Important and Influential People Who Shaped the Hudson Valley (1972-2012)

Meet the people who helped shaped the Hudson Valley for the past 40 years Featuring: Former Governor George Pataki, singer-songwriter Pete Seeger, Scenic Hudson’s Franny Reese, the Bardavon’s Chris Silva


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dennis murrayDennis Murray

Dennis Murray

During the 33 years that he has been at the helm of Poughkeepsie’s Marist College, Murray has transformed the school on the banks of the Hudson into a national leader in higher education (Marist is regularly touted by U.S. News & World Report and the Princeton Review, among others). During his tenure, the campus has seen more than $400 million worth of improvements, including a new sports stadium, the recently opened Hancock Center, and a state-of-the-art digital library. The library is just one result of a long-term partnership with IBM; the two organizations currently are working together to create a cloud-computing center that the school says will lead to thousands of jobs in the Valley. But Marist is known for more than its high-tech expertise: The business, communications, and fashion programs draw students from around the country. The school is also home to the Hudson River Valley Institute (the academic arm of the Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area) and the Marist Institute for Public Opinion (an oft-quoted opinion poll). A native of California, Murray has been lauded with several community service awards, including the Val-Kill Medal.

Franny Reese (1917-2003)

“Revered, feared, and beloved” is how former Scenic Hudson Executive Director Klara Sauer described Reese, the founder of the modern environmental movement in the U.S. Reese was the organization’s board chairwoman for 18 years and, during her tenure, spearheaded a grassroots campaign against utility giant Con Edison’s plans to build a power plant on Storm King Mountain. The battle raged all the way to the federal courts, and the people prevailed: The plant was never built. Just as important, the now-famous “Scenic Hudson decision” of 1965 guaranteed ordinary citizens a say in environmental issues, giving hope to budding preservation groups throughout the nation. A tireless volunteer for many local environmental, cultural and educational groups, Reese organized herself using 35 tote bags — one for each nonprofit she helped. “Though some did not agree with positions she took, both friend and foe respected her ethics, eloquence, sharp mind, and honesty,” Sauer wrote in 2004. Scenic Hudson honored its “guiding spirit” by creating the Franny Reese State Park in 2009. Located on 251 acres in Highland, the park has 2.5 miles of trails and stunning views of the Hudson River and the City of Poughkeepsie. A link connects the park to the Walkway Over the Hudson Loop Trail.

frances dunwellFrances Dunwell

Frances Dunwell

A lifelong Valley resident, Frances Dunwell dedicated the majority of her professional career to conserving and promoting the historic and natural heritage of the Hudson River; her efforts influenced the decision to declare the Hudson an American Heritage River and the Valley a National Heritage Area. As the Hudson River Estuary coordinator for the DEC, she implemented the fulfillment of Gov. Pataki’s Hudson River Estuary Action Agenda, which conserved wildlife, fish, landscape, parks, and water resources from Troy to New York Harbor. In 1991, she penned her well-known tribute to the region — Hudson River Highlands — and in 2008 saw the publication of her second book, The Hudson, America’s River.

Ed Diana

Orange County has been on the up and up ever since Republican County Executive Ed Diana took office. Born and raised in Middletown and currently residing with his family in Goshen, Diana was elected in 2001 and still holds a steady grip on his position. Through his initiatives, the county has maintained an unemployment rate below the national average; and several towns in the region have seen less crime, increased neighborhood recoveries, and increased safety measures, such as the medical crisis team Orange County Medical Reserve Corps. Diana is also credited with establishing a veterans’ food bank, which presently serves more than 100 military veterans. His leadership hasn’t gone unnoticed — during his tenure, he’s been awarded more than 20 acknowledgements by groups including the U.S. Department of Defense, United Way, New York Library Association, and the March of Dimes.


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