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Fredonia College Foundation bestows Distinguished Service Awards
Tuesday, August 04, 2015

The Distinguished Service Award, the most prestigious honor given by the Fredonia College Foundation, was presented recently to Dr. Robert L. Heichberger and Fredonia alumnus Dr. Michael Marletta, and to the 1891 Fredonia Opera House, to recognize their service to their community, the world at large, but most importantly, to Fredonia.


     Dr. Michael Marletta and Margaret Gutowski.


     Dr. Robert and Elaine Heichberger


     Staff of the 1891 Fredonia Opera House including (left to right) Executive Director Rick Davis,
     Business/Box Office Manager Marcia Finley, Technical Director Dan Allen and Richard Lewis,
     president of its board of directors.

Nearly 150 people gathered at the Distinguished Service Award banquet held in their honor in late May at the Williams Center. Since 1980, the biennial event has generated funds for foundation programs, including, most recently, for the Keeper of the Dream Scholarship and Leadership program..

Dr. Heichberger was an integral part of Fredonia for several decades, beginning in 1964 upon his faculty appointment to the College of Education. After teaching for 28 years, he established and then directed the Graduate Educational Administration and Supervision program for many years. Other high-level campus positions included Executive Assistant to the President and Acting Dean of Professional Studies.

Heichberger’s steadfast commitment to education extended beyond the campus. He was a school principal in East Aurora Public Schools for 13 years and an adjunct faculty member at the University at Buffalo.

Additionally, Heichberger served 13 years on the Fredonia College Council, was elected to the Gowanda Central School Board of Education and was a member of the Tri-County Hospital Board and a host of other statewide committees devoted to the advancement of professional education. His service in educational administration has been recognized the American Association of School Administrators and he is the recipient of the Educator of the Year Award from Phi Delta Kappa International.

Heichberger is also known in the surrounding community as the founder, producer and moderator of the radio program “Focus on Education;” as a regular columnist in the Observer daily newspaper and as a motivational speaker. He established the Heichberger Family and Scholars Leadership Endowment through the Fredonia College Foundation to benefit future educators.

Dr. Marletta, a 1973 graduate of Fredonia, has compiled an impressive career as an educator and researcher after receiving his doctorate from the University of California at San Francisco. He has taught at M.I.T., the University of Michigan and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and also taught and held an endowed chair at the University of California at Berkley. Marletta also served as president and CEO and held an endowed chair at The Scripps Research Institute, a world renowned pioneer in biomedical science. He recently returned to the University of California at Berkley as the CH and Annie Li Chair in the Molecular Biology of Diseases.

Marletta was awarded the prestigious John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Fellowship and elected to the Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Inventors.

Individual awards received by Marletta include the Fredonia Alumni Outstanding Achievement Award, the Harrison Howe Award, the Repligen Award, the Esselen Award for Chemistry in the Public Interest, the Alfred Bader Award in Bioorganic or Bioinorganic Chemistry and the University of California at San Francisco’s 150th Anniversary Alumni Excellence Award.

Marletta continues to support science education and research at Fredonia. He served as an advisor in the development of the Biochemistry major, as a guest lecturer, mentor and chair of the Science Advisory Council, and advisor in the development of Fredonia’s new Science Center. He has been a board member of the Fredonia College Foundation since 2002 and, with his wife, Margaret, established the Mary J. Marletta Scholarship.

For more than 20 years, the 1891 Fredonia Opera House has provided a wide range of programming including music, theater and dance performances and independent film screenings. It also hosts high-definition satellite broadcasts and the annual Bach and Beyond Baroque Music Festival.

That the 444-seat restored vaudeville theater opera house has endured into a third century is a testament to the civic spirit and support that saved it from demolition in the 1980s. The community raised more than $1,000,000 and gave over 30,000 volunteer hours to return the Barker Commons landmark to its original splendor. It received the N.Y.S. Historic Preservation Award in 1995, a year after reopening.

Richard Lewis serves as president of its board of directors. Opera house staff includes Rick Davis, executive director; Dan Allen, technical director; and Marsha Finley, business/box office manager.

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