School of Communications honors industry alumni at Bobcat Weekend

President Olian looks ahead to a ‘consequential period’ for QU

By Chris Brodeur and Brian Koonz, MS '20 February 24, 2023

Dean Rousch with Hall of Fame honorees Rich Barry, Bruce Taylor, Ray Hernandez and Meredith Klein

Filming sports legends, crafting messaging for iconic American brands and producing TV shows for kids that live on in pop culture lore might not present an obvious connection. But the common thread is a communications degree from Quinnipiac — and all roads lead to the School of Communications Hall of Fame.

Such was the destination for a quartet of Quinnipiac alumni comprising the second class in the School of Communications Hall of Fame. They were honored in the school’s open-air studio last semester, one of the marquee events of a busy and boisterous Bobcat Weekend.

Nearly 2,500 alumni, parents and loved ones enjoyed alumni receptions, lectures with deans, fireside meetups, tours of campus, lawn games and craft activities. Check out the photo gallery here: Bobcat Weekend 2022

The four School of Communications Hall of Fame honorees included Rich Barry ’89, a former executive at Nickelodeon/Viacom who is credited with inventing the network’s signature green slime, among other innovations from its 1990s heyday; Bruce Taylor ’81, an Emmy-winning former director of photography at ESPN; Ray Hernandez ’04, director of communications at Otis Elevator; and Meredith Klein ’05, head of consumer and product communications at Pinterest.

Each new hall of famer received a plaque from Dean Chris Roush before giving a brief speech and participating in a Q&A session with their fellow honorees. They reflected on the pivotal moments and helpful professors responsible for putting them on the path to becoming industry leaders.

“These four inductees are more than worthy, and they serve as models for our current students,” Roush said. “They have all taken what they’ve learned at Quinnipiac and thrived in the communications world.”

Taylor is recognized as the first Quinnipiac alumnus to work at ESPN, establishing a pipeline that produced 93 current employees of the network lauded as “the worldwide leader in sports.” He is renowned for his work as a documentarian and his production company continues to churn out features for Fox Sports, CBS Sports, NBC Sports and the NFL Network.

Among Taylor’s most acclaimed projects was a docuseries about Muhammad Ali entitled “Ali, Still the Greatest.”

“As I stand here in this amazing open-air studio, this is something we never dreamed of as students,” Taylor said. “I remember when I started in 1981, we had a little closet for a studio, with three black-and-white cameras and a dingy, black drape. The control room could maybe fit three people — if they hit the salad bar. So, to see how much the school has grown makes me very proud.”

‘Chief slime officer’

Barry began his career in radio, under the guidance of polarizing shock jock Howard Stern. But Roush took particular delight in reciting the Nickelodeon portion of Barry’s resume, during which he presided over an empire of viscous, green goop as the network’s first and only “chief slime officer.”

A world-record 762 people were once simultaneously slimed at Barry’s behest. At Bobcat Weekend, Chief Experience Officer Tom Ellett surrendered to the slime during a demonstration on the Quad.

In addition to leading the promotional efforts for wildly popular Nick shows like “Rugrats,” “Hey, Arnold,” “GUTS” and “Legends of the Hidden Temple,” Barry was responsible for spearheading the network’s production of live broadcasts like the Kids Choice Awards.

“The school has grown so much it’s hard to believe at times,” said Barry, who in 2018 started his own firm, Speed Social Marketing, which taps into his passion for motorsports.

“Quinnipiac prepared me for everything. It’s a fast-paced media world — it’s kind of crazy out there — and my work as general manager of WQAQ is what got me to work with Howard Stern. ... My 25-plus years at Nickelodeon was a great experience and, as you might imagine, a very messy one.”

Hernandez, who worked at Pratt & Whitney before helming the communications team at Otis, couldn’t resist a joke about fearing his own sliming while at the podium. He spoke poignantly about the enduring lessons of his Quinnipiac education and how it equipped him to navigate an ever-changing media landscape.

“The Quinnipiac professors brought a knowledge of the real world,” said Hernandez, who has also taught courses at Quinnipiac as an adjunct professor. “Some of my favorite professors were the ones who were actually working in the field. And let’s not forget that this was a post-9/11 world. Many of my professors really challenged us to think critically about the role communications plays in society.”

The last to speak was Klein, who was already a member of the Quinnipiac Athletics Hall of Fame for her contributions to the 2001 field hockey team that clinched the program’s first berth in the NCAA Tournament.

Klein recalled how she “floundered” her first year on campus, unsure of her career path. A 2021 selection to PRWeek’s annual “40 Under 40” list, she discovered a passion for public relations with the help of professor Russ Barclay.

“The rest was history,” said Klein, who previously served as the director of public relations for Walmart’s acquired web brands. “I was also shaped by sports. I loved the hard work, the discipline, the camaraderie and the adrenaline of playing sports. ... Many of the skills required to succeed in field hockey are also required in public relations.”

Photos of the inductees now hang on the wall outside Roush’s office, and their names were added to the Hall of Fame plaque encased nearby.

A ‘consequential period’ in QU’s history

Bobcat Weekend also served as an opportunity for President Judy Olian to share her vision and her enthusiasm with alumni, parents, families and friends.

With a bold investment in emergent academic programs and best-in-class facilities for the whole student, Olian told visitors that there has never been a better time to be a Bobcat. The hopeful, enthusiastic remarks came as part of Olian’s State of the University address at Bobcat Weekend.

“We’re entering, if not the most consequential period, certainly one of the most consequential periods in our history,” Olian said to those gathered in the Mount Carmel Auditorium. “We are, after all, the University of the Future. We’re aspiring to great things that I know we will achieve together.”

Olian was introduced by Owenea Roberts ’23, president of the Student Government Association and a 3+1 BS/MBA accounting major in the School of Business. A native of Bermuda, Roberts is the first international student as well as the youngest person to be elected as SGA president.

Roberts’ story is emblematic of Olian’s vision of a robust, diverse and inclusive community at Quinnipiac. Olian stressed that the academic success and personal well-being of every student is fundamental to the university’s mission and its DNA.

“We’re working to enhance the living and learning experience of our students and that remains a constant quest that all of us are engaging in,” she said as she directly acknowledged the parents in attendance. “We’re committed to focusing on the total health and well-being of our students — your children.”

To achieve this end, Quinnipiac has engaged in the unprecedented hiring of 34 new faculty and 10 academic support experts. Many of these new members of the Bobcat community will help students prepare for jobs in the emerging fields of talent management, healthcare informatics, gaming, eSports and more.

“We know that in 2030, 50 percent of the jobs that exist then don’t exist today,” Olian said. “We also know our students will have the career readiness to be agile and flexible. They will continue to be curious and adaptable throughout their careers.”

Strong leadership, nimble thinking

But that doesn’t happen by running in place. It happens by running toward the future with strong leadership and nimble thinking.

Olian said one of the newest professors in the School of Computing and Engineering spent the first part of his career as a professional hacker. Companies hired him to hack into their systems to find weaknesses that needed to be addressed.

Today, he’s in the classroom teaching Quinnipiac students about cybersecurity and how to think about building safe, secure systems.

Olian said the consistent hallmark of QU’s faculty is highly personalized learning. This is driven by a culture of inclusion and excellence-driven engagement, 1-on-1 mentorship and a thoughtful bridge to lifelong connections.

“We want your son, your daughter to flourish here as a whole person — mind, body and spirit — in our new wellness ecosystem,” Olian said. “It's all framed around that total well-being, which [is] highlighted in our new Recreation, Wellness and Athletic Center.”

Olian described the new 60,000-square-foot Recreation, Wellness and Athletic Center as “a catalyst of that vision,” from its multiple exercise studios and a rock-climbing wall to clinical examination rooms and counseling rooms.

Olian also pointed to the establishment of several new and exciting spaces on campus, from the interdisciplinary Innovation Hub in the School of Business and the Maker Space in the School of Computing and Engineering to the open-air TV studio in the School of Communications and the eSports Lab in the Rocky Top Student Center on the York Hill Campus.

And, over the winter break, Quinnipiac broke ground on a $293 million South Quad that will enrich the student experience with a new home for the School of Business, a new residence hall for first-year students and a new academic building with a 700-seat auditorium for community and university events. The project is slated for completion during the 2024-25 academic year.

Important partnerships emerge

These strategies have paved the way for important partnerships with major companies, healthcare organizations and government agencies, from Hartford HealthCare and Yale New Haven Health to Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont and the U.S. Small Business Administration.

“There’s a tremendous focus on immersive learning and interdisciplinary learning opportunities at Quinnipiac,” Olian said, citing the university’s recent partnership with Hartford HealthCare as one example.

She said this transformative, university-wide partnership will help build the healthcare workforce of tomorrow by creating internships and job opportunities for virtually every school. She added that QU students have access to Hartford HealthCare’s renowned Simulation Center that draws healthcare professional from around the world.

Olian enjoyed telling the audience about a remark Hartford HealthCare CEO Jeffrey Flaks made recently: “I want to offer QU students jobs when they’re juniors!”

Quinnipiac has already established a national reputation for preparing its students for good jobs. Case in point: Leading career site has ranked QU as the No. 1 school in the country to get a job after graduation.

“These experiences with our faculty and staff, these spaces that trigger the imagination, together they will transform our students,” Olian said. “I’m incredibly proud of what my colleagues, our faculty and our staff do here. I’m very optimistic about the future, and I hope you’re as inspired as we are about those opportunities.”


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