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Board of Directors

Chair – Michael Castellana, President & CEO, SEFCU

As SEFCU’s President and CEO, Michael Castellana believes the credit union’s purpose is grander than as a mere financial institution. Embracing the credit union philosophy of “people helping people,” SEFCU’s goal is to change people’s lives. Under his leadership, SEFCU has given back to local communities nearly $14 million since 2008.

Castellana joined SEFCU in 1988 as a member of the executive management team and during his tenure has seen the credit union grow both geographically and in overall size. Currently the largest credit union in the Capital Region and the seventh in the state, Castellana has successfully negotiated and completed six mergers throughout the Capital Region, the Southern Tier of New York, and the Buffalo Region.

In addition to coordinating SEFCU business planning and asset management, Castellana serves as Chairman of the SEFCU Foundation, a non-profit affiliation he formed to pool the time, talent, and financial resources of SEFCU staff in support of children’s causes.

A recognized leader in the industry, Castellana is chair of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s Community Depository Institutions Advisory Council and vice president of the Community Depository Institutions Advisory Council of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. He was appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo to the University Council at the University at Albany in 2013 and is currently serving as chairman. From the summer of 2011 through the fall of 2012, Castellana served as co-chair of the Capital Region Economic Development Council, a position he was also appointed to by Governor Cuomo.

Castellana gives his time and talent to many area organizations in addition to Capitalize Albany including, the University at Albany Foundation, Fuller Road Management Corporation, Big Brothers Big Sisters Advisory Board, the Albany Promise Executive Council, Credit Union National Association (multiple committees), and the Governmental Affairs Committee of the New York Credit Union Association. 


Vice Chair – Anders Tomson
, Chemung Canal Trust Company President & CEO

In December of 2016 Anders Tomson was named President and Chief Executive Officer of Chemung Canal Trust Company (CCTC), the oldest community bank in New York State founded in 1833.  CCTC now has 32 branches spread across 13 counties in NY and PA.  Prior to being named President of CCTC, Anders held the title of President and Chief Operating Officer at the bank, where he had regional oversight of the Capital Bank Division in the New York Capital Region.  From 2010-2015, Anders served as the President of Capital Bank, and was instrumental in facilitating the merger and acquisition of Capital Bank by Chemung Canal Trust Company.  Anders leads the CCTC Executive Management Team and is a Director on the boards of CCTC and Chemung Financial Corporation, the bank’s parent holding company.

Prior to joining CCTC and Capital Bank, Anders was the Division Executive for commercial real estate in New York State for RBS Citizens Bank.  Anders began his commercial real estate lending career for the Community Preservation Corporation (CPC) where he last served as Senior Vice President and Regional Director.  CPC is a not-for profit mortgage lender, capitalized by more than 90 banks and insurance companies, which finances low, moderate and middle income housing in New York State and New Jersey.

Throughout his career, Anders has been very involved in healthcare, economic and community development initiatives in the Capital Region.  Currently, Anders is involved in board or advisory capacities with Southern Tier Economic Growth, Arnot Health, Three Rivers Development Corporation, Capitalize Albany Corporation, Community Preservation Corporation, Albany Medical Center, and the Albany Medical Center Foundation.

Anders graduated from Cornell University. 

 

Treasurer – John S. Harris Esq., Partner, Brown & Weinraub, PLLC

A partner at Brown & Weinraub, a government relations and full-service law firm, Mr. Harris focuses his practice on the intersection of law, business and government. He has significant experience working with clients on environmental, energy and government affairs matters. Mr. Harris has also represented clients before state and local agencies in connection with the regulatory review, permitting, financing and development of projects such as residential apartment complexes, solid waste and recycling facilities, asphalt plants, mines, golf courses, office buildings, casinos, shopping centers and electric transmission and generation projects.

A 1989 graduate of Amherst College with a B.A. in economics, Mr. Harris received his law degree from Case Western Reserve University in 1992, where he was on the law review staff and graduated cum laude.

Mr. Harris is a member of the New York State and American Bar Associations. He serves on the Board of Directors of the Capitalize Albany Corporation, the Center for Economic Growth, and the Bethlehem Soccer Club, and is a former member of the Board of the Albany Convention Center Authority.

 

David A. Parente, Director, McVeigh Funeral Home Inc. 

David has extensive experience as a funeral service professional, serving Albany area families for more than 30 years. David is very active in related business associations, as well as within the wider community. He currently serves as president of the Capital District Funeral Directors Association; member and trustee of Blessed Sacrament Church, Albany; past president of the Parish Council at Blessed Sacrament Church, Albany; board member and vice president of The Community Hospice Foundation; Advisory Board member at Hudson Valley Community College Morturary Science Program; chairman of the board of Albany’s Central Ave Business Improvement District; and also serves on the board of directors for Directors Choice Credit Union, and NYS Funeral Director Support Services in addition to Capitalize Albany Corporation.

His curriculum vita includes Canisius College, Hudson Valley Community College, and the prestigious, internationally-renowned Fountain National Academy of Professional Embalming Skills.

“Living in the Capital Region has been a privilege for me, and especially serving New York’s great Capital City…..Albany”

 

Dr. Havidán Rodríguez, University at Albany President

Havidán Rodríguez was appointed by the SUNY Board of Trustees as the 20th president of the University at Albany in June 2017. He took office in September 2017 with more than 25 years as a leader in higher education.

Before coming to UAlbany, he served as the Founding Provost & Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV). He also served as President, Ad Interim, and Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of Texas – Pan American (UTPA). Prior to arriving at UTPA, Dr. Rodríguez served as the Deputy Provost, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs and International Programs, and Professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice at the University of Delaware. He was also a core faculty member and director of the Disaster Research Center (DRC), the oldest and one of the leading social science disaster research centers in the world; and held a faculty position and several administrative positions at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez (UPRM) for more than a decade.

He has been the recipient of many awards, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) Outstanding Achievement Award (2004); the American Association for Access, Equity and Diversity Cesar Estrada Chavez Award (2016); and the 2017 Inspiring Leaders in STEM Award by INSIGHT Into Diversity Magazine.

Dr. Rodríguez has led and participated in a number of disaster management field research projects, including in Honduras following Hurricane Mitch; India and Sri Lanka following the Indian Ocean Tsunami; and the Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina. Dr. Rodríguez has a significant number of publications in the area of disasters, as well as Latinos/as in the United States. 

He has played an extensive role in community engagement at the local, regional, and national levels, with service on many community, professional, and university boards and organizations. He currently serves as co-chair of the Capital Region Economic Development Council, as a board member of the Center for Economic Growth, and as co-chair of the SUNY Puerto Rico Task Force.

Rodríguez received a B.S. in Psychology from the University of Maryland, an M.A. in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

 

Heather Briccetti Esq., The Business Council of New York State President & CEO 

Heather C. Briccetti, Esq. is the president and chief executive officer (CEO) of The Business Council of New York State, Inc., the primary, statewide association advocating for New York’s business community. Ms. Briccetti is a dynamic leader, trusted advisor and champion for economic growth, good jobs and strong communities across New York.  Ms. Briccetti joined The Business Council in 2007, as vice president of government affairs, overseeing the organization’s legislative and pro-growth agendas. She holds a Juris Doctor from Albany Law School.  She has won numerous honors for her leadership in the business community including City and State’s Above & Beyond award, and the Albany Business Review’s Women who Mean Business award. Additionally, she has been included in City and State’s Albany Power 100 List and profiled in the Albany Business Review, The Buffalo News and Her Life magazine.  Born in Tunisia to Peace Corps volunteers, she was raised in Syracuse, New York. Attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill at 16, she transferred to the State University of New York at Binghamton, where she graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. She graduated from Albany Law School at the age of 23. Ms. Briccetti currently lives in New York’s Capital Region, on a farm with her three sons. 

 

Jeffrey Sperry, Associate Broker, CBRE – Albany

Mr. Sperry practices a multi-disciplined real estate strategy for his clients, providing brokerage and consulting services for corporate and public clients in the Capital Region. Over the past 32 years, Jeff has assisted many clients in occupancy planning, acquisition and disposition, build-to-suit, and leasing assignments. Prior to joining CBRE-Albany, Jeff was president of a trucking and public warehouse company in the Capital Region. Also, he was involved in the development of multi-family and industrial properties. In 1978, the company was sold, and Jeff became involved in the real estate brokerage industry.

Mr. Sperry is past president of Commercial Industrial Real Estate Brokers (CIREB) and past Regional Vice President of the Society of Industrial and Office Realtors. In addition to Capitalize Albany Corporation, Mr. Sperry serves on the boards of Albany Medical Center and the Albany Parking Authority as Vice Chair.

 

John Vero Esq., Partner, Couch White LLP 

Mr.  Vero is a member of Couch White’s Banking, Corporate Transactions, and Government Contracts and Real Estate practice groups. John furnishes legal services to new, emerging and established businesses, commercial entities, not-for-profit and tax exempt organizations, religious organizations, healthcare organizations, municipal entities, professional service entities, civic groups, business organizations and individuals in the formation, merger, restructuring, sale, acquisition, capitalization, management, operation and financing of real and personal property, including contractual, licensing, reporting and compliance matters.

He has experience with New York’s strategic sourcing procurement method and other public procurement programs. John is a Director of the Capitalize Albany Corporation.  He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Central Avenue Business Improvement District and he is a Trustee of the Destroyer Escort Historical Museum, Inc. (USS Slater). John was a member of the City of Albany Industrial Development Agency and the Capital Resource Corporation. John served as a member of the College of Saint Rose Board of Associates.

Mr. Vero is a former member of the Board of Trustees at Union College and past president of the Union College Alumni Council. He is a former member of the Board of Trustees at Albany Law School of Union University. John formerly served as Chairman of the Board of Managers of the Albany YMCA, and he formerly served on the Board of Directors of the Capital District YMCA.

John was a founding member of GenNEXT, the council dedicated to promoting the Capital Region’s economic vitality, currently known as the Tech Valley Young Professionals Network. He served on the Advisory Board of The Stakeholders Inc., a not-for-profit organization formed to promote the sustainability of the Capital Region. John also served on the I Live New York Steering Committee, a statewide organization aiming to attract and retain professionals in New York State. John was named to the Business Review’s Forty Under Forty for 2005. The Forty Under Forty program recognizes outstanding members of the business community under the age of forty.

John has been a co-author and co-contributor to the Albany Times Union’s Workbytes column series. He has also been a contributor to the local PBS affiliate business show “The Bottom Line with Wally Altes.”

 

Karen Torrejon, Glauconix Founder & CEO

Karen Is the Founder & CEO of Glauconix,  a start-up company that owns a patented technology geared toward facilitating the discovery of glaucoma therapeutics. Karen’s company uses technology invented at SUNY’s Polytechnic Institute and utilizes it to test glaucoma medication for effectiveness. She received her Ph.D. in Nanoscale Engineering at the University at Albany (SUNY) where her research focuses on tissue engineering. During her graduate research career, , she successfully replicated human trabecular meshwork tissue using a bioengineering approach, laying a solid foundation for drug screening technology that Glauconix Inc. utilizes. Karen was recently recognized as Innovator of the year by the MIT technology Review.  

 

Kaweeda Adams, Superintendent of the City School District of Albany 

Kaweeda G. Adams is Superintendent of the City School District of Albany. She leads a diverse urban school district of nearly 9,700 students in New York State’s capital city. Adams joined the district on Aug. 14, 2017. A third-generation educator, she served in increasing levels of responsibility for 28 years the in the Clark County School District in Nevada before accepting her position in Albany.  Adams began her career in education as a secondary-level English teacher, working at the middle and high school levels for 6½ years before moving into administration. She served as dean of students at the middle level, assistant principal and principal at the middle level, university instructor at Regis University, human resources director, and director of the instruction unit and facility administrator. 

 

Matt Peter, Albany Parking Authority Executive Director

Matthew Peter currently serves as the Albany Parking Authority’s Executive Director. Prior to serving in this capacity he served as Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan’s Chief of Staff. In May of 2008 Matthew joined the NYS Office of Taxation and Finance as a tax policy analyst. When the NYS Senate Democrats took control of the chamber for the first time in more than 50 years, Matthew joined the Senate Finance Committee as a fiscal analyst. In his three and a half years with the Senate, Matthew became the principal analyst on Economic Development and Tax Policy.

Matthew Peter has a Bachelor’s and Master’s in Political Science with a focus on International Relations from Rockefeller College in 2006 and 2007 respectively. In the summer of 2007 Matthew was an international fellow with the SUNY Center for International Development where he traveled and worked in Jordan. Upon returning Matthew began working for then Governor Eliot Spitzer, serving first as a graduate intern in Executive Chamber Operations and then as a full time staff member in the Governor’s Appointments Office. 

 

Michael M. Fancher, Vice President of Business Development and Economic Outreach, University at Albany CNSE

Michael Fancher serves in the role of Vice President of Business Development and Economic Outreach, and Associate Professor of Nanoeconomics at SUNY Polytechnic Institute (SUNY Poly) Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE). He also serves as the Executive Director of the New York State Center for Advanced Technology in Nanoelectronics and Nanomaterials (CATN2) and oversees the SUNY Small Business Development Center for the Mohawk Valley Region. Mr. Fancher has over 30 years of experience in public private partnerships that include his work in industry as a Certified Public Accountant, over nine years in state government as a senior policy and budget advisor for the NYS Assembly, and, for the past seventeen years, in his executive leadership role at SUNY Poly. During his tenure with SUNY, his primary focus has been to guide the Institute’s innovation direction by successfully developing a broad array of innovative public private partnerships with sustainable business models that support technology commercialization, entrepreneurial acceleration, workforce education, and regional cluster formation.

Most recently, Mr. Fancher led proposal teams composed of over 200 industry, government and academic partners resulting in the award of $135 million in state funding to establish a $500 million N.Y. Power Electronics Manufacturing Consortium (N.Y. PEMC) and was co-lead on teams resulting in the award of $57 million in federal funding to establish the U.S. PhotoVoltaic Manufacturing Consortium (U.S. PVMC); and, on the submission to the Department of Defense for a $600 million Integrated Photonics Innovative Manufacturing Institute. He has been invited to present expert testimony before U.S. congressional committees and federal government advisory panels (OSTP, PCAST, Council on Competitiveness); industry boards (Semiconductor Research Corporation, IBM, among others) and at many conferences. He is also committed to the development of innovative strategies targeting highly distress communities by linking workforce development with strategic industry engagement including the Smart Cities Technology Innovation Center (SCiTI) and the Capital South Campus Center, among many others.

As Associate Professor of Nanoeconomics, Mr. Fancher’s work in Nanoeconomics has focused on the changing roles of government, industry and academia within dynamic technology eco-systems as a result of the unique challenges and opportunities associated with nanotechnology. He has been profiled in the “Mover and Shaker” and “Expert Perspective” sections of Semiconductor International Magazine. Mr. Fancher received his M.A. in Economics (International) from the University at Albany in 1988, his B.S. in business administration (accounting and finance) from Syracuse University in 1982 and was certified by New York State in public accountancy in 1985.

Prior to joining the Institute, Mr. Fancher served on the New York State Assembly Ways and Means Committee as Deputy Budget Director for nine years where he designed economic development policy, programs and projects to assist strategic industries, strengthen regional eco-systems, and accelerate technology commercialization. He has been recognized for legislative achievement by the New York State Governor and has practiced as a Certified Public Accountant for several years.

 

Michele Vennard, President & CEO, Albany County Convention & Visitors Bureau 

Michele Vennard is the President and CEO of the Albany County Convention & Visitors Bureau; she joined the Bureau in January of 1992.  As the president she oversees and directs all bureau operations, which focus on promoting Albany as a convention, group tour and leisure travel destination.

Previously, in July of 1987, Ms. Vennard was appointed Deputy Commissioner for Tourism Development, NYS Department of Economic Development, and Division of Tourism.  Her responsibilities included the management of all operational and marketing functions related to tourism statewide.  She oversaw active domestic and international tourism development and marketing programs all designed to increase tourism activity statewide.  She has held various travel and tourism related marketing positions in both the public and private sector since 1981.

Ms. Vennard has served on the Executive Committee and Board of the National Council of State Travel Directors and Travel Industry Association of America.  She has also served as a member of the Discover America Implementation Task Force; was a member of the U.S. Travel Data Center’s industry review panel for the travel economic impact model and was a member of the Appalachian Regional Commission marketing planning committee.

Locally, she serves on the Board of Capitalize Albany Corporation and is past President of NYS Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus.  She is a member of the Albany Convention Center Authority. She is also past chair of the Board of Trustees of The Sage Colleges in Albany and Troy, and represented Colleges on the University Heights Assoc. Board of Directors.  She also currently serves on the board of the Palace Performing Arts Center.  

 

Robert M. Curley, New York State Chairman, Berkshire Bank

Robert M. Curley, a career banker, community activist, and respected mentor, is currently chairman of Berkshire Bank in New York, in addition to Capitalize Albany he also serves on the Board of Directors of Berkshire Hills Bankcorp. 

Mr. Curley’s distinguished career in the banking industry began in college as a bank teller. He was named President and Chief Executive Officer of Key Bank of Long Island at the age of 37. After relocating with his family to the Capital Region, he evolved with the organization and rose to become vice chairman, overseeing banks from Maine to Alaska. In 1999, he accepted the position as president and CEO of Albank, which would evolve into Charter One and become one of the twenty largest banks in the country. After Citizens’ acquisition of Charter One, Mr. Curley maintained leadership roles as chairman of Citizens Bank NA and president of its NY subsidiary.

Active in the community, Mr. Curley serves on several boards of directors including Siena College, the New York Business Development Corporation, Capitalize Albany Corporation, and the Center for Economic Growth. He has served as chairman of numerous organizations and causes, including Catholic Charities, Coaches vs. Cancer, the Sports Foundation, Junior Achievement, and the United Way.  In 2009, Bob was inducted into the Tech Valley Business Hall of Fame, and was awarded the prestigious Jefferson Award for Community Leadership. He has been recognized by numerous organizations including the Boy Scouts of America, the American Cancer Society, Wildwood Programs, and the Little Sisters of the Poor. In 2011, the University at Albany honored him with the Citizen Laureate Award.  Mr. Curley is a strong proponent of mentoring others, and is extremely proud of the fact that more than 30 members of his staff have gone on to become bank presidents.

Mr. Curley received a bachelor’s degree in management from Dowling College and his MBA from Adelphi University. He and his wife Linda, their four children and 12 grandchildren all reside in the Capital Region.

 

Sonya del Peral, Nine Pin Ciderworks Proprietor and Manager 

Sonya is a proprietor and the Manager at Nine Pin Ciderworks, a New York craft cider company located in Albany’s warehouse district. Sonya is also a Partner of Bowers & del Peral, PLLC and her law practice focuses on intellectual property, real estate, alcohol industry licensing and wills. She spent the first five years of her legal practice in large law firms in New York City and Albany. In 1996, she opened her practice in Columbia County. Sonya received her Juris Doctor, cum laude, from Albany Law School in 1991, where she served as an Editor of the Albany Law Review, was named a Justinian Society Member, and was awarded the Nathan Burkan Memorial Copyright Award and the Selma Mintz Memorial Award. Sonya received a M.A.T. degree from SUNY Binghamton in 1984 where she was awarded the Outstanding Professional Performance Award, and her B.A. from SUNY Albany, summa cum laude, in 1980. Sonya is a fluent Spanish speaker and speaks intermediate French. She is admitted to practice in New York and Connecticut. 

 

Susan Pedo, Adjunct Professor, UAlbany, Communications & Public Affairs Consultant

Susan Pedo is a communications and public affairs consultant specializing in economic development, health and safety. She is an adjunct instructor at the University at Albany’s School of Business and has held many positions in state and local government, including director of economic development for Albany County.

In addition to Capitalize Albany Corporation, Susan is active on the boards of many non-profit organizations including Senior Services of Albany, the Albany Lacrosse Club, the Albany Soccer Club and the Northeastern Region PTA, as well as the Girl Scouts of Northeastern New York Grant Committee. She previously served as president of the Women’s Press Club of New York State and eba Dance Theater and as legislation chair for the New York State PTA. 

Susan received her master’s degree from the Flinders University of South Australia and completed a graduate program at Rockefeller College. She has a bachelor’s degree from Marquette University. 

 

 

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