Ellen Grant – Founding Chair
Ellen E. Grant is a Fellow with the Weiss Institute, the research and consulting division of Say Yes to Education, National Office. Ellen’s background includes leadership positions in health, behavioral health, the private sector, government and not for profit organizations. In 1997, The International Women’s Forum Leadership Foundation selected her as one of 12 women internationally to participate in a yearlong leadership-training program that included training at Harvard University. She is the author of the book, “Management for You: Leadership can be Color Blind”.
Althea Luehrsen – Vice Chair
Luehrsen has held the post of CEO of Leadership Buffalo since January 2012. Prior to her appointment to Leadership Buffalo, she was at the University at Buffalo holding the positions of the Executive Director of UB’s Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership and Assistant Vice President for Corporate and Foundation Relations. With over forty years of work experience, her expertise encompasses sales, marketing, strategic planning, fundraising, nonprofit management and entrepreneurship. Ms. Luehrsen is the recipient of number awards throughout her career, but most recently, she was recognized as one of the 100 Top Powerful Women of Buffalo by Business First in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Bernie Aja is Senior Vice President of Retail Customer Experience at Evans Bank, responsible for managing the Retail Financial Center network, Customer Experience Call Center, Wealth Management and Residential Mortgage originations. Bernie joined Evans Bank in 2014 after dedicating over 30 years at KeyBank. Bernie earned her Bachelors’ degree from Medaille College and attended the BAI Graduate School of Retail Banking. She is a Leadership Buffalo graduate of the class of 2013 and currently serving as Secretary on the Leadership Buffalo Board of Directors. Bernie has maintained a steadfast commitment to the community and also serves on the Amherst Chamber of Commerce Board and Cystic Fibrosis Board of Directors. She is Co-chair of United Way’s Women United advisory board and one of the founding members.
Tamara Alsace, PhD is an Educational Consultant with over 30 years experience. A former administrator in the Buffalo Public Schools Tamara currently consults with regional and national education organizations on school and district quality reviews. She specializes in evaluating and supporting programs that serve English language learners and students with disabilities. She serves on the boards of several local and state not-for-profits and is a proud and active member of Buffalo’s Hispanic/Latino community.
Florina Altshiler is a former prosecutor and currently the managing attorney for the Buffalo, NY office of Russo & Toner LLP, specializing in litigation. She handles medical malpractice, labor law, premise and general negligence matters.
She is the exclusive Legal Analyst for WKBW ABC News and an instructor of trial advocacy, torts, and legal research and writing at schools including Columbia University in the City of New York, Buffalo State College and Daemen College. She has been quoted and published throughout the country, including the Chicago Tribune, the Daily Beast, the New York Law Journal and BBC. She frequently presents for Lawline, ClearLaw Institute, NITA and various Bar Associations.
Florina also serves on the Boards of both Crisis Services and Journey’s End Refugee Services, Inc.
Lynn Marinelli, Director of Intergovernmental Relations for Empire State Development in the WNY office, was appointed by Governor Andrew Cuomo in January 2014. Lynn served 17 years as an Erie County Legislator, and was the first female Chair of the Legislature. She wrote for UPI, worked for the Buffalo Bisons, was the late Assemblyman Bill Hoyt’s executive assistant and Erie County’s Women’s Commission executive director. She graduated from Mount St. Mary Academy and Daemen College. She’s class of 1994 in Leadership Buffalo and a Business First 40 Under Forty award winner. Lynn is also a certified spinning instructor.
Malati M. Patil is a Senior Program Manager with the Office of the Customer Advocate at M&T Bank in Buffalo, NY. She is responsible for providing strategic direction to manage, and sustain the Complaint Management Program across the enterprise. Malati and her team leverage information to partner across the organization to mitigate reputational and operational risks, and to improve the customer experience. Prior to joining M&T Bank, Malati worked in the food manufacturing industry at General Mills as a project engineer.
Donna Nocera-Perna is the Executive Vice President of Transit Lanes, Inc. and President of Keglers Restaurant; she has been in the bowling entertainment business for over two decades. Donna believes in giving back to the Western New York Community. She currently serves as President of the WNY Bowling Proprietors Association, Vice President of The Crisis Services Board of Directors, and board member for Boys and Girls Clubs of Buffalo. She also served as a Court Appointed Special Advocate with the Mental Health Association of Erie County, Vice President of Susan G. Komen board of directors, and was a board member for JDRF WNY. She is graduate of Canisius College and free time is spent with her family and two grandsons.
Catherine M. Roberts is the Senior Vice President of the Community Action Organization of Western New York where she oversees program operations for one of the largest non-profit human service agencies in the area. In her role, she provides strategic leadership and direction to programming that promotes self-sufficiency to individuals and families. Catherine is a graduate of Leadership Buffalo, and a Business First Women of Influence honoree. Catherine is an avid volunteer and serves on numerous boards. She has received a number of awards throughout the community.
Kelli L. Tanzella, Ph.D. is the Senior Director Global Regulatory Affairs, Clinical, & Compliance for Life Sciences Solution Group (LSG) at Thermo Fisher Scientific, Inc. She has over 25 years of experience in quality and regulatory requirements in both the pharmaceutical and medical device industries. Her expertise includes quality systems management, clinical trial monitoring, and the filing of U.S. and foreign regulatory submissions. She leads the global regulatory team within the Life Sciences Group at Thermo Fisher and provides functional leadership to regional regulatory teams outside of this Group to enable regulatory pathways in the applied markets. Kelli received a Bachelors of Science in Biology from Niagara University and went on to receive a Masters of Science in Health Services.
Lynne has 25+ years’ experience in the IT industry, and is currently an Executive Director for Ingram Micro’s multi-billion dollar software licensing business. Lynne is a graduate of Ingram Micro’s Global General Manager program, as well a graduate of Leadership Buffalo’s class of 2015, and recently launched and co-leads Ingram’s Buffalo Campus Women’s Forum. In her free time, Lynne is currently serving as a board member for Mikey’s Way, which provides technology to pediatric oncology patients. She assists with marketing and fundraising for the Western New York Haiti Connection, is a coach for the Cancer Wellness Center and is an advocate for Unbound, supporting youths and families in need globally.
Morgan is the Senior Vice President of Community Engagement & Member Services for Girls Scouts of WNY. She is responsible for recruitment, retention, volunteer training and girl leadership programs. Also, as the President of MWB Consulting Services she is a motivational speaker, trainer and coach empowering individuals or groups to reach their maximum potential. She is a 2016 Athena Young Professional Finalist and a graduate of the Leadership Buffalo Class of 2017.