News Release: SUNY Poly Students Wakeley Banker and Jae Fish Receive SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence

News Release: SUNY Poly Students Wakeley Banker and Jae Fish Receive SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence

Monday, April 24, 2023 - 15:39
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SUNY Poly Students in the News
Marybeth Lyons, Jae Fish, Wakeley Banker and Dr. Andrew Russell

For Release:        Immediate – April 24, 2023
Contact:               Steve Ference, Director of University Marketing & Communications | (518) 429-7742 |

UTICA, NY – Two SUNY Polytechnic Institute (SUNY Poly) students, Wakeley Banker and Jae Fish, are recipients of this year’s Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence.

Banker is a senior student-athlete who will graduate with a degree in Mechanical Engineering and a minor in mathematics in May. In his time at SUNY Poly, he has been a captain of the men's soccer team, a teacher's assistant, and conducted undergraduate research. His topics of interest include computational modeling, machine learning, and heat transfer. Banker hopes to one day hold a research position in one of those fields. In the coming months, he will begin working for Lockheed Martin RMS in Syracuse as a systems engineer and plans to pursue further education in engineering.

Fish is working toward his Bachelor's in Sociology with a minor in Criminal Justice. From previous positions as the student government director of advocacy and chief of staff to his reelection as president this past spring, Fish has worked toward student advocacy and the betterment of campus life. He has also been an orientation advisor and a student ambassador working with new students and currently serves as the Doctoral Granting Institutes’ undergraduate representative for the SUNY Student Assembly, expanding SUNY Poly’s student representation to a state level. In the future, he hopes to work with the New York State government, writing and researching policy.

Established in 1997, the Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence recognizes students for “outstanding achievements that have demonstrated the integration of SUNY excellence within many aspects of their lives in areas such as academics, leadership, campus involvement, community service, or the arts.” It is the highest honor bestowed upon a student by the University.

A selection committee established by each SUNY campus, with the concurrence of the campus president, reviews the accomplishments of top-performing candidates. Nominees are forwarded to the Chancellor’s Office for a second round of review, and finalists are recommended to the Chancellor to become recipients of the award.

Recipients of this prestigious award from across the SUNY System are attending an awards ceremony at the Albany Capital Center today, April 24, 2023.

See the full SUNY News Release below:

Chancellor King Awards 193 Students with the Highest Honor at SUNY for Academic Excellence and Leadership

A Complete List of Awardees Can Be Found Here

For Immediate Release: Monday, April 24, 2023
Contact: Holly Liapis;

Albany, NY – State University of New York Chancellor John B. King, Jr. today awarded 193 students from 63 campuses with SUNY’s highest honor for academic excellence and leadership. The 2023 Chancellor’s Awards for Student Excellence (CASE) recognizes students for their outstanding achievements throughout their SUNY experience in areas including academics, leadership, campus involvement, community service, and the arts.

“There is a place at SUNY for every New Yorker, and each of the students recognized today is an example of our extraordinary student body and their rich and diverse ‘SUNY stories,’” said Chancellor King. “Student success is at the core of everything we do, and I am honored to celebrate students from 63 SUNY campuses who are receiving this year’s Chancellor’s Awards for Student Excellence. Every student can find their community at SUNY, and I congratulate each of the CASE winners for making the most out of their college experience.”

This year’s keynote speaker is Colton Gibbons, who is originally from Hanoi, Vietnam and graduated from Purchase College in 2018. Gibbons is an award-winning author, and founder and executive director of Cake Society Co. The company is the first BIPOC trans and gender-expansive-led health and fitness organization in the United States.

Gibbons said, “Nothing gives a greater sense of self accomplishment than learning and growing into one’s most authentic self. The SUNY educational system gave me the support, freedom, and confidence to not only live my truth, but to flourish into my brave and evolving kaleidoscope of identity. I’m honored to be able to share my experience with these talented, exemplary students and know they will be the changemakers of tomorrow. Congratulations!

The Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence was created in 1997. It is the highest honor SUNY bestows upon students by SUNY. Here are some of the statements from this year’s winners:

Jerry Jean-Baptiste, SUNY Plattsburgh, said, “It is an honor to receive the Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence. As a first-generation college student, receiving this award is a testament to my hard work and dedication to my studies. The journey was challenging; however, discipline and determination made it possible. I am so grateful that my hard work and accomplishments are being honored in such a prestigious way. I want to thank everyone who has helped me get to this point, including my family, professors, faculty, and friends. I am also happy to announce I will be furthering my education by pursuing my master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology.”

Samantha Williams, Upstate Medical University said, “It is an honor to receive the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence. Over the past four years, my home institution has provided me the space to integrate my creativity throughout medical school to create better relations with the communities we serve. I strive to improve the health of historically neglected populations through leadership and advocacy, and receiving this award only motivates me further to continue my efforts as a physician.”

Sherry Florance, Broome Community College, said, “Winning this award is a powerful acknowledgment that the frightening decision to return to school part-time in the Criminal Justice-Corrections field as the 48-year-old single mother of an already amazing 12-year-old daughter was absolutely the right thing to do. I do not believe that I would have been so successful had it not been for the wonderful staff on campus. I have been so fortunate at this time in my life. Going back to school has been a truly life changing decision. Receiving the Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence has served as a very loud and humbling validation for me!”

Connor Whitney, University at Buffalo, said, “I am humbled and grateful to be the recipient of the SUNY Chancellor's Award for Student Excellence. The University at Buffalo has provided me with a transformative educational experience, offering endless opportunities to grow and succeed, and this recognition is a testament to the countless hours of hard work and dedication I have put into my studies and extracurricular activities. I am determined to use my passion for justice to make a positive impact in the world, and will continue to work tirelessly toward that goal. Pursuing a Juris Doctor from the University at Buffalo Law School this fall is a significant step towards achieving my dreams, and I cannot wait to see where this journey takes me.”

Grace Thomas, SUNY Delhi, said, “This award is very humbling to me because I was taught at a young age that being a well-rounded person was something to strive for, and I have always enjoyed helping others. My professors and staff in the SUNY Delhi Veterinary Science Department have been a very large part of me being able to achieve these goals and I am honored that one of them nominated me for this prestigious award. This award has brought me the confidence to continue in my journey to help others and better myself.”

About The State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, and more than 95 percent of all New Yorkers live within 30 miles of any one of SUNY’s 64 colleges and universities. Across the system, SUNY has four academic health centers, five hospitals, four medical schools, two dental schools, a law school, the state’s only college of optometry, and manages one US Department of Energy National Laboratory. In total, SUNY serves about 1.4 million students amongst its entire portfolio of credit- and non-credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs. SUNY oversees nearly a quarter of academic research in New York. Research expenditures system-wide are nearly $1.1 billion in fiscal year 2022, including significant contributions from students and faculty. There are more than three million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunities, visit



About SUNY Polytechnic Institute (SUNY Poly)
SUNY Poly is New York’s globally recognized, high-tech educational ecosystem. SUNY Poly offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in the emerging disciplines of nanoscience and nanoengineering, as well as cutting-edge nanobioscience programs at its Albany campus, and undergraduate and graduate degrees in technology, including engineering, cybersecurity, computer science, and the engineering technologies; professional studies, including business, communication, and nursing; and arts and sciences, including natural sciences, game design, mathematics, humanities, and social sciences at its Utica campus; thriving athletic, recreational, and cultural programs, events, and activities complement the campus experience. As the world’s most advanced, university-driven research enterprise, SUNY Poly boasts billions of dollars in high-tech investments and hundreds of corporate partners since its inception. For information visit