Front row left to right: Carlos M. Benitez, ’03, Nan L. Haynes, ’88, Dean Nan DiBello, Janet Falk, ’88, ’90, ’94
Back row left to right: Mark J. F. Schroeder, ’82, Lorraine E. Peeler, ’88, Dennis J. Richards, ’00, ’01, ’12, George K. Arthur, ‘77
(BUFFALO, N.Y. – Dec. 12, 2012) The SUNY Empire State College Niagara Frontier Center has established an alumni roll of honor to recognize graduates for their service to the community and to the college.
“I would like to congratulate the inaugural members of the Niagara Frontier Center alumni roll of honor and welcome them to the ranks of Empire State College’s distinguished alums,” said Acting President Meg Benke. “Their many and diverse accomplishments all reflect a deep commitment to the greater Buffalo and Western New York communities. I am also proud of the Niagara Frontier faculty and staff who have worked with these students over the years and have helped guide them on their successful journeys from student to alumni.”
“Our students and alumni are the best ambassadors we have, and the alumni we recognize this evening are only a small sample of our graduates who are making a difference in Western New York every day,” said Nan DiBello, dean of the college’s Niagara Frontier region. “There are 66,000 college alumni, and in Western New York there are almost 6,000 who represent the college in workplaces, neighborhoods and organizations from the Southern Tier to the Canadian border, and in Canada, too.”
The roll of honor was established in anticipation of the center’s upcoming 40th anniversary in 2014. The center will honor its most outstanding alumni on an annual basis.
Area elected officials offered official congratulations to the center. Congressman Mark Higgins provided a certificate of special congressional recognition, state Sen. Tim M. Kennedy secured a proclamation, Assemblyman Dennis H. Gabryszak sent a citation from the state assembly and City of Buffalo Mayor Byron W. Brown recognized the center by executive chamber proclamation.
The members of the inaugural class of honorees are George K. Arthur ’77, Carlos M. Benitez ’03, Janet M. Falk ’88, ’90, ’94, Nan L. Haynes ’88, Lorraine E. Peeler ’88, Dennis J. Richards ’00, ’01, ’12 and Mark J. F. Schroeder ’82.
About the Honorees
George K. Arthur
Arthur earned a bachelor’s degree in 1977 and has been active in politics for nearly 50 years.
He served on the Erie County Board of Supervisors from 1964 to 1967, then as Ellicott District Councilman 1970–1978; was elected councilman-at-large in 1978 and finally served as City of Buffalo Common Council president from 1984 until his retirement in 1996.
Still active in the community, Arthur currently serves as secretary of the Buffalo Fiscal Stability Authority.
In addition to his lengthy career in public service, he is a lifelong photographer and has exhibited in many area shows.
Carlos M. Benitez
Benitez earned a bachelor’s degree in 2003. Rising to the rank of major in the U.S. Army National Guard, Benitez simultaneously worked as a driver for the United Parcel Service.
He received his commission as an officer in 1990, and retired from the 42nd Infantry Division as Deputy G6, Signal Officer in 2011.
Benitez now serves as the director of the Erie County Veterans Services Agency, which ensures that all Erie County Veterans receive services and benefits to which they are entitled. He acts as an advocate for veterans, guiding them through the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. Benitez has made veterans’ employment a top priority.
Janet M. Falk
Falk earned associate (’88), bachelor’s (’90) and master’s (’94) degrees from the college.
After 35 years, Falk recently retired as senior contract monitor at the Erie County Department of Social Services, where she was responsible for all training and educational contracts.
Falk always has been very active with the college, having served on the College Council and three terms on the college’s Alumni Board of Governors. At the Niagara Frontier Center, she participates in new-student workshops and drop-in sessions by providing sage advice and guidance for new students.
Falk also sits on the State University at Buffalo School of Social Work Advisory Board.
Nan L. Haynes
Haynes received her bachelor’s degree from the college in 1988 and a Juris Doctorate from the University at Buffalo in 1992, where she graduated magna cum laude.
From 1995 to 2002 she practiced law with the firm of Lipsitz & Ponterio, concentrating on environmental, occupational and civil rights legislation.
In 2002, Haynes returned to UB Law School and teaches research and writing. She continues to practice law in the areas of childhood lead paint exposure and civil rights litigation, and serves as counsel to Lipsitz & Ponterio
Currently, Haynes is the vice chair of the Erie County Community Corrections Advisory Board, which the county legislature established to provide guidance on improving programs and conditions in the jails.
Haynes also sits on the board of Legal Services for the Elderly of WNY.
Lorraine E. Peeler
Peeler earned a bachelor’s from the college in 1988, and her master’s and doctorate from UB.
She began her career at the college in 1991 as a multicultural counselor and later became the center’s assistant dean of assessment.
Upon completion of her Ph.D., Peeler joined the faculty as a mentor in the area of community and human services and mentored one of the other honorees, Dennis J. Richards.
Peeler is an expert in diversity issues, and following the fall of apartheid, spent time in South Africa working in communities and speaking at colleges. She has provided diversity training to hundreds of Western New Yorkers in the health-care field, as well as the criminal justice system and community agencies.
Following the murder of James Byrd, Peeler was called to Texas to conduct diversity training.
In addition to her teaching and scholarship, Peeler has been pastor of the Covenant Center Truth Fellowship since 1995, and she founded Bright Options Family Services for families coping with issues related to developmental disability and families with child protection issues.
In recognition of her service to the community, she was awarded the Altes Prize in 2003.
Dennis J. Richards
Richards earned an associate degree in 2000, a bachelor’s in 2001 and, a Master of Arts in Social Policy in 2012.
Beginning as a patrol officer with the Buffalo Police Department, Richards rose through the ranks by earning promotions to detective, lieutenant and captain, and in 2006 chief of detectives. He was named Law Enforcement Officer of the Year at the annual Judges and Police Conference this past May.
Richards is active in the community and serves as president of the Police Athletic League of Buffalo executive board, secretary of the Buffalo Police Gold Shield Association, secretary of Police Emerald Society of Buffalo, president of the St. Rose of Lima Parish Council, vice president of the Buffalo Police Federal Credit Union of Erie County, and past delegate and executive board member of the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association.
In June of this year, Richards was selected to speak for on behalf of the center’s graduate students at commencement.
Mark J. F. Schroeder
Schroeder received his bachelor’s degree at the college in 1982. He worked for many years in the private sector before entering public service by winning election to the Erie County Legislature in 2001.
During his service as a county legislator, Schroeder founded the South Buffalo Education Center, which offers GED classes, computer and vocational training. That center has helped more than 500 students to earn their GED.
In 2004 Schroeder was elected to the state assembly and served four terms. During his time in office, Schroeder was a tireless advocate for adult education and a champion of Empire State College. He chaired the assembly subcommittee on autism. Among the many bills he sponsored, the ban on texting while driving became law. Schroeder wrote “Amanda’s Law,” which requires carbon monoxide detectors in homes. He also spearheaded many capital improvement projects in the Buffalo area, including the newly opened Buffalo Riverfest Park in the old first ward.
In 2011, he was elected comptroller of the City of Buffalo.