Sacred Heart University names its student success and wellness centers

Temperatures plummeted below freezing and wind whipped through the trees, but the crowd gathered Nov. 10 at Sacred Heart University held fast for the dedication ceremony of the Sheila Hamilton Student Success Center at 5060 Park Ave., Bridgeport, and the Maureen Hamilton Wellness Center at 4980 Park Ave.

The dedications, which took place behind the Success Center, recognized the service and support of Brian Hamilton ’87 to the University. Hamilton, who grew up in Milford, is a member of the University Board of Trustees and founder and chairman of Sageworks, a software and information company based in North Carolina. He and his co-founder are also the original architects of an artificial intelligence technology platform used by financial institutions and accounting firms across the country.

Sheila Hamilton is Brian Hamilton’s late mother, a native of Stratford, who put his education first and played a big role in his success, hence the association of her name with the Student Success Center. Maureen is Hamilton’s late former wife, a 1984 SHU graduate who grew up in Willingboro, N.C. and was a social worker, especially focused on the welfare of children, helping families with adoption services and working with foster children.

About 120 people in all — including Hamilton family members, SHU faculty, former classmates of Hamilton’s, clergy and friends — were present for the ceremony. Gary L. Rose, professor and chair of SHU’s Department of Government, Politics and Global Studies, took to the podium first to call the moment “quite historic and special” in the life of Sacred Heart, “a reflection of the values upon which the University was founded” and “an illustration of love and loyalty.” Rose said he first encountered Hamilton in fall 1982, when Hamilton was a student in Rose’s Introduction to American Government class. Rose said Hamilton was a special individual who asked questions and offered personal comments, showing a “probing, sophisticated, inquisitive mind.” Rose added that it was apparent Hamilton could “think for himself and outside the box” and the two have kept in touch over the past 35 years.

Rose encouraged Hamilton to join the University’s debate team, of which “only the brightest students” were members. “He was one of the finest collegiate debaters I ever coached,” he said. Rose spoke of Hamilton’s former wife, a political science major whom he knew, saying she was “serious about her studies” and “a young woman of excellent integrity.” Rose also pronounced Hamilton “one of the most successful alums in the University’s history.”

Notably, Hamilton also served as student government president during his time at SHU, about which the current SHU SG president, Taryn McCormick, who followed Rose at the podium, spoke. “He has taken the tools from his college experience and used them to his advantage,” she said, adding that he was an “inspiration,” and she hoped to follow in his footsteps.

Student Nikolaus Rubino, a psychology tutor in the University’s Jandrisevits Learning Center (JLC), which provides academic support services to students through the Student Success Center, said he was thrilled to have the opportunity to speak about the center, and the turnout for the ceremony showed the University’s spirit of unity. He suggested that “continual learning,” made possible through venues like the Center, is “the key to success.”

Student Melissa O’Rourke commented on behalf of the Wellness Center, which she said was like “a second home” and “a safe place for students to work through their problems and grow as young adults.” O’Rourke is a team leader in an anti-binge drinking campaign titled LessThanUThink.

University President Dr. John Petillo followed the students, saying that “Sheila and Maureen are here in spirit,” while expressing to Hamilton, who sat in the front row, “We are very grateful and thankful for your support and proud of your accomplishments.”

Chris McLeod, speaking as a member of SHU’s Board of Trustees, called the newly named centers “relevant and important,” with each functioning in wellness — one for physical and the other, emotional. He spoke with great detail about Hamilton’s successes and noted that Hamilton was the first child in his family to attend college — a feat driven by his parents’ commitment to working hard to achieve just as their immigrant parents had before them. McLeod read two proclamations officially recognizing the naming of the two centers and unveiled portraits of Sheila and Maureen.

After Rev. Thomas Lynch of St. James Roman Catholic Church of Stratford blessed the centers, Hamilton’s classmate and longtime friend, Tom Rychlik, offered remembrances of “lofty discussions” with Hamilton and commended his “ability to articulate his thoughts and put them into action.” He said Hamilton “always knew what he wanted to do and had an affinity for compassion.”

Finally, Hamilton took the podium and, humbly and with great appreciation, affirmed that Sacred Heart was where he began his spiritual journey and the SHU community should remember its roots as an institution that was started to give first-generation immigrants a chance for a good education. He commended the school’s “realness, informality and growth” and its draw as a “melting pot,” saying it has done “a good job of preserving the University’s culture.”

In addition to the Strings members entertaining, a trio of SHU nursing students offered an a cappella version of the National Anthem. Guests also had tours of the two centers.

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