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About the Award

The Herbert W. Vanden Brul Entrepreneurial Award was created in 1984 through an endowment fund established by Mr. Vanden Brul in conjunction with RIT's Saunders College of Business. The award is presented annually to an individual or business that has improved the economic life of Greater Rochester or whose innovation management skills have changed the course of an existing business. The award recipient is selected by a committee of area civic and business leaders and RIT faculty. Saunders College is excited that the Herbert W. Vanden Brul Award symbolizes the links that join RIT and the Rochester Business community.

About Herbert W. Vanden Brul

Following his military service and earning a juris doctor degree from St. John’s School of Law, Rochester native Herbert W. Vanden Brul returned to his hometown in 1951 to begin his new career practicing law. 

An entrepreneurial visionary in Rochester, Mr. Vanden Brul co-founded several business ventures in the region. One of his most successful, RF Communications, Inc., has since become a division of Harris Corporation. Another, the Culver Management Corporation, acquired nearly one million square feet of local industrial space to become the home of many small start-up companies who have improved the local economic climate.

Until his death in 2003, Mr. Vanden Brul continued to pursue his business interests. He served on the boards of Ormec Systems, Inc., and the Genesee Valley Trust Company, Inc., and was active in the cultural and educational life of the Rochester community. Mr. Vanden Brul and his wife Joan, who passed away in 2007, had a long association with RIT and were active members of the Nathaniel Rochester Society. Their two sons attended RIT.

Herbert W. Vanden Brul Award Recipients

June 5, 2019, Michael Mandina & Richard Plympton

Michael Mandina, President of Optimax, and Richard Plympton, CEO of Optimax, were named the 2019 Herbert W. Vanden Brul Entrepreneurial Award recipients. Mandina and Plympton have successfully managed the development of Optimax, a precision optics manufacturer in Ontario, NY, and serve as an inspiration for other entrepreneurs in the Greater Rochester Community.

In addition to the 2019 Herbert W. Vanden Brul Entrepreneurial Award recipients, the Herbert W. Vanden Brul Student Entrepreneurial Award was established this year. This award is intended to recognize outstanding RIT undergraduate or graduate student(s) who have demonstrated the potential to become successful entrepreneurs.

Brandon Hudson, an RIT undergraduate student in the School of Individualized Study: Computer Science and Web & Mobile Computing, was named the 2019 Herbert W. Vanden Brul Student Entrepreneurial Award recipient. Tying for second place were RIT graduate students Nathan DeMario, MS Mechanical Engineering: Thermodynamics & Fluid Mechanics, and Eva Skovli, MS Professional Studies: Digital Marketing and Communications.

2019 Herbert W. Vanden Brul Awards Photo Gallery     2019 Herbert W. Vanden Brul Award Program

June 6, 2018, John "Dutch" Summers

John "Dutch" Summers, CEO of Jasco/Graywood Companies, was named the 2018 Herbert W. Vanden Brul Entrepreneurial Award recipient.

Dutch epitomizes the entrepreneurial spirit and commitment to community that built and sustains Greater Rochester. As a young man, Dutch was the third employee in a small tool and die business started by his father. That company over the years grew to include more than 50 businesses in 13 states and 9 countries.

He continues to be actively involved in the business, while sharing his financial success, considerable business knowledge, and wide ranging interests with a variety of community and philanthropic projects.

Click here to view the photo gallery2018 Vanden Brul Program

June 28, 2017, Giovanni "John" LiDestri

Giovanni "John" LiDestri, owner and CEO of LiDestri Food and Drink, was named the 2017 Herbert W. Vanden Brul Entrepreneurial Award recipient.

In 2002, John LiDestri bought Cantisano Foods and changed the name to LiDestri Food and Drink. At that point, they were making spaghetti sauce and salsa and he decided to reinvent themselves. Today, they have expanded into the beverage and spirits industry, with brands such as Bai, an antioxidant infusion drink brand.

His commitment to LiDestri Food and Drink's employees and the Rochester community, while also delivering high quality products is the reason why he is honored with such an award.

Click here to view the photo gallery2017 Vanden Brul Program

April 21, 2016, Thomas Bonadio

Thomas Bonadio, founder and chief executive of The Bonadio Group, was awarded the 2016 Herbert W. Vanden Brul Entrepreneurial Award.

As an active member in the Rochester community and visionary in the accounting industry, Thomas Bonadio encompasses all traits that Herbert W. Vanden Brul set out to recognize.

Click here to view the photo gallery2016 Vanden Brul Program

April 21, 2015, John Smith

Saunders College is excited that the Herbert W. Vanden Brul Award symbolizes the links that join RIT and the Rochester Business community. The 2015 Vanden Brul Award Honoree was John Smith, Chairman and CEO at Brite Computers.

Click here to view the photo gallery2015 Vanden Brul Program

Previous Winners

2014 Ron Ricotta and Mike Nuccitteli Century Mold
2013 Robert Morgan Morgan Management
2012 Ernest Del Monte Del Monte Corp.
2011 Doug and Jim Brush Sentry Group
2010 Bill Pollock Optimation Technology Inc.
2009 Kitty VanBortel VanBortel Subaru & VanBortel Ford
2008 Jim Hammer Hammer Packaging
2007 Dick Kaplan Pictometry International
2006 Arunas Chesonis Paetec Communications
2005 E. Philip Saunders

Griffith Energy

2004 Wayne LeChase LeChae Construction Services LLC
2003 Joe Lobozzo JML Optical
2002 Larry & Dennis Kessler Kessler Group
2001 Richard Sands Constellation Brands
2000 Christine Whitman


1999 Norman and Nelson Leenhouts

Home Properties of NY, Inc.

1998 Dilip Vellodi The Sutherland Group, LTD.
1996 Michael Hone & Jay Eastman PSC. Inc
1995 Valerie Mannix Mercury Print Productions, Inc.
1994 Charles and Burton August Monro Muffler Brake, Inc. 
1993 Richard Aab ACC Corp.
1992 Bal Dixit Newtex Industries
1991 Robert Wegman Wegmans Food Markets, Inc.
1990 Klaus and Brigitte Gueldenpfennig Redcom Laboratories Inc.
1989 Louise Woerner HCR
1987 Tom Golisano Paychex, Inc.
1986 Max Farash The Farash Corporation
1985 Robert Hurlbut Vari-Care Inc.
1984 Herman Affel, Jr. and Jeffery Tai Computer Consoles Inc.