More than 100 alumni and friends of the University attended Eastern Connecticut State University's annual President's Leadership Luncheon in the Paul E. Johnson Sr. Community Conference Room on Nov. 4 to recognize two outstanding donors and four distinguished alumni.
Eastern President Elsa Núñez acknowledged the leadership and contributions to the University of the six award recipients and said their efforts were part of the reason that Eastern has been ranked in the top 30 public regional universities in the North by U.S. News and World Report the past two years in a row.
Kenneth DeLisa, vice president for institutional advancement, applauded the donors present for their commitment to assisting students in paying for their educations. "We had a record 3,100 donors this past year, including 1,700 alumni donors," said DeLisa. "Many of our students would not be here today without your support."
The Savings Institute Bank and Trust Co. of Willimantic (SIBT) received the ECSU Foundation Board of Directors Distinguished Donor Award. SIBT has been a strong supporter of Eastern for decades. In addition to employing more than 30 Eastern alumni, SIBT has provided financial support to such University fundraising initiatives as the Dual Enrollment auction, the Bowlathon, the annual golf tournament and other events.
Professor Barbara Tucker, a leading expert on Connecticut history, received the ECSU Foundation Distinguished Faculty Donor Award. Tucker has taught at Eastern for 25 years and written several books on the history of Connecticut industry. In addition to supporting Eastern students by establishing a scholarship fund in honor of her parents in 2000, Tucker has graciously donated materials to the J. Eugene Smith Library to support Connecticut Studies.
Professor Emeritus Ralph Yulo received the Eastern Alumni Association's Hermann Beckert "Friend of the University" Award. Retiring in 1992 following a 25-year career at Eastern as a professor of science education, Yulo has stayed active, serving on boards in his hometown of Eastford and through his involvement with various science education organizations in Connecticut. He is also one of the most active donors to the ECSU Foundation, in particular supporting the NRY Scholarship named in honor of him and fellow emeriti professors Joe Narotsky and David Rand.
The Alumni Association also presented Distinguished Service Awards to Arthur Vertefeuille '60 and Thomas J. Serra '70. Vertefeuille was the first member of his family to get a college education, and he got his diploma only after interrupting his studies to serve three years in the U.S. Army. He was the principal of Lebanon Elementary School for many years, eventually becoming the superintendent of schools before retiring in 1995. In addition to being a member and chair of the Board of Governors for Higher Education, Vertefeuille has also been active in the Town of Windham as a selectman and member of numerous committees and boards.
Serra has served the City of Middletown for many years, as a teacher and coach and then assistant principal and principal at Vinal Technical High School; and as mayor and a current member of the Common Council. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce.
The final award of the afternoon was given to author Jeff Benedict '91, who received the Alumni Association's 2011 Distinguished Alumni Award. Benedict's career as a professional writer began while he was pursuing his law degree. Since that time, he has written 10 books, including a revealing review of sexual misconduct by professional athletes; an in-depth look at Foxwoods Casino and the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe; an inspirational study of the famous eminent domain Supreme Court case, Kelo v. New London; and his most recent book, "Poisoned," a critical examination of the deadly e. coli outbreak that occurred in 1993. Benedict is also a frequent contributor to Sports Illustrated magazine.