2016 Alumni Award Winners


John “Bunny” Barbes ’39 and Lila T. Barbes ’40 Wagner Alumni Laureate

For long and distinguished service to Wagner College

aAletta Kipp Diamond ’65 H’15 and Robert Diamond  

             It is a rare occasion when Aletta and Bob Diamond are not at a Wagner College event. These steadfast Wagnerians have served the College in many ways over the past 50 years.

Aletta graduated from Wagner College in 1965 with a bachelor’s in education. Her 30-year career as an educator included serving as an adjunct faculty member at Wagner College. In 1992, the Wagner College chapter of Kappa Delta Pi, the national education honor society, named her Educator of the Year.

 Aletta was elected to Wagner College’s Board of Trustees in 2003. She is now serving her fifth term. A former president of the Alumni Association board, she is also a liaison from the Board of Trustees to the Alumni Association. Last year, she co-chaired the Class of 1965 Fiftieth Reunion Committee. She serves on the scholarship fund committee for her sorority, Alpha Delta Pi. She is a charter member and was founding co-chair of the Wagner College Chai Society. For several years, she has been a member of the Advisory Board for the New Educators at Wagner program. In 2004, she was inducted into the Wagner College circle of Omicron Delta Kappa, the national leadership honor society, and in 2007 was given ODK’s Dr. Norbert H. Leeseberg Alumni Award for dedication and service. In 2014, Aletta and Bob were honored by Wagner College’s Hugh L. Carey Institute for Government Reform for their long record of support. Wagner College awarded Aletta an honorary doctorate in 2015.

Dr. Kevin Sheehy ’67 M’70 M’92 H’99 Alumni Leadership Medal

For consistent leadership and service to the Wagner College Alumni Association

tCharles “Tad” Bender ’06

            CharlesTad” Bender has been a Wagner leader since his student days, when he was the Coffeehouse manager, helped form what is now the Wagner Campus Activities Board (better known as WagCAB), and served as the Student Government Association president during his senior year.

            After graduating in 2006 with a B.A. in economics and a B.S. in business administration, concentration in finance, he continued his leadership and service to the Alumni Association. He was a member of the Capital Campaign Committee and he was the vice president and the president of the Alumni Association from 2006 until 2013.

            In his career, Bender has also achieved significant leadership positions. He is currently the vice president of leveraged finance for Citizens Financial Group in Stamford, Connecticut. Previously, he was with Credit Suisse in New York, New York, for eight years, serving as analyst, assistant vice president, and vice president for credit risk management – recovery management international.

            Tad is married to Ashley, and they have two children, Adalyn (4) and Alec (2).

 Reverend Lyle Guttu Award

For contributions to Wagner, local communities, or the world in a spiritual way

eErik Unhjem ’72

Erik Unhjem inspires us with his story of survival and overcoming. A licensed pilot, he was in the crash of a small plane in August 2012. Two lives were lost, including that of his wife of 38 years, Jane Marie Waleski Unhjem ’74, a noted educator and arts supporter in their community of Goshen, New York. Erik was burned over two thirds of his body, yet he courageously worked through loss and injury, and today he flies again, including missions for the animal rescue organization Pilots N Paws. (Read more about his story in Wagner Magazine’s winter 2015-16 issue, online at wagner.edu/wagnermagazine.) He started a memorial scholarship in Jane’s name, awarded to Goshen High School seniors active in the music program. Last year, he married Nina Favata, who (like Erik) is an accomplished artist and designer, and a fellow flying and cycling enthusiast.

Erik Unhjem practically grew up at Wagner; his father, the Rev. Dr. Arne Unhjem, was a professor of religion at Wagner College for 20 years. Dr. Unhjem also served as Wagner chaplain and was instrumental in acquiring the campus carillon. When it needed replacing a few years ago, Erik worked with the Rev. Lyle Guttu to underwrite a new one in his father’s name. Erik cites his father as his biggest influence among the Wagner faculty. “Whether in class, or around the dining room table, he instilled important life values, compassion, and logical thought,” he says.

Erik Unhjem graduated from Wager with a B.A. in art. He was a member of the 1969-70 Bregenz group, and has helped to organize several successful Bregenz alumni reunions and launch a study-abroad scholarship in memory of Dr. Gaspard Pinette, longtime director of the Bregenz Program. After his Wagner graduation, Erik served as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Navy. He then earned an MFA in photography from the Rochester Institute of Technology and joined the staff of Ramapo College before starting his own graphic design and photography business in Middletown, New York. In 1997, he joined the textbook publisher Prentice Hall, now Pearson. He now serves as eText Systems Product Manager. He has a daughter, Gayle Marie Unhjem; a son, Matthew Erik Unhjem; and a step-daughter, Carly Fridhandler.


Distinguished Graduate of Wagner

For unique career contributions to his or her community, state, or the nation, bringing honor to Wagner

dDr.  Dennis K. Galanakis ’58

            Dennis K. Galanakis, M.D., graduated from Wagner College in 1958 with a bachelor’s degree in biology. After earning his medical degree from the University of Saskatchewan in 1962, he interned at Maimonides Hospital before becoming an internal medicine resident at the Manhattan VA Hospital. He has been board certified in clinical pathology since 1978.

            Today, Dr. Galanakis is a professor of pathology and medicine at the Stony Brook School of Medicine and director of the blood bank at Stony Brook University Medical Center. Other physicians, from far and wide, regularly seek out Dr. Galanakis’s expertise in transfusion medicine. He has pioneered a procedure that stops excessive bleeding from surgery by using the patient’s own platelet-rich plasma, which has been used to minimize transfusion in open-heart surgery and the treatment of burn patients.

Dr. Galanakis is associate editor of the medical journal, Blood Coagulation & Fibrinolysis. He is internationally known for his published studies of fibrinogen, which Collins English Dictionary defines as “a soluble protein, a globulin, in blood plasma, converted to fibrin by the action of the enzyme thrombin when blood clots.” His studies of inherited fibrinogen disorders have resulted in multiple benefits, including the avoidance of lost pregnancies.

Dennis Galanakis and his wife, Mary, have two daughters, Marina and Alexandra.

Wagner Alumni Fellows

For distinguished careers in defined aspects of the College’s academic program


Elizabeth Dawson Barker '66, Ph.D.  (Nursing)

Elizabeth Dawson Barker, Ph.D., has been a notable member of Wagner College’s Alumni Association since her graduation in 1966; in fact, she was part of the Class of 1966 Reunion Committee that is co-hosting this weekend’s gathering.

            “The nursing education I received at Wagner was ahead of the profession’s vision,” Barker says. “I have always thanked God that I had such a progressive initiation into health care.” Among her mentors, she recalls, were professors Irene Sall and Janet Rodgers ’57.

            After graduating from Wagner with her Bachelor of Science in nursing, Barker earned her master’s degree from the University of Rhode Island. At the University of Rochester (New York), she studied to become a primary care nurse practitioner. She earned her doctorate from the University of Texas at Austin, researching parent/child nursing.

            Barker is currently a clinical professor, director of master’s programs, and director of the family nurse practitioner program at the Ohio State University College of Nursing, where she has served since 2003. She also has concurrent clinical practices at OSU’s University Health Connections and the Columbus Free Clinic.

            Barker’s career began as a staff nurse in the newborn nursery at the Naval Regional Medical Center in Newport, Rhode Island. In the U.S. Navy Hospital Corps, she rose to become commanding officer of the Naval Hospital Corpus Christi (Texas) Health Care System, earning the Navy Legion of Merit, Overseas Service Ribbon, and Navy Meritorious Service Medal. She has taught at the Joseph Lawrence School of Nursing in New London, Connecticut, the Marshall University School of Nursing, and West Virginia University. Among her many medical affiliations, Barker is a proud member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners and the Navy Nurse Corps Association.

            Elizabeth Dawson Barker and her husband, Roy, have three children: Douglas, Jennifer, and Kirsten.


Randy DeMeno ’82 (Computer Science & Information Systems)

When Randy DeMeno graduated in 1982, he was the first person to earn a B.S. in computer applications from Wagner College, and he attributes much of his success in the technology field to Wagner’s flexible and collaborative environment.

DeMeno transferred to Wagner as a junior from Seton Hall University to be a part of the baseball team. Notably, the Seahawks defeated Seton Hall in the 1981 Metropolitan Championships. “While there were many individual stars on the team, this team will always be my favorite as a collection of diverse individuals became a family with a common goal,” he says.

He experienced success in the classroom as well, with great guidance from Jim McCoy, professor of mathematics, who created the computer applications major. “Dr. McCoy was a true collaborator with students in the computer and math department,” DeMeno says. “Dr. McCoy’s stewardship as the visionary of the computer applications major and his creativity became a key foundation for my success in the field.”

DeMeno began his career with AT&T Communications in Piscataway, New Jersey, and with Banyan Systems in Woodbridge, New Jersey, where he was director of strategy and alliances. The company went IPO in 1992. In 1994, he joined Commvault in Tinton Falls, New Jersey, where he is chief technologist, Windows products & Microsoft partnership. Commvault went IPO in 2006.

In 2013, De Meno was named Computer Reseller News (CRN) Top-25 Innovator of the Year and Top-100 Executive of the Year. He has attained dozens of patents for Commvault’s data management software technology. He is also the founder of Commvault’s Hockey Helping Kids program, a philanthropic effort which has raised over $1.1 million dollars for children’s charities across North America.

He lives in New Jersey with his wife, Terri Naudzunas De Meno ’85, a fellow student athlete, and their three children, Brittanie, Ryan, and Lauren.

Gregory J. Kovar ’89 (Sociology)

            Gregory J. Kovar has dedicated his life to providing meaningful opportunities and life experiences to adults who are disabled.

            A 1989 graduate of Wagner College with a degree in sociology, Kovar was the starting quarterback and a driving force in guiding the Seahawks to a 13-1 record and to the 1987 Division III National Football Championship. He was inducted into the Athletics Hall of Fame in 2012.

            Kovar started his career as a habilitation specialist with the Staten Island Developmental Disabilities Service Office. He created the position of the ombudsman at South Beach Multiple Disability Unit in 2000, remedying any violations of rights or proper care of the individuals living in the unit. For two years, he served as a case manager at Desert Regional Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, helping individuals in that community live a more satisfying and productive life. He returned to Staten Island in 2005 to work for Lifestyles for the Disabled. He now serves as Lifestyles’ day habilitation director, serving more than 200 people in multiple community-based programs. The day habilitation program at Lifestyles for the Disabled has been recognized by multiple media outlets, including the New York Times and the Staten Island Advance.


Dr. Scott Lieberman ’83 (Biology)

            Scott Lieberman, M.D., earned his B.S. in chemistry and biology from Wagner College in 1983. He earned his M.D. from the New York Medical College in 1987 and then trained at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York in internal medicine and interventional cardiology. In 1994, he joined Cardiovascular Associates of East Texas and the Tyler Cardiac and Endovascular Center in Tyler, Texas, and has been practicing interventional cardiology and endovascular medicine ever since.

            Dr. Lieberman also has a long-standing interest in photography, which has led him down another significant life path. Starting with a Polaroid camera in the early 1970s, he learned from his father and his sister how to take photos. He practiced photojournalism during his student years at Edward R. Murrow High School in Brooklyn and at Wagner College, where he contributed to the Wagnerian.

            An early adopter of digital imaging technologies, he also had an interest in aviation and aerospace. On February 1, 2003, at his home in Tyler, he was taking photographs of the Space Shuttle Columbia as it returned to Earth. Using a 6 MB Canon digital SLR camera, he captured eight images of the shuttle’s disintegration in mid-air. Those images were transmitted from the Tyler Morning Telegraph to the Associated Press (AP). Within 24 hours, they had been seen by an estimated 2.4 billion people worldwide. They were on the cover of Time magazine and in over 1,200 newspapers globally. “It was a bittersweet lesson in the power that an image could have,” Lieberman says.

This event started Lieberman’s ongoing relationship with the AP, Tyler Morning Telegraph, and Bscene magazine as a regular contributor. His photos have been published worldwide and exhibited in Los Angeles and at the Tyler Museum of Art. His themes range from nature and weather to man-made technologies like aircraft and cars. “I like images that convey emotion and a sense of being there,” he says. “I like unique angles that show the power of image to tell a story.”

Dr. Lieberman is married to Robyn Jacobs Lieberman, who attended Wagner from 1981 to 1984. They have two children, Deandra and Mason.


Melissa D. Powers ’05 (Education)

            Melissa D. “Mel” Powers is a dedicated educator who has recently begun a new career of helping others through the field of law.

At Wagner, Powers earned a B.S. in elementary education and natural science with minors in special education and biology. President of the Student Government Association during her senior year, she was also an orientation leader for three years and was chosen to speak at commencement.

After graduation, she became a special education teacher in the Belleville, New Jersey, school system, first at Belleville High School and then at School Number Eight. In addition, she coached softball and volleyball for various schools, advised the high school’s student government organization, co-coordinated Super Science Saturday for the Ridgewood Board of Education, and directed summer day camps for Ridgewood Parks and Recreation.

She earned her master’s in education leadership studies from Teachers College, Columbia University, in 2011, and then embarked on a J.D. from Seton Hall University, which she has just completed. Last summer, she was an extern at the Office for Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education in New York. In 2015–16, she was a member of the Impact Litigation Clinic at Seton Hall. She worked on issues related to the prison system and helped prepare amicus briefs for the DC Circuit and New Jersey Supreme Court, as well as representing a client on appeal in the Second Circuit.

            Powers comes from a family of Wagnerians: her mother is Joan Powers ’72 and her brother is Sean Powers ’03

Wagner Alumni Key

For graduates of the last decade who have made extraordinary achievements in their personal and professional endeavors


Luke F. Morris ’06

Luke F. Morris graduated with a B.S. in international affairs with a concentration in economics and a minor in finance. A member of the men’s lacrosse team, he was named Distinguished Athlete, and he completed internships with the American Turkish Council and Senator Marty Golden of the New York State Senate.

After graduation, he parlayed his undergraduate lacrosse success into a coaching job with the men’s club lacrosse team at the University of Tampa, where he earned an M.S. in finance concentrating in investment management. He also played for the Tampa Bay Thunder Men’s Lacrosse Team.

He then joined Capital One Auto Finance as a risk associate and was promoted multiple times because of his outstanding performance. In 2008, he moved on to become a financial advisor for the Levin Financial Group, and in 2009 he became a senior associate for the John Hancock Financial Network. In 2010, he joined Fidelity Investments as an investment representative. He has won many awards from the company and received promotions as he works with clients to identify financial goals and priorities and develop investment strategies. In May 2012, he was named vice president/financial consultant, and he received his Certified Financial Planner designation. In 2015, he was one of the top-ranked advisors in the nation and earned the Fidelity Charitable Award, as a top-10 advisor assisting clients involved in philanthropic planning and donations. He now manages a book of 425 clients.

He has also been involved in helping his community, volunteering with the Florida Special Olympics and organizing a charity event to fundraise for the Ride to Recovery, which benefits wounded soldiers, among other activities. He also created a Fidelity donor-advised fund, the Luke F. Morris Charitable Foundation, to support the philanthropic causes his family believes in and to establish a charitable endowment at their passing.

He and his wife, Jera, welcomed their son Robert Jay Morris into the world on December 6, 2014. Luke and Jera co-founded a real estate investment company, REB Family Properties, to buy and manage rental properties.

Certificate of Appreciation

For individuals who have become active in the work of the Alumni Association


Robert Perretta M’12

Robert Perretta is a technology project manager at Citigroup. He graduated with a B.S. in finance from Franklin Pierce University, where he was captain of the NCAA hockey team. He came to Wagner for the MBA program, finishing his degree in finance in 2012. Now he is working on a second MBA at Wagner, this time focusing in management.

Over the last several years, he has mentored business students at Wagner and has helped the hockey team. “I have also started to get more involved with the Alumni Association,” he says, “as I feel Wagner College has a lot to offer all students and I want to help promote that.”

Having survived cancer at a young age, Perretta also supports the pediatric cancer community. He raises money for pediatric cancer needs through his own non-profit and also sits on the AIT Committee, which is part of NYU Langone, to raise money for the Stephen D. Hassenfeld Children’s Cancer Center in Manhattan.

He was featured in Wagner College’s Citizen Alum video series, which shares the stories of exceptional alumni who are civically engaged in their personal and professional communities. It may be viewed online at wagner.edu/citizen-alum.