UB Good Now, You Hear

The hiring of Mary-Jane Foster as vice president for university relations at the University of Bridgeport places an emphasis on relations, one in particular, that could favorably reconnect UB with the mayor’s office.

UB has made a dramatic comeback from 1992 when it was broke, in need of financial assistance and on the verge of closing, with its anchoring law school fleeing to Quinnipiac. University officials turned to the Professors World Peace Academy, affiliated with Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Church, for a financial infusion.

Moon’s cult reputation didn’t sit well with some in the community, including new City Councilman Bill Finch. New mayor Joe Ganim was dealing with a hornets’ nest full of problems, including a bankruptcy filing by his predecessor, the New England banking crisis that took down Citytrust and Mechanics & Farmers, the highest crime rate in the city’s history and the law school that he attended saying sayonara to the city.

It seemed to Ganim, me too as his chief staffer, that it was much better to save UB than having a bunch of boarded-up buildings in the South End.

Still, some were suspicious of the World Peace Academy’s financial bailout for UB in exchange for some board appointments. Finch, in particular, was on a one-man jihad against UB. Finch has a stubborn streak that can be both good and troublesome. Those were the days when Bill was a liberal’s liberal. He’s moderated his views somewhat as a result of the practicalities of being mayor.

They were also the days when I was Bill’s closest political adviser and, at just about any opportunity to froth about the UB thing, Bill heaved like a fire-breathing dragon. And he could be noisy too. “Lennie, you don’t understand what these people will do to kids!”

Okay, okay, I’d say but Jesus, Bill, do we have to talk about cults, the Moonies and this and that all the time? He drove me nuts. Every time he’d bring it up, I’d change the subject. Let’s talk about getting you elected to something other than City Council!

UB has made a lot of progress these past several years under President Neil Salonen, and the Moon reputation the university had developed in some circles was allayed. Enrollment is up, the engineering school is hopping, the campus is safe. New hires such as George Estrada, who served as director of Public Facilities for the city, are giving the school a brighter face.

I’ve spoken to students at UB Professor Sue Katz’ communications classes. Many of them are city kids, some from the suburbs, some from overseas, all of them just like any other college kid studying, sleeping, working, dreaming about career possibilities.

UB is a good school with good people running it. The thing that Mary-Jane Foster can do arguably better than anyone else is persuade Finch to reexamine his feelings about UB. The city needs to be part of UB again and UB part of the city. Mary-Jane, co-founder of the Bridgeport Bluefish, can serve as a credible bridge between the UB community and Finch. Foster supported his mayoral campaign and there’s a mutual respect.

The mayor has become more pragmatic on the job in the past six months. I hope his position about UB reflects that.

See news release from UB below:

University of Bridgeport appoints community leader as vice president

The University of Bridgeport today announced the appointment of Mary-Jane Foster, a prominent businesswoman and community leader, as vice president for university relations.

The announcement was made by UB President Neil Albert Salonen, who said Foster brings to the position “her knowledge of the region and wide acquaintance with the leaders of the Greater Bridgeport community. She will share with them the great gains the university has made and involve them in our goals.

“We are a university built with a strong commitment to this city and region,” Salonen said. “I know that Ms. Foster will affirm those ties and help make them even stronger.”

The president said Foster already had a strong foothold in the university, having attended the law school before it moved to Quinnipiac.

“I look forward to joining the university,” Foster said. “UB means so much to this city and region. Its strong growth, the educational opportunities it provides, and the economic impact and vitality it brings are precious assets all of us want to support.”

At UB, Foster’s responsibilities will include development, and alumni, community, government and media relations.

Foster is an attorney and principal in the investment firms of Black Rock Investors LLC and Westchester Baseball LLC. She is also well known as the co-founder and co-owner as well as CEO of the Bridgeport Bluefish Professional Baseball Club that plays its games in the Ballpark at Harbor Yard. She sold the team after last season. During her time there she was a tireless promoter of the team’s civic commitment and all that it brought to Bridgeport’s revival.

Always involved in the community, Foster was a director and former president of the board for The Center for Women and Families (the former YWCA of Eastern Fairfield County). She is certified in domestic violence services, was a volunteer court advocate for victims, and served on the Mayor’s Commission Against Violence in the Home.

Foster has won many honors for her volunteer efforts including YWCA Volunteer of the Year, the Philip Morris Companies Doors of Hope Outstanding Volunteer Award for her efforts to curb domestic violence,  the United Way Community Builder Award, the Arthritis Foundation’s Woman in Motion award, and the Connecticut Post’s Woman of the Year in 2003.

An honors graduate of Quinnipiac University School of Law, she also serves on the university’s board of trustees. She holds the honor there of also being in the university’s Business Leader Hall of Fame.

Foster is co-chair of the United Way of Eastern Fairfield County’s Success by Six early childhood initiative. She is on boards of the Hudson Valley Bank, Fairfield County Community Foundation, and the Fairfield County Teach for America.

Before attending law school, Foster was an actress in New York, performing on stage and in film, television and radio. She appeared in more than 200 television and radio commercials.

Foster lives in Bridgeport with her husband, Jack McGregor, a lawyer and former president of the Aquarion Water Co.

Get In With Jim

If you want to catch up to Congressman Jim Himes he’ll be hosting community coffee hours on Saturday afternoon from 3:30 to 5:30 at the Port Coffeehouse, 2889 Fairfield Avenue. Stop in, say hello, voice concerns.

News From The Zoo. What Pols Do They Resemble?

Connecticut’s Own “Octomom” Gives Birth … to Piglets

Olivia and one of her eight piglets at Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo
Olivia and one of her eight piglets at Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo

Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo, the state’s only Zoo, welcomed the birth of eight Guinea Hog piglets on April 16, 2009. Mom and dad are two Guinea Hogs currently on exhibit at the Zoo – named Olivia and Hamton J. Pig. Visitors are invited to come to the Zoo to meet the eight new additions to the Zoo’s family.
 
“Unlike the original “Octomom,” our Olivia looks nothing like Angelina Jolie,” joked Zoo director, Gregg Dancho.  “Mom and her entire litter are healthy and doing well.”
 
The piglets range in weight from just under one pound to two pounds. When fully grown, Guinea Hogs may reach 100 to 300 pounds.  They also are known as Pineywoods Guinea, Acorn eater, Guinea Forest hog, and Yard pig. According to the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy (ALBC), the hogs were once the most numerous pig breed found on farms in the Southeast but today there are fewer than 200. Guinea hogs are classified as critical (versus endangered) by ALBC and are unique to the United States.
 
The Zoo exhibits the guinea hogs in the New England Farmyard. The Zoo’s one male and two

Newborn guinea hog piglets at play at Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo
Newborn guinea hog piglets at play at Connecticut's Beardsley Zoo
female guinea hogs came from Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita and Virginia Zoo (respectively). The other female, Jodie, also is expecting.
 
Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo is open daily from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. Adult admission (ages 12 & older) is $11.00, children (ages 3 -11) and senior admission (62 and older) is just $9.00, and children under 3 years old are free.  Members of the Connecticut Zoological Society also are admitted free. Parking at the Zoo is free of charge.

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22 comments

  1. UB has made a great addition to their staff. I for one am glad to see UB moving forward. They have done a great job of sprucing up the campus and surrounding area.
    The one thing I like that gets no play is that you do not read about any student caused problems such as the SHU students have caused.
    There is another plus for the city as the crime rate in the south end seems to have stabilized. There does not appear to be a significant crime against student rate in the university area.
    Congrats to Foster and UB

  2. Listen, I DON’T KNOW THE DIFFERENCE between an X-ray and a Stingray so when I read this …

    “Unlike the original “Octomom,” our Olivia looks nothing like Angelina Jolie,” joked Zoo director, Gregg Dancho. “Mom and her entire litter are healthy and doing well.”

    … I had to pick-myself-up off the floor. I was laughing so hard I’m gonna put an extra slice of bacon on this morning’s sandwich and be grateful I only live two miles from The Zoo. (oink, oink)

    www .youtube.com/watch?v=mtlUuQw986Q <-- turn on your speakers.

  3. Very smart hire on UB’s part. Mary-Jane Foster will be fantastic. UB is really making great strides and she will bring vision, additional credibility and funding to the University. Great news for UB, the south end, Bridgeport and the region.

  4. Mary-Jane will foster a better town and gown relationship that has been lacking for many years. Bridgeport has missed the boat on the amount of Intellectual Capital that is banked on the shores of Seaside Park. Hopefully, Foster will provide the linkage needed to bridge this gap between the political, government and business community of Bridgeport and the region.

    UB, much like Bridgeport, has been the brown-eyed stepchild. Mayor Moonbeam has been cultish in his own anti-cultish feeling about the University. Perhaps with Foster on board this will turn Finch’s blue eyes on to this South End gem.

    “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”

    1. Maybe Bill Finch can bury that hatchet with UB and get them to foot the bill for grad school (business, public management) for all of his clueless, uneducated, inexperienced senior management hires that worked his campaign.

      That way the citizens of the city of Bridgeport could get to stop footing the countless millions of dollars in mistakes by the Finch Youth aka the Wad Squad.

  5. Congratulations and Good Luck to Mary-Jane Foster. If she can turn Finch around on his hysterical fear of UB “moonies” then we should all bow down and worship her. Finch is a little insane (being kind) and hyper-reactive about anything that even remotely is connected to a cult, Scientology tops the list. I wonder if he will still take donations from Mary-Jane now that she has gone to the dark side? It would also be interesting to find out if the Mayor’s donor list has anyone connected in anyway with a cult. (For instance someone’s brother’s wife’s first cousin once removed likes John Travolta.)

  6. UB has a long way to go to regain the prominence of the ’50s and ’60s and some of the ’70s. When I did graduate work there in ’71, there were 12,000+ running around. Then some bonehead decided to start a program for middle easterners and the largely Long Island and New Jersey undergraduate crowd bailed in droves. Sacred heart became the flavor of the day and has succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest imagination. 135 started there in the fall of 1963. Today, the campus greatly exceeds anything UB has ever achieved.

    As far as the Moon connection goes, so be it. I stopped donating to the alumni fund when Moon took over. I don’t support the way Moon does things. My opinion. If you don’t agree, then … you know what you can do.

    The student body is largely foreign as is all of the Moonies schools all over the world. This is not a bad thing for UB or Bridgeport for that matter. Moon took over a floundering school on the west bank in Paris just before he took over UB. Today, that school flourishes in finance and engineering with a largely foreign (to France) student body. The schools are training for the global economy. Not a bad thing. The engineering school at UB is composed of 98% F-1 (student visa) holders. So be it.

    I would like to see UB back to 12,000 students. And I would like to see Sacred Heart at 12,000 and Housatonic at 8,000. We need an educated work force to make our recovery efforts a reality.

    I’m still not going to give UB any more alumni bucks. I give to Sacred Heart and to Fairfield, where my kids went.

  7. “Bridgeport Now” LIVE Tuesday April 28, at 8pm on Ch 77

    Charles Brilvitch and guests, Bridgeport Historical Society tour and another look at Connecticut’s largest ghost town, Pleasure Beach. How much would it cost to put a pedestrian bridge there?

    Last weekend while filming, I bumped into a couple from New York City who made a day trip to visit Pleasure Beach. They asked me two questions: Is this area condemned and why is this area not being developed or made into a park?

    “Bridgeport Now”, keeping the focus on making Bridgeport a better place to live.

    No cable TV? Netcast: 216.41.34.230/svorg/svtheater.html

  8. Too little has been said about the recent gay marriage law signed by Governor Rell. Whenever a major law is signed with little fanfare the caution flag is waved. I wouldn’t be the first person to resist the Assembly’s overextended legislative curve.

    In a rare show of unity, the entire Local Eyes Editorial Committee is in agreement: Homosexuals should remain in the closet and Governor Rell is now regarded as a sugar-coated witch who has made The Land of Steady Habits a haven for experimental activity. She took a perfectly good state and and made it worse by changing a closet into an alter.

  9. Local Eyes–oh you did not say that. No you did not. Live and let live, man. This is a new era. Obama is in the White House. Open those local eyes and mind and don’t be a homophobe.

  10. Local Eyes–I usually find your posts well written, intelligent and often humorous. Sometimes I actually agree with what you have to say.

    But my God! “Homosexuals should remain in the closet”

    Now, I realize you think I have blurred vision, so maybe I am misreading your intent, but do you actually mean something as ludicrous as that?

  11. “The mayor has become more pragmatic on the job in the past six months. I hope his position about UB reflects that.”

    Who? The mayor who refused to attend a poetry reading put on by one of the Bpt public schools because it was at UB?
    Who comes off looking more gracious–the university that offered its auditorium or the mayor who holds some goofy grudge?

    I get it about the Moonies, but this had absolutely nothing to do with them and everything to do with supporting our local elementary school students.

  12. Obama is my homeboy and I’ve got the t-shirt to prove it.

    I’m part of The Glad-to-be-Trad movement rising in opposition to current trends. I’m the self-styled Gender Defender who wants to make sure we keep marital options limited to members of the other sex. We distinguish between preferences and laws.

    JBR, if you’re not afraid to out yourself, I’m not afraid to voice my opinion. (shrug) My intent couldn’t be clearer. I’m a critic of homosexual politics and procedures i.e. the law. But I’m in the minority now (gulp) the ink has dried.

  13. OK Local Eyes. You win the homophobic Jackass of the Year award. You have also demonstrated that you are a class A jerk and I will not be responding to your bigoted drivel in the future.

  14. *** Right On Local Eyes for standing up for what you believe in, regardless of the new wave, liberal anti-morals way of thinking, as well as the new political P/R push for votes! Although I really don’t believe that staying in the closet is a better solution than just being yourself, however there are religious & moral issues that effect the entire public majority. Therefore the issue of public legalized Gay marriages should have been brought to the people for a decision. ***

  15. Tomorrow is the “Senior Breakfast.” The Queen should be there taking her bows. It was really nice of the fat boy Fab to have the parks dept. to babysit the “Queen;” it started when she had a surgery and they held her hand and wiped her ass and they haven’t stopped. A couple of months ago the “Queen” was feeling sorry for herself “Nobody likes me” so the whole parks dept. sent her a flower arrangement we ass kiss you. Mario seems like he’s somewhat sensible; I don’t think anyone has the nerve to tell him what a bad job this women has been doing. Is it going to have to be the NAACP suing HUD and the city for someone to finally realize this?

  16. Mojo and especially Local Eyes, you might feel differently if your son or daughter came home one day and told you that they were homosexual. Would you want them to live in the closet their whole life (maybe you would) without the ability to share a partnership openly? What are some people so afraid of? You are safe, really. I see it as a matter of equality. In my mind, you either believe in equal rights or you do not.

    1. *** If you were paying attention, you would have noticed that I blogged, “staying in the closet was *not* a better solution than just being yourself”! And yes, being open with one’s personal feelings, especially your kids is much better than keeping it a secret. However, political, legal, anti-discrimination, etc. civil rights is one thing but religious, moral, physical & mental medical, majority of people’s human rights is another! *** The people should have a vote in laws that could threaten in time, their religious & moral beliefs as well as their children & basic overall human rights. ***

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