Two Niagara University employees were among three Western New Yorkers recognized as New York Environmental Champions by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency during an event held Monday at the LaSalle Vineyard Community Garden in Niagara Falls.
Tom Lowe, director of ReNU Niagara, and Dr. William Boeck, professor emeritus, were honored for their dedication to protecting the public's health and the environment. They received the EPA award from Congressman Brian Higgins; Michael Basile, EPA public affairs officer; and the Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., president of Niagara University.
Also receiving the award was Dr. Joseph Gardella Jr., professor of chemistry at the University at Buffalo. A total of 28 individuals and organizations from across the state were recognized this spring.
"It doesn't take a mass to make a difference; change can come with just one set of hands and one voice," Higgins said. "Today, we recognize individuals whose passion and tireless efforts have made our community a better place for this generation and those to come."
"On behalf of the entire Niagara University community, it is my honor to congratulate these environmental champions," Maher said. "Niagara is extremely proud of Dr. William Boeck and Tom Lowe. Their tireless commitment to our community and the global environment is a model for all of us."
Lowe was a member of the inaugural class of the Lois Gibbs Fellowship program through the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York, and committed to a year of service through the AmeriCorps VISTA program. As an AmeriCorps VISTA, he managed the Highland Greenfields Project, creating a public park and community garden in Niagara Falls.
In 2013, Lowe was named director of ReNU Niagara, an extension of Niagara University committed to community engagement in Niagara Falls. He currently serves as chair of the Niagara Beautification Commission, which organized over 950 volunteers for a city-wide cleanup effort this spring, and is co-chair of the Healthy Foods, Healthy People Coalition, a project expanding access to fresh, healthy food. Lowe founded Greenprint Niagara and LiveNF, sits on the boards of the Niagara Falls Heritage Area and the City of Niagara Falls Youth Bureau, and has been engaged in various other projects, including the Highland Brownfield Opportunity Area and removal of a portion of the Robert Moses Parkway.
Boeck began teaching computer and information sciences at Niagara University in 1965. His community involvement has been plentiful, headlined by his role as co-chair (with Gardella) of the Community Action Council associated with the Niagara Falls Storage Superfund Site in Lewiston. An expert in the investigation of the environmental impact of radioactive releases, Boeck has spent nearly three decades as an advocate for the cleanup of radioactive waste at the site.
Additionally, Boeck previously chaired the Krypton-85 Working Group of the International Commission on Atmospheric Electricity, and has been recognized for his research of lightning, which included work with NASA.
Gardella is a SUNY Distinguished Professor, the John & Frances Larkin Professor of Chemistry at the University at Buffalo and director of the interdisciplinary science and engineering partnership with the Buffalo Public Schools.
The EPA recognized Gardella for his efforts as co-chair of the Community Action Council for the Niagara Falls Storage Superfund Site in Lewiston. In that role, Gardella committed hundreds of volunteer hours to advocating on behalf of the community for the removal of radioactive waste, remaining from the WWII-era, at the Niagara Falls Storage Site.
Gardella has been involved extensively in environmental programs both at UB and in the community, including: serving as chair of the UB environmental task force in the 1990s, steering committee member for UB's environmental society institute, chair of the City of Buffalo Environmental Management Commission, executive committee member of the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter Niagara Group, City of Buffalo Solid Waste Advisory Board, and chair of the steering committee of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Lake Ontario Ordinance Works Restoration Advisory Board.
"I am very honored to be recognized with this award along with Dr. William Boeck, who has spent over 30 years working on issues surrounding the storage of radiological materials from the Manhattan Project in Lewiston," Gardella said. "I am grateful for Rep. Higgins' bringing the recognition back 'home' to WNY!"
Each spring, the EPA honors individuals and organizations who have contributed significantly to improving the environment during the prior year in New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and eight federally recognized Indian Nations in New York state.
"It is a privilege for EPA to be able to recognize the dedication and accomplishments of these environmental trailblazers," Regional Administrator Judith Enck said. "These individuals and organizations are an inspiration, encouraging us to do our best to protect the environment every day."
Additional information is available at www.epa.gov/aboutepa/environmental-champion-awards.
To learn more about Niagara University, visit www.niagara.edu.