MERIDEN — The 2021 Meriden Hall of Fame inductees include a downtown businessman, a U.S. Secretary of Education, two community activists, and the founder of one of the most famous lamp companies in the world.
This year, the Meriden Hall of Fame directors voted to induct Bruce Burchsted in the category of Business and Commerce; Rose Z. Cignatta and Larry Pelletier in the category of Community Service; Miguel A. Cardona, Ed.D., U.S. Secretary of Education, in the category of Education; and Philip Handel in the Historic Person category.
The induction ceremony will be at 1 p.m. Sunday in the Maloney High School cafeteria. The event is open to the public free of charge. People are selected based on recognition as outstanding in their field and having lived and/or worked in Meriden at some time.
This is the second recent education honor for Cardona, who was tapped earlier this year by President Joe Biden to be his U.S. Education Secretary. Cardona is a second-generation Meriden native who attended city schools, graduated Wilcox Regional Technical High School and began a career as an educator in the city. After working as a fourth grade teacher, Cardona was named principal at Hanover Elementary School and later moved to the central office as an associate superintendent. He was named commissioner of the state Department of Education by Gov. Ned Lamont in 2019 and began his role as U.S. Secretary in the spring. He was honored with an education award last month by the Midstate Chamber of Commerce.
Cardona and his family reside in the city and his children attend Maloney High School. An education department spokesman confirmed Cardona would be attending the Hall of Fame Induction ceremony on Sunday.
Since 2018, the Hall of Fame directors have collaborated with Maloney High School on the Meriden History Research Experience. Students research people from Meriden’s past and present and nominate deserving individuals for the Hall of Fame. Two 2021 inductees were nominated by Maloney High School students, organizers said.
Burchsted is the owner of Prentis Printing Solutions Inc., a 50-year-old print shop on Pratt Street that has survived devastating flooding and industry changes that shuttered other businesses. Burchsted has helped shine a spotlight on the city’s chronic flooding that led to federal funds to combat the problem.
“Today, Bruce and his staff are proud of the reputation they have earned as one of Central Connecticut's most versatile printing companies,” according to a company website. “Since its opening the company has remained family owned and operated and now extends into the second generation.”
When reached about his induction, Burchstead said, “"It kind of came out of the blue. It"s quite an honor to be recognized by your peers. But it saddens me to hear negative stuff about Meriden because Meriden has been very good to us."
Larry Pelletier founded Beat the Street on South Colony Street as a boxing center for youth in 1994. Pelletier operated the center as it grew into a recreational and educational program for local youths and adults.
“I was surprised,” Pelletier said about the honor. “I look at it as an accomplishment of not just me but what we’ve able to do as the Beat the Street community.”
Rose Cignatta was a community activist who died last year at the age of 92. She left a legacy of community activism and child advocacy spanning five decades.
She obtained an undergraduate degree from Central Connecticut State College and master's degree from The University of New Hampshire. She was a member of Saint Rose of Lima Church, according to an obituary published in the Record-Journal.
Cignatta was a founder of "Council of Concern" along with the Rev. Charles Herrick in the 1980s. She pursued and obtained National Historical status for the 1711 Inn (Solomon Goffe House), Curtis Memorial Library, and old Liberty Street School. She later established the Curtis Memorial Library building as Meriden's first Cultural Center and served five years as its first commissioner.
In the seventies and eighties she was a Common Cause advocate for the City of Meriden, a board officer for Meriden Housing Authority and corresponding secretary for the Meriden Hall of Fame. For several years she was director/president of Gallery 53.
Philip Handel is the 2021 Historical nomination. Handel established the Handel Co. in Meriden, specializing in glass decorating and lamp manufacturing, in 1876. The company also specialized in high-quality reverse painted lamp shades and at the time were considered a moderately economical alternative to the lamps of Louis Comfort Tiffany. The company also made leaded glass shades similar to Tiffany as well as vases, humidor boxes and decorative objects, according to Hoylelamps.com.
This year’s induction ceremony will feature live musical entertainment from Inner Groove and light refreshments. Face masks are required for everyone, regardless of vaccination status.