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Peterson Society Inducts New Members

Peterson Society Inducts New Members

Posted: November 5, 2014

Nine new members—Geraldine E. Bard, Elizabeth J. “Betty” Cappella, Eugene Dobbins, Ilene R. Fleischmann, Lee Ann Grace, Rona L. Knobel, Carol and John Kociela, and Kathryn H. Leacock—were inducted into the Peterson Society on September 3 at the group’s annual luncheon at the Buffalo Club.

The Peterson Society, named for the late Harold F. and Lucille Mattern Peterson, ’39, recognizes those who have made a commitment to Buffalo State through a bequest, gift annuity, charitable trust, life insurance, or other estate-planning technique.

Geraldine E. Bard retired as a professor from the English Department in 2010 after 37 years at Buffalo State. Her lifelong work in applied linguistics, literacy, the Teacher Corps, and the Peace Corps led her to focus on literacy projects that help underserved populations. Bard sees illiteracy as a social justice issue. Her creation of Project FLIGHT, a not-for-profit organization devoted to promoting literacy, has made a significant impact both here and abroad. Bard was selected as an official NGO delegate to the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing, China, in 1995. President Bill Clinton and New York governors Mario Cuomo, George Pataki, and David Paterson officially honored her for her pioneering work on behalf of children and families. She was named Citizen of the Year by the Buffalo News and twice received the New York State Harriet Tubman Award, as well as numerous resolutions of commendation from members of the New York State Assembly and Senate, the Buffalo Common Council, and the Erie County Legislature.


Elizabeth J. “Betty” Cappella retired as a SUNY Distinguished Service Professor from the Higher Education Administration Department in 2013. During her 28 years at Buffalo State, she held numerous positions, including interim dean of the Faculty of Applied Science and Education, chair of the Consumer Studies and Home Economics and the Educational Foundations departments, vice chair of the College Senate, and chair of the Graduate Council. Cappella’s lifelong work coalesced around illiteracy and its effects on the human condition. Governor Andrew Cuomo recently reappointed Cappella to her third five-year term on the New York State Commission on National and Community Service. She was named Citizen of the Year by the Buffalo News and has received many awards for her work, including the Harriet Tubman Award from New York State, the Athena Award from the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, and the Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Award for Outstanding Italian-American Woman Educator from Governor Mario Cuomo, as well as numerous resolutions of commendation from members of the New York State Assembly and Senate, the Buffalo Common Council, and the Erie County Legislature.


Eugene Dobbins was born in Buffalo’s “Old First Ward,” educated in Catholic grammar schools, and graduated from Seneca Vocational High School in 1951. He went to college on the GI bill and received a bachelor’s degree from Buffalo State Teachers College in 1960 and a master’s degree in 1965. Dobbins served in the U.S. Air Force from 1951 to 1955, including three years overseas, during the Korean War. He taught at Cornwall (New York) Junior/Senior High School from 1960 to 1962, and in Buffalo Public Schools from 1962 to 1990. His interests include traveling the world. He has visited seven continents and 58 countries. He also enjoys photography and reading about history. He admitted that, “Buffalo State has had a profound effect on my life. It opened a world I never knew existed. In some small way, I hope to help future students discover their own path and that world.”


Ilene R. Fleischmann, vice dean at the SUNY Buffalo (UB) Law School since 2006, directs the school’s external relations, including alumni affairs, public relations, publications, marketing, and strategic communications. An associate dean since 2000, and an assistant dean since 1995, she has served as an administrator at the school since 1985. Prior to her work at UB, she was a reporter and columnist for the Buffalo Courier-Express, features editor for Woman's World magazine, and a freelance writer for national magazines and major metropolitan daily newspapers. She earned a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Pittsburgh in 1967 and a master of arts degree in English literature from Buffalo State in 1973. She currently serves as first vice president of Jewish Family Services Inc. in Buffalo; a member on the advisory council of the University at Buffalo’s Institute for Jewish Thought and Heritage; and a senator on the UB Professional Staff Senate. She is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education.

Lee Ann Grace became a member of the faculty at Buffalo State in 1973 for what was intended to be a one-year position to replace a professor on leave. Forty years later, she is still here, having served as associate dean and acting dean of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, director of international education, and assistant dean for international and exchange programs. She now teaches part time in the Modern and Classical Languages Department. Before her retirement in 2012, Grace established the International Education Office Fund to provide the campus with greater financial flexibility when dealing with emergencies, such as unexpected equipment breakdowns, students with urgent financial needs, or budgetary shifts due to fluctuations in enrollment. Her recent planned gift adds to this much-needed fund.

Rona L. Knobel received degrees from SUNY Buffalo State in art education. Knobel taught art education at Homer Senior High School. Through her planned gift, Knobel has established an enduring legacy for art education students at Buffalo State.


Carol and John Kociela
love art, especially historic works most often enjoyed in the Burchfield Penney Art Center’s Margaret Wendt Foundation Gallery. When it comes to their support of the Burchfield Penney, they wholeheartedly follow this passion. Whether it is to restore a work of art in need of conservation, assisting with the acquisition of works, or lending from their own collection, the Kocielas are ardent supporters of the museum’s mission to highlight Western New York artists. The Kocielas have made an estate gift of art to the Burchfield Penney Art Center. In addition, for more than 10 years, Carol has served on the museum’s board of trustees. She has taken on responsibilities as diverse as chairing the finance committee to chairing the collections committee to her current role as vice chair of the board of trustees.


Kathryn H. Leacock
has been curator of collections at the Buffalo Museum of Science since 2003. Born in Bradford, England, Leacock came to the United States in 1996. Just two weeks after her arrival, she sought admission to Buffalo State, where she received her baccalaureate degree in anthropology in 1999. She then earned two master’s degrees at the University at Buffalo, one in anthropology and another in library science. Leacock served as interim director of the museum studies program at Buffalo State from 2006 through 2008. She remains an adjunct lecturer in the program, where she continues to mentor the growing number of current and former students who now work in area museums. Through a planned gift, Leacock has provided for the Anthropology Department’s Archaeology Field School. As a member of field school in 1997, she gained hands-on experience at the Eaton Site, which formed the foundation of her career in anthropology and collections management—not to mention a deep respect for and friendship with her mentor William Engelbrecht.

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