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The September 2001 centennial of Theodore Roosevelt's inauguration at the Wilcox Mansion on Delaware Avenue will propel Buffalo to academic center stage.

That was assured Friday with the unveiling of plans for a symposium featuring heavyweight historians James McGregor Burns, Edmund Morris, David McCullough -- Pulitzer Prize-winners all -- plus Stephen E. Ambrose and Douglas Brinkley.

The announcement came during a news conference Friday before a luncheon celebrating the 99th anniversary of Roosevelt's inauguration. A Buffalo policeman and the president of a local college were honored at the event.

"The Big Stick and the Square Deal: The Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt" will open at Canisius College next Sept. 14, 100 years to the day after T.R. was sworn in after the assassination of William McKinley at Buffalo's Pan-American Exposition. The event ends Sept. 16.

The prospect of a high-level gathering on Roosevelt already has excited historians, John A. Gable, executive director of the Theodore Roosevelt Association in Oyster Bay, told a press conference in the Statler Tower.

Brinkley, a frequent television commentator on the U.S. presidency, "was pushing this five years ago. He really wanted to do it," Gable said, adding: "I look for a book to come out of it."

"It will really put us in the spotlight," predicted Rep. Jack Quinn, R-Hamburg.

The conference exploring the legacy of the nation's "first modern president" will culminate "a busy and exciting year ahead" for the Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site, as the Wilcox residence was designated in 1971, noted Executive Director Molly Quackenbush.

It also figures to be a high point of the city's Pan-American Centennial activities, which will get under way next spring and continue through fall.

The impressive lineup of speakers, whom Gable said have waived the fees such appearances usually bring, includes:

Ambrose, author of numerous books on the Civil War and World War II and head of the new D-Day Museum in New Orleans. He was a technical adviser to Steven Spielberg during the filming of "Saving Private Ryan."

Brinkley, executive director of the Eisenhower Center for American Studies at the University of New Orleans, author of several biographies and commentator for the cable TV network C-Span.

Burns, who won a Pulitzer for his book about Franklin Delano Roosevelt, "Roosevelt, Soldier of Freedom," and has written several other historical books.

Morris, who won both the Pulitzer and American Book Award in 1980 for "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt," and recently wrote "Dutch," a memoir of former President Ronald Reagan.

McCullough, who also has won a Pulitzer and National Book award for history and biography.

William Vander Heuvel, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and chairman of the Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt Institute in Hyde Park. Also speaking will be noted Theodore Roosevelt historians H. W. Brands, James Milton Cooper Jr., Kathleen Dalton, Gable and Sylvia Morris.

Symposium sponsors will be the Roosevelt Inaugural Site, the Roosevelt Association, the Eisenhower Center and Canisius.

While much of the attention was focused on next year's events, Friday was also about honoring Sister Denise A. Roche, president of D'Youville College since 1979, and veteran Buffalo Police Officer Gregory Handgis.

Sister Denise received the Roosevelt Inaugural Site's Exemplary Citizenship Award for expanding D'Youville programs into such fields as health care and contributing to the regrowth of the City's West Side, as well as for her commitment to community service.

Handgis, a 27-year member of the Police Department, earned the organization's Police Award for bouncing back from life-threatening injuries suffered in a 1993 automobile accident. He returned to the department after several surgeries and within 13 months was back on duty as a patrolman in Riverside and his native North Buffalo.

Elaine S. Friedhaber received the Barbara Berryman Brandt Award Volunteer Award from the Inaugural Site Foundation, and Gable the site's President's Award.

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