Eastern Celebrates Another Great Year!

The annual “Eastern Celebrates” festivities kicked off on Friday, May 8, with the classes of 2001 through 2014 reuniting at Blarney’s for Eastern’s sixth annual “Bash for the Past.” Special guests included the classes of 2000, 2005 and 2010.  Earlier that afternoon at Blarney’s the classes of 1980, 1985, 1990, and 1995 held their own reunions.

On Saturday, May 9, Reunion Day ushered in the return of more than 1,200 alumni and guests. Following a luncheon in their honor in the Connecticut Room, the Jubilee Class of 1965 reconvened for an alumni reception in the Paul E. Johnson Sr. Conference Room in the J. Eugene Smith Library. They were joined by the classes of 1940, 1945, 1950, 1955, 1960, 1970 and 1975.  During the reception, the Class of ’65 received Golden Diplomas commemorating 50 years since their college graduation.  At the end of the day, alumni faithful marched from the Library to the Big Tent BBQ, set up on the Gelsi Young parking lot.

More than 1,000 people enjoyed each other’s company, sumptuous food  and classic rock and roll courtesy of Flip Entertainment LLC. As usual, a good time was had by all, as alumni, new graduates, and family and friends came together to share good times and common experiences.

Other reunion events included a CAB reunion; a reunion of Honors alumni; awards for Education students; a hooding ceremony for this year’s master’s degree recipients; a reception for alumni from the Master of Science in Organizational Management; and a golf scramble and alumni game for the men’s soccer program.

Chimamanda Adichie Tells 1,200 Graduates “Life is Short. Speak the Truth.”

More than 13,000 family members and friends filled the XL Center in Hartford on Tuesday, May 12, to cheer on their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, as 1,130 undergraduates and 70 graduate students received their diplomas at Eastern’s 125th Commencement exercises.

Award-winning author and distinguished Eastern alumna Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ’01 was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa during the Commencement Exercises, and offered remarks following presentation of her honorary degree. Adichie graduated summa cum laude from Eastern in 2001 with a degree in Communication. She was also awarded Eastern’s Distinguished Alumni Award in 2004.

Adichie is the author of a collection of short stories, “The Thing around Your Neck,” and three novels. Her latest novel, “Americanah,” was published in 2013, earning recognition as one of The New York Times Ten Best Books of the Year. Adichie was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in April. In her remarks, she told the graduates that she cherished the bachelor’s degree she received at Eastern. “You are very fortunate to have received your education at Connecticut’s public liberal arts university, where professors are keen to see you succeed.”

Adichie recalled that when she graduated 14 years ago, “I had doubts and worries. ‘What next?’ was the question on my mind. You are worried today just as I was. You should be worried, because it shows that you care.  It is okay not to have all the answers.”

In concluding her remarks, Adichie encouraged the graduates to “make an effort and speak the truth.  It is okay to say, “‘I am wrong’ or ‘I don’t know.’  Life on Earth is short.  Each moment that we are not truthful to ourselves, we are wasting our time on Earth.”

Other speakers at the Commencement Exercises included Eastern President Elsa Núñez; attorney David Jimenez, who represented the Board of Regents for Higher Education; Senior Class President Dane Paracuelles; and Matthew Hicks ’15, 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.

Nunez told the audience that this year’s event was Eastern’s 125th Commencement Exercises. “Our campus has grown from four rooms to more than 50 buildings on 82 acres and a campus footprint of almost two million square feet.  In 1891, we graduated 22 students; today we have almost 1,200 graduates, and we are closing in on 30,000 alumni.”

Turning to the graduates, Nunez told them, “Our nation and the global society we live in are looking to you for leadership.  As you embark on your career, take care of yourself, take care of your families, but make sure that you take time to help others when you can. You will find that supporting and helping others strengthens you.  As the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu wrote, “‘From caring comes courage.’”

Several other graduates were reflective in describing their Eastern experiences.  English major Kathryn Shpak, a native of Oxford, CT, said her time interning for the English Department, as well as her student employment job in the Office of University Relations, helped develop her writing and editing skills, which she hopes to use in the fitness/nutrition industry.

Jonah Sanchez, from Newington, majored in business administration and minored in accounting and business information systems. For the past three years, Sanchez served as a benefits finance intern with United Technologies. Sanchez says Eastern has helped him grow in many ways. “Being a part of and serving as president of the Organization of Latin American Students has opened up many doors for leadership and networking opportunities. Also, on campus job opportunities have been plentiful. I have worked as a resident assistant and a program assistant in the Intercultural Center. I like the fact that Eastern allows it’s students to be active and involved around the campus.” After graduation, Sanchez will begin a full-time position with United Technologies as an associate in their Financial Leadership Program at United Technologies.

Students Magner and Patrizi Named Barnard Scholars


Barnard Scholars Richard Magner and Jessica Patrizi with Elsa Núñez, president of Eastern Connecticut State University.

Jessica Patrizi and Richard Magner, both of Beacon Falls, were named recipients of this year’s Henry Barnard Distinguished Student Awards. They were honored at the banquet of the Barnard Awards Program on April 6 at the Aqua Turf in Plantsville.

Patrizi majored in biology and health and physical education. She has helped Biology Professor Barbara Murdoch conduct independent research dealing with the regeneration of neurons in the peripheral nervous system. This research may ultimately result in cures for patients with traumatic brain injury and neurodegenerative disorders. Patrizi is the only student on Eastern’s campus with enough expertise to operate the University’s $250,000 confocal microscope on her own.

“She works at a level expected of the best graduate students,” remarked Murdoch. Patrizi also has been a varsity athlete on Eastern’s volleyball team, a tutor for the Academic Services Center (ASC) and a regular volunteer at Yale-New Haven Hospital. She aspires to become an osteopathic physician, and has been accepted at the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine for the fall 2015 semester.

Magner has been called “the most exceptional student I have known in my 20-plus years as a full-time faculty member,” by Marsha Davis, chair of the Mathematics and Computer Science Department.

At Eastern, and working with Mathematics Professor Mizan Khan, Magner has performed research in the field of number theory. This research eventually led him to receive Eastern’s first Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship, which he used to further study number theory and the subtopic of modular hyperbolas. These experiences culminated in two separate publications in peer-reviewed journals and presentations at several prestigious conferences.

Magner also worked three years as a tutor in the Mathematics Achievement Center, graded papers for the Math Department and spent a summer at Ohio State University in the Ross Mathematics Program, sharing his knowledge of mathematics. As a junior, he served as a teaching assistant for a faculty member on medical leave for seven weeks. Magner also is founder and president of Eastern’s Math Club, which was named “best new club” for the 2011-12 academic year. This coming fall semester, Magner will enroll in Boston University’s Ph.D program in mathematics with hopes of eventually becoming a professor at a university where he can teach and conduct research.

Top Seniors Recognized at Honors Program Reception


Twenty of Eastern’s highest-achieving students were recognized at the Honors Program Senior Reception on May 9. This year’s honors theses—the program’s capstone experience—ranged in topics from mathematical and biological studies to documentaries and investigations into the occult.

William Salka, director of the Honors Program and political science professor, gave the opening remarks. “The quality of this year’s thesis projects reflects well on the individual students, their respective mentors and the overall educational experience offered by the University,” he said.

Alumna Wendy Ernst ’93, a biology major and graduate of the Honors Program who now runs her own veterinary practice, was the ceremony’s guest speaker. She spoke to the educational opportunities and resources at Eastern, saying they are as high-quality as any undergraduate college or university.

Following presentation of honors cords— worn upon caps during graduation on May 12— Provost Rhona Free closed the event. “Students in the Honors Program routinely produce some of the highest quality scholarship at Eastern; work that is expected of the best graduate students. This group in particular has raised the bar even higher.”

Honors and Outstanding Academic Achievements!

Eastern Inducts 35 into Leadership Honor Society

35 individuals were recently inducted into Eastern’s circle chapter of the Omicron Delta Kappa National Honor Society in Leadership. Through a competitive application process, candidates were evaluated not only on their scholarly success, but on their involvement on Eastern’s campus and surrounding the community. Students inducted have a GPA of at least 3.77 and represent a multitude of clubs, organizations, and positions on campus. They continuously give back to their community and strive for success in a variety of areas. A faculty inductee from the Communication Department and an administrative staff member from the Office of Student Activities were among the 35 individuals inducted. Following the ceremony, the inductees celebrated their accomplishments at a reception in the Student Center Café.

Students Honored at 21st Annual Accounting Banquet

On April 21, more than 180 administrators, alumni, faculty, students and friends from several accounting firms were on hand to help honor outstanding Eastern students majoring in accounting.

Alumna Jennifer Hawkins, ’00 and M’02, CPA, Partner, Mahoney Sabol & Co., delivered the keynote address. Several outstanding students received awards. Eastern’s Accounting Society and student chapter of Institute of Management Accountants co-sponsored the event with Accounting Professor Moh’d RuJoub, along with support from the Office of Institutional Advancement.


Students Inducted into Biology National Honor Society

Eighteen Eastern students were recently inducted into Eastern’s Eta Omega chapter of the Beta Beta Beta National Biological Honor Society. The event recognizes students who major in biology and who have demonstrated excellence in scholarship, research and other academic pursuits. The Beta Beta Beta National Biological Honor Society was founded in 1922 and today has more than 175,000 lifetime members in more than 430 chapters throughout the United States. Since the Eta Omega Chapter at Eastern was started in 1997, several awards have been won by chapter members.

Students Inducted into Delta Mu Delta

29 students Eastern students were recently inducted into the Delta Omega chapter of Delta Mu Delta, the National Honor Society that recognizes outstanding students in business administration, accounting and business information systems. Membership in Delta Mu Delta is an honor indicative of earnest, intelligent purpose and rewarding achievement, the goals of the honor society.

Students Inducted into Communication Honor Society

Forty-seven Eastern students were recently inducted into Eastern’s Tau Nu chapter of the Lambda Pi Eta Communication Honor Society. The society recognizes students who have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0, a communication studies GPA of at least 3.25, are in the upper 35 percent of their graduating class, are enrolled in good standing, and display a commitment to the field of communication.

Students Recognized for Merit in Communications

36 students recently received recognition at the Communication Department’s spring 2015 “Celebration of Excellence” ceremony.

The event, held annually, seeks to give special distinction to students who have continued to go above and beyond the call of duty.

Professor John Hale, chair of the Communication Department, said, “External validation is always a positive boost for a program. Through this event, the Communication Department supports students who exemplify excellence in our program.”

Students Inducted into Upsilon Pi Epsilon Computer Science Honor Society

Twelve Eastern students were recently inducted into the Upsilon Pi Epsilon (UPE) computer science honor society. The mission of UPE is to recognize academic excellence at both the undergraduate and graduate levels in the Computing and Information Disciplines. UPE is a member of the Association of College Honor Societies (ACHS). UPE has received endorsements from the two largest computer organizations in the world, the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and the IEEE Computer Society (IEEE-CS). UPE is also a charter member of The International Federation of Engineering Education Societies (IFEES).

Students Inducted into International Economics Honor Society

Nine students were recently inducted into Eastern’s Omicron Delta Epsilon Economics Honor Society. The organization was founded in 1963 as a result of the merger of two economics based-honor societies, Omicron Delta Gamma and Omicron Chi Epsilon. The organization’s primary goal is to foster and stimulate discourse regarding economics among university level students. Students must be involved in the economics program and have at least a 3.0 GPA in order to become a member.

Eastern Students Receive English Awards

Eight students were recently recognized at the spring 2015 “English Night.” This event, held every semester by the English Department, highlights the academic achievements, organizational skills, volunteerism, research and writing and passion for English of students within the English Department.

Students Win Environmental Earth Science Awards

Nine Eastern students majoring in environmental earth science were recently honored at the Environmental Earth Science Department’s annual awards ceremony. Students were recognized for research or academic excellence. According to Department Chair Peter Drzewiecki, “The students who received awards from the EES department were all very deserving. They represent those students who understand the value of the education they are receiving, and pursue as many opportunities as possible to further their education while at Eastern. We anticipate that they will continue to represent our department well in the future, both in the careers they chose and in the success they find in them. They should all be congratulated!”

Students Inducted Into Health and Physical Education Honor Society

Eight Eastern students majoring in health and physical education were inducted into Alpha Upsilon Chi, the honor society that recognizes academic excellence and professional involvement in the disciplines of health, physical education, recreation, sport and dance. Christina Turner, chair of the Physical Education Department and director of recreation in the Division of Physical Education, Recreation and Athletics at Colgate University, was the keynote speaker. A 2009 graduate of Eastern, Turner encouraged the students present to, “Stop trying to figure it all out. Take a deep breath and go with the flow. Learn by doing.”

Students Inducted Into History Honor Society

Fourteen Eastern students was recently inducted into Alpha Mu Alpha, Eastern’s chapter of Phi Alpha Theta, the national honor society for the study of history. The society promotes the study of history through the encouragement of research, good teaching, publication and the exchange of learning and ideas among historians. The American Honor Society has more than 350,000 members, with approximately 9,500 new members joining each year through 860 local chapters.

Students Inducted into Alpha Mu Alpha Marketing Society

Twelve Eastern students were recently inducted into Alpha Mu Alpha, the National Marketing Honorary Society, sponsored by the American Marketing Association. Students eligible for Alpha Mu Alpha are recognized for their outstanding scholastic achievement in the field of marketing.

Students Inducted into Kappa Mu Epsilon National Mathematics Honor Society

Ten students were recently inducted in the chapter of Kappa Mu Epsilon (KME), the national honor society for mathematics. KME is a specialized honor society in mathematics. It was founded in 1931 to promote the interest of mathematics among undergraduate students. Its chapters are located in colleges and universities of recognized standing which offer a strong mathematics major. The chapters’ members are selected from students of mathematics and other closely related fields who have maintained standards of scholarship, have professional merit and have attained academic distinction.

Students Inducted into the Psi Chi Honor Society

41 Eastern students were recently inducted into Eastern’s Psi Chi Psychology Honor Society. The society encourages the stimulation and maintenance of excellence in scholarship and advancement of the science of psychology. Qualifications for inductees include declaring a major or minor in psychology; at least 12 credits of coursework in psychology or sophomore class standing; a 3.5 GPA in psychology; and a 3.0 GPA overall.

Students Inducted into Phi Alpha Honor Society

NOTE: Photograph unavailable. Thirty-seven social work majors at Eastern were recently inducted into Eastern’s chapter of Phi Alpha, the national social work honor society. The society provides a closer bond among students of social work and promotes humanitarian goals and ideals. Phi Alpha fosters high standards of education for social workers and invites into membership those who have attained excellence in scholarship and achievement.

Students Inducted Into Sociology Honor Society

Seventeen Eastern students were recently inducted into Alpha Kappa Delta, the international sociology honor society. The mission of Alpha Kappa Delta is to acknowledge and promote excellence in scholarship in the study of sociology, the research of social problems, and other social and intellectual activities that lead to improvement in the human condition.

Students Inducted Into Sigma Delta Pi Spanish Education Honor Society

Five Eastern students were recently inducted into Eastern’s Sigma Delta Pi Spanish Education Honor Society. Qualifications for inductees include three years of college-level Spanish (18 semester credit hours), including at least three semester hours of Hispanic literature or Hispanic culture and civilization at the junior level; a 3.0 GPA in all Spanish courses taken; a ranking in the upper 35 percent of their class; and completion of at least three semesters.

Eastern’s World Languages and Cultures Department Chair Kin Chan said, “Our inductees have demonstrated a profound interest in the beautiful Spanish language. We have chosen them to be members of our Spanish Honor Society, Sigma Delta Pi, because they have excelled academically and have shown a sincere love for the culture of the Hispanic world.”

Visual Arts Students Receive Awards

Thirty-eight Eastern students majoring in the visual arts recently had their work showcased in the Senior Art Exhibition, which is part of the Visual Arts Department’s Annual Student Awards and Recognition, held every May in Eastern’s Akus Gallery.

The exhibition is exclusive to senior visual arts majors who have successfully completed a senior project in their concentration. Faculty supervisors curate the exhibition based on a student’s successful demonstration of command of visual artistry within their chosen discipline.

Friends, family and art afficionados were present to celebrate with the department and honor the students’ achievements.

Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP)


This past spring, Eastern chapter of the Association of Information Technology Professionals (AITP) won third place in a national competition at the 20th Annual AITP National Collegiate Conference in Omaha, NE. For the conference’s Database Driven Website Competition, the club’s task was to completely replace the website of a selected nonprofit organization with a modernized, database-driven website.

Over the course of a year, Eastern’s AITP revamped the website of the Northeast Connecticut Economic Alliance (NECTEA), a Willimantic-based nonprofit that assists startups and growing businesses in northeastern Connecticut. After submitting five separate phases to a national panel of information technology professional judges, the club was selected as one of the top 10 teams in the nation, and invited to present at the 2015 AITP national conference.

In Omaha, NE, the club presented their NECTEA website in front of an audience of IT professionals and students from across the country, and answered questions from the panel of judges. Among schools with enrollments as large as 35,000 students, Eastern’s AITP won third place in the 2015 National Database Driven Website Competition.

Three Named in Library Research Awards

Three Eastern students were recognized at the Library Research Awards in May for their creative and effective use of library resources. The awards were established to recognize exemplary student research projects that demonstrate the ability to locate, evaluate and apply information from the physical collections and online databases within Eastern’s J. Eugene Smith Library. A committee of faculty and library staff read and selected the award winners. Speaking to the number and quality of this year’s submissions, Patricia Banach, director of library services, said, “It took a while for us to sift through all of these papers this year, but they were so much fun to read.”

Kateri Ludick Named Recipient of Victoria Leigh Soto Memorial Fund Scholarship for 2015-16

Eastern student Kateri Ludick ‘15 of Willimantic was named as the recipient of the History Department’s Victoria Leigh Soto Memorial Fund Scholarship for the 2015-16 academic year. Ludick’s major is History and Social Science. The award is presented annually during the Phi Alpha Theta initiation ceremony at Eastern. Ludick is the third recipient of the scholarship.

The scholarship was created in honor of Eastern alumna Victoria Leigh Soto ‘08, an elementary school teacher who lost her life protecting her first-grade students at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, on Dec. 14, 2012. In 2013, the Department of History established the award in memory of Soto for a graduating senior who is a history major, a member of Phi Alpha Theta and planning to become a teacher.

“It is truly humbling to receive an award that honors the memory of a heroic young woman, Victoria Soto, who conveyed, through her actions, what teaching is all about—the students,” said Ludick. “She gave of her life for the students with whom she cared for so deeply and has inspired me with her courageous witness of sacrifice and love. She is a shining example who will inspire all teachers, especially those in Eastern’s program, to become true advocates for the children as we put them first and foremost.”

President Núñez is a “Wonder Woman!”

Eastern President Elsa Núñez was one of seven women honored at the Fifth Annual Celebrating Wonder Women Gala on May 5 at the Bushnell Performing Arts Center in Hartford. The event, which included a reception, silent auction and awards ceremony, took place in the Bushnell’s Autorino Great Hall and Belding Theater for the benefit of the Malta House of Care’s Mobile Medical Clinic. Over the five years that the Wonder Women event has taken place, 40 women have been honored for their service to Connecticut and its residents.

In addition to serving as president of Eastern, Núñez serves on the boards of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, the Connecticut Association for Human Services, Leadership Greater Hartford, and is the new vice chair of the board of directors for the Association of American Colleges and Universities. She will also start her term on the NCAA Division III Presidents Council in June.

The Malta House of Care’s Mobile Medical Clinic has served those without health care by providing free medical services to more than 33,000 patients in the Greater Hartford area since 2006. Services range from free blood tests and cancer screenings to prescription medicines and other services.

Prolific Eastern Professors Give “Last Lectures”

Four prolific professors from Eastern delivered “Last Lectures” at the end of the 2014–15 academic year prior to their retirement. During their lectures, Timothy Swanson, James Russell, Ann Gruenberg and Prem Mann discussed their longstanding careers, lessons learned and life philosophies with the Eastern community.

Swanson paid tribute to his 49-year career at Eastern in a lecture titled “The Joys of Teaching Physics.” Swanson knew as early as high school that he wanted to study physics, but it was in graduate school during his experience as a teaching assistant when he realized the joy of teaching. He stated three areas of physics that have particularly inspired him: “The power of mathematics to describe the physical world; the connection between the laws of physics and the seen world of everyday phenomena; and the investigation of the unseen world of the very fast and very small.” Swanson remembers Eastern when it was called Willimantic State College, before it had academic departments and tuition was just $170. “Oh how the times have changed,” he said. “During these 49 years, this has been a most rewarding place to spend the majority of my life in the career of teaching physics.”

Russell wrapped up his 29 years as a sociology professor at Eastern with a lecture titled “Combining Scholarship with Activism.” Coming of age in Oklahoma during the ’60s, Russell was exposed to frequent segregation and conservative values. Early in college, between the years of 1962 and 1964, “I went through more transformation in developing my worldview than any other period,” he said. “I went from identifying as a Republican to further left than the Democratic Party.”

Influencers like Karl Marx and the emerging culture of the ’60s set him on course to become an activist. “I’ve tried all of my career to put scholarship and activism together,” said Russell. “If you want change, you have to organize.” His interests have included desegregation and antiwar demonstrations, but Russell says his latest effort—working to reform Connecticut’s state retirement system—has been his most important.

Gruenberg’s relationship with Eastern began as a graduate student. After several years with other institutions, she returned as a full-time faculty member in the Department of Education for 28 years. With focuses on special education and general education, Gruenberg’s lecture drew on the parallels between legal changes in services for young children with disabilities and the resulting teacher preparation programs. Gruenberg fondly recalled visiting former students in their classrooms throughout Connecticut, many of whom now work with current students going through Eastern’s teacher preparation programs. She expressed gratitude to her friends, colleagues and students, as well as the leadership at Eastern, and highlighted the strengths of the Center for Early Childhood Education and the Child and Family Development Resource Center.

Prem Mann, economics professor, spoke of his 29 years with Eastern in a lecture titled “Is Life Fair?” While remarking on atrocities throughout the world that make life “unfair” for some, such as the prevalence of war and perpetuation of poverty, he maintained that “the world has survived due to the good deeds and sacrifices of godly people.” He said that life can be fair only if all of us treat each other fairly. As a graduate student in Manchester, England, Mann knew he wanted to be a university professor. He said coming to Eastern and writing text books—in particular on statistics—has been his greatest professional accomplishment. “I will always cherish the memories of these 29 years,” he said, “but there comes a time when we must move on to other things in life.”

Eastern Police Participate in Special Olympics Torch Run

On June 4, members of Eastern’s police department, along with Willimantic police and other university faculty and staff, again participated in the annual Law Enforcement Torch Run. The run, which went through campus and the streets of Willimantic, raised more than $7,500, which was donated to the Connecticut Special Olympics. The Torch Run started at 8 a.m. from the police parking lot and wound its way through campus past the Clock Tower and then onto the streets of Willimantic.

More than 3,500 Special Olympics Connecticut athletes and law enforcement personnel carry the “Flame of Hope” over 640 miles in 100 Connecticut cities and towns each year. The torch run began in 1981 as a way to increase public awareness and raise funds for the Special Olympics. In 1986, Connecticut became involved in the run, which has become the largest Special Olympics fundraiser in the state. Eastern’s Campus Police Department has participated in the run since 1999.

Eastern’s Hancock Named Softball All-America

Eastern junior shortstop Alyssa Hancock (Waterford) has become only the second shortstop in Eastern softball history to be named All-America, earning third-team Division III recognition by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA).


Voted earlier as the first-team NFCA All-New England Region shortstop, Little East Conference co-Player-of-the-Year and a repeater as the Little East Conference first-team shortstop, Hancock was named as an “at-large” selection to the NFCA All-America team.

Fifteen players were selected to each of the first, second and third teams, with each of the three teams including three “at-large” selections. Nine players came from New England institutions. Hancock was one of two honorees from the Little East Conference. Hancock becomes only the second Eastern shortstop to be voted All-America, first since Sarah Marchetti was a second-team choice as an “at-large” selection in 1996. She is the program’s 42nd All-America pick since 1982.