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Issue 26

Winter 2016

Connecticut’s Public Liberal Arts University


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From the President


Democracy at Work


Edmondson Coaches Gold!


Points of Pride


Thank You, Officer Getz!


Eastern Celebrates!


The XL Center Comes Alive at Commencement 2016




See inside back cover for more details

Staff and Contributors Executive Editor Kenneth DeLisa Editor Edward Osborn Associate Editor Michael Rouleau Designers Kevin Paquin | Leigh Balducci | Sarah Gambardella Contributors Meghan Carden | Robert Molta Photographer Tom Hurlbut EASTERN Magazine is published by the Division of Institutional Advancement for the benefit of alumni, students, faculty, staff and friends of Eastern Connecticut State University.

EASTERN Magazine is printed on coated paper that is certified by three environmental groups and manufactured with 30 percent post-consumer recycled fiber.

From the President’s Desk




Alumni Inducted Into Fellows Program Community


Eastern Offers Four New Programs


Chamber Singers Perform With Josh Groban


Catching Up With Charlotte Smith


Matches Made at Eastern


Our Reputation Continues to Grow




Willi the World Traveler


Students Explore the Globe


Work Hub Links Students and Employers


Behind the Scenes with Kim Silcox


Class Notes


Final Thoughts

Inside Back Cover

Jazzin’ It Up at Eastern!

In this issue

Issue 26 | Winter 2016

While we work hard on our campus to prepare students for successful careers, I believe the liberal arts education offered at Eastern is most critical in providing students with the citizenship skills fundamental to protecting our freedoms. Being free to have our own (informed) opinions is at the heart of our democracy. Hundreds of years ago, Thomas Jefferson wrote that publicly supported education was necessary “to enable every man to judge for himself what will secure or endanger his freedom.” To support students’ citizenship skills in an election year, Eastern hosted a series of more than 25 events on our campus this fall to engage students in the electoral process. You can read about some of those events in this issue of EASTERN magazine. At a minimum, we want our students to be informed voters. We want them to behave civilly and respectfully in their own discussions on issues facing our nation. Some of our students may even become civic leaders in their own communities after graduation. In addition to supporting democracy, the Eastern campus has been busy in other ways. Several new majors and minors have been launched this academic year. Students and their faculty mentors continue to shine as scholars and researchers, on campus, on stage, at conferences and during study abroad trips. And alumni are showcasing their talents across the globe as well. This issue of EASTERN magazine also shares several poignant stories with the Eastern family. One senior saved in a fire when she was five years old

brought the police officer who saved her to this year’s graduation — what an inspirational, uplifting narrative! And we also have a number of Eastern couples describing how they first met on campus. In reading these stories of progress and hope, I am reminded of what a special university we are blessed to share. For many generations, Eastern has been a place that brings people together, creating a unity of purpose as faculty, staff and students work to make this a better world. Each day I witness our students seeking to better understand the world in which we live, discovering new ways to address social conditions, environmental change and technological challenges. I have tremendous faith in today’s students and know that as they make their own contributions to our society, they will carry memories of their time at Eastern well into the future. Thank you for being an active member of the Eastern community!

Elsa M. Núñez

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What Democracy Means to Me

As an immigrant from Argentina who has made America my home, democracy has been the force behind my decision to teach and engage students in the education system. As a professional in higher education, it is my duty to help students develop civic responsibility and broaden their horizons on what it means to be an active citizen. Active citizenship means taking ownership of our own actions and considering how they affect those around us. Part of my job is to encourage students to promote the common good through projects such as community service, mentorship programs and student-leader jobs, teaching them social justice, human rights, solidarity and environmental sustainability in the process.

Federica A. Bucca ’13 M. Ed., Providence College Residence Hall Coordinator San Diego State University

Cass said the campaign had become a “personality contest,” noting that little discussion among the candidates was taking place over their plans or how they would respond in a crisis. “This year, issues have taken a back seat.”

From Sept. 29 to Nov. 4, more than 25 events and activities took place on the Eastern campus as part of “Democracy at Work,” a campus-wide initiative to advance civil discourse on the election and related public policy. Led by Political Science Professor Nicole Krassas, faculty conducted open classes, arranged guest speakers, and supported student creativity and scholarship on campus. “I am very pleased with the number of students who turned out to these events,” said Krassas. “’Democracy at Work’ required a huge collaborative effort by the faculty and truly embodied Eastern’s liberal arts mission.” The schedule kicked off on Sept. 29 with a panel discussion of national media experts, including Oren Cass of the Manhattan Institute, Tim Murphy from Mother Jones and Fernando Pizarro of Univision. 2 • Winter 2016 • EASTERN

The panel was moderated by Lucy Nalpathanchil of WNPR. The panelists explained that media coverage of presidential elections has changed, with information now being disseminated through social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter. “The information that you get from those two (Facebook and Twitter) is really different (from traditional media),” Pizarro said. He said while Twitter “allows you to go beyond your beliefs or your ideology,” Facebook provides users with information based on the topics they have already looked at, reinforcing beliefs rather than informing new opinions.

As a part of Eastern’s “University Hour” series, students conducted a mock presidential debate on Oct. 5. The event was co-sponsored by the Student Government Association.

Left: Moderator Lucy Nalpathanchil, host of WNPR’s “Where We Live”; below from left: Panelists Oren Cass, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, Fernando Pizarro, Washington, DC, correspondent for Univision and Tim Murphy, senior reporter for Mother Jones magazine.

“The mock presidential debate was a wonderful opportunity for me to see what other students at Eastern think about the candidates,” said Psychology Major Alyssa Sokaitis ’19.

Right: Mock student debaters Francesco Ricigliano ’19, James Dignoti ’17, Allison Kazlauskas ’17 and Joshua Newhall ’18


Forty “Museums and Exhibitions” students developed “Visualizing Democracy, Political Cartoons from the Election,” an exhibition of 70 political cartoons that was on display in the Fine Arts Instructional Center from Oct. 4-Nov. 2. The exhibition illustrated the persuasive power and symbolism of the cartoons, with attention given to such themes as bias, corruption, racism, foreign policy, gender and political correctness. Also included was selected art by students in response to these topics.

What Democracy Means to Me

Every personal belief or political idea has meaning. The weight of everyone’s ideas is the powerful force that drives successful democracy. As editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, I see this on a daily basis. All students are free to voice their opinion, no matter how polarizing, and the healthy discussion that follows is incredibly valuable. If nothing else, every party within the discussion walks away with a broader perspective and a deeper understanding of someone else’s opinions. Everyone’s voice matters, and taking advantage of our free press is one of the best ways to be heard. The free flow of information creates a marketplace in which the best ideas thrive to become popular opinion, allowing the democratic process to blossom.

Christy Allyn ’18

Campus Lantern Editor

Throughout the first week of October, “Events under Tents,” held on the Library/Webb Quad, featured poetry readings, visits from political campaign organizations and a history contest that had more than 100 faculty, students and staff trying their luck guessing the correct answers on past presidents and first ladies. “Events under Tents” also featured a daily voter registration drive staffed by Eastern student volunteers. “I think it is important for students to register to vote so they can have their voices heard,” said Pre-Social Work Major Maria Puorro ’20.

In “The Immigration Project,” a multi-media, oral storytelling performance on Oct. 5-6, Theatre Major Sabina Mamedova told the story of her family’s survival from political oppression and religious persecution as they fled Turkey to come to the United States. Assisting Mamedova were New Media Studies students, who developed a soundscape that played over multimedia content taken from the news media, official documents and historical records, and the Modern Dance Club, which created dance movement to give Mamedova’s story a dramatic and visceral context. Senior Political Science and Theatre Major Lucy Shea was proud to help bring Mamedova’s story to life: “This show is so moving because it illustrates how powerful and educational theater can be in communicating political issues.”

More than 20 members of the faculty designed and presented “open classes” on a variety of topics related to or impacted by the 2016 election. Well attended with an average of 45 visitors each, the classes ranged from discussions of the political implications of science (Biology Professor Liz Cowles) to issues of foreign policy (Political Science Professor Martin Mendoza-Botelho and Communication Lecturer Cesar Beltran) and global economic inequality (Sociology Professor Dennis Canterbury). History Professor Thomas Balcerski

What Democracy Means to Me

What is democracy? It is an outlet to express the concerns of the people, to make sure that the officials we elect are accountable to our interests. In the end, the power is in the hands of the people. Let me give you an example. There was a group of councilors in my hometown who, as popular as they were, made the decision to sell our water authority plant to a regional supplier. The second the bill was passed, a campaign was started to disavow these officials, because, according to the people, the decision to do this was not in the interest of the community. In the last local election, almost every single councilor that voted for the bill got voted out. To me this demonstrates that voters have the ability to effect real change.

Harrison Brooks ’17

History Professors Thomas Balcerski and Caitlin Carenen discussed past presidential elections and the historical use of personal attacks as a campaign tactic. Balcerski called the election of 1800 a “revolution” that transferred power from John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, and said, “The election still offers us many lessons, most importantly, how Americans must always stand ready to safeguard our cherished democracy in times of turbulent transition.” Sociology Professors William Lugo and Teresa Severance discussed criminal justice, voting rights and communities of color. “Communities of color are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system, and policies limiting the voting rights of individuals have an even greater impact on these communities,” said Severance. One of the most popular open classes was a review of the protest music of the ’60s and ’70s by Music Professor Stacy Dziuk, which was attended by a packed house.

SGA President

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A Coventry native, Edmondson has been at the top of her game since she was a youngster, when she won two state junior titles and four state championships at Coventry High School. At Eastern, she was an All-American in the discus and hammer, later winning national hammer throw championships in 1990 and 1991 as a professional. (Excerpts taken from Willimantic Chronicle, Aug. 3, 2016)

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“I felt honored to be selected to coach at the Olympics because I know it’s a rigorous process,” said Edmondson. “The Olympics is the pinnacle of people’s careers. This is what athletes and coaches shoot for. This is their ultimate goal.”

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A part-time coach at Trinity College, Edmondson is a program manager for the Connecticut State Department of Education for school health programs. The Rio Olympics were not her first time coaching U.S. athletes, as she has been guiding throwers at national events and world championships for more than a decade.

Edmondson continues to give back to her alma mater. In addition to being a member of the E-Club Hall of Fame, she is a regular as Mistress of Ceremonies at the annual E-Club Hall of Fame banquet. For the past 16 years, the University has awarded the Bonnie J. Edmondson Senior Female Sportsperson-of-the-Year Award each spring to a student who reflects Bonnie’s qualities of sportsmanship, teamwork, spirit and fair play.


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One of Edmondson’s throwers, Michelle Carter of Red Oak, TX, became the first U.S. female Olympian to win gold in the shot put, improving on her performance at the 2012 London Games when she was fifth. Other athletes under Edmondson’s charge finished fifth in the shot put and sixth and eighth in the hammer throw.

In 1992, Edmondson would have qualified for the Barcelona Olympic Games if the hammer had been an official Olympic sport; it wasn’t included until the 2000 Games. She retired as a professional in 1997.

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Fans of Eastern athletics have spent almost 30 years enjoying the grace, wisdom, strength and athleticism of two-time All-American Bonnie Edmondson ’87. This year, Edmondson took her skills to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where she served as coach of the 12 U.S. women competing in the javelin, hammer, discus and shot put events at the XXXI Olympiad.

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EASTERN CELEBRATES! Josibelk Aponte ’16 graduated this past May 17 magna cum laude, with a degree in accounting that she is already putting to use at her new job at Walston & Ignagni in South Windsor. But her graduation at the XL Center in Hartford was special for another reason. That evening, joining her family to cheer her on was former Hartford police officer Peter Getz, who holds a unique place in her heart.

Josibelk has only faint memories of the day Getz came into her life. On June 25, 1998, the Hartford patrolman arrived on the scene of a burning apartment as a firefighter was carrying an unconscious five-year-old child from the building. The fireman handed the young girl, none other than Josibelk, to Getz and hurried back to fight the flames. Getz performed CPR on Josibelk and rushed her to Hartford Hospital where she slowly recovered. The family’s apartment had been destroyed and Josibelk’s uncle had died in the fire, so Getz and his fellow officers raised funds for the family. They were also able to get Bob’s Furniture to replace some of the family’s belongings. Getz would visit Josibelk in the hospital, and she still has the teddy bear he gave her during her recovery. The Apontes moved to Vernon and the connection with Getz faded. Two years ago, Josibelk reestablished contact with Getz and the two now meet regularly to talk about Getz’s children and how Josibelk’s college career has transpired. This past May, it was not surprising that Josibelk invited Getz to join her family at Eastern’s Commencement exercises.

“There are only a few moments that are so important in life,” she said. “I wanted to share my graduation with everyone who’s important to me, who have been there for me and who helped me through tough times.”

Josibelk Aponte ’16 and her family enjoy the Eastern Celebrates barbeque on May 14.

The 11th Annual “Eastern Celebrates” Reunion Weekend kicked off on Friday, May 13, with the classes of 2001 through 2015 reuniting at Blarney’s for Eastern’s seventh annual “Bash for the Past” party. Even the most superstitious of alumni had a great time, especially those from the five-year reunion classes of 2001, 2006 and 2011. The bar and the patio were packed with happy alumni enjoying the DJ, dancing, food and liquid refreshments. A brisk wind and plenty of sunshine greeted alumni for the second day of the weekend on Saturday, May 14. The Jubilee Class of 1966, the last class to graduate from Willimantic State College, spent the morning touring campus. They shared lots of memories about living in Burr Hall, practice teaching in Noble and all the time they spent in Shafer. The Class of ’66 enjoyed a luncheon in the Art Gallery of the new Fine Arts Instructional Center (FAIC), where they were joined by alumni from the classes of 1951, ’56, ’61 and other alumni who graduated more than 50 years ago. Provost Dimitrios Pachis greeted alumni at a special Reunion Reception in the Susan Sukman McCray Foyer in the

FAIC, where the Class of ’66 received their golden diplomas, with alumni from the classes of 1971 and 1976 cheering them on. While the Reunion Reception was going on, the Biology Department held a reunion in the Science Building with more than 80 alumni, guests, faculty and nearly all of the department’s emeriti faculty in attendance —in person and via Skype. The Master of Science in Organizational Management program held its annual reunion in the Student Center Café, and alumni from Eastern’s Honors Program attended the annual ceremony for the 2016 Honors Program graduates. Alumni from the classes of ’81, ’86, ’91 and ’96 arrived on campus just in time for the Alumni March, led by Anne Mahalawich ’43 of Norwich. The Class of ’66 asked her to lead them into the Big Tent Barbeque, noting that she graduated the year that most of the ‘66ers were born! A lively crowd of Class of 2016 seniors and their families cheered the alumni as they entered the tent to enjoy a tasty barbeque. To close out the day, alumni from the ’80s and ’90s moved down High Street to Blarney’s to continue their reunion. All in all, nearly 1,000 people were back on campus for the best Eastern Celebrates ever!

Left: Three generations of Eastern graduates from the Henesler/Halloran family together at the Eastern Celebrates “Big Tent BBQ.” Charles Halloran Sr. ’86, Lisa Halloran, Mellissa Halloran ’16, Sean Terry, Elizabeth Henseler ’64, Robert Henseler ’64, Charles Halloran Jr.. Above middle: Kenneth M. Briggs ’02, ’05MS, ’10 MS and Greg Petranek ’06MS visit at the Master’s in Organizational Management reunion. Below: Young alumni show their Eastern pride at the Eastern Celebrates “Young Alumni Bash” at Blarney’s Café.

It was a special moment for Getz as well. “To see the outcome, to see how successful she has been, makes my heart beat faster.” And Josibelk is forever grateful. “Not many people can or are willing to put themselves in danger to save others. It is because of people like Peter and all of our police officers and firefighters that I am alive.” (Excerpts taken from the Hartford Courant, May 18, 2016; photos courtesy of Hartford Courant and Deputy Chief Brian Foley, Hartford Police Department)

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Left: The class of 1966 gathered outside of Noble Hall during their Jubilee Reunion tour of campus. Jane Papineau ’70, Robert Yeaw ’66, Paula (Uccello) Meillo ’66, John LaPlante ’66, Marie (Leone) Chicoine ’66, Phillip Papineau ’66, Christine (Cellucci) Estelle ’66, Pauline (Archambault) Trahan ’66, Clara (Lambert) Kalnitsky ’66, Karen (Nyborg) Price ’66, Linda (Dantonio) Raffa ’66, Jane (Eastham) Sweeney ’66, Susan (Rogers) Baker ’66, Joyce (Kirkup) Back ’66. Lower Right: Shelley McEwan ’06MS and Donna Dojan ’09MS visit at the Master’s in Organizational Management reunion. Bottom: Alumni and faculty at the Biology Alumni reunion reception.

Right: Emeritus Professor Mike Adams and Eastern Fellow Marc Freeman ’93 catch up during the Biology Department reunion. Far Right: Young alumni show their Eastern pride at the Eastern Celebrates “Young Alumni Bash” at Blarney’s Café.


Above: Ruth (Standish) Swift ’64, Larry Colvin ’64, and Carol (Weber) Colvin ’65 enjoy a laugh during their Eastern Celebrates Alumni Reception. Below: Members of the class of 1966 reflect on their days on campus and prepare to lead the Eastern Celebrates “Alumni March.”

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Dr. Elsa Núñez

M Jerry Franklin

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ore than 12,000 family members and friends filled the XL Center in Hartford on Tuesday, May 17, to cheer on the 1,221 undergraduates and 25 graduate students who received their diplomas at Eastern Connecticut State University’s 126th Commencement exercises.

Franklin has served as CEO and president of CPBN for more than 30 years. Speaking to the graduates, he said, “You may feel overwhelmed by today’s events … it feels like the world is coming unglued. You may see these times as a pivotal point in human history. It is where we have always been. Life is all about moments of transition. Tonight you are coming to the end of your college phase, bringing you back to a beginning, a new start. Do not be afraid of this time. Adjusting to change is what life is all about, and the liberal arts undergraduate degree you have earned is the first step toward your success.”

Jerry Franklin, CEO and president of the Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network, was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa during the Commencement Exercises, and offered remarks following presentation of his honorary degree.

Eastern President Elsa Núñez told the graduates, “Our nation and the global society we live in look to you for leadership. As you begin your career, take care of yourself, take care of your families, but make sure that you take time to help others when

you can. You will find that supporting and helping others strengthens you. St. Francis of Assisi once said, ‘Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take nothing that you have received...but only what you have given; a full heart enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice and courage.’” In her Senior Class Address, Gabriela Wrobel described coming to the United States from Poland when she was 11 years old, and said, “It was at Eastern, in this tight-knit community, that I found my home over the past four years.” Turning to her fellow graduates, Wrobel said, “At Eastern, we have developed a deeper way of thinking about the world and the solutions to its problems. We leave here as liberally educated people, well-rounded, rational, critical and ethical members of society, ready to create change where change is needed.” EASTERN • Winter 2016 • 13

Six Alumni Inducted into

In the past year, two classes of distinguished alumni have been inducted into the Eastern Fellows Program. Established in the 2008-09 academic year, the program honors outstanding alumni while engaging them in the life of the University. Since its inception, 26 alumni have been inducted.

Classes of fall 2015 and fall 2016

In fall 2015, Michael Endler ’81, Janice Deskus ’88 and Frederick Hughes ’87 were inducted; in fall 2016 Tracey Boyden ’89, Cynthia Konney ’77 and Andrew Zlotnick ’85 joined the Eastern Fellows. As part of the induction ceremonies, the alumni visited classes and led a panel discussion for students, during which they spoke of their careers and reflected on their time as Eastern students.

Eastern Fellows Program

Michael Endler '81

janice DEskus '88

frederick hughes '87

tracey boyden '89

cynthia konney '77

andrew zlotnick '85

Endler, a public policy & government and communication double major, is now a top government lawyer and partner in the Albany, NY, office of Boies, Schiller and Flexner, LLP.

Deskus, a psychology major, has forged a successful career in human resources. Currently the group vice president of human resources at Medtronic, she previously managed human resources programs for insurance giants Aetna and Cigna.

Hughes, a business administration major, is a certified public accountant (CPA) and fraud examiner with BlumShapiro, the largest firm of its kind based in New England.

Boyden, a biology major, is a principal scientist at Pfizer who holds several patents and has contributed to the development of numerous drug therapies that treat a variety of diseases.

Konney, an environmental earth science major, is a nationally recognized expert at identifying, evaluating and appraising gems and jewelry.

Zlotnick, also an environmental earth science major, is a senior vice president at Fuss & O’Neill, a civil and environmental engineering consulting firm. He emphasized the ability to write — a principle skill taught on Eastern’s liberal arts campus — noting that job interviewees at Fuss & O’Neill have to take a 20-minute writing test. “It’s very telling,” he said, “…the people who can put their thoughts down quickly and coherently.”

Reflecting on his time at Georgetown University during law school, Endler said, “In many ways, I felt I had an advantage, coming from a small school with lots of opportunities to be involved.”

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“Consider work-life balance, and design your career around that goal,” Deskus told students. “Get really clear on what you want and are willing to do.”

Eastern’s small size was the dealmaker for Hughes. “I wanted to get to know the professors,” he said. Hughes also obtained an internship, and added, “Eastern brought the real world to the classroom; it allowed me to come out of my comfort zone.”

“Science and technology change all the time; Pfizer has changed immensely over the years,” said Boyden. She credits the well-rounded education she got at Eastern with enabling her to “stick with the changes.”

Konney credits Eastern with building her personal and professional confidence. Being a commuter, she also advised students to be more involved in the cultural and extracurricular offerings on campus.

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Eastern Launches New Programs Eastern Connecticut State University is offering four new programs this academic year — a major in criminology and minors in bioinformatics, environmental health science and insurance.

Criminology The criminology major explores the social construction of crime, the causes of criminal behavior, and the societal and governmental responses to crime. “As our society continues to grow in diversity, and as public dollars shift from traditional corrections jobs into alternative sentencing measures, the need for broadly trained criminologists will grow significantly,” said Sociology Professor Theresa Severance.

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Environmental Health Science The environmental health science minor explores the relationship between human health and the environment, and how one influences the other. “Who hasn’t heard about the Zika virus or the water crisis in Flint, MI?” said Catherine Carlson, professor of hydrology. “These are just two examples of how the intersection of human activities and the environment influences health. Environmental health science addresses a myriad of such intersections.”

The minor in insurance is meant to meet the demand for new employees in the insurance industry, which expanded by 26 percent from 2010 to 2015, reaching more than $5.1 trillion in 2015. “As these activities increase, so will insurance for those activities,” said Finance Professor Chiaku Chukwuogor. “Considering our everchanging health care system and recent workforce predictions, it is important that we produce more qualified manpower for the growing insurance industry.”

Alexis Lyonnais, a senior psychology major with a minor in criminology, is midway through the program’s required internship. Throughout the fall semester she’s interning 10 hours per week at the adult probation office in Willimantic, a subset of the state’s judicial branch. “I hope to eventually work as a probation officer, a parole officer or even possibly a correctional officer,” said Lyonnais, who is working with the Women's Offender Case Management Model (WOCM), a specialized unit for female probationers. “My favorite part of the internship is getting to sit in on visits with different officers. Although the situations of the clients may be similar, every case and visit is different."

Bioinformatics The bioinformatics minor prepares students for Connecticut’s growing biomedical and pharmaceutical industry. Using computational and mathematical tools, the goal of the program is to teach students how to analyze genomic information, which is revolutionizing our understanding of health and disease. “This is a great opportunity for students interested in using computer science and mathematics to solve important biomedical problems, such as better diagnosing and treating genomic diseases like cancer,” said Garrett Dancik, bioinformatics and computer science professor.


Alexis Lyonnais EASTERN • Winter 2016 • 17

Eastern Chamber Singers Perform With Josh Groban for Second Time The Eastern Chamber Singers left such a positive first impression when they performed with singer/ songwriter Josh Groban at the Oakdale Theatre in Wallingford this past fall that they were asked to perform with him again, this time at the Mohegan Sun Arena on July 29. They joined Groban on stage for “Dust and Ashes” and “You Raise Me Up.” “It’s particularly gratifying when professionals recognize Eastern’s exceptional work,” said Vocal Studies Director David Belles. “Having an artist of international acclaim ask us to perform is an honor. The University should be proud of these students.”

Belles said participation in the ensemble is not restricted to music majors. Students in the group major in psychology, accounting, education, visual arts, sociology, biology, theatre, business and more. “It is equally important to acknowledge the vital role of the arts in the lives of our students across campus, all of whom are a product of a liberal arts education,” said Belles. “Believe me when I say there are many institutions that limit involvement in pre-professional experiences such as this to those within the major.”

Catching Up...

Charlotte Smith ’87 Public Policy & Government Major Deputy Director, Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services Department East Lansing, MI

...With Charlotte Smith What are the duties of your job? I oversee four agencies — the Community Action Agency, Area Agency on Aging, Veterans Services and Maternal-Child-Infant Services. There are many stressors in someone’s life that negatively affect physical health — lack of a job, not being able to pay bills, concerns about your child’s health. My job is to assist low-income county residents with these social determinants so they can focus on and remain physically healthy. What’s the best part about your job? Every day there’s a new challenge, whether it’s working to find a place for a homeless veteran to live or creating a program to buy back-to-school clothes for 100 children. What comes to mind when you think of Eastern? The professors and administrators were all very nice and dedicated to helping me be successful. As a non-traditional student, I was married, lived off campus and didn’t have the traditional college experience. However, I had a lot of friends, was president of the Political Science Club, and still had a blast. Describe one of your favorite Eastern memories. Graduation was one of my most prized memories. I was so proud and excited — I even made the cover of the 1989–90 undergraduate bulletin. In the photo I had a huge grin on my face while waving to family members who had traveled from Michigan to see me graduate. Why is it important to give to your alma mater? It’s important to give something back — be it a small or large donation. It helps to keep opportunities available for future students. I was awarded a scholarship and it really helped. 18

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Katie (Lapsis) ’03 and Kevin Gilbert ’04 My wife and I began dating during our sophomore year in February 2001. While we had crossed paths several times, including once in high school, we didn’t notice each other until we were re-introduced in Niejadlik Hall. Quickly we became very close and started dating. Throughout our time at Eastern our love grew and shortly after graduation we became engaged. My proposal actually wasn’t very far from campus. Our wedding took place on July 30, 2005, and 11 years later we are the proud parents of our 6-year-old daughter Brooklyn and our 2-year-old son Barrett. When we have toured campus as a family to show our children where their mom and dad met, the day is filled with wonderful memories and reflections of our time at Eastern. Eastern provided us a world-class education but also an enduring love that has weathered the storms and sunny days of life. There is no one else that I could imagine walking this journey with! (Kevin is the Media Manager at NBC-CT television station in West Hartford, while Katie is a head teacher at Mother Goose Children’s Center in South Windsor.)

Kim (Germain) ’11 and Anthony Giordano ’10 Kim was an elementary education major at Eastern, while Anthony was in business administration. Anthony’s cousin Jackie was Kim’s roommate at freshman orientation, and they continued as roommates for the rest of their college career. Jackie introduced Kim and Anthony . . . “And the rest is history!” “Being together through all four years of college puts you through some tough times and many obstacles,” notes Kim. “When we both realized that we could make it through absolutely anything together, we knew we couldn’t be apart.” The couple moved into their first home in Granby, CT, after graduation and Kim got a job as an elementary school teacher in Farmington, where she just completed her third year. Anthony is a sales manager for Solar City. The couple got married on June 20, 2015, in the atrium of Hartford City Hall, and held their reception at the Society Room of Hartford. This fall they welcomed their first child — a baby girl — into the family! A special moment at Eastern? “Our Senior Reception served as the culminating moment of our whole four years together at Eastern,” says Kim. “It was one of the most fun and memorable nights we had throughout those four years, not only with each other, but with all of our close friends whom we still are close with today. We still talk about that evening as being one of our favorite moments from college!”

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The Currys Cindy (Chmura) Curry ’76 and Steve Curry ’77 grew up only a few miles apart in the Windham area, but didn’t cross paths until they attended a concert at Eastern. “It was 1972 when I was a freshman,” said Cindy. “Some local rock and roll band was playing at the armory across the river. Some mutual friends said, ‘Oh, Steve Curry’s over there.’ I thought he was cute, so I went over and started talking.” The next day there was another dance. This time Steve mustered up the courage to talk, but when he looked for Cindy, she was nowhere to be found. On Sunday morning he decided to visit her at the Dunkin’ Donuts on Main Street — Cindy’s college job. “I was pretty shocked; I wasn’t sure I’d see him again.” Steve sat at the stool of the long, diner-style countertop and the two casually chatted as Cindy worked. Soon they were officially dating. “The rest is history. We married in 1978.” Even though they were both education majors, the only class Cindy and Steve ever had in common was archery in Cindy’s senior year. Concentrating in English, she was usually in Shafer Hall while Steve, concentrating in earth science, was in Goddard Hall. They were both commuters, so their on-campus hangout was the Student Union, where they’d meet for lunch and play pool. Now retired, Cindy and Steve spent their careers as educators predominantly in the Connecticut Technical High School System. “We like to say we were both techies,” said Cindy, who worked at Windham Tech before moving to EastConn, a nonprofit educational center. Steve became the science consultant for the entire technical school system. The two have been married for 38 years. They reside in Ashford and fill their time gardening, volunteering with a number of organizations like the Mark Twain House and the Connecticut Forest and Park Association, and traveling. They’ve toured Europe, taken a Viking Cruise and only have 13 more states to visit before seeing all 50.

Matches Made at Eastern

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Continues to Grow E

astern Connecticut State University is grateful to have received a number of institutional awards and accolades over the years. Here are some of our most recent distinctions. Eastern was ranked the 26th Best Public University in the North by U.S. News and World Report in its 2017 edition of “Best Colleges.” Moving up seven places to 85th overall in the regional rankings, Eastern was the highest ranked university among the four Connecticut state universities; this year’s ranking was Eastern’s best ever. The North region contains colleges and universities in New England, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland.

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The Princeton Review named Eastern as one of the “Best Colleges in the Northeast” in its 2016 edition of “Best Colleges: Region By Region.” More than 200 colleges and universities were recognized in the 11-state region. The Princeton Review also included Eastern in its 2016 “Guide to 361 Green Colleges,” which recognizes the country’s most environmentally friendly colleges. This is the seventh year in a row that Eastern has made the list, which is based on data from a survey of hundreds of four-year colleges concerning their commitment to the environment and sustainability.

Eastern is one of the nation’s “Great Colleges to Work For,” according to the Chronicle of Higher Education’s 2016 survey. Of the 281 institutions recognized, Eastern was one of only 42 schools named to the program’s “Honor Roll,” and the only public four-year institution recognized in New England. This was the seventh time that Eastern has been acknowledged since the program began in 2009. For the fifth time in the past six years, the Hartford Courant has recognized Eastern as a “Top Workplace” in Connecticut. Eastern ranked fourth in the “large” category, and was the only higher education institution to be recognized among 61 organizations in Hartford, Middlesex, Tolland, Windham and New London counties.

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"Willi the Warrior,"

Eastern's mascot doll,

Fenway Park


has been busy touring

South Carolina

the world as students,

faculty and alumni have taken him abroad on their travels.

St. Maar ten

New York City

Bahamas Ireland

Florence, Italy


Mt. Penobscot, M


Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

Acadia National Par k

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Durham, North Carolina

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All corners of the globe have been visited since Willimantic State Teachers College students first traveled abroad to visit Cuba in 1957. The following trips embarked this past spring and summer.

COSTA RICA Biology students led by Professors Patricia Szczys and Matthew Graham took a 12-day trip to Costa Rica, where they conducted field experiments in rainforests and explored the country’s tropical landscape.

IRELAND Psychology students accompanied by Professor Jenna Scisco spent a month in Ireland, where they studied the “History of Psychology” at University College Dublin and participated in Irish cultural events such as the centennial of the 1916 Easter Rising.



Communication students and Lecturer Cesar Beltran spent two weeks touring Poland, Austria and Hungary for the global field course “The Nazi Aftermath in Central Europe: History, the Media and the Holocaust.”

s t n e d u t S n

GHANA Health sciences students went to Ghana,

West Africa, for three weeks with Lecturer Shelly Giménez, where they visited health clinics, hospitals and related organizations in the Ashanti region of Ghana.

r e t s a E 28 • Winter 2016 • EASTERN

English students alongside Professor Chris Torockio traveled to Italy for a month-long course “Creative Writing Abroad” where they immersed themselves in the local culture and participated in intensive fiction writing workshops.

ICELAND Environmental earth science students accompanied by three faculty members took a 10-day field course trip to Iceland, where they studied the country’s stunning geology and embarked on excursions such as volcano hikes and swimming in the “Blue Lagoon.”

Explore th eW orld

EASTERN • Winter 2016 • 29

ON-CAMPUS WORK HUB LINKS STUDENTS TO MAJOR EMPLOYERS Most public universities offer students off-campus internships. At Eastern, those include placements at ESPN, Aetna, Pfizer, United Technologies and many other sites in Connecticut and elsewhere. Over the past five years, we have strengthened our relationships with major Connecticut companies by bringing internship opportunities onto campus.

Mark Boxer, Cigna’s global chief information officer

Eastern’s unique on-campus internship program began in fall 2011 when the University partnered with Cigna, the international health care provider headquartered in Bloomfield, CT, to open a “Work Hub” on campus as part of Cigna’s Technology Early Career Development Program (TECDP). The facility gives students a place to develop practical skills without having to travel off campus, while providing Cigna with a dedicated facility where its staff delivers on-site guidance to Eastern interns. Students work in a variety of web development areas, including architecture, applications, infrastructure, protection and social media. “This internship has opened so many doors for my career. I am excited for what Cigna has to offer to the next chapter of my life,” said intern Brittany A. Noonan ’18.

Brittany A. Noonan ’18

In response to the program’s growth, the TECDP moved into expanded headquarters at Eastern in fall 2015. “This type of collaboration between academia and industry is groundbreaking,” said Mark Boxer, Cigna’s global chief information officer. “Eastern is our first partner in this domain, and we are confident this beautiful facility will continue to attract some of the best talent on campus.”

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In summer 2015, biology major Elizabeth Del Buono ’16 worked in the lab of Edison Liu, president and CEO of JAX. Her paid internship involved investigating genetic mutations that contribute to chemotherapy sensitivity in breast cancer.

Business Information Systems Major Matthew Witkowski ’16 is currently in the program. “The internship gives me real-world insight into problems that we are facing in the classroom and gives me a competitive edge over other students. It has also taught me how to properly work in a team,” said Witkowski.

Since the Work Hub’s inception, more than 70 Eastern computer science and business information systems majors have held paid internships in the program, and 54 have continued with Cigna as full-time employees after graduation.

David Ngibuini ’14 went through the program, working on system analysis and application/web development projects within the areas of Internet security, vulnerability management and network intrusion. He is now employed full time at Cigna. “Through practical application of what I learned in class at Eastern in my paid Cigna internship, I was ready to launch my career at a level I would not have expected right out of college.”

Biology major Christina Welch ’18 completed an internship at The Jackson Laboratory this past summer working in the lab of Jacques Banchereau, who studies the human immune system to develop new therapies for life-threatening illnesses.

Eastern’s relationship with Cigna has opened opportunities to work with other major employers in the state. One is The Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine in Farmington, CT. A summer program at JAX to provide Eastern interns with opportunities to conduct bioinformatics and computational biology research has been so successful that Eastern and JAX are developing a plan to bring JAX internships to campus. Paired with a JAX mentor and supervised by Eastern Bioinformatics Professor Garrett Dancik, students will execute bioinformatics or computational biology research projects as they earn credits toward Eastern’s new bioinformatics minor or a computer science elective. Other additions to the Work Hub include Horizons, a local nonprofit organization, and most recently, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). Eleven students studying geographic information systems in the Environmental Earth Science Department have been tasked with developing a searchable database for all state land holdings (state parks, forests and other properties) under DEEP jurisdiction.

David Ngibuini ’14

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In September 1938, in his message for American Education Week, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said “democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.” Never have those words meant more than during the most contentious and confusing presidential election that most of us have ever witnessed. But as Eastern alumni, we’re fortunate to have the tools we need not only to ask the questions that will help us determine truth from hyperbole, but to engage in political discussions with others that are

civil, thoughtful and respectful. We’ve practiced these skills in our classes, by thinking creatively and expressing ourselves convincingly through group discussions, projects and debates. Our Eastern liberal arts education enables us to participate in the greatest exercise in the democratic process – the act of casting an informed vote. And just as Eastern prepared students in the 12 turbulent years of FDR’s presidency, Eastern continues to prepare the next generation of voters, as well as those who will seek to make a difference in our nation by seeking public office themselves. Perhaps more importantly, it is up to all generations of Eastern alumni not only to participate in the democratic process, but to respect, support and defend those same rights for those whose heritage, experience and


Before Kim Silcox became the leader of the Center for Community Engagement in 2009, she served as Eastern’s judicial officer.

How did you blend your work as a judicial officer with community service?

Students who were getting in trouble all the time were just not connected to people on campus. I started taking them out on community service projects myself. We went to the Covenant Soup Kitchen and the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp; we helped FoodShare with their turkey drive.

What’s the greatest challenge for the CCE?

Establishing mutual benefit: the community partner is getting what they need and the students are getting something meaningful out of it too. For example, I try to steer away from volunteer opportunities where partners ask us to pick up after an event. The students aren’t going to get anything out of that. They can set up and break down as long as they are also involved in the activity; to just be a cleaning crew isn’t really a benefit to the students, so we tell partners we don’t do those things.

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What do you do for fun outside of Eastern?

I’m an avid reader. I have a particular interest in literature from the ’20s and ’30s, as well as biographies of American ex-patriots who were living in France during that time — Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein. I also love to garden. Over the years I have reduced my crop to tomatoes, basil and rosemary.

What’s the secret to happiness?

Having a commitment to making things good. It’s everyone’s responsibility to make our world a better place. It doesn’t take that much, just work on your own little piece of it. I can’t end world hunger but I can help with a food drive or raise awareness on campus about issues of poverty in our community. Everyone can do something.

Class Notes

’51 Mildred (Newbury) Ebbin lived abroad in Spain and

England for four years. She had a 25-year career acting in the theater and 30 years in education. Ralph Young and Dorothy (Hartwick) Young were able to spend the month of March in Sarasota, FL. While there they visited Charles and Dolores (Kelley) Gallon. Ralph and Dorothy have maintained their house at Roger’s Lake in Old Lyme, where they spend their summers and swim every morning before breakfast. “We owe it all to having met at WSTC.”

practices may differ from our own. None of us has a monopoly on America — that’s the essence of what makes our country strong. What unites us as Eastern alumni and as Americans will always be stronger than what threatens to divide us. Let’s be thankful for the gift of democracy, and the education that helps preserve it.

Ellen Lang ’81

President, ECSU Alumni Association Help Eastern rise even higher in the U.S. News & World Report rankings of Best Colleges in the North by making a gift to the university today. Alumni gifts support student scholarships, undergraduate research, clubs and organizations, varsity athletics and more! Contact the Office of Alumni Affairs at (860) 465-5302, or give online at www.

Elaine (Dugas) Shea is almost retired from serving as a Head

Start grantee specialist with American Indian Tribes. She has lived in Montana since 1972 with her husband Bill. They have two adult children and three grandchildren. Elaine is also a published writer and poet.

’57 Joan Grabowski lives in the Seven Lakes Community in Fort Myers, FL. She enjoys the community’s social amenities, including their own bus and restaurant.

’59 Audrey (Davis) Smith taught for 30 years in North Stonington and raised two wonderful children with her husband Carl. She recently completed her 20th year of retirement. ’62

Anna Alfiero attended the 25th Anniversary Celebration of the National Teachers Hall of Fame (NTHF) in Kansas. She was inducted in 1992 as the first Connecticut teacher in the NTHF.

’66 Joyce Eileen Back released her novel “Legacy of a Rose”

through Knox Robinson Publishing under the name Eileen Kirk. Susan (Rogers) Baker has been enjoying retirement since 2013 after teaching for 30 years. William Butrymowicz has been retired for 14 years from teaching fourth grade at Samuel Huntington School in Norwich. Marie (Leone) Chicoine retired after 33 years of teaching in Connecticut and Massachusetts. She has been married for almost 50 years and has two children and one grandchild. Clara (Lambert) Kalnitsky was employed by the Montville School System as a sixth-grade teacher and then as a principal for a total of 44 years before retiring in 2010. She was named the Montville Teacher of the Year in 1982 and was the statewide runner-up. Clara presently works part time at Six Paca Boutique in Bozrah. She has three daughters and three grandchildren.

Carla, Suzanne and Karen!

’69 Carla (Banelli) Goodwin, Suzanne Conte and

Karen (Young) Garrity met again in June for their annual Stur-

bridge, MA, get-together. They have been meeting there for more than 15 years and each year is better than the last. After a long night of catching up, they enjoyed breakfast at Cracker Barrel the following morning.

’71 William Goba is retired after 20 years as an English for Speakers of Other Languages teacher with Norwich Adult Education. Charles Hare worked for the New Haven Board of Education as a teacher until his retirement. He is the former president of the Bridgeport chapter of the NAACP and a member of Bethel AME Church in Bridgeport. ’74 James Palmer retired after 31 years as the principal of

Annie E. Vinton Elementary School in Mansfield. Michael Wrabel retired as director of public works for the town of Longmeadow, MA, in July 2015. EASTERN • Winter 2016 • 33

Sandra (Carvalho) Violette has two sons. She loves snow skiing,

jet skiing and camping.


Christopher Dehnel is the editor of the Ellington-Somers Patch. He has three daughters — a pair of six-year-olds in kindergarten and a fourth-grader. One of his twins plays soccer in Vernon and the other participates in gymnastics in Somers. The oldest is a lacrosse player in the growing Vernon program, and all three dance out of a Tolland studio. Christopher has been writing about snow sports in various capacities since 1999 and is a past president of the Eastern Ski Writers Association.


Bert Nussbaum '63 and his wife Judi visit Prague

’76 After 38 years of teaching, James Jamgochian and his wife

Marilyn are enjoying retirement and spending time with their grandson. Patricia Lawson retired on May 31 from Gettysburg College, where she was associate vice president for communications and marketing, government and community relations. She had served in several other positions in her 18 years at Gettysburg. Despite her retirement, she now works two days a week in the Gettysburg Office of Admissions. After receiving her degree in English, Patti earned a master’s degree at the SI Newhouse School of Communications at Syracuse University and worked six years as a newspaper reporter in Lancaster, PA, before heading the communications departments at Bates College in Maine and Franklin & Marshall College in Pennsylvania. Patti is the mother of a grown daughter and son. She remains active in her local community and spends her summers in Wayne, ME.

’77 Gayle Holly Bruce M ’82 lives in Sebastian, FL, and has been teaching at Sebastian River High School for 15 years. This summer she taught reading to third graders. Gayle has two grandchildren.

’78 Vincent Connors is a professor of biology at the University of

South Carolina Upstate. He was named a 2016 Fulbright Award winner and is teaching and doing research in the Slovak Republic. Vincent was also named the winner of his university’s Outstanding Research Scholarship Award.

’79 Brian Murphy is the baseball coach at Woodstock Academy. Katherine Witkowski retired in 2015 after teaching for 35 years at

Stafford High School. She taught biology, AP biology and was the department chair. Katherine was also named teacher of the year in 1992.

’80 Charlotte Braziel retired from the FBI in 2013 after nearly 26

years as a special agent. She now operates Braziel and Associates, LLC, an investigative service that utilizes the expertise she developed in the bureau in areas including violent crime, fraud, organized crime and evidence. She now provides her skills and services to defense attorneys. She also teaches courses in criminal justice at St. Leo University, not far from her home near the Florida gulf coast, where she is a full-time faculty member beginning this fall semester. She serves on a South Florida cold case task force as well. Kim Brian Bushey was hired by Putnam Bank to lead the commercial lending department as a senior vice president. In recent years, Kim has been devoted to helping raise money and awareness in the fight against ovarian and brain cancer.

’81 Bruce Eber and Cynthia (Mellor) Eber ’80 live in

Wallingford. Bruce works in water quality for the town and Cindy is the manager of the student health department at Yale University. Marykay (DeVivo) McCarthy received her master’s degree from the Graduate Center of Marlboro College in Vermont. She has five grandchildren. 34• Winter 2016 • EASTERN

Peter Aarrestad, the director of Connecticut’s DEEP Inland

Fisheries Division, was recently appointed to the National Fish Habitat Board.


Eleanor Czarnowski works as a contract data manager on a series of six-month contracts through a Massachusetts placement company called BioBridges. The work is generally with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies in the Boston area. Ellie worked at Pfizer for well over a decade, where she was clinical data manager. She lives in Old Lyme and is active with community and civic organizations, including the Land Trust, the Conservation Commission and the Flood and Erosion Control Board. Ellie received her master’s degree in computer science from the Hartford Graduate Center in 1996 and a graduate certificate in geographical information systems from the University of New Haven in 2015.


for 10 years before moving back to Connecticut in 2009. She now works with Brian Batherson, D.C., in Storrs and lives in Ellington. She has two daughters, ages 13 and 20.

’92 Matthew Fritz is now the chief of staff of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a position he was appointed to by President Obama. Matthew earned a master’s degree in public administration at the University of Connecticut. He lives with his wife Diedre in Stafford, VA. ’93 Melissa Mednick was promoted by Bankwell to the position of

first vice president, responsible for operations of the bank’s retail banking group. Melissa began her career in banking more than 25 years ago at the Wilton Bank, which was acquired by Bankwell in 2013. Raymond C. Voght IV is a lawyer and certified public accountant in the Atlanta area, where he has lived since 1996. His law practice is focused on working with small businesses, including start-ups he retains as clients, with focuses on tax and growth strategies, compliance and succession, issues for which he also utilizes his CPA skills. He was a firefighter in Roswell, GA, until 2011, and continues to support public safety as CFO for the Roswell Fire and Police Foundation, a nonprofit benevolent fund supporting firefighters and police. Ray became a CPA in 1996 and graduated from Georgia State University College of Law in 2001.

’95 David Caruso was named the 2016 Middle School Assistant Principal of the Year by the Connecticut Association of Schools. David is the assistant principal at East Hartford Middle School.

Deborah Adams M ’97 is an education consultant for the

Connecticut Office of Early Childhood where she works in early childhood professional development. She is also president of the National Association of Early Childhood State Specialists in State Departments of Education. The majority of her professional years were spent as a preschool teacher in community-based programs, and she was also the executive director of the University of Connecticut Child Development Laboratories. While at UConn, she started her doctoral work in adult learning in order to develop her skills in coaching adults to enhance classroom practice and lifelong professional learning. Wayne Benjamin is the principal of Georgetown Associates, an economic development and urban planning consulting firm in the Hartford area. The company focuses on process improvement and innovation, and provides assistance with site selection, incentives, remediation, financing and regulatory streamlining.

’97 Michael Johnson is an oral and maxillofacial surgeon who has appeared on Connecticut Magazine’s annual list of Top Dentists for the past seven years and is now a full-time instructor at Yale-New Haven Hospital. Michael was inducted into the Eastern Fellows Program in 2015. David Oyanadel is the chief technology officer for Innovative-Diffusion LLC, a business that he helped launch. The Willimantic-based company sells much-needed equipment providing solar-based electricity and refrigeration to

Michael Johnson '97


Rae Asselin is the administrative coordinator at the UConn Con-

necticut Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Karl Butzgy M ’07 opened Karl R. Butzgy Insurance and Risk Management on June 1, 2016. Richard Napoli is the new director of executive services for the LEARN Regional Educational Service Center. He previously served as principal of Parker Farms School in Wallingford and began his career as a fifth-grade teacher at Orange Avenue School in Milford. He earned his master’s in elementary education and sixth-year diploma in educational leadership at Southern Connecticut State University.

’99 Marion Scavone has joined Sentry Real Estate. She has experience as a paralegal, with knowledge of real estate closings, accounting and business management.

’01 Nicole Corcoran was promoted to assistant treasurer at the Savings Institute Bank & Trust.

’02 Angela Brodeur has worked for Veolia Water, North America in Boston since 2007. She is currently the QAQC manager for the Northeast. Angela has a 13-year-old son named Justin. She traveled to Ireland over the summer. Johnmichael O’Hare is a sergeant

with the Hartford Police Department.

Fred Gordon '04, Washington, DC

Eric Larson '98

’90 Patrick Daley was named the Norwich Police Department’s chief

of police. Patrick is a 23-year veteran of the department and a Norwich native. He was named deputy chief in March 2015. Tracy Wunch M ’96, a third-grade teacher at Bolton Center School, was named Bolton’s Teacher of the Year.


Denis Kelly has been promoted to the role of chief operating officer at Sunstates Security in Raleigh, NC. Denis previously served Sunstates as vice president beginning in 2010. Ann (Petros) Minor attended her 25th class reunion in May, the same month that her daughter graduated from Eastern. C. Dennis Pierce, the executive director of dining services at the University of Connecticut, has been selected to receive the 2016 Theodore W. Minah Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of College & University Food Services. The award is presented annually in recognition of exemplary and enduring contributions to the food service industry and the association. Cherie Sachiel-Flint attended Texas Chiropractic College in Padadena, TX, where she graduated with honors in 1995. She married Scott Flint, moved to San Antonio, TX, and worked as an associate doctor for almost four years. Cherie then opened her own office, Back-N-Line Family Chiropractic, where she worked

communities in Africa, Haiti and Nepal. The products include a refrigerated storage unit for medicine that can operate without being connected to a power grid, and a solar-energy generator to charge phones and laptops. David is pursuing an executive master’s degree at the University of Connecticut.

Manchester High School (MHS) technology teacher Eric Larson was named the 201617 teacher of the year for the Manchester School District this past June. Larson started as a technician at MHS in 1999, becoming a technology teacher in 2007.

Eric earned a bachelor of arts degree in communication and a master’s degree in educational technology from Eastern Connecticut State University. After serving nine years in the Connecticut Air National Guard as a video technician, he received an alternate route to teacher certification. The state program offers training for mid-career adults to enter the teaching profession. The Manchester resident teaches video production, studio production, sports broadcasting and photography. Larson also co-teaches a broadcast journalism class with social studies teacher Ryan Jones. With instruction, students create a weekly news program that covers MHS and town news, interviewing town officials and learning

more about their community through comprehensive programming. Listening to the school system’s nominated candidates for teacher of the year is inspiring, Larson said, adding that it makes him want to be a better teacher. “I’m very humbled by this; it’s not something I expected,” he said. “I am blessed to be able to do something I love, with people I care so much about.” “Eric is the person in our building that everybody will be happy got this award,” said Principal Jill Krieger. “Eric represents the very best of what MPS is all about — displaying courage, creativity, collaboration and excellence every day.” (excerpted from Manchester Journal Inquirer, June 6, 2016) EASTERN • Winter 2016 • 35

Lucas Watson, Esq. has expanded his

law practice. The Law Office of Lucas M. Watson is now located at 89 Oak Street in Hartford.


Lauren Davern M ’07 was one

of three finalists for Hartford City Schools’ 2016 Teacher of the Year. Lauren is a social studies teacher at Capital Prep where she has taught eighth-graders and high school students and directs the magnet school’s social justice project for 12th-graders. She also helped develop a “Twainiac” summer program for students at the Mark Twain House & MusePatrick Rameaka ’07 and his girlfriend Kassie visit Mt. Rushmore. um and co-founded Capital Prep’s CORE (Culture of Respect and Empathy), a group that aims to improve school climate. Kevin Gilbert and Katherine (Lapsis) Gilbert celebrated their 11th wedding anniversary on July 30. Kevin is the media manager for NBC Connecticut in West Hartford, and Katie is a teacher. They have two children, a daughter, age six, and a two-year-old son. Nick Koutsopoulos works as the media director for Mason, Inc. He was recently voted vice president of the Advertising Club of Connecticut. Ryan Parker has taught English at Illing Middle School in Manchester for the past 14 years. He is also a spoken-word poet who spends his time encouraging youth in the community to express themselves artistically. Ryan has started a monthly youth open mic night and has worked with nonprofit organizations such as Young@Art.


David Jones was named director of the Paul Robeson Cultural Center at Rutgers University. Stacey Schofield is in her 10th year as the head athletic trainer at North Branford High School.


Amanda Brycki is the outpatient behavioral health services practice manager at United Community & Family Services in Norwich. Amanda is a recent graduate of the Eastern Connecticut Chamber of Commerce Leadership Program, and has spoken on local radio about mental health stigma. Christopher Farrell, the former Plainville High School varsity football coach and physical education teacher, was named Plainville’s new athletic director. He will be responsible for the interscholastic and intramural sports for the middle and high schools. Heidi (Stearns) Groeger and her husband Joseph welcomed their daughter Ainsley into the world in May. Heidi and Joseph operate Mantis Associates together. She is vice president of the firm, which utilizes her husband’s materials science and mechanical engineering background to provide failure analysis — investigation into the technical reasons for industrial accidents, especially for the electrical power industry — and does other forensic work and consumer product development. Heidi’s responsibilities include infrastructure 36 • Winter 2016 • EASTERN

management, business planning, finances and reporting. They work from their Storrs Mansfield home but travel regularly. Heidi earned a master’s degree in creative writing from Chapman University in California in 2009. Lisa Nikiforuk earned her master’s degree in applied behavior analysis from Westfield State University. Her professional interests include video modeling, pivotal behaviors, augmentative communication, conducting functional analyses, and preparing students with autism for postsecondary placement and employment opportunities. Lisa was hired by ACES in 2010, the same year she achieved her Board Certified Behavior Analyst certification.

Weddings Kelly McMenamey ’09 to Michael Perkins

on November 21, 2015 Stefania Distefano ’08 to Daniel Simonetti ’08

on April 30, 2016 Amanda Altieri ’10 to Josh Kern on July 3, 2016

Justin Piro

is a senior scientist at Pfizer, a leading research-based biopharmaceutical company in Cambridge, MA. His work in the Neuroscience and Pain Research Unit has him examining the role that uncontrolled and persistent neuro-inflammation plays in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerJustin Piro '05 ative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s while developing novel therapeutics to combat inflammation.


Cyndi (Anderegg) Guest works for the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority as a multifamily development officer. Tanika Mangum is the development coordinator for the Children’s National Health System, a pediatric health system in Washington, DC, which serves more than 200,000 children annually. Tanika identifies and engages new prospects to increase philanthropic giving to the medical center. Gregory Petranek M is teaching intermediate algebra at Three Rivers Community College. He is a cancer survivor in full remission. Catherine Seaver M began working as Greenfield Community College’s chief academic and student affairs officer this summer. She will complete her Ph.D. in leadership from the University of the Cumberlands in December. LaToya Smith is an award-winning multimedia journalist and CEO of Brass City Media, a New York City-based content marketing agency. Brass City Media was chosen this summer to participate in the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses initiative in partnership with the Tory Burch Foundation, a competitive business education program for women entrepreneurs. LaToya is also a tech correspondent on, an LaToya Smith '06 online edutainment show that discusses technology for business, technology trends and related topics. She covers startups, nonprofits and wearable technology.

’07 Leo Jones is the career pathways facilitator for Literacy Volunteers of Greater Hartford and is the liaison for their Job Readiness Program. He

also provides support to the Wickham Literacy Center in East Hartford. Leo holds a master’s degree in counseling–student development in higher education from Central Connecticut State University. He married his wife Pamela in 2014.


Kevin Douglas is the co-director of policy and advocacy at United Neighborhood Houses (UNH), an association of Kevin Douglas '08 nonprofit housing settlements in New York City that serves more than 500,000 people. Kevin is responsible for UNH’s overall policy priorities and engagement strategies. In 2016, Kevin was named one of “40 Rising Stars Under 40” by New York Nonprofit Media. Megan Eza and her wife Melinda Testori were featured on the front page of the Hartford Business Journal after launching BNE Publishing Inc., a benefit corporation located in Coventry that promotes local artists. Megan serves as the CEO while Melinda is the CFO. The company incorporated in January as Brandon Nicholas Eza Publishing Inc., named after Megan’s late brother. The company will publish monthly digital and print newsletters that promote the work of artists. The artists and BNE Publishing will both profit from sales of the art, replicated on various mediums, with the company donating 50 percent of its profits towards public good and the arts. Megan created the company while still a student at Eastern, and received two awards for her idea. Jeffrey Farmer and Andy Tran started Center for Transitional Living LLC (CTL) in 2013 and have grown it to a projected $1.8 million in gross revenue this year. Headquartered in Farmington, the business helps people with mental illness and acquired brain injuries who are on Medicaid and live independently. CTL has grown to about 150 clients spread throughout the state and 118 full- and part-time employees. Jeff and Andy have also begun serving clients in Colorado and Massachusetts and have visions of continued expansion. Derrick Gibbs Jr. was named to the Hartford Business Journal’s “40 Under Forty” for 2016. Derrick is the executive director/CEO of Change Inc. in Middletown. He manages 35 employees, focusing on growth, financials and daily operations. Jennifer Leigh Sears-Scheier married Benjamin Scheier on June 27 in San Marcos, CA. The couple moved to Champaign, IL, where Jennifer is working toward her Ph.D. in theatre history at the University of Illinois. She earned her MFA at the University of Iowa in 2011. Yaw Ofosu-Agiri is a financial specialist in the Commercial Engine Campaign at Pratt and Whitney.

Marlana Carroll '11 Daniel Simonetti is a director at Alvarez & Marsal, a consulting firm in

New York, where he advises clients on mergers and acquisition deals. Stefania (Distefano) Simonetti is an associate at Mercer, a human resources consulting firm in New York, where she advises businesses on their employee benefits and health care strategy. Christopher Woodside is traveling around the country as a clinician for PGC, a basketball company that offers weeklong courses for developing players. Prior to this appointment, Christopher served as the assistant director of residential life at Washington County Community College in Maine, where he also oversaw the school’s Outdoor Adventure Center.

’09 Victoria (Saulnier) DeBatte and her husband Dennis celebrated the birth of their daughter Anna Lynn. Christopher Doyle works for Crick Software Ltd. as an educational sales consultant. Andrew Gutt is the owner of Cafémantic, an award-winning restaurant in downtown Willimantic. Since opening in 2009, Cafémantic has developed from a small coffee shop into a chef-driven, farm-to-table eatery with outdoor patios and an event space down the street at 750 Main Street. Jacqueline Kane is a registered nurse at the University of Virginia Medical Center. Kelly McMenamey received a master’s degree in elementary education from Sacred Heart University in 2011. She is a fifth-grade teacher at Roberto Clemente Leadership Academy in New Haven. Christina Turner is the assistant athletic director for administration, physical education chair, and director of Christina Turner '09 recreation at Colgate University, as well as a certified exercise physiologist and fitness coach. ’10 Alexandra (Garry) Grigerek was promoted to math specialist at Southington Public Schools in 2015. She is working toward her master’s degree in mathematics from Central Connecticut State University. She is married to Joseph Grigerek, who is an officer with the Southington Police Department. The Connecticut Society of Certified Public Accountants has reappointed Katherine McNair to serve as a member of its advisory council for the organization’s 2016-17 activity year, representing the New and Young Professionals Cabinet as its chair. Katherine has an M.S. in accounting from the University of Connecticut and is a manager with PKF O’Connor Davies, LLP in Wethersfield.

EASTERN • Winter 2016 • 37

Jessica Rubin was hired by Cronin and Company, LLC, as the assistant

Judith Frankel works at the University of

account executive.

Connecticut School of Pharmacy as the administrative services specialist. Former softball player Molly Rathbun, a four-time Division III All-American, is the new head softball coach and sports psychology coordinator at Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania. Audriana White is an event coordinator at Forbes.

Amelinda Vazquez is the assistant director of programming at the

University of Connecticut Center for Career Development. Jenilee Wirtz is an advisor with Allen Financial Group.

’11 Marlana Carroll is an inbound marketing consultant with Vital Design, an award-winning Internet marketing agency in Portsmouth, NH. Marlana works with clients to develop marketing and conversion optimization strategies. Christina Collins is a life coach at NeverStopMoving365. Shawn Gilblair is a left-handed pitcher with the New Britain Bees. He signed with the Bees after five seasons of playing independent baseball in the CanAm League and Frontier League. Michael Rouleau is a writer/editor in the Office of University Relations at Eastern Connecticut State University. This past summer he backpacked in Nicaragua and published “The Crags of Connecticut,” a feature article about Connecticut’s historic and thriving rock climbing scene, in Connecticut Magazine. Christopher Wojick is the head Taylor Zurowski '11 baseball coach at Loomis Chaffee School. Taylor Zurowski manages client relationships and oversees billing as the vice president of operations at Drupal Connect, a website consulting firm in Newport, RI. ’12

Matthew Banas M’15 is working at the Center for Talented

Youth at Johns Hopkins University.

’13 Tom Balestracci graduated from the University of Rhode Island in May 2015 with a master’s degree in college student personnel. He is Molly Rathbun '12 now the assistant director of student involvement at Southern New Hampshire University. Daniela Marchitto is a third-grade teacher at Milford Public Schools in Connecticut. Nicole Vitello M’15 is a sixth-grade teacher at Barrows STEM Academy in North Windham. ’15 Robert Dube M works as a senior customer technical support engineer at Pratt & Whitney. He is completing his Master of Science degree in business analytics and project management at the University of Connecticut and will then work on obtaining his Project Management Professional Certification. ’16 Bryan Hayes is an associate IT project manager at Aetna in Pitts-


Mellisa Melaragno is teaching grade 5-6 math in North Canaan. Gabriela Wrobel, who gave the Senior Class address at Commencement

last spring, works as a loan portfolio and impact assessment manager at Capital For Change, Inc. She was hired by Brian Sullivan, Esq. ’08, a speaker at his own Commencement and member of the ECSU Foundation, Inc. Board of Directors. Brian is the manager, commercial lending administration for Capital For Change.

In Memoriam

David Theodore Chase of West Hartford, CT, founder and president of Chase Enterprises, passed away at his home on June 1, 2016. Born in Kielce, Poland, Chase was a Holocaust survivor, lifelong entrepreneur and philanthropist. His career spanned many different industries including commercial real estate, banking, telecommunications, construction, manufacturing and hotels. Chase played a leading role in developing downtown Hartford in the 1970s and 1980s with the construction of the “Gold Building,” One Corporate Center, known as the Stilts Building and 280 Trumbull Street. Chase also built New Haven’s Connecticut Financial Center, which is the tallest building in New Haven. Chase developed many shopping centers across the nation, including pioneering the development of Topps Department stores in the 1950s. His investment in his home country helped bring cable television to Poland.

Chase’s philanthropic work spanned religious, medical and societal causes. He co-founded the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, and also supported the Red Cross. Eastern Connecticut State University also was a beneficiary of Chase’s generosity. He founded and supported the David T. Chase Free Enterprise Institute at Eastern, sponsoring a host of business leaders, and state and federal officials to campus to share their experiences with Eastern students. 38 • Winter 2016 • EASTERN

Eastern Connecticut State University hosted its 10th Quadrennial Math and Computer Science reunion in the Susan Sukman McCray Foyer of the Fine Arts Instructional Center on Oct. 15. The reunion was created in 1980 by Mathematics Professor Stephen Kenton and occurs every four years. Now retired, Kenton works in collaboration with the Office of Alumni Affairs to host the reunion. Mathematics and computer science majors from all over the country returned to campus for the showcase event. Attendees were encouraged to donate to the Stephen A. Kenton Endowed Scholarship, which is awarded annually to math and computer science majors. Professor Kenton summed up the evening thusly: “OMG — what a blast for Reunion X with 100+BFFs; Yankov’s “Happy Birthday” for Kathy; Mizan’s Hindi “Tipperary” sing-along; the 2007-08 Weierstrass Femme Fatales; Colorado Stanley and New York City Robert showing off their fiancés; the Huntsville Rocket Man; alumni from 1973 to 2015; doctoral students Bobby, Chad and Ricky; three intra-departmental marriages defying probability by remaining happily together; two (Roland and Joanne) parent-child attendees; and the first chicken dance in the new Fine Arts Center. Awesome!” (At left, from top) Jessica Pelletier ’11, Susan Frechette ’98, Glenn Rogers ’10, Ali Garry Grigerek ’10, Joey Grigerek ’10, Emma Cox ’11, Roland Frechette ’11 and Professor Kenton Mellissa Cassidy ’07, Cassie Noble ’08, Taylor Napoletano ’08 and Stephanie Flowers ’08 Nancy Ouellette ’88, Ronald Ouellette ’79, Jacque Francois ’79, Linda Francois and Christopher Lester ’79

e c n e i c S r pute m o C d n a Math us p m a C o t urn t e R i n m u Al In Memoriam Mary Claire Avery ’49

William W. Lannon, former theatre professor

William Decyk, university driver

Kevin Moyer, IT Department

Christopher Jon Gardner (student)

George Patros ’54

Charles Herrick, emeritus professor of communication

Nataliya Plesha, assistant professor of economics

William Kenney Sr. ’92, IT Department

Barbara (Brassard) Sullivan ’89 EASTERN • Winter 2016 • 39

As I read the stories destined for publication in this issue of EASTERN magazine, I continue to be impressed by the activities and accomplishments of Eastern students, faculty and alumni. Students are conducting important research, gaining a global perspective as they study abroad and representing Eastern at regional and national conferences. Alumni are coaching at the Rio Olympics (Bonnie Edmondson!), heading up state health organizations (Charlotte Smith!) and being recognized by the University for their talents and success (Eastern Fellows!). There are stories in this issue that make you laugh (did you see the photos of our mascot doll traveling the globe?) and those that bring tears to your eyes (the amazing story of Josie Aponte ’16 surviving a fire at age 5). There is also information in this issue of EASTERN magazine that reminds us all of the quality of the education provided to our students. Whether it is recognition for having an outstanding workplace, such as the “Great Colleges to Work For” award received for the seventh time from The Chronicle of Higher Education, the recent news that Eastern had jumped seven places in this year’s U.S. News and World Report rankings, or being listed as one of the nation’s top “green colleges” for the seventh consecutive year by The Princeton Review, we are truly blessed to be part of such an outstanding university, one that continues to grow and prosper. I mentioned our U.S. News and World Report rankings for two reasons. First, I hope it brings a sense of pride to all our alumni to see their alma mater rising in the ranks of the nation’s top colleges. Secondly, I want to thank our alumni for continuing to give generously to our annual fund and other philanthropic programs. The percentage of alumni who give is one of U.S. News and World Report’s criteria in assessing the strength of our institution. I am happy to report that alumni giving has grown throughout my 13 years at Eastern. It constitutes a powerful affirmation that our University is highly valued by those who have benefited from the liberal arts education they received on our campus. The last time I wrote you, I was sharing the excitement being generated by our new Fine Arts Instructional Center, which opened in January 2016. This fall and coming spring, we are hosting a series of four musical concerts in the center’s beautiful Concert Hall in support of scholarships for local students attending Eastern. I want to thank all the alumni and other members of the Eastern family who have attended the shows in support of our students. With your generosity, we can continue to invest in the next generation of citizen leaders.

Kenneth J. DeLisa Vice President for Institutional Advancement

40 • Winter 2016 • EASTERN

A concert series in support of the Kevin Crosbie Memorial Scholarship for Windham High School students

One of Connecticut’s true music legends — rhythm and blues singer, legendary rock promoter and philanthropist David Foster of Windham — is partnering with Eastern Connecticut State University to sponsor a special series of four fundraising concerts this academic year. “Jazzin’ It Up at Eastern” features four world-class acts in support of a scholarship fund for Windham High School graduates to attend Eastern. “We are so pleased to partner with David Foster on this project,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “Giving Windham’s young people the financial support to attend Eastern will be a life-changing event for these students.” The Kevin Crosbie Memorial Scholarship, established in honor of the late publisher of the Willimantic Chronicle, was created by David and Marilyn Foster and Eileen Ossen of the Jeffrey P. Ossen Family Foundation. All ticket proceeds for the concert series will go towards the Crosbie scholarship. “Kevin was a great friend and a tireless advocate for our local community,” said Foster. “The scholarship fund we created is a way to keep his legacy alive. He would be pleased to know that we are

SPYRA GYRA May 20, 2017 • 8 p.m. helping local students achieve their dream of a college education. This concert series will significantly add to the scholarship endowment.” Foster’s band — the Mohegan Sun All-Stars— opened the series on Oct. 22, with Grammy Awardwinning trumpeter Arturo Sandoval taking the stage for the second concert on Nov. 5. Renowned guitarist Pat Metheny’s show on Jan. 13 is sold out. Legendary jazz quintet Spyra Gyra will complete the series on May 20.

From their humble beginnings in Buffalo, NY, jazz icons Spyra Gyra have earned an international audience over their 40-year career, selling more than 10 million albums and playing more than 5,000 shows on five continents. To purchase tickets or for more information, visit, call the Concert Hall Box Office at (860) 465-4979 or email concerts@

Nonprofit Org. U.S. Postage PAID Willimantic, CT Permit No. 12

Come back to Eastern! May 12-13 is EASTERN CELEBRATES 2017! For more information, visit and click on the Eastern Celebrates photo or contact the Office of Alumni Affairs at (860) 465-5302 or at Reunion invitations will be mailed after the holidays.

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Eastern Magazine Winter 2016  

Eastern Magazine Winter 2016