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The Class of 2012

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Vice President of Operations, O’Connell Care at Home & Staffing Services

Lord-DanielleA friend and colleague of Danielle Lord called her “a dangerous business person with a very big heart.”
Laughing as she explained that dichotomy, Lord admitted, “I’m very no-nonsense, and I’m not shy about getting to the point.” But, she added, as the director of an organization overseeing the home health care needs of hundreds of clients, with an out-call staff of 250 nurses, “we have a big responsibility; we’re taking care of people at the end of their lives. It’s very important to be doing the best you can.”
Lord arrived at O’Connell upon completion of her master’s in Health Care Management from Springfield College. “But I never thought I’d work in elder care,” she said. “When you’re getting that type of degree, you’re expecting to work in a hospital. I didn’t even know something like this existed. And now I basically run the whole company!”
And runs it quite well. Under her leadership, O’Connell’s has doubled both its visiting nurses and administrative staff. Once a presence only in the Greater Holyoke area, the company has branched out to Hadley, and there is currently an office getting underway in Franklin County.
The company’s president and CEO, Fran O’Connell, has high praise for Lord. “Whether it’s an employee, customer, or patient, Danielle never forgets that these folks are people, and that they deserve respect and dignity. She has the amazing ability to balance the needs of the business with the needs of the individual.”
Balance is a word that figures prominently in Lord’s life as well. While advancing her career in the health care field, she is also becoming more active in the community; she’s currently vice president of the Holyoke Rotary Club, which means she’ll lead that organization next year.  “We’re active globally,” she said of that organization, “but also very invested in the Holyoke community.”
Meanwhile, her home life is important to her as well. Lord and husband, Brett, have two dogs, Boggs and Layla, with whom she chose to share the spotlight at her 40 Under Forty photo shoot.
— Dan Chase

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Public Relations and Marketing Coordinator, Reliable Temps Inc.

Corriveau-ErinErin Corriveau says she likes to “connect the dots” — to make connections between businesses and individuals. And she has found plenty of ways to do so over the years.
Early on, she worked as a customer-service representative in the MassMutual call center and then at Baystate Health in administrative support and community relations, giving her a firsthand look at two of the region’s largest employers. At Baystate, the man she calls a mentor, Steven Bradley, who handles government relations and public affairs for the health system, cultivated in her a dual passion for business and the community.
As if to prove it, Corriveau moved from there into the director’s chair of the West of the River Chamber of Commerce. “I truly loved it, and I got to meet so many business people, and helped make those connections. I was able to be a resource to businesses while fostering my commitment to the community.”
These days, she’s making such connections in a different way, working for Reliable Temps. “I honestly think I’m in the best place possible for me,” she said. “We help connect companies that need a workforce with people who need jobs. Seeing both sides be completely satisfied is absolutely thrilling.”
She also writes a monthly column for Lioness magazine and hosts the local Businews Connect show online — two more ways of forging relationships and creating awareness of the local business scene.
The passion for community manifests itself in many ways outside of work as well; Corriveau is a board member of the Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield, as well as a board member for the Western Mass. chapter of Best Buddies and an executive council member of the Jimmy Fund.
Of the latter two groups, she said being a parent has given her a heart for organizations that help young people. “I’m lucky to have two very healthy children, but a lot of parents aren’t as lucky. For kids with cancer or kids with developmental disabilities, as a parent myself, I want to be as helpful in any way as I can be.”
— Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Assistant Dean for Student Affairs, Western New England University College of Pharmacy

Spooner-JoshFor Joshua Spooner, taking a position at the nascent WNEU College of Pharmacy was a chance to get closer to home, as he and his wife both grew up in New England.
“I was working at the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy when I learned they were going to open a college of pharmacy here at Western New England, and I was very excited about that,” he said.
Once on board, he was part of a group that built the program from the ground up. He helped develop the faculty-student advising program, the student handbook and college organizations, and various marketing and promotional materials. More recently, “my role focuses on the admissions aspects, developing criteria for evaluating candidates for admission,” resulting in an initial class of 75 last fall.
“I also teach a couple of classes to first-year students: Introduction to Pharmacy, showing the different career avenues a doctor of Pharmacy degree can provide for them, and I also teach Health Policy and Delivery, which ties into my master’s degree in Health Policy,” he noted.
Spooner finds time for civic involvement, including support of food drives at his church, where he’s an assisting minister, and he also runs a sports Web site. But he devotes most of his time to building on the early promise of WNEU’s newest major.
“I have fun. No two days are the same,” he said. “I love being with the students — their energy is infectious. I’m not that old myself, but being around them keeps me feeling young and vibrant.”
He also recognizes the vibrancy of his chosen field; the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts the need for an additional 70,000 pharmacists over the next decade, a 25% increase. That potential can’t hurt his efforts to draw top pharmacy students to WNEU.
“I’m very happy where I am right now,” he said, noting that health care in general is heading into a challenging but exciting new era. “As the population ages, there’s always going to be demand for skilled individuals in the health care field, whether it’s in pharmacy, medicine, nursing, whatever.”
— Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Chiropractor and Owner, Laprise Chiropractic & Wellness

Laprise-RonaldDr. Ronald Laprise was raised with strong moral values and believes that, if everyone did the right thing, the world would be a better place. He became an Eagle Scout at age 15, and his mission is to help people live healthier lives.
Laprise enjoyed watching James Bond and Indiana Jones flicks when he was younger. “The good guys always win, and when you do the things that are right and noble, the Hollywood ending can occur, and life can be happy,” he said.
He has a logical mind, graduated 10th in his high-school class, and decided to become a chiropractor at age 16, which he considers “the best decision of my life.” Laprise is in the process of becoming a board-certified wellness practitioner, and is passionate about health and wellness. “Chiropractic is a holistic profession, and I talk to people about their entire body and how the choices they make influence its function,” he said.
He is also dedicated to civic and charitable endeavors. Laprise is a second-term board member of the Young Professional Society of Greater Springfield. He serves on its Ambassador’s Committee and financial task force, and is the co-creator, organizer, and an event sponsor of the group’s annual dodgeball tournament, which raised more than $4,000 last year for nonprofits.
He is an active member of the Business Networking International Profit Partners Chapter, received several of its Notable Networker Awards, and has numerous professional affiliations. He serves on the Rotary Club, has volunteered at the Friends of the Homeless shelter, and is on the Trails for Nails committee of Habitat for Humanity, where he was the top fund-raiser in 2010 and 2011.
His newest venture came after his son, Massimo, was born with Down syndrome. He organized a team that raised more than $2,200 for the Down Syndrome Resources Group of Western Mass. during its 2011 Buddy Walk.
It’s a cause that Laprise, who is married with twin 4-year-old daughters, knows he will be involved with into the future. But today, like every other day, he is “doing my part to help others in a way that is right and noble.”
— Kathleen Mitchell

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Assistant Director of Information Technology, Center for Human Development

Conrad-ScottScott Conrad joined the IT department at the Center for Human Development eight years ago and quickly started taking on more responsibility. It wasn’t too hard to find some.
“We’re actually a rather small department for an agency of our size and geographic location,” he explained. “We’re spread out wide, with a lot of locations, and to have an IT department as small as we are, we have to wear a lot of hats.”
Those hats include overseeing the support and administration of all data and network systems for more than 90 sites where CHD offers services, as well as strategic planning for the agency’s technology future.
“We’re kind of the architects of what our computer infrastructure is going to look like, and we also do a lot of troubleshooting,” said Conrad, who takes pride in providing that support for an organization known for meeting difficult needs.
“We help people when they’re at their worst or have got nowhere else to go. We run the gamut with all kinds of social services, making sure people are able to function as a society,” he said.
“We all have a responsibility to others who do not have the luxuries of good health or other things that many of us take for granted, to help them out,” he added. “I came from private industry, where everything was about dollars and the bottom line. Now I’m in a place where the money aspect is important, to be sure, but only to make sure it stretches as far as it can go to serve the client. And that’s a refreshing thing.”
As refreshing as a scuba dive, one of many outdoor activities Conrad enjoys. He is an accomplished Eagle Scout who has helped other Scouts with their community projects and personal development, both on a personal level and through service on the Eagle Boards.
“My experience with Boy Scouts and the lessons I learned there have truly shaped me into the person I am,” he said. “They gave me the confidence to handle any situation that comes up, and gave me the leadership ability to deal with people.”
— Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Medical Director, Center for Human Development

Somers-NateSince being board-certified in both general adult psychiatry and child and adolescent psychiatry, Dr. Nate Somers has worked at some of the area’s most noted mental-health hot spots, from Providence Behavioral Health Hospital in Holyoke to the Carson Center in Westfield.
But his role as medical director of the Center for Human Development, which offers a variety of social and health services at numerous locations across Western Mass., has been his most challenging assignment yet — and one he has relished since accepting the job last fall.
As a doctor, he deals with patients — mostly young people, but adults as well — struggling with a variety of issues, from mental illness to substance abuse. “But, in terms of my administrative role, I’m trying to take this big agency and help everyone communicate internally better so we can coordinate services and serve people more effectively,” he said.
“What I find gratifying about this work is that we’re able to help people who have significant needs find a way to get through their lives in the face of very significant challenges,” Somers added. “It’s a good feeling when someone comes into my office and they’re clearly struggling, in tears, and they talk to me about the whole litany of difficult goings-on in their life, and I’m able to listen and get them some support and help them think through some ways they can make things better.”
Somers also stays busy with four children of his own, as well as teaching Sunday school at his church and coaching first- and second-grade basketball and teeball teams in West Springfield — in other words, impacting lives in a positive way outside of work as well.
Meanwhile, he takes a hopeful view of his job. “Many times, people leave my office feeling they can get through the next day, the next two days, the next week … they leave with some hope that things will get better for them over time.”
If he didn’t have the optimism to expect such outcomes, “I wouldn’t be able to do this every day,” he said. “It’s a very difficult job.”
— Joseph Bednar

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Founder and President, Kellner Consulting, LLC

Kellner-KristenBefore embarking on her own business, Kristen Kellner said that her professional history was long and varied. “I worked pretty much in the media and finance industries,” she explained, from Wall Street to NBC, where she was an operations manager, to producing special projects for Star Jones.
After a stint in the venture-capital world, another of those career twists and turns, Kellner was recruited to be billionaire businessman Ted Forstmann’s personal project manager, where she oversaw many facets of his estate. “It was a pivotal point in my career to work for someone like him,” she remembered. “He was a brilliant businessman and leader, and that’s where I first got my sense of how powerful philanthropy is, in finding a passion and then doing something with it.”
During that time with Forstmann and in her first years back in Western Mass., Kellner experienced a series of life-altering events. She was misdiagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer, and was one day away from chemotherapy before she discovered the truth. “I realized then that life is too short,” she said.
Working at MassMutual, she and her husband were looking forward to their first child, but, “14 weeks into my pregnancy, we found out that our son had Trisomy 18 — three chromosomes. It’s not compatible with life,” she said.
But, Kellner proudly added, “I’ve been able to take adversity and traumatic experiences and turn them into something positive, by finding their special meaning.” What that translated into was an enduring involvement with the March of Dimes, where she is now vice chair of the board, and the successful implementation of an internal program at MassMutual designed to help with issues of pregnancy in the workplace.
She noted that her desire to help others wasn’t learned from Forstmann alone. She gives credit to her parents, Anne Marie and Ralph Ferraro of Springfield, 2003 winners of the Servian Award from the Italian Cultural Center for services to the community. “I’ve learned so much from their example,” she said. “I want to acknowledge them for who I’ve become.”
— Dan Chase

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
President, Foley/Connelly Financial Partners

Connelly-ChristopherRight out of college in 1998, Christopher Connelly went directly into financial planning. And he knew there were several ways he could proceed in this business.
“You can go to work for a larger financial corporation, or you can become an independent,” he said, adding that, like most, he worked for a large firm with the goal of later becoming independent, which he did. “In 2004, through some networking and strategic planning, I partnered with Brian Foley, who owned a property and casualty insurance agency. We decided to build a strategic alliance, where you get a partner with a group of clients who isn’t in the same field as yourself, but similar.”
Jokingly, he added, “if I wanted to be what I thought was mediocre, I’d be in a large branch and have them pay for my hard costs. But what I wanted was to have my own world, and have my own company. I knew that, if I wanted to be extraordinary, independent was and is the way to go.”
It wasn’t long before the firm branched out itself. Connelly jointly founded the partner company Foley/Connelly Benefits Group, focusing exclusively on employee benefits. At the same time, he knows that life isn’t just work and no play.
Recognizing the abundance of charity golf tournaments held every year, Connelly and his friend Rob Desilets, owner of local screen-printing shop Pro Style Graphics, decided to capitalize on what he called his “fraternity of hockey-league friends.” Playing off the name of the NHL trophy, the two started the Stanley Keg Tournament, a fund-raising event that takes place annually at the MassMutual Center, and which donates thousands every year to a local charity decided upon by the member players.
Past recipients have included the American Cancer Society/Leukemia Lymphoma Society, Shriners Hospital for Children in Springfield, and Griffin’s Friends at Baystate. To acknowledge those who might prefer the links to the rink, the Stanley Keg has grown into a summer golf tournament, and there are plans to add poker to the events.
Independent and extraordinary — that’s an award-winning combination.
— Dan Chase

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
Senior Environmental Scientist, Tighe & Bond

Rukakoski-DanAs a first-year student at UConn working toward a degree in business, Dan Rukakoski said he had a moment of insight into his future.
“I got to thinking about what I was studying for,” he remembered, “and I asked myself, ‘do I want to be sitting at a desk my entire life?’ So I took a look at my own values and interests to see what I could do that would ultimately keep me from burning out on a career.”
This exercise in introspection led to a profound change of course into natural-resources management. Straight out of college, he took a job with TRC, an environmental-engineering firm in Connecticut, and there he fine-tuned his environmental-science background into the field of wetlands management. When the opportunity arose to move to Westfield-based Tighe & Bond to become a wetlands scientist, he dove right in. In the five years that he’s been there, Rukakoski has quickly risen to the position of manager for Wetlands and Ecological Management Services.
The president of Tighe & Bond credits him as a key contributor to the company’s development in areas of complicated environmental permitting. But others are also happy he made that move to Western Mass. A resident of Southampton, he’s been a member of that town’s Conservation Commission, and is currently consulting on the Greenway Committee in town on efforts to transform and link an old rail spur into the network of bike paths across the region.
But that memory of the student who was unsure of his future also informs his daily life, and Rukakoski is an active speaker in sophomore Environmental Science seminars at UMass Amherst on the employment marketplace for graduates in the field. “I had no idea what I was going to do after I graduated,” he said. “Those options weren’t laid out to me. The seminar is an opportunity to let students know what they could be doing right now to ready themselves for the workforce marketplace.”
In other words, he’s helping the next generation to get their feet wet — literally and figuratively.
— Dan Chase

40 Under 40 The Class of 2012
President, Jennings Real Estate

Jennings-KevinLooking back nearly a decade, to the day he decided to open his own business, Kevin Jennings recalls that it was an exciting, but also quite scary, time.
He had one young child, and a second on the way. Meanwhile, the commercial real estate market, which had been enjoying relative prosperity 10 years after its precipitous fall, was in what amounted to a holding pattern after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“It probably wasn’t the ideal time to leave the comfort of a job and go out on your own,” Jennings told BusinessWest. “But I had that entrepreneurial spirit within me; this was something I thought I could do — and something I had to do.”
So he left the comfort of the R.J. Greeley Company, and has never had any reason to look back. And while this entrepreneurial spirit is one of the big reasons why Jennings is a member of the 40 Under Class for 2012, there are many others, including his success with that venture he called Jennings Real Estate.
Indeed, starting with the sale of a small bakery building in downtown Holyoke within just a few weeks of setting up shop ‘— a modest sale that nonetheless provided Jennings with the needed cash flow to get a firm footing — he’s enjoyed steady growth, and had his best year in 2011, when the market was still struggling to recover from the lingering aftereffects of the Great Recession. He’s also handled  a number of significant transactions, including the deals that brought Home Depot and Preferred Freezer to the Campenelli Industrial Park in Westfield.
But there’s also his contributions of time and talent to the community, especially his work on the board of directors for Gray House in Springfield’s North End, an organization that provides services ranging from literacy programs to a food bank; from after-school programs to citizenship preparation. He’s also on the board of the Alden Credit Union, and supports a number of charitable organizations, including the American Cancer Society and Chicopee Boys & Club.
— George O’Brien