Darlene L. Pfeiffer is nothing short of a trailblazer. This magnanimous entrepreneur has built a philanthropic and entrepreneurial legacy fueled by her passion for women and education, earning her a spot in the 2013 publication Remarkable Women in New York State History.
Darlene was inspired to launch an entrepreneurial career in the fast-food business after a chance meeting with Dave Thomas, the future founder of Wendy’s. When Pfeiffer opened five KFC locations in 1966, the bank stipulated that her husband take a 51% stake in order for her to receive a loan. Amidst a divorce occurring shortly after the locations opened, Darlene pushed forward – she maintained ownership of three of the original five franchises and simultaneously completed her education at SUNY New Paltz, graduating summa cum laude.
In 2016, Darlene’s Kingston KFC franchise won an award for being number one in customer service out of approximately 4,000 KFC restaurants nationwide. That same year, Darlene was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Association of Kentucky Fried Chicken Franchises.
Darlene is strategically involved in numerous charitable organizations throughout the region, regularly giving to community food programs such as the Clinton Avenue United Methodist Church’s Annual Thanksgiving Day dinner, and is a donor and board director of the Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley.
In 2010, Darlene joined the Ulster Community College Foundation, Inc.’s Board of Directors and in 2012, the Darlene L. Pfeiffer Center for Entrepreneurial Studies opened at SUNY Ulster. At the time, the donation for the center was the single-largest gift and pledge to the community college by a living donor, earning her recognition from the New York Community College Trustees with the Benefactor Vision for Tomorrow Award.
In 2015, the SUNY Ulster OWN It! Entrepreneurial Women’s Conference was launched. The annual event, sponsored through Darlene’s contributions and vision, has galvanized and energized the community of women entrepreneurs serving some 500 women to date.
Darlene was also the originating contributor for SUNY Ulster’s Pfeiffer Technology and Innovation Lab, which opened in September 2017. The Pfeiffer Lab is a member of the SMARTT (SUNY Manufacturing Alliance for Research and Technology Transfer) Lab network. Darlene’s six-figure contribution helped SUNY Ulster to raise over $950,000 for the project.
In 2018, Darlene was only the second recipient to receive the Foundation's Your Promise Their Future Award which acknowledges donors who, “by substantial planned gifts, or generous contributions provide future or present-day funding deemed to be transformative.” At the time, Darlene was providing $15,000 in annual scholarships to students of SUNY Ulster, many of whom were single parents, and had been supporting Ulster students for some 15 years. Darlene’s scholarship giving has topped $110,000 and has assisted over 100 students with persisting with their education.
Darlene has used her influence and passion for the community to support a remarkable amount of entrepreneurship and innovation at SUNY Ulster and in our broader Ulster County Community. Darlene is SUNY Ulster's top donor and her impact on our community college is immeasurable.