SUNY Adirondack Trailblazers

Distinguished Alumni

The SUNY Adirondack Alumni Relations team is looking for the next class of distinguished alumni to induct into the Trailblazer Society.

For many of our alumni, the road to success started here at SUNY Adirondack (or for some, ACC).  SUNY Adirondack alumni are leaders in our community and beyond, blazing new trails for the next generation and inspiring today's students to achieve their goals.

Each year we set out to identify and honor SUNY Adirondack alumni who have achieved outstanding professional success, had a tremendous philanthropic impact on their communities and give back through community service.

We ask that you take a moment to reflect on the SUNY Adirondack alumni that you have come to know and consider nominating someone who deserves to be honored for the good work that they have done and the contributions they have made to their profession or to their community.

Trailblazer Nominee Criteria

  1. Nominees should have completed a degree or certificate at ACC/SUNY Adirondack.
  2. Nominations may be made by the individual or by someone else. (Current Foundation Board of Directors, members of the Board of Trustees, and College employees can nominate others but are ineligible to become a Trailblazer.)
  3. Nominations can be made posthumously.
  4. Nominees should not be running for political office in the year they are nominated.
  5. SUNY Adirondack Trailblazers will be selected based on achievement in one or more of the following areas: professional achievement, community service, service to ACC/SUNY Adirondack, and outstanding spirit.

2022 Trailblazers

Lisa Mitzen, Class of 1989, is co-founder of Business for Good, a nonprofit organization that supports community organizations and businesses. Profits earned by businesses Mitzen owns — including The Bread Basket and Hattie’s Restaurant & Chicken Shack — fund Business for Good, which donates to regional nonprofit organizations and helps entrepreneurs further develop their businesses. She works to end homelessness, fight food insecurity and engage animal rights actions, through partnerships with The Lisa Mitzen Animal Care Center/Mohawk Hudson Humane Society, The Handsome Cock Farm, Rebuilding Together Saratoga County, Shelters of Saratoga, The Giving Circle, Double H Ranch and Alzheimer’s Association, among others. For more than 15 years, she worked as a mortgage lending manager for companies including Countrywide Home Loans, MetLife and Paragon Home Loans. She is a 1989 graduate of SUNY Adirondack and a 1991 graduate of SUNY Utica. 

John Strough, Class of 1971, is a lifelong resident of Queensbury and longtime town supervisor. Strough was a high school teacher for 37 years, retiring in 2011. From 2004 to 2013, he served as a town councilman and, in 2013, as deputy town supervisor. He was elected as town supervisor in 2014 and is serving in his fifth term. He served on SUNY Adirondack’s Board of Trustees, Warren County Economic Developmental Council’s board, and several boards and committees dedicated to preservation of Lake George. He developed, designed and built the Rush Pond and Half Way Brook trail systems, and has overseen direction and implementation of major infrastructure projects and initiatives, including solar, fiber optics, lake and land preservation, and economic projects. Strough’s historical summations and articles and essays about land and water preservation have been published. He is a 1971 graduate of SUNY Adirondack, a 1974 graduate of University of Buffalo and has pursued graduate studies at University at Albany and other institutions.

Tanya Tobias-Tomis, Class of 1999, is executive director of Lake George Arts Project, a nonprofit organization that promotes exposure and income opportunities to professional and emerging artists, and provides quality arts programming to the Lake George region. Over the past 23 years, Tobias-Tomis has held numerous arts administration positions in the region, including at The Hyde Collection and Saratoga Arts. She is vice president of the Board of Directors at Adirondack Folk School, a member of Lake George Regional Chamber of Commerce Women in Business and, for more than a decade, has been a juror and steering committee member for LifeWorks’ Latino Community Advocacy Program’s Estamos Aqui fundraiser. In the past, she also served on Hudson River Mill Museum’s Board of Directors. Tobias-Tomis is a past Americans for the Arts Emerging Leader Scholarship Award Winner and was an Americans for the Arts Emerging Leader Award panelist, as well as an exhibition juror and guest speaker for many local and regional arts organizations. Tobias-Tomis is a 1999 graduate of SUNY Adirondack, a 2001 graduate of University at Albany and earned a master’s degree from Skidmore College.

2021 Trailblazers

Cassandra Moore, Class of '05 Cassandra Moore, a service line administrator of Glens Falls Hospital’s Neurology & Stroke Program, is a 2005 graduate of SUNY Adirondack’s highly respected Nursing program. Over the past 16 years, she has worked as a critical care nurse and nurse educator, and developed Glens Falls Hospital’s nurse residency and stroke programs.

Moore earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Nursing Education and Leadership in a bridge program through Excelsior College in 2015 and, in 2016, returned to Glens Falls Hospital to help establish a nurse residency program in high-acuity areas. In 2018, she led a team in developing the hospital’s Stroke Program, of which she became director in 2020. 

2020 Trailblazers

J. Buckley Bryan Jr., Class of ’87, ’94 Buck Bryan is a longtime resident of Bolton Landing and a two-time graduate of SUNY Adirondack, earning degrees in Business Administration and Psychology. As a retired commercial airline pilot and U.S. Navy Officer, as well as an entrepreneur and retired SUNY Adirondack adjunct faculty member, Bryan has been a driving force and pillar of the community.

As the college’s largest donor, Bryan is an advocate for education and philanthropy. He has served as a member and president of the Foundation Board of Directors and played a key role in the development of the college’s entrepreneurship program.

Bryan has also served as a member and former president of Lake George Association, and was a member of the Board of Directors of Warren and Washington Advocacy, Bolton Landing planning board, Bolton Landing Volunteer Fire Department and National Ski Patrol.

Jennifer Pettis, Class of ’91 Jennifer has more than 25 years of health care experience and has dedicated her career to improving health care for older adults. She graduated from SUNY Adirondack’s Nursing program in 1991 and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Health Care Management and a master’s degree in Nursing Education from SUNY Empire.

Pettis is an adjunct faculty member at SUNY Empire, a member of the Alzheimer’s Association of Northeastern New York Board of Directors, the New York State Auxiliary Board for Nursing, the Foundation of New York State Nurses Board of Directors, and the Alumni Student Federation Board of Governors of ESC.

Pettis was named an Alzheimer’s Association Ambassador to U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer in 2019 and recognized by the National Hartford Center of Gerontological Nursing Excellence as a Distinguished Educator in Gerontological Nursing in 2020.

Capt. Evan Love, Class of ’83 Capt. Evan Love enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1975 at the age of 17. He was assigned to the ballistic missile submarine USS Francis Scott Key, SSBN 657, where he completed five deterrent patrols as a reactor operator during the Cold War.

After his honorable discharge in 1981, Love relocated to Fort Edward and completed a degree in Engineering Science at  SUNY Adirondack. He later went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering from RPI.

Love worked for the Naval Laboratory for 34 years as a licensed professional engineer. He also remained in the Navy Reserve until his retirement in October 2017, achieving the rank of captain.

Love continues to serve his community and fellow veterans in his retirement as an active member of the Red Cross, St. Stephen’s Church and the Employer’s Veterans Organization.

2019 Trailblazers

Tim Badger, Class of ’69, MBA, from Queensbury, NY.  Tim’s 45-year professional career began at Glens Falls National Bank and Trust Company as a management trainee and progressed through various marketing and business development positions. When he retired in 2017, Tim was the Senior Vice President of Marketing, PR and Shareholder Relations. Tim holds an A.A.S. degree in business administration from SUNY Adirondack, a Bachelor of Science degree from the University at Albany, SUNY and an MBA from the University of Vermont. An avid hockey fan, Tim coached Adirondack Youth Hockey and served on the Board, coached the Skidmore College women’s ice hockey club for 7 seasons, and participated in the Senior Olympic Games in Lake Placid. Many community organizations have benefitted from Tim’s leadership including the SUNY Adirondack Foundation, Queensbury Senior Center, Tri-County United Way, CWI, Moreau Community Center, Adirondack Balloon Festival, Warren-Washington Counties Association for Mental Health and the Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce. In 2011, Tim was named the Tri-County United Way Volunteer of the Year. 

Jason Carusone, Class of ’89, JD from Lake George, NY. Jason’s academic career began at Adirondack Community College in May of 1989. He transferred to Binghamton University where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science, and ultimately a Juris Doctoral degree from Buffalo University School of Law.  He returned to Warren County and worked as a private attorney until 1999 when he became an Assistant District Attorney in Warren County. In 2004, his hard work earned him a promotion to the First Assistant District Attorney in Warren County a position he held for 13 years before being elected to serve as the Warren County District Attorney in 2017. Jason’s distinguished service includes recognition by the Narcotic Enforcement Officers Association and the District Attorney’s Association of New York.

Drew Schiavi Class of ’03, from Bristol, CT. Drew officially began his professional broadcasting career as a director and chief technical director for a variety of news and specialty programs at WRGB/WCWN – CBS 6 in Albany, NY.   In 2012, Drew became a Master Control Operator at ESPN in Connecticut and was promoted to Associate Director in 2014.  Drew was part of a team that won an Emmy Award at the 37th Annual Sorts EMMY® Awards for Outstanding Trans-Media Sports Coverage; College Football Playoff National Championship. However, Drew’s career truly began in college, where he was the Program Director at WGFR, SUNY Adirondack’s student radio while he earned is Associate’s Degree in Radio and TV Broadcasting. He transferred to SUNY Oswego and became the producer of the Oswego Laker Men’s Hockey Team games.  Drew earned a Bachelor’s Degree in broadcasting and mass communication at from SUNY Oswego in 2005. Each year, Drew shares his experiences with current SUNY Adirondack broadcasting students and has established a scholarship for broadcasting majors.

The Trailblazers were honored at an event on Thursday, October 17, 2019. For more information on the Trailblazer program, visit or contact Danielle Brown at or 518-743-2244. 

2018 Trailblazers

SUNY Adirondack inducted five members to the Trailblazer Society at a networking luncheon on Sept. 28, 2018. 

The inductees include:

Stephen Conigliaro came to Adirondack Community College from Flushing in 1974. A student of Professor LeRoy Aiken, he found great joy in the Radio and TV Broadcasting major and at the newly established WACC Radio station. After graduating, Conigliaro left ACC to work at WIPS Ticonderoga, then moved to WBZA in Albany. He later settled in Charlotte, N.C., where a position as a professional DJ came with a new professional name, Steve Harmon. Through the years, he has won numerous awards, including three Billboard Major Market Air Personality of the Year awards, CMA Awards and, most significantly, an induction in 2018 to the Country Radio Hall of Fame in Nashville.

Sarah Ghent earned her AAS in Nursing from SUNY Adirondack in 1980 as an adult learner while raising her family, and she earned a Bachelor’s in Health and Human Services from Columbia Pacific University in San Rafael, California. Ghent continued a career in nursing that covered many diverse aspects of the profession. Her positions and roles included medical/surgical nurse at Staten Island University Hospital and Glens Falls Hospital; manager of a home care staffing agency on Staten Island; implementation of the first case management program on Staten Island for H.I.P. Plan of Greater New York; clinical review, quality improvement for Empire Blue Cross/Blue Shield; and clinical reporting to physicians for Mohawk Valley Physicians. Since retirement, her volunteer endeavors include The American Red Cross, NY State Long Term Care Ombudsman (Certified) and Ombudsman of the Year 2017, NY Connects Long Term Care Council, Chairperson-SUNY Adirondack Nursing Alumni Association, SUNY Adirondack Nursing Program Advisory Board and the High Peaks Hospice. 

Dennis Harris is currently a systems engineer working at United Launch Alliance, where he is helping the company qualify their newest rocket, Vulcan, which will be used to launch manned missions to space as early as 2020. He graduated from SUNY Adirondack in 1996 with a Math/Science degree and then went on to SUNY Albany for a BS and MS in Physics. He received his MBA in 2010. Dennis has worked for several aerospace companies, and his projects include instruments for NASA, NOAA, the Air Force and South Korea.

Rich Johns, a native of South Glens Falls, began his academic career at ACC in 1968 and transferred to the State University of New York at Potsdam, where he graduated in 1972. Johns taught elementary and middle school, and he coached tennis at Saratoga Springs High School for 38 years. Under his guidance, Saratoga won 17 League Titles, nine Sectional Team Titles and holds the Section II record for Class AA with 85 consecutive wins and a record of 107– 2 during that period. He has won numerous awards as a coach, an Excellence in Teaching Award by the SUNY Albany Chapter of The National Society of Leadership and Success in 2015 and 2016 and has been inducted into the SUNY Adirondack and SUNY Potsdam hall of fames as well as the Saratoga Springs School District and the South Glens Falls Athletic and Community Pride Hall of Fames. Following his passion of personal character development, Johns started a “pay it forward” mission called Act With Respect Always, which has grown into a national model of student and athlete character development.

Brett Lange graduated from SUNY Adirondack in 1992 with an AAS in Radio Broadcasting.  He went on to earn a Bachelor's degree in finance marketing from the University at Albany. Today, Lange owns four local businesses in Lake George: Christie’s on the Lake, S.J. Garcia’s, Pablo’s Burrito Cantina and Magic Castle Indoor Golf. His entrepreneurial career has kept him linked with SUNY Adirondack. Many of his employees are student or graduates, and he has established two scholarships, one supporting students pursuing culinary degrees and another related to the study of the humanities.

The college’s Distinguished Faculty evaluated and selected the inaugural class from a competitive pool of nominations. Criteria for consideration include demonstrated excellence in the areas of professional achievement, community service, service to ACC/SUNY Adirondack and/or outstanding spirit.