Daniel Meyer ’80, P’20

Trinity College alumnus Daniel Meyer ’80, P’20 will be the 2024 Commencement speaker on Sunday, May 19, at 11:00 a.m., on the Main Quad. He will receive an honorary degree along with a pair of local leaders who have shaped Hartford, Luke and Sara Bronin.

A political science major, Meyer gained his first restaurant experience in New York City following graduation. He then went to Europe to study cooking in Italy and France before launching his first eatery, Union Square Cafe, at age 27.

After opening additional restaurants, Meyer founded the Union Square Hospitality Group (USHG). Four of the group’s restaurants earned three stars from The New York Times, and his locations consistently appear on the list of “Most Popular” in the Zagat guide. In addition to creating the fine-casual chain Shake Shack, USHG runs a consulting business that advises clients in other industries and a multifaceted events company that caters private events and corporate accounts in addition to operating casual bars, cafés, and food concessions at major venues.

“Your commitment to providing your customers with an exceptional dining experience, fueled by a business philosophy centered on caring, exemplifies the high standards of excellence to which we hold our community members,” said Trinity President Joanne Berger-Sweeney.

Meyer, his restaurants, and his chefs have earned an unprecedented 28 James Beard Awards, and his business book, Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business, is a New York Times bestseller. The Union Square Cafe Cookbook, which he co-authored with Michael Romano, earned the International Association of Culinary Professionals Julia Child First Book Award for the best new cookbook by a first-time author and was followed up with the highly acclaimed Second Helpings from Union Square Cafe.

In addition to his businesses, Meyer supports several nonprofit and social justice organizations, including No Kid Hungry, the Irving Harris Foundation, and the Stairway Fund. He also is a former member of Trinity’s Board of Trustees and a parent of a Trinity alumna.

“The service you contribute to these organizations, your innovative leadership, and your bold pursuits serve to enlighten and encourage our graduating students,” Berger-Sweeney noted.

Meyer will receive an honorary degree during the ceremony, as will with architect, attorney, and academic Sara Bronin, and former Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin.

Sara Bronin is a Mexican-American professor and policymaker whose interdisciplinary work focuses on how law and policy can foster more equitable, sustainable, well-designed, and connected places. She serves as the 12th chair of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, after confirmation by unanimous consent of the U.S. Senate. She also was appointed by President Joe Biden to serve as a trustee of the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress. Bronin is currently on leave from Cornell University.

Among other current projects, Bronin founded and directs the National Zoning Atlas, which aims to digitize, demystify, and democratize information about how zoning regulates housing in around 30,000 jurisdictions nationally.  Her book, Key to the City, to be published in October by W.W. Norton Press, will explore how zoning shapes our lives.   

Active in public service, Professor Bronin has served on the board of Latinos in Heritage Conservation and as an advisor for the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Sustainable Development Code.  In 2020, she founded DesegregateCT, a pro-homes grassroots coalition that successfully advanced the first major statewide zoning reforms in several decades. Previously, she chaired Preservation Connecticut, served on the city of Hartford historic preservation commission, and led Hartford’s nationally-recognized efforts to overhaul its zoning code.   

“You have distinguished yourself as an expert and leading voice on equitable zoning laws and land use, historic preservation, housing, and sustainability,” noted President Berger-Sweeney, in extending the honor. “Your leadership on the nationally recognized overhaul and modernization of the City of Hartford’s zoning code and your critical role in developing Hartford’s city and climate action plans demonstrate the transformational value of service.”

Luke Bronin is a politician, lawyer, and veteran who was the 67th mayor of Connecticut’s capital city, serving from 2016 to 2024. He previously served as general counsel for Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy. Before that, he served in two senior posts at the U.S. Department of the Treasury during President Barack Obama’s first term, as senior adviser to the deputy secretary of the Treasury and then as deputy assistant secretary of the Treasury for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes.

Bronin has served as an officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve, and was deployed to Afghanistan and assigned to the Anti-Corruption Task Force. He also worked in the private sector, at The Hartford Financial Services Group, as chief of staff to the President of the Hartford’s Property and Casualty Division. In December 2014, the law firm Hinckley Allen & Snyder LLP announced Bronin would become a partner.

Berger-Sweeney cited Bronin’s lifelong commitment to public service in various roles, when she extended the honor. “Your steady leadership during the city’s most significant financial crisis resulted in the development of a partnership with the State of Connecticut and set Hartford on a path of fiscal stability, inspiring residents of the city and our local and global community,” she noted.

Bronin’s advocacy and dedication to reestablishing Hartford as a vibrant, thriving capital city “serve to enlighten and encourage our graduating students.”