Weekly Feature

2018-02-07 / Front Page

Clarence native donates $1 million to Syracuse football program


Clarence native John Lally and wife, Laura, recently donated $1 million to the Syracuse football program. The money will go toward reconditioning one of the turf practice fields. Clarence native John Lally and wife, Laura, recently donated $1 million to the Syracuse football program. The money will go toward reconditioning one of the turf practice fields. When the Syracuse Orange football team steps out onto the field for the first game of the 2018-19 season, they’ll owe a debt of gratitude to Clarence High School graduate John Lally and his wife, Laura.

Lally, a Syracuse alumnus and football letterman from the Class of ’82, has donated $1 million that will go toward reconditioning the university’s turf athletic practice field, renovations to the football complex and other improvements.

The idea for the contribution was born out of a meeting between Lally and Dino Babers, head coach of the school’s football program. Babers had mentioned to Lally that a few of his linemen had suffered knee issues as a result of a poorly-conditioned turf practice field. A former offensive guard for the Orange from 1979 to 1981, Lally saw the possibility to contribute to a program that he believes has helped him grow as a person and professional.

“At that point, the school hadn’t earmarked any funds, and I saw an opportunity to be able to help the program in getting them a field that can continue to develop better athletes,” Lally said.

A graduate of the Whitman School of Management, Lally earned a dual degree in marketing and transportation and distribution management. He went on to become the president of PCB Piezotronics Inc. in Depew, a manufacturer of accelerometers, force sensors, microphones, pressure transmitters and vibration sensors.

For Lally, it was the lessons learned on the gridiron — discipline, competitiveness and work ethic — that ultimately proved to have the largest influence on his professional life, and it’s why he felt so strongly the need to give back.

“From the time that I had the opportunity to grow a Buffalo-based business, I used a lot of those disciplines that I learned through sports,” he said. “What you’re really trying to do is develop that team mindset.”

Laura Lally, a former student athlete at SUNY Cortland, is also from the Buffalo area and is the former president of Blain Group in Williamsville.

In the community, the Lallys have been involved with such organizations as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Western New York, among other organizations. Laura Lally sat on the board of directors of the Community Music School of Buffalo and the World Trade Center Buffalo Niagara, and is currently on the board of directors for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation of Tampa Bay.

Their work with the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, especially, has had a profound impact on the Lally family. Their daughter Caitlin was diagnosed with the condition as a child.

“A lot of John’s character has always been about giving back to whatever has made an impact on his life,” said Laura Lally.

That spirit of philanthropy reached a poignant peak in 2011 when John Lally was honored with the Zunic Award, given by the Syracuse Football Club and named after Mike Zunic, a former Syracuse teammate and close friend of Lally’s. Zunic and his wife, Judy, died in the crash of a United Airlines flight in Sioux City, Iowa, in 1989.

“The time that John spent with Mike on the football field and at Syracuse really changed John’s life,” said Laura Lally. “He wanted to do something that would not only make a difference to his fellow lineman, but in the spirit of Mike Zunic as well.”

Lally was chosen as a recipient of the award in recognition of his generosity toward the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation as well as Big Brothers and Big Sisters organizations. Through the years, Lally has donated more than $2 million collectively to the groups.

For the Lallys, their seemingly endless compassion and goodwill were not conscious decisions made between the two. They are traits that are instinctively acted upon.

“When you have a child that’s hurting, if you can do anything to alleviate that pain, it’s just a humanity link that we’ve been very fortunate to be able to contribute to,” Laura Lally said.

Her husband nods his head in agreement.

“Both Laura and I have a very strong belief that when you experience success, you should do what you can to help in the broadest way possible.”

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