Buffalo State College will honor three of its most distinguished and dedicated alumni during its 146th Commencement, Saturday, May 19, in the Sports Arena.
Distinguished Alumnus Awards will be granted to Amilee Cattouse-Scott, '85, and Michael E. Toppo, ’87. Amber L. Morczek, '09, will receive the Young Alumnus Achievement Award.
DISTINGUISHED ALUMNUS AWARDS
Amilee D. Cattouse-Scott, Class of 1985
Amilee Cattouse-Scott hosts New York City’s No. 1-rated midday show as radio personality “Shaila” on WBLS-FM 107.5. She has been named one of the Top 30 Radio Personalities in the Country by Upscale magazine. In addition to her “day job,” she supports domestic violence survivors through her charitable foundation, Sisterly Kiss Entertainment.
Cattouse-Scott has worked in radio for more than three decades. She began her professional career in broadcasting before graduating from Buffalo State, working as an overnight on-air personality at WBLK-FM 93.7 in Buffalo for four years. Homesick and ready to enter the Metro New York radio market, she returned to her native Harlem and arrived at WBLS-FM in 1988, where she spent six years as an on-air personality.
Between 1994 and 2012, Cattouse-Scott was a radio host for KISS-FM. After a merger between KISS and WBLS, she returned to her radio roots to host “Middays with Shaila,” a five-hour radio program that features topical discussions, interviews, R&B, and classic hip-hop music.
Cattouse-Scott founded Sisterly Kiss in 2007 to help raise awareness of women in need. The initiative is both a progressive thought she shares at the end of her broadcast and an entertainment organization that raises funds for several causes, including victims of domestic violence.
A survivor of an abusive relationship herself, Cattouse-Scott understands that women often need practical tools to help them overcome difficult situations—and sometimes they just need to laugh and have fun. Sisterly Kiss, which officially became a foundation in 2016, works with domestic violence centers throughout New York City and New Jersey to host an annual spa party, including massages, makeovers, and manicures, for women living in domestic violence shelters on Mother’s Day.
Cattouse-Scott’s first experience with hands-on community service was her initiation into Delta Sigma Theta sorority at Buffalo State. Delta Sigma Theta is a not-for-profit organization founded in 1913 to provide assistance and support through established programs in local communities throughout the world.
She also spearheaded fundraising efforts for breast cancer research by creating “Kiss for the Cure,” an event heavily supported by the radio and music industry. She has also been a spokesperson for AIDS awareness, has participated in teen pregnancy forums, and has assisted various other charities.
Michael E. Toppo, Class of 1987
Michael Toppo, who graduated from Buffalo State with a B.A. in broadcast journalism, is vice president and senior editorial director of CNN Digital.
Early in his career, Toppo was a producer at WKBW-TV’s AM Buffalo, which received a nomination for Outstanding Entertainment Programming at the New York Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Emmy Awards in 1993. In 1996, he moved to Atlanta, Georgia, as producer of CNN’s interactive talk show TalkBack Live.
In 2002, Toppo became executive producer for CNN’s afternoon newscasts, including Live From and Newsroom, managing a team of producers, anchors, and writers. In 2004, he was promoted to senior executive producer and was tasked with expanding the Newsroom program from three hours to six. He also redesigned the weekday programs originating from Atlanta.
In 2006, he made the change from television, assuming the role of supervising producer for CNN Digital. He became senior director for news operations and production in 2009, overseeing CNN’s Video on Demand operations and eventually CNN Digital’s home page, feature sections, news production, photos, and interactive teams. He has also led CNN’s cross-platform TV Integration group, focused on digital strategies for premier programs such as The Lead with Jake Tapper, Erin Burnett OutFront, New Day, Morgan Spurlock Inside Man, and Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.
In 2011, his team launched the CNN Photos blog, which has generated over 800 million page views to date. In 2012, he and his team won multiple honors, including the Investigative Reporters and Editors Award for “Slavery’s Last Stronghold,” a special report that exposed the issues of slavery in Mauritania, the last country in the world to outlaw the practice. He was promoted to his current position in 2013.
Toppo was on the board of directors of the Atlanta Press Club, serving as chairman in 2016, and has been on the CNN Diversity Council since 2012.
He lives in Atlanta with his wife, Camille, who also works at CNN, and has a daughter, Clara, a senior at Kennesaw State University.
YOUNG ALUMNUS ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Amber L. Morczek, Class of 2009
Amber Morczek, Ph.D., received her master’s degree in criminal justice from Buffalo State. She recently earned her Ph.D. in criminal justice and criminology from Washington State University (WSU) in Pullman, Washington. In August 2018, Morczek will begin a tenure-track position at Cottey College in Nevada, Missouri, where she will serve as assistant professor and coordinator of the criminology program.
Morczek has worked tirelessly for victims, researching various expressions of gender-based violence. Accordingly, her research has been published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, Family & Intimate Partner Violence Quarterly, the International Journal of Cyber Criminology, Sexuality & Culture, the Criminologist, and the Sexual Assault Report.
As a content expert on violence against women, Morczek is also frequently asked to share her expertise with students and professionals across the country. She has spoken at Bard College, the University of Idaho, Syracuse University, and Washington State University and has delivered presentations to such state and federal agencies as the Coalitions Against Sexual Assault in Colorado, Illinois, New York, and Wisconsin; the Illinois Coalition Against Domestic Violence; the Battered Women’s Justice Project; and the Washington State Department of Corrections.
For her scholarship and commitment to end violence against women, Morczek has received 12 awards, including WSU’s Martin Luther King Jr. Distinguished Service Award and the WSU President’s Award for Leadership.
When she is not working, Morczek can be found with her beloved cat, Plankton.