Buffalo Renaissance Foundation

History

Summer, 1981 – Jake Schneider contacts Bill Koessler with an idea for a young businessmen’s group to assist in the revitalization of Buffalo and Western New York. Four additional charter members are recruited: Moe Naylon, Peter Hunt, Leon Smith and Brian Maher. The Buffalo Renaissance Foundation is born.

  • The Foundation is temporarily placed under the legal umbrella of the National Heritage Foundation
  • First fundraiser held on the U.S.S. Little Rock, approximately 500 attend

 

Fall, 1981 – Second group of six members is introduced: Rob Miller, Horace Gioia, Jim Eaton, Randy Murphy, Dan Roblin and Gary Brost

 

1982 – Inaugural Fall Golf Classic held at Crag Burn Golf Club

 

1983 – Private Foundation status established

 

1984 – First of two spring parties held at Hyatt Regency to benefit the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra

 

1986 – St. Valentine’s Day party held at the Tralfamadore Cafe, featuring Ahmad Jamal

 

1987 – Third group of directors is introduced: Bill Collins, Peter Demakos, Tom Benzee, Ted Pierce, Mike DeRose, Tim Ortolani and Gary Stott

 

1989 – Fourth group of directors is introduced: Seymour Knox IV, Brian Lipke, Glen Kauffman, Chip Jones, Ed Gibbons and Bill Thuman

  • Foundation establishes a Sustainers category for past directors

 

1991 – First Spring Luncheon held at the Statler Tower Golden Ballroom featuring Don Criqui of NBC Sports and honoring Robert E. Rich Sr. as Renaissance Man of the Year. Proceeds to establish a scholarship for UB Division I Athletics

  • Golf Classic moves to Cherry Hill Club

 

1992 – 10th Anniversary celebration held at Country Club of Buffalo

  • Second Spring Luncheon benefits World University Games and features Lesley Visser of CBS Sports
  • Burt Flickinger is honored as Renaissance Man
  • 10th Fall Golf Classic moves to Wanakah Country Club

 

1993 – Fifth group of directors is elected: Mark Bonner, Gary Hess and Brad Randaccio

  • First publication of the Director’s Update newsletter is published
  • Third Spring Luncheon benefits YMCA
  • Los Angeles Kings owner Bruce McNall is guest speaker; Seymour H. Knox III is honored as Renaissance Man
  • By-Laws are formally adopted

 

1994 – Sixth group of directors is elected: Ed Duch, Neal Fatin, Chris Koch, Peter Marlette, Chris Ross, Ned Smith, Henry Urban and Ted Walsh

  • 12th Fall Golf Classic is most successful ever

 

1995 – 13th Annual Golf Classic held at Wanakah Country Club 1996 – 14th Annual Golf Classic returns to Cherry Hill Club 1997 – Seventh group of directors is elected: Joe Kreuz, Jeff Vukelic, Chris Jacobs and John Somers

  • 15th Annual Golf Classic held at Cherry Hill Club

 

1998 – 16th Annual Golf Classic held at Cherry Hill Club

  • Public Speaker Forum held with city officials and area business leaders for discussion of Buffalo Charter Revision and consolidation of regional services
  • Funded “No Handout – No Bailout” study exploring ways to cut cost of services in our region

 

1999 – Eighth group of directors is elected: Tom Comer, Alan Hastings, Anthony Jordan, Tom O’Brien, Art Russ, Buford Sears and Mike Walsh

  • 17th Annual Golf Classic held at Cherry Hill Club
  • Public forum held at Buffalo State College on Charter Revision process for City of Buffalo

 

2000 – Spring Luncheon is held at Statler Golden Ballroom honoring co-Renaissance Men Joel Giambra and Anthony Masiello. Over 500 people attend this very successful event emphasizing the spirit of cooperation and regionalism in Western New York

  • A Winter Speaker Forum is held with over 100 business leaders in attendance. The Downtown Buffalo 2002 Strategic Plan is presented by Robert Shibley of University at Buffalo’s Architecture and Planning Department. Ideas are shared among Shibley and the business community involving major areas of downtown development and planning
  • 18th Annual Golf Classic is held at Cherry Hill Club

 

2001 – Fall Luncheon is held at the Buffalo Convention Center honoring Paul J. Koessler as 2001 Renaissance Man. Guest speaker Honorable Joseph P. Riley, Mayor of Charleston, South Carolina, shares his vision and insights on the rebuilding of his city and how we can apply those concepts to Buffalo’s revitalization

  • 19th Annual Golf Tournament at Cherry Hill Club

 

2002 – 20th Annual Golf Tournament at Wanakah Country Club

 

2003 – Ninth group of new class members is elected: James Dentinger, James Doyle II and Thomas Vanner

  • 21st Annual Golf Tournament at Wanakah Country Club
  • Luncheon held at Buffalo Convention Center featuring speaker Dennis F. Strigl, CEO from Verizon Wireless, and honoring Father Cooke

 

2004 – 10th group of new class members is elected: David Pfalzgraf, Jr., Eugene Kershner and Scott Hoffman

  • 22nd Annual Golf Tournament at Wanakah Country Club
  • Speaker Forum at Buffalo Club featuring William Greiner, past president of UB, on Committee for Regionalism

 

2005 – 11th group of new class members is elected: John Polvino, Michael Montante, Matthew Enstice and Michael P. Modrzynski

  • 23rd Annual Golf Tournament held at Cherry Hill Club . Luncheon held at Statler Towers, featuring Charles Jordan, Chairman of The Conservation Fund, honoring Victor and Corinne Rice, and benefiting the Olmsted Parks Conservancy

 

2006 – 12th group of new class members is elected: Bill Cleary, James Iglewski, James Jerge and Thomas Quealy

  • 25th Anniversary with celebration held at Statler Golden Ballroom on October 28
  • Luncheon held at Statler Golden Ballroom, honoring Robert Kresse, with keynote speaker Eric Lloyd Wright. The primary beneficiary is the Buffalo Niagara Cultural Tourism Initiative
  • 24th Annual Golf Classic held at Wanakah Country Club
  • Speaker Forum featuring Carl Montante, Jr., of Uniland Development on Waterfront Development

 

2007 – 13th group of new class members is elected: Timothy Geiger, James Segarra and Walter Zurowski

  • Spring Luncheon is held at Statler Golden Ballroom with record attendance and fundraising. Dan Gunderson from the NYS Economic Development Corporation delivers the keynote speech. Thomas Beecher honored as Renaissance Man of the Year
  • Proceeds for Luncheon used for commencement of Renaissance Fellowship Grant to the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus
  • 25th Annual Golf Tournament, held at Wanakah Country Club. Proceeds from tournament donated to the BISON Fund used to fund 15 scholarships for local youth
  • Speaker Forum featuring James Williams, Buffalo Schools Superintendent, at Hutch-Tech

 

2008 – 14th group of new class members is elected: Benjamin Obletz and Tod Martin

  • Spring Luncheon is held at Golden Statler Ballroom. Christopher C. Collins, Erie County Executive, delivered the keynote speech. Christopher Koch becomes the first former BRF director to be honored as Renaissance Man of the Year.
  • Renaissance Scholars Program benefiting City of Buffalo students announced at luncheon. Seed money provided by Brighter Futures Fund and proceeds from BRF luncheon.
  • 26th Annual Golf Tournament, held at Wanakah Country Club. Proceeds from tournament donated to the BISON Fund used to fund 14 scholarships for local youth.
  • First annual Veteran’s Luncheon held November 11, 2008. Speaker Forum featuring Patrick William Welch, PH.D, Director, Eric County Veterans’ Services.
  • Speaker Forum head at Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, featuring John B. Simpson, President of the University of Buffalo, UB’s 20/20 Plan.

 

2009 – 15th group of new class members is elected. Anthony Amigone, Andrew Fors, Richard Gilbert, Gerry Matos, Bill Rupp and Paul Vukelic.

  • Spring Luncheon is held at Golden Statler Ballroom honoring Carl J. Montante and Howard A. Zemsky as Renaissance Men of the Year.
  • Renaissance Apprentice Program announced at luncheon to be run in conjunction with the Buffalo Urban League.
  • 27th Annual Golf Tournament, held at Wanakah Country Club. Proceeds from tournament donated to the BISON Fund used to fund 14 scholarship for local youth.
  • Second Annual Veteran’s Luncheon held at The Buffalo Club on November 11, 2009. Speaker Forum featuring Colonel Mark Murphy, 914th Airlift Wing, Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station..
  • Speaker Forum featuring Jordan Levy and Larry Quinn, Harbor Redevelopment Project held at The Buffalo Club.
  • BRF is honored during the 2009 UB footbal home opener via induction into the UB Athletics Legacy Endowment Program.

 

2010 – 16th group of new class members is elected. Donald Brown, Jr., John Cleary, William Gurney and Hugh Russ.

  • Spring luncheon moves to the Hyatt Regency. Congressman Brian Higgins delivers keynote speech. Jordan Levy discusses the Canal Side Project. Eugene P. Vukelic is the 2010 Renaissance Man of the Year.
  • Renaissance Apprentice Program grows in 2010 as 10 summer interns find employment at BRF directed companies in conjunction with the Buffalo Urban League.
  • 28th Annual Golf Tournament held at Wanakah Country Club. Proceeds will again benefit the BISON Fund.
  • Third Annual Veteran’s Luncheon held at The Buffalo Club on November 11, 2010. Speaker Forum featuring Commander Anthony Deaville, United Sates Navy Commanding Officer, NOSC Naval Operations Service Center, Buffalo, New York.
  • Speaker Forum featuring Dottie Gallagher-Cohen, Buffalo Niagara Convention & Visitors Bureau held at The Buffalo Club.

 

2011 – Spring Luncheon held at the Hyatt Regency as M&T Bank’s Robert G. Wilmers is presented the Renaissance Man of the Year Award. Keynote speaker is Dottie Gallagher-Cohen of Visit Buffalo who unveiled a new video financial backed by the BRF. Proceeds from the luncheon underwrite a five part video series called Buffalo – For Real.

  • Renaissance Apprentice program continues to flourish in partnership with the Buffalo Urban League. BRF directors sponsor 10 summer internships for inner city youth.
  • 29th annual Golf Tournament is held at Wanakah Country Club.
  • The inaugural Downtown Buffalo Sculptural Art Initiative piece is unveiled on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus at the corner of High and Ellicott Streets called the Spirit of Life Tree. The piece designed by local artist, Valeria Cray-Dihaan, is the first of many permanent art structures the Foundation is planning to spread around Buffalo over the next few years.
  • Fourth Annual Veterans Day Luncheon held at The Buffalo Club, and the first BRF Veterans Scholarship is awarded to Frank Grillo, a student at Daemen College. On September 11, 2001, Frank decided to join the Army after spending an agonizing two days without being able to contact his family who lived and worked in New York. In May of 2003 Frank was deployed to Baghdad as a 91 Whiskey, Combat Medic with 1st Armored Division. Always on the front line Frank did three tours in places such as Sadr City, Ramadi, Talifar, and Kirkuk. He is currently a Mentor at the Veterans Treatment Court and studying Social Work at Daemen College.
  • The annual Grant Presentation and Speaker Forum is held in November featuring keynote speaker Patrick J. Whelan, Chief Operating Officer of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. Ten organizations receive grant appropriations for the 2011 year.

 

2012 – The 17th class of new directors is elected: Frank L. Ciminelli II, John Gavigan, Thomas Quatroche and Arthur Wingerter.

  • The Spring Luncheon is held at the newly-reopened Statler City Ballroom and over 500 attendees listened to keynote speaker John Koelmel, CEO and President of First Niagara Financial Group discuss the current business environment in Western New York. The luncheon beneficiary is First Niagara’s Mentoring Matters Program.
  • The 30th annual Golf Classic is held for the first time on a Thursday afternoon at beautiful Niagara Falls Country Club in Lewiston, New York. Over 120 golfers help raise in excess of $60K for the Renaissance Foundation.
  • The annual Grant Presentation and Speaker’s Forum is held in early November, featuring keynote speakers Ted Black of the Buffalo Sabres. Seven organizations receive grant appropriations for the 2012 year.
  • Three scholarships are awarded to the BISON Fund for students at the Catholic Academy at West Buffalo named in honor of Louis and Betty Somers, parents of director John Somers.
  • The Fifth Annual Veterans Luncheon is held at The Buffalo Club and the keynote speaker is Dutch Van Kirk, the last surviving member of the Enola Gay. This year’s scholarship recipient was Ms. Morgan Woodson, a student at Medaille College, who is a retired Air Force veteran. Ms. Woodson is currently the secretary of the Medaille College Student Veterans of America Chapter and VA work-study program participant. She is also a member of the Erie County Veterans Day Parade committee.

 

2013 – The 18th class of new directors is elected: Bruce Popko and Daniel Zimmer.

  • The Spring Luncheon is held at Statler City Ballroom and over 450 attendees listened to keynote speaker Doug Marrone, new head coach of the Buffalo Bills discuss the current state of affairs at One Bills Drive. The 2013 Renaissance Man of the Year Award was presented to attorney James M. Wadsworth of Hodgson Russ LLP. The luncheon beneficiaries were the BRF Downtown Buffalo Art Initiative and Clear Path to Veterans.
  • The 31st annual Golf Classic is held on a Thursday afternoon at beautiful Niagara Falls Country Club in Lewiston, New York. Over 120 golfers helped raise in excess of $60K for the Renaissance Foundation.
  • Two Renaissance scholarships are awarded to Leadership Buffalo for the Youth Leadership Program of Erie County (YLEC).
  • The Sixth Annual Veterans Luncheon is held at The Buffalo Club and the keynote speaker is Captain James S. Bartkoski U.S. Navy Commanding Officer of the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps in Rochester. Capt. Bartkoski is also a Professor of Naval Science at the University of Rochester. The 2013 scholarship recipient was Mr. Ian Drullard, a student at D’Youville College, a Navy SEAL who participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom has transitioned back into the civilian world and plans to remain in the Buffalo area to raise his family. He is in the Physician Assistant (PA) program at D’Youville and hopes to work in an emergency or surgical hospital settings as a PA.
  • The annual Grant Presentation and Speaker’s Forum is held in early November at the Burchfield-Penney Art Center, featuring keynote speaker Monica Pellegrino-Faix of the H.H. Richardson Corporation. Eight organizations receive grant appropriations for the 2013 year.

 

2014 – The 19th class of new directors is elected: Robert Clerici, David Kimelberg and Nicholas B. Tzetzo.

  • The Spring Luncheon is held at Kleinhans for the first time and over 450 attendees listened to keynote speaker Jody Lomeo, CEO of Kaleida Health discuss the current state of affairs of healthcare in Western New York. The 2014 Renaissance Man of the Year Award was presented to Dr. Nelson (“Nick”) Hopkins III of UB Neurosurgery. The luncheon beneficiaries were ECMC Lifeline Foundation, the Women’s and Children’s Hospital Foundation and The Jacobs Institute.
  • The 32nd annual Golf Classic is held on a Thursday afternoon at beautiful Niagara Falls Country Club in Lewiston, New York. Over 120 golfers helped raise in excess of $60K for the Renaissance Foundation.
  • In August, the second sculpture of the Foundation’s Sculptural Art Initiative Spirit Series, entitled The Spirit of Transportation, is dedicated outside 149 Swan St. near The Buffalo Transportation Pierce-Arrow Museum. Designed by Buffalo artist Sarah Fonzi, the sculpture is made of stainless steel and stands 16 feet above grade. The artwork recognizes the role bicycle manufacturers played in the onset of the American automobile industry.
  • The Seventh Annual Veterans Luncheon is held at The Buffalo Club and the keynote speaker is Lieutenant Commander Patrick Griffin. The 2014 scholarship recipient is Mr. Ian Millermohn, a student at D’Youville College.
  • In December, the BRF visited St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy to perform community service work. The directors and their children cleaned, decorated, and put together treat bags for less fortunate children during the morning at the Mission.
  • The BRF Directors pledged $50,000 to the Women’s and Children’s Hospital Foundation of Buffalo for the new John R. Oishei Chidlren’s Hospital, the single largest gift in Foundation history.

 

2015 – The 20th class of new directors is elected: Donald Boswell, Ron Raccuia and David Schutte.

  • The Spring Luncheon is held at Kleinhans and over 500 attendees were on hand to see Kim and Terry Pegula accept the 2015 Renaissance Couple of the Year Award.  Former Bill Steve Tasker moderated the keynote panel that included the Pegulas as well as Bills Head Coach Rex Ryan.  Proceeds from the luncheon will go the support the BRF Forward Thinking Project.
  • The 33rd annual Golf Classic returns to its roots on a Wednesday afternoon in August at the Crag Burn Club in East Aurora, New York. Over 120 golfers helped raise in excess of $60K for the Renaissance Foundation.
  • In October, the third sculpture of the Foundation’s Sculptural Art Initiative Spirit Series, entitled “The Spirit of Leadership,” is dedicated outside the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural Site. Designed by Toby Mendez, the 7’6” statue of Theodore Roosevelt is a fitting tribute to the legacy of the 26th. President and a crowning touch to the great work that has taken place at one of Western New York’s best museums
  • The Eighth Annual Veterans Luncheon is held at The Buffalo Club in front of a record audience and the keynote speaker is Commander Paul R. Burkhart of LCS Crew 109 Warhawgs. The 2015 scholarship recipient is Mr. Michael Hearon, a student at D’Youville College.
  • In December, the BRF visited St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy to perform community service work. The directors and their children cleaned, decorated, and put together treat bags for less fortunate children during the morning at the Mission.

 

2016 – The Foundation announces donating $50,000 seed money to kick start the USS Little Rock Commissioning Committee for the event to be held in Buffalo in the Fall of 2017.

  • The Spring Luncheon is held at Kleinhans and over 450 attendees were on hand to see Jeremy M. Jacobs, Sr. accept the 2016 Renaissance Man of the Year Award. Director Matt Enstice moderated the keynote panel that included the Chris Koch, Robert Gioia and Mr. Jacobs discussing philanthropy in the 21st century. Proceeds from the luncheon will go the support the BRF Signature Project.
  • In July, a group of BRF directors through our Outreach Program spent an afternoon at The Miracle League on Grand Island. The organization in Western New York provides children with mental and physical challenges an opportunity to play baseball on a specially designed field. The turf can accommodate wheelchairs, crutches and walkers.
  • The 34th annual Golf Classic was held on a Thursday afternoon in August at the Crag Burn Club in East Aurora, New York. Over 120 golfers helped raise funds for the Renaissance Foundation.
  • The Ninth Annual Veterans Luncheon is held at The Buffalo Club in front of a record audience and the keynote speaker is Brian G. Stiller, Medical Center Director of the VA Western New York Healthcare System. The 2016 scholarship recipients were Anthony Samuel Newkirk and Nicholas F. Pilozzi.