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2023 Alumni Awards honor the best of CHS
Keith McShea

Twelve stellar examples of the ideals to which all Canisius High School alumni strive were honored Saturday afternoon at our Alumni Awards induction ceremony in Scaccia Auditorium. 

The Alumni Awards honor extraordinary people from the Canisius community whose pursuit of excellence personally, professionally and on the field of play embody the Jesuit ideal of “men and women for others.”

This year’s inductees:

Distinguished Alumni Hall of Honor

Dr. John M. Canty ’72 – Medicine
Hon. John M. Curran ’77 – Law
Mr. Walter L. Rooth ’60 – Law/Civic Leadership
Dr. Eric F. Spina ’79 – Education
 

Athletic Hall of Fame – John F. Barnes Award

Thomas H. Weislo – Volleyball
 

Athletic Hall of Fame

James E. Bujalski ’84 – Tennis
Ryan Dinunzio ’98 – Soccer, Football
Jordan J. Hamm ’09 – Cross Country, Track & Field
Kyle P. Husband ’96 – Basketball
Karl S. McKinnie ’77 – Track & Field
Joseph L. Ogiony ’73 – Swimming
Dale R. Podlas ’87 – Baseball, Football, Basketball

Inductees gathered in our Higgins Hall foyer prior to the ceremony in Scaccia Auditorium; afterwards, celebrants enjoyed lunch in Bernard J. Kennedy '49 Field House.

Distinguished Alumni Hall of Honor

The Distinguished Alumni Hall of Honor was established to permanently recognize graduates of Canisius High School who have distinguished themselves in their careers or in their activities in a manner which exemplifies the highest ideals to which Canisius is dedicated.

These gentlemen have brought lasting recognition to themselves and to their alma mater. Enshrinement in the Hall of Honor is the highest recognition that Canisius can bestow on its alumni.

Information on the inductees as well as excerpts from their remarks at the induction ceremony: 

Dr. John M. Canty ’72 – Medicine

A cardiologist by trade, the SUNY Distinguished Professor of Medicine currently serves as the Director of the Center for Research in Cardiovascular Medicine at the University at Buffalo’s Jacobs School of Medicine. Dr. Canty is also a professor of Biomedical Engineering at UB and is on staff at the Buffalo VA Medical Center. His clinical areas of expertise are in diagnosing and caring for patients with coronary artery disease and heart failure. A UB Distinguished Alumni, his work as a research scientist has been published over 150 times.

Canty's excerpted remarks: 

"As I look back in time, I’m overwhelmed by the importance that Canisius played in my professional and personal life and how so much would be different if I had not had the opportunity to follow that path. 

"It started out with a call from my Aunt Ann the night before the entrance exam which was around this time in November 1967.

"As I look back, I am increasingly amazed by the fact that some of the most important events in my personal and professional life may not have transpired without that last-minute Friday night call. 

"In fact, if I didn’t go to Canisius and raise up enough courage to ask a Nardin girl and my future wife Ann Woodward to the senior prom, our six children, four children-in-law and 11 grandchildren would not have made it to the Ceremony today! Like George Bailey in 'It’s A Wonderful Life,' I often think about what life would have been like if my aunt didn’t call.

While the academic excellence at Canisius is indisputable, it’s the intangible life lessons that have left an indelible mark on me. I encapsulate these into what I call the four F’s:

The first F is for the importance of faith throughout life’s journey or, as the Jesuits say “ad maiorem dei gloriam”, that is “living and learning for the greater glory of God and the common good." This has been central to my work in patient care, research and teaching as an academic cardiologist at the University at Buffalo. 

"The second F is for the characteristic fortitude. My first Latin teacher was a scholastic, Mr. Toma, and I remember him telling us daily “Vita est dura gentleman” or “life is tough.”  While life is also good, there can be hurdles. 

"The third F is for friendship. Canisius taught me the importance of sustaining friendship throughout life. I also always look forward to reconnecting with my classmates at reunions where it’s like we are all in high school again. It continues to amaze me as to how people don’t change 50 years after graduation, which I think underscores the importance that those formative years in high school at Canisius had on our persona.    

"The final F is for family. These are the people whose unconditional love and support is essential for achieving a full life and successful career.  

"Thank you all for this tremendous honor. I am profoundly appreciative."

Hon. John M. Curran ’77 – Law

Judge Curran began his legal career as a commercial litigation attorney before being appointed the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York. He served as the Orchard Park Town Justice. In 2004, he was elected to the New York State Supreme Court. In 2016, he was appointed to the Fourth Appellate Division. He has served on the Orchard Park Town Board, the Canisius High School Board of Trustees and is a UB Law School Distinguished Alumni.

Curran's excerpted remarks: 

"Thank you to the the Board and Fr. Ciancimino for this high honor. I am so very grateful for it.

"It is no secret that I was not one of our most academically talented students. But I had the great good fortune to be among thoughtful people. I had thoughtful teachers who cared about whether you learned and what you thought. I also had thoughtful classmates and friends who were willing to talk about what we were learning and debate the issues of the day. We also, of course, had tons of fun together. But looking back, I was a sponge and was fortunate to absorb from the thoughtful people all around me.   

"I learned how to learn here. I wrote a lot; being on the Citadel was invaluable to me in learning to become a better writer. I read widely and learned to love to read. I learned to have curiosity about what I was learning and to delve deeper into the subjects I read and wrote about. Man, what a great way to launch the career of a lawyer and judge! I just didn’t know it at the time, but what happened here launched a lifelong desire to learn. 

"On my desk at my office, I keep this shiny little Christmas tree ornament that looks like a present to remind me of what a gift I have been given to be able to serve as judge. It also reminds me of the gift I was given by going to Canisius High School. I have been, and always will be, extremely grateful that I went to high school here. Thank you!"    

Mr. Walter L. Rooth ’60 – Law/Civic Leadership

As a lawyer, Rooth began his career as the Hamburg Town Attorney before being elected Hamburg Town Judge where he served the citizens of Hamburg for 35 years. During his tenure he oversaw the implementation of a Court Domestic Violence Counselor and Alcohol Counselor. He created a Scared Straight Program and counseling and community service programs for Hamburg youth. Outside of the courtroom, his work as a youth baseball coach and executive earned him the Town Service to Youth Award.

Rooth's excerpted remarks: 

"I want to thank Father Ciancimino and the Board of Trustees at Canisius High School for this exceptional honor.

"Fr. Ciancimino was the principal when my sons Terry and David were here. He was a big help to both my boys and helped them to be successful in their life. He has also helped my grandson who is a sophomore at Canisius. Fr. Ciancimino has been the moving force that makes Canisius so successful today.

"The Jesuits and Canisius taught me how to think and work – two qualities I still use today. The content of what I learned at Canisius may have faded, but what I learned has shaped me into what I am today.

"I tell my children and grandchildren that the smartest people are not always the most successful. What is important is that Canisius taught me how to learn." 

Dr. Eric F. Spina ’79 – Education

Spina, the President of Dayton University, began his career as a mechanical and aerospace engineer working on grants from The National Science Foundation, NASA and the Environmental Protection Agency. Spina’s administrative experience includes Syracuse University Dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science as well as Vice Chancellor and Provost of SU. Under his guidance, Dayton has set records for size, academic quality and racial and socioeconomic diversity. He holds two U.S. Patents and his work has been honored by NASA and the National Science Foundation.

Spina's excerpted remarks:  

"My parents lived their entire lives in Buffalo, New York, and they believed not only in Catholic education, not only in Jesuit education, but in the power and the excellence of Canisius High School education.

"At Canisius, I had teachers who both cared for me as a person and demanded that I make the most of my gifts and my privilege. 

"Beyond the teachers, there were my extraordinary classmates. Day-to-day we did what teenagers do, only to some of which I will admit! But over the course of 4 years, their values, their care for others, and their commitment to do things that matter all had an impact on me.

"One of the very meaningful side benefits of this honor is that my wife and one of my children have a chance to come to my Canisius High School. My wife, Karen, daughter, Kaitlyn, and son, Emery – who could not be here today – are my sun, my moon, and my stars. They have believed in me, supported me, loved me, and given me the strength and opportunity to do meaningful work in my life.

"Blessed beyond belief. Born into a family for the ages. Attended a world-class high school whose teachers and students helped me understand that I could succeed in ways that make a difference. Married an incredible woman who has given me an extraordinary family. And now, in the last decade of my career, I have had the opportunity to be a servant leader at a very special Catholic university where we prepare students to contribute to the common good. 

"Blessed beyond belief, and, today, very, very proud to receive this honor from Canisius High School."

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Athletic Hall of Fame – John F. Barnes Award

The 2023 recipient of the John F. Barnes Award is Thomas H. Weislo, architect of the Crusaders' championship volleyball program. The Barnes Award, named for the dedicated 42-year coach and faculty member, recognizes alumni or other members of the CHS community for outstanding contributions to Canisius High School athletics.

Thomas H. Weislo – Volleyball

A foundational member of the Crusader volleyball program, Weislo has been a part of 24 Monsignor Martin Athletic Association championships during his 27 years with the program, including the team's current 22-year title streak.

As the varsity head coach, Weislo won 15 consecutive MMAA Championships and 17 total. His 2016 and 2020 teams went undefeated with his 2016 team posting a 34-0 record and boasting two players ranked in the USA Volleyball Top 50.

Weislo has coached countless all-Catholic and All-Western New York players during his tenure and his tireless efforts have built Crusader volleyball into one of the best and most successful programs in Western New York.

Weislo is currently the Director of Admission and the Director of Volleyball Operations.

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Athletic Hall of Fame

The Athletic Hall of Fame honors individuals who achieved excellence in their scholastic athletic careers at Canisius. These individuals have been measured not only by their achievements, but by their sportsmanship, character, and leadership. Inductees must meet the following criteria:

  • Must be an alumnus who graduated at least 10 years prior to nomination
  • Only achievements during nominee's Canisius High School career will be considered
  • Nominee should be recognized not only by Canisius, but within his respective league and geographic area, i.e. All-Catholic, All-WNY, etc.
  • Nominees cannot nominate themselves

James E. Bujalski ’84 – Tennis

Bujalski's outstanding CHS career began with him capturing his first All-Catholic title as a freshman. As a senior, the team captain and WKBW-TV Super 7 Athlete of the Week won the All-Catholic title in both singles and doubles.

Ryan Dinunzio ’98 – Soccer

One of the best soccer players in the history of CHS, Dinunzio was a four-year member of the varsity team and a three-year captain. He earned All-Catholic honors in 1995, 1996 and 1997. The 1997 Monsignor Martin Athletic Association Player of the Year and All-Western New York selection set school records for career goals and assists.

Jordan J. Hamm ’09 – Cross Country, Track & Field

Hamm was a two-time All-Catholic track honoree and three-time All-Catholic Cross Country honoree. Hamm also was an All-WNY Cross Country selection as a senior. He holds Catholic state titles in both indoor and outdoor Track and won a New York State Federation title in indoor track. He holds school records in both the indoor and outdoor 1,600 meters and as a member of the indoor 4x800 relay team. 

Kyle P. Husband ’96 – Basketball

Husband turned the Crusader backcourt into the Monsignor Martin Athletic Association's deadliest after transferring prior to his junior year. The all-around standout's team-leading 16 ppg as a senior paced a hot-shooting CHS squad to a Manhattan Cup and Class C Catholic State Championship. Husband was a two-time All-Catholic selection as a Crusader and is a career 1,000-point scorer with 1,016. As the current varsity coach, Husband leads all MMAA coaches with 10 Manhattan Cups and is second on the all-time Western New York victories list.

Karl S. McKinnie ’77 – Track & Field

The two-time track team MVP captained the Crusaders to the 1976 All-Catholic championship while earning individual All-Catholic honors six times throughout his career. McKinnie also won All-Western New York honors five times and captured a state title in the 400 meters. (Photo note: McKinnie was unable to have a senior portrait taken due to scheduling conflicts, which included track meets). 

Joseph L. Ogiony ’73 – Swimming

The four-year member of a dominant varsity team was a three-time All-Catholic honoree who went undefeated in the 100-yard butterfly during both his junior and senior years. The team captain anchored the freestyle and medley relays and qualified for the National All-Catholic meet in 1973.

Dale R. Podlas ’87 – Baseball, Football, Basketball

The three-sport athlete shined brightest on the diamond. The third baseman and pitching ace earned All-Catholic honors three years in a row. As a senior, Podlas captained the Crusaders on his way to earning a spot on the All-Western New York team.

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See information about nominations for the Alumni Awards.

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