WestConn Society Luncheon
January 19, 2005

As a regional public university, WestConn has for a long time, and continues to have, a commitment to improving the life of our region. As a matter of fact, it’s one the characteristics of the university that attracted me here. As I’ve learned more about the place I’m even more convinced that one of our key strengths is our ability to both contribute to and draw upon, the region.

One sees us contributing in our new doctoral program in instructional leadership, which was designed in close concert with the region’s school systems. We built and are delivering a program in instructional leadership that meets their needs, not ours—and so we are working together to improve K-12 education.

One sees us drawing upon the region in many of our programs, especially in the arts. For example, noted violinist Eric Lewis of the MSQ is on our faculty and brings world-class music to the community and to his students. Our MFA programs in art and writing utilize the talent of professionals in the region to mentor and coach students.

One sees us contributing to and drawing upon the region in initiatives of the Ancell School of Business such as the development of marketing plans for a variety of businesses including Omaha Beef, IMB, Casey Fuel, and TopShelf Sports and non-profits such as the Hord Foundation, TBICO, and the Red Cross. We also see such partnering the MHA program we conduct at Norwalk Hospital and the highly successful professional development program we have offered for 8 years now for Boehringer Ingelheim.

One sees our biology faculty and students collaborating with the City of Danbury and the University of Georgia on a very interesting research project that has to do with genetically engineered cottonwood trees sucking mercury out the ground.

We can do all of these fascinating and productive things because such talent resides in Fairfield, Litchfield, Westchester and Putnam Counties and because we are within easy commuting range of NYC.

The American Association of State Colleges and Universities calls this relationship of universities to their communities the “Stewardship of Place.” A recent study on the concept contends that it includes the following:

  1. Building and strengthening the requisite relationships with local partners (e.g. regional and community organizations, local governments and educational providers, and business and industry);
  2. Working proactively with these partners to identify needs and opportunities for academic engagement;
  3. Encouraging students and faculty to engage with community needs and reward such engagement;
  4. Increasing awareness of local partners regarding opportunities and resources available through the organization.

The idea of “Stewardship of Place” is critical to our mission and future, but we can’t engage in such engagement unless we have serious and committed partners from the community. And a great example of such seriousness and commitment is Branson Ultrasonics.

Branson was founded here in Danbury in 1946 by Norman Brown, and in 1984 was acquired by St. Louis-based Emerson, a fortune 100 company. Branson develops ultrasound applications for plastic joining, precision cleaning and metal joining. Now I’m a big fan of ultrasonics. . . . But I didn’t know you could do the things that Branson helps its customers do. One small example is the circular pouring spot on orange juice cartons.

Beyond its business success, Branson is dedicated to being a good citizen of the greater Danbury community.

I quote from their public mission statement:

“At Emerson and Branson, we know that good business and good citizenship are inseparable and together create lasting value.”

Branson is a good citizen, and they are a great partner for us here at WestConn. That partnership is reflected in their continuing financial support, and especially in their $100K contribution to our recent Capital Campaign. But it’s most of all reflected in the personal relationships that comprise the partnership.

I saw that in a recent visit there, meeting a conference room full of WCSU grads and former students, interns and WCSU parents.

Where here to honor one of those WCSU parents, Branson President Tony Pajk, the person who is most responsible for all that the company does for the community and for WestConn. Let me tell you why he’s so special.

Tony, who is president of Branson Ultrasonics. Pajk joined Emerson Electric, the parent company of Branson in 1993 as Vice President, Operations for Branson Ultrasonics. He was named Senior Vice President, Engineering and Operations in 1997. A year later, Tony accepted his currently position. Prior to Branson, Pajk was the Plant Manager for Allen Bradley/Rockwell Automation in Twinsburg, Ohio.

Tony has been a member of United Way of Northern Fairfield’s Board of Directors since 2000. He was Campaign Chairman for 2002-2003 and 2003-2004 and currently serves on the Executive Committee. Since Tony’s arrival at Branson Ultrasonics, the company has evolved from a casual participant in community activities, to being one of the United Way’s top campaign contributors, with employees taking an enthusiastic role in Day of Caring activities, as well as other volunteer endeavors. He is a past member of the Executive Committee of the Danbury School and Business Collaborative and a current member of the Board Directors of the Greater Danbury Chamber of Commerce. Prior to his relocation to Connecticut, Tony was very active in local United Way campaigns in the Greater Cleveland area as well as various school and business cooperative programs.

He is a U.S. Navy Veteran having served two tours of duty in Viet Nam and was awarded a personal commendation for distinguished service in Viet Nam in 1969.

Tony graduated Summa Cum Laude from Lake Erie College with a B.S. in Organizational and Industrial Management. He is also a Certified Practitioner (CPIM) from the American Production and Inventory Control Society. He lives in Sandy Hook with his wife Norma and they have four grown children and three grandchild.

We are absolutely delighted to honor Tony Pajk this afternoon as the 2005 recipient of the WestConn Society award. In our “stewardship of place,” partnerships are critical. Branson is a model of how we can partner, and I can’t think of a better partner than Tony!


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