40 Under Forty: Water or vodka?

BY Brad Kane

Photo | Erika Sidor
Photo | Erika Sidor
Winners of the WBJ 2018 40 Under Forty award and members of Team Russian Icons (from left) Danielle Clark, Ursula Furi-Perry, Sam Bitar and Brian Lemerise.

If you were in a museum full of Russian art, surrounded by Russian artifacts and symbols like nesting dolls, had four shot glasses and a bottle of vodka, what would you do?
For the four WBJ 40 Under Forty winners who took their group shot at the Museum of Russian Icons in Clinton, the answer was the prudent one.

Team Russian Icons – Danielle Clark, Ursula Furi-Perry, Sam Bitar and Brian Lemerise – had lots of great ideas for their photo shoot in Clinton. This made all the difference in the world because while the Museum of Russian Icons is an interesting and serene location, its artifacts aren’t as interactive as riding a pedicab around Worcester or ransacking a T-shirt store.
First came the team’s most ambitious idea: Use the gorgeous glass winding staircase in the center of the museum to paint a picture of busy professionals just leaving a meeting, chatting with each other, holding a coffee mug emblazoned with the WBJ logo and busily working on a smartphone. If all these multiple elements came together, it could have been a really great photo, but they were just too difficult to capture all at once in a single image.
Yet, Team Russian Icons was unrelenting in its ideas and can-do attitude. Bitar, Lemerise, Clark and Furi-Perry studied all the exhibits and rooms to came up with tons of ideas: using the jail-like study rooms, sipping tea in a gallery, moving various artifacts around.

To this end, I should point out what an amazing hosts museum CEO & Curator Kent Russell and his staff were. They stayed late after museum closing, offered to change the ambient lighting colors, and were helpful when needed and hands-off when not. Moreover, Russell was willing to move artifacts around to help us with the shoots. Particularly, he moved an antique Russian water dispenser to a painting gallery where Clark and Furi-Perry were setting a scene of Team Russian Icons gathering around a small, refined table.
The first scene they set was using the museum cafeteria’s tea bags and mugs (including the WBJ one), along with the water dispenser. This made for a very pleasant photo.

But then Bitar reminded everyone he brought clear shot glasses (still in the box) and a bottle of vodka. Clark upped the ante by bringing over Russian nesting dolls from the children’s area of the museum. Lemerise and Bitar opened the glasses, we got the vodka bottle in position, and .... they filled their shot glasses with water. WATER!!

It was definitely the smart move on their part. We ended up needing to take at least three photos of them physically drinking from the shot glasses, so – if they had used the vodka – they would have been drunk fairly quickly. They had all driven to the museum and had good-sized commutes home. Plus, we did several more rounds of photos after the vodka shots were taken.
It wouldn’t have been the decision I would have made, but then there would have been a better than 50-percent chance I would have gotten sick in the lovely Museum of Russian Icons. For Furi-Perry, Clark, Lemerise and Bitar, I applaud both their restraint and forward-mindedness. That’s probably part of the reason they are all as successful as they are.

Michael Alden - Ascentria Care Alliance
Che Anderson - City of Worcester
Victor M. Archila - VMA Electric Inc.
Allison Beckler, DO - YOU, Inc.
Sam Bitar - Webster Five
Mark A. Borenstein - Seder & Chandler LLP
Kate D. Campanale - Massachusetts House of Representatives
Derek Canton - paerpay
Ryan Canuel - Petricore, Inc.
Jennifer Caron - Body Therapeutics
Danielle J. Clark - Clark Career Coaching
Heidi Cooper - Cooper’s Hilltop Farm
Matthew M. Copeland, P.E. - Copeland Building Envelope Consulting
Pat Davis - The DAVIS Cos.
Efua T. Dufu, MSW, LCSW - Ellite Event Planning
Grace Elton - Tower Hill Botanic Garden
Ursula Furi-Perry, J.D. - Becker College
Jared E. Gentilucci - Nitsch Engineering
David Gilchrist, MD, MBA - UMass Memorial Health Care
Alvara Gjylapi - Santander Bank
Erica Grinkis - The GazBar Sports Grill
Meredith Harris - Marlborough Economic Development Corp.
Erin Jansky - Worcester Housing Authority
Ben Jones - Boston Scientific Corp
Alexis Kelleher - Crust Bakeshop; North Main Provisions
Bert LaValley - Sustainable Comfort, Inc.; deadhorse hill & simjang restaurants
Jennifer Leger - Fidelity Bank
Brian Lemerise - Quiet Logistics, Inc.
Tom Lubelczyk - The Worcester Jazz Collective
Laura Marotta - Creative Hub Worcester
Ryan Matson - Small Business Insurance Agency
Michael P. McDonough, CPA - McDonough, McDonough & Corsini, LLP
Madeline Mendoza - NewVue Communities
Jessica Morris - MCPHS University
Nathan Oriol - Oakdale Rehabilitation & Skilled Nursing Center (Oriol Health Care)
Nicholas Pelletier - Pelletier Properties at Keller Williams North Central
Courtney E. Pelley - Edward M. Kennedy Community Health Center
Lilian Radke - Unic Pro Inc.
Blaine Schnare - Harrington HealthCare System
Bonnie J. Walker - Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Learn how the winners were picked on our judges' page.