Published April 30, 2015
Robert G. Wilmers, chairman and chief executive officer of M&T Bank Corporation, will be awarded the Chancellor Charles P. Norton Medal, UB’s highest honor, during the 169th annual University Commencement on May 17.
John T. Ho, vice provost for graduate education and dean of UB’s Graduate School, and Gerald Lippes, UB council member emeritus, will receive the UB President’s Medal in recognition of extraordinary service to the university.
Also during the ceremony, SUNY honorary doctorates will be presented to UB alumnus Christopher Scolese, director of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, and Academy Award- and Grammy Award-winning artist David Shire.
The Chancellor Charles P. Norton Medal is presented annually in public recognition of a person who has, in Norton’s words, “performed some great thing which is identified with Buffalo … a great civic or political act, a great book, a great work of art, a great scientific achievement or any other thing which, in itself, is truly great and ennobling, and which dignifies the performer and Buffalo in the eyes of the world.”
As chairman and CEO of the Buffalo-based M&T Bank Corporation and its principal subsidiary, M&T Bank, since 1983, Robert Wilmers has guided M&T from a financial institution with assets of $2 billion to its current holdings exceeding $98 billion.
Widely regarded as a leader in the U.S. banking industry, he also is greatly admired within the Western New York community for his dedicated civic-mindedness.
A graduate of Harvard College, Wilmers also attended the Harvard Business School. He began his career in New York and led the Morgan Guaranty Trust Company office in Brussels, Belgium. He served as chairman of the New York State Bankers Association and has served in government leadership roles as chairman of the Empire State Development Corporation and as a director of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. He is the owner of Chateau Haut-Bailly, a vineyard in Bordeaux, France.
Deeply involved in the local community, Wilmers has had tremendous impact on numerous vital regional interests, among them the efficiency and effectiveness of health care, the quality of preK-12 education and neighborhood schools, and the viability of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, regional architectural treasures and the Buffalo Zoo. A past member and chair of the UB Foundation, he helped lead the university’s Pathways to Greatness campaign and is currently chair of the Build the Vision campaign steering committee for the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.
Wilmers has been recognized for his business achievements and dedicated service to the community with honors including Western New Yorker of the Year by the Greater Buffalo Chamber of Commerce (1991), the Niagara Frontier Executive of the Year (1992), Buffalo News Citizen of the Year (1987 and 1994) and the American Banker Lifetime Achievement Award (2005). In 2011, he was named by American Banker as Banker of the Year. French President Nicolas Sarkozy named him Chevalier of the Legion of Honor in 2008.
Wilmers received the UB President’s Medal in 1993 and has been awarded honorary doctorates from SUNY, Canisius College and Niagara University.
The UB President’s Medal, first presented in 1990, recognizes “outstanding scholarly or artistic achievements, humanitarian acts, contributions of time or treasure, exemplary leadership or any other major contribution to the development of the University at Buffalo and the quality of life in the UB community.
As vice provost for graduate education and dean of the Graduate School since 2006, John Ho helped UB achieve strong graduate enrollments — including record enrollments in several years — and raised the overall prominence and quality of graduate education at the university.
Among his accomplishments were establishing the Office of Comprehensive Program Review as an integral element of UB’s ongoing effort to assess and improve its academic programs, improving the Graduate School’s Office of Student Services by streamlining its operations and the degree-candidacy process, and enhancing the Office of Postdoctoral Scholars to provide services for principal investigators and career development opportunities for postdocs.
Ho is stepping down as vice provost this summer to return to his faculty appointment in the Department of Physics.
He joined the UB physics faculty in 1975 and has distinguished himself as an exceptional scholar and administrator. Named a SUNY Distinguished Service Professor of Physics in 1995, he has served in departmental and university leadership positions, including as associate dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, interim dean of the Faculty of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, director of the Interdisciplinary Natural Sciences Program, chair of the Department of Statistics and associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Prior to his association with UB, he held faculty positions at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Houston.
Ho, an experimental condensed matter physicist, received his BSc in physics and mathematics from the University of Hong Kong and PhD in physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
He has served his professional field as a member of various committees and panels for the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Department of Education, the Council of Graduate Schools and the American Physical Society. His academic honors include the DuPont Young Faculty Award, and appointment as a fellow of the American Physical Society and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.
Appointed by Gov. George Pataki as a member of the University at Buffalo Council in 1997, Gerald Lippes served in that role with great distinction for 17 years. A 1964 graduate of the UB Law School, Lippes is founder of the law firm Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman LLP and a revered member of the local legal community.
His dedication to and engagement with UB is extensive. Lippes created and served as the inaugural chair of the UB Law School’s Dean’s Advisory Council, leading to the creation of comparable volunteer boards across the university. In 1995, he received the Jaeckle Award, the Law School’s highest honor. He endowed the Gerald S. Lippes Speaker Series, jointly hosted by the UB Law School and the School of Management, as well as the master’s program in arts management in the College of Arts and Sciences. Lippes Concert Hall in Slee Hall is named in his honor.
Lippes has a long history of community volunteerism, including serving on the boards of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the New York State Council on the Arts and the UB Foundation. He is past chairman of Kaleida Health, Women’s and Children’s Hospital of Buffalo and Roswell Park Cancer Institute. He was co-chair of The Campaign for UB, which raised record philanthropic support for the university.
Among his many honors are the UB Alumni Association’s Community Leadership Award, the Citation Award from the National Federation for Just Communities, the Western New York Entrepreneur of the Year, the Lifetime Achievement Award from Buffalo Business First and the Knox Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in the Arts from the Arts Council in Buffalo and Erie County.
Honorary degree recipient Christopher Scolese is one of the world’s leading authorities in the area of space systems engineering. As director of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, he has been instrumental in shaping numerous NASA earth science and deep space exploration missions, resulting in many significant scientific breakthroughs and advancements, as well as a better understanding of our planet, solar system and universe.
Scolese, who received a BS in electrical engineering from UB 1978, joined NASA in 1987 and has served in numerous leadership roles, including as manager of the Earth Orbiting Satellite Program, deputy director of flight programs and projects for earth science, and project manager of the Earth Observing System Terra Satellite Mission.
As deputy associate administrator of space science at NASA headquarters since 2001, Scolese’s vision had a major impact on the successful Mars Rover missions (Spirit and Opportunity) and other widely known NASA missions, including the Mars Odyssey and Cassini Saturn Orbit Insertion missions. Appointed acting administrator of NASA in 2009, Scolese earned the agency’s highest honor — the Distinguished Service Medal — for his leadership in this role.
He is a fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.
Honorary degree recipient David Shire is an internationally renowned composer, conductor and pianist whose excellence in theater, film, television and the recording industry has received numerous accolades over the course of his distinguished career. A native of Buffalo, Shire has written scores and theme music for more than 100 feature films, television series and movies, as well as the Broadway and off-Broadway theater, while working closely with some of the most accomplished and notable artists in music and film.
On Broadway, he collaborated on several Tony Award-nominated scores, including the musical “Baby” in 1983 and “Big” in 1996. His off-Broadway work includes the award-winning revues “Starting Here,” “Starting Now” and “Closer Than Ever.”
Shire received the 1980 Academy Award for Best Song for composing “It Goes Like It Goes,” the title song for the movie “Norma Rae” (1979). He also was honored for his original music for the film “Saturday Night Fever” (1977), for which he received two Grammy Awards; his television scores have been nominated for five Emmy Awards.
A 2006 Buffalo Music Hall of Fame inductee, Shire has maintained close ties with the Western New York region over the years. In 2011, he joined UB for the Department of Theatre and Dance’s world premiere of “It Goes Like It Goes: The Music of David Shire,” a musical compilation featuring his work.