Father and daughter share the 2024 commencement stage


By Amy J. Barry

In 1999, Mark Bissoni enrolled as a freshman in the general studies program at Central. He was married and working his way up in the Office of the State Comptroller of Connecticut, where he started as a messenger and supply clerk during summers while in high school.

“I actually told my parents back then, 35 years ago, that I wanted to be the payroll director for the State of Connecticut,” Bissoni recalls. “All these years later, here I am — making sure all active state employees and retirees are paid, which between the two populations is about 160,00 state residents.”

In 2002, while working full-time, the couple’s second child, Regan, was born, and with so much to juggle, Bissoni made the decision to put his college education on hold for what turned out to be 18 years. 

In 2020, at the urging of Regan, an English major at Central, Bissoni returned to the university to complete his degree, virtually, during the global pandemic.

“She not only encouraged me to go back to school, but she read and edited my papers and would fix all the grammar,” Bissoni says. “I’d read her papers and wouldn’t find anything!” 

This spring, Bissoni graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and received his diploma alongside his daughter at the graduation ceremony.

“The little things we did together, like getting the cords, the caps ready. She said, ‘Dad, I’m really proud of you.’ And I reciprocated. It’s those little moments you’ll never forget.”

Teaching and learning

Bissoni began classes in Fall 2022 with enough credits to enroll as a junior. He knew he wanted to major in Strategic Communication.

“The fun part of being with kids the same ages as my own was I became like a resident dad to all the students, which was a cool role to play,” he says.

And he discovered that because he could “mix his worlds — state work and schoolwork” — it benefited everyone.

“Part of my job is to provide data for reporters,” he explains. “So, I was able to take statewide data we have to provide real facts and information for my communications class to work with.”

One example he cites is a study on Connecticut’s gender pay gap he was researching while at Central.

“I feel very strongly that there should be equal pay across all genders,” he says. “I have two daughters, and being in school helped me better formulate and articulate those points for the study and open the eyes of impressionable kids that didn’t even realize there was a gender pay gap!”

Bissoni says being back at Central gave him a well-rounded education, naming two professors, who played important roles.

Although he does a lot of technical writing for his job, Bissoni enrolled in an Intro to Literary Studies class taught by Candace Barrington.

He says, “I hadn’t taken an English class since 1999 and told her how nervous I was.” 

Barrington encouraged him to start creative writing again, which would help to enhance all of his writing. 

Bissoni also took a Communication class quite relevant to his job — Public/Opinion/Research taught by Jose Del Ama. The class focused on the analysis and strategy behind survey administration.

“I learned so much from him,” Bissoni says. “The strategies and software used in this class have become very beneficial in the surveys my office sends out to statewide agencies.”

A (big) family affair

In addition to Regan, Bissoni’s son, Gavin, graduated from Central in 2022 with a degree in Strategic Communication. He is currently in the MBA program and working in the Graduate Admissions office. This past fall, youngest daughter Grace began her freshman year. 

But that’s far from where the Central family connections end.

Bissoni says it all began with his mother-in-law, Claudette Labbe, who also received her college degree later in life (class of 1996, B.S., Accounting). Labbe also attended along with her children: her daughter and Bissoni’s wife, Karen (Labbe) Bissoni (class of 1996, B.A. Communications), and her son, Karen’s brother, Steven Labbe (class of 1995, BS, Mathematics). Labbe's son, Brian Labbe, graduated in 2008 with a degree in Business Management.

Mark Bissoni’s brother, Ryan Donlon, received a doctorate in Educational Leadership in 2018. Between 2002 and 2021, Donlon’s spouse, Andriana Donlon, an art teacher, received her B.A. in visual arts, a teaching certificate, and a master’s degree from Central. 

Why so many Central grads in one family?

Bissoni notes that the family all lives in the Greater Hartford area and the university is “very convenient and affordable, has quality professors we all loved, an outstanding admissions process, and was an amazing experience for everyone, who have all gone on to have successful careers.”


Regan and Mark Bissoni on graduation day at Central.