Distinguished Alumni

Meet some of the many distinguished alumni of SUNY Schenectady.


Karin CarreauKarin Carreau ’98

A.S., Human Services
Karin is the Principal of Carreau Consulting, a boutique government relations firm which has consistently established high political profiles for organizations such as the National Association of Social Workers (NYS and NYC), Families Together in NY State and YouthBuild, to name just a few. Throughout her career, she has given voice to unrepresented populations and those whom serve them, delivering victories on landmark legislative issues. Carreau was a primary negotiator of the state’s "Raise the Age" legislation and architect of its family campaign (passed in 2017), as well as the state's mental health parity legislation, parity reporting bill and recent parity expansion (passed 2006, 2018, 2019), all of which increase access to mental health services. In addition, Carreau lead the campaign to ban conversion therapy (passed in January of 2019), secured millions in funding for at risk youth and created (and secured millions of dollars in funding for) the NASW-NYS, MSSNY, NYSPA statewide Veterans Mental Health Training Initiative (a nationally recognized and replicated program), as well as the NASW-NYS Problem Gambling Training Initiative. Karin graduated summa cum laude from UAlbany in 2000 with a B.S. in Social Welfare and in 2001, with a Masters of Social Welfare (concentration in policy and administration). Karin has also co-developed and taught a graduate level course on social work policy at UAlbany.


Rich Carrier, owner of Total EventsRichard Carrier ’80

A.A.S., Hotel and Restaurant Management
Rich is an Albany native who went on to earn a degree in Hospitality Management from University of Nevada Las Vegas. His knowledge for the hospitality industry was further refined during his 15 years at the legendary Las Vegas Hilton, and subsequently as the Director of Catering when the Rio Hotel & Casino was launched. Wanting to be closer to his family, he and his wife Melissa returned to the Albany area. With his entrepreneur spirit and passion for the event industry, he launched Total Events, a full service décor and special events company, in 1999 from the basement of their Ballston Lake home. His drive and leadership drove the company to exponential growth and the formation of an amazing team of event professionals that are all part of the “Total Events’ family” that celebrates their 20th anniversary in 2019!


Thomas ConstantineThomas Constantine ’83

A.A.S., Criminal Justice
Tom attended Buffalo State College and enjoyed a successful 20-year career with the Niskayuna Police Department before retirement. He left his post as Director of Homeland Security/Emergency Management for Schenectady County to join the staff at Union College as Associate Director of Campus Safety. He is a Title IX and Violence Against Women's Act Investigator, and is New York State Police trained in investigation of child abuse, family violence, and sex offenses.


Thomas Bambury, in memoriumThomas Dalton Bambury ’91, ’13*

A.S., Performing Arts: Drama, Certificate, Chemical Dependency Counseling
Thomas received the Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence and served on the Board of Trustees during his time at SUNY Schenectady. He was devoted to helping people in his role as a counselor at Mohawk Opportunities in Schenectady. Previously, he worked at the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance. He was a communicant of St. Madeleine Sophie Church in Guilderland. Thomas was very involved as an actor, singer and director in many local community theater groups where he gave newcomers a chance to shine on the stage. Thomas was also an active supporter of the LGBTQ community.


Joan Dembinski in a chef's coat and cap.Joan R. Dembinski '09, '10

Certificate, Assistant Chef, A.O.S., Culinary Arts
Joan is a Pastry Chef for the Honest Weight Food Coop and Yono's /dp an American Brasserie, as well as a Prep Chef for the Wine Bar in Saratoga. As a native of Albany, New York, she experienced the growth of the city from the late thirties. She is a graduate of Albany Academy for Girls and Mount Holyoke College. After 50 years in the pharmaceutical industry in both preclinical and clinical research, she returned to school at SUNY Schenectady. She has traveled to France, Italy and Indonesia to further increase her culinary skills. She continues to learn and share in culinary events for charities as well as to work with young folks in the Chef and Child program of the American Culinary Federation.


Vera Dordick, EntrepreneurVera Dordick ’04

A.O.S., Culinary Arts
Vera’s time at the College was a pursuit of creative passion and earning her degree was part of her career reinvention. She opened her own small business, the Queen of Tarts custom cake bakery in Guilderland, which allowed her to let her creativity go wild, fashioning unique 3-D and wedding cakes for clients throughout the Hudson Valley and New York City. She also taught baking and pastry at the College. Now, with the founding of Avant Garde Global Communications, Vera writes, tells business stories, and creatively communicates for clients. She has blogged on the Albany Times Union website about marketing and creativity and as a columnist for UpMarket Magazine. She serves as Publisher and CEO of Hidenet Publications, reporting on price trends and market directions in the hide and leather industry, and as a Contributing Editor for Homedit.com


Margaret Evans sitting on a bike, holding a SUNY Schenectady bag.Margaret Evans ’81

A.A.S., Accounting
Margaret took evening classes at SUNY Schenectady to earn her degree while she raised a family. She calls it "one of the wisest decisions I ever made!" She landed a job as Assistant Bookkeeper at the Visiting Nurse Association of Albany in August of that year, and 32 years later retired as Accounting Manager, overseeing the payroll, accounts payable, and general accounting functions of the organization. In the summer of 2018, reflecting on all that SUNY Schenectady has meant to her, Margaret decided to recognize the College in her estate plans and become a member of the Keystone Society. She continues to take classes at SUNY Schenectady just for fun.


Comedian and actor Dion FlynnDion Flynn '17

A.S., Performing Arts: Drama
Comedian and actor Dion Flynn is best known as portraying Barack Obama on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" and has over 60 appearances as 15 different characters on both "The Tonight Show" and "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon." Cited by Oprah magazine as "One of our favorite creative thinkers" Dion leads workshops in mental agility, group inventory and storytelling via improvisation, free-writing and mind-mapping with Fortune 500 clients all over the world. After attending SUNY Schenectady, Flynn went on to the University at Albany, and later earned his MFA in Acting from New York University’s prestigious Tisch School of the Arts. Dion served overseas as a soldier and performer in the U.S. Army for 4 years. His theater history includes Shakespeare in the Park, The Public Theater and The Guthrie. Dion is also co-creator of Clanging w/Josh and Dion with "How I Met Your Mother" star Josh Radnor.


George Goldhoff, President and CEO of PURE Canadian GamingGeorge Goldhoff '84

A.A.S., Hotel and Restaurant Management
George is President and CEO of PURE Canadian Gaming, based in Edmonton, Alberta. He was recruited to assist in the opening of Steve Wynn’s Bellagio, the first Five Diamond casino resort in Las Vegas. He continued to work with MGM Corporation at the Four Diamond Mississippi property, Beau Rivage Resort and Casino, and later became General Manager of Goldstrike Hotel and Casino in Tunica, Mississippi. Through his career George has also led teams at some of the most iconic hospitality venues, such as The Rainbow Room and The Plaza Hotel in New York. He went on to graduate from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and holds an MBA from Columbia University. George was SUNY Schenectady’s Commencement speaker in 2014 and a member of the Capital Campaign Cabinet in 2019.


Jamie Hildenbrandt standing in an airplane hanger in front of a plane.Jamie Hildenbrandt ’07

A.S., Aviation Science
Jamie is the President of Hildt Aviation Bennington, LLC since June of 2017, located at the William H. Morse State Airport in Bennington, Vermont. He started his aviation career at SUNY Schenectady in 2007 obtaining his pilot’s license, continuing his education in Clearwater, FL for his aircraft maintenance license. Hildt Aviation Bennington now employs several aircraft mechanics and technicians where a wide variety of aircraft maintenance, warranty repair and avionics services are offered.


Henny KupfersteinHenny Kupferstein ’13

A.S., Human Services
Henny is a Ph.D. psychology candidate with a specialization on autism research. She holds a Master’s degree in Transformative Leadership. She is trained in music therapy and has a Bachelor of Science degree (magna cum laude) in Music from the State University of New York. She has published research, and co-authored a book titled Perfect Pitch in the Key of Autism. Her story about her non-traditional journey from a shelter to a college dorm in her 30's, aired on NPR. She holds a patent for a medical device, and is the founder of the Doogri Institute, a non-profit dedicated to promoting equal access to higher education for students with all abilities. Her website is: www.hennyk.com.


Angelo Mazzone, RestaurateurAngelo Mazzone '74

A.A.S., Hotel and Restaurant Management
After graduating from SUNY Schenectady, Angelo earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of New Haven in Connecticut. The purchase of Peggy’s Restaurant in 1981 was the true beginning of what is now Mansion Catering. While managing Peggy's restaurant and catering services, Angelo created Papa Cicco’s Pizza and Pasta Emporium. This experience gave him the inspiration to imagine what is now a reality - to own and operate a first class catering company with the ability to expand to all areas of the Capital District. In 1988, he purchased Glen Sanders Mansion. Starting in 1996, Mansion Catering became the exclusive caterer at the Hall of Springs in Saratoga. In 2005, Angelo's 677 Prime opened in downtown Albany and the following years Mazzone Management became the exclusive caterer at Erlowest in Lake George and food service provider at the Saratoga National Golf Club.


Mayor of Schenectady, Gary McCarthyGary McCarthy '77

A.S., Liberal Arts: Interdisciplinary Science
As Mayor of Schenectady, Gary is well-known for his reputation as a hands-on and accessible public servant throughout the community. He was one of the first mayors in the nation to sign up for the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness in 2014 and has worked towards stabilizing the City’s economy. After graduating he continued his education at the University at Albany and started his career as an Investigator in the Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office, in which he convicted hundreds of violent predators and career criminals for 30 years. Gary served on the Schenectady City Council from 1996 - 1999, and in 2005. In January 2010, he was elected as Council President until he was elected as Mayor of the City of Schenectady in April 2011. He was re-elected to a second four-year term in November 2015.


Jay Murphy in a George Washington University baseball uniform.Jay Murphy ’79

A.A., Liberal Arts: Humanities and Social Science
Jay has celebrated 300 collegiate victories as a Head Baseball Coach, coached more than 50 players who have gone on to play professional baseball, and impacted the lives of countless aspiring athletes. After attending SUNY Schenectady he earned his bachelor’s degree from SUNY Oswego, NYS Teaching Certification in Health and Physical Education, and master’s degree in Sports Administration from Kent State University. He returned to SUNY Schenectady for his first coaching experience as an Assistant Basketball Coach in 1981, then continued on as Head Baseball Coach for NCAA Division I programs at George Washington University and Cleveland State University, and as an Instructor and Envoy for the Major League Baseball Academy in Wuxi, China. He is now the Varsity Baseball Coach and Baseball Program Director at Andrews Osborne Academy in Willoughby, Ohio. He also serves as the Director of Baseball Operations for Golden Spikes Baseball which sponsors Travel Baseball teams in Northeast Ohio. In 2019 Jay, along with his son, Tommy, coached the Cleveland Indians Youth Baseball Team participated in the Commissioner's Cup Tournament hosted by Major League Baseball as part of the All-Star Game activities being held in Cleveland.


Patricia Novo standing behind a table full of wine glasses.Patricia Pendergast Novo ’05

A.O.S., Culinary Arts
Patti is the owner of Taverna Novo in Saratoga Springs. She and her husband, Jeff, opened the restaurant after owning Crush and Cask Wine and Spirits for 15 years. Patti successfully passed the Certified Specialist of Wine Examination, as given by The Society of Wine Educators. She currently serves as President of the Advisory Board for the School of Hotel, Culinary Arts and Tourism at the College, and is an Adjunct Instructor for Wines of the World. She is also a member of the Guild of Sommeliers.


Dr. Townsend Plant, Associate Dean for Enrollment Management and Student Life, Peabody Institute, Johns Hopkins UniversityDr. Townsend Plant ’96

A.S., Performing Arts: Music, Certificate in Music
A classical guitarist, Townsend went on to graduate with Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees from Ithaca College and completed a Doctor of Musical Arts from the Eastman School of Music of the University of Rochester. As Associate Dean for Enrollment Management and Student Life at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, Townsend oversees admissions, financial aid, the office of the registrar, and student affairs, and he is the divisional lead for the Student Services Excellence Initiative at Johns Hopkins University. Townsend’s prior experience includes roles as assistant provost for admissions and enrollment at Binghamton University (State University of New York), director of admissions and financial aid for the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University Bloomington, and assistant dean for admissions, summer and preparatory programs at Ithaca College. He is past chair of the Independent Consortium on College Admissions in Music, a group comprising over 20 select music schools across the United States, and has served as a consultant in enrollment management and marketing in the arts.


Laura Primiano, General Manager, Landing HotelLaura Primiano ’00

A.A.S., Hotel and Restaurant Management
In her current role as General Manager of the Landing Hotel in Schenectady, Laura is responsible for all functions related to transitioning the property from management company oversight to full independent status. She personally managed all facets of acquisition, creation, launch, and sales of the Harbor Suite; a 1,700 square foot premium suite located in the adjacent Mohawk Harbor. She has received numerous awards and recognition for excellent customer service and superior performance, including the Meristar Hotel and Resort Service Leader Award for dedications and professionalism in delivering excellent customer services.


Kendall Richardson in his fire fighter's gear, standing in front of a fire truck.Lt. Kendall Richardson ’99, ’00

Certificate, Fire Science, A.A.S., Fire Protection Technology
Kendall had already earned his certificate in Fire Science and was finishing up his degree in Fire Protection Technology while earning his EMT certification through the program when he was hired as an EMT with the FDNY. A successful turn in probationary firefighting school followed and Richardson went on to graduate from John Jay College with his bachelor’s degree in Fire and Emergency Service. He was at Ground Zero about 30 minutes after both towers fell on September 11, 2001, and worked in one of the main triage sites. Kendall has moved up the ranks from EMT to Firefighter at Engine Co. 290 and Ladder 103 in East New York, Brooklyn, and was promoted to Lieutenant in April 2014. He is now a Lieutenant with Engine Co. 235 in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.


Joshua Ross in a pilot's uniform, standing in front of a plane.Joshua Ross ’13

A.S., Aviation Science
At the age of 23, Josh was piloting a Cessna 402 twin-engine aircraft for Cape Air, flying routes from Cape Cod, across the Northeast and Caribbean. He’s now a First Officer/Pilot for Delta Private Jets, flying the Cessna Citation CJ3, a multi-engine corporate jet. His typical passengers are CEOs on business trips. Since his first flight lesson at SUNY Schenectady in September 2011, Josh’s passion for aviation only become stronger, and in 2018 he started his own scholarship for aviation students.


Attorney Kate ToombsHon. Kate Toombs ’94

A.A., Liberal Arts: Humanities and Social Science
Kate is an Attorney with more than twenty years’ experience practicing primarily in the areas of Elder Law, Medicaid Planning and Application, Trust and Estate Planning, Estate Administration, Veteran’s Benefits and Real Estate. She is a member of the NYS and Schenectady County Bar Associations, and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and Elder Counsel. She served as an Associate Justice for the Village of Scotia for five years. After graduating from SUNY Schenectady, Kate received her B.A. from University at Albany and her J.D. (cum laude) from Albany Law School of Union University. She is an active Rotarian who participates in international humanitarian efforts focusing on clean water and sanitation, children’s health and menstrual hygiene support in third-world countries. She is a former Girl Scout Leader, past Vice President and Secretary of the Board of Trustees of Historic Cherry Hill and a past Director of the Schenectady YMCA.


Tim Vennard, General Manager, GlobalCafeTim Vennard ’97

A.O.S., Culinary Arts, A.A.S., Hotel and Restaurant Management
Tim joined Mazzone Hospitality in 2009 as an Executive Chef/Manager for Golub Corporate Offices and was promoted to General Manager for the GLOBALCAFE at GLOBALFOUNDRIES in 2011. In the summer of 2013, Tim was promoted to Operations Director for PRIME Business Dining and in the Fall of 2014, he accepted the position as Vice President. Prior experiences include Nicole’s Bistro, The Desmond Hotel, and Normanside Country Club as well as the Sturbridge Host Hotel and Conference Center. He is a member of SUNY Schenectady’s Hotel, Culinary Arts and Tourism Advisory Board, and a Certified Executive Chef.


Susan Watson, in memoriumSusan Watson ’78*

A.A.S., Paralegal
After graduating, Susan worked for the law offices of Wemple and Caruso. She later earned her Bachelor's degree from the College of Saint Rose and her Master's degree from SUNY Albany. As owner of Susan M. Watson, CPA, which evolved into Watson, Peterson & Company, Susan loved working with her clients and was an incredible leader to her staff and role model to her children, including her daughter Heather Peterson ’99, who took over the firm when Susan retired in 2016. Susan was committed to helping women integrate more fully into the workforce and achieving management positions. She sought to achieve this through education and mentorship and served on various boards and committees which promoted this philosophy, including the Schenectady County Community College Foundation Board.


Aaron Wyanski, composer and educatorAaron Wyanski ’02, ’03

A.S., Performing Arts: Music, A.A.S., Music Business
Aaron Wyanski is a composer, pianist, and educator whose work explores connection, empathy, and vulnerability. His compositions have been commissioned by the Amaranth Quartet, Roger Zahab, and Ensemble 4saxess, among others, and his work has been featured as part of the Hartford New Music Festival, New Music on the Point, and New England Conservatory’s Summer Institute for Contemporary Performance Practice. An active educator, Wyanski has taught at Sweet Briar College and The Hartt School, and maintains a private studio. He holds a DMA in composition from The Hartt School, an MFA in composition from the Vermont College of Fine Arts, a BM in jazz piano from Purchase College, and degrees in both performance and music business from Schenectady County Community College.


Susan Zongrone, Relationship Manager, Key Private BankSusan Zongrone ’85

A.A.S., Hotel and Restaurant Management
Susan is a Relationship Manager for Key Private Bank. In 2020, Susan will be the chair for Key4Women and the Women’s Business Council through the Regional Chamber of Commerce. After graduating from SUNY Schenectady, Susan went on to earn her B.S. in Hotel/Restaurant Management from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She currently serves on the Schenectady County Community College Foundation Board of Directors.



 * In Memorium