by Mary Fiess (October
Alumni Achievers Tell Their Stories
Four University at Albany alumni achievers, with very different interests and backgrounds but the same alma mater, came together at a special luncheon on campus Oct. 20 to share their life stories and launch a campaign that celebrates the successful career paths of UAlbany graduates.
The four -- Tom Constantine, M.A.'71, Jack Henion, Ph.D.'72, and Debbie and Lisa Ganz, B.A.'88 and '89 -- exemplify the campaign theme, "Reaching Higher, Achieving More", and with humor and obvious affection for the University, they described their paths in life and the role played by UAlbany.
They are four of 12 alumni highlighted in the campaign's first chapter. The images and career stories of all 12 are featured on 7-foot-high poster boards in the University's Lecture Center area, large tripod screens in University Hall, and the University's Web site. On Friday, Constantine, Henion and the Ganz twins brought their posters alive before an audience of students, faculty and staff.
Constantine said part of the message from his inclusion in the campaign was: "If he can make it, any of us can make it." One of his earliest jobs, he noted, was in an iron foundry in Buffalo. But then he got on the path that eventually took him to UAlbany's School of Criminal Justice. There, for the first time in his life, he said, he could "sit and read and think" and he was exposed to nationally recognized leaders in the field.
"It was an extremely important experience for me," he said. After earning his UAlbany degree, he advanced through the ranks of the New York State Police to the top position as superintendent, and he also served as head of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Henion told the luncheon audience that one important thing he learned at UAlbany was the value of taking good advice. As he was heading out into the world with his new doctorate, his faculty advisor, David Kinsgton, told him to stay involved with the new area of LC/MS -- liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry. Henion's work in those areas has been central to his subsequent success.
UAlbany faculty set the bar high and "took good care of me," said Henion, of his time as a doctoral student. From Albany, he went to Cornell University, where he managed a major research laboratory and served as a professor of toxicology. But at a certain point, he said, "I wasn't challenged enough." In 1993, he decided to venture into the business world and he started Advion BioSciences. Today it is one of the largest and most respected LC/MS contract laboratories in the world, at the forefront of the development of chip-based mass spectrometry.
Identical twins Debbie and Lisa Ganz announced in unison: "We're twins for a living." They founded the famous Twins Restaurant in New York City and created Twins Talent, the only referral service/talent agency exclusively for twins and multiples around the world.
UAlbany, they said, provided an important foundation for their life's work in more ways than one. They found tremendous freedom and opportunities to discover the best paths for them, and they also found tremendous caring and compassion, they recalled - sometimes speaking the same words at exactly the same time and sometimes finishing each other's sentences. When their father died before their sophomore year, Debbie recalled, UAlbany football coach Bob Ford was one of many who took time to console them. Such support, she said, "is more important than anything you can read in a book."
Through their initial room assignments, as well, the University may have helped launch their careers, they noted. As freshmen, they were roommates and four of the six students in their suite were twins.
Among the students attending the Friday luncheon were sophomore identical twins and UAlbany running standouts Jessica and Jenna Ortman.
"It was great to hear each of the amazing success stories," said Jessica, adding that she was particularly pleased to hear the Ganz's stories. Similar to the Ganz twins, who earned their degrees in rhetoric and communication, Jenna and Jessica are communications majors - and roommates.
In the spring, alumni achievers will be further highlighted on kiosks placed around the campus.
"The campaign is designed to show all students how UAlbany helps lay the foundation of their success, by giving them the tools to begin their self-discovery," said Catherine Herman, associate vice president for media and marketing. She said that new rounds of posters are being planned for each new school year.