[caption id="attachment_3852234" align="alignright" width="376" caption="JESSICA RUTLEDGE"]
By Jessica Rutledge
and Dan Melrose
and Special to the Informer
Last Thursday, the America East Tip-Off Event previewed more than just the men and women’s basketball teams within the conference, the event also illustrated the philanthropic focus of tournament sponsor, Newman’s Own.
Robert Forrester, longtime friend of Paul Newman, assumed the role of CEO and President of Newman’s Own after Paul’s death. Since 1982, Newman’s Own has donated 100 percent of its profits to charitable organizations, totaling more than $300 million to date.
Forrester is determined to continue the selfless and generous legacy of founder Paul Newman, in part through the company’s two-year partnership with the America East Conference.
Forrester and Newman’s Own announced the launch of its’ second-annual Campus Community Service Challenge last Thursday, where one student group from each American East conference university will be chosen to participate for a top grant of $25,000.
The Newman’s Own foundation has already pledged to donate $150,000 to charitable organizations within the nine America East schools this year.
Last year, the University of Hartford’s non-profit organization, Best Buddies, earned a $15,000 grant from Newman’s Own, representing the University of Hartford with a third-place finish in the Community Service Challenge.
Forrester’s generous contributions to the America East conference hits close to home, as the CEO of Newman’s Own was a student at the University of Hartford in 1960.
In an interview last Thursday, Forrester reminisced about his time at the University of Hartford, he was a member of the first class to ever move on campus only three years after the university was founded in 1957. As an undergrad, Forrester played on the men’s soccer team and mentioned that “Al-Marzook,” field was named after his dear friend and classmate.
Forrester added, “You know, Barney, Gengras, I knew all those guys when they were alive.”
After graduation, Forrester joined the armed forces and fought overseas in Vietnam, afterwards he returned to work on his graduate studies at the university.
“ I think it’s just been a wonderful place,” Forrester said of the University of Hartford last Thursday. “I’ve seen it grow in many ways, I’m proud of it, and I think you’ve got the best president of any university in America,”
Last Thursday, America East Commissioner Patrick Nero and Newman’s Own CEO Forrester emphasized the importance of keeping the America East Conference connected with Newman’s Own philanthropic initiatives.
Having been the former Athletic Director at the University of Maine, Nero knows what it takes to produce winners on the court and in the classroom. So it was no question that his drive to establish ties between all the schools in the conference to the Newman’s Own Foundation was in an effort to raise awareness about the ongoing needs of charitable organizations, and the incredible impact student-athletes can make on the lives of those they help.
CEO of Newman’s Own, Forrester made it clear that his primary goal is, “to keep this great Foundation working with the schools in the conference. But there’s always room for improvement.”
Newman’s Own hopes that the second-annual Community Service Challenge will have a greater turnout than last year, and continue to flourish going forward. Forrester is confident that the grants awarded to student charity organizations will help plant the seeds for a brighter future, and promote the establishment of new nonprofits to America East campuses every year.
Listening to Forrester speak, one couldn’t help but smile, his jovial demeanor and incredible generosity are a testament to the legacy of Newman’s Own, and his dedication to philanthropy is admirable – don’t be surprised if you catch Forrester watching the Hawks’ from the bleachers this season, “Oh yes we will be attending games,” he said, “we’re season ticket holders!”