Published May 11, 2017
James Smist was 5 years old when his father, Felix Smist, graduated in mechanical engineering from the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Felix earned a bachelor of science degree after taking classes at night and on weekends at UB for 16 years, all while working full time to provide for his wife and children.
James Smist remembers how proud he and his siblings were of their father.
“His example made me realize that education is a precious thing,” said Smist, who earned his own BS summa cum laude in chemical engineering from UB in 1980. Smist now is president and co-founder of Dean & Company, a management consulting firm.
In 2005, Smist and his wife, Mary Smist, established the Felix Smist Scholarship, named for his father, which pays up to six years of tuition for a part-time student in the UB engineering school. Thus far, 15 students have been supported by the award.
Smist is this year’s recipient of the UB Alumni Association’s (UBAA) highest honor, the Samuel P. Capen Award, to be presented tonight during the annual awards ceremony.
President Satish K. Tripathi and Mary Garlick Roll (MS ’88, BS ’84), president of the alumni association’s board of directors, will present 12 awards to alumni and friends in the UB community at the event.
This year’s other UBAA awardees include:
Philip B. Wels Outstanding Service Award
Wayne Anderson, dean emeritus of the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, has spent nearly 50 years at UB teaching, leading efforts to make UB the first school in New York State to offer a doctoral degree in pharmacy and raising funds to build Kapoor Hall, returning the school to its original South Campus location.
Richard T. Sarkin Award for Excellence in Teaching
Robert Genco (DDS ’63) is a SUNY Distinguished Professor who served as chair of the Department of Oral Biology for 25 years, became vice provost of the UB Office of Science, Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach (STOR) and now directs the UB Microbiome Center.
Clifford C. Furnas Memorial Award
Hratch Kouyoumdjian (MS ’70) was born in Baghdad, earned a civil engineering bachelor’s degree there, then left the country secretly, without travel papers and money, and arrived in Buffalo where George Lee, SUNY Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering, mentored him as he earned a master’s degree. Kouyoumdjian, who founded and led KPA Group, an engineering and architectural consulting practice, serves on the UB engineering dean’s advisory council.
George W. Thorn Award
Joel Lunenfeld (BA ’99) began as an engineering major at UB, but switched to anthropology because he didn’t know anything about computers. He’s now vice president of global brand and creative strategy at Twitter, working to ignite conversations between the world’s most iconic brands and Twitter’s 300 million users.
Community Leadership Award
Juanita Hunter (EdD ’83, MS ’74, BS ’71) earned three UB degrees and taught community health for two decades at the School of Nursing before “retiring,” only to continue her deep involvement in local, state and national nursing organizations. Most recently, Hunter volunteered alongside UB nursing students during the Million Hearts Campaign to prevent heart attacks and strokes.
Distinguished Alumni Awards
Edward Dong (MBA ’91), a graduate of the UB China Dalian executive MBA program, became founding chair of the U.S.-China committee of the International Leadership Foundation based in Washington, D.C., following a successful business career with the China division of NDC Systems. He serves on the management dean’s advisory council.
Michael Garz (BA ’72) is design manager and project architect for the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, built on the former Twin Towers site. The complex joins 11 subway lines, commuter PATH trains serving New Jersey and Long Island, a web of pedestrian passages, a shopping mall and an expansive public plaza. Garz also oversees engineering and architectural design for STV Inc. in New York, Baltimore and New England.
Ram Kumar Krishnamurthy (MS ’95) is senior principal engineer at Intel, where he heads the high-performance and low-voltage circuits research group. He holds 95 issued patents and has more than 50 patents pending. Krishnamurthy also has published 135 professional papers and three book chapters on high-performance, energy-efficient microprocessor design.
Dean Seneca (BA ’90) is a senior health scientist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. His newest role, as president of the CDC’s American Indian/Alaska Native/Native Hawaiian Coalition, draws on his heritage as a Seneca Indian and his education at UB in environmental design.
International Distinguished Alumni Award
Holger Schunemann (PhD ’00, MS ’97) is chair of Health Research Methods, Evidence and Impact at McMaster University — the birthplace of evidence-based medicine and problem-based learning — in Hamilton, Ontario. He also is a research professor in the UB Department of Epidemiology and Environmental Health. He received an MD degree in 1993 from the Medical School of Hannover, Germany.
Walter P. Cooke Award
L. Nelson Hopkins is a physician scientist and medical pioneer who redefined the field of vascular neurosurgery in the management of stroke and stenting of vascular lesions. A SUNY Distinguished Professor of Neurosurgery, Hopkins graduated from Albany Medical College in 1969, then returned to Western New York to practice and teach at UB. Hopkins is a founder of the Global Vascular Institute at Kaleida Health, the Jacobs Institute and the Toshiba Stroke and Vascular Research Center.