Neag Alumni Society Recognizes Outstanding Graduates

Outstanding Alumni Recognized by the Neag School of Education

The Neag School of Education Alumni Society and the faculty of the Neag School of Education recognized outstanding alumni at the 17th Annual Awards Dinner on Saturday, March 28, 2015, on the UConn campus in Storrs.

““It is our sincere honor to celebrate the accomplishments of such a notable group of Neag School alumni with this level of recognition,” says Dean Richard Schwab. “Each of this year’s awardees exemplifies the kind of strong leadership skills and ongoing commitment to the field of education that we strive to instill in every one of our graduates here the Neag School of Education.”


CombsOutstanding Early Career Professional

Ashley Combs – Executive assistant to the senior vice president of basketball at Excel Sports Management in Los Angeles, Calif.


Ashley Combs received her Bachelor of Arts in communication sciences at UConn in 2009 and later obtained her Master of Science in sport management from the Neag School of Education in 2014. Combs currently works in sport management and athlete representation at Excel Sports Management, where she helps to coordinate the marketing, public relations, sales, and community service initiatives for NBA, MLB, PGA, and other entertainment industry clientele.

Previously, Combs worked as community responsibility coordinator with Spurs Sports and Entertainment – the parent company of the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs, WNBA’s Stars, and AHL Hockey’s Rampage – creating partnerships with schools, families, hospitals, and service agencies in the San Antonio area. She also developed service-learning curriculum alongside local university professors and students. In addition, she planned and implemented a workplace mentoring program for middle and high school students as a part of a larger Big Brothers Big Sisters collaboration.

Combs started her journey in sport management working for the UConn men’s basketball program. She spent five years working with the team, beginning as a volunteer student manager, then was hired as an office assistant, and later was promoted to assistant office coordinator. Her roles with the team included recording and sharing statistics, communicating with prospective student-athletes, and coordinating many of the community-based outreach efforts and events. UConn men’s basketball coach Kevin Ollie calls Combs “a valuable contributor to our 2011 National Championship Program, as well as the Spurs 2014 NBC Championship organization.”



DartOutstanding School Administrator

Peter Dart — Principal at Environmental Sciences Magnet School at Mary Hooker in Hartford, Conn.


Peter Dart graduated from the UConn Administrator Preparation Program (UCAPP) in 2009. He is currently the principal at Environmental Sciences Magnet School (ESMS) at Mary Hooker in Hartford.

As the principal for an interdistrict magnet school that serves urban and suburban students from 45 different towns in Connecticut, Dart has initiated reforms for the overall betterment of the school. His professional classroom experience began when he served as a 4th-grade teacher for seven years at Colchester Intermediate School in Colchester. He held other teaching and administrator positions in secondary schools before becoming a principal, while also maintaining an 8th-grade science teaching position at another magnet school and serving as an adjunct professor at the University of Hartford.

Through an integrated environmental sciences theme, he initiated systematic reform to close the achievement gap at ESMS. In addition, he developed a staffing plan and program to include two resident scientists and magnet coaches at the science-focused magnet school. Under his supervision, ESMS has been recognized as a school of excellence by the Magnet Schools of America, a Green Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education, and a Connecticut Green LEAF School.

Committed to future teacher leaders, Dart also serves as a mentor for UCAPP, advising participants through their two-year journey to becoming an administrator.


McManusOutstanding Higher Education Professional

John “Jack” F. McManus – Professor of education at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif.


Jack McManus received his Ph.D. in educational psychology and evaluation from the Neag School of Education in 1969. He is currently a professor of education at Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif. He also serves on the Board of Regents of the DaVinci Schools, three high schools in an economically depressed area of Los Angeles.

Although he taught French and Latin at Wolcott High School in Wolcott, Conn, he quickly transitioned to learning about the then-emerging field of computer applications in education as well as the research and evaluation methods and techniques that could be used to determine the effects of these and other educational innovations.

In 1975, McManus began his higher education career, serving in faculty and administrative roles at several institutions before joining Pepperdine University in 1979 as the director of computer services. In 1983, he became a professor of education. He has also served as associate dean of Pepperdine’s Education Division, as its director of graduate business programs, and as interim dean of Pepperdine’s Graduate School of Education and Psychology.

McManus has taught courses in statistics, education research, and computer applications at the master’s and doctoral levels. He has chaired dissertation committees and has authored many publications, including textbooks for high school and college students. McManus has also brought his talents to the courtroom, where he has been an expert witness in a number of court cases in California, often working pro bono.


BaumOutstanding Professional

Susan Baum – Professor Emeritus for the College of New Rochelle in New Rochelle, N.Y.; co-director of the International Center for Talent Development; director of the 2e Center for Research and Professional Development at Bridges Academy for the Joint Commission on 2e Education


Susan Baum received her Ph.D. from the Neag School of Education in 1985, where she focused on special education, educational psychology, and education of the gifted and talented. She has been recognized as the world’s leading expert in working with twice-exceptional (2e) students.

She first came to UConn in 1980 to study with Professor Joseph Renzulli; her pioneering dissertation research opened the door to recognizing the needs of struggling students who are both gifted and have learning differences. Working early in her career as a special education teacher as well as in the gifted education program, she noted that many students who were diagnosed with learning disabilities also had characteristics of gifted children and wondered what would happen if these students were placed in a learning setting that was better suited for their needs.

Baum has conducted hundreds of presentations all around the world in such places as Zimbabwe, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, Latvia, Romania, Ethiopia, and Ghana,. She also has published more than 50 publications on topics including 2e students, young gifted children, gifted underachievers, and social and emotional issues of gifted students.

As professor emeritus for the College of New Rochelle, Baum continues to teach annually on the UConn campus during Confratute (the Neag Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development’s international summer institute in enrichment teacher and learning) and Three Summers (UConn’s master’s degree program in gifted education and talent development). She is co-director of the International Center for Talent Development and director of the 2e Center for Research and Professional Development at Bridges Academy in Studio City, Calif.


HullOutstanding School Superintendent

William Hull – Superintendent of Schools in Putnam, Conn.


William Hull’s successful career in educational leadership and school district management has spanned more than two decades. Hull graduated from the Neag School of Education’s Executive Leadership Program in 2006; he also earned a Bachelor of Arts in history/secondary education in 1979 and Master of Arts in elementary education in 1986 from UConn.

He has worked as a teacher, dean of students, assistant principal, elementary school principal, and assistant superintendent in many districts across the state of Connecticut, including Montville, Lyme-Old Lyme, Oakdale, and Salem. He currently serves as superintendent of schools in Putnam, Conn. When he took on that role in the spring of 2009, almost 60 percent of the students were in need of remediation in mathematics and reading. Under Hull’s leadership, 70 percent of the students are now performing above-average in reading and math, and professional development opportunities for staff have been increased, leading to improvements in teaching and learning. In 2013, the State Department of Education recognized Putnam Elementary School as a School of Distinction.

Hull serves as the chairperson for the Northeast Area Superintendents’ Association and has serves on the boards of directors for many magnet schools around the region.


DonnellyDistinguished Alumni Award

John J. Connolly – President and CEO of Castle Connolly Medical Ltd.


John J. Connolly, Ed.D., – the nation’s foremost expert on identifying top physicians, is the President & CEO of Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. publisher of America’s Top Doctors® and other consumer guides to help people find the best healthcare. He is also Chairman of Castle Connolly Private Health Partners, LLC, a concierge medicine company.

Dr. Connolly served as President of New York Medical College, the nation’s second largest private medical college, for more than ten years. He is a Fellow of the New York Academy of Medicine, a Fellow of the New York Academy of Sciences, a Director of the Northeast Business Group on Health. He was formerly a member of the President’s Council of the United Hospital Fund, and a member of the Board of Advisors of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research.

Dr. Connolly has served as trustee of two hospitals and as Chairman of the Board of one. He is extensively involved in healthcare and community activities and has served on a number of voluntary and corporate boards including the Board of the American Lyme Disease Foundation, of which he is a founder and past chairman, and the Culinary Institute of America for over 20 years where he is now Chairman Emeritus. He also served as a director and Chairman of the Professional Examination Service and is presently on the board of the American Swiss Foundation. His current corporate board service includes: Baker and Taylor; Dearborn Risk Management, Air Methods Inc., and the Advisory Board of the Hudson Group. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Worcester State College, a Master’s degree from the University of Connecticut, and a Doctor of Education degree in College and University Administration from Teacher’s College, Columbia University. He has been awarded honorary doctorates from Mercy College (LHD) and from Worcester State University (LHD).

Dr. Connolly has appeared on or been interviewed by over 100 television and radio stations nationwide including “Good Morning America” (ABC-TV), “The Today Show” (NBC-TV), “20/20” (ABC-TV), “48 Hours” (CBS-TV), Fox Cable News, “Morning News” (CNN) and “Weekend Today in New York” (WNBC-TV). The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Daily News (New York), The Boston Herald and other newspapers, as well as many national and regional magazines, have featured Castle Connolly Guides and/or Dr. Connolly in stories. He is the author and/or editor of seven books.

3 thoughts on “Neag Alumni Society Recognizes Outstanding Graduates

  1. It is bewildering why no one from the Counseling Psychology program is ever recognized by the School of Education. It would be better to include this program in a school that appreciates it.

  2. Thank you Dr. Joseph for your comment. Nomination are open yearly from mid-September to mid-November. Individuals are more than welcome to nominate any outstanding Neag alumni for any of the award categories, including Outstanding Educator. The Neag Alumni Society Selection Committee considers all applications received. Unfortunately, we do not obtain nominations for individuals in the Counseling Psychology program very often. Please feel free to nominate an outstanding Neag alum next fall and encourage your peers to do the same.

    Robyn Wilgis
    Director of Alumni Relations
    Neag School of Education

  3. I deeply enjoyed this event. Bravo to all those nominated and selected. There will surely be more outstanding candidates to recognize each year. Thank you, UConn Neag, for continuing to make your alumni proud and ensuring all benefit from the graduates of your fine program’s many departments.

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