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Alumni Association Celebrates Peers & Friends

Past President of the Alumni Association Curtis Wiggins, President Zulma R. Toro, Brian Altieri, Ray Guenter, Doris Honig-Guenter, William Fothergill, Brien Balavender, and Alumni Board President Ed Vescovi.

The CCSU Alumni Association celebrated six alumni and friends of the University on June 8 during the association’s annual meeting.

In welcoming the guests gathered in Alumni Hall, Vice President for Institutional Advancement Dr. Christopher J. Galligan noted, “It’s always a pleasure to attend this kind of event where we honor some of our more accomplished and loyal alumni and friends.”

After the close of official business, University President Zulma R. Toro addressed the association, lauding the contributions of CCSU alumni to the state.

“As of today, we have more than 65,000 graduates from Central in the greater Hartford area contributing to the economy of our state. Think about the economic impact of those individuals that are still in the workforce,” Toro stated.

The Award Winners

Galligan and Curtis Wiggins, immediate past president of the Alumni Association, presented the association’s four awards — the Young Alumni Award, Friend of the University Award, Community Service Award, and the Distinguished Alumni Award.

Brian T. Altieri ’07 earned the Young Alumni Award, which is presented to a graduate of CCSU under the age of 40 in recognition of professional or personal achievement. Altieri, an attorney at Balzano and Tropiano in New Haven, graduated cum laude from Quinnipiac School of Law. The Connecticut Law Tribune recognized Altieri as a “New Leader in the Law” in 2016 and he was listed as one of the Top 40 Litigation Lawyers Under 40 in Connecticut for 2016 and 2017. He regularly supports charitable initiatives, including Relay for Life, MADD, and Save a Suit, and offers mentoring support to CCSU students.

Doris Honig-Guenter, Ray Guenter, and Charles T. Fote received Friend of the University awards, which are given to supporters who did not attend CCSU but provide distinguished leadership and/or service to the university.

Honig-Guenter is director emerita of the Ruthe Boyea Women’s Center (1989 to 2000). She and her husband, Ray, have established a scholarship for students who require financial assistance.

Mr. Guenter noted, “In our efforts to provide scholarships, we are very conscious of the fact that Central is a place that nurtures students who perhaps do not have families with a history of going to college, of students whose families like mine who are immigrants to this country. We couldn’t think of a more wonderful institutional vehicle for a scholarship.”

In accepting the award on Fote’s behalf, Galligan outlined the achievements that contributed to his award, including a scholarship fund for School of Business students, service as executive in residence at the School of Business, and an honorary letter from CCSU athletics.

Fote retired as chairman and CEO of First Data in 2005 after 30 years. He is head of the Fote Family Foundation and serves on the board of Project C.U.R.E., a nonprofit organization that provides donated medical supplies and equipment to developing countries.

He lives in Colorado.

Brien Balavender ’77 received the Community Service Award, which recognizes extraordinary community service and contributions that advance the improvement of society. Balavender, an avid runner, garnered the award for his work to re-groom the running trail at Stanley Quarter Park in New Britain with donated materials and volunteer labor.

The New Britain native ran cross-country for CCSU and served as team captain in his senior year. He competes in the Manchester Road Race every year and is a charter member of the CCSU Alumni Track and Field Club, of which he is president. He is president of B&J Construction Company Inc., based in New Britain.

Two alumni, The Hon. Carmen E. Espinosa and Ebenezer Don Carlos Bassett (posthumous), received Distinguished Alumni Awards, which are presented to graduates of CCSU for outstanding professional or personal achievement.

William Fothergill accepted the award for Ebenezer Don Carlos Bassett, Class of 1853, who was the first African American to attend and graduate from the New Britain Normal School (now CCSU). Fothergill, an associate counselor at CCSU, manages a humanitarian award and scholarship fund established in Bassett’s name.

Espinosa ’71 is the first Hispanic justice named to the Connecticut Supreme Court. Before she reached the Supreme Court in 2013, Espinosa served as the first Hispanic judge in the state Appellate Court and state Superior Court.

In remarks sent through video message, Espinosa attributed her success to her years at CCSU.

“But for the education I received at Central, I would not be where I am today,” she said. “Never could I have imagined that when I was walking the streets of then-Central Connecticut State College that I would one day be an associate justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court,” she said. “People ask me what was so special about Central, and I tell them it was the family atmosphere, the feeling that you were important — the feeling that people cared about you.”

Marisa Nadolny

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