Alumni Celebrate Homecoming Weekend

News Story: October 8, 2006

Sacred Heart University's Homecoming Weekend began Saturday, Sept. 30, with a celebration of alumni's achievements and ended with a celebration of the school's victory on the football field. A record crowd of alumni enjoyed the day in the Alumni Tent and Tailgating Village.

Hours before the Pioneers beat the Wagner College Seahawks 25-17 at Campus Field, ending Wagner's undefeated season, more than 100 alumni, families and administrators gathered at University Commons for an alumni awards presentation.

Patricia Walker, dean of the College of Education and Health Professionals, said the annual recognition of outstanding alumni lets the school community know about their post-graduation achievements and brings alumni back to campus.

"I haven't been back here in six or seven years. Sacred Heart to me is the best university in America because it symbolizes giving people an equal opportunity in higher education, which is still integral to success in our society. I'm really honored and it's good to be back," said Brian Hamilton, '87, of Cary, N.C., one of two recipients of the Alumni Achievement Award for significant positive impact on their field or in their community.

Hamilton is co-architect of FIND, Financial Information into Narrative Data, system, used by thousands of accounting firms throughout the United States and Canada. He is also owner and CEO of SageWorks.

"It's very meaningful and it helped bring me back to Sacred Heart to be a better alumni," said Gene Russell, '01, of White Plains, N.Y. "Driving up here I started to reflect on how well my education here prepared me for the diverse work that I do; reflect on the skills taught to me here and how I still use them.  Although my title is different they carry over," said Russell, one of two recipients of the Pioneer Award, which is given to individuals who make an impact through service to their community or for other humanitarian efforts that reflect the mission of Sacred Heart University.

Russell, who switched careers from high school teacher to his current post as a New York City police officer, volunteers an average 200 hours each year training and motivating young people in the Explorer Post program, designed to break down barriers between police officers and young people.

Many members of the basketball team attended the breakfast event to support Coach Dave Bike, '69, who received the Alumni Achievement Award.

"It goes to show how much he loves the game and how well he teaches students of the game. He helps us not just to be good players on the court but good people off the court," said Team Captain Jarrid Frye, a senior business major from Queens, N.Y.

"We all understand the amount of time and dedication he's put into this program. He's done this longer than any of us have been alive," said Tavio Hobson, of Seattle, Washington, a senior point guard who is majoring in political science.

Bike was humbled by the honor. "I'm fortunate, not just to receive an award but for the opportunity to work here. My wife always said if you find a job you love you don't have to work a day in your life, and I've been doing something I love for a long, long time. To get recognized for that, I'm blessed," Bike said.

Mia Edmonds-Duff, '04, of New Haven, Conn., received the Pioneer Award for her educational leadership as a teacher at the John S. Martinez School in New Haven.

"This is really an awesome experience. There are so many educators who deserve recognition but don't often get it so I am honored," Edmonds-Duff said.

As the breakfast award ceremony continued inside, scores of students participated in a pre-game parade complete with the university's marching band playing the school's fight song, the color guard and about a dozen colorful floats and cars representing various student organizations, including SHU Pioneers, multicultural clubs, Ballroom Dance Club, Freestyle Club and Dance Team.

Participants threw candy and streamers to spectators along the route.

"I love it. It makes everyone energetic before the game," said Frank Skaggs, of Narragansett, R.I., a freshman studying physical therapy, who stood along the parade route.

"It shows there's a lot of spirit for the university. Students do care about what's going on," said Kim Russo, of Wayne, N.Y., a sophomore nursing student and member of the color guard, which led the parade.

Alumni also lined the parade route from their tailgating section.

"I think it shows good school spirit," said Jaclyn Ford, '06, of Hicksville, N.Y., who received her psychology degree last May.

Heather Fogarty, '06, of West Islip, N.Y., who graduated with a degree in media studies, said the parade was larger than last year's. She liked the piano float best, a truck on which the Class of 2009 had fashioned giant piano keys, with students riding in the flat bed dressed in festive attire amidst a party atmosphere.

High marks from the crowd also went to Beta Delta Phi's float -- a small black sedan that was decorated to resemble a bumble bee.

Other alumni honored at the awards event were Alana Callahan, '98, of Shelton, Conn., Julie Stewart, '97, of Cos Cob, Conn., and Sheila Watts, '03, of Trumbull, Conn., each of whom received the College of Education and Health Professionals Alumni Leadership Award; Brian McArdle, '04, of Trumbull, Conn., recipient of the University College Alumni Leadership Award; and Patricia (Dillon) Picard, '95, of Ansonia, Conn., who was given the Volunteer of the Year Award.

Sacred Heart University also recognized Richard A. Stieglitz, managing director and CEO of Integrated Rehabilitation Services, St. Charles Borromeo Roman Catholic Church, and the Bridgeport Community Health Center, each with the Community Partner Award for exceptional collaboration to further the educational goals and mission of the college.