Category: Past Speakers (page 1 of 19)

March 7, 2018
Richard E. Hyman
Journeys With Cousteau and the Crew of Calypso – Will be reschedule due to weather

Richard Hyman will be sharing stories and photographs about his time working for the famed Captain Jacques-Yves Cousteau.
Richard was a professional diver and photographer for Cousteau. He worked his way up the ladder, first driving a supply truck from L.A. to the Canadian wilderness and there building a cabin with Cree Indians for the Cousteau team to winter in and film Beavers of the North Country. A year later, as a deck hand aboard Calypso, they filmed The Incredible Migration of the Spiny Lobsters in Mexico, before sailing south to Belize, where they filmed the spawning of thousands of grouper, The Fish that Swallowed Jonah. Singer songwriter John Denver paid a visit and performed a televised concert on Calypso’s foredeck. On Richard’s final expedition he graduated to diver and photographer, where en route to Venezuela, he experienced treacherous deep dives on the wreck of the USS Monitor off North Carolina, skeletons inside wrecks off Martinique, and the death of Jacques Cousteau’s son, Philippe.
Richard is a PADI-certified Aquanaut, a member of the Marine Biology Hall of Fame, and a Trustee of the Fabien Cousteau Ocean Learning Center.

Stories about life aboard Calypso and Cousteau, once one of the most recognized names in the world, should interest most everybody, particularly adventurers, Denver fans, divers, environmentalists, photographers, travel buffs, and videographers.
Mobile 203-456-4271





As a kid, I spent as much time as possible under water. Cousteau was my hero.  Here is a video that is sure to be an earworm as you enjoy this talk. Gary

Aye Calypso the places you’ve been to
The things that you’ve shown us
The stories you tell
Aye Calypso, I sing to your spirit
The men who have served you so long and so well

(We’ll avoid the yodeling part.)

Arun Nandi, M.D.,FACEP, Emergency Medical Services at Stamford Hospital, February 28, 2018

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Arun Nandi, M.D., FACEP, chairman of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Stamford Hospital, will talk about emergency care services. As part of the hospital’s recent expansion, Dr. Nandi ensured the smooth and safe transfer of services to the new emergency room that expanded to 52,000 square feet from 19,000 square feet. Dr. Nandi also is responsible for the Immediate Care Center at 32 Strawberry Hill in Stamford and the Stamford Health Urgent Care Centers at 497 Westport Ave., Norwalk, and 2001 West Main St., Stamford. Prior to coming to Stamford, he was chairman of Emergency Medicine & Observation Services at Columbia Memorial Hospital and director of Emergency Medical Services at Columbia County EMS & Disaster Response in Hudson, N.Y. He also served as director and chairman of the Emergency Department at St. Mary’s Hospital in Amsterdam, N.Y. Dr. Nandi received his medical degree from Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research at Madras University, where he also completed a residency in general surgery. In addition, he completed two fellowships, one in general surgery at Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and the other in burns, trauma and reconstruction at Royal College of Surgeons of London. He completed research in wound healing at Stony Brook University and his residency in emergency medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Jacobi and Montefiore hospitals in the Bronx. He is active in international emergency medicine and is a visiting professor at Jawaharlal. He is fluent in Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Tamil and basic Spanish.

Arranged by Alex Garnett


Michelle Beltrano and Karen Goersch: Estate Planning, February 21, 2018

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Michelle Beltrano and Karen Goersch will lead a practical discussion on common pitfalls and current opportunities in estate and financial planning. The objective is to ensure such plans accomplish the intended goals. Michelle will talk about myths and surprises about estate planning documents. She also will explain how to start the conversation of estate planning with loved ones. Finally, she will cover the cost of settling an estate in Connecticut and what to expect from the probate process. Michelle lives in New Canaan with her family and is principal and founder of Beltrano Law, a boutique firm located in Greenwich. Her practice areas include estate planning, elder law, special needs, probate matters and estate administration. Michelle represents individuals and families who are dealing with complex matters, including Medicaid eligibility and applications, long-term care planning, will contests and trust administration. As an attorney and nurse, Michelle has unique insight into her clients’ situations and provides individualized, concierge services.


Karen Goersch will provide several tips to help ensure that clients effectively implement their estate plans and meet financial goals, such as the titling of assets, beneficiary review and gifting strategies. She also will discuss selecting which assets to deplete first, considering future estate and income tax implications. She will show how to use insurance as a tax-planning strategy to potentially eliminate the IRS as one of the biggest beneficiaries. She is a financial advisor with Ameriprise Financial in its Westport office and holds several professional designations, including CPA. She works with a team of professionals to develop personalized financial plans and investment solutions, helping clients simplify complex issues, often with a focus on tax minimization and efficiency. Karen moved to Rowayton a year ago after living in Darien with her husband and twins for more than 20 years.


Arranged by John Wolcott



Joseph A. Williams, Sunken Gold: A Story of WWI Espionage and the Greatest Treasure Salvage in History, February 14, 2018

Wednesday, February 14, 2018 

Joseph A. Williams will talk about his latest book, The Sunken Gold: A Story of World War I Espionage and the Greatest Treasure Salvage in History. In 1917, the “HMS Laurentic,” with 44 tons of Allied gold on board and bound for the United States, was sunk by German mines off the coast of Ireland. The struggle to recover the treasure by Royal Navy divers and their spy work of breaking into sunken U-boats for secret documents helped win the war. Today, there is still gold in the wreck waiting to be discovered. Unfortunately, no gold will be present at his talk, but attendees will be treated to a thrilling tale of determination, persistence and patriotism. A librarian, archivist and historian, Joseph received a bachelor’s degree in political science and history at SUNY Geneseo and a master’s degree in American history from Queens College. For six years, he was head of collections and assistant director of the State University of New York Maritime College’s Stephen B. Luce Library, which specializes in nautical research. His first book, Four Years Before the Mast, is a history of the Maritime College, the nation’s oldest maritime training school. His second book, Seventeen Fathoms Deep, is an action-packed narrative of the 1927 submarine S-4 disaster. He is deputy director of the Greenwich Library. He lives with his wife and two children in Ridgefield.

Arranged by John Wolcott


On January 25, 1917, HMS Laurentic struck two German mines off the coast of Ireland and sank. The ship was carrying 44 tons of gold bullion to the still-neutral United States via Canada in order to finance the war effort for Britain and its allies. Britain desperately needed that sunken treasure, but any salvage had to be secret since the British government dared not alert the Germans to the presence of the gold. Lieutenant Commander Guybon Damant was the most qualified officer to head the risky mission. Wild gales battered the wreck into the shape of an accordion, turning the operation into a multiyear struggle of man versus nature. As the war raged on, Damant was called off the salvage to lead a team of covert divers to investigate and search through the contents of recently sunk U-boats for ciphers, minefield schematics, and other secrets. The information they obtained, once in the hands of British intelligence, proved critical toward Allied efforts to defeat the U-boats and win the war. But Damant had become obsessed with completing his long-deferred mission. His team struggled for five more years as it became apparent that the work could only be accomplished by muscle, grit, and persistence. Using newly discovered sources, author Joseph A. Williams provides the first full-length account of the quest for the Laurentic?s gold. More than an incredible story about undersea diving adventure, The Sunken Gold is a story of human persistence, bravery, and patriotism


Jayme Stevenson, First Selectman: The State of the Town, February 7, 2018

Wednesday, February 7, 2018 

Jayme Stevenson, first selectman of the Town of Darien, will present “The State of the Town.”

Jayme’s update will include a review of town operations and the outlook for changes in the near future. She has been first selectman since 2011 and has been a member of the Board of Selectmen since 2009. Jayme recently was elected chairman of the Western Connecticut Council of Governments and served as vice chairman beginning in 2015. She also recently was named to the board of directors of the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities and to that organization’s municipal risk insurance agency known as the Connecticut Interlocal Risk Management Agency. Jayme has served on a variety of Darien nonprofit boards, including The Depot, the Darien Nature Center and the First Congregational Church Nursery School. She also was chairman of the Parent Teachers Organization for Royle Elementary School and Darien High School. She has been a member of the board of The Center for Sexual Assault Crisis Counseling and Education since 2016. Jayme and her husband have lived in Darien for 26 years and have five children. Her husband grew up in Darien and is a graduate of Darien High School.


Arranged by John  Wolcott


Les de Villiers, Ph.D.: Animal Behavior, January 31, 2018

Wednesday, January 31, 2018 

After a break of three years, Les de Villiers, Ph.D., will speak to us again. Dubbed the “Sultan of Safaris,” South African-born Dr. de Villiers is a former diplomat, wildlife expert and photographer. He immigrated to the United States in the late ‘80s and founded a consulting firm before moving into publishing and arranging upscale African safaris. Apart from several books on wildlife, he has authored more than a dozen books on African politics and economics. Last time, Dr. de Villiers’ talk was entitled “Gorillas in Our Midst”; this time, he will be speaking about “Animal Behavior.” After years of safari experience and with the help of stills and videos, Dr. de Villiers takes a look at natural animal behavior in the wild and asks the question: “Are we smart enough to know how smart animals are?” You will be fascinated and surprised at what he found by following lions, leopards, elephants, hyenas and a host of other creatures in Africa’s safari country. His conclusion: “If only humans could behave like animals, it would be a better world.”


Arranged by Sunil Saksena


Joseph Feuerstein, M.D.: Dr. Joe’s Man Diet, January 24, 2018

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Joseph Feuerstein, M.D., director of Integrative Medicine at Stamford Hospital and assistant professor of Clinical Medicine at Columbia University, will talk about his book, Dr. Joe’s Man Diet. “This lifestyle and eating plan are proved to help men get their cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure under control, lose weight and regain their health without medication,” says Dr. Feurerstein. The diet has been used more than 15,000 times in the last decade at the Stamford Hospital Center for Integrative Medicine and Wellness. In clinical studies, patients lost 15-20 pounds, lowered cholesterol by 20%, and reduced blood sugar and blood pressure in 10 weeks without cutting carbs or eliminating fat. The book offers a medication-free lifestyle makeover, explains common blood tests and hormone readings, and details exactly what to eat and when. It also provides 50 recipes. Dr. Feuerstein has worked as a physician at Greenwich Hospital and the Boyd Center for Integrated Medicine. He received B.S. and M.D. degrees in pharmacology from Kings College of London and an M.B.A. degree from the University of Cambridge. Dr. Feuerstein is a New England School of Homeopathy licensed homeopathic. He also received certification in clinical hypnosis from the American Society for Clinical Hypnosis and certification in integrative medical acupuncture from SUNY Downstate Medical Center. He served in the Israeli Navy as a combat physician in the Submarine Corps and in the Special Operations Command.

Arranged by John Wolcott

Provides a lifestyle makeover and meal plan tailored to help men lose fifteen pounds in twelve weeks, and includes recipes for such dishes as huevos rancheros, ancho pork and pinto bean stew, barbecue chicken coleslaw, sangria salmon, and devilish eggs


Margaret Gaffney Benedict, Ph.D.: The Mathew Gaffney Foundation, January 17, 2018

Margaret Gaffney Benedict, Ph.D., executive director of the Matthew Gaffney Foundation, will discuss her work helping high school and university-level students who are economically disadvantaged obtain an empowering college education. Most students are the first member of their family to attend college. Over the past 20 years, Dr. Benedict’s foundation has helped more than 100 students gain acceptance to top schools on the eastern seaboard. Many receive scholarships covering 75% -100% of their education. Students pay no fee for the Gaffney services. Her talk will include stories of students who now enjoy happy and productive lives. Dr. Benedict is a professional educator, with a doctorate in 16th century English literature from Lehigh University. She has been published in multiple professional journals and has presented her work at international educational symposiums. She is a member of the Independent Educational Consultants Association and the National Association for College Admissions Counseling.
Arranged by Tom Haack


Alison Nichols: Africa’s Painted Dogs, January 10, 2018

Artist Alison Nicholls will talk about Africa’s painted dogs, one of the world’s most endangered predators. “They are an ancient and highly social species not closely related to any other living canid,” says Alison. “Relentlessly persecuted for decades – even within reserves and national parks – the dogs now are one of the most treasured sightings for tourists on safari, yet they remain highly endangered,” she says. Alison will explain how the dogs got their intriguing name; how they care for sick or injured packmates; where they live and why they are endangered; and how her painted dog artwork raises awareness of the species, as well as funds for their conservation. An artist inspired by Africa, she lived in Botswana and Zimbabwe for several years and periodically returns to sketch in the bush. She also works with African conservation organizations and leads art safaris for Africa Geographic. Alison is a signature member of Artists for Conservation and the Society of Animal Artists and is a member of the Explorers Club and the Salmagundi Club. To see her art and learn more, visit her website at

Arranged by Tom Lom

Video of her talk:
Alison’s paintings will be on exhibit:

Here are some of the great conservation groups Alison works with:
African People & Wildlife (Tanzania):
Painted Dog Research Trust (Zimbabwe):
Painted Dog Conservation (Zimbabwe):
Cheetah Conservation Fund (Namibia):
Cheetah Conservation Botswana (Botswana):

Mark Albertson: North Atlantic Treaty Organization, January 3, 2018

Mark Albertson, historical research editor at Army Aviation magazine, will talk about “NATO Then and Now.”
A lot has changed since the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) was formed 70 years ago. First created for defense against Soviet threats in Western Europe, today NATO has a broader mission with more members.
As he always does, Mark will provide an informative review of this evolution and a provocative analysis of the challenges NATO faces today.
Mark has authored several books, including On History: A Treatise, and is finishing Volume 1, Sky Soldiers: The Saga of Army Aviation.
An avid speaker, he travels Connecticut presenting a variety of historical topics and current events. He teaches as an adjunct professor at Norwalk Community College for the Extended Studies Program and the Lifetime Learners Institute.
Arranged by Tom Lom
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Video of his talk:

Jon Zagrodzky, Darien’s 2018-2019 Budget Process, December 20, 2017

Jon Zagrodsky

Jon Zagrodzky will talk about the upcoming 2018-2019 budget process, focusing on possible scenarios and the effects of state-level budget challenges on Darien’s finances. He will also comment on broader governance issues, both for Darien and the state of Connecticut. There will be as much levity and irreverence as a discussion of these topics permits. Jon is chairman of the Darien Board of Finance, an elected seven-member board responsible for the town’s $140 million annual budget; he has been in office as a board member since 2008. He also serves as a member of Darien’s Town and Police Pension boards and the Public Works Garage Building Committee. He was president of the Darien Historical Society from 2011 to 2015. In addition, he is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Forman School, a Litchfield (Conn.) high school that specializes in children with learning differences. Jon is chief operating officer for Rhône Group LLC, which he joined in April 2017. Rhône is a middle-market private equity firm with offices in New York and London. He is responsible for finance, operations, human resources, administration, information technology and business planning. Prior to joining Rhône, Jon served as chief administrative officer at Oak Hill Capital Partners, and, prior to that, he was an associate principal and later director of financial planning and analysis at McKinsey & Company. Jon earned a B.A. degree in economics and Romance languages from Washington & Lee University and an M.B.A. degree from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Arranged by John Wolcott

Video of his talk:

Dave Pressler: Photographer, “Australia, All Over – Down Under”, December 13, 2017

Dave Pressler, Connecticut photographer, artist and designer, shares a dynamic presentation, “Australia, All Over – Down Under,” documented during his adventures on that continent. Recorded through his visual awareness are Australia’s dramatic land and water forms, wildlife, unique botanicals, ancient aboriginal rock art, creative architecture and some humorous items from contemporary culture. His core message is “learning to look in order to see,” encouraging people of all ages and backgrounds to become visually conscious of the world around them. So bring an open mind … and don’t forget to come with your eyes wide open. Dave holds a degree in industrial design from Rhode Island School of Design, where he studied with the famed photographer Harry Callahan. Dave has exhibited widely in Fairfield and Westchester counties and judged numerous photography competitions, including the Westport Y’s Men’s Senior Center’s Annual Photography Expo. He is a member of the Connecticut Association of Photographers, as well as a former board member of the Norwalk Camera Club. He is currently vice president of ART/PLACE Gallery in Fairfield; founder and
member of the Curatorial Committee of Fairfield Public Library’s Bruce S. Kershner Gallery; guild member and former trustee of the Silvermine Arts Center in New Canaan; and artist member of the Center for Contemporary Printmaking and the Westport Arts Center. Dave is also a board member and host of the Connecticut Symphonic Winds ensemble performances at Roger Ludlowe Middle School. He has been involved with the American Museum of Natural History in New York City; the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago; and the Hudson River Museum in Westchester County, N.Y. His professional career has been in corporate identity and branding, product and package design, advertising and exhibition design.
Arranged by Andre Guilbert

Video of his talk:

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