Fernandes and Koelmel Named “2010 Buffalo-Niagara Executives of the Year”

Release Date: September 24, 2010 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, NY – Donna M. Fernandes, president and CEO of the Buffalo Zoo, and John R. Koelmel, president and CEO of First Niagara Financial Group, Inc., have been named the 2010 Buffalo-Niagara Executives of the Year by the University at Buffalo School of Management.

The awards will be presented at the 61st Annual School of Management Alumni Association Awards Banquet beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 3 at the Millennium Airport Hotel, 2040 Walden Ave., Buffalo.

Fernandes and Koelmel were selected by a vote of past honorees and the board of directors of the alumni association, who cited their business acumen and innovative leadership.

Since her arrival in Buffalo in 2000 as president and CEO of the Buffalo Zoo, Fernandes has been credited with taking the nation’s third-oldest zoo from the brink of extinction to a ranking as one of the country’s best zoological parks. With the cooperation of the Zoological Society’s board, she initiated a 15-year, $70 million master plan. Under her guidance, the zoo has raised $30 million in capital funds and opened a number of new exhibits.

Fernandes is an adjunct assistant professor in UB’s Department of Anthropology, a part-time instructor at Canisius College and a board member of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Brown University, a master’s in biology and a doctorate in ecology, evolution and behavior from Princeton University and an MBA from the Simmons School of Management in Boston. She also completed a year of postdoctoral study at the University of Liverpool, UK.

A Buffalo resident, Fernandes has been recognized with numerous awards, including the Girl Scouts of Western New York’s Woman of Distinction, The Friend of Veterinary Medicine by the Western New York Veterinary Medical Association, The Susan B. Anthony Award and The Western New York Women’s Hall of Fame.

Koelmel is president and CEO of First Niagara Financial Group and its principal subsidiary, First Niagara Bank, N.A. He joined First Niagara in 2004 as chief financial officer and was appointed to his current position in 2006. During his tenure, Koelmel has led First Niagara in its growth from a savings institution with 119 branches and $8 billion in assets to what will be, upon completion in 2011 of its pending merger with NewAlliance Bancorp, a top-25, super-regional commercial bank with more than 340 branches and $30 billion in assets.

Throughout the recent financial crisis, Koelmel consistently led and positioned First Niagara to fortify its capital position, profitably growing the bank and increasing lending to consumers and businesses in the communities it serves. In 2008 and 2009, Koelmel led First Niagara through three highly successful follow-on stock offerings, raising nearly $1 billion in capital from the private sector to fuel the bank’s increased lending and growth.

Active in the community, Koelmel serves on several boards in addition to First Niagara’s, including the New York Bankers Association, Great Lakes Health and Kaleida Health, where he serves as chair. He is a Buffalo native and lives in East Amherst.

Established in 1949, the Buffalo-Niagara Executive of the Year award is presented annually to an individual who either resides in or has had a significant impact on the region, and who has distinguished himself or herself in a career marked by executive success and civic leadership. This is the first time in the 61-year history that two awardees will be honored in the same year. Last year’s honoree was Robert D. Gioia, president of The John R. Oishei Foundation.

For information about the awards banquet, contact the Alumni Relations Office in the School of Management at mgt-alumni@buffalo.edu or 716-645-3224.

The UB School of Management is recognized for its emphasis on real-world learning, community and economic impact, and the global perspective of its faculty, students and alumni. The school has been ranked by Bloomberg Businessweek, Forbes, U.S. News & World Report and The Wall Street Journal for the quality of its programs and the return on investment it provides its graduates. For more information about the UB School of Management, visit mgt.buffalo.edu.

The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system that is its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB’s more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.

Media Contact Information

Jacqueline Molik Ghosen
Assistant Dean and Director of Communications
School of Management