University of Connecticut University of UC Title Fallback Connecticut

Leadership Council Members


Membership Committee Co-Chair

Merle was born and raised in Waterbury, attending Beth David Academy and Crosby High School. She received her B.A. from Morris Harvey College in Charleston, West Virginia and a master’s degree from Central Connecticut State University. Merle taught elementary school in the Waterbury Public School System for 34 years, 33 of those years at Barnard School. She was a member of the City of Waterbury math curriculum committee, a Barnard PTA officer and taught in the after school program at Barnard.

Besides OLLI, Merle is active in her synagogue and is Bubby (grandmother) to a kindergarten class at Yeshiva K’Atana in Waterbury (the former UConn campus). Since retiring, she enjoys reading and is a member of 2 book clubs (1 an OLLI book club), needle pointing, knitting, gardening, making wine, and spending time with family and friends, especially being Bubby to her grandson.



Newsletter Committee Co-Chair

A librarian for almost 30 years, Nancy retired as Director of the Library at Housatonic Community College in Bridgeport in 2007. After college she served in the Peace Corps in Thailand, teaching English at a Teacher Training College. That experience led to two years at Yale studying for and receiving a Masters in Southeast Asian Studies. Shortly after she married, she worked for two years as a caseworker in the New York City Department of Social Services, moved to Chicago, and received a Master of Library Science (MLS) degree from Dominican University.

Her professional library career began at Eureka College after another move with husband and two daughters to the small town of Washington in Central Illinois. During that time, she became Director of the Eureka College Library. Active in the college and community, Nancy was on the local school board for many years, first as a member and then as president. In 1989, after moving to Cheshire, she went to work as a librarian at Housatonic Community College, retiring as Director in 2007. Nancy has traveled extensively both in the U.S. and abroad, spending time in Europe, Asia, and Africa.



Assistant Secretary

Joyce Conlan, Assistant Secretary of the Leadership Council, has been an OLLI member since its inaugural year of 2007. Having taken a wide range of classes over that span of time, Joyce was also a member of the early Hospitality and Membership Committees before being asked to Co-Chair the newly formed Travel Committee in 2009. Born and educated in Waterbury, Joyce attended Southern Connecticut State University

Born and educated in Waterbury, Joyce attended Southern Connecticut State University where she earned her B.S. and M.S. degrees as well as a Sixth Year Certification in Advanced Studies. She began her teaching career at Webster School in Waterbury where she taught first, fifth, and sixth grades. After her daughters, Terri and Kristin were born, Joyce returned to teaching in Watertown at Swift Jr. High School where she taught seventh and eighth grade Reading for twenty-six years, retiring in 1999.

Together with husband, Ned, also a retired teacher and OLLI member, Joyce has traveled extensively in the United States, Europe (both Western and Eastern) and has cruised to numerous islands including the exotic islands of Tahiti, Bora Bora, and Morea. Summing up her travels, Joyce likes to say she has been on four continents and still counting.

Joyce looks forward to many more years as an OLLI member where she will continue to grow in “life-long learning” and where she hopes to continue meeting new and interesting OLLI members, many of whom she hopes she can refer to as “friends”.


JOYCE DeCESARE – Waterbury

John & Joyce DeCesare Renaissance Fund

Joyce is a Licensed Professional Counselor, Board Certified Professional Counselor, Board Certified PTSD Counselor and achieved Diplomat and Fellow status from the American Psychotherapy Association. She is in private practice in Middlebury, Connecticut. She received her BA Degree in Education from Anna Maria College in Paxton Massachusetts, MS Degree in Counseling from the University of Bridgeport, 6th year Degree in Advanced Study in Counseling and State Certification in Administration and Supervision from Southern Connecticut State University.

Prior to opening her office in 2000, she retired from the Waterbury Board of Education holding the position of Department Chairwoman of the Crosby High School Guidance Department. Joyce also taught in the Waterbury Public School System and worked as a Resource Teacher for Project Concern in Litchfield, Connecticut.

As a native of Waterbury and a Crosby High School Graduate, Joyce has served on many Boards and Committees throughout the region. She is presently a member of the Palace Theater Board, Greater Waterbury Campership Board, Waterbury Greenway Advisory Committee and the Holy Cross High School “John DeCesare Make a Difference Dinner Committee.”

She has been the recipient of many awards including, the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Waterbury Distinguished Service Award, the Reverend John P. Blanchfield Community Service Award, United Way Community Service Award, Waterbury Neighborhood Council Community Service Award and the Waterbury Youth Service” Shining Star Award” and the Waterbury Beautification Award in memory of John A. DeCesare.

Joyce was named to the National Distinguished Service Registry sponsored by the American Association for Counseling and Development, listed in Who’s Who in American Education and Who’s Who among American Teachers. She was also the recipient of the University of Connecticut Alumni Award in Teaching/ Counseling and the Connecticut Collegiate Awareness and Preparation Program (CONNCAP) Community Award.

Joyce was married to the late John A. DeCesare, one of the founding members of OLLI. His goal and vision were to not only to make the Osher Life Long Learning Program at the University recognized throughout the region and country but to also be the recipient of the one million dollar grant (the latter has been accomplished). His passion was to make OLLI a household topic as it was in our home. Because of his love for the program, A Fund at the University of Connecticut Foundation in his memory has been developed for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.



Travel Committee Co-Chair

Gen spent her formative and educational years living in Whitestone, NY, before moving with her family to Hope, RI, where she went on to graduate Katherine Gibbs School in Providence.

Marriage to Kenneth brought her to Waterbury in the early 50’s, where their three sons were born. Raising the family was foremost at the time and her working career began later on with local attorneys, followed by a short stint in the executive offices of Century Brass. Gen then spent the next twenty-five years behind the scenes in the banking business, first as secretary to Harold Smith at Webster Bank, and then shared duties and responsibilities within the executive office. After a formal retirement, she returned to work at Webster for a number of years in the Human Resources Department.

As a firm believer of continuing education, she eventually earned an associate’s degree in business and management from Naugatuck Valley Community College after retirement. That explains her strong admiration of the OLLI Program and her active participation as a volunteer. She also volunteers in various capacities with the local symphony, community theater, museum and The Palace, in Waterbury.

Gen has enjoyed traveling extensively, not only as a tourist but also as an alto with The Waterbury Chorale on several cultural tours.



Membership Committee Co-Chair

Claudia DePalma is a native of Waterbury and is a retired Textbook Manager for the UConn Co-op Bookstore in Waterbury. She retired in May of 2013. She worked as the Co-op Store Manager for 34 years. Prior to her devoted position at the Co-op, Claudia spent 10 years as Secretary in the Engineering Department of The A. W. Hayden Company. This is where she met her husband of 51 years, Richard.

After marriage, her commitment to motherhood became her first and foremost priority. She spent long hours teaching her two children the important values of life, such as morals, religion, independence, and manners. She developed many enjoyable hobbies. Some of her favorite pastimes still today are cooking and baking, making homemade pasta, gardening and teaching the neighborhood children these traits.

Claudia also enjoys collecting postcards and cherishes her time with her two granddaughters – who were both lucky enough to acquire her striking red hair. She is a proud and active member of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, as well as a member of the Saint Anne’s Society. Some of her accomplishments include making an oriental wool rug and helping complete an addition to their home. She also enjoys walking and spoiling her family, including the two dogs. Claudia has become an active member of OLLI and currently is a member of the Olli leadership council.



OLLI – UConn Faculty Liaison

Laura Donorfio was born in Waterbury and raised in Watertown, CT. She received an A.S. from Mattatuck Community College in business and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut in Family Studies and Aging. Before beginning her career at UConn in 2004, she worked for six years for The Hartford Financial Services Group and AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) as a Qualitative Research Director and Corporate Gerontology Liaison. Now an assistant professor in the School of Family Studies, Laura’s teaching and research interests fall into three areas: informal family caregiving; older driver self-regulation, and teaching pedagogy, student engagement, and aging education.

Laura won the “Distinguished Teacher Award” (2009), a national teaching award from the Association for Gerontology in Higher Education – recognizing individuals for having an outstanding teaching record while exhibiting some type of innovation in gerontology education. Laura has been instrumental in developing a solid distance education (interactive television, iTV) program with the University’s Institute for Teaching and Learning (ITL) to offer students at the regional campuses more adult development and aging courses. She lives in Watertown with her twin sons and loves movies and a good laugh.




Pat was born and raised in Wolcott Connecticut. She graduated from Sacred Heart Grammar School and Wilby High School. She received her R.N. from the Waterbury Hospital School of Nursing, received a B.S. in Business Management from Post University and an MBA from the University of New Haven.

Pat had a varied nursing career which included staff nursing, practice management and Utilization Review/Quality Assurance for inpatient admissions. Pat served as Director of Admissions at the Waterbury Hospital for fifteen years before changing her career path focusing on clinical software design and implementation. Pat spent the last eleven years of her career working at St Raphael’s and Yale New Haven Hospitals as a Clinical Software Analyst.

Pat served on the Board of Directors of the Waterbury Hospital Auxiliary for fifteen years, was involved in the revision of her Town’s Charter, is an active member of her Town Committee, co-chair of her town’s Ethics Commission and is a member of various committees.

Pat has been an active member of OLLI for the past seven years serving on the OLLI Cafe Committee and as the Leadership Council’s Secretary for the past two years. Pat enjoys spending time with her grandchildren and traveling to distant countries with her husband Ira Mickenberg. OLLI has become an important part of Pat’s retirement repertoire not only for the intellectual stimulation but is a chance to chat with old and new friends.


ROBERT GRADY – Watertown

Newsletter Committee Co-Chair

Bob Grady was born in Waterbury, attended local schools and graduated from Sacred Heart High School, where he was co-captain of the Championship swimming team. He then spent four years in the U.S. Navy as an aviation electronic technician.

Bob holds a BA in English and Psychology from UConn, a Master’s in Education from Central Connecticut State University, and a Certificate in Advanced Graduate Studies in Counseling from Fairfield University. He also attended Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. He also received a Master Certification in Neuro-Linguistic Programming from Eastern Institute in Princeton, New Jersey.

Bob taught in Buck’s Hill School in Waterbury for three years, was part of an innovative teaching program at the sixth grade level in Watertown public schools, and then spent thirty- five years teaching at Watertown High School.

He has been a member of curriculum committees and evaluation teams in education and has also been active in local politics, as well as participating in community projects. He has held offices in the local teachers’ associations and was President of the Watertown Education Association for the last seven years of his teaching career.

Since retirement, Bob has journeyed to forty-seven of the contiguous states, Washington being the only exception. He has also traveled extensively throughout South East Asia and visits Singapore where his daughter teaches at Nanyang University. Bob is editor of the OLLI Newsletter.


LINDA C. HALGUNSETH, Ph.D. – Waterbury

OLLI – UConn Faculty Liaison

Linda is an assistant professor in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at the University of Connecticut. Her research focuses on parenting and children’s well-being across low-income African, European, and Latin American families. Prior to working at UCONN, she worked as a research associate in the Department of Human Development and Family Studies at The Pennsylvania State University and as a research coordinator at the National Association for the Education of Young Children. She received a BA in psychology and Spanish at the University of Texas at Austin and an MS and Ph.D. in human development and family studies from the University of Missouri.


CHARLES MICELI – Southington

Immediate Past President

Chuck was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in Brooklyn, NY and has lived in Southington since 1973. He is a graduate of Holy Apostles College and Seminary and holds degrees in Criminal Justice and Philosophy. During his CT State Government career, Chuck has been the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) Resource Center Coordinator, the Connecticut Justice Academy’s Chief of Curriculum, the Connecticut Executive Management (CEM) Program Manager and DMV’s Project Management Director. As a private consultant, he has presented workshops on criminal and juvenile justice throughout the country. He is a co-author of Fire Behind Bars.

Chuck was a founding board member of Every Dollar Feeds Kids. He co-created and directed the Saint Thomas Passion Play in Southington and has directed productions of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Godspell. Chuck led the creation of Apple Village for Southington’s Apple Harvest Festival. For the last several years he has accompanied his church’s youth group on mission trips working in food pantries, at homeless shelters, Habitat for Humanity, Katrina relief and church projects in Old Mazatlan, Mexico. He is currently a lieutenant in the Southington Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).

Chuck and his wife Judy have traveled throughout the U.S. and Europe. For the last several years, when not taking courses at OLLI, He devotes most of his time to his writing. He looks to have his novel Amanda’s Room, published by fall 2010. Chuck credits his participation in OLLI, especially the courses in writing and poetry as a major factor in helping him accomplish this life- long goal.




I have been a member of Olli since 2010 and a member at Large of the Leadership Council for the last three years. I spent my formative years in Brooklyn and Queens New York. After attending Cornell University I graduated from Downstate Medical Center. My medical training was in Seattle, Stanford, the National Institutes of Health and Yale. I practiced internal medicine in Southbury with Southbury Medical Associates of which I was a founding member until 2008, receiving a Laureate award for Connecticut from the American College of Physicians in 2007. I had been a Fellow of the A.C.P. since 1972. When I retired in 2008 I was an Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine at Yale School of Medicine.

Since retiring, my wife Pat Fahey and I have traveled frequently and I have presented some of these trips at the Olli Cafe. I enjoy gardening with Olli and the Brass City Harvest as well as taking poetry, opera and political courses at Olli. I also take on-line courses with Pat and I have six children and 8 grandchildren between us and manage our home and garden together. We also find time to attend the theater, concerts, and movies.


ANN ROMPRE – Waterbury

Travel Committee Co-Chair

Ann is a resident of Waterbury, CT, having originally grown up in the neighboring town of Naugatuck. She graduated from Naugatuck High School and then from Southern CT State University with a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Art Education. After 59 wonderful years of enjoying kids as an Elementary Art Teacher, most of those years in Naugatuck, she retired in 2006. A year after, she joined OLLI and is currently one of the Co-Chairs of the Travel Committee. She has also served on the Curriculum Committee and the Nominating Committee.

She and her husband, Earl, have enjoyed building a vacation home in VT where they have snowmobiled, canoed, and hiked. At home and in VT she also enjoys flower gardening. She is grateful for OLLI providing her with the space to expand her mind and body and spirit.


NANCY VIA – Prospect

Co-Chair of the Clubs and Activities Committee, Book Club

Nancy Via is retired from Southern Connecticut State University (New Haven, CT) where she has been a member of the teaching faculty for 38 years. She has a B.S. Degree, a Masters in Library Science Degree and a Sixth Year Diploma in Administration and Supervision. Her position at Southern was as a University Librarian in the Reference Department/Bibliographic Instruction Unit. During the course of her tenure at Southern, she held numerous organizational positions, including Spokesperson for the Library Faculty Department and Chairperson of the University Sabbatical Leave Committee.

She has served as President of the Friends of the Prospect Public Library and most recently was elected President of the Prospect Historical Society. She serves on the Prospect Library Board of Directors. During the past two years, she has been an active member of the OLLI Leadership Council where she has served as Chairperson of the Guidelines Committee, Chairperson of the Nominating Committee and Co-chairperson of the Membership Committee. Nancy is enthusiastic about OLLI and UConn and is particularly interested in partnership opportunities it affords.

Since retirement, Nancy has participated in an Elderhostel program in Chicago as well as travel in the United States. Although she is very active in OLLI and the Prospect community, she continues to enjoy special times with her son Gregory, and twin grandsons, Elliott and Ross.


DELMA WAY – Watertown

Co-Chair of the Clubs and Activities Committee

Delma was born on a ranch in Alpine, Texas, in the area of what is now the Big Bend National Park of the southwest. As a youngster, her family moved to El Paso, where she attended public schools.

After her education, she worked for ten years for the federal government at William Beaumont Army Hospital, during which she worked for the Chief of General Surgery, which included that of supervisor of the ward secretaries. She later worked for the Chief of the Department of Surgery, followed by the Director of Medical Education, working with interns and residents. Before leaving for Connecticut, she ran the Tumor Board Registry.

Having settled in Watertown, she stayed home for 16 years taking care of a young, growing family, during which she challenged herself to learn numerous skills of interest. This included organic gardening, food preservation, sewing for the family and home, chair-caning, rug braiding, and various types of needlework.

In her first position back to work, she worked with the Director of Admissions of the Forman School in Litchfield. Following this, she spent 8 years at the VNA Group, which was the result of a major merger in which she participated as Corporate Secretary, combining town VNAs of the Greater Waterbury and Hartford Visiting Nursing Associations. This was followed by another 8 years as Communications Liaison with emphasis on keeping employees of the various town agencies informed and appreciated.

In later years she worked as account manager at a digital printing firm, and finally retired from ESPN where she worked with two coordinating producers.

Delma is now enjoying the pleasures of retirement, which is blessed by three grown children and seven grandchildren. In her leisure time, she volunteers at the yearly Litchfield Jazz Festival, previously at the yearly Litchfield Road Race, and presently at the Palace Theater, where she is a member of the Volunteer Leadership Advisory Board, and also volunteers at the Thomaston Opera House and Seven Angels Theater as time permits. OLLI has become one of her major passions and she looks forward to continued participation in this unique venture.



OLLI Cafe Committee Co-Chair

I was born in Waterbury and attended Kingsbury Grammar School and Sacred Heart High School. I graduated from the UConn School of Nursing with a Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing. Many years later I graduated from the Hartford Graduate Center, affiliated with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, with a Master’s Degree in Health Care Administration.

My husband, Nick, and I were married in 1965 and have two daughters: Kimberly and Nicole.

I began my career at the New Haven VNA and worked at the Alameda County Health Department, Oakland, California while Nick was stationed at The Treasure Island Naval Station in San Francisco. When we returned to Connecticut I began my long career in home health care, working as the Administrator of two different agencies. One of them was Valley Care Cooperative, Waterbury. I worked with community organizations and cooperatives in other states to start Valley Care which was the only worker-owned home health care agency in CT.

I enjoyed working in home health care because it allowed me to make a significant difference in people’s lives. We were able to help people stay in their homes as long as possible, supporting them until it was no longer safe there.

I took an early retirement in 2000 to travel with my husband who was working as a consultant all over the country. We spent a lot of time in California, Illinois, Virginia, Georgia and Florida. Nick is an ordained Deacon in the Catholic Church so over the years my volunteer activities have been church related. I do still, however, continue to serve on the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute Board of Directors in the Bronx. Our mission is to support quality care through quality jobs.

Nick and I love to travel and have traveled extensively in the United States, South America, the Caribbean, and Europe. I am hoping that we can make one more trip abroad to visit the Scandinavian countries and parts of Russia. In the meantime, we spend part of the winter in Florida and as much of the summer as we can at our beach house in Narragansett, RI.



Vice President and OLLI Cafe Committee Co-Chair

Mila’s father was a career Navy man so she had the opportunity to live in various parts of the country, however, has lived in the Wolcott area since 1986. She has recently relocated to Middlebury with her husband Joseph Shea.

She is a retired professional Town Planner with 30 years of experience in land use, zoning, and community development. She served as Town Planner and Manager of the development office of the Town of West Hartford. During her tenure as Town Planner, West Hartford experienced unprecedented development and reinvestment including the Town’s first mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented development known as Blue Back Square.

She earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Connecticut and a Master of Public Administration from the University of New Haven. She also attended the University of Colorado, Graduate School of Urban and Regional Planning where she had the opportunity to learn and appreciate the importance of Town Planning and its impact on our quality of lives.

After graduating from College, Ms. Limson served as a Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA) and worked as a public civil servant recruiting volunteers for the Peace Corps/VISTA Agency. She has worked for a variety of nonprofits including the Urban League of Greater New Haven and the Capitol Region Council of Governments in Hartford.

Since her retirement, Mila now dedicates her time and skills to a variety of civic and cultural organizations. She is a member of the Board of Directors for the Literacy Volunteers of Greater Waterbury and also an ESL tutor for the agency. She has been a volunteer with Foodshare, Inc and is involved with the Connecticut Forest and Park Association and Friends of the Office of State Archaeology. Mila also co-chairs the OLLI Café Committee.

Mila enjoys spending time with her 1-year-old granddaughter as well as traveling and hiking with her husband.




Joe spent 40 years in the education field. He began teaching English at Immaculate High School in Danbury shortly after graduating from Fairfield University. He received his Master’s Degree from Western Connecticut State University and a sixth-year degree from Southern Connecticut. He then began a 28-year stint teaching English at New Fairfield High School. He spent the last four years of his career at the Connecticut State Department of Education giving workshops and overseeing English Language programs throughout the state.

Joe has been married to his wife Ellen, whom he met at Immaculate High School, for almost 52 years. They have 2 children and lived in Waterbury for their entire lives until a recent move to Wolcott. Jow has always liked theatre. He directed many plays at both high schools, enjoyed attending plays and has been an aisle captain at the Palace Theater for many years. Another passion is travel. He and Ellen have made frequent trips to Europe, Russia, and the Caribbean.



Voices & Visions Co-Chair



Voices & Visions Co-Chair




Mary Fitzpatrick Peitler is happy to be joining the OLLI Leadership Council and hopes to contribute in whatever way she is able. She has been a member of OLLI for the past four years and serves on two committees. She has had poems published in “Voices and Visions” and writes a weekly arts column for the OLLI Newsletter.

Mary is a New York City native, a graduate of St. John’s University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology and a Master’s in New Testament Theology. After moving to New Milford, CT in 1975, she raised her family of two sons and a daughter before returning to work in 1983 as the administrative assistant to the First Selectman of that town. Subsequently, she worked twenty-five years at New Milford Visiting Nurse & Hospice where she held many positions. At various times Mary did writing and public relations was the Coordinator of Fund Development and was assistant to the Hospice Director.

She retired two years ago after serving 15 years as Director of Volunteers, recruiting, training and placing Hospice volunteers. She is thrilled to be retired! Living in a three-generation household she is able to spend a lot of time with her two grandsons, and her dog Cleo. She is also fortunate to have two young granddaughters who live in CT. Mary now has her own freelance writing, editing, and proofreading business called “Look Smart.” Her hobbies include reading, genealogy, singing, and she is hoping to travel more. A trip to bonny Scotland is in the works!