December 2003

Dr. Catherine Ansuini -
Effervescent, Energetic Educator

by Joseph H. Radder

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Five minutes into a conversation with Dr. Catherine Ansuini, Chairman of the Health and Wellness Department at Buffalo State College, and you know this is someone you like. She bubbles over with enthusiasm, she smiles a lot and says things to make people laugh with her. We need more people like her in this dreary world.

We had been told that humor was one of her great skills, so we asked for an example. "Well, I'll tell you what", she begins. "I came up with a theory. It's called 'the Five Idiot Theory'. I think if you woke up every morning thinking all's going to be right with the world, you may well be disappointed. But if you say, happily, today five idiots are going to show up in my life, idiotic things are going to happen to me and I'm going to look for them. And rather than be upset by them. I'm going to enjoy them. I'm going to revel in them. I don't know where they're going to happen, on the highway, someone will have their blinker on for twenty miles. The beauty of this theory is that it allows you, from time to time, to be your own idiot. You can say 'Don't expect much from me today, I have turned into an idiot.'" Summing up, she says, "understand what's important and what isn't important and let go of the things that aren't important. More often than not I'll be idiot number three myself. Don't be afraid to laugh at yourself. That's important."

Ansuini's positive attitude began in her childhood. "Everything in my childhood started with the family…people doing for each other, caring for each other, allowing and encouraging each other to be a good person and the best at what he or she was most suited to be. My parents came from diverse family and ethnic backgrounds—my mother's family origins were from Alsace Lorraine, my father's from Naples, Italy."

Catherine was born in Lackawanna at Our Lady of Victory Hospital in 1947. Her father, Anthony Gorruso, was a Renaissance Man. A musician, he played every instrument found in a band or orchestra, and was an accomplished director. He frequently shared memories of USO Shows, playing for Bess Myerson and of time spent with friends from the Buffalo Philharmonic orchestra and the Buffalo Civic Opera. . He taught music in the Amherst Central schools and sang in the Buffalo Civic Opera. He held a doctoral degree in music education and taught at Amherst Central High School.

Catherine's mother, Viola Keem Gorruso, was born in Strykersville. A graduate of Geneseo College, she taught special education, working with epileptic children.

There are two sisters, Maria and Anita, and a brother, Anthony. Maria is clerk to the Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court in Kentucky. Anita, now a teacher, was employed by the World Trade Center and, fortunately, was not in the towers on the day of the disaster. Anthony is also a musician and has played for Frank Sinatra, Liza Minelli and Buddy Rich. He was a member of the orchestra in the Broadway productions of "Miss Saigon" and "42nd Street".

Catherine went to elementary school at St. Benedict's in Eggertsville and then to Amherst Central middle school and high school. She earned her undergraduate degree in health education and recreation at Ithaca College and completed graduate work at the University of Buffalo where she earned master's and doctoral degrees, concentrating in human physiology and gerontology respectively..

Catherine Gorruso and Thomas Ansuini were married on September 11, 1971. Thirty years later that date became a day of grief instead of happiness. "We woke up happy—but that only lasted for a few moments as we witnessed the terrible events of that day unfold live on the morning news."

Thomas, a native of Amherst, is an attorney in Hamburg, specializing in family law issues. The Ansuinis have a son, Jason, and a daughter, Christen. Jason is a recent graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology and is employed by M&T Bank as a computer specialist. Christen is in her third year at the University of Maryland, majoring in government and criminal justice.

Dr. Ansuini has an office filled with many plaques and citations, awards and honors—but she said "I think my greatest rewards are the strength of my family and the many friendships made over the years."

Catherine Ansuini speaks at conferences around the country and was the keynote speaker at the 9/11 Survivors' Conference sponsored by the New York State Police. She is listed in "Who's Who" both as an undergraduate student and college faculty member. She has been named Instructor of the Year at Buffalo State College and is published in numerous textbooks and research presentations, both locally and nationally. A television professional as well, Catherine delivered weekly fitness information on A.M. Buffalo for over ten years, appeared in a variety of TV commercials and has hosted numerous television broadcasts.

A fitness enthusiast, she exercises every day, running and riding a bike. She plays several instruments, a benefit of having a music teacher for a father, and she loves volunteer work. "I'm very involved with the American Cancer Society, and was recently named to the board of directors for the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition. And I would be remiss if I didn't mention Buffalo State College. There are such phenomenal people there, President Howard and Dean Flood have been extremely supportive in the advancement of health initiatives at the local and national level."

When Ansuini said earlier, "don't be afraid to laugh at yourself" that told us a lot about her philosophy of life—and when we pinned her down on this subject she gave us this final thought: "Take a vow to be happy. Do some wonderful thing every day, even if it's just sharing a smile. Dance like no one's watching, sing like no one's listening, whistle until your lips won't pucker, spin until you can't stand erect, and love as if your heart would never break".

We challenge anyone to talk to Dr. Catherine Ansuini anytime for just a few minutes and not walk away smiling.

Joseph H. Radder, a frequent contributor to Living Prime Time, is author of a new book, Young Jesus, the Missing Years. For more information, phone 1-888-280-7715 or visit


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