Polish Scholarship Fund & Syracuse Polish Fest
2023 Pole of the Year


Born into a Polish-American family, Constance Niedzwiecki Maute has been involved in the Syracuse Polish community all of her life. She and her late brother, Ron, were the children of the late Stanley and Irene Niedzwiecki. Her grandparents, Adam and Constance Cierek, emigrated from Poland; Adam was one of the founding fathers of the Syracuse Polish Home. Connie credits her grandmother with instilling Polish traditions and a strong work ethic into her life, including teaching her to make many Polish delicacies.

Connie attended and graduated from Sacred Heart Academy and has been a lifelong parishioner of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She has been a member of the I.J. Paderewski Choir for over fifty years and is an Honorary Member of the Polish Singers Alliance of America. Volunteering has been an important aspect of her life for many years. From 1980 to 2020, Connie and her crew made thousands of babkas as a fundraiser for the Basilica. You could always find her in the kitchen making pierogi and golabki for the Parish Festival, Transfiguration church’s festivals, and the Dom Polski Fest. She currently serves as a lector and as part of the decorating team at the Basilica.

Following in her grandparent’s footsteps, Connie has volunteered for years at the Polish Home. She serves on the Board of Directors, is acting Recording Secretary, and served on the organizing committee for the organization’s 100th anniversary. You can often find her in the kitchen at Polish Home and serving guests. In recognition of her dedication, she was named the 2022 Volunteer of the Year of the Polish Home.

In addition to volunteering, Connie worked for the Syracuse Chamber of Commerce as Director of Economic Research for twenty five years. During her years there, she had the opportunity to represent the Chamber on a number of international initiatives.

Connie is the mother of Susan Anderson and the late Lisa Maute Smith, and proud grandmother to Shannon and Keira. She has continued her grandmother Cierek’s legacy by teaching them Polish traditions, and now, they too, can be found in the kitchen with her whipping up pierogi and babka.

Connie would like to say dziękuję bardzo for this great honor.


2022 “Pole Of the Year”

Adam Gass

Being Polish was easy having been raised by his Polish parents Adam and Frances (Brudzinski) Gass Sr.  They were very active in the Polish community, bringing young Adam and his brother to events to experience the culture.
Adam Gass’ father was involved in the formation of early Polish Scholarship events with his friend Clarence Kadys, who became the first President of the Polish Scholarship Fund.  Adam Gass Jr. was encouraged to join the volunteer group, and five years later he was elected Treasurer. He remained as treasurer until Mr. Kadys retired and then Adam was elected President of PSF.  
It was his greatest reward to serve in this position for more than 25 years and  to keep alive the Polish Scholarship Festival and Fund for future scholars of Polish descent.


PSF Board of Directors


2020 “Pole of the Year” Geoffrey Cierek

Geoffrey Cierek, a former Syracuse Policeman, also served in the Coast Guard, and Navy where he was based off the Vietnam coast during the war.
Today Geoffrey volunteers at the Sacred Heart Basilica doing various tasks on a regular basis. A long supporter and member of the Polish Home, this is where Geoffrey has established a permanent  home for  Jablonowski Post 14, a  Polish Veterans Organization. Hi is the commander of Post 14 and is heavily involved. The Post has a high a membership  of Polish veterans and is considered a “Polish Post but it does accept all veterans. The official name is PLAV (Polish Legion Of American Veterans).

Two years ago Geoffrey was instrumental with other PLAV posts throughout the USA to host a national meeting in Washington DC. Here members gather to help further their cause of patriotism and support service members past and present. He met with President Barack Obama who thanked the PLAV for their service to the American Vet. On a local level Geoffrey Ciereck shows his personal feelings and support towards the vets especially the disabled ones by scheduling and participating with them different events for them to attend. For example baseball games, park tours and veteran activities through out the country. This is done at no cost to the disabled vet, and made possible through fund raisers put on by Geoffrey and member vets.

His kindness continues throughout the year. Before memorial day each year, Geoffrey and his fellow veterans visit Sacred Heart Cemetery and honor the veterans who have passed on by placing flags on their graves and saying a little prayer thanking them for their service.

Four years ago Geoffrey Ciereck along with Richard Sloma, Rob Synakowski and the Polish Home honored the Polish Veteran that Post 14 is named after ‘Eugene Jablonowski, a Polish American soldier who was killed in France during World War I. This honor came in the form of contacting and having relatives of Eugene, most coming from Poland, attend a dedication ceremony to him. The outpouring of the Polish Community and local dignitaries at this event left an unforgettable warm feeling in the hearts of the Jablonowski family according to them, and a feeling they would share with others.

A few years ago Geoffrey started volunteering his whole day on every Wednesday transporting disabled Vets to and from the VA hospital.

Geoffrey Cierek who grew up in our Polish Community, attended and graduated from Sacred Heart Academy.  He has served Polish people community faithfully. PSF has the honor of awarding Geoffrey Cierek with the title of “Pole of the Year.”

PSF Board of Directors

2019 “Pole of the Year”   Nancy Cummings



Nancy Trojnar Cummings grew up on Syracuse’s West Side, attending Sacred Heart Church and School. While in elementary school and part of high school, she was a part of a Polish Dance Group which performed at various places throughout New York. Also, while in high school, she attended a program at Alliance College for Polish Arts, Dramatics and Dancing. After receiving a Bachelor of Science degree from Syracuse University, Nancy began her teaching career in Boston Massachusetts. After three years, she decided to return home to continue teaching for many years at Sacred Heart School, Our Lady of Solace and St. Rose of Lima.

Nancy, now retired, is active in the Polish Community being not only a Board member for Polish Scholarship and the Syracuse Polish Home, but also an officer. Her maternal grandfather, Joseph Madey, was a founding father and one of the first presidents of the Polish Home and instilled in her a sense of pride for her Polish Heritage. Her mother, Helen, was also very active in Polish Scholarship Fund.

Nancy, who lives in Ira, New York with her husband Ron, also spends time in Florida visiting her son, daughter-in-law, grandson and beautiful great-granddaughter. During the summer, she is entertaining at her camp on Lake Ontario!


2018 “Pole of the Year”   Charlie Roman

The son of Polish immigrants, is being honored as the “2018 Pole of the Year.” Charlie, like his parents, has generously promoted the Polish culture in the Central  New York Community. His parents, with others were founders of the Polish Scholarship Fund, Inc. in 1954. His parents provided the initial Polish Festival’s liquor license and other required permits. Charlie continued to subsidize the Polish Festival by providing insurance coverage and equipment.

His parents opened a restaurant named Roman’s where authentic homemade Polish meals were proudly prepared by his Mom and sister. Charlie began working there as a bus boy and dishwasher while in school. In time, he gained notoriety by entertaining the clients  playing a rubber chicken, a trumpet and showcasing his trained piranha fish. His specialty was the “Chicken Dance.” The PSF held many functions  at Roman’s, such as the Ice Breaker, for the scholarship winners and committee meetings. Now, Charlie owns Daniella’s Steakhouse on State Fair Blvd in Syracuse and another restaurant in Alexandria Bay.

Join us in honoring Charlie Roman as he receives his eminently earned “Pole of the Year” on Friday, June 22 at the sixth-fourth annual Polish Scholarship Festival in Clinton Square.


2017 “Pole of the Year” Richard J. Sloma

Picture of Col. Sloma (on right) receives the Legion of Merit from New York State Adjutant General, Maj. Gen. Patrick Murphy upon retirement in 2013

Richard Sloma was born in Syracuse and is the son of Zofia Rutkowska Sloma and the late Joseph Sloma. His father was a Polish laborer in Nazi Germany who came to the U.S. as a refugee in 1949.  His mother came to the U.S. in 1963 after marring his dad in Warsaw.  Both of his parents were active in the Syracuse Polish Community where they attended Sacred Heart parish and his dad was a founding member of the Polonez Men’s Chorus.  Rich attended Sacred Heart School, the White Eagle Saturday Polish School and was a member of the St. Louis Club Polish Folk Dancers.  He graduated from Fowler High School in 1982.  He lives in the Albany area, but maintains close ties to Syracuse as an active member of the Polish Legion of American Veterans (PLAV), Post 14 and a member of the Syracuse Polish Home.

Rich holds a Master’s Degree from the University at Albany and is an Archivist with the New York State Archives in Albany.  He is a member of the Polish American Historical Association.

As a native Syracusan and second generation Polish-American, Rich is especially proud of the contributions made by successive waves of Polish immigrants to Central New York.  He has written a biography of Pvt. Eugeniusz Jablonowski, for whom PLAV Post 14 is named, a native Pole who was one of the first from Syracuse killed during the World War I.  Rich has also done extensive research on the Polish immigrant community of Syracuse.  He has added a tremendous amount of genealogical information about dozens of Syracuse’s earliest Polish families to internet websites.  He is especially interested in documenting the contributions of Polish and Polish-American veterans, like Jablonowski, who had served and fought for our nation since the First World War.  He is in the process of completing a website to further memorialize their sacrifice for their nation and to the principles of freedom and democracy.

Rich enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve after high school.  He attended LeMoyne College, Syracuse University Army ROTC, and received his bachelor’s degree from SUNY Oswego.  He served in the Army on active duty with assignments in Vicenza, Italy, Fargo, ND and Albany and then departed active duty and joined the NY Army National Guard.  In 2008 he deployed to Afghanistan with the 27th Infantry Brigade from Syracuse, serving as Director of Intelligence (J2) for Task Force Phoenix in Kandahar.  Rich retired in 2013 at the rank of Colonel as the NYS Counterdrug Task Force Commander with 20 years of active duty service and 31 years total military service.  His awards include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Joint Meritorious Service Medal, Joint Commendation Medal, three Meritorious Service Medals, Afghanistan Campaign Medal and Airborne Badge.

Rich lives in Slingerlands, NY with his wife Susan and has two sons, Stefan and Dominic, and two step-daughters, Nicole and Stephanie.  He and his wife enjoy hiking, biking and kayaking, the Adirondacks, traveling and spending time with their family.


Dr. Grażyna Kozaczka Received 2016 “Polekoz of the Year” Award.

On June 10, 2016, Congressman John Katko presented Cazenovia College’s very own Dr. Grażyna Kozaczka, distinguished professor of English and director of the All-College Honors Program, with the 2016 Outstanding Pole of the Year award given annually by the Polish Scholarship Fund. Congressman Katko also recognized Dr. Kozaczka as this year’s recipient during the May 26, 2016 session of Congress, entering the honor into Congressional Record. (See Congressman Katko’s statement (pdf).

A native of Krakow, Poland, Dr. Kozaczka received her doctoral degree in American Literature from Jagiellonian University. She is the author of a monograph about realism in American literature and a popular book on traditional Polish needlework. She is currently working on a study devoted to Polish American literature published after World War II. Dr. Kozaczka has published scholarly essays, short fiction, and other popular articles in both Polish and English.

“The Outstanding Pole award is given every year by the Polish Scholarship Fund to honor individuals for their contribution to Polish American communities,” commented Dr. Kozaczka. “I have been chosen this year for my work as the president of the Polish American Historical Association. It is a scholarly organization devoted to the study of Polish American history and culture.”

Dr. Kozaczka’s research interests include American ethnic literature, women’s literature, literature of the Holocaust, as well as traditional Polish folk dress and adornment. She is the president of Polish American Historical Association, an organization devoted to the study of Polish American history and culture as a part of the grater Polish Diaspora. She is also a member of the Polish Institute of Arts and Science of America, The Jozef Pilsudski Institute of America and the Modern Language Association.

Every year the Polish Scholarship Fund chooses 10 high school seniors of Polish descent to award scholarships. This organization is devoted to the study of Polish American history and culture. The 600 members of this worldwide organization are affiliated with colleges and universities that represent many disciplines in subjects such as history, literature, sociology, political sciences education, and musicology.

The Cazenovia College community congratulates Dr. Kozaczka on her latest honor and her continued work in the field of literature!

 Source Published: Cazenovia College  June 13, 2016 – 2:57pm


      “2015 Pole of the Year “


Marian Poczobutt is a lifelong resident of Syracuse and member of Sacred Heart parish, where he attended grammar school.  After graduating in 1981 from the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, he worked as a Civil Engineer for the NY State Department of Transportation, later returning to SUNY ESF to obtain a Master’s Degree in Mapping Sciences, working at several positions in that field at the college.

Both of his parents immigrated to the United States. His father was a Prisoner of War in Germany, and then spent several years in a refugee camp before arriving in the United States in 1949. He and Marian’s mother were engaged prior to the outbreak of war, but were unable to reunite until 1958, when the Cold War thawed a little and she was able to come to Syracuse.

Polish was always spoken at home, and Marian attended the Saturday Polish classes for children at Sacred Heart. His parents also maintained Polish traditions and taught the family Polish history. He and his brother were sent to Poland in 1976 so that they would meet their extended family and know their homeland. That trip fueled Marian’s interest in Poland, its history and its people, and he has returned six times since then.

Marian has been on the Board of Directors of the Syracuse Polish Home and is currently the Financial Secretary. He is also the treasurer of the White Eagle Club.  Marian volunteers at many events at the Polish Home, ranging from the monthly pancake breakfasts to special events such as Sacred Heart School reunions or last year’s 95th Anniversary Banquet.

His interest in and vast knowledge of Polish history has led him to give the annual Polish Heritage Month lecture on many topics relating to Poland, and also to create displays at Hazard Branch Library for Polish Heritage Month, and to assist with the annual May 3rdPolish Constitution Day observances.  Marian also single-handedly ensures that Polish Flags are flying over the graves of Polish Veterans each Memorial Day.  He has also created a display on “Poland in World War II” for the 2005 Polish Festival, which highlights the Enigma Code Breakers as well as Poland’s role in Monte Cassino.

PSF  would like to thank  Dr. Jozef J. Zwislocki and Tomasz Skwarnicki for generous contributions to our organization.

Outstanding Pole of 2014: Jozef J. Zwislocki
Outstanding Pole of 2013: Artur Pyrda
Outstanding Pole of 2012: Charlie Hollis
Outstanding Pole of 2011: Father Thomas P. Kobuszewski
Outstanding Poles of 2010: CNY Polka DJs
Outstanding Pole of 2009: Robert Synakowski
Outstanding Pole of 2008: Tomasz Skwarnicki
Outstanding Poles of 2007: The United Polka League
Outstanding Pole of 2006: Dr. Elizabeth Mroziewicz
Outstanding Poles of 2005: Joseph Baraniewicz and Walter Boruszewski
Outstanding Pole of 2004: Helga Kolek
Outstanding Pole of 2003: Professor Tadeusz Iwaniec
Outstanding Poles of 2002: Rev. Walter Madej and Dr. Richard Chmielewski
Outstanding Pole of 2001: Charlie Hollis

Pole of the Year is sponsored by Charles F. Hollis


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