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Alumni awards ceremony coming to NYC in March

By Steve Seepersaud

Each year, the Alumni Association honors some of our most accomplished graduates — people who have excelled in their careers while giving back to their alma mater. Since 2013, we’ve presented these awards on campus at the Alumni Leaders Conference. The ceremony was a perfect fit for a weekend of programming that engaged our most dedicated alumni volunteers.

This year, we’re planning a truly unique event — "Binghamton University on Broadway: Celebrating Outstanding Alumni" — our first awards ceremony to be held in New York City. From 6-9 p.m. Thursday, March 30, we’ll gather at the Edison Ballroom for an elegant cocktail reception followed by our awards ceremony. We'll recognize the 14 outstanding alumni listed below for their career achievements and contributions to our campus community.

Registration is open until March 16; however, we are seeing a high level of interest for this event, so you should register as soon as possible. 

Our event will also showcase the musical talents of Neil Berg ’86, Broadway composer, lyricist and producer, and Rita Harvey, actress and soprano.

The husband-and-wife duo will dazzle you with musical talents that have captured the hearts of audiences in New York and around the world. This program will also culminate with a closing number featuring talented Binghamton alumni, some who have graced the stages of Broadway. You’ll be inspired by their performances and our award recipients.



Gary Kunis ’73, LHD ’02
Glenn G. Bartle Distinguished Alumnus/a Award
The Bartle Award recognizes and honors graduates who have rendered outstanding voluntary service to the Binghamton University community, while also serving their communities, their careers and their country.

Gary Kunis is an internet pioneer. While at Boeing in the '80s, he was tasked by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education to create and 'roll out' the largest of the original six NSF Regional Networks that formed the initial Internet environment. At Boeing, Kunis was responsible for designing the NASA Program Support Network and numerous computer networks for the Department of Defense, and for developing data communications software and hardware products for commercial and defense applications. Kunis left Boeing to work for a small startup — Cisco Systems, where he helped build Cisco into the world's largest networking technology company. Over his career at Cisco, Kunis was responsible for managing engineering design, development, marketing, sales, and service activities and organizations across the globe. He retired from Cisco as vice president/chief science officer in 2002. Today, Kunis pursues entrepreneurial and philanthropic activities in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

Kunis is Binghamton University's first significant alumni donor. His gifts have established the Seymour Kunis Media Core in the Engineering and Science Building, and the Kunis Networking and Computer Systems Laboratory in the Engineering Building at the center of campus. He also supports students directly with the Kunis Scholarships for Computing Excellence. The University has also benefited from his gifts of equipment to broaden campus-wide networking enhancements. Last fall, the Binghamton University Art Museum’s exhibition, “Baseball in Cuba: A Photographic Essay by Ira Block" was made possible through the generous support of the Kunis Foundation.

Kunis is also very generous in sharing his time and talents with Binghamton University. He is a valued advisor to the Watson School, guest speaker and member of the boards of the Small Scale Systems Integration and Packaging Center (S³IP) and Center for Advanced Microelectronic Manufacturing (CAMM) at Binghamton.



Marjorie S. Cohn '78
Alumni Achievement Award
This award honors a highly distinguished alumnus or alumna who, over the course of a decade or more, has exemplified outstanding, significant professional achievement.

Margie Cohn is head of television for the combined DreamWorks Animation Television and Universal television animation business, overseeing all television development and production, including the content for DWA TV’s groundbreaking multi-year deal with Netflix. Cohn and her team are tasked with creating more than 1,600 episodes of original animated programming inspired by characters from DreamWorks Animation’s iconic franchises and upcoming feature films, as well as the vast IP from the Classic Media library and UFEG properties.

Among the many series Cohn oversees at DreamWorks Animation are the Emmy Award®-winning All Hail King Julien, The Adventures of Puss In Boots, Dragons: Race to the Edge, Dawn of the Croods, The Mr. Peabody & Sherman Show, Home Adventures with Tip & Oh, Dinotrux, the reimagining of pop culture phenomenon Voltron Legendary Defender and the upcoming Guillermo Del Toro fantasy series Trollhunters.

Cohn previously spent 26 years at Nickelodeon where, in various development and production roles, she helped make the network No. 1 in cable television for 18 consecutive years. Some of the series under her guidance that went on to become beloved hits include Double Dare, Clarissa Explains It All, All That, The Fairly Odd Parents, Spongebob Squarepants, Avatar: The Last Airbender, iCarly, Nick News with Linda Ellerbee and the Kids Choice Awards. She splits her time between Los Angeles and New York, where she lives with her husband, producer Peter Tarshis, and their sons, Jack and Will. 

Cohn has returned to campus and participated as a panelist with alumni in the television industry. She shared career advice with students and also spoke in several classes during her visit. She has been a volunteer for Metro Connections Night events and arranged a site visit to Nickelodeon during an Employer Visit Week offered during winter recess.



Barry Chaffkin ’86
Edward Weisband Distinguished Alumnus/a Award for Public Service or Contribution to Public Affairs
The Weisband Award recognizes one alumnus or alumna each year whose life, work, career and contributions exemplify the highest standards of service and deepest dedication to the sustenance of the common good.

Barry Chaffkin has worked in child welfare for over 27 years, directly supervising the reunification of over 900 children with their families as well as finalizing the adoption of over 900 children from the New York foster care system. He is the CEO and co-founder of Fostering Change for Children, a NYC-based nonprofit that helps children, families and professionals involved with child welfare systems.

He is a nationally recognized speaker, with expertise in “Talking to Kids About Tough Stuff” and “Older Youth Adoption and Permanent Options." He is an adjunct lecturer and field advisor at the Columbia School of Social Work in NYC, and sits on the Advisory Council of the National Child Welfare Workforce Institute (NCWWI) and the Treehouse Foundation.

Additionally, Chaffkin has served as the Tau Alpha Upsilon Alumni Society's co-chairman; this Binghamton alumni network is dedicated to the University as a whole in many different aspects of its continued development.



Laura J. Vollmer ’10
Lois B. DeFleur Distinguished Young Alumnus/a Award
The DeFleur Award recognizes alumni who graduated within the last 10 years or are 35 years of age or under, and who are established or demonstrate potential to become future leaders. Criteria includes demonstrated leadership capability, substantial commitment to service of others, demonstration of potential for leadership in the long term, and substantial commitment to the University and Alumni Association.

Laura Vollmer, who grew up on Long Island, was a very active student. She was the executive vice president of Alpha Kappa Psi (a professional business fraternity), a teaching assistant for Accounting 211, a finance and accounting tutor at the Center for Learning and Teaching, and an executive board member of the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Scholars Program.

In 2010, Laura graduated with a bachelor of science degree in accounting (concentration in finance) before taking her studies to Baruch College. After earning her master’s in taxation and completing the CPA exam, she began her career at PwC, providing consulting, tax compliance and assurance support services to technology clients. Using skills and relationships developed in this role, Vollmer moved to a business development position at PwC, where she focuses on driving revenue growth and marketing efforts for PwC’s financial services specialty group focused on consumer lending products.

Since graduating from Binghamton University, Vollmer continues to be very active with the University, serving as co-chair of the School of Management Young Alumni Board, mentoring students, recruiting for PwC and judging on-campus case competitions. She lives in Midtown Manhattan with her fiancé, Evan Roth '10, MS '11, and is looking forward to her next scuba adventure — diving between two continental plates in Iceland this February!




In recognition of alumni contributions to specific areas on campus (e.g., schools, Admissions, Fleishman Center), we are pleased to present Medals of Distinguished Service to the following alumni, who have been tireless volunteers to the University while excelling in their respective career endeavors.


George B. Cummings II ’07 – As a non-traditional student, Cummings enrolled in the School of Human Development in the fall of 2003 and graduated magna cum laude. This experience left him with a desire to be engaged at his alma mater and led to his first opportunity to volunteer later that year at Fall Commencement. Since then, he has supported the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, volunteered at every Commencement, served as a liaison for the University's Rotary arm called Rotaract and served on the Stephen David Ross University and Community Projects Fund Committee. He wrapped up a 34-year career with Emerson in 2010, and has been in Client Investment Services with SEED Planning Group, LLC since 2011.  

Doris Diaz-Kelly ’94, MA ’97 – Diaz-Kelly has been at SUNY Dutchess Community College for the past 17 years. As assistant dean of students and director of the Educational Opportunity Program, she provides leadership to the College's Center for College Access & Educational Opportunities, which houses the Educational Opportunity Program, TRiO: Student Support Services and the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program. Her 22 years of experience in higher education have been student-centered; she has dedicated her career to working with youth, that like her, are mostly first-generation college students eager to achieve and to make an impact in their communities. Diaz-Kelly is an invaluable recruiter and mentor for EOP at Binghamton University. She lives in Red Hook, N.Y., with her husband John Kelly Jr. '90, MA '97; they have three daughters.  

Penelope Harper, MA ’90, PhD ’97, MAT ’03 – Ataahua Harper is the New Visions Careers Academy team leader at Broome-Tioga BOCES. She leads social studies curriculum development, teaches law and government, and coordinates job shadowing experiences for college-bound high school seniors. Between 2003 and 2011, she brought together her social studies and academic work at the Binghamton University Center for Teaching American History, organizing and leading summer workshops and book discussion groups to help area teachers stay current in the field, and teaching a graduate history course for pre-service teachers. She has remained engaged with the University, serving on the Graduate School of Education’s Advisory Board.

Bruce David Klein ’84 – As president and executive producer of Atlas Media Corp., Klein is a recognized pioneer, industry leader and creative force behind hundreds of hours of high-profile, award-winning unscripted series, specials and theatrical documentaries. He has created, written, produced and/or executive produced series and specials such as Hotel Impossible (Travel Channel), Epic Win (MTV), Brainwashed (Discovery Channel), Behind the Bash with Giada De Laurentiis (Food Network) and It Can Happen Tomorrow (The Weather Channel). Most recently, he produced the acclaimed theatrical documentary Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened about the legendary Stephen Sondheim/Hal Prince Broadway show Merrily We Roll Along, which premiered to rave reviews at the New York Film Festival. He has come back to Binghamton University to talk to students about his career and his start at the University's own TV channel, BTV.

Robert Kump ’83 – Kump is chief executive officer AVANGRID Networks, a position he has held since 2009. He oversees eight regulated utilities in New England and New York that serve 3.1 million electric and natural gas customers, and employ approximately 5,000 people. Assets of the utilities are about $18.5 billion. The holding company has 100 percent ownership of operating subsidiaries that include NYSEG and Rochester Gas & Electric. With 30 years of experience in the utility industry, Kump has held executive positions of increasing responsibility in finance, treasury and investor relations. He is a Certified Public Accountant in New York state. He is actively engaged with the University, serving on the Advisory Board for the Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Nelson Mar ’94 – Mar is a senior staff attorney and education law specialist at Bronx Legal Services. His practice includes education law and Social Security disability law with prior experience in labor/employment and community economic development. Mar is also coordinator for the Legal Services citywide Education Law Task Force and past chair of the Education Law Committee with the New York County Lawyer’s Association. He was a member of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s School Climate Leadership Team that produced significant recommendations on improving the public school climate across the city. Mar has dedicated countless hours assisting Harpur College students and alumni, particularly with career exploration, through hosting an internship, participating in Harpur-sponsored programs and networking events, and through his work with the Asian and Asian American Alumni Council. 

Chelsea Reome ’13, MPA ’16 – Reome graduated from Binghamton University in 2013 with bachelor's degrees in human development and psychology, and in 2016 with a Master of Public Administration. While at Binghamton, she was involved with Student United Way, was a tutor in the Educational Opportunity Program, conducted research and worked as a tour guide. She later served as an AmeriCorps member, working to reduce childhood obesity and engage the community on Binghamton's North Side. Since graduation, Reome has made valuable contributions to the University by serving on the College of Community and Public Affairs Board of Visitors and the college's Local Alumni Committee. She's a public health representative at the Broome County Health Department. 


Patricia Saunders ’65 – Saunders was inaugurated into the SUNY 2001 Alumni Honor Roll for her longstanding support and volunteer service, and she was honored with the Binghamton University Distinguished Alumni Award in 2010. She was a member of the Foundation Board of Directors and the Development and Nominating committees of the board. She has hosted numerous events for the University at her home in New York City. In 2005, Saunders' husband, Paul, and her two sons made a gift to name the West Gym pool the Patricia A. Saunders ’65 Aquatics Center. She is a former committee chair of The Buick Classic, the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship. In 2009, she received the Digger Smith Award from the American Junior Golf Association for "twenty years of service and dedication." She is the sister of Francis X. Newman, a retired associate professor in Binghamton's English Department.


Matthew Singer ’96 – Singer is an experienced partner in the Financial Services practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). He's a recognized leader in the Alternative Asset Management industry with a 20-year track record serving many of the firm’s most complex financial services clients. Singer is the partner responsible for leading PwC's Management Company/Corporate Investment Advisor practice and is a market team leader within the Asset Management practice in the PwC New York office. He has administrative and human resource-related responsibilities for more than 120 staff, managers and partners on his team. He is PwC’s firm relationship partner at Binghamton University, responsible for maintaining and developing PwC’s relationship with the students, PwC Scholars Program (top 10 percent of School of Management students), faculty and administration. Singer is a CPA and resides in Manhattan with his wife Cristin Singer '96.


Edwin A. Torres ’10, MS ’14 – Torres R.N., CHNP, FNP-C is living proof that the American Dream is possible to achieve. He migrated to this country at the age of 13, without a basic knowledge of the English language, and attended a New York City high school with a low graduation rate. He's a nurse practitioner in the Department of Endocrinology at Montefiore Health System in New York City, and is currently completing his PhD on job insecurity and incidences of diabetes, and complications of diabetes, at the Decker School of Nursing. Throughout his academic career at Binghamton, Torres has mentored, and continues to mentor, countless students who were struggling with some of his same experiences. He plays an active role in the Latino community in Washington Heights and The Bronx, by advocating for better living conditions for vulnerable populations.


B-CONNECTED with other graduates! B-connected is a secure virtual community only for Binghamton University alumni. Update your personal profile, search for alumni, and submit and read Class Notes. 


SHARE YOUR EXPERTISE WITH US! The Alumni Relations Office is asked to recommend alumni who are expert speakers. If you are well-versed in subjects including national security, politics, technology, career networking, environmental studies or etiquette, contact Melinda Holicky, associate director for alumni volunteer engagement. Include your name, class year and a brief biography. Supporting material could include a CV or link to your website.


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Last Updated: 6/27/19