For Immediate Release — Thursday, March 16, 2006


Mary E. McCrank

Media Relations Officer

(585) 245-5516

Friends, college establish memorial fund in honor of Lisa Kuligowski, SUNY Geneseo alumna killed in car accident

GENESEO, N.Y. — Lisa Kuligowski embraced life.

As an undergraduate geography major at the State University of New York at Geneseo, she went on every field trip she could. With friends, she would travel to Canada and other states to catch her favorite bands in concert. And she lived, studied and worked in several cities in three states—New York, Ohio and North Carolina—as she pursued a career in urban planning.

That's why it's so difficult for her friends and family as they continue to struggle with the fact that a criminal intentionally crashed his van into a car in which the 27-year-old Kuligowski was a passenger, causing fatal injuries that ended her life five days later and five days before she would have turned 28.

Kuligowski was returning with friends from Buffalo after attending a baby shower for another friend when their car was hit as it left Interstate 490 at South Goodman Street in Rochester, N.Y. Two men were in the van, and during the trial the passenger told the jury the driver was speeding as fast as he could after being chased by police responding to their theft of snow removal equipment from Brighton. Police had broken off the pursuit miles before the collision.

A year and a half after the tragedy and with the recent completion of the trial, Kuligowski's friends have begun the healing process by channeling their grief into the creation of the Lisa M. Kuligowski Memorial Geography Fund at SUNY Geneseo to honor their friend and her beloved alma mater, from which she graduated in 1998.

A native of North Tonawanda, Kuligowski graduated from North Tonawanda High School outside Buffalo, N.Y., in June 1994. She is survived by her parents, Roger and Mary Ann Kuligowski, who now live in Huron, Ohio, and her younger brothers, Kevin and Mark.

Jason Harezma '99, who succeeded Kuligowski as president of the geography club, said he and the friends he and Kuligowski shared had to "put our energies into something positive."

"I just felt like I needed to do something," said the Rochester resident, a senior planner for the Greater Finger Lakes Regional Planning Council. The Springville, N.Y., native is one of 10 friends who helped create the memorial fund and also created the Web site

The initial goal is to raise $10,000 by June 30, 2006, to create an endowment to be used for student scholarships and geography activities.

Harezma said Kuligowski was full of life. She loved U2, R.E.M. and the Canadian band Lowest of the Low. She enjoyed golfing and following pro golfer Freddy Couples. A hockey fan, she rooted for the Buffalo Sabres. The Web site has links to Kuligowski's favorite things and pop-ups about things she enjoyed doing with her Geneseo friends.

"Geneseo was really important to her," Harezma said. "It's where she made some really strong friendships."

Harezma remembers how proud Kuligowski was in college when she presented a paper at the Association of American Geographers conference in Boston. The paper dealt with mortgage lending practices and how minority groups often are denied mortgages.

"That's what we're really envisioning it for—to use her memorial fund to help students now and in the future," he said. "I think Lisa would certainly be very happy to know that's what we're spending the money on."

Kim Faber, director of annual giving for the college, said the work by Kuligowski's friends will allow her legacy to be one of expanded opportunities for geography students.

"This group is just so raw with emotion and so angry at what happened. I have never seen so much passion and determination to get something like this off the ground," said Faber. "They took their anger and turned it into a passionate mission to honor their friend."

After graduating from Geneseo, Kuligowski spent two years in graduate school at the University of Buffalo, where she studied urban and regional planning. She completed all of her course work and needed to complete her thesis to receive her master's degree. In 2000, she moved to Wilmington, N.C., to take a position with the Wilmington Planning Department. She then went to work for Holland Consulting Planners in Wilmington, creating computer-based maps.

Although she enjoyed frequenting the beach and seafood restaurants, Kuligowski missed the northeast and moved to Huron, Ohio, to be with her family. She worked for the Saw Mill Golf Course and enjoyed driving golf carts and chatting with the golfers. In 2002, she moved to Rochester and took a job with Conifer Realty, LLC. Her responsibilities included traveling to the company's housing developments in other states and purchasing items to furnish units.

In October 2004, she accepted a position with Housing Opportunities Inc., a not-for-profit agency in the same field. She had taken the week off between jobs and was to start her new job just days after the accident occurred.

Kuligowski was thrilled to be in Rochester near her college friends, with whom she enjoyed going out for dinner and drinks, watching television, and hanging out. She and 12 of her friends went on a cruise on Holland America during the Christmas holiday of 2003. They played shuffleboard and trivia, and danced the nights away in the ship's nightclub. She rang in the year 2004 with her friends on the cruise in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.

"She loved to travel. She loved to go out there and look at stuff," recalled Ren Vasiliev, chair of the geography department and who taught a handful of classes to Kuligowski. "Anytime there was a field trip at Geneseo, she was raring to go. She had the kind of enthusiasm that we love in our students."

The endowment from the memorial fund would provide an annual scholarship to a geography student and support a required field experience course offered each semester by the department, she said.

"These are things that we know she would love to be doing," said Vasiliev. The field experience course is in a different location each semester. The students conduct research on parts of that area before they go on the trip and they present their findings to the class at the sites they studied. Topics have included mining, forestry, industry and tourism.

"She was always up for going somewhere and learning about it," said Vasiliev.

Donations may be made online by visiting, which links to the Geneseo Foundation's site. Pledges also may be mailed to the Geneseo Foundation, 1 College Circle, Erwin 202, SUNY Geneseo, Geneseo, N.Y. 14454. Donors also may phone in their donation in between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. weekdays at (585) 245-5518. For additional information, contact Kim Faber, director of annual giving, at (585) 245-5077.