Advisory Committee - Ray Simon Institute
Ray Simon Institute at Utica College

Advisory Committee

Michele (Ford) Adams ’01

Annual giving director at Mohawk Valley Health System


Brian Agnew ’03, Ph.D.

President & Managing Partner, Sphinx Minerva Group

Dr. Brian D. Agnew is the President & Managing Partner of Sphinx Minerva Group, a boutique leadership and fundraising consulting firm focused on higher education, healthcare and non-profit organizations. A seasoned leader in capital campaign planning, the economics of higher education and crisis management, Dr. Agnew has served in a variety of leadership roles including Senior Vice President for Development and Corporate Chief Development Officer for the Robert Wood Johnson Health System, Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Georgian Court University, and Assistant Dean, Advancement and External Relations at Rutgers University. Over his career he has been fortunate to lead dynamic teams of fundraising, communications, and alumni relations professionals to unprecedented success raising over $100 Million to enrich the experience, access to and quality of higher education and patient care across the nation.

A graduate of the prestigious post-doctoral Harvard University Institute for Educational Management (IEM), Dr. Agnew holds a Ph.D. in Organizational Leadership from the School of Communication and Information at Rutgers University, where his research explored presidential leadership effectiveness in higher education institutions. He obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Public Relations and Journalism from Utica College and a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) in Organization and Management from Syracuse University, where he was the 2007 Commencement Speaker at the Martin J. Whitman School of Management.

Dr. Agnew has held faculty appointments at Georgian Court University, Rutgers University was an inaugural fellow in the Pre-doctoral Leadership Development Institute (PLDI); and frequently lectures on topics such as leadership, fundraising, higher education, organizational structures, and increased effectiveness through collaborative interactions.

He is the recipient of numerous awards and honors including being named one of Diversity MBA Magazine’s Top 100 under 50 Diverse Executive Leaders, the NAACP W.E.B. DuBois Leadership Award, the Network Journal 40 Under 40 Award, the Mohawk Valley 40 Under 40 Award, the Utica College Young Alumni Award, and a Congressional Citation for outstanding service to his community. Dr. Agnew currently serves on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s National Advisory Committee for New Jersey Health Initiatives and on the STATE Theater Board of Trustees in New Brunswick, NJ.

In his spare time, Brian is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., plays competitive volleyball, and is a volunteer firefighter Lieutenant where he has received Meritorious Service

Awards for rescue operations conducted during both Hurricanes Irene and Sandy. He resides in New Jersey with his wife, Lauren and daughter Brooke.

Brian Agnew '03, Ph.D.

David Armon ’83

Former chief operating officer for PR Newswire. He is currently the chief marketing officer of 3BL Media

David Armon

Chris Bandura ‘99

Vice President of Media Relations, Buffalo Sabres

Chris Bandura is NHL Buffalo Sabres’ vice president of media relations. Chris oversees all communications and media relations efforts for the Sabres, serving as the team’s spokesman and primary media contact at home and on the road. Among his chief duties is serving as the liaison between media members and the Sabres organization, including players and hockey department personnel. Prior to his current role, Chris spent six seasons as the team’s director of media relations after spending his first six seasons as the team’s media relations coordinator.

Before joining the Sabres, Chris spent two years as the media relations coordinator for the Rochester Sports Group, which included the Rochester Americans (AHL),
Rochester Raging Rhinos (USL First Division), Rochester Knighthawks (NLL) and
Rochester Rattlers (MLL). Prior to his stint in Rochester, Chris was the vice president of operations for the Columbus Landsharks of the National Lacrosse League (2001-2003).

He has also spent time in the NLL front office as the director of media relations.

Watch Chris talk about his job and Utica College →

Chris Bandura

Brooke Simon Candelaria

Event manager, communications professional, writer

Brooke Simon Candelaria is proud and lucky enough to be one of Professor Raymond Simon’s two daughters. Raised much of the time on Utica College campus, Brooke always enjoyed the ‘college experience’ through the eyes of a youngster, helping her Dad to ‘correct’ spelling errors in those dreaded blue book exams. She’d later enjoy sitting in on Professor Simon’s classes during her high school years. This first sparked her interest in PR, and while she was a magna cum laude graduate from St. Lawrence University with a Fine Arts degree, Brooke took the PR career path.

Two (and a bit) decades later, she is running her own show as an event manager, communications pro, writer and ad hoc chef. Prior to this, Brooke oversaw events for a startup tech company in Austin. From 2006-2012, Brooke served as a global client services director at experience marketing agency George P. Johnson, where her principal client was IBM. Before this role, she co-founded custom event marketing company Planning House International. Brooke earned her CMP (Certified Meeting Planner) status in 2005. She was named director of public relations at event producer IDG World Expo in 2001, later becoming group vice president Brooke has proudly managed award-winning PR and marketing programs for clients such as Chemical Waste Management, Upstate New York Transplant Services, Catholic Charities, Motorola, Forrester Research, Logitech, Netscape and more.

Brooke and her husband Greg currently reside in downtown Houston, TX, where they enjoy the urban life, warm climate and some of our country’s best restaurants.
Brooke Simon Candelaria

Carmen (DiRienzo) Carmody ’77

Consultant. previously the director of human resources at WNET-TV in New York City, a PBS affiliate.

Dorree Gurdak ’92

Executive vice president at Web Shandwick

Dorree Gurdak, executive vice president at Web Shandwick, leads integrated marketing campaigns for clients in the food, retail and consumer packaged goods industries. She is actively involved in working on strategic planning with her clients and their agency partners and ensuring that public relations play a major role in those campaigns. Additionally, Dorree leads the Weber Shandwick Boston’s consumer team.

In the past year, Dorree has developed a strategic communications campaign for the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative and led the charge in educating chefs and media by creating “Maine After Midnight” events where the lobster industry treated top chefs and media to an exclusive taste of Maine Lobster at late which is creating a passion for the product, as well as the place.

Dorree recently worked with John Hancock to launch a transformational life insurance product to consumers that focuses on rewarding participants for healthy living. Over the past two years, she has created consumer activations in Grand Central Station ensuring that consumers were made aware of the John Hancock Vitality product and worked with A-list celebrities to get the word out to the media about this innovation.

Previously, Dorree directed the Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc. business and worked with Ocean Spray to create the “Bogs Across America” campaign. The campaign centered around 2,600 pounds of cranberries being displayed in major cities across the United States to gain media exposure for cranberries and to educate people about the heritage, health and versatility of the cranberry.

Dorree began her career in public relations at Lois Paul and Partners, a high-tech public relations agency where she worked on Lotus Development Corp., doing media relations for the Lotus executive staff and launched Lotus’ first ever virtual high school, based on a Lotus LearningSpace, a distance learning tool.

Dorree received her bachelor of science degree in public relations and journalism from Utica College of Syracuse University in Utica, NY and her master’s in journalism from Northeastern University.
Dorree Gurdak '92

Deborah Kessler ’90

Owner of Kessler Promotions, Poland, N.Y. The company provides promotions, public relations, fundraising and marketing services

Deborah Kessler earned a BA in Public Relations and Speech Communication from Utica College (1990).

Kessler has significant community involvement. Currently, she is an active board member with the Greater Utica Chamber of Commerce and is serving as committee chair for the Small Business Council. Kessler also serves on the board for the Central Association for The Blind and Visually Impaired. Kessler is also a former board president of Leadership Mohawk Valley and a past board member of The Mohawk Valley Advertising Club. Kessler also serves as President for the Glass Hill Golf Course located in Barneveld.

Kessler has more than 15 years of experience producing, promoting and marketing trade shows and events. Shows and promotions range from outdoor sports to boat and business expos. “I continue to focus and be consistent in building a solid foundation for all marketing and communications. My number one priority is the exhibitors who participate in the shows that are produced.”

Previously, Kessler was employed with The Greater Utica Area Chamber of Commerce, as the Public Relations Director. She coordinated monthly events and the writing of weekly publications. As the Public Relations Director, Kessler spent a majority of her time enforcing the mission of the Chamber throughout the business community.

Kessler also was employed with Steffen Publishing as an Account Manager in representing national and local publications.

Kessler spent nine years working as the Director of Marketing for M.A. Polce Consulting, Inc., a local information technologies company. Kessler produced monthly newsletters, ‘Lunch and Learns’, and various seminars and events for the current customer base, as well as prospects. Kessler also worked in a dual position serving as an account manager working with various businesses from a wide variety of industries.
Deborah Kessler '90

Frank Maurizio, Jr. ’77

Manager of media and web relations for New York State United Teachers, based in Latham, N.Y.

Frank Maurizio, class of 1977, is manager of digital communications for New York State United Teachers, a union that represents more than 600,000 professionals in education, human services and health care. He is the former director of communications for United University Professions, NYSUT’s largest higher education affiliate, and began his career in communications as a reporter and editor more than 30 years ago with stops at newspapers in Gloversville, Utica and Albany. Maurizio, a former member of the Schenectady (NY) City Council, was also an adjunct faculty member at Schenectady County Community College – where he taught writing skills – and served as vice president of the NEA PR Council of the States, an organization of communications professionals in National Education Association affiliates from across the United States.
Frank Maurizio, Jr. '77

Tim McGowan ‘80

Assistant Vice President for Strategic Donor Engagement, Princeton University

Tim McGowan is assistant vice president for strategic donor engagement in Princeton’s Office of Development. He joined Princeton University from Columbia University. Tim serves on the senior leadership team as chief strategic communications and donor engagement officer, overseeing development marketing and communications, development events, and donor relations.

For four years, he served as deputy vice president for alumni and development marketing and communications at Columbia, where he created and led a strategic agency model to support the university’s alumni relations and development marketing and communications. He also served as publisher of “Columbia Magazine,” the university’s quarterly print, digital and mobile alumni publication.

Prior to Columbia, Tim worked for more than 31 years in top marketing and advertising agencies — 26 of those on Madison Avenue for the Young & Rubicam Group of agencies: Burson-Marsteller, BrandBuzz, The Lord Group, and Y&R Advertising. His clients included some of the world’s leading brands, such as AT&T, Du Pont, Kodak, IBM, LG, Major League Baseball and Xerox. In addition, he was a founding partner of Y&R.Edu, aimed at the higher-education market.
Tim McGowan

Paul Montana ’70


Paul Montana (Class of 1970) began his career in the Admissions Office of Utica College. He was then promoted to Director of Alumni Relations before moving back to his native Hudson Valley NY to work at Columbia Greene Community College as Director of Continuing Education, Director of College Services and Assistant to the President.

In 1980 he bought the family oil distribution business and as president built 15 convenience stores while expanding other aspects of the business. At the same time he was a partner in The Creative Team, an advertising agency that specialized in political and tourism accounts. He sold both businesses in 1994 and moved to Boston to oversee the Cameo Agency which provided talent to the New England media market. After selling that business he returned to the petroleum business consulting from Boston to Florida.

After retiring, Paul has served on the Board of Directors of several charities helping to expand the services provided.

In 2016 he published his first novel “Forever & Always”. He lives with his wife, Carol near the seacoast of New Hampshire.

Paul Montana '70

Robert J. O’Gara

Professor of Public Relations, Advertising and Integrated Marketing Communication at Park Point University.
With both formal education and professional experience in advertising and PR, Robert J. O’Gara has been active in the field for five decades. He has taught at the college/university level since 1982 and has been a full time educator at Point Park University, Pittsburgh, for the past 20 plus years. Passionate about communication as an indispensable tool for government, non-profit and corporate organizations to carry out missions and growth strategies, Bob is an advocate of consensus building that engages partnerships and encourages dialogue. He and his students are active in the academic, corporate and social service institutions of Pittsburgh.

Professor O’Gara received an AAS in Advertising Design and Production, Mohawk Valley Technical Institute; BS in Public Relations, Utica College of Syracuse University; MA in Liberal Studies, Duquesne University

His current professional activities include education liaison for Pittsburgh Chapters of Public Relations Society of America, American Advertising Federation and American Marketing Association.

Professor O’Gara teaches Mass Communication, Advertising, Public Relations, Integrated Marketing Communications and Environmental Communications Management. His areas of expertise include the history of advertising and PR, new trends in advertising and PR, crisis communications, integrated marketing communications campaigns, environmental and social cause marketing.

He is a member of Public Relations Society of America (Accredited and College of Fellows. The PRSA College of Fellows is a meritorious group of 500 dedicated PRSA members (from a total membership of over 20,000) who are judged by their peers to have made significant contributions to the profession and have achieved exceptional professional success. He is also a member of the American Advertising Federation, Media Association of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh Press Club, and American Marketing Association.

His accomplishments have been recognized. He was inducted into the Pittsburgh PRSA Hall of Fame and Legends in Public Relations; he also was named IABC Communicator of the Year.
Robert J. O'Gara

Richard Puff ’81

Assistant Vice President for Public Relations and Communications, University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center
Richard A. Puff directs the overall external and internal communications of the University of Cincinnati Academic Health Center, which includes the colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy and Allied Health Sciences. His office also provides communications support for UC Health, the University of Cincinnati's affiliated academic health system.

With more than 30 years in academic medicine communications, Puff previously served as associate director of the Medical Center News Office at Duke University Medical Center & Health System in Durham, NC, and associate director of public relations at Albany Medical Center in Albany, NY. He also has worked as a newspaper reporter for two Upstate New York daily newspapers and in the publishing industry producing numerous baseball titles.

Puff has received 15 communications awards during his public relations career. Among these were the 2004 PR NEWS Platinum PR Award in the Crisis Management category and finalist in the Media Relations category as a member of the team that coordinated communications efforts following a heart/lung transplant mismatch at Duke in February 2003. That Duke communications team also received an Award of Excellence from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and an Innovation Honorable Mention Award for Crisis Communications from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Health Academy.

Puff is the co-author of a chapter on crisis communications in the textbook Health Industry Communication: New Media, New Methods, New Message, originally published in 2011 by Jones and Bartlett Learning with a second edition in 2017.

An active member of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), Puff has served on the steering committee of the AAMC's Group on Institutional Advancement (GIA). He also has received four GIA communications awards and is a six-time judge for the annual AAMC awards competition.

A graduate of Utica College of Syracuse University with a degree in public relations and journalism, Puff has also pursued graduate studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY.
Richard Puff

Stephanie Zimmer ’96

Head of Experiential Marketing for Mercedes-Benz

Stephanie Zimmer is a dynamic and accomplished experiential marketing professional with over 18+ years of luxury automotive industry experience. She has an extensive background in developing and activating events that drive brand affinity and ultimately vehicle sales.

As the Head of Experiential Marketing for Mercedes-Benz, she was responsible for both negotiating, securing and activating Mercedes-Benz’ sponsorships of both the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and Mercedes-Benz Stadium. In addition, her Official Vehicle partnerships with The Masters Tournament, PGA of America and the US Open Tennis Championships as well as naming rights partnership for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week have all garnered global press coverage and Event Marketer awards for innovation and on-site activation.

On January 3rd Stephanie assumed a new and challenging role within the organization as the Sales Operations Manager for the New York Tri-State area consulting with dealers on their sales and marketing initiatives.

Stephanie believes her time at UC has allowed her to succeed in the very competitive Sports and Lifestyle Marketing disciplines. She resides in Cornwall, NY with her family.
Stephanie Zimmer '96


Patricia Swann, M.S.
Executive Director, RSI
DePerno 106

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