Alumni couple funds new entrepreneurship course to help Hartford start-ups

Alumni couple Michael and Shari Cantor have two passions: UConn and Greater Hartford.

So when they recently decided to donate to UConn, they knew they wanted to make a real impact in Greater Hartford by fostering economic development and entrepreneurship there.

Enter Build Hartford, a new course that will help UConn students develop entrepreneurial skills and work for a Hartford-area startup that interests them. Thanks to the Cantors’ donation, the course will premiere next spring as part of UConn’s Werth Institute.

“I care deeply about keeping young graduates from our universities here in the state,” says Michael ’80 (ENG), ’83 JD. “A key way to do that is to have a vibrant startup community where they all want to work.”

Michael (far left) and Shari Cantor (far right) and family members attending a UConn basketball game (photo provided).

Students will work with mentors and the Connecticut Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation team to solve real problems faced by Hartford-area start-ups. As a result, these transformative experiences will help educate, connect and inspire them to become future leaders and changemakers.

“It creates a framework to help build Hartford’s entrepreneurial community, helping to support the talent needs of startups in Hartford,” said David Noble, CEO of Werth Institute.

Build Hartford is designed to give more students, regardless of major, a taste of entrepreneurship.

“We are always looking for opportunities to expose all different types of students to the entrepreneurial skill set and mindset to be able to accelerate their growth and career trajectories. in whatever paths they choose to follow,” says Tara Watrous, head of the Werth Institute. entrepreneurial transformation.

Shari ’81 (BUS), a UConn trustee and mayor of West Hartford, said he wants to create a program with long-term impact.

“One of the things we want to do is give to something that builds,” she says. “We really want to start something. We believe this is an initial gift and a project that can take off and have a lasting impact.

Shari and Michael Cantor.
Shari and Michael Cantor (photo added).

In addition to Build Hartford, the Cantors’ donation will also support scholarship, Hillel, human rights and the Students First Fund, which provides financial support for students facing unforeseen hardship.

“I chair the board’s student life committee, and we’re also parents to two UConn grads,” Shari says. “The student experience is something I think about all the time.”

“I know the value of the Students First Fund, especially over the past year and a half with the challenges of COVID and so much uncertainty,” she says. “A lot of families are balancing so many things and unpredictable expenses can put enormous stress on them. The Students First Fund is a lifeline that can really keep a student on track to graduating.

Both Cantors’ enthusiastic support of UConn also extends to their volunteer work. In addition to being a director, Shari, CPA, served as president of Hillel and is a member of the UConn School of Business Hall of Fame.

Michael sits on the advisory boards for the School of Engineering and the School of Law. He is also a member of the Law School’s Centennial Planning Committee and was inducted into the School of Engineering’s Hall of Fame. Michael is a co-manager at Cantor Colburn, an intellectual property law firm, and taught at the law school for over 20 years as an adjunct professor. Additionally, he is Chairman of the Board of Connecticut Innovations, the state’s quasi-public venture capital firm.

Besides their volunteer work, the Cantors are big UConn basketball fans and can often be seen in the stands in support of the Huskies.

“We really bleed blue,” says Michael.

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