University News

University’s Virtual Centennial Celebration Brings Together Chargers from Around the World

The University of New Haven’s Centennial Ball connected students, alumni, faculty, staff, and friends from across the country and around the globe, bringing them together to reflect on the University’s past 100 years of success, share their Charger pride, and celebrate the University’s 100th birthday during a fun and unique virtual party.

October 15, 2020

By Renee Chmiel, Office of Marketing and Communications

Image from Virtual Centennial Ball.
Chargers from across the country and around the globe took part in the University’s virtual Centennial Ball.

Amanda Pappas ’21 had a great seat – and all the comforts of home – as she celebrated the University’s Centennial with hundreds of her fellow Chargers.

A criminal justice and legal studies double major, Pappas had the chance to “pull up a chair” at a “virtual table” with President Steven H. Kaplan, Ph.D., and renowned forensic scientist Henry C. Lee, Ph.D. She said the event was an “amazing experience” that “achieved a great sense of unity.”

Amanda Pappas ’21 on campus.
Amanda Pappas ’21 on campus.

“The virtual program really made you feel like you were speaking to those at your table in person,” explained Pappas, who serves as president of the Class of 2021 and the Undergraduate Student Government Association’s vice president of operations. “I really enjoyed how we were able to bounce between tables. The event reinforced how grateful I am to be a Charger, not only because of the education I am receiving, but also because of the invaluable connections and memories I have made.”

The University community didn’t let the coronavirus global pandemic stop it from celebrating its Centennial in a big way. Pappas was one of hundreds of students, alumni, faculty, staff, and friends from across the country and around the globe who attended the University’s virtual Centennial Ball, an online party that enabled them to network, reconnect with former classmates and professors, share their favorite memories of their time at the University, and tour the campus via a drone. They also viewed showcases of students’ most innovative research and projects.

Savannah Papuga ’21.
Savannah Papuga ’21.

Some students, including Savannah Papuga ’21, served as representatives of their programs, colleges, or schools. A dental hygiene major, she was seated at the School of Health Sciences table, where she made meaningful connections with the students, faculty members, and alumni she interacted with.

“I met an alum who just recently returned to her home country after graduating from the University,” she said. “It was amazing to have the opportunity to gain the perspective of our international students and see how the University truly does prepare students to take on the real world from wherever they might be.”


‘Celebrating 100 years was such an important milestone’

Ranjana Maitra ’91 MBA was one of the many alumni who took part in the festivities from her home on the other side of the globe. An international executive with decades of experience in the healthcare and life sciences industries, she now oversees the University’s recruitment efforts in India. She says she felt welcome and connected with her fellow Chargers as she chatted with them from her home in Mumbai.

“I enjoyed the entire experience of the virtual Centennial Ball,” she said. “I love the University, and I am a very proud and passionate alumna. Celebrating 100 years was such an important milestone and a poignant moment, and I would not have missed it for anything in the world. I felt immensely grateful to have been a part of this historic moment for the University.”

Image of Ranjana Maitra
Ranjana Maitra ’91 MBA on campus in 1989.
‘I was truly inspired and in awe of our current student body’

The University collaborated with Broadway Sings, the New York City concert series, to host the event. Audra McDonald, a six-time Tony Award winner, hosted the celebration, which featured performances by cast members from Broadway hits such as Hamilton, Wicked, and The Lion King. It also included a special conversation between President Kaplan and Adriana Trigiani, a New York Times best-selling author and a long-time friend of the University, in which they reflected on President’s Kaplan’s 16-year tenure, the University’s rich history, and its plans for the future.

Nyhsere Woodson ’21.
Nyhsere Woodson ’21.

“How do you measure the impact of the individuals we’ve given opportunity to who've gone out and given opportunity to others and helped make this a better world?” said President Kaplan. "We're responsible for saving so many lives who are impacting society in so many ways.”

The University’s future plans include a possible transition of its athletics program to Division I, and the night before the Centennial Ball, the athletics department hosted a special “Charge On” event to share its vision for the future of athletics.

Reece Gleadle ’14, a former member of the University’s track and field team, took part in the celebration from her home in Kirkland, Washington. She enjoyed the many opportunities she had throughout the night to network and to learn more about the important work taking place at the University.

“I had a blast catching up with my fellow Chargers during the reception, including two of my former coaches,” said Gleadle, now a technology consultant at Accenture, a multinational professional services company, and a member of the University’s Alumni Association Board of Directors. “I also checked out a few of the student showcases, and I was truly inspired and in awe of our current student body. I've always believed the University attracts top-level students, but these students really drive that point home.”

Reece Gleedle at University Homecoming.
Reece Gleadle ’14 (right) at the University’s Homecoming in 2019.
‘It was an incredible honor’

The University’s Centennial year coincided with the conclusion of The Charger Challenge, its first comprehensive campaign, launched in 2016. The centerpiece was the development of the Bergami Center for Science, Technology, and Innovation, a $35 million, 45,000 square foot multidisciplinary faculty at the heart of the campus, that guests explored virtually during the Centennial Ball. The facility, which officially opened at the start of the fall semester, includes cutting-edge engineering and science labs, video production studios, and a makerspace.

During the campaign, the University received the largest gift in its history from Board of Governors chair Charles Pompea ’71, ’90 EMBA, ’06 Hon., his wife, Tamera, and their family.

Nyhsere Woodson ’21, a finance major and a member of the Chargers football team, had a chance to host the Pompea family at the Centennial Ball. He says connecting with them was a “very special experience.

Enoch Wang ’22 M.S.
Enoch Wang ’22 M.S.

“I enjoyed speaking with the Pompea family very much,” said Woodson, a member of the Student Advisory Board for the University’s Pompea College of Business, which was recently dedicated in the family’s honor. “The Centennial Ball’s virtual format made it easy to interact with many people at once. I got to have a meaningful conversation with the Pompea family, and it was great to see their smiles, as their entire family was able to attend the event.”

The University’s Centennial celebration has included a variety of events, including celebrations in Boston, New York City, and Boca Raton, Fla., and it will culminate with a virtual Homecoming on November 21.

Enoch Wang ’22 M.S., a candidate in the University’s graduate program in cybersecurity and networks, was also seated at President Kaplan’s table at the Centennial Ball. Wang, who began his time as a Charger at the start of the fall semester, says the University has already made a meaningful impact on his life – and that was his message for those at his virtual table, including President Kaplan and some of the University’s most generous benefactors.

“I had the opportunity to tell them, the very people who shape the University, why I chose the University of New Haven,” said Wang, a member of the University’s esports club, as well as its Cyber Forensics Research and Education Group. “I hope that our meeting will remain a positive experience in their minds. It was an incredible honor. I've already received so much positive support and encouragement since I began my studies at the University.”