2023 Citizen Laureates Honored by The University at Albany Foundation

Video by Paul Miller

ALBANY, N.Y. (Nov. 16, 2023) — Three outstanding members of the Capital Region community were honored Thursday night at The University at Albany Foundation’s 42nd Citizen Laureate Awards Dinner.

This year’s honorees were James K. Reed, MD, Robert W. Lazar and Roberta Bernstein, PhD.

The Citizen Laureate awards honor leaders in business and industry, government and academia who have helped transform the Capital Region through innovation, service and philanthropy.

The Foundation’s annual celebration of Citizen Laureates began in 1977 to bring together the academic and business communities of the Capital Region. The gala dinner is a signature fundraising event for UAlbany student scholarships.

Reed and Lazar were named Community Laureates in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the Capital Region and beyond. Bernstein was named Academic Laureate, an award that honors notable achievements in academia and research.

“Tonight, we will recognize the accomplishments of three individuals whose scholarship, creativity, leadership, and mentorship have forever transformed the Capital Region,” said George R. Hearst III, president of The University at Albany Foundation. “James, Robert and Roberta truly embody the spirit of service that the Citizen Laureate awards were created to honor, and they are role models to anyone who aspires to strengthen their own community through professional service, philanthropy and the pursuit of knowledge.”  

A Record of Commitment to the Capital Region

Reed retired as president and chief executive officer of St. Peter’s Health Partners, one of the Capital Region’s largest healthcare systems, at the end of 2022. He spent more than a decade in executive leadership at St. Peter’s, part of a long career that began in business and operations, transitioned to family practice after medical school, and eventually culminated in health care administration.

Lazar ’77 retired as president of the New York State Business and Development Corporation (now known as Pursuit) in 2005 after more than 35 years with the organization. An alum of UAlbany’s School of Business, he had a major role in shaping the school as it exists today through his active participation on various boards and advisory councils and as its executive-in-residence.

Reed and Lazar are active members of the Capital Region community, serving or having served on numerous boards including the Capital Region Chamber and Center for Economic Growth, and have both been recognized for their extensive contributions by several local organizations.

Bernstein, a Collins Fellow and professor emeritus at UAlbany, served as the chair of the Department of Art and Art History for many years. Beloved by her students, Bernstein’s 28 years of distinguished teaching, scholarship and service at UAlbany have been recognized with numerous awards. Most recently, her work with artist Jasper Johns was recognized when the president of France named her Chevalier (Knight) of the National Order of the Legion of Honor, the highest distinction the French bestow for civil and military accomplishment.

A man in a tuxedo speaks at a lectern framed in the background by the images of three faces projected on a screen behind him.
UAF President George R. Hearst III speaks at Thursday's 2023 Citizen Laureate Awards Dinner framed by photos of this year's Laureates, from left: Roberta Bernstein, James K. Reed and Robert Lazar. (Photo by Joe Putrock)

“The significance of the Citizen Laureate awards is not just recognizing the contributions of the Capital Region’s most committed businesspeople, scholars and innovators; it’s about honoring the spirit of service in their life’s work,” said Fardin Sanai, executive director of The University at Albany Foundation and UAlbany’s vice president for advancement. “We do that by lifting up others in their example. This year, I’m proud to say UAF awarded more than $4.1 million in student scholarships, awards and grants thanks to the generosity of our donors who also embody that same spirit of service.”

A New Look for the Gala’s Longtime Home

Thursday’s dinner also marked the gala’s return to its longtime home in the newly renamed Broadview Center (formerly SEFCU Arena) after a year away during construction — and will be the first major event held there since its completion.

UAlbany’s largest on-campus venue, the Broadview Center underwent a $12 million renovation over the last year that rotated the court, improved sightlines and added many player and fan amenities. The new look also came with a new name as part of Broadview Federal Credit Union’s rebranding after a merger between SEFCU and CAP COM.

The UAlbany men’s basketball team will open their home season at the arena on Nov. 29 against Boston University, with the women’s team opening there on Dec. 2 against Siena College.