Community spirit has driven one Jamestown native to be a woman of influence.
Last month, it was announced Dr. Lillian Vitanza Ney will be awarded a Business First Women of Influence award as a community supporter. The honor is given to those who go beyond the call to devote time, energy and resources to support their community.
Ney, a Jamestown native, is one of three daughters who were born to Peter and Josephine Vitanza. Her father was a Jamestown physician who instilled the love of community into his family.
From left, Sharon Wordelmann, Delta Kappa Gamma vice president; Connie Pilato, Delta Kappa Gamma co-president; Dr. Lillian Vitanza Ney, who was awarded Delta Kappa Gamma’s Friend To Education last year; and Deborah Szwejbka, Delta Kappa Gamma co-president. Last month, it was announced Ney has been honored with a Women of Influence Award by Business First as a community supporter.
''My family felt it was important to give back to the community,'' she said. ''My dad started a medical practice during the (Great) Depression. My sisters and I were raised in a household by my father and mother to help the community anyway we could. The community was good to our family, and we should do likewise.
Ney attended Wells College, enrolling in medical school at the University of Buffalo after graduation. Armed with a medical degree, she returned to Jamestown. From 1974 to 1995, Ney worked at WCA Hospital in a variety of positions, including medical director.
Since retiring in 1995, Dr. Ney has worked for or been a part of a laundry list of committees, boards and commissions all with one mission improve the quality of life for the Jamestown community. For 20 years she was the president of the Gebbie Foundation. For eight years she was an at-large member of Jamestown City Council. Currently, one of the positions Ney holds is the co-chair for the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation board of directors.
''A lot of my work in the community has been done outside the structure of an organization. This way I was able to sit back and look to see what needed to be done, and could be more creative because I was not bound by the structure of an organization,'' she said. ''It was a blessing to work that way. I enjoy the work, and I love to work with the people I work with. It is nice to influence others and to encourage younger people to work for the good of Jamestown. That has been important to me, to be a role model in the volunteer sector.''
Sam Teresi, Jamestown mayor, said the category Ney is being honored in is particularly fitting because she has spent so much time working to support the community. Teresi said with Ney's educational background she could have selected any city to live in, but her love of family and the community brought her back home.
''She is a terrific and special woman in my book, and I'm proud and thankful she continues to choose Jamestown to put her talents to work. We are a better community for it,'' he said.
Teresi, a Jamestown native as well, said his grandparents were patients of Ney's father. He said it seems like the two families have known each other forever. He said professionally he started working with Ney as a member of the Downtown Jamestown Development Corporation and as the city's development director. He said then in 1999, both ran for political office and won - Ney as an at-large member of Jamestown City Council and Teresi as mayor.
''We've probably worked a quarter of a century together in different capacities,'' he said. ''She has a passion for the community on whatever she is working on and she has a persistence to see things through until they are completed.''
Greg Lindquist, Jamestown Renaissance Corporation executive director, said Ney's dedication to this community fits the award she will be receiving from Business First.
''She serves on the Jamestown Community College board, she is involved in the strategic plan for Jamestown Public Schools and much, much more,'' he said. ''She was instrumental in bringing the drug issue to the forefront in the Jamestown community and throughout Chautauqua County. Our hats off to her. She deserves this and a 'Thanks' from the community.''
The Women of Influence Awards, which are sponsored by Lake Shore Savings Bank, will be presented Sept. 16 at Salvatore's Italian Gardens in Depew.