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CNN Hero Addresses Class of 2010 at 119th Commencement

Jersey City, NJ –CNN Hero Alfa Demmellash, the chief executive officer and co-founder of Rising Tide Capital, Inc. in Jersey City, will address the class of 2010 at the 119th commencement exercises for Saint Peter’s College in Jersey City. The ceremony will take place at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday, May 23, 2010, at the PNC Bank Arts Center in Holmdel, N.J. The College will award degrees to approximately 700 students at the undergraduate and graduate levels; Demmellash will receive a Doctor of Humane Letters degree, honoris causa, as will honorary degree recipient Dr. H. Friedrich Holzapfel.

Rising Tide Capital, Inc. is a nonprofit, microenterprise development organization that supports struggling entrepreneurs in the low-income urban communities of northern New Jersey. A native of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Demmellash came to the United States at the age of 12 and gradually developed a personal interest in poverty alleviation and conflict resolution. After graduating from Harvard University in 2003, she focused on economic empowerment as a strategy for achieving peaceful societies. Demmellash co-founded Rising Tide Capital in 2004 with husband Alex Forrester, who is also a Harvard graduate.

Rising Tide Capital supports underserved populations, including women, minorities, the formerly incarcerated, the unemployed and the working poor, as well as immigrants and refugees. Since its inception, the organization has assisted approximately 250 entrepreneurs and small-business owners in New Jersey, 70 percent of whom are single mothers. Rising Tide Capital also runs the Community Business Academy, an intensive business training session coupled with year-round coaching and mentorship, which helps entrepreneurs to better operate their small businesses. 

In 2009, CNN selected Demmellash from 9,000 nominees to become a CNN Hero for serving as a “Community Crusader,” a recognition given to individuals who create solutions to local problems or social issues. Additionally, her work with Rising Tide Capital was publicly commended by President Barack Obama in July 2009. She is the recent recipient of AVON’s Hello Tomorrow Fund Award, and she has been featured on The Suze Orman Show as well as in O, The Oprah Magazine. Demmellash is also a 2007 recipient of Redbook’s Strengths and Spirits Award.

Dr. H. Friedrich Holzapfel is the owner and chief executive officer of 234 Moonachie Corporation, a commercial and industrial building and real estate investment company, in Fort Lee, N.J. He is also the founder and chairman of the CEOs Roundtable of German-American Companies in the United States.

A native of Germany, Dr. Holzapfel attended the University of Bern in Switzerland where he earned his law degree. Later, he attended the University of Fribourg in Switzerland for economic studies, while working at the Union Bank of Switzerland in Geneva. Dr. Holzapfel came to the United States in 1961 where he attended New York Law School and received his Masters of Law degree.

In 1964, Dr. Holzapfel joined Hoechst, a German pharmaceutical company that later merged with Sanofi-Aventis, where he served as president of Hoechst’s Holding Company for Latin America. After serving the company in this capacity, he became a member of Hoechst USA’s board of directors and executive committee, overseeing the legal, public affairs and environmental departments of the company. Upon his retirement from Hoechst, he became a principal in The Burlington Group, an international management and environmental advisory service company.

Dr. Holzapfel has served as a member of the United Nations’ business council and its advisory board, and was recognized by the state of New Jersey for connecting students and faculty of colleges and universities with United Nations representatives. He is credited with arranging the first ambassadorial visits to Saint Peter’s College, and later assisted the College in obtaining accreditation as a non-governmental organization (NGO) at the United Nations. 

Additionally, Dr. Holzapfel was awarded the Order of Merit by the President of Germany in 1999 for his work with the CEOs Roundtable of German-American Companies. He serves on the board of directors for CDS International, Inc., a nonprofit international exchange organization, among several other philanthropic organizations.

The class of 2010 valedictorian is Michael Massey from Jackson, N.J., who will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in political science.

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Saint Peter’s College, inspired by its Jesuit, Catholic identity, commitment to individual attention and grounding in the liberal arts, educates a diverse community of learners in undergraduate, graduate and professional programs to excel intellectually, lead ethically, serve compassionately and promote justice in our ever-changing urban and global environment.