February 2016

United Technologies announces $1 million partnership with UConn

Jennifer Doak-Mathewson
Jennifer Doak-Mathewson

< 1 min read

United Technologies Corp. unveiled Thursday two new initiatives Connecticut authorities hope will cement the company’s presence in the state through the use of brain power.

One project is the $8 million, 20,000-square-foot Materials and Process Engineering laboratory at UTC Aerospace Systems in Windsor Locks, the former Hamilton Standard and Hamilton Sundstrand facility across from Bradley International Airport. The plant has been there since 1952.

The other new initiative is a $1 million, 5-year commitment to establish a Materials Engineering Center for Excellence at the University of Connecticut, 37 miles away in Storrs.

“UTC could do this anywhere in the country, anywhere in the world,” said Mun Choi, provost at the University of Connecticut and a former dean of engineering and professor of mechanical engineering at the university. “The difference is they don’t have to go elsewhere to look for talent. They can find it in Connecticut.”

The money comes from UTC, not UConn, Choi said.

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UConn Community Unites To Help Pitcher Ryan Radue Beat Cancer

Jennifer Doak-Mathewson
Jennifer Doak-Mathewson

< 1 min read

“Weeks of powerful chemotherapy had wiped out the cancer discovered in [UConn baseball pitcher Ryan] Radue’s knee and neck, with a month of radiation still to come. But neither the illness nor the harsh effects of treatment separated him from school, where he graduated in December, a semester early, or his teammates. Now his fight is in the late innings and he let everyone know he was winning. He hopes to be pitching by the end of April.

“‘That’s all him,’ said outfielder Joe DeRoche-Duffin, one of Radue’s closest friends. ‘It just shows you the internal fight that he has, and it’s so inspiring. He’s just been amazing.'”

Ryan will be one of several honored guests at the 7th Annual UConn Health White Coat Gala, recognizing our community’s heroes and healers in the fight against cancer. The event, set for April 16, will also recognize Bess Economos, co-founder of the Lea’s Foundation for Leukemia Research, and Pramod Srivastava, PhD, MD, director of the Carole and Ray Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center.

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Stanley Black & Decker Donates to School of Engineering’s BRIDGE Program

Grace Merritt
Grace Merritt

2 min read

2015 Bridge participants.
2015 Bridge participants. (Credit: UConn School of Engineering, via Flickr)

Stanley Black & Decker has donated $45,000 to the UConn School of Engineering’s BRIDGE program, which provides academic support to underrepresented students who plan to major in engineering.

The gift will support the intensive, five-week program for incoming freshmen at the University of Connecticut. The residential summer program targets populations that are underrepresented in the engineering field, including African-American, Hispanic, Native American, and female students. Of the 67 students who participated in 2015, 61 percent were women, 58 percent were underrepresented minorities, and 44 percent were low-income.

The program’s goal is to provide academic coursework, a supportive network of mentors, leadership development, and industry visits to local engineering companies throughout Connecticut. All of these activities combine to give participants the confidence and knowledge they need to succeed in the School of Engineering and their careers ahead.

The goal is to encourage more students to pursue an education in engineering as well as in the other STEM fields of science, technology, and math. Both UConn and Stanley are seeking to increase the number and quality of STEM professionals, particularly those who will bring diversity to the workforce.

The program is having an impact. Since 2002, 69 percent of students who participated in the BRIDGE program graduated from the School of Engineering, compared to 57 percent of their engineering classmates. Their success can also be seen on campus and in the community. Most engineering student groups on campus are led by BRIDGE graduates, and BRIDGE students are well represented as volunteers for annual STEM outreach events with high school students. This involvement continues as they graduate and work in the industry, serving as mentors for the next generation of STEM professionals.

“Most people agree that solving problems, especially technical problems, requires special skills and knowledge,” said Kevin McLaughlin, Director of UConn’s Engineering Diversity and Outreach Center. “Typically, these are some of the attributes possessed by scientists, mathematicians, and engineers. Many professionals in these fields recognize that the number of good ideas generated and solutions proposed while trying to solve complex problems are likely to be increased if the people working on the solutions do not come from a monoculture. As the Bridge program director, I am extremely grateful to Stanley Black & Decker for its support of our program.”

Tim Perra, vice president of communication for Stanley Black & Decker, said the company is honored to help UConn with its initiative to bring more diversity to the global engineering workforce.

“The Bridge program serves as a comprehensive track to support students with the needed knowledge, expertise, and support system for them to succeed,” Perra said. “As UConn graduates remain in Connecticut and enter the workforce, we believe that these graduates’ engagement within the community is beneficial and we are fortunate to call them our neighbors.”

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A Love Story that Started in a UConn Dorm Comes Full Circle

Grace Merritt
Grace Merritt

3 min read

John Krenicki Jr. ’84 and Donna Samson Krenicki ’84 met in the McMahon dorm where they both lived their junior year at UConn. He was studying mechanical engineering and while she majored in graphic design.

Like so many Huskies who meet at UConn—more than 20,000 Husky couples at last count—it wasn’t long before they realized that what they had was more than a fleeting college romance. They married the year after they graduated.

Now, 32 years later, after navigating careers and raising three children together, they are still going strong. Recently, John gave Donna a unique birthday gift that harkens back to the place it all started. He named an endowed scholarship after her in the School of Fine Arts. He knew it would please his wife, an artist, and help their alma mater at the same time.

“It’s just something that she loves and enjoys and spends a lot of time on. It was really just about her,” he said.

The Donna Krenicki Professorship in Design and Digital Media is one of two endowed professorships that the Krenickis recently gave to the school.

Anne D’Alleva, dean of the School of Fine Arts, said the professorship is transformational.

“It’s our first endowed professorship in the school,” she said. “It’s very exciting to have this recognition of the quality of our faculty. We have established a new department of digital media and design. I see this as linking graphic design and digital media together to enable us to have exciting and innovative interdisciplinary education and do some creative projects.”

In addition to the fine arts professorship, Krenicki recently endowed The Paul Krenicki Professorship of Chemistry to give the chemistry department a boost. He hopes the two new professorships, which have combined value of $1.5 million, will help bolster UConn’s rising academic stature.

“We would like UConn to be a top-20 university so we have devoted most of our contributions to academics,” said Krenicki, a longtime, generous donor to the University. “For us to be in the same neighborhood as a Michigan or a Virginia or a Berkeley you’ve got to have top faculty. UConn’s a great school, but could be better and that’s what we’re trying to do.”

“To attract faculty, having these endowed professorships is a big deal. It’s a big factor in terms of recruiting and retaining key faculty. It’s a permanent commitment to the university. From where we sit, it’s probably the best thing we can do to advance the university,” he said.

The chemistry professorship is named after Krenicki’s brother, Paul, who had a passion for chemistry but whose college career was cut short. Paul Krenicki was bound for a career as a chemist, but died of cancer at age 22.

“It’s an opportunity for someone to continue great work to advance chemistry, which is something he would have done had he survived,” Krenicki said.

Krenicki also honored his mother, Olga Krenicki, with the chemistry professorship by dedicating it to her in honor of her 90th birthday in January.

“This professorship will strengthen our chemistry department’s already exceptional capacity to train undergraduates for science careers and to pursue research in fields like materials science, biomedicine, and environmental sustainability. UConn undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty will all benefit from this gift for years to come, and for that we are truly grateful to them,” said Jeremy Teitelbaum, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Longtime UConn supporters, John and Donna Krenicki are both former members of the UConn Foundation Board of Directors. They have also donated endowed scholarships and previously endowed two other professorships: the chair of the biomedical engineering department and a professorship in genomics and personalized medicine. John Krenicki was awarded an honorary doctorate from UConn in 2007.

He is currently a partner in Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, a private equity firm in New York and previously served as vice chairman of General Electric and president and CEO of GE Energy. She is a graphic designer who serves on the board of directors of the Berkshire Museum.

 

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Air Force Vet Gives Back and Stays Connected

Grace Merritt
Grace Merritt

3 min read

Major General Joseph S. Ward Jr.’s license plate says “UCONN 99,” a nod to one of UConn’s basketball championships.

His basement “man cave” is papered with UConn posters and other Husky memorabilia.

And he visits the Storrs campus at least once a year. He says there is no other place in the world that gives him a deeper sense of belonging and inner peace.

Ward (CLAS) ’83 has got to be one of UConn’s biggest fans. But even this was not quite enough for him—not enough to express his gratitude to the place he says prepared him well to begin his career as a military officer. So he has decided to give a scholarship every year to a cadet enrolled in UConn’s Air Force ROTC program where he got his start 32 years ago.

“It’s an opportunity for me to give back more than anything else,” he said. “It also serves as a catalyst to maintain my connectivity with the cadet corps and my alma mater. It’s a wonderful feeling being able to help others, especially those who want to serve our great nation,” he said.

Ward’s donation is part of the UConn Foundation’s Transform Lives initiative to raise $150 million for scholarships and fellowships. He is among the 494 new donors who gave toward scholarships in the past fiscal year. Ward says he hopes fellow Air Force ROTC graduates will donate as well to this wonderful cause.

“It is fantastic to see one of our Air Force ROTC distinguished graduates setting the example and giving back to the program to help the next generation of Air Force leaders,” said Kristopher E. Perry, director of UConn’s Office of Veterans Affairs and Military Programs.

Ward’s first scholarship went to Basant Kandel ’16, a promising young cadet majoring in physics who was selected as the Cadet Corps Commander for his senior year. Kandel said he is honored and privileged to have received a scholarship from a Major General whom he regards as a mentor.

“It is something that motivates me to improve myself every day,” Kandel said. “It drives me to go the extra mile, hoping one day I can be like the man who found me worthy of the scholarship.”

UConn’s Army and Air Force ROTC units have been on campus for more than 60 years. They have produced hundreds of commissioned officers who have served both in the active duty military and the Connecticut National Guard. Currently the Air Force ROTC program has about 50 cadets, Perry said.

Ward, who is originally from Groton, first came to UConn in the late 70s after he got a cold call from a UConn ROTC recruiter.

“He said ‘I see you are a mathematics major and you are doing fairly well. The Air Force is actively looking for individuals who have a background in mathematics,’ ” Ward said.

Ward wasn’t sure he wanted to join ROTC, but agreed to try it on a provisional basis. He went to basic training that summer.

“I just fell in love with putting on the uniform, the marching, the shooting. We did some flying. I enjoyed the camaraderie with my fellow cadets. It was a great fit for me right off the bat,” he said.

The ROTC program in those days was based in an airplane hangar near Jorgensen auditorium where the UConn Foundation sits today.

“It looked like a giant Quonset hut. It had a concrete pad and it was a great place to practice marching,” he said. “Classes took place there too; we learned about military history.”

He majored in economics, joined the Zeta Psi fraternity, and became lifelong buddies with several cadets in his class.

After graduating, Ward was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Air Force. His first assignment was to serve as a budget analyst at the Air Force’s Electronic Systems Division at Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts. He rose through ranks during the next 31 years to become a top-level military financial manager at the Pentagon. He retired as a two-star general in May from his job as deputy director of the Army Air Force Exchange Service headquartered in Dallas.

Life in the military wasn’t always easy, particularly for his two sons as the family moved 15 times over the last 30 years. Luckily, his wife, Jennifer, grew up in a military family so she knew what to expect, he said. They now live in Haymarket, Va., in the suburban Washington, DC area, where they intend to stay.

Though he retired from the Air Force, Ward is not ready to stop working. He recently started a new career as a senior managing consultant with IBM assigned to the federal sector. His job is to help implement organizational effectiveness and change management practices.

As he moves forward, Ward is committed to preserving his legacy through his scholarship, hoping to have positive impact on others.

The Transform Lives scholarship initiative has raised $16.3 million for scholarships and fellowships in the 2015 fiscal year alone, bringing the total to $38.1 million so far.

 

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10 Ways Women Can Prevent Heart Disease

Jennifer Doak-Mathewson
Jennifer Doak-Mathewson

< 1 min read

UConn Health faculty and staff on National Go Red Day 2016.
Faculty and staff teamed together on National Go Red Day in the Outpatient Pavilion to create a large heart shape to help raise awareness of heart disease (Photo by Janine Gelineau).

February is American Heart Month, and UConn cardiologists Drs. Anjanette Ferris, Agnes Kim, and Joyce Meng say all women need to start taking action today to prevent the development of heart disease and to maintain their overall heart health.

“Heart disease is still the number one killer of women in our country,” says Ferris, assistant professor of medicine at the Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiovascular Center at UConn Health. “While we have made some gains in raising awareness, more than one in three females in their lifetime will be affected by cardiovascular diseases. The prevalence of heart disease is still too high, and more needs to be done to prevent it.”

Learn the top 10 recommendations fromFerris, Kim, and Meng on how women can prevent heart disease and maintain heart health in UConn Today.

 

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