August 2015

Shoe Sale Raises $198K for UConn Scholarships

Grace Merritt
Grace Merritt

3 min read

A highly anticipated sample sale of high-end shoes in Bantam raised nearly $200,000 for scholarships for UConn animal science students.

Fashionistas lined up two hours before the sale started in a line that circled around the Bantam Fire House Saturday morning, August 15. Over the course of the day, about 1,000 shoppers flocked to the rural borough to scoop up strappy metallic stilettos, blue satin pumps with crystal buckles, thigh-high boots, and hundreds of other delicate couture confections trimmed with turquoise beads, crystals, or brocade.

Manolo Blahnik shoes
Some of the shoes available for purchase. (Credit: Susan Taff)

The Manolo Blahnik shoes normally retail for $450 to $1,300 in stores like Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman. But, at the firehouse, they could be had for $150 to $350 a pair.

The unusual sale raised $198,000 for scholarships for students in the University of Connecticut’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. Specifically, it will endow the Arethusa Scholarship to provide financial aid for animal science students interested in dairy production or manufacturing.

“The sale was wildly successful and a wonderful event with UConn students, staff and faculty, and local Ag-Science High School student volunteers assisting with all aspects of the sale, from parking cars to cashiers,” said Steven Zinn, professor and head of the UConn’s Animal Science Department.

George Malkemus and Anthony Yurgaitis, who are top executives at Manolo Blahnik, donated the shoes and established the scholarship to help promote agriculture and specifically the dairy industry in Connecticut.

“The scholarship will open the door to a UConn education for the next generation of dairy producers in Connecticut, helping to maintain this critical industry in the state,” Zinn said. “Their legacy will have a long-term major impact on the Department of Animal Science.”

Malkemus and Yurgaitis have a passion not only for high-end designer shoes, but for breeding high-end cattle. They bought Arethusa Farm in Litchfield 19 years ago when it went for sale across from their country home in Litchfield and have turned it into an award-winning cow-breeding operation. Four years ago, they launched a dairy with the motto “Milk Like it Used to Taste,” and began to sell milk, cheese, yogurt, butter, and ice cream.

“With their own endeavor with their farm they can see how important it is to prepare the next generation of students who are capable of working in the dairy industry here in Connecticut,” said Amy Chesmer, senior director of development at the UConn Foundation’s health sciences department.

Malkemus and Yurgaitis’ efforts to revitalize Connecticut’s dairy industry comes at a time when the number of commercial dairy farms has steadily declined in the state, from 6,233 in 1940 to only 121 in 2014, according to Connecticut Department of Agriculture Assistant Bureau Director Wayne Kasaceck.

The businessmen have had a relationship for a while with UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. They have consulted with a faculty member who is a specialist in dairy production and have hosted student interns on their farm from the school, said Dean Gregory Weidemann.

“Given their support and interest, particularly in supporting the dairy industry and local foods, we are very pleased to be supporting our students who have an interest in the dairy industry and students in agriculture overall,” Weidemann said.

The money raised from the shoe sale comes at the same time the UConn Foundation is in the midst of its Transform Lives initiative that aims to double the amount of financial support, including merit and need-based scholarships that the foundation raises for the benefit of the UConn student body.

 

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Chemotherapy Suite Named After Advocate for Cancer Patients

Grace Merritt
Grace Merritt

4 min read

When cancer patients step into the chemotherapy area at the UConn Health Outpatient Pavilion, they may be reminded of a cozy library at a four-star hotel.

The waiting area is lined with floor-to-ceiling, cherry bookshelves loaded with 1,800 books. Carpeted and painted in soothing greys and creams, the room has two couches and is dotted with rose-colored, upholstered chairs.

In the infusion area, they’ll find an open design with a nurse’s station in the center surrounded by a mix of bays offering patients a choice of private, semi-private and open infusion spaces for chemotherapy, depending on their mood.

These design touches are due to input from Maryann dePreaux Walmsley, a cancer patient herself, who wanted to make the chemotherapy—and other infusion treatment—experience a little more pleasant for patients and their caregivers.

She was a patient consultant on the design of the treatment area, which opened June 12 in the Carole and Ray Neag Comprehensive Cancer in the UConn Health Outpatient Pavilion, the 300,000-square-foot new home of ambulatory services, including UConn Health’s leading centers for cancer, spine/neurosurgery, and healthy aging.

Unfortunately, dePreaux Walmsley never got to see the new library and suite she helped design. She died in April 2014 at age 52 after fighting cancer for four years.

Tom and Maryann Walmsley.
Tom and Maryann dePreaux Walmsley.

To commemorate her vision and advocacy, her husband, Tom Walmsley, recently gave a large monetary donation to name The Maryann dePreaux Walmsley Cancer Center Library in her memory.

“She thought it would be nice if patients had a library here so they can grab a book or an iPad and be entertained for a few hours. That might not be anything to cure their cancer, but anything to make an unpleasant experience a little more tolerable is worth it,” Tom Walmsley ’82 said.

The gift supports the construction of the library and is part of Bioscience Connecticut, which includes the construction of the Outpatient Pavilion, a new hospital tower, and the renovation of John Dempsey Hospital.

dePreaux Walmsley was a warm, smart, dynamic businesswoman who not only fought her cancer valiantly, but was an advocate for other cancer patients.

“Even at the end of her life she was thinking about what she could do make patients’ experience better,” said her doctor, Molly Brewer, professor and chairman of the UConn Health obstetrics and gynecology department.

dePreaux Walmsley also organized a team for the annual Run/Walk to Break the Silence on Ovarian Cancer and volunteered as a committee member of the UConn Cancer Research Golf Tournament.

Petite, pretty, and thoughtful, dePreaux Walmsley was an avid knitter and golfer who loved to travel and would talk about her exotic trips to Tahiti, Bora Bora, and China. She loved to entertain and always put her family first, said Tom Walmsley, who is second vice president of Bond & Financial Products at Travelers Insurance.

Tom and Maryann’s friends and coworkers conducted book drives at Cigna and Travelers, where they collected 2,500 books and funds for several iPads. Tom Walmsley stocked the shelves with most of the books, saving some to replenish the shelves in the future.

In addition to the library, the design also includes dePreaux Walmsley’s suggestion to make the chemo area have more of an open concept space. “One of the things she wanted was she felt it was important to have an area where patients could converse if they wanted,” said Nurse Manager Susan Chelllis. “There are patients who really benefit from talking to each other, so having an open area for them to talk was important. But on days they didn’t feel well or wanted privacy, they can go to the private areas.”

Tom Trutter, associate vice president of campus planning, design, and construction, said her suggestion led to several changes in the design and ultimately improved the atmosphere in the center and made it more comfortable.

“Maryann’s gift will make possible a creative and positive healing environment for cancer patients within the Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center at UConn Health,” said Josh Newton, president and CEO of the UConn Foundation.

Maryann’s daughter, Nicole Nehmer, said her mother was always an advocate, despite being so ill.
“She took after my grandmother,” Nehmer said. “She always liked to get involved and make sure people had a voice.”

Nehmer said dePreaux Walmsley was a terrific role model and managed to balance raising a daughter, being a wife, taking classes, and working full-time as an investment managing director at Cigna. dePreaux Walmsley earned her executive MBA from UConn in 1989.

“They say you can’t have it all, but she did,” Nehmer said. “She was truly an amazing role model to me and my friends. “She not only balanced them all, but she excelled at all of them.”

Naming the library after her is a fitting tribute, Nehmer said. “It’s a testament to her legacy, leaving her stamp as she tried to overcome her disease,” she said.

 

If you’d like to find out more about naming opportunities at UConn Health, please call (860) 486-4524.

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UConn Night Slated at Connecticut Open Tennis Tournament

Jack Kramer
Jack Kramer

< 1 min read

Come out and celebrate the University of Connecticut women’s basketball team—and wear your best UConn swag—on Tuesday, Aug. 25 at the Connecticut Open, presented by United Technologies at the Connecticut Open Tennis Center at Yale University.

Hosted by UConn women’s basketball broadcaster Meghan Pattyson-Culmo, the City of New Haven will present a proclamation honoring the recent national championship by the UConn women’s basketball team. Jonathan the Husky will also be on site.

Join your fellow UConn alumni, fans, students and more for an evening of networking and celebrating UConn pride.

Each ticket sold will help raise funds through the 50/50 Project, the Connecticut Open’s charitable fundraising program. The funds raised will go to the UConn Foundation’s Transform Lives fundraising initiative.

Purchase tickets using code: CO15UCONN or call (877) 817-9873 and reference UConn Night—50 percent of ticket sales will be donated to the UConn Foundation.

The UConn Foundation aims to double the amount of financial support—including merit and need-based scholarships—that the Foundation raises for the benefit of the UConn student body.

On Aug. 25, gates will open at 5 p.m. The first 1,000 fans will receive a UConn Women’s National Basketball Championship poster. The matches start at 7 p.m. Eight of the top 20 ranked women’s tennis players in the world, as well as three young Americans, are in the field so far, with four wild cards yet to award to more top players.

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UConn Foundation Raises $78 Million in FY 2015, Surpasses Goal

Jack Kramer
Jack Kramer

3 min read

The UConn Foundation raised $78 million during fiscal year 2015, $6 million—or nearly 10 percent—more than its goal. The fundraising total is the second-highest ever for the UConn Foundation, surpassed only by the $81 million raised in FY 2014. When combined, the Foundation’s two-year fundraising performance since Joshua R. Newton arrived as president & CEO is approximately 25 percent higher than any other two-year period in its history.

The Foundation’s Transform Lives scholarship initiative, which publicly launched in January, is helping to fuel the Foundation’s success. The goal is to raise $150 million over five years—effectively doubling the amount available for scholarships and student support. This past fiscal year, an additional 500 donors supported scholarships.

“Thanks to our generous donors, we had a tremendous fundraising year,’’ said Newton. “I’m thrilled that UConn’s momentum and our Transform Lives scholarship initiative are energizing our donors and helping create an even stronger UConn Nation.”

“The Foundation continues to enjoy fundraising success that is unprecedented in its history,’’ said UConn President Susan Herbst. “As I have said many times, there is no bright future for UConn without tremendous growth in philanthropic giving and our endowment.’’

While the independent audit of its FY 2015 numbers won’t be completed until early October, the Foundation is confident reporting a closing total of $77,993,764 in contributions and pledged commitments, including the following:

  • $20.6 million in support of capital improvements
  • $16.3 million for scholarship and student support
  • $26.3 million for program support
  • $5.2 million for faculty support
  • $9.6 million for research

All told, $58 million was designated for current operations and $20 million earmarked for the endowment, which now stands at nearly $390 million. Within these fundraising totals are some significant gifts worth highlighting. They include:

The Foundation is seeing significant increases in the number of donors in several critical categories, including those who contribute at least $25,000. Comparing FY 2015 with FY 2014, the Foundation saw this set of donors swell by approximately 23 percent. The pledges and commitments from these donors accounted for $66 million of the $78 million raised in FY 2015.

In addition, the total value of donations from several key groups increased year-over-year. Alumni giving rose by $1 million, gifts from parents shot up $500,000, and contributions from private foundations climbed by $2 million.

“Our success with so many key constituent groups serves as strong evidence that donors are confident about the direction UConn is headed and with the integrity and management of the Foundation,” said Coleman B. Levy, Chairman of the Foundation’s Board of Directors. “We’re committed to supporting UConn in its rise in national ranking among the great public universities.”

As required by state statute, an independent accounting firm is conducting a certified audit of the Foundation’s financial and activities. Once completed in October, that report will be sent to state auditors for their review. The audit report, along with the latest IRS 990 form, Foundation annual report, and a list of disbursement categories to the University will be sent to the leaders of the General Assembly’s Higher Education committee and posted on the Foundation’s website.

Current information concerning all of the Foundation’s public disclosure can be accessed on its website.

 

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Golf Event to Benefit UConn Soccer Program

Jack Kramer
Jack Kramer

2 min read

University of Connecticut men’s soccer great and successful businessman Tony Rizza is turning 50 years old and a benefit golf tournament to celebrate that milestone will be held on Monday, September 21, with all proceeds benefitting the construction of the Rizza Family Soccer Complex in Storrs.

The tournament will be held at the Tunxis Plantation Country Club in Farmington, with an 11 a.m. shotgun start followed by a cocktail hour and dinner.

Rizza, who played for coaching legend Joe Morrone from 1983-86, recently pledged $8 million toward the project, the largest donation in the history of UConn Athletics. Morrone will serve as the honorary chair of the event.

[Learn more about Rizza’s pledge on UConn Today]

The new facility will be built on the site of the current Joseph J. Morrone Stadium and will bear the same name. The overall complex—which will include the new stadium as well as the existing training grounds and practice field adjacent to the stadium—will be named the Rizza Family Soccer Complex.

“UConn and Coach Morrone had an incredibly positive impact on my life, and helping the university and the soccer program maintain a commitment to excellence is a no-brainer for me,” said Rizza. “I am proud to be a Husky and invite everyone who can to join me for a relaxing day of golf in support of UConn soccer.”

Originally from Newington, Rizza previously started a science scholarship in the name of his uncle Victor Rizza, a fellow UConn graduate with a Ph.D. in biochemistry.

As of July 31, 2015, sponsors include AT&T, Foxwoods, Herbalife, Hoffman Auto Group, ICR, Mohegan Sun, and Toscano Family. For information on playing or making a tax deductible donation, visit the tournament’s registration page or call April Kreyssig from the UConn Foundation at (860) 486-7169.

UConn’s men’s soccer team won the NCAA Championship under Morrone in 1981 and in 2000 under current Head Coach Ray Reid. The Huskies were also declared national champions in 1948.

“Loyal Huskies such as Tony Rizza help us keep alive the high standard and tradition of UConn soccer established by Coach Morrone many decades ago,” said Reid, now in his 18th year in charge of the program. “This is a very exciting time for our student athletes and fans of Husky soccer, and I’m proud to be part of it.”

 

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