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Inaugural class of WNY Business Hall of Fame named

Posted 13 September 2017 at 3:55 pm

Courtesy of Business First

Fifteen of the Buffalo area’s historic figures — including three current leaders — have been named to the new Western New York Business Hall of Fame.

The honorees were announced today by Business First, which is one of the hall’s co-sponsors.

The Western New York Business Hall of Fame recognizes the region’s preeminent business leaders and innovators from the 1800s to the present. A permanent exhibit in the Buffalo History Museum will commemorate the honorees.

Jeremy Jacobs Sr., Robert Rich Jr. and Robert Wilmers are the living members of the hall’s inaugural class, which will be inducted at a ceremony this fall at the Buffalo History Museum. The date is yet to be determined.

This year’s honorees made their marks in an array of enterprises ranging from manufacturing, banking and energy to sports, health care and nonprofit organizations. They are:

• John Albright (1848-1931), owner of local coal, steel and hydroelectric companies; patron of what is now the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

• Louise Blanchard Bethune (1856-1913), first American woman to be a professional architect; designer of the Hotel Lafayette.

• Willis Carrier (1876-1950), inventor of air conditioning at Buffalo Forge Co.; founder of Carrier Corp.

• Joseph Dart (1799-1879), developer of the world’s first steam-powered grain elevator.

• Wilson Greatbatch (1919-2011), inventor of the implantable pacemaker and the lithium battery; founder of Greatbatch Inc.

• Jeremy Jacobs Sr. (1940-), chairman of Delaware North; owner of the Boston Bruins; chairman of the University at Buffalo Council.

• John Oishei (1886-1968), creator of the automotive wiper blade; founder of Trico Products Corp.

• Roswell Park (1852-1914), founder of what is now the Roswell Park Cancer Institute; University of Buffalo surgery professor.

• Robert Rich Jr. (1941-), chairman of Rich Products Corp.; owner of the Buffalo Bisons; chairman of the Cleveland Clinic.

• Robert Rich Sr. (1913-2006), inventor of non-dairy whipped topping; founder of Rich Products Corp.

• Jacob Schoellkopf (1819-1899), founder of the first company to generate electricity from Niagara Falls; owner of local tanneries and mills

• Mary Burnett Talbert (1866-1923), co-founder of the group that is now the NAACP; president of the National Association of Colored Women.

• Samuel Wilkeson (1781-1848), a leader in developing the Buffalo harbor and establishing it as the Erie Canal’s terminus.

• Robert Wilmers (1934-), chairman and CEO of M&T Bank Corp.; former chairman of Empire State Development Corp.

• Ralph Wilson Jr. (1918-2014), founder of the Buffalo Bills and the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation.

Additional honorees will be chosen in subsequent years. They will be added to the display at the Buffalo History Museum.

Founding sponsors of the Western New York Business Hall of Fame are Evans Bank, Freed Maxick CPAs, Hodgson Russ LLP, Walsh Duffield Cos. Inc, the Buffalo History Museum and Business First.

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