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SUNY Erie’s Men of Merit host Bernie Tolbert as Distinguished Speaker at City Campus

Article by: Michael Farrell

BUFFALO—SUNY Erie Community College’s Men of Merit Program—established to foster excellence, distinction and integrity in the school’s male African-American, Hispanic and Native American students—continued its 2017-18 Distinguished Speaker Series with Bernie Tolbert, former special agent with the FBI and current candidate for Erie County Sheriff, inside the College’s City Campus Auditorium on November 1.

Tolbert—who worked with the Federal Bureau of Investigation before career stops handling security for Coca-Cola in Atlanta, Buffalo’s HSBC headquarters, and as Vice President of Security for the National Basketball Association—talked to student attendees about the importance of finding people to look up to as they carve their personal and professional paths. For Mr. Tolbert, one of these individuals was his mother, who raised five children in a single-parent household, and taught each of them to be the best—regardless of circumstances. He spoke of his life growing up in the City of Buffalo and professional start as a social worker; his time in the FBI, which included a rise in the ranks to become the first African–American male to oversee the Buffalo office; and his experiences heading security for the NBA, which included stories about traveling for the 2004 Olympics in Athens, as well as discussions with basketball greats such as Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, and LeBron James.

Tolbert expressed the common thread through these experiences was his unrelenting desire to be the best he could be. This obligation to serve has adhered to an intense loyalty to his community and family, and has led to his efforts to give back—whether with service or guidance—to such organizations that are developing the future leaders of tomorrow like SUNY Erie’s Men of Merit.

“Its programs like these that help our men remain open and engaged with their community,” said Tolbert. 

The Men of Merit program provides ambitious minority male students the chance to pursue excellence through a wide array of services designed to maximize academic success; and the opportunity to chart a course to graduation often hindered by poverty, crime and unemployment within local and national minority communities. Members have access to advisers, mentors and leaders—from both SUNY Erie and the school’s extended community—who strive to prepare students for college success.

Program members also have access to a support network comprised of vital College-guided services like academic readiness workshops, crisis counseling and career development necessary to achieve their desired goals. With this backing and a strict adherence to the aforementioned program tenants of excellence, distinction and integrity, members are guided to stay in college, advance academically and serve their community, as they become the men they aim to be. 

For more information on this event, future Distinguished Speakers Series guests or SUNY Erie’s Men of Merit Program, please call (716) 851-1939 or email Dr. Marvin Wilson at wilsonma@ecc.edu.

Since 1946, Erie Community College has met the needs of a diverse student body while contributing to the economic vitality of Western New York. As a member of the state’s SUNY system, the three-campus college provides flexible, affordable and accessible educational programs in an accommodating academic environment. Equipped with the knowledge of these programs, ECC’s faculty, staff and students strive to enrich their host communities through skill, service and partnership. For more information, visit www.ecc.edu or call (716) 851-1ECC.

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