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ESF Celebrates December Commencement

The SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) will award 171 degrees, including 42 master's degrees and eight Doctor of Philosophy degrees, during the 2015 December Commencement 2 p.m. Dec. 11 at Hendricks Chapel.

During commencement the first President's Medal will be presented to Rick Fedrizzi, CEO of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and CEO of the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI). This honor is awarded at the discretion of the ESF president and recognizes individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to science, humanity and the natural world.

Three alumni will also be honored during commencement. Graduate of Distinction Awards will be bestowed upon Diana K. Bendz '68, Dr. Jeremy Testa '03 and I. Holly Rosenthal '82.

Fedrizzi was one of the co-founders of the USGBC in 1993. Since then he has tripled USGBC's membership and cemented its role as a leadership voice in the global sustainability movement.

Through his leadership of the USGBC, Fedrizzi has transformed real estate practice, created new markets and sparked innovation that has led to fundamental shifts in the built environment in resources saved, toxins eliminated, greenhouse gases avoided and human health enhanced.

USGBC's Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design (LEED) green building program has been the cornerstone of Fedrizzi's efforts. Since its launch in 2000, more than 55,000 commercial projects comprising 10.1 billion square feet, and more than 154,000 residential units around the world participate in LEED, with 1.7 million square feet of building space earning LEED certification every day.

Fedrizzi serves on numerous boards and advisory committees, including the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the Harvard School of Public Health, Delos, Watsco, and the World Green Building Council where he served as chair from 2011 to 2013.

Bendz will be honored with the Graduate of Distinction Lifetime Achievement Award. She is the first woman to graduate ESF's polymer chemistry program and has devoted her career to addressing critical environmental and business issues and fostering an interest in science among girls and young women.

Bendz graduated in 1968 with a bachelor of science degree from ESF and Syracuse University. She spent 39-years at IBM during which she developed and implemented IBM's consumer product takeback program to reduce solid waste in the environment; conducted a company-wide taskforce on environmental leadership resulting in the incorporation of environmental attributes in IBM products, developed the company's plan for the design, manufacture and disposition of environmentally conscious products; facilitated the donation of an IBM-owned forested property to a conservation organization; introduced the concept of eco-industrial parks to the IBM community and founded the Aurora Project which works to create business opportunities and reduce solid waste streams by recycling.

Upon her retirement, Bendz founded, and became CEO of Girls Balance the Equation, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting interest in STEM among girls and young women.

Throughout her career Bendz served on numerous boards and committees including being a founding member of the advisory board on the National Safety Council Institute for Safety by Design, a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), member of the IEEE Foundation, founding member of the IEEE Women in in Technology Committee and member of the IBM Academy of Technology. She is active in the community serving as a board member of Broome County Chamber of Commerce, the Physicians Free Clinic, the Binghamton Philharmonic, and the Center for Technology and Innovation. She serves her alma mater as immediate past president of the ESF College Foundation.

The Graduate of Distinction – Incipiens Quercu (young oak) Award will be presented to Testa. This is the first year for the award given to a recent ESF graduate who exemplifies ESF's commitment to environmental stewardship. Since graduating from ESF in 2003 with a bachelor of science in environmental and forest biology, Testa went on to pursue his master and doctoral degrees from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science where he is an assistant professor in the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory.

Testa focuses his career on understanding fundamental processes that regulate coastal ecosystems and applying that knowledge toward solutions of estuarine and coastal ecosystem environmental issues. He uses computer modeling of biogeochemical, physical, meteorological and historic data in nutrient management on watersheds to predict the positive and potentially negative impacts of aquaculture on ecosystems. This results in solutions that balance water quality with the need to develop sustainable coastal food sources. Testa's work is used to design cost-effective "Total Maximum Daily Load" strategies for nutrient and sediment management in the Chesapeake Bay as well as Danish coastal ecosystems.

Testa's involvement in a leadership role in the Atlantic Estuaries Research Society as well as chairing sessions at the Association for the Science of Limnology and Oceanography and the Coastal and Estuarine Research Foundation is indicative of his recognized expertise among his colleagues. He continues to show his dedication to outreach and science education through mentoring graduate, undergraduate and high school students, donating his time to teaching short-courses for high school teachers and judging science fairs.

Rosenthal is the recipient of the Graduate of Distinction – Notable Achievement Award. For more than 30 years Rosenthal (environmental studies/landscape architecture) has worked to improve environments both indoors and out, driven by the larger environmental impact.

Rosenthal began her career in Texas as a landscape architect. She returned to Central New York and became president of Rosenthal Companies, a mechanical construction firm which was an early leader in indoor environmental quality and energy conservation solutions, a critical element of high performance buildings. Rosenthal also served as director/treasurer of the Onondaga County Water Authority where, for 14 years, she was responsible for the cost-effective distribution of safe drinking water to nearly 90,000 customers.

After selling the business in 2006, she served as director of strategic initiatives and corporate relations at the Syracuse Center of Excellence and Environmental Systems at Syracuse University. There Rosenthal, a Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Accredited Professional, created partnerships with global corporations, particularly in the area of indoor environmental quality, sustainable building materials and advanced energy systems.

Rosenthal is the executive director of the Metropolitan Water Board, an Onondaga County agency that is responsible for providing drinking water from Lake Ontario into the Central Upstate New York region. Here she is leading a $90 million capital program for compliance, energy and operational improvements to the system's aging and inefficient infrastructure. She has been a member of the County's Environmental Sustainability Action Committee (ESAC) and led the County's Sustainable Building Committee to develop sustainable building standards.

Class marshals for commencement are Margaret Foley and Fareya Zubair.

Foley is an environmental biology senior with a minor in environmental writing and rhetoric. She has served as a senior resident assistant in Centennial Hall and as a teaching assistant for several labs. Foley has been an active member of the Undergraduate Student Association (USA), serving as the director of campus life, and currently USA president. She plans to pursue a career in environmental education.

Zubair is a senior studying biotechnology with a minor in environmental writing and rhetoric. She is a senior class senator, conducts clinical research in the Emergency Department at SUNY Upstate Medical Center and has worked on the American Chestnut Research and Restoration Project. Zubair is the founder of Empathy Matters, a volunteer organization that focuses on teaching leadership and empathy to at-risk second grade students. After graduation, Zubair plans on working for a biotech company and attending medical school where she can specialize in child psychiatry to study disorders and empathy-related deficits stemming from the brain.

Following commencement, a reception will be held in ESF's Gateway Conference Center from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. During that time, Fedrizzi will be signing copies of his book GreenThink: How Profit Can Save The Planet. Books will be available for purchase in the ESF Bookstore for $10. Proceeds from the book signing go to USGBC's philanthropic projects, Center for Green Schools and to Project Haiti.