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Men of Fairfield

A Few Good Men

Article by Samantha Schoengold Beranbom

Photography by New Light Creative Services

Originally published in Fairfield Lifestyle

For June, we celebrate some of the men that make this town great. They are enriching our community and making it a better place in a myriad of different ways. Meet some really good guys....

Tom Clements,  Meridian Risk Management,  Meridian Software Service

Q:  Tell me a little about yourself.

A: I was born and raised in rural England, but in 2005, I was fortunate enough to be recruited to play soccer at Fairfield University. As a 19-year-old, arriving with only a small suitcase, not knowing anyone, and having never visited Fairfield before was an eye-opening experience. I'll always remember calling my parents on the first day and saying I was never coming home… here I am 18 years later. I had a wonderful 4 years at Fairfield stacked with memories and lifelong friends, but what really stuck with me was the overwhelming sense of community, I belonged. My goal once I got married and started a family was to settle back in Fairfield. My wife Sandi loves it here and my two kids are thriving. Professionally, I like to keep myself busy, so I’m currently the Managing Partner of Meridian Risk Management’s employee benefits consulting practice; as well as the President and co-founder of Meridian Software Services, a SaaS reseller company focused on the insurance vertical. I also sit on various board advisory groups for start-ups in the insurance/insure-tech market.  

Q: What’s your community connection?

A: At the epicenter of my persona is Fairfield University. I’m wholeheartedly grateful for the opportunities the institution has afforded me, and now my family. The University is such a big part of the local community, and it amazes me how many Fairfield alumni stay or return to build a life in Fairfield after graduation. I’m constantly meeting alumni during everyday life in town and it’s kind of hard to explain, but there is just a very strong bond and immediate affinity created with someone who went there. I am very active in the alumni community including Fairfield/Westchester County Alumni Association, Friends of Fairfield Athletics, Friends of Soccer, Fairfield Awards Dinner, and Reunion. At Meridian, we employ several Fairfield residents, and over 25% of our workforce either attended or has a family member that attended Fairfield U. When we source for new talent, we look to the local community or alumni first.

Q:  What are some of your favorite things to do in Fairfield?

I love to golf at Brooklawn, hike at Lake Mohegan, watch my kids play sports and nights out downtown. 

Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

A: I read two books every year – The Alchemist and Go Giver, so I tend to lean in on the advice provided in those books for guidance, but the most profound advice I have received was from my dad. For years, he worked for a big corporation with a steady paycheck to support his family - no risk, but minimal personal reward. Once my sister and I were self-sufficient, he quit and started his own company. He had never been happier, and his business thrived. When I was in a similar situation a few years ago, he encouraged me to ‘take the leap’. I did!

Q: Who inspires you?

A: My wife and kids. They gave me the strength and belief to take the leap, achieve my goals and start my own businesses. It sounds cliché, but my wife Sandi really is my rock. She’s the foundation that our family is built on. I’m so proud of all the things she has overcome in her life to be where she is today, raising two incredible kids and supporting my hair-brained ideas without question.

Paul Ruscito, Ruscito Resolutions 

Q: Tell me a little about yourself.

A: I am a lifetime Fairfield resident, married to my high school sweetheart. We started dating at Fairfield Ludowe High School! I am a dad to Ava who is 21 months old and on this toddler journey right now and it is the best and hardest thing I’ve ever done! I run my own odd job business, Ruscito Resolutions, where I help customers all over the community.

Q: What is your community connection?

A: In high school, I was President of the Operation Hope Club. I really enjoyed that, so my family and I created Ruscito Trees as a way to raise money for Operation Hope. It’s been great and it’s probably one of the best things I’ve done in my life. No one should worry about where their next meal is coming from. It feels really good to give back.

Q: Favorite things to do in Fairfield?

A: I’m lucky - I live five minutes from the beach so I am there when I can be. I also love all the restaurants we have in Fairfield - you can always catch me having date night here in town.

Q: Best advice you’ve ever received?

The best advice I’ve ever received is probably, Happy Wife, Happy Life. No, I’m just kidding…the best advice I’ve received is, If you work hard, it can happen. A lot of people didn’t give me great feedback about starting my business or they didn’t think it would be that successful. This business has become exactly what I wanted it to be. It allows my wife and I to raise our daughter in Fairfield. And my flexible schedule allows me to be at every activity that I need to be for my daughter.

Q: Who inspires you?

A: Any small business owner. It’s tough to run a business sometimes - but it’s worth it!

William Johnson, Fairfield University

Q: Tell me a little about yourself?

A: I am a husband, father and coach. I currently serve as the Dean of Students at Fairfield University. I am passionate about the power and opportunities that education provides. My role is focused on how student life outside of the classroom complements their academic experience. I enjoy the opportunity to accompany our students during their time in college and watch them learn and grow over the course of their years at the University. Even more so, it is rewarding to see these same individuals return to campus years later and how much they embody what it means to be Jesuit educated. They may not embrace as much while they are enrolled, however, what is most important to us is how they live out our values throughout the rest of their lives.

Q: What’s your community connection?

A: Most of my connections have been forged through my work at Fairfield University. As Dean of Students, my role often brings me in contact with the Police and Fire Departments. We work collectively to create a safe and respectful community in the Town of Fairfield. Our work with the Center for Family Justice is important as we work to address domestic violence. All three of the entities provide resources and support to members of the University community. From the Fairfield Police Sunset 5k to Walk A Mile in Her Shoes, we recognize we are all in this together and do our best to support one another.

Q:  What are some of your favorite things to do in Fairfield?

A: I love to try new restaurants in town.

Q: Who inspires you?

The young people I come across have so many gifts and talents to offer to our society. I believe part of my role as an educator is to find ways to support and lift up these students as they pursue their dreams and goals. Whenever the opportunity is presented for me to speak with a group of school children visiting our campus, or to mentor or advise an individual or group of students on our campus, I am going to take advantage of it. One of my favorite days during the year is when we host local elementary schools at one of our women’s basketball games. Talk about loud…the energy they bring the game is truly invigorating!

Professor Joe…aka - Coach Joe, Fit Club

Q:  Tell me a little about yourself.

I love my family. Every day I tell my wife and kids I love them and give them a kiss. I have two dogs, Biggie is an extra large Pit and Smalls, is a Mini Golden Doodle…I love chocolate specifically Nutella and anything dark chocolate…and I love espresso. Every morning I make myself an espresso with Nutella. I’ve played sports all my life. I needed to find a sport that I could continue to do in my adult life. After being introduced to Jiu-Jitsu, I immediately fell in love. Shortly after, I decided to open a Jiu-Jitsu gym in the town I live in and share this new love I had with my community. I love competing in the sport and I am always refining my skills. I continue to compete and learn so I can be the best coach. Seeing my students grow stronger both physically and mentally is very rewarding. With three businesses in town - Fit Club, Boost and Cafe Piccolo - I’ve gotten to know so many residents.

Q: What’s your community connection?

I live in Fairfield and I have two kids in the school system. I have worked closely with FFLD Police Department, teaching women’s self defense as well as training police officers. Because I have always loved helping others, it was an easy addition to my schedule to incorporate Women’s Self Defense. Detective Beth Leetch and I work closely together to teach our classes. Our program can be geared towards all ages. When we teach younger girls, like the Girl Scouts, we focus more on safety. When it comes to teens and young adults, we discuss real life situations and get much more in depth. We practice practical self defense moves and drill them until it becomes muscle memory. I want to empower our girls and women to have real and basic life saving tools for the “what if”.  I never want anyone to find themselves helpless if they end up in a bad situation. 

Q:  What are some of your favorite things to do in Fairfield?

A: I love watching my kids’ sporting events and tournaments and going out to eat at our amazing selection of restaurants in town with family. Saugatuck Sweets is a favorite ice cream shop my kids love and through going there, I developed a friendship with Al Diguido. He is the Founder and President of Al’s Angels. Al’s Angels helps thousands of children and families all over the world every year that are in need. This was another perfect opportunity for me to fulfill my passion for helping others. I volunteer all year with the different projects he organizes. My family, as well as several clients and friends, also come out to volunteer for this amazing organization.

Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

A: My first wrestling coach told me to never hold a grudge and to treat everyone how you would want to be treated. 

Q: Biggest lesson learned?

A: Life wasn’t easy for me. I had to work for everything I have. Growing up, I’ve had my share of good role models and bad ones. I knew I wanted to bring more good into the world. I found I was able to turn my love for sports into a career and be a great coach and a great role model for both kids and adults. Because I had a difficult childhood, I have a strong passion for helping others. It’s important to me to be a positive example and a strong leader. Every day is a new day. I always wake up and choose to be happy. 

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