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UAlbany Alumni Association Announces Excellence Award Recipients for 2015

Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Michael J. Basla ’75 will receive the Distinguished Alumni Award at the 2015 UAlbany Alumni Excellence Awards Gala on May 2 at Albany Country Club.

Albany, NY (April 28, 2015)  – A leading voice in STEM initiatives, an internationally known children’s literacy advocate and scholar, and two Wall Street standouts dedicated to providing student internship opportunities are among the 13 to receive University at Albany Alumni Excellence Awards May 2.

The awards recognize UAlbany alumni and friends for outstanding achievements and service. The 2015 Excellence Awards recipients include:

Distinguished Alumni Award – Lt. Gen. Michael J. Basla ’75, United States Air Force (Ret.) As chief information dominance and chief information officer, Office of the Secretary, U.S. Air Force, Michael Basla drove significant advances in cyberspace during a time of extreme challenges. He’s been honored with several major awards and decorations for his 35 years of service in the Air Force and maintains a strong relationship with the University at Albany and its football program.

Citizen of the University – Michael J. Malbin. A leading political science scholar and professor at UAlbany, Michael Malbin is the creator of the Rockefeller College Semester in Washington Program. Since its inception in 1997, the program has grown from eight to 25 students living and learning in D.C. each spring semester, and has led students to internships on Capitol Hill, in the West Wing, and for the Clinton, Bush and Obama Administrations.

Outstanding Young Alumni Award – Brian S. Cechnicki ’03, ’04. Even as an undergraduate, Brian Cechnicki was committed to public service. With a passion for education, he has filled roles in the Education Unit of New York State Division of Budget and Questar III BOCES. Just 10 years after graduating from UAlbany, Cechnicki assumed the position of director of Education Finance, New York State Education Dept.

Excellence in Entrepreneurship Award – Bruce Davis ’73, ’75. Inventor and entrepreneur Bruce Davis has served as CEO of Digimarc for the past 17 years. Experienced in video games, interactive TV guides and digital-watermarking technology, Davis is the founder of TV Guide On Screen and holds over 100 patents.

Excellence in Alumni Service Award – Matthew P. Reiner ’93. Dedicated School of Business alum Matt Reiner is a founding member of the UAlbany Center for Institutional Investment Management (CIIM) advisory board. He serves on the advisory board of the student-run UAlbany School of Business Investment Group (UASBIG) and frequently visits business classes to share his expertise. Reiner is principal, chief investment officer and co-portfolio manager of the Adirondack Small Cap Fund.

Excellence in Alumni Service Award – Grace Barkus Vogel ’77. A founding member of the University Advisory Council for Financial Market Regulation (FMR), Grace Barkus Vogel led the design of the curriculum in accounting and financial control for the IFMR academic program and is a mentor, trainer, and career advisor to students. She currently serves as managing director at PriceWaterHouse Coopers LLP.

Excellence in Arts & Letters Award – Robert J. Bellafiore ’82. Bob Bellafiore has a three-decade-long career in media, communications and public relations serving in many high-profile roles in New York State. These include Associated Press, director of communications for New York State Business Council, and press secretary to former Governor George Pataki. Bellafiore is the founder and president of communications consultancy firm Stanhope Partners.

Excellence in Business Award – Dean C. Backer ’88. Dean Backer is managing director and partner at Goldman Sachs & Co., where he is the global head of Sales and Capital Introduction in the Global Securities Service business and oversees the Hedge Fund Industry Group. Backer is a member of the Dean’s Advisory Board for the UAlbany School of Business and established the Dean C. Backer Scholarship.

Excellence in Community Service Award – Carol Whittaker ’71, ’73, ’81, ’05. An employee of the New York State Department of Health for nearly four decades, Carol Whittaker has established numerous programs, led several non-profit organizations, and volunteered her time to local and global communities. She has been with UAlbany’s School of Public Health for 25 years, and established the school’s Center for Global Health, where she provides students the opportunity to participate in service and internships abroad.

Excellence in Education Award – Anne McGill-Franzen ’88. Internationally known children’s literacy advocate and scholar Anne McGill-Franzen has been committed to supporting the development of children in reading for over 30 years. She has been featured in the most prestigious literacy publications and was a recent guest on “Harvard EdCast.” McGill-Franzen is a professor of education at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville and director of the University’s Reading Center.

Excellence in Public Service Award – Harris Oberlander ’80. The CEO of Trinity Alliance, Harris Oberlander has dedicated his talents and service to improving Albany’s South End and Arbor Hill neighborhoods. He is one of the Capital Region’s leaders in the struggle against youth violence and recently launched the Capital South Campus Center, which provides adults from disenfranchised communities with educational opportunities.

Bertha E. Brimmer Medal – Stuart J. Palczak ’87, ’88. A highly regarded educator in the Greater Amsterdam School District of New York, Palczak teaches history courses at Amsterdam High School. In addition, the award winning educator is also a track and wrestling coach and has helped lead student-athletes to national-level competition.

Excellence in Science & Technology Award – Albert J. Bunshaft ’80. A pioneer in computer graphics, Albert Bunshaft is the CEO, DS Government Solutions of Dassault Systèmes Americas. He is a leading voice in science, technology, engineering and mathematics education initiatives and serves on the UAlbany College of Computing and Information Advisory Board. Bunshaft established the Bunshaft Endowment, which supports annual lectures pertaining to computing science.

Recipients will be honored at the annual University at Albany Alumni Association’s Excellence Awards Gala May 2 at the Albany Country Club.

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A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciences, business, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.