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L-R: Rhonda A. Frederick MPA ’03, Francis J. Felser ’81, Walter D. Webdale ’57, Ashli S. Dreher ’95, Mary F. Roberts ’77, Michael J. Edbauer MBA ’12, DO and President John J. Hurley.


Oh, what a night! The Canisius community filled the Montante Cultural Center on November 18 for the 2017 Distinguished Alumni Awards ceremony. Six graduates were inducted into the ranks of Distinguished Alumni, the highest honor bestowed upon those who differentiate themselves as leaders in their chosen professions.

Pauline Costanzo Will ᾽93, president of the Alumni Association Board of Directors, assisted President John J. Hurley in presenting the awards.

"It’s one of the special privileges as president to know of the amazing personal and professional accomplishments of our alumni and the extent to which they can trace things back to their Catholic, Jesuit education at Canisius," said President Hurley. "As I think of all of our honorees, I’m reminded of the observation by the former superior general of the Jesuits, Father Kolvenbach, that ultimately, the real measure of our Jesuit schools lies in who our students become."

Congratulations to the 2017 Distinguished Alumni Award winners:

Ashli S. Dreher ’95

Innovator. Miracle worker. Angel. These are just a few of the words parents use to describe Ashli S. Dreher. 

A special education teacher at Lew-Port High School, Dreher works with the school’s most severely handicapped students.  She pours her heart and soul into her work by creating unique programming that engages family members and achieves incredible results for her students.  Her invaluable guidance continues outside the classroom as she places her special needs children in internships with local businesses to better prepare them for the workplace.

A role model to current and aspiring teachers, Dreher has spoken at statewide conferences on the topics of transition, parental involvement, educational reform and student preparation for future pathways.  Earlier this year, she was inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame ‒ the first educator from the Buffalo Niagara region to achieve this prestigious honor.


Michael J. Edbauer MBA ’12, DO

An innovator in the field of medical management and health care consulting, Michael J. Edbauer, DO, firmly believes that efficiency and cost-effectiveness are compatible with superior patient care.

As president and chief executive officer of Catholic Medical Partners (CMP), Dr. Edbauer helps to reshape the model of medical care in Western New York. The first physician to run CMP since it was formed in 1996, Dr. Edbauer oversees a network of more than 1,000 physicians and five institutional member hospitals.

Under his direction, CMP achieved accreditation from the National Committee for Quality Assurance in disease management of coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure and diabetes.

Francis J. Felser ’81

Intelligence plus character equals the true goal of higher education, in the eyes of Francis J. Felser. 

The president of Bryant & Stratton College executes a strategic plan that provides students of the private career college with a customized educational approach; one that couples academic theory with real-world, career-related applications.  It’s a holistic blueprint available to all of Bryant & Stratton’s 14,000 students, spread out across 19 campuses, nationwide. 

A dynamic leader with a heart for student success, Felser’s accomplishments are many during his 25-year tenure with Bryant & Stratton.  He greatly expanded the institution’s digital learning approach and led its transition from a nationally accredited college focused on skills-based training, to a regionally accredited college that develops career ready students.

Rhonda A. Frederick MPA ’03

Rhonda Frederick devotes her career to ensuring that those with special needs reach their full potentials.  As president and chief executive officer of People Inc., Frederick advocates for her more than 12,000 clients and their families.

She joined Western New York’s leading not-for-profit health and human services agency in 1980, starting in a group home when the agency employed a total of 200 people and steadily working her way up through the ranks.

Today, she is a mentor to nearly 4,000 employees and embodies the same passion, determination and enthusiasm she had when she joined People Inc. nearly 40 years ago. 

Under her watchful eye, the agency saw improved outcomes and expanded into independent senior housing.  Frederick was also at the forefront of the agency’s commitment to person-centered solutions to improve the quality of life for individuals receiving services. 


Mary F. Roberts ’77

Mary F. Roberts studied accounting at Canisius College so it’s fitting that she now oversees one of Buffalo’s greatest assets.   

As executive director of the Frank Lloyd Wright Darwin Martin House, Roberts manages the comprehensive restoration of the architectural masterpiece. 

She became involved with the Martin House in 1996 as a volunteer tour guide.  When a part-time position for assistant director of finance opened up a few years later, Roberts saw it as an ideal opportunity to combine her two great interests: accounting and architecture.  Within 10 years, she became executive director of the Jewett Parkway complex. 

Under her leadership, the Martin House raised approximately $50 million for the restoration of more than six major phases of renovation.  Her efforts ensure that one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s most exquisite contributions to Buffalo architecture will endure. 


Walter D. Webdale ’57

Known as a pioneer in the field of urban renewal, Walter D. Webdale has been in the affordable housing industry for more than 50 years.

Webdale was just 22 years old when he and his brother tackled their first housing project with money borrowed from their grandmother. The rest is history.

Today, as president and chief executive officer of AHC Inc., a nonprofit developer of affordable housing based in Arlington, VA, Webdale takes a holistic approach in providing housing for low- and moderate-income families.

Under Webdale’s tutelage, AHC more than tripled its multifamily housing portfolio, and its award-winning resident services program expanded to reach 3,000 children, adults and seniors each year through onsite education programs.

Read Full Alumni Citations 

See additional photos from the event here.


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