Category: Past Speakers (page 1 of 18)

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:

Claudia Connor: Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants, December 6, 2017

Wednesday, December 6, 2017
Claudia Connor will talk about the Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants (CIRI), the populations it serves and programs it delivers: refugee resettlement, immigration legal services, and services for survivors of human trafficking and torture. Claudia will also address the impact national-level changes in refugee admissions and immigration policy have on CIRI’s clients. She is president and CEO of CIRI, formerly known as the International Institute of Connecticut). She has close to 30 years of program management, advocacy, and legal and strategic leadership experience in the nonprofit sector in the United States, Africa and Southeast Asia. Prior to joining CIRI in 2015, Claudia worked at Save the Children on the Strategic Foundation Partnerships team. Previously, she worked at the International Rescue Committee as a senior technical advisor in the Governance & Rights Unit, regional director in U.S. Programs supervising refugee resettlement offices across the country, and director of National Refugee Resettlement Programs. Overseas, Claudia was a consultant with UNICEF, the Carter Center, Save the Children UK and Population Services International, among other agencies, working on issues such as child trafficking, child soldiers, women’s rights, juvenile justice and the impact of HIV/AIDS. Before moving overseas in 1998, Claudia was a senior trial attorney for the Legal Aid Society in New York. She has a B.A. in history from the University of North Carolina and a J.D. from Brooklyn Law School. Claudia lives in Norwalk with her husband and three sons.
Arranged by John Wolcott
Wednesday, December


Don McGran: Personal Cyber Security, November 29,2017

Don McGran will talk about personal cybersecurity, identity theft, scams and frauds, as well as personal crime prevention and safety. The presentation is based on what is presently occurring in the greater Darien area. His law enforcement career, coupled with private bank security experience, enables him to provide audiences with the most timely and current information possible. Don has presented more than 100 times to groups of various ages, income brackets and walks of life throughout Fairfield County. He is a 30-year-veteran of the Ridgefield Police Department, retiring in 2011 as a major. Don is a graduate of Western Connecticut State University with a bachelor of science in justice and law administration and has completed graduate studies at Western Connecticut State University, the University of New Haven and the University of Virginia. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy Session 189 and has been employed as security advisor for Fairfield County Bank for the past six years.
Arranged by Sunil Saksena



Tips mentioned in the talk:


Detailed instructions: How to freeze and thaw your credit
with each agency
 Credit freezes may be done online or by certified mail – return receipt requested.
 Check your state’s listing for the exact cost of your credit freeze and to see if there is a
reduction in cost if you are a senior citizen.
 Request your credit freeze by certified mail using this sample letter. Please note the
attachments you must include.
 If your PIN is late arriving, call 1-888- 298-0045. They will ask you for some ID and
arrange for your PIN to be sent to you in 4-7 days.
 Unfreeze: Do a temporary thaw of your Equifax credit freeze by snail mail, online or by
calling 1-800- 685-1111 (N.Y. residents dial 1-800- 349-9960).
 Info on freezing a child’s credit with Equifax can be found here.
 If requesting a freeze by mail, use the following address:
o Equifax Security Freeze
P.O. Box 105788
Atlanta, GA. 30348

 Credit freezes may be done online; by certified mail – return receipt requested; or by
calling 1-888- EXPERIAN (1-888- 397-3742). When calling, press 2 then follow prompts
for security freeze.
 Check your state’s listing for the exact cost of your credit freeze and to see if there is a
reduction in cost if you are a senior citizen.
 Request your credit freeze by certified mail using this sample letter. Please note the
attachments you must include.
 You can also freeze a child’s credit report. The information contained at this link is
applicable for all three credit bureaus. You must first write a letter to each bureau to learn
if your minor child has a credit report and if so, then you can proceed to freeze it.
 Unfreeze: Do a temporary thaw of your Experian credit freeze online or by calling 1-
888-397- 3742.
 Info on freezing a child’s credit with Experian can be found here.
 If requesting a freeze by mail, use the following address:
o Experian
P.O. Box 9554
Allen, TX. 75013

 Credit freezes may be done online, by phone (1-888- 909-8872) or by certified mail –
return receipt requested.

 Check your state’s listing for the exact cost of your credit freeze and to see if there is a
reduction in cost if you are a senior citizen.
 Request your credit freeze by certified mail using this sample letter. Please note the
attachments you must include.
 Unfreeze: Do a temporary thaw of your TransUnion credit freeze online or by calling 1-
888-909- 8872.
 Info on freezing a child’s credit with TransUnion can be found here.
 If requesting a freeze by mail, use the following address:
o TransUnion LLC
P.O. Box 2000
Chester, PA 19016

Innovis Credit Freeze Options

 You can request a Security Freeze or manage an existing Security Freeze:
 Online: Submit the Security Freeze Request Online form. (
 Phone:
 1-800- 540-2505
 Mail: Complete the Security Freeze Request by Mail form.
 Walk in: 875 Greentree Road, 8 Parkway Center, Pittsburgh, PA 15220


4) stops junk mail
5) – 888-5OPT- OUT removes you from the list
provided to credit card companies and insurance companies for
unsolicited offers
6) internet safe search tool
7) internet safe search tool
8) stops robo calls.
9) research legitimate charities
10) – email of mail you receive each day

 Don McGran
 Security Advisor
 Fairfield County Bank
 94 Danbury Rd.
 PO Box 2050
 Ridgefield, Ct. 06877-0950
 203 431-7348
 FAX 203 438-5406
 CELL 203 648-6726

Art Gottlieb: The Korean War Part 2. November 15, 2017

Art Gottlieb

Art Gottlieb

Art Gottlieb will continue his discussion of the Korean situation, speaking of the rising tension today between the United States and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea). These two countries have reached the highest level of military and political brinkmanship since the negotiated ceasefire of the Korean War some 65 years ago. With Kim Jong un, North Korea’s leader intent on developing a nuclear arsenal capable of reaching the U.S. mainland, the Trump administration has initiated a dramatic policy change in this region, demonstrating that the decades-old approach of “strategic patience” has ended. Art will explore recent developments between these adversarial nations, as well as the other governments directly and indirectly involved: China, Iran, South Korea and Japan.
Arranged by Tom Lom


Art Gottlieb: The Korean War Part 1. November 8th, 2017

Art Gottlieb

Art Gottlieb

Wednesday, November 8, 2017
Art Gottlieb will talk about the Korean War. Initially described as a “police action” in reaction to North Korea’s invasion of South Korea on June 25, 1950, the Korean War was an undeclared military action, the first authorized by the United Nations. Often referred to as the “Forgotten War,” this still unresolved conflict saw Seoul change hands no less than four times before the signing of a contentious armistice on July 27, 1953. Art served as a professional curator of naval history and technical director of exhibits at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York City. He has worked with veterans of all services creating exhibits accurately and illustrating the history of 20th-century warfare. He has helped recover scores of artifacts from warships slated for demolition. He coordinates with all branches of the armed services to preserve historic ships, aircraft and armor from around the world. Art also serves as a counselor and certified senior advisor in Norwalk. He uses his professional talents to address the needs of aging veterans and their families and offers pro bono counseling services to soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. He served as an auxiliary officer of the United States Coast Guard for 17 years and, for four years, was commander of Flotilla 7-w, 1st District (Southern Region), Sector Long Island Sound North.
Arranged by Tom Lom


Dick Delfosse: Norwalk Islands History, Secrets, Stories, Navigation, Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Rick Delfosse will talk about the “Norwalk Islands: Their Formation, History, Secrets, Stories and Navigation.” From the Ice Age and the formation of Long Island Sound by the retreating glaciers, the Indians and early settlers to the oyster industry, hotels, bordellos and Prohibition speakeasies, the islands represent a rich history. The islands played an integral part in the development of Norwalk and the local region. Public islands, private sanctuaries and posh retreats all are right off the Norwalk coastline. Come and discover their history, along with navigation and anchorages, tips and tricks around the 25+ islands. Rick is the business manager at Rex Marine & Norwalk Cove Marina and is a Coast Guard captain. He also is a National Safe Boating Council close quarters and open water boat handling instructor, Connecticut and New York certified safe boating instructor, and a U.S. Sailing certified instructor. He conducts on-the-water courses and classroom seminars on coastal cruising and boating skills. The owner of a 43-foot pilot house cutter and an AquaSport powerboat, he has extensive cruising and one-design coastal and offshore racing experience.
Arranged by Sunil Saksena


October 25, 2017
Ed Myers, former CEO TWA
The Pope & Me

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Ed Myers, former president and chief executive officer of Transworld Airlines Inc. (TWA), was described “… as a man who, above anything else, knows a thing or two about money and about running an airline” in an article published by The New York Times in 1985. Ed’s talk will focus on his years with TWA, from 1968 until his retirement in 1985. An event that left a significant impression on him was meeting Pope John Paul II when TWA provided air service to the Pope during his visit to the United States in 1979. The title of Ed’s talk is “The Pope and Me.” Ed began his career in 1953 with the hotel accounting firm of Harris, Kerr, Forster & Co. In 1968, he went to work for Eastern Airlines as assistant treasurer and in 1968 joined TWA in the same position, becoming senior vice president for finance in 1971. He then was named president and chief executive officer of the airline in 1975, retiring in 1985. From there, he went to Hilton International Hotels as president and chief executive officer until 1988. In addition to his business career, Ed served as a board member and trustee of a number of organizations, including the Air Transportation Association, National Public Radio, Rollins College and Bradley International Airport. He served on the Reagan Presidential Transportation Transition Team in 1981. In Darien, he served on the Library board and the Red Cross and was a member of the Literacy Volunteers. He is an avid golfer and is a member of the Union League Club and the Sky Club in New York City. He also enjoys playing bridge. During the Korean War, he was a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Field Artillery.

Arranged by Alex Garnett


Sadly, Ed passed away shortly after his talk.

Carl Edwin Meyer Jr. died peacefully on November 4th in Norwalk Hospital, with his wife Ruth by his side. He was 89-years-old and lived in New Canaan, CT.

Born in Flushing, NY on August 6, 1928, he was the son of the late Carl E. and Eunice Taylor Meyer.

He graduated from Amherst College in 1950 with a major in history. Following college, he served in the U.S. Army Reserves as a First Lieutenant, Field Artillery from 1950 to 1952.

He began his professional career at Harris, Kerr Foster & Co. in 1953 and attended New York University night school earning an MBA in 1957. He was a certified Public Accountant in the State of New York. In 1965 he joined Eastern Airlines as Assistant Treasurer. In 1968 he joined Trans World Airlines (TWA) as Assistant Treasurer and was promoted to Senior Vice President of Finance in 1971. In 1975 he was promoted to President and Chief Executive Officer of TWA and he skillfully guided the airlines for the next 10 years. Under his leadership, TWA was granted the honor to serve as the U.S. Carrier for Pope John Paul II’s pilgrimage to America in 1979. From 1980 thru 1984, he set the example for the airline industry with the institution of a 50% airfare discount program for military service personnel traveling at their own expense while on leave or pass. This discount earned the airline the Outstanding Civilian Service Award from the Department of the Army. In 1985 he became President and Chief Executive Officer of Hilton International serving until his retirement in 1988. Throughout his career he served on numerous corporate, government, and public boards. Notable among these were B.F. Goodrich, the Regan Presidential Transportation Transitional Team, the National and International Airline Transportation Association and National Public Radio of Washington D.C.

In retirement, he served on a number of local organizations, including as a trustee of the Darien Public Library, President of the Darien Red Cross, Board member of Literacy Volunteers, and as a volunteer at Greenwich Hospital.

His greatest passion in life was spending time with his family, his friends, and many pets at home in New Canaan, CT or Southold, NY. He was a warm, compassionate, and loving father and grandfather who was always available to listen and offer advice. Throughout life he loved golf and was an avid bridge player, a member of the Senior Men’s Club of New Canaan and the Congregational Church of New Canaan.

He is survived by his wife of 60 years, the former Ruth Leslie Oddy, two sons and their wives, Jeffrey S. and Lois Meyer of Darien, CT and William D. and Amy Meyer of White Heath, IL, two brothers, John D. Meyer of Dataw Island SC and James S. Meyer of East Haddam, CT, and four granddaughters, Caroline K. Meyer, Allison S. Meyer, Mallory M. Meyer and Kendall A.L. Meyer of Darien, CT.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be sent to the North Fork Animal Welfare League, PO Box 297, Southold, NY, 11971 and Strays & Others, PO Box 473, New Canaan, CT 06820 or any animal shelters of your personal choosing.

Services will be held at the Congregational Church of New Canaan, 23 Park Street on Saturday, November 25, 2017, at 11:00 A.M.



October 18, 2017
David Levinson, Ph.D.
President: Norwalk Community

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

David L. Levinson, Ph.D., president, Norwalk Community College (NCC), will talk about activities at the school since 2004, when he was named to his present position. During his presidency, NCC completed a successful capital campaign for a new Science, Health and Wellness Center, became an Achieving the Dream Leader College, and was selected by MDC, Inc. as one of 15 community colleges nationwide to receive funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for a developmental education project. NCC is a recipient of Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching’s 2010 Community Engagement Classification based on the college’s commitment to serving the community. Dr. Levinson serves as vice president for the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities at the Board of Regents for Higher Education and is general editor of “Education and Sociology: An Encyclopedia” and is author of “Community Colleges: A Reference Handbook.” He is an elected commissioner on the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Inc. Commission on Institutions of Higher Education and co-chairs the American Sociological Association’s Task Force on Community College Faculty. He also is on the board of directors of the Connecticut Campus Compact; Greater Norwalk Chamber of Commerce; Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk; Norwalk Children’s Foundation; U Thant Institute; and the Workplace, Inc., southwestern Connecticut’s Workforce Investment Board. A recipient of a Distinguished Teaching Award from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, he taught at Bergen Community College; Merrimack College; Norwalk Community College; Teachers College, Columbia University; and Tufts University. Dr. Levinson holds a B.A. in sociology from the State University of New York at New Paltz and an M.A. and Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Arranged by Erik Rambusch


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