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In Memoriam: February 2016

Published: February 1, 2016

Elena Diane Curris passed quietly, but suddenly, of natural causes on Dec. 29 at the age of 38.

Born in Kentucky on Aug. 23, 1977, Curris earned an associate of arts degree in communications from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York and a B.A. in marketing and communications and photography at the University of Alabama, where she was a member of the Chi Omega sorority. She attended high school at T.A.S.I.S (The American School in Switzerland) located in Staines, England, and the University of Northern Iowa Laboratory School.

She began her career at Mirabella magazine in New York, followed by sales positions with Ralph Lauren Corp. in New York and Aspen, Colo.

A member of the 2009 class of Leadership Long Beach, Curris was actively engaged in campus and community organizations. As Director of Community Projects and Marketing, and previously Director of Donor Relations, she served as the CSULB representative to the Huntington Beach Chamber of Commerce, Orange County Business Council, the Fashion Institute of Design and the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation. Previously she directed the CSULB President’s Forum on International Human Rights, and most recently, co-directed the 2015 CSULB Veterans Day Celebration.

“As Director of Community Projects and Marketing, Elena touched the lives of many,” said CSULB President Jane Close Conoley. “Responsible for outreach in Long Beach and Orange County, she brought the campus and community closer together by approaching each project and every person with grace, goodwill and professionalism.”

Curris enjoyed collegiate sports (particularly Alabama Crimson Tide football…”Roll Tide”), musical concerts and skiing, and had traveled throughout the United States, Western Europe and Kenya.

Curris is survived by her beloved parents, Constantine (Deno) Curris and Jo Hern Curris; beloved brother Col. Robert A.B. Curris and sister-in-law Bobbi Curris; aunts Alice Diane Hern, Agathaniki Locklear and Kay Barnes Hern; and uncle Robert Bruce Hern, Jr., and seven cousins.

Funeral services were held on Jan. 11 at Assumption, Greek Orthodox Church in Long Beach. Email condolences to

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in memory of Curris be made either to support the research of Steven D. Schwartz, M.D., Stein Eye Institute, 200 Stein Plaza, UCLA, Los Angeles; the CSULB Foundation to support the Veterans Center at CSULB; or a charity of your choice.

Edith Hirshtal, the celebrated concert pianist, died in New York City, Dec. 8, 2015, of a heart attack. She was 65 years old. The New York Times proclaimed Hirshtal as “… a pianist with something to say, and that alone makes her preferable to the majority of pianists today…,” describing her as “playing with heart, rich color, and drama.” The Los Angeles Times‘ Daniel Cariaga called her “a strong addition to the Southern California musical community,” and a “pianist of apparently eclectic tastes and commanding resources.”

Hirshtal studied with Leon Fleisher of the Peabody Conservatory, where she was awarded an Artist Diploma. As a soloist, accompanist or chamber musician, she performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Academy of Music (Philadelphia) and Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall. She has appeared with principal members of the Philadelphia Orchestra, New York Philharmonic Orchestra, New York Metropolitan Opera Company, Philadelphia Opera Company and Sequoia Quartet. As a concerto soloist, Hirshtal was featured with orchestras including The Woman’s Philharmonic of San Francisco lead by Maestra Jo Ann Falleta. Hirshtal, who retired as professor of piano at CSULB, saw her students go on to graduate studies at Juilliard, USC and Manhattan School of Music.

Hirshtal emigrated to the United States from Austria with her parents and brother Boris who survived the Holocaust. She spent her childhood in Vineland, N.J., in a community of survivors and their children. She confronted her history and became co-creator of the film, “The Phoenix Effect.”

“Edith was the inspiration for the film,” said director of the film Cooper Sy Blumenthal, a professor in CSULB’s Department of Film and Electronic Arts. “She showed great courage sharing an emotionally difficult childhood and motivated her peers to also speak candidly about the way their lives were affected by having parents who survived Hitler’s death camps.”

Hirshtal is survived by a daughter, Jessica Mantel; long-time partner Dr. Bruce Ehrenberg; nephew, David Frenkiel; sister-in-law, Susan; niece, Michelle Beck; nephew, Steve and their children Grace and Cameron.

Church Street School for Music and Art in New York City, where Hirshtal recently taught, will be holding a memorial concert in honor of the pianist on Saturday, Feb. 27. Funds raised from the event will be used to establish a scholarship in Hirshtal’s name.