The University at Buffalo honored 20 individuals including Ralph C. Wilson, Jr., Buffalo Bills owner, with achievement awards at a gala held March 20 in the Adam's Mark Hotel in Buffalo.
The awards are presented each spring to alumni and friends of UB for bringing distinction to themselves and the university through outstanding professional and personal achievement, loyal service to UB and exemplary service to their communities.
Buffalo Bills owner Ralph C. Wilson, Jr., newly elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and his wife, Mary McLean Wilson, received the Community Leadership Medal in appreciation of their outstanding accomplishments in making the Western New York community a better place to live and work.
UB President John B. Simpson and UB Alumni Association President Marc A. Adler, M.A '83, MBA '82 & B.A. '79, presented the awards.
Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. is the founder, owner and president of the NFL's Buffalo Bills and a 2009 inductee to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was one of the founding owners of the American Football League, which merged with the NFL in 1970.
Wilson displayed his drive for hard work and diligence as he graduated from the University of Virginia and later attended law school at the University of Michigan. He then enlisted in the Navy during World War II, earning the Commendation Medal while serving aboard minesweepers in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. After the war, Wilson joined his father's insurance business, which would become the first of many industries in which he endeavored, including trucking, television, energy and professional sports.
Wilson's philanthropic pursuits include the creation in 1999 of the Ralph Wilson Medical Research Foundation, which has contributed more than $10 million in support of basic science, high-risk, high-impact research of cancer, heart and blood vessel diseases, neurological diseases and disorders of the muscles and bones. The Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo is one of its five partner institutions. To recognize his longtime charitable efforts in the Buffalo area, Wilson received the 2003 Seymour Knox III Humanitarian Award.
Wilson's wife, Mary, graduated from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas, with a degree in physical education. She held several teaching and coaching positions, and her passion for tennis led her to pursue the sport as a professional coach, a competitor in USTA National Age Division Tournaments, and a member of several international cup teams representing the U.S. In 2006, she ranked number one in her age group for both singles and doubles in National USTA Age Division Tournament Tennis.
She spends her time giving back to the Buffalo community and beyond, and in 2002 was presented with the Burt P. Flickinger, Jr. Community Service Award by the Western New York Food Bank. She is also the founder of Western New York Girls in Sports, dedicated to providing opportunities, encouragement and personal development to underserved girls in Buffalo. In addition to UB, partners in the effort include the Bills, the Girl Scout Council of Buffalo and Erie County, the Buffalo Public Schools and other area schools.
The Wilsons also support causes such as the food banks of Buffalo and Rochester, the Ronald McDonald House, the United Way, SPCA, the Buffalo Philharmonic and the Hospice Foundation of WNY. Recently, the Hospice Foundation dedicated a new building as the "Mary and Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Counseling Center" in recognition of the critical role of the Wilsons' generosity in establishing the center.
The University at Buffalo is a premier research-intensive public university, a flagship institution in the State University of New York system and its largest and most comprehensive campus. UB's more than 28,000 students pursue their academic interests through more than 300 undergraduate, graduate and professional degree programs. Founded in 1846, the University at Buffalo is a member of the Association of American Universities.
For a list of other award winners and more information, please visit http://www.buffalo.edu/news/9953.