Earl Weiner and Gina Ingoglia received the seventh annual DeWitt Clinton Award for Excellence in front of some 300 friends, fellow board members and elected officials at a fundraising gala at the historic Green-Wood Cemetery to support its preservation, public programs and a new visitor center on Thursday night.
The award’s past recipients include Landmarks legend Otis Pratt Pearsall and his wife Nancy, as well as former Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and Terence Winter, the creator of HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire.” The award is given for excellence in the arts, literature, preservation and historic research. It honors the legacy of 19th century New York Governor DeWitt Clinton, who was also mayor of New York City, state senator, assemblymember and U.S. senator. Clinton is credited with such transformative projects as the Erie Canal and the organized grid system of Manhattan streets.
Earl and Gina Weiner were presented with the award for their longtime leadership as two of Brooklyn’s champions of the arts, culture and preservation. They have dedicated their lives to theater, education, beautiful landscapes, history and historic preservation in the borough.
“Their story deserves a much richer effort than we could ever give it tonight,” said Scot Medbury, president of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and trustee at Green-Wood. “Imagine a couple,” Medbury said, “that possess great intelligence, talent and means…now, imagine that they both wake up each morning and dedicate their waking hours to improving the great institutions of Brooklyn that affect the lives of so many people….now imagine that going on literally for decades. Then you get some idea of the monumental good they have done for their city.
Ingoglia, a writer and professional landscape architect, serves as a director at the Brooklyn Historical Society and as co-founder and vice president of the Florilegium Society for the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. She has published more than 80 books. Weiner has been a trustee at Green-Wood for nearly 30 years. He also serves as chairman of The Acting Company and Theater Development Fund, vice chair of The Brooklyn Hospital Center and former chairman at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.
“It’s been a wonderful honor to receive this award tonight from Green-Wood,” said Ingoglia. “When I was a little girl, my mother said to me, ‘Gina, if you live in a place that you really love and want to make it better, you have to go out there and volunteer,’ and she was absolutely right.”
After Ingoglia said a few words, she stepped aside to let Weiner speak, but rather than reflect on his own accomplishments, he spent the better part of 15 minutes discussing his wife of 52 years.
“She is so eminently worthy as recipient of this award and has been my collaborator in life for over a half a century,” Weiner said. “She was the one who, shortly after I was made a partner of Sullivan and Cromwell, said, ‘Earl, it’s time to go out and give to the community,’ and I knew she was right.”
Weiner then shared a couple of stories about his wife, including meeting her as a freshman at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania and making her laugh while rehearsing the play “The Pot Boiler.” He also spoke about giving her his fraternity pin, and then proceeded to serenade her with the song “Kappa Sigma Dream Girl.” The performance drew tears from his wife and a standing ovation from the entire crowd.
Prior to the couple receiving their award, guests at the event were treated to a short video narrated by actor John Turturro, who has strongly supported Green-Wood throughout the years.
“Green-Wood is one of my favorite places,” Turturro said in the video. “It’s the oldest landscaped space in New York City. It’s a National Historic Landmark…It’s a mecca for history lovers, birdwatchers and New Yorkers who want to get away from the urban grind…So please, come and visit — or stay indefinitely.”
The ceremony also included a live auction to raise money for the cemetery. Among the items auctioned off were an after-hours bike tour in the cemetery and a private painting workshop. Music during the event was provided by the French Woods Jazz Improv Ensemble, a group of high school students, under the direction of Paul Corn.