September 2019

Providing Hope for Students in Recovery

UConn Foundation
UConn Foundation

3 min read

The mission of the UConn Recovery Community is to provide a supportive community where students in recovery, and in hope of recovery, can achieve academic success while participating in a genuine college experience free from alcohol and other drugs. Established in 2013, the Community offers weekly meetings for students struggling with addiction or substance use, provides a safe space for students, and even provides Recovery Housing located in the Cordial Storrs House, pictured above.

In 2015, the John Carter Whitney Scholarship for Students in Recovery was created to provide financial support for students in recovery at the University who participate in the UConn Recovery Community. The UConn Recovery Community is pleased to announce that Shannon Sullivan, MS is the 2019 recipient of the John Carter Whitney Scholarship. Shannon is currently a doctoral student in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology. She has been in recovery since 2014.

“To stay active in my recovery while I pursue my PhD, I continue to attend meetings and offer help to others when the opportunity is presented. The UConn Recovery Community was a great way to help me connect with other people in recovery on campus. My rock bottom seems like such a long time ago now and even seems like a completely different person. I know that I need to remember and put my recovery first because that person is only a drink away.”    – Shannon Sullivan, MS 

About John Carter Whitney

As shared by his sister.

John Carter WhitneyMy brother and I grew up very close. We were adopted into the same family as babies. We were 20 months apart in age. The family we were adopted into was riddled with alcoholism and prescription pain medication addiction.  Our adoptive parents divorced when we were two and four years old and our mother remarried immediately to an abusive man. We endured abuse for our entire childhoods. We were given alcohol regularly at a very young age in one household and mind-altering prescription medication in the other.  As we grew older, we both went down different paths. I am a recovering alcoholic who found the rooms of a 12-step program in early adulthood.  I tried to do the program my way for years and ended up sober for three years, dry for five years and then experienced a horrific five-year relapse before I found my way back into the program in my 30’s. I have been sober since December 25, 2005 and remain actively involved in the program.

Although my brother and I did attend 12 step meetings together, in a different program from 1994-1996 for issues related to our childhood abuse, my brother was already addicted to pain medication. His addiction took off when he was in college. The childhood trauma, abandonment issues, and early exposure to mind-altering medication as a child created the perfect storm for my brother to seek pain medication for TMJ and anxiety while in college.  Watching him spiral down the dark path of addiction was painful. There are no words that describe where his disease took him. My brother was in and out of inpatient facilities for many years and the number of medications he would leave each facility with was indescribable.

My brother battled many things for most of his life. He was an addict, anorexic, and bullied because he was gay.  When I received the call from my mother that he had died from an accidental opioid overdose on December 1, 2011, I was devastated. The grief was overwhelming for a very long time and even now as I write this.  The survivor’s guilt and wondering why I was able to find my way into recovery and he wasn’t haunted me but I knew that I wanted to channel my grief and pain in a positive way. I decided to create the John Carter Whitney Memorial Scholarship. My hope is that my brother’s tragedy will help college students who are also healing from trauma and addiction while trying to get their education. I can’t help but wonder if my brother would still be alive today had his college had a recovery community available.

My decision to also include my brother’s memorial scholarship in my estate plan is to make sure that he and I will continue to change lives.

 

We are one UConn family. Help the UConn Recovery Community continue its life-changing work by providing students like Shannon a brighter future.

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Class’s fond memories blossom into new medicinal garden

UConn Foundation
UConn Foundation

2 min read

Sitting on a low, granite wall, warmed by the sun and soothed by the mulchy smell of well-tended gardens, UConn students have an extraordinary new spot on campus to meet with friends, enjoy lunch or listen to a lecture.

And that’s exactly what pharmacy alums from the class of 1978 intended. Thanks largely to a fundraising drive by the class, a modern medicinal garden has been installed in front of the School of Pharmacy building, which opened in 2005.

The class raised funds for the project based on their own fond memories of hanging out in the medicinal garden at the old School of Pharmacy building, then located next to the Student Union.

“It was a little refuge where you could sit with your friends. It was a hidden place. A lot of people didn’t know it was there,” said Barbara Deptula ’78 (PHM). “We just remember being crazy kids sitting in the old medicinal garden and have great memories of that.”

“Our class wanted to create a similar environment for the next class, the next generation, so they can experience same things we did,” she said.

In all, the class raised $82,000 to celebrate its 35- and 40-year reunions. The funds are being used to maintain the garden and provide scholarships for pharmacy students.

Designed by a Boston-based landscape architect and UConn’s Planning, Design, and Construction Department, the garden features a hardscape pattern of three linked circles. The design is based on the chemical structures of menthol and salicylic acid – one of the first pharmaceuticals isolated from plants in the modern pharmacopeia. 

Tucked within and around the hardscape are lush garden beds filled with more than 40 medicinal plants such as rosemary, lavender, salvia, and sweet woodruff. Each is labeled with its common and Latin names. An accompanying garden web page describes each plant’s medicinal uses. The seasonally rotating plant display draws visitors through a winding pathway.

The garden hardscape, which includes footpath lights, also incorporates about 50 pavers inscribed with the names of class members, professors, and others who donated to the fundraiser. The UConn Foundation offered pavers or “bricks” inscribed with donors’ names, a nod to the original garden’s brick house and class’s informal theme song of the same name by the Commodores.

“A bunch of the guys in our class used to dance to ‘Brick House.’ That was like the joke song. When it would come on, they’d start dancing and singing,” Deptula said.

Andrea Hubbard, associate professor of pharmaceutical science, sees the garden as a useful stage for outdoor lectures, not only for pharmacy courses but also for classes from the School of Agriculture, ecology and evolutionary biology, and as preparation for a study abroad program on traditional Chinese medicine.

Find more information on scholarships at the School of Pharmacy.

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Multimillion-dollar gift launches UConn arts and engineering institute

Grace Merritt
Grace Merritt

3 min read

STORRS, CT.—UConn alumni John and Donna Krenicki have given a $5 million gift to the University’s Schools of Engineering and Fine Arts to launch the Krenicki Arts and Engineering Institute, an innovative, interdisciplinary partnership that will offer groundbreaking classes in areas like entertainment engineering and industrial design.

The pairing of arts and engineering will provide a space where different types of creativity can collide, leading to imaginative solutions and radical breakthroughs. It will allow students to explore such fields as robotics, music and sound engineering, digital media, and product design.

“You can find pieces of this at some universities, but there is no place that I know of that has brought everything together under one academic institute. Our Institute will be the first of its kind in the country,” said Kazem Kazerounian, Dean of the School of Engineering.

Deans from both schools said bringing artists and engineers together could lead to such possibilities as virtual characters taking the stage alongside human actors, puppets animated by robotics, therapeutic inventions that can read and respond to emotions, and products designed with a more innovative aesthetic.

Students will gain the technical knowledge and enhanced creativity to tackle design challenges and come up with inspired solutions, skills that are increasingly in demand across the employment spectrum.

Krenickis with President Katsouleas
(From left) Anne D’Alleva, dean of the UConn School of Fine Arts, John Krenicki, UConn president Tom Katsouleas, Donna Krenicki and UConn School of Engineering Dean Kazem Kazerounian

“We are incredibly grateful to John and Donna Krenicki for their support of this exciting new institute, which will push UConn to the forefront of innovative design and technical solutions,” said UConn President Thomas Katsouleas. “This collaboration will give students new opportunities, a competitive edge, and strong marketability, all while helping to fuel our state’s economy and meet workforce needs.”

School of Fine Arts Dean Anne D’Alleva said the Institute responds to student demand. She noted that a Fine Arts course in technical theater has attracted so many Engineering students that the School doubled the size of the class.

The Krenickis’ $5 million gift challenges the Schools of Fine Arts and Engineering to raise $5 million in matching gifts from corporate partners.

While the Krenickis have given generously across the University before, this gift honors their personal UConn story, uniting John’s major in mechanical engineering with Donna’s in graphic design. The Krenickis met in the fall of their junior year at McMahon Hall, finding each other out of nearly 14,000 undergrads at UConn in 1982.

The Krenickis have gone on to raise three children and carve out meaningful careers that have crossed industry, private equity, and the arts, but they have never forgotten UConn. Their philanthropy has inspired excellence across the University. In addition to giving two undergraduate scholarships, they have created endowed professorships in biomedical engineering, genomics and personalized medicine, digital media and design, and, most recently, chemistry.

Donna (Samson) Krenicki, who graduated in 1984, is an artist and a member of the UConn School of Fine Arts Advisory Board. She also has served on the UConn Foundation Board of Directors and is a former trustee of the Berkshire Museum.

John Krenicki graduated from UConn in 1984 and received an honorary doctorate in 2007. He earned a master’s degree in management from Krannert Executive Education Programs at Purdue University in 1991.

He is a senior operating partner with the private equity investment firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, a firm recognized for its commitment to operational excellence and improving business performance. He is chairman of several of the firm’s portfolio companies and is an independent director of Devon Energy Corp. and a member of the National Petroleum Council.

Prior to joining Clayton, Dubilier & Rice, he spent 29 years at General Electric Co., where he was a former vice chairman and former president and CEO of GE Energy. He is also a former member of the UConn Foundation Board of Directors.

“This investment plays to the strengths of both Schools and gives UConn a dynamic, competitive edge,” Donna Krenicki said. “This partnership will give students far greater career marketability and a foundation for life-long learning and enjoyment.”

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