Forensic Scientist Henry Lee Speaks at Eastern

On Feb. 10, a capacity crowd in the Betty R. Tipton Room heard world-renowned forensic scientist Henry Lee talk about lessons he has learned from investigating high profile cases, lessons that impacted his childhood, career and philosophy on life. Lee, whose lecture was part of Eastern’s Arts and Lecture Series, said four truths have guided him: the power of knowledge, the importance of positive thinking, the value of self-reliance and the benefits of teamwork.

To pursue new opportunities, Lee and his wife, Margaret, moved to the United States in 1965 with only $15 between them. “When I came to this country, I didn’t speak any English. After 50 years, I still don’t speak English,” Lee said, poking fun at his thick Chinese accent. “It doesn’t matter what you do, what your profession is — work hard.” After nearly 10 years of studying and working odd jobs, including bussing tables in the evenings and instructing kung fu on the weekends, Lee earned a bachelor’s degree in forensic science in 1972 and a doctorate in biochemistry in 1975. Since then, he has 20 honorary doctorate degrees and received special training from the FBI Academy and other organizations.

Over the past 50 years, Lee has helped solve more than 8,000 cases and worked with law enforcement agencies from 46 countries.  He has written more than 40 books and been featured in movies, TV shows and talk shows around the world. His testimony figured prominently in the trials of O.J. Simpson, Jayson Williams, William Kennedy Smith and the “Wood Chipper” murderer. Lee has assisted in the investigations of other famous crimes, such as the murder of Jon Benet Ramsey, the suicide of White House Counsel Vincent Foster, the kidnapping of Elizabeth Smart, the death of Chandra Levy, the reinvestigation of the Kennedy assassination and the Casey Anthony case.

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Frigid Plunge to Fight Hunger

Hundreds of people rushed into the frigid Natchaug River on Feb. 7 to raise money to fight hunger in the Willimantic region. The event, the fourth annual Plunge for Hunger in Lauter Park, was organized by Eastern’s rugby team to benefit the Covenant Soup Kitchen.

Nearly 800 members of the local community showed up to support the nearly 200 brave souls who took the plunge in sub-freezing temperatures. So far, this year’s plunge has raised approximately $32,000, which will be generously matched by the Jeffrey P. Ossen Family Foundation, totaling $64,000.

Assistant rugby coach Ray Aramini initially encouraged the team to participate. “After the first year, players said, ‘This is too good to stop. We need to continue it.’ I am overwhelmed by the generosity of this community, and impressed by the young men who organize the plunge. As members of the local community, it’s imperative to give back. That’s the cornerstone of the club — to help those who are having trouble helping themselves.” In addition to being among the top rugby programs in their division, Eastern’s rugby team has been personally involved with Willimantic’s Covenant Soup Kitchen for the past 20 semesters.

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Panel Discusses African American History

Students, faculty and staff enjoyed poetry, culture, politics and delicious Jamaican jerk chicken during a “Black History Reflection” event on Feb. 6 in the Student Center Theatre. “We wanted students, faculty and staff to learn something about African American historical figures, and to understand and respect themselves and their history, especially, the troubling current events such as the shootings of unarmed African American men,” said Chad Michael Muirhead, community service coordinator of Eastern’s M.A.L.E.S. student organization.

Booths in the theatre displayed information, quotes and pictures about important events and people in African American history. Malik Turner presented some of Maya Angelou’s powerful poetry.  Jonah Craggett presented a poem that he wrote on the struggles enslaved Africans were forced to endure. A panel discussion, hosted by Sophonie Pierre, president of Eastern’s Black Student Union, followed. Panelists included Stacey Close, associate vice president of equity and diversity at Eastern; Barbara Williams, information technology trainer; Dwight Bachman, public relations officer; Sociology Professor Dennis Canterbury; English Professor Raouf Mama; Danielle Little, a junior from Glastonbury majoring in sociology and social work and Jerome Campbell, an independent researcher of African American history.

The panelists provided different perspectives on issues in the African American  community and on campus, and suggested solutions to the issues raised. Eastern’s Office of Equity and Diversity co-sponsored “Black Reflections.”  Jamaican Me Crazy and Chartwells catered the event.  “Black History Reflections was a successful educational event and we will host more events like it in the future,” said Muirhead.

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Hartford Courant Editor Meets with Campus Lantern

Carolyn Lumsden, opinion editor of the Hartford Courant, visited Eastern on Feb. 11 to speak with the staff of the Campus Lantern during their weekly club meeting. Lumsden discussed the influence the Internet has had on the newspaper industry, the day-to-day tasks of being an editor at the Courant and other topics.

Mae Ehrnfelt, editor-in-chief of the Campus Lantern, said, “Carolyn gave both positive feedback and constructive criticism about our publication. She answered questions we had about newspaper publishing and editing, and her reflective answers will surely help our paper to become an even more successful publication.”

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Special Olympics Seeking Volunteers

The Windham Invitational Special Olympics Swim Meet needs your help. This year’s event needs 350 volunteers to help out on March 14 from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Windham High School. Charles Wynn, director of the event, said the meet will attract more than 200 athletes with intellectual disabilities from Connecticut and Massachusetts.   In addition to swim competition, clinics are offered in various sports, aerobics, and arts and crafts. “Volunteers will be needed to continue to make this the largest and most successful Special Olympics Swim Meet in Connecticut. The greatest need is for one-to-one partners. Participants are paired with their own special partner for the day. Partners make sure athletes get to their registered events, cheer them on, and get them involved in activities when they are not swimming,” said Wynn. Volunteers are also needed in areas such as sports clinics, food service and water safety.

All volunteers will be provided with lunch from McDonald’s and a souvenir Windham Special Olympics t-shirt. Volunteer registration forms are available at This activity is approved for community service credit. To volunteer or for more information, call Professor Wynn at (860) 465-5258 or email


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Next Blood Drive is April 6-7

Even though the recent blood drive on Feb. 2 was cancelled due to snow, that didn’t stop Eastern students, faculty, staff and friends from donating 72 pints of blood on Feb. 3.  Nearly 120 students, faculty and staff participated in Eastern’s third blood drive of the year in the Betty R. Tipton Room.

“We couldn’t do it without the help of our wonderful student volunteers who donate their time at the recruitment tables two weeks before the blood drive and at the registration table and canteen the day of the blood drive,” said Nancy Brennan, blood drive organizer.  If you couldn’t make it in February, our next blood drive will be April 6 and 7, and hopefully we won’t have to worry about snow!”

Blood drives are sponsored by the Division of Student Affairs and Campus Ministries. Volunteers assist with donor recruitment, donor sign-ins and canteen duties under the supervision of the American Red Cross and Eastern faculty, staff, and student leaders. If you would like to make an appointment to donate at the next blood drive, please contact Nancy Brennan at 860-423-0856 or or go to – code Eastern.  Walk-ins are always welcome.

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Eastern to Host Public Forum on Hazard Mitigation

 A public forum to discuss the development of Eastern’s hazard mitigation plan will take place on Feb. 25 at 4 p.m. in Room 221 of the Student Center. The plan is an effort to proactively identify natural hazards and vulnerabilities and the steps that can be taken to reduce these risks. The public is invited. Admission is free. Public parking is available in the Shakespeare Parking Garage, located adjacent to the Student Center.

All 17 institutions of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities System (ConnSCU) are included in the statewide hazard mitigation plan. This project is funded by a grant allocated by the Connecticut Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security and funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

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Students Attend Kennedy Center College Theater Festival

Twenty-seven students from Eastern participated in theatre workshops and  scholarship competitions, attended shows and networked with theatre students and faculty from different universities in New England at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF) in Hyannis, MA. Jan. 27-Feb. 1.

Theatre Professor Ellen Brodie said, “KCACTF is always an eye-opening experience for our students as they meet, work with and compete against hundreds of other theatre students from throughout the region. Most importantly, it is experiential learning at its core and also professional development for the faculty attending. This year proved to be extremely worthwhile in all aspects.” Eastern students earned awards and two students received internships to work at the festival.

Below is a summary of Eastern’s KCACTF success story in Hyannis in January:

Rachael Perry won a Merit Award for Projections Design for her work on The Laramie Project.

Maggie Marie Casto (South Pacific) and Michael Siddell (On The Verge) competed in the final round for Stage Management.

Alexis Kurtz (South Pacific) competed in the final round of the Richard Maltby, Jr. Musical Theatre Awards Competition.

Corey Lorraine (South Pacific) competed in the preliminary round of the Richard Maltby, Jr. Musical Theatre Awards Competition.

Olivia Beaullan-Thong (South Pacific) and Jordan Merrill (scene partner) competed in the semi-final round for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship Competition.

The following students competed in the preliminary round for the Irene Ryan Acting Competition: Stephanie Madden (On The Verge) and Maggie Casto (scene partner); Sarah Oschmann (On The Verge), and Jessica McDonald (scene partner); Lucy Shea (Prelude To A Kiss), and Moriah Perrett (scene partner); Sinque Tavares (The Laramie Project), and Nicole Garcia (scene partner); Alexis Kurtz (The Laramie Project) and Kayne Bowling (scene partner). Megan O’Brian and Paige Nee received KCACTF internships to work at the festival, which included free lodging and registration.

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Hartbeat Ensemble Performs at Eastern

 Through a combination of acting, dancing and singing, the Hartford-based performing arts group, Hartbeat Ensemble which creates its own works based on stories in their community, Hartbeat Ensemble performed “Can’t Wait: Reflections on the Movement” at Eastern on Feb. 4 as part of African American History Month.   Taneisha Duggan, Vanessa Butler and Suzanna Ankrum, three women of different backgrounds, delivered this presentation to make the point that there is still unfinished business to attend to in respecting African Americans.

“My color is my voice and it is my job to amplify a voice that’s not heard,” said Duggan.   The women spoke and sang passionate lyrics as powerful music poured out of  loud speakers and historical images flashed on the screen behind them. “Deep in my heart, I still believe we shall overcome,” they sang. As expressed by the Hartbeat Ensemble, the problem with today’s race relations is that “We may support an idea, but too many of us are unwilling to put our lives behind our words.”

Typically, the company members develop plays that deal with poverty, human trafficking, the war on drugs and the repercussions of No Child Left Behind. The work they presented takes Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous “Letters from a Birmingham Jail,” and weaves his reflections with the many voices that have risen from then until now.    From Maya Angelou to Jay-Z, comments from social media and the music of Sam Cooke and George Clinton, the audience heard how the Civil Rights movement echoes the hopes, fears and dreams of today.

The performers challenged the students to consider racial prejudice in light of the images, dialogue and music from the performance.    Hart Beat’s visit was sponsored by the Intercultural Center and the School of Arts and Sciences, with funds from the Visiting Writers Series. English Professor Miriam Chirico organized the visit.

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Eastern Presents “Family Fun” with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Eastern’s Theatre Department performed “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” from Feb. 18-22 in the Harry Hope Theatre. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is a convergence of dreams, adventure and challenge.   “Alice is a girl, who desires adventure rather than boredom, but unexpectedly finds herself in the throes of increasingly difficult challenges which become resolved as her dreams lead her through a web of highly engaging interactions,” said Lenore Grunko, play director. “Some if not all of these interactions are frustrating if not, confrontational. She engineers her way through each with a little more confidence and assuredness until the end, when it becomes apparent that she might be in real danger. Alice is not willing to accept defeat, even by a Queen!”

Actresses in the play included Delaney Jordan, a junior from Lebanon; Julia Leitao, a double major in early childhood education and theatre from New Britain;  Stephanie Madden, a junior psychology and theatre major from Suffield; Emily Rieser, a junior theatre major from Bethany; and Mikayla Zagata, a junior from Hamden majoring in English and Pre-Secondary Education.

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HIRED! Education, LLC Chairman

Joe Franco, winner of four national Emmy awards for producing television sports productions of the Olympic Games at ESPN shared his experience with students in Communication Professor Denise Matthews’ Media Careers class on Feb. 6.   Franco, who spent 34 years at ESPN and now serves as CEO of Hired! Education, LLC, emphasized the importance of an outstanding resume in preparing and applying for media jobs. He said, “Bring your ‘A’ game to interviews because recruiters spend only about 10 seconds on a resume, and can assess quickly if the person has something that makes them distinctive from hundreds of resumes of other applicants that ESPN review.”

Franco told the students to make sure they showcased evidence of humanitarian efforts, and to use their array of technical media skills and education as a backdrop.   Franco’s broadcasting career spans five decades. He helped to pioneer the cable industry with the launching of ESPN in Bristol in 1979. He held various management positions in production operations, and played a pivotal role in the launch of ESPN’s 24-hour news/information network, ESPN News.
   Today, he continues to mentor and build confidence in aspiring students with his partners at HIRED! Education, LLC, the official career development specialist for the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC).

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Eastern’s Ritrosky is Capital One Academic All-District

Junior women’s basketball forward Jill Ritrosky of Pittsfield, MA has become the first player in Eastern history to receive a spot on the Capital One Academic Division III All-District Team, selected by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA). Majoring in Sport & Leisure Management with a concentration in Exercise Science and Sport Performance, Ritrosky was one of six selections from among 35 nominations to the District 2 team, which encompasses institutions located in Connecticut, Washington, DC, Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, Rhode Island and West Virginia.   “Eastern is very proud of Jill and her accomplishments both on the court and in the classroom,” said Cynthia Washburne, interim director of athletics. “Receiving this recognition is a testament to Jill’s abilities, work ethic and determination.  What an honor this is for Eastern and the women’s basketball program.”   The two-year team captain and 2013-14 first-team all-conference player had a 3.97 overall GPA through fall 2014, having made the Dean’s List every semester. Ritrosky currently serves as a peer mentor at Eastern and is a member of the athletic department’s event staff.   The 5-foot-9 inch Ritrosky is ranked in a tie for first in the Little East Conference in offensive rebounding (4.2), second in overall rebounding (10.5), fourth in field goal percentage (49.3 percent), sixth in scoring (13.3) and tenth in free throw percentage (70.5). She leads the 14-6 Warriors with eight double-doubles, most recently (16 points, 13 rebounds) against Connecticut College.

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