Celerina Maureen Miguel Cristy, age 53, died April 15 this year of respiratory heart failure resulting from infection by COVID-19. She died at Richmond University Medical Center, Staten Island. Friends called her Rina.
Rina, who grew up in Port Jefferson Station, had a career that intersected with national events in politics and developing the economy, particularly by enhancing global financial security after the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States.
Rina and her husband of 23 years, Sam Cristy, were parenting two teenage children at the time of her death. The Cristys have lived in Staten Island since 2004. Rina had lived or worked in Port Jefferson Station, Boston, metro Washington, D.C., Manhattan and Jersey City.
Born in November 1966 in Chicago, Rina was the first of her family born in the U.S. Her parents, Art and Gloria Miguel, immigrated from the Philippines, then met and married in America. Art was an engineer in aviation, and Gloria was a nurse. The Miguels moved to Port Jefferson Station, where they still live. The gregarious household grew to include Rina’s two younger brothers and two grandparents. Later, the Miguel home expanded again to incorporate Rina and Sam, and soon thereafter a grandson. Four generations gathered daily for breakfast.
Rina is a Comsewogue High School alumna. She attended Emerson College in Boston, graduating in 1988 with a Bachelor of Science in speech communications, advertising, and public relations. In 2000, she received her Master of Business Administration degree in computer information systems from Hofstra University, where she earned the prestigious Hofstra University MBA Fellowship.
Community service is an innate Miguel family hallmark. Rina’s grandfather was an educator and a decorated officer of U.S. and Philippine armies. Rina described her mother as the springboard to political engagement and developing a New Yorker ethos. Rina recalled co-piloting a plane with her father, Art. Such moments inspired her to imagine boundless agency, Rina said. Thus prepared, she moved from Boston to Washington, D.C., to start her career in 1988.
Rina served the Honorable U.S. Rep. George Hochbrueckner (1-NY), Eastern Long Island, administering finance and fundraising in his congressional campaigns. She joined the congressional staff and quickly advanced to senior legislative aide. Reflecting on Rina’s accomplishments, Hochbrueckner commented, “Rina’s diligent activities aided in the funding of the initial as well as the ongoing dredging of Shinnecock Inlet, thus preventing the loss of lives of the local commercial fishermen. She also assisted in the designation of Peconic Bay as a new member of the National Estuary Program, providing special environmental funding to this day.” Her collaboration also secured federal funds for Lyme disease mitigation and education.
Following her congressional work, Rina proceeded to the Defenders of Wildlife conservation society. As aide to the director, she served the executive board and contributed to the conservation of wild lands and restoration of wolf habitats.
The 1990s on Capitol Hill invigorated Rina’s optimism that she could make an enduring contribution in the nexus of public policy and business. The Calverton Enterprise Park is an example. Rina facilitated the legislative steps that converted the federal aviation site to ownership by the Town of Riverhead. This pivot from Cold War defense projects opened the way for emerging environmental health sciences. Calverton now stands primed to open temporary hospital services during the COVID pandemic.
Rina’s pivot to finance came via her Hofstra MBA. She was subsequently hired by the Federal Reserve Bank in Manhattan. There, she supported the U.S. Federal Reserve System’s function in regulating and examining regional and global banks. Her work protected deposits, assessed bank solvency, and engaged protections against money laundering and terrorist financing.
Starting in 2004, Rina developed her specialty as an executive in retail and wholesale banks developing data, personnel, and operations systems for transaction security and compliance with regulations and best practices.
She worked in the Staten Island offices of Independence Community Bank. She proceeded to Rabobank International and ultimately to Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation in Manhattan, where she rose to Director & Group Manager of Compliance Operations before being assigned as Director of Compliance Department, Americas Division.
In the era following the 2001 terrorist attacks, bankers wrestled with costly and demanding federal laws for enhanced fiduciary obligations. Evaluating competition, profits, and best practices called for a newly specialized banker. Banks were tasked to ask clients prickly questions, slow deals, and (perhaps) defer legitimate loans until novel risk assessments were satisfied. The urgent world of finance strained to adopt these subjective analyses. As banks with problems incurred fines, compliance experts like Rina proved essential to keeping banks in good control.
Rina’s policy and bank experience fit this role. Her teams set out to divine regulatory expectations and move banks to comply. Foremost, she assured profit drivers that the evolving security measures were intrinsic to bank success. Rina was gratified to see her early interpretations as an auditor at the Fed gain adoption as trade standards years later.
One of Rina’s work colleagues, Risë Zaiser, bonded with Rina as mentor and friend. They shared triumphs in motherhood and careers. Zaiser tracked Rina’s moves in various banks and trade panels.
“When we first met her, she came in guns a-blazing, and we were talking about how we were going to get her a bat. But she didn’t need a bat. She was just able to convince, and they followed her direction,” Zaiser said.
Industry colleagues noted that Rina was an effective department director because of her genuine humanity, humor, and collaboration. Life in banking cubicles can be fraught, staid, and tedious. One boss recalled surprise, then gratitude in receiving an office hug.
“Smiles can tear down the tallest, thickest walls. The power of Rina’s smile was the selflessness behind it,” he said. “Rina was always positive and upbeat, addressing adversity with that smile. I challenge all of us to take what Rina has given us and pass it along.”
Rina was passionate about cultivating professional opportunities for women and developing diversity in business and civic leadership. Hofstra invited her to speak quarterly to business students, and she regularly trained interns. SMBC designated a scholarship in Rina’s name to enhance the Women’s Inclusion Network professional development project. SMBC noted her continuous mentoring of students and professionals.
“That enthusiasm and willingness to take on things widened her scope,” Zaiser noted. In the Women’s Inclusion Network, Rina was a “tireless devotee,” and she answered a call to be a co-president. “We all voted for her. It was great to work with her. I’m really going to miss her joyfulness.”
Rina was a devoted member of Brighton Heights Reformed Church in St. George. She joined the denomination as a long-time member of the Reformed Church of America at Stony Brook, previously known as Christ Community Church.
Staten Islanders knew Rina as a passionate supporter of families at Dance Dance Dance, Ltd., where her daughter thrived as a student. Many knew Rina through her masterful knitting, which she shared lovingly with cancer patients, premature babies and many friends.
She loved ballroom dancing with Sam. She engaged her kids’ every pursuit with verve, including raising a rescue pitbull. From Rina, her children learned faith in God, the enduring affection of family, and how to cook from scratch.
When Rina contracted COVID, the disease was daily killing 2,000 in the U.S., 8,000 people worldwide. To her family, she endures in death as a true a love and steadfast guide. Quarantined, short of breath, and resolute, she typed her gratitude to the world: “Be kind to each other.”
Rina is survived by her husband, Sam; their children, Alex and Amelia, of Staten Island; parents, Art and Gloria Miguel; brother Arturo Miguel, his wife Kim, and nephew Gabriel; and brother Fernando Miguel, his wife Kim, and nephews Colin, Elias, and Reece.
A family memorial service will be recorded and broadcast on YouTube at 3p.m. Saturday, Nov. 21. Matthew Funeral Home, Staten Island, arranged the cremation. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to ameliorate effects of the pandemic.
The funeral home and Rina’s Facebook page will post updates about observances, including congregational observances in future months at Brighton Heights Reformed Church, Staten Island. To view the memorial, use these links:
Main link: https://youtu.be/7jQKsQzd1r4
Backup link: https://youtu.be/UHYVv2152-c