Buffalo State will honor three of its most distinguished and dedicated alumni during its 141st Commencement, Saturday, May 18, in the Sports Arena.
Distinguished Alumnus awards will be presented to William ‘Bill’ T. Cleary, ’69, ’73, owner of Cleary & Partners, and Brenda W. McDuffie, ’74, president and CEO of the Buffalo Urban League Inc.
Buffalo State’s Young Alumnus Achievement Award will be presented to Ara H. Bagdasarian, ’95, CEO and cofounder of Omnilert LLC.
William ‘Bill’ T. Cleary, ’69, ’73
Bill Cleary is the owner of Cleary & Partners, a Saratoga, California-based strategic marketing, branding, and technology services firm whose clients include Yahoo, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Nolo Press, and the Montalvo Arts Center.
Cleary will receive Buffalo State’s Distinguished Alumnus Award during the 10:00 a.m. baccalaureate ceremony.
As consumer marketing manager at Apple Computer in the 1980s, Cleary played an instrumental role in the development of marketing programs, including sales promotional efforts, advertising, and merchandising. He helped launch the company’s groundbreaking Apple IIe and IIc products. In 1987, he founded Cleary Communications, which later became CKS Group. While at CKS, he worked with partners Tom Suiter and Mark Kvamme to build one of Silicon Valley’s most technologically savvy advertising agencies. CKS was instrumental in launching several major web brands including Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, and Excite and provided early web communications strategies for Apple, Disney, General Motors, United Airlines, and Mitsubishi among others. Cleary left CKS Group in 1998 and served as chairman of the board for Matchmaker.com, a highly innovative web company that was ultimately sold to Lycos.
After earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in secondary education (with a concentration in cultural anthropology) from Buffalo State, Cleary taught American history, anthropology, and African American studies at Lake Shore High School in Angola, New York, from 1972 to 1978. In 1977, he completed a Fulbright-Hays scholar program at Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt.
In 1978, Cleary shifted his career focus to business and moved to New York City to work as an advertising firm copywriter. He contributed to the marketing of popular brands such as Pepsi, Pizza Hut, and Welch Foods before being recruited to join the fledgling Apple Computer in Cupertino, California, in 1981.
Active in the community, Cleary is a board member of Wildlife Direct and an enthusiastic youth lacrosse coach. He has also served as an executive fellow, chair of the advisory board, and lecturer at Santa Clara University’s Leavey School of Business; a board member of the Montalvo Arts Center and Hillbrook School; a business advisory board member of PGP Corporation and NBX Inc.; and a member of the Dean’s Advisory Council at Stony Brook University. In 1999, he participated in the Vital Voices Global Partnership program (on entrepreneurship and the Internet) in Northern Ireland with former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Brenda W. McDuffie, ’74
Brenda McDuffie is president and CEO of the Buffalo Urban League Inc., an organization whose mission is to empower African Americans, minorities, and disadvantaged individuals to secure economic self-reliance, parity, power, and civil rights. She has led the Buffalo Urban League since 1998 and has committed her personal and professional life to advocating and strengthening families.
McDuffie will receive Buffalo State’s Distinguished Alumnus Award during the 6:00 p.m. master’s hooding and C.A.S. ceremony.
From 1994 to 1998, McDuffie was executive director of the Buffalo and Erie County Private Industry Council Inc. (PIC). In this role, she worked with individuals and businesses to ensure regional economic growth through workforce development. While at PIC, she served as president of the New York State Association of Training and Employment Professionals and co-chaired the steering committee that produced the recommendations for the future New York State Workforce Development System. McDuffie began her career as a paralegal aide for Neighborhood Legal Services and later worked for the City of Buffalo Human Resources Department as the senior manpower coordinator.
A dedicated professional working with a wide array of public service organizations, McDuffie currently serves on the boards of directors of the National Urban League, the Independent Health Association, the Great Lakes Health System, the Care Management Coalition of Western New York, and the Buffalo and Erie County Workforce Investment Board.
During her career, she has earned numerous awards and recognitions, including a position on the Business First Power 200 list (2013), the James C. Hansen Humanitarian Award from the University at Buffalo’s Graduate School of Education (2012), and the Sojourner Truth Award from the Buffalo Club of the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs (2010). She has been named Buffalo News Citizen of the Year, United Way Volunteer of the Year, NAACP Community Service Award winner, YWCA Community Service Award winner, and Leadership Buffalo Values Award winner. She was inducted into the Western New York Women’s Hall of Fame in 2003.
At Buffalo State, McDuffie served on the College Council from 1999 to 2000, the Foundation Board of Directors from 1996 to 1998, and the Alumni Association Board of Directors from 1987 to 1988.
McDuffie earned her bachelor’s degree in human development, family, and community relations in 1974 from Buffalo State. She also holds a graduate certificate in human resource development from the University at Buffalo’s School of Management.
Commencement Profile: Ara H. Bagdasarian, ’95
Ara Bagdasarian is the CEO and cofounder of Omnilert LLC in Leesburg, Virginia. Omnilert develops integrated multimodal mass notification systems that enable instant and simultaneous delivery of messages to mobile and landline phones, social media, e-mail, web pages, desktops, digital signage, public address systems, and other communication devices.
Bagdasarian will receive Buffalo State’s Young Alumnus Achievement Award during the 2:00 p.m. baccalaureate ceremony.
Through its five brands, Omnilert offers applications specifically designed to meet the communication needs of organizations in business, education, publishing, and sports. Today, more than 11,000 organizations—and more than 5 million subscribers—rely on Omnilert for critical notification systems.
As a lifelong entrepreneur, Bagdasarian launched his first business, Kidco, at age 8. He founded XNETIX in 1996 and webRESONANCE in 1999. Both companies were full-service web technology firms specializing in interactive media development, search engine optimization, and web master services used by hundreds of Internet startup companies. Bagdasarian worked in sales and business development, and as a memory broker at Ingram Micro before founding XNETIX.
Bagdasarian is an active community leader who served as chairman of the Town of Leesburg’s Economic Development Commission, president of the Loudoun Symphony Orchestra, and founding board member of the Loudoun Center for the Arts. He is also an advisory board member at George Mason University’s Mason Enterprise Center in Leesburg.
In 2010, Bagdasarian coauthored and published the why-to book on entrepreneurship, The Lemonade Stand: What Every Entrepreneur Should Know to Succeed in Starting and Running Any Business, which presents a fresh perspective on embracing adversity to create innovative and sustainable organizations. In addition, he cofounded the Lemonhead Movement (www.lemonheadsrule.com) and the Lemonhead Council, a volunteer organization of local business leaders that advises early-stage companies toward a path of success.
Bagdasarian earned his bachelor of arts degree in psychology from Buffalo State in 1995.