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.”

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.

Leadership Luncheon Recognizes Outstanding Donors and Alumni

The award winners of the 2018 Leadership Luncheon pose for a group photo. Front row: Elaine Ossen, Patricia McGrath (Geraldine Spillane’s daughter), Geraldine Spillane, Eastern President Elsa Núñez, Jack Spillane, Sean Spillane, Ken DeLisa, Vice President. Back row: Lorraine Scanlon (Mike’s wife), Mike Scanlon, and Debra Spillane

Written by Ed Osborn

A spirit of celebration and good will was in the air when Eastern Connecticut State University held its annual President’s Leadership Awards Luncheon on March 16 to honor the University’s leadership level supporters. The luncheon is Eastern’s premier donor appreciation event of the year and also recognizes the University’s most distinguished Eastern alumni. An appreciative crowd of Eastern supporters enjoyed this year’s event in the Fine Arts Center’s Susan Sukman McCray Foyer, named after a major donor to the University’s Theatre Program.

Ken DeLisa, vice president for institutional advancement, opened the luncheon by speaking to the University’s fundraising achievements of the past year. Total giving to the ECSU Foundation, Inc., exceeded $2 million for the sixth straight year, with student scholarship awards totaling $2.1 million over the past four years.  Projected scholarship awards in fiscal year 2019 will approach a record $700,000.

In recognizing the awardees as well as the many donors present, DeLisa said, “Because of your professional achievements, personal philanthropy and unwavering commitment to Eastern, you inspire our passion for higher education. You serve as role models for our students and you create opportunities for them to succeed.”

In her remarks, Eastern President Elsa Núñez told the audience that their generosity was contributing to Eastern’s improved reputation, indicating that the University had entered the ranks of the top 25 universities in the North Region for the first time in last fall’s U.S. News and World Report “Best Colleges” rankings. Eastern was also the only public institution in New England named a “Great College to Work For” by the Chronicle of Higher Education, and was named a Green College by The Princeton Review for the eighth year in a row. 

Núñez also noted the growing philanthropy of Eastern supporters. “Since I arrived here 12 years ago, we have added 52 new endowed scholarships totaling $6.7 million; we have doubled the number of donors making annual gifts of $1,000 or more; and the percentage of alumni making gifts has grown from three percent to nine percent, the highest giving percentage among Connecticut’s four state universities, and higher than private institutions such as the University of Hartford, Sacred Heart University and Quinnipiac University.”  

In applauding the generosity of leadership donors, Núñez said, “Your contributions to student scholarships make a world of difference in the lives of the individual students who benefit from your generosity.  Over time, endowed scholarships at Eastern will benefit not only the thousands of students you are helping to fulfill their personal dreams, but will also have a great impact on Connecticut and our great American Democracy. As John F. Kennedy said in 1961, ‘Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream, which fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation.’”

Following the luncheon service, Núñez was joined by Justin Murphy Esq., president of the ECSU Foundation, Inc., Board of Directors, to announce this year’s awards.

Elinore McCance-Katz ’78 was honored with the Distinguished Alumni Award.  A graduate of Eastern’s Biology program, McCance-Katz has been a national leader in mental health and addiction policy for decades, and recently was appointed as the assistant secretary for mental health and substance use at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, DC. She is the first assistant secretary-level director of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 

In addition to her Eastern degree, she holds a Ph.D. from Yale University and an M.D. from the University of Connecticut.  Prior to her federal appointment, McCance-Katz held senior medical officer positions in Rhode Island, Virginia and California, and has taught at Yale School of Medicine, Brown University, the University of Texas and other universities.

Michael Scanlon ’75 (right) received the Distinguished Service Award. Justin Murphy, president of the ECSU Foundation Board of Directors, and Eastern President Elsa Nunez join him for a photo.

Michael Scanlon ’75 received the Distinguished Service Award.  A native of Manchester, CT, Scanlon earned his M.S. in organic chemistry from the University of Connecticut, and went on to have a distinguished management career in the chemical engineering industry. In addition to years of service as a member and later as president of the ECSU Foundation, Inc., Board of Directors, Scanlon and his wife Lorraine volunteer for Meals on Wheels in their hometown of Redding, CT, and are active with the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, site of the historic Woodstock music festival in New York State.

“I am truly humbled and honored to be recognized today,” said Scanlon. “I was blessed with a quality education at Eastern, where I learned the value of social responsibility and how to think critically in real-world settings.” A first-generation college student, Scanlon followed three friends to Eastern, where he majored in biology. He thanked several professors who had inspired and supported him, including two — retired Mathematics Professor Steve Kenton and retired Chemistry Professor Max Ferguson — who were on hand to congratulate him.  “Some of my best years were at Eastern,” concluded Scanlon, sharing that the day was also he and his wife’s 27th wedding anniversary.

The Hermann Beckert “Friend of the University” Award was given to Rheo Brouillard, recently retired President and CEO of the SI Financial Group, Inc., a role he assumed in 2004 after being the president of the Savings Institute Bank and Trust (SIBT) since 1995.  Under Brouillard’s leadership, SIBT has contributed more than $60,000 to support Eastern students and University initiatives.

Through the SI Financial Group Foundation, established in 2005, Brouillard and his colleagues have also provided financial support for local organizations such as the Covenant Soup Kitchen, Camp Horizons, and the Northeast Connecticut Community Development Corporation, which is providing safe, affordable housing for local Windham residents and working to revitalize downtown Willimantic.

Eileen Ossen speaks on behalf of her family foundation after receiving the ECSU Foundation’s Board of Director’s Award.

Local philanthropist Eileen Ossen and the Jeffrey P. Ossen Family Foundation received the Foundation’s Board of Director’s Award. Jeffrey Ossen, a local businessman who built a successful company in the manufactured housing industry, passed away in 2007. A lifelong philanthropist, Ossen made a $500,000 leadership gift that led to building the $8.5 million Jeffrey P. Ossen Emergency Center at Windham Community Memorial Hospital. 

Ossen’s widow Eileen has continued her late husband’s work through the Jeffrey P. Ossen Foundation, which has been instrumental in creating and supporting a variety of endowed scholarships at Eastern. The scholarships have a cumulative balance of $240,000 and have supported 53 students with scholarships ranging from $1,500 to $3,000 each of the past three years.

“I believe in Windham and Willimantic,” said Eileen Ossen in accepting the award. “Supporting education is the best way to help this community, because it can empower our residents to fulfill their dreams for a better life. Jeff would have a light in his eye if he saw how many young people we are helping through the foundation.”

The Spillane family: (first row) Jack Spillane, Geraldine (Shea) Spillane ’57, Debra Spillane (Sean Spillane’s wife), Patricia McGrath (Geraldine Spillane’s daughter). Second row: Sean Spillane, nephew Steve Spillane.

Pawcatuck, CT, resident Geri (Shea) Spillane, Class of 1957, her brother-in-law Jack Spillane, and his son, Sean Spillane, were honored with the ECSU Foundation’s Distinguished Donor Award. Gerry Spillane’s late husband, Robert “Buddy” Spillane ’56, served as superintendent of schools in Boston, as well as in school districts in Virginia, New York and New Jersey. He later worked as the European regional officer for the U.S. State Department’s Office of Overseas Schools. 

In addition to his distinguished career in education, Buddy Spillane served on the ECSU Foundation, Inc., Board of Directors for more than a decade, and was the first recipient of the University’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 1969.

Following his passing in 2015, Spillane’s brother Jack, and nephew Sean, joined with Geri Spillane to create an endowed scholarship in Buddy’s honor, and have funded it with gifts in excess of $150,000. Sean and Jack Spillane are successful businessmen in the Minneapolis, MN, area, and Jack serves on the Board of Trustees of the University of Minnesota’s School of Nursing.

In speaking for his family, Jack Spillane recounted how he and his brother grew up on High Street in Willimantic upstairs from what is now Blarney’s Cafe. In the 1950s, the family ran a lunch counter on the first floor of the building. “The Campus Shoppe” was frequented by many Eastern students at the time, including Buddy Spillane’s future wife, Geraldine Shea.

“Bud’s heart was in this school,” said Jack Spillane, “and we are pleased that we can create a long-lasting legacy for him at Eastern.  Bud is not gone . . . he is still in all the places where he made an impact.”

In concluding the day’s festivities, DeLisa thanked the donors in attendance: “You honor Eastern through your continued faith in the University and your ongoing commitment to giving our students access to all the opportunity that comes with higher education.”

Eastern Makes “College Consensus” List of Top Colleges in Connecticut

Written by Ed Osborn

WILLIMANTIC, CT (01/26/2018) College Consensus, a unique new college review aggregator, has recognized Eastern Connecticut State University in its ranking of “Best Colleges in Connecticut for 2017-18.” Eastern was ranked in the top 10 schools in Connecticut, and was one of only two public institutions chosen, the University of Connecticut being the other.

To identify the Best Colleges in Connecticut for 2017-18, College Consensus averaged the latest results from the most respected college ranking systems, including U.S. News and World Report among others, along with thousands of student review scores, to produce a unique rating for each school. Read about the organization’s methodology at https://www.collegeconsensus.com/about.

“Congratulations on making the list of Best Colleges in Connecticut for 2017-18,” said Carrie Sealey-Morris, managing editor of College Consensus. “Your inclusion in our ranking shows that your school has been recognized for excellence by both publishers on the outside and students and alumni on the inside.”

Part of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System, Eastern began its life in 1889 as a public normal school. Today the University is recognized as one of top 25 public universities in the North Region by U.S. News & World Report, and has been named one of the nation’s Green Colleges eight years in a row by the Princeton Review.

Eastern is Connecticut’s public liberal arts college, with a student body of 5,300 students; more than 90 percent of Eastern’s students are from Connecticut. Eastern’s size gives its students an uncommon degree of individualized attention, aided by a 15:1 student/faculty ratio and a strong commitment to student success.

In addition to a strong liberal art foundation, Eastern has many opportunities for students to engage in practical, hands-on learning, ranging from internships to study abroad, community service and undergraduate research. For instance, Eastern has sent more student researchers to the competitive National Conference on Undergraduate Research in the past four years than all the other public universities in Connecticut combined. In 2018, 41 of the 44 students from Connecticut who will present their research at the conference in April are from Eastern.

With its history, Eastern is also one of Connecticut’s foremost educators of teachers, and its professional studies and continuing education programs have made it an important institution for Connecticut’s working adults.

To see Eastern’s College Consensus profile, visit https://www.collegeconsensus.com/school/eastern-connecticut-state-university.

Eastern Breaks Into List of Top 25 Public Regional Universities

Written by Ed Osborn

eastern_front_entranceFor the first time, Eastern Connecticut State University made the list of the top 25 regional public universities in the North in this year’s U.S. News and World Report’s 2018 edition of “Best Colleges.” Eastern was the highest ranked university among the four Connecticut state universities. The annual rankings were released on Sept. 12.

•Theatre students perform Cervantes' "Pedro, The Great Pretender," as the first production in the Proscenium Theatre of Eastern's new Fine Arts Instructional Center

• Theatre students perform Cervantes’ “Pedro, The Great Pretender,” as the first production in the Proscenium Theatre of Eastern’s new Fine Arts Instructional Center

Regional universities such as Eastern are ranked on the basis of 16 criteria that include peer assessment, graduation and retention rates, faculty resources, admissions selectivity, financial resources and alumni giving. The North Region includes colleges and universities from New England, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland.

•Biology major Elizabeth DelBuono '17 is in the graduate program in Genetic Counseling at Sarah Lawrence College.

• Biology major Elizabeth DelBuono ’17 is in the graduate program in Genetic Counseling at Sarah Lawrence College.

“I am gratified to see Eastern ranked in the top 25 public institutions in the North in this year’s U.S. News and World Report’s 2018 Best Colleges report,” said Eastern President Elsa Nunez. “Our commitment to high standards, our focus on providing students with personal attention, and the introduction of new academic programs have resulted in our favorable ranking. Students and their families turn to the Best Colleges rankings to help decide where to attend college.  These newest rankings reaffirm that Eastern is providing a relevant and high quality education on our beautiful residential campus.”

This year’s U.S. News and World Report rankings included reviews of 1,389 schools nationwide and are available at www.usnews.com/colleges. They will also be published in the Best Colleges 2017 Guidebook, published by U.S. News & World Report and available on newsstands on Oct. 10.

For the past 33 years, the U.S. News and World Report rankings, which group colleges based on categories created by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, have grown to be the most comprehensive research tool for students and parents considering higher education opportunities.

Eastern Named a ‘Great College to Work For’ for Eighth Time

Written by Michael Rouleau

2013GCWF_4CsingularWILLIMANTIC, CT (07/17/2017) Eastern Connecticut State University has again been named a “Great College to Work For” by The Chronicle of Higher Education, a top trade publication for colleges and universities. Released today by The Chronicle, the results are based on a survey of 232 colleges and universities. This is the eighth time Eastern has received “Great Colleges” distinction since it first began participating in the program in 2009.

Only 79 of the institutions that applied for the program achieved “Great College to Work For” recognition this year. Eastern was also named to the national Great Colleges “Honor Roll,” one of only 42 institutions named to this exclusive club. This is the third year in a row that Eastern has been named to the honor roll. Eastern was also the only public four-year university or college in New England to gain “Great Colleges” distinction.

The Chronicle’s Great Colleges to Work For survey is the largest and most comprehensive workplace study in higher education. Now in its 10th year, it recognizes the colleges that get top ratings from their employees on workforce practices and policies.

The survey results are based on a two-part assessment process: an institutional audit that captured demographics and workplace policies, and a survey administered to faculty, administrators, and professional support staff. The primary factor in deciding whether an institution received recognition was employee feedback.

Eastern won honors in six survey categories this year: Collaborative Governance; Compensation and Benefits; Facilities, Workspaces, and Security; Confidence in Senior Leadership; Teaching Environment; and Tenure Clarity and Process.

“It is gratifying to know that our employees continue to value the positive working atmosphere we share on our campus,” said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. “The ‘Great Colleges to Work For’ recognition is not only a symbol of the common purpose found among our faculty and staff, it represents the welcoming and supportive environment that our students experience every day.

“To know that Eastern has consistently received this honor – winning ‘Great Colleges’ recognition in each of the eight years we have participated – is an indication that our commitment to campus unity is an enduring value firmly embedded in our culture.”

“Ten years in, the ‘Great Colleges to Work For’ distinction is well-known by academic jobseekers as a sign that an institution’s employees are valued and given opportunities for growth even when they face financial constraints,” said Liz McMillen, editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. “Any college or university that’s on the list is showing that they emphasize one of their most valuable assets: their faculty and staff.”

To administer the survey and analyze the results, The Chronicle worked with ModernThink LLC, a strategic human capital consulting firm that has conducted numerous “Best Places to Work” programs, surveying hundreds of thousands of employees nationwide. “It’s easier to be a great workplace during good times, but it’s when times are tough that the commitment to workplace quality really gets tested,” said Richard K. Boyer, principal and managing partner of ModernThink LLC. “Those institutions that measure up during times of economic hardship reinforce their already strong cultures and put even more distance between them and their peer institutions for whom they compete for talent.”

###

About Eastern Connecticut State University

Eastern Connecticut State University is the state of Connecticut’s public liberal arts university, serving more than 5,300 students annually at its Willimantic campus and satellite locations. In addition to attracting students from 163 of Connecticut’s 169 towns, Eastern also draws students from 23 other states and 20 other countries. A residential campus offering 39 majors and 64 minors, Eastern offers students a strong liberal art foundation grounded in an array of applied learning opportunities. Ranked the 26th top public university in the North Region by U.S. News and World Report in its 2017 Best College ratings, Eastern has also been awarded “Green Campus” status by the U.S. Green Building Council seven years in a row. For more information, visit www.easternct.edu.

About The Chronicle of Higher Education

The Chronicle of Higher Education is dedicated to serving the higher-education community with insights, understanding, and intellectual engagement. Academic leaders and professionals from around the world trust The Chronicle’s analysis and in-depth exploration to make informed decisions.

About ModernThink LLC

As a research and consulting leader in workplace issues, ModernThink has supported a wide variety of “Best Place to Work” initiatives. Through these programs, the firm has gained substantial survey and industry expertise, including specific insight into higher education. ModernThink knows what it takes to build a great place to work and shares that know-how with its clients. The ModernThink team of organizational development experts is dedicated to helping colleges follow through and capitalize on feedback from employees and benchmark data from peers to drive meaningful change at their institutions. Learn more at http://www.modernthink.com.

View Online: http://easternct.meritpages.com/news/eastern-named-a–great-college-to-work-for–for-eighth-time/691

Former Washington Post Publisher Addresses Eastern Graduates

Written by Ed Osborn

                                                     Eastern Graduates 1,238 at XL Center

David Graham

David Graham

Hartford, CT — Former Washington Post Publisher Donald Graham told the graduates at Eastern Connecticut State University’s 127th Commencement exercises to “treasure this college. Eastern has given you a wonderful education . . . once you are making a living, give something back so that you can help Eastern continue to be great in the future.”

The annual graduation ceremony was held at the XL Center in Hartford on May 17, with more than 12,000 family members and friends cheering on their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, as 1,180 undergraduates and 58 graduate students received their diplomas.

Graham also told the graduates, “Throughout our history, American leaders have stood up in times of peril — during the American Revolution, during the Civil War, confronting Hitler, standing up to Communism, and advancing civil and women’s rights.  At some time in your life, you will be asked to stand up for what is right, and I know you will answer the call.” Noting that the American political system has worked very well for more than 200 years, Graham said, “Future politicians will say, ‘I will fight for you.’  That’s fine. But ask them, ‘What will you do when you are done fighting?’”

Commencement 2017 Crowd_7167The commencement speaker also received an honorary degree from Eastern in a special hooding ceremony during the graduation exercises. Graham is chairman of Graham Holdings Co., formerly the Washington Post Co. A graduate of Harvard College, he is a veteran of the Vietnam War, serving as an information specialist with the First Cavalry Division from 1967-68.  He later served as a patrolman on the Washington, D.C., police force before joining the staff at the Washington Post in 1971 as a reporter.  Graham assumed the position of publisher of the Washington Post in 1979, following in the footsteps of his mother, Katherine Graham, who led the newspaper following her husband Philip Graham’s passing in 1963. In 1991, Donald Graham took over leadership as chief executive officer of the Washington Post Co.

Commencement 2017 Nunez and BabyIn 2013, Graham and his wife, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Amanda Bennett, joined Carlos Gutierrez, former U.S. Secretary of Commerce, and Henry R. Munoz III, chairman of Munoz & Company, to co-found TheDream.US, a national scholarship fund that helps undocumented immigrant youth get access to a college education. Since its founding, TheDream.US has raised $91 million in scholarship funds, providing financial support to 1,700 college students nationwide. Graham also co-founded and served as chairman of the District of Columbia College Access Program; he remains a member of the board.  The program has helped double the number of District of Columbia public high school students going on to college and has helped triple the number graduating from college.

Commencement 2017 Nunez Shakes HandOther speakers at the Commencement Exercises included Eastern President Elsa Nunez; Matt Fleury, chair of the Board of Regents for Higher Education; Mark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and University System; and Senior Class President Abigail Caselli, who delivered the Senior Class Address. Other members of the platform party included Willimantic Mayor Ernie Eldridge; Justin Murphy ’98, president of the ECSU Foundation; Ellen Lang ’81, president of the ECSU Alumni Association; Father Larry LaPointe; and other Eastern officials.

Commencement 2017 BEST BalloonNunez told the graduates she was confident they would impact the world in three ways,  first as professionals in the workforce, equipped with “. . . a highly desired set of skills” sought by the majority of American employers — “analytical thinking, teamwork and communication skills, the broad intellectual and social competencies available through a liberal arts education.” Nunez also urged the graduates to give back to their communities, quoting Children’s Defense Fund founder Marian Wright Edelman, who once said, “Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.”

Waving BESTLastly, Nunez encouraged the Eastern seniors to “. . . exercise your duties and rights as American citizens. Our nation remains a beacon of freedom and a guiding light for other nations to follow, not because of our military might or our economic power, but because of the political, religious and personal freedoms we enjoy.”

Commencement 2017 Four LadiesNoting those freedoms must be protected, Eastern’s president went on to say, “Being a citizen of this great nation is clearly an investment of time, but it is the only way we can protect the freedoms we hold dear. Never abdicate your responsibilities as a citizen to someone else.  Be willing to question the status quo.  And stand up for the values you believe in.”

Commencement 2017 FamiliesMore 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.

Commencement 2017 Student PresidentSenior Class President Abigail Caselli presented the Senior Class Gift to President Nunez — an annual Class of 2017 scholarship — and thanked her classmates’ families, friends and faculty for supporting the senior class in its journey. “To a room filled with the next great doctors, nurses, actors and actresses, genetic counselors, presidents of universities, human resource managers and professors, just to name a few of the success stories to be written about my fellow graduates, I encourage you to use the opportunities that Eastern has given you and make the world around you better.  As someone once said, ‘Service is the highest form of leadership.’ May each of you find and share that leadership within you.”

Matt Fleury, president and CEO of the Connecticut Science Center, spoke on behalf of the Board of Regents for Higher Education. “Today is a significant milestone for you,” he said. “We are proud of your accomplishments and applaud the many sacrifices you have made to get here. Your journey to this point was not easy, but for that reason, it is so much more satisfying. Whatever path you have chosen, you can make a difference.”Commencement 2017 SelfiesMark Ojakian, president of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System, also spoke to the graduates. “You have come a very long way since the first day you arrived at Eastern,” said Ojakian. “Life will take you in many different directions after you leave here tonight. The road in front of you is undefined. But I am hopeful that our state and our nation will be in a better place — as you become your future.”Commencement 2017 Christina

Commencement 2017 Foot GuardFrom the Governor’s Foot Guard Color Guard in attendance, 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, this year’s graduation ceremonies again reflected Eastern’s Commencement traditions.

Commencemetn 2017 SingersUniversity Senate President Maryanne Clifford presided over the commencement exercises; seniors Abigail Perreira and Kristin Uschkureit sang “America the Beautiful”; Senior Leigha Grushkin gave the invocation; and Environmental Earth Science Professor Peter Drzewiecki was recognized as the 2017 Distinguished Professor Award recipient.

Jazz Icon Spyro Gyra to Perform at Eastern

Written by Ed Osborn

                                                          Concert to Benefit Local Scholarships

WILLIMANTIC, CT (04/27/2017) Legendary jazz quintet

Spyro Gyra

Spyro Gyra

will perform at Eastern Connecticut State University on May 20 in Eastern’s Fine Arts Center. The show opens at 8 p.m. and is the fourth and last in this year’s “Jazzin’ It Up at Eastern” concert series at Eastern.

From their humble beginnings in Buffalo, NY, Spyro 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 in that time.

During their 40th anniversary year in 2014, Spyro Gyra showcased their breakthrough album “Morning Dance” from 1979. In June 2016, they released “The Best of The Heads Up Years,” a compilation of tunes from 2001-09. In addition to the classic “Morning Dance,” other notable Spyro Gyra tunes include “Havana Moonlight,” “Shaker Song” and “Catching the Sun.” A live performance of “Morning Dance” can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bVDZ5UY_oDw

“My hope is that our music has the same effect on the audience that it does on me,” says group leader Jay Beckenstein. “I’ve always felt that music, and particularly instrumental music, has this non-literal quality that lets people travel to a place where there are no words. Whether it’s touching their emotions or connecting them to something that reminds them of something much bigger than themselves, there’s this beauty in music that’s not connected to sentences. It’s very transportive. I would hope that when people hear our music or come to see us, they’re able to share that with us.”

Seating is limited, so attendees should purchase their seats now. Advance ticket purchasers are eligible to win a concert poster or Spyro Gyra CD – autographed by the band. For tickets for Spyro Gyra’s May 20 performance, visit https://easternct.showare.com, call (860) 465-4979, or email concerts@easternct.edu.

Sponsored by local philanthropist David Foster, “Jazzin’ it Up at Eastern” has also featured Foster and the Mohegan Sun All-Stars; Grammy Award-winning trumpeter Arturo Sandoval and renowned jazz guitarist Pat Metheny. All proceeds support scholarships for Windham High School graduates attending Eastern.

Eastern Hosts Annual Bowlathon

Christina Rossamondo

More and more people are signing up every year to participate in the bowlathon

More and more people are signing up every year to participate in the bowlathon

Willimantic, CT — Eastern Connecticut State University hosted its annual Bowlathon on March 4 at Willi Bowl in Windham. This annual tradition brings together Eastern students, alumni, faculty, local businesses and community residents to support student scholarships.

Eastern’s Center of Community Engagement (CCE) and Office of Alumni Affairs work together to organize the event. “The CCE is a fantastic organization,” said Ryan Rose, associate director of alumni affairs. “We have created a great partnership over the years and found great ways to involve the community in our campus events. It’s a way to bring community members and the Eastern campus together.”

Students in Laurel and Nutmeg Residence Halls had loads of fun at this year's bowlathon.

Students in Laurel and Nutmeg Residence Halls had loads of fun at this year’s bowlathon.

The CCE pairs students from Windham Middle School with Eastern students, who take the role of mentors for the middle school students at the event. “It was really awesome to see all the young kids so excited,” said Nicolette D’Anna-Fierko, CCE volunteer. “The event was so much more rewarding knowing that these children had us to look up to even for something like bowling. They were so excited and worked really hard to improve their skills as the game progressed.”

Teams were formed by a number of different Eastern groups, including the men’s soccer team, the Honors program, various residence halls and more. Each team raised money for the event, with donated funds split between the Community Youth Scholarship and the CCE. The Community Youth Scholarship is a fund that helps local students attend Eastern.

“The event was well attended,” said Rose. “Each resident hall was represented and we ended up raising a lot of money toward the scholarship.” The event had 134 participants and more than $6,000 was raised.

Concert Series to Support Special Scholarship Program

Written by Ed Osborn

David Foster

David Foster

Willimantic, CT — 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 season.

“Jazzin’ it Up at Eastern” will feature four world-class acts in support of a scholarship fund for Windham High School graduates to attend Eastern Connecticut State University.

“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, Kevin’s widow Pat Crosbie and Eileen Ossen of the Jeffrey P. Ossen Family Foundation. All ticket proceeds for the concert series will go towards the Kevin Crosbie Memorial Scholarship.

“Kevin was a great friend and a tireless advocate for our local community,” said Foster, in announcing the concert series. “The scholarship fund we created in Kevin’s memory is a way to keep his legacy alive. He would be pleased to know that we are helping local students achieve their dream of a college education. This concert series will significantly add to the Crosbie Scholarship endowment.”

Foster’s band — the Mohegan Sun All-Stars — will open the series on Oct. 22. Their show marks the 45th anniversary of the Shaboo Inn in Mansfield, CT, where Foster showcased a Who’s Who of famous musical acts from 1971–82, including Dire Straits, BB King, Muddy Waters, AC/DC, Aerosmith, Elvis Costello, The Police and many more.

Foster began his career as a singer at age 14.  In 1979, he assembled a group of musicians to form the Shaboo All-Stars. Today, Foster and his friends are still cranking out their trademark rhythm and blues as “David Foster and the Mohegan Sun All-Stars.”

In addition to Foster and his band, three veteran jazz acts will complete the series — Grammy Award-winning trumpeter Arturo Sandoval, renowned guitarist Pat Metheny and legendary jazz quintet Spyro Gyra.  The Mohegan Sun All-Stars perform on Oct. 22, Sandoval will appear on Nov. 5, Metheny and his band will play on Jan. 13, and Spyro Gyra will complete the series on May 20. All shows begin at 8 p.m.

A protégé of the legendary jazz master Dizzy Gillespie, Sandoval began studying classical trumpet at the age of 12, but it didn’t take him long to catch the excitement of the jazz world. He has since evolved into one of the world’s most acknowledged guardians of jazz trumpet and flugelhorn, as well as a renowned classical artist, pianist and composer.  Sandoval has been awarded 10 Grammy Awards, and has also received six Billboard Awards and an Emmy Award.

By the age of 15, Pat Metheny was working regularly with the best jazz musicians in his hometown of Kansas City.  He first burst on the international jazz scene in 1974, crafting a trademark playing style that blended the fluid sound of horn players with an advanced rhythmic and harmonic sensibility.  Over the years, Metheny has won countless polls as “Best Jazz Guitarist”; produced three gold records — “Still Life (Talking),” “Letter from Home” and “Secret Story”; and won 20 Grammy Awards in 12 different categories.

From their humble beginnings in Buffalo, NY, jazz icons Spyro 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.

All four groups will play in the 400-seat Concert Hall in Eastern’s brand-new Fine Arts Instructional Center. This 118,000 square-foot facility is home to Eastern’s music, theatre and visual arts programs and features three major performance spaces (the 400-seat Concert Hall; a 254-seat Proscenium Theatre; and a 125-seat Studio Theatre).

“I cannot thank David Foster enough for his generosity in organizing and financially supporting the concert series,” said Ken DeLisa, Eastern’s vice president for institutional advancement.  “By paying for the artists and supporting the promotional activities surrounding the series, David is making it possible for all concert proceeds to go towards the Kevin Crosbie Memorial Scholarship, which will defray the cost of attending Eastern for a number of students from the Willimantic community.”

To purchase tickets or for more information, visit www.easternct.edu/jazzinitup, call the Concert Hall Box Office at (860) 465-4979 or email concerts@easternct.edu.