Chamber Corner to honor 4 dedicated to community service

June 4, 2018


By: Larry McHugh


The first full week of June is upon us in Middlesex County and throughout our great nation.


Early June is synonymous with one of the most important events that the chamber holds all year, our Annual Awards Dinner. This year’s event is scheduled for this Wednesday, June 6, from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Red Lion Hotel in Cromwell.


Each year, the chamber presents a series of Distinguished Citizen Awards to deserving individuals who serve as an inspiration to others, and are recognized by the Middlesex community as unselfishly giving his or her time and talent to produce a lasting benefit to the area. The Distinguished Citizen Committee chose the recipients from a list of over 230 nominees. The 2018 recipients of the Distinguished Citizen Award are as follows: Steve Gorss, Carter Gowrie, and Richard & Joan Tomc.


Steven J. Gorss is the owner of Incredible CVS, a real estate investing firm in West Hartford, Connecticut. He is the former owner and operator of the Super 8 Motel in Cromwell. A Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce member since 1989, Steven serves on the board of the directors and the executive committee. He is a past chairman of our chamber, past chairman of our Strategic Planning Committee, and past chairman of the Cromwell division. He also served on the Support the Troops and Honor the Veterans Committee, Legislative Committee and Nominating Committees. Recognizing the Cromwell/ Middletown area was at the center of New England, Steve led a group with the three other hotels in Cromwell in a marketing effort titled "The Crossroads of New England". This highly successful program brought thousands of convention participants and dollars to the area. He is the founder and president of the North Meadows Merchants Association, and a past chairman of the Connecticut River Valley Tourism District. Steve also served as a member of the Connecticut Lodging Association, the National Eagle Scout Association, the Metro Hartford Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Hartford Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Connecticut Business and Industry Association. On the community side, Steve is a member of the Middlesex United Way's leadership circle, a member of the Community Foundation of Middlesex County's President's Society, a St. Parish Claver Church parish council member, and a member of the National Eagle Scout Association and Connecticut River Boy Scouts of America. He is a true and longtime friend of the chamber, and we are extremely proud of his success and grateful for his support.


S. Carter Gowrie is the founder and CEO of Gowrie Group. Gowrie Group began in 1974 as a boutique boat & yacht insurance specialty brokerage. Over time, the company expanded into also providing insurance solutions for marinas, boat dealers, yacht clubs and other recreational marine entities. From there, Gowrie’s portfolio of insurance offerings expanded to include general commercial, home & auto, and equine insurance, as well as employee benefits solutions and safety services. Gowrie Group is a Top CT Workplace for the seventh year running, and has more than 175 employees with primary offices in Westbrook CT, Darien CT, Newport RI, Marshfield MA and Annapolis MD. With a strong commitment to community, Carter began a successful yearly donation drive for the Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries. Since Gowrie Group began this fundraising initiative for the Soup Kitchen in 2004, the challenge has raised nearly $1,500,000, which equates to providing over four million meals to those in need in the community. Carter is also on the board of The Katharine Hepburn Cultural Arts Center in Old Saybrook and a number of other community focused causes. We look forward to honoring Carter and are grateful for his support of Middlesex County.


Joan Fung-Tomc graduated from UCLA and earned a Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut. She began her career as Chief of Microbiology at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, New York and then joined Bristol-Myers Squibb in Wallingford where she worked for 31 years and participated in the discovery, development and registration of seven antibacterial and antiviral drugs. Joan has been active in various local non-profits, including the Friends of the Russell Library, St. Colman Church, Middletown Board of Health, and Science Education Outreach in the Meriden Public Schools. She serves on the Board of Trustees of Mercy High School and volunteers as a Medicare counselor with the Connecticut Agency on Aging.  


Rich Tomc is a graduate of John Carroll University, Harvard Law School and Wesleyan University. After law school and military service, he joined the corporate law department of IBM Corporation in New York and later the Hartford law firm of Ribicoff & Kotkin. Rich relocated to Middletown in 1978 and formed a law firm where he practiced for over 31 years, and more recently joined the Middletown office of Updike, Kelly & Spellacy. He has served as Middletown Corporation Counsel and Town Attorney for Cromwell and East Hampton. Rich is a Liberty Bank Director and is active in various community organizations including the Community Foundation, Middlesex Hospital, Middletown Rotary Club, Northern Middlesex YMCA, Russell Library, Long Hill Estate Authority and St. Colman Church. Joan and Rich are known throughout our community as terrific people and friends to many. As you can see, our Distinguished Citizen Committee has once again chosen four outstanding individuals. We look forward to honoring all of them on Wednesday evening.


In addition to the Distinguished Citizen Awards, the chamber also presents the Michael L. Green Award which is presented annually to a member of the police or fire community for his or her outstanding service to the community and to the chamber. The 2018 Recipient of the Michael L. Green Award is Captain Gary Wallace of the Middletown Police Department. Gary Wallace is a veteran of the United States Navy who served on board the USS John F. Kennedy during the Persian Gulf era. He is active with a number of local veterans organizations and supports many community causes including service as chairman of the Board of Directors of the Gilead Community Services, as a member of the Grants Committee for the Community Foundation of Middlesex County, a member of the Advisory Board for the Middlesex County Substance Abuse Action Council, and as Vice President of the Board of Trustees for the Community Follows the Patriot. Gary is also Corresponding Secretary for the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives. These are just a few examples of his outstanding record of community support on a number of fronts. We appreciate his service to our nation and to our community, and look forward to honoring him on Wednesday night.


In addition to the awards, the Annual Dinner features the presentation of the chamber’s three scholarship awards. This year, the Governor Raymond E. Baldwin Scholarship Award will be presented to Nicole Zalewski of Vinal Technical High School, the Harry H.S. Phillips, Jr. Scholarship Award will be presented to Marilyn Vazquez of Mercy High School, and the Lorraine C. McHugh Scholarship Award will be presented to Craig Allen of Haddam-Killingworth High School. We look forward to celebrating with these three deserving high school students who were chosen by our Scholarship Committee. We congratulate them and their families and wish them the best as they begin their collegiate careers.


Finally, the event marks the official changeover of the chamber’s chairmanship as Rick Morin officially passes the “gavel” to Jay Polke. Rick, who is a Partner with Guilmartin, DiPiro and Sokolowski in Middletown, has had a fantastic year as chairman. He has traveled with me all around Middlesex County to division meetings, grand opening celebrations, chamber events and more. He has worked well with the staff, and has led our board in a strong and professional manner. I thank him personally, and on behalf of the chamber, for his effort and support. Jay Polke, owner and operator of Willowbrook Spirit Shop in Cromwell, is also a committed member and longtime friend of the chamber. He is a leader in the town of Cromwell and throughout our region on so many fronts. More importantly however, he is a terrific man and an outstanding corporate citizen. I know he is excited about the opportunity to lead our organization, and we look forward to working with him over the course of the next year.


Other events we are looking forward to in June include our Annual Real Estate Luncheon at The Elks Club Patio in Middletown this Thursday, June 7, our June Business After Work Networking reception at Mattabesett Canoe Club at Harbor Park on Monday, June 11, Middletown’s 21st Annual Cruise Night On Main, powered by NAPA, on Wednesday, June 13, and the 2018 Travelers Championship which is scheduled for June 18-24 at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell. The Travelers Championship has once again attracted an outstanding field of players to Cromwell. This major PGA event is also a major economic generator and tourist attraction for our region. Discounted tickets for the 2018 Travelers Championship are once again available through the chamber. All tickets available are general admission “Grounds” tickets. Cost is $30.00 per ticket, a 38% savings on the gate price for “Grounds” admission. I will have much more on the tournament and the breakfast as we draw closer, and fans interested in buying discounted tickets for the tournament can contact the chamber office or visit


In closing, the chamber is always proud to participate in grand opening celebrations for new businesses, and in anniversary celebrations for businesses that have demonstrated sustained success. Last Friday, I joined chamber Vice Chairman Jay Polke and Westbrook Division Co-Chair Mary Brewster for the grand opening of Colors in the Wind on Westbrook Place in Westbrook. Colors in the Wind features a variety of options for kites and beach going apparel such as chairs, Frisbees and more. We congratulate Al Mivervini and Ron Beattie on the opening of this exciting new business, and wish them the best of luck moving forward. We are also very much looking forward to attending the 10th anniversary celebration for Empower Leadership Sports and Adventure Center in Middletown on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. It is hard to believe that Empower, Southern New England’s only treetop zip-line canopy tour, is celebrating 10 seasons of zip lining fun and empowerment on its 30-acre outdoor adventure center. I look forward to joining Empower President and General Manager Dan Jaskot, who serves on our Board of Directors and as chairman of our Young Professionals’ Alliance, Mayor Dan Drew, and a number of other supporters will join us for this important event. Finally, Friday morning takes us to Durham for the Grand Re-Opening of Durham Market which has recently undergone extensive renovations. Organic foods, specialty coffee, fine cheeses and delivery options are just a few of the changes made by Reshma Patel and the entire leadership team at the market. The refurbished market looks great, and we look forward to celebrating with them, First Selectwoman Laura Francis, and other friends and supporters on Friday morning.


We are knocking on summer’s door in Middlesex County, and the chamber continues to be on the move.


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