Eastern Alumni Fellow Inductees, left to right, Jeffrey Brown '79, chief administrative officer for Webster Bank and Webster Financial Corporation; and Kathleen Weidman '79, CEO and president of Bright Systems, Inc. in Reno, NV; and Brett Harnett '84, assistant professor in the Department of Surgery and associate director of the Center for Surgical Innovation at the University of Cincinnati, with Eastern President Elsa M. Núñez.
Willimantic, CT - Eastern Connecticut State University inducted its second class of Alumni Fellows on March 18 in the Paul E. Johnson Community Room of the J. Eugene Smith Library. Inductees included Jeffrey Brown '79, chief administrative officer for Webster Bank and Webster Financial Corporation; Brett Harnett '84, assistant professor in the Department of Surgery and associate director of the Center for Surgical Innovation at the University of Cincinnati; and Kathleen Weidman '79, CEO and president of Bright Systems, Inc. in Reno, NV.
Brown '79 earned his B.A. in public policy and government at Eastern and went on to receive an MBA from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. He is now the chief administrative officer for Webster Bank and Webster Financial Corporation. His responsibilities include overseeing the bank's operations, strategic planning, communications, public affairs, human resources and information technology functions.
Harnett '84 earned his B.S. in Business Administration at Eastern and completed his M.S. in Information Systems at the University of Cincinnati. He spent time in real estate and publishing before "falling in love with technology." After a stint as a programmer at Yale, he moved to Virginia Commonwealth University in 1999 to work on a NASA project, traveling the world to places like Kosovo, Afghanistan, Ukraine and Russia. Today he works in the field of medical robotics and related technology at the University of Cincinnati.
Weidman '79 received her B.A. in Economics and Business Administration at Eastern before earning her MBA from Babson College. She is currently president of Bright Systems, Inc. in Reno, NV, a company specializing in the preservation and retrieval of large-scale electronic files in the media recording technology field. Previously she ran a consulting firm for more than a decade. As the focus of that business, she became the temporary CEO of 10 different businesses, helping them through the challenges of transition, growth, and acquisition.
The Eastern Fellows program was established in 2008 to recognize and engage distinguished Eastern alumni in the life of the University. This program is a means of enriching the educational experience of current Eastern undergraduates by exposing them to alumni who are able to share their work experiences with students. "The Eastern Fellows program is an exciting and stimulating way to optimize the knowledge of accomplished alumni with Eastern's students and faculty," said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. "Bringing these outstanding alumni back to campus to serve as positive role models will have a lasting impact on our students' lives and careers."
The first class of Eastern Fellows was recognized in October 2008 and included Adam Baldinger '88; Dr. Wendy Ernst '93, DVM; Fred Johnson '78; and Eric Lazo-Wasem '79.
During the day on March 18, the three 2010 Eastern Fellows inductees visited classes; enjoyed lunch with President Elsa Núñez and other administrators; toured the campus; and capped off the day with a panel discussion shared with a packed audience of students and faculty.
All three alumni said Eastern was instrumental to their success. "My career started here," said Brown, remarking that his visit back to campus was "surreal." The library site was the soccer field when he went to school at Eastern, and Vice President of Student Affairs Ken Bedini was Brown's resident assistant in the dorms in the late 1970s. Weidman said that recently retired professors John Lombard and Ken Paryzch were "instrumental in my life, motivating me and understanding my potential." She also found the progress being made on campus to be impressive: "Eastern's growth is amazing. I am impressed by the quality of the teachers, their passion and their commitment to students."
The three Eastern Fellows provided the same counsel to students looking to enter the labor market: "Demonstrate your passion." As Brown noted, "You must be open to opportunities and you must make people want to hire you. You should be in 'sell' mode." Harnett concurred by saying he tells his own teenage son to always give "110 percent."
"Network, network, network," said Weidman. She indicated she does not use job boards or recruiters to hire people--"It's all about human contact."