The late chairman and CEO of M&T Bank, Robert Wilmers, was a big fan of cycling to work. Not only was it a preferred mode of transportation for the CEO, but it was also another one how he felt he could lead by example. In a world where it was all too easy to hop in a car and drive to work, Wilmers identified cycling as the best way to get around town. He liked to be outdoors. He also liked being healthy on the road. Not to mention the comfort.
Now, to further honor Wilmers’ legacy, M&T has partnered with Seneca One to display Wilmers’ iconic bike, which now sits proudly in the lobby of the tower, home to the M&T Tech Hub. The bike not only represents Wilmers’ commitment to philanthropy and community involvement, it also represents an ever-changing world – a world that has become so complicated that “going back to basics” is almost considered revolutionary.
To celebrate the installation of the bike, which represents Wilmers himself, more than 175 M&T employees and partners came together to assemble 50 youth bikes. Since Wilmers was a huge supporter of the educational efforts of organizations such as Buffalo Prep and Buffalo Promise Neighborhood, it was only fitting that this gesture be made.
The bike itself was donated to M&T by the Wilmers family, to remind people that sometimes the simplest and most rewarding pleasures in life come from the most unexpected places. Wilmers lived his life to the fullest, but oddly enough, it was a bike that spoke for him immeasurably. Not a Porsche. Not a Riva Rivamare. But a classic bike. Now that’s class.
“I never saw my dad not cycling to work,” Chris Wilmers said. “He even did it during an ice storm in the 80s that turned Central Park into a big ice rink. He ended up on the 6 o’clock news that day. His bike is a symbol of perseverance and commitment to always do the right thing. He was a strong supporter of Buffalo and wanted the best for the children of this great city. Our family is proud of the work M&T employees do and grateful that they continue its legacy to the next generation.
This new installation will help the building’s new residents and visitors reflect on the character and impact of one of the most important figures in the city’s banking history.
“It’s been nearly five years since Western New York lost a great community leader and advocate, but Robert Wilmers’ legacy of leadership and generosity lives on,” said Eric Feldstein, regional president of M&T for western New York. “Bob was passionate about ensuring the children of Buffalo had equal opportunity for education and personal growth. It’s a lasting impact that lives on through our bank’s determined efforts to make a difference in the lives of children. Bob has helped shape a culture of community involvement at M&T Bank, and I’m sure he would be proud of our great employees who volunteered today to build bikes for local youth.
“Riding a bike is a rite of passage for most kids, but not every kid has their own bike,” said Jennifer Rizzo-Choi, executive director of the Buffalo International Institute. “We are grateful to put these bikes in the hands of local children who will not only have a new way to get to school, but they will also experience the simple joy of riding a bike. With every block these kids walk, the legacy of Robert Wilmers goes with them. Buffalo’s nonprofits are fortunate that our city has been so heavily influenced and inspired by such a wonderful philanthropist and advocate, not only by today’s bicycle donation, but also by the way businesses communities champion causes and make charitable donations.
“It means so much to have Robert Wilmers’ iconic bicycle hanging here permanently in our lobby at Seneca One,” said Douglas Jemal, Founder and President of Douglas Development. “History and preservation drive our many development efforts here in downtown Buffalo, which is why this important piece of history is the perfect addition to our space.” We are honored to have been chosen to help preserve Bob’s bike – and his legacy – for years to come.
M&T worked with Bert’s Bikes & Fitness to source the bikes for this project. Other Seneca One tenants, including 43North, Odoo and Lighthouse Technology Services, have also volunteered to help build the bikes. Members of MTB Fit, a resource group for M&T Bank employees, were also in attendance and played an important role in shaping the community bike build. This employee-led volunteer group has become a powerful force for good, supporting M&T’s work to advance healthy lifestyles and habits for its employees.