Trefz: UB Is Family–Business School Unveiled, Finch Attends Ceremony

Trefz school
The new Ernest C. Trefz School of Business.

Saluted by university officials, business titans, Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman and Mayor Bill Finch, Ernest C. Trefz, better known as Ernie, announced on Tuesday he was “proud to play a role in the past, present and future” of the University of Bridgeport that dedicated a new business school in the entrepreneur’s name featuring a newly designed atrium equipped to host events, seminars and conferences to allow students to collaborate on group projects including 80 new computers in three labs and new SMARTBoard technology.

Trefz, owner of the Bridgeport Holiday Inn Downtown, and numerous McDonald’s franchises in the region, has been a major UB benefactor for decades. Some in the crowd stirred as University of Bridgeport Vice President Mary-Jane Foster welcomed Trefz’s family and friends gathered outside the new building along Park Avenue. Finch, who had boycotted the university for decades after an arm of the Unification Church rescued the university financially more than 20 years ago, quietly moved in for an appearance on UB soil joining the podium of dignitaries to honor Trefz, and taking a seat next to City Council President Tom McCarthy who has attended many UB events.

UB aerial
UB campus bolsters South End neighborhood.

For members of the mayoral staff and business community leaders who had prevailed upon Finch throughout the years to embrace the university’s brainpower and economic impact, it was welcome news to see Finch’s presence declaring “Ernie Trefz day in the great city of Bridgeport.” Finch even shook hands with university president Neil Salonen, who along with his assembled team has shepherded a great period of growth, and exchanged pleasantries with Foster, his 2011 Democratic primary opponent. For Finch, his presence was about saluting Trefz rather than a regular practice. Still, it has at the very least broken the ice in a touchy relationship with the university that once employed him.

Trefz and Foster
Trefz chats with Mary-Jane Foster, UB vice president, before the ceremony.

For some in the crowd, Finch’s presence was surreal. Many had thought they’d never witness this day.

Finch was a city councilor in the early 1990s when the university was bleeding badly during the New England financial collapse. An arm of the Unification Church that Finch viewed as a cult group invested in the university. He boycotted university events irrespective of overwhelming evidence the Unification Church posed no threat to his concerns about university influence. Several Finch friends and supporters even sit on the Board of Trustees of the university.

The university is undergoing a renaissance in growth both in program offerings and new construction, a point Trefz made as he thanked the attending audience. “It’s all about family,” Trefz announced. “UB is part of my family … UB has stabilized the neighborhood contributing to the vibrancy of the city.” Trefz also thanked the mayor for attending.

The electrifying speechmaker Marian Heard, a university alumna, former president of the local United Way and founding president of the Points of Light Foundation, regaled the crowd about the university’s impact on her life, declaring the new business school a technological wonder.

Joan and Ernie Trefz
Ernie Trefz and wife Joan enter business school in his name.

Addressing the crowd, David Carson, retired chief executive officer of People’s Bank, highlighted the campus location along Long Island Sound connected to Seaside Park designed by architectural genius Frederick Law Olmsted. Whether a designed nod or not to Finch, in doing so Carson raised the name of Finch’s architectural hero Olmsted who also designed Beardsley Park just steps away from the mayor’s home.

In his remarks in praise of Trefz, Carson said “We need to think about the future and prepare people for what’s next … taking ideas and putting them into practice to produce the kind of people to a build a future.”

Trefz plaque
A plaque greets arrivals at new business school.

Trefz, not one to accept adulation easily, said he was a bit taken back by the size of the crowd and those who took the time to thank his generosity to the university. In a quiet moment he told OIB, “I’m grateful. This is a proud moment.”

Finch and Trefz
Finch, at UB, declares Ernie Trefz day. CT Post photo.


  1. Thanks, Ernie! By being ahead of the curve you represent the top percentile of results that either has the advanced skills or understanding that sets you apart.

    Bill Finch! It’s time you worked for someone who will give you the tools to learn, grow and be what you want to be, both personally and professionally. We’re looking for hard-working, enthusiastic individuals who want to be a part of a winning team. If you enjoy working with people and love to learn new things, we want to meet you.
    As a Crew Person, you may be responsible for:
    Greeting customers with a smile
    Taking accurate food orders
    Preparing all of McDonald’s World Famous food
    Partnering with other Crew and Managers to meet target goals during your shift
    Restaurant Cleanliness
    Ensuring items are well stocked

    Is it 2015 yet?

  2. It was a very nice ceremony, well planned and executed.

    Finch’s presence was amusing. He has made so many negative remarks about UB, it is difficult to believe he accepts the school as a positive force in Bridgeport. He did not acknowledge UB, but stated he was there to honor Ernest Trefz. In my opinion, his feelings about UB are irrelevant. UB does not need him but handled his presence graciously.

    It was good to see Dave Carson and other credible people gather at UB.

  3. Wow!!! Mayor Finch showed up at UB, well that’s nice after all these years. Seeing the picture of Mary-Jane Foster with Mr. Trefz was nice, now that’s a woman with class.

  4. What a gift to the University. Ernest Trefz has been a giver to the City for decades. The new building is beautiful. The University of BRIDGEPORT has been improving for many years. It is an anchor in the South End and I have always been hopeful the South End would benefit and now with the new housing being built, it just may finally take off again. You just cannot beat the view of Seaside Park from the top floors of the UB Library.

    It was good Mayor Finch was there today on many levels. It was more than politics. Ernie Trefz deserves the respect of Mayor Finch being there for a great celebration. I am certain all the anti-Finch people are not pleased as it knocks the wind out of their sails for at least 50 comments that would have criticized another Mayoral no-show. Better late than never. This was a good day. Not so much for Finch adversaries.

    1. Steven–You are right. Mayor Finch finally put on his big-boy pants and showed up at UB. He did it because his friends told him it was unacceptable to not acknowledge someone who has been a stalwart friend to the city and of course to his campaign fundraisers. It was the least Finch could do and his toadies knew it. Let’s see if he keeps those big-boy pants on or just reverts to the usual juvenile behavior at which he so excels.

  5. Thank you Mr. Trefz and family for your support of a Bridgeport institution of higher learning. OIB currently is serving up a number of YouTube videos that focus on criticism of “millionaires” from around the US who are looking to change, improve or reform “lower education” (namely the results from our youth attending public schools).

    When you look at the names of those who made their money locally and are returning it to higher education philanthropically, you will see the gifts of 50 years ago and before were part of the machinery and manufacturing time when Bridgeport was the “arsenal of democracy.” Since then, real estate, financial services and food service have been venues for wealth creation locally. Change is in the nature of life, though many try to ignore or resist this movement. It is good philanthropy remains attractive to some and the public gets so much from their dream pursuit, preparing the world for the future. Why don’t supporters of primary and secondary educational improvements get positive recognition? The need for improvement is there. Time will tell.


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