ʪƵ to Bestow Special Honors during 70th Commencement

April 15, 2024

ʪƵ will bestow honors upon five members of the community during its 70th Commencement celebrations, to be held across seven ceremonies on Friday, May 10 and Saturday, May 11, in the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Athletic Center Fieldhouse.

Thomas G. Bowles ’71, outgoing chair of the University’s Board of Trustees, will be given an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters in recognition of his dedicated service and leadership commitment to Fisher. He will be honored during the evening School of Arts and Sciences ceremony at 6:30 p.m. on Friday.

Four individuals will also receive President’s Medals in recognition of their leadership, partnership, and impact on the Fisher community.

Dr. Dianne Cooney Miner, dean emeritus of the Wegmans School of Nursing and senior advisor and fellowship director for the Golisano Institute for Developmental Disability Nursing, will be honored during the graduate ceremony for the Wegmans School of Nursing, held at 10:30 a.m. on Friday. The University will posthumously award a President’s Medal to Victor E. Salerno ’66 at the School of Business ceremony, held at 10 a.m. on Saturday. Retired research scientist, activist, and educator, Dr. Walter Cooper, will be honored during the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. School of Education Ceremony, held at 1 p.m., and Dr. Curtis E. Haas, chief pharmacy officer at the University of Rochester Medical Center, will be recognized at the Wegmans School of Pharmacy ceremony at 3 p.m. on Saturday.

Thomas G. Bowles ’71

Thomas G. Bowles ’71

Bowles received his bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Fisher and was a member of the men’s basketball team. He went on to earn his Master of Business Administration at The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.

Bowles built a career as a turnaround CEO in the branded consumer products space focused on medium-sized, public, and private businesses in cash constrained, distressed situations. For the past two decades, his emphasis has been on distressed portfolio companies of private equity firms.

From 2011 to 2016, he served as CEO and chairman of Enesco, a giftware, fashion accessories, and plush toy business behind some of the world’s most recognizable brands, including Gund Teddy Bears, Walt Disney, Sesame Street, Boyd’s Bears, The Grinch, and approximately 100 other properties. There, he built a new senior leadership team, led the drive for new growth, stimulated profitability, and implemented a new “trust-based” corporate culture initiative.

Earlier in his career, Bowles specialized in fashion and sports marketing, serving as group president of Hartmarx Corporation, president of Golden Bear/Jack Nicklaus Enterprises, and CEO of Buster Brown Children’s Apparel.

He has been a member of the ʪƵ Board of Trustees since 1993, and served on several committees throughout his tenure. From 2018 to 2022, he was chair of the Strategic Enrollment Planning and Intercollegiate Athletics committee, and in 2022, chaired the Finance and Facilities committee. He has also been a member of the Academic and Faculty Affairs committee. Bowles began his term as chair of the Board in 2022, and helped guide the institution’s transition from “college” to “university,” a historic milestone for Fisher.

Originally from New York City, today Bowles lives in Asheville, North Carolina, where he serves on several not for profit boards including as chair of the Board of the University of North Carolina Asheville’s Bulldog Athletic Association and as chair of the North Carolina Stage Company’s Board, the only professional, equity theater in Asheville.

Dr. Dianne Cooney Miner

Dianne Cooney Miner, Ph.D., RN, CNS

Cooney Miner served as the founding dean of the Wegmans School of Nursing at ʪƵ until her retirement in 2020. She enjoyed a long, illustrious career at the University, becoming chair of the Department of Nursing in 2003 and the founding dean of the School in 2006. In recognition of her commitment to advancing Fisher’s work in the community, she was also appointed associate vice president for community engagement in 2015.

She transformed the undergraduate and graduate offerings at Fisher, overseeing the introduction of new master’s and doctoral programs and the University’s first fully online program. In 2020, Fisher’s Board of Trustees bestowed upon her the title of dean emeritus for her visionary leadership and impact on the University.

Her scholarly research has been published in dozens of professional medical journals and health care publications, and she is regularly called upon by media as an expert in the field of nursing. For over 20 years, Cooney Miner has served on a variety of boards including the New York State Board for Nursing, Board of Directors of Rochester Regional Health, The Children’s Agenda, and The Children’s Institute.

Following her retirement as dean, Cooney Miner transitioned full-time to the role of founding executive director of the Golisano Institute for Developmental Disability Nursing. The Institute transforms the quality of care and support for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities regionally, nationally, and internationally by training nursing professionals in field-specific skills and knowledge. In 2023, Cooney Miner retired as executive director, and she remains active with the Institute, serving as a senior advisor and director of the Golisano Fellowship in Developmental Disability Nursing program.

Throughout her career, Cooney Miner has been recognized for her leadership; she was given the Rochester Business Alliance HealthCare Leadership Award, New York Organization of Nurse Executives Leadership Award, and the New York Center for Nursing’s Driscoll Award for her lifetime achievements in the profession of nursing. She has received multiple honors from the Rochester Business Journal and in April 2024, she was inducted as a member of the Children’s Institute Coterie.  

Victor E. Salerno ’66

Victor E. Salerno ’66

Salerno earned a bachelor of business administration degree in accounting from Fisher in 1966. Following graduation, he served as a CPA for Deloitte & Touche (formerly Haskins & Sells), performing audit, tax, and business advisory services. In 1971, he joined O’Connell Electric Company as vice president and became CEO in 2006. His O’Connell career spanned 50 years, and under his leadership, the company grew to be ranked within the top 50 largest U.S. electrical contractors. Salerno retired from O’Connell in 2022 and stayed on as co-chairman of the Board of Directors.

His involvement at Fisher was extensive through his service on the Alumni Association Board of Directors as well as the Board of Trustees, of which he was a member since 2007. He was board chair for three years, and in 2016, received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters for his service. Salerno was also most generous with his time, visiting the School of Business with regularity to meet with students during their classes, mentoring students one-on-one, and serving as a member of the Dean’s Advisory Council. He was a tireless champion and dedicated supporter of his alma mater.

Salerno and his wife, Eileen, a former employee at Fisher, have been among the University’s most generous philanthropists. To date, their gift of $2 million to create the Victor E. Salerno Center for American Enterprise, in honor of Mr. Salerno’s father, is one of the institution’s largest gifts from an alumnus. In 2021, they also gave a gift of $1.6 million in support of the Victor E. Salerno, Sr. Scholarship, an endowed fund in his father’s name that supports full-time undergraduate students studying across all disciplines. The Salernos were inaugural members of the Presidents Society, and at the time of his passing, Mr. Salerno was serving as the chair of the University’s Fisher Forward campaign, contributing greatly to its success. Under his leadership, the University surpassed its original campaign goal of $75 million nearly one year ahead of schedule. With Salerno’s encouragement, in December 2022, the Board voted to increase the goal to $100 million and extend the campaign through 2025.

Dr. Walter Cooper | Photo Credit: University of Rochester

Walter Cooper, Ph.D.

Cooper is the first African-American to earn a doctoral degree in physical chemistry from the University of Rochester. Joining Eastman Kodak Co. in 1956, Cooper rose from research scientist to manager of research innovation and of technical communications. He published more than 25 scientific papers and obtained three patents in polymerization during his three decades with the company.

In the 1960s, Cooper emerged as a key African-American leader in the Rochester community and beyond, and advocated for community development, civil rights issues, and educational opportunities for students of color throughout his career. He was respected across divisions in the community and wrote the original proposal that secured funding for Action for a Better Community and became the organization’s associate director in 1964. The following year, he served as associate director of the Rochester and Monroe County Anti-poverty Program and was a founding member of the Urban League of Rochester. In recognition of his engagement in civil rights, Cooper was asked to serve on the New York State Advisory Committee of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.

To open opportunities for African-American students, in 1973, Cooper helped found the city’s Urban-Suburban transfer program, which still operates today. He also helped establish Rochester’s Sister City program with Bamako, Mali in 1975. Due to his work, he was named a Knight of the National Order of Mali in 1981.

From 1988 to 1997, he served as a New York State regent. For decades after, he continued to lend his expertise to regent committees, including the Interstate Migrant Education Council, which advocates for the educational rights of migrant workers’ children. In 1999, he chaired the planning group that restructured troubled Benjamin Franklin High School and established the city’s only public Montessori school. Cooper served on the mayor’s commission on literacy, and on the Board of Trustees for the Norman Howard School, Nazareth University, and Washington and Jefferson College, his alma mater.

Cooper has been recognized by several organizations and institutions in recognition of his lifetime commitment to civil rights. In 2005, he received the Rotary Award, the oldest civic honor given in Rochester. In 2010, the Rochester City School District named an elementary school building in his honor, and in 2020, Washington and Jefferson College renamed first-year dormitory Beau Hall to Cooper Hall.

Dr. Curtis E. Haas

Curtis E. Haas, Pharm.D., FCCP

Haas received a bachelor’s degree from Albany College of Pharmacy in 1982, and completed his Doctor of Pharmacy at the University at Buffalo School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences in 1989.

For 17 years, he specialized in critical care pharmacy practice and maintained an active teaching, practice, and research program with numerous publications and national presentations in critical care therapeutics. In 2000, Haas accepted a tenure-track faculty position in the school of pharmacy at the University at Buffalo, where he was promoted to associate professor with tenure. 

In 2006, he accepted his current leadership role at the University of Rochester. During his tenure at the institution, the department has expanded more than threefold in size and has become an enterprise-wide contributor to the success of the health system, including more than a 10-fold growth of clinically trained pharmacy specialists in both acute and ambulatory practice environments.

His many professional service activities include serving two three-year terms as a board member for the American College of Clinical Pharmacy (AACP), including serving as the president from 2012 to 2013. Haas also served two three-year terms on the Pharmacotherapy Specialty Council for the Board of Pharmacy Specialties, and was one of the co-authors of the successful petition for recognition of critical care as a pharmacy specialty. He was a founding member of the Critical Care Pharmacotherapy Trials Network, which has now merged with the Discovery Network of the Society of Critical Care Medicine.

Haas has been involved in the training and education of pharmacy students, residents, and fellows for more than 30 years. At Fisher, he is a member of the Dean’s Advisory Council for the Wegmans School of Pharmacy and has delivered lectures and talks to students on the future of the pharmacy profession, including as a keynote speaker at the School’s White Coat Ceremony.

Fisher’s Commencement is the culmination of a weeklong series of events and activities celebrating members of the Class of 2024. For more information about the ceremonies, visit the University’s Commencement website.