13 to be honored by the UB Alumni Association

Alumni and friends recognized for bringing distinction to the university

By Barbara Byers

Release Date: March 17, 2014 This content is archived.

Logo of the UB Alumni Association.

BUFFALO, N.Y. – Among the 230,000 University at Buffalo alumni around the world, only a handful are selected annually to receive an award from the UB Alumni Association. This year the honorees include Jeffrey Wigand, PhD ’73, MA ’72 & BA ’69, who became a whistle blower against the tobacco industry; Jeffrey Umland, BS ’85 & PhD ’91, who designed the landing gear for the Mars Rover Curiosity; and Janet Litster Rideout, PhD ’68, co-inventor of the AIDS treatment AZT.

Charles D. Bauer, MD ’46, will accept the association’s highest honor, the Samuel P. Capen Award, during the ceremony to be held on Friday, March 28, at 6 p.m. in the Center for the Arts on the North Campus. UB President Satish K. Tripathi and UBAA President Carol Gloff, BS ’75, will present the awards. A post-award reception will feature premium food stations, an open bar and entertainment in the CFA Atrium.

Tickets are $75 per person and may be purchased online at www.alumni.buffalo.edu/events or by calling the UB Office of Alumni Relations at 1-800-284-5382.

A graduate of the then-private University of Buffalo, Charles D. Bauer has been giving to his alma mater since 1953, when he donated $45 to the university. Along with his wife, Mary, the couple has since directed the majority of their support toward endowed faculty positions, scholarships and unrestricted support to be used by the UB School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. In addition, they are in the process of completing a $1 million gift to create a clinical research nurse manager position in UB’s Clinical and Translational Research Center in downtown Buffalo.

Jeffrey Wigand, PhD ’73, MA ’72 & BA ’69, a former Brown & Williamson employee who gained national fame in the 1990s as a tobacco industry whistleblower, revealed that tobacco companies concealed the knowledge that cigarette smoking was highly addictive and caused lung cancer. His story was told in the 1999 movie, The Insider. Today Wigand works to educate children about the dangers of smoking through his nonprofit foundation called Smoke-free Kids.

Because of Jeffrey W. Umland, BS ’85 & PhD ’91, the Mars Rover Curiosity landed safely on the Red Planet in 2012. A Fellow at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Umland is the chief mechanical engineer for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory, leading all of the project’s technical development, including mechanical hardware, surface systems, sampling systems, thermal systems and propulsion systems.

Janet Litster Rideout, PhD ’68, is one of the principal scientists to recognize the effect of azidothymidine (AZT) on the AIDS virus. Originally designed to treat cancer, AZT failed to show efficacy and carried heavy side effects. Litster Rideout, while working for pharmaceutical company Burroughs Wellcome, collaborated with three researchers from the National Cancer Institute to show that AZT was an effective agent against HIV. Her work led to the first effective treatment for the virus.

Additional 2014 awardees include Distinguished Alumni Award recipients Allen Barnett, PhD ’65, of Pine Brook, N.J.; and Tamara Brown, ME ’03, of New Milford, Conn.

The International Distinguished Alumni Award will be presented to Kuo-Chun Chang, PhD ’85 & MS ’80, of Taipei, Taiwan.

The Walter P. Cooke Award, which recognizes notable and meritorious contributions to the university and its family by non-alumni, will be given to Mark Hamister, of Williamsville, N.Y., and Delray Beach, Fla.

The Dr. Richard T. Sarkin Award for Excellence in Teaching will be presented to John Crassidis, PhD ’93, MS ’91 & BS ’89, of Clarence Center, N.Y.

The George W. Thorn Award, given to distinguished alumni under 40, will be given to Lesley A. Weitz, BS ’02, of Vienna, Va.

The Dr. Philip B. Wels Outstanding Service Award will be given to Steven Shepsman, BA ’75, of Great Neck, N.Y., for his contributions to enhancing the quality of life of the entire UB community.

Donna M. Fernandes, president and CEO of the Buffalo Zoo, will receive the Community Leadership Award in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the Western New York community.

In appreciation of outstanding volunteer contributions to the university, the Volunteer Recognition Award will be presented to Paul Hammer, BA ’78, of Williamsville, N.Y.

The UB Alumni Association is a volunteer-led international organization that provides ongoing service to alumni and a focus of alumni support for, and service to, UB, its students, faculty and staff. For more information, visit http://www.alumni.buffalo.edu.

Photos of the UB Alumni Association honorees are available here: http://ubnews.smugmug.com/2014/UB-Alumni-Association-Honorees/37653585_SkDW3t#!i=3119261838&k=SmXXHCx

Full profiles of each awardee can be found below:

Allen Barnett, PhD ’65
Distinguished Alumni Award

Allen Barnett spent his career in the pharmaceutical industry as a drug discovery and development executive. As vice president of technology acquisition and external collaborations at Schering-Plough, Barnett spearheaded its licensing of new technology and structuring academic collaborations.

Under his leadership at SP, two “blockbuster” drugs were brought to the marketplace: Claritin, a non-sedating antihistamine that is the most successful drug in SP’s history and the fifth-leading drug, based on sales, in the world; and Zetia, a cholesterol-lowering agent that has achieved multibillion dollars in sales since its introduction in 2002.

After retiring in 1999 Barnett began consulting, during which time he met two other UB graduates with a common interest in research being conducted at UB on a new class of anti-cancer drugs. Their collaboration led to the founding of Kinex Pharmaceuticals, a biotech company dedicated to the search for novel oral anti-cancer drugs. Kinex is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, and currently has four oral anti-cancer drugs in different stages of clinical development. After serving as CEO, Barnett has stepped down but remains active as president emeritus.

He has published more than 100 scientific journal articles and served as adjunct professor of pharmacology in the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. He was a member of the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Science’s Dean’s Advisory Council and sat on the advisory board for UB’s Office of Science, Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach. In January of this year he endowed a graduate student fellowship in School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

Charles D. Bauer, MD ’46
Samuel P. Capen Award

A graduate from the then-private University of Buffalo, Charles D. Bauer decided early on in his medical career to give back to his alma mater. His initial gift of $45 in 1953 began a lifetime of support that, to date, has totaled $1.6 million with an additional $1 million in process.

Using a variety of methods, Bauer and his wife, Mary, have directed the majority of their support toward endowed faculty positions, scholarships and unrestricted support to be used by the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. They are in the process of completing a $1 million gift to create a clinical research nurse manager position in UB’s Clinical and Translational Research Center on the downtown medical campus.

In 1996 the couple created the Charles and Mary Bauer Foundation to foster a tradition of philanthropy among their immediate family. Each Father’s Day, family members meet to review suggested areas to support, and a vote decides which to pursue.

Bauer served as a member of the medical school’s Dean’s Advisory Council from 1998 to 2006, and in 2008 he and Mary funded an endowed position in the Department of Medicine, the Charles and Mary Bauer Professor and Chair in Medicine. Prior to that, the couple supported two medical students with nearly 50 percent tuition assistance over four years.

Bauer encourages his UB peers, emeritus faculty and all medical alumni to give back to UB during their lifetime, rather than through their estates. After all, he says, “Far better to give when you are alive so you can see the good it does. If not now, when?”

Tamara Brown, ME ’03
Distinguished Alumni Award

Tamara Brown’s work in the medical device design and regulatory industry has impacted lives around the world. Specifically she has contributed to the design of cardiac defibrillators and surgical devices that have improved health and quality of life, including autotransfusion systems, orthopedic devices, liver assist systems and fiber optic laser systems for the treatment of prostate disease. 

In 2002 she joined Praxair Inc., an international industrial gases company, to develop its R&D group; ultimately her work led to the attainment of the first FDA regulatory clearance for an archetypal medical device for Praxair Healthcare Services.

Her impact on the world goes beyond her scientific accomplishments. In 2004 Brown developed a program called Tech Savvy, which introduces STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math) to middle school-aged girls. She began the program in conjunction with the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and the Buffalo Branch of the American Association of University Women, which had published a report showing that an alarming number of young girls avoid STEM careers. Tech Savvy launched nationally with the support of the Praxair Foundation and is in 10 additional sites around the country, and its focus has been expanded to include 10th- to 12th-grade girls interested in STEM subjects.

In 2011 Brown was honored by the White House as one of 12 “Champions of Change” for her efforts.

Kuo-Chun Chang, PhD ’85 & MS ’80
International Distinguished Alumni Award

Kuo-Chun Chang is distinguished professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at National Taiwan University (NTU), as well as director general of National Center for Research on Earthquake Engineering (NCREE) in Taiwan.

His earthquake engineering research has focused on buildings and bridges, and includes seismic behavior and retrofit of conventional reinforced concrete structures, development of seismic isolation and energy dissipation systems and structural health monitoring systems and seismic behavior of precast segmental concrete bridge columns. He has also developed design codes and guidelines for buildings, bridges and highways in Taiwan.

He continues to study the impacts of earthquake and seismic behavior on structures, and many of his research results have been implemented in practical applications.

Prior to NTU Chang was a research assistant professor and associate professor at UB and its National Center for Earthquake Engineering Research. He has served as an advisor for more than 20 doctoral students and 100 master’s degree students, both in the U.S. and Taiwan, on their thesis projects.

Chang is a past department chair of civil engineering at NTU and past president of both the Chinese Structural Engineering Society and Chinese Taiwan Society for Earthquake Engineering, as well as a board member for many professional societies around the world.

He has been extensively published, owns multiple patents and has received a many awards related to his research.

John L. Crassidis, PhD ’93, MS ’91 & BS ’89
Dr. Richard T. Sarkin Award for Excellence in Teaching

John Crassidis joined the university in 2001 as the Calspan-UB Research Center professor in space situational awareness in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, as well as associate director of the Center for Multisource Information Fusion.

As a leading authority in the aerospace industry he has been published in nearly 200 peer-reviewed conference and journal publications, and is the author of a best-selling textbook that is in its second edition. Another textbook that he co-authored will be released later this year.

Crassidis’s students benefit not only from his subject matter expertise, but also his connection outside the classroom. He has been the advisor for 65 graduate students throughout his career and is an active mentor for several undergraduate programs at UB and SUNY. He also has worked with UB’s Honors College and has presented at K-12 schools throughout Buffalo to inspire young adults to pursue science and technology fields.

As vice chair of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Niagara Frontier section, Crassidis promotes the aerospace field to college students in Western New York; he also is the liaison for an education partnership agreement between UB and the Air Force Research Laboratory. He led the AIAA’s education subcommittee in developing numerous undergraduate and graduate awards and competitions. 

An Associate Fellow of AIAA, Crassidis has been honored with multiple awards for his research and mentoring.

Donna Fernandes, Friend
Community Leadership Award

Under the capable leadership of president and CEO Donna Fernandes, the Buffalo Zoo, the third-oldest institution of its kind, has experienced a renaissance and become one of the region’s top tourist attractions.

Since her arrival in Buffalo nearly 14 years ago, Fernandes has completed a new master plan, raised $48 million in capital funds and completed nine major projects, including Vanishing Animals, EcoStation, Otter Creek, Sea Lion Cove, a rainforest exhibit and a heritage children’s zoo that harkens back to the Erie Canal era.

Her most recent accomplishment is perhaps the most endearing – and hopefully enduring. A polar bear named Luna was born at the zoo in late 2012, and was soon joined by a second cub, Kali, adopted by the zoo six months later after the cub was orphaned in the wild. Together the two polar bears captured the heart and soul of Western New Yorkers, and their popularity helped Fernandes acquire the funds needed to construct a new Arctic Edge exhibit.

Fernandes is an animal advocate who sets aside old-fashioned thinking that zoos are for the amusement of visitors. Rather, she is creating exhibits that present animals and plants in their natural ecological habitats that represent the biomes of the world. This philosophy, in addition to her ability to build corporate and community support, has put a renewed energy into one of Buffalo’s treasures and has set the stage for a long and successful future.

Mark E. Hamister, Friend
Walter P. Cooke Award

Mark Hamister, chairman and CEO of The Hamister Group Inc., built his business in the health care sector with a number of assisted living facilities; he has since grown the management company to include numerous other areas, including hotels and tourism.

Hamister has long been an active member of numerous organizations throughout the Buffalo Niagara region, including UB. A member of the UB Foundation board of directors since 2007, Hamister assists the board of trustees in the stewardship of UB’s privately held assets in the service of strengthening the university’s teaching, research and public service mission and accomplishments. 

He is also a founding member of the President’s Circle, whose members have agreed to support UB with an annual gift of $50,000, and a past chairman of the university’s Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, which provides assistance and guidance for local entrepreneurs who wish to grow or re-focus their businesses. He and his wife, Sharon, also have co-chaired the last two UB Scholarship Galas, which raised money to help UB students in need.

His company has grown to employ 750 who support a portfolio of three assisted-living facilities and one home health-care agency in New York State, and 10 hotels in Tennessee, Kentucky and Pennsylvania. He has become a supporter of Western New York’s burgeoning regional tourism industry, with hotels under construction in Buffalo and Niagara Falls, with possibly a third in the near future.

Paul R. Hammer, BA ’78
Volunteer Recognition Award

A chance meeting with a former suitemate 30 years after graduating led Paul R. Hammer to his involvement with the UB Alumni Association. The suitemate, Mark Adler, also a past president of the UBAA, encouraged Hammer to get involved with the organization. Hammer took him up on it, and after volunteering at an alumni event with students, his spirit for the UB community and his passion to give back were renewed.

For nearly five years the life member of the association has been the volunteer chair of its Programs and Events Committee, providing input to alumni staff on a variety of events held in Western New York; he also acts as emcee for two lunchtime speakers’ series and is a member of the selection committee for the alumni awards program.

In addition, Hammer is a member of the UBAA Finance and Audit Committee, and in 2013 he was a member of the university’s Scholarship Gala Committee. Hammer enjoys meeting current students, and he regularly volunteers at Parent Orientation, Freshman Move-In Day, Homecoming and Career Conversations. He is also a member of the Athletics Blue & White Club and the Champions Club. Believing in the vision for UB Athletics, Hammer has pledged his support for the East Club Campaign at UB Stadium.

Janet Litster Rideout, PhD ’68
Distinguished Alumni Award

After earning her doctorate in organic chemistry, Janet Litster Rideout spent more than 30 years in the pharmaceutical industry. She holds more than 40 patents and most notably is a co-inventor of AZT, the first medication for the treatment of AIDS.

Prior to coming to UB, Rideout earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in chemistry from Mount Holyoke College, a school noted for producing female chemists.

Following research principles developed by two Nobel Prize-winning scientists at her company, Burroughs Wellcome, Rideout and her collaborators identified compounds that might interfere with the DNA of HIV, thus preventing the virus from reproducing in the body. Among the compounds was a drug called azidothymidine, or AZT, which was originally developed in the 1960s as a potential cancer drug, but had been abandoned because it was ineffective. Rideout and her fellow scientists found AZT to be effective for AIDS and in 1987 – only three years after scientists learned what caused AIDS – the drug was approved for use in humans by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

After 26 years at Burroughs Wellcome, Rideout left to join Inspire Pharmaceuticals in 1995, where she continued to research treatments for a variety of diseases. She retired in 2001, most recently serving as the company’s senior vice president of discovery.

She has received numerous awards, including the UB College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Award in 2012.

Steven H. Shepsman, BS ’75
Dr. Philip B. Wels Award

Steven Shepsman has been involved with, and has actively supported, UB for many years. He was a member of the School of Management’s Dean’s Advisory Council for 17 years and served as its chair from 2009-11.

An investor in closely held real estate and finance companies, Shepsman also provides advisory services through New World Realty Advisors, which he founded. He is a certified public accountant and a former managing partner in the real estate practices of Ernst & Young and Kenneth Leventhal & Company. In addition, he co-managed a real estate fund with his long-term business partner.

His work with the School of Management has also involved advising deans, and he has played pivotal roles in encouraging philanthropy among his peers and as a member of the school’s strategic planning committee. Shepsman also served as campaign chair of the school’s Generation to Generation campaign, which raised more than $290 million for the university.

Shepsman is a recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, which is presented annually to U.S. citizens from various ethnic backgrounds who exemplify outstanding qualities in both their personal and professional lives, while continuing to preserve the richness of their heritage. A member of the UB Alumni Association, he also received the highest honor from the School of Management in 1999, the Niagara Frontier Business of the Year Award.

Jeffrey W. Umland, BS ’85 & PhD ’91
Clifford C. Furnas Award

Jeffrey Umland is a Fellow at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), a NASA field center operated by the California Institute of Technology.

Since 2005 Umland has been chief mechanical engineer (CME) for NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL) mission and the rover Curiosity, which successfully landed on Mars on Aug. 6, 2012. The success of both the lab and the rover are due in large part to Umland’s leadership and technical contributions. 

Umland was instrumental when the MSL was created, leading the development of entry, descent and landing systems as well as flight hardware for missions such as the Mars Pathfinder and the Mars Exploration rover. He oversaw Curiosity’s mechanical engineering technical development, including its mechanical hardware, rover surface system, sampling systems, thermal systems and propulsion systems. Umland’s extensive experience on numerous Mars missions enabled him to design and develop a better and more accurate landing system for Curiosity. He and his team are responsible for Curiosity’s successful landing on Mars, a mission that has been extended indefinitely. As well, Curiosity’s design will serve as the basis for a planned Mars mission in 2020.

Among his numerous other contributions is the “flycast” maneuver for Space Shuttles. This critical technique reduces strain on, and provides stability to, the 200-foot-long mast that extends from a shuttle’s cargo bay when the shuttle needs to make adjustments to its orbit.

Lesley Weitz, BS ’02
Thorn Award

Lesley Weitz is a lead simulation and modeling engineer in for the MITRE Corporation’s Center for Advanced Aviation System Development, a federally funded research and development center that supports the mission of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Her current research is in the area of advanced avionics for next generation air traffic systems, from concept development and design to analysis of avionics that leverage advances in communication, navigation and surveillance technologies. 

In particular, Weitz is a technical lead in the development of an international avionics standard to create more precise spacing, or intervals, between aircraft that will increase efficiency of air traffic operations in the U.S. and Europe. Her contributions to this effort include the development of spacing algorithms, string stability analysis of interval management operations (IMO) and the modeling and simulation of IMO to assess algorithm performance within a realistic environment of varying wind conditions and aircraft types.

She has also supported a variety of other efforts related to the design of Air Traffic Control ground automation systems, including radar-based tracking systems and aircraft trajectory modeling functions.

A member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Weitz has written many peer-reviewed conference and journal papers, and holds a patent related to IMO. She has also served as a member of the UB’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Advisory Board since 2012.

Jeffrey Wigand, PhD ’73, MA ’72 & BA ’69
Alumni Award

Jeffrey Wigand is the former Brown & Williamson employee who gained national fame in the 1990s as a tobacco industry whistleblower who revealed that tobacco companies had conducted extensive campaigns to conceal the knowledge that cigarette smoking was highly addictive and caused lung cancer.

For the first 15 years of his career, Wigand conducted R&D for health care companies such as Boehringer Mannheim, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson. In 1988 he surprisingly left the health care industry for big tobacco. While attracted to the prestige of Brown & Williamson, Wigand also believed he would help the company reduce the health risks of smoking. His initial optimism soon faded as he was faced with what he saw as the unethical practices of B&W executives; that is, the gap between what they knew and admitted privately about the dangers of smoking versus what they stated publicly. He was also confronted with the company’s extensive disinformation campaign to conceal from the public the dangers of smoking.

In 1993 Wigand was fired from B&W, and in 1994 he broke a confidentiality agreement by consulting on a story for CBS’s news magazine show, 60 Minutes; over the next two years he became the most notable whistle blower in American history. Ultimately, his expert witness testimony helped bring about the settlement in which tobacco companies agreed to pay billions of dollars to states to offset medical costs incurred treating smoking-related illnesses.

Wigand’s story was told in the 1999 movie, The Insider. Today he works to educate children about the dangers of smoking through his nonprofit foundation called Smoke-free Kids.

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