Daemen Announces Recipients of 2023 Distinguished Alumni Awards

By | September 19, 2023

Daemen University will honor five accomplished graduates during the 2023 Distinguished Alumni Awards ceremony on Thursday, September 28, in the Yurtchuk Social Room. 

The Distinguished Alumni Awards were established in 1986 as a way to recognize the achievements, growth, and societal contributions of the university’s outstanding alumni. 

Award recipients, who are selected by the National Alumni Board of Governors, exhibit the ideals expressed by the institution’s founders and that remain strong at Daemen.

This year’s Distinguished Alumni Award honoree is Cathaleen Curtiss, ‘16. The award, which is presented by Daemen President Gary A. Olson, recognizes a graduate who has achieved distinction in their career and in the community and has shown outstanding dedication to the university.

The other recipients include Jaime Erksine-Pettit, ‘00, Outstanding Service to the Community; Jeremy Voorhees PT, CCS, CCRP, ‘00, Dedication to the University; Blanka Heary PA, ‘02, Advancement in Career; and Molly Sievenpiper, ‘15, Graduate of the Last Decade.

Registration for the Distinguished Alumni Awards closes on Thursday, September 21. 

Distinguished Alumni Award – Cathaleen Curtiss, ‘16

Cathaleen Curtiss received her Master’s in Executive Leadership and Change from Daemen College in 2015 as part of Cohort XXIII. She served as coordinator of entrepreneurial programs and then as director of Entrepreneurship, Experiential, and Creative Learning at Daemen College from 2012-2016.

Cathaleen left Daemen to become the Director of Photography at the Buffalo News, where she was recognized in 2023 by Pictures of Year International with an award of excellence in picture editing, along with awards from Best of Photojournalism, Society of News Design, and NY News Publishers Association. In 2021, she was named picture editor of the year by the Best of Photojournalism. As a strong advocate for visual storytelling, she continues to mentor photojournalists. Cathaleen has twice been a juror for the Pulitzer Prize in photography and exhibited her work in NYC and Buffalo, including at Daemen.

Before coming to Daemen, she was an award-winning photojournalist being named in 1990 as Photographer of the Year by the White House News Photographers Association. As Vice President of Global Photography at AOL, she built and managed a staff of visual content editors around the world. While at AOL, she and her team won an Emmy for their coverage of Live8. She recently retired from the Buffalo News, wrapping up nearly 42 years in photojournalism.

Cathaleen resides in East Amherst with her husband, Mickey Osterreicher. She has two daughters, Hannah and Ella, two step-children, Elena and Ian, and four grandchildren.

Outstanding Service to the Community – Jaime Erksine-Pettit, ‘00

Jaime Erskine-Pettit is a dedicated mother, wife, community member, and medical professional. With over 20 years of experience as a Physician Assistant, Erskine-Pettit currently serves the community at Unity Hospital in the Chemical Dependency and Behavioral Health Unit. She’s also a Certified Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner for Monroe County.

She and her husband Brian Pettit, an Army and Persian Gulf veteran, have been married for 18 years. They have four biological children and two adopted children. They are also foster parents. In 2012, the couple faced the unthinkable when their four-year-old son Drake died in a tragic accident. Erskine-Pettit, known for her courage and decision-making abilities, soon became a spokeswoman for organ donation and co-founded a nonprofit in her late son’s name. Dreams from Drake is the first non-profit in Monroe County committed to helping children and teens process the grief associated with the death of a sibling or parent, and it was the first to host a bereavement camp in the greater Rochester area. 

Erskine-Pettit is committed to community involvement, whether it is as part of the nonprofit, coaching her children’s sports teams, volunteering in the classroom, or donating her time to others in need. Above all things, Erskine-Pettit believes in setting an example, and she wants to show her children what it means to participate, serve, and have an impact on the community.

Erskine-Pettit grew up in Greece, NY, and moved to Spencerport in 2010. She received her bachelor’s degree in Physician Assistant studies from Daemen College and her master’s degree from the University of Nebraska in Physician Assistant studies.

Dedication to the University – Jeremy Voorhees PT, CCS, CCRP, ‘00

Jeremy has been a practicing physical therapist for 23 years, graduating from Daemen College in 2000. He’s worked in various areas throughout the country, including Upstate New York, Boston, California, and Chicago, to name a few. These experiences helped him hone his skills before settling back into the WNY area. In 2009, he started working for Catholic Health in an outpatient orthopedic center in Orchard Park. It was there when he started a Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehab Program.

With help from other clinicians, he was able to build a strong program that continues to serve the community to this day. He obtained a Certified Cardiac Rehabilitation Professional, or CCRP, designation through the AACVPR and, in 2018, became a Certified Cardiopulmonary Specialist through the APTA. He became involved with the New York State Association of Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Rehabilitation (NYSACVPR) and was asked to serve as president of the association. He has presented at various conferences, including NYSACVPR in Albany and the Lung Force Expo, on the topic of playing the Harmonica for lung health. He re-established the Better Breathers Club through the American Lung Association, which provides resources and information for people who have pulmonary disease. He’s lectured at various locations educating medical students on the benefits of cardiac rehab through the University of Buffalo Grand Rounds. He’s been asked by various schools to come in for class lectures and is an acting clinical instructor for PT, PTA’s, and Exercise Physiologist.

Jeremy and his wife, Marie Voorhees, ‘02, are busy raising three boys and find themselves on courts, fields, and diamonds on a regular basis.

Advancement in Career – Blanka Heary PA, ‘02

Blanka Heary completed her degree in Physician Assistant Studies at Daemen College in 2002. She has been treating patients in Western New York for more than 20 years with medical expertise in neurology, interventional radiology, pain management, and vascular disease.

During the last 14 years, Blanka has promoted medical education in WNY, serving as the conference coordinator for the region’s annual premium vascular symposium attended by more than 200 medical providers. She was tasked with coordination of the events agenda, recruitment of national speakers, marketing, and accreditation. She has also lectured at these events and functioned as a co-moderator for the educational sessions. Blanka has been an invited lecturer at the New York State Podiatric Medical Association and at New York State Society of PAs conferences. She has guest lectured on interventional radiology at D’Youville University and functioned as a preceptor for both PA and medical students.

In addition to her medical practice as a Physician Assistant, she also served as the practice administrator for Buffalo Vascular Care for more than 10 years, overseeing the national accreditation of its interventional radiology cath lab, business development, recruitment of providers and staff, human resources, and marketing. She was a consultant during the opening of its wound care and hyperbaric oxygen treatment center. Blanka recently joined the Center for Interventional Spine and Pain at ECMC.

She resides in Lancaster with her husband, Joe, and sons, Jack, Luke, and Nathan.

Graduate of the Last Decade – Molly Sievenpiper, ‘15

Molly Sievenpiper (she/her) graduated from Daemen College with a bachelor’s degree in History and Political Science – Adolescent Education in 2015. Ignited by Daemen’s service learning curriculum and her public history internship, Molly has since pursued her passion for non-profit work. Following graduation and two AmeriCorps terms, it was natural for her to join one of the nation’s most historic humanitarian institutions, The American Red Cross.

Molly currently works as a business operations specialist concentrating on data-driven storytelling and capacity-building projects. She also co-chairs the American Red Cross’ Pride Resource Group. They provide vital workforce and community education, with the expertise of Daemen’s own Dr. Blankschaen, and sponsor two Gay Alliance Blood Drives per year. Since its inception in 2015, these specialty drives have helped save over 1,000 lives and represent 20% of the chapter’s blood collection per year. In 2022, she was a finalist for the ATHENA Young Professional Leadership Award for expanding this blood drive.

Molly is a longtime resident of Buffalo’s West Side and serves on the board of directors at PUSH Buffalo. She is proud to support the advancement of racial, economic, and environmental justice in our city and beyond.