‘Hall of Fame’ Inductees Share Business Wisdom, Keys to Personal Success

The annual event drew more than 300 people to the Hartford Marriott Downtown on Friday evening, to honor and celebrate five of the School’s most successful alumni and share in the excitement of the School’s achievements.

The Hall of Fame 2024 Inductees: Left to right: Antonietta “Toni’’ Boucher ’02 MBA, Randy Siller ’79, Jamelle Elliott ’96, ’97 MA, Lee McChesney ’94, and Mary Jane Fortin ’86

The Hall of Fame 2024 Inductees: Left to right: Antonietta “Toni’’ Boucher ’02 MBA, Randy Siller ’79, Jamelle Elliott ’96, ’97 MA, Lee McChesney ’94, and Mary Jane Fortin ’86 (Photo Credit: Nick Cinea '10)

The UConn School of Business’ Hall of Fame Ceremony offered a collection of stories, both funny and poignant, an abundance of heart-felt gratitude, and enough great business advice to fill an Adam Grant bestseller.

The annual event drew more than 300 people to the Hartford Marriott Downtown on Friday evening, to honor and celebrate five of the School’s most successful alumni and share in the excitement of the School’s achievements.

The five alumni inductees were:

  • Antonietta “Toni’’ Boucher ’02 MBA, the First Selectman of Wilton and former director of Commonfund;
  • Jamelle Elliott ’96, ’97 MA, Assistant Coach of the UConn Women’s Basketball team;
  • Mary Jane Fortin ’86, former President and Chief Commercial Officer at Thrivent;
  • Lee McChesney ’94, Senior Vice President and CFO at MSA Safety; and
  • Randy Siller ’79, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Siller & Cohen Family Wealth Advisors.
  • Inductees Recognized as Leaders With Resilience, Heart

    In opening remarks, UConn President Radenka Maric described the alumni inductees as amazing people, who are resilient and lead with heart. They set an example for students and other young adults because of their hard work, commitment to great ideas, and perseverance, she said.

    David Souder, Senior Associate Dean of the School and the master of ceremonies, said this year’s celebration, as in the past, was tremendously well received.

    “We had a full house turn out to celebrate these wonderful alumni inductees to our Hall of Fame. Each gave heartfelt and inspiring remarks that illustrate why they are so deserving of this honor,’’ Souder said. “The energy in the room was palpable and many people told me how glad they were to have been able to attend.’’

    Siller Shared Funny Story from Early Days of Career

    Perhaps the funniest story of the evening came from Siller, a member of the Dean’s Advisory Cabinet, who described a challenge he faced early in his career. Two of the executives from his company were invited to speak at a large conference, and illness prevented them from doing so. Siller, only six months on the job at accounting firm Touche Ross, had to deliver the keynote speech.

    He prepared by playing the theme song from the “Rocky’’ movie in his car to bolster his confidence. His colleagues urged him to speak slowly so there would be no time for questions at the end of the talk. But Siller was nervous and whipped through the presentation, leaving 20 minutes at the end for questions that he, as a novice, wasn’t equipped to answer.

    One of the senior partners came to his rescue, rushing onto the stage and saying: “I’m so sorry. Mr. Siller has an emergency to attend to!’’ and ushered him away.

    From that experience, Siller said, he learned to always be ‘game ready,’ and to have emergency contingency plans. Be careful who you listen to, he said, as they may not be as versed as they appear. And always blast motivational music when you need to summon your courage.

    The audience laughed loudly at his story. He closed his remarks on a serious note, urging the business audience to support philanthropy, and telling students: “If you work hard, take risks, and have some luck, you can achieve anything!’’

    Elliott: ‘He Saw Something in Me that I Didn’t See in Myself’

    “Now that I’m up here, it makes total sense why I chose business and not public speaking,’’ joked Elliott as she accepted her award. As a UConn student, Elliott played 135 games for the women’s basketball team, including the 1995 season when the team won the NCAA National Championship.

    This year, she completed her sixteenth season as a coach for the UConn women’s basketball team. She also served as head coach of women’s basketball at Cincinnati from 2009 to 2018.

    Elliott teared up as she credited her late mother, Charlotte, for instilling in her the importance of education. Her father, James, who attended the Hall of Fame dinner, provided unwavering support and never missed a basketball game.

    She also thanked UConn Women’s Basketball Head Coach Geno Auriemma, who attended the ceremony, for “seeing something in me that I didn’t see in myself.’’ Former teammate and roommate Jennifer Rizzotti, now president of the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun, was also in attendance.

    Maric said Elliott has a hard job when she has to pull her boss, Auriemma, off the court before he says something inflammatory, a comment that delighted the audience. She said the women’s basketball team and their coaches, which made it to the NCAA Final Four despite losing six players to season-ending injuries, are all champions because they ‘accomplished the impossible.’

    Elliott said the neighborhood where she grew up, in Washington, D.C., didn’t offer many options for upward mobility. Basketball and a strong work ethic became her ticket to greater things.
    “Where you come from doesn’t define where you go in life,’’ she told the audience. “I’ve had many unforgettable moments, and this is one. I’m filled with gratitude.’’

    Boucher and Family Champion Entrepreneurship

    When she took the stage to accept her award, Boucher said that never in her wildest dreams did she anticipate being inducted into a Hall of Fame. She vividly recalls sitting in the back of an elementary school classroom, not understanding a word of English.

    She overcame that language barrier and went on to serve for 22 years in the Connecticut legislature. She dedicated much of her speech in honor of her late husband, Bud, who had unstoppable determination and optimism. She said she hoped students would follow his example and be fearless in their pursuit of success.

    “Many years ago, my husband, Bud, and I took a chance on a very risky startup,’’ she said. “We forged ahead even when all seemed lost. Bud is my inspiration and the greatest example … of never giving up, even when everyone else has given up on you. He was brave enough to fail even after countless failures…until he succeeded beyond what even we originally imagined.’’

    Boucher, who was accompanied by her son Chris and other relatives, is a staunch believer in entrepreneurship and the economic benefits it provides. The School of Business’ Boucher Management & Entrepreneurship Department is named in honor of the couple.

    McChesney’s Career Advice: Never Stop Learning

    McChesney recalled that in the early 1990s, he needed a place to thrive, be challenged, and to be encouraged. He found all of that at UConn, which he said shaped his career and his character. He graduated magna cum laude with a degree in finance before earning his MBA from UMass.

    McChesney has built his career around understanding what makes a business or organization successful and identifying ways to create value for all stakeholders. He quickly rose through the ranks at Stanley Black & Decker, eventually becoming CFO of the Security and Tools business units, which include DeWalt, Stanley, Craftsman and Black & Decker brands. He was also instrumental in the merger of The Stanley Works and Black & Decker and the acquisitions of both Craftsman and Newell tools.

    Today he is senior vice president and chief financial officer of MSA Safety Co., which focuses on protecting people, places, and planet. His family and friends came from across the country to celebrate his induction.

    He encouraged students to never stop learning. “I’ve learned more in the last five years than I did in the previous 20,’’ he said. He also urged the audience to ‘hold the legacy of UConn up high’ and to be attentive and helpful to the community in which they live.

    Fortin Tells Students ‘Dare to Dream Big’

    Fortin, the daughter of Italian immigrants, grew up with English as her second language. She was the first in her family to go to college, and UConn opened up her world to great possibilities.
    She credited accounting professors Dick Kochanek and the late Larry Gramling for providing tremendous supportive, influence, and encouragement during her college years.

    “Sometimes angels see our potential more clearly than we do,’’ said Fortin, who serves on the Dean’s Advisory Cabinet.

    Fortin said she never imagined she would be given such a significant award, and encouraged students to envision themselves on that stage someday. Take advantages of resources, dare to dream big, be curious and set big goals, she said.

    “Create your life plan, and celebrate the wins because there will be moments you face setbacks. How you respond to these adversities will define you,’’ she said. “Be gritty, and keep looking forward and plan your next move.’’

    “Destiny is not a matter of choice,’’ she said. “It’s not something to be waited for but a thing to be achieved. Your future is waiting for you to seize it!’’

    The event also recognized student fellow inductees Douglas Sisko ’24 MBA; Mariella Magan ’24 MS FinTech, Christian Chlebowski ’24, and Carolyn Cumello ’24.