Commencement Speakers

Two Canisius College alumni will address the undergraduate and graduate classes of 2017, during commencement ceremonies in May. 

2017 Commencement Speakers

Christine M. Licata-Culhane '67, MS '71, EdD

Christine M. Licata-Culhane didn’t intend to be a trailblazer. She simply wanted to get her college degree from Canisius. But in the early 1960s, Licata-Culhane became part of a bold social experiment on campus, as one of the first female students to enroll in the day division at Canisius.

The Jesuits, whom she says “taught her to strive for excellence,” also inspired in Licata-Culhane a love of learning and teaching. She’s been doing both now for the better half of a century.

Licata-Culhane is the senior associate provost in the Division of Academic Affairs at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). Her responsibilities in this role are many but paramount among them is the oversight and innovation of academic program development. Under Licata-Culhane’s leadership, RIT’s K-12, Honors, Critical Thinking and Writing programs all advanced.

Her current leadership position is impressive. It is only the latest, though, on Licata-Culhane’s expansive curriculum vitae.

She began her career as an educator, teaching high school math and business in the Buffalo and Rochester city school districts. Steadily and successfully, Licata-Culhane rose through the education ranks. Her tenure includes positions as a professor, department chair, assistant and associate dean, and associate vice president.

Throughout her climb in higher education, Licata-Culhane also pursued scholarly work. She is widely known for her research in the area of faculty evaluation and, specifically, post-tenure review. Licata-Culhane authored one of the first national reports on the topic, as well as three books. She has also shared her expertise on the subject with more than 100 public universities to assure that tenured faculty remain productive and vital until their retirements.

While Licata-Culhane’s strive for excellence secured her professional future, she continues to pursue another lesson she learned from the Jesuits: magis. The call to do more, be more and give more back to her community is an integral part of Licata-Culhane’s being.
She has influenced countless organizations throughout the Rochester area including Our Lady of Mercy High School, the Catholic Family Center and the Women’s Council of the Greater Rochester Metro Chamber of Commerce.

Licata-Culhane is also a loyal daughter and generous benefactor of alma mater. In 1997, she established the Joseph R. & Christine H. Carroll Family Scholarship at Canisius. Named after her parents, the scholarship supports students from the Buffalo and Rochester areas, who graduated from Catholic high schools and demonstrate financial need.

Licata-Culhane also lent her wise counsel to the college’s Board of Trustees, as chair of its Academic Committee and member of the Executive Committee. Licata-Culhane is now an influential member of the Canisius Women’s Leadership Council. Actively involved in the strategic planning of the council, she helps to build a powerful network among alumnae and shape initiatives that will enable young women to learn from successful female mentors -so they may blaze their own trails, much like Licata-Culhane did a half-century ago.

For breaking barriers for women at Canisius and her steadfast pursuit of magis in all that she encounters, Canisius College is proud to bestow upon Christine M. Licata-Culhane ’67, MS ’71, EdD, the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.


Nelson D. Civello '67

Nelson D. Civello has long been known as a force in the financial industry and on Wall Street, with a knack for recognizing and nurturing talent to develop the next generation of professionals. A retired president of the Fixed Income Capital Markets Group for Dain Rauscher Corp and past chair of The Bond Market Association, Civello uses his financial acumen in retirement to support important causes about which he is passionate.

Civello earned a BS in economics from Canisius in 1967 and an MBA from Bowling Green University. He later attended the Stonier Graduate School of Banking at Rutgers University and the Columbia University Commercial Bank Management Program. His career began in Buffalo as a management associate at Marine Midland Bank, eventually rising to deputy division executive in the municipal securities division in New York City.

By 1990, Civello’s reputation in the securities industry garnered attention well beyond Wall Street and he was recruited by Dain Rauscher to take a leading role in its full-service brokerage and investment banking firm. There, Civello doubled the fixed income business at a time when others were experiencing declining revenue. As chair of The Bond Market Association, Civello was nationally recognized for his expertise in the areas of municipal securities and corporate bonds.

Following his retirement in 2001, Civello returned to Canisius as a John R. Oishei visiting professor, seizing the opportunity to educate the next generation of financial professionals through an innovative, hands-on approach to teaching investment management. Civello launched the Golden Griffin Fund (GGF) in 2003 and established the Financial Markets Lab from which the GGF operates, creating an award-winning, student-run investment management program that allows students to make real investments using real money. A transformational contribution from the Nelson D. Civello Family Foundation assures that his name will be associated with the GGF in perpetuity. Civello has remained involved since he retired as director of the program in 2008, and made sure to be on hand to personally congratulate the team when it was named global champions of the Chartered Financial Analysts Research Challenge in 2015.

An exemplary alumnus, Civello served two terms on the college’s Board of Trustees, received the Distinguished Alumni Award and was inducted into the DiGamma Honor Society. He currently serves on the college’s Investment Advisory Committee.

A generous philanthropist and devoted volunteer, Civello now works to raise awareness of and resources for stomach cancer patients through the DeGregorio Foundation: Finding a Cure for Stomach Cancer, and serves as a patient mentor for Debbie’s Dream Foundation.

For his exceptional professional accomplishments and unflagging dedication to alma mater – as professor, program founder and director, trustee and benefactor – Canisius College is proud to bestow upon Nelson D. Civello ’67 the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.