Medaille College President Kevin I. Sullivan, a leader in Buffalo banking, civic and academic circles for many years, died Thursday (Feb. 15, 2001) in Buffalo General Hospital. He was 68.
He had undergone surgery for cancer of the esophagus in November in Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City and had been recovering at his home in Williamsville.
President of Medaille College since 1987, Sullivan had served as president of Key Bank of Western New York and its predecessors, the Bank of New York-Western Region and the Bank of Buffalo.
He was also a former chairman of the Buffalo Area Chamber of Commerce, now the Buffalo Niagara Partnership; the Erie County Industrial Development Agency; the Western New York Public Broadcasting Association; and the Erie County Medical Center.
"He was an extraordinary man," Andrew J. Rudnick, president and chief executive officer of the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, said Thursday night. "He made real contributions to this community. The concepts of community leader and corporate citizen were personified in his work and his life."
Sullivan put much of his time and energy into boosting Buffalo, both through his work and his civic efforts.
His promotion of the area was so high-profile that he was approached in 1977 by Republican Party leaders and asked to run for mayor of Buffalo.
He thought it over but turned the offer down, later telling a Buffalo News reporter, "I don't view myself as a political animal."
Born in Winchester, Mass., a suburb of Boston, Sullivan initially wanted to be a professional baseball player.
He was a first baseman and right-handed pitcher on the varsity baseball team at Dartmouth College, but was too slight at the time to pursue his baseball dream. He later attended Boston Red Sox fantasy baseball camps.
Following his graduation from Dartmouth in 1954, Sullivan was an Air Force captain with the Strategic Air Command. Upon his discharge, he moved to Buffalo with his wife, the former Virginia Darling, whose father founded the Herbert F. Darling construction firm.
Sullivan joined M&T Bank in 1957, starting in its management training program. He was a vice president at M&T -- as well as secretary of the bank and of First Empire State Corp., the holding company that owned M&T -- when he joined Bank of Buffalo as executive vice president in 1971.
Two years later, Sullivan was named president of the bank. In 1975, when Bank of Buffalo merged with Niagara Frontier Bank of New York, he was made executive vice president of the new entity, Bank of New York-Western Region.
He became president of the bank in 1978. In 1983, when Key Banks acquired
the Bank of New York-Western Region's 29 offices in Western and South-Central New York, Sullivan was named president and chief operating officer of the new Key Bank of Western New York.
Two years later, he was elected vice chairman of the board. He also continued as a director until 1986, when he took early retirement, staying on as board vice chairman and a consultant.
His appointment a year later to his first three-year term as Medaille president took some by surprise. But Sullivan saw it as a natural place for his business and financial talents.
He had long been involved with the private college on Buffalo's Agassiz Circle, heading its board of trustees from 1977 to 1984.
Under Sullivan's leadership, enrollment increased dramatically; a new Campus Center and the college's first on-campus student housing were constructed; the college's first master's degree was offered; and its first suburban branch opened in Amherst.
Sullivan received numerous honors and awards, including a 1983 Buffalonian of the Year award.
Sullivan served several years as vice president of the Downtown Buffalo Management Corp. He also was a director of the United Way of Buffalo & Erie County, Millard Fillmore Hospitals, Arts Development Services and the Salvation Army.
In addition to his wife, survivors include two sons, Kevin Jr. of San Francisco and Keith of Snyder, and four grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held at 2:30 p.m. Monday in Williamsville United Methodist Church, 5681 Main St.