Inside the Org: Q&A with Board of Directors Member Stephen J. Cirami

The Behind the Book programs only happen because of the amazing support system the organization has in place. Board members, donors, volunteers, program coordinators, staff members, teachers, and authors — there are so many people involved with making our programs great! Today, meet Stephen J. Cirami, a new member of Behind the Book’s Board of Directors. We’re so happy he’s with us!

What do you do outside of your involvement with Behind the Book?

I was a practicing attorney for years, but for the last 12 years of my career, I have worked on the business side. I run the east coast operations of a class action claims administrator. That means I manage many matters that are before courts across the country, as well as internationally. In a nutshell, our job is to find people who are involved, help them to file claims so that they can recoup their share of the funds, and distribute money — all under the jurisdiction of the court.

Why Behind the Book?

Because it’s an amazing organization that serves twin interests of mine — literacy and children. Reading can have a profound impact on a child’s life, his or her development, even their heart. Fostering the enjoyment of reading, particularly in areas where kids might not otherwise have such an opportunity, is incredibly rewarding. That I can help even a little, is humbling. And doing so along side the amazing staff of Behind the Book, my fellow Board members, and most of all, our Founder and ED — Jo — was and is an opportunity I could not pass up.

What was your favorite childhood book?

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It would have to be The Hobbit. At a young age, I fell in love with J.R.R. Tolkein’s world, and the fantasy genre generally. I was an avid reader of Encyclopedia Brown detective novels as well as all sorts of “choose your own” mystery adventures. I remember in 3rd and 4th grade one of my friends and I would have reading contests. We would select what seemed like the longest novels ever written, and see who would finish them first.

I have strong memories with two books I read in school — Animal Farm and Lord of the Flies. I probably should reread those with my boys, but I haven’t yet. Reading the Hunger Games series with them was reminiscent of Lord of the Flies, which to me felt a lot like its predecessor. I still enjoy reading YA books with my boys. We have reread Tolkien’s books together, gone through the Harry Potter series (which I think I enjoyed more than they did) and last year read the Mysterious Benedict Society.

What is your role on the Board?

I joined the Board in 2015, and serve on several committees. I am also Chair of the Corporate Reading Program subcommittee and we have some great things in the pipeline!

What was your favorite subject in school?

Other than art, ironically, for most of my life it was math. I always excelled at it. Conversely, in school, we rarely read books that kept my interest. It wasn’t until the end of my high school career that I started enjoying English classes and reading literature, which is how English became a college minor for me. Simply put — I was not engaged as a reader in school until later in life, but I did read often on my own growing up.

If you were to trade places with a book character for a day, who would it be and why?

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That’s easy. My favorite fantasy series of all time is Terry Goodkind’s, The Sword of Truth. The first book, The Wizard’s First Rule, came out shortly after I graduated from college and a friend recommended it to me. The hardcover book is well worn and sits on a shelf in my home office as I type this. I have read the series many times and Richard Cypher/Rahl, is easily my favorite heroic character of all time. Reading the series in my 20’s surely impacted the way I tackled many of my own challenges.

What are a few fun facts that few people know about you?

  • I have jumped out of a plane (once)
  • I competed in amateur bodybuilding contests (thrice)
  • I make my own wine
  • Shortly after my 39th birthday I participated in a half-ironman (yes, only a half, which means I swam 1.2 miles, rode 56 miles, and then ran a half marathon — 13.1 miles). I am considering doing another in 2016.

What are you currently reading?

I recently finished reading Stephen King’s second novel in his Bill Hodge’s trilogy, Finder’s Keepers. A few weeks back I read the first one, Mr. Mercedes. Quite good, and interesting, coming from King. I believe these are his first detective/mystery genre. I have not read King for many years, not since I read The Stand and It.

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stephenStephen J. Cirami is a former class action attorney and now serves as Garden City Group’s Chief Operating Officer and oversees all of its offices and operations.  As Chief Operating Officer he oversees all class action, regulatory, and bankruptcy administrations handled by GCG.  Stephen is a frequent speaker on related topics across the globe. A cum laude graduate of Duke University School of Law and a father of three boys whom he regularly reads with, Stephen understands the profound impact that reading can have on both a child’s outlook and future.