BUFFALO, NY – Bob Zak, president and chief executive officer of Merchants Insurance Group, will receive the Business Executive of the Year Award at the annual Canisius College Business Awards Dinner on Tuesday, October 15 at Salvatore’s Italian Gardens. Cocktails begin at 5:30 p.m.; dinner is at 6:30 p.m.; the awards presentation will follow and will include the presentation of the Dr. Bernard L. Martin Award to Michael F. Newman, executive vice president of NOCO Energy Corporation. The Business Awards Dinner is co-sponsored by the Business Advisory Council to the Richard J. Wehle School of Business.

Established in 1969, the Business Executive of the Year Award honors an outstanding Western New York business executive who has achieved professional success and demonstrated a broad interest in civic affairs. The Richard J. Wehle School of Business at Canisius College presents the award annually at the Business Awards Dinner.

This year’s recipient, Bob Zak, is president and chief operating officer of Merchants Insurance Group. Zak was only 39 years old when he rose from senior vice president and chief financial officer to president and CEO in 1985. During the first year of his leadership, Merchants Insurance moved from in the red to in the black. Today, the company oversees $250 million in property and casualty premiums and rates an A- (excellent) from A.M. Best Company.

Zak dedicates his time and talents in service with numerous charitable or civic organizations. He has served as a director or trustee of the Kaleida Health System, Buffalo Niagara Enterprise, United Way of Buffalo and Erie County, and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society of Western New York. Zak also has been a valued advisor to local institutions of higher education, as a director of the Buffalo State College Foundation, and as a member of the Dean’s Advisory Councils of the University at Buffalo School of Management and the Wehle School of Business at Canisius College.

Zak holds a bachelor’s degree and an MBA in accounting and economics from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Michael F. Newman ’90, MBA ’99 will also be recognized at the annual Business Awards Dinner. The Canisius alumnus will receive the Bernard L. Martin Award. Established in 1976 by the Board of Directors of the Canisius College Masters Alumni Association (MBAA), the award recognizes a distinguished graduate of the college’s graduate business programs – someone who has excelled professionally and also provided significant service to the community.

Executive vice president since 2001, Newman oversees NOCO’s retail division, which encompasses NOCO real estate – a portfolio of rental properties – and the 35 NOCO shops throughout the region. Innovative and forward thinking, he carries on the legacy of his grandfather, Reginald B. Newman, who founded the company 80 years ago. Under Michael Newman’s direction, this year NOCO opened its largest express shop to date, a 6,000 square-foot travel center that led to the creation of 32 new jobs. NOCO Express shops also partner with other local businesses and now offer customers favorite Western New York foods prepared by Charlie the Butcher, Just Pizza, Mighty Taco and Nickel City Market Café.

Newman is a past chairman of the Amherst Chamber of Commerce and a current member of the board of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership. NOCO and Newman are generous to the quality of life in Western New York by their support of various not-for-profit organizations, including the Buffalo Zoo, the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Boys & Girls Clubs of the Northtowns, Albright Knox Art Gallery and Buffalo Museum of Science.

Newman is the recipient of multiple awards, and was recognized last year as one of the 135 Most Influential People in Western New York. This year, The New York Association of Convenience Stores (NYACS) recognized his contributions by inducting him into the New York Convenience Store Hall of Fame.

Newman holds a bachelor’s degree in finance and an MBA from Canisius College.

For more information on the Business Awards Dinner, contact the Richard J. Wehle School of Business at (716) 888-2160.

Canisius is one of 28 Jesuit universities in the nation and the premier private university in Western New York.