Adair Saviola, Director of Development & Communications
A proud Buffalonian, Ms. Saviola, a Niagara and NYU graduate, is the Director of Development & Communications handling the Institute’s development and public relations needs.
What do you feel your role is as the Director of Development and Communications at the Institute?
[AS]: One of the reasons that I am here is because we are trying to beef up our whole external arm as we celebrate our Centennial this year. I am one of the few professionals in town, for which I feel grateful, that has significant professional experience on both the development and public relations side. I feel that my role here, on the surface, is to do a better job telling our story to the public through media relations, public relations, special events, etc. Also, I am taking on the responsibility of creating a broader network of support so that more money can be raised to assist our clients, and to ensure that we have a sufficient fund of unrestricted income to respond to needs as they come up. Certainly the Institute is funded in a variety of ways, but much of the program funding that comes in is very specific. We have the ability in our office is create different fundraising opportunities for the community at large and to really bolster the kind of unrestricted income that the Institute needs to move the organization forward.
What are your academic credentials? How have they prepared you for your position?
[AS]: Well, I am a strong believer that education and career training are two separate and distinct things—with that being said I am a fervent believer in the power of education. I have the distinct honor of being the last Latin major to graduate from Niagara University; with a second major in French as well as a Theatre minor. From Niagara, because I was so involved in the Theatre department, I was sent by Brother Augustine Towey to NYU where I earned a Master’s degree in Educational Theatre.
How has your career path led you to the Institute?
While at NYU, a friend referred me to a job at Cooper Union (architecture and engineering school in New York) in their Development and Alumni office. I worked there for two years while a student and, after graduating, was promoted to Annual Fund Coordinator. That’s where I realized I was pretty good at this development stuff [laughs]. I returned to Buffalo a few short years later, spending the next 7 and a half years in higher education. From there I would spend the next 30 years in the Buffalo cultural community—working as the Director of Public Information at the Buffalo Science Museum, the (first) Director of Development at Shea’s Performing Arts Center for six years, and then the Director of Development and Marketing at the Buffalo Zoo for 21 years. Coming to the Institute is a wholly different thing for me, I have never worked on the human services side before; it is a humbling experience but the acronyms are enough to drive you crazy!
What would you say is the most rewarding thing about your work?
[AS]: Most people don’t grow up wanting to be fundraisers [laughs]. But really what I find most rewarding is leaving a place better off than it was when I found it. For example, when I walk through the updated zoo and see the look of absolute awe and wonder on the face of a 4-year old. Working in many of the places that I have, I have had the opportunity to help bring things and experiences to people that they wouldn’t have been able to experience otherwise. Since Buffalo was at its heyday at the turn of the last century, we who live here today are the lucky beneficiaries of many of its crowning developments—like the Science Museum, Shea’s, the Zoo and the Institute! One of the things I learned about myself early on was that being able to make a difference in the community was my biggest driving force; the work that I am doing here at the Institute is so beneficial to people who live here and the city that I love.
What is one accomplishment that you are most proud of? Why?
[AS]: Professionally, the work that we were able to accomplish at the zoo. Over the course of my time there, we were able to successfully raise more than $60 million to take the zoo from its old, menagerie state to the wonderful modern nature institution that it is today. Personally, I would say that my biggest accomplishment is being able to lose 100 pounds.
Since the Institute works with diverse people from all over the world, can you share with us your own heritage? First generation? Second? Third?
[AS]: I tell everybody I am just like my name: half English and half Italian [laughs]. The English half, I am third generation born here, and the Italian half I am second generation born here.
Given the international nature of the Institute, have you traveled abroad? Any places on your bucket list?
[AS]: I am very fortunate that I have been to Europe ten times, predominately traveling throughout the United Kingdom. I fell in love with Switzerland (where the Alps were the first real mountains that I ever saw) and really enjoyed France as well. I am really itching to go to Italy. Also, if it wasn’t such a long plane ride, I would enjoy going to Australia. Seeing the Terracotta warriors in China would also be pretty cool.
If you could sit down with any historical figure, who would you choose? What is one question you would ask them?
[AS]: Well, I would probably say John Adams—I became enthralled with Adams after watching and then reading The Adams’ Chronicles. I would ask: how did you find the courage to do it all?
Favorite international food?
[AS]: Pizza. I know it’s not terribly exciting, but I could eat pizza every single day of the week.
[AS]: Shirer’s The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, and Favorite Play, Thornton Wilder’s Our Town. Honorable Mentions: Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and trashy romance novels [laughs].
What can you tell me about your life away from the Institute?
[AS]: I have a fairly small family—a brother, sister-in-law and three brilliant nephews who are the lights of my life. I have great friends who I consider part of my extended family. I love nothing more than getting together for dinner and talking for hours. I would say that I have pretty eclectic tastes—I can go to the theatre one night and to a Sabres game the next. Much of my time is also spent working on a board at my alma mater within the Theatre department. Also, I am an unabashed ‘vidiot’ in that if I am home, there’s a television on somewhere.
What three traits would you say define you?
[AS]: Loyal, funny and intelligent.
Do you have anything else you would like to share?
[AS]: I think it is an honor to be here at the Institute. I am absolutely bowled over by the breadth of experience of my colleagues. I’ve said this before, but I strongly believe that Eva is a force of nature whose passion is one of the things that drives all of us to greatness as we do what we do.