Familiar Faces of Canisius: Donna Ortolani

By Caitlin McHugh

Features Contributor

Education is something that senior counselor Donna Ortolani has always been passionate about.

Ortolani has been working in the Griff Center since it opened in the fall of 2014. She has been a member of the staff at Canisius College for over ten years. Her first years at Canisius were spent working for the Dean of the School of Education, in which she mainly worked with faculty members. She then took the opportunity to work in graduate admissions, which she enjoyed because she got to see things from a recruiting stance.

“It’s been nice because I’ve been able to get a different perspective working at each place,” Ortolani shared. “Every job I’ve had has helped me with the next.”

The Buffalo native is a proud graduate of Canisius College, where she spent all four years of her college career studying business management. Ortolani shared that she loved going to school here, and especially enjoyed the size of it. “I’ve met some really great people, great faculty, and I liked the smallness of it,” she said.

Prior to working at Canisius, she obtained a sales position with a division of Bristol Myers and worked in Buffalo. She then moved to New York City to continue working for the company over the next four years.  She returned to Buffalo to get married and worked at Goldome Bank for a year and a half before leaving the workforce.

Her next career when the bank folded was becoming a mother. She is the mother of four and chose to focus on raising them during her time away from work. Her motherly touch and experience during these years are reflected in her daily work in the Griff Center.

Her job is to counsel students (generally freshman and transfer) with advisement. She is responsible for helping students stay on track with their work and directing them to whatever resources they may be seeking. Ortolani likes to think of herself as a mom on campus for students as they adjust to so many changes in their lives.

“All of my kids have gone through college,” she shared. “They’re all different and all have had different journeys and personal experiences that they’re on, so I just think being a parent helps you kind of put things in perspective.”

In 2001, Ortolani re-entered the workforce and worked at Daemen College first for the Dean of the School of Health and Human Services, and then the President of Daemen until 2005 when she came to work at Canisius.

Ortolani has touched the lives of many during her time working in the Griff Center. Emily Dorward, a senior at Canisius College, met Ortolani during her sophomore year while completing a work study at the Griff Center. Dorward shared that she cannot begin to describe how much Ortolani has done for her and how much she has helped her grow over the years.

In her free time, Ortolani enjoys ending her days by taking a walk with her husband and beloved golden retriever, Brinkley. She is a big fan of being outdoors and she tries to spend as much time as she can outside during her favorite seasons, spring and summer. In the future, she hopes to be able to do some traveling.

But for now, Ortolani spends a great deal of her time doing what she is passionate about. “I’ve always appreciated education,” she said. “I think getting an education is something that nobody can ever take away from you, so as long as you’re willing to put in the effort, it definitely pays off.”

Dorward expressed how thankful she is for everything that Ortolani has done for her and feels that “Donna is such a bright light at this school. She always has been there to support me and brighten my day.”

Ortolani is continuously doing everything that she can to help those around her. She dedicates much of her time towards making sure she has done the best possible job she can, regardless of what is being asked of her. “I think in any job I’ve ever had, I always try to go the extra mile,” she continued. “Some people will just do the bare minimum for the day and that’s it, but that’s not who I am.”


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