Skip Navigation

Celebrating our #StonyBrookStrong Heroes

Stony Brook University President Maurie McInnis invited the university community to recognize those Seawolves who went above and beyond to help each other stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, noting the “incredible way our community members kept each other’s spirits alive, our mission intact, and our sense of responsibility and accountability strong.”

“So many Seawolves went above and beyond to help each other stay safe during the pandemic while our essential workers responded to the emergency,” President McInnis said. “So many individuals joined together in a demonstration of talent, hard work, and togetherness.”

You responded by recognizing dozens of people from across the university community — from students to staff, faculty and administrators — who made a difference in a very challenging time. These Seawolves helped our community persevere and helped us stay #StonyBrookStrong.

In some cases, several people nominated the same person; for those, we included only one testimonial so we could name as many people as possible, and some testimonials were edited.

To view all of the names of the Stony Brook Strong Heroes that were suggested by the community, please view our Wall of Heroes. Departments may also download #StonyBrookStrong certificates to recognize their employees.

To all of our Stony Brook Strong heroes, thank you. 

Download a Certificate       View the Wall      Add a Name

wolfie mask

Maryann Russo,
School of Nursing, Office of Computer Services
By: Karen Leibowitz

At the beginning of the pandemic, as we were all being told to wear masks, our department (Office of Marketing and Communication) was charged with creating videos to encourage mask wearing. We wanted to use Wolfie to help get our message out, but Wolfie didn't have a mask! That's where Maryann came in.

Along with Maryann's regular job in the Office of Computer Services for the School of Nursing, she is also a member of the Stony Brook Stitchers. The Stony Brook Stitchers volunteer their time, energy, and creativity to lovingly make items for those in physical, emotional or spiritual need. So I created a "pattern" for Wolfie's mask (I have NO sewing experience) and met up with Maryann in a parking lot to hand it off. All of the fabric stores were closed, so Maryann did what she had to do and used one of her husband's t-shirts and shoelaces to make Wolfie's mask. She turned it around in about 24 hours and really saved the day for us!

I want to thank Maryann for jumping in to help us and using her skills, creativity and resourcefulness to sew the mask that allowed Wolfie to help keep our campus safe! 


Richard Holliday, DoIT, Classroom Technology & Support Solutions
By: Jarrod McFarlane

Rich leads my classroom technology engineering team. University leadership made the decision that all classes needed to be taught in a hybrid manner; in-person, or to remote students synchronously. One of the huge hurdles was supply chain. Because we were mid-pandemic, and everyone in the world essentially was working from home, it was near impossible to acquire equipment like web cams, microphones, laptops etc. Rich worked with vendors and partners in Procurement to find the equipment we needed across a multitude of companies, and ensure it could be delivered where we could install it before the Fall semester. Rich used relationships with receiving to allow us to borrow one of their trucks so his team could physically deploy lecterns to each building where we were deploying systems. Rich and my whole entire team were in person daily to meet this goal of equipping the rooms for Fall. We hit the goal.


David Ecker, iCREATE
By: Jarrod McFarlane

For working tirelessly using iCREATE resources to 3D print shields and ventilator tubes for the hospital.


John Berwick, Division of Information Technology
By: Jarrod McFarlane

John was one of the real heroes, making face shields and ventilator tubes for the hospital, through iCREATE.


Jon Longtin, Mechanical Engineering and Associate Dean for Research at CEAS
By: Mónica Bugallo

He put together and was the engine of a team to work on a unique ventilator built out of spare parts.


Graduate School staff
By: Eric Wertheimer

They made the lives of countless graduate students easier during a difficult time for themselves personally. They never lost sight of the mission and they helped one another to do extremely difficult remote tasks. They were all heroic.


isobel breheny-schafer

Isobel Breheny-Schafer, Student Affairs, Student Media
By: Kathleen Valerio

How do you keep a campus radio station - an award-winning station - live and alive during COVID? Well, ask Isobel because she doesn’t sleep, doesn’t rest until coverage and live radio live. Commuter students, campus life, “global students” all heard on our broadband, world wide listening station. It works, it thrives and is alive, thanks to Isobel and loyal, invested student staff. 


The Volunteer Staff of WUSB-FM Radio
By: Norman Prusslin

For the past year, the VOLUNTEER student, alumni and community staff of WUSB-FM has provided non-stop 24 hour broadcast service during these challenging months. Broadcasting from dozens of off-campus locations and feeding the signals hour by hour to the campus studio, the staff broadcast regular updates on COVID-19 information and scheduled daily broadcasts by Gov. Cuomo and Suffolk County Exec Bellone. The radio station's commitment to the campus and off-campus community, working under difficult conditions, has been exemplary and I'm pleased to nominate the volunteer staff for this recognition.


Shelley Germana, Division of Undergraduate Education
By: Jen Poma

"I want to give a big thank you to Shelley's leadership during these uncertain and trying times. While things were so uncertain outside of work and in the world, Shelley remained calm, ensuring that everything would be okay at work. There were times where it felt chaotic, but I always knew Shelley had the best intentions for our team and for that I remain so thankful. In a time where it felt like everything was falling apart, Shelley's leadership was able to get us through, she was thorough and carefully thought out our plans for everything. I consistently felt appreciated and that I was doing enough while keeping our goals intact. I cannot thank her enough for her leadership through this all." 


Amy Milligan and the entire office of student services in the College of Business
By: Stacey Finkelstein

I want to recognize Amy and the entire Office of Student Services in the College of Business (including Faith Matranga, Joyce Gibson, Rita Barbera, and Marie McCallion) for making this year as smooth and seamless as possible for our faculty and students. They have gone above and beyond to ensure our students are poised for success.


Todd Stumpf, University Police
By: Gary Borowski

I would like to recognize Detective Todd Stumpf for his incredible job on the front lines of this pandemic. Not only is Todd serving and protecting the campus community he is also the Chief of the Port Jefferson Fire Department, and the Port Jefferson Fire Marshal. Todd contracted COVID as a direct result of serving the community and deserves to be part of the online "Hero" wall. 


Edward Dowd, University Police
By: Lawrence Hamilton

Edward Dowd saved an infant, who was choking and could not breathe while Edward was working at the Vaccine site IDC in March 2021. Edward has served the Stony Brook community for 25 years as a Police Officer. He is deserving of being called a hero. 

payroll services staff
Human Resource Services State Payroll Team: Jean Schaal, Pat Hines, Debbie Phelan, Mary Schoen, Janet Downey, Kathy Josepher, Dina Rizzo-Mast
By: Jennifer Sinatra

The State Payroll team did an outstanding job throughout the pandemic to ensure that all of our employees continued to receive paychecks. Almost overnight our team had to transition from working in an office with paper forms to working virtually and navigating the new processes that were created to handle processing forms received electronically. The team put in countless hours to ensure that Stony Brook employees received their paychecks. Due to COVID-19, the State Payroll team saw a significant increase in new hires, overtime and extra service payments, and leave transactions, but throughout the processing of all of these additional transactions, the team remained upbeat, optimistic, and encouraging. The State Payroll team is truly #StonyBrookStrong! 


Human Resources Payroll Teams
By: Lynn Johnson

The Payroll teams, who said they wouldn't be able to work remotely and haven't missed a beat, generated over 478,836 paychecks in a year since March 1, 2020. Responding to many payroll changes such as overtime, shift changes, leaves, etc., their workload increased in response to the many changes prompted by the pandemic.


HRS Time and Attendance Team
By: Lynn Johnson

The workload for HRS Time and Attendance increased significantly as they dealt with new leave provisions related to quarantine and childcare. They responded to nearly 1,400 calls to the COVID19 Information line as well as responding sometimes in the evenings and weekends to more than 2,500 emails related to telework.


Ann DeGregorio Gardner, Institute for Advanced Computational Science (IACS)
By: Jennifer McCauley

Ann took on a brand new role at IACS right in the middle of a global pandemic. As our Admin Director retired, Ann stepped into this role eager to take charge and with grace. Because of the hiring freeze, she was initially working both her previous position on East Campus and this new role simultaneously, while dealing with the daily struggles of quarantine, isolation, etc. All the while, she made her staff feel cared for and supported during a time of such uncertainty, and for that, she is a Stony Brook Hero!


Elizabeth Fish, Department of Psychology
By: Cynthia Forman

Liz Fish is the building manager in Psychology A & B buildings. Liz was one of the few employees who remained on-campus throughout the pandemic, securing our building, overseeing access, and assisting with the collection of essential PPE and safety equipment for our labs. In addition to these essential duties, Liz went above and beyond the call of duty by taking the time to store incoming mail and packages, as well as ensuring that all plants were watered. Her thoughtfulness and can-do attitude makes her stand out.


Paul Shepson, School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences
By: Dominique Barone

Dr. Paul Shepson deserves this recognition for his leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic. I began working with SoMAS only a few months before COVID hit, but even from the perspective of someone working fully remote, I can attest that the unwavering leadership Paul has provided to SoMAS during this time. Dr. Shepson has maintained a steady presence on campus, while providing opportunities for our department to gather virtually for the past year. He is transparent in all the right ways, to all faculty, staff, and students; and is equally collegial with all faculty and staff, including everyone in meetings, on committees, and in discussions. Throughout COVID, Paul has been compassionate, understanding, and flexible. He cares about SoMAS, but you can also tell he cares about us as individuals, and it was never a question whether we had to choose our jobs over our safety. 

omar badessi
Omar Badessi, Department of Hispanic Languages
By: Skarman Rak

As an instructor at the University, Omar has been tremendously successful in effectively communicating with his students despite some limitations posed by the COVID pandemic. Omar bolsters his lesson plans with engaging activities such as karaoke nights, cultural exploration projects, and the performance of skits. Omar’s dedication to offering the highest quality of education shows through in his students’ reflections on his classes. Indeed, his true passion for teaching is remarkable and inspiring to see, and it was an honor to be a part of his class this past semester. It is imperative that we recognize excellence in teaching, and we give credit where credit is due. Professor Omar Badessi is someone irreplaceable, not only at SBU, but in the entire SUNY system.


Lilia Delfina Ruiz-Debbe, Hispanic Languages and Literature
By: Daniela Flesler

Lilia is the Director of the Spanish Language Program in the department of Hispanic Languages and Literature. She coordinates the teaching of 35 sections of Spanish language courses each semester and supervises the teaching of TAs and adjuncts. Her tireless work and dedication and her unwavering emotional support this year was invaluable in helping instructors adapt their classes and syllabi to an online format.


Evelyn Cruise, Hispanic Languages and Literature
By: Daniela Flesler

Evelyn is a PhD student in Hispanic Languages and Literature who also volunteers driving an ambulance. This year, she drove many patients to hospitals at the height of the pandemic. She also passed her doctoral comprehensive exam and began writing her dissertation, "Precarious Pulses: Filmic Interventions in Emerging Economic Uncertainty."


Joan Dickinson, Community and Government Relations
By: Shelley Catalano

As director of Community Relations, Joan worked nearly around the clock at the beginning of the pandemic to field calls and emails from community members who wanted to help our SBU essential workers. She coordinated the thousands of donations the university received, often meeting with donors herself to bring in the much needed PPE. Joan also helped to share and tell the stories of the many Stony Brook students, alumni and staff who stepped up to help, which she continues to do through her social channels and community newsletter.


Urszula Zalewski, Career Center
By: Kathleen Valerio

Urszula has long supported students and community service. During the COVID-19 crisis, Urszula coordinated myriad efforts to support COVID-impacted Seawolf alumni. Dedicated, reliable and resourceful, Urszula will always go the extra thousand miles to support a student, an alum or a colleague. 


Academic Technology Services Student Technologists, DoIT
By: Richard Stein

I would like to recognize all of the student employees that work as Student Technologists. The team adjusted to a rapidly evolving environment at work and at home, and was able to deliver support for all of our critical Academic Technology tools during the transition to online in Spring 2020. The whole team maintained that high level of support and focus through Summer, Fall, Winter, and this Spring. Each of the students took shifts answering phone calls, emails, tickets, and chats from faculty, students, and staff with extended hours from 8 am to 9 pm weekdays, 3-9 pm on weekends. On top of the extended support, the Student Technologists provided an assortment of technology-focused workshops for Academic Success. The team's flexibility in scheduling, dedication to facilitating positive technology experiences, and motivation to help everyone in need are our Academic Tech Heroes!

kristin nyitray
Kristen Nyitray, University Libraries
By: Joan Dickinson

Years from now, students, faculty, staff, alumni and the community will know the story of all the great work done at Stony Brook to fight the pandemic thanks to the heroic efforts of Kristen Nyitray. She has painstakingly catalogued the stories, materials and artifacts that will speak to the level of responsiveness from the campus community for generations to come.

(Learn about the University Libraries' special initiative at


Giulieta Stoianov, Sharon Williams, Meghan Sprabary, Kenneth Schaal, Matthew Hartman, Lisa Socci and Christopher Larson, University Libraries
By: Jennifer DeVito

Giulieta, along with other members of the Access & User Services department in the University Libraries, helped keep library spaces open throughout the pandemic. She helped re-configure library seating to encourage social distancing … As a member of the Access & User Services department in the University Libraries, Sharon was one of the staff members who came to campus throughout the pandemic, allowing us to keep library spaces open to students and others who wanted a place to study … Meghan usually oversees the Music Library but quickly stepped up to help cover in the North and Central Reading Rooms … Kenny has been coming in to campus to work at the service desks in the evenings so the libraries could resume somewhat more regular hours … Matthew has been coming to campus throughout the pandemic, helping to set up library systems so patrons could request items through the library catalog while the stacks are closed … Lisa has developed a number of virtual outreach programs such as online bingo and virtual watch parties, to give students a break from studying … Christopher manages the Health Sciences Library and came into that library throughout the pandemic to be on site to support the patrons at that location.


John Madonia, Facilities Operations, Library Building Manager
By: Kenneth Doyle

John was amazing in making sure all of the building occupants had all of the necessary equipment to protect ourselves during the past year.


Caterina Reed, University Libraries
By: Dana Reijerkerk

Caterina’s usual aplomb attitude and resilience has shown through during this world health crisis and helped the Libraries’ go above and beyond just maintaining operations. Caterina was hired at the Libraries’ in June 2020; when it became evident her work would remain remote due to COVID, her focus changed to bettering the remote experience for her colleagues. Caterina developed and coordinated a multi-departmental acquisitions workflow for new purchases to the Libraries’ collections to account for remote work. Caterina’s work impacted Stony Brook University’s ability to continue providing such library services. 


Christine Fena, University Libraries
By: Chris Kretz

Christine is the Undergraduate Success Librarian at Stony Brook and also the library liaison working with the Program of Writing and Rhetoric. When the pandemic first hit and the University moved to an all-online mode, we in the library - like all faculty - had to look long and hard at how we could continue to offer instructional support for students. Over the ensuing three semesters, Christine was tireless in her commitment to not only moving her own teaching online but to helping support other librarians in doing so. She developed active learning strategies for the online environment, experimented tirelessly with screen recording software and created synchronous and asynchronous lessons for students. Throughout this stressful time, she has been a tireless advocate for students in their online studies and an innovator in the delivery of library instruction and research help.

scott lamarsh
Scott LaMarsh, Conference and Special Events
By: Dianna Hannan

Without hesitation I can say that our Building Manager Scott LaMarsh has gone above and beyond from day one of the pandemic and continues to do so. Scott has remained on campus the entire time, reporting to the Wang Center while the rest of us remained safe telecommuting at home. Scott worked with Emergency Management to receive, track and deliver hundreds of community donations for months on end, often unloading trucks and making PPE deliveries to the hospital himself. He supervised the volunteer staff and ensured that the entire program ran smoothly. He received a recognition letter from Steven Castleton, Civilian Aide to the Secretary of the Army who said, "You are amazing. I will stand side by side with you in battle anytime!" Whenever the Wang Center was tapped to provide support for COVID-19 initiatives, Scott was at the ready. He ensured that the South P Lot and the SAC testing sites had tables, chairs, stanchions and equipment as needed. At the Wang Center, Scott assisted in creating socially distanced floor plans and capacity thresholds for all of the venues. He ensured that the entire building was outfitted with pandemic-related equipment (sanitizers, decals, signage, PPE) and that the custodial staff was properly trained in sanitizing protocols. He never fails to go above and beyond for his staff. He's truly an unsung hero! 


Heather Montague, Office of the Provost
By: Janice Barone

Heather kept the office informed with all that was happening at Stony Brook concerning COVID. She would hold weekly meetings and try to be upbeat about the future while always telling the true, full story! We loved the Zoom Background contest that Heather held every week. She made a tough situation as easy as possible for us so we were able to continue with our workload. 


Lindsi Walker, International Academic Programs
By: Heather Montague

For all the leadership and effort on visa and immigration issues.


Rachel Bergeson, Student Health Services
By: Kathleen Valerio

Exceptional 30+ years of service to our campus community, this dedicated Seawolf has provided exemplar health service to our students during the COVID-19 crisis.


Marisa Bisiani, Student Health, Wellness and Prevention Services
By: Kathleen Valerio

Exemplar leadership of her division, and collaboration with East & West Campus during the COVID-19 crisis.


Rick Gatteau, Student Affairs and Dean of Students
By: Kathleen Valerio

Beloved, respected and appreciated by his Student Affairs team, Rick has successfully navigated the unknown, brought on by COVID, to a time of our new normal. His tireless, selfless efforts have resulted in overall improvements in how we face a crisis while mentoring our students.


All Mailroom Personnel, Campus Residences
By: Karen Morena

All mailroom personnel never left campus or worked remote. We were all here all the time, never leaving our positions. We were here servicing all the students and staff living on campus. And we had direct contact with students, staff and all deliverers coming into the mailrooms. We all have been overlooked by the campus, but never the students we service, who have shown their constant appreciation. 

dennis murray
Dennis Murray, Marketing and Communications
By: John Griffin

From Day 1 of the COVID-19 pandemic Dennis was deemed an Essential Employee for as the Universities Visual Storyteller he went far beyond and documented many different aspects of the University during these trying times. He shot videos for the many public service announcements distributed by SBU on staying safe, videos produced for President McInnis' office, as well as documenting the COVID campus scene for history. While most of the department was working remotely for most of 2020 Dennis came to campus and worked from his office in the Administration Building every day. Dennis is dedicated to his work and the University is lucky to have him on staff.


Ellen Cooke, Marketing and Communications
By: Lauren Sheprow

Ellen's arrival at Stony Brook as the University's first Associate Director of Internal Communications coincided with the restriction of non-essential personnel working in person. It was an extremely confusing time for all, let alone someone who had just joined the organization. What she was able to do over the course of her first year in setting up systems and processes, coining the name of the initiative for employees to start returning to campus, in "Coming Back, Safe and Strong", developing relationships with colleagues with whom she was meeting for the first time via Zoom, and taking on as much responsibility as was sent her way, was in short, remarkable. Her quality of work, support of colleagues were and continue to be above and beyond expectations, and she is certainly a #StonyBrookStrong Hero! 


John Griffin, Marketing and Communications
By: Dennis Murray

John worked on campus and in the hospital all through the pandemic photographing events and recording the history of what Stony Brook went through.


Kali Chan, Marketing and Communications
By: Lauren Sheprow

Kali Chan, director of Medicine Media Relations, is a respected colleague and tireless communicator representing the people and programs that make up Stony Brook Medicine. She was instrumental in garnering news coverage that positioned Stony Brook Medicine experts in leadership positions and worked with reporters/the media to ensure that Stony Brook Medicine's story was front and center during the pandemic. Her read-outs during HICS calls throughout the year were robust, comprehensive and represented all the work being done by the department of media relations throughout the year, keeping the HICS teams informed and aware that their efforts and expertise was shared with the community through media reports.


Emily Cappiello, Marketing and Communications
By: Casey Borchick

Emily was very new to her position on the Media Relations team when the pandemic started. As a member of the team, she is the face of SBU with news outlets who wanted to know what was happening on both sides of campus. She was very busy and worked extremely hard to represent SBU in the best light during tough times. She came in every day during the peak of the pandemic to help with the crises and any on-campus situations. Emily is a #StonyBrookStrong hero for her dedication and constant hard work, no matter what was happening in her personal life or in the world. Thank you Emily!


Alina Rossi, Marketing and Communications
By: Ellen Cooke

I started my Stony Brook career on Monday, March 16, 2020 - a very challenging time on so many levels. Alina, among others in our department, was so incredibly warm and welcoming. She is also that rare individual who jumps in, selflessly, to help, always. She's not looking for credit, she just wants to contribute, learn and grow. She wants to do the work and do it well. We collaborate on a site we both take so much pride in and which we feel has tremendous value in troubling times -- the Caring, Respect, Civility website. And when I say collaborate, she really does so much more than me, always volunteering to do the posts, coming up with creative solutions and really thinking about new content all the time, doing things so quickly and efficiently, content to stay 'behind-the-scenes' and just get it done, though I try, every chance I get, to let people know about her contributions. Alina Rossi is my #StonyBrookStrong hero, colleague and friend! 


Download a Certificate       View the Wall