SUNY Poly Announces Heather Hage, Mike Ballman as 2024 Commencement Speakers

SUNY Poly Announces Heather Hage, Mike Ballman as 2024 Commencement Speakers

Monday, February 26, 2024 - 15:24
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Heather Hage and Mike Ballman

UTICA, NY – SUNY Polytechnic Institute (SUNY Poly) is thrilled to announce Griffiss Institute (GI) President & CEO Heather Hage and Community Advocate and Pastor of Cornerstone Community/Plymouth Bethesda Church Mike Ballman as the College of Engineering and Colleges of Arts & Sciences/Business/Health Sciences Commencement speakers, respectively.

“We are incredibly grateful that Heather and Mike will be joining us for our commencement ceremonies on May 4,” said SUNY Poly President Dr. Winston Soboyejo. “Their distinguished careers, entrepreneurial ventures, and unique experiences in service of others will certainly be a great source of inspiration as we celebrate the accomplishments of our graduates.” 

Heather Hage
Hage serves as President & CEO of Griffiss Institute (GI), a national nonprofit talent and technology development organization for the U.S. Department of Defense and an international network of academic, government, and industry partners. In this role, she led the strategy and support operations for the standup of the Air Force Research Laboratory Information Directorate’s innovative research and development, and incubator facilities at the Innovare Advancement Center in Rome, N.Y. 

A deep believer in the power of public education and research to transform lives, Hage served the State University of New York (SUNY) for 17 years before assuming leadership of the GI in 2021.

Hage graduated from Hamilton College and Albany Law School. Her professional background includes high-value technology transfer transactions, intellectual property policy, strategic planning, venture development, and the practice of law before New York State and federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court. 

She is the recipient of various honors and awards, including SUNY’s 2015 Woman of Excellence award for outstanding service, exemplary support of women in leadership, and a distinguished career. More recently, Hage received the Mohawk Valley YWCA’s 2023 Salute to Outstanding Women for community leadership in STEAM and accepted two Business of the Year awards for the GI from the Mohawk Valley and Rome Area Chambers of Commerce in 2022. 

Hage has also served on the board of directors of various nonprofit technology startup incubators and economic development organizations across New York State.

Mike Ballman
As an accomplished community advocate (Executive Director of the Morrow Warming Center and Founder of the Oneida Square Project), and pastor of Cornerstone Community/Plymouth Bethesda Church, Reverend Ballman has worked to create a more just community in the heart of Utica by working to eliminate barriers to employment, affordable housing, emergency shelter and healthy nutrition for Oneida Square residents. 
He is passionate about incorporating the arts to build a community of empathy and service to care for the growing unhoused population in Utica. The outreach and advocacy efforts through the church community for the unhoused include a podcast, “Home Street Home,” to tell the stories of those exiled to the streets, a foot-washing ministry to provide foot care and basic medical screening for the unhoused, weekly nutrition, hygiene, laundry and clothing services, and SPARK, a mosaic, sculpture, and painting program.

His love for community service often extends beyond his neighborhood: he has served as a professor of religion and philosophy for refugee students at Houghton College Utica; the Chaplain of the Utica Comets of the American Hockey League; and he is a Chaplain in the United States Army Reserves. 

To learn more about SUNY Poly’s May 4 Commencement ceremonies, click here.