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RIT executive and community leader Barry Culhane has died

Barry Culhane
Emily Hunt
For WXXI News
Barry Culhane speaks about the Vietnam War in his home on June 20, 2017. Culhane, a U.S. Army veteran, was instrumental in getting the Vietnam War memorial constructed in Highland Park. He said it was a labor of love.

A longtime leader at RIT, who was also known for his many community efforts including work on behalf of area veterans has died.

Barry Culhane died suddenly in Florida on Sunday night at the age of 76.

Culhane was executive assistant to the president at RIT under four presidents, and recently that university marked his retirement after 47 years.

Al Simone was president of RIT from 1992 until 2007, and he remembers Culhane fondly, as someone who helped him when he first took over the leadership role at RIT.

“He’d been recognized from high school, through the Vietnam Memorial because of his national contributions and all the way along the line,” said Simone. “Therefore, he knew everybody, knew everything and was a great entrée for me, helped me to get to know the people in the community, get to know the community, get to know the culture.”

Simone praised Culhane sense of duty, and his ability to get things done. “Barry stands out, he’s sort of one of a kind, I’d say, I call them the servant leader. He always had these ideas, ‘I want to do this, I want to do that, it’s not being done.’ And he’d get people around him to join up, and then someone would ask him to do something, and he’d serve,” said Simone.

Culhane was instrumental in getting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial built in Highland Park. He also served stateside during that war. During an interview with WXXI News in 2017, he was asked about the fact the military ended up keeping him based in the U.S., rather than shipping him off to Vietnam.

“Oh, there’s a part of me that for sure, I wanted to go. There’s another part of me that was, hey God’s telling me something, and I’m lucky,” said Culhane.

During his wartime service, Culhane had medical training and worked with soldiers who had been burned by Napalm. In his interview with WXXI, he talked about the pain those men must have felt.

“I’ve said this my whole life, I know the difference between a bad day and a good day, and I’ve never had a bad day, and that is the truth.” Culhane said he knew that he had to do everything he could to take care of people.

Culhane also received a Lifetime Achievement Award for his support of the local veterans community. And he was an active member and past president of the Rochester Rotary.

Executive Director Tracey Dreisbach said that Culhane was at their regular luncheon last week, which was on Veteran’s Day, and was glad she had time to spend with him and laugh, and joke, and said, “that’s the way I want to remember Barry.”

Dreisbach said that Culhane was always willing to lend a hand to Rotary projects, and described him as a man “with a huge heart,” who “wanted to do what he could to better our community.”

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.