Niagara University's College of Business Administration presented awards to four area business leaders and alumni during its 24th annual Business Appreciation and Accounting Banquet, held Feb. 19 at the Conference Center Niagara Falls.
In addition, Dr. Shawn Daly, dean of the College of Business Administration, announced a new master's program in finance will be offered at Niagara University beginning this fall. The 36-credit program will prepare graduates to work at banks, investment management firms, consulting firms, investment banks and financial planning firms. Additional information can be found on the university's website.
Close to 200 people attended the event, which was emceed by WGRZ-TV anchor and 1986 NU alumna Maryalice Demler.
Scrufari Construction, and its owner S. Gary Sankes, MBA'85, received the Corporate Leadership Award for its role as a leader in the construction industry, employing close to 150 people. While serving as Scrufari Construction's controller, Sankes earned his MBA from NU in 1985 and, five years later, he and a partner purchased the firm. Since then, Scrufari has continued its ascent into one of the top general building contractors in Western New York. Scrufari has completed projects in professional sports, education, recreation, cultural and nonprofit, to name a few. Included among the highlights are Ralph Wilson Stadium, Seneca Niagara Casino, the Aquarium of Niagara Falls, and the recently opened B. Thomas Golisano Center for Integrated Sciences on the Niagara University campus. Now more than 100 years old, Scrufari Construction Inc. averages approximately $40 million in annual sales.
This year's Distinguished Accounting Alumnus was John A. Rieger, '86, the national tax managing partner of the Financial Services Tax Practice of Deloitte Tax LLP. Rieger earned his BBA in accounting from Niagara University as well as an MBA and JD from Case Western Reserve University. He has held several prominent banking and finance positions, including partner in banking and securities and, later, senior manager for Deloitte and Touche LLP. Rieger also served as the chief financial officer at Fortis International Bank. Now based out of Deloitte's offices in New York City, Rieger utilizes his 21 years of finance and tax experience to assist global financial services companies, specializing in foreign-based financial institutions with U.S. operations. In 2003, the International Tax Review named him one of the "top-five" tax professionals in the U.S.
Jessica Kemp, '04, MBA'05, founded the Kemp Financial Group, the 2014 Canadian Business of the Year, three years ago. The former Niagara basketball standout is presently the principal and managing partner of the firm, along with her brother, Michael. Kemp Financial is now an incorporated company of Freedom 55 Financial, a division of the London Life insurance company, part of the second largest financial institution in Canada. Kemp's expertise in life insurance and estate planning has been put to good use for her alma mater as well, as she is currently involved with NU's Heritage Society, a group of individuals who have listed the university as a beneficiary on a portion of their life insurance proceeds. She also sits on the board for planned giving at Niagara University. Over the past two years, Kemp has participated in the Ride to Conquer Cancer, a bike ride from Toronto to Niagara Falls, Ontario, that raises money for cancer research. In 2013, the team that she was involved with raised a total of $1 million. Kemp also has sat on the boards of the Hernder Picasso Foundation, a fundraising organization for a new cancer center in St. Catharines, and the Niagara Sport Commission. She also has been involved as a mentor for various basketball organizations and serves as a motivational speaker.
The Family Business of the Year award went to the Sahlen Packing Co. Inc., which was founded in 1869 on the east side of Buffalo by Joseph Sahlen. His great-grandson, Joseph E. Sahlen, and his great-great-grandson, Joseph L. Sahlen, now operate the business, which was incorporated in 1946. Sahlen's commitment to product quality, consistency and food safety has made the company famous for its hot dogs, "old fashioned" smokehouse ham, turkey breast, and other meat products. In 1998, Sahlen's opened the Sahlen's Sports Park in Elma. Alexandra Sahlen, a 2004 graduate of Niagara University and Joseph Sahlen's great-great granddaughter, serves as president of the 185,000-square-foot facility. She and her husband, Aaran Lines, manage the complex, which serves as the training facility for the Western New York Flash. The Flash plays its home games in the 13,000-seat Sahlen's Stadium in Rochester. The marketing of the Sahlen's brand also extends into auto racing, where the family-owned business fields two cars in a variety of classes in the International Motor Sports Association.
Corporate sponsors of this year's banquet were Chiampou Travis Besaw & Kershner LLP, Citi, Computer Task Group, Deloitte, Lumsden & McCormick LLP, Niagara University's Family Business Center, Sahlen Packing Co., Scrufari Construction, Supply Chain Optimizers and The Bonadio Group.
For more information on Niagara University's business programs, visit www.niagara.edu/business.