We are very thankful for our University Express instructors! Our “faculty” is comprised mainly of emeritus professors, retired school teachers, medical providers and other professionals. All of our instructors have a passion for education and generously give us their time.

Become an Instructor

We are always looking for new instructors to join our program! You might be a good fit if you are engaging, well-organized, and have experience teaching or with public speaking.

Please fill out this form to submit your class proposal(s).


Spring 2021 Instructors

Shakespeare in Delaware Park

Shakespeare in Delaware Park (SDP) was founded in 1976 as a summer apprenticeship program for theatre students from SUNY Buffalo to work alongside professional actors. The high-quality productions were so well received by the community that the program expanded and grew into the beloved professional theatre company and Western New York summer tradition that it is today. SDP is now the second oldest and one of the largest outdoor Shakespeare companies in the country, playing each year to over 40,000 people from more than 23 states and Ontario, Canada.

Shakespeare in Delaware Park is a not-for-profit professional theatre company that provides free, high-quality public theatre to enrich, inspire, and entertain diverse audiences through the works of William Shakespeare. Our vision is to engage people of all walks of life in a deeply meaningful, communal experience, as they witness the truths of the human experience through the highest quality productions, featuring the timeless plays of William Shakespeare. SDP's Core Values are Accessibility, Artistic Innovation, Audience Experience, Commitment to Excellence, Community, and Educational Enrichment.

Each summer, SDP presents two works of William Shakespeare, typically one tragedy or history and one comedy, each running 6 nights per week for 3.5 weeks, for a total of 44 performances. For 43 years, SDP has provided Western New York with free outdoor professional theatre and has grown into an anticipated and beloved summer tradition. SDP has mounted over 80 productions with approximately 3,000 presentations that have entertained an estimated 1.5 million guests!

Karen Adamo

Karen has her Bachelor of Science degree in Social Work and has been working for Erie County for 29 years. She began her career in the Department of Senior Services under Adult Protective Services before transitioning to the Information and Assistance Unit within the same department as a Case Manager.

Karen just celebrated 17 years in I&A (Information & Assistance)/NY Connects where she presently works as a Senior Case Manager now. In this role she supervises Case Managers who assess clients for services.

Karen is a military veteran and a civil servant who values the needs of our senior and over 18 disabled population who finds her job very rewarding and believes the resources we have to offer are very much needed in our community.

Kelly Asher, MS

In 2002 Ms. Asher embarked on her latest career adventure with Erie County. She started as a Public Health Educator for the Department of Health where she worked on several health initiatives. From 2011 - 2014 Ms. Asher served as the Coordinator for Health Promotion for the Erie County Department of Senior Services. In 2014, Ms. Asher returned to the Erie County Department of Health to serve in her current position as Community Coalition Coordinator to direct the Erie County Department of Health’s community wellness initiatives.

Aside from her 20 years working in Public Health, she served as the Director of a family & human service agency, Director of Newspapers in Education program at the Buffalo News, Domestic Violence Program Coordinator, advocate for victims of family violence, United States Immigration Officer and a member of the United States Air Force. Her greatest accomplishment has been to raise her children to become compassionate, honorable, responsible and happy people.

Although Ms. Asher is extremely busy directing the Community Wellness Division, she always finds the time to do her favorite work. Providing interesting, informative, helpful and entertaining presentations to the people in her community doesn’t even feel like work.

Jim Banko

Jim Banko taught English for almost thirty years in the city of Buffalo.  He taught every level: from 8th grade to AP English.  Jim also taught SAT prep classes at Buffalo State College.

As the oldest of 8 children, college money was not available so Jim spent 14 years going to night school to get his degrees. Jim was a journeyman ironworker who worked on many of the major buildings in Buffalo. He fondly remembers walking up the 33 flights of stairs at the now vacant HSBC building. But this foundation was the basis of his teaching career. He learned what men do support their families and the struggles that we all go through in living a life.

Jim sums up his philosophy simply with this quote from Tom Schulman: “We don’t read and write literature because it is cute.  We read and write literature, poetry, novels, essays, because we are members of the human race.  And the human race is filled with passion.  Medicine, law, business, engineering are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But beauty, love, romance these are what we stay alive for!”

Jim saw these lessons everyday on the job and tried to convey the importance of knowledge to his students.

Reed Braman

Reed Braman is the Director of Energy Development and Management for Erie County. He’s is responsible for overseeing Erie County’s Utility Aggregate that purchases energy wholesale for municipal governments. In addition, Reed manages construction projects for the County that look to save energy as well as generate energy through renewable technologies. In addition, Reed is the President and Co-Founder of Green Springville, a non-profit dedicated to lowering the barrier for individuals and institutions to make sustainable choices.

Jill Bronsky

Jill Bronsky is the founder of Forward Fitness Inc. with over 30 years of experience in the fitness industry. She received a Master of Science Degree from Canisius College in Physical Education and a Personal Training Certification through AFAA. She also holds other exercise certifications-Functional Aging Exercise Specialist and Rapid Movement Training through Functional Aging Institute (FAI), Exercise Program Leader from the Arthritis Foundation, a Balance Specialist from ZIBRO, Drums Alive and Drums Alive Golden Beats Certification, and Community Nordic Walking Leader from LEKI. Jill is the best selling author of the book Keeping Your Parents Active and Independent. Her expertise in the area of exercise training and reducing fall probability has made her a leader in functional fitness for older adults.

Jessica Cappelletti, CHES

Jessica Cappelletti has been with the American Red Cross for 4 years serving as the Regional Disaster Preparedness Coordinator, covering disaster preparedness education programs in 27 counties. Jessica has her undergraduate degree in Public Health, and is currently working on her Master’s in Public Health. Jessica is also a Certified Health Education Specialist.

Lyn Chimera

Lyn is a retired Kindergarten teacher. After retiring she followed her lifelong love of nature and gardening and received her Master Gardener certification from Cornell and began a garden consulting business, Lessons from Nature.

Lessons from Nature provides on-site garden consulting, site assessment and gardening classes as well as selling organically grown perennials and native plants. She makes house calls to help solve your garden problems. Lyn is also an active volunteer for the Master Gardeners, teaching and manning the hot line phones.

She has self-published a book, 5 Keys to Better Gardening, writes a monthly gardening column for After 50 Magazine and contributes Garden Tips to Upstate Gardeners Journal as well as articles for The Master Gardener Newsletter and Figure 8, the Federated Garden Clubs publication.

Amanda Cleesattel, MS, OTR/L

Amanda Cleesattel is the Vice President of Vision Rehabilitation Services at Visually Impaired Advancement (VIA), formerly Olmsted Center for Sight, and is an occupational therapist with a variety of clinical service delivery and administrative experience. With a specialized team at VIA, Amanda oversees the department services and operations, including supervision of vision specialists (including vision rehabilitation therapists), orientation and mobility specialists, teachers of the visually impaired, the low vision clinic, and workforce development programs for the visually impaired. VIA works closely and in conjunction with the New York State Commission for the Blind (NYSCB). Outside of the office, Amanda services on the board of For Our Daughters Inc. She also enjoys physical fitness, yoga, and reading.

Lee Coppola

Lee Coppola, a veteran newspaperman, television investigative reporter and federal prosecutor, retired in August 2011 after serving for 15 years as the first dean of the Russell J. Jandoli School of Journalism and Mass Communication at St. Bonaventure University, now the Jandoli School of Communication.

As a professional journalist, he won more than 30 local, state and national awards, including the George Polk Award, the National Press Club Award and the Investigative Reporters and Editors Award. He specialized in covering the Mafia during his years as a journalist and wrote a series of articles about the Witness Security Program that was the basis for a book and movie.

A native of Buffalo, N.Y., he is a 1964 journalism graduate of St. Bonaventure. He served 16 years as an investigative reporter at The Buffalo News, followed by 10 years as an investigative reporter for electronic broadcast media, moving from WKBW-TV Channel 7, Buffalo’s ABC affiliate, to WIVB-TV Channel 4, the local CBS affiliate.

In 1983, he received his juris doctorate from the University at Buffalo Law School, having earned the degree while working full-time as a journalist. Prior to assuming the deanship at St. Bonaventure, he prosecuted drug dealers as an assistant U.S. Attorney in the Western New York District from 1992-1996.

In 2003, he was inducted into the Bishop Fallon High School Hall of Fame, where he was active in the school newspaper until his graduation in 1960. In 2012 he was inducted into the Buffalo Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame, and in 2015 he was named a distinguished graduate of St. Bonaventure's journalism program. He is a frequent speaker on issues concerning journalism, organized crime and public affairs.

Bill Daniels

Bill Daniels has been serving as the Coordinator of the Insurance-Outreach and Counseling program since 2006. He is certified by New York State Office for the Aging as a Health Insurance Counselor and has been counseling Medicare enrollees regarding health insurance options since 1995 through the Erie County Department of Services - Information and Assistance unit.

Richard Derwald

Richard Derwald has more than 65 years’ experience in the field of fitness. In the 1950s he transformed his body from a frail boy unable to qualify for any of his school’s athletic teams to become a professional athlete (wrestler) and since that time has continued his quest study and learns the truth about fitness, wellness and premature aging. He designed, developed and implemented The Erie County Club 99 -  one of the longest running, most successful,  county sponsored senior fitness programs in New York State.

Richard is a Former Professional Athlete – in 2004 he was Inducted into the Illio DiPaolo Wrestling Hall of Fame. He was also a Competitive Body Builder winning more than 25 trophies. In November 2018 he was inducted into the Western New York Weightlifting/Bodybuilding Hall of Fame.

He is a published author of more than 100 health and fitness articles for national and local magazines and can be heard every Saturday morning at 11:05 on WBEN (930 AM) presenting his Mr. Fitness segments on Senior Radio Buffalo.

Marian Deutschman, PhD

Marian is a Retired Communication Department professor at SUNY Buffalo State. For the last 5 1/2 years at the college she was director of College & Community Partnerships. Marian is on the board of League of Women Voters of Buffalo Niagara (local government chair) and the American Association of University Women (public policy chair). Marian is also on board of Bistro Bookers and on the Education Committee of the Network in Aging.

Christopher Drajem

Christopher Drajem is a recent transplant from Seattle to his new home in Philadelphia, where he teaches an online course for pre-service teachers. He and his husband Patrick are the proud parents of two wonderful teenagers, Isabella and Jordan. Christopher and Linda share their thoughts on parenting, religion, gender and sexuality on the Drajem Family Writers blog.

Linda Drajem, PhD

Linda Drajem is a retired teacher. She taught high school English for over twenty-five years. After earning a Ph.D. from the University of Buffalo she taught for nine years in the English department at Buffalo State College. As a member of a long-standing writing group, she continues to write. She has been published in The Buffalo News and some literary journals. At the end of December 2019 she and her son Christopher published their memoir, Wandering Close to Home: A Gay Son and His Feminist Mother’s Journey to Transform Themselves and Their Family. A teacher at heart, she is a docent at the Burchfield Penney Art Center and a presenter on literary topics at University Express.

Mary Durlak

Mary Durlak is a lifelong Western New Yorker who has lived near Cazenovia Creek and its tributaries most of her life. Therefore, it’s not surprising she developed an interest in the Erie Canal. Retirement has given her the opportunity to pursue that interest through research, road trips, and membership in the Canal Society of New York State.

She is also a lifelong writer who was active in a number of professional writing organizations including the Society for Technical Communication and the National Association of Science Writers. She taught writing and composition as an instructor at several area colleges. At Buffalo State College, she served as a writer and editor in the Marketing and Communications Department until she retired. She then became a volunteer docent and presenter for Explore Buffalo, which allows her to celebrate many facets of her beloved hometown.

Sarah Duval, Esq.

Sarah Duval is a supervising attorney at the Center for Elder Law and Justice. She handles cases dealing with elder exploitation and is a frequent presenter on the topic of elder abuse prevention. Sarah is a member of both the Erie and Niagara County Councils on Elder Abuse, the Erie County Bar Association, the New York State Judicial Committee on Elder Justice, the SPRiNG Alliance for Elder Shelters, and the New York State Bar Association’s Elder Law Section’s Elder Abuse Committee. She also serves on the board of directors for Lawyers for Learning. She has been published in the New York State Elder and Special Needs Law Journal and is the recipient of the Women’s Bar Association of the State of New York, WNY Chapter’s Outstanding New Lawyer of 2015. Sarah graduated cum laude from SUNY Buffalo Law School in 2012.

Sharon Evans, PhD

Sharon S. Evans, Ph.D. is a Professor of Oncology in the Department of Immunology at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center. She got her BA at Colgate University prior to her recruitment to Merck and Company (Rahway NJ) as a research biochemist. Dr. Evans received her doctoral training at New York University and the University of Buffalo. She was then an American Cancer Society post-doctoral fellow at Roswell Park and joined the faculty of the Department of Immunology at Roswell Park in 1987. Dr. Evans was the past-President of the National Society for Thermal Medicine. Dr. Evans has also maintained a long-standing commitment to graduate education, receiving multiple mentorship awards and training over 35 pre-doctoral fellows, MD/PhD students, Masters, and postdoctoral and clinical fellows.

Dr. Evans is internationally recognized in the multidisciplinary fields of cytokine biology, lymphocyte trafficking, thermal regulation, and cancer immunology. Her work has been highlighted in > 200 national and international news outlets included the People’s Pharmacy National Public Radio Program, the Wall Street Journal, and Discover Magazine. Dr. Evans is also active in community outreach and addresses audiences on current cancer immunotherapy issues at the Buffalo Canalside Series, UB mini-medical school, Rochester Cancer Patient Symposia, and the Erie County Senior Citizens ‘Free University’ seminar series.

Rick Falkowski

Rick Falkowski has been involved in all aspects of WNY entertainment during the past 50 years. He is the founder of the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame and Buffalo Music Awards, former publisher of Buffalo Backstage Magazine, entertainment coordinator of Tonawanda's Gateway Harbor Concerts, former representative of the American Society of Authors Composers & Publishers (ASCAP) and a Time Warner retiree.  He presents classes on the History of Buffalo Music & Entertainment and Buffalo History at libraries, community centers and for various organizations. In addition, Rick is the author of History of Buffalo Music & Entertainment and in October 2019 released his second book Profiles Volume I: Historic & Influential People from Buffalo & WNY – the 1800s. He is currently researching, conducting interviews and compiling information for his next book Profiles Volume II: Historic & Influential People from Buffalo and WNY – the 1900s, scheduled for publication in August 2021.

JoAnn Falletta

Grammy-winning conductor JoAnn Falletta serves as Music Director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Connie and Marc Jacobson Music Director Laureate of the Virginia Symphony Orchestra, Principal Guest Conductor of the Brevard Music Center and Artistic Adviser to the Hawaii Symphony Orchestra and the Cleveland Institute of Music Orchestra. She is hailed for her work as a conductor, recording artist, audience builder, and champion of American composers.

Her recent and upcoming North American guest conducting includes the National Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Nashville Symphony, Indianapolis Symphony, and Milwaukee Symphony; and further north, the Toronto Symphony and Orchestre metropolitain.  Internationally, she has conducted many of the most prominent orchestras in Europe, Asia, and South America.

As Music Director of the Buffalo Philharmonic, Falletta became the first woman to lead a major American ensemble. Celebrating her 20th anniversary with the Buffalo Philharmonic this past season, she is credited with bringing the orchestra to a new level of national and international prominence.

With a discography of almost 120 titles, Falletta is a leading recording artist for Naxos. At the 63rd Annual Grammy® Awards in March 2021, Falletta won her fourth Grammy® as conductor of Richard Danielpour’s The Passion of Yeshua in the category of Best Choral Performance. In 2019, she won her first individual Grammy® Award as conductor of the London Symphony in the Best Classical Compendium category for Spiritualist, her fifth world premiere recording of the music of Kenneth Fuchs. Her Naxos recording of John Corigliano’s Mr. Tambourine Man: Seven Poems of Bob Dylan with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra received two Grammys in 2008.

Falletta is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, has served by presidential appointment as a Member of the National Council on the Arts during the Bush and Obama administrations, and is the recipient of many of the most prestigious conducting awards. She has introduced over 500 works by American composers, including well over 100 world premieres. In March 2019, JoAnn was named Performance Today’s Classical Woman of the Year.

She received her undergraduate degree from the Mannes School of Music, and her master’s and doctorate degrees from The Juilliard School. When not on the podium, JoAnn enjoys playing classical guitar, writing, cycling, yoga, and is an avid reader.

Tessa Fay Flores, MD

Dr. Flores is Medical Director of Cancer Screening and Survivorship and an Assistant professor of Oncology in the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center Department of Medicine. Dr. Flores obtained her Biology and Medical degrees from West Virginia University. She did her residency training at the University of Buffalo School of Medicine and Health Sciences through a combined Internal Medicine and Pediatrics program. She is a board certified Internist and Pediatrician. Prior to working at Roswell Park, she practiced primary care in private practice, university teaching, and community health center settings. She is passionate about preventative care, wellness, cancer screening, and cancer survivorship.

Jenny Ferrentino, MS RDN

Jenny is a graduate of D’Youville College in Buffalo, NY. She has been excited to share her nutrition knowledge with the employees and customers at Wegmans stores throughout Buffalo, NY and Erie, PA for the past 2 ½ years! She enjoys learning about new products and sharing how people can incorporate those foods to help them live healthier, better lives.

Joe Fiegl, P.E., BCEE

Joe Fiegl is Deputy Commissioner for Erie County’s Division of Sewerage Management, which is responsible for the seven (7) Erie County Sewer Districts. Prior to joining for Erie County, Joe worked in engineering consulting. He is a licensed professional engineer in New York State, a board-certified environmental engineer, and a graduate of Northwestern University.

Ryan Gadzo, MPA

Ryan Gadzo currently serves as the Research Analyst for Erie County Senior Services. He has both a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree from Buffalo State College, in Political Science and Public Administration respectively. Ryan is a fantasy sports enthusiast and Bills season ticket holder for over 5 years.

Mustafa Gokcek, PhD

Dr. Gökçek is an Associate Professor of History and Director of the Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies program at Niagara University. He received his B.A. and M.A. degrees in International Relations at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey. Dr. Gökçek served as a visiting researcher at the People’s Friendship University, Moscow, Russia. He then pursued his Ph.D. in history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His dissertation focused on Muslim intellectuals from Russia, who migrated to Istanbul in the early twentieth century and actively engaged in the intellectual discussions on Islam and Turkish nationalism. His research interests include contemporary social movements in Muslim societies. Dr. Gökçek currently teaches courses on the history of the Ottoman Empire, the Middle East, Russia, and Central Asia. He helped establish the Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies program at Niagara University and led study abroad trips to Istanbul.

Adam Goldfarb, ChFC

Adam Goldfarb assists individuals, families, small businesses, and nonprofits through important transitional periods in professional and personal development and beyond retirement.

He is an active community member serving on the boards of WNY Sustainable Business Roundtable, WNY Planned Giving Consortium, and Big Easy in Buffalo, and past board service with UB’s Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership Alumni Association and the Rotary Club of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. Additionally, he sits on the Raymond James Sustainable Investing Council and EPA Environmental Financing Working Group.

He has a BA in Classics and Philosophy from Colby College, an MS in Higher Education Administration from Buffalo State College and received his Chartered Financial Consultant designation in February of 2019.

He is married with two rescue fur babies and two human daughters. In his spare time he is a 2nd degree black belt in tae kwon do, a foodie with his wonderful wife and a book enthusiast.

Julia Gruspier, MPH

Julia Gruspier is a Public Health Educator for the Erie County Department of Health. She earned her Master of Public Health in 2018 from The George Washington University. Julia has worked for Erie County Department of Health since 2016. She previously worked as a Sanitarian, conducting inspections of restaurants, pools, and other permitted facilities in Erie County.

While she is relatively new to working in the field of community health, she has made strides to improve the lives and health of those she interacts with. From her efforts to increase water consumption of friends and strangers alike to educating people on when and how to get tested for COVID-19, she works all hours to help people learn about how to make the best choices for them and increase their self-efficacy when it comes to their health.

Lito Gutierrez, MD

Lito Gutierrez graduated as a Physician at the Mendoza University in Argentina in 1966. His Internal Medicine Residency with the UB Medical Department affiliated hospitals was completed in 1971. He practiced Primary Care Internal Medicine in the NYS SouthernTier (Jamestown and Salamanca) until 1989, when he joined Health Care Plan in Buffalo. He was Chief of Medicine at HCP until 1998, when he became the Medical Director of the Regional Medical Unit at Wende Correctional Facility.

Lito worked as a Physician at the ECMC Immunodeficiency Clinic until 2005. He served as a Medical Coordinator for the WNY Office of Professional Medical Conduct until 2012. Lito was appointed as a Member of the Public Health and Health Planning Council of NYS in 2012, and still serves in that capacity.

Darcie Hanson, RN

Darcie has been at BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York (BCBS) for almost 5 years in her role as a Registered Nurse. In addition to this, she is a per diem Nurse on a medical surgical floor at Bertrand Chaffee Hospital. Darcie also has a background in Social Work and education.

Darcie has been teaching classes for University Express since 2019 and enjoys being able to present on different health topics that affect many people in our community.

Carol Ann Harlos

Carol Ann Harlos is an award winning retired math and science teacher, Master Gardener, bee keeper, garden writer and speaker. Carol Ann has extensive gardens, including herbs, and enjoys sharing her knowledge with others.

John Harrigan, PhD

John Harrigan’s career is spent balancing work in the social sciences, the cinematic arts and education. As an educator, John chaired the Communication Arts Department at SUNY Erie for fifteen years.  He is the recipient of the State University of New York Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. Dr. Harrigan is a former faculty member of the Project Zero Summer Institute in the Graduate School of Education at Harvard University. John has also taught internationally most recently as a visiting professor in Singapore.

Rosanne Higgins, PhD

Rosanne L. Higgins, PhD, is an Anthropologist, a lecturer and a writer. She received a Master’s degree (1992) and a Doctoral degree (1998) in Anthropology from the University of Buffalo. Her primary areas of study were skeletal biology and historical demography. These two fields of inquiry have been employed to study the disenfranchised in the United States during the nineteenth century. She was an Assistant Professor in the Anthropology Department at SUNY Potsdam from 1997-1999 and an Assistant Professor in the Health Sciences Department at Cleveland State University from 1999-2003. She has been a small business owner since 2003 and an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Buffalo since 2013. Her goal has been to share her research with both the scholarly community and the public at large and has numerous academic publications as well as creative works which focus on the Erie County Poorhouse in Buffalo, New York. In addition to presenting research at scholarly conferences, Dr. Higgins also lectures locally on the topic of Buffalo’s institutional history. She is a big believer in the preservation of local historical landmarks and is a docent at the Buffalo History Museum and the Richardson Olmstead Campus (formerly the Buffalo State Asylum/Hospital). Dr. Higgins is a member of the American Association of Physical Anthropology.

Pete Hill

Pete Hill is an enrolled member of the Cayuga Nation, Heron Clan and currently the All Our Relations Special Initiatives Coordinator at Native American Community Services of Erie and Niagara Counties, Inc. (NACS). Pete has worked at NACS for over 28 years, integrating many Native American cultural teachings and approaches into program design, evaluation, and strengths-based approaches. Pete has also helped to develop and lead new approaches and initiatives designed to help the community to move beyond the impact of historical traumas and related factors that have negatively impacted the inter-generational health and vitality of Native American people and has delivered hundreds of trainings and professional development sessions for a wide array of audiences, organizations, and communities.

Rose Ann Hirsch

Rose Ann Hirsch is an amusement park historian and author of three books and numerous articles on the subject including Crystal Beach Park. Growing up in Western New York, she had the opportunity to enjoy Crystal Beach every summer during her family's day trips to the park. A writer and carousel restorer, Rose Ann currently resides in Niagara Falls, NY.

Rhonda Hoffman

Rhonda Hoffman is the Genealogy Specialist at the Central Library in Downtown Buffalo. She has a Master of Library Science from the University at Buffalo and a Bachelor of Arts in History from SUNY Geneseo.  Rhonda has been researching her own family history for over two decades and has served on the board of the Western New York Genealogical Society since 2011.  She is currently the editor of the Society’s quarterly JOURNAL. Rhonda volunteers for Search Angels, an organization that helps adoptees find their biological families using DNA testing and traditional genealogy research. 

Chris Jamele

Chris Jamele came to the Parkinson’s Foundation while experiencing his father’s twenty plus year battle with the disease. He was a board member for the organization’s local chapter for many years and became an employee of the Foundation in 2015. He is a native Western New Yorker, and he continues to be impressed by the incredibly positive outlook of the local PD community. For Chris, it is a wonderful feeling to be able to help someone who is facing such a challenge.

Jennifer Johnson

Jennifer Johnson has been the Health Promotion Coordinator for Government Programs at BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York since 2009. For over 20 years, she has worked with older adults and Medicare Advantage plans. A graduate of Canisius College, she is a certified fitness instructor and a certified nutrition and wellness consultant, specializing in fitness and wellness for older adults. Jennifer lives in Hamburg with her husband and son. She is a voracious reader, and enjoys running, yoga and cooking.

Angela Keppel, AICP

Angela Keppel is an urban planner and history enthusiast. A lifelong Buffalonian, she lives in the juxtaposition between where we've been and where we're going as a city. She runs "Discovering Buffalo, One Street at a Time" where she blogs about Buffalo's streets and how they got their names. She works as a Project Planner with Buffalo Place, the downtown business district.

Karen King, PhD

Karen King Ph.D. is the Commissioner of Public Advocacy for Erie County and the Executive Director of the Erie County Commission the Status of Women. The Commission works to provide resources to the women and girls of Erie County, to ensure that they participate fully in matters that have an impact on their lives and toward the elimination of all gender based discrimination and the promotion of women’s economic, societal and political empowerment.

Dr. King has served as an adjunct graduate faculty member at Buffalo State College and in the Graduate School of Education at the University at Buffalo.  Additionally, she has developed and taught courses and conducted numerous workshops on popular media culture, social justice advocacy and anti-racist feminist theory.

She serves on the New York State Council for Women and Girls, Executive Committee of the University at Buffalo Gender Institute, The Minority, Women Business Enterprise Utilization Advisory Board Members, and the County of Erie and City of Buffalo Joint Certification Committee

Jeannethe King, PT, DPT, ATC

Jeannethe received her Doctorate of Physical Therapy from Daemen College. She has an MS in Athletic Training from Long Island University- Brooklyn Campus. Jeannethe played Division 1 Women's Soccer at LIU for four years. She integrates her sports medicine background with physical therapy to create functional programs. She returned to Buffalo in 2015 to be closer to her family.

Felice Krycia

For the past seven years Felice E. Krycia has worked as a Veterans Service Officer at the Erie County Veterans Service Agency. She has assisted many of the area veterans and their family members navigate the Department of Veteran Affairs rules, regulations and paperwork to gain the benefits they are due.

Ms. Krycia is also a veteran, having served in the US Air Force at the end of the Viet Nam Era and was one of the first women to work at missile silos out west. She is also a 30-year member of her local American Legion.

As well as dealing with the federal VA agencies, the Erie County Veterans Service Agency collaborates with local veteran organizations and the veteran community to increase awareness of the benefits veterans and surviving spouses may be eligible for.

Training for all VSO’s of Erie County Veteran Services is through the American Legion and they must attend training every year or two to keep their accreditation.

Rob Kubiak

With over twenty years of leadership experience and creative problem-solving facilitation, Rob brings “out of the box” ways to overcome challenges using proven techniques. Rob has led teams and worked with organizations as a successful change agent. He resides in Orchard Park with wife and three daughters.

Jennifer Kuhrt, PT, MS

Jennifer Kuhrt works for BCBS of WNY as Manager of Population Health. Her educational background is in physical therapy and nutrition, and she has certificates in plant based nutrition and mind body eating. Jennifer is a health enthusiast and is passionate about sharing information and resources on plant based nutrition and health behavior change.

Ken Kuminski

Ken is a licensed Professional Engineer, and a graduate of the University of Buffalo in Civil Engineering, with over 30 yrs. experience in roadway and bridge design with the New York State Department of Transportation. Most recently, Ken was the Project Manager for the reconstruction of the Village of Hamburg which included four new roundabouts and the Village of East Aurora where its existing ‘traffic circle’ was converted to a modern roundabout.

Other notable projects Ken has been involved with include the reconstruction of the infamous Delaware Avenue ‘S’ curves, the Tifft Street bridge replacement and the Village of Orchard Park rehabilitation. Other responsibilities include managing consultant engineers, reviewing designs performed by other agencies and providing expert court testimony in defense of New York State.

Len Lenihan

Len Lenihan is a former Chairman Of the Erie County Legislature where he served for 20 years representing the Tonawandas and parts of the University district and North Buffalo.

He also served as Chairman of the Erie County Democratic Committee for 10 years from 2002 and 2012. He also served as a Commissioner of Elections for Erie County for an interim period of approximately 2 and 1/2 years. From 1996-2002 he served as Commissioner of Personnel for Erie County Government. He served as a delegate to the 2004 Democratic National Convention and also in December of that year was an Elector to the 2004 Electoral College from New York State.

He has a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from The Graduate School Of Public Affairs at SUNY Albany and a Bachelor’s Degree in Social Sciences from NorthWest Missouri State University.

Francis Lestingi, PhD

The State University of New York honored Francis as the first professor to receive both the President’s and the SUNY Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in Teaching.
He was Contributing Editor for the American Association of Physics Teachers journal The Physics Teacher. Harvard
University’s Department of Physics and the School of Education hired Francis to design graphics for a high school physics course, Harvard Project Physics, it was developing for the National Science Foundation. He designed six volumes of illustrative physics graphics that were used in classrooms throughout the country. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Society of Gilders. Francis is Co-founder and President of the non-profit (501c3) Buffalo Niagara Nikola Tesla Council, Inc whose mission is to pay homage to genius physicist Nikola Tesla. Francis designed, financed, and gilded a 7-ft bronze statue of Nikola Tesla which was dedicated in Buffalo, NY in 2020.

Lisa Matthies-Wiza

Lisa Matthies-Wiza has worked in the geographic information and mapping field locally for over twenty years. She has a Masters in Geographic Information Systems (GIS) from UB, and a Bachelors in Environmental Science from Alfred University. She taught GIS at Erie Community College and currently works for Erie County as their Director of the Office of Geographic Information Services. Lisa is an avid quilter, an ok volleyball player and bicyclist, and while hiking has indeed gotten lost in the woods. Lisa and her husband reside in Williamsville.

Linda Mayer

Linda was a nurse for 40 years. When she retired, she began volunteering at the Botanical Gardens. She wore many hats there, including Docent and Horticulturist.

Linda was connected with the Master Gardener program and graduated in 2009. The Master Gardeners take of the gardens at Niagara Square and the Tribute Garden in Tonawanda, to name just a few. One of the things Linda really enjoys about the program is answering gardening questions on the Hot Line.

Moira Mycio, MSW

Moira has been an Assistant Long Term Care Coordinator with Erie County Senior Services since 2015, but has been with the department in various positions since 1999. She is a hometown girl who received her Masters of Social Work degree from UB in 2006. Moira works to support the day to day operations of the Case Management System and to ensure that the department is meeting the directives and policies and procedures set forth by the NYS Office for the Aging.

Mark O'Brien, LCSW-R

Mark O’Brien, LCSW-R is a licensed clinical social worker with over thirty-five years of mental health, child welfare and health care experience. A 1983 SUNY at Buffalo School of Social Work graduate, currently he is the Commissioner of Mental Health for Erie County. He previously held the same position as Director of Mental Health Services in Orleans County and Interim Director in Genesee County. He is the chair of the eight-county Regional Planning Consortium (RPC) and was former President and co-founder of Integrity Partners for Behavioral Health, a 14 county, 26 organizational member IPA for the provision of behavioral health services in the western and finger lakes regions of the State. He is past executive director and CEO of a residential treatment center and foster care agency and former President of the Agency Executive Association of United Way of Buffalo and Erie County.  Additionally, he is in private practice in Tonawanda NY, specializing in treating survivors of physical, emotional and sexual abuse as well as family and couples’ therapy. He is also an instructor in the Diocese of Buffalo Pastoral Care Training Program teaching about family systems and working with survivors of abuse.

Mr. O’Brien resides in Grand Island, NY with his wife. He is the proud father of three children and has five grandchildren. An avid cyclist, he possesses a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and is a former instructor.

Michael Olear, MSW

Michael Olear is a Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker with Olear Team/ MJ Peterson Real Estate. He has over 30 yrs experience and has specialized in helping older adults with transitions since 1999. Michael is a graduate of the University at Buffalo School of Management - CEL and the University School of Social Work Master’s Program. His team includes 8 realtors and 4 paid staff working throughout Erie and Niagara Counties helping buyers and sellers of residential real estate with specialized services for older adults and their caregivers.

Michael has served on a variety of boards throughout the community including the Network in Aging, the Alzheimer’s Association Board, the Ashford Hollow Foundation (Griffis Park) and the University of Buffalo School of Management – CEL board with 2 years as treasurer and 2 years as chair. His active pursuits include yoga, cycling, listening to live music and attending fun events in the community.

Bren Price

Bren T. Price, Sr. is a retired school teacher, administrator and educational consultant, who now serves as a Trustee of the Buffalo Presidential Center.

The Buffalo Presidential Center’s mission is to encourage the study of Buffalo and Western New York's contribution to the Presidency and national affairs, AND to share it with the public.  The BPC is a new museum located on the second floor in the downtown Buffalo and Erie County Central Library.

He is also a master docent with Explore Buffalo, who loves to tell Buffalo presidential stories during his “Presidents in Buffalo” walking and bus tours.  

Mr. Price has been collecting political memorabilia for nearly 50 years and has special collecting interests for Buffalo resident Presidents, Millard Fillmore and Grover Cleveland. He also collects memorabilia from Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, the Woman Suffrage movement and Buffalo historical items.  

Kevin Quinn, Esq.

Kevin Quinn is a Supervising Attorney at the Center for Elder Law & Justice. Kevin practices in the housing department, working with community advocacy and development. He represents clients in handling evictions and in rem tax foreclosures. Kevin also represents homeowners in Buffalo City Housing Court in response to housing code violations. Aside from housing work, Kevin also drafts Powers of Attorneys and Health Care Proxies/Living Wills for his clients. He is a member of the Erie County Bar Association and the New York State Bar Association. Kevin graduated from Niagara University in 2007 and the Thomas M. Cooley School of Law in Lansing, Michigan in 2010.

Mary Reid, MSPH, PhD

Dr. Reid is the Chief of Cancer Screening, Survivorship and Mentorship at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center and a key member of the Roswell Park team that is collaborating with Cuban scientists on the Cimavax vaccine. She is also currently a Professor of Oncology in the Department of Medicine. Dr. Reid has worked to expand Roswell Park’s pioneering Lung Cancer Screening program and develop other cancer screening initiatives within the Center, working with clinical departments to increase the colon and breast screening programs. Dr. Reid is also developing a comprehensive survivorship clinical and outreach program.

Prior to joining Roswell Park, she served as Assistant Professor in the Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, College of Public Health and Co-Director of the Cancer Prevention and Control Training Program at the Arizona Cancer Center in Tucson. She has authored or co-authored more than 95 publications, serves as a regular reviewer for several cancer, nutrition and epidemiology journals and as a regular ad hoc reviewer for several National Cancer Institute grant programs.

Lynn Riker

Lynn joined Hospice & Palliative Care Buffalo as Director of Clinical Marketing and Outreach in 2015. In her role, she oversees community engagement and education efforts to increase awareness and access to palliative care and hospice services in Erie County. Lynn believes that patients, loved ones, and caregivers faced with serious illness deserve to have the compassionate care and support they need, and deserve.

Julie Ruszala

Julie is the Fitness Trainer / Media Specialist for the Erie County Department of Senior Services. 

Julie served in the US Army and was stationed at Fort Richardson Army base in Anchorage, Alaska. She was awarded the Command Sergeant Major Award for excellence for her participation in the USAAK Winter Games.

Julie earned an Associate’s Degree with Distinction in Radiologic Technology and a Certificate in Sonography from Trocaire College. She received a Bachelor’s Degree with Honors in Health Promotion from State University of New York College at Buffalo. Her athletic achievements include being selected to play in the Empire State games for the Western Women’s Hockey Team, Playing collegiate level hockey and soccer. Julie has been involved in coaching hockey, soccer and running off ice dryland training programs. Fitness and staying active are in her DNA.

Patrick Ryan

Patrick Ryan is the Education Coordinator at the Buffalo History Museum. He is originally from Buffalo and attended Buffalo State College to obtain my degree in History. His specific field of focus is 19th century Antebellum America (slavery, politics and constitutional theory).

Cynthia Schwartz

Ms. Schwartz began her career at Roswell Park in 1980 and has served in a number of capacities including Executive Assistant to the President & CEO, Vice President for Government Affairs, and Executive Director of the Office of Corporate Projects & Strategic Initiatives.  In her “semi-retirement” she was recruited back to Roswell by the Alliance Foundation to assist with their community outreach initiatives.  Over the years she has played a leading role in the funding for the Major Modernization of the Roswell Park campus beginning with the construction of a new hospital building in 1998, major research building in 2005, the creation of a New York State Public Benefit Corporation as the management structure for the Center, and numerous successful comprehensive cancer center Core Grant submissions to the National Cancer Institute.

She is an active member of the WNY Community serving as Vice Chair for the Buffalo Planning Board, a member of the Board of Directors of the Buffalo Museum of Science, founding Trustee and Secretary of the Board of the Health Sciences Charter High School and a member of both the Lancaster Square (Gates Circle) Advisory Committee and Elmwood Commons (Children’s Hospital re-use) Advisory Committee.  She recently joined the Advisory Council of Blue Cardinal, an investment and development company.

She holds a BS in Biology from Southern Connecticut State University and a Certificate in Healthcare Executive Management from the Weatherhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve University.  Prior to joining Roswell Park, Ms. Schwartz had served as Environmental Education Coordinator at museums and nature centers in Connecticut, Michigan, and Ohio.

She and her husband are avid eco-travelers and have visited all seven continents.  They proudly declare to all who will listen that they are Buffalonians-By-Choice.

Jean Serusa, BS, MS

Jean is using her retirement and pandemic days inventing creative topics to broaden the interests of our Erie County Seniors--now, over 10 years! Her experience teaching ART 30 years in the classroom, her travels and research, spark her presentations from artists and art styles with historical context, to ‘hands on’ opportunities providing something for everyone. She feels, as a educator, parent and grandma that her main achievement in life is to be a FACILITATOR for others’ life-long learning FUN!

David J. Shenk

David has been the Commissioner of Erie County Senior Services since May 2019. He served as the Director of the Erie County Veterans Service Agency from 2016 thru the present. David’s work history also includes serving one year as Erie County Comptroller and twenty years as Boston Town Clerk.

David has served in the US Army Reserves since 1988 as a Health Care Specialist aka Medic. His deployments include Desert Storm-Oman (1990-91), Iraqi Freedom-Iraq (2003), Enduring Freedom-Afghanistan (2010-11), and Enduring Freedom-Kuwait (2013-2014). He is the Detachment Sergeant in the 7207th Medical Support Unit.

David earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Management from Houghton College and a Master’s Degree in Health Administration from Roberts Wesleyan College.

His accomplishments include Erie Community College Distinguished Alumni 2017, Erie County Town Clerk of the Year 2012, Business First 40 Under 40 2009, Bronze Star, Combat Action Badge, and Meritorious Service Medal.

He resides in Boston with his wife Polly and their (2) dogs Caesar and Finley.

May Shogan

In 1989, May joined the International Institute of Buffalo as a professionally trained Arabic translator and interpreter. Since 1995, May has held the positions of Arabic language instructor, Language Coordinator, Domestic Violence Advocate, Employment assistant, Medical Advocate, and School Liaison for the Refugee families in the Buffalo school district.

May is currently the Director of the International Visitors and Education Department; she supervises the International Visitors program; which arranges professional itineraries, activities, and home stays for International delegations that come to Buffalo through the U.S. Department of State. May also conducts cultural events and global education programs for local schools grades K-12. Also, May has been conducting cultural competency and diversity training for businesses, schools, colleges, law enforcement, and social services agencies for more than 30 years. She also conducts health literacy sessions to refugees and immigrants.

Rance Solomon, PhD Candidate

Rance is currently working towards a PhD in physics at the University at Buffalo. Broadly speaking, he conducts research in cosmology, but his recent focus has been in constraints on black hole decay and models of dark energy.

Courtney Speckmann

For over 10 years, Courtney Speckmann worked at the White House Historical Association in Washington, D.C., where she served as the Director of Education. She holds a master's degree in Museum Education from The George Washington University and a bachelor's degree from Susquehanna University in History with teacher certification in Social Studies for grades 7-12. She returned to Buffalo and currently serves as the Director of Education at the Buffalo and Erie County Naval & Military Park. She is also a member of the board of trustees of the Buffalo Presidential Center.

Valerie Stanek, Esq., CFP

Valerie Stanek, Esq., CFP® is an attorney practicing in the area of wills, trusts, estates and elder law. In addition to practicing law, Valerie is a Certified Financial Planning Professional® focusing on investments, retirement, and estate and long term care planning. She lives with her husband and her Morkie, Alfie in their newly emptied nest in Amherst, New York.

Shane Stephenson

Shane is the Director of Museum Collections at the Buffalo Naval Park. He previously worked in the research library at the Buffalo History Museum, has volunteered working the archival collections at Forest Lawn Cemetery and St. Bonaventure University. He is the Board Vice – President of the Buffalo Presidential Center, and owns his own archiving business, Archives in the Buff. In addition to The Larkin Company, Shane’s first historic picture book is titled “Buffalo’s East Side Industry.”

Phil Stevens, Jr., PhD

Phil Stevens retired in 2019 after 48 years in the Anthropology Department at the University at Buffalo, State University of New York.  He received his B.A. in English from Yale in 1963, then went to Nigeria with the Peace Corps to teach English, and to work with the Nigerian government’s Department of Antiquities to document, repair, and protect the famous Stone Images of Esié (Ess ee yéh). Those experiences brought him into anthropology, and he entered the graduate program at Northwestern University.  He conducted dissertation research in different areas of Nigeria, 1969-1971, and received his Ph.D. in 1973.  He has conducted subsequent anthropological research in West Africa and the Caribbean. 

He is the author of many publications in cultural anthropology and African studies, and he is the recipient of two awards for excellence in teaching – and an honorary African chieftaincy title!  One of his most popular courses at UB was in the anthropology of Magic, Sorcery, and Witchcraft; and he is writing a book on that topic.  He lectures frequently to community groups on subjects of current concern. 


Anna VanDien, LCSW

Anna VanDien is the Coordinator of the Wilson Support Center. The Wilson Support Center provides grief support and education that is sensitive, compassionate and responsive to the needs of the WNY community. Information and resources are available to any individual experiencing grief and loss, and services are provided by licensed healthcare professionals and peer volunteers. As an affiliate of Hospice Buffalo, the Wilson Support Center also delivers bereavement services to bereaved loved ones of hospice patients. In the role of Coordinator, Anna is responsible for triaging and personalizing grief support, supporting staff development, and fostering community relationships through education and training. She has former experience as a hospice social worker and dementia care advocate.

Rachael Vega

Ms. Vega has worked in providing services to the community for over 20 years. Ms. Vega has worked for both private and public sector assisting persons obtain benefits such as Medicaid, Child Health Plus and the former Healthy New York programs as a facilitated enroller.

Ms. Vega has also assisted individuals obtain employment both long and short term / temporary and permanent. Rachael began her service to the residents of Erie County as a Protective Services worker assisting vulnerable adults of Erie County and then moved on to working with persons of all ages in NY Connects were she is the lead for a team of case managers who link persons to long term services and supports. As the Benefit Enrollment Center Coordinator she is hopeful to spread information which is useful as well as a cost savings to those persons on Medicare living on a limited budget.

William Vogel

William Vogel is the Art Coordinator at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, where he oversees a variety of arts and wellness programs for patients and caregivers. Originally from Long Island, he graduated from the University at Buffalo in 2015 with a degree in American Studies. Prior to joining to Roswell Park he was the Executive Director of El Museo, a nonprofit arts organization in Buffalo. In addition to his work as an arts administrator, Will is a photographer specializing in instant and lo-fi techniques.

Patrick Welch, PhD

Dr. Patrick Welch started his military career at 17 when he enlisted in the US Marine Corps. While serving as an Infantry Squad Leader in Vietnam he was severely wounded in action and was hospitalized for 2 years recovering from his wounds. Dr. Welch was an international hospitality industry executive for 48 years, has worked in over 50 countries and has been a CFO (Chief Financial Officer), COO (Chief Operating Officer), CEO (Chief Executive Officer) and owner of several businesses. He has served as Director of Veterans Services for Erie County, New York and as an Adjunct Professor at Daemen College. In January 2008, Dr. Welch became involved in the Buffalo Veterans Treatment court as one of the first Veteran Mentors in the country. Now retired, he concentrates his efforts working with veterans involved in the criminal justice system with the Buffalo Veterans Treatment Court and Justice for Veterans.

Theresa Wiater

Theresa Wiater is a retired teacher and holds a master's degree from Buffalo State College. She taught gifted education and fifth grade at Clarence Center Elementary School for over 30 years, incorporating into her curricula lessons on creative thinking, critical thinking and learning styles. She now teaches these topics to adults. Theresa is also interested in quilting and lifelong learning, and she designs adult continuing education classes as her own interests and learning evolve.

Andrew Kier Wise, PhD

Andrew Kier Wise, Ph.D. is Professor of History and Director of the Center for Polish Studies at Daemen College (Amherst, NY). He teaches courses in World and European History. His publications on the history of Poland and Russia include monographs, edited volumes, book chapters and several articles. His current projects deal with the immigrant experience in Buffalo, including a monograph on the labor activism of Buffalo residents Boris and Anna Reinstein (in collaboration with Dr. Penny Messinger), as well as research on Dr. Francis E. Fronczak's role as Commissioner of Public Health for the City of Buffalo. In winter/spring 2018, Dr. Wise taught several courses in Central and Eastern European history at the Institute of History, Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. In May-June 2019, he taught a course on environmental history at the American Studies Center, University of Warsaw. He also currently serves as President of the Western New York chapter of the Kosciuszko Foundation.

Mindy Yoder, RDN

Mindy Yoder is the Founder of Balanced Nutrition of WNY and serves as the Manager of Nutrition Services for Excelsior Orthopaedics. Mindy’s areas of expertise are sport nutrition, corporate and travel nutrition, eating disorders and weight management.

Shauna Zorich, MD, MPH

Shauna Zorich earned her BS in Biology from Canisius College and her medical degree and Masters of Public Health from the University at Buffalo. She is currently a Clinical Assistant Professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health at UB, where she teaches both undergraduate and graduate students in public health and epidemiology. Prior to her academic career, Dr. Zorich worked as a Preventive Medicine Officer for the United States Air Force and currently holds the rank of Major.