April 11, 2012
STORRS, Conn. - Thomas D. Ritter J.D. `77, one of the University of Connecticut's most passionate and influential supporters, will receive the UConn Club's Crystal Award when the group holds its Annual Awards Dinner on Monday, April 16 in Gampel Pavilion.
The Crystal Award is bestowed on rare occasions to an individual who has made extraordinary contributions to the University of Connecticut and its athletic programs. While the awardee's support of the athletic programs is an important criteria, his/her contribution to the University as a whole is the distinguishing characteristic from other UConn Club awards.
Former winners of the award include former BIG EAST commissioners Dave Gavitt and Mike Tranghese, former UConn president Phil Austin, former Governor John G. Rowland, men's basketball coach Jim Calhoun, women's basketball coach Geno Auriemma, former Director of Athletics Lew Perkins, UConn Special Advisor to Athletics and former men's basketball coach Dee Rowe and former President of the UConn Board of Trustees Lew Rome.
Ritter has been a tireless advocate for all things UConn for more than 30 years and has played a key role in assuring that the University of Connecticut move from its position as a very good land grant regional institution to one of the nation's Top 20 public universities.
Ritter earned his undergraduate degree from Amherst College (`74) and received his law degree from the University of Connecticut School of Law in 1977.
Ritter represented his hometown of Hartford in the Connecticut General Assembly for 18 years (1980-1998), serving as Speaker of the House of Representatives for the last six years. He is past President of the National Speakers' Association and has been voted a life-long executive committee member of that body.
In his early years as a state representative, Ritter quickly became known as a vocal and loyal friend of the University of Connecticut. His continuing efforts assisted UConn as it increased its annual operating budget and he played an important role in the mid-1980s in helping UConn obtain bond funds to construct the Harry A Gampel Pavilion.
As Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ritter used his unique ability to achieve bi-partisan support on important state issues by drafting and helping secure passage of the UConn 2000 bill, the 10-year $1 billion state commitment to rebuild, renew and enhance the campuses of the University of Connecticut. That wide-ranging UConn 2000 program, which was approved and signed into law in 1995, encompassed 62 different construction projects, allowing UConn to attract top-notch students, administrators and faculty to the state's flagship university.
In 1999, after his retirement from the legislature, Ritter was asked to lead the charge for a new football stadium that would provide a facility for UConn to upgrade its football program. With Ritter playing his usual remarkable role behind the scenes that bill was financed by state surplus funds and passed on the last night of the 1999 legislative session, resulting in the building of Rentschler Field in East Hartford.
Because of the success of the UConn 2000 program, that was transforming the University of Connecticut into a 21st century elite institution of higher learning, Ritter again was asked to utilize his skills in building consensus support for a project. He was able to interact across both party lines, working with Governor John Rowland and the legislature to pass in 2002 a $1.3 billion program, "21st Century UConn", to continue the transformation of the University and its campuses. That second decade of state commitment to UConn was launched upon the conclusion of UConn 2000 and is continuing the reshaping and upgrading of all University of Connecticut campuses.
Ritter has been a vital member of the University of Connecticut Board of Trustees for more than a decade and currently serves as Vice-Chairman. He has been the recipient of a number of prestigious honors from his alma mater including---Honorary Doctor of Law in 2001, Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Connecticut School of Law and the University Medal. The University Medal, one of the highest honors awarded by the University of Connecticut, recognizes individuals whose "life and achievements serve as examples of the University's aspirations for its students" and who "have had a significant influence on the University."
Tom and his wife, Judge Christine Keller, live in Hartford, a short walk from where they both were brought up.