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Mike Connelly: 68 years of honoring our Outstanding Citizens

The Buffalo Evening News named its first Outstanding Citizens in 1949. First-year honorees included Walter J. Mahoney, who went on to be State Senate majority leader for 10 years; Joseph Mruk, just elected Buffalo’s mayor; and the novelist Taylor Caldwell.

That’s 68 years of honoring the people who help make Western New York great.

We like to spotlight a wide range of contributions – longtime civic leaders like late M&T Bank Chief Executive Robert G. Wilmers, named an Outstanding Citizen twice. Local people who make extraordinary things happen, like Geraldine Bard and Betty Capella, honored in 1995, whose Books for Kids campaign has distributed 2.8 million books to children the past 23 years.

We honor the famous among us who attract the world’s attention to Buffalo. For 1998 it was Bills quarterback Doug Flutie and singer Ani DiFranco. And we honor citizens who step up at a crucial moment. The honorees for 2013 included Darnell Barton, a Metro Bus driver who stopped his bus and rescued a woman threatening to jump off a Scajaquada Expressway overpass.

News reporters, editors and executives nominate worthy recipients. We do a straw poll among the staff, but the final selections are made by a panel of three: the publisher, the editorial page editor and myself.

In today’s Viewpoints section, we profile this year’s honorees. We owe a huge thanks to all of them and to the many honored in the past. They have done much to make our community great.

The 2017 Outstanding Citizens: 9 people who embody what makes WNY special

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