NAUGATUCK — Legends from Naugatuck High School were immortalized last week as they gathered to share their stories with friends, family and students at their former stomping grounds.
Naugatuck High School officially opened its Lobby of Legends with a ceremony May 11. The Lobby of Legends displays the photos and accomplishments of Naugatuck High graduates chosen for the honor. Twenty-six graduates were inducted into the Lobby last week.
“Each of our recipients has excelled and gained prominence in their chosen fields of endeavor. For that reason, we honor them with induction into the Naugatuck High School Lobby of Legends,” said Robert Aquavia, a Naugatuck High School graduate who emceed the event.
Holly Fitzsimmons, one of the nine inductees present at the ceremony, graduated from Naugatuck High in 1967. She went on to work as a lawyer, a professor of law at Yale University, and a magistrate judge in the federal court system for the district of Connecticut.
“I am a product of Naugatuck schools,” Fitzsimmons said. “The roots that I got from Naugatuck and Naugatuck High School underscore much of what I have done since I left here. My love of history was deepened and encouraged by Joanna Walsh, who taught history to me. My interest in journalism was sparked by working in the school newspaper. My involvement in professional sports writing started by covering the Naugatuck High School teams for the Naugatuck Daily News.”
Fitzsimmons said it was classes she took in high school that helped steer her toward her career.
“Frank Johnson’s civics class was one that made us all think about our responsibilities to our country and our responsibilities to our community. I think we all agree it would be better for everyone if we had more classes like that today,” Fitzsimmons said.
For Robert Breault, a 1958 graduate of Naugatuck High, it was a math class that changed his life.
Following his eighth-grade year in the summer of 1954, Breault found himself entranced by calculus and pursuing a career that used math.
“I sat down on a Saturday morning and decided I was going to do space-based research,” Breault said.
His pursuit of education led him to receive his Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics from Yale University and his Master of Science degree and Ph.D. in optical sciences from the University of Arizona. Breault is now the president and founder of Breault Research Organization and has worked on numerous space crafts, including the Hubble telescope.
While it was his science and math teachers that influenced him, Breault said, his English, French, and Latin teachers all had a significant impact on him.
“They taught us there was value in all these other disciplines,” Breault said. “So all of them I still hold near and dear to my heart. So all you teachers have the privilege in sharing the fact that you make a difference and you never know how it’s propagated in the long run.”
Matt Andrew’s passion for photography and videography was fueled during his high school career.
“When I think back to my time at Naugy, I realize how some classes really changed my path and set me forth on this path I am on today,” said Andrew, a 2006 graduate. “For example, I took Spanish classes and I never really thought Spanish would be an integral part of my life, but then I went to Guatemala seven times. And there it was, it was exactly what I needed.
“More importantly were my video classes here at Naugatuck High School. When I came as a freshman I knew there were two video classes and I was super pumped because that’s all I wanted to do.”
Andrew, who owns Matt Andrew Visuals, has traveled the world for his work and has shot a number of high-profile events, including the 2013 World Series and the 2008 NBA finals. In 2012, he won an Emmy Award for his videography work on the X Games.
The start of his success can be traced back to his high school days, Andrew said.
“My video classes were an outlet that gave me creative process. They allowed me to think differently, experiment and prove to myself I was capable of more than I thought,” Andrew said.
The legends shared some words of wisdom for today’s high school students.
“Don’t expect to have your whole life planned out when you graduate from high school because things will change so much and there will be so many opportunities that you can’t even conceive of when you are that young. You should be flexible enough to recognize opportunities and take a chance when it presents itself,” Fitzsimmons said.
Breault added, “Have piece and calm and meditate. You were born for a reason. Find it.”
The following Naugatuck High School graduates were inducted into the school’s Lobby of Legends: