On Wednesday, March 8, Hobart and William Smith Colleges President Mark D. Gearan awarded 16 President’s Medals to members and institutions of the Geneva community who have harnessed the power of an idea to pursue transformative outcomes in Geneva and who, through their work, have set strong examples of engaged citizenship for HWS students.
“With unwavering commitment to the Geneva community and beyond, these 2017 President’s Medal recipients stand as exemplary models of service, engagement and fortitude,” says Gearan, who honored the recipients in a ceremony in the Vandervort Room of Scandling Campus Center to a standing room only crowd. “Over the years, each and every one has formed a special bond with Hobart and William Smith, engaging with our faculty and staff, and mentoring our students. It is with great pride that we honor these pillars of the Geneva community.”
The President’s Medal honors distinguished individuals and organizations, celebrating their service to the community, the country and their professions.
During his remarks, Gearan reflected on the diverse contributions each of the honorees have made and the resounding impact on the whole community, as well as how each have become role-models to HWS students as they consider how to lead lives of consequence.
“Tonight we honor individuals who have contributed to and served Geneva, as well as Hobart and William Smith,” said Gearan. “They serve the public interest and they’ve made a real difference in our community. They are individuals who have taken an idea and worked tirelessly to bring it to reality in important ways. They’ve advanced the arts and the sciences, athletics and recreation, college opportunity and access for those most vulnerable in our society; from positions in public service and the private sector, not-for-profit and faith communities, they have distinguished themselves in their actions and certainly merit and warrant the recognition and collective gratitude for what they’ve done.”
Student leaders engaged in service to the community presented the honorees with their awards, including: Sarah Kloos ’18, Tristen Pankake-Sieminski ’18, Taner Bennerson ’18, Cody Rivera ’17, Molly Gorelick ’19, Dominique DeRubeis ’18, Jack Macnee ’19, Rebecca Czajkowski ’18, Laurie VanBenschoten ’17 and Karoline Loretan ’17.
The President’s Medal recipients, who received a standing ovation from the crowd of HWS and Geneva community members, include:
As a young couple, The Reverend James and Sue Adams moved to Geneva to serve the parish of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, and through their guidance, outreach, creativity and faith, the church has become a leading force of civic progress and unity. In 1986, they launched Neighbors’ Night, a program that today welcomes between 50 and 100 local children every Wednesday evening for a hot meal and activities with HWS students and neighborhood volunteers. The Adams established children’s choirs at St. Peter’s open to all in the community and, in 2005, founded St. Peter’s Community Arts Academy, a non-profit organization that has been serving the greater Geneva area with enrichment programs, workshops and instruction in music, visual and performing arts for all ages and abilities. They are also co-directors of Lake Delaware Boys’ Camp in Delhi, N.Y., and are frequent partners with Hobart and William Smith on community service events, modeling for students what civic duty looks like in action.
For decades, the African American Men’s Association of Geneva has been a vital force for developing confident, well-rounded children and young adults in the area. Offering improved opportunities through signature programs — Young Champions Mentoring, College Life Skills and Scholarships — the Association serves as a strong influence on Geneva’s youth at a critical time in their lives as it also works with community partners to ensure that success is within reach of every child in the community. Partnering with local organizations, including HWS, the Association offers key leadership in promoting social justice, education and government-community relations in the Geneva area through the leadership of award recipients: Victor Nelson, John Cromartie, Hank Pearson, James Richmond, Trevor Thomas, Richard Thomas, Corey Boatwright, Willie Shorter and Eugene Sapp.
A visionary and civic-minded leader, Mary Walsh Boatfield has been an advocate for individuals and families affected by developmental disabilities for more than 30 years. She is president and CEO of Finger Lakes Cerebral Palsy-Happiness House, CP Rochester and Rochester Rehabilitation. Together, the organizations serve more than 6,000 individuals and families in six counties. Under her leadership, Happiness House renovated the organization’s Geneva facility, established an autism evaluation clinic in Geneva, built educational facilities and affordable housing in Canandaigua, and continues to grow today throughout the Rochester and Finger Lakes region. Happiness House regularly works with community partners, including Hobart and William Smith. Under Boatfield’s leadership, Happiness House has hosted student interns from the Colleges’ education program, groups of students participating in Days of Service events, and the Hobart football team that has raised more than $40,000 for the organization through fundraisers like Tackles & Touchdowns. In 2016, in recognition of her compassionate and successful leadership, Boatfield was named the Executive of the Year by the Rochester Business Journal and the United Way of Greater Rochester.
John Greco is a lifelong resident of Geneva who has served his country and city with dedication and honor. A 1956 graduate of DeSales High School, Greco served with distinction in the U.S. Marine Corps. He has been a member of the Geneva City Council representing Geneva’s sixth ward since 1994 and has served as deputy mayor for the past 20 years. As a city councilor, he helped facilitate the demolition of the Market Basket property, oversaw the introduction of several new businesses in the city and worked with HWS on the expansion of the Geneva Recreation Center. Greco has worked with residents to erect several memorial monuments around Geneva, including a 9-11 monument to the lakefront, where he is organizer of an annual ceremony. He is active with Our Lady of Peace Parish, St. Francis-St. Stephen’s School, Geneva American Legion, and the Sons of Italy where he is a past president. A former youth sports coach, he remains an engaged supporter of youth programs.
Former Town of Geneva Supervisor Mary Luckern is an exemplar of public service at the community level. She served students of the Geneva school system for more than 40 years as a teacher and administrator, including as principal of Prospect Avenue and North Street schools. During her career in education, Luckern was chair of Geneva’s Program for Gifted Children and served as the professional staff’s administrative representative to the Geneva Board of Education. She was the leading voice on the State Board of Directors representing the region and chair of the Ontario County National Education Association. Luckern was named “National Distinguished Elementary Principal” for New York State in 1988 and North Street School was named “Outstanding Elementary School” twice during her tenure as principal. She was the first woman elected to the Geneva Town Board of Supervisors in 1998. Among her countless honors and awards, Luckern was named “Geneva Citizen of the Year” in 2013.
Bernard Lynch, owner of Lynch Furniture in Geneva, is a force of collaboration and positive change in the Geneva community. A founding member and chair of the nonprofit Geneva Education Foundation, Lynch has helped ensure financial support for local school programming, including offsetting AP test costs for economically disadvantaged students. As chair of the Geneva Chamber of Commerce, he worked tirelessly to secure state and federal funding to enclose and renovate the Geneva Recreation Complex, home of the Hobart and William Smith varsity hockey teams and the Geneva Youth Hockey programs. He served 10 years as a board member at Happiness House, including two as board chair. He also chaired Happiness House’s planning committee which constructed and financed an additional school facility and alternative residence during his tenure.
Mark Venuti’s service to Geneva and its citizens crosses all areas of civic life. Currently Geneva Town Supervisor, Venuti has fought for the preservation of the environment that is so critical to life in Geneva and the region. As an engaged and dedicated citizen, he was among the Geneva Boys & Girls Club’s original founders and previously served on the organization’s board. Thanks to his vision and dedication to fundraising, the Geneva Community Center, a vibrant cultural hub for the city’s children and families, was completed in 2009. He is a member of the advisory council for the Community Center and has included HWS representatives on the board, inviting student, faculty and staff leaders to help sustain the center’s mission. He serves as vice chair of the Seneca Watershed Inter-Municipal Alliance, working to maintain the health of Seneca Lake. A partner at the Law Office of Heaton & Venuti, he also serves on the Geneva 2020 steering committee, working with HWS and community partners to harness the resources necessary to provide a better future for Geneva’s children.
Ann Warner has served Hobart and William Smith Colleges for nearly 40 years as the academic coordinator of the sciences. A favorite of faculty and students, she has been a cornerstone of the Colleges’ excellence in science programming. A supporter of the Geneva Public Library, Warner is a member of the Geneva Concerts Board, Presbyterian Church of Geneva, and the Geneva Chapter of Philanthropic Educational Organization, a group that provides educational opportunities for women. With immense competence equaled only by her kindness, Warner has shepherded generations of HWS students through the science programs, guiding their academic goals as she also serves as a powerful example of service to community.
Ford Weiskittel has devoted himself to education and public service among Geneva’s cultural institutions. His commitment to the Geneva community runs deep and is evidenced by his service on many boards and organizations, including as past president of the Geneva Board of Education. A former professor of classics and ancient history at the Colleges, Weiskittel was the chair of the Classics Department from 1979 until 1986, leaving to become director of Trireme Trust USA. He has served as president of Geneva Concerts, was the interim director of the Geneva Historical Society, and chaired a panel of the New York State Council on the Arts. As a current board member of the Geneva Historic Districts Commission, the Smith Center for the Arts and the Geneva Rotary Club, Weiskittel has proven himself a steadfast curator of the city’s past and a committed advocate for its future prosperity. It was through his efforts and determination that the Colleges created its modern rowing program in 1982. Weiskittel served as its first coach from 1982 until 1986, setting the stage for the program’s award-winning future.