In speaking to the Class of 2023, Larry McHugh, who was named an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters at Wesleyan’s 191st Commencement Ceremony, celebrated the longstanding connections—educational, economic, and social—between the University and the greater Middletown community.
“Wesleyan is not only an outstanding educational institution but also an economic powerhouse, not only in generating jobs, but by using many of our businesses for products and services in our region which really creates more jobs and taxes for our city,” McHugh told the audience.
McHugh was president of the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce for 39 years before retiring in 2022, serving as the organization’s top executive responsible for all aspects of the Chamber including member outreach and support, operations, and financial performance for the Chamber’s nearly 2,000 members throughout greater Middlesex County. He is credited with helping in the revitalization of Middletown’s downtown area. A teacher and football coach at Xavier High School in Middletown from 1963 to 1983, McHugh also served as chairman of the board of the Connecticut State University System from 1995 to 2008; he was board chairman of the University of Connecticut from 2009 to 2017. Through ongoing partnerships with Wesleyan, McHugh supported student engagement opportunities including the University’s entrepreneurship program.
McHugh made the following remarks during Wesleyan’s 191st Commencement Ceremony on May 28:
Thank you very much.
First, I would like to congratulate the Wesleyan Class of 2023. I want to wish you the best in your life journeys ahead. Also, I would like to thank Wesleyan for honoring me with this prestigious honorary degree. Being involved in public higher education for over the past 40 years, I know the importance of this honorary degree presented to me today. So, the words “thank you” are not really enough.
Working first with Wesleyan, as a high school coach at Xavier in recommending some of my student athletes, then moving to the Chamber and partnering with Wesleyan, I quickly found out that Wesleyan is not only an outstanding educational institution but also an economic powerhouse, not only in generating jobs, but by using many of our businesses for products and services in our region which really creates more jobs and taxes for our city.
But more importantly, is the diversity and Wesleyan’s commitment to making our city a better place to live and work. From the student volunteers helping many of our nonprofits, as well as the strong student engagement opportunities with the Chamber member businesses; to moving Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore to Main Street, which now every year brings thousands of students, faculty, and visitors to our Main Street; to the Inn in Middletown from the idea of having a hotel in downtown; to the continued strong support today.
Wesleyan has also been a strong supporter of many of the events hosted by the city. Most recently, their leadership in Middletown Pride is unrivaled. Middletown Pride, established four years ago, is most notably known as one of the premier Pride events in the Northeast. Wesleyan’s steadfast commitment has helped establish year-long programming and activities that continue to this day. And in fact, next Saturday we’re expecting about 25,000 people here.
For over 19 years, Wesleyan has also hosted the Chamber’s High School Career Fair which features over 200 businesses and brings 1,400 high school sophomores from schools throughout the county to learn about future career opportunities.
We are also very fortunate to have the great partnership with the Wesleyan Patricelli Center. Our MEWS+ program works closely with Wesleyan’s students creating future success stories of tomorrow.
In closing, I’d like to thank Athletic Director Mike Whalen for opening up the athletic facilities to so many of our city’s residents and also for the recognition of our veterans every year at an annual football game.
Andy Tanaka for his wonderful support, advice, and friendship serving on the Chamber’s Executive Board.
Especially to President Roth for his vision, dedication, and leadership. But most importantly, understanding that working together with the city and others makes our city a better place to live and work for all of our citizens.
Thank you, Michael, for that positive energy you have created.
Finally, a huge thanks to my wife, Patty, for your support and love.
Again, a sincere thanks for this wonderful recognition today.