Gregory Robinson, the former director of the James Webb Space Telescope Program at NASA, and Niagara University alumnus Sam Goodwin, who spent nine weeks imprisoned in Syria, addressed graduates at Niagara University’s 2023 commencement ceremonies on May 11 and 13 at the outdoor amphitheater at Artpark in Lewiston, N.Y. On May 18, Altaf Stationwala, president/CEO at Mackenzie Health, provided the commencement address for NU’s Ontario graduates, who celebrated at a ceremony at the Meridian Centre.
Robinson provided remarks and received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree at the graduate commencement ceremonies on Thursday, May 11. Robinson was asked to become director of the Webb Telescope Program in March 2018, after decades of work in NASA, including positions as deputy chief engineer and as an associate administrator in the agency’s Science Mission Directorate. As director, he assessed the performance of over 100 science missions and saw the successful launch of the telescope which had been delayed many times before he took over the project. He has received numerous awards in recognition of his professional accomplishments, including the TIME 100 Most Influential People of 2022, NASA Presidential Rank Distinguished Executive Award, NASA Meritorious Senior Professional and Executive Award, 2022 Federal Employee of the Year, Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal, and the EBONY 2022 Power 100.
Also that evening, Dr. Lori V. Quigley, interim president of Medaille University and chair of the Seneca Gaming Corporation board of directors, received the university’s Perboyre Medal in recognition of her extraordinary commitment to higher education. Quigley is also on the boards of the National Indian Education Association and the YWCA-WNY; chaired the Native American Indian Education Association of New York for a decade; held a two-term gubernatorial appointment on the NYS Minority Health Council; received a U.S. presidential appointment to the National Advisory Council on Indian Education; and was awarded the prestigious S.U.N.Y. Chancellor’s Award for Research and Scholarship, among several other honors.
Goodwin, a member of NU’s Class of 2012, addressed graduates during both the morning and afternoon commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 13. Goodwin was imprisoned in Syria in 2019 while pursuing his goal to visit all of the 193 sovereign states recognized by the United Nations. His detainment included solitary confinement, a sham trial, blindfolded interrogations and, ultimately, a dramatic release. Goodwin, who earned his B.A. in communication studies and French, has played and coached hockey in destinations like India, Turkmenistan, and North Korea, and led humanitarian efforts across Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
During the morning ceremony, Samika Sullivan, director of the Niagara Falls Housing Authority, was honored with the Caritas Medal for her work as a youth and community advocate. Sullivan, the founder of PeaceQueen EduTainment Community Building and Consulting Services, has worked with a variety of youth, including those who are currently or were formerly incarcerated, those with mental health diagnosis, and those involved in the foster care system.
That afternoon, the Rev. Raymond H. Allen received the St. Vincent de Paul Medal in recognition of his work in social justice. He is senior pastor of Bethany Missionary Baptist Church.
On May 18, Altaf Stationwala provided remarks for Niagara University in Ontario graduates, the fourth class to graduate from its Vaughan location. Under Stationwala’s leadership, Mackenzie Health received the highest rating a Canadian healthcare provider can receive consecutively in 2013 and 2017, numerous awards for its commitment to safety and quality patient care, and approval to build the organization’s second hospital, Cortellucci Vaughan Hospital. In June 2015, Stationwala established the Mackenzie Innovation Institute, which includes the first-in-Canada Innovation Unit initiative, a unique integration of advanced technology that transforms the delivery of care.