November 2019 Honoree
Joe Lang Foundation
Edla Collora and her children started the Joe Lang Foundation in 2007 to honor her late husband, who was known for his compassion and help to people in need. Joe came from East Side housing projects, one of four boys to a single mom. Joe, a latchkey kid found an outlet in sports: because of his athletic talent, he was drafted by the Chicago White Sox, but passed up the opportunity to play professional baseball for a full scholarship to LeMoyne College. He couldn’t stay away from alcohol, however, and drank his way out of school. He went on to bartending and bouncer jobs in Western New York.
Joe was diagnosed with brain cancer in July 2006 and died that September 2006. In his final months, Lang’s family learned a lot more about a man they thought they knew. Strangers from all walks of life began coming to their house when they learned he was ill. They waited in lines to see him at the hospital; 1,000 showed up at his funeral. It turned out that Lang, as a bartender, had given quite a few troubled souls a helping hand in the course of his life, befriending them, lending them money or finding them jobs.
She serves as the executive director of the Joe Lang Foundation, which provides funding for other nonprofits that share its mission to help those who may not have the means to get where their dreams want to take them. Past projects include fundraising of $100K for the Eggertsville Community Center to provide after school programs and a gym for local youth. They also raised funds for a computer lab in Buffalo schools.
Edla is proud watching her children take charge as they have grown up, they have continued with their father’s legacy, as she says, “He was a very giving man.” She is currently developing a program focused on improving youth skills and abilities through the culinary arts called, Kids in the Kitchen in WNY.
Edla volunteers with, and serves on the board of directors, for the Educators of America; its primary focus is education. It provides teachers with the tools to engage kids earlier enough to understand the importance of an education, and helps teachers to be better educators.
Edla Collora is the site coordinator for downtown Lockport-based Harrison Place. Operating out of the former Harrison Radiator headquarters and manufacturing complex, Harrison Place has 500,000 square feet of industrial, office and commercial space offering incubator programs to assist startups focused primarily in manufacturing, technology, and artisan enterprises.
October 2019 Honoree
Founder and Executive Director
Inspired by her professional life in the city of Buffalo, Dawne founded Stitch Buffalo in 2014. A creative at heart, Dawne has always loved the textile arts and has centered her career around this discipline. Concurrently working in the Textile and Fiber Arts Design Department at Buffalo State College, she also fills the role of handwork teacher at the Aurora Waldorf School.
Stitch Buffalo began as a project in 2014. Dawne turned it into a nonprofit organization in 2017, the same year the organization moved to a storefront on Niagara Street, a space Rich Products donated. The unique non-profit organization serves as a craft room and storefront for vibrant handcrafted ornaments, prayer necklaces, hair bands, scarves, denim jackets, and more, all created by refugee women. A recent Washington Post article, which ran a profile of Buffalo as a fun place to visit, referred to Stitch Buffalo as “the Ten Thousand Villages concept on a local scale.”
The organization aims to empower refugee women of Buffalo by providing meaningful work and a fair wage. Like the domino effect, this small but powerful financial independence infuses each woman, her family and in turn, her community. Through the creation of beautiful, handcrafted textiles, she is nurturing her cultural heritage while assuring her self-worth as a woman and a human being. It has grown to include more than 55 women from Bhutan, Burma, Nepal, Thailand and Angola. Each week these women come together to form a Refugee Women’s Workshop, sewing handcrafted goods for sale within the community. All the supplies are donated, and the women can take what they need to make in the shop or at home. Then Hoeg and her cadre of volunteers sell the items to the public on a consignment basis.
Dawne Hoeg says, “I started Stitch Buffalo because I was hopeful that the many resettled women were bringing textile skills with them from their home countries. I thought how fortunate it would be for Buffalo if I could provide the opportunity for these women to share their many talents and earn supplemental income for their families.”
August 2019 Honoree
Executive Director, VOICE Buffalo
Whitney Walker is executive director of VOICE Buffalo, a local faith-based organization dedicated to making certain that people from all walks of life can access living wage jobs, quality schools, and full participation in charting the direction of the community. Prior to joining VOICE Buffalo, she was with the Mobile Safety-Net Team of the John R. Oishei Foundation where she worked on issues such as domestic violence, workforce development, substance abuse, and food access.
A native of eastern North Carolina, Whitney’s volunteer and community involvement are extensive. She co-founded and is the former board president of FBITES – Food Based Interventions Transforming Empowered Students. This non-profit uses culinary instruction as a vehicle to develop leadership, professional skills, as well as college and career readiness in youth and adults. She is also board secretary of Ade Jembe Fola, a community organization in Buffalo that offers in- school and after-school programming in a variety of subjects.
In 2017 Whitney was among the people KeyBank appointed to its Buffalo Advisory Council to help guide its National Community Benefits plan locally. The group includes representatives from a diverse collection of community organizations, including the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, PUSH Buffalo, the United Way and Belmont Housing Resources. Whitney was also a 2018 nominee for the Athena award.
July 2019 Honoree
Member and Board of Directors Vice President
Rotary Club of Buffalo
Susan Schwartz, a fourth-generation Rotarian, is originally from Ogdensburg, NY. Before moving to Buffalo in 2011, she was president of the Rotary Club of Cleveland, and its foundation, and was part of the executive committee that created and produced the Cleveland Tall Ships Festival in 2010.
She currently serves on the Rotary Club of Buffalo board of directors as vice president and is a past director and board secretary. Susan is an active member of the club, fulfilling roles as the 2019/2020 fundraiser committee chair. She is the organizer of the club’s annual “Duck Derby,” which helps raise money for Buffalo Rotary’s latest grant, Rotary Reads - Kids Club, to the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library. The grant will provide a whole new life to several public libraries in the City of Buffalo. The Rotary Reads Kids Club area of the libraries will encourage reading, discovery and curiosity in children, supplementing the school experience in Buffalo’s key neighborhoods. Susan also serves on Buffalo Rotary’s PR and finance committees. She served on the Steering Committee for the Greater Buffalo Cultural Alliance (GBCA) and currently serves on the board of directors of O'Connell & Co.
Susan is the former director of marketing and communications for the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra; her past experience includes director of marketing and communications for Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM), marketing director for the Syracuse Symphony and Grand Rapids (MI) Symphony, and marketing manager for Classical Music for the Minnesota Orchestra.
She received her B.A. in music and is one of a few hundred graduates of Eisenhower College, formerly in Seneca Falls, NY. She currently resides in East Aurora with her husband James Newell, their two dogs, and cat.
June 2019 Honoree
Esther Annan, LMSW
Say Yes Buffalo
A native of Ghana, in West Africa, Esther Annan is a program director at Say Yes Buffalo. She has a master degree in social work from UB; she discovered her passion for working with underprivileged and under-served youths and their families in 2005, as an intern at Erie County Youth Services/Social Services.
Esther serves as a member of the 7th District Prince Hall Order Eastern Star, New York State, which engages in many charitable endeavors. She is also a member of the Erie County Chapter of the Links where she is on a committee actively working to coordinate dental and other health needs for women and children in Ghana, Liberia and other West African countries. Esther was a nominee for 2019 ATHENA Young Professional Leadership Award. She is the recipient of the Women Touching the World Award presented by Unlimited Possibilities Overcoming Poverty Ministry, Inc.
Through her past career, Esther’s work has included coordinating and overseeing mobile unit services to provide primary and family planning support to children and youth; and coordinating and overseeing free legal advice support for City of Buffalo residents. Previously she was a social worker and juvenile justice counselor for Erie County’s Secure Youth Detention Division.
She started working at Say Yes Buffalo in 2012; Esther is currently one of five program directors, overseeing the student management system, which tracks universal, secondary and tertiary supports delivered to Buffalo Public School students and their families. The system works in concert with community partners to provide the necessary supports essential for post-secondary education success.
The Say Yes Buffalo partnership strengthens the Western New York economy by investing in the education of Buffalo’s future workforce. The primary goals of the partnership are to convene the school district, parents, teachers, administrators, state, city and county governments, higher education, community based organizations, businesses and foundations to increase high school and postsecondary completion rates. Their vision is that every student can graduate high school and college when given the proper supports, resources, and opportunities.
May 2019 Honoree
Erie 1 BOCES Regional Bilingual Education – Resource Network (RBE-RN) West
Denise Góñez-Santos earned her B.S. at D’Youville and her Master’s Degree in Education at SUNY Buffalo. She began her career as a bilingual education teacher at Herman Badillo Bilingual Academy in Buffalo. With 34 years of experience in ESL and bilingual education, she is now executive director of Regional Bilingual Education - Resource Network West (Erie 1 BOCES). She serves on the Center for Elder Law and Justice Board of Directors and Niagara University Board of Advisors. She has also served on the Niagara University, School of Education Advisory Board since 2008. She volunteers for the Western New York Hispanic and Friends Civic Association, Three Kings Event for Needy Families and is serves as a Lector and Eucharistic Minister at Holy Cross Church. Denise is an Instructor in Inclusion and Diversity at Christ the King Seminary.
The NYS Association for Bilingual Education recognized Denise for outstanding contributions in the field of Bilingual Education in 2011. She was honored in 2018 by the federation for Just Communities of WNY. Denise says, to her surprise in 2017 “I received from Niagara University the Saint Louise de Marillac Award . . . given to me for my work among English Language Learners . . . it is amazing to be recognized for doing a job I love very much. We touch the lives of many immigrant and refugee children through the work I am privileged to lead. It is the students that have given purpose to my life and I am very happy to do this work every day.”
The goal of Erie 1 BOCES Regional Bilingual Education – Resource Network West is to enhance the knowledge and competencies of educators, parents and community members for promoting the academic excellence of English language learners. They provide technical assistance, professional development and resources to districts and schools.
April 2019 Honoree
Associate Professor, Jandoli School of Communication
St. Bonaventure University
Dr. Pauline Hoffmann is an associate professor in the Jandoli School of Communication at St. Bonaventure University. She is also the owner of Wild Mountain Organics, LLC, and Tippy Homestead.
Hoffmann has also traveled to Uganda, Africa with students for several years and plans to return each December. Her work there is with Embrace It Africa. She works with a small community on health-related issues, student sponsorship, women’s initiatives, and microfinance. She also regularly speaks on topics ranging from women’s issues around the world, dealing with difficult people, using data to drive strategy, public relations for those who don’t think they need it, conflict resolution, and women in leadership.
Dr. Hoffmann is past president of NYS Women Inc., Buffalo Niagara Chapter, a member of the Health Care Access Coalition, board member of the Healthy Community Alliance, and board member of Embrace it Africa.
For the last three years, a group of St. Bonaventure University faculty and staff, led by Dr. Hoffmann, have initiated a March Madness-style bracketology that they hope will spur conversations and knowledge about some trailblazing women in history. Each year, the committee has developed a bracket of accomplished women throughout history with a global reach. Dubbed March into Women’s History, the initial bracket takes 16 women in each of four categories for a total of 64 women, much like the NCAA basketball bracket is constructed. Everyone may vote via the BonaBRAVE website and social media.
Wild Mountain Organics, LLC, is an all-natural body care company. Dr. Hoffmann develops and makes all products using natural products including those from her farm, if possible. She does not use anything synthetic in the products. She is also responsible for the marketing, promotion, distribution and communication of the products.
Tippy Homestead is the recently started lifestyle blog focused on life on the farm for she and her husband. “A professor, an engineer, 57 acres, chaos,” is the mantra. Tippy Homestead and Wild Mountain Organics help to keep her sane and provide opportunities to learn and grow personally and professionally.
She received her doctorate and master’s degrees in communication from the State University of New York at Buffalo and her Bachelor of Science degree from St. Bonaventure University. Her research and teaching focus on conflict management, conflict resolution, and corporate communication and strategy. Prior to going into academia, Dr. Hoffmann worked as corporate communications manager for The CRS Companies and in creative services for Catholic Health.
March 2019 Honoree
President & Founder
In 2018, shortly after Peggy Sullivan’s father, Ted Kahn, passed away, she decided to celebrate his life with a legacy that would endure the test of time. The result is SheCan, a nonprofit, membership-based organization focused on providing tools and resources to help woman become the best version of themselves in all aspects of their lives.
SheCAN! offers inspirational learning and networking events twice a month, one focused on the personal (health) and one with a professional slant. They plan on creating e-learning modules (SheCAN University), offer networking opportunities, and mentoring programs.
Peggy serves on the board of directors for the Jewish Community Center and had previously worked at United Care and Materion Corporation as director of customer experience and for TribeCX in marketing and communication. She has a MBA from State University of New York at Buffalo.
SheCAN! has three paid employees and two non-paid as members of the executive board. The organization’s steering board has 16 members. Peggy is proud to have a diverse board, “Slowly but surely, we built an ethnically and age diversified team. We have a 20-year-old student and a 69-year-old woman who has come out of retirement to help.”
February 2019 Honoree
Dr. Lori V. Quigley
VP for Academic Affairs and Chief Academic Officer - Medaille College, Buffalo NY
Dr. Lori V. Quigley is the VP for academic affairs and chief academic officer at Medaille College in Buffalo, NY. She earned her bachelor of arts from St. Bonaventure University, and her master’s and Ph.D. from Fordham University. She grew up on the Allegany territory of the Seneca Nation of Indians and is a member of the wolf clan.
Lori serves on the boards of the YWCA of Erie County and Health Sciences Charter School in Buffalo. Lori held a gubernatorial appointment on the NYS Minority Health Council (2010-2017). In 2004, Lori received a U.S. Presidential appointment to the National Advisory Council on Indian Education, serving as chairperson until June 2010. Lori was awarded the prestigious State University of New York Chancellor’s Award for Research and Scholarship in 2006, and was honored by the National Federation of Just Communities with the Community Leader in Education Award 2008. Lori received the Hackman Residency Award from the NYS Archives in July 2007, enabling her to research the history and sociological impact of the former Thomas Indian School. The documentary “Unseen Tears: The Impact of Native American Residential Boarding Schools,” for which she served as an advisor, was released in December 2009. Lori received a Bundled Arrow Award in 2016 from the Native American Community Services for her many contributions to the Native communities in WNY.
Throughout her career, Dr. Quigley has been afforded the opportunity to extend her expertise and talents to help her Native community revitalize and maintain their indigenous language. This past October, Lori was elected to the Board of Directors for the National Indian Education Association (NIEA). In 2006, she chaired the 13th Annual Stabilizing Indigenous Languages Symposium in Buffalo, NY. She served as the topical issue editor of the “Rural Special Education Quarterly” (Spring 2006), which featured several research-based articles on Native American students with special needs, including an article which she authored entitled Weaving Common Threads, focusing on the critical importance of culturally responsive methods of teaching. In addition, she has been the principal writer for several grants targeted at Native education initiatives, totaling nearly $4 million in funded awards.
Dr. Quigley’s academic leadership roles have involved articulating a vision for the future and building a culture of intellectual excitement to shape centers of excellence and distinction by establishing a diversified portfolio of programs. Her research interests include second language acquisition, culturally relevant methods of teaching, learning community theory and multigenerational trauma. In her work, Lori focuses a great deal of energy on the development and sustainability of programs that are socially just, culturally responsive, and aggressively seek to serve all students.
January 2019 Honoree
Owner/Founder, ProductLogic LLC
ProductLogic LLC, a Buffalo-based industrial design consulting firm, was founded in 1990. It started with one person – Merry Constantino, founder – and now has three employees and one intern. Their services include product development, prototype fabrication, engineering solutions, and manufacturing procurement.
Merry graduated with a B.S. in Industrial Design; her first job after college was junior product designer at Fisher Price. She designed toys, arts & crafts, wood cribs and dressers, plus infant products such as infant seats and changing tables. After 11 years, Merry left her management position at Fisher Price to work as an industrial design consultant which led to the founding of ProductLogic.
Merry’s first clients were other companies in the children’s product industry. Sauder, one of the two largest ready-to-assemble furniture manufacturers in the U.S. was her first client. According to Merry, “When a client approaches us, their product may be merely an idea, an unmet need in the market that we will develop from scratch, or it may be a product that needs to be updated to meet the demands of an industry or it’s competition.” Industrial design clients in the WNY region took quite a few years to develop. Most jobs came by referral and still do. Today, about 75% of ProductLogic business is in based in WNY. Referrals come from other clients, patent attorneys, manufacturers and other professionals. One of their international clients is Voiceitt, a 43 North winner based in Israel. Most of the team in now located back in Israel but technology makes it very easy to continue working and communicating.
The goal originally for ProductLogic was the design of consumer products. Merry says, “I did not expect to be working in the medical device industry, and that has been a natural evolution. Another benefit of the job are the patents we accumulate. I am named on 15 U.S. and international patents and my team is building their own list of credits. It is a small badge of honor that we all wear quietly but proudly.”
ProductLogic is founded on the principal of honesty and fairness. Merry says, “We will not provide a quote for services if our experience tells us that the customer or the market place cannot support their product idea. We will provide advice and resources, and an open door if they want us to reassess at a future time.” And her clients rely on that honesty, “Our clients come back repeatedly for our services and refer us to others.”
Merry is actively involved in the entrepreneurial community, serving as executive director of the WNY Invention Convention, a program which encourages critical thinking and scientific problem solving in school-aged children. She mentors emerging entrepreneurs in the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership (MWEE Program) at U.B., and serves on the Industrial Design Program Advisory Committee of the Pennsylvania College of Technology. She is a founding member of NAWBO Buffalo Niagara (National Association of Women Business Owners), life-long member of the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) where she has served many leadership roles. Merry recently graduated from the U.B. Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership (CEL), a 10 month program designed to help entrepreneurs advance their business.