Champions of Character Banquet

2015 Banquet

Wednesday April 15, 2015 at the Franklin Plaza in Troy, NY

The Academy for Character Education honors outstanding positive leadership in our schools and communities at our annual Champions of Character Awards Banquet. This event attended by approximately 250-300 individuals honors students, educators, schools, and business and civic leaders and organization throughout the Capital Region and Northeastern United States who have gone above and beyond in the character education initiative by providing leadership and dedication to the vision and mission of fostering positive character development in our school and communities.


The Academy wants to honor outstanding individuals and groups who make a difference in the quality of life of our kids and communities. This includes educators (teachers, school administrators, university staff leaders and organizations), students, student organizations, parents business and civic leaders as well as outstanding business and civic organizations from all part of New York State. We invite you to recognize a "Champion of Character" you know by placing a nomination to show us how they make a difference in our quality of life. The deadline for these nominations is Friday, December 12, 2014.

CLICK HERE to obtain the Educator, Student, and Parent Leadership nomination form. CLICK HERE to obtain the Civic & Business Leadership nomination form.

Honorary Committee & Supporters:

You are urged to help in honoring these "Champions of Character" by joining the Honorary Committee, placing an ad in the banquet program, donating a raffle basket and/or becoming a supporter of The Academy. This can be done by contacting The Academy for Character Education at The Sage Colleges via phone or e-mail. Reservation forms will be available soon in order to purchase a ticket to this celebration.

2014 Banquet

2014 Champions of Character Banquet Keynote:

CLICK HERE to access "Why Character Education Matters," presented by Rhonda Taylor, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction, Uniondale School District

Award Winners

Lifetime Achievement: Mel Horowitz, Catskill CSD (retired), Academy for Character Education volunteer

Volunteer of the Year: Maureen Flanigan, Averill Park CSD

Teacher Leaders:

  • Dianne Mosher – Berlin High School, Berlin CSD
  • Dr. Britton Schnurr – School Psychologist, Guilderland CSD
  • Janice Toomajian – Tamarac Elementary Librarian, Brittonkill CSD
  • Kelly Bullis – Band Teacher, Drama Director, SCAT-PAC Advisor, Roscoe CSD
  • Sarah Lovell – Hoosic Valley Elementary School, Hoosic Valley CSD

Athletic & Civic: Bob Ford, University at Albany Football Coach (retired)

School Administrator: Ken Facin – Superintendent, Hoosick Falls CSD

University Leader: Dr. Katharine Briar Lawson, Dean, School of Social Welfare, University at Albany

Educational Advocates:

  • Jesse A. Saperstein, author, motivational speaker, Anti-Bullying and autism advocate
  • Josephine Bila, beta thalassemia major advocate and FDA expert patient consultant

Character Education Literature: Michael Buchanan & Diane Lang, authors of The Fat Boy Chronicles

Student Organization: FCCLA (Family, Career and Community Leaders of America),    Karen Thomas, NYS Coordinator

Community Volunteer: Richard Muggeo, Catskill CSD (Retired)

Parent Leader: Thearse McCalmon, Schenectady City SD

Student Leaders:

  • Sabrina Cravin – Carroll Hill Elementary School, Troy CSD
  • Mikayla Kipp – Roscoe CSD
  • Sarah Cheney – Shaker HS, North Colonie CSD

Community Leadership in Education: Emma Willard School, A 200 Year Legacy of Educational Leadership

Civic Organization: Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, Mark Quandt, Executive Director

Civic Leader: William Corbett, President of Capital Region Sponsor-A-Scholar Inc.

Business Organization: Stewart's Shops, Gary Dake, President 

Business Leader: Victory Lynn Riedy, Ed.M, entrepreneur, Founder, Victory Child Care Inc.

New York State Schools of Character

  • West Sand Lake Elementary, Averill Park CSD                      
  • Harrison Avenue School, South Glens Falls CSD
  • Canandaigua Middle School, Canandaigua CSD                         
  • Central Square School District                                                
  • Smith Street School, Uniondale UFSD                                      
  • Grand Avenue School, Uniondale UFSD

Honorable Mention:

  • Lawrence Middle School, Lawrence UFSD                               
  • Number 4 School, Lawrence UFSD                                         
  • Mildred E. Strang Middle School, Yorktown Heights CSD       
  • Lawrence Road Middle School, Uniondale UFSD  
  • Byron-Bergen School District                                                     


  • Valley Stream J.H.S., Valley Stream CHSD                               
  • Jonas E. Salk Middle School, Levittown CSD                   
  • Voorheesville Elementary School, Voorheesville CSD

Sage Colleges Champions of Character:

Administration: Jill Grebert, Director of Recreation & Fitness, Coordinator of Allies Program 

Faculty: Dr. Laurae (Herbi) Coburn, Professor of Professional School Counseling Masters Degree Program     

Staff: Joanne (Jody) Diedrich, Coordinator of Conferences & Events                                                                                                                      

Students: Russell Sage College  - Grace Koehler                          

                Sage College of Albany - Megan Lugo



2014 Honorary Committee Members:

Dr. Ellen Adams, The Sage Colleges      

Michael J. Castellana, President, SEFCU

Randolph J. Collins, CSArchitecture

Fredrick Erlich, CEO of Living Resources

Patricia A. Fahy, Assembly Member 

George Goodwin, Chair of The Academy Advisory Board

Randy Hall, Commissioner of Social Services, Rensselaer County

Honorable Kathleen Jimino, Rensselaer County Executive

E. Stewart Jones Jr., Attorney

Dr. Lynn Macan, Superintendent, Cobleskill-Richmondville CSD

Honorable Paula Mahan, Supervisor, Town of Colonie 

Marra's Pharmacy, Cohoes, NY

Honorable John T. McDonald III, Assemblymember, 108th District

James G. McGlynn, Vice President, Pioneer Bank

Dr. Hanns Meissner, CEO, The ARC of Rensselaer County

Dr. and Mrs. Robert Monk

John F. Murray, President, Chair, & CEO, Rose & Kiernan Insurance

Katherine Pelham, KPelham Associates 

Honorable George E. Primeau, Sr., Mayor of Cohoes, NY

Dr. Lori V. Quigley, Dean of The Esteves School of Education at The Sage Colleges

Dr. John Wands Sacca, The Esteves School of Education at The Sage Colleges

Ralph Singh, Chair of Wisdom Thinkers Network

Dorothy Stevens

Keith Stewart, State Farm Insurance

Honorable Paul Tonko, Congressman

Honorable George E. Primeau, Mayor of Cohoes

Dr. John D. Walko, Director of The Academy for Character Education

Dr. Marie Wiles, Superintendent of Guilderland CSD

Click here to join the Honorary Committee or to make a contribution




Esteves School of Education, Dr. Lori V. Quigley, Dean

Educational Vistas, Inc., Scott Crowder, CEO

Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung Center; For the Promotion of Mental Health and School Safety

Stewart's Shops

University at Albany

State Farm Insurance, Keith Stewart and Peter J. Sleasman, Agents

CSArch; Architecture, Engineering, Construction Management


Living Resources, Fred Erlich, CEO

Josef Markowski

Patricia A. Fahy, Assemblymember

Capital District YMCA

Skidmore College

Hudson Shores Rotary Club


Roscoe Teachers' Association

Lifetime Benefactor, Mary Karpiak Foster '42



2013 Award Winners 

Academy Volunteer Award: Joan Monk; Academy Leadership Board Co-Secretary

Business Leader Award: Barry Richman, Pearl Grant Richmans; Stuyvesant Plaza, Albany, NY

Business Organization Leadership Award:Prime Companies; Cohoes, NY

Civic Leader Award: Jean Brooks, Rensselaer County Department for Youth

Friend of the Academy Award: Richie Phillips, Townsquare Media

Student Leadership Award: Brandon Payne; Paul V. Moore High School, Central Square SD

Student Group Leadership Award:West Sand Lake (Averill Park Central School District)

Student Character Education Team:

  •   President: Marie Patanian
  •   Vice President: Robert Nero
  •   Secretary: Melanie Zusy
  •   Treasurer: Isabella Guyer
  •   Sergeant at Arms: Allison Lapinski

Community Organization Award: Roger Lane, Catskill CSD Teacher/Educator Leadership Award:

  • James Chaney; Eagle Point Elementary School, Albany CSD
  • Thomas Coons, Maple Avenue Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports; Saratoga Springs CSD

Teaching Team Leadership Award

  •  5th Grade Teaching Team at Tamarac Elementary; Brittonkill Central School District
  • Character Education Committee at Farnsworth Middle School; Guilderland Central School District

Educator Leadership Award

  • Isaiah Vail, School 18 Team; Troy City School District
  • Darlene Sampson; Lansingburgh High School

Athletic Leadership Award: Dr. Christopher Parks; McQuaid Jesuit, Catholic College Preparatory School; Greater Rochester Area

School Administrator Leadership Award

  • Mark Perry, Principal at Harmony Hill School; Cohoes City School District
  • Christine Arlt, Bardonia Elementary School; Clarkstown Central School District

The Sage Colleges Champions of Character Awards

  • Administrator: Mary Grace Luibrand
  • Faculty: Tom Sweeney 
  • Staff Member: Chynna Marcucci
  • Russel Sage Student: Kendra Anderson
  • Sage College of Albany: Ebony Dallas 

New York State Schools of Character: Cleveland Elementary; Central Square School District

Honorable Mention New York State Schools of Character:

  • Harrison Avenue Elementary
  • South Glens Fall Central School District
  • Malta Avenue Elementary
  • Ballston Spa Central School District
  • Smith Street School
  • West Sand Lake Elementary
  • Averill Park Central School Distict
  • Northern Parkway Elementary
  • Grand Avenue Elementary
  • Uniondale Union Free School District
  • Turtle Hook Middle School

Emerging Schools of Character

  • Lawrence Road Middle School
  • Uniondale Union Free School District
  • Canandaigua Middle School
  • Canandaigua City School District
  • William H. Barton Intermediate School
  • Queensbury Union Free School District
  • Byron-Bergen Central School District Number Four School
  • Lawrence Union Fee School District




2012 Award Winners

Volunteer Award: Bonnie Misch, Central Square CSD, retired; Academy Leadership Board Co-Secretary
Sage College Award Winners

  • Administrators Robert Grebert and Lori Maki
  • Faculty Member Deborah Lawrence
  • Students Sharon Domine, Joshua Hewitt and Jane Spear
  • Staff Member Carolyn Van De Mark

Business Leader Award: E. Stewart Jones, Jr.,  Esquire, Attorney & Civic Benefactor Business Organization Award: KeyBank, NA
Civic Leader Award:
Tina Marie Smith, Griswold Heights Tenant Volunteer and Leader Civic Organization Award: Literacy Volunteers of Rensselaer County
Student Leadership: Sarah Risko, New Lebanon Jr-Sr. High School
Student Organization:
Mike Feurstein- Director, How to Unmake a Bully, Glendaal ES, Scotia Glenville CSD
Community Organization:
Pride Center of the Capital Region- Nora Yates, Executive Director
Teacher/Educator Leadership:
Jeanine Zaccara, One World Club, Edison School, Port Chester CSD Joanne Hyde, K-6 School Counselor, Wolcott St. School, LeRoy CSD Patrick Morris, Greenwich Jr-Sr HS Counselor, Greenwich CSD Sean Peterson, 11-12th Grade Social Studies Teacher, Wallkill Sr. HS, Wallkill CSD Heather Larkin, Assistant Professor, University at Albany
University Organization
: NYS American Association of University Women, Eileen Hartmann, President
Community Volunteer: Aaron Johnson, Cohoes Community Center/Van Schiack Grade School
School Administrator Leadership:

  • Joe Palmer, Principal, Harrison Ave ES, So. Glens Falls CSD        
  • Michael Effie, Principal, Cleveland ES, Central Square CSD

New York State Schools of Character:

  • Wolcott Street ES
  • LeRoy CSD Allen Creek ES
  • Pittsford CSD California Avenue ES
  • UniondaleCSD

Honorable Mention New York State Schools of Character:

  • Cleveland Elementary
  • Central Square CSD Malta Avenue ES
  • Ballston Spa CSD

Emerging Schools of Character:

  • Harrison Ave ES
  • S. Glens Falls CSD Spring UFSD
  • Central Square CSD Smith Street ES
  • Uniondale CSD Grand Avenue ES
  • Uniondale CSD Lawrence Road M.S.
  • Uniondale CSD Turtle Hook M.S.
  • Uniondale CSD Dundee Elementary
  • Dundee CSD Northern Pkwy ES
  • Uniondale CSD Number 4 School ES
  • Lawrence CSD


Winners 1999-2008

Babylon Memorial Grade School Babylon, NY
2008 National School of Character

Fayetteville-Manlius High School
Manlius, NY
2006 National Schools of Character Finalist

Gillette Road Middle School Cicero, NY
2007 National Schools of Character Finalist

Memorial Junior High School
Valley Stream, NY
1999 National Schools of Character Finalist

Millard Hawk Primary School
Central Square, NY
2004 National Schools of Character Finalist, 2006 National School of Character

Morgan Road Elementary School
Liverpool, NY
2000 National School of Character

Rye Alternative Preparatory School Rye, NY
1999 National Schools of Character Finalist

Scarsdale Alternative School (Scarsdale HS)
Scarsdale, NY
2002 National School of Character

Skaneateles High School
Skaneateles, NY
2003 National Schools of Character Finalist St.

Brigid/Our Lady of Hope School
Westbury, NY
2004 National Schools of Character Finalist

Thomas A. Edison Community School Port Chester, NY
2003 National School of Character

Tremont Elementary School Medford, NY
2005 National School of Character

Valley Stream Memorial Junior High School Valley Stream, NY
1999 National Schools of Character Finalist

Waterloo Middle School Waterloo, NY
2007 National Schools of Character Finalist, 2008 National School of Character