Bengal Tales Alumni Profile – Denis Uminski

Class Years: 1964 and 1967
Degrees: B.S. Secondary Education (Social Studies) and M.S. Social Studies Education

Current Occupation: Attorney

Denis Uminski, B.S. ‘64, M.S. ‘67What is one of your fondest memories of Buffalo State?
Generally, I enjoyed my studies and the faculty members with whom I interacted, especially Ray Stone, Huby Coyer, Wilma Laux, Tom Herthel, Ben Gronewald, Milton Fried, Elton Chambliss, and Gene Dakin. I enjoyed English classes as much as social studies.

While in school, I directed a one-act play for a CYO play contest. I cast a young woman, Mary Jane Morcio, B.S. ’67, in a leading role. She now plays a leading role today as my wife.

Were you involved with any on-campus organizations as a student?
I spent most of my time in play production with Casting Hall. As a freshman, my buddy Bob Gore, B.S. ’64, suggested I try out for “Playboy of the Western World.” Tom Herthel cast me as a patron of the Pub. The “Playboy’s” father was played by Steve Waxler, B.S. ’64, an Industrial Arts major from Long Island, who went on to become a professor in theater arts out west. The “playboy” was Roy K. Bartoo.

I was the assistant director for “The Father” in 1965. In my second year I was cast in “Fashion,” when I danced the Mazurka with my lifelong friend, Charlene Hill, B.S. ’65, who married Bob Gore. I played the Policeman in “Madwoman of Chaillot.” I was never a good actor. I played a scene with the Madwoman, Barbara Gladkowski, who was a terrific actress. She projected so much energy that I felt like a wooden statue next to her.

We opened the Upton Hall Theater in the fall of 1962 with three one-act plays to show off the capabilities of that wonderful theater. I cannot recall the name of the British play I was in, but we videotaped it at Channel 17. In the spring of 1962, we did “Othello.” Dr. Conrad Schuck, an English professor, played Othello.

In 1963, Casting Hall did “Tartuffe” without me, but my two buddies, and John Hooper, B.S. ’64 and the late Dick Wier, B.S. ’64, ventured from their comfort zones to perform. John, a quiet man, went through a personality change, I was told, and lost all hints of shyness.

My amateur acting career ended at graduation. Two days after graduating in 1964, I was off to Basic Training at Fort Dix, where I portrayed a soldier.

How did graduating from Buffalo State shape your future?
Attending Buff State tuition-free allowed a young Polish-American kid who started life in a cold water flat on the east side of Buffalo to eventually enjoy productive careers and a comfortable retirement.

What accomplishments have you achieved since graduating from Buffalo State?
I portrayed a Social Studies teacher at Riverside High School in Buffalo long enough to earn tenure.
I then portrayed a Parole Officer for 27 years with the state, and created the first successful electronic monitoring program in the Division of Parole. I also rode the first prisoner bus out of Attica after the awful riot in 1971.

Also, I portrayed a Master Sergeant in the National Guard for 27 years, assisting civil authorities at the Attica Strike and the Blizzard of ‘77. I was never deployed overseas.

I also studied acting at the UB Law School and have portrayed a part-time attorney since then, often helping people who can't afford to pay me.

More recently, I was awarded the 2015 New York State National Guard Gold Volunteer Award for assisting soldiers, veterans and their families.

Do you have any advice for current students trying to achieve success after graduation?
A career path is seldom on a straight line. Become an expert in an area or areas in which you are interested.

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Originally posted: November 2016