The SUNY Cortland Alumni Association will award its most prestigious annual honors during Alumni Reunion 2023. Six graduates will receive the 2023 Distinguished Alumni Award and one will receive the Distinguished Educator Award during a Reunion 2023 ceremony on July 15.
The association also will recognize two Rising Star alumni, two Outstanding Alumni Volunteers and an Honorary Red Dragon Alum.
More information and registration details for Reunion 2023 are available at RedDragonNetwork.org.
The 2023 award recipients are:
Abraham Lincoln DeMond 1889
Abraham Lincoln DeMond is one of Cortland’s most historic graduates. In an era when segregation and prejudicial policies were common through much of the United States, he found a home at SUNY Cortland’s predecessor — the Cortland Normal School — to become its first African American alum. He went on to be an educator, an activist pastor and inspiration to others across the country.
The son of Guam DeMond, a former slave, and his wife, Phoebe, DeMond was born in Seneca, N.Y. He graduated from Cortland Normal School in 1889, moved south and then became a teacher. Later, he continued his studies at Howard University Seminary in Washington, D.C.
DeMond became a politically active pastor, delivering an influential address on African American rights from the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, on Jan. 1, 1900. The oration was called The Negro Element in American Life. In it, Abraham emphasized that African Americans were fully deserving of all the rights of citizens. DeMond saw the need to speak out and push back against racist currents seeking to sweep away the progress that had been made in his lifetime.
This speech was later published by the Emancipation Proclamation Association. The Dexter Avenue Baptist Church — from which the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. started the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and ’60s — is now a National Historic Monument.
In 2019, SUNY Cortland’s chapter of the W.E.B. Du Bois Honor Society was named for DeMond. This year, on Feb. 1, 2023, the inaugural Abraham Lincoln DeMond 1889 Day was held, kicking off SUNY Cortland’s celebration of Black History Month. This annual event in DeMond’s name will be a platform to honor his and other groundbreaking graduates who have overcome adversity, enshrining his important legacy to the university and the United States.
He was nominated by Tim Southerton ’78 on behalf of the SUNY Cortland Alumni Association’s
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.
“The DEI Committee feels that it is time for his Alma Mater to honor this man and his accomplishments,” Southerton said.
Bertram Edelstein ’74
Organizational psychologist Bertram Edelstein ’74 has used his expertise to help thousands of leaders from major companies and organizations around the world. Those skills have also been invaluable for children in need, military veterans and SUNY Cortland.
For more than three decades, he has served as president for The Edelstein Group, an international consulting firm that he founded. Using Edelstein’s extensive knowledge of psychological methods and management practices, the company created a new executive development model and has helped implement this model for clients including Fortune 500 corporations and government organizations. More than 3,000 executives from over 50 companies have completed this program.
Prior to that, Edelstein served as a management assistant for the U.S. Energy Research and Development Administration at the Argonne National Laboratory, and a consultant for Kaiser Permanente medical group, one of the nation’s largest nonprofit healthcare plans.
Edelstein earned a master’s degree in administration from Michigan State University in 1976 and a Ph.D. from the California School of Professional Psychology in 1982.
He also selflessly gives his time as a board member of the Pro Kids Foundation, helping under-served San Diego youth, and is an executive coach for The Honor Foundation, a career transition institute in partnership with the Navy SEAL Foundation.
In tribute to his father and other veterans, Edelstein lobbied for the passage of the Ghost Army Congressional Gold Medal Act, a federal law signed in 2022 by President Joe Biden to honor troops who conducted deceptive operations in the European Theater during World War II.
At SUNY Cortland, Edelstein graduated cum laude and was a Presidential Scholar. He was also station manager for WCSU, the campus radio station, building much of the foundation of what would eventually become WSUC-FM.
Involved in student government while an undergraduate, he’s remained committed to the university, hosting regional alumni events and setting up an endowment for the ongoing support of SUNY Cortland social science students.
“He is generous with his time and genuinely tries to help people be their best self,” said Francis P. Lynch, director of Learning and Development at Crinetics Pharmaceuticals. “The word mensch is overused, but in Dr. Edelstein’s case, it is an understatement.”
Robert Bookman ’76
Robert Bookman ’76 has, throughout his ongoing 43-year career in law, been a relentless advocate for those too often unheard or left behind.
“Robert has been a steadfast advocate who fights to give voice to those who often have little voice of their own,” said nominator Kevin N. Keegan ’76, a Cortland College Foundation board member.
It started in Florida, where he supported farm workers and poor rural families through a poverty law program. During that time, he successfully sued a local housing authority for maintaining racially separate waiting lists. Then, in his native New York City, he protected citizens from predatory businesses as counsel at the Department of Consumer Affairs.
After joining a private practice as a partner, he represented small businesses and entrepreneurs, including the historic Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village. He then served as counsel and co-founder to the New York Nightlife Association and currently as counsel to its successor organization, the New York Hospitality Alliance — one of the largest trade associations for restaurants and bars in the country.
This expertise in nightlife and hospitality legal issues has led to appointments to key New York City advisory panels and for Bookman to be a trusted, valued media source quoted in the likes of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, WABC-TV, Forbes Magazine and Restaurant Business Online.
In his private life, Bookman is generous, volunteering to provide meals to the homeless, financially supporting hospice and battered women’s shelters and assists the Sierra Club as a lifetime member.
His time as a SUNY Cortland student has been just as noteworthy. He was elected vice president of the Student Government Association and led efforts to create the university's first Jewish Studies courses and the first student-run teacher/course evaluations. As an alum, he’s been on the board of directors of the Cortland College Foundation and chair of its Governance of the Executive Committee. He created an annual scholarship to support a student government leader who has been a steadfast advocate for aiding the university’s neediest students.
Rear Admiral John “Jack” C. Scorby ’81, United States Navy (Ret.)
During 35 years in the military, Rear Admiral John (Jack) C. Scorby ’81, United States Navy (Ret.) never stopped seeking new challenges. He put himself in a position to make tough decisions, distinguishing himself through leadership, integrity and dedication.
After his time at SUNY Cortland, Scorby earned a master’s degree from Naval Postgraduate School, then graduated with distinction from the College of Command and Staff, U.S. Naval War College and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. During his military service, he was honored twice by Congress on the Congressional Record.
From his time as a young lieutenant commander in Brunswick, Maine, responsible for 250 pilots and support personnel, to eventually handling the operations of Naval installations around the world, Scorby’s ability placed him among the best of America’s flag officers during both combat and peacetime operations.
Working toward a more efficient and climate-friendly military, Scorby established initiatives to conserve energy, creating a “Culture of Energy Conservation” through an active Regional Energy Council. The secretary of the Navy and the chief of Naval Operations have praised his work as “visionary” and “innovative.”
For Scorby, it’s the teamwork among those he works with, military and civilian alike, he’s most proud of. For proof, just look to the Fleet and Family Support Program he helped create. The program works with local community partners to achieve a 50 percent hiring rate for military spouses and transitioning veterans. To this day, he mentors individuals seeking officer commissions and is happy to give advice to active-duty service members.
Retirement doesn’t always mean taking it easy. Scorby and his wife, Chris, have brought their work ethic to their home city of Jacksonville, Florida, where he’s secretary of the Orange Park Rotary Club; vice chairman of the Orange Park Hospital board of Trustees; volunteer for the Clay County Education Foundation; and member of the “200 Club of Jacksonville,” which assists families and loved ones of first responders who die in the line of duty.
John W. Tillotson ’91
If a person can be measured by the lives they’ve helped, then the legacy of John W. Tillotson ’91 is larger than most.
Throughout his career, Tillotson has profoundly impacted the professional development of a vast group of students, including pre-service science teachers, undergraduate science majors and science education doctoral students.
He joined the Syracuse University faculty in 1996. From 2001-06 he was executive director for the National Association for Research in Science Teaching, the leading international science education research organization in the world. In 2006, Tillotson was selected as National Science Educator of the Year by his peers at the Association for Science Teacher Education. In 2012, he was elected as president of that organization, serving on the board of directors for three years.
Over the course of his career, Tillotson has successfully applied for more than $6 million in education research grant funding. This includes $2.5 million toward examining the influence of pre-service program experiences on science teacher development. He’s also won grants for programs that provide scholarships to future secondary science teachers who commit to working in high-needs public schools, and that support undergraduate STEM majors from low-income and underrepresented backgrounds.
Recently he’s directed the SUSTAIN Project at Syracuse University — a research and professional development program that serves underrepresented students from low-income family backgrounds who have high aptitude in STEM. The program has a 93% first-year retention rate and an average 4-year graduation rate in a STEM major of over 80%.
Just as important, Tillotson has never forsaken service to his community. For the past 35 years, he’s been an active volunteer firefighter and EMT in Marathon, N.Y., and Harford, N.Y., serving as EMS chief or deputy chief in Marathon for two decades.
Daniel Martuscello III ’96
Daniel Martuscello III ’96 takes on challenges with an energy and vision that’s enabled him rise to the top of his profession.
As the acting commissioner for New York state’s Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DOCCS), Martuscello leads the agency responsible for the safe and humane confinement of people convicted of a felony, as well as being responsible fo every individual released from prison under parole supervision.
He has a direct hand in managing a $3.2 billion budget used to operate 44 prisons with approximately 31,000 incarcerated individuals, a roughly equal number of parolees and 27,000 employees.
Martuscello is also at the forefront of the DOCCS’s newest projects, guiding them with thoroughness and attention to detail. They include:
“Time and time again, Dan has taken on huge new projects and initiatives and carefully orchestrated their design, implementation and successful completion,” said nominator Darren Ayotte ’94, acting deputy commissioner for Administrative Services at DOCCS. “Several of these projects have had enormous ramifications not only for DOCCS but for all of New York state.”
Martuscello also finds the time to establish and nurture relationships with the advocacy organizations, unions, other agencies and members of government that his agency interacts with. This extra attention helps ensure a smooth, efficient process that enhances the lives under his care.
Michael Braun ’17
In 2022, Michael Braun ’17 ranked 51 on City & State’s Queens Power 100 list, one of its youngest honorees.
Since 2019 when he joined the prominent lobbyist firm Kasirer, he has achieved three promotions in as many years. In only his second year there, Braun helped grow the firm’s year-over-year revenues by $1.3 million, an increase of 10%. He leads government and community relations on behalf of a variety of challenging client projects, including Stony Brook University, which is bidding to build and operate a historic climate center on Governor’s Island. Braun also supervises the political fundraising and analysis unit of the firm, ensuring that its government relations strategies align with the changing dynamic of New York City’s politics.
“Since the beginning of my work with Mike Braun, I was certain that his educational experience groomed him into the rising star that he is today in his career,” said nominator Jennifer Blum, senior vice president of operations and administration at Kasirer.
Braun noted, “My character, morals and ethics are what they are because of the amazing people at that campus, and I couldn’t have been more thankful of that opportunity.”
A political science major at SUNY Cortland, Braun was heavily involved throughout his entire undergraduate experience with the Student Government Association, serving as president his senior year.
Upon graduation in 2017, he enrolled at the University at Albany’s Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy to earn a master’s in public administration (MPA).
While there, Braun was elected by students across New York state to serve first as chief financial officer and then as the president of the State University of New York’s Student Assembly, which advocates for the 1.4 million students across the SUNY system. He also represented students on the 2018-19 Board of Trustees of the State University of New York.
Braun’s long list of civic involvements includes starting a local organization called Astoria Young Professionals (AYP), which hosts social and civic events for the community’s young professionals’ network.
Natalie Yoder ’21
A passion for diversity, equity and inclusion has led Natalie Yoder ’21 to pursue opportunities that better the communities around her.
“Natalie has taken her diverse lived experiences and is now using them to benefit SUNY Cortland directly,” said nominator Cyrenius Fitzjohn ’19, the former assistant chief diversity and inclusion officer at SUNY Cortland.
As a biracial student, Yoder found it difficult to find her place as a young person leaving home for the first time, especially among people who came from different backgrounds and circumstances.
“I ultimately found my own purpose through building community for my residents by creating a positive living and learning environment,” said Yoder, a 2020-21 Outstanding Student Leader Award honoree.
Yoder, who graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and minor in international studies, worked as a resident assistant in Bishop and Randall halls for five semesters, was a fitness supervisor, instructor and lifeguard at the Student Life Center and worked catering events for Cortland Auxiliary Services. She also facilitated a Re-Thinking Abilities workshop and advised the Student Activities Office.
While studying abroad in Mangalore, India, Yoder researched the children of Devadasis — religious prostitutes — and how this impacted them mentally and physically throughout their life as well as their long-term skills and relationships. Her research results were published in the St. Aloysius College Journal.
She also volunteered in 2016 and 2017 in Tanzania and Bali to participate in work to promote cultural diversity and ecosystem restoration; to volunteer to restore coral reefs and classrooms and to provide HIV education; and to teach English in a classroom setting.
Upon graduation, Yoder interned in Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) with the executive director of the Aspire African Communities/Meesh Lo Foundation to facilitate construction of a new school for students with cognitive impairments.
Tracy McPherson Hudson ’89, M ’93, Ed.D.
Appointed at SUNY Cortland as a SUNY Diversity Fellow in 2021, Tracy McPherson Hudson ’89, M ’93, Ed.D. believes in the power of treating all students as “able, valuable and responsible.”
“Teaching has the power to provide students with tools that help them navigate in this ever-changing world,” Hudson said.
She previously was employed for almost 20 years on Long Island in secondary schools as a physical education teacher, health educator and school principal, winning many awards.
“The (SUNY Cortland) students clearly resonated with her knowledge, and I could tell appreciated the insider information she shared about crosstown rivals and highlights of specific regions,” said Timothy Davis, associate professor of physical education.
Hudson’s nominators, SUNY Cortland professors Ibipo Johnston-Anumonwo in the Geography Department and Mechthild Nagel in the Philosophy Department, alluded to her outstanding record of accomplishments, impact, peer acknowledgements, community service and contributions in diversity and inclusion within and outside of SUNY Cortland.
At the university’s three-day 2021 Summer Diversity Institute, for example, she took an active role in the dialogues and presentations. Departments’ faculty search committees tap her knowledge to help them hire with greater inclusiveness. Her expanded outreach to students of color is also evident in her role as interim advisor to the Cortland Chapter of NAACP.
“We have also witnessed such compassionate pedagogy in her innovative contributions to the university’s Sophia’s Garden,” noted Johnston-Anumonwo, in reference to a project to educate young children using philosophical ideas.
After earning her bachelor’s degree in physical education, Hudson remained to receive her master’s degree in health education.
After Cortland, Hudson earned two additional master’s degrees and holds an Ed.D. in accountability and leadership from St. John’s University in New York. A certified trainer in racial healing, her research has focused on creating a culture of care for Black students.
Evelyn Neuberger Sammons ’71, C.A.S. ’91
Whether it’s helping someone in their moment of need, pitching in to beautify her environs or leading a local nonprofit organization’s push to improve local community life, Evelyn Neuberger Sammons ’71, C.A.S ’89 is everyone’s go-to person.
“If one of the girls in her class needed clothing, a gym suit or even a shower, she would provide for them,” said the anonymous nominator of Sammons, a retired physical educator who served at both Homer (N.Y.) Junior High School and Homer Senior High School. “If they needed to talk to someone about a problem, she would be that person. She was always there for her students.”
At the senior high school, Sammons became athletic director and then vice principal, and served on the Section III Athletics Executive Committee for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association.
“When girls at the high school wanted to start a girls lacrosse team, Evelyn again stepped up” and coached for two years, the nominator said.
Sammons has served on the Cortland Chapter of the SUNY Cortland Alumni Association and its committee for the Lynne Parks ’68 SUNY Cortland Alumni House. That role finds her eagerly pitching in for spring and fall cleanup, house decorating for the holidays or assisting with events. She also volunteers at Alumni Reunion Weekend, New Student Orientation and Senior Send Off.
In the community, Sammons served two terms with the Hospice Foundation of Cortland County, including as board president during the merger with Hospice of Tompkins County.
Sammons transports former military service members in Disabled Veterans of Cortland. Other favorite local causes are Aid to Victims of Violence, the New York Senior Games when held in Cortland County and Cortland YWCA.
“I feel it is our duty to assist and volunteer to help others in any way we are capable of,” Sammons said. “We should all strive to be kind and caring in all our dealings with others.”
Robert “Bob” Russell ’78, C.A.S. ’91
There’s a familiar face greeting alumni arriving at Reunion Weekend, Cortaca and other SUNY Cortland events: Robert “Bob” Russell ’78, C.A.S. ’91.
“Many hands make light work,” the retired educator said.
As a member of the SUNY Cortland Alumni Association Board of Directors, Russell has served on committees including the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee and contributed many hours of service to the association and SUNY Cortland.
He has volunteered his know-how to fixing up the interior or gardens at the Lynne Parks ’68 SUNY Cortland Alumni House. Russell has opened his own home in Homer, N.Y., to host Alumni Reunion weekend gatherings.
Russell reliably comes through when alumni are asked to demonstrate their Red Dragon pride with prospective students and their parents, said nominator Betsy Cook Cheetham ’80, longtime assistant to the director of admissions.
“Bob Russell has volunteered at several Open Houses as ‘Blaze’s escort’ or as someone who greeted and talked with families at the dining hall,” Cheetham said. “His contributions are very much appreciated, and he has enjoyed helping his alma mater.”
A former secondary social studies major, after he graduated Russell earned a master’s degree in special education from Binghamton University and a C.A.S. from SUNY Cortland. He has served as a special education teacher, administrator and consultant at public schools and regional residential facilities for at-risk youth. As an education supervisor, he set up a summer school program that helped incarcerated students earn academic credits needed to return to public schools.
Recently, Russell was voted president of the Cortland Public Education Foundation, which raises money to offer grants to Cortland City School District teachers.
“To be honest, I volunteer because I have the time and like to help out when there is a need,” he said. “I also enjoy working alongside my fellow volunteers.”
Peter C. Perkins
When he retires this summer, Peter C. Perkins, SUNY Cortland’s vice president for institutional advancement since 2015, will leave behind an indelible, positive mark on the university and its alumni.
Daniel Walker ’06, current president of the SUNY Cortland Alumni Association’s Board of Directors, listed only the most recent reasons for awarding Perkins this rare recognition. Perkins has stood out for his tireless advocacy on the association’s behalf, notably in achieving a commitment by the Cortland College Foundation to provide increased support annually to further its engagement efforts. He’s strengthened collaborations between the foundation and association boards.
“In collaboration with the executive director and board of directors, Perkins has worked tirelessly to explore options for a financially stable business operation plan at the Lynne Parks ’68 SUNY Cortland Alumni House,” Walker said. “He’s freely giving of his time to always strengthen alumni connections to support the university mission.”
Erin Boylan, executive director of alumni engagement, described an alumni dinner at the Parks Alumni House where Perkins was alerted to leaky pipe.
“In a full suit, Peter assessed the situation and guided staff on the clamp we needed to purchase,” Boylan said. “He returned upstairs, cultivating alumni. Between dinner and dessert, he installed the clamp and then returned to the event. The alumni never knew. I think it is a great example of his professionalism and his willingness to always go above and beyond.”
During that time, Perkins also shepherded the university’s fundraising initiatives and guided efforts in alumni engagement, government affairs, communications and marketing.
He saw through from start to finish the university’s recent successful Campaign for Cortland — All-In: Building on Success, which raised more than $30 million for numerous institutional priorities while fostering an environment of “friend-raising” among Cortland’s more than 80,000 alumni, campus community and other supporters.
Perkins’ distinguished career in higher education also included experiences in teaching, administrative leadership, continuing education, corporate training and outreach, and academic affairs.
He previously served as assistant vice president for development and executive director of the Foundation at SUNY Polytechnic Institute (formerly SUNY Institute of Technology) for 11 years and for several years as interim dean of Empire State College in Syracuse.
Perkins has a B.S. in business administration and an M.B.A. in production/operations management from the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.