Jim Brett just won another one for Jack.
Brett's friends know the New England Council CEO has a side vocation, a lifelong passion: advocating on behalf of people with disabilities.
It's a mission to honor his older brother, Jack Brett, who was born with intellectual disabilities. That mission just took on a new dimension a few weeks ago when House minority leader Nancy Pelosi appointed Brett to the National Council on Disability, a federal agency that advises the White House and Congress on disability issues.
Brett's day job involves running a group that advocates on behalf of New England businesses, with a focus on federal policies.
Through that role, he maintains a close connection with the New England delegation in Congress. He said representatives Richard Neal, Joe Kennedy, and Stephen Lynch were particularly important in helping him land Pelosi's appointment.
The new role, a volunteer position, will involve attending two-day events in Minneapolis in July and in Detroit in December, as well as participating in a number of phone calls.
"My mission statement is to make sure people who have disabilities have an opportunity to work, just like everyone else," Brett said.
Brett said his brother was a driving force behind why he became a state representative in 1981, a job he held for more than 15 years.
His brother Jack died in 2010, at the age of 76. But his memories of Jack continue to motivate him. He already has other roles similar to the council appointment: He chairs the Governor's Commission on Intellectual Disability in Massachusetts, for example, and is a member of the President's Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities.
"One of the reasons I stay engaged in these issues is to keep my brother's memory alive," Brett said.
— JON CHESTO
Football and the fox-trot at Eastern Bank
Former professional quarterback Doug Flutie has been tossing autographed footballs for Eastern Bank's annual celebration of local nonprofits for 12 years.
But on Wednesday he brought backup: his "Dancing with the Stars" partner Karina Smirnoff.
The Heisman Trophy winner and Smirnoff hoofed their way through six weeks on the ABC reality competition, which pairs celebrities with professional dancers, before they were eliminated in late April.
At the Eastern Bank event, the pair stuck to their own talents. Flutie, a longtime bank spokesman, showed off his aim by throwing footballs to representatives from about 45 nonprofits. Smirnoff kicked up her heels and performed a brief dance number with Rich Holbrook, the retiring chairman and chief executive of Eastern Bank.
Holbrook, who took the lead at Eastern Bank in 2007, will retire at the end of this year, and bank officials wanted to make his last Community Quarterback grant event memorable.
Holbrook is a fan of the dance show and took ballroom dance classes years ago before his wedding. Fortunately, he managed to avoid any drops and fumbles as he twirled and dipped Smirnoff around the floor.
— DEIRDRE FERNANDES
Not just an athlete at The Decathlon
After competing in The Decathlon for six years, this year is going to be a little different for Mark Spina.
He is still a competitor this time around, but he has an added responsibility: Spina’s company is the event’s presenting sponsor. He runs the US mutual fund distribution arm of Pioneer Investments in Boston, and Pioneer recently agreed to support The Decathlon as it expands outside of New York.
The event started in New York City seven years ago, as an informal way for people in the financial services industry to raise money for pediatric cancer research while trying to beat their peers and better their own performances in a variety of tests of speed, strength, and agility. (You don't have to work in finance to compete today, but most of the competitors still come from the industry.) The events are similar to a football boot camp: a 40-yard sprint, an 800-meter run, a vertical jump, pull-ups, and the like.
This year, The Decathlon is going on a national tour, with events in Chicago, San Francisco, and Houston. Spina will return to the New York event later this month, and he’ll be at the inaugural Boston-area event — actually at Brandeis University in Waltham — in late July. Proceeds from the local event will benefit the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
At least 16 Pioneer employees will be there. Spina personally sees the event as a natural extension of his CrossFit training.
"For all of us that are invariably aging, it's a good measure, year over year, to see how we're holding up," Spina said. —JON CHESTO
A new kind of Bluetooth experience
If you own a Bluetooth headset, it probably sounds good enough for you, but not for online payment maven and audio buff Will Graylin.
"That's the problem. Everything is just OK. The user experience is not great," said Graylin, who studied acoustics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under Bose Corp. founder Amar Bose.
So Graylin is investing his time and money in ONvocal, a Northborough startup that's developing a new kind of Bluetooth headset.
The Mix360 promises superior audio quality. But unlike other such gadgets, the Mix360 doesn’t try to block out other sounds. A microphone in each earbud actually captures ambient noise, so listeners can hear what’s going on around them even as they sway to their favorite tunes. A smartphone app will even let listeners tune the experience for their preferred combination of music and background sounds.
Graylin founded LoopPay, the Burlington company that invented the mobile payment technology built into millions of Samsung Corp.'s smartphones. After Samsung acquired LoopPay last year, Graylin stayed on as general manager of Samsung's mobile payments business, Samsung Pay Inc.
But Graylin has found time to serve as chairman of ONvocal, whose leadership includes Graylin's MIT pal Brad Geswein, Bose Corp. veteran John Maddox, and Bob Spaner, formerly of Boston Acoustics Inc. and wireless speaker maker Sonos Inc.
Now ONvocal just needs plenty of passionate audiophiles willing to pay around $300 when the Mix360 goes on sale sometime this summer.
— HIAWATHA BRAY
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