By Janice Llanes Fabry

Ingraham Taylor has lived in Rye for 55 years. A member of the Rye High School class of 1972, she proudly says, “I never missed a Rye-Harrison game in 52 of those years. They call them twirlers now, but I was a majorette from grade 10 through 12.”

She may have put down the baton, but Taylor has always marched to the beat of her own drum. After graduating from high school, she pursued a career in finance. But after working for Fortune 500 companies for 20 years, she veered off course.

“Instead of pursuing my MBA, I decided I was more of a people person and earned my Masters of Social Work at Fordham University,” she explained. “Rather than work with numbers, I wanted to concentrate on children and families. I wanted to show them the support, love, and encouragement my parents showed me.”

Taylor’s parents grew up in the South and both had to work from a young age to help sustain their families. “My mom went as far as the fifth grade and my father only to third grade. He did not really learn how to read until he was in his 60s. I was so proud when he did,” shared Taylor.

Once they moved to the Northeast, they lived in a one-bedroom basement apartment in Port Chester before relocating. “My parents sacrificed a lot for me to grow up in Rye. My mother scrubbed floors and my father worked at the Lifesaver building in Port Chester,” she noted. “It was important for them that we live in Rye because it was their goal to have their own home and to give me a good education.”

Taylor noted there were already quite a number of “black owned homes” on Cedar Place, Goldwyn Street, and in the “Dublin” area before they arrived in 1963. “It was a time when acceptance was not one hundred percent, so there were some challenges due to race,” she said.

Overcoming adversity, her father was able to offer his family new opportunities and to realize his dream of having his own garden yielding fresh vegetables every year. “We also had a grapevine and an apple tree,” Taylor recalled. “My mom made apple and grape jelly and apple pies, like the ones she made as a cook working in restaurants in Nags Head, North Carolina.”

Today, Taylor takes pride in the fact that four generations of her family have been rooted in Rye. Her son Andre graduated from Rye High in 1997 and he and his wife Lizette’s 8-year-old daughter Isabella attends Midland.

As far as pursuing a career as a social worker upon graduating Fordham University, Taylor began doing extensive work in residential treatment facilities and in the Mount Vernon School District. Fourteen years ago, she also became involved in Westchester’s NAACP Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO).

Founded in 1978 by journalist Vernon Jarrett, ACT-SO was adopted by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) as a major youth initiative. Its mission is to recognize, prepare, and reward African-American youth who exemplify scholastic and artistic excellence. It offers a yearlong enrichment program for high school students, which culminates in competitions in science, humanities, performing and visual arts, and entrepreneurship. A few notable alumni include best-selling author Lawrence Otis Graham and performers Jada Pinkett-Smith, Vanessa Williams, and the Emmy and Golden Globe nominated actor Anthony Anderson of the hit sitcom, “Black-ish.”

“ACT-SO resonated with me because it’s all about today’s youth, especially high school students,” said Taylor, who has served as the organization’s chair the last two years. “I tell the kids, ‘Once you enroll, you’re family.’”

A temporary setback put Taylor’s work on hold back in 2006. She suffered from a brain tumor that required a seven-hour surgery. “When everything came back, my senses and my cognitive abilities, I knew I was here for a reason to continue my work with youth and families.”

After the year it took her to fully recover, she came back strong and determined. Taylor continues to recruit students who might benefit from ACT-SO and accompanies them to regional competitions, as well as an annual recognition ceremony that awards participants with silver, bronze, and gold medals. Gold medalists then go on to a national competition, all expenses paid, which this year is being held in July in San Antonio.

Taylor is currently working on its 35th annual breakfast fundraiser, coming up on March 24. She is committed to raising awareness and excited about the awards and proclamations presented to civic-minded community members at this event.

In addition to her role at ACT-SO, Taylor works with high school girls at the Carver Center’s Teen Center and sits on the education committee of the NAACP Port Chester/Rye branch. Moreover, she works with families of color in the community through her own advocacy program, HOPE (Helping Others Prepare for Excellence).

“I’m blessed and I always want to give back,” she said.

<For more information, donation, and volunteer opportunities, visit the Westchester region of ACT-SO at>

Gene Collins, Traveling Teacher

By Dolores Eyler

For a man with a long history in finance, Gene Collins isn’t always good with numbers.

Take his anniversary. “Nancy and I have been married 42, no, 43 years,” he said of the woman he vowed to marry upon first sight almost 50 years ago. “It was some enchanted evening.”

“It’s 48 years,” said Nancy. “He has handled millions and billions of dollars but forgets these dates.”

By Robin Jovanovich

Saint John (Don) Bosco was a 19th-century Italian priest and educator who put into practice his belief that the transformation of youth is achieved by engaging them through love and support. He brought literacy to street children and dedicated his life to making sure youth was not misspent.

The Salesians of Don Bosco, who serve in 150 countries around the world, were asked to run churches in Port Chester. And while not a church, Don Bosco, Port Chester’s oldest community center, has a strong spiritual grounding, and enables those who need our help to realize their fullest potential.

For the past three years, Executive Director Ann Heekin has made it her mission to expand

By Georgetta L. Morque

We’ve all heard “winning isn’t everything,” but losing on the other hand can be devastating. Picking up the pieces when things have gone south has long been a challenge for many, both young and old and from all walks of life. Rye resident Sam Weinman explores this topic in his new book, “WIN AT LOSING: How Our Biggest Setbacks Can Lead to Our Greatest Gains,” which will be published December 20.

Weinman is the digital editor of Golf Digest and former lead hockey and golf writer for The Journal News and, where he also launched the popular hockey blog, “Rangers Report.” An award-winning writer, his work has regularly appeared in Gannett newspapers across the country, including USA Today. He has also contributed to Golf World, Yahoo! Sports, ESPN the Magazine, and Sports Illustrated.

Through his work, Weinman has witnessed top professional athletes rebound from major upsets, yet he was really drawn to writing about losing after seeing his two sons, Charlie, 11, and Will, 8, struggle with losses in their sports. He could relate well since he remembers passing the puck to an opposing team player, who then scored in a Rye High School Varsity Hockey playoff game. After Rye’s loss, Weinman said he threw his team jacket into a puddle. “But I didn’t want this to define me,” he recalls, and became motivated to have a better season the following year.

Passionate about the topic, he set out to examine how others bounced back from humiliating losses and found resilience and strength. “Everyone has had some sort of losing experience that has crushed them at some level,” says Weinman in video about the book. In addition to pro athletes, he wanted to move beyond sports to interview business executives, start-up entrepreneurs, actors and politicians. He also consulted leading psychologists and coaches to better understand the essential life skill of learning to lose.

In the end, Weinman uncovered uplifting stories from people such as presidential nominee Michael Dukakis, who lost the election in 1988; actress Susan Lucci, who finally won an Emmy after 19 nominations; golfer Greg Norman, who blew his last chance to win the Masters; and the Columbia University Football team members who lost 44 straight games. Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and noted authors have given the book stellar reviews.

While his career in journalism didn’t gel until college, Weinman remembers influential teachers at Rye High School, including Kevin Kelly, Jane Johnson, George Roy, Neil Mendick, and John Serafin, as well as his hockey coach, John Zegras. He and his wife, Lisa, née Quirk, whom he has known since fifth grade at Osborn School, were both members of the Rye High School class of 1992. “We loved growing up here and the sense of community,” said Weinman, whose parents, Jerry and Sandy Weinman, still live here. Sam coaches Rye Little League and Rye Rangers Hockey, which he says are the highlights of his weekends.

Weinman hopes the book will be a source of inspiration and that readers will come away feeling confident that they can try something and not be afraid of failing. Failure, he concludes, can be a great opportunity. He quotes his favorite hockey player Wayne Gretzky: “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” Whatever the context, Weinman says Gretzky really means that the biggest mistake you can make is to not even try.

Weinman will speak at the Rye Free Reading Room, where he spent time writing the book, on January 22.


Sam Weinman

Photo by Charlie Weinman


Let Anne Finnegan Guide You

On the Path to Somewhere

By Robin Jovanovich

What started out as an informal career coaching business in 2012 has grown into a sizable and gratifying one for Anne Finnegan.

An MBA from the Tuck School at Dartmouth, along with corporate credentials — media planner (Ogilvy & Mather), associate product manager (PepsiCo), and senior product manager (Kraft Foods) — have prepared her well for her second act as a career coach and résumé composer. As has her BA in Art History — “a design aesthetic is a good tool to have when you’re launching a new business.”

In a short period of time Finnegan has achieved consistent results for clients in over 25 fields, from the culinary arts to healthcare, investment banking, and broadcasting. “I’m astounded at the variety of work,” said the founder of Prep Your Path LLC.

After hearing what she puts into each college admittance and job search assignment, it’s easy to understand her success. Operating on the principle that one size doesn’t fit all, Finnegan tailors every résumé and provides one core and two custom-targeted ones for every client project.

Eighty percent of her business is referral, and with her high track record, the phone is always ringing. Among the people she’s helped, 20 percent are high school students aiming to attract the attention of top colleges and top college athletic teams, 60 percent are college students looking for that first job, and 20 percent are adults looking to return to the workforce or hoping to make a career change.

She starts with a pep talk, borrowing from retired General Colin Powell: There is no formula for success. Prepare, work hard, and be ready for setbacks. “After that, all bets are off,” she notes with signature humor. “I also tell recent grads about the Forbes article which states that the average number of jobs you’ll likely have before you die is 19!”

For Finnegan, Prep Your Path has been an education. “I feel like I’m going back to school myself.”

The mother of three twenty-somethings, while willing to help students at every level, draws the line when it comes to college essays and managing the college process.

In between attending national seminars, she typically is working with five clients at the same time. In recent weeks those clients have included someone applying to veterinary school and a retired professional looking to spruce up his LinkedIn profile.

What aspect of her job does she enjoy the most? “I love mentoring high school kids. I advise them to wait a few days before they send that thank-you letter to the admissions officer, alumnae interviewer, or coach. Thinking ahead, she muses, “I like it so much that I may want to develop a close relationship with one school and go from there.”

Anne Finnegan says she’s found her second calling. “Mine is a great job for a mom who doesn’t want to be at the beck and call of a corporation.”

To find your calling, learn more at

By Janice Llanes Fabry

Once upon a time, there was a 6-year-old girl named Ellie whose dazzling smile vanished when little girls at the playground refused to play with her. To cheer her up, her father wiped away her tears and told her an anecdote about a princess with smelly toes. Not only has Ellie Williams, now 17, lived happily ever after, but she has enchanted many a small child with her version of “Princess Smelly Toes.”

“The story always stuck with me and I thought everyone who was having a bad day should hear it. Then when I was 14, I decided to recreate it,” she explained.

Her mom Wendy recalls Ellie and her dad, Nick, discussing the narrative frequently over the years. “This has been going on a long time in our family,” she noted. “They would talk about publishing it.”

The Williams’ moved to Rye from Shenfield, England, 12 years ago. As a 6-year-old, Ellie arrived with a strong British accent, which gradually faded. She has a younger brother Josh, 15, and a little sister Ruby, 8, who is a big fan of “Princess Smelly Toes.”

The original idea was whimsical and sweet, but Ellie felt there was one critical component missing. She was determined to add a message of kindness to the plot.

“When I would watch the news with my mom, I saw so many things I didn’t want to see and a whole lot of negative energy in the world,” she recalled. “I felt that just like an act of violence leads to another violent act, kindness could be spread the same way. One person could start a chain reaction.”

Ellie, now a Rye Neck High School senior, started putting all her efforts into the book as a sophomore. First and foremost, she integrated benevolence into the storyline. To cure the princess of her malodorous feet without hurting her feelings, one character proposes performing acts of kindness. Subsequently, all the villagers get on board.

Next, she illustrated the book herself. “Aside from taking a lot of creative writing classes when I was very young, I always loved drawing,” she said.

Amidst keeping up her grades, going on college visits, and completing college applications, as well as being a Rye Neck Key Club and SADD member, a tennis captain, and a dance captain for the musical, Ellie started raising money to have 1,500 copies of the book printed and bound.

A family friend in the neighborhood, Keith Spencer of Newtown Kindness, an organization formed after the Sandy Hook tragedy to facilitate acts of kindness, suggested a Go Fund Me web page. Once she launched her fundraising campaign on, she raised $5,000 in a couple of months. Last summer, “Princess Smelly Toes” was finally hot off the press.

Holding a copy of the book for the first time, she remembers she was ecstatic and exhilarated about spreading her message. To promote the book, Ellie created her own website,

“Our mission is to inspire, create, and share books that convey a specific message, from kindness to bullying to social media and beyond,” she explained. For every book sold, another is donated to a community organization.

In addition, she has already donated hundreds of books to Mamaroneck Community Nursery School; Rye, Mamaroneck, and Port Chester libraries; the Carver Center; Newtown Kindness; P.O.T.S. Holiday drive; Rye Presbyterian Nursery School; and Storefront Academy Harlem.

Most organizations, whose own missions and curriculums align with Ellie’s, request she read the story to the children, typically ages 4-7, herself.

“The experience has been very gratifying. The kids always laugh at the mention of Princess Smelly Toes and ask me questions. One little girl even admitted, ‘sometimes that happens to me,’” said Ellie, who believes that blending her positive lesson with humor effectively conveys the message.

College-bound in September, Ellie will be passing the baton to a successor, a current junior at Rye Neck High School who will continue printing the book and encouraging acts of kindness. Moreover, Ellie revealed there’s a sequel in the works with another good-natured, giggle-inducing protagonist poised to fill the shoes of the princess who started it all.

“I hope I will inspire other people to make a difference,” she said. “Sometimes you think, ‘oh I'm just one person and there is not much I can do.’ But I don't think that is true. One person can make a difference. You just need to get out there and do it.”


Ellie Williams

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