2017 COMMENCEMENT HONOREES
Canisius will confer honorary degrees upon Nelson D. Civello, Undergraduate Commencement Address, and Christine M. Licata-Culhane, Graduate Commencement Address, during commencement ceremonies. In addition, receiving honorary degrees are Bishop Matthew H. Clark, Michael “Mitch” Flynn, Amy J. Habib MS ’63, and L. Nelson “Nick” Hopkins, MD.
Bishop Matthew H. Clark
Strength, inspiration and love. This is the legacy Matthew H. Clark left behind when he retired as Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester in 2012. His 33-year tenure in Rochester is the second longest in diocesan history and one distinguished by contemplative prayer and progression.
Bishop Clark led the Rochester Diocese during a time of tremendous change in the church. He guided a painstaking spate of Catholic school closings and presided amid sharp declines in church attendance and vocations – trends that hampered not only the Rochester Diocese but those throughout the country.
Still, this advocate of the Second Vatican Council worked to defy such trends, primarily by strengthening laity involvement.
During his tenure, Bishop Clark instituted a diocesan pastoral-planning process to give parishioners substantial say in how parish reconfigurations occurred. He created pastoral administrator positions, which enabled lay people to lead parishes and instituted a synod process that solicited input from Catholics throughout the Rochester Diocese. Bishop Clark affirmed the significance of lay ecclesial ministry in his book Forward in Hope: Saying Amen to Lay Ecclesial Ministry. The publication proved to be a timely response to the changing face of the Catholic Church.
Ordained to the priesthood in 1962, Bishop Clark was among the nation’s youngest bishops when Pope John Paul II appointed him to Rochester’s ecclesiastical role. His humble nature helped him bond early and easily with parishioners. In retirement, Bishop Clark continues to emulate Jesus’ example of communicating. He likens his personal connections to the Parable of the Mustard Seed, found in the Gospel of Matthew. “The mustard seed is small,” he says, “but when cultivated and nurtured grows into great things.”
For providing strength in leadership, inspiration through ministry and love to all, Canisius College is proud to bestow upon Bishop Emeritus Matthew H. Clark the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.
An impressive stainless steel sculpture was installed in front of Roswell Park Cancer Institute in 2015, commissioned to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Ride for Roswell, the enormously successful bike-riding fundraiser. The whimsical piece of art represents the path to recovery for cancer survivors and honors the man who founded the ride in 1995, Mitch Flynn.
Flynn is the driving force behind the signature Buffalo cycling experience, which has raised more than $38 million dollars in the last 21 years for research and patient care at Roswell Park. After serving as its director for 17 years, he is currently the ride’s fundraising chair and among the all-time top fundraisers.
An avid cyclist, Flynn biked extensively in Western New York and Canada, and completed a 38-day ride across the United States. After his father-in-law passed away from cancer in 1991, he decided to combine his affinity for the sport with his desire to improve the lives of others. To say he achieved his goal is the ultimate understatement. The inaugural trek raised over $100,000. Last year, more than 7,000 bikers raised $4.5 million.
Flynn also supports the community with his time and talent as a member of GoBike Buffalo, a bicycling advocacy organization. The heightened safety and beauty of his Buffalo neighborhood is a testament to the success of the block club he formed.
He has distinguished himself in the business world as well. Flynn is the longtime owner and creative director of Flynn & Friends Inc., a successful advertising, marketing and design firm. The award-winning agency serves clients in education, non-profits and business. Flynn shared his professional acumen as a member of the Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership at the University at Buffalo, where he helped business owners identify and achieve business objectives.
For his selfless dedication to fundraising for cancer research and treatment, generosity of spirit and his steadfast commitment to the Western New York community, Canisius College is proud to bestow upon Mitch Flynn, the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.
If every charitable act is a stepping stone towards heaven, then Amy J. Habib is well on her way to glory. This loyal daughter of alma mater has devoted her lifetime to faith, philanthropy and the future of private education.
Inspired by both communion and community, Habib is a faithful friend of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo. She helped advance the spirit of Catholicism throughout the school curriculum, as a member of the Board of Education. While serving on the board of directors for the Foundation of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, Habib stewarded philanthropic funds towards the educational, religious and charitable needs of the diocese. She capped her steadfast generosity to the diocese with the establishment of the Amy J. and Halim A. Habib Endowment Fund, which enables children to receive a quality, faith-based education.
The Nichols School, Buffalo Seminary and Stella Niagara are also beneficiaries of Habib’s commitment to an exceptional and affordable private education, as is Canisius.
Habib played an integral role in the vision and advancement of the college throughout her term on the college’s Board of Regents and two terms on the Board of Trustees. In this latter role, Habib lent her time and resources to the Executive and Student Life committees.
Canisius students are at the heart of Habib’s generosity. She garners both donor and dollar support for student scholarships and programs, via her volunteer role with the Canisius Fund, as well as her charitable giving to the Leadership Society. Many more students are the grateful recipients of the Norman, Saide L. & Bedie N. Joseph Scholarship, which Habib established in 1985 in memory of her parents and brother.
For all she gives in the present to help make a quality private education possible in the future, Canisius College is proud to bestow upon Amy J. Habib MS ’63 the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.
Nelson Hopkins, MD
The Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (BNMC) is at the heart of Buffalo’s resurgence and L. Nelson Hopkins III, MD, is a driving force behind its growth.
An internationally known medical pioneer in the areas of endovascular surgery, stroke prevention and treatment, Dr. Hopkins gathered international experts to design the Gates Vascular Institute. He founded and serves as president of this destination of choice for stroke, cardiac and vascular care.
Dr. Hopkins further boosted the medical corridor with the creation of the Jacobs Institute, a collaborative effort between medical care and medical research in vascular medicine. He serves as chief scientific officer of the institute.
Dr. Hopkins discovered his affinity for brain surgery soon after beginning his medical studies. He describes the brain as the jewel in the crown - the least understood, and the most important and complex organ in the body.
He channeled his passion and expertise into groundbreaking discoveries. Dr. Hopkins pioneered endovascular neurosurgery, a subspecialty dedicated to minimally invasive treatment of vascular diseases of the brain.
As a distinguished professor of neurosurgery at University at Buffalo Neurosurgery (UBNS), Dr. Hopkins trains a new generation of neurosurgeon leaders. People from around the globe seek treatment at UBNS, which he established.
An advocate of cross-specialty and multidisciplinary collaboration, Dr. Hopkins helped create the Toshiba Stroke Research Center located in the BNMC. One of the leading stroke research centers in the world, the center develops innovative technologies and approaches for the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of neurovascular diseases. Canisius College students and alumni were fortunate to learn from his expertise in 2009 when Dr. Hopkins was featured as the George E. Schreiner ’43 MD Premedical Center Distinguished Speaker.
Much like his father, the late L. Nelson Hopkins Jr., the longtime CEO of the John W. Danforth Co., Dr. Hopkins exhibits the traits of perseverance and humility. So it is no surprise that he has graciously accepted countless awards for his work.
For his stellar professional accomplishments in the field of neurosurgery, outstanding dedication to compassionate patient care and committed service to the Buffalo Niagara Region, Canisius College is proud to bestow upon L. Nelson Hopkins III, MD, the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, honoris causa.
Nora E. Eberl '92
The leadership of Eberl Iron Works Inc. passed to a third generation when Nora E. Eberl ’92 and her cousin, John, became co-owners in 2012.
It was tradition that drew Eberl to the company founded by her grandfather and great uncle in 1923. Now at the helm, she continues her duties as chief financial officer and carries on the family legacy with a strong vision and entrepreneurial spirit.
A certified public accountant, she joined Eberl Iron Works in 1998, after six years with the Buffalo office of BDO Seidman LLP. Eberl holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Canisius and a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University at Buffalo.
Eberl also continues the family legacy at Canisius begun by her parents Mary ’88 and Frank ’67 MS '75, MBA '78 and her uncle George ’68. Her sister, Margaret, is a member of the Class of 1995.
Always ready to answer the call from alma mater, Eberl has volunteered for the Canisius Fund for nearly two decades. Her guidance has been invaluable to the college’s Alumni Association, for which she held several leadership positions including Alumni Board president. A familiar face at Canisius events, she was co-chair of her 10-year class reunion committee.
Eberl served on the Institutional Advancement Committee engaging Canisius alumni and friends with the college and securing resources to enhance educational experiences for students. During two terms on the Board of Regents, she worked diligently on the Student Life Committee.
Eberl generously shared her time, talent and business connections as a member of the Council on Accountancy and through the Career Mentor Program. Most recently, as an inaugural member of the Canisius Women’s Leadership Council, she mentors and supports the women of Canisius.
In recognition of her many contributions, Canisius inducted Eberl into the DiGamma Honor Society in 1999.
A loyal and generous donor, Eberl is a long-standing member of the Canisius Fund Leadership Society.
For her unwavering commitment and service to alma mater, Canisius College is proud to confer the LaSalle Medal, the highest award for service to the college, upon Nora E. Eberl, from the Class of 1992.
Thomas G. Smith '71
Thomas G. Smith ’71 may have retired from his 40-year career as a trial lawyer with Harter Secrest & Emery LLP in Rochester but rest assured he will never “hang it up” when it comes to Canisius College.
An inaugural fellow and the driving force behind the creation of the new Desmond Law Society of Canisius College, Smith advises aspiring legal professionals as they navigate their way through the law school admissions and selection processes. Smith’s current role is similar to the one he relished while a member of Canisius’ Pre-Law Advisory Council.
When he is not advising students on the legal profession, Smith is educating them about how government and politics shape world affairs, as an adjunct professor of political science. Inspired by his own Canisius education, Smith fosters a classroom environment in which students can “learn, develop leadership skills, socialize and grow.”
Smith is similarly ardent in his support of the college’s administration and mission. He is an emeritus member of the Board of Regents. During his tenure on the Board's Building and Grounds Committee, Smith was actively involved in the multi-million dollar facilities facelift across campus. He also contributed to the work of the Board’s Institutional Advancement Committee by amassing philanthropic support, from friends and donors, to further Canisius’ educational mission.
Smith’s exemplary service on behalf of alma mater is paralleled only by his personal and philanthropic support of the college. He is a member of the Canisius Fund’s Leadership Society, past chair of the annual Canisius Fund campaign, a member of his class reunion committee and a familiar face at alumni events in Buffalo, as well as his hometown of Rochester and at Canisius athletic contests. The former baseball and basketball player is also the generous benefactor of the Thomas G. Smith ’71 Scholarship, awarded to incoming freshmen from the Rochester area who demonstrate leadership and plan to participate in athletics at the intercollegiate level.
For his loyal and benevolent support of students, alumni and the entire campus community, Canisius College is proud to confer the LaSalle Medal, the highest award for service to the college, upon Thomas G. Smith from the Class of 1971.