by Dave Cranshaw, UNH Today Editor
Jenny Tanski '14 with Tammie Pompea, wife of President's Award winner Charlie Pompea '71, '90 EMBA.
After being stuck inside for three days following a historic blizzard last winter, Jenny Tanski ’14 was getting cabin fever. So, Tanski and her sister decided they would make a short walk from their Milford home to find something to eat, and they invited their parents.
Since the sidewalks weren’t clear, the four walked in a single file line along Route 1 as close as possible to the snow banks. But the trip turned tragic when a Black SUV came barreling at the group.
Thankfully, Tanski’s younger sister was not hit, and Tanski avoided serious injury. But her parents were not as fortunate.
“I was so scared,” Tanski told the nearly 400 people gathered on Saturday for the University’s 31st Annual Alumni Scholarship Ball, which raised more than $1 million and set an event record. “This couldn’t happen to my family. Not us. Not now. Not ever.”
The following morning, Tanski’s father died from his injuries, and four days later her mom was pronounced dead.
Despite the tragedy, Tanski was determined to get back into the routine of school and work, but she didn’t know if it would be possible after the loss of her parents’ income. With the help of many friends, family and UNH – including the DeNardis Endowed Scholarship and the Emergency Scholarship Fund – she was able to continue her lifelong goal of graduating from college, which she will do – on time – next month.
Tanski, a criminal justice major who hopes to pursue a career working with troubled adolescents, thanked those in attendance for supporting her.
“You are investing in dreams,” she said. “In my dreams. In the dreams of fellow students who never thought they could achieve so much and strive for even more.”
Tanski’s emotional account was a highlight of the Scholarship Ball, the University’s primary scholarship fundraiser. As part of the event, Distinguished Alumni Awards were presented to Dr. Marc Benhuri ’69, Alice Gao ’94 MBA and Michael Quiello ’74. The President’s Award was presented to Charlie Pompea ’71, ’90 EMBA.
(From left to right) Distinguished Alumni Awardee Dr. Marc Benhuri '69 , Distinguished Alumni
Awardee Michael Quiello '74, Chairman of the UNH Board of Governors Phil Bartels, UNH
President Steven H. Kaplan, President’s Award Recipient Charles Pompea '71, '90 EMBA,
and Distinguished Alumni Awardee Alice Gao '94 MBA.
Benhuri, the owner of The Benhuri Center for Laser and Implant Dentistry – billed as "New York’s most sought-after dental facility visited by celebrities, CEOs and foreign dignitaries from around the world” – read from a poem he wrote titled “What I Have Learned.”
“I learned it is not what you have, but who you have in your life that counts,” said Benhuri, a member of the UNH Board of Governors. “I learned that you can keep going long after you think you cannot.
“Thank you, UNH, again and again and again.”
Gao, senior vice president and head of business development for the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the largest bank in the world as measured by total assets, quit her job in the early 1990s to move to New Haven and enroll in the MBA program.
“I loved being a student at UNH, and I have realized how much the school has done for me,” she said. “My ideas and ideals were shaped at UNH, and the school has truly inspired me to reach for my full potential.”
Quiello, vice president of corporate safety at United Airlines and a graduate of nearby Notre Dame High School, reflected on a seminal moment in his life when the owner of a New Haven aviation school invited him to take a flight. He has done his part to pay it forward by helping to create an internship at United for UNH criminal justice students. He also is a member of the University’s Board of Governors.
“As a student, I was given the tools to compete with the best of the best,” he said. “UNH was a springboard for me to be able to fly higher than I ever dreamed.”
Pompea spent two decades advancing up the ladder at Primary Steel, a company he eventually purchased in 1993 and ran for 15 years. He is now the owner of the Springfield Falcons, the Massachusetts-based American Hockey League team. A former vice chair of the UNH Board of Governors and a current emeritus member, he deflected praise after accepting the President’s Award, one of the University’s most esteemed honors.
“I don’t think I have done much,” he said. ‘I am just happy to be part of the vision of the school.”
Distinguished Alumni Video Presentations
The following videos were shown at the Scholarship Ball in honor of the three Distinguished Alumni Award recipients.