St. John Fisher College to Bestow Special Honors during 68th Commencement
St. John Fisher College will bestow three honors upon members of the community during its 68th Commencement celebrations, to be held across five ceremonies on Friday, May 6 and Saturday, May 7, in the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Athletic Center.
Mary Davis, chief executive officer of Special Olympics International, will receive an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters and offer remarks during the Wegmans School of Nursing ceremony at 3 p.m. on Friday, May 6. Outgoing Board of Trustees chair Diana Nole will also receive an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters and deliver the keynote address during the School of Arts and Sciences ceremony at 6 p.m. on Friday. Finally, Dr. Michael Mendoza, the 9th Commissioner of Public Health for Monroe County, New York, will receive a President’s Medal in recognition of his leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic. He will be honored during the Wegmans School of Pharmacy ceremony at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
“Each year, Commencement serves as an opportunity for our graduating students to not only reflect on their time at Fisher but to envision what their personal and professional lives will bring, and how they can impact the communities in which they will live for the better,” said Dr. Gerard J. Rooney, president of the College. “In their own ways, all of our honorees are fitting examples of the extraordinary accomplishments that are possible when individuals devote their time and talents to serve others. We are proud to honor them in May as we celebrate the success of our newest alumni.”
Davis is the chief executive officer of Special Olympics International. In this role, she leads an international team of more than 200 professionals throughout the world who are addressing inactivity, injustice, intolerance, and social isolation for people with intellectual disabilities. The Special Olympics movement currently serves nearly 5 million athletes with intellectual disabilities, holds more than 94,000 competitions annually, and welcomes more than one million coaches and volunteers who help make grassroots operations possible.
Davis, from Co. Mayo in Ireland, started with Special Olympics soon after college as a local program volunteer and coach. Since then she has served in a series of leadership roles, helping create its first-ever Regional games, the 1985 Special Olympics European Games, working to build a powerful national program as CEO of Special Olympics Ireland, and helping globalize the organization’s movement as CEO of the first Special Olympics World Summer Games held outside the U.S. She also served as regional president of the Europe Eurasia Region of Special Olympics, overseeing the growth and development of Special Olympics across 58 countries in Western Europe, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia from 2009 - 2016.
Davis was the driving force behind the hugely successful Special Olympics World Summer Games when they were staged in Ireland in 2003. She served as CEO of these Games, which were the first World Summer Games held outside the U.S. since Eunice Kennedy Shriver founded the movement in 1968. It was the largest sporting event in the world that year. She was awarded Person of the Year in 2003 for her work on the Games, as well as recognition for her years of service with Special Olympics Ireland. In 2004, then-President of Ireland Mary McAleese appointed Davis to her Council of State, an advisory body to the President on legislative matters, where she remained until 2011.
With the establishment of the Golisano Institute for Developmental Disability Nursing at Fisher in 2018, the College has strengthened its collaboration with the Special Olympics to address health disparities that exist for individuals with developmental disabilities. In fall 2021, Special Olympics International awarded the Institute with an Inclusive Health Innovation grant to create the first-of-its-kind curriculum for primary care nurse practitioner residency programs aimed at improving the health care experience for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
Nole is the executive vice president and general manager of the healthcare division of Nuance Communications, a global pioneer and leader in conversational AI innovations that amplify human intelligence to increase productivity and security. In her role, she is responsible for all business operations, growth strategy, and product development as well as a 2,500+ employee base doing business globally. Nole is a member of the executive leadership team that drove the first-time inclusion in “Best Companies to Work For.” Under her leadership, numerous solutions have been introduced into the market that are focused on improving the overall physician-patient experience through cutting-edge AI technology applications. Prior to joining Nuance, she served as the CEO of Wolters Kluwer’s healthcare division.
A member of the Board since 2010, Nole became the first female in the College’s history to serve in the chair role, bringing with her several decades of experience in executive and leadership positions. Her tenure at the helm of the Board began in June 2020, in the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her first year as chair has coincided with one of the most challenging moments for the College, and her leadership has enabled Fisher to maintain an in-person experience while ensuring the health and safety of all.
Nole and her husband, Angelo, have a legacy of giving to Fisher; they are inaugural members of the Spire Society, the College’s giving society, at the Presidential Level. As Board chair, Ms. Nole has been a champion of the Fisher Forward campaign and has inspired fellow Board members to establish their own philanthropic efforts at the College. In 2021, the Noles created an endowed fund for the Fisher Urban Scholars Award, ensuring the program’s longevity through a $200,000 gift.
In recognition of her accomplishments, she was named to the Rochester Business Journal’s “40 Under Forty” list (2002), a finalist for both the Athena Award (2012) and Technology Woman of the Year (2013), included in Becker’s Health IT “Female Health IT Company CEO’s to Know” (2016), and Health Data Management 2019 class of Most Powerful Women in Healthcare IT.
Nole holds a master of business administration from the William E. Simon Business School and a bachelor’s degree with Magna Cum Laude honors in computer science and mathematics from the State University of New York.
Mendoza joined the Health Department in 2016 and his vision is to improve population health by strengthening the collaboration between clinical medicine and public health in Monroe County. He has a particular focus in addressing the disparities in health and health care. In this role, he oversees the health department’s $61 million dollar budget and over 250 employees whose responsibilities span a diverse array of services designed to preserve and improve public health in Monroe County. He is also appointed as professor at the University of Rochester in the Departments of Family Medicine, Public Health Sciences, and Nursing.
Prior to 2016, Mendoza served as medical director for Highland Family Medicine, one of the largest family medicine training practices in the country. During his seven years in this role, he oversaw the adoption of the Epic Systems Electronic Medical Records, Meaningful Use, certification as a Level 3 Patient Centered Medical Home, and helped to lay the foundation for expanded team-based care, the current expansion of Highland Family Medicine, and the newly certified Nurse Practitioner residency program. Board certified in family medicine, Mendoza continues to see patients as a primary care physician at Highland Family Medicine, and he continues to serve as a teaching physician on the inpatient service at Highland Hospital.
He is an active member of the Rochester community, serving on the Boards of Directors of Willow Domestic Violence of Rochester, Common Ground Health, and the Rochester Regional Health Information Organization (RHIO).
Originally from Chicago, Illinois, Mendoza received his undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Chicago. He received a master’s degree in public health from the University of Illinois - Chicago, and he obtained a master’s degree in business administration from the Simon Business School at the University of Rochester. He completed his residency training in family and community medicine at the University of California - San Francisco (UCSF), and served an additional year as chief resident. He completed a fellowship in resident teaching at UCSF and earned a certificate in biomedical informatics from Oregon Health and Science University.
Fisher’s Commencement is the culmination of a weeklong series of events and activities celebrating members of the Class of 2022. For more information about the ceremonies, visit the College’s Commencement website.