September 2016

Huskies Helping Huskies: Alumni Give Students a Leg Up in Start-Up Venture

UConn Foundation
UConn Foundation

2 min read

Elizabeth Pouya ’17 hasn’t yet graduated, but she’s already launched a start-up—thanks to an alumni-driven UConn program designed to foster student entrepreneurship.

Elizabeth, through previous experience working in health care, started examining the issue of hospital-acquired infections—and in particular, the lack of consistency in cleaning one of hospitals’ most ubiquitous instruments, the stethoscope.

“Stethoscopes aren’t disinfected as frequently as the literature recommends to avoid bacterial transmission,” she said, “and since it’s one of the most commonly used tools in health care I knew that if a solution hadn’t been adopted yet, then nothing viable currently existed in the market.”

She pitched this idea while attending the January 2016 Yale Healthcare Hackathon with other UConn students. “I was approached by several clinicians who wanted to help design a solution. We recognized that current methods were too time-consuming and inconvenient.”

She and her new collaborators created the Protectiscope, a device that can apply a disposable film with a one-hand swiping motion. Since it’s designed to be wall-mounted next to hand sanitizer dispensers, doctors don’t have to go out of their way to disinfect their stethoscopes.

Ryan Cordier ’18 (ENG), Elizabeth’s colleague and collaborator, created a 3D printed prototype at the Hackathon—and added another using the School of Engineering’s 3D printing lab—to bring to potential clients, attracting interest from several clinical practices in Connecticut.

Her invention was awarded first place in UConn’s Innovation Quest competition—a program entirely funded, supported, and driven by alumni—to help launch Protectiscope. She’ll also continue to study how stethoscopes play a role in the spread of hospital-acquired infections with the IDEA grant she was awarded last spring.

“If it weren’t for donors, UConn would be limited in the variety of unique programs it would be able to offer,” said Elizabeth. “Many of my accomplishments are due to alumni who give back, and for that I’m incredibly thankful!”

As you might imagine, Elizabeth hopes to pursue a career in the medical field—and we say she’s off to a pretty good start.

Give students like Elizabeth a leg up by donating to the Fund for UConn

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The UConn Foundation Remembers Philanthropist David T. Chase ’06H

Tiffany Ventura Thiele
Tiffany Ventura Thiele

3 min read

David T. Chase ’06H made an indelible impact on the world – and his passing marks the end of a remarkable life story.

Born in Poland, David arrived in the United States in 1946 after surviving three Nazi concentration camps during World War II: Auschwitz, Sachsenhausen, and Mauthausen. Upon arrival in Hartford, the United Jewish Appeal (now incorporated into the Jewish Federations of North America) helped him find a place to live. He graduated from Weaver High School and transferred from Hillyer College to UConn’s pre-law program. It was at UConn where he met his wife, Rhoda Cohen, whom he credited as having the most influential impact on his life.

As the founder, chairman and CEO of Chase Enterprises, David’s career touched diverse industries including radio, television, banking, manufacturing, and commercial real estate. He was instrumental in the building of One Financial Plaza, affectionately known as the “Gold Building,” in Hartford. He also had a passion for philanthropy, citing the importance of the services that helped him when he first arrived in the United States. David and his family gave to many local causes and institutions, including a long and generous history of supporting UConn.

In 1984, the Chase family established the Chase Family Chair in Juvenile Diabetes. In 2005, they made significant gifts to the School of Law and UConn Health. The family’s gift to UConn Health supported musculoskeletal research by establishing the Chase Family Skeletal Biology Research Fund, for which the Chase Family Research Floor and Laboratories were named.

The family’s gift to the law school established the Cheryl A. Chase Endowment, providing programmatic support to the school that daughter Cheryl ’78 (LAW) graduated from. The School of Law’s administration building was named Cheryl A. Chase Hall in recognition of the gift. Most recently, the Chase family provided a gift to name “The Chase Family Surgical Waiting Room” in the new University Tower at UConn Health, John Dempsey Hospital. The waiting area provides a welcoming environment for families of patients undergoing surgery.

Their numerous honors include two from UConn. In 2006, the University honored David with a Doctor of Humane Letters honorary degree. And in 2013, the Chase family was honored at the White Coat Gala as a Neag Medal of Honor Recipient.

The Chase family’s generosity extended around the world. David was a co-founder of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. and led fundraising efforts for the World Holocaust Remembrance Center. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, he returned to Poland upon the request of his friend Pope Saint John Paul II. There, his investments included the first Polish-American owned bank, which helped pave the way for his revolutionary infrastructure investment.

David’s philanthropic legacy will live on in the many lives he touched around the world, including his two children, Cheryl and Arnold. Today, Cheryl maintains a strong connection to UConn, serving on UConn Health’s Board of Directors. David’s legacy is also that of a family man and loving person, which is how his children and grandchildren will remember him.

“After horrific trials early in life beyond the imagination of most, David gave continuously, and most generously, of his time, talents and resources without judgement or discrimination for the betterment of all of humanity,” said Dr. Peter J. Deckers, M.D., Dean Emeritus, UConn School of Medicine. “Where he saw need, he saw opportunity to do good or bring relief, and he quietly serviced it. His impact was and remains regional, national and international, and will always endure as a monument to his goodness and that of the Chase family!”

This article was compiled with information from the Hartford Courant and the Connecticut Jewish Ledger.

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Can ‘Trickle-Up’ Humility Save American Politics?

Jennifer Doak-Mathewson
Jennifer Doak-Mathewson

< 1 min read

The UConn Humanities Institute recently convened a panel of prominent media figures in Washington, D.C., to discuss humility in politics. Led by Professor of Philosophy and Institute Director Michael Lynch, it included Krista Tippett, host of NPR’s On Being, and New York Times columnist David Brooks. The event kicked off a three-year research initiative, aptly named The Humility and Conviction in Public Life project, made possible by the Institute and a $5.75 million investment in UConn by the John Templeton Foundation.

Read the full story in UConn Today.

Learn more about the UConn Humanities Institute.

Want to help create change in our public discourse? Consider giving to the Institute.

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Five Questions With Gayle Russell

UConn Foundation
UConn Foundation

2 min read

Gayle Russell ’88 MBA, ’95 Ph.D of East Hartford discovered her love of learning when she came to UConn to earn her MBA in finance. She later returned to earn her doctorate and then taught as a finance professor in the United Arab Emirates.

She is currently a wealth management advisor for TIAA. Her passion for education prompted her to arrange to leave part of her estate for a scholarship for a UConn business student. We caught up with her recently to talk about her UConn memories and what she’s up to now in a new series we call 5 Questions.

Q. What’s your best memory of UConn?
A. It was the combination of professors and students—just the whole learning experience. I love learning and one of my professors, Thomas O’Brien, saw that and was the first one to get me thinking about getting a Ph.D. I think he could tell that I spent a lot of time learning the material and that I was really interested in finance.

Q. Why do you give to UConn?
A. Because I love learning, I want to share that experience with other people. I think that education is a great leveler of society. If you have a great education, it just makes a difference in your circumstances. My brother and I were the first in our family to get degrees, so I know what a difference education makes. Also, with state and federal finances the way they are, universities are not getting the same level of funding anymore, so it’s getting harder to pay for college. I worry about whether education is still going to be as available to everyone as it has been in the past. I hear about college debt today and it just worries me.

Q. If you could go back to UConn now, what would you do differently?
A. I probably would be more engaged in the social life there. I was a graduate student at the time and I started out working fulltime, so my social interaction was only with the students in my classes. I would have gone to theater, watched the basketball team, and done more social activities.

Q. What advice you would give to someone starting out in your field?
A. I would say my advice is to really understand the social side of business. It’s important to really get out there and network, get to know people professionally, and build a network of professional alliances. I did more of that in the last 10 years and realized it was something I should have done early on.

Q. What would someone be surprised to know about you?
A. The fact that I lived in Middle East as a single, professional woman. People are most surprised when I tell them that. The reason I did it is I wanted to expand my world view and it really did that.

Do you know of a fascinating alum or donor who would make a great “Five Questions with” interview? We’re looking for a wide range of interesting alums and donors who have a compelling stories to tell—from authors, celebrities, business leaders, political leaders, community leaders, researchers, artists to everyday people doing extraordinary, quirky, and interesting things in their professional or personal lives. Please send any suggestions to gmerritt@foundation.uconn.edu.

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UConn Alum Reveals Rare Campaign Flag Collection

Grace Merritt
Grace Merritt

4 min read

The presidential race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton has been one of the most contentious and rancorous campaigns in US history. But it is hardly the nastiest.

Just ask Mark Shenkman ’65 (CLAS) H ’07, an American history buff and a pre-eminent collector of American political campaign flags. Shenkman says the race between Henry Clay and James Polk in 1844 was every bit as heated.

“You think today Donald Trump is a disruptive person? Henry Clay needed to re-invent himself as an outsider and populist, just like Donald Trump,” Shenkman said. “The country was changing. Today the issue is immigration, back then it was race and immigration.”

Shenkman’s favorite flag in his collection is from that very election and depicts Clay, a Whig, as a raccoon thumbing his nose at the establishment. The raccoon, a symbol of the Whig party, was the perfect vehicle to lighten his image.

That flag is among the extensive collection of political campaign flags, banners, and kerchiefs that he and his wife Rosalind have loaned to UConn through Dec. 18 for a display at the William Benton Museum of Art.

photo of the campaign flax exhibit at the William Benton Museum of ArtThe collection, one of the largest public exhibits ever staged of these historic treasures, includes flags from Abraham Lincoln’s two campaigns and a kerchief from the 1840 campaign of William Henry Harrison, who was president for only 30 days before he died of pneumonia.

Presidential flags, banners, and kerchiefs were essentially billboards decorated to promote the candidate and his platform during the period of American history from 1840 to 1912. Typically, they were creatively designed American flags decorated with the candidate’s name, ticket, portrait, or campaign slogan to muster support for the candidate.

In the 1800s, the large campaign banners might have been hung from barn walls while the smaller flags would have been affixed to sticks and waved at rallies and conventions.

“Graphically and historically, these are spectacular,” said Jeff Bridgman, a leading expert on antique flags and curator of the exhibit. “Because of all the liberties that people had in flag design, these are some of best examples 19th patriotic American folk art that there are. The kerchiefs and other textiles are absolutely fabulous.”

Shenkman, founder and president of Shenkman Capital Management Inc., began collecting the flags after attending a Sotheby’s auction in 1997, where he was stunned to see a Jasper Johns painting of an American flag sell for $7 million. To Shenkman, the flag painting had none of the historical value or creativity of the historical flags he’d seen bedecked with slogans and unusual patterns.

Three years later, Shenkman went to a sale of antique American flags and bought his first one, a beauty advertising Ulysses S. Grant’s campaign in 1868.

“That got me started. I caught the fever,” Shenkman said.

Shenkman is now believed to have the largest private collection of presidential campaign flags and textiles—about 155 of them—in the United States.

“I have a genuine interest in American history and I like the graphic design, the art, the color, and the history that these flags show,” he said. “Also, I like that it was a small market, a niche in Americana collectibles.”

photo of mark shenkman and his wife rosalind
Mark ’65 (CLAS) H ’07 and Rosalind Shenkman

One of the reasons the flags are so rare is that they were considered rather expendable at the time, he said.

“If the candidate won the election, people then kept them. If their candidate lost, they threw them away. So those are the hardest to collect because they are rare,” he said.

Shenkman was never a big collector when he was a child, though he was partial to baseball cards, especially the Yankees. He traces his passion for Americana and American history to his childhood when his parents would take him on trips to Colonial Williamsburg, Gettysburg, and Washington, D.C.

“I’ve always had a great passion for decorative art and collecting and preserving American art in general,” he said.

In addition to flags, Shenkman collects American paper currency and historical documents. The Benton exhibit include an original broadside of the Declaration of Independence printed in 1776 in Boston.

Shenkman grew up in Pawtucket, R.I. When he was 18, his family moved to West Hartford and his father opened a textile company in Manchester, Conn. He attended Wilbraham & Monson Academy in Wilbraham, then came to UConn, where he majored in political science. He went on to earn an MBA at the George Washington University in 1967.

In 1985, he founded Shenkman Capital Management, a global money management firm headquartered in New York City. He and his wife, Rosalind, a retired social worker, now live in Greenwich, Conn., and have three grown sons—all of whom work at his company—and nine grandchildren.

In addition to loaning his presidential flag collection to UConn, Shenkman has been a generous donor to the University. He has also served on the UConn Foundation’s board of directors for 18 years, including three as chairman, and the boards of trustees at George Washington University and Wilbraham & Monson Academy. His strong belief in education dovetails with his passion for history.

“I feel that education is the cornerstone of a democracy and it all ties in to the idea that you have to have a citizenry that is educated and informed. We’ve got to have educated citizens who know their American history.”

Learn more about the exhibit at the William Benton Museum of Art

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Transforming Lives: Nutmeg Scholar Sarah Schatz ’20

Jennifer Huber
Jennifer Huber

2 min read

What is it like to witness a dream come true? We wanted to capture that moment—the second a life changes. The moment a promising high school senior finds out she earned a full scholarship to UConn.

This is the story of Sarah Schatz, recipient of the prestigious Nutmeg Scholarship and a member of the class of 2020. UConn awards 15 Nutmeg Scholarships each year to outstanding students from Connecticut who demonstrate the academic prowess, commitment to public service, and character to become a leader in his or her chosen field.

“The Nutmeg Scholarship is so significant. UConn is such a great school,” says Schatz, a National Merit Commended Scholar and Governor’s Scholar from Columbia, Conn. “Knowing that I got the scholarship and that I’m staying in Connecticut was a huge relief for my family. We are all so happy and grateful to UConn.”

More and more top students are choosing UConn. The class of 2020 includes the largest number of valedictorians and salutatorians, 181, in UConn’s history. Nine out of 10 of them hail from towns across Connecticut.

Schatz has already earned an impressive array of academic achievements. After finishing in the top 10 her junior year on the finance exam at a DECA (an international program that develops leadership skills) international competition, Schatz placed first in the accounting applications competition at a DECA state-level conference during her junior and senior years. She served as an officer in the National Honor Society and treasurer of her high school’s chapter of the mathematics honor society Mu Alpha Theta.

In addition to diving into coursework—her major is accounting—Schatz looks forward to taking advantage of all the opportunities at her fingertips at UConn.

“The scholarship will help me be able to focus on my schoolwork. Instead of worrying about working, I can concentrate on academics and look at the extracurricular opportunities,” says Schatz. “UConn offers so much. I want to look into student business organizations like the accounting groups and other activities like intramural sports—I play field hockey and tennis.”

Active in community service, Schatz also was impressed with UConn’s community-oriented programs. Schatz was president of her school district’s Leos Club (junior program of the Lions Club) and fundraised for Camp Rising Sun, a summer camp in Colebrook, Conn. for children with cancer. She wants to check out UConn’s Alternative Breaks, which coordinate service-learning trips that prepare students for lifelong social action. Trips coming up this year focus on such important issues as homelessness, HIV/AIDS advocacy, human trafficking, and environmental conservation.

“Most of all I’m interested in meeting new people from all different places and backgrounds and with different interests,” Schatz adds. “I’m so excited to be going to UConn, and I’m so appreciative of the Nutmeg Scholarship, which has proven that hard work does pay off.”

Welcome to UConn Nation, Sarah Schatz ’20! Learn more about the Transform Lives initiative to raise $150 million for scholarships to support more students like Schatz.

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