March 2017

Mo’s Letter

Montique Cotton Kelly
Montique Cotton Kelly

< 1 min read

 

Dear Friends:

It’s March Madness!

We’re looking forward to (what we hope!) will be another historic championship run for our UConn women’s basketball team.

Find a game watch location near you and join fellow alums to cheer on the Huskies. And, to prepare, check out our exclusive, unfiltered interview with Coach Auriemma.

As we’re two months away from Commencement, we’d like to pay special tribute to our more than 2,000 legacy families. This year, approximately 600 senior legacy students will follow family members before them, graduating as proud Huskies. We want to thank you for sending your student to UConn—we’re so proud to be a part of your family tradition! Don’t forget to stop by the Alumni Center so your child can pick up his or her special Legacy Medal during Commencement weekend.

In April, UConn Nation will unite as one for UConn Cares, a nationwide event where our alumni groups will give back to their communities through service projects. Several groups (including our own team) will be cleaning beaches, volunteering at animal shelters, and helping to build homes for the homeless. We can’t wait to see you all in action.

In UConn spirit (and see you in Dallas for the Final Four!),

Mo
Mo Cotton Kelly, Associate Vice President for Alumni Relations

Become An Ambassador
Connect with fellow Huskies
Don't miss out on alumni events and more

Related Posts

Letter from Dean MacNeil

Letter from Dean MacNeil

Read More
Mo’s letter

Mo’s letter

Read More
Rachel’s letter

Rachel’s letter

Read More

A Conversation with Geno Auriemma

Tiffany Ventura Thiele
Tiffany Ventura Thiele

< 1 min read

The UConn women’s basketball head coach sits down to discuss the team’s historic 100th consecutive win, reflect on his career and share an important message with #UConnNation.

Join Geno and the team for a look back on another record-shattering year at our Celebrate the Season event on April 7.

Become An Ambassador
Connect with fellow Huskies
Don't miss out on alumni events and more

Related Posts

UConn Basketball Coaches Join Fans for an Evening with Champions

UConn Basketball Coaches Join Fans for an Evening with Champions

Read More
Leaders of the Pack

Leaders of the Pack

Read More
Geno Auriemma Leadership Conference

Geno Auriemma Leadership Conference

Read More

UConn’s Own “Folk Hero” on Basketball and Green Tea Lava Cake

Grace Merritt
Grace Merritt

4 min read

 

Do you remember Ace Watanasuparp?

He was the first Asian-American walk-on for the UConn men’s basketball team in 2000.

And while he still plays in a couple of basketball leagues to stay in shape, he has gone on to become a vice president at Citizen’s Bank and open a boutique dessert bar in Manhattan.

Watanasuparp ’02 (BUS) says he owes a lot of his confidence and drive to those days playing for the Huskies.

Watanasuparp, 35, a native New Yorker of Taiwanese and Thai descent, was the first Asian-American player to make it onto the UConn team as a walk on. That made him a bit of a folk hero at the time.

“I received tons of fan mail,” he recalled. “American families were writing to me in Chinese. Tons of families were inviting me over for dinner. It was almost surreal.”

He remembered overhearing students talking about him on campus one day.

“They said ‘I think he’s 6-foot-5.’ I’m only 5-9, but these folktales build up around you.”

He was one of hundreds of student-athletes who tried out for the team in Gampel for the 2000-01 season his junior year.

“It was a challenge. Maybe 400 kids tried out,” he recalled. “I’ve been through so many challenges since then and was able to overcome them as well. It’s something that you carry with you and it becomes a part of you.”

Chocolate green tea lava cake

Watanasuparp is a vice president at Citizens Bank and, at the same time, owns seven Asian-inspired eateries in New York City with his cousin. These include Obao and the Spot Dessert Bar, which features inventive Western desserts infused with Asian ingredients. His signature Chocolate Green Tea Lava Cake won a Best of New York award.

“You have your traditional lava cake but you also have a green tea component as well, sort of like me. I’m of Asian descent but I was born here as an American. So I took my two worlds and made it into a food concept,” he explained.

The life of a walk-on

Watanasuparp, a point guard, played his junior and senior years alongside such greats as Butler, Emeka Okafor, and Taliek Brown. He actually got into about eight games, though “usually when it was a blow-out,” he said.

Despite the hard practices and limited court time, he was proud to contribute to the team.
photo of ace watanasuparp

“Just knowing that I was there, pushing the scholarship players was enough. I thought whatever I can contribute, whether it’s small or large, whether it’s emotional, or psychological, I was just so proud to put on the uniform. I loved just being part of the team, being a part of the history, being a Husky.”

Playing for Coach Jim Calhoun was nothing short of life-changing.

“He taught us a lot of things that I bring to my job, like discipline, hard work, determination, not being selfish, and playing for one another,” Watanasuparp said. “He taught me so much on and off the court. He played a huge role in my life and in the success I’ve achieved.”

He fondly remembers living in South campus and the profound sense of community that would settle over Storrs whenever there was a football or basketball game.

“You’d drive around town and they were all going to the game,” he said. “I remember the amount of support and pride they had for the game. You just felt like family at UConn. It was us against the world back then.”

Watanasuparp grew up in Queens, N.Y. and played basketball all four years at Bronx High School of Science. He majored in finance at UConn and took his first job in the mortgage industry as a loan officer with Citibank in Queens. He moved up in the field and eventually became president of DE Capital Mortgage at age 31. He is currently vice president for retail lending at Citizens Bank.

Giving to New Practice Facility

Nine Ways Banking is like Basketball

  1. Having great teammates pays dividends
  2. It’s important to suit up
  3. You’re always striving for the best performance
  4. Good judgment leads to slam dunks
  5. Nothing like a good rebound
  6. Practice improves skill
  7. A calm demeanor helps
  8. Know your competition and have a game plan to beat them
  9. It’s all about the numbers

Watanasuparp is so grateful for his experience at UConn that he recently donated $25,000 to the new Werth Family UConn Basketball Champions Center. The $40 million basketball practice facility is funded entirely by private donations.

He hopes his gift encourages other alums to donate and helps raise the University’s athletic and academic profile even further.

“I think it could be that much better with all of us giving financially to the school that made such an impact on our lives,” he said.

His teammate, Sacramento Kings star Caron Butler and his wife, Andrea, donated to the Werth Center in March.

When Watanasuparp is not busy at the bank or with his restaurants, he likes to get together with Butler, Okafor, Brown, Ben Gordon, Robert Swain, Edmund Saunders, Kwasi Gyambibi, Mike Woodward, and Ray Allen. He also has a new passion for traveling to other countries.

But his Husky days are never far from his mind.

“It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had in my life,” he said.

Become An Ambassador
Connect with fellow Huskies
Don't miss out on alumni events and more

Related Posts

UConn Basketball Alumni Giving Back for Basketball Champions Center

UConn Basketball Alumni Giving Back for Basketball Champions Center

Read More
Making the Case for the UConn Basketball Champions Center

Making the Case for the UConn Basketball Champions Center

Read More
UConn Donor Makes His Mark on UConn’s New Basketball Practice Facility

UConn Donor Makes His Mark on UConn’s New Basketball Practice Facility

Read More

Grab a Rake, a Hammer, or a Paint Brush

Grace Merritt
Grace Merritt

1 min read

From cleaning up beaches to building homes, UConn alumni groups across the country will be volunteering in their communities during the month of April for a new community service initiative called UConn Cares.

“I love the idea. It shows how the University is committed to giving back to the community,” said Martin I. Horn ’73 (CLAS), ’75 MA, who will be making dog tug toys, cat wands, and other much-needed pet toys at a Chicago animal shelter with his alumni group.

Where are all the Huskies?

Did you know?

  • UConn alumni live in all 50 states, plus Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
  • A whopping 57 percent (or 131,912) live in Connecticut.
  • North Dakota has fewest with just 41 members of UConn Nation

Already several groups, from San Francisco to Boston, have signed up for the UConn Cares community service initiative. The project is flexible. Groups can choose their own service project—one that has personal meaning to them or their city—and do it any day during the month of April.

“Our alumni chapters have really embraced this. It’s so exciting,” said Montique Cotton Kelly, associate vice president for Alumni Relations. “UConn alums will be helping across America, doing everything from highway clean-ups to food drives to mentoring.”

Colorado and San Francisco groups, for example, are helping Habitat for Humanity, while a Groton, Conn. chapter is cleaning up the beach at UConn’s Avery Point campus. The UConn Foundation’s alumni staff is pitching in too. They’ll be cleaning up and painting Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Ashford, Conn.

Volunteers will get a UConn t-shirt and groups are encouraged to post photos of their projects at #uconncares. Find a project near you.

For more information, contact Matt Fraulino ’05 at mfraulino@foundation.uconn.edu or (860) 486-2201.

Become An Ambassador
Connect with fellow Huskies
Don't miss out on alumni events and more

Related Posts

12 Signs You Might Bleed Blue

12 Signs You Might Bleed Blue

Read More
Mo’s Letter

Mo’s Letter

Read More
UConn Alumni Giving Relatively High, but Room for Improvement

UConn Alumni Giving Relatively High, but Room for Improvement

Read More

Morphing Genomes Can Harm and Help

Tiffany Ventura Thiele
Tiffany Ventura Thiele

2 min read

Imagine reading a blueprint that’s 3.2 billion pages long.

That’s how many strands of DNA make up the human genome, the set of instructions that makes each of us who we are. Geneticists like UConn Professor Rachel O’Neill of the Department of Molecular & Cell Biology are deciphering that expansive blueprint to help us better understand the building blocks of life.

“We now know the order and structure of between 80 to 90 percent of the human genome,” O’Neill said. “Today, the field of genomics and the accompanying technology that’s been developed has expanded to examining how DNA interacts within a single cell and how different genes are active in different tissues and even single cells across complex tissues, such as the brain.”

O’Neill noted that genomes can morph—which presents the next challenges in genomic research. She focuses her research on understanding this instability: why in some cases it’s detrimental, such as with cancer, or how, in other cases, it provides opportunities for new species to evolve or adapt to their environment.

“The focus of this effort is on the DNA in our genome that is considered ‘selfish’ and recently evolved. Retroviruses are an example of that kind of DNA that our genomes all have,” O’Neill said. “More specifically, I work on trying to understand why our genomes remain stable most of the time, while every so often a genome can fall into relative chaos or instability.”

While most of us don’t think about our genome every day, this type of research can have a significant impact on our lives.

“It is tightly tied to our perception of ourselves in so many respects,” O’Neill said. “For example, when we go into a doctor’s office and fill in the family history form, we are providing some genetic information that will guide the diagnosis and treatment of patients. Another relevance is that genomic information is a future diary in some respects as to what may happen to us as we age. Because of this, genetic information has to be handled very differently than other medical tests. For example, a cholesterol screening says something about your metabolism; but it can be altered with diet and exercise, so it’s not a permanent record.”

O’Neill oversees UConn’s Center for Genome Innovation, which supports faculty and student research with state-of-the-art technology, technical support, and grant project assistance. Additionally, the Center supports more than 100 labs across UConn Health and the Storrs and Avery Point campuses, so O’Neill stays busy researching and mentoring students.

“One of my recent memorable moments is when a student came running into my office having experienced the same discovery excitement I had as a grad student, this time on her own research,” she said. “She found that the retrovirus we were working on was a primary component of the chromosome we were studying. That was a gold moment!”

As she continues her work on the human genome, one of her priorities as a scientist is to relate her research back to the public.

“One of my goals is to promote the idea that the study of genetics is important,” O’Neill said. “Understanding genomes can tell us so much about ourselves and our world. The study of genomics is increasingly intersecting with individuals at the most personal level, with a potential to shape the future of healthcare.”

Take a tour of the Center for Genome Innovation: cgi.uconn.edu.

Become An Ambassador
Connect with fellow Huskies
Don't miss out on alumni events and more

Related Posts

Not sure who to vote for in 2016? UConn professors can help.

Not sure who to vote for in 2016? UConn professors can help.

Read More
Alumna Hopes UConn Nation Can Help Her

Alumna Hopes UConn Nation Can Help Her

Read More
Help UConn Advance Human Rights

Help UConn Advance Human Rights

Read More

Alumna Hopes UConn Nation Can Help Her

Suzanne Morrissey
Suzanne Morrissey

2 min read

Margaret Karbovanec ’63 (ED) needs UConn Nation to know her story. It’s literally a matter of life and death.

Karbovanec, known as Peggy to her friends, graduated from UConn’s School of Education in 1963. She was among the first students to study in the school’s then-new Charles B. Gentry building, and remembers her undergraduate days with great affection.

“I had a marvelous experience with my fellow students at UConn. We were all so eager to get into a classroom. We just could not wait to teach,” Karbovanec recalled.

She got her chance, teaching third and fourth grades in Stratford, Conn. Karbovanec earned advanced degrees from the University of Bridgeport and, later, became an elementary, middle school, and finally a high school guidance counselor, helping the students of Stratford in new and meaningful ways. “I can honestly say that I loved my job and was fortunate to have found the perfect career for me!” she said. “My journey began at UConn, and I’m so grateful for that beginning.”

Retirement in 2006 meant time for reading, traveling, a little golfing, as well as caring for her elderly aunts, ages 102 and 104. But a few years into retirement, she had a life-changing conversation with her doctor. She learned she was one of 600,000 people in the U.S. with a condition known as polycystic kidney disease (PKD).

“PKD is a hereditary disease in which cysts form in the kidney, causing the kidney to enlarge and eventually leading to complete kidney failure,” Karbovanec explained. “I have been put on the list for a deceased donor kidney, but the wait is very long. I have been encouraged to seek a living donor and to do so before dialysis is necessary because a living donor offers the better chance of survival.”

At the time of her diagnosis, her kidney function had dropped to 20 percent. By early March, it had dropped to 13 percent. Dialysis will be necessary, but there is hope. A living kidney donor would, quite literally, be a lifesaver.

“In situations like this, you reach out to all your circles. Friends and family, of course, but other communities in your life as well,” she said. “For me, that includes my alumni community at UConn. I hope someone in UConnNation will read this and it will spark an idea that they could help save a life—if not mine, then someone else’s.”

To donate, one must be at least 18 years old and in good health. Karbovanec’s donor must be Blood Type B or O, but even if they are not a compatible blood type, they can be paired in a kidney exchange. In this program a “kidney swap” occurs when a living kidney donor is incompatible with the recipient and so exchanges kidneys with another donor/recipient pair.

“The feeling of satisfaction for the donor is a very positive, psychological experience, knowing that he or she has helped save the life of someone in need,” she said. “There is no way to measure this benefit, but it is very real to the people who experience it.”

If you are interested in becoming a living donor, get all the details and contact information at www.kidneyforpeggy.com

Become An Ambassador
Connect with fellow Huskies
Don't miss out on alumni events and more

Related Posts

Alumna Gives Dental School’s Largest Gift

Alumna Gives Dental School’s Largest Gift

Read More
UConn Nation stands together

UConn Nation stands together

Read More
Not sure who to vote for in 2016? UConn professors can help.

Not sure who to vote for in 2016? UConn professors can help.

Read More