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Two at CGPS Receive “Courage Award” from Sloan-Kettering
In recognition of their bravery and determination in the face of adversity, Prep School student Michael Schottenfeld, Class of ’14, and parent Howard Godnick (Andy ’15 and Max ’09, who attends Brown University) each received the “Award of Courage” at a benefit for Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center’s surgery department.
The awards dinner, which took place on May 10 at Cipriani 42nd Street, was hosted by the Award of Courage Corporation and featured a special presentation by Michael J. Fox. More than 600 guests attended.
These two members of the CGPS community share a special bond because of their extraordinary strength and resolve when confronted with serious health problems.
|Michael Schottenfeld '14 accepting the Award of Courage at a Memorial Sloan-Kettering benefit in May.
By all accounts, Michael Schottenfeld was a happy and engaged teenager who excelled in school, on the basketball court, and in his many friendships. In 2010, during eighth grade, everything changed. After a series of tests and considerable anxiety for him and his family, Michael received the shocking news no 14-year-old should ever have to hear: “You have cancer.”
“All of a sudden, my life was turned upside down,” said Michael, who at 16 is the youngest recipient of the Award of Courage.
Surgery, a week’s stay at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, and several months of grueling recuperation followed. Gone were his carefree days of shooting hoops and running around with his buddies. Michael was forced to severely limit his activities so he could properly recover. This meant lots of video games, but no real sports.
Rather than feel sorry for himself, Michael was committed to doing whatever was necessary to get well. “People like to make cancer patients feel better about what they went through by telling them they are so ‘courageous’ and ‘brave,’ but in reality, every person in this room would have done the same thing to survive. But don’t think that what I went through was easy.”
In his moving remarks, Michael thanked his younger brothers, Jason ’15 and Max ’22, also CGPS students, and his devoted parents, Robin and Richard Schottenfeld, for all their love and encouragement during this trying time. “Without my friends and family giving me tremendous support throughout my sickness, it would have been a much tougher road to get through,” he said.
Michael also acknowledged longtime English and Latin teacher, Mr. Marvin Terban, who attended the awards ceremony with his wife, Karen. “Whenever I have needed anything from you, you have always been there with open arms, and without you, this speech wouldn’t have been possible.”
After successful treatment at Sloan-Kettering, Michael’s cancer is now in remission. He re-joined his former life with renewed exuberance, playing on the varsity basketball team, thriving academically, and working with autistic children as part of his volunteer activities.
Undoubtedly, surviving cancer has reminded Michael what truly matters in life. “I’ll do what my Latin teacher told me: Carpe Diem! Seize the day!”
|Howard Godnick with his family: his wife, Lisanne, and his sons, Max '22 and Andy '15
CGPS parent Howard Godnick, the second Award of Courage honoree is also no stranger to considerable medical challenges. Like Michael Schottenfeld, Mr. Godnick relies on his positive, down-to-earth outlook, his great sense of humor, and the support of his close-knit family, which also includes his wife, Lisanne, to help him negotiate a series of critical health situations.
In 1993, Mr. Godnick’s flourishing law career and impressive athletic pursuits came to a sudden halt when a routine exam revealed dangerous blockages in his coronary arteries; he was forced to undergo quadruple bypass surgery soon afterwards. Ten years later, he suffered a heart attack during a spinning class (his new passion after deciding running was too risky) and had to be airlifted to the nearest trauma center. Once again, Mr. Godnick’s heart recovered. Unfortunately, his medical setbacks were far from over.
In 2009, Mr. Godnick was diagnosed with a rare neurological condition – anterior ischemic optic neuropathy – in his left eye. The following year, the condition spread to his right eye, leaving him visually impaired and extremely sensitive to light. Today, Mr. Godnick is unable to drive, ski, bicycle, or run (But he loves to skydive!).
“This is my life. There are no dress rehearsals. I’m going to live it with all the gusto I can,” said Mr. Godnick, who is a partner in the New York law office of Schulte Roth & Zabel LLP. “Life goes on and so does mine, despite heart attacks and impaired vision…. I refuse to allow these experiences to get the best of me.”
Above all else, Mr. Godnick considers himself a fortunate man. “Some people survive health issues and wake up every day and thank God to be alive. Not me. I wake up every day and wonder, what’s going on at work? How can I be a better lawyer? How can I be a better dad? How can I be a better husband? How can I be a better son?”
He added, “There’s nothing in life I enjoy more than being a father, and nothing I have faced has interfered with that joy and ever will.” And for his fellow honoree, Mr. Godnick offered this advice: “To Michael Schottenfeld, I say, appreciate what you have. Appreciate how lucky you are. Live life to the fullest. Don’t sweat the small stuff.”