Fairfield County’s young professionals shine in the 13th annual 40 Under Forty ceremony

The atrium of Stamford’s Silicon Harbor commercial development hosted a wealth of youthful talent from the corporate, nonprofit and governmental worlds on June 20 for the 13th annual 40 Under Forty awards celebration of Fairfield County’s brightest young professionals.

Fox 61 meteorologist Matt Scott returned for the second consecutive year as emcee, humorously complaining about being disqualified for consideration despite being 52 years old. “I told them my IQ was under 40,” he said.

The event’s keynote speaker was one of last year’s honorees: Daniel Trust, founder and CEO of the Bridgeport-based Daniel Trust Foundation, a nonprofit that provides financial assistance to low-income students seeking to further their education. Trust detailed his tumultuous experiences as a survivor of the Rwandan genocide in the 1990s and his arrival in the U.S. in 2005 at the age of 15 with minimal English skills. He spoke of his decision in 2014 to leave a steady job at TD Bank to begin his foundation, which is awarding $20,000 in scholarships this year.

“My advice to you is this,” he said to the event’s honorees. “No matter what you go through in life, you always have to have hope. You always have to have faith. This applies to your personal life and to your business, as well. Don’t give up and keep working hard.”

While the honorees used their award acceptance remarks to thank family, friends and colleagues, several speakers punctuated their speeches with witty and self-deprecating observations on their unique career experiences. Devon Scanlon, owner and operator of the Brookfield franchise for Chick-Fil-A – the first in Connecticut – happily pretended that the audience was confused by her presence. “I know what you are all thinking: She sells chicken. How did she get on the stage?” she quipped. “I can tell you that I want you all to be eating more chicken.”

Blake Leonard, brand manager at Stew Leonard’s Wines in Norwalk, called attention to the appearance of three white hairs amid her long brunette locks and fretted that she might be considered ineligible if her hair color migrated to gray. “I am really glad that I won this award today because in a couple of years you will not believe that I am under 40,” joked the 31-year-old.

Brian P. Lowell, employee benefits consultant at ACBJ Insurance in Fairfield, also used his acceptance speech to ponder follicle challenges. “My father was bald at 25, all of his brothers are bald and all of my cousins are bald,” he said. “I am in my thirties and I still have hair, but I figured out that I am on borrowed time.”

This year’s 40 Under Forty, in alphabetical order, are: Cortney Ansel, 38, senior vice spresident of sales and merchandising at Rhone, Stamford; Melissa Basile, 33, community services and education coordinator at Kids in Crisis, Cos Cob; Eric D. Bernheim, partner, Halloran & Sage LLP, Westport; Justin Charise, 39, founding partner, Saugatuck Financial, Westport; Josh Cohen, CEO, The Junkluggers, Stamford; Christopher Cortese, 36, managing director, Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, Stamford; Kayte Cwilka-Masas, 33, director of advocacy and coordinator of the Greater Bridgeport multidisciplinary team, The Center for Family Justice, Bridgeport; Alison D. Davis, 39, executive director, J.P. Morgan Private Bank, Greenwich; Anthony DeCandido, 33, senior manager, RSM US LLP, Stamford; Robyn Drucker, 32, attorney, Cohen and Wolf PC, Bridgeport;

Taruna Garg, 39, counsel, Murtha Cullina LLP, Stamford; Michael Gretczko, 38, principal in the national service line and leader of human capital products and innovation, Deloitte Consulting LLP, Stamford; Rachel Haughey, 34, founder and managing partner, Neat Coffee, Darien; Sean Hurley, 33, project manager, A.P. Construction Co., Stamford; Ken Jacobi, 30, treasure associate manager, PepsiCo, Purchase; Rebecca Kaplan, 31 clinical team lead for internal medicine and family nurse practitioner, Norwalk Community Health Center, Norwalk; Jacqueline Olschan Kaufman, 38, partner, real estate and land use, Carmody Torrance Sandak & Hennessy LLP, Stamford; Blake Leonard, 31, brand manager, Stew Leonard’s Wines, Norwalk; Brian P. Lowell, 36, employee benefits consultant, ACBJ Insurance, Fairfield; Allyson Mahoney, 39, owner and director, Bram Speech and Language Consultants, New Canaan;

Chris Manimbo, 37, financial adviser, Edward Jones, Stamford; Angela Medina, 39, director of domestic violence programs and grant development, Family Reentry, Bridgeport; Jennifer Mezzapelle, 29, senior marketing manager at Blue Buffalo and founder and chief curator of Ekletico Café LLC, Wilton; Alexandra Mililli, 30, wealth manager, UBS Financial Services Inc., Stamford; Jacqueline Novotny, 35, vice president, CBRE Inc., Stamford; Kelly F. O’Donnell, 28, Pullman & Comley LLC, Bridgeport; Jeff Osta, 32, manager, Nagi Jewelers, Stamford; Kate Petrov, 37, public relations officer, Greenwich Library, Greenwich; Quentin W. Phipps, 33, director of advocacy and policy, Stamford Excellence, Stamford; Kate Pipa, 27, development officer, Spooner House, Shelton;

Natalie A. Pryce, 36, business and career coach, Pryceless Consulting, Bridgeport; Brett Robinson, 36, director of personnel, Splash Car Wash, Greenwich; Devon Scanlon, 39, owner and operator, Chick-Fil-A, Brookfield; Jagjiwan Singh, 33, business development officer and assistant vice president, First County Bank, Stamford; Lindsay Smith, 35, event rental manager, Abbey Tent & Party Rentals, Fairfield; Salvatore Sorce, 36, assistant vice president, HUB International Northeast, Fairfield; J.P. Sredzinski, 37, state representative and public safety dispatch supervisor, Stamford; Nicole Thomas, 35, senior business banking relationship manager and vice president, Wells Fargo Bank NA, Shelton; Brian Van Wagener, 35, group vice president for customer experience and analytics, Frontier Communications, Norwalk; Julie Varughese, medical officer, Americares, Stamford.

This year’s event was sponsored by Audi of Danbury, Deloitte, First County Bank, Rhone, Splash Car Wash, Southern Connecticut State University, Stew Leonard’s Wines, UConn School of Business, Val’s Putnam Wines & Liquors, Westfair Communications and Yale New Haven Health. Event supporters were Abbey Tent & Party Rentals, The Bristal Assisted Living, Buzz Creators, Nerds to Go and RBC Wealth Management.