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Staff & Board Of Directors

STRIDE employs 4 full-time staff members: CEO, COO, Development Director, and Program Director. They also employ various unpaid interns from local colleges during the year, and seasonal program directors for Camping and swimming programs.

STRIDE operates with a ten-person Executive Board. Each individual brings their own strengths and attributes to the organization either in the form of skill-set,  financial contributions, service within their particular field of expertise or assistance with our various fundraisers, events and programs. The Executive Board meets ten times per year to discuss items and topics relevant to sustaining the organization, including formulating and continually updating the Strategic Plan for continued growth.


Mary Ellen Whitney
CEO & Founder /

STRIDE’s management team is led by Whitney, who took a full-time leadership role in 2006 after running the organization for over 20 years as a volunteer while teaching in public school system. Whitney holds a M.Ed from Lehigh University in Special Education and a BS in Health and Physical Education / Adaptive Physical Education from East Stroudsburg University. She is accredited or certified through numerous national organizations including Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA), American Association of Snowboard Instructors, Disabled Sports USA, United States Paralympics, Red Cross,  Special Olympics, American Heart Association, and the National Association of Underwater Instructors and is educational staff /examiner for PSIA/AASI Eastern division.  She has been recognized for her leadership skills statewide and nationally including such honors as  Rensselaer County Good Scout Award;  Named in Time Magazine for Wounded Warrior programs; National Community Leadership Award from President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition;  Beacon Leadership Award  by Independent Living Center of Hudson Valley,  Excellence in Business AwardJefferson Award for American Institute of Public Service,   Woman’s Day magazine “Woman of the Year” award,  NYS Senate “Woman of Distinction” Award, and was inducted into both Muhlenberg High School and East Stroudsburg University Halls of Fame.

Whitney resides in North Greenbush, NY with her husband Jonathan (LJ) and two American Eskimo dogs. Besides the obvious love of skiing/snowboarding, she enjoys hiking, biking, sailing, water sports and adventure world travel.

Patrick Hayslett
Development Director  /

Pat has worked in marketing and development for a Fortune 150 company and a language translation agency that serves diverse people throughout the Northeast. His grandfather was a disabled veteran, and his cousin grew up with muscular dystrophy. Pat has a degree from Clarkson University where he loved watching hockey. His skills and experience in IT, grant writing and fund development help bring STRIDE’s life-changing programs to more children and wounded warriors. Pat lives in West Sand Lake with his wife Lynn and three adopted rescue cats. In his free time, he volunteers as an EMT and enjoys the outdoors. 

Joe Russo
COO  /

Joe Russo came to us from Rye NY, purchasing a new home in Averill Park with his wife and rescue dog, Cassie. His resume is extensive in the areas of operations in corporate and real estate management, directing extensive capital projects and overseeing risk management for an internationally known media company in NYC. As Chief Operating Officer, Joe handles the finances, manages our property assets, work with development, and assists the CEO with management tasks.  We are fortunate to find someone with such diverse skills and talents.  Joe enjoys hiking with his dog, swimming in Lake George and spending time in nature.

Camille Pawlowski
Program Director  /

Camille started her relationship with STRIDE as an intern in 2019. Working primarily on business and event planning, Camille largely helped with the grand opening of our SHARE Center in November 2019. Her experience working in local meaningful roles like volunteer coordinator at Habitat for Humanity; a mentor  assistant in event planning with the Vegetable Project; event planning intern with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention; and as a special education 1:1 teaching assistant in a life skills class in East Greenbush have solidified her passion to positively impact the lives of others and prepared her for her new journey as our Program Director. Originally from a small suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, she moved to New York in 2018 to finish her B.A in Communication and Leadership in May 2020 and lives in Albany with her partner, Mark. In her free time she enjoys swimming, hiking, yoga, taking care of her many house plants and searching out the best vegan soft serve ice cream in New York.


Mary Ellen Whitney

President / Chief Executive Officer and Founder, STRIDE Adaptive Sports
Wynantskill, NY

STRIDE’s management team is led by Whitney, who took a full-time leadership role in 2006 after running the organization for over 20 years as a volunteer while teaching in public school system. Whitney holds a M.Ed from Lehigh University in Special Education and a BS in Health and Physical Education / Adaptive Physical Education from East Stroudsburg University. She is accredited or certified through numerous national organizations including Professional Ski Instructors of America (PSIA), American Association of Snowboard Instructors, Disabled Sports USA, United States Paralympics, Red Cross,  Special Olympics, American Heart Association, and the National Association of Underwater Instructors and is educational staff /examiner for PSIA/AASI Eastern division.  She has been recognized for her leadership skills statewide and nationally including such honors as  Rensselaer County Good Scout Award;  Named in Time Magazine for Wounded Warrior programs; National Community Leadership Award from President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition;  Beacon Leadership Award  by Independent Living Center of Hudson Valley,  Excellence in Business AwardJefferson Award for American Institute of Public Service,   Woman’s Day magazine “Woman of the Year” award,  NYS Senate “Woman of Distinction” Award, and was inducted into both Muhlenberg High School and East Stroudsburg University Halls of Fame.

Whitney resides in North Greenbush, NY with her husband Jonathan (LJ) and two American Eskimo dogs. Besides the obvious love of skiing/snowboarding, she enjoys hiking, biking, sailing, water sports and adventure world travel.

Dick Miller

Vice President /American National Insurance (retired)
Loudenville, NY

DickMiller Miller was Senior Agent at American National Insurance (formerly Farm Family), helping business owners and families protect their assets since 1984. He specialized in agribusiness protection and was inducted into the Farm Family Hall of fame in 2010. A dedicated skier for nearly forty years, Dick has served as a ski instructor with STRIDE since 2000. Beginning in 2002, he also participated annually as a ski instructor for the Department of Veterans Affairs to help veterans young and old ski again, held in Aspen, Colorado. He plays soccer year round and enjoys cycling when lack of snow prevents skiing. Dick lives in Loudenville, NY with his life partner Kathryn. He has three daughters who are also great skiers: Roxanne, Libby, and Sammi, all college graduates.

Amy Earing

Treasurer / Partner, Lavelle & Finn, LLP
Castleton, NY

AmyEaringEaring is a partner attorney with Lavelle & Finn, LLP, Attorney’s at Law, in Latham NY. concentrating in estate planning, elder law planning, estate administration, corporate law, not-for-profit corporations and tax planning. Amy received a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting degree from Siena College and received her Juris Doctorate from Albany Law School. Amy grew up in the close-knit community of Castleton, New York, where she now lives with her husband, Chris, their son, Carson and their chocolate lab, Tucker.


Linda Reiss

Secretary / Retired VP Operations Matthew Bender Publishing
North Greenbush, NY

Reiss spent her entire career in the publishing industry,  having spent 20+ years with Matthew Bender Company most recently as VP of Operations, then worked for an international software firm providing business systems to major publishers.  She has an undergraduate degree in English and an MBA from the RPI Lally School of Management.  Retired, Linda lives in North Greenbush with her husband Don where she enjoys participating in in several wood carving groups, traveling, and spending time at Saratoga Lake with her children and grandchildren.

Patrick Fitzgerald, III

Counsel /  Partner, Girvin & Ferlazzo, P.C.
Loudonville, NY

PatrickFitzgeraldFitzgerald joined STRIDE in 2004. As a partner with the law firm of Girvin & Ferlazzo, P.C. in Albany, he focuses his practice in the area of construction litigation, commercial and business litigation, personal injury litigation, and labor and employment law. Before returning to the Capital District in 2001, Fitzgerald was a partner in a prominent law firm in Connecticut and served as an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Connecticut School of Law. While in Connecticut, he was involved in many community activities and was a founder of the Bridgeport Youth Leadership Academy. In addition to his service on the board of STRIDE, he is the President of the St. Pius X School Board, and is actively involved in a leadership position in many endeavors at the school and at St. Pius X Parish in Loudonville, NY. Fitzgerald received his Undergraduate Degree from Fairfield University (Magna Cum Laude) in 1987 and his JD from The University of Connecticut School of Law (Magna Cum Laude) in 1992. He also attended Medical School at the University of Rochester School of Medicine. He and his wife, Sheila, have three children and reside Loudonville, NY.

Tom Gilbert

Board Member /  Catamount Ski Area (retired)
Lenox, MA

TomGilbertTom has spent his entire life in the ski industry, at least part time, starting with selling hot chocolate at a ski-in ski-out coffee shack before learning to make snow at age 6 with the first SMI prototype snow gun, and then learning to drive a Snow Cat at age 9! Over the years he has performed many functions at ski areas. Tom graduated with a BS degree in Business Management from Alfred University in 1981 with a minor in Accounting and Computer Science. After graduating, he moved from CT to begin his career implementing Accounting and Budgeting systems while keeping active involvement in the ski industry. He has completed implementations for more than 250 companies as staff, consultant, and eventually as a business owner.  Tom is also involved in other ski industry activities and an active participant with the New York Passenger Tramway Advisory Council, a division of the Department of Labor. Tom resided in Lenox, MA with his wife Beverly and their son Matt, a former STRIDE athlete who is now in college.

Dr. Steven Ferro

Medical Advisor/ Physician in residency, South County Hospital
Westerly, RI

 Welcome to newest, youngest Board Member, and Medical Advisor Steve Ferro.Steve grew up in Cheshire, MA as a typical active kid of the 90’s, He enjoyed riding mountain bikes, swimming and basketball. In 2012 he suffered a T-4 spinal cord injury from a motorcycle accident leaving him paralyzed from the chest down. Since then he has chosen a daily path of continual growth. One of his early supporters was STRIDE. Through skiing, sled hockey and hand-cycling, Steve was involved in activities that provided reintegration to sport. In 2017 he started medical school at University of New England College of Osteopathic Medicine pursuing his desire to fight disease and improve the health of others. Now a graduate, he resides in Westerly, RI with his fiance Kelsey. He accepted a residency at South County Hospital

Daniel Rhatigan

Senior Director, EHS and Security  Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc.
Delmar, New York

As an EHS and Security professional his 20+ year career has always been about protecting and serving others. Dan is a US Marine veteran who holds a B.S. in Community and Human Services from SUNY ESC and A.A.S in Criminal Justice from CGCC. He started working with STRIDE as a 100k Vertical Challenge team captain for Delmar Fire Department and has continued to get more involved ever since. A resident of Delmar, NY with his wife, kids and 3 dogs he is an avid skier and hiker.  He is proud to serve the members of Delmar Fire Department as the 2nd Assistant Chief. He is a member of the Albany County Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC). His son Aidan attends LaSalle Institute in Troy and daughter Claire attends Stonehill College in Easton, MA.

Mark Moran

Board Member, former STRIDE Office Manager (retired)
Schenectady, NY


Mark came to STRIDE as a volunteer for our Warrior programs,  and served on the Event Committee for three years. The first 20 years of his career was spent as a Senior Sales Development Executive for EcoLab, a commercial cleaning and sanitation systems company, before retiring to pursue other personal and professional interests. With a strong background in marketing and advertising, he developed growth, balance and professionalism in many facets of the organization, specifically in marketing and strategic planning. Mark graduated with an Associates Degree in Advertising Design and Marketing from Mohawk Valley Community College. He was parent volunteer in the Mohonosen Central School District, where he formerly served on the School Board. He now resides in Florida with his wife Suzi.

Curtis Butler

Board Member, Financial Advisor
Darien, CT

Curtis joined STRIDE in 2019 as a veteran investment professional and the father of a child with multiple physical challenges, who has been a frequent participant in the organization’s adaptive ski program. He has worked since the early nineties for such institutions as the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Lazard Frères, and J.P. Morgan. Curtis is a graduate of nearby Union College and has a masters degree in International Relations from The Johns Hopkins University. Curtis brings a wealth of financial and global experience and serves on the Board’s Finance committee. He lives with his wife and two daughters in Darien, CT. In his free time, Curtis serves on his town’s legislature, provides mentoring to college students and young professionals, and spends as much time with his family as he can.



Greg A. Adams

Vice President, Americas, SABIC
Houston, TX

Adams serves as vice president of the Americas region. In this role for SABIC, a global leader in the chemical industry, he supports the company’s growth agenda throughout North and South America.

Adams has over 25 years of global experience in roles leading business units, as well as marketing and growth operations. Prior to his current position, he served as vice president of global industry marketing & strategy for SABIC’s former Innovative Plastics business. From 2005-2013, he was the vice president of the company’s global automotive business. During this time of change, he helped drive the development of innovative lightweight solutions for the industry and was instrumental in establishing EXATEC, the automotive unit’s polycarbonate glazing arm. From 2001 to 2004, he led global marketing for GE Plastics and served as president of Polymershapes, where he led the acquisitions and integration of the Cadillac and Commercial Plastics distribution businesses.

Adams currently serves on the board of SABIC Americas Inc. in Houston, and is on the board of directors, and the executive and other committees for the American Chemistry Council in Washington, D.C. He is on the engineering advisory board at his alma mater, the State University of New York at Oswego; and was on the Supervisory Board of inpro, a joint venture dedicated to collaborative innovation in automotive production in Berlin. He is an honorary director of STRIDE, an adaptive sports and recreation organization for individuals with disabilities.

Phil Bayly

Anchor (retired), WNYT NewsChannel 13, NBC Affiliate
Clifton Park, NY

Phil Bayly - WNYT Channel 13Bayly has been reporting for television and radio since 1975. He was a member of the news staff at WNYT since June 1986, and recently retired as the morning news anchor. He grew up in Evanston, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. When he graduated from Colorado State University, Bayly was already a reporter for KHOW Radio in Denver. He also worked as a reporter for KLOV Radio and KRNK/NBC All News Radio before he moved to television. At KJCT-TV in Grand Junction, Colorado, Bayly won numerous Associated Press awards for his reporting and rose to News Director. Metroland named him ‘Best Television Reporter.’ For many years, Bayly served as WNYT’s political reporter as well as a general assignment reporter. Bayly raced on the ski team at Colorado State University and continues to race on the masters level. He serves in various capacities for the STRIDE organization, including the Master of Ceremonies for such fundraising events as the annual Gala and Silent Auction and Wounded Warrior Snowsports Event. Bayly is married to wife Carolyn, and is an avid skier. 

Robert Braverman

Principal & Managing Partner, Braverman / Greenspun
New York, NY

Braverman is an attorney who is well-versed in the myriad legal issues faced by boards and founded what is now Braverman Greenspun. He has continued to further build upon his father’s 50 year legacy.  Since joining the firm in 1993 and overseeing its exponential growth with partner Scott Greenspun, they have maintained the basic principles on which the firm was founded—hardworking, innovative and compassionate counsel who provide the firm’s clients with an unparalleled level of service and commitment.

Having provided legal counsel to boards for over a quarter of a century, there is unlikely to be an issue that Braverman has not encountered. His in-depth knowledge of co-op and condominium law is just one area. Equally important, is understanding of how best to practically approach the legal issues faced by co-ops and condominiums. Braverman joined STRIDE as an adaptive ski instructor and sat on the Executive Board for many years. He lives in Connecticut with his wife Jane and dogs, he also enjoys visiting his twin sons in college. Hi is an avid skier and sailor in his free time.

Tyler Fairbank

CEO, The Fairbank Group
Jiminy Peak, Hancock, MA

With an MBA from University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Tyler Fairbank manages and oversees the group of businesses, the Fairbank Group that includes the ski resorts Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort, Cranmore Mountain Resort and Bromley Mountain as well as EOS Ventures, Bullwheel Productions and other endeavors. Collectively, the three resorts welcome over a half a million skiers each year. With 20 years of business experience, Tyler partners with his Dad, Brian. The duo is dedicated to providing fun skiing experiences for families, teaching kids self-confidence through winter sports, and giving back to their community and the environment.  EOS is a leader in renewable energy in the Northeast region. As well as overseeing the business side to Jiminy Peak, Fairbank also serves as President and oversees day to day operations. Jiminy Peak has graciously held numerous STRIDE events and races. Fairbank’s assistance throughout the years has helped STRIDE propel to where it is today.

Pat Flaherty

Former NFL Offensive Line Coach
NY Giants; Jacksonville Jaguars; Miami Dolphins

Pat Flaherty has more than 38 years coaching experience and finished  his 19th season as an NFL coach. Flaherty had recently joined the Miami Dolphins after 2 years with the Jacksonville Jaguars after spending a year as the San Francisco 49ers’ offensive line coach.  Prior to the 49er’s, Flaherty spent 12 years with the New York Giants and helped win Super Bowl XLII and Super Bowl XLVI. Prior to joining the Giants, Flaherty coached for the Chicago Bears and the Washington Redskins. He began his coaching career at his Alma Mater, DeLone Catholic High School in PA, from 1978-80. Flaherty was an All-American center at East Stroudsburgh University (where he was friends with Mary Ellen Whitney) and coached in the collegiate ranks from 1980-99. Flaherty joined the staff at Penn State in 1982, a season in which their Nittany Lions won the national championship. After two seasons at Penn State, Flaherty moved to Rutgers where he coached the offensive line for eight years. He and his wife Lynne have two children, Shawn and Colleen.

Chris Gibson

President of Siena College
Kinderhook, NY

Congressman Chris GibsonChris Gibson grew up in Columbia County, in the town of Kinderhook, and attended Ichabod Crane public schools. At 17, he enlisted in the New York National Guard and later earned an ROTC Commission at nearby Siena College.  The first in his family to go to college, Chris graduated magna cum laude with a BA in history, and later earned an MPA and PhD in government from Cornell University and is the author of Securing the State, a book on national security decision-making published in 2008.

Over the course of his 24 year Army career, Chris rose to the rank of Colonel and deployed seven times.  This included four combat tours to Iraq, and separate deployments to Kosovo, the Southwestern US for a counter-drug operation, and most recently – just prior to his retirement – Haiti where he commanded the 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team (BCT) during the opening month of that humanitarian relief operation. 

Chris earned two Legions of Merit, four Bronze Star Medals, the Purple Heart, the Combat Infantryman’s Badge with Star, the Master Parachutist Badge and the Ranger Tab. Other key assignments included tours teaching American Politics at the United States Military Academy at West Point, serving as a Congressional Fellow with US Representative Jerry Lewis (R-CA), the Chairman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, and completing a Hoover National Security Affairs Fellowship at Stanford University.  Chris was also the Distinguished Honor Graduate of the US Army Command and General Staff College.

After retiring , Chris and his family returned home to Kinderhook.   He was elected to represent the 20th Congressional District in 2010 and re-elected in 2012 and 2014 to represent the 19th Congressional District.  In Congress, Chris served on the House Armed Services, Agriculture, and Small Business Committees. After his term in Confgress he tok a professorial position at Williams College, MA. In 2020 he was hired as president of Siena College in Latham NY.

Chris has been married to Mary Jo, a NYS Licensed Clinical Social Worker, for 25 years and they have three children: Katie, Maggie, and Connor.

John Gray

News 10 Anchorman
North Greenbush, NY

John graduated with honors from LaSalle Institute, Hudson Valley Community College and SUNY Oswego. Over nearly 3 decades, John has covered many big stories including the terrorist attacks of September 11th ,  the Pope’s visit to America and a number of Presidential campaigns. However, his favorite stories involve helping people right here at home. John volunteers with a dozen local charities including, ALS, M.S., Special Olympics, Juvenile Diabetes, Hospice, and Big Brothers/Big Sisters to name a few.

He has won numerous awards for his television work and writing,  most recently winning a prestigious Emmy Award for his story about STRIDE athlete, Steve Ferro. He has been awarded “Columnist of the Year” honors from both the Associated Press and New York News Publishers Association.

John’s passion is writing and for 20 years his column in The Record and Saratogian newspapers has become a local favorite, along with thousands of social media followers.   John has three children and two dogs. In his spare time John enjoys skiing, rollerblading, golf and travel. He lives in North Greenbush with his wife and dogs. 

Thomas Haffner

Attorney at Law (retired)
Schenectady, NY


Haffner, a long time resident of the Capital District, received a BA in Sociology from Hartwick College and a Masters of Health, Physical Education from East Stroudsburg State University. After a body surfing accident left him paralyzed as a quadriplegic, he returned to school and received his JD from Western New England School of Law where he was awarded the Marjorie Sullivan Scholarship Award for Academic Achievement. A former High School Athletic Director and Physical Education Teacher in Pennsylvania, Haffner returned to the Capital Region to work for United Community Insurance Co. as a Staff Attorney, handling various aspects of Civil Litigation and Subrogation. Haffner had been self-employed in a private law practice. Haffner has also served on the Board of Directors for Catholic Charities of Schenectady, and involved in counselling newly injured spinal cord patients at local hospitals.

Kathleen Jimino

Rensselaer County Executive (retired)
Lansingburgh, NY

Kathleen Jimino grew up and was educated locally at Catholic Central High School, and Siena College, from where she graduated cum laude with a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics. She received her Master’s degree in Social Policy from SUNY Empire State College.

She then began a long career in service, political and elected positions. In 2001, Kathy was appointed Rensselaer County Executive. Six months later she was elected by the largest margin ever afforded any Rensselaer County Executive in history! Unopposed, Kathy was subsequently reelected in 2005, 2009 and 2013.  Rensselaer County administration under her guidance is steadfastly dedicated to the prevention of alcohol, tobacco and drug abuse. Kathy is also noted for her aggressiveness in advocating new businesses in the County, and encouraging expansion for the ones who already call the County their home, being convinced that community-sensitive economic growth is the proper path for success.

Among other governmental and community responsibilities, Kathy currently serves as Co-Chair of the Center for Economic Growth’s Local Government Council and is on the board of the Commission on Economic Opportunity, as well as serving on the Community Advisory Board of the Sage Colleges Academy for Character Education.

Kathy is slated for retirement in 2017 and will continue to live in Lansingburgh with husband Vince. They have two children and two grandchildren.  STRIDE is thrilled to have he join  us in an advisory position!

Brian P. McLane

CEO Paradigm Solutions
Syracuse, NY

BrianMcLaneMcLane is one of five people nationwide to be inducted into the National Hall of Fame for Individuals with Disabilities in 2000. During his 11-year tenure at VESID, nearly 150,000 individuals with disabilities joined the State’s workforce with the help of VESID services. He has participated in advocacy efforts that led to the development of laws and regulations that greatly expanded employment and independent living opportunities for adults with disabilities and have strengthened programs and raised academic standards for students with disabilities in New York State. Before coming to VESID, McLane served as Assistant Commissioner in the NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. He also served as Senior Executive Assistant to NY Assemblyman Melvin Zimmer. A longtime advocate and consultant for the rights of persons with disabilities, McLane served as a New York delegate to the 1977 White House Conference on the Disabled, and as Chairman of the NYS Developmental Disabilities Planning Council. He has served as a member of the Governor’s Advisory Council on the Handicapped, the NYS Mental Hygiene Planning Council, the Governor’s Disability Constituency Cabinet Workgroup, and the Governor’s Task Force on Accessibility – 1980 Winter Olympic Games. McLane has also served on the Onondaga County Cerebral Palsy Center Board of Directors and on the Onondaga County Task Force on the Handicapped. McLane’s has a long list of many distinguished awards and honors. A graduate of Syracuse University, McLane also holds a Master’s Degree in Sports Administration from Ohio University. He has been active as a basketball coach at the semiprofessional level and is a member of countless sports and community associations.

Dr. Ann Myers, Ed.D.

Director of Doctoral Programs, The Sage Colleges
Rensselaer, NY

Myers has a rich history with STRIDE as a community partner when she served as District Superintendent for Questar III BOCES. After retirement, she joined the Board in 2002. Currently, Dr. Myers is an associate professor in Sage’s School of Education. As a past member of the New York State Commissioner of Education’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on Leadership, Myers used her experience to help design the Educational Leadership program at Sage Graduate School where she stands as the director of the Doctor of Education. Myers received her bachelor’s degree from the College of St. Rose, her master’s degree from the State University of New York at Albany, and her doctor of education degree from Columbia University’s Teacher College. An advocate for women and minorities in leadership roles, Dr. Myers is the founding chairperson for the New York State Association for Women in Administration.  For the past three years, Dr. Myers has been a consultant for the Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools and is a national facilitator for Courage to Teach, Courage to Lead, and the National Center for Courage and Renewal. Dr. Myers spreads her message by being a frequent presenter at regional and national conferences to discuss topics of leadership, community building, renewal for teachers and educational leaders.  

David Paterson

Former NYS Governor
New York City, NY

Gov. Richard PattersonGovernor Paterson served as the 55th governor of New York from 2008-2010. He was the first African American Governor of New York, and the second legally blind Governor of any US state. Prior to service as Governor of New York, Paterson received a B.A in History from Columbia University in 1977, and later graduated from Hofstra Law School. After law school, Paterson worked in the District Attorney’s office in Queens County, NY. He also served on the staff of Manhattan Borough President David Dinkins. In 1985, he was elected to the New York State Senate. Upon his election, he became the youngest State Senator in Albany. He won the seat again in 1986 for a full term representing the 29th District in the New York State Senate. He served as senator for that district until assuming the office of Lieutenant Governor on January 1st, 2007. Paterson was elected as Minority Leader by the Democratic caucus of the State Senate on November 20th, 2002, and became the first non-Caucasian state legislative leader, and the highest ranking black elected official in the history of New York State. Paterson became known for his consensus-building style coupled with his sharp political skills. Since leaving office, Paterson has been working as a radio talk show host on the station WOR in New York City. David Paterson continues to inspire us in his career achievements that he has been able to make as someone who is blind. He wholeheartedly supports our programs, particularly our programs for visually impaired youth.

John Robinson

CEO Our Ability
Glenmont, NY

Robinson, a truly inspirational and motivational individual, was born a congenital amputee, without extension of his arms and legs. Only 26 out of every 100,000 children have congenital amputations, and in most cases it is only one JohnRobinsonor two limbs. Despite his challenges, Robinson has reached insurmountable success, which lead to his decision to write “Get Off Your Knees: A Story of Faith, Courage and Determination” to share his inspirational story. Robinson was the subject of a 60 minute documentary created by and featured on WMHT, and served as the Keynote Speaker for STRIDE’s 25th Silver Anniversary Celebration. In 2001, he was selected to carry the Olympic torch as it passed through Albany on its way to Salt Lake City for the 2002 games. Robinson acknowledges the importance of first impressions as the best way to make people just as comfortable about his body as he is. In 2014, John Robinson was named one of ten national White House Champions of Change for Disability Employment and honored with the Excelsior College President’s Award for Advocacy in 2010. Since 2011, he’s served as managing partner, CEO and Founder of Our Ability, which provides inclusive workforce and employment consulting, mentoring, workshops, keynotes and seminars on disability and diversity. 

Married and a father of three, Robinson enjoys playing golf in his spare time and riding his handcycle. 

Chaplain (Major General)(R) Donald L. Rutherford, US Army

23rd U.S. Army Chief of Chaplains
Averill Park, NY

CH Rutherford Chief ASUs Jul 11Chaplain Donald L. Rutherford is a native of Kinderhook, New York. Ordained as a priest of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany in 1981, he served as Associate Pastor of St. Gabriel’s Church in Schenectady, New York; as Roman Catholic Chaplain of Albany

Medical Center Hospital, Albany, New York; and as Parochial Vicar of St. Mary’s Parish, Oneonta, New York. Chaplain Rutherford  became the 23d Chief of Chaplains, United States Army, on July 7, 2011. He has served in Operation Desert Shield, Operation Desert Storm, Operation Hurricane Andrew Relief, Operation Desert Thunder, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. His military awards include the Legion of Merit with two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Bronze Star, the Meritorious Service Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters, the Army Commendation Medal, the Army Achievement Medal, the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal, the South West Asia Service Medal with two Bronze Stars, the Humanitarian Service Medal, the Armed Forces Reserve Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, the Iraqi Campaign Medal, the Overseas Service Ribbon, the Joint Meritorious Unit Award, the Army Superior Unit Award, the Saudi Arabia Kuwait Liberation Medal, the Kuwaiti Liberation Medal, the Army Staff Identification Badge, the Combat Action Badge, and the Parachutist Badge.

CSM(R) Frank Wicks, US Army

Command Sergeant Major (Retired), US Army
West Sand Lake, NY

FrankWicksCommand Sergeant Major Frank Wicks was born in Troy, New York. He entered the Army in November 1982 and attended Basic Training in Fort Dix, New Jersey, and advanced individual training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. Command Sergeant Major Wicks has served in every leadership position from Team Leader to Command Sergeant Major. He has also served as an Instructor at the United States Army Sergeants Major Academy. Command Sergeant Major Wicks’ awards and decorations include: Bronze Star Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (with bronze oak leaf cluster), Army Commendation Medal (with 2 bronze oak leaf clusters), Army Achievement Medal (with bronze oak leaf cluster), Good Conduct Medal (2nd Award), Army Reserve Components Achievement Medal (with 4 bronze oak leaf clusters), National Defense Service Medal (2nd Award), Global War on Terror Expeditionary Medal, Global War on Terror Service Medal, Humanitarian Service Medal, Armed Forces Reserve Medal (“M” device 4th award, bronze hourglass), the NCO Professional Development Ribbon (with numeral 4), Army Service Ribbon, Army Reserve Components Overseas Training Ribbon, and the Combat Infantry Badge. CSM Wicks is currently on a leave of absence from his civilian employer, the New York State Police, to serve as the New York State Command Sergeant Major. He is married to the former Beth Johnson from Clifton Park, NY. They have two children, Jake and Julia and reside in West Sand Lake, NY.