Three generations of the Cuddy family reflect on time-honored connections to Daemen College.
At a young age, each of the six Cuddy daughters developed a strong connection to Daemen College. Growing up in Kenmore, N.Y., their father, Dr. Edward “Ned” Cuddy, was a long-time faculty member, and, mother, Jean Cuddy ’60, graduated from Daemen and went on to become a teacher.
Over the years, each daughter followed in her mother’s footsteps at Daemen. Today, one daughter is a school assistant superintendent. Another is a teacher and reading specialist. There is a physician assistant, and another daughter is an executive at a world-renowned research and development institution. Then there is a successful business owner. And the youngest is a physical therapist and executive in the medical field. Most recently, a granddaughter – one of 18 grandchildren – became the third-generation in the Cuddy family to pursue a degree at Daemen.
For Ned and Jean, it’s been a lifetime of special Daemen moments. Jean is a proud Daemen alumna and her ties with her alma mater are strong as she stays active with a financial planning business. Ned’s distinguished tenure with the college endures as a professor emeritus.
Their story illustrates the many ways a Daemen education has influenced generations. The Cuddys truly are a Daemen legacy family.
Jean Cuddy ’60 (nee Arns) grew up in Buffalo, graduated from the former Bishop McMahon High School and earned a full scholarship to Daemen. She went on to teach in the business department at Bryant & Stratton College and then at a local high school. Jean eventually left teaching to join a financial planning business, which she continues to work with today.
“Our daughters attended high school at Sacred Heart Academy, which is where I taught, and then at Daemen where their dad taught, so, as you can imagine, education was a priority in our house,” Jean says.“The college prepared me well for my career, and I knew it would be a good foundation for our daughters.”
Dr. Cuddy started out teaching American history at the college and was an outspoken critic of the Vietnam War in the 1960s and ’70s. Always a deep thinker, the professor developed an expertise on the war and it became a significant part of his course teaching.
“I felt it was very important to present facts to students about the Vietnam War so they could make their own decision about the war,” Dr. Cuddy recalls. “I once had a very heated debate with Steve Banko, an award-winning author today, but then a decorated Vietnam veteran with a different view. Years later, I ran into him and we developed a friendship. I would have him come to my history classes to participate in debates with my students.”
Dr. Cuddy’s courses were among some of the most popular at the school, including his urban studies classes during which he would take students on tours of the City of Buffalo to show them firsthand the process of urbanization. He also taught government history and ran for Congress in 1970 as a Democrat against Republican incumbent Henry P. Smith III, who held onto the seat.
All in the Family
The six Cuddy daughters describe growing up in a threebedroom house in Kenmore, N.Y., full of laughter, music, a lot of love, and a little controlled chaos. They recall memories of their dad playing honky-tonk piano, telling jokes, and leading discussions on various topics around the dinner table. When it came time to attend college, each of them followed in their mother’s footsteps and attended Daemen.
“A couple of the girls did start off at or go to other schools, but each one ultimately has a degree from Daemen,” says Jean. “I could not be more proud of how each one has used her abilities to create a successful life.”
Mary “Mimi” Cuddy-Mierzwa ’85 is an operations executive at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland. First born in the family, she earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Daemen and built a career as a finance and business operations executive. “I was grateful to attend Daemen and I would not be where I am today without the school,” she says. “Plus, some of the most enjoyable moments of my college experience were driving to school with my dad, or dropping by his office to chat.”
A couple of the sisters took history courses from Dr. Cuddy, but dad and daughters agree there was no favoritism. “I think they were smarter than me,” laughs Dr. Cuddy. “As their father, I was very proud, but as their professor, of course, I treated them like all the other students.”
I was very well prepared by Daemen and stepped right into a neurosurgery practice after graduation.”Michele Cuddy Fisher ’98
“I took all of my history courses with my dad and he held us to a very high standard,” remembers Karen Cuddy-Miller ’87, who earned a degree in education as the second-born daughter in the Cuddy family. “My four years in college blend with a lifetime of wonderful family memories at Daemen, from faculty picnics on campus to attending Mass there on Sundays.” Today, Karen is assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in the Grand Island School District.
Following in her sisters’ footsteps at Daemen was Maureen Kieffer ’87, an elementary education major, who is currently a reading interventionist in the Sweet Home School District, where she has held various roles for nearly 30 years. “Our parents understood the value of a well-rounded education and that is what Daemen provided,” she says. “The college prepared me well for my career with rigorous coursework, balanced by faculty who guided me through it.”
Number four sister Jennifer Lantzas ’91, majored in social work at Daemen, started a master’s program at another college, and then switched gears to start her own hair salon business, Simple Things in Williamsville, N.Y., that today serves more than 700 clients. “Every day, I use the social work knowledge I gained from Daemen at my business, understanding my clients’ needs,” she explains. “I loved the small school atmosphere at the college and the strong bonds I formed there – it was like an extension of our family.”
Michele Cuddy Fisher ’98 earned a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in experimental pathology at other colleges before graduating from the physician assistant (PA) studies program at Daemen. She is currently a PA at UB Neurosurgery in Buffalo. “I had developed an interest in the PA field and Daemen was beginning a program around that time so everything came together,” Michele explains. “I was very well prepared by Daemen and stepped right into a neurosurgery practice after graduation.”
The youngest of the Cuddy sisters, Dr. Margaret “Molly” Reader ’96, earned bachelor’s and doctoral degrees in physical therapy from Daemen. Having worked as a physical therapist and director of PT, she is currently director of rehabilitation compliance and education at Elderwood in Buffalo and across the northeast. “As the youngest, I saw the effort my sisters put into their studies and knew I would need to buckle down at Daemen,” Molly says. “Developing that work ethic and discipline has carried over to every aspect of my life and career.”
Anna Fisher, Michele’s daughter, is the third generation of the Cuddy family to attend Daemen. She is currently a student in the college’s physician assistant studies program, which will give her the opportunity to graduate with both a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in five years.
The oldest of four children, Anna was named to the Dean’s List in her first semester, carrying on the family tradition of academic achievement at Daemen. While she will not have her grandfather as a history professor, she says she wishes she could have the opportunity. Still, she is grateful for their shared Daemen connection.
“I grew up hearing all of his stories and listening to my mom and aunts talk about their Daemen experiences,” Anna says. “I love the small college atmosphere and I look forward to where my Daemen education will lead me.”
Honoring the Professor
When Daemen introduced the college’s inaugural Founders Celebration to mark its 70th anniversary, Daemen President Gary Olson asked Dr. Cuddy to join in the first ceremonial ringing of Founder’s Bell on campus. As the ceremony recognized the rich history of the college, it was only fitting that its longest tenured professor be a part of it.
At the time of the inaugural event, Olson said: “The ringing ceremony places a special focus on our long tradition of excellence in teaching and the scholarly achievements of our faculty since our college was founded, as well as the distinctive learning opportunities we offer our students.”
The Cuddy family has played a role in that long tradition of excellence and opportunities at Daemen. The roots planted so many years ago have grown into a legacy that branches out across Western New York and the United States. With the many grandchildren in the Cuddy family, there is no telling what additional Daemen connections may await in the future.