First-time and multiple recipients of GCSF scholarships on stage in the Joseph Urban Theatre, Hearst Tower, New York City.

Richard Krasner (left), outgoing president of GCSF, presents the Champion of Education Award to Alan Siegel, founder and chairman, Siegel + Gale.

“Design is the filter between human and machine,” observed Leo Mancini, one of 29 students awarded grants by the Graphic Communications Scholarship, Award and Career Advancement Foundation (GCSF) last night. “By nurturing interaction, design can change the world.”

His thoughtful and well-delivered remarks were but one indication of the high caliber of the recipients, all of whom either attend or, like Mancini, are entering colleges and universities with study programs in graphic communications. They shared a total of $40,000 in grants from a network of New York-metro area scholarship funds that support GCSF, an organization that has disbursed nearly $300,000 for graphics education since 2002.

Last night’s event, held at the Hearst Tower in Manhattan, also featured the presentation of GCSF’s Champion of Education Award to Alan Siegel, chairman and founder of the branding agency Siegel + Gale.

Organized nine years ago by a small group of metro area industry members who wanted to coordinate fundraising for graphics education, GCSF is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit group that channels 100% of the money it raises to scholarships. It has no professional staff and relies entirely on the voluntary efforts of its officers and trustees.

Its scholarship selection committee picks recipients by examining their SAT scores, grade-point averages, portfolios, letters of recommendation, and application essays. Scholarships are awarded annually to high school seniors entering college and to current students who have previously received them—in fact, the majority of last night’s recipients are multiple awardees.

GCSF also provides advisement, mentoring, internships and work-study opportunities for students who enroll in graphic studies degree programs at New York University, Rhode Island School of Design, The School of Visual Arts, and Carnegie Mellon University, among other institutions.

“The ultimate goal is for you to get a job in the New York metro area,” said Richard Krasner (Highroad Press), retiring from the presidency of GCSF after three years. His successor is David Luke (DAL Consulting). The other officers are Jack Powers (International Informatics Institute), second vice president; Jerry Mandelbaum (601 West Management Corp.), treasurer; and Diane Chavan (Language Workshop for Children).

GCSF leaders and other industry figures saluted the students and offered encouragement for what lies ahead. “You have a gift,” said Bonnie Blake, academic director of the M.A. program in graphic communications management and technology at New York University. “If you think strategically and have confidence in what you are learning, you will definitely do well in this industry.”

Tim Freeman, president of Printing Industries Alliance, welcomed the students as “our future colleagues” and reminded them that with its 2,500 firms, 55,000 employees, and $8.8 billion in annual shipments, the graphic communications industry in the New York-metro area still has plenty of opportunities to offer those with drive and talent. Freeman’s group, a local affiliate of Printing Industries of America, represents about 400 graphics firms in the region (New York City, northern New Jersey, and northwestern Pennsylvania).

Freeman also asked the students’ help in dispelling “myths” about the negative environmental impact of printing that have been spread by some eco-activists. Not only does print remain one of the most cost-effective ways of reaching the marketplace—paper is also a renewable material. “Computers and smart phones are not,” Freeman said.

That kind of plain speaking is advocated as a fundamental brand positioning strategy by Alan Siegel, this year’s recipient of GCSF’s Champion of Education Award. Among many other accomplishments, he has helped the Internal Revenue Service and private financial institutions to bring the clarity of simple English to their forms and documents.

Siegel, a lawyer by training, has numerous academic affiliations and is widely followed as a writer and a speaker on marketing and business communications. His firm, founded in 1969, helps its clients to establish, strengthen, and extend their brands for leadership in their categories. The firm’s motto is, “Simple is smart.”

Accepting the award, Siegel announced that a newly created Siegel + Gale scholarship would join the list of funds coordinated by GCSF.

“How lucky you are to be studying design in the 21st century at the schools you are going to,” he told the students. He urged them to strive for “clarity, honesty, transparency, functionality, and relevance” in all of their creative endeavors and professional pursuits.

It is a message that has already been taken to heart by students like Mancini, who in his remarks declared, “A graphic on your mobile phone should be as well composed as a painting at the Met.”

Such are the lofty ideals that the generosity of GCSF scholarship campaign continues to subsidize. As Jessie Murphy, a five-time recipient and a May graduate of the graphics program at New York City College of Technology, put it, “For us, it’s far from being just a paycheck.”