Canisius Confers Distinguished Alumni Award

March 25, 2024
Distinguished Alumni 2024

BUFFALO, NY – The Canisius University Alumni Association conferred its Distinguished Alumni Award upon five graduates during ceremonies on Saturday, March 23 at 6:00 pm in the Montante Cultural Center.  The Distinguished Alumni Award recognizes individuals who have distinguished themselves in their chosen fields and who, through inspirational leadership, add distinction to their respective professions.  Since 1975, more than 220 Canisius alumni have received this recognition.  

The 2024 Distinguished Alumni Award honorees are: 

Caroline A. Croen ’85, vice president, chief financial officer and treasurer of the WNET Group.  Considered America’s largest public media company, WNET produces broadcast and online media for local, national and international audiences.  Croen is responsible for strategy and execution of all financial and operational aspects of WNET, which has an operating budget of $155 million.  

Prior to her current role, Croen was chief financial officer at Jazz at Lincoln Center.  During her tenure, she built an effective finance and financial control function, streamlined operations and helped transform the organization by enabling it to create global strategic alliances, bringing the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra to Cuba.   

Croen holds a BA in English from Canisius and an MA in business and performing arts administration from New York University.  

Dennis R. DePerro ’81, MS ’88, EdD (posthumously), former president of St. Bonaventure University.  Appointed in June 2017, DePerro oversaw the university up until his passing on March 1, 2021.  Under his leadership, the institution welcomed its three largest incoming freshman classes in nearly a decade, grew its online graduate enrollment by 329 percent and launched a comprehensive capital campaign to build “A Bolder Bonaventure.” The success of that campaign helped St. Bonaventure’s new School of Health Professions become a reality.  DePerro’s vision to transform the university also led to the formation of several presidential commissions which examined, among other things, mission integration, diversity, equity and inclusion.  

DePerro earned a BS in biology and an MS in educational administration, both from Canisius, and an EdD in higher education management from the University of Pennsylvania.  

Gregory W. Mott ’81, supervising editor of sustainability for POLITICO.  Mott joined the digital newspaper in March 2021 as a business and economics news editor.  He was named to his current role in February 2022.  

Mott joined POLITICO from Bloomberg News where, as finance editor, he spearheaded coverage of breaking stories and developed enterprise projects as part of a team reporting on financial regulation developments. He also led efforts to organize the team’s assignments to ensure coordination with other groups in the sprawling organization and maximize efficient delivery.  Mott shaped financial regulation coverage at Bloomberg for more than 14 years.  

He holds a BA in communication studies from Canisius University.  

Joseph G. Grifasi ’70, actor and director.  Known for his long and varied career as an actor, Grifasi has appeared in more than 150 theater, films and television performances.  He debuted on Broadway in 1976, appearing in Arthur Miller’s “A Memory of Two Mondays.”  One year later, Grifasi made his film debut, appearing in the Oscar-winning movie “The Deerhunter.”  His film credits also include such notable movies as Moonstruck, Splash and Hide in Plain Sight.  

Grifasi attended Canisius for one year before leaving to join the United States Army.  He returned to the university following three years of active service and went on to pursue acting at the Yale School of Drama.  

In addition to acting and directing in numerous theater productions, Grifasi teaches acting at The New School in Manhattan and conducts workshops at institutions around the country including The Strasberg Institute (NY), the Goodman Theater of Chicago and Brown University.  

Marya J. Propis ’91, executive vice president for retail distribution at RT Specialty, a leading wholesale distributor of specialty insurance products and services and subsidiary of Ryan Specialty Group.  In her role, Propis manages various retail broker trading relationships, defines and drives distribution and business development priorities, and works to ensure execution of retail broker growth and engagement strategies.  

Propis joined RT Specialty in 2000.  Prior to this, she was senior vice president and director of distribution and broker partnerships for All Risks Ltd.  
In 2019, the New York City Association of Insurance Women conferred upon Propis its “Professional Woman of the Year” award.  She is also a past recipient of New York Business Journal’s “Woman of Influence” award. 

Propis earned a BA in communication studies and English from Canisius University.  She served as a member of the institution’s Board of Trustees from 2018-2023.  

Canisius University is one of 27 Jesuit colleges in the nation and the premier private college in Western New York. Canisius prepares leaders – intelligent, caring, faithful individuals – able to pursue and promote excellence in their professions, their communities and their service to humanity.