Municipal Forum of New York honors four at annual awards ceremony

The Municipal Forum of New York honored both new and old hands of public finance at its 32nd Annual Awards Dinner Wednesday at Manhattan’s Marriott Marquis hotel.

Portia Lee, managing director of public finance for the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, presented the first of four awards, the Carey Gabay Scholarship, to outgoing high school senior Jahin Rahman.

The Carey Gabay Scholarship, which provides financial assistance to incoming college students who’ve achieved academic excellence despite economic disadvantages honors its namesake, New York native, attorney, and public servant Carey Gabay, whose life was tragically cut short in 2015.

Rahman had shown a commitment to excellence and “persistence in finding ways to make a difference,” Lee said.

Rahman thanked the Municipal Forum for “the guidance, experience, and mentorship” provided to him by mentors over the course of a fellowship. “I’ll try to put the lessons and support to use throughout my career for years to come,” he said.

Following Rahman, the Forum honored three public finance veterans with career achievement awards.

Paula Dagen, managing director at Wells Fargo Securities, received a Lifetime Achievement Award for three decades of work in public finance, during which she served as lawyer, banker, and financial advisor on major municipal deals.

Chris Fink, managing director at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, who presented the award, said Dagen, as both a consummate professional and public financing trailblazer whose work encouraged other woman to follow her into the male-dominated industry, had “affected more people in the municipal finance industry” over her career then most will “in two lifetimes.”

Dagen told the audience she was “humbled” during her acceptance speech, and saw “the importance and the power of what we have devoted our professional life to” in every transaction she works on.

“A very special thank you to my current and former analysts and associates, many who have gathered with me tonight and have supported me over the years,” she said. “I look forward to our continued work together.”

Dave Andersen, managing director at Bank of America Securities, and member of the first class of the Bond Buyer’s Hall of Fame, received the Austin Koenen Career Achievement Award.

Presenter Joe Moglia, the former CEO and chairman of TD Ameritrade, said he “couldn’t imagine” a more deserving recipient and pointed to the expansion of BofA’s underwriting operations under Andersen’s lead.

In 1994, when Andersen took over the underwriting desk, BofA ranked 8th nationally in bond volume. Today it ranks first, a distinction it’s held for 11 years running. “I don’t know if that’s ever going to be duplicated,” Maglio said.

Upon accepting the award, Anderson told the audience he was “honored” by Magilio’s words.

“Bottom line is I’m just happy to be here and I can do it for another 30 years until you guys could beat me,” Andersen said.

Tom Wood, director of debt management for New York’s Division of the Budget, received the Forum’s Public Service Award.

“When Tom was moving into a leadership position in state government, being associated with New York was a very bad thing,” said presenter Dominic Colafati, co-exective director of the New York Local Government Assistance Corporation. “It’s really a testament to Tom’s intelligence, integrity, and steadfast commitment that New York’s reputation has been repaired.” 

A 26-year veteran of the state’s public finance sector, Wood said leaving commercial banking behind for civil service “was the best decision” of his life.

“I truly believe that the work we do each day makes a difference in people’s lives,” he said. “Like many of you, I want to look my children in the eyes, and know that I’m not increasing their financial burden.”

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