A Network of Community Service

During the late 1970s, Middlesex alum (Class of 1987), Kristen (Lemley) Roberts’ mother, Mary Ellen, worked as a secretary in the Middlesex Community College admissions office. Since her family lived nearby, Kristen often visited her mom on a day off from elementary school. She fondly remembers her time there and reflected on helping to run the Xerox machine, assisting “Marion” with the switchboard, and would be in awe of her mom’s fast typing skills on an IBM Selectric typewriter—where on some days Kristen would poke at the keys as she attempted to type her own papers.

Kristen’s parents divorced as she was in her first year of high school, and as the oldest of three, she didn’t have the support or resources to attend college away from home. She recalls her father expecting her to become a secretary like her mother, telling her that she didn’t need to go to college for that. However, Kristen had higher ambitions. One of her aunts was instrumental in Kristen’s desire become a paralegal, so she enrolled in the legal secretarial degree program at Middlesex Community College to learn more about the field.

“Middlesex was a great experience for me at that time in my life. It gave me the confidence to pursue higher education,” Kristen said. “If you’re not sure about college or don’t have the support for going away to a four-year college, Middlesex is a great opportunity.”

She remembers being in a media class where she got to practice being a news broadcaster. She enjoyed the different electives offered at Middlesex, which opened her eyes to different careers.

Kristen’s Middlesex experience was boosted by an internship with Dowley & Associates, a former law firm in Middletown. She said working for them was like being a part of a family. Lead attorney Michael Dowley, who passed away in 2019, became a mentor and later asked her to work full-time when she finished her bachelor’s degree. As an intern, she ran errands, made deliveries to courthouses, typed wills and letters, and assisted the paralegal. “It was the best first job,” she said with pride.

After graduating from Middlesex in 1987, Kristen became a full-time student at Central Connecticut State University while also continuing to work part-time at the law firm. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business management and a minor in human resources from CCSU in 1990.

Now working full-time at the law firm, Kristen pursued a paralegal certificate and took evening classes at the Hartford College for Women (now University of Hartford), receiving the diploma in 1992. She also earned a master’s in public administration from the University of Hartford in 1998.

Today, Kristen gives credit to Michael Dowley, who encouraged her to get involved in the community and network with young professionals after college. This eventually led to her PR work with the Middletown Jaycees, sending notices to the press and seeking sponsorships for fundraisers. She built a network and along with that leadership skills.

Kristen also volunteered with the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce, earning a seat on the board and collaborating with then-Chamber president Larry McHugh. (Update: Kristen was elected to serve as the chair of the Chamber’s Board of Directors in 2022 and honored in 2023 for her past work as chair. She also received the MxCC Foundation Distinguished Alumni Award at their annual meeting in November 2022.)

In 2002, it was Larry who recommended her for a public affairs role at Comcast in New Haven. Kristen has grown her career at Comcast where she still works. Currently the vice president for communications, Kristen leads a team that protects the Comcast brand, promotes new products and services, and handles media inquiries and employee communications for one of Comcast’s 16 regions across the nation.

Kristen and daughter

“My job at Comcast brought together my skills and passion for working in the community and in public affairs. I’ve now been there over 17 years and I enjoy my job as much now as I did back then,” Kristen said in her speech when she was presented with the Middlesex United Way Community Service Award in January 2019. This is the highest and most prestigious honor awarded to a United Way volunteer. Kristen was instrumental in the United Way constructing Born Learning Trails across the county in celebration of the organization’s 75th anniversary. Today, there are 10 trails across Middlesex County.

Having grown up in Middletown and learning a lot about the community from working with nonprofits, Kristen is grateful to give back. Her grandfather, Eric Lowry, a Jewish immigrant from Berlin, Germany, loved America and taught Kristen the importance of giving back through his work with the Middletown Zoning Board and the Civitans, a community service organization. Today, she is passing that community pride on to her daughter, who also volunteers at events.

Now a resident of Old Saybrook, Kristen offers some advice to prospective students. “Be curious and seek out those other careers programs that are available at Middlesex,” she said. “Don’t settle—you can do anything you want with hard work, energy, and passion for what you do.”

June 2019
Written by Thea Moritz