Category Archives: Media

Stew Leonard Jr.: Amazon Purchase Of Whole Foods “A Game-Changer”

Amazon’s proposed $13.4 billion purchase of Whole Foods has rocked the grocery and retail industries.

An hour ago, Stew Leonard Jr. was one of the experts CNBC called on for expert reaction.

Stew Leonard Jr. (Photo courtesy/Westchester Magazine)

The president and CEO of the small but influential chain called the deal — which includes a store on the Westport border just a mile from Stew’s Norwalk flagship location — “a game-changer in the industry.”

Amazon’s technological know-how “will revolutionize how people buy food and get it delivered,” he added.

Leonard — whose grandfather Charles Leo Leonard founded the store’s predecessor, Clover Farms Dairy, and personally delivered milk straight from the farm to local customers — saw today’s announcement as a return to those days.

“The cost of the last mile of delivery has been dropping,” he noted.

Leonard also cited the growing number of millennials as a factor. Using his 31-year-old daughter as an example, he said that her generation expects every purchase to be deliverable.

However, he continued, “retailers have to get snappier” about how they present the purchasing experience.

“We try to make it fun,” he said, with plenty of animation and the chance to see mozzarella balls being made fresh.

However, he acknowledged, buying cereal and water in a store is far less exciting.

(Click here for the full 4:42 interview.)

When Amazon gets into delivery of Whole Foods products, will the animals at Stew’s be less of a draw?

Building Bridges Between Catholic, LGBT Communities

Three years ago, Sharon Carpenter read Father James Martin’s “Jesus: A Pilgrimage.” The longtime Westporter was challenged and inspired by the Jesuit priest’s lighthearted yet loving exploration of ancient Galilee and Judea, and his exploration of how Jesus speaks to believers today.

When Sharon’s husband Sam decided to treat her to a 30th wedding anniversary trip to the Holy Land, he figured a Father Martin-led trip was just the ticket.

Father James Martin

Sam — who is not Catholic — did not realize Father Martin is a Big Name in Catholic commentary. A Wharton Business School graduate who entered seminary in 1988 after 6 years with GE Capital, he’s written extensively — and been interviewed by everyone from Bill O’Reilly to Stephen Colbert and Terry Gross.

Father Martin’s tour had been sold out for a year. The wait list held 400 names.

But Sam said if anyone dropped out at the last minute, they’d be ready to go.

Miraculously, there was a cancellation. Sam and Sharon got the call.

The trip was all she’d dreamed of. Father Martin was a warm, wonderful — and brilliant — guide.

Though Sam was the only non-Catholic in the group of 40, Father Martin asked him to read the Beatitudes at the Mount. “He’s that kind of guy,” she says admiringly.

Sharon and Sam Carpenter in the Holy Land.

After the trip, the Carpenters remained friends with Father Martin.

As the publication date neared for his new book, he asked Sharon to help with the launch.

Building a Bridge — appropriately published on Tuesday, during this month when the LGBT community celebrates Pride — is a passionate plea for Catholic leaders to relate to their LGBT flock with compassion and openness.

The book was a response, in part, to last year’s Orlando massacre at the Pulse club. Father Martin felt that Catholic church leaders had not spoken strongly enough about the LGBT aspect.

His voice is important: Earlier this year, Pope Francis appointed him a consultor for the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communication.

Sharon read the galleys. “He brings faith back to the basics,” she said. “It’s all about being sensitive and welcoming.”

Still, she wondered about the reaction if she tried to arrange a launch party here.

She needn’t have worried.

Father Andy Varga of St. Luke — the parish where Sharon has been active for 25 years — offered the church for an event. Father Tom Thorne of Assumption wanted it at his church too.

St. Luke was chosen to host the Thursday, June 29 (7:30 p.m.) talk, Q-and-A and book signing by Father Martin.

But there’s more. Father Varga put out the word to Westport’s interfaith clergy group. Father Thorne has publicized it in parishes around Fairfield County.

Other groups are also promoting it. The Triangle Community Center — Fairfield County’s LGBT organization — is all in. So are the Westport Library, Barnes & Noble, and the (Jesuit) Fairfield University bookstore.

Sharon’s book club and prayer group are also excited to hear Father Martin.

As Pride Month winds down, Sharon Carpenter could not be more proud.

(Click here  for more information on Father Martin’s St. Luke talk.)

Connecticut Club Has ImPRESSive Revival

In Donald Trump’s eyes, “the press” is a vile, lying scourge that’s destroying America.

Lynn Prowitt and Michelle Turk love their profession so much, they’ve revitalized the dormant Connecticut Press Club.

Neither woman is a political reporter. But they welcome them — and anyone else who considers him or herself a journalist — into their revitalized organization.

Prowitt once wrote work for the Washington Post. But the bulk of her writing life has been in the health and food fields, as a magazine editor, freelancer, web developer (dLife, a Westport-based diabetes site) and book author.

Turk just returned from her Columbia Journalism School 25th reunion. She’s been a freelancer (parenting, education, women’s health), PR person, Quinnipiac University instructor, and founder of the cleverly named A Bloc of Writers.

Lynn Prowitt and Michelle Turk. (Photo/Andrew Dominick)

The women met 2 years ago, at a content marketing seminar. With similar interests and experiences, they hit it off.

Back in the day, Turk recalled, she had been a member of the Connecticut Press Club. It thrived, offering panels, workshops and networking with agents and TV personalities.

But as membership aged — and the leaders concentrated on events like sit-down dinners — it failed to attract new members.

When Turk clicked on the club’s website to get re-involved, the home page was all about vitamins — in Chinese. It had been hacked, and no one noticed.

The president gave Turk her blessing to try to revive the group.

An email blast produced a frustrating number of bounce-backs.

Turk started from scratch. She began the process to reincorporate (though there were no funds).

Then Prowitt offered to help. Together, they’re reaching out to a broader, younger audience.

The goal is to help professionals — and those aspiring to be — “be a journalist in today’s world.” With blogging and multi-media platforms — and the need to not just write, but post photos and videos — Prowitt says, “this is not the same one we were brought up in.”

Recent events focused on podcasting and how to monetize blogs.  Though it’s called the Connecticut Press Club, most attendees came from Westport, Fairfield and Norwalk.

Looking ahead, Turk and Prowitt plan meetings addressing social media for writers, and book publishing. This fall, Columbia University professor and Times columnist Samuel Freedman will talk about the future of journalism.

The big moment recently was a reception — not a sit-down dinner! — at the Boathouse restaurant, featuring special guest (and Westporter) Jane Green.

Celebrated author Jane Green, at the Connecticut Press Club’s recent Boathouse event. (Photo/Andrew Dominick)

Winners of the Connecticut Press Club’s Communications Contest were announced. Categories included editorials, features, columns, headlines, page design, photos, websites, speeches and books.

The Connecticut Press Club casts a wide net. They want all journalists — in every form of media.

And that’s not fake news.

(For more information, email ctpressclub@gmail.com) 

Andrew Wilk Picks Up Pops’ Baton

Most days, Andrew Wilk works behind the scenes. As executive director of PBS’ “Live from Lincoln Center,” the longtime Westport resident has brought the magic of Luciano Pavarotti, Leonard Bernstein, George Balanchine, Yo-Yo Ma, Renée Fleming, Nathan Lane and many others to viewers across the country. The show is noted for stretching technical and creative boundaries.

Last year Wilk advised the Staples TV production staff, as they aired the high school’s 1st-ever Pops Concert at the Levitt Pavilion.

The event returns this Friday. (Tickets sold out as soon as they were available.)

This time, Wilk takes center stage: literally.

One of his passions is conducting. So — at the invitation of orchestra director Adele Valovich — Wilk will wield the baton for Friday’s grand finale: the rousing “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

Andrew Wilk, rehearsing the orchestra at Staples.

“It’s a beautiful facility,” Wilk says of the Levitt. “It’s so picturesque, smack on the river. It will be packed with musicians, and the audience will be full. I’ll be happy to stand up there, as a proud Westporter.”

For once he won’t have to worry about camera angles or cutaway shots.

Making sure the brass and piccolos don’t miss a beat — that’s a snap.

The Live From Lincoln Center remote truck during television production of Lincoln Center Theater’s production of FALSETTOS which is now nominated for five Tony Awards

A Host Of Reasons To Help ABC

Alert — and proud — “06880” reader Michael Wolfe writes:

On a recent weekend in suburban Chicago, I shrugged off beautiful spring weather to sit in a dark auditorium with other proud Westport parents and their kids. We watched as over a dozen Staples students received prestigious John Drury High School Radio Awards.

Jarod Ferguson with one of his John Drury awards.

As each student collected their honor, we heard extra-enthusiastic cheers from the mom or dad in attendance. So when Jarod won not 1 but 2 awards, I gave him the loudest acknowledgment I could.

But there was one major difference between me and the rest of the Westport parents that day: Jarod isn’t my son. In fact, I’ve known him less than 3 years.

Yet that morning I felt as excited for him as I would have for my own 2 kids.

In a way, that’s what he’s become.

Jarod Ferguson, born and raised in Philadelphia,  is one of 7 boys from around the country living in Westport through the great local chapter of an incredible national program.

A Better Chance Of Westport was founded 15 years ago to provide academically gifted, highly motivated and economically disadvantaged young men of color (African-American, Latino, Asian-American and Native American) the opportunity to live in our community, and study at Staples.

In fact, one of Jarod’s Drury Radio Awards was for a broadcast about leaving his home and coming to Westport as an ABC Scholar.

ABC’s Glendarcy House on North Avenue. Scholars spend some weekends with host families.

Imagine this: A 9th grade boy leaves his own family and friends behind, moves to Westport to live in a home with several other boys, and is supervised closely by resident directors who live with them and help keep them on the path to success.

They are given educational opportunities they would not otherwise receive — but must give up the daily connection to family that so many of us take for granted.

That’s why the host family program is so important.

Upon entering ABC of Westport, each scholar is assigned a host family (and a 2nd alternate family). Each Sunday during the school year — and once a month, for an entire weekend — the scholar spends the day with members of the host family (usually, but not always, including other children). That family’s role is to provide comfort and support outside of the ABC house, and a connection to the kind of family life the boys have left behind in their hometowns.

Each Sunday morning at 9, we pick Jarod up at the ABC house. He comes to our home, and joins our family. We are not his babysitters, nor do we provide entertainment.

Instead, like we do for our own 2 kids — also Staples juniors — we provide encouragement, attention and support for Jarod’s activities and interests.

Jarod with the Wolfe family, and his mother Angela.

We offer a bit of guidance from time to time (which, as with our own teenagers, is often met with an appropriate level of eye-rolling).

We give Jarod enough space to explore his own needs and feel like a regular kid. Then, on Sunday nights at 6 when we sit down for our family dinner, Jarod takes his place at the table. He’s one of our own.

We had encouraged Jarod to explore opportunities at WWPT. It seemed like a natural for a sports nut like Jarod. It took him a while to find his way there, but his recent awards sparked a real passion. He hopes to continue with the station next year, and perhaps pursue a career in sports journalism.

It’s been less than 3 years since we began hosting Jarod. They’ve flown by.

The shy and unassuming child has grown into a more confident and outspoken young man. I hope our presence in his life has had something to do with that.

But honestly, hosting him has given back to us as much as we may have given him.  My own kids have a better understanding of the world outside the Westport bubble that they’ve grown up in. They have learned the importance of giving back, and have made a friend I hope can last beyond their years here.

And my wife and I have been graciously allowed by Jarod’s mother to share in his life and achievements. We’re not quite his parents, but we feel a stake nonetheless.

All of this comes from letting an eager and humble student join us for part of our weekend. Not a bad trade-off at all.

ABC of Westport is always looking for families interested in hosting a scholar like Jarod. I encourage everyone to learn more. For more information, email abchostfamilies@gmail.com.

It’s an experience you and your family will never forget.

Alan Alda And Mozart “M*A*S*H” Staples

The final episode of “M*A*S*H” aired nearly 2 decades before they were born.

But 5 Staples High School musicians played Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet in A, K. 581, flawlessly last night.

They played it far better, in fact, than the 5 Chinese musicians who made it famous, in the “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen” episode that Alan Alda co-wrote and directed. With over 100 million viewers that night, it remains the most-watched finale of any American television series ever.

Alan Alda posed last night with Staples’ quintet (from left): Woongki Hong, James Gikas, Michael Fording, Jack Whitten and Sophia Thomas. (Photo/Kelle Ruden)

Carrie Mascaro’s students were at the Westport Library last night, as part of Alda’s “Booked for the Evening” appearance. In the middle of Cynthia Gibb’s introduction — as she noted his many “M*A*S*H” accomplishments — the Staples quintet struck up the piece that struck such a chord with Major Charles Winchester.

It still affects anyone who has ever seen that stunning final episode.

And why did Alda pick that particular piece to weave into his finale?

He met his future wife Arlene more than 60 years ago. She’s a professional clarinetist — and she was playing that very same beautiful Mozart melody.

Westport Climate Accord Protest Goes National

A few dozen folks stood downtown for half an hour Sunday evening. They held signs and sang “The Times They Are A-Changin’.” The goal was to draw local attention to President Trump’s decision to pull the US out of the Paris Accord.

Now the entire nation can see them.

NPR illustrated this morning’s story about American mayors and businesses’ reactions to Trump with a large photo of the Westport protest.

The caption does not mention Westport specifically. It reads:

Connecticut residents at a rally for the environment against President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate accord. Connecticut is one of twelve states and Puerto Rico that formed the U.S. Climate Alliance, all committing to uphold the Paris Accord.

But clearly our town — and state — have tapped into widespread anger. The story begins:

Days after President Trump announced that he would be pulling the U.S. out of a global agreement to fight climate change, more than 1,200 business leaders, mayors, governors and college presidents have signaled their personal commitment to the goal of reducing emissions.

In an open letter, the signatories vow to “continue to support climate action to meet the Paris Agreement,” even “in the absence of leadership from Washington.”

Click here for the entire NPR piece.

Pic Of The Day #48

This trompe l’oeil mural stands in the Staples High School hall, outside the WWPT and TV studios. It was painted by students in the mural class. (Photo copyright Lynn U. Miller)

O Canada!

Westport loves its duck.

For the 2nd year in a row, the 23-foot high, 15-foot wide, 15-foot long, 260-pound “Sunny” is floating in the Saugatuck River. It’s a very visible (and quite yellow) reminder of the Sunrise Rotary Club’s upcoming Great Duck Race (this Saturday, June 3 — click here for details).

(Photo/Wendy Cusick)

Things are less ducky north of the border.

The BBC reports that another version of the duck — twice as tall as Westport’s will  float in Toronto’s waterfront, for a festival celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday. It then travels across the province, for an “Ontario 150” tour.

The duck in Toronto.

The provincial government is picking up some of the tab. But Progressive Conservative officials have called it “an absolute cluster duck” and “quack economics.”

Cute.

Of course, Sunny’s a lot cuter.

(Hat tip: Siobhan Crise)

The Jocks Of Wall Street

Lance Lonergan was a Staples football legend.

After starring on the Wrecker gridiron in the early 1980s, he went to Penn State — and won a national championship under coach Joe Paterno.

Lonergan stayed at Happy Valley, earned an MBA, then leveraged both his brains and his football background into a career on Wall Street. After 15 years with Citigroup, he’s now CEO of Weeden & Company.

After all, everyone knows that former college athletes make great hires. They’re experienced risk takers, work well in teams, are flexible, adeptly handle ups and downs, and have the physical stamina for the rough-and-tumble world of finance.

At least, that’s what Wall Street used to think.

Lance Lonergan

The other day, the Wall Street Journal ran a story headlined “Wall Street’s Endangered Species: The College Jock.” The paper said that the hot hires now are quants — recent grads with math or computer programming skills.

And one of the examples cited was Lance Lonergan.

Yet the former athlete tells college athletes there’s still a spot on Wall Street for them.

“The core attributes of athletes are well-suited for the trading floor,” he tells the paper.

Lonergan — who married former Staples and college athlete Anne LoCurto — moved back to Westport soon after college. They’ve raised 4 children here.

All are excellent athletes.

A few years from now, they’ll be looking for jobs.

No word yet on where.

(To read the full Wall Street Journal story, click here. Hat tip: Chris Pardon)