‪EAST BRUNSWICK, NJ - Four notable patrons of education will be honored by the East Brunswick Education Foundation at the annual Partners in Excellence Award Dinner to be held on April 12 at the Pines Manor in Edison.  The award-winners this year are Dr. Steven Susskind, Dr. Raja Bandaru, Mrs. Mariann Zema, and Dr. Jeffrey Lesser who are being cited for their contributions to the East Brunswick Public Schools and the young people of our community.

Dr.  Steve Susskind has been actively involved with the EBEF since 2007 as a  Board Member. He has been a liaison with the EBEF-Student Association since its inception in 2011. Along with the EBEF-SA and his dedicated  team at Susskind Dental, he has raised  over $5,000 in donations from local restaurants towards the “Dine-Around-Town” raffle at the annual Partners in Excellence Dinner  event.  His sense of community and service started  almost as soon as he moved his family to East Brunswick in 1996. Steve  has volunteered and donated his time and experience in coaching the  youth of our community for the EB Baseball League, EB Soccer Club and EB  Fast Break Basketball League.

Professionally, Dr.  Susskind is a General and Cosmetic Dentist who has been practicing in  East Brunswick since 1996. He holds a position on the State of New  Jersey Peer Review Committee. Dr. Susskind has held several board  positions for statewide dental societies including Vice President,  Secretary and Treasurer. He was a founding member and secretary of the  Occlusal Dental Society Study Club. He is a lifelong member of the  American Dental Society, New Jersey Dental Society and Middlesex County  Dental Society.

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Dr. Bandaru (Raja) was born in India and is a long-time resident of East Brunswick, having moved here in 1984 because of the congenial atmosphere and good school system. Having lived in East Brunswick for  30 plus years, he feels that moving here is one of the finest decisions he made. Raja and his family have been actively involved in East Brunswick in-school and extracurricular activities, have raised money for various school activities, and have been major donors to the EBEF.  Raja is also involved in cultural, educational and interfaith activities in the community, serving as a Hindu Chaplain at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and at University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro.  He also teaches at the University of Pennsylvania and Rutgers University.

Dr. Bandaru has a Bachelor of Engineering with Honors (SV University), Master of Technology (IIT Kharagpur) and Ph.D. (IIT Delhi) in Electrical and Control Systems Engineering and  a professional diploma in Accounting and Finance (England). He
 was a Fellow of Royal  Statistical Society, England.

Dr. Bandaru is the founder of Trinity Consultants, Inc., a 30+ year New Jersey based
telecommunications management consulting and systems integration company.  Trinity also provides business, financial and technical support for prospective new entrepreneurs.  He was also the founder of several startup companies in biomedical, electronics, and telecommunications.

Dr. Bandaru was a member of the faculty of electrical engineering at Indian Institute of
Technology  (IIT)  Kharagpur, India  and  IIT Delhi before moving to England where he  worked  for 10 years in areas of digital process control, systems engineering and development, and  manufacture of optical fiber technology.  

Dr. Bandaru was a member of the team that harnessed the development and manufacture of optical fiber technology in England – one of the first teams in the world to do so. He was a pioneering member of the team that initiated and developed network management systems for telecommunications and services at Bell Laboratories. Dr. Bandaru initiated and managed research, product and technology development in biomedical engineering.  

Dr. Bandaru has published and lectured extensively in the areas of biomedical engin
eering, telecommunications, control engineering, management science,
Vedanta and Indic studies.  He has received several awards and honors in his educational and professional career including the title of Veda Vidya  Rakshak(Protector of Vedic Knowledge) by the World Association of Vedic Studies (WAVES) in July 2006.
Dr. Bandaru is a keen student of Telegu literature (one of the languages of India with roots as early as 4thCentury BCE), Sanskrit, ancient Indian history, philosophy and evolution of Indian culture through the ages.   He teaches Sanskrit and Hinduism, and has authored five books on Sanskrit grammar. 

He often represents Hinduism at interfaith meetings and is keenly involved in
the development of youth. Raja and his wife Lakshmi are proud parents of four children,
 all who graduated from the EB school system. Their daughter Padmaja, a 1986 graduate of EBHS, graduated from Rutgers with a BS and from the Washington University Medical School, St. Louis with a MS in Occupational Therapy; their son Kishore, a 1988 graduate of EBHS, graduated with a BS in Business from Keane University;  their son Venu,  a 1989 graduate of EBHS, graduated with a BS in Engineering from the University of Arizona, Tucson; and their youngest son Krishna, a 1989 graduate of EBHS, graduated with a BS and MS in electrical engineering from Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN.  

Mariann Zema has worked as a speech and language specialist in East Brunswick for twenty seven years. In 1992, Mariann was the recipient of the Governor’s Award for Outstanding Teacher at Lawrence Brook School.  In 1993, Mariann played an instrumental role in starting East Brunswick’s Speech/Language Program for students who are on the autistic spectrum. For the past twenty-three years, Mariann’s caseload has mainly consisted of students on the autism spectrum.  Her passion to understand her students was the catalyst for her to establish a home program in other communities to improve the lives of individuals with autism and their families.  For twenty years, three nights a week, Mariann provided a total home-based program designed to teach functional life skills.  In 2002, Mariann was the recipient of the Autism New Jersey/COSAC Teacher of the Year Award for her dedication to individuals with autism and their families both in East Brunswick and in other communities.


For the past thirteen years, Mariann has been at the helm of organizing East Brunswick’s district-wide Denim Day for Autism Awareness. During the month of April, building representatives from each school give generously of their time to assist Mariann in informing the community about how we can ensure safe and fulfilling lives fr individuals with autism, their families and the professionals who support them.  The proceeds from this event are shared equally with Autism New Jersey and the East Brunswick Education Foundation. Throughout the years Mariann has actively pursued EBEF grants to assist her in providing new and stimulating materials for her speech and language sessions.  Mariann has often said that a grand bag of tricks is required to provide therapy that is effective, stimulating, and fun!

Over the years, EBEF grants have provided such materials.  Mariann and her colleagues have received grants that have helped students with receptive/expressive language, auditory processing, phonological awareness skills, apraxia, vocabulary, and social skills.  Mariann describes how she feels about the EBEF with a quote from the French philosopher, Voltaire: Appreciation is a wonderful thing.  It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well. Mariann shows her commitment to the EBEF by attending the Fall Fashion Show and several times has read a book at the Barnes & Noble Book Fair, where a percentage of all sales are donated to benefit the EBEF.

All of the time spent helping others would not have been possible without the help of her husband Leonard.  While managing his own painting business, he has always been supportive, caring and a wonderful cook! They have been married for 38 years and have three sons. Their son Nicholas provides social media support to small businesses as an independent sales/marketing rep. for MaxExposure.  Lenny Jr. works for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and is married to Rosaria who works in
Human Resources at Pearson. Michael is a Manager of Analyst Relations for Amdocs and is married to Jennifer Zema, a Speech and Language Specialist in our district. The newest edition to the Zema family is William Joseph born to Jenny and Michael on August 17, 2015.


For the previous eight years of Partner in Excellence Award Dinners, Jeff Lesser would have been the trumpet player in the lobby performing with the Admin Quartet. His love of music and the arts in general led him to a thirty-five year career in the public schools, having served the students of New Jersey as a music teacher and high school Band Director, Department Chair, and Supervisor in two school districts. He retired in July of 2015 as East Brunswick’s Supervisor of Arts Education.

Jeff began playing the trumpet and took an interest in music theory and arranging during high school. He studied music education at Trenton State College, and became a music composition student . These studies eventually led to a premiere of his first symphony. 

In 1977, he pursued his Master of Music in Music Composition at Temple University and received his degree in 1979 . While beginning his pursuit of a doctoral degree, he took his first job as an assistant band director for East Windsor Regional Schools. Once in front of a band, he loved the esprit de corps  and the process of music education.
In 1985, Jeff took the position of Director of Bands for John F. Kennedy High School in
Willingboro (his high school alma mater) and later moved to Willingboro High School.
During his 22 year tenure, Jeff lead a 150 member high school marching band and 120
member concert band program through a variety of classic and contemporary
compositions. The success of the Jazz Bands was notable, being named a New Jersey State Finalist in all but one year of his twenty two years, and taking his bands to the Berklee College of Music High School Jazz Festival (the largest one day high school jazz festival in the world). Here the band would be a twelve-time finalist, with six  first places achieved. Jeff was named the New Jersey Jazz Educator of the year in 1997 and received the Burlington County NAACP Distinguished Service Award in 2000.
In 2007, Jeff came to East Brunswick with a vision of empowering his  staff for excellence.

With the support of administration and the EBEF, he initiated the Arts Education Concert
Series, with professional and world-class performers engaging our students and the
community through workshops and concerts in our EBPAC. Some of these groups have
included the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, New York Voices, the Shanghai String
Quartet, and the United States Air Force Concert Band and Singing Sergeants.  Under his leadership, all eleven schools were identified in the top  10% of the New Jersey Arts Education census, and East Brunswick High School was named a New Jersey Model
School for the Arts. Program offerings were expanded and enrollment  in the arts grew.
During the first year of the census, EBHS arts enrollment topped 81%, while the state
average stood at less than 48%.

Now an adjunct professor at Rowan College of Burlington County, Jeff resides in Delran withhis wife Ilene and their dog Maestro.  Their five children, Danielle, Aimee, Dan, Melissa, and Andrew have all met with great success, with Aimee a member of the Chittick faculty and Andrew completing his degree in Music Education.

The ‎EBEF‬ 2016 Partners in Excellence Dinner will be held on April 12 at the Pines Manor in Edison.  Individual dinner tickets are $70.00.  Click here for more information.  To purchase tickets, call 1-732-254-3233

If you are interested in advertising in the PIE dinner program, click here for information.