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A Letter from President Lowrey to GTS


A Letter from President Lowrey to the GTS Community


The beginning of the Seminary’s Michaelmas term will soon be upon us, with Orientation Week slated to begin on August 29. I would like to summarize a number of important developments at GTS since my last letter to you in mid-July. You should all have received notice of the press releases on the loan with M&T Bank and on the appointment of Bishop Peter Lee as Interim Dean.

GTS and M&T Bank completed signing all the documents finalizing our $5.3 million short term loan on August 9. These funds are now available for the Seminary to draw upon for operating expenses. The agreement stipulates that the loan will be repaid from the proceeds from the sale of the four residential units in Chelsea 2,3,4. Depending on the revenue realized from the units, this sale is also expected to reduce the Seminary’s overall debt by up to $3.9 million. Among other prerequisites, the sale of the units will also enable us to build out the space for our beautiful new library. The Seminary is indebted to GTS trustee Sandra Johnson and to both Maureen Burnley and Frank DiMaiuta for their hard work in securing this loan. While this loan provides temporary stabilization, the real work is still before us: reducing our debt and building our endowment. Minimally, our endowment should be in the range of $50 million, about $30 million above where it stands now. So, in eliminating $33 million of debt and in increasing our endowment by $30 million, we are looking at a total “swing” of over $60 million needed to achieve an acceptable level of financial well-being. Clearly, this is a daunting goal but is one which I believe is achievable. Moreover, restructuring our balance sheet will not be enough in the long run, given the Seminary’s negative cash flow of $5 million each year. We will have to restructure our business model as well.

We cannot, however, confine our concern to improving the financial well-being of GTS without taking a serious look at our institutional health. For this reason I feel we should all be gratified to know Bishop Peter Lee will be serving as our Interim Dean. He brings to GTS administrative and pastoral abilities gained over a lifetime of distinguished service. As I work to help put the Seminary’s financial house in order, I am deeply thankful to know a person of Bishop Lee’s background and experience will be working here each day on campus to nurture and revitalize the academic and spiritual life of the Seminary. Bishop Lee and I have agreed on a number of areas where he will begin to focus his attention. These include addressing the concerns voiced by our residential faculty, finding new ways to ensure our adjunct members share in the full richness of Seminary life, and working to restore the Chapel as an active and relevant center of our life together.

Since Bishop Lee will not join GTS until our Matriculation service on September 30, I have begun to address needed changes in our worship, a hallmark of our life together about which many have voiced concerns. Oversight of the Chapel has always been a shared responsibility and we want to continue this collaborative effort between faculty, students, and staff, including the Rev. Dr. Mitties De Champlain as Professor of Preaching, the Rev. Dr. Stuart Hoke as Chaplain, Dr. David Hurd as Professor of Church Music, and Mr. Jeffrey Roy as Chief Sacristan. However, to better utilize these talents and to gain the invaluable expertise of a liturgical scholar with significant parish experience, I have appointed the Rev. Dr. Patrick Malloy, Associate Professor of Liturgics, to serve as Director of the Chapel with full responsibility for chapel life and worship. Recent discussions have affirmed our commitment to the daily recitation of Morning and Evening Prayer in accordance with longstanding tradition and our constitution. However we need to revisit our worship schedule and to introduce more contemporary elements of worship current in the life of the wider church. Accordingly, beginning with the upcoming term, the Eucharist will follow immediately upon Morning Prayer each day except for Tuesday. With the aim of restoring the centrality of the Tuesday night service as the “community Eucharist” we are planning to add an evening meal to follow. The schedule of morning classes has been revised to accommodate these changes. We are also taking a serious look at ways to be more intentional in our expectations about Chapel attendance for all members of the community.

In addition to our new Interim Dean and Dr. Malloy’s new role, I would like to update you on other recent personnel changes. The Rev. Dr. Robert J. Owens, Professor of Old Testament, has accepted my invitation to serve as Academic Advisor to the Dean. With Bishop Lee assuming responsibility for the academic life of the Seminary and Dr. Owens assisting, Dr. Ted Gerbracht will be departing his role as Senior Vice President of Academic Administration with the Seminary’s deep appreciation for his service. Ted has agreed to stay on board pro bono as Director of Special Programs.  This position will be focused on incubating both the Center for Christian Spirituality and the Tutu Peace and Reconciliation Center.  Both Centers have much promise, but have yet to realize the full potential of their visions.  Ted has graciously accepted to use his talents for at least 90 days to not only help progress these visions, but also to focus on making them financially viable going forward.  With Ted Gerbracht in a special projects role we will appoint the Rev. Jeanne Person as the new fulltime Director of the Center for Christian Spirituality including the Spiritual Guidance of Children program. Jeanne has done an admirable job in developing new initiatives at the Center for Christian Spirituality and in promoting them with great success.

In other personnel changes, the Rev. Dr. David Lowry who has been the Director of the Center for Peace and Reconciliation will be leaving us to become the new Director of the George Mercer School of Theology in the Diocese of Long Island. Dr. Lowry has been of great assistance in charting a future for the Center and we are grateful to him for his good work and we wish him well on his new assignment.

Lastly, at their August 5 meeting the members of the Executive Committee received the resignation of the Rev. Canon Denis M. O’Pray, effective with the October, 2010 Board meeting. This will mark the fifth anniversary of Canon O’Pray’s very distinguished tenure as Chair of our Board during which the Desmond Tutu Center and numerous preservation projects were completed. We are also grateful to him for his work in making a smooth change of leadership at GTS. I will provide timely updates as the trustees’ Executive Committee begins the work of nominating a new Chair according to the policy and procedures of GTS.

A number of other important changes have taken place over the summer. Most of our faculty offices have been moved to new accommodations on the fourth floor of the West Building where they have both a large conference room and a kitchen. As a result, the former faculty offices in Seabury Hall have been returned to student housing and the Faculty Common Room has become the Student Common Room. The space is modest but we have gone too long without a place for students to gather. In other improvements a study room for students has been created in Pintard Hall, the Seminary’s reception area has gotten a much needed face-lift, and a common kitchen has been installed in Edson Hall.  The Rookery (accessible from has become an online hub for GTS community news and information and now incorporates Faces, TWAG, and a host of other resources; the GTS website also provides access to a new electronic version of the GTS Catalog 2011 that was launched earlier this summer.

One other change that will be taking place later this fall is with our Chaplain, the Rev. Stuart Hoke.  Stuart’s agreement with GTS was to serve as Chaplain for one year which ends this Thanksgiving.  From all accounts Stuart has done a wonderful job in this capacity and we will miss him when he completes his assignment this fall.  Bishop Lee will start a search for a new Chaplain when he arrives in September (if not before) as the role of Chaplain is a very important position at GTS.

I very much realize we are living into a new reality on the Close with Enclave residents moving in, the Tutu Center operating at 70% capacity, and the increasing use for weddings and other events. I will be forming a new working group to deal with issues of security and appropriate usage so that the safety and beauty of the Close is preserved.

I look forward to seeing those of you who will be present for Orientation Week and everyone else shortly thereafter. Bishop Lee joins us on September 30 for Matriculation. If you have questions or concerns, my door is always open. Simply contact Chris McFadden to schedule an appointment or you may contact me by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . I hope this update finds each of you well, refreshed and renewed by the summer months.

God’s peace,

The Rev. Lang Lowrey
Interim President

Abigail Disney to Speak at General Seminary on Women, War, and Peace

29 July 2011

New York City—Abigail Disney knows the effects of war on women and the powerful role women can play in peacemaking. Creator of Pray the Devil Back to Hell, an award-winning film about women who demanded peace for Liberia, Disney is now making Women, War & Peace, a five-part PBS series debuting October 11, 2011, that presents the stories of women in four war-torn countries: Bosnia, Afghanistan, Colombia, and Liberia. In a preview event open to the public, Disney will visit The General Theological Seminary on Friday evening, September 16, 2011, to discuss religious aspects of the series.

The Women, War and Peace series, comprising five films to air on consecutive Tuesday evenings, reveals how women, in modern warfare, have become primary targets and are suffering unprecedented casualties. Yet women are also emerging as necessary partners in brokering lasting peace.

The preview event will include commentary by Disney as she screens scenes from the new series, followed by an interview with the Rev. Chloe Breyer, Director of The Interfaith Center of New York, Episcopal priest, and 2000 graduate of GTS. Disney will address both the negative and positive religious aspects of women, war and peace—including the ways in which she has seen religious doctrines and institutions pose a stumbling block for women in peacemaking and also how women’s faith beliefs and communities have contributed to their desire and efforts for peace.

Co-sponsored by Anglican Women’s Empowerment (AWE) and Fork Films, Disney’s film production company, the evening also will provide participants with ideas for viewing and responding to the PBS series. AWE, a non-profit organization seeking to empower Anglican/Episcopal women and girls striving for gender equity and social justice, and Fork Films are working together to produce a discussion guide that can be used by local churches.

The event will be held at the Desmond Tutu Center of General Seminary, from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm., and will include a reception. To purchase a $45 ticket through PayPal, visit the AWE donation page,, or send a check payable to "AWE" to Inez Saley, 760 George St, Teaneck, NJ 07666. To learn more about the event, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


The General Theological Seminary, located in the heart of New York City, educates and forms leaders for the church in a changing world. Founded in 1817 as the first theological seminary of the Episcopal Church, General offers certificate and degree programs including the Master of Divinity, Master of Arts, and Doctor of Theology. The Seminary is also home to the Desmond Tutu Center, a full-service conference center with sixty modern guest rooms.

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Media Contact:

Bruce Parker
Senior Vice President for External Relations
The General Theological Seminary
440 West 21st Street
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Board of Trustees Resolution May 18, 2010

18 May 2010 -- Resolution from the Seminary's Board of Trustees

Approved Unanimously by the Board of Trustees of The General Theological Seminary
May 18, 2010

PREAMBLE In faith and with firm commitment, the Board of Trustees of the General Theological Seminary will continue to carry out our mission to educate and form leaders for the church in a changing world.  In answer to this call we pledge all our best efforts and will recruit and call an interim Dean and President in the coming weeks in order help lead and guide us forward.

Further, To this end we have endorsed the specific plans outlined below.  This plan will provide needed resources for immediate needs; meanwhile we are deeply committed to pursuing all productive avenues for conversations with other seminaries and institutions of the Episcopal Church to consider collaborations and common programs.

Whereas, The General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church in the United States (the “Seminary”) wishes to subject a portion of the Seminary’s property (land and improvements) located at Block 718, Lot 1 in the Borough of Manhattan (“Block 718, Lot 1”) and commonly referred to as “Chelsea 2, 3, 4” (such property, ”Chelsea 2, 3, 4”) to a condominium regime for the purposes of establishing distinct residential condominium units (the “Residential Units”); and

Whereas, The Seminary wishes to sell not more than four of the resulting Residential Units upon such terms as may be approved by the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of the Seminary but in no event for an amount less than the fair market value of such residential Units;

Now, therefore,

1)     Be it resolved that the Seminary be and is hereby authorized, empowered and directed to a) establish a condominium regime for Chelsea 2,3,and 4, b) sell not more than four of the resulting Residential Units upon such terms as may be approved by the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees of the Seminary but in no event for an amount less than the fair market value of such residential Units, and c) obtain the release of Chelsea 2,3 and 4 (or, alternatively, the release of the Residential units to be sold) the lien of the mortgages currently encumbering Block 718 Lot 1and held, respectively, by Manufacturers and Traders Trust Company and the Trustees of the Estate Belonging to the Diocese of Long Island (collectively, the mortgages) and if necessary subject the Residential Units not sold to the lien of the Mortgages (the transaction described in this resolution being hereinafter  referred to as the “Condominium Conversion and Sale”);

2)    Be it further resolved that the Seminary be and is hereby authorized empowered and directed to furnish all materials, execute and deliver any instruments and documents and take such further actions, as may be necessary to consummate and effect the Condominium Conversion and Sale, including procuring of any necessary approvals from the New York State Attorney General; and the New Your State Supreme Court; and

3)    Be it further resolved that the Dean and President of the Seminary or the Executive Vice president of the Seminary or any other officer or employee of the Seminary designated by the Board of Trustees or the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees, be and is hereby authorized, empowered and directed to furnish all materials, execute and deliver and instruments and documents, and take such further actions as may be necessary to consummate and effect the Condominium Conversion and Sale, including procuring any necessary approvals from the New York State Attorney General and the New York State Supreme Court; and

4)    Be it further resolved that all actions heretofore taken by any officer or employees of the Seminary in respect of the Condominium Conversion and Sale are hereby ratified and confirmed.

5)    Be it further resolved that the Board of Trustees of the Seminary authorize an ad hoc committee composed of Denis O’Pray, Board Chair, and Sandra Johnson and David Pitts, Board Members, to negotiate terms of investment with interested institutions and parties and report the result of such negotiations to the Executive Committee so that the Executive Committee may determine if the requirements of the plan for  the infusion of cash for the operation reserved from the Condominium Conversion and Sale and special philanthropic gifts have been met and the financial restructuring can continue.

6)    Be it further resolved that the Executive Committee will seek and secure “letters of comfort” as to the efficacy and validity of the transactions proposed in this resolution from the interested institutions and parties including the Manufacturers and traders Trust Company.

7)    Be it further resolved that the Executive Committee will seek and secure a letter of advice resulting from an independent financial assessment conducted by a bona fide and recognized independent financial consultant or institution of high standing and integrity.

Advancement and Communications Offices Merge

General Seminary Merges Advancement and Communications Offices

President to Head New Office Joined by Associate VP and Three Staffers


December 3, 2010

New York City –In the interest of making its administration more effective, The General Theological Seminary (GTS) will merge the Communications Office with the school’s Department of Institutional Advancement, Seminary President Lang Lowrey recently announced. The new department will be called the Office of External Relations, a title the Seminary used in the 1980s for an office encompassing similar responsibilities. The new Office of External Relations will have responsibility for development, communications, alumni/ae affairs, and marketing Seminary programs. It will also oversee the Chelsea Square Conservancy, a group of Seminary friends and donors formed around preserving the Seminary’s historic grounds as well as the GTS Media Workshop, which makes recordings of GTS programs, including sermons from the Chapel, available on the Internet.

“Because fundraising is so critical to the mission of our school and will require my involvement,” said President Lowrey in making the announcement, “I will myself be providing primary oversight of this new department.”  Charles Knapp, Vice President of Institutional Advancement and Alumni/ae Relations, Lowrey explained, has agreed to assist with the transition in leadership until the end of 2010. “Charles will be departing GTS on January 1 with our deep appreciation for the work he has done here,” said Lowrey. “In the face of troubling news about the finances of GTS last year, Charles and his team none-the-less raised an impressive amount for the Seminary’s Annual Fund—a figure that has set a recent high water mark in General’s history. I am very grateful to Charles for agreeing to remain with us to provide a smooth transition.”

The day-to-day operations of the new Office of External Relations will be headed up by Bruce Parker, former Executive Director of Communications who, with the merger, has been promoted to Associate Vice President for External Relations and Alumni/ae Affairs.  A 1984 graduate of GTS, Parker has served the Seminary for the past 17 years and is the Seminary’s most senior staff member. “While his primary area of expertise will serve the communications and marketing side of the new office,” said Lowrey, “Bruce will also draw upon his many years of working in close collaboration with development. He has been intimately involved in planning and creating support materials for many of our fundraising efforts including the last capital campaign.”  Before joining the GTS staff in 1993, Parker served as a communications consultant to Washington National Cathedral, to Trinity Church Wall Street, and to the national offices of the Episcopal Church, and in this capacity provided support to many fundraising efforts.

In addition to Parker, the new External Relations team will consist of Senior Advancement Officer Donna Ashley, a 2006 graduate of the Seminary, and Director of Development Don Temples. “Donna has done excellent work for GTS and Don has also served us with distinction,” said Lowrey. “I am looking forward to directing the efforts of this promising new department at GTS.”

Also as part of the restructuring, Lowrey announced that Chad Rancourt, who has served for the last seven years as Media Coordinator in the Communications Office, will advance to the position of Director of Communications in the new Office of External Relations. A communications veteran with significant experience on Wall Street and in the advertising industry, Rancourt has been responsible for establishing a consistent graphics branding for the Seminary and for taking a key role in marketing Seminary programs.

Although the new office will also continue to provide a number of specialized production services, some internal support services previously provided by the Communication Office may need to be curtailed or appropriated to other GTS units. Similarly, the new office will maximize its efforts by accelerating the move to electronic communications and away from those venues that require paper. The move to electronic communications is both a cost consideration as well as a statement about stewardship of the environment. “I have met several times with the new External Relations staff and am excited by the synergy that I feel will be generated by this very talented group of people,” said President Lowrey in concluding the announcement. “Two members of the team are alums of GTS and all four have made significant contributions to the Seminary over the years.”

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Media Contact:
Bruce Parker
Associate Vice President for External Relations and Alumni/ae Affairs
The General Theological Seminary
175 Ninth Avenue, New York, NY 10011
(212) 243-5150 x285,
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Commencement 2010


29 April 2010 -- Press Release

General Seminary to Award Degrees and Moore Medal on May 19

New York City – Majestic brass music and pealing bells will fill the garden-like campus of The General Theological Seminary on May 19 as faculty members in colorful academic regalia are joined by friends, trustees, and students for the historic institution's 188th Commencement Exercises. Fifty-one women and men will receive degrees, diplomas, or certificates from the Seminary's Dean, the Very Rev. Ward B. Ewing.  Additionally, the Seminary’s honorary doctorate will be conferred on Mrs. Ruth Bakare, the Rt. Rev. Sebastian Bakare, the Rev. Dr. John Polkinghorne KBE FRS, Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo, and the Rev. Dr. J. Robert Wright. The Clement Clarke Moore Medal will be presented to Mr. David N. Redden and to Mrs. Jeannette Redden. 

Ruth Bakare of Zimbabwe is a tireless leader of the church for the welfare and development of women and children.  An outstanding educator, she has taught on many levels in Europe and in Africa.  When her husband was elected Bishop of Manicaland, she became president of the diocesan Mother’s Union. Under her leadership the Union was a strong force for improving the lot of women and families, particularly addressing issues of AIDS, absentee husbands, limited education, nutrition and limited career choices for women.  In 2006, she and her husband founded the Christian Relief and Development Trust which seeks to offer widows and displaced children nutritional, educational, and psychosocial support and HIV/AIDS prevention services. In 2007 she served as a representative to the UN Observer’s Office and also became president of the Mother’s Union of Harare. At one meeting some thirty-two hundred women were in attendance, some who had travelled from 250K away.  

The Rt. Rev. Sebastian Bakare serves as Acting Bishop of Harare Zimbabwe.  As the political situation in Zimbabwe has worsened, Bishop Bakare has led the church with remarkable grace and courage in the face of a hostile government.  While leading his own church and standing up for his people against political oppression, Bishop Bakare has continued to maintain relationships with the Anglican Communion. Prior to his ministry in Harare, he served as Bishop of Manicaland where he achieved remarkable success in social welfare and development projects, and served as President of the Zimbabwe Council of Churches.  Before becoming a bishop, he was professor and chaplain at the University of Harare.  His theological interests include Christianity in its cultural context (particularly on African issues), ecumenism, and the theology of land reform.  During the last years of Rhodesia in the early 1980’s, at the end of 18 years in exile Bakare brought his family to Berkeley, California, where he did advanced studies at the Graduate Theological Union. 

The Rev. Dr. John Polkinghorne, KBE FRS, was born in 1930 in Weston-super-Mare, England. He is a priest of the Church of England, a particle physicist and theologian, and has written extensively on matters concerning science and faith. He read Mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge in 1952 and then earned his PhD in physics in 1955.  After two years as a Lecturer at the University of Edinburgh, he returned to Cambridge in 1958, and was elected Professor of Mathematical Physics in 1968. During his 25 years as a theoretical physicist, Dr. Polkinghorne worked on theories of elementary particles and played a significant role in the discovery of the quark. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS) in 1974. He resigned his professorial chair to study for the priesthood at Cambridge and was ordained in 1982. He returned to Cambridge to be Dean of the Chapel at Trinity Hall, 1986-1989. He then became the President of Queens’ College, Cambridge, a position from which he retired in 1996. In 1997 he was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) and in 2002 was awarded the Templeton Prize for his contributions to research at the interface between science and religion. 

Bishop Robert Alan Rimbo was elected in May of 2008 to a six-year term as bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America’s Metropolitan New York Synod.  Born in Joliet, Illinois, Bishop Rimbo graduated from Christ Seminary-Seminex, St. Louis, and served two years as executive assistant to the project director of the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship, New York, which produced the Lutheran Book of Worship.  He was pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Valley Stream, New York, and of St. James Lutheran Church, Grosse Pointe Farms, Michigan, and was an assistant to the bishop of the ELCA Southeast Michigan Synod from 1991 to 1996.  When elected bishop of the ELCA Southeast Michigan Synod in 1998, he was pastor of Antioch Lutheran Church, Farmington Hills, Michigan.  He left the office of bishop in 2005 to become pastor of Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, New York City.  Rimbo and his wife Lois are parents of two adult children.  The ELCA Metropolitan New York Synod consists of approximately 80,000 Lutherans in over 200 congregations in 14 New York counties.

The Rev. Canon J. Robert Wright, D.Phil., is St. Mark’s Church in the Bowery Professor of Ecclesiastical History at The General Theological Seminary. A specialist in patristic studies and in Anglicanism, Dr. Wright is also a leading authority on the Book of Common Prayer and on Russian Orthodox (and other) icons.  He is an internationally known figure in ecumenical dialogue between the Episcopal Church and other churches, particularly the Roman Catholic, Armenian Apostolic, and Russian Orthodox churches, as well as the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Dr. Wright did his undergraduate work at the University of the South and received his doctorate at Oxford University.  In 2006 on the occasion of his seventieth birthday a festschrift was published: One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism: Studies in Christian Ecclesiality and Ecumenism in honor of J. Robert Wright. His own most recent book, published in 2008, is A Companion to Bede, a major commentary on the ecclesiastical history of the Venerable Bede.  Dr. Wright is the president of the Anglican Society, chaplain to the Guild of Scholars of The Episcopal Church, and the Episcopal Church’s official Historiographer. In 2007, he was awarded the Archbishop of Canterbury's Cross of St. Augustine for his scholarly contributions to ecumenical dialogue.

Co-recipients of the 2010 Clement Clarke Moore Medal, Mr. David N. Redden and Mrs. Jennette Redden have given countless hours to the service of General Seminary, where they have resided since 2004. They co-chair the Chelsea Square Conservancy executive committee, which seeks to raise awareness of the beauty and importance of the Seminary’s historic home. Mrs. Redden has personally donated many years of service in the Seminary gardens, tending and planting and teaching other volunteers, as well. She has long been associated with the Garden Club of America and with the Garden Club of Orange and Dutchess Counties. Mr. Redden has also taken a special interest in the Seminary library, providing leadership to its organization of Friends. He is Vice Chairman of Sotheby’s, where he has directed prestigious sales including that of the Estate of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, the Declaration of Independence, and the recent sale of Magna Carta for $21.3 million dollars. 

The General Theological Seminary, founded in 1817, prepares women and men for both ordained and lay ministries through a wide variety of degree and certificate programs. Its historic campus in the heart of New York City is also home to the Desmond Tutu Center, a modern, full-service conference facility. The Seminary conferred its first honorary degree in 1885. The ceremonies of Commencement, including the sections recited in Latin, were devised during this period and continue to be used today with few changes. 

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Media Contact:
Bruce Parker
Executive Director of Communications
The General Theological Seminary
175 Ninth Ave. New York, NY 10011
(212) 243-5150 x285
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440 West 21st Street, New York City, NY 10011   |   tel (212) 243-5150  fax (212) 727-3907

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