Dreaming Big: What’s On Your Bucket List?

To witness the Northern Lights blazing in the Alaskan night sky; to stand center stage on Broadway and sing  I Dreamed a Dream for  a sold-out crowd; to pen  a best-selling novel; to cure cancer; to score the winning touchdown in the Super Bowl.

Dreams – they’re what we are made of.

They represent both our deepest  wishes and unfulfilled desires. Our  pursuit of them is something that ties us together in the human experience while uniquely defining us at the same time.

Realistic or wildly impossible, the unfulfilled items on our bucket lists say something about who we are, and they offer others a rare glimpse into our dreams.

Hoping to learn more about the  people behind some of Hartford’s most familiar faces and personas, Hartford Magazine posed the question: What’s  on your bucket list?

Geno Auriemma Head Coach, UConn  Women’s Basketball Team


Like Sting or Bono of the music world, only one name is needed when you are talking about women’s college basketball and it’s simply, “Geno.”

The iconic UConn head coach boasts a list of awards and accolades so long that it reads like the War and Peace of the sports world.

In his 26-year tenure at the University of Connecticut, Auriemma has won seven national titles, 12 Final Fours and 36 Big East titles, and has had four perfect, undefeated seasons.

He’s been inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Massachusetts and the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in Tennessee. The UConn women’s basketball program has become the standard for  all other collegiate programs nationally.

With seven national “Coach of the Year” awards to top it all off, it isn’t surprising that Auriemma was named head coach of the U.S. National Team that will compete in the 2012 Olympic Games in London this summer.

Topping his wish list is the desire to one day fly a fighter jet.

“To fly a jet  that only so many people in world have  a chance to fly. Going through a 12-week period and training camp kind of setting where you have no control over what you
are doing; you’re completely under someone else’s control and the hardships and obstacles that are thrown in your way. What an incredible feeling it must be to successfully pass that test and what it must do for you physically, emotionally, mentally… it’s something I’ve always thought about.”

For Auriemma, it’s about finding out what he’s made of and experiencing the ultimate challenge.

After being a coach for so many years and pushing others to be the best they can be, he believes it would be the thrill of a lifetime to be pushed to his own limit.

“I’ve always wondered what it would be like to  be on the other end of it; where someone’s pushing you to do more [and saying,] ‘Hey, that’s not good enough; you’ve got more left in you.’ ”

In a similar vein, his next list item is  to complete boot camp as a Marine.

His final list item is to play on the PGA Tour. “I’m fascinated by how those guys on the PGA tour can play [when] they are not playing against an opponent. In a  basketball game, it’s me against you and us against them.”

But in golf, Auriemma once more sees the inherent challenge that comes from within.

“Most of the time, it’s me against this shot. No one is trying to block your shot or tackle you. You are just there and you get the chance to hit your shot. You’d better hit it  perfectly, or you’re going to lose.”

Gerry Brooks News Anchor NBC Connecticut News


Two-time Emmy award winner Gerry  Brooks has been a staple in Connecticut living rooms for more than 30 years.

Since 1993, he’s manned the anchor desk at WVIT, Channel 30 and prior to that, he served as both an anchor and reporter at WFSB. Each weekday, Brooks can be found  co-anchoring the news at 5:30, 6 and 11 p.m.

Throughout his tenure as a newscaster, he’s  covered almost every major news event in Connecticut and, in 2008, he was inducted  into the Silver Circle of the New England  chapter of the National Academy of  Television Arts and Sciences.

So what does the well-known anchor  have on his bucket list?

The first item reflects  his desire to find something he lost many  years ago.

“I want to reacquire my Boston accent.”

As a native of Framingham and a  graduate of the University of Massachusetts, Brooks had to lose his distinctive dialect when  he decided to become a broadcaster. He remembers the very moment that he became determined to change the way he spoke.

“One night when UMass played Providence, there was a [basketball] player named ‘Marvin Barnes.’ I swore that I would not say, ‘Maaahvin Baaahnes.’ I went the whole game without saying it.”

Many years later, he misses the accent that once defined him as a Bostonian and hopes  to reclaim it once he’s no longer a newscaster.

Since he and his wife travel frequently to Spanish-speaking countries, he also wants  to become fluent in Spanish, “and then say  it with a Boston accent.”

Brooks also wouldn’t mind having the  opportunity to play golf with his buddies in  the United Kingdom, a mecca for many golfers.

“It would be nice to spend some time playing  golf in one of the first places the sport was played, with people you enjoy playing with.”

But most important to Brooks is simply  having the ability to watch the sun set each  evening with his wife, and he hopes to  someday be able to do so while living on the ocean.

“We both truly enjoy the ocean and  truly enjoy being with each other. The sunset  seems to be the nicest moment of the day.”

Tim Devanney President Highland Park Market, Inc.


Being named “Father of the Year” is something  that many dads aspire to but few can actually claim.

Tim Devanney is one who can, so it’s no  surprise, then, that the dedicated father of six  and grandfather to five more puts spending  time with his family at the top of his bucket list.

Devanney was working at his father’s store by the time he was 10 and in the 1980s, he officially took over the daily operations and is now the driving force behind the neighborhood-friendly Highland Park Markets.

As a testament to his hard  work and dedication, Devanney was recognized  as Person of the Year by the Connecticut Food Association and inducted into its Hall of Fame.  He was also presented with the Spirit of America Award, which puts him in the company of fellow recipients George H.W. Bush and Gerald Ford.

And then there’s that Father of the Year Award given  to him by the Father’s Day Council of Greater Hartford and the American Diabetes Association.

His commitment to giving back to the  community and his deep sense of doing the  right thing have earned him both accolades and the respect of many, due to his tireless work with  various local organizations. He was awarded the prestigious Glen P. Woodward Public Affairs  Award last January.

Devanney, who simply enjoys weekly Sunday dinners with his large family, hopes to someday visit Disney World with all of his children and grandchildren.

“We’d love to go when they all  get a little older. We enjoyed it when we did it  with our kids and would absolutely love to see  if we could get everybody to go.”

He also hopes to find the time to take an  Alaskan cruise. “I’ve never gone, but I love  animals and they say the amount of wildlife  you see is amazing – polar bears, bald eagles, whales. That’s something I’d love to do.”

Finally, Devanney, a serious San Francisco  Giants fan, and his wife Mary Pat hope to one  day visit all the baseball fields in the U.S.

“We’ve done a few, but would like to get to all the parks before we perish. We’ve seen them all on TV, but would like to spend some summer visiting them all and seeing the different stadiums.”

Susan Herbst President University of Connecticut


In July, Dr. Susan Herbst took over as the  15th president of the University of Connecticut, one of the top 20 public institutions in the nation.

In doing so, she was able to cross off one of the top items on her personal bucket list.

A native of Peekskill, New York, Herbst  graduated from Duke University and USC’s Annenberg School for Communication.

During  the course of her academic ascent, she began her career as a communication studies and political science professor. More recently, she served as  executive vice president and acting president  at SUNY-Albany, and as the vice chancellor and chief academic officer at The University System  of Georgia.

As the new president of UConn, Herbst’s bucket list is comprised of wishes for the university and what she hopes it will accomplish at some point during her lifetime.

For starters, Herbst hopes that, one day, a UConn graduate or faculty member  will be honored with a Nobel prize.

“It’s tough to think of a higher honor for someone in a field of research or public service than being named a Nobel laureate. Most people know of the Peace Prize, but there is also chemistry, economics,  physics, literature and medicine. It means a  great deal to those selected, of course, but having  ‘Nobel prize winning…’ before the name and title of one of our faculty or alumni would be phenomenal – a great achievement not only for them, but for their university and the state of Connecticut.”

She next hopes that through the work of researchers and physicians at the UConn Health Center in Farmington, a cure will be created for  a currently incurable disease or condition.

Herbst cites the women and men who, throughout  history, have devoted their lives to identifying cures for diseases like small pox, tetanus and whooping cough. She imagines a future where today’s diseases have become a thing of the past.

“It would be an honor for UConn to play such a vital role in finding solutions to health problems that afflict so much of humanity.”

Finally, Herbst would like to one day see  the highest office in the land commanded by  a UConn graduate or, barring that, a graduate  of UConn Law named to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“I think private institutions are already very, very well represented: Barack Obama: Harvard; George W. Bush: Yale and Harvard; Bill Clinton: Yale; George H.W. Bush: Yale. And every justice currently on the U.S. Supreme Court is a graduate of Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, or some combination of those schools. How about a proud graduate of a public university’s law school for a change?”

Jacques Lamarre Director of Communications Mark Twain House & Museum


Jacques Lamarre grew up in Amherst,  New Hampshire, and went to college in Providence before making his way to Hartford in 1990.

He worked at Hartford Stage, for the Hartford Symphony and at TheaterWorks before settling in at the Mark Twain House  & Museum.

He recently fulfilled one of his dreams  by marrying long-time partner Arthur Galinat in a masquerade party on Halloween weekend. Little did he know that their wedding day was going to make history in more lives than just their own.

With the ceremony planned  for October 29 at the Mark Twain Museum,  he and his partner could have never predicted that their special day would fall on the same day as one of Connecticut’s most catastrophic weather events on record.

While shoveling the parking lot at the museum for the guests who were still able to come, he realized that if  nothing more, the day would be memorable.

“I thought, ‘No one’s going to forget our  wedding day!’ ”

Beyond his recent nuptials, Lamarre’s  bucket list includes writing a play that finds its way to Broadway. “I am a playwright in  my off-hours and I think most playwrights want to see something they wrote make it  to the ‘Great White Way,’ ” he said.

His next item reflects his self-professed obsession with the hula show at the Hu Ke  Lau restaurant and dinner theater in Chicopee, Massachusetts, and captures his light-hearted sense of fun.

He dreams of parlaying his love of the tropics and all things Polynesian by  taking a trip to Tahiti where he can “shake my coconut bra.”

His last item is the wish to not owe anyone money. “I really hate being in debt, so I’d love to pay off my house and credit card before I crawl into my grave.”

Søren Torp Laursen President, LEGO Systems, Inc.; Senior Vice President,  LEGO Company


Søren Torp Laursen, a native of Denmark,  has a bucket list that is as diverse as he is.

Laursen joined LEGO, the fourth-largest toy manufacturer in the world, in 1986 as a  marketing trainee. He worked for several  different departments, including product development and purchasing, before joining the overseas region.

He traveled extensively before coming to Connecticut in 2004  to take over as president of LEGO Systems  in Enfield.

“I am blessed that my 25 years working  for the LEGO brick has allowed me to visit five of the seven continents and to live in three of them with my family, yet my  bucket list still is somewhat focused on  travel,” he said.

One of the places he’d like to visit is Africa. “I traveled to Africa several times  in my early LEGO career, but never had a chance to do more than work-related things.  I remember once flying between Kenya  and Zimbabwe and seeing the majestic Mt. Kilimanjaro standing tall above the clouds.  I have since learned that it’s possible for an amateur like me to climb this beauty. While I’m there, I’d like to go on safari and see  the Big 5 in person.”

Next on his list is the desire to travel across the U.S. in an RV. “When I first met  my wife, we did a fair bit of camping in Europe in a small tent and learned to really value the simple life. Today, our kids are online all the time and in need of TVs and mini bars in hotel rooms. It would be really cool to spend an extended time together as  a family, unplugged and checked-out to explore nature and see this beautiful  country that we have come to call home.”

Laursen, who wanted to be a pilot as a child, dreams of one day flying over the Green Mountains in a hot air balloon.

“I have never tried flying in the most fascinating and beautiful manner – by balloon. I understand the best place to try it is in Vermont during fall foliage season.”

Finally, Laursen would like to give back  in return for the good fortune that he and  his family have enjoyed.

“Having grown up in Denmark where the taxes are high, but  the health care and social security systems are strong, I had limited understanding of  the impact and importance of giving time and resources to people who have been  less fortunate than me and my family.  My involvement with our LEGO Children’s Fund and with the Toy Industry Foundation has shown me the way, and I hope one  day that my family can have its own  foundation and that I can spend a part  of my retirement giving my time to  good causes.”

Dollie McLean Founding Executive Director Artists Collective


Inducted into the Connecticut Women’s Hall of Fame in 2003, Dollie McLean has served for more than 40 years as a true innovator and leader in the arts community.

She and her late husband, renowned alto saxophonist and community activist Jackie McLean, founded the Artists Collective in north Hartford in 1970 to emphasize the arts and culture of the African Diaspora.

Thanks to their efforts, the Collective has grown into a 40,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility that annually serves more than 1,200 students by providing training in performance and the visual arts for at-risk youths as an alternative to street violence and teenage pregnancy.

McLean’s long list of awards and recognitions includes the President’s Youth Arts & Humanities Award and honorary doctorates from both Trinity College and the University  of Hartford.

What does someone with McLean’s list  of accomplishments wish for?


“I would like to have the time to spend  exclusively with my loved ones, family and friends, wherever they live. I have a great deal  of responsibility; there always seems to be one thing or another that I have to do with my time.”

While she’s traveled the world extensively, there are a handful of places that she’d still  like to visit, including Egypt and Morocco.

She also dreams of having enough time  to research her family history and learn more about her heritage. A native of the Caribbean, much of her lineage was lost when her family members immigrated to other countries.

“I would like to know what my past was; the blood that runs through my veins, my children… my grandchildren.”

Finally, she hopes to find the kind of  stable funding needed to carry the Artists Collective into the next 50 years. “I hope it remains and grows into what it needs to be, exposes young people to arts and culture,  and brings people together.”

Michael Price Executive Director Goodspeed Musicals


Michael Price has been bringing world-class musical theater to the patrons of East Haddam’s Goodspeed Opera House for more than 43 years.

Recently honored for his achievement as the  longest tenured executive director in modern American theater, Price has accepted two Tony awards on behalf of the Goodspeed, and is a founding member and past vice president of  the National Alliance for Musical Theatre.

Since 1968, he has poured his life and soul  into fostering and inspiring the projects that have come to define the Goodspeed, so it’s not unexpected that one of his bucket list items is  to see the theater receive another Tony for its work. “It’s a mark of distinction and achievement; the artistic product of the Goodspeed  is so great, it deserves that recognition.”

He’d also love to put a showboat on the Connecticut River where the Opera House sits.

“It’s always been a dream. I see myself on a  rocking chair on the front deck of the boat with a handlebar mustache. I think it would be fun  and a great commercial entity for the state of Connecticut,” he said.

While in college, Price took care of a showboat on the Mississippi River and thinks that having one at the Goodspeed’s dock would be an  excellent extension of the theater, serving as  a tourist destination as well as an ideal setting for gatherings and theater offerings.

With a new grandson born this past summer, his final list item is to “be around for his  graduation from medical school.”

But he feels  as though many of his wishes have already been granted. “It’s been a great run at the Goodspeed;  I have no complaints. I’ve been supported by the most fabulous staff, and we’ve grown so wonderfully, there’s very little left. It’s been so great.”

Scott Slifka Mayor Town of West Hartford


Born in Chicago, Robert Scott Slifka grew  up in West Hartford and considers himself lucky to have had an upbringing that combined the best of both the Midwest and the East Coast.

In 2004, he became the town’s youngest mayor in history, winning each  successive election with an overwhelming amount of votes, including the most recent one in November.

The town has earned numerous national awards under his watch. It was named one  of the “Top 100 Places to Live” by CNN/Money and ranked by Travel & Leisure magazine as one of America’s “coolest” suburbs.

Slifka fondly remembers growing up watching the Hartford Whalers and being able to point to the hockey team in the sports page with pride, knowing that they belonged to Hartford.

“There’s a special sentimentality involving the Whalers; I vividly remember how it was to have our own sports team.  I would love to be able help bring the Whalers back to Hartford someday. You see guys my age still wearing all the old Whaler gear; we miss it. For those of us who grew  up here, it was the only game in town.”

Prior to having their 3-year-old daughter Betsy, Slifka and his wife Noelle made a yearly trip to Montréal, Canada, a place they both love.

“It’s like going to Europe by car,” said Slifka, who hopes to one day own a  small apartment in either Montréal or  another major city within driving distance.

“We’ve thought about having a neat place to get away to, in an old, historic city like that.”

His final bucket list item is one that he will be fulfilling this spring. He plans to go  to Disney World with his daughter and his grandparents. While it may sound modest,  it’s a trip with very special meaning.

His grandfather, 94, is one of Disney’s longest- running fans. From the time it opened, he  was so taken with the theme park that he purchased Disney stock just to keep up with  the park’s latest developments.

“At Christmas, he’d come with all the information and share it with the family. It’s still one of the seminal experiences of my life.”

Now that Slifka’s daughter is old enough  to appreciate it, they will all go together.

“My grandfather is doing all the planning;  it’s his thing. It’s wonderful. Everything is coming full circle.”

Nancy Wyman Lieutenant Governor State of Connecticut


Because she wanted a say in her daughter’s education, Nancy Wyman ran for –  and won – a seat on Tolland’s school board in 1979.

Now, more than three decades later, she speaks as the Lieutenant Governor for the state of Connecticut.

Inaugurated last January with Governor Dannel Malloy, she is no stranger to serving the people of Connecticut. For more than 16 years, she served as the state’s comptroller – the first woman in history to do so. Prior to that, she served for eight years as state representative for the 53rd District.

An advocate for healthcare improvement, she has worked to raise funds for breast  cancer and served as chairwoman of the American Heart Association’s Greater Hartford Heart Walk, and of the National Kidney Foundation of Connecticut’s annual gala.

She has also been a spokeswoman for the Mothers Against Drunk Driving Red Ribbon holiday campaign.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that one  of her bucket list items is the desire to help create a government that is truly responsive to the needs of the people it serves.

She hopes to make the government more transparent and accessible – along with  her hopes to one day balance the budget, create jobs and make state government  more efficient.

“We have to make [Connecticut] a better state so that people want to stay here, buy  a house here, bring up their kids here, and know that when they graduate from college, there’s a job available for them.”

She believes they are on the right path but have a ways to go. “That’s why it’s still in the bucket,”  she said of her goal.

But it’s her family – her children and  five grandchildren – that tops her list by  a wide margin.

“That’s my biggest thing: family first. As they get older, I want to  continue to be a part of their lives.”

Beyond that, she hopes to attend all the weddings of her grandchildren who choose to marry.

The final item on the list is her wish to learn to play the piano when she retires.

“One of these days, I’d like to have somebody teach me how to play it because I love music. I might be the only kid who’s 85 years  old and learning how to play the piano,  but hey, I’m ready.”

Originally Published Hartford Magazine January 2012 –  Photos By Brian Ambrose