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Featuring A look inside the advanced science lab New FSSJ Fields Cabrini Foundation enhances advocacy for Hilbert students


MAGAZINE PUBLISHED BY Office of Institutional Advancement Hilbert College 5200 South Park Avenue Hamburg, NY 14075 EDITOR Carol R. Bernat DESIGNER Cher Ravenell CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Carol R. Bernat Kathleen M.Christy Matt Heidt Terra Osterling OFFICE OF INSTITUTIONAL ADVANCEMENT Kathleen M. Christy Vice President for Institutional Advancement Carol R. Bernat Director of Annual Fund and Alumni Engagement Audry Weronski Grants and Revenue Administration Manager

IN THIS ISSUE Advanced Science Lab. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Recruitment Initiatives. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6 New Provost . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10 Faculty Hires . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11 Mother Cabrini Health Foundation Grant . . . . . . . . . . . 12 FSSJ Fields & Future Track and Field Complex. . . . . . . 14 Dr. Christopher Siuta. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 16 Alumni Spotlight. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20 Annual Fund . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 In Memoriam. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 24 Giving Day. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 Board Members. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26 2025 Advisory Council . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 27




hilbert.edu/magazine Copyright © 2021 - Hilbert College All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law. NOTE: Some individuals in photos may not be practicing COVID-19 precautions as advised by the CDC. These photos were taken prior to the pandemic and do not reflect the current practices and protocols in place on campus. Hilbert College is taking all measures to keep our students, faculty, staff and campus community safe during this time. 2

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On the cover: Mayalynn Reid, ‘24, and Dr. Habibul Bakht, assistant professor of biology, in Hilbert’s new Advanced Science Lab


LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT Greetings from Hilbert College, and my wishes to you and your family and friends for a safe, happy and healthy 2021. As I said in our Christmas message, many people would say that 2020 was a year to forget. But I believe it was an unforgettable year – a year in which our Franciscan college steadfastly responded to the emerging needs of all within our campus community, whether in the classroom, residence halls, athletic fields or in our student life programming. While these changes have been sweeping and disruptive, what has remained steadfast is our spirit as a community. Together, we have worked to navigate these challenges and to support one another in a way that is deeply rooted in light and hope - patience and empathy. We see this in our faculty members who have worked tirelessly to

remain connected to their students; in our coaches who continue to champion their players; in our students who have managed this new reality of constant change and shown tremendous grace and resiliency. While the world may be filled with uncertainty, our students are equipped with maturity, fortitude and an enduring sense of the Franciscan spirit—a belief in

themselves and in each other. There is no doubt that they will contribute to their respective fields—as well as to their communities and to our society as a whole—in impressive and significant ways with all that they have learned in this past year and what is to come. This issue of the Hilbert Magazine highlights great accomplishments and significant projects and programs that are enhancing the Hilbert experience, and faculty and staff members who are devoted to helping students in the classroom and in their careers. Therein lies our strength and hope as a community of faith and scholarship. We are tremendously grateful to Hilbert alumni, donors and community supporters who have so generously supported our efforts to meet our students’ greatest needs and are investing in our Hilbert 2025 strategic goals and objectives. We are very proud as well to

recognize the Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph, our founding order, for their extraordinary generosity and continued leadership and commitment to our entire campus community. Mark your calendars for our upcoming Hilbert Day of Giving which will take place on April 22, 2021. A great day when we all come together to celebrate and support our great students! The voices in these stories are all authentic and from the heart. In this difficult time, they give me hope and great excitement for the future, and I trust they do the same for you. I am confident that the day is coming when this pandemic will be part of our shared memory—something we went through together and came through together. Keep that future always at top of mind and please know we are working as diligently as possible to keep our community safe, united, and ready to continue the work at hand, together. Enjoy reading this important news from Hilbert, and our gratitude for your leadership and unwavering support.

Michael S. Brophy, PhD, MFA President mbrophy@hilbert.edu



Thanks to seven local community and corporate foundations and several individual donors, Hilbert students are learning chemistry in a spacious, modern, fully-equipped laboratory. Aimed at providing new lab space to support upperlevel chemistry offerings including organic chemistry and biochemistry for Forensic Science majors, the expansion will also free up the existing physical chemistry lab space, allowing Hilbert to offer physics courses for the first time in Fall 2021. Dr. Habibul Bakht, assistant professor of biological sciences, said it perfectly, “We are deeply grateful to our donors for their generous support to enrich Hilbert’s science lab with modern equipment and facilities. This upgrade will support the growth of future science programs, including pre-professional sciences at Hilbert.”

The new lab is equipped with five new chemical fume hoods, modern chemistry and organic chemistry teaching instruments, equipment, apparatus, molecular models, chemical and reagent cabinets, storage cabinets for flammable and volatile compounds and a smartboard for interactive audiovisual display. The hoods feature gas, vacuum, air outlets and a waste collection unit, so hazardous chemical wastes can be safely collected in a designated container during the organic synthesis of chemical compounds. Hilbert’s first cohort of organic chemistry students have already started enjoying these facilities in the new lab to enhance their handson learning experience, which would not have been possible before the renovation. According

to Dr. Roberto Ma. Gregorius, visiting professor, chemistry, “Even something as basic to a trained organic chemist such as setting up a distillation apparatus to separate two liquids of differing boiling points – best learned by actually setting up the apparatus and distilling a mixture of liquids – could not have been an option without the equipment and space we have now. I believe chemistry students should not be allowed to graduate unless they’ve broken a piece of glassware or had to suddenly pull away from touching glassware the student has forgotten was hot.” Although COVID restrictions prevented a formal celebratory dedication of the new lab, Hilbert is recognizing the donors who helped fund this significant and essential project for our students. Hilbert is thrilled to have this lab open and operational, and looks forward to having guests and donors experience this new space in the future. DONORS: The John R. Oishei Foundation The Margaret L. Wendt Foundation Russo Family Charitable Foundation Vincent & Harriet Palisano Foundation M&T Bank Foundation The Garman Family Foundation KeyBank Foundation

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Dr. Randyll Bowen Driving Hilbert Recruitment Strategies

“Unique students want to come here, where the small class size and Franciscan values allow them to be known as a person,”

Randyll Bowen, Ed.D, joined Hilbert College in January 2020 as the Vice President of Enrollment Management. After 25 years in higher education enrollment, Randy was drawn by Hilbert College President Dr. Brophy’s leadership, management style, and vision for investing in the educational programs and career opportunities sought by prospective students. The engaged faculty and staff and the emphasis they place on student success also demonstrated to him a profound sense of belonging and community. Not only did all that draw him as an administrator, but he notes it also positions Hilbert College to be competitive in recruiting prospective students. “Unique students want to come here, where the small class size and Franciscan values allow them to be


“We have the capacity for an enrollment of over 1,000 students and part of our push to get back there is understanding how athletics will be a recruitment tool,” said Randy, who played football as a SUNY Brockport undergrad.

known as a person,” Randy said. “A fundamental understanding and appreciation for others, including service learning, is the fabric of who we are … and this is a big piece for families to know that it’s a safe and comfortable environment.” Managing recruitment during COVID-19 has underscored this point; the three key aspects of Randy’s strategy—athletics, international students, and removing obstacles—all look to a brighter future.

Athletics in Recruiting In the early 2010s, Hilbert College was at its highest enrollment ever of just under 1,200 students. It was a time when all colleges had grown to manage the influx of more high school graduates. While enrollment numbers have corrected nationally since then, Hilbert College celebrated an enrollment of just over 800 students in the Fall of 2020, the College’s highest in five years.

Twenty-five percent of the current Hilbert College student population are athletes. The gift of the FSSJ Fields for Hawks baseball and softball are just the beginning of the campus improvements that will assist Athletics, which is already an active recruitment partner, in attracting even more student athletes. “Hilbert College has the most active [in recruiting] athletics department I’ve seen in my career,” Randy said. “Furthermore, I’m proud that over the last decade our athletes average a GPA of 3.0 or higher.” The planned Track and Field complex is part of the Hilbert 2025 strategy for capital investment, expansion of sports team offerings and enrollment growth, and is expected to greatly help prospective student athletes choose to attend Hilbert College.


He credits the Criminal Justice and Forensic Science niche programs as being a major draw at college fairs and adds that Hilbert College is also often a ‘discovery’ during such events. “It’s hard to be discovered when you’re not there—but to be clear, no one is there,” Randy said of recruitment events sidelined by COVID-19 restrictions on gatherings and travel.

COVID-19 Challenges Connecting with any prospects in the past year has been a challenge, as it has been for all college recruiters. While both in-person and virtual tours of the campus were up last fall, the cancellation of national and regional recruitment events has driven down the number of applicants. The decrease owes to that disruption, but also to general uncertainty among students nationwide. “Prospective students still want to know the feel of an institution, which is something our personable admissions counselors are very good at conveying during recruitment events,” Randy said.


For his own part, Randy sees the national drop in college applications as a time for the sector to collectively think more deeply about how to serve students. His remedy includes relationships—a Hilbert College strength that will make easier the job of Meghan Harmon, the newly appointed Director of Undergraduate Admissions. Meghan brings to the role 14 years working in higher education, including experience managing a staff of both professionals and students implementing recruitment and outreach strategies.

How Graduates Can Help The ambitions of Randy and his recruitment team are backed not only by the College’s academic programs, athletics, and dedication to Franciscan values. Hilbert alumni also play a role.

“Our alums are great ambassadors for Hilbert College,” Randy said. “Students like to hear other student stories of how Hilbert molded them into a successful person with a successful career.” From taking on interns to simply sharing their own stories, Hilbert graduates provide a unique point of view to prospective students.

Students from Near and Far A framework for serving more students is taking shape for when Hilbert College is back to providing the full in-person educational experience.

purpose is to support students who are part of the Say Yes to Education program. Say Yes scholarships are offered by the City of Buffalo to qualifying students. “These students are valuable to the Hilbert community—they are key contributors and campus leaders,” Randy said. Removing obstacles such as transportation, is important in supporting educational and, in turn, leadership goals. As Hilbert College continues to invest in students, Randy and his team are poised to spread the word. Part of that effort is the significant planning that has already gone into growing the College’s international student program. Recruits from overseas colleges will enter a 3+1 program, wherein they can earn a bachelor’s degree in their home country then another from Hilbert College. Validated coursework (90 credits) will be mapped from schoolto-school and approved by Hilbert College division chairs. While student visas are currently limited, when COVID-19 recedes, the pieces will be in place to recruit international students more aggressively. Brandon Moran, Director of International Admissions and Multimedia Productions

at Hilbert College, joined the Enrollment Management staff in November. He brings expertise to help the College transform its brand both locally and internationally in the years to come. Another effort focuses on an issue closer to home and in alignment with Hilbert’s Franciscan values to provide access and opportunity in pursuit of an education.

Are you a graduate interested in sharing your Hilbert College and career success stories? Would you like to explore offering an internship to students? Contact: Carol Bernat Director of Annual Fund and Alumni Engagement 716-926-8963 cbernat@hilbert.edu

Transportation Hilbert College now runs a shuttle bus program that twice daily loops through four quadrants around the City of Buffalo. The wi-fi-enabled buses are available to faculty and staff as well, but the buses’ primary

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Dr. Maureen F. Finney Named Provost & Vice President for Academic Affairs

After an extensive national search, Maureen F. Finney, Ed.D., PA-C has been named Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at Hilbert College, President Michael S. Brophy, Ph.D. announced. Finney’s appointment was effective January 1, 2021. “I am confident that Dr. Finney has the experience, vision, and leadership skills to work collaboratively with constituents across our campus to advance our academic initiatives,” Brophy said. “I am thrilled to have a leader with Maureen’s knowledge and talents in this vital role.”

Finney comes to Hilbert after 20 years at D’Youville College. She served as dean and professor for the School of Health Professions. As chief academic officer for the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral programs, Finney was responsible for the strategic direction and long range planning for the School.. Finney oversaw eight departments including Chiropractic, Dietetics, Exercise and Sports Studies, Health Administration and Public Health, Occupational Therapy, Physician Assistant, and Physical Therapy with an accompanying enrollment of nearly 1,000 students, 60 full time faculty, and 50 adjunct faculty. “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to serve as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs to help advance the academic priorities for the entire campus community,” Finney said. “I look forward to collaborating with the talented faculty, students, and staff at Hilbert to build on the College’s solid foundation and support Hilbert’s academic excellence.” Finney was project leader for D’Youville’s new Health Professions Hub and helped secure a $5 million grant from the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York

Higher Education Capital Assistance Program (HECap) for the project. She developed and implemented a strategic planning process to include creation of a school-wide mission and vision. In collaboration with department chairs, Finney successfully led re-accreditation processes for all

specialized accreditors within the School of Health Professions. She also served as Self Study Co-Chair for 2015 MSCHE Decennial Review which led to a successful college wide re-accreditation. In addition to dean and professor, Finney also served as interim executive director of the chiropractic department and chairperson of the physician assistant department. Finney has also served as a clinical physician assistant for the Department of Family Medicine at the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Medicine. Finney has a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Niagara University and a master’s degree in natural sciences from the University at Buffalo. She received her Ed.D. in health policy and education and a bachelor’s in physician assistant from D’Youville.

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Faculty Appointments Hilbert College is pleased to announce the appointment of four new full time faculty: Laura Dannebohm, J.D. (Criminal Justice), David Herring, Ph.D. (Psychology), Gerald Kissel, Ed.D. (Sports Management), and Jin Zhang, Doctoral candidate (Cybersecurity), have been named assistant professors.

Laura Dannebohm, J.D., who earned her Juris Doctorate from Western Michigan University – Cooley Law School, joins the criminal justice faculty at Hilbert. She is a practicing attorney and counselor at law. She has previously served as an assistant dean at Indiana Tech Law School and as a secondary education teacher at Northwell High School. She also has experience with the Michigan Department of Corrections and the Kansas Department of Corrections. In addition to her teaching responsibilities, Dannebohm will serve as Hilbert’s Pre-Law

Program Advisor. In this role, she will assist Hilbert undergraduates who are preparing for law school. In addition, she will develop partnerships with law schools. David Herring, Ph.D., who earned his doctorate in psychology from the University of Texas at El Paso, joins the Hilbert psychology department. He previously served as an assistant professor at Murray State University. Herring also served as an adjunct at Erie Community College and as a lecturer at Penn State Behrend.

Gerald Kissel, Ed.D., who earned his doctorate in sports administration from Temple University, joins the sports management faculty at Hilbert. He previously served as assistant professor and director of the sports management program at Briar Cliff University in Sioux City, Iowa. He has also served as a visiting lecturer at the University of Wisconsin and a visiting professor at Florida Institute of Technology, Ball State University, and many others. Kissel has over 50 years of experience in professional and college athletics. Kissel is the brother of the

late John Kissel, who was a longtime Vice President of Student Affairs at Hilbert. Jin Zhang, who is a doctoral candidate in information technology at Towson University, joins the cybersecurity faculty at Hilbert. She was previously an adjunct professor and teaching assistant at Towson. She has also served as an associate professor at Hainan University in Haikou, China. Zhang was also a visiting scholar at Central Michigan University.

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Hilbert College was recently awarded a $500,000 grant from the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation. This transformational grant, the largest from a foundation in Hilbert’s history, will be used to fund and support the creation of the Franciscan Advocacy and Resource Center at the College. The new Center will be designed to help students overcome life issues and support and strengthen their ability to transition and thrive in their educational setting and beyond. The Mother Cabrini Health Foundation is a private, non-profit organization with the mission to improve the health and well-being of vulnerable New Yorkers, bolster the health outcomes of targeted communities, eliminate barriers to care, and bridge gaps in health services. The Foundation, which is named in memory of a tireless advocate for immigrants, children, and the poor, provides flexible support for new and innovative approaches that enhance health and wellness across New York State.

“This is a very significant day for Hilbert College,” Hilbert President Michael S. Brophy, Ph.D. said. “We are extremely grateful to The Mother Cabrini Health Foundation for their generous commitment to our mission. The new Franciscan Advocacy and Resource Center at Hilbert will truly be lifechanging for the students we serve and the community at large.” Led by Jeffrey Papia, Vice President of Mission Integration and Campus Ministry, the formation of the Center will centralize five separate intervention strategies to ensure student success. These interventions are: •

Wellness Center – Physical & Mental Health and Well-Being;

SOAR: Success, Opportunity, Advising and Retention, including shuttle bus service for Say Yes and other City of Buffalo students;

Campus Ministry Outreach Program: clothing and food insecurity;

Adult Services Initiative: social services and referrals;

Learning Commons: space for collaborative learning, educational technology and community building.

Papia spoke about the importance of this grant to Hilbert’s students, “Often times, what stands in the way of a student’s success is not their academic ability, but the challenges they face in life. In the spirit of Mother Colette Hilbert and in keeping with the legacy of the Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph, we aim to serve and support our students, both inside and outside the classroom. Thanks to the Cabrini Foundation, this funding will also provide for the establishment of a new position to further diversity and inclusion initiatives at Hilbert. Our students will have the resources they need to be not only successful, but also happy and healthy.”

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“IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WILL COME.” New FSSJ Fields and Future Track & Field Complex


When the Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph first donated the land that would become Hilbert College, a special brand of teamwork was planted on Hilbert’s grounds. Now the FSSJ’s most recent act over many years of generosity will make it possible for our student athletes to better grow in teamwork and sportsmanship. On Friday, November 20, 2020, two state-of-the-art baseball and softball diamonds built on new land donated by the Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph were named the FSSJ Field Complex. The land had been part of the adjacent former Immaculata Academy high school campus, and the redevelopment terms allow for Hilbert College to have exclusive use in perpetuity. During the virtual ceremony, FSSJ General Minister and College Trustee Sister Marcia Ann Fiutko ‘73, spoke of Franciscan values in a way that echoes the sportsmanship of collegiate athletics, saying,

By then, the windscreens, dugouts, netting, and batting cages will be complete. These features are expected to create a recruiting advantage for the Hawks baseball and softball teams. Head Softball Coach John Hall has already seen the excitement of present and future Hawks. “We didn’t even want to show the old facility to our recruits, now it is the first thing I tell them about,” he said. “Having these new home fields instills pride in our athletes, especially when visiting teams come to play. Again, a big thank you to the FSSJ. We are very appreciative of their generosity.” Additionally, the FSSJ Fields will allow Hilbert College to welcome area leagues to the fields and share the vibrancy of the campus with the wider community. The FSSJ Fields marks the beginning of a new era for Hilbert Athletics. Not long after the naming of the FSSJ

“May these new grounds be a place where, surrounded by the gifts of God’s creation, all are refreshed and enjoy great camaraderie, and renewal of the human spirit… May all who step foot here come to recognize like St. Francis of Assisi did, that we share a common home, Mother Earth, and a common brotherhood and sisterhood with every person. May that recognition lead us in our life choices to seek out the common good for all, leaving no one behind.” “Naming the fields after [the FSSJ] sends back a little of their loyalty and dedication along with our love, joy, and gratitude,” said Laurie Boreanaz Carra ’81, Chair of the Hilbert College Board of Trustees. Hilbert Director of Athletics Megan Valentine spoke of the student athletes’ deep gratitude as well as the valuable broader impacts of the new fields. The drainage issues of the old fields will be a distant memory this spring, when the FSSJ Fields will be formally dedicated.

Fields, the Board of Trustees approved the selection of the engineering and design firm that will oversee Phase 1 of planning the Hilbert College Track & Field Complex, as part of the Hilbert 2025 strategic plan. Fundraising for this phase has begun and the project has an overall planned completion projected for Fall 2023. These are exciting upgrades that will support Hilbert Athletics, and Sister Marcia Ann said it best during her remarks at the field-naming: “Go Hawks! We are so very proud of you!”

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Christopher Siuta, Ph.D., LMHC, moved into his office at St. Joseph’s Hall a little more than a year ago, in January 2020. It was there that he was welcomed to Hilbert College as the new Director of Counseling, Health & Wellness.


Dr. Christopher Siuta, LMHC is led to Hilbert at just the right time

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Dr. Siuta earned his Ph.D. in Sports Psychology in 2007, attending graduate school full time in Capella University’s accredited online doctoral program while also working full time both as a private clinician and as a professor at St. Bonaventure University. Joining the Hilbert College staff was the realization of a longtime goal to transition his career to a fully clinical role. For Hilbert College, he could not have made that move at a better time.

“Be there for the care.” “Over the last 20 years I had done quite a bit of counseling with college students, so I’m very familiar with this population, the issues they deal with, and how diagnoses present,” he said. What Chris was not familiar

with was dealing with the outbreak of a pandemic. He does, however, credit his career with training him to remain flexible— key to navigating the year 2020, as defined by COVID-19. “In the counseling world, nothing is as it appears to be,” he said. “There’s always change and always diversity, so you have to be quick on your feet and make decisions that create balance.” Dealing with COVID-19 as both a clinician and the person tasked with managing the Hilbert College campus response to the pandemic has certainly tested Chris’s flexibility. It was his experience, vision for Hilbert, and goal to “be there for the care,” which aligns with the Franciscan values of caring for others, that put Chris at an advantage.

Campus-wide Health and Wellbeing While the students are Dr. Siuta’s number one priority, he quickly recognized that anyone who is part of campus life was being stretched by the practical challenges and personal strains posed by the pandemic. One-third of Hilbert College’s 800 students live on campus and the balance are commuters, but the entire student body had to quickly adjust to remote learning in March. A second, planned campus transition to remote learning began just before Thanksgiving and lasted until the beginning of the Spring semester on January 25. While the initial shift to remote learning posed a challenge for many students, Dr. Siuta’s personal experience earning his Ph.D. within


that model uniquely positioned him to empathize. Across disciplines, there was an extreme level of apprehension, anxiety, and worry. The stakes have naturally been higher for Hilbert students who plan to go on to careers as first responders and other types of frontline workers. According to the Office of Counseling, Health & Wellness, in 2020 Hilbert College experienced a 25% increase over the previous year in individuals seeking counseling. That increase owes to an uptick in both one-time and repeat visits, requiring a deliberate focus on the mental health and wellbeing of everyone in the Hilbert family. “There were a lot of intrinsic motivation factors affecting the students who came to us for counseling; lots of apathy and lots of just going through the motions. In fact, everybody—students, faculty, and staff—was in that place of just… waiting,” Dr. Siuta said. “We helped and are still helping, everybody.” Previously, Hilbert College counseling or health services did not work with with faculty or staff members, but COVID-19 forced a shift in focus.


“If we are taking care of everyone, the trickle down will be positive for students,” reasoned Dr. Siuta. He has been able to meet the demand for counseling, both safely inperson and remotely, with the help of student interns, one each from University at Buffalo and Canisius College. Mental health care was Dr. Siuta’s first stop but facilitating on-campus medical care was also part of his vision for wellness at Hilbert College.

Comprehensive Care and COVID-19 Testing Dr. Siuta’s Day-One, prepandemic plans for the campus community included creating a new, broader, comprehensive spectrum of care based in partnership with Inspired Health Group, a spiritually guided medical family practice located in Orchard Park. This partnership was already in development as COVID-19 infections first began to surge in the United States. The

students went home, but then the work began to prepare for welcoming everyone back to campus. The partnership with Inspired Health Group was solidified last summer, during Dr. Siuta’s dualpurpose mission as health and safety subcommittee chair for the Hilbert College ‘Comeback Task Force.’ The task force manages the campus COVID-19 plans that create policies and protocols in alignment with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, New York State, and Erie County mandates. A critical part of those plans was implementing COVID-19 testing and reporting, supported by Inspired Health Group. When the Fall semester began, virtual daily health screenings were required of all students, faculty, and staff. Depending on the outcome of those screenings, an individual could be sent for rapid testing administered by one of Inspired Health Group’s practitioners, staffing daily at the campus health clinic or at their Orchard Park office.

“We are in constant communication with Inspired to keep information flowing about test results and managing when to quarantine,” Chris said. “I am utterly grateful for this partnership and how smoothly our plans have gone. This hasn’t been easy, but together we are making sure we’re in front of this thing and not behind it.” Divine Guidance If divine guidance led Dr. Chris Siuta to Hilbert College more than a year ago, that work wasn’t done. Last fall, Chris’s daughter, Lizzy, who aspires to work for the FBI, joined the class of 2024 as a member of the Forensic Science program, and Becky, his wife, enrolled in the Health Care Administration graduate program. With three members of the Siuta family joining the Hilbert College family, the personal investment in maintaining a healthy campus life during a trying era has become even more personal for Chris. “In a crisis, you see some people at their best, and you see some people struggling,” Chris said. “Our success has been in just figuring out a way to create balance between those extremes, and we’re here for everyone.”

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ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: Jason C. Luna, Esq., ‘96 UNDERGRAD STATS: • • • • • • • •

Criminal Justice major Student Government Programming Committee Phi Beta Lambda business fraternity Criminal Justice Association Admissions Ambassador Hawks Baseball 1996 Hilbert’s Man of the Year

ALUMNI STATS: • • • • • • •

Member, Board of Trustees, 2013-2016 Member, Alumni Association Board 2006-2010 Member, Hilbert 2025 Advisory Council Jason C. Luna Scholarship Endowed Fund Adjunct Professor, Criminal Justice Hawks Under 40 inaugural honoree (2013) Professional Success Program, Dress for Success event (2004 and 2006) Owner, Jason C. Luna PLLC

“Hilbert College is the best kept secret.” “It’s a funny story,” said Jason Luna ’96, of his first experience with Hilbert College. He was a high school senior out with his mom on a trip to a mall department store. As they waited in line, their conversation turned to Jason’s visit to the law office where his mom was a paralegal. In chatting with each of the firm’s four lawyers about college ideas, one mentioned Hilbert College. He said the soon-to-be four-year college would be a great local option for Jason, an aspiring lawyer, to start his higher education path. Then the woman in front of them turned, with business card already in-hand. “She said, ‘Did you say Hilbert?’—and it was Bea Slick, the Hilbert College Director of Admissions,” Jason recalled. She personally set up a tour and when Jason saw the campus, he fell in love. “Smaller schools are so great,” said Jason. He was accustomed to small class sizes at Buffalo City Honors high school, so he was deliberate


agents. That advantage was evident even as he entered graduate school. “I truly feel that I learned more [at Hilbert] than I did in law school about many of the issues I deal with now in private practice,” Jason said. After graduating from SUNY Buffalo Law School, Jason worked as an Erie County assistant district attorney before opening his own personal injury firm in 2005.

about choosing a small college while large Ivy League schools were heavily recruiting among his classmates. Jason was sold on Hilbert College. “I loved the small campus and even the modest library—which housed a law library that I learned was actually in-use by local lawyers,” he said. “Hilbert College was this ‘best kept secret’ and truly a great fit for me.” Jason was admitted to the Class of 1996, Hilbert College’s first class to graduate with four-year degrees. For him, the Hilbert difference was twofold: relationships and practical class instruction. Of the latter, he was both impressed and grateful that many of his criminal justice professors had lengthy careers in their fields, such as former investigators and federal

The other Hilbert difference for Jason are the relationships he has grown to cherish, both as a student and as an alum. He fondly recalls being part of the student programming committee and touring other campuses with the group’s advisor, then-Vice President for Student Life John Kissel. It was during those early-1990s tours to preview lecturers, musical groups, and other performers that the student group would note the best features of other campus’s buildings. Their feedback was valuable input for the committee designing what would become Franciscan “Fran” Hall, built in 1997. Jason was busy on the Hilbert campus involved in academics, activities, and athletics, while working full time at UPS. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that he has been just as involved in Hilbert life as an alum. “I’ve always agreed to teach classes or speak whenever I’m invited,” Jason said. In the three years he taught it, Jason’s Introduction to Law and Justice class grew from a handful of students to a maxed class of 35.

He attributes the slow start to the early class time and the later success to the care he put into planning lessons that were engaging and practical. “I used media to draw them in, and it worked to keep their interest,” Jason said. Using clips from the television series “To Catch a Predator,” for example, made the concept of ‘attempted crimes’ more insteresting. Twenty five years later, Jason continues to stay involved. In 2009, he established the Jason C. Luna Endowed Scholarship Fund to financially support qualifying Criminal Justice majors so that they can be fully involved in campus life. (The scholarship is awarded to a second- or third-year student with a 3.0 GPA, who is active in a club/organization on campus, and who demonstrates pride in Hilbert College). He has also volunteered his time and talent to college governance by serving on the Board of Trustees, on the Alumni Board, and most recently by joining the Hilbert 2025 Advisory Council. He does it all to give back to his first alma mater and the faculty and staff who, he observes, invest their lives in Hilbert. He knows their care for him as a person made a difference throughout his education and professional career. Case in point: when Jason took the bar exam, three years out of Hilbert, College President Sister Edmunette Paczesny, FSSJ, Ph.D., had his name added to the Prayer Wall. He passed on the first try. “You don’t get that at any other school,” said Jason. “Hilbert truly becomes a part of you.” HC 21


Did you know that 43% of Hilbert students are first generation college students? As a result, many of them arrive on campus already challenged by poverty and limited access to adequate health and mental health services. 38% of Hilbert students identify with food insecurity, and approximately one in three college students reports having suffered from a mental health disorder in the years leading to college.

WE CHANGE LIVES … YOU MAKE IT HAPPEN PLEASE WON’T YOU MAKE YOUR GIFT TO THE HILBERT FUND TODAY? When the COVID-19 pandemic led us to shut down our campus, our students and faculty quickly transitioned to remote learning and teaching, and our staff began working from home. The College was faced with immediate unexpected, unbudgeted expenses, including urgent technology needs and shelter and travel expenses for students. Success in higher education encompasses more than academics. Life issues that arise from jobs, childcare, finances, illness and more, do emerge unexpectedly, sidetracking students from their scholarly pursuits and impeding their college achievements. As we returned to campus for the Fall 2020 semester, we have experience not only an increase in financial aid and scholarship assistance requests, but also significant needs in both wellness and mental health concerns as we continue to mitigate the COVID-19 virus spread. As we begin the Spring 2021 semester, gifts to the Hilbert College Annual Fund are essential. These resources remain critical as they support continuing vital academic, health and wellness programs and services for Hilbert students. To make a gift visit: giving.hilbert.edu/givenow. For more information, please contact Carol Bernat Director of Annual Fund and Alumni Engagement 716-926-8963 cbernat@hilbert.edu.



In Memoriam


Clifford A. McCartan of West Seneca, NY, died on June 5, 2020. A 1977 graduate of Hilbert College, he served the West Seneca community as a police officer for over 25 years. McCartan was a proud Eagle Scout, and a recipient of the Vigil Honor and St. George Award. In addition to his 70 total years with the Boy Scouts, he was a proud U.S. Army veteran. McCartan is survived by his wife Patricia, two sons and four grandchildren.

Sandra (Saladyga) Hamerski of Hamburg, NY, died on October 5, 2020. Sandra met life’s challenges head on with spirit and humor. As a single mother of four children, she worked two jobs to put herself through college. Sandra received an associate degree from Hilbert in 1979 and a Bachelor’s degree in English in 1999. She worked for a Buffalo law firm for several years. In retirement, Sandra enjoyed volunteering with Crisis Services and served as a docent at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Graycliff in Derby. She was proud of her Polish heritage, especially the food and music. Sandra’s other hobbies included camping, hiking, cooking and watching cooking shows. Her favorite times were spent with her family. Sandra is survived by three daughters and five grandchildren. Her son Robert pre-deceased her.

Gloria J. Emerling (nee Fiebelkorn) of Hamburg, NY, died on November 9, 2020. Known to everyone as “Cookie”, she graduated from Hilbert College with a bachelor’s degree in Economic Crime Investigation in 2003. She worked as a receptionist and greeter for the West Herr Automotive Group and enjoyed vacations in Las Vegas, dining out and spending time with her family. Gloria is survived by one daughter and four grandchildren.

Sister Mary Antonia Skorniak, FSSJ, died on November 2, 2020. She was born Genevieve Skorniak in Buffalo, NY on January 3, 1926. On January 5, 1952 she became a postulant, and on July 23, 1956 Sister Antonia professed her final vows. Sister Antonia received an associate degree from Hilbert College in 1963. After receiving a bachelor’s degree in Education from Madonna College in Detroit, MI, Sister Antonia dedicated herself to educating young children at St. Vincent de Paul and St. Mary’s of the Lake near Hamburg, NY, St. Stanislaus in Trenton, NJ and St. Sebastian in Dearborn Heights, MI. Following her 51-year career in education, Sister turned her attention to convent volunteer ministries at Immaculate Conception Convent in Hamburg, NY. In 2012, she joined her Sisters in the Care Community, which later became St. Francis Park. Sister Edmunette Paczesny, FSSJ, Ph.D., former president of Hilbert College, remembers Sister Antonia as a “very beautiful and holy person with a wonderful sense of humor.” To her family, former colleagues and sisters in community, Sister Antonia was known as a “fun-loving, gentle and compassionate person totally dedicated to her vocation to God.” She is survived by many nieces and nephews and her sisters in community.

Sister Mary Presentia Stawicki, FSSJ, died on November 25, 2020. She was born Sophia Stawicki in Medina, NY on May 16, 1931. She entered the convent as a postulant on January 5, 1948 and professed her final vows on July 12, 1952. For 30 years, Sister Presentia devoted herself to teaching and supporting students. Her teaching roles brought her to St. Joseph, Tonawanda, St. Michael in Bridgeport, CT, St. Sebastian, Dearborn Heights, MI, and St. Barnabas in Depew, NY. In Hamburg, NY, Sister Presentia served as a teacher, guidance counselor and principal at Immaculata Academy. From 1971-73, she served as Dean of Students at Hilbert College. Sister Presentia then changed course and devoted her time and gifts to pastoral care. She served in the CCD program and pastoral care at Sacred Heart Parish, Medina, NY and next at St. Clare Manor in Lockport, NY. For the last 30 years of her ministerial life, Sister Presentia served God’s people in her hometown of Medina as a Pastoral Associate at Sacred Heart Parish and then at Holy Trinity Parish. According to her obituary, “Sister Presentia will be remembered for her generosity of heart, spirit and service to others. Her joyful manner endeared her to all whom she served.”



2020-2021 BOARD OF TRUSTEES Officers

Laurie Boreanaz Carra ‘81, Chairperson Boyd Wible, Vice Chairperson




DAY 2021 ◆

Jill Meyer, Secretary Members

Steve Bell Michael Brophy, Ph.D. Bridget Corcoran ‘88 Russell Corigliano Beth Del Genio, Ph.D. Rev. Sean DiMaria Sister Marcia Ann Fiutko ‘73, FSSJ Rhonda Frederick Richard Hamister Hon. Craig Hannah Sister Michael Marie Jordan, ’70, FSSJ Rev. Ted Jost Joseph Kubarek Thomas McArthur ‘06 Michael McCabe Hon. Jeremiah McCarthy Ted Oexle Philip Perna Christopher Randall Rev. Michael Sajda, OFM, Conv. Michelle Sullivan Michael Tepfenhart Camille Wicher, Ph.D. Lamont Williams


Paul Liedkie ‘13, President Jenna Dulak ‘08, Ph.D., Vice President Rachel Liedkie ‘13, Secretary Erika Betz ‘17, G.O.L.D. Representative Colleen Kumiega ‘94, Faculty Representative Members

Lisa Beckwith ‘15 Bob Benshadle ‘82 Jon Hulbert ‘13 Ka-shara Jordon ‘15 Jennifer Loughran ‘07 Amy Meisner ‘01 Joe Pernick ‘14 Don Thompson Jerry Wszalek ‘73 Donna Zimpfer ‘99


2020-2021 HILBERT 2025 ADVISORY COUNCIL Mrs. Brooke Anderson-Tompkins ’86 Ms. Shai Arnold, MPA ’17, ’15 Mr. Carl Behrend

Mr. William Brinson ’97, ’94 Ms. Lauren Carlin ’19 Mr. Ryan Caster, CPA

Mr. Lucas Cellino ’14 Mr. John Ciminelli

Mr. Jonathon Clark ’10 Mr. Brian Connolly

Mr. Jeffrey Conrad Mr. Michael Cornell Mrs. Lisa Damiani Ms. Lynne Dixon

Mr. Thomas Doody ’97 Mr. Sean Doyle

Mr. Daniel Dytchkowskyj ’16 Ms. Patricia Farrell

Ms. Cynthia Gronachan ’77 Mr. Terrence Heard ’94

Mr. James Iglewski ’85

Mrs. Marcy Jablonski ’73 Mr. Jason Keding

Mr. John Kilcoyne

Mr. Kevin Klotzbach

Ms. Althea Luehrsen Mr. Jason Luna ’96

Ms. Jill Martucci ’12

Ms. Kathleen Maxian ’82

Ms. Cameron McLeod ’18

Mrs. Anne Marie Milazzo ’66 Mr. Thomas Moses

Mrs. Carol Tracy Palczewski ’94, ’83, ’72 Mr. Louis Petrucci ’15

Mr. Edward Qualey ’74

Ms. Darlene Rousseau ’83 Mr. David Rust

Mr. Joseph Salvatore Ms. Amy Schmit

Mr. Michael Sendor ’10

Mrs. Sarah Seweryniak ’09 Mr. James Shaw

Ms. Margaret Shea Sperber ’10 Mr. Ed Sirianno

Mr. Richard Suchan Mr. Mo Sumbundo

Mr. Michael Szymoniak

Ms. Theresa Vincent ’18

Mrs. Christine Zacher Ward ’97 Ms. Lisa Woodring ’94

Mr. Jerome Wszalek ’73

HC 27

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Hilbert College Magazine - Winter 2021  

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