New Haven business, health and education leaders gathered last week for a gala at Gateway Community College to honor the school’s 20th annual Hall of Fame inductees.
More than 200 crowded at Gateway’s banquet hall as six honorees were welcomed to an elite class of about 60 community leaders and corporations that have been honored since the Hall of Fame’s inception in 1998.
The event is one of Gateway’s biggest fundraisers of the year. A slew of offerings were available at the gala’s silent auction, as proceeds from the event will benefit student scholarships.
The 2017 class of inductees includes:
- Kevin Burke, senior vice president for Wells Fargo’s middle market banking in New York and Connecticut
- Henry Fernandez, founder of LEAP (Leadership, Education & Athletics in Partnership)
- Christopher O’Connor, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Yale New Haven Health System
- Justin Raffone, service and parts director at Colonial Toyota in Milford
- Erin M. Randi, water pollution technician for the town of South Windsor
- Rep. Toni E. Walker, D-New Haven
Distinguished guests, donors and Gateway school officials toasted the inductees during a pre-reception, noting their accomplishments and the ways in which they have improved the New Haven community.
“We would not be the community that we are, were it not for the great work you do day in and day out,” said New Haven Mayor Toni Harp. “I want to thank you for doing the work here with this great college that provides so many people an opportunity. I want you to know how much we appreciate what you do.”
Sen. Martin Looney, D-New Haven, congratulated the inductees and praised O’Connor and Fernandez for their innovative work in New Haven. Looney said he has known the two for decades, and called LEAP “one of the most successful programs for aspiring students” in the state.
“All of the honorees are so deserving,” Looney said. “Gateway is now so inextricably connected to the community in so many positives ways, as well as being a physical beacon of hope and learning in downtown New Haven.”
Rep. Robyn Porter, D-New Haven, said Walker, a New Haven resident, has always been approachable while serving the state. Walker, who was elected in 2001, serves as House Appropriations Committee chair and is a member of the Judiciary Committee.
“It gives me pride to stand here and to see you honored like this,” Porter said. “You guys have no idea [of] the load that she carries. She carries it with so much dignity and class.”
Hosted by the Gateway Community College Foundation and sponsored by Comcast and NBC Connecticut, NBC CT reporter Justin Schecker emceed the event that included many speeches celebrating the honorees.
Carol Eggert, Senior Vice President, Military and Veteran Affairs at Comcast NBCUniversal, emphasized the ways in which community partners such as the honorees can support the military.
“I’m here to explain that your support for the military community doesn’t rely on having a team like ours to make it a successful endeavor,” Eggert urged. “You can be a one-man team—an entrepreneur trying to make ends meet or maybe a student or faculty member here just looking to build a network—and you can still have an impact on positively reaching the military community.
Speakers also included President Paul Broadie II, student speaker Connor Pullen and Thomas Griggs of the International Festival of Arts & Ideas.
Broadie called it an honor to be in the presence of the 2017 inductees.
“The individuals that we are inducting tonight have had such an impact on Gateway, on our community, and the entire state of Connecticut,” Broadie said. “I want to thank the honorees for their commitment to education and the impact that they have had on the lives of the students and the community we serve.”
Lead photo courtesy of Gateway Community College.