Fisher Welcomes New Members to Presidents Society

August 30, 2023

On Tuesday, Aug. 29, St. John Fisher University welcomed 12 new members into the Presidents Society. Established in 2019 with 17 pioneer members, the Presidents Society acknowledges the generosity of philanthropists who have made lifetime gifts totaling $1 million or more.

A Presidents Society commemorative plate is displayed at a place setting.

President Gerard J. Rooney shared remarks that celebrated the philanthropic support of each inductee during a ceremony that unveiled the addition of the new members to the recognition plaques displayed on the columns of Kearney Hall.

“At our founding, and now 75 years later, we are focused on creating transformational educational experiences for our students. Your philanthropy has enabled us to enliven our mission and to greatly impact the students we are privileged to have the opportunity to serve,” Rooney said. “Without you, and all who choose to invest in Fisher through their philanthropic endeavors, we would not be the institution we are today and the institution we will become in the future.”

President Rooney offers remarks at the celebratory dinner.

The 2023 inductees include John and Carol Almeter; Thomas and Heather Bonadio; the Glover-Crask Charitable Trust; Michael and Chris Haefner; posthumous honoree Paul Haney; Wayne and Beverly LeChase; Lucy Malmberg; the Polisseni Foundation; Joseph and Karen Rulison; Dennis and Denise Tepas; the Theodore & Cashmere Mendick Foundation; and Wegmans Food Markets, Inc.

John and Carol Almeter, 1971 and 1974 graduates of Fisher, have a long history of supporting the University—from opening their home for alumni and student gatherings to creating a strong alumni network in the Greater Atlanta, Georgia region. They have also served as chairs of the Fisher Alumni Fund, and were co-captains of the Southeastern region during the Vision 2020 fundraising campaign. In 2018, John was the recipient of the School of Business Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to the accounting profession and continued support for the institution.

Spire Society members since 2018, the Almeters approached Fisher with an idea in 2021 to help recruit and expand the number of accounting scholars to the institution and were looking to fund an enriched learning environment to elevate the accounting program. From their vision and support, the John and Carol Sloan Almeter Accounting Scholars Fund and the John and Carol Sloan Almeter Fund for Accounting Innovation were established. The Scholars Fund helps accounting students offset the cost of tuition, while the Fund for Accounting Innovation allows the School of Business to invest in technologies and resources in areas including data analytics, accounting information systems, and forensic accounting. It also supports faculty training and curriculum development, executives-in-residence who bring significant expertise and networks to the program, speakers, and software and technology acquisitions and training for faculty and students. Both funds have elevated the program and the School, and has supported the accounting faculty in myriad ways.

A 1971 accounting graduate, Tom Bonadio founded The Bonadio Group in 1978, and through the years, The Bonadio Group has been a most generous provider of internships for students, and employment for alumni.

Tom began giving back to the University in a volunteer capacity, first serving as chair of the Accounting Advisory Board and member of the Alumni Activities Committee. He was a member of the Board of Trustees for eight years, serving as chair of the Board for four. In 1990, he was recognized as Fisher’s Accounting Alumnus of the Year, and in 2004, he received an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from Fisher. In 2006, in recognition of their contributions to the University, the Tom and Heather Bonadio Atrium was dedicated in the Donald E. Bain Campus Center. Additionally, in 2012, Tom and Heather, together with his Bonadio colleagues created the Bonadio Group Atrium in the Victor E. Salerno Center for American Enterprise, which displays several prints of Heather’s original photography. 

Tom and Heather’s most recent philanthropy is a bequest expectancy that will be used to establish the Thomas F. ’71 and Heather Bonadio Endowed Scholarship fund to support the enrollment of students who would benefit most from a Fisher education. A portion of the gift will be used to commission a sculpture by renowned artist, Timothy Schmalz. The sculpture will honor not only the immigrant parents of Fisher’s earliest students, but of the sacrifice and commitment of all parents to their children in providing them a university level education.

The Glover-Crask Charitable Trust, established in 1998, has been a longtime partner of the University, having supported the Department of Nursing and subsequently the Wegmans School of Nursing in transformational ways since 2001.

Fisher’s relationship with the Trust began with a gift to fund the purchase of the University’s first patient simulator for a nursing lab in Pioch Hall. Their generosity has primarily focused on the nursing program, and helped create the first Simulation Lab in the Wegmans School of Nursing building, later named the Glover-Crask Simulation Center. A 10,400-square foot space that mirrors a hospital unit, the Center includes five simulation rooms, a space for home care visit role-playing, a control room for faculty simulation facilitation, and debriefing rooms.  Fisher’s adoption of simulated learning in its nursing program was progressive, and the School led the way in embedding the practice into the nursing curriculum, thanks to the support of Glover-Crask. This experiential learning model heightened the School’s reputation nationally through accreditation site visits and reviews.

In 2022, in a very meaningful way, Glover-Crask Charitable Trust gave another gift, naming the Deans Conference Room after Dr. Cooney Miner, who retired as founding dean in 2020.

Mike Haefner ’82, along with his wife Chris, have been instrumental supporters of Fisher over the last decade. After graduating from Fisher, Mike spent the last decade of his career holding leadership roles with Dallas, Texas-based Atmos Energy Corporation, one of the nation’s top natural gas distributors. He began his tenure with Atmos as the senior vice president for human resources, and retiring in 2019 as president and chief executive officer. During his time at Atmos, he set the company on a path to modernize and digitize its business while building on its successful 100-year history.

Upon his retirement in late 2019, the company established the Michael Haefner Atmos Energy Scholarship at Fisher in honor of his dedication and commitment to Atmos. The scholarship is awarded to undergraduate or graduate students majoring or minoring in computer science, mathematics, and/or data analytics or a closely related major or minor such as cybersecurity.

In 2022, Mike and Chris made a significant contribution to the scholarship and continue their generous philanthropy each year during our Day of Giving. The Haefner’s also support the University’s Area of Greatest Need as Founders Level members of the Spire Society. They have hosted alumni events at their home in Texas and regularly attend regional alumni events in Florida, Texas, and in Rochester. Today, Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Trustees and he just began a term as chair of the Institutional Advancement Committee.

Paul Haney, a 1963 graduate who passed in 2019, was posthumously inducted into the Presidents Society. His involvement in politics spanned more than a half-century and his public roles included serving on the Rochester City Council for 12 years, in the Monroe County Legislature for 10 years, and as the county’s finance director in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

His philanthropy established the Haney Family Scholarship in 1989 in gratitude for the scholarships he received that made his Fisher education possible. Ultimately,  he made another significant commitment through a bequest designated to the scholarship, and pledged additional support for the Chapel Building Fund, which helped to bring the Hermance Family Chapel of St. Basil the Great to completion in 2018.

Longtime Fisher philanthropists Wayne and Beverly LeChase have supported the institution in myriad ways – both financially and also through their time and service. Wayne’s company, LeChase Construction, has had a hand in developing the campus footprint, creating a seamless connection between buildings with the signature Fisher brick.

In 2010, the LeChase Construction Services Scholarship was established to support need-based students in their pursuit of higher education. Wayne has been a consistent advocate for access in higher education and especially in encouraging Fisher to remain a place of opportunity for students. In 2016, the LeChases gave a gift in support of the Chapel Building Fund, commissioning the Gaze of Mercy Crucifix – that beautifully hangs behind the altar in the Hermance Family Chapel of St. Basil the Great.

In 2022, their gift established the R. Wayne and Beverly A. LeChase Urban Scholar Award Endowment, which provides financial assistance to high school students who reside in the City of Rochester and enroll at Fisher as first-year students. Most recently, Wayne and Beverly have supported the Basilian Scholars Endowed Director of Campus Ministry Fund – a fund designed to ensure the presence of a director of campus ministry at Fisher in perpetuity.

Wayne served as a member of the Board of Trustees from 1991 to 2015, including as chair, and today is a Trustee Emeritus. He received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Fisher in 2004. Both Wayne and Beverly are serving as honorary chairs of the Fisher Forward campaign, the largest comprehensive fundraising campaign in Fisher’s history.

Nationally renowned pharmacist, educational philanthropist, and entrepreneur, Dr. Lucy Malmberg has made a significant impact on the Wegmans School of Pharmacy in recent years. As co-founder and chair of the board of Wedgewood Pharmacy in New Jersey, she helped to transform the company from a local community pharmacy into one of the largest specialized compounding pharmacies in the United States.

In 2020, Lucy made a gift to fund student travel experiences including to professional conferences as well as international and national medical missions – a pinnacle of the Wegmans School of Pharmacy education. That same year, she served as the keynote speaker at the School’s annual White Coat Ceremony, a rite of passage that formally welcomes first-year students into the pharmacy profession.

Most recently, Lucy made a $1 million gift to the School of Pharmacy to establish the Lucy P. Malmberg Pharmacy Endowed Scholarship program. A portion of the gift will seed the endowment, with $650,000 providing immediate, substantial scholarships to students entering the pharmacy campus program. Inaugural recipients of the Malmberg Pharmacy Scholar Award are entering the School this fall.

Over the last several years, Malmberg has become a strong advocate for the Wegmans School of Pharmacy, serving on the Dean’s Advisory Council and sharing her expertise in compounding with students through guest lectures.

In February 2010, the Polisseni Foundation made a commitment of $3 million to Fisher to be used for the creation of the Polisseni Track and Field Complex. The commitment was thanks to the support of Board of Trustee member Wanda Polisseni, who is an inaugural member of the Presidents Society.

Completed in 2011, the Polisseni Track and Field Complex has seating capacity for roughly 2,000. The construction of the state-of-the-art track and playing field, allowed Fisher to add seven NCAA Division III sports to its roster of intercollegiate offerings, including men’s and women’s cross-country; men’s and women’s indoor track; men’s and women’s outdoor track; and field hockey. The facility also features a scoreboard and can be used for various sports including football, soccer, and lacrosse. The grass infield is often used by the Buffalo Bills during training camp.

The facility features an eight-lane, 400-meter competition track with a grass infield, as well as components for shot put, pole vault, and long jump events. In addition, there are locker rooms for the student-athletes and public restrooms.

The facility has served as the site of numerous Empire 8 Championship while also hosting the NYSCTC Championships. In 2023, Fisher was chosen as the site of the NCAA DIII Track and Field Championships due to the outstanding facilities.

A 1978 Fisher graduate, Joe Rulison, and his wife, Karen, have a long history with the University. Joe served on the Board of Trustees for 14 years, including two years as chair. In 2006, he received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree in recognition of his Board leadership, and today he is a Trustee Emeritus.

In 2014, Joe launched three+one and serves as president and CEO. three+one is a liquidity analytics and data provider to the public sector, higher education, K-12 districts, and banking institutions throughout the United States. Karen retired as a social worker from the Rochester City School District after 23 years of service. Joe and Karen passed their wisdom and love of education on to their four daughters, two of whom are proud Fisher alumni.

In recognition of the Rulison’s generosity, the Deans Suite in the Wegmans School of Nursing was named in memory of Joe’s mom, Catherine Rulison, who herself was a passionate and dedicated nurse.  In 2021, they made a significant gift that ensures that the President’s Residence will remain the home of future Fisher presidents and a wonderful place to host students, alumni, donors, employees, and friends of the University. A highlight of these events is the Student Leader Dinner, which welcomes more than 150 student leaders to the Residence each August ahead of the start of the fall semester.

Dennis Tepas, a 1972 graduate, recalls fondly his time as an involved student at Fisher when he served as secretary and treasurer of his class. As an alumnus, he has stayed involved and gave his time and talent for many years as an active member of the Alumni Board of Directors, serving as president for three years. Dennis and Denise are members of the 1948 Society and now the Presidents Society, a demonstration of their longtime philanthropy to the University.

Dennis’ experiences as a student and in serving his class inspired the Tepas’ most recent gift, which enabled the creation of the Dennis ’72 and Denise Tepas Commons and the Terrace at Tepas Commons.  Located in the heart of the Donald E. Bain Campus Center, Tepas Commons is outfitted with all of the amenities of home and creates a living room-like atmosphere for students. Just steps outside, the Terrace at Tepas Commons includes all-weather seating and a fire pit, enabling its use year-round. Since its opening, the spaces have been widely used for a variety of student events, Buffalo Bills watch parties, Fisher’s employee holiday party, and more.

Dennis and Denise have also provided support to establish the Dennis and Denise Tepas Scholarship which provides financial assistance to a full-time undergraduate student studying in the fields of math, education, science, or technology.

The Theodore & Cashmere M. Mendick Foundation Scholarship was established in 1989 at Fisher by Ted Mendick. Ted, who passed away in 1992, initiated the scholarship with the intent of educating future priests, but since his death, the Foundation amended the criteria and it now supports academically qualified Rochester area high school students who demonstrates financial need. Today, the scholarship is one of the University’s largest endowed funds. 

Just inside of the Hermance Family Chapel of St. Basil the Great, the Narthex is named for the Mendick family in recognition of several gifts made to the Chapel Building Fund. This beautiful space provides a welcoming entry and gathering area for chapel visitors and events, and provides students space for service projects and community building.

In 2019, the Foundation made its most recent gift to name the Fr. Joseph A. Trovato, CSB Campus Ministry Center, in honor of Fr. Trovato, Fisher’s longest-serving campus minister and a pastor of Christ the King Church in Irondequoit. Many members of the Mendick family benefitted from the friendship and ministry of Fr. Trovato, and their recognition of him allows the University to continue to celebrate his memory and impact at Fisher. The Center has stimulated growth in campus ministry since it opened and has become a central hub of activity for the Office of Campus Ministry.

The Mendicks have also been long-time title sponsors of the Annual Scholarship Golf Tournament in memory of Fr. Lavery and Fr. Dorsey. Since 2002, the Mendick Family and Foundation have contributed more than a quarter of a million dollars to the tournament.  

The name Wegman has become synonymous with Fisher in many ways, thanks to some of the most transformative philanthropic efforts by Bob and Peggy Wegman in the early 2000s. Their significant gifts—the largest in the University’s history—supported the creation of the Wegmans School of Nursing and the Wegmans School of Pharmacy.

Presidents Society member Jack DePeters, a 1973 alumnus and Trustee, led a successful 52-year career at Wegmans Food Markets until he retired from the role of senior vice president of store operations in 2019. In 2020, Jack and his wife, Donna, and their family, made a $1 million gift to create the DePeters Family Center for Innovation and Teaching Excellence. In honor of his retirement from Wegmans, the company matched the $1 million gift. The Center is a vibrant space designed to provide faculty with opportunities to experiment with creative and flexible instructional approaches and cutting-edge tools to enhance their teaching. The space includes a model “classroom of the future,” outfitted with flexible chairs and desks and mobile technology that allow for movement during the learning process as instructors weave the latest active learning teaching strategies into their classrooms. It also includes a studio where faculty can record lectures.