Buffalo State will confer degrees on 1,979 undergraduate and approximately 500 graduate students during its 143rd Commencement celebration, Saturday, May 16, in the Sports Arena.
Awards for student excellence, distinguished alumni, and service to the college will also be presented during two baccalaureate ceremonies and one master’s hooding and C.A.S. ceremony.
The College Council Medal will be presented to Howard Zemsky, immediate past chair of the Buffalo State College Council, during the morning undergraduate ceremony. Buffalo State College Council member James Brandys, '71, '73, will be honored with the President’s Distinguished Service Award and will deliver the commencement address at the afternoon undergraduate ceremony.
College Council Medal
Howard A. Zemsky
Howard Zemsky was nominated by New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo in January 2015 to serve as president and CEO of Empire State Development (ESD) and commissioner of the economic development. Zemsky was confirmed by the New York State Senate on March 30, 2015.
ESD is the economic development agency of New York State. Zemsky and his colleagues manage a broad range of programs, incentives, and services designed to increase private-sector investment and job creation in New York State. The organization has a staff of more than 450 people located in 12 offices across the state.
Zemsky works closely with Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who will deliver the commencement address at the 6:00 p.m. master’s hooding and C.A.S. ceremony, and the respective regional co-chairs to implement the Regional Economic Development Councils, the governor’s decentralized, collaborative, and strategic approach to economic development.
Zemsky has co-chaired the Western New York Regional Economic Development Council during the past four years and has worked closely on the governor’s Buffalo Billion revitalization initiative. His company, Larkin Development Group, has redeveloped approximately 1 million square feet of building space in Buffalo since 2002, with a particular focus on reclaiming Buffalo’s earliest industrial neighborhood, the Larkin Historic District. In recent years, he has chaired the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority and the Buffalo State College Council, serving more than 10,000 students, and he has served as president of the Richardson Center Corporation, a nonprofit board charged with rehabilitation of the Richardson- and Olmsted-designed former New York State Psychiatric Hospital.
Zemsky has a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and a master of business administration from the University of Rochester.
He is a Brooklyn, New York, native, a product of Long Island, and a resident of Buffalo, where he and his wife, Leslie, have lived for 30 years with their three children.
President’s Distinguished Service Award
James Brandys, Class of 1971 and 1973
Jim Brandys has devoted decades of service to his alma mater, Buffalo State, to which he has been immeasurably generous with his time, talent, and financial support. His leadership of the highly successful “Endowing the Future” scholarship campaign not only raised more than $10 million for endowments but also gave birth to the college’s legacy giving group, the Peterson Society. The society currently has more than 340 members who have made planned gifts to the college.
Brandys serves with distinction on the Buffalo State College Council, and he has served on the Buffalo State College Foundation Board of Directors, the Burchfield Penney Art Center Board of Trustees, and committees too numerous to mention. He has also actively recruited community leaders to serve on campus committees and boards.
Brandys made one of the earliest leadership-level gifts to the “Transforming Lives” campaign, which exceeded its $20 million goal more than 16 months ahead of schedule. He has supported the campus with personal gifts to every school and every campaign throughout his more than 40-year affiliation with the college.
In recognition of his special dedication and extensive volunteer efforts, as well as his work with the college’s Planned Giving Committee, Brandys was presented with the Buffalo State College Foundation Chairman’s Recognition Award in 1991, 1999, and 2003. He also received the Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1999.
Recently retiring as a managing director at Merrill Lynch (now a subsidiary of Bank America Corporation) after 39 years of service, Brandys received the company’s Lifetime Community Achievement Award. The award recognizes employees whose ongoing commitment to community service best exemplifies the principle of responsible citizenship.
Brandys has been active in other community organizations but has chosen to spend the majority of his time working for Buffalo State College and the Burchfield Penney Art Center, and he received the Outstanding Volunteer Fundraising Award from the Western New York Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals in 2011 for his work with both.
Brandys resides in Eggertsville, New York, with his wife, Joy. They have been married for over 42 years.
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