UConn Foundation Welcomes Nine New Members

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Grace Merritt

6 min read

The UConn Foundation’s board of directors recently elected nine new leaders, including the CFO of Nordstrom, a hair-care entrepreneur, and a WNBA star.

The new members also include experts in finance and medicine, bringing a wide range of professional skills to the Foundation, which supports the University through philanthropy and alumni engagement. They join 32 members already on the board along with 10 ex officio members representing the University administration, faculty, student body and alumni.

The board also welcomed long-term board member Dan Toscano ’87 (BUS), a successful financial executive and dedicated alumnus, as its new chairman during the meeting. He replaces Coleman Levy, who completed his two-year term.

The Foundation’s goal is to raise $78 million this fiscal year with a major focus on the Transform Lives scholarship initiative to double the amount raised for student support.

Here’s a quick look at the new members and why they joined the board.

Sue Bird ’02 (CLAS)

Point guard Sue Bird was UConn’s first ever No. 1 draft pick for the WNBA to the Seattle Storm in 2002, the same year she won the Wade Trophy and Naismith Award as College Player of the Year. Bird, of Seattle, Wash., was a key member of two NCAA Championship teams at UConn. 

She went on to win two WNBA championships for the Seattle Storm in 2004 and 2010 and three Olympic gold medals in 2004, 2008, and 2012.

“I’m thrilled and honored to be a member of UConn Foundation’s board of directors and can’t wait to get started. My UConn experience was incredible and I’m looking forward to working with the board to help continue and advance that tradition,” she said.

Leah Darak ’95 MD

Leah Darak, an obstetrician-gynecologist in Connecticut for 20 years, is a partner physician in the statewide ob-gyn practice, Women’s Health Connecticut. She currently has offices in Bridgeport, Trumbull and Shelton. She has been recognized as a Top Doc by Connecticut Magazine six times, most recently in April 2015.

Darak, of Shelton, Conn., received her BA and medical degrees from Boston University and did her postgraduate training in ob-gyn at UConn Health, completing her chief residency in 1995. She is a member of the clinical faculty in the department of ob-gyn at The Frank Netter School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University. She lives in Shelton with her husband, Harold, also a graduate of UConn, and their two sons. All are avid Husky fans.

“I am very excited about this opportunity to work with the UConn Foundation in its efforts to increase support to the University,” Darak said.

Angelo DeFazio ’85 (PHARM)

Angelo DeFazio, who purchased his first pharmacy at age 26, has served as CEO and president of the Arrow Pharmacy Group in Hartford, Conn. since 1989. The Arrow chain today is made up of 5 retail pharmacies, 2 management consulting companies and 1 alternative wellness center. The company has grown with niche business applications, creating and filling needs in institutions, clinics and the general public for positive outcomes.

DeFazio, of Canton, Conn., has advocated legislatively both in the state and the nation’s capital on behalf of pharmacists and patients. He holds numerous community and professional board positions.

“As a first-generation American, higher education was the only avenue towards success available to us. Our public universities are the catapult for this dream. As a UConn alumnus, I feel the responsibility to give back and serve our university, to help fulfill the hopes and dreams of future alumni,” DeFazio said.

Amy Errett ’79 (CLAS)

Amy Errett is a horseback-riding, fly-fishing, black-diamond snowboarding, wine-collecting, San Francisco Giants-loving Californian. She founded Madison Reed in 2014 with years of business and operating expertise as a leading entrepreneur, senior executive, venture capitalist and social-mission visionary. Madison Reed is focused on disrupting the $50 billion hair care industry.

Her multifaceted career has ranged from investing and operating. Errett is a former general partner at the venture capital firm, Maveron, and was previously chief asset gathering officer at E*Trade. Prior to that, Errett founded The Spectrem Group, which she sold to IPG. She is also chair of the board of Glide Foundation and a member of San Francisco’s Barbary Coast chapter of Young Presidents’ Organization, and serves on the boards of Madison Reed, Wharton West, Common Sense Media, and Vacatia. She earned a B.A. in liberal arts from the University of Connecticut and an MBA in finance from the University of Pennsylvania. She is a fanatical UConn Huskies fan. She and her partner live in San Francisco, Calif., with their daughter, Madison Reed.

“I am extremely honored to be joining the University of Connecticut Foundation Board. UConn has been a critical and meaningful part of my life. I received an amazing education at UConn and I am very dedicated to giving back to an institution that has given me so much in my life. I am passionate about the University and look forward to contributing my skills to moving its mission forward,” Errett said.

Mike Koppel ’78 (BUS)

Mike Koppel has served as chief financial officer of Nordstrom since 2001, supporting all facets of the company’s financial operations, including reporting, investor relations, treasury, tax, internal audit, real estate, risk management, strategic sourcing and Nordstrom bank and credit. He is a key advisor for strategic investments and acquisitions made by Nordstrom, including HauteLook and Trunk Club.

Koppel, of Bellevue, Wash., joined Nordstrom in 1999 as corporate controller and principal accounting officer. He has more than 20 years of experience in accounting, financial planning and operations in the retail industry, including May Department Stores and its subsidiaries.

“I’m honored to be a member of the UConn Foundation board and helping to contribute to the future success of our University,” Koppel said.

Joseph E. Parsons ’79 (BUS)

Joseph E. Parsons is a strategic and operational leader with experience starting up and expanding the scale and performance of investment management and structured finance business models. During his 13 years as a corporate officer and subsidiary CEO of the General Electric Co., and record board level/management committee role at Bridgewater Associates, he structured, closed and ran more than $50 billion of acquisitions, mergers, strategic partnerships, private equity investments and high yield debt placements in the retail, healthcare, energy, financial services and internet commerce sectors. Parsons, of Weston, Conn., received a B.S. in finance from UConn and an MBA from the University of Arkansas. He also serves on UConn’s School of Business Dean’s Advisory Board.

“I am excited to join the UConn Foundation Board of Directors,” Parsons said. “I want to see—and be part of—UConn becoming a top 10 public university. I have been supporting the University for many years in various volunteer roles, with the UConn/GE public/private partnership and School of Business Advisory Board of Athletics support as examples. But it requires more from me and from every alumnus. Serving the University as a member of the Foundation Board will allow me to contribute my time and abilities in a much more impactful manner.”

Lori Riiska ’84 (BUS)

Lori Riiska is a certified public accountant and owner of Lori Riiska CPA LLC with offices in Winsted and Canaan, Conn. She has been in business for more than 30 years.

A graduate of the University of Connecticut with a B.S. in accounting, Riiska is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Connecticut Society of Certified Public Accountants, and is chair of the Connecticut Society of CPA’s Peer Review Committee. Riiska is past president of the University of Connecticut Alumni Association, and is chair of the Alumni Relations Committee of the Foundation Board of the University of Connecticut. She also currently serves on the UConn Athletic Club Board. She is a director of the Northwest Community Bank in Winsted, Conn. and is a trustee of the Northwest Connecticut YMCA and The Draper Foundation. She is actively involved with Litchfield County Business Professionals and the Northwest Chamber of Commerce. She is involved with many nonprofit organizations, such as the Rotary Club and United Way. Riiska and her fiancé, John Svetz, live in Winsted. Her two children, Thomas Welcome and Kimberly Fejzo, reside in northwest Connecticut and are also UConn graduates.

“It is a privilege to be part of the UConn Foundation Board. I value working with fellow board members that devote themselves to strengthening and supporting UConn. Working together, we are able to use our individual skills and shared commitment to the University to enhance the University’s mission,” Riiska said.

Anthony Rizza ’87 (BUS)

Upon graduating from UConn, where he was a soccer standout, Anthony Rizza joined Connecticut National Bank, now Bank of America, as an investment analyst in its Trust Division. After working in Hartford for 4 years, he left the bank in 1991 to join Columbus Circle Investors, an institutional investment manager. Initially, he worked as an analyst, then later as a portfolio manager, a position he has held for more than 20 years. He lives in Westport, Conn.

“I’m joining the board to use my experiences as a former student-athlete and a professional to help UConn continue down the path of academic excellence and to further the growth of its already powerful athletic program,” Rizza said.

Michael K. Rosen ’89 (CLAS), ’93 MD

Michael K. Rosen, MD, graduated summa cum laude with a BS in chemistry in 1989 from UConn, where he was also a University and Honors Scholar. He earned his medical degree from University of Connecticut in 1993 and continued his medical training at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center in New York, specializing in anesthesiology. Rosen, of Greenwich, Conn., is currently a senior partner at Northeastern Anesthesia in Westchester, N.Y., where he has served as an active board member for many years.

He became involved with giving back to UConn by starting the Rosen Family Scholarship for Science and Studies Abroad. The scholarship supports students majoring in the physical or life sciences who are participating in study abroad.

“The University of Connecticut gave me such a quality foundation both during my undergraduate years but also during medical school that I feel privileged to have the opportunity to give back as a board member. Being on the board not only gives me an opportunity to be more active in the growth of the University as a whole, but specifically because of my medical background, I can become more involved with the Health Center,” Rosen said.


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