs decorating the tables.
“Mark, are these little or big?” Cohn asked Yankee first baseman Mark Teixeira. He answered for himself: “They’re little when he’s trying to hit them sometimes.”
Then Cohn read inscriptions on two baseballs. From a 17-year-old member of team Lady Royal: “Harlem RBI helped me to be myself, and to be open to new experiences.” From a 13-year-old Comet: “The best part of RBI is how your team becomes your family.”
In addition to his wife, artist Lisa Pevaroff-Cohn, and youngest daughter, Chelsea, Cohn had Goldman family in the room, including Tom Cornacchia, Eric S. Lane and Donald Truesdale, the Harlem RBI board member who helped set up Cohn’s first meeting with Teixeira. Also present: Tucker York, head of Goldman’s private-client group, and alumnus Donald Mullen, who bid $40,000 to use the Bank of America suite at Yankee Stadium for a game against the Red Sox.
“I’m here to bid on a new right wrist,” Teixeira joked during the auction.
Cohn played baseball growing up in Shaker Heights, Ohio. “I was a good suburban athlete,” he said. “I played first base. I was there to hit the ball.”
Richard Berlin, Harlem RBI’s executive director, has a plan to get Cohn back on the field: he’s working on developing a baseball tournament featuring financial-services firms paying $25,000 to enter. “The loser picks up the tab for both teams,” Berlin said.
“We’d be game,” said Vik Sawhney of Blackstone Group LP, who joined Blackstone’s David Blitzer as a dinner chairman.
Cohn said Goldman would prevail over JPMorgan.
Meanwhile at Gotham Hall, Goldman Sachs Community Teamworks was honored by Bideawee, a pet-welfare agency. The most distinguished guests were dogs, served biscuits during cocktail hour. Many were adopted through Bideawee, which also supports pet owners with a hospital, training programs and pet memorial cemeteries.
“Bideawee has played a crucial role in creating the lifelong bonds that exist between generations of pets and people in New York,” said its president, Nancy Taylor. “What better way to celebrate that legacy than to be here tonight.”
The gala marked the 110th anniversary of the organization and raised $300,000. The sweet ending: cookies in the shape of dog bones and fire hydrants.
(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 Patrick Cole on philanthropy, Philip Boroff on theater.