February 2015

Victorious in Greece

UConn Foundation
UConn Foundation

4 min read

In 2004, the Greek national soccer team stunned the world by winning the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) European Championship, going undefeated and ultimately beating the heavily favored Portuguese team, 1-0, in the final at Portugal’s home stadium in Lisbon. It was an especially astonishing accomplishment considering that Greece had only previously qualified for two other major tournaments, in 1980 and 1994. When the tournament began, the odds against Greece winning were calculated at 150 to 1. Ioannis Farfarellis ’87 MA, the head of business, marketing, and media rights for the Hellenic Football Federation, was in the stadium to watch that victory.

“That was probably the epitome of our success story,” Farfarellis remembered. “It was a big achievement for a nation our size — we’re a small country, but we came away with the trophy. It was amazing.”

At a grassroots tournament for Coca Cola in 2007, Ioannis Farfarellis '87 MA stands with two National Team players.
At a grassroots tournament for Coca Cola in 2007, Ioannis Farfarellis ’87 MA stands with two National Team players.

Farfarellis himself played no small role in Greece’s David-versus-Goliath success. He was hired by the Hellenic Football Federation in 1998 to be the organization’s first-ever business director, in charge of television, sponsorships, and merchandizing rights. Founded in 1926, the Athens-based Hellenic Football Federation is the governing body of soccer in Greece and encompasses around two million soccer players and 6,000 club teams. But the Greek national team, a perennial also-ran in European soccer, had almost no international profile, few sponsorship deals, and limited television coverage outside of the country.

Although he was born and grew up in Greece, Farfarellis’s quest to rebuild his national soccer team actually began in Connecticut. He attended boarding school in England, but didn’t like the weather or the food, so he decided to attend college at Southern Connecticut State, where his parents knew a professor. He then stayed in the U.S. to do a master’s in international relations and political science at UConn.

“UConn came as a natural next step, as it was always seen as the big public Ivy in Connecticut,” Farfarellis said. “It had an excellent faculty and reputation in my academic area, a very rigorous postgraduate program, and a stunning campus.”

Ioannis Farfarellis '87 MA addressing the audience at a sponsorship event for Coca Cola.
Ioannis Farfarellis ’87 MA addressing the audience at a sponsorship event for Coca Cola.

After earning his MA in 1987, Farfarellis returned to Greece to perform his mandatory military service, then stayed in Europe to work a succession of jobs ranging from London-based commercial director for a Greek company, to European Union administrator, to a corporate training manager, before finally being hired by the Hellenic Football Federation. Ironically, Farfarellis was always more interested in basketball than soccer — he’s a fanatical Huskies fan, regularly staying up until 4 a.m. at his Athens home to watch both men’s and women’s games on satellite TV. (When I spoke to him in December, he was still mourning the men’s recent loss to Yale — the first time an Ivy League school had defeated UConn in 28 years.)

Under Farfarellis, the Greek team embarked on a major rebranding effort. It signed up a new set of sponsors (including Adidas and Mercedes-Benz), created a new logo, and redesigned its uniforms. All of this dramatically increased the Federation’s revenue, allowing them to hire a new team of coaches, build a modern training center for the national team, and expand its youth soccer programs. Farfarellis’s success soon brought him to the attention of UEFA, the governing body of European soccer, which hired him to advise other national teams how to build their brands. He’s also consulted with FIFA, the international soccer federation that stages the World Cup.

“We’re talking about a true global market for selling sports rights,” Farfarellis explained. “Commercial and TV rights account for about 60 percent of the revenue for any national federation, so it’s extremely important.”

Ioannis Farfarellis '87 MA with 'Carrefour' Greece CEO Vassilis Stasinoulias.
Ioannis Farfarellis ’87 MA with ‘Carrefour’ Greece CEO Vassilis Stasinoulias.

Although the Greek national soccer team hasn’t been able to repeat their Euro 2004 success, Farfarellis notes with pride that they’ve qualified for every major soccer tournament since. In the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, they made it to the Round of 16, where they were eliminated by Costa Rica on penalty kicks. Farfarellis was in Brazil for that match, just as he’s been during the final stages of every tournament since 1998. Spending 30 to 45 days on the road with the team during these tournaments is the most exciting part of his job, he said.

“You’re camping with the team, you’re dealing with marketing and TV rights issues, you’re facilitating the team’s movement — travel, accommodations, many things. Everything except the sporting decisions.”

When asked what he’d tell current UConn students hoping to follow in his footsteps, Farfarellis advised sticking to the basics. “The most important thing is to develop core skills — leadership skills, communication skills, decision-making skills, and above all numerical skills. Even if you don’t like math or statistics, be prudent enough to take some courses. It’s not so important to figure out what you want to do. You can figure that out later.”

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Your Opportunity to Transform Lives

UConn Foundation
UConn Foundation

< 1 min read

The UConn Foundation has launched a five-year $150 million student-supported fundraising initiative. At a time when many colleges and universities are seeing a decline in applications, undergraduate applications at UConn now exceed 32,000—triple the number in 1995.

Equally significant, in recent years, each incoming class has surpassed the previous one in academic accomplishments. More competitive than ever, UConn is a number one choice for many of the best and the brightest.

Additionally, the state-supported $1.5 billion Next Generation Connecticut plan will strengthen the University—especially in science, technology, engineering, and math—and add 6,580 more undergraduates. The Foundation’s ambitious fundraising initiative aims to make an education at UConn more affordable through both need and merit-based scholarships.

Every gift matters, regardless of size. Transform a life today through scholarship or fellowship support.

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Hospital’s High-tech Wall Opens Doors to Imagination

UConn Foundation
UConn Foundation

2 min read

For a team of animators used to designing for screens a few inches across, the task of designing a scene three stories high was daunting – especially considering it was created to be viewed by people less than four feet tall.

But that is precisely what the team of UConn faculty and students led by Tim Hunter, professor and chair of digital media design, accomplished with an interactive wall in the newly renovated lobby of the Boston Children’s Hospital.

“The main challenge we had from a design standpoint was the scale. We needed to understand how to make it engaging, and not terrifying,” says Samantha Olschan, assistant professor-in-residence who oversaw the students creating the characters.

Hunter’s team built a series of interactive scenes designed to be friendly and inviting to even the youngest patients. When a child moves into the space, an avatar appears on the screen, and as the child moves around, the avatar tracks their movement, and reacts to gestures like a wave of the hand.

The wall, which towers over the new lobby at a height of nearly 30 feet, comprises a large high-definition video screen, and a series of cameras and sensors that observe the presence and movement of people in the space below it, allowing people entering the space to control what appears on the screen.

That experience can be powerful, says Olschan, and not just for children.

“As we were installing the space, we watched people working on it,” she says. “These were adult men, and they were dancing around, becoming a flower, or a duck. And that’s magical, when you forget about yourself, and let the space transform you.”

Rather than just showing a pretty picture, the wall hopes to offer some therapeutic benefit to the children who interact with it, in support of the mission of the hospital, which is widely considered one of the best pediatric hospitals in the world.

“The idea was to empower emotionally and physically challenged children to take control of something in their life,” says Hunter, “at a time when things were spinning out of control.”

The team was aided in that process by drawing on the expertise of faculty members from a broad range of disciplines across the University. Experts in child psychology, in human behavior, and in several disciplines of computer science and engineering contributed to the development of the installation.

That kind of collaboration was critical to the success of the wall, says Hunter, even though such projects are not usually assigned to an academic institution. “A university is not the first place you would look for something like this,” he says.

By making the project into an active research endeavor, his team was able to focus not just on solving the technical challenges, but on solving them in a way that heightened the user experience and made the technology invisible.

“There’s a ton of technology behind this,” Hunter says, “but at the end of the day, what makes it work is that it feels very human.”

This article was originally published by UConn Today.

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RELEASE: Cancer Research, Dental Medicine Benefactors to be Honored at Gala

Jennifer Huber
Jennifer Huber

3 min read

UConn Health and the UConn Foundation are pleased to announce the recipients of the 2015 Carole and Ray Neag Medal of Honor. Philanthropists Mark and Laura Yellin and corporate supporter Straumann USA will be honored at the Sixth Annual White Coat Gala.

The White Coat Gala will be held on Saturday, April 25, 2015 at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford. Scot Haney, meteorologist and co-host of “Better Connecticut” on WFSB Channel 3, will host alongside University President Susan Herbst.

“We are proud to honor philanthropists Mark and Laura Yellin and Straumann USA. The Carole and Ray Neag Medal of Honor recognizes those individuals and corporate partners whose outstanding contributions to the field of medicine and UConn Health serve as an example of what we all hope to achieve: to make a difference in the lives of others. We are deeply grateful to the Yellins and Straumann USA for their longstanding generosity and partnership,” said Herbst.

Since 1984, Mark and Laura Yellin have been steadfast supporters of the Carole and Ray Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center at UConn Health. In addition to their personal philanthropy, Mr. Yellin has served as chairman of the UConn Cancer Research Golf Tournament for 26 years, leading a committee of dedicated volunteers who share a common goal to eradicate cancer. The tournament has raised more than $1.7 million since its inception for research projects, new technology and equipment, and faculty initiatives.

“Laura and I feel extremely privileged and honored to receive the 2015 Carole and Ray Neag Medal of Honor,” said Mark Yellin. “Cancer is a deadly foe that indiscriminately attacks families and friends. We have spent the last 37 years raising funds to battle this deadly disease. At UConn Health, we have been able to clearly see that the funds raised are used directly, efficiently, and productively in the battle against cancer.”

Straumann USA is a global leader in implant dentistry and a pioneer of innovative technologies. As a leading developer of surgical, restorative, regenerative, and digital solutions for dentistry and laboratory use, Straumann USA’s partnership with the UConn School of Dental Medicine has provided profound benefit to faculty, students, and patients. Straumann’s longstanding support of the UConn School of Dental Medicine’s academic, clinical, and research missions contributes toward UConn’s international reputation as a top-tier institution for groundbreaking research, extraordinary patient care, and unrivaled education and training for the next generation of leaders in dental medicine.

“Words cannot express our pride and delight in receiving this honor,” said Andy Molnar, EVP of Straumann North America. “Despite persistent difficult economic circumstances and pressure to cut costs, we as an organization have maintained our annual investment in research and development at more than 5 percent of net revenues. We are committed to high-quality research based on collaboration with a network of world-renowned researchers, clinicians, and academics.”

The White Coat Gala has raised more than $3.2 million for UConn Health, Connecticut’s flagship public academic medical center. This special event celebrates UConn Health’s eminent physicians, dentists, and researchers who are translating discoveries made in the lab into advances in healthy aging, dentistry, orthopedics, and intractable diseases like cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Proceeds from this year’s White Coat Gala will benefit UConn Health’s comprehensive campus revitalization project, called Bioscience Connecticut. Major projects include new state-of-the-art outpatient and hospital facilities and expansions for research laboratories and business incubator spacing. Additionally, a modern addition will be built on the academic building to accommodate a 30 percent increase in medical and dental students.

The White Coat Gala is supported by the generosity of sponsors. Media sponsorship is generously provided by WFSB Channel 3.

To purchase tickets, please visit our online registration form or call (860) 486-1001. Please contact Amy Chesmer at (860) 336-6706 or via email for information about sponsorship opportunities. For all other questions, please email uchcgala@foundation.uconn.edu or call (860) 486-1001.

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UConn Health’s Outpatient Pavilion Set to Open to Public

Jennifer Doak-Mathewson
Jennifer Doak-Mathewson

< 1 min read

The Outpatient Pavilion, a state-of-the-art medical facility, is set to open to the public—thanks in large part to the dedicated support of donors to UConn Health and Bioscience Connecticut.

The moving process is currently underway, with the Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center moving in the spring and other departments following suit by the summer.

“One of our missions is to take care of the citizens of the State of Connecticut,” said Dr. Denis Lafreniere, medical director of UConn Health‘s University Medical Group, in a NBC Connecticut segment (video above). “This building will allow us to do that in a fashion that is cutting-edge.”

The Outpatient Pavilion, a 300,000-square-foot building located on the Farmington campus of UConn Health, houses both primary care and specialists. It features eight open-concept floors, light-filled lobbies furnished with device charging stations, and a secure, real-time communication system for health care providers and their patients.

The Pavilion will go a long way toward UConn Health’s commitment to accessible, personalized patient care. “We’re very excited,” added Lafreniere in an interview with WTIC Radio. “We’ll have a patient come in, see their primary care doc, see their specialist on the same day, perhaps…so they won’t need separate appointments. It’ll be very convenient for patient care.”

 

 

 

 

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