Dolphin Stories

Finding his Voice and sharing it

LucasGiavonni Lucas ’95 remembers the moment he found his voice on the Heights. It was in January of 1993 – the middle of his sophomore year. At the urging of a classmate, Lucas and some friends took the lead in organizing Le Moyne’s Martin Luther King Jr. essay contest. He soon found himself taking a central role in the College’s annual M.L.K. Day celebration, speaking before his peers, professors and members of the Greater Syracuse community about the late Civil Rights leader’s legacy. Lucas has gone on to find great success personally and professionally. In June, he was installed as the president of the Le Moyne College Alumni Association Board (A.A.B.), a position from which he will continue to share his voice as a representative of all the College’s alumni.

It was during his undergraduate years that Lucas not only found his voice, but also emerged as a leader. In addition to his work surrounding the M.L.K. events, he served as a member of the Student Government Association and a resident adviser. He learned to appreciate the many wonderful traditions that come with studying at a Jesuit college, while also helping to initiate new ones, including the formation of Le Moyne’s first Gospel choir, Voices of Power. Looking back, what Lucas remembers most about this period of his life is becoming comfortable speaking out about the things that matter most to him. Lucas credits the Higher Education Opportunity Program and the African American, Hispanic, Asian, Native American Program, as well as the leadership of Carl Thomas ’65 and Yvonne Caine, with being the pillars of development and success at Le Moyne for him and many other students of color.

“Those are the lessons that have stayed with me,” he says. “Le Moyne prepared me for the real world.”

Lucas has carried his undergraduate experiences with him throughout his professional life. As the vice president, P and C Learning and Development, at Nationwide Insurance, he embodies what it means to build relationships, work well under pressure, and model socially responsible leadership. Now, 28 years after helping to steer the College’s M.L.K. celebrations, Lucas is once again leading on the Heights in his new role as A.A.B. president. His chief goals include working with the College and its Office of Alumni and Parent Programs to identify the needs and interests of Le Moyne graduates, especially alumni who are Black, indigenous or other people of color and may have lost their connection to their alma mater.

“It is important to me to be able to give back to my alma mater in this way because of the crucial role it played in my formation,” he said. “There is no other time in your life when you will have this opportunity to expand your circle and to open yourself up to new people and new ideas.”

by Molly K. McCarthy

Flash From the Past

Senior Shenanigans

1951 The members of the Class of 1951 presented a variety show, “High Jinks and Low Grades.” In it, they used song and dance to shine a spotlight on how different their college experience was from that of their parents. This commentary on the much-opined “generation gap” drew great laughter and served as the forerunner for many subsequent senior shows. This rite of passage become one of the College’s most beloved traditions.

A Fine Black Robe

1951 The College published the first issue of its yearbook, the Black Robe. It was dedicated to Bishop Walter Foery in honor of his pivotal role in founding the College. Bishop Foery, who led the Syracuse Diocese from 1937 to 1970, wanted young men and women in the area to be able to have access to a rigorous and affordable Catholic education. He saw this vision come to life when the College’s first class, 259 students strong, graduated on June 10, 1951.

Combating Pollution

1991 The Le Moyne Science Center was dedicated in honor of J. Stanley Coyne, a Syracuse industrialist whose contributions made the renovation of the building possible. In making his gifts to the College, Coyne noted Le Moyne’s commitment to the physical sciences. He expressed his hope that students pursuing those majors would develop an interest in environmental issues and come to work for his company, Textile Services, to help address the threat posed by pollution.

1961 – No Lightweight. There were other schools that would have loved to have hired Carmen Basilio to teach physical education. Le Moyne simply beat them to the punch. Just four years earlier, Basilio had claimed the world middleweight championship from the legendary Sugar Ray Robinson during a 15-round bout at Yankee Stadium. He arrived at Le Moyne as the campus was in the midst of a fitness boom with the construction of the Recreation Center. Basilio would go on to be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. 

1971 – The Byrds Land at Le Moyne. The Los Angeles-based rock band, whose hits included Eight Mile High, Turn! Turn! Turn! and Mr. Tambourine Man, performed on the Heights. The music editor of the campus newspaper, The Piper, declared the group’s sixth album, Sweetheart of the Rodeo, “flawless.” Forty years after the show, it’s a shame there’s no Goin’ Back.

1971 – Matters of War and Peace. The war in Vietnam was front and center in the minds of many male students after President Richard Nixon announced his decision to scrap educational deferments in order to make the national draft more equitable.

1981 Meet the Marching Monks. “Excitement electrified the air of their monastery,” cried the student newspaper, The Piper. The “monastery,” of course, was actually the College’s Athletic Center, which now had a brand-new band to lead the cheers at games – the Marching Monks.

2011 Last Call at the Shire. The staff at the DeWitt Shire Tavern poured one last beer and closed the bar’s doors for good. Students mourned its loss, as the Shire had been a staple of social life for many at Le Moyne for years. What would replace it soon became a topic of much discussion around campus.

Finding our Path

Saying “Yes” to Life

Steve Laureti ’11 believes that in life it’s often the chances we didn’t take that we most regret. That’s why Laureti makes it his practice to “say yes” whenever possible. He’s put his expertise in finance and information systems to work selling real estate, flipping houses, and at the Madison County Sheriff’s Office, where he serves as the director of administration. When the Le Moyne alumnus was recently asked to serve the hometown he loves as a member of Oneida’s Common Council, he didn’t hesitate. Laureti is also an accomplished pianist who has performed all over the East Coast. Put simply, he is not afraid to push himself out of his comfort zone.

“Life is short, so I want to experience everything I can,” he says. “I love business and I love being able to help people, which is why I think all of my jobs are so interesting. In the end, someone always benefits from the work my colleagues and I are doing.”

Whether he is solving a fiscal puzzle in the Sheriff’s Office, listening to a constituent at a Common Council meeting, or performing one of his favorite Billy Joel songs, Laureti is committed to building community. After all, it shaped him, made him the person he is today. Laureti acknowledges that we live in an age in which many young people seek to leave smaller communities like Oneida for large metropolises. He understands it. But personally, he’s found tremendous meaning and purpose in the very neighborhood where he grew up.

Laureti draws his understanding of what it means to be part of a community in large part from his family. His father worked as a police officer in Oneida for decades, and he witnessed the countless ways in which he served others. Laureti’s understanding of what it means to be part of a community also stems from his time at Le Moyne. His education taught him to be nimble and self-sufficient, and to manage time effectively. And, of course, it gave him a tremendous understanding of his field – finance. But it was more than that. A decade after his graduation,

Laureti has found that he can go anywhere and meet any Le Moyne graduate from any class, and talk to that person as if they’ve known each other forever. That ability to build camaraderie with others serves him well in his work today.    

“Professional success is enjoying your career,” he says. “Personal success is doing what you love. I think if you can combine the two, that is success.”

Making a Difference

A Model of Service

Most Americans don’t worry about whether the detergent pods they use are harmful or whether the toys their children play with are safe. And that is the highest compliment they could ever pay to Mary Kelleher ’84. As the associate executive director for health sciences at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Kelleher is responsible for helping to protect the public from unreasonable risk from items they and their loved ones use every day. In a career that has spanned the academic, nonprofit and biotechnology sectors, it is this work in public service has been the most rewarding of Kelleher’s life.

“I like to say that my job is to help really smart people get their work done,” says Kelleher, who is based at the U.S. National Product Testing and Evaluation Center in Rockville, Md. “I’m grateful every day that I have the opportunity to do that. But more than anything else, it’s our shared commitment to protecting consumers and families from products that pose a fire, electrical, chemical or mechanical hazard that keeps me and my colleagues going.”

While Kelleher did not begin her career in public service, it was modeled for her at an early age by her parents, who were both public servants. Her mother returned to the workforce when her youngest child entered Le Moyne College and was ultimately recognized for her exceptional service to others by being selected as the Employee of the Year for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Later when the younger Kelleher was asked to serve as the as the chief of research oversight and compliance at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center during the height of Operation Iraqi Freedom, she leapt at it. Kelleher ensured the responsible conduct of cutting-edge research for seriously ill and injured service members and their families and the latest in Wounded Warrior Care; she went on to work as a senior health policy analyst at the National Institutes of Health, Office of the Director and as a health science officer for precision medicine research with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.  The most challenging time of her career came as the pandemic hit and she was selected to join the V.A.’s COVID-19 research task force. While others complained about being bored with the lockdown, Kelleher and her team worked 12 hours a day, six days a week to make promising treatments and vaccines available to our nation’s veterans.  

Kelleher was recently nominated and appointed to the Senior Executive Service (S.E.S.) by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  The S.E.S. is a corps of executives across all federal agencies selected for their leadership qualifications to serve in key positions just below the top presidential appointees as a link between them and the rest of the federal (civil service) workforce.  Each of these roles afforded Kelleher the opportunity to use her understanding of science to help shape public policy in a way that improves the quality of life for everyone, without regard to politics. 

“My colleagues and I may have different ideological points of view, but we are unified in our mission to use data to solve problems,” she says. “At its core, our work is fact-based, centered around teamwork, communication and problem solving.”

A biology major on the Heights, Kelleher recalls that when she was a student, recombinant DNA – snippets of DNA from different organisms that are stitched together (or recombined) – was considered to be cutting-edge technology.

Today the advances in technology leading to better products is almost dizzying. To that end, she finds herself embracing another role, that of a “perpetual student,” at places like the Federal Executive Institute, Harvard University and George Washington University. That continuous learning will be more and more important as the United States wrestles with the devastating economic and social effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, and how to reopen and rebuild.

“This is a rewarding time to work in public service,” she says. “It’s exciting to have had my passion for science lead me in so many different directions.”

by Molly K. McCarthy

Championing the Goodness in Greatness

Michael Madden ’71 is the managing partner and co-founder of the private equity investment firm BlackEagle Partners. He is also among Le Moyne’s most dedicated and generous alumni. Mike served on the College’s board of trustees for 14 years, including four years as chairman. He has graciously shared his time and talent with his alma mater. The Madden School of Business is named in his honor. 

What is your idea of perfect happiness?
While I’m not sure anything can be “perfect,” my loved ones being healthy and happy, the world at peace and one of my horses winning the Belmont Stakes would come pretty darn close!

Which living person do you most admire?
The person I most admire passed away at the age of 107. Albert H. Gordon was the modern founder of Kidder, Peabody & Co. and served as my mentor when I joined the Wall Street firm in 1973. He taught me tenacity, generosity and humility (most of the time). When he saw me on the elevator he would always ask if I was exercising, eating right and still off the cigarettes. Later, he made sure to ask if I was giving enough money away since that was much more satisfying than hoarding it or spending on frivolous pursuits. To keep perspective, he would often remind me “that even the mighty eagle has to come down to Earth and take a drink once in a while.”

What is the greatest act of generosity you have ever witnessed?
When I read about people donating their organs to complete strangers in need, I am amazed at their unselfishness in putting themselves at risk for some other life. I wish I had that courage.

Do you think philanthropy is learned or born in people?
I believe philanthropy is learned. It comes from recognizing how much you have been given, realizing how much your help can mean to others and appreciating the example of so many generous people who have paved the way before you.

For example, Lynn and Kate McMartin and I started the Center for Aging Resources and Enrichment (C.A.R.E.) at Le Moyne three years ago. We saw the need of many seniors for healthcare, education and spiritual renewal and I have been very gratified to see the difference it has made in people’s lives.

What is your most treasured possession?
The strength and lasting nature of my relationships.

What is your most marked characteristic?
The ability to listen and solve problems.

What is something that you wish more people understood about what it means to be generous?
I wish people could appreciate how much satisfaction and pleasure one derives from seeing the benefits of giving and helping change the outcome for others. To that end, if you can, it’s a lot better to give while you are alive to see it than wait until you are dead.

What is your personal motto?
My motto is: FSD
Focus on what you want to accomplish
Sequence the moves you need to make it happen
Determination to never give up until the goal is achieved

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I wish I could be more patient and tolerant of personalities and behavior that don’t necessarily match my own.

Out On The Roads

Physician and noted running author George Sheehan once mused, “Out on the roads, there is fitness and self-discovery and the persons we were destined to be.” There must be something to that. The U.S. Sport and Fitness Industry Association estimates that 50 million Americans (or 15 percent of the population) regularly participate in some form of running or jogging. Some of them, it turns out, are Le Moyne alumni. This spring Dolphins near and far gathered to participate in what has become an annual tradition, the Dolphin Dash. Due to the pandemic, this year’s Dash was held virtually rather than on campus. Runners laced up their sneakers and created the 5K route that worked best for them, wherever they happened to be. And, in addition to doing something that was good for them, the participants raised funds in support of the College’s annual fund, blazing a trail for the next generation of ’Phins.

Progress Through Pain 

In the fall of 1997, Janice (Grieshaber) Geddes ’98 was in her final year at Le Moyne College. A 47-year-old mother of two with a world of experience under her belt, Janice was by all accounts a dedicated nontraditional student, eager to put her knowledge and skills to use serving others. She had left her position at the Baldwinsville Central School District to attend Le Moyne, studying psychology. She had hoped to move on to get a master’s degree in special education and to work with children with autism.

But that November, an unimaginable tragedy changed Janice’s course forever. Her daughter Jenna, a 22-year-old nursing student at Russell Sage College in Albany, N.Y., was murdered. Janice reeled from grief and loss, but stayed the course at Le Moyne, crediting the College as being “the best place she could be when Jenna was killed.” She had immense and immediate support from faculty, staff, administrators and her fellow students. In fact, a member of Campus Ministry sat with Janice every day at the Dolphin Den during her break for lunch. He didn’t say much, and neither did she, but his presence at the painful time is something she’ll never forget.

By December, Janice and her family determined that they had to find meaning in what had happened to Jenna. She was murdered by a violent felony offender who had just been released on parole three months prior. Janice and her family were furious that he had been able to be out on parole after serving a shortened sentence. Janice placed herself in front of the media whenever possible to tell Jenna’s story, and was gaining national attention declaring, “When you have the bullhorn, you shout!” By January of 1998, Janice and her family had begun working with lawmakers to ensure that this would not happen to another family. Today the Sentencing Reform Act of 1998, also known as Jenna’s Law, establishes determinate sentences for first-time violent felony offenders and requires their incarceration for longer periods by mandating that they serve at least six-sevenths of their determinate sentences.

Despite her heartbreak, Janice graduated magna cum laude from Le Moyne on time. She credits this to an intense desire to move forward, and the support she received through her loss. She went on to start a foundation in Jenna’s name and retired several years ago. Janice and her husband, Dick ’69, have given back to Le Moyne in many ways. As a family, they sponsored the education of alumnus Dakir Thompson ’17 through Onpoint for College, and Dick is a mentor in Le Moyne College’s Promise New York mentoring program. Janice founded Voices of Women Central New York, an online forum with over 900 members and continues to advocate for victims of violent crime. The Jenna Christine Grieshaber scholarship is funded through the Community Foundation and has had over two dozen awardees, and among them, many are Le Moyne graduates.

by Tracy Caryl, M.S.Ed. ’21

Family Weekend

Family Weekend is like Open House in elementary school: It’s the best way to show your family what your day-to-day life looks like; it’s a tradition was always especially exciting for me. My family didn’t join in the festivities during my freshman year because I was going home the following weekend. But after seeing everything Family Weekend had to offer, I made sure that my parents and sister came the following year. As a sophomore, it was so much fun to watch them enjoy all of the activities and show them around campus – as an insider. They met the people I talked about so much, and really felt what I felt on campus every day. During my junior year, only my dad was able to attend Family Weekend, but we made the most of it. Since I was on the student organizing committee, he got to buzz around campus on a golf cart with me, and even helped us set up events. Coming back to Le Moyne to pursue my Master of Business Administration after earning my bachelor’s degree at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic provided me with a lot of necessary closure to my undergraduate life. It was sad but understandable that events like Family Weekend had to be put on hold or significantly altered during the global health emergency. I’m confident that when we are able to safely come together again, events like Family Weekend, Reunion and Lessons and Carols, will be that much sweeter.

by Mia Franko ’20

Fulbright –  Sharing Peace, Love and Understanding

Bryan Tran ’21 vividly remembers sitting outside, enjoying a bowl of Bun Bo Hue he’d bought from a street vendor and watching the world go by. It was Bryan’s first trip to his parents’ homeland, Vietnam. Something about the setting – the sights, sounds and smells – made the spicy beef and noodle dish, which had long been a staple in his home, even more delicious. “It was so authentic,” recalled Bryan, who at the time was preparing to begin his sophomore year at Le Moyne. His parents, Dung Tran and Thanh Luong, immigrated to the United States from the city of Hue in the early 1990s and wanted to share it with Bryan and his younger sister, Aimee. The experience was transformative for Bryan. He immersed himself in the Southeast Asian nation’s history, culture and language, and forged connections with relatives he’d never before met in person. Three years later, Bryan will return to Vietnam this fall as a Fulbright scholar, teaching English at a high school for gifted students, community college, teacher training college or university. The newly minted alumnus will share with his students his love of language and his belief in its capacity to promote understanding and, by extension, peace. And he will undoubtedly take some time to find a comfortable place outside to relax, enjoy a great meal and reflect upon the ways in which life can come full circle.