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Eastern Alumni Give Back to the University

Eastern inducted its fifth class of Alumni Fellows on March 6. Inductees were Kathleen Kennedy '74, executive director, America's Head-Recruiting Delivery with UBS Financial Services; and Kathy Gentilozzi 81, senior vice president of human resources for Aeropostale, a specialty clothing retailer.

During a panel discussion in the Paul E. Johnson Sr. Community Conference Room, Kennedy and Gentilozzi gave students tips on making it in the real world. "When you go on interview, make sure you do your homework on the companies that you are going to be speaking to, because that's a sign of respect, and you should be able to ask questions about their business," said Gentilozzi. "Don't be caught off guard by that."

On April 16, Carolyn Kurth '97, director of forensic accounting, auditing and consulting at Sheptoff, Reuber & Co., PC, delivered the keynote address at the 19th Annual Accounting Banquet. Her topic was "Evolving with a Global Economy-Never Stop Learning."

On May 11, more than 1,100 people - graduating seniors, their families and various alumni classes - visited campus for the annual Eastern Celebrates festivities. The Jubilee Class of 1963 was treated to tours of campus and a refreshing lunch in Burr Hall before joining other reunion classes at a special reception in their honor in the Student Center Café. Later in the afternoon, alumni mingled with the Class of 2013 under the Big Top Tent to enjoy barbeque, a live band and the company of other members of the Eastern family.

On May 14, 1,256 undergraduates and 41 graduate students celebrated their achievements at Eastern Connecticut State University's 123nd Commencement exercises at the XL Center in Hartford. Carlotta Walls LaNier, the youngest member of the "Little Rock Nine" students who desegregated Central High School in Little Rock, AR, under military escort in 1957, gave the Commencement Address, telling the graduates to have the same commitment: "Finish whatever goals you have set for yourself. Find the strength, fortitude and determination to see it through. When you see injustice, how will you respond? I hope you take the heroic stand." LaNier was also awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters at the Commencement Exercises.

On March 21, nearly 80 students majoring in Business Information Systems (BIS) and Computer Science heard an expert group of panelists from Aetna, Inc. discuss "The Future of Information Technology Careers" in the Paul E. Johnson Sr. Community Conference Room of the J. Eugene Smith Library. The panel, organized and led by James Kidd '86, chief information officer of International Businesses of Aetna International, included Mark Coderre, head of information security architecture at Aetna; Jackie Czaplinski, Aetna's head of IT leadership development; Dawn Shane '07, Aetna's manager of information data governance; and Matthew Thibeault '11 and Katie Kirby, leadership development specialists at Aetna. Joseph Tolisano, Eastern's chief information officer, welcomed the guests.

Nearly 100 students gathered in the Betty R. Tipton Room on Nov. 14, 2012, to hear six alumni talk to students about what it takes to successfully land a good job in today's economy. The presentation, "Leap into Leadership," featured Roger B. Boucher Jr. '95, pathologist assistant at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital organ and tissue recovery specialist and resident anatomist, Lifenet Health, Inc.; Dannika Byrd '02, assistant director for student affairs and registrar for the Physician Associate Program at Yale School of Medicine; Bonnie Edmondson '87, education consultant for the Connecticut State Department of Education; Peter McDevitt III '88, parole officer with the Department of Correction; Kevin Reese '01, veteran radio personality with CBS Radio, and certified holistic health coach and detox specialist; and Victor Thomas '01, business development and marketing manager for the eGovernment Applications Division at PCC Technology. The Leap into Leadership Series is sponsored by the Office of Student Activities, Center for Internships and the Office of Institutional Advancement.

On March 9, more than 400 students, faculty and staff, family and friends, along with Gov. Dannel Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, joined Eastern President Elsa Núñez in the Betty R. Tipton Room for a moving memorial service for Eastern alumna Victoria Leigh Soto '08. Soto lost her life on Dec. 14, 2012, protecting the children in her first-grade classroom during the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.

Malloy compared Soto, a double major in early elementary education and history, to legendary Connecticut educator Prudence Crandall and American patriot Nathan Hale. "You could not find a finer person to want to emulate than the one whose life we celebrate today," he said.

Soto's younger sister Jillian recalled fond, fun-filled memories of Victoria, saying she was "always silly and spontaneous, and she made us so happy." Rachel Schiavone '08, Soto's college roommate and best friend, said Soto's "friendship was genuine and true, and if you were with her, you were going to have a good time."

Other speakers included author Wally Lamb; Hari Koirala, professor and chair of the Education Department; Ann Higginbotham, professor and chair of the Department of History; and English Professor Daniel Donaghy. The Eastern Chamber Singers, directed by Performing Arts Professor David Belles; Performing Arts Professor Emily Riggs; Guitarist Coley O'Toole; Eric Ouelette; and other Eastern faculty, students and friends performed moving musical selections during the ceremony.

Soto was a dean's list student while she attended Eastern and graduated with high honors. In her memory, the University has created the Victoria Leigh Soto Memorial Endowed Scholarship Fund to support Eastern students studying to be teachers who have unmet financial need.