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Opening a Door Leads to Giving Back for One Alumnus

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January 2012 6,003 views No Comment

John Greene (MA ’67, Ph.D. ’70), a master’s student at UConn in the 1960s, was also teaching high school math at the time. One day he was walking down a hall on campus, where he saw the sign “Project Essay Grade” and he knocked on the door. Entering that door would change his course of study – and his life forever.

The sign on the door, “Project Essay Grade,” was for a US Office of Education doctoral program at UConn, focusing on behavioral science research. In speaking with the professor in charge, Dr. Page, Greene discovered “they were looking for people like me.”

“The program offered a stipend, which matched my teaching salary,” he recalled. “It also paid for all the costs, including tuition, books, and travel to conferences. There was even an extra allowance for your children.”

He switched academic programs from math education to behavioral science research and started in the program with nine other doctoral students, including Dr. Fran Archambault (MA ’69, Ph.D. ’70). The two students built a life-long connection.

“Fran was a year ahead of me,” said Greene. “He was very helpful to many people. I have the highest regard for him, and his expertise and dedication.”

“He would go out of his way to help people. Fran even showed me the secret spots to park on campus, but I had to promise not to tell anyone,” Greene smiled.

The doctoral research fellowship — which was through UConn’s School of Education (later renamed the Neag School of Education) — focused on behavioral science. “At UConn, they had outstanding facilities and computers.” It was Greene’s first experience with computers and educational research.

The project focused on computer simulations and Artificial Intelligence. He was very curious about the research focus and thought it was an unbelievable opportunity. The program and experience helped Greene prepare for the world after college. “It gave me the ability and credentials. I had selected UConn because of its reputation,” he said.

Along the way, he met education psychology professor Dr. Joe Renzulli. “I’m a math guy – I do stats and computer analysis – and Joe really helped me with my writing.”

“Unlike others, he didn’t just accept or reject the writing,” said Greene. “He actually taught me to write. We would go over each chapter, and he’d mark it up in a helpful way. Joe did that for many people, and it really helped me.”

Renzulli served on Greene’s dissertation committee, which Greene fondly reflected on. “I keep up with all that Joe’s doing. I’m so happy for him and all his accomplishments.”

“John was an outstanding student when he was here at UConn,” Renzulli recalled. “He graduated and went on to become a highly respected professor and then an entrepreneur. He went into a different aspect of education, on the business side of education services.”

After graduation, Greene went on to teach at the University of Bridgeport. He worked there for the next 10 years, focusing on educational research. His research expertise also allowed him to explore consulting opportunities outside the classroom, which led to him publishing over 100 articles, manuals and professional papers.

While at the University of Bridgeport, Greene worked with his doctoral friend, Archambault, on National Science Foundation grant projects.  Archambault was at Boston University at the time, and Greene helped him with various projects, including one with math development for children.

Archambault needed help and asked Greene to get involved, along with Renzulli. They travelled together, collected and analyzed data together, and wrote reports together. They also had a chance to talk about life and strengthen their bond. “I have great memories of working on those projects with John,” Archambault said.

“He was committed, insightful, talented and fun to be with. What could better than having fun with your work?”

Greene also reflected about those projects. “We went around the country, interviewing the brightest kids,” Greene recalled. “Some could solve math puzzles faster than the professors. Our research focused on how the kids were taught, and their verbal interactions were measured.”

Greene determined his next path would be consulting full time and helped launch a consulting firm with a colleague, Joe Keilty, a professor at the University of Bridgeport. Named Keilty, Coldsmith and Company, the firm launched in the 1980s. Greene was a founding member.

He spent the next 30 years flying all over the world, with his second home being a hotel room. Greene’s favorite was La Valencia Hotel in La Jolla, California, near where the firm was based.

Members of the firm worked with Fortune 500 organizations like General Electric, American Express, IBM, AT&T, and numerous others, including the FBI. They developed organizational and leadership development modules for their clients, and Greene’s research and expertise with behavioral sciences constituted key components. They were among the first to use 360-degree feedback and other cutting-edge leadership development and measurement tools.

He also met industry leaders along the way. Jack Welch from GE was one of those leaders.

“I met the dynamic Jack Welch when we were consulting for GE,” said Greene. “Often we were doing our training at the Crotonville facility, and Mr. Welch would take a helicopter to the meeting. Everyone gathered at a reception area and waited for him to arrive.”

“He gave a presentation and then opened it up to questions. He was very receptive to questions, but if you asked him a question, sometimes he would turn it around and ask the individual what he or she thought.”

“Hopefully, they all had good responses,” he chuckled.

An avid sports fan and former collegiate athlete himself (four varsity letters including golf), Greene actively followed UConn sports, especially men’s and women’s basketball. He and his graduate school friend, Archambault, attended many UConn basketball games. He also enjoyed attending Super Bowls, Little League World Series, Final Fours and the Olympics with his six children.

“We’ve stayed in touch through important family events and various UConn functions, including events at the Neag School, Alumni Association events and football and basketball events,” recalled Archambault. “John is party of my family, and I am part of his. And we are both members of the UConn family, and proudly so.”

The consulting business was very successful, but after almost 30 years he decided to retire and hand part of the business to his children. Greene now has more time to spend with hobbies, including UConn sports and playing golf, both of which he enjoys with Archambault.

When asked who is the better golfer, Greene wouldn’t divulge who has the better handicap. He did, however, confess to really enjoying relaxing on the fairways and contemplating retirement. In between drives and putts, he started thinking about ways to give back to his alma mater. He thought about a scholarship that would benefit students studying educational psychology focused on measurement– the program he studied.

He connected with the folks at the UConn Foundation about setting up the scholarship and determined it would be wonderful to honor his life-long friend, Archambault, who has done so much for UConn and is always giving back.

“I’ve known Fran all these years,” Greene said, adding that he couldn’t respect or imagine a better professional than Archambault, which is why he named the scholarship in his honor, as opposed to himself.

The scholarship, officially named the “Friends and Colleagues of Francis X. Archambault, Jr. Fellowship,” was launched in 2006 and awards funds on an annual basis. Archambault is the Alumni Trustee of the University of Connecticut’s Board of Trustees, Professor Emeritus in the Neag School of Education and past president of the UConn Alumni Association.

“John thought it would be best to support graduate students in evaluation and measurement, the same discipline in which we earned our degrees,” said Archambault. “The scholarship helps move students along the path to the Ph.D. These students go on to take leadership roles at other universities and governmental agencies.”

Due to the scholarship, the students “have a direct impact on education here in Connecticut and across the nation.”

“I’m not surprised Greene established a scholarship back at his alma mater,” added Renzulli. “I know he’s always considered giving back, and I’m really proud of all that he’s accomplished.”

Last year’s recipient, Glen Davenport, is a current second-year doctoral student in measurement and starting to dive into his own research on cognitive diagnostic assessments. Davenport used the scholarship funds to attend the American Education Research Association (AERA) Conference in New Orleans.

“That was really a big deal, because as a first-year student, I did not have anything to present and was not eligible for most student travel grants,” said Davenport. “Attending the AERA meeting was a huge boost for me, as it gave me opportunities to network and ideas for my own lines of research.”

Davenport acknowledges the importance of the scholarship and who it’s in honor of. “(Dr. Archambault) is deeply connected to education, to UConn and this area. I know that the scholarship I received was in his honor, which is a seriously positive commentary on someone’s character.”

Davenport will carry on the legacy of Greene and Archambault through his studies and research.

Greene gets back to campus for UConn basketball and other sporting events. He’s also been able to meet some of the scholarship recipients at the spring Honors Celebration.

Opening that “Project” door years ago led to a new course of study, a new lifelong friend and a new career. He’s been happy he made that choice ever since.

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