September 7, 2018
Class of 2018: Behind the scenes

40 Under Forty: Water or vodka?

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.

Photo | Erika Sidor
The pieces at the Museum of Russian Icons are interesting in detail but don't necessarily pop off the walls during a group photo shoot.

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.

Photo | Erika Sidor
This was the best shot we were able to get with the winding staircase.

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.

Photo | Erika Sidor
The WBJ mug makes its first and only cameo. It was specially made by the daughter of WBJ Events Manager Kris Prosser.

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.

Read about the entire 2018 Class of 40 Under Forty.

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.

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