Media & Entertainment Award Winners
Choreographer & Musical Director
Wayne Cilento, SUNY Brockport Class of 1970, is a Tony-Award-winning Broadway choreographer and musical director. He received Tony’s for his choreography in Aida and Tommy. He also received Tony nominations for his choreography in How to Succeed… Dream: The Johnny Mercer Musical, and Baby. While his credits are too numerous to mention, he has the distinction of having two hit shows on Broadway: Aida, which he choreographed, and Wicked, for which he did the musical staging.
Academy Award-winning producer Deborah Oppenheimer marked her feature film debut in 2000 by producing the multiple award-winning documentary, Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of the Kindertransport, released by Warner Brothers Pictures. A prolific TV producer and president of Mohawk Productions, Ms. Oppenheimer is executive producer of ABC’s The Drew Carey Show and Norm, as well as WB’s Nikki and animated series The Oblongs. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in English secondary education from Buffalo State and was honored by the college with a Distinguished Alumna Award in 2001.
Television Writer/Executive Producer
An award-winning writer/executive producer of the NBC dramatic series Homicide: Life on the Street, Fontana received a 1993 Emmy Award in the category Outstanding Individual Writing for a Drama Series, two Writer’s Guild Awards, and two Peabody Awards for his work on the show. He also received numerous honors, including two Emmy Awards, as writer/producer of the groundbreaking TV series St. Elsewhere. Also to his credit are the HBO series OZ, and the ABC special The Fourth Wise Man. Fontana earned a theatre arts degree from Buffalo State.
Chana A. Gazit & David J. Steward
University at Buffalo
Emmy-Winning filmmaker Chana Gazit knew that she had found her calling when she walked into her first film class as a college senior. “The minute I began taking a filmmaking class, I understood that my English and theatre classes were just leading me on the road to filmmaking.” She also met her future business partner and husband, David Steward, at UB.
Gazit and Steward formed a documentary film company, and their first venture, Honorable Nations, received an Emmy in 1989. Since then, the duo has collaborated on more than half-a-dozen Emmy-award winning programs and series, and their films have been honored with, among others, DuPont-Columbia Journalism Awards, Peabody Awards, Writer’s Guild Awards and by the Sundance Film Festival. In September 2004, their film The Pill, which traces the development of the birth control pill, was awarded an Emmy. Gazit and Steward’s most recent projects include a program for the PBS series Slavery and the Making of America, and a film on women and immigration for the series Destination America.
Wolf I. Blitzer
University at Buffalo
A Western New York native and 1970 UB graduate, Wolf Blitzer is a well-known and respected journalist who has reported on a wide range of major breaking stories around the world for more than two decades. In 1972, he began working with the Reuters News Agency in Tel Aviv and, shortly thereafter, became a Washington, D.C., correspondent for The Jerusalem Post. He then joined CNN in 1990 as its military-affairs correspondent at the Pentagon, where he was among the team of CNN reporters who won the Golden CableACE from the National Academy of Cable Programming for coverage of the Persian Gulf War.
Prior to hosting his nightly CNN newscast, he co-anchored The World Today. He also served as CNN’s senior White House correspondent covering President Clinton’s Administration, from 1992 to 1999. Blitzer has won several journalism awards, including an Emmy Award for his coverage of the 1996 Oklahoma City bombing.
Robert M. Lieberman
University at Buffalo
At age 24, UB 1971 graduate Rob Lieberman won a bronze at the Cannes Film Festival for a 7-Up television commercial. During the course of his more than 25-year career as a producer and director, he has won Clio Awards, Belding Awards and Mobius Awards. In addition, he won the first Director’s Guild of America Best Commercial Director Award, for which he was nominated four times and took home a second award in 1996.
Lieberman has shot more than 2,000 commercials, 27 TV movies and four feature films. He directed and executive produced the pilot and first season of The Dead Zone, airing on USA Network, and directed the pilot for the hit show Strong Medicine, airing on the Lifetime Network. In 2004, he directed The Legend of Earthsea, a miniseries on The SciFi Network. Even though he lives on the west coast, Lieberman stays connected to his alma mater and has taught seminars on directing to current students.
Edward "Ted" Demme
Award-winning Hollywood and television director Edward "Ted" Demme '85 died at the age of 38 in Santa Monica, Calif., after competing in a celebrity charity basketball game. Born in Rockville Centre, N.Y., he earned a bachelor's degree in communication studies and became a freelancer and a production assistant at MTV. His pilot show became a daily feature titled Yo! MTV Raps. In 1992, he directed his first movie, Who's the Man?, which showcased more than 50 well-known rap artists.
Demme then directed comedian/actor Denis Leary's HBO special No Cure for Cancer. Leary, one of Demme's closest friends, starred in his 1994 movie, The Ref, along with Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis. Demme directed episodes of the television series, Homicide: Life in the Streets, but returned to the big screen in 1996 with Beautiful Girls. In 2001, Demme directed Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz in the Blow. His last film, A Decade Under the Influence, came out in 2003, after his death. The documentary examined the 1970s as a turning point in American cinema.
Owner, Brian Williams Television
Dutchess Community College
Brian Williams' shows have aired on BS, NBC, ABC, FOX, ESPN, USA, TNT, TBS, Madison Square Garden Network, Lifetime, and Animal Planet. His credits include the New York City Marathon, ESPN’s Tennis Tour and College Football; US Open Golf and Tennis; The Masters; NHL Hockey; Figure Skating; DanceSport; and Specials including “SuperStars;” “Survival of the Fittest;” the only authorized documentary on Tiger Woods, “Son, Hero and Champion” for CBS; “Christmas in Rockefeller Center;” “Super Bowl’s Greatest Commercials;” “World’s Greatest Commercials;” and the “GQ Awards.” He has been awarded 6 Emmy Awards for “Outstanding Event Production and Programming”, a Telly Award for animation, and a New York State Broadcasters Award for Outstanding Production.
Mary Eileen McDonnell
Mary McDonnell is an American film, stage, and television actress. She received an Academy Award nomination for her role as Stands With A Fist in Dances with Wolves, and she is also well known for her performance as President Laura Roslin in Battlestar Galactica. She won an Obie in 1980 for her work in the play Still Life. On Broadway, she has performed in productions of Execution of Justice, The Heidi Chronicles, and Summer and Smoke. After more than 21 years of theater and television work, McDonnell made her film breakthrough in 1990 in Dances with Wolves.
Glenn Gordon Caron
Producer, Director, Writer, Picturemaker Productions
Caron’s current television credit is NBC’s Medium, a popular, supernatural drama starring Patricia Arquette. Previous television credits include Now and Again (award-winning science-fiction series); Moonlighting (long-running, highly acclaimed comedy-drama starring Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd); Taxi Driver (Emmy Award-winning comedy); Remington Steele (detective series starring Pierce Brosnan); and Breaking Away (television adaptation of the film of the same name). Caron’s Hollywood credits include Clean and Sober (award-winning film starring Michael Keaton and Morgan Freeman, 1988), Wilder Napalm (Debra Winger and Randy Quaid, 1993); Love Affair (Annette Bening and Warren Beatty, 1994); and Picture Perfect (Jennifer Aniston and Kevin Bacon, 1997).
He earned a Writers’ Guild of America (WGA) Award for Moonlighting, which garnered multiple Emmy, Golden Globe and other nominations; and the Geneseo Alumni Association Award for Professional Achievement in 1994. Caron was the commencement speaker at SUNY Geneseo in 1986 and is a generous donor to the College.
President, Cranberry Productions
Bruce Jordan is co-producer/writer of Shear Madness, the longest-running play in the U.S., launched in 1980 and co-produced by Marilyn Abrams, this improvisational comedy-whodunit is performed eight times a week each in Boston, Mass., and Washington, D.C., and in numerous other cities throughout the U.S. and overseas.
He has received the following honors: National Comedy Hall of Fame’s Charlie Chaplin Comedy Award; Mystery Writers of America’s Raven Award for Best Play of the Year; seven-time winner of the Boston Globe Readers’ Poll Award for Best Comedy of the Year; three-time winner of the Chicago Tribune Readers’ Poll Award for Best Comedy of the Year; Philadelphia Daily News Best Play of the Year; USO Award for Outstanding Contribution in the Theatrical Arts; and Boston Theater Critics Association’s Eliot Norton Award.
His previous work experience includes artistic director, Lake George Dinner Theater; actor/director with GEVA Theater, Rochester; and head of theater and speech department, Glens Falls City School District. Jordan often volunteers for alumni events at SUNY Geneseo and is a generous donor to the College.
A 1977 graduate of the American Studies program at Old Westbury, Maryann DeLeo in 2004 received an Academy Award for her short documentary, Chernobyl Heart, which details the effects of radiation on the children of Belarus, Russia, 16 years after the historically tragic nuclear reactor accident. This honor is only the latest in a 25-year career that has seen DeLeo honored with an Emmy Award, a Sports Emmy, the Peabody Award and a national Cable Ace Award. Through her work, which has appeared on such networks as NBC and HBO, DeLeo has literally seen the world, visiting such locales as Vietnam, Cambodia, El Salvador, Cuba, Guatemala, the former Soviet Union, China, Afghanistan, Angola, Korea, and Iraq.
Television Personality & Weather Forecaster, Today Show, NBC
As a co-host and weatherman on NBC’s Today Show, Al Roker is seen by more than 32 million viewers each week. A nine-time Emmy Winner, he is the host of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, the Christmas Tree Lighting at Rockefeller Center and the Rose Bowl Parade. Al Roker Productions, Inc. is involved in the development and production of network, cable, home video and public television projects, including the critically acclaimed PBS special, Savage Skies. Roker on the Road is a highly successful Food Network series. Roker is the author of Big Shoes, a compilation of celebrity essays about fatherhood, the New York Times best-seller Don’t Make Me Stop This Car! and two cookbooks. He was awarded an Honorary Doctorate and Distinguished Alumnus Award from SUNY Oswego, where he graduates from in 1976.
Ken Auletta, SUNY Oswego Class of 1963, has written annals of communications columns and profiles for The New Yorker magazine since 1992. He is the author of 10 books, including four national bestsellers. His most recent books are Backstory: Inside the Business of News and Media Man, a biography of Ted Turner, the subject of Auletta’s 2001 National Magazine Award for best profile. In ranking him as America’s premier media critic, the Columbia Journalism Review concluded, “no other reporter has covered the new communications revolution as thoroughly as has Auletta.” He was also named a Literary Lion by the New York Public Library, and one of the 20th century’s top 100 business journalists by a panel of his peers.
Wesley Brown, SUNY Oswego Class of 1968, is the author of the novels Tragic Magic and Darktown Strutters, the forthcoming novel, Push Comes To Shove, and a work-in-progress of short stories about jazz music. His plays, including the award-winning Boogie Woogies and Booker T., Life During Wartime, A Prophet Among Them, and The Murderess, have been produced in New York City and around the country. He has co-edited two anthologies of multicultural American writing, Imagining America and Visions of America. He holds a master’s degree in creative writing and literature from The City College, CUNY, and from 1979 to 2005, he taught creative writing, American literature and drama at Rutgers University.
Alice McDermott, SUNY Oswego Class of 1975, is an author who won the 1998 National Book Award for her novel Charming Billy. Her other novels are A Bigamist’s Daughter (1982); That Night (1987), which was a finalist for the National Book Award and was nominated for a PEN/Faulkner Award, Pulitzer Prize and Los Angeles Times Book Prize; The Pulitzer-nominated At Wakes and Weddings (1992), a New York Times best seller; and Child of My Heart (2002). McDermott earned her master’s in writing from the University of New Hampshire.
Robert O’Connor’s novel, Buffalo Soldiers, was published in 1993 to critical acclaim. The black comedy of the peacetime army in Germany was named a 1993 New York Times “Notable Book of the Year” and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction. In 2000, Esquire magazine listed it among the “Top Novels of the Decade: 1990s.”
O’Connor was a finalist in Granta Magazine’s “Best Young American Novelists” in 1996. The movie based on Buffalo Soldiers premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2001. O’Connor, who earned his master’s degree at Syracuse University and has taught creative writing at Oswego since 1985, was named an Oswego Distinguished Alumnus. He graduated from SUNY Oswego in 1982.
Latin Jazz Pioneer
Arturo O'Farrill, pianist and director of the Purchase College Latin Jazz Orchestra, received a Grammy Award in 2009 for Best Latin Jazz Album for “Song for Chico performed by Arturo O'Farrill and the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra,” Zoho Music (2008). He was profiled in a New York Times article, “Putting Latin Jazz Front and Center” (March 8, 2009) and is widely credited for giving the genre its due.
Chris Wedge is an Academy Award winning filmmaker and the founder of the Blue Sky Studios, a recognized leader in CGI film animation. Wedge's film Bunny won an Oscar in 1999 for Best Short Animated Film, as well as numerous national and international film awards. His most famous project is 2002's full-length animated feature Ice Age, which he directed. Wedge's other projects include work on Tron, Joe's Apartment, Alien: Resurrection, and most recently the animated feature Robots. He graduated from SUNY Purchase in 1981, earning a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Film.
Edie Falco is known to millions of fans as mob-wife Carmela Soprano, on HBO’s The Sopranos. But this multi-Emmy, Golden Globe, and SAG award-winning actress has had a long and distinguished career on both screen and stage. Her roles in film have included parts in fellow alumnus Hal Hartley's films The Unbelievable Truth and Trust, as well as in The Laws of Gravity, The Cost of Living (winner of the LA International Film Festival award for Best Actress in 1997), Side Man, Judy Berlin, and Sunshine State. In 1997, she landed the role of Officer Diane Whittlesey in television's gritty prison drama Oz.
In 2003, she appeared on Broadway, co-starring with fellow alumnus Stanley Tucci in Frankie & Johnny in the Claire de Lune. She stared in 'night Mother by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Marsha Norman, with Brenda Blethyn at the Royale Theatre on Broadway. Falco earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting in 1986 from SUNY Purchase. She has won two Golden Globes and has many other awards anmd nominations.
Professor & Lighting Designer
David Grill is an Assistant Professor of Theatre Design/Technology at Purchase College. He received a 2002 Emmy Award for outstanding lighting direction for his work on the 2002 Winter Olympics. He was the lighting designer for the opening and closing ceremonies that year. Other credits include this year’s Super Bowl, five previous Super Bowls, and the Pan-American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in Summer 2007. In September 2008, he was the official lighting designer for the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, Minn.
Donald Margulies a 1976 graduate of SUNY Purchase and a recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in 2000, for his play Dinner With Friends. Most recently, he was the playwright of Broadway’s Brooklyn Boy. He is a Lecturer in English and Theater Studies at Yale, where he teaches playwriting and screenwriting.
He is also the author of the OBIE award-winning and Pulitzer-nominated play Sight Unseen, Pulitzer-nominated Collected Stories, OBIE award-winning The Model Apartment, The Loman Family Picnic, Broken Sleep, Pitching to the Star, and God of Vengeance, among others. Margulies was elected to the Dramatists Guild Council in 1993, and has received numerous grants, including those from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York Foundation for the Arts.
Stony Brook University
Soprano and Stony Brook University Alum Christine Goerke, recipient of the 2001 Richard Tucker Award, has established an outstanding reputation with many of the world's leading opera houses and orchestras. She has appeared at the Metropolitan Opera (where she is an alumna of the Young Artist Development Program), the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the Paris Opera, the New York City Opera, the Seattle Opera, the Houston Grand Opera, the Santa Fe Opera, the Pittsburgh Opera, the Saito Kinen Festival and the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino. She also appeared in a series of Mozart/da Ponte operas staged by the Seiji Ozawa Ongaku-Juku Opera Project, including Le Nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Cosi fan tutte. Goerke's many roles include the title roles in Norma, Alcina, Agrippina, and Iphigenie en Tauride, Donna Elvira and Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, Fiordiligi in Cosi fan tutte, the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro, Vitellia in Clemenza di Tito, Elletra in Idomeneo, Armida in Rinaldo, Alice Ford in Falstaff, Musetta in La Boheme, Madame Lidoine in Dialogues des Carmelites, the Female Chorus in The Rape of Lucretia, and Ellen Orford in Peter Grimes.
Goerke's recording of Vaughan Williams Sea Symphony with Robert Spano and Atlanta Symphony Orchestra won the 2003 Grammy Award for Best Classical Recording and Best Choral Performance. Her close association with Robert Shaw yielded several recordings included the Brahms' Liebeslieder Waltzes, Poulenc's Stabat Mater, Szymanowski's Stabat Mater, and the Grammy-nominated recording of Dvorak's Stabat Mater. Other recordings include the title role of Iphigenie in Iphigenie en Tauride for Telarc and the Britten War Requiem which won the 1999 Grammy Award for Best Choral Performance.
Edward T. Feldmann
Ulster CC & SUNY Oswego
Edward T. Feldmann, Ulster Community College Class of 1976, has a highly successful television career as a comedy writer; he has garnered five Emmy Awards, two Writer’s Guild Awards and a Cable Ace Award. His work has been seen on such programs as Married with Children, The MTV Awards Show, and The Larry Sanders Show. He has written episodes of Law and Order and material for The Presidential State of the Union Address. He was the Co-Executive Producer and the Head Writer for the Dennis Miller Live television show on HBO, and later continued as head writer for the Dennis Miller CNBC show.
Feldmann's educational experiences at SUNY Ulster, and later at SUNY Oswego, where he earned a baccalaureate degree in Criminal Justice, certainly did not seem like preparation for a career as a comedy writer. But after graduation from SUNY Oswego, he took a position working with delinquent youth, and in the process, became interested in the theater. He began his career in the entertainment field as a stand-up comedian, but soon moved on to his work as a comedy writer.
Walter Anderson, Westchester Community College Class of 1970, is CEO and Publisher of Parade Magazine, which he has edited for more than 20 years. He is also author of several books, including Courage is a Three-Letter Word, The Confidence Course, and his critically-acclaimed memoir, Meant to Be. He is nationally recognized for his involvement in many causes, including literacy, volunteerism, and arts for the disabled, and public broadcasting. He was nominated for the Horatio Alger Award by Norman Vincent Peale and won the award in 1994.