Home / Articles / Cover Story / 50 Most Influential People
Cover Story

50 Most Influential People

Influence. Everyone wants it, these people have it. Some of the names on our 2012 list have appeared here in previous years, a mark of their continued importance in our community. Others are making their first appearance, new faces on the Greater Hartford scene that we expect to see more of in years to come. Selecting our 50 Most Influential was an extensive process. We solicited nominations from our readers and asked people in the know for their suggestions, then gathered our editorial committee to bandy about names until we had our list. Because we at Hartford Magazine are members of the media, and because we work for a media company, we opted not to include media and news personalities whose job, one might say, is to shape public opinion. Also eliminated were elected officials and those who are engaged in public relations and lobbying, because again, those professions have built-in influence, and we were looking for those whose influence comes as a result of their words and actions, not as part of their jobs. Even without those categories, we had plenty of people in the mix. Here are the ones that rose to the top.



The UConn women’s basketball coach has seven national titles, plus Olympic gold for his role in coaching the U.S. Women’s National Team—which included six of his former college players now in the WNBA—to victory in the 2012 London Summer Olympics. He has also been named Naismith College Coach of the Year six times and inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2006. But even with his undeniable impact on the women’s collegiate and national game and his all-time record NCAA winning streak, Auriemma is not all about the ball. He is cool enough to brag about his players’ top grades and graduation rate too. And then there’s that fast-break wit Connecticut fans can’t get enough of. An Italian immigrant, he became a naturalized citizen in 1994.


Almost half the children in the city of Hartford live in poverty, and Rabbi Donna Berman, executive director of the Charter Oak Cultural Center, has made it her mission, through her Youth Arts Institute, to offer arts education to them. This year, the program was recognized by the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities as one of 50 exceptional youth arts and culture programs. Berman’s Charter Oak center brings professional dance and music classes, art exhibits, performances and public discourse to the area for a very low cost. A writer, scholar and moving speaker, Berman has opened up thought and conversation by means of an annual feminist seder, an ecumenical Kristallnacht remembrance and soup dinner, and civic initiatives such as planting organic vegetables, free to those in need, in Bots Pots around the city.


Andy Bessette was set to compete in the hammer throw for the 1980 U.S. Olympic Track and Field Team in Moscow, but there was that hitch with the U.S. boycott. Still, he has been an avid sportsman and that makes him a natural for recruiting top PGA players for the Travelers Championship at the TPC River Highlands Golf Course in Cromwell every June. The tournament has attracted Bubba Watson (who grabbed his first PGA win at Travelers in 2010 before picking up his Masters green jacket this year), Vijay Singh, Padraig Harrington and Fredrik Jacobson. Bessette served on the search committee that hired new UConn Athletic Director Warde Manuel. Oh, and Bessette’s day job is executive vice president and chief administrative officer of The Travelers, where he has brought a background in corporate real estate and corporate services.


Jeffrey Butler, former president of Connecticut Light & Power Co., has been called the lightning rod for outrage over outages during the 2011 Halloween snowstorm that left hundreds of thousands in the dark. CL&P was slow to react and failed to have out-of-state line workers standing by to help, as neighboring states had thought to do. Butler resigned shortly after the last Connecticut lights went back on, 11 days later, to avoid being a distraction at a time when CL&P was seeking to regain the public’s faith, parent company Northeast Utilities reported. Governor Dannel Malloy had made it clear he wanted to see changes in management, and Butler drew the short straw. Although he faced the music bravely during the onslaught, his departure as CL&P’s sacrificial exec nevertheless cleared the way for a drastically better response when Sandy came to Connecticut this Oct. 29, a year to the day later. Butler’s replacement, William Herdegen III, had taken the reins on Sept. 11.


The avuncular “Man of a Thousand Faces,” Jim Calhoun, coach of the UConn men’s basketball team, finished his 26 seasons in Storrs with three national championships and seven Big East Tournament titles. He retired in September, but not before elevating his pick for his successor—former UConn player Kevin Ollie—into the head coach slot for at least the year. His team sidelined from the post-season for NCAA missteps, Calhoun was hanging tough at the top until back pain and surgery cut into numerous games last season. A recent septuagenarian, he holds the record as the oldest coach to win a Division I NCAA title in men’s basketball. He’s had his physical struggles in recent years—cancer, broken ribs from a charity bike ride, back surgery—perhaps feeding his need to help others and raise millions for his beloved charities, including the Pat and Jim Calhoun Cardiology Center at UConn. Calhoun is credited with lifting the UConn men’s basketball program to the upper echelon; 23 of his former players graduated to the NBA.


You could call Ted Carroll a leader of leaders. As president of Leadership Greater Hartford since the mid-’80s, he has seen 6,000 promising and established leaders go through the Quest program and then go out into the community to champion the principles of topnotch leadership. LGH was born in the mid-’70s when the city and suburbs were locked in mutual mistrust. Now the organization has brought an upbeat style to the work on One City, One Plan (Hartford’s plan of conservation and development); school governance and other civic board training; the city budget process; and the Third Age Initiative, a world-recognized LGH spin-off program in which 300 participants, middle-aged and up, work on community projects. Hartford’s movers and shakers are rife with LGH alumni and Polaris Award winners who proudly include those credentials on their résumés. Carroll has been a mentor and trainer locally, nationally and internationally. In his free time, he volunteers for school, church and civic work.


Arnold L. Chase is, by widespread accounts, a good egg. He had the Bushnell Park carousel’s organ tuned and donated replacement red and green light bulbs, which volunteers installed. He’s given his time to Connecticut Public Broadcasting and his neighbor, Talcott Mountain Science Center. Founder of Fox affiliate Channel 61 in the ’80s, he tried to secure the call letters WETG to honor Connecticut’s beloved Governor Ella T. Grasso, a Democrat. Chase is executive vice president and treasurer of his father’s firm, David T. Chase Enterprises; president of Gemini Networks; and a director of UIL Holdings and United Illuminating. He’s been described as kind and generous in opening his mountaintop mansion to charity events. It’s that home, however, that may have overshadowed Chase’s good works, at least in the public’s mind. It’s larger than Bill Gates’ home. Heck, it’s on a par with the largest of the Newport mansions, icons of American conspicuous consumption. Chase’s home, which required clear-cutting the top of Avon Mountain, is almost 51,000 square feet. On Sept. 30, he held a fundraiser for Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s running mate. Protesters dressed in formal-wear and calling themselves “Millionaires for McMahon” gathered outside. You could say Chase has the right to spend his dough as he sees fit, but the hard feelings don’t seem to be going away.


It doesn’t always happen that a business leader’s offspring fits snugly into the family firm, but Cheryl Chase certainly does. She is executive vice president, principal and general counsel of Chase Enterprises, a private commercial real estate company founded by her free enterprise-guru father, David Chase.

Cheryl Chase, with a bachelor’s degree from Tufts and J.D. from UConn School of Law, carries the family gene for focusing on the world around her. She is a trustee of Connecticut Science Center, the Wadsworth Atheneum and the UConn Law School Foundation; vice chair of the UConn Health Center Board of Directors; and an honorary director of Foodshare.


Louis R. Chenêvert, president and CEO of United Technologies Corp., is bold and decisive enough to have brokered a record-breaking $16.4 billion deal to take over Goodrich, a “super supplier” of aircraft parts and systems. And he put Pratt & Whitney ahead by positioning the geared turbofan, with its increased fuel economy and reduced emissions and noise levels, to prevail in the narrow body jet engine arena. And that isn’t all. He also piloted Pratt to enter a joint venture with Rolls Royce to make next-generation engines for midsize aircraft, and to be the engine supplier for the Air Force’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Another UTC victory came when a Sikorsky team won the Collier Trophy for its speedy X2 helicopter.

The Canadian-born businessman gained valuable chops during 14 years in production at General Motors before going to P&W Canada in 1993. Aviation Week magazine selected him as 2011 Person of the Year. We wonder what he’ll do next.


Sanford Cloud Jr., chairman of the UConn Health Center board and a UConn trustee, has spent a lot of time working for fairness in various fields, including health care. A lawyer, real estate developer and former state senator, he is board chair of the Connecticut Health Foundation, where he sees his mission as improving “health equity” in the state. Cloud is chair and CEO of The Cloud Company, his real estate and investment firm, and serves on numerous boards, including those of the Phoenix Companies Inc. and Northeast Utilities. He and his wife, Diane, helped found The Amistad Foundation (renamed the Amistad Center for Arts & Culture). He was the first African American president of the National Conference for Community and Justice, and his fight against racial and ethnic bias has won him The Spirit of Anne Frank Outstanding Citizen Award and, with his family, the Torch of Liberty Award from the Anti- Defamation League. Cloud and his team of local developers were just chosen to redevelop two vacant Pearl Street buildings into a $40 million mixed-use residential project. Cloud is a Hartford native with degrees from Howard University and its law school. He holds a master’s in religious studies from Hartford Seminary.

NEXT: Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3 | Page 4 | Page 5 | Page 6 |