Supporters Like You

Read about supporters who exemplify Utica University’s values of intellectual growth, creativity, and scholarship in the pursuit of knowledge. 

Fredericka “Fritzie” Paine

“Ms. Paine’s vision and generosity will take Utica University to a new level in its ability to recognize and support academic excellence in the cybersecurity program.”

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With funding provided by Fredericka “Fritzie” Paine, the University has established the Karl Zimpel ’75 Endowed Professorship in Cybersecurity. This is the second endowed professorship in Utica University’s history; the first was the Harold T. Clark Jr. Endowed Professorship.

Paine made this gift in honor of her late brother, Karl Zimpel, a 1975 graduate of Utica University and one of the college’s first computer science students. In choosing the cybersecurity program, Paine hopes to bolster the university’s efforts to prepare graduates to address growing national security threats at home and abroad.

Paine, a retired clinical psychologist, is a native of Canajoharie, New York. An award-winning photographer and world traveler, Ms. Paine has spent much of her adult life in Italy, where her photography has earned widespread acclaim.

“An endowed professorship, a position permanently supported by revenue from an endowment fund, is one of the highest and most prestigious honors a university can award a faculty member,” said Utica University President Laura Casamento. “Ms. Paine’s vision and generosity will take Utica University to a new level in its ability to recognize and support academic excellence in the cybersecurity program. This award provides a significant opportunity to recognize the depth and breadth of academic talent among our faculty, and to support professors as they go afield in their research and scholarly activity.”

For Paine, the gift is a way to cement her brother’s legacy in the college’s history.

“I want the brother I loved to be remembered and honored for the man which he was at his core,” said Paine. “It is my hope that this endowment will carry out and sustain a legacy that would bring pride to my brother and his family.”

The college will honor Paine in a ceremony this fall.

Joan Brannick ’54

When Joan Brannick ’54 was a student at Utica University, many of her professors weren’t much older than she was. “We were all youngsters!” she recalls with a laugh.

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But those young professors left an indelible mark. Public relations professor Ray Simon taught her to “assimilate information, develop a plan, and work well with all people,” says Joan. For her husband, the late Leo Brannick ’54, it was biology professor (and later Utica University president) Dr. J. Kenneth Donahue who provided the solid background in the sciences that helped him secure admission to Princeton University, where Leo went on to earn his biology Ph.D.

“Leo and I flourished in our careers because of those professors and their dedication to students,” says Joan.

And that’s why Joan and her husband became members of Utica University’s Heritage Society. Their membership ensures that generations of students have access to the same opportunities that proved life-changing for the Brannicks – and many alumni like them.

“We were very blessed to have a great education at Utica University,” she says. “Future students deserve the same.”

“We were very blessed to have a great education at Utica University. Future students deserve the same.”

-Joan Brannick ’54

Henry Spring ’77

With his bequest to Utica University as part of the Heritage Society, Spring wants to ensure future students—especially students of color with an interest in medicine—have access to the same educational opportunities that propelled his success.

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When Henry Spring stepped onto Utica University’s campus in 1973, he had a vision.

“I wanted to graduate from the pre-med program, go on to medical school, and become a doctor,” he says.

It was a dream he’d had since a summer job at St. Luke’s Hospital in New York City as a teenager introduced him to the medical world.

“I was mesmerized,” he recalls. “I walked through the halls and thought to myself, ‘this is what I want to do.’”

After graduating from Utica University’s biology/pre-med program, he went on to achieve his dream and then some. Spring ’77 attended medical school at Boston University and is now an obstetrician-gynecologist in Fort Sam Houston, Texas—where he’s still focused on the future.

With his bequest to Utica University as part of the Heritage Society, Spring wants to ensure future students—especially students of color with an interest in medicine—have access to the same educational opportunities that propelled his success.

“Black people have always been a small percentage of those who succeed and move into the life sciences, especially as physicians,” he says. “One thing that has become more onerous is the financial burden that Black students have to overcome just to be players in the game. I want my gift to ease some of that burden through the undergraduate years.”

Today, with his gift to Utica University, Henry Spring has another familiar vision: that of a young Black student succeeding at Utica University, going on to medical school, and becoming a medical doctor.

“That,” he says, “is what inspires me.”

Kim Landon ’75

“Utica University gave me a life. And who could ask for a better life?” 

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As a journalism student at Utica, Kim Landon ’75 had an exciting opportunity: She had been asked to serve as editor of the yearbook.

It was an offer Landon was prepared to decline.

“My family was going through a difficult financial time, and I knew I’d probably have to get a job off-campus in order to pay tuition and stay at Utica,” she recalls. Making time for a position with the yearbook, it seemed, wasn’t in the cards—until then-Director of Student Activities Dick Frank heard about her situation.

“He just looked at me, smiled, and said, ‘let me get back to you on that,’” says Landon. In his way, Frank was assuring Landon that he’d figure out how to help her bridge the financial gap.

And he did. Through funds made available by donors to the University, Landon received a scholarship that allowed her to both join the yearbook staff and stay focused on earning her degree without working off-campus.

“It makes me emotional remembering it,” says a tearful Landon. “That one gesture and the support of those funds have made all the difference.”

After graduating from Utica in 1975, Landon went on to join the public relations faculty, thanks, once again, to a meaningful gesture.

“Ray Simon hired me and gave me a chance when I had no business teaching journalism,” she says. And through Simon’s mentorship, Landon soon became one of the department’s—and the University’s—most beloved professors. (In fact, on Utica University’s first Superhero Day in April 2019, Landon, now a Professor Emerita, was far and away the most-cited inspiring “superhero” by alumni.)

So today, with her participation in planned giving, Landon hopes her financial support will go just as far in impacting a Utica University student’s future.

“Utica University gave me a life,” she says. “And who could ask for a better life?”

“Black people have always been a small percentage of those who succeed and move into the life sciences, especially as physicians. One thing that has become more onerous is the financial burden that Black students have to overcome just to be players in the game. I want my gift to ease some of that burden through the undergraduate years.”

-Henry Spring ’77

Wesley ’80 & Wester Miga ’76

Doris and Walter Miga were Utica basketball’s most loyal supporters. Today, their sons are honoring their legacy with an exciting new project in Clark Athletic Center. 

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For nearly 50 years, the couple was a fixture in the stands at Utica University basketball games. Doris, a Professor Emerita who taught sociology for 47 years, was known as “Mother Miga” to generations of student-athletes whom she mentored tirelessly with her signature “tough love” approach.
 
Walter, a former college basketball player himself, served as president of Utica University Sports Boosters; it wasn’t uncommon to find him working the popcorn machine outside the Clark Athletic Center gymnasium during halftime.
 
The Utica University basketball court, says their son Wester now, was the “center of their lives” for five decades. So it makes perfect sense that, today, that very court will bear their names.
 
Longtime supporters of Utica University, the Migas’ sons, Wesley ’80 and Wester Miga ’76, wanted to give back in a way that would honor their parents’ legacy. Their generous gift has funded major upgrades to the gymnasium, including renovated seating, a new 24-foot video scorers table, and a court graphic bearing the Miga Court name. 

The court was officially dedicated between the conclusion of a women’s basketball game against MCLA and the start of a men’s basketball game against Hamilton College.
 
“This is exactly what our parents would have done if they were still with us,” says Wester. “Once we realized that, the decision to do it was an easy one.”

Ken Taubes ’80

Giving back isn’t just a moral obligation for Ken Taubes ’80—it’s an economic principle he believes in.

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“That’s how it has always worked in this country,” he says. “The current generation helps pay for the future generation.”

For Taubes, Chief Investment Officer of U.S. Investment Management for Amundi and Amundi Pioneer in Boston, supporting Utica University is the best way to give today’s students the same chance at success he was afforded as an accounting major in the late ‘70s.

A Long Island native, Taubes paid his tuition through a “patchwork” of loans, merit scholarships, and work-study funds. He spent summers working as a camp counselor to help pay for books and supplies.

Today, as a leader in the financial world and two decades spent with Amundi, Taubes understands how a college education provides a powerful economic advantage, and that has inspired his longtime philanthropy through Utica University’s Pioneer Society. Through his endowment of the Kenneth J. Taubes Scholarship, Taubes supports accounting students in financial need.

“It’s important to me to give today’s students a break, because education is the best way to succeed economically and professionally.”

“It’s important to me to give today’s students a break, because education is the best way to succeed economically and professionally.”

-Ken Taubes ’80

Sharon McEwan ’64

Sharon McEwan ’64 has fond memories of her time at Utica University—most notably, the evening anatomy course on Plant Street, part of Utica University’s former Oneida Square campus, where she met her late husband, Robert. 

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“He was an adult learner, and I was a full scholarship student,” she says. “We made some wonderful memories at Utica University.”

Today, McEwan, a retired teacher, loves returning to her alma mater—a place substantially different from the campus she recalls.

“I enjoy seeing how Utica University has changed over the years,” she says. “It’s wonderful to see the growth.”

By her participation in Planned Giving, McEwan hopes to honor her husband’s memory, and give students the same opportunities that scholarships afforded her.

“I know how much financial support can mean to students who have very little.”

Benay Leff ’65

Ask Benay Leff ’65 why she gives to Utica University, and her response is simple: “Because UU changed my life.”

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Her generous gift to the Heritage Society is Leff’s way of honoring the education that transformed the once shy, Long Island-bred teenager into a confident public relations professional. “At UU,” says Leff, “I just emerged.”

Leff arrived at UU during a time when female students were few and far between. With limited housing options for coeds available, Leff spent her freshman year with five other female students in Laurel Cottage, a rented house on the corner of Burrstone and French Roads. To this day, Leff counts those women as some of her closest friends.

Now retired, Leff spent bulk of her career—more than 20 years—working in public relations at Howard Community College in Columbia, MD. But her career path was set in motion back in 1965 by legendary UU professor Ray Simon. Leff credits Simon with not only helping her secure a fellowship for graduate school at Syracuse University, but also with instilling the confidence needed to succeed in the competitive world of PR. “He saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself,” she says.

By her participation in Planned Giving, Leff hopes to leave a legacy that gives future Pioneers the same life-changing education she experienced at UU—and the memories that keep Leff connected to her alma mater. “I always tell people,” she says, with a laugh, “I may have been raised in the city, but I left my heart in the Mohawk Valley.”

Ron ’61 and May ’60 Duff

The Duffs never let a good opportunity pass. 

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When Ron’s future wife May dropped her glove in the UU library, he gallantly retrieved it for her. When a job came up at a “Big 8” accounting firm right after graduation, Ron ’61 took it. When offered a move to the company’s Los Angeles office, he and May ’60 gladly left the cold weather behind. 

And when the Duffs needed sound investment vehicles for their retirement, they found one in a Charitable Gift Annuity at UU. It enables them to support student learning at UU and earn a competitive dividend on their money at the same time. They also saw it as a good opportunity to give something back to their alma mater.

“If it hadn’t been for UU,” Ron says, “I would not have met May, would not have had our four children and six grandchildren, and would not have had the success I’ve enjoyed.”

That’s what the Duffs call a good return on investment.

“If it hadn’t been for UU, I would not have met [my wife] May, would not have had our four children and six grandchildren, and would not have had the success I’ve enjoyed.”

-Ron Duff ’61

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