Worm's-eye view of the front of Rockwell Hall

Three to Receive Buffalo State President's Distinguished Service Award at 151st Commencement Celebration


Buffalo State University will bestow the President’s Distinguished Service Award on three notable individuals, including two alumni, during the university’s 151st Commencement ceremonies on Saturday, May 20, in the campus Sports Arena. The President’s Distinguished Service Award recognizes individuals or groups who have made significant sustained contributions to Buffalo State University or the larger community that educate the individual, serve the public good, and enrich the broader community.

9:00 a.m. Ceremony | School of the Professions

Lucy A. Candelario

Head shot of Lucy Candelario

Lucy Candelario serves as the executive director of the Erie Regional Housing Development Corporation’s Belle Center, one of the region’s largest all-encompassing human services agencies, located on Buffalo’s Lower West Side. Candelario has nearly 30 years of knowledge and expertise in the nonprofit industry, which includes her time as former executive director of West Side Community Services.

At West Side Community Services, Candelario introduced science-based programming to the range of human services already offered by the center. The youth-oriented programs offered opportunities for Buffalo’s most underserved children to positively channel energy, relieve stress, and engage with role models and educational resources throughout the community.

Candelario’s community service involvement includes membership on the boards of trustees for the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library, the Buffalo Prenatal-Perinatal Network, the Community Action Organization of WNY, West Buffalo Charter School, the Buffalo Community Center Collaborative, the Hispanic Women’s League, and Mudpies Children’s Museum.

Candelario’s leadership was demonstrated in 2017, following Puerto Rico’s devastation from Hurricane Maria, when she made the Belle Center a primary point of contact for relief efforts. She designated the center as a drop-off location for much-needed donations, coordinated and led volunteer efforts, oversaw local fundraising initiatives, and held weekly public information sessions on collection and disbursement programs.

Throughout the years, her efforts have been recognized through numerous awards, including the New York State Senate Women of Distinction Award (2018); the Community Leader Family Award from the National Federation for Just Communities of Western New York (2016); the University at Buffalo’s Distinguished Alumni Award (2014); and the NFL Hispanic Heritage Leadership Award (2013).

Born and raised in Buffalo, Candelario is a graduate of Grover Cleveland High School and the University at Buffalo, where she earned her bachelor of arts.

Candelario puts family above all else. She is the mother of Daniel and Victoria; grandmother of Daniel Jr., Dominic, Valentino, and Diana Lu; and mother-in-law to Dariana and Richard.

1:00 p.m. Ceremony | School of Education

John C. Starkey, Class of 1998

Head shot of John Starkey

John Starkey, principal of Lafayette International High School, Buffalo Public School 207, is a 1998 graduate of Buffalo State University, where he majored in Spanish under the mentorship of the late Dr. Javier Ortiz-Calderon.

Starkey left Buffalo State and continued his studies at the State University of New York at New Paltz and the College of St. Rose, where he received master’s degrees in TESOL (teaching English to speakers of other languages) and school administration, respectively. He began his career as an ENL (English as a new language) teacher in the New York City Public Schools and went on to become principal of three high schools in New York City before returning to Western New York to open Lafayette International High School in 2016.

Lafayette International High School is part of the nationwide Internationals Network for Public Schools, an educational nonprofit that shares common criteria in a supportive school-based model for recently arrived English-language learners.

Since the opening of Lafayette International, the average graduation rate has climbed to 85 percent, and several new programs have been developed, including business, building trades, and community-based pathways.

Starkey has worked closely with Buffalo State since Lafayette International High School opened. Buffalo State President Katherine Conway-Turner has supported this collaboration in conjunction with the Buffalo Public Schools and has helped support the growth of Lafayette through dynamic Buffalo State programs such as the Professional Development Schools Consortium, Upward Bound, the Anne Frank Project, and the Liberty Partnerships Program. Many Buffalo State student teachers and observers are on the Lafayette campus each day, and a number of graduates and staff members are former Buffalo State students.

5:00 p.m. Ceremony | School of Arts and Sciences

Mo Sumbundu, Class of 2013 and 2017

Head shot of Mo Sumbundu

Mo Sumbundu is an international trade manager with Empire State Development’s (ESD) Global New York division, where he oversees contacts between New York companies and ESD’s foreign offices. In this position, he manages export marketing assistance service cases and works with the regional U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Small Business Administration, and other industry groups that provide export assistance. Previously, he worked with New York companies that apply for ESD funding assistance programs to promote exports.

He also enjoys the challenge of collaboratively planning events with the New York State Governor’s Office, ESD, the Regional Council, local officials, and other state and local agencies, authorities, and organizations.

Before his move to Global New York, Sumbundu was the assistant director of the Regional Economic Development Council (REDC) of Western New York, where he worked to encourage business investment and job creation and support diverse local economies through the efficient use of loans, grants, tax credits, real estate development, marketing, and other forms of assistance in Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, and Niagara counties.

As assistant director, he assisted with REDC oversight and provided staff support for ESD initiatives. He worked with community leaders and elected officials on ESD funding opportunities and served as a liaison between the WNY Regional Office and ESD’s offices in Albany and New York City. He also maintained an extensive portfolio of economic development initiatives that included the Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI), Regional Council/CFA, East Side Corridor Economic Development Fund, and Restore New York Communities projects. His responsibilities also included the Workforce Development Initiative Committee, the REDC Talent Attraction and Retention Work Group, and the WNY DRI selection committee.

Sumbundu also serves as a representative of Governor Kathy Hochul in the Western New York region by helping build and maintain productive relationships with elected officials, community leaders, and advocacy groups. He currently serves as the governor’s liaison to the May 14th Memorial Commission in response to the mass shooting at the Tops Market on Jefferson Avenue.

During the coronavirus pandemic, Sumbundu worked with companies to identify sources for desperately needed PPE, helping businesses understand the state guidelines put in place to keep communities safe. He also served as a lead administrator at a vaccination site and disseminated information about reopening the economy after the global lockdown.

Sumbundu is a recipient of the 2014 Changemakers 30 Under 30 in Western New York award, the 2018 Buffalo Business First 30 Under 30 award, and the 2019 SUNY Buffalo State Young Alumnus Achievement Award, and he was recognized on City & State’s 2022 Upstate Power 100 list. He also received the New York State Senate Liberty Award for his efforts in saving the life of a Buffalo woman who went into sudden cardiac arrest.

Sumbundu has volunteered with the Food Bank of WNY, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and the New York City Department of Education’s Students in Temporary Housing program. He serves on the boards of the Buffalo Museum of Science and the Tifft Nature Preserve and is a member of the Hilbert College 2025 Advisory Council. He proudly hosts exchange students from South Korea each summer.

Sumbundu earned his bachelor of arts in political science in 2013 and his master of public administration in 2017, both from Buffalo State.