Both high-profile bank executives, Trina Burruss ’06 and Kawanza Humphrey ’06 are also Daemen College alums, business partners—and sisters.

The #daemenalumni recently sat down with Daemen Today to talk about how each carved out her own path in the industry they share.

Long-term bonds

As a senior vice president, district manager, and first-ever community development officer at Northwest Bank, Trina started her career in banking as a window teller at Marine Midland (now HSBC) in the mid-1990s, after marrying and starting a family following high school.

At KeyBank, Kawanza currently serves as a senior vice president of corporate responsibility at the Fortune 500 company.

By the time the sisters enrolled together at Daemen in 2003— in the master’s program now known as Leadership and Innovation—Trina was climbing the ranks at HSBC and Kawanza had returned to the area after working overseas and around upstate New York.

“Once we made an alliance to go to [Daemen] at the same time,” said Trina, “it just made the experience that much more special.”

“We’d never been in school together,” said Kawanza. “Since you’re 8 years older.”

“Well,” Trina paused. “It’s more like 7 years and 300 days.” Kawanza smiled. “This is our love language.”

The Mahogany team

The sisters’ capstone project at Daemen focused on how to address the gender gap in financial knowledge and included a community project to directly mentor local women.

“Our experience at [Daemen] has stayed with us, especially in creative thinking and leadership,” said Trina. “Every class had gems we still use all the time.”

Recently, the sisters launched a business together—renovating and opening an events venue and photography space, The Mahogany, along with relatives. The venture is a revival of a family business from the 1980s in Buffalo’s Central Park, where the sisters grew up.

“It’s a challenge,” said Trina, “but we’re driving to our goal together.”

Without missing a beat, Kawanza chimed in: “That’s how we were raised.”

“She definitely learned that from me,” said Trina, laughing.

As we readied this issue of Daemen Today for press, both Kawanza and Trina took on new professional roles. Trina is now chief operating officer at United Way of Buffalo & Erie County, and Kawanza serves as chief human resources officer at VyStar Credit Union.