Eastern Alumna Salutes Inclusive Excellence Award Winners

On May 9, Eastern recognized more than 100 students with a 3.5 cumulative grade point average or higher, and an additional 11 students who have demonstrated exemplary co-curricular engagement at the University’s Seventh Annual Inclusive Excellence Student Awards Ceremony. The ceremony recognized the achievements of African, Latino, Asian and Native American (ALANA) students at Eastern.

Eastern President Elsa Núñez said the ceremony was not just about inclusion, but also spoke to the University’s other core values of academic excellence, integrity, social responsibility, engagement and empowerment. “It is important for each of you to stand tall and be proud of who you are and what you are capable of. Never, ever, ever let anyone attempt to diminish your worth or your talents.

“Today’s honorees join thousands of other successful Eastern alumni who are making their own personal contributions out in the real world, including our guest speaker today, Dr. Kawami Evans. Today, we show respect and celebrate the accomplishments of students who too often have been forgotten in the past.  Thank you for being part of this celebration; to our honorees, congratulations.  We are very proud of you.”

Keynote speaker Evans ’97 serves as associate director at the Center for African Diaspora Student Success at the University of California at Davis. She earned her bachelor’s degree in history and social science at Eastern, her Master of Education in educational policy and research administration from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and a doctorate in educational management and leadership from Drexel University.

Evans encouraged the students to use their curiosity and optimism to persevere through unseen psychological struggles that can become their staunchest challenges. She said many high- achieving students fall prey to chasing individual achievements, accolades or material gain as their goal, even confusing their self-worth with what they can accomplish.

“This is dangerous; it can lead to anxiety and depression. Don’t let this be your reality or focus,” said Evans. “Who you are is what we are celebrating today. All the earned accolades you are receiving are but a byproduct of the brilliance within you . . . You are the promise of our ancestors’ prayers and walk with the wisdom and swag of those who have grit, resilience, the social and emotional intelligence, curiosity and hope.”

Evans told the students the most important element they need to resurrect in discussing their future success is their spirituality, ways in which students discover their destiny — answers to the big questions of who they are, what is their life purpose and how do they make difference in the world.

“Much of the world right now is relegated to systems and polices. We have to raise the bar with our vision of what’s possible,” Evans said. “It will take hard work, community, love, bravery, unrelentless effort and celebration.  I sincerely believe that we can create a world that works for all.”

A total of 280 students qualified for an Academic Excellence Award with a 3.5 cumulative GPA or higher, and more than 100 of them were able to attend the May 9 event. During the ceremony, several students received service awards. Adrianna Arocho and Mayra Santos Acosta was presented the Volunteer Service Award; Aiyana Ward, the Athletic Excellence Award; Kimberly Allen and Sommer Bachelor, the Career Development Award; Jenilee Antonetty, the Resident Assistant Diversity Impact Award; Rafael Aragon, the Residential Community Leadership Award; Tristan Perez, the Social Justice Advocacy Award; Emma Costa, the Inspirational Leadership Award; Ishah Azeez, the Resilient Warrior Award; Kimberly Allen and Vishal Jungiwalla, the Advisor’s Choice Award; and the Freedom at Eastern Club, the Building Bridges Award.

By Dwight Bachman

Eastern Graduates 1,250 Students at XL Center

Marilynn “Lynn” Malerba

Hartford, CT — Marilynn “Lynn” Malerba, chief of the Mohegan Tribe, told the 1,259 graduates at Eastern Connecticut State University’s 129th Commencement to “Allow yourself the faith to ‘dream ahead’ as you embrace the next chapter in your journey.” Noting that college graduates have greater job security, live longer and have greater social mobility, Malerba told the graduates that they had made “a smart decision” in pursuing their educational dreams.

The annual graduation ceremony was held at the XL Center in Hartford on May 21, with more than 12,000 family members and friends cheering on their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, as 1,175 undergraduates and 84 graduate students received their diplomas.

Malerba told the graduates “Your education has just begun, as you have ‘birthed’ a career that will only grow and mature over time.” She also reminded graduates to set aside time for the “keepers of your heart” — family and friends who share life’s challenges. “When you meet others on the path of life, offer a kind word, encourage someone, comfort someone, and celebrate someone’s joy.”

The commencement speaker also received an honorary doctor of science degree from Eastern in a special hooding ceremony during the graduation exercises. 

Malerba was appointed the 18th Chief of the Mohegan Tribe in August 2010, becoming the first female chief in the tribe’s modern history. She previously was chair of the tribal council and executive director of health and human services for the tribal government.

Prior to her leadership roles in the Mohegan Tribe, Malerba served as director of cardiology and pulmonary services at Lawrence + Memorial Hospital. She earned her Doctor of Nursing Practice from Yale University and her master’s degree in public administration from the University of Connecticut.

In addition to a distinguished career as a registered nurse and her leadership positions with the Mohegan Tribe, Malerba is also a national advocate of health issues and the welfare of Native Peoples. She serves in a number of national roles, including positions with the Federal Indian Health Services; the U.S. Department of Justice; and the National Institutes of Health.

Other speakers at the Commencement exercises included Eastern President Elsa Núñez; Merle Harris, vice-chair of the

President Elsa Núñez

Board of Regents for Higher Education; and Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System. Additional members of the platform party included Justin Murphy ’98, president of the ECSU Foundation; Father Laurence LaPointe; and other Eastern officials.

“The most important lesson I hope you have learned at Eastern is the knowledge that our great American democracy is only great because of the involvement and participation of our citizens,” said Núñez. “Being a citizen means debating the issues with your friends and in public forums — wherever you get a chance to voice your opinion. Most importantly, be willing to say no to whatever doesn’t feel right.

“You have learned how to think critically on our campus. You have learned how to ask questions, conduct research and analyze the results.  Do this in your workplace, in your community, and as a citizen of our great country.  I know you can do it . . . and I am counting on you to do so.  We need your enthusiasm, commitment and knowledge more than ever.”

More than 40 percent of the graduates were the first in their families to earn a bachelor’s degree. As Connecticut’s only public liberal arts university, Eastern draws students from 160 of the state’s 169 towns, with approximately 85 percent of graduates staying in Connecticut to launch their careers, contribute to their communities and raise their families.

Senior Class President Michael Theriault (right)

Senior Class President Michael Theriault presented the Senior Class Gift to President Núñez — an annual Class of 2019 scholarship — and thanked his classmates’ families, friends and faculty for supporting the senior class in its journey. He recalled registering for classes in the early morning hours, “trying to stay silent on the third floor of the library” and Thursday night pancakes. Looking to the future, Theriault said the arena floor was a sea of graduation caps, but “While they may look the same from the outside, the reality is that we all will wear different hats. Some of us will go on to be future educators and make differences in the lives of students. Others will become journalists, historians, psychologists, broadcasters and so much more. No matter what hat you will wear, we will all be Eastern Warriors now and forever.”

In speaking on behalf of the Board of Regents for Higher Education, Vice-Chair Merle Harris reminded the audience that “commencement” means “beginning.” She told the graduates they “have gained the skills needed to make wise decisions. . .” and were ready to “make your community, our state, and our nation a better place. I am gratified that I can greet you tonight as you begin the next phase of your life’s journey.”

CSCU President Ojakian also offered remarks. Pointing to the “transformational academic journey you have just completed,” he called the graduates “change agents for the future and the next generation of leaders.” Ojakian went on to say, “Connecticut needs bright, talented individuals to stay here, fill the jobs of the 21st century, purchase homes, and raise their families here in the state. Connecticut needs your creativity, your entrepreneurial spirit and your ingenuity. You are the future of Connecticut — and because of that, Connecticut’s future is bright.”

From the colorful Governor’s Foot Guard Color Guard in attendance, to the piercing sound of the bagpipes of the St. Patrick’s Pipe Band and the pre-event music of the Thread City Brass Quintet, this year’s graduation ceremonies reflected Eastern’s longstanding Commencement traditions.

University Senate President Andrew Utterback presided over the commencement exercises; seniors Andrew Hofmann, Tiara Lussier, Austin Stone, Ryan Michaud and Sara Ann Vega sang “America the Beautiful”; senior Shawn Ray Dousis gave the invocation; and Environmental Earth Science Professor Dickson Cunningham was recognized as the 2019 Distinguished Professor Award recipient.

Written by Ed Osborn

Mohegan Tribal Chief Named Eastern’s Commencement Speaker

 Marilynn “Lynn” Malerba, chief of the Mohegan Tribe, will be the Commencement Speaker at Eastern Connecticut State University’s 129th Commencement Exercises on May 21 at the XL Center in Hartford. Malerba will also receive an honorary doctorate degree at the ceremonies.

Malerba has achieved an exemplary career in the health care and tribal governance fields. Not only has she served her community with distinction, she has brought national recognition to the State of Connecticut.

Chief Mutáwi Mutáhash (Many Hearts) Marilynn “Lynn” Malerba became the 18th Chief of the Mohegan Tribe on August 15, 2010, and is the first female chief in the tribe’s modern history. The position is a lifetime appointment made by the tribe’s council of elders. She previously served as chairwoman of the tribal council and was also executive director of health and human services for the tribal government.

Prior to her work for the Mohegan Tribe, Chief Malerba had a distinguished career as a registered nurse and served as director of cardiology and pulmonary services at Lawrence and Memorial Hospital. She earned her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree at Yale University and was named a Jonas Scholar. She holds a master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Connecticut, and has an honorary doctorate from the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford.

Chief Malerba has achieved a national reputation as an advocate and supporter of health issues and the welfare of Native Peoples. She is chairwoman of the Tribal Self-Governance Advisory Committee of the Federal Indian Health Services; is a member of the U.S. Justice Department’s Tribal Nations Leadership Council; serves on the Tribal Advisory Committee for the National Institute of Health; is a member of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Tribal Advisory Committee; and serves as a technical expert on the Commission for Environmental Cooperation. She also serves as the United South and Eastern Tribes board of directors secretary, and is a member of the board of directors for the Ms. Foundation for Women.

In Connecticut, Chief Malerba serves as a trustee for Chelsea Groton Bank, as a board member for the Community Foundation of Eastern Connecticut, as an advisory committee member for the Harvard University Native American Program and served on the board of directors for Lawrence Memorial Hospital for 11 years.

More than 1,200 undergraduate and graduate students will receive their diplomas at Eastern’s graduation exercises on May 21, with an audience of more than 10,000 family and friends expected. In addition to Malerba, dignitaries expected to attend include Eastern President Elsa Núñez; Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System; and Merle Harris, vice-chair of the Board of Regents for Higher Education.

Written by Ed Osborn

Eastern Volleyball Wins LEC Championship

The Warriors’ victory over Keene State College on Nov. 3 earned them the conference title.

Written by Bob Molta

The Eastern Connecticut State University women’s volleyball team put the finishing touches on its most successful season in 12 years by winning the Little East Conference tournament championship with a four-set victory over Keene State College Nov. 3 at Eastern’s Francis E. Geissler Gymnasium.

Sophomore Abby Stern of Manchester had 22 kills and three players combined to commit only one reception error on 77 attempts as the top-seeded Warriors avenged their only Little East loss of the season with the victory over third-seeded Keene State College — Eastern’s eighth straight victory and 19th in its last 21 matches.

After losing in straight sets at Keene State in its conference-opener Sept. 15, Eastern ripped off nine straight victories — and won its final seven LEC regular-season matches — and later ended the regular season on a six-game win streak. Eastern advanced to the tournament championship game with a sweep of Rhode Island College before ending a run of three straight three-set losses to Keene.

The conference tournament championship and ensuing NCAA invitation were the first for Eastern since 2007, when it defeated Western Connecticut in the LEC championship match. The Warriors finished the season with a 10-1 home record.

Six-foot freshman Anna Barry of Andover — one of three players on the team from high school state power RHAM — was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player on the strength of two-match totals of 28 kills, a .533 attack percentage and two blocks. She attacked at .737 with 14 kills in the semifinal sweep of Rhode Island College and had 14 kills and a .385 attack percentage against Keene. Another freshman, libero Madison Bell of Salem, played like a veteran in the tournament, fielding 43 serves without a reception error and digging up a team-high 39 balls (5.57 per set).

Of her four seniors, fifth-year head coach Megan Silver-Droesch told E-TV’s Dom Conte after the championship, “I’m so proud of them, they work hard and they got better every single year. And to overcome a hurdle (Keene State) that stopped us (in the regular season), is extra-special.”

The senior class included Carly Balskus of Hebron, Jackie Orlowski of Woodstock, Caryn Sibiskie of Rockfall, and Leah Sopneski of Deep River — the latter three overcame significant injuries throughout their careers.

The Warriors (23-7) concluded their winningest season since 2006 with a berth in the NCAA tournament for the 17th time — the second most such Division III appearances in New England history.

In the season-ending conference awards, Barry was named Rookie-of-the-Year and as the only freshman selection to the LEC first team. Silver-Droesch was named Coach-of-the-Year for the second time. Joining Barry on the all-conference team as second-team picks were Stern — last year’s LEC Rookie-of-the-Year — Balskus, and sophomore Alaetra Long. Barry was also voted to the NEWVA (New England Women’s Volleyball Association) All-Rookie Team.

Poverty Awareness Marathon Raises 378 Food Items

KPE professors Charlie Chatterton and Ari de Wilde midway through the marathon.

Written by Raven Dillon

Eastern Connecticut State University held its 10th annual Poverty Awareness Marathon on Oct. 5. The event culminated with 197 members of the Eastern community who walked and ran to raise awareness, as well as 378 food items that were donated to the Covenant Soup Kitchen and Shawn’s Cupboard, Eastern’s on-campus food pantry.

Beginning at 7 a.m., marathon runners participated for as many laps around campus as their schedules permitted; some for a single lap (roughly 1.2 miles) others for a half-marathon (13 miles). Professor Charlie Chatterton, who has completed numerous marathons, exceeded by running 28 miles in approximately six hours.

Participants pose for a group photo before the 7 a.m. starting time

Chatterton teaches kinesiology and physical education (KPE). He has been involved in poverty awareness efforts for years, and has been instrumental in this event since the beginning. He encourages students to get involved in any way they can.

Aside from running or walking, the Eastern community donated nonperishable food items and students signed large, colorful posters, pledging to volunteer in upcoming events and to call attention to issues of poverty with their friends and family. Among them were several athletes from Eastern’s sports teams, including the men’s and women’s cross-country teams, men’s basketball and women’s lacrosse.

The marathon was organized by the Center for Community Engagement and the student organization People Helping People.

 

Eastern Announces New Head Baseball Coach

Brian Hamm joins Warriors after nine seasons leading Amherst College

Former Amherst College head baseball coach Brian Hamm has been named the seventh head baseball coach in the 71-year history of the Eastern Connecticut State University baseball program.

“We are very excited to welcome Brian Hamm to the Eastern family,” said Director of Athletics Lori Runksmeier in making the announcement. “Brian emerged as our leading candidate from a highly competitive pool, and I am confident he is going to do great things. The Eastern baseball program has a tradition of success, and the expectations that accompany those successes are high,” added Runksmeier. “Brian has shown he can produce teams that win with character, and he has the passion to succeed as a Warrior. I believe he will meet our expectations and create great experiences for our baseball players.”

Hamm averaged nearly 25 wins a year with a .662 winning percentage in his nine-year career with the Mammoths. He replaces Matt LaBranche, who was 124-77 with two Little East Conference tournament titles in five seasons. LaBranche resigned in June to become the director of athletics at Western New England University.

Hamm expressed his thanks to Eastern President Dr. Elsa Núñez, Vice President of Student Affairs Walter Diaz and Runksmeier, as well as the search committee “for the opportunity to serve as Eastern’s baseball coach. Under Lori Runksmeier’s leadership, the department enables its athletes and coaches to be successful through a supportive and positive culture. The great energy and spirit associated with the University and Athletics Department is exciting to join,” added the new head coach. “Our goal is to win championships and to do so in a way that honors the legacy of the baseball program and is in line with the mission of our university.”

A 2002 graduate of Middlebury College and a native of Terryville, Hamm spent the past 14 years at Amherst, the first four assisting legendary head coach Bill Thurston before succeeding the Hall of Fame coach in 2010. In nine years as head coach at Amherst, Hamm oversaw the winningest period in Amherst baseball’s 156-year history, winning 221 games and losing 113 (.662), leading the program to four NCAA Division III tournaments and two NESCAC (New England Small College Athletic Conference) tournament championships. Hamm’s teams were 96-35 (.725) in conference play and set program records for highest team batting average (.323) and lowest team ERA (3.12).

Hamm left Amherst after the 2018 season to return to Connecticut where his wife, Maija Cheung, is a surgeon at Yale-New Haven Hospital. “Returning to Connecticut and coaching at one of our great public institutions is important to me,” noted Hamm, a product of the Terryville Public Schools System. “My family has a long history in sports in Terryville and in Connecticut, and to join the Eastern baseball family and represent our alumni is a privilege that I will do my best to honor. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to do so with the young men that are on the team now. I’ve spoken with some of the players and it is clear that I am joining a wonderful group.”

During the 2018 season, Amherst compiled at least 20 wins for the ninth straight year in 2018 and won its second NESCAC championship in six years with a final record of 24-14. The No. 1 seed in the East Division of the NESCAC this past year, Amherst defeated Tufts, the No. 1 seed in the West, twice after a 3-2, 12-inning tournament-opening victory over Bates College to claim the title. At the conclusion of the season this past year, Amherst was ranked sixth in the final NEIBA Division III poll. The Mammoths made their first appearance in the poll – sharing fifth place – after claiming the NESCAC tournament crown.

Hamm was named NESCAC Coach-of-the-Year in 2011 and 2018. In 2014, Amherst won a program-record 30 games and was ranked as high as No. 3 in New England and No. 22 in the final ABCA national poll. During his tenure at Amherst, four players were selected in the MLB First-Year Player Draft, two of them signing after their junior seasons.

As a college athlete, Hamm played baseball and soccer at Middlebury. After graduating, he spent three seasons as an assistant baseball coach at Middlebury before moving on to Amherst in 2006.

Hamm inherits an Eastern team that finished 25-16 last year – 10-4 in the Little East Conference – reaching the championship round of the Little East Conference tournament as the No. 2 seed. Six of the nine starters in last year’s final game are expected to return, as are all but one of last year’s pitchers. Top senior returnees are two-time all-region third baseman Alex Parkos (Meriden) and all-conference right-handed pitcher Jordan Muchin (West Hartford) and all-conference shortstop Dale Keller (Oxford).

“What stands out to me during the many conversations that I have with alumni, players and coaches is their passion and love for Eastern Connecticut and its baseball program,” said Hamm. “I have great respect for the many coaches and alumni who have worn the jersey and contributed to its meaning, and I look forward to learning more about Eastern’s long history from them.”

Hamm holds a B.A. Degree in Political Science from Middlebury and an M.S. Degree in Sport Management from the University of Massachusetts Isenberg School of Management.

Written by Bob Molta

Runksmeier named NADIIIAA Vice President

Written by Mckenzie Maneggia ’20 / Sports Information Office

WILLIMANTIC, Conn. – Eastern Connecticut State University Director of Athletics Lori Runksmeier was recently named vice president of the National Association of Division III Athletic Administrators (NADIIIAA). She was nominated for this position by her colleagues.

Runksmeier has been a member of the NADIIIAA organization for many years. “I believe the creation of NADIIIAA was very important. I believe in it because it addresses the specific challenges of DIII athletics,” said Runksmeier, who has spent the last three years of her 30-year career in athletic administration in her current position at Eastern. Runksmeier came to Eastern in the summer of 2015 after 16 years as Director of Athletics at Division III New England College.

Runksmeier will serve a two-year term as vice president for NADIIIAA before advancing to the position as association president. She is excited to have started this position.“Having this opportunity serve NADIIIAA is an honor. I look forward to working with NADIIIAA’s leadership to further support DIII athletic administrators,” she says.

In addition to Runksmeier’s appointment, Keri Alexander Luchowski was elected NADIIIAA president and Kiki Jacobs secretary and named as at-large executive committee members were Shana Levine, Michael Lynch, Pam Samuelson, Mike Snyder and Portia Hoeg. Luchowski is currently executive director of the North Coast Athletic Conference and Jacobs director of athletics at Roger Williams University.

As she sees it, Runksmeier will focus upon planning education sessions specifically catered to Division III athletics. The vice president position includes programming panels at the NCAA convention and the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) convention, which are held once a year. “Our relationship with NACDA has already proven beneficial, and I expect we will continue to strengthen those ties. I look forward to serving.”

One goal that Runksmeier hopes to achieve while she is serving is to increase membership in this organization. There are currently over 700 athletic administrators that are part of NADIIIAA and she strives to increase this number so more Division III voices can be heard nationwide.

In three years under Runksmeier, ten intercollegiate programs at Eastern have combined to win 17 Little East Conference regular-season and playoff titles or one-day championship events. Twice, Eastern has won the Commissioner’s Cup for conference athletic supremacy and twice has earned the Presidents’ Trophy for academic supremacy.  Runksmeier has also spearheaded recent fund-raising drives to name the softball field in memory of softball founder Clyde Washburne and the turf field in honor of lacrosse founder Rick McCarthy.

This past summer, two facilities are undergoing upgrades. Field Turf is being installed at the soccer, field hockey and lacrosse field  at the Mansfield Outdoor Complex – replacing the original material – and a new surface has been installed on the swimming pool deck and walls. 

NADIIIAA athletic administrators are from over 350 institutions and conferences competing at the NCAA Division III level. The association encourages the continued development of athletic programs focused on the student-athlete and based on sound educational principles and the Division III philosophy. NADIIIAA is administered by NACDA, which is in its 53rd year.

Eastern Named a 2018 College of Distinction

WILLIMANTIC, CT (06/18/2018) Eastern Connecticut State University has been recognized as a 2018-19 College of Distinction by the college-guide/ranking organization Colleges of Distinction.

The organization praised Eastern for its student-centered approaches and high-impact educational practices. High-impact practices of note include Eastern’s community-based learning programs, intensive writing courses, living-learning communities for residents, undergraduate research, internships and other hands-on learning experiences.

“We are absolutely thrilled to recognize Eastern Connecticut State University as a College of Distinction for its effective dedication to student success,” said Tyson Schritter, CEO for Colleges of Distinction. “Colleges of Distinction is so impressed with Eastern’s curriculum, which is enriched with the kind of high-impact educational practices that are most crucial for student development. Such innovative engagement is preparing the next generation of young adults to thrive after college.”

Colleges of Distinction’s selection process consists of a review of each institution’s freshman experience and retention efforts alongside its general education programs, alumni success, strategic plan, student satisfaction and more. Schools are accepted on the basis that they adhere to the Four Distinctions: Engaged Students, Great Teaching, Vibrant Community and Successful Outcomes.

“Colleges of Distinction is far more than a ranking list of colleges and universities,” said Schritter. “We seek out the schools that are wholly focused on the student experience, constantly working to produce graduates who are prepared for a rapidly changing global society. Again recognized as a College of Distinction, Eastern Connecticut State University stands out in the way it strives to help its students to learn, grow and succeed.”

Eastern Repeats as LEC Commissioner’s Cup Winner

The women’s cross country team captured its first-ever LEC title in fall 2017 and was a major contributor to Eastern winning the 2017-18 Commissioner’s Cup.

PAWTUCKET, R.I. – For the second straight year, Eastern Connecticut State University has claimed the Little East Conference (LEC) Commissioner’s Cup, the league’s top honor for overall institutional athletic performance among the LEC’s eight primary member institutions in its 19 sponsored sports. The Warriors captured the 2017-18 Commissioner’s Cup after accumulating a point average of 5.62 among their 17 programs that compete in the LEC.

“We are thrilled and honored to win the Commissioner’s Cup again as the top performing school in our conference,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “Eastern’s student-athletes work hard in the classroom to prepare themselves for rewarding professional careers, and they compete with the same commitment and enthusiasm on the playing field. For Eastern athletes to perform at a consistently high level across all varsity sports in the Conference is a tribute to them, their coaches and our Athletic Department staff. Well done Warriors!”

Lori Runksmeier, Eastern’s athletics director, added, “We are very proud to receive the Commissioner’s Cup for the second straight year. The LEC has proud athletic traditions and earning the Commissioner’s Cup is a testament to the hard work and dedication of our student-athletes and coaches.”

Eastern’s women’s cross country team captured its first-ever LEC title in the fall, while the men’s basketball team won the outright regular season title and the women’s soccer team finished tied for first place in the final regular season standings. The Warriors recorded a second-place finish in five sports, all during the spring season—baseball, men’s and women’s lacrosse, softball, women’s outdoor track & field—and finished third in field hockey, women’s volleyball and women’s swimming & diving.

“Congratulations to the Eastern Connecticut State University administration, coaches and student-athletes on earning back-to-back Commissioner’s Cups,” said LEC Commissioner Cora H. Brumley. “The Warriors exemplify the NCAA Division III philosophy by excelling both on and off the field of play and are continuing to usher in a new era of competitive parity across the LEC!” 

Second place for the 2017-18 Commissioner’s Cup was UMass Boston with a point average of 5.34, while 16-time LEC Commissioner’s Cup winner Keene State College finished third with a point average of 5.18. Rounding out this year’s Commissioner’s Cup standings were the University of Southern Maine (fourth, 4.89 points), UMass Dartmouth (fifth, 4.71 points), Plymouth State University (sixth, 4.67 points), Western Connecticut State University (eighth, 4.31 points) and Rhode Island College (eighth, 4.26 points).

For sports in which the LEC conducts in-season play (baseball, basketball, field hockey, lacrosse, soccer, softball, tennis and volleyball), points are determined by the ranked order of finish in the final regular season standings. For sports that do not conduct in-season play (cross country, swimming & diving, track & field), points are awarded based on the order of finish at the LEC championship meet.

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The Little East Conference (LEC) was formed in 1986 when six public institutions gathered to create a single sport athletic conference and has expanded into what is now New England’s premier athletic conference for public institutions in NCAA Division III. The LEC features 19 Championship Sports and sponsors quality competition in every season for our student athletes while following the Division III mission of passion, responsibility, sportsmanship and citizenship.

Top U.S. Mental Health Official Speaks at Eastern’s 128th Commencement

                                                                            Eastern Graduates 1,200 Students at XL Center

Written by Ed Osborn

Elinore McCance-Katz

Hartford, CT — Eastern Connecticut State University alumna Elinore McCance-Katz, assistant secretary for mental health and substance use in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), told the graduates and their families at Eastern Connecticut State University’s 128th Commencement exercises that the current opioid crisis facing the United States is “the nation’s greatest medical challenge since the AIDS epidemic of the 1990s. It is a tragedy of major proportions, and we need to work together to help those addicted get treatment and recover from this disease.”

Eastern’s annual graduation ceremony was held at the XL Center in Hartford on May 15, with more than 12,000 family members and friends cheering on their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, as 1,105 undergraduates and 85 graduate students received their diplomas.

McCance-Katz told the audience that Eastern had grown from a small college when she attended Eastern Connecticut State College in the 1970s to become “a comprehensive university that has flourished.”

The commencement speaker also received an honorary doctor of science degree from Eastern in a special hooding ceremony during the graduation exercises.  She graduated magna cum laude from Eastern in 1978 with a degree in biology. Following a sterling career in medicine, psychiatry, academic achievement and public administration, McCance-Katz’s DHHS appointment in August 2017 made her the first assistant secretary-level director of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

After earning her degree from Eastern, Dr. McCance-Katz went on to earn a Ph.D. at Yale University in Infectious Disease Epidemiology in 1984, and then received her M.D. from the University of Connecticut in 1987. 

After completing a residency in psychiatry, she held teaching positions at the Yale School of Medicine, Brown University, Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of California in San Francisco, the University of Texas and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Prior to her HHS appointment, McCance-Katz was Chief Medical Officer of the Rhode Island Department of Behavioral Health, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals from 2015 to 2017, and served as professor of psychiatry and human behavior and professor of behavioral and social sciences at the Alpert Medical School at Brown University.

Describing how her professional journey had taken her from treating AIDS patients in the 1990s to her current national leadership role in treating substance abuse and mental illness, McCance-Katz described federal and state efforts to develop new recovery services and support services.  “We will turn the tide on this epidemic,” she said, urging graduates to get involved as medical professionals, nurses, counselors and social workers.

 “Be adventurous. Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. Be an advocate for those who have not had the advantages you have had.  There is no greater satisfaction than helping others.”

Eastern President Elsa Núñez

Other speakers at the Commencement Exercises included Eastern President Elsa Núñez; Yvette Meléndez, vice-chairof the Board of Regents for Higher Education; and Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State College and Universities System. Additional members of the platform party included Justin Murphy ’98, president of the ECSU Foundation; Father Laurence LaPointe; and other Eastern officials.

Núñez told the graduates their liberal arts education at Eastern was highly prized by American employers.  “In five separate surveys conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities over the past decade, the vast majority of employers — over 90 percent! — say they are less interested in specialized job proficiencies, favoring instead analytical thinking, teamwork and communication skills — the wide-ranging academic and social competencies available through a liberal arts education.”

Núñez also urged the graduates to give back to their communities, saying, “I know that the majority of our seniors have found ways to donate their time and good will to making our community a better place to live.  Wherever you end up — in Connecticut or beyond — make sure you continue to give a portion of your time to make a difference in your community.” 

Lastly, Núñez encouraged the Eastern seniors to be active citizens as they participate in the American democratic system of self-governance. She quoted New York Times columnist Bret Stephens, who has written that disagreement is “the most vital ingredient of any decent society. It defines our individuality, gives us our freedom, enjoins our tolerance, enlarges our perspectives, makes our democracies real, and gives hope and courage to oppressed people everywhere.”

“So never abdicate your responsibilities as a citizen to someone else,” said Núñez. “Be willing to question the status quo.  And stand up for the values you believe in.”

More than 40 percent of the graduates were the first in their families to earn a bachelor’s degree. As Connecticut’s only public liberal arts university, Eastern draws students from 163 of the state’s 169 towns. Approximately 85 percent of graduates stay in Connecticut to launch their careers, contribute to their communities and raise their families.

Senior Class President Charlotte MacDonald presented the Senior Class Gift to President Nunez — an annual Class of 2018 scholarship — and thanked her classmates’ families, friends and faculty for supporting the senior class in its journey. Recalling the Eastern tradition where freshmen toss a penny into a fountain on campus as they make a wish — presumably to graduate in four years — MacDonald shared her own three wishes with her classmates. “My first wish is that you go confidently in the direction of your passions . . . the education you have received at Eastern has prepared you for this.  My second wish is for you not only to better yourself but others around you. Contribute to your community, offer things you no longer use to those in desperate need, volunteer your time . . . My last wish is that you find a path to happiness. . . your willingness to conquer challenges is what will separate you from the majority.”

Meléndez, former vice president of government and community alliances for Hartford Hospital, spoke on behalf of the Board of Regents for Higher Education, expressing gratitude to all who had supported Eastern’s graduates — parents, family, friends and especially Eastern’s faculty. “Their commitment to your success is what makes this university so special. Today is a significant milestone.  We hope today is merely a catalyst for a fulfilling life as each of you pursues your goals.”

Michele Bacholle, Distinguished Professor of the Year

 

Ojakian also offered remarks, commending Eastern President Núñez, her administrative team and “an exceptional faculty that guided you onyour journey to get to today.  The journey is now yours. It is your own path and your own truth that will motivate you . . .  Trust your instincts . . .  You have an obligation to leave this world a better place.  Take charge!”

This year’s graduation ceremonies again reflected Eastern’s Commencement traditions, ranging from the Governor’s Foot Guard Color Guard, to the plaintive sound of the bagpipes of the St. Patrick’s Pipe Band and the pre-event music of the Thread City Brass Quintet. University Senate President Maryanne Clifford presided over the commencement exercises; seniors Halie Poirier, Michael Beckstein and Hannah Bythrow sang “America the Beautiful”; Senior Nathan Cusson gave the invocation; and French Professor Michèle Bacholle was recognized as the 2018 Distinguished Professor Award recipient.