Holiday Gift Guide Sacred Heart University Edition

FAIRFIELD, Conn.—The holiday season is upon us, and like many others, you’re probably racking your brain for the perfect gifts for your loved ones. Looking for something unique that shows your Pioneer pride? 

Look no farther than Sacred Heart University's 2023 Gift Guide, a specially curated list of creative ideas inspired by SHU alumni, faculty and friends. It’s a bright red stocking full of perfect treats and surprises sure to bring a smile from everyone on your Nice List.  

For the Educator: The Teacher Tote 

Stephanie Doherty ’11, MS ’12 teamed up with her high school pal, Allison Panio, to create the Teacher Tote, a handy bag with specially designed spaces for your laptop, lunch, phone, homework folders – and plenty of red markers and encouraging stickers. When the kids are carrying on, this carry-all will harness the chaos. 

For the Sweet Tooth: Big G’s Cookies 

When George “Big G” Manesiotis isn’t participating in the Monday night social group led by SHU’s occupational therapy and communications disorders departments, you might find this enterprising young adult working on Big G’s Cookies, the business he runs. Six delectable varieties – from Chocolate Crave to Oatmealicious – are available for delivery or at events advertised on his Facebook page.  

For the Pint-Sized Puck Fan: Flowman and the Magic Mullet  

Alumni couple Konn and Emily Hawkes combined an imaginative flair and their shared love of sports to create Flowman and the Magic Mullet, the first of what they hope will be many children’s books they’ll dream up on their Canadian farm. Centered on a fictional hockey player with “magic hockey hair,” the book is sure to be a hit over an après-skate hot cocoa.    

For the Shark Tank Fan: Intuitive Clothing by See the Way I See 

Sophie Nistico ’21 started her lifestyle brand, See the Way I See, as a way to emphasize mental health awareness and destigmatization. Her personal experiences with anxiety and chronic migraines led to a range of products from clothing to jewelry and accessories she unveiled on Season 14, Episode 21 of Shark Tank. Browse her line and show you care at See the Way I See.   

For Your Breakfast Buddies: Happy Grub Pancake Mix 

Brandon Gilliam ’17 and Mario Cimino ’21 are the marketing masterminds behind the launch of a new startup company, Happy Grub, a tasty line of squeezable pancake and waffle mixes. Debuting on Kickstarter, the dynamic duo’s pitch got plenty of attention on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok and YouTube.  

For the Friend Who Has Everything: An Experience  

The perfect gift for the non-acquisitive folks on your list? How about a pair of tickets to a hot concert or premier film at SHU Community Theatre downtown or a family visit to Sacred Heart University’s Discovery Science Center & Planetarium? Or cheer on your Pioneers at a winter sports match-up. Looking for some pre-Christmas cheer? Head to the Edgerton Center for Performing Arts on campus to catch SHU alum John Ratzenberger reprising his turn as Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, an adaptation of the holiday classic by 2023 alum Grace Curley. 

For the Mood Setter: NaturalAnnie Essentials Candle Bar & Studio 

The brainchild of owner/CEO Annya White-Brown ’12, NaturalAnnie Essentials is a lifestyle brand creating “tropical home fragrances with a feel-good vibe!” You can shop her line of non-toxic natural soy candles, head to her Bridgeport, CT, studio to learn how to make your own or plan a hands-on kids’ party or girls’ night out you won’t soon forget.  

For the Beer Lover: A Brewery Gift Card or Gift 

Several state-based breweries are part of the reason SHU’s brewing science certificate program, the first in Connecticut, is a boon for those who hope to hone their hops skills. Stop by Two Roads Brewery to see where the magic happens in the labs or show some love with a gift from New England Brewing Co. or Athletic Brewing Company, each of whom sponsor scholarships to our program.  

For Dad: Jim Daly’s How-To Guide 

 Tear up the tie, knock down the Nerf office basketball set. Jim Daly ’07 knows what fathers everywhere really need: A how-to guide with a humorous side. Known as the “baby whisperer” to family and friends – and the former student body president who led efforts to enshrine Big Red as SHU’s mascot – Daly scores Dad of the Year points with his When All Else Fails: Dad Ideas to Get That Baby to Eat

For the Mixmaster: Cylinder Vodka & Kavo Rum

Created in Stamford, CT, by Stelios Stavrianos ’15, founder of The Core Bev Group, Cylinder Vodka is Connecticut’s most awarded vodka. With notes of citrus and a velvety smooth finish, this small batch vodka is completed entirely by hand. Kavo Rum encapsulates the essence of the Greek islands. Experience it neat, on the rocks, or in your favorite holiday rum cocktails. Available throughout Connecticut. 

For the Celebrity Watcher: Kevin Nealon’s Newest Book 

Want to know more about this Fairfield County funny man, who graduated in 1975 and received his honorary degree in 2022? Order up I Exaggerate: My Brushes with Fame, chockful of original caricatures and personal essays about the Saturday Night Live star’s life and friendships with Garry Shandling, Dana Carvey, Chris Farley and more. 

For Everyone on Your List: SHU Bookstore 

Speaking of books, why not just take your whole gift list to SHU Bookstore, where you’ll find everything from MacBooks to refrigerator magnets? With daily sales and specials, you’ll find Pioneer-branded tumblers, comfy blankets and hoodies, ornaments, tailgating gear and, well, books. Check for holiday shipping deadlines or order online and pick up in store for free. 

Do you know of a cool alum-created gift? Be sure to tell the SHU office of Alumni Engagement at or 203-365-7671. 


About Sacred Heart University

As the second-largest independent Catholic university in New England, and one of the fastest-growing private doctoral institutions in the U.S., Sacred Heart University is a national leader in shaping higher education for the 21st century. SHU offers nearly 90 undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs on its Fairfield, Conn., campus. Sacred Heart also has a campus in Dingle, Ireland, and offers online programs. More than 10,000 students attend the University’s nine colleges and schools: Arts & Sciences; Communication, Media & the Arts; Social Work; Computer Science & Engineering; Health Professions; the Isabelle Farrington College of Education & Human Development; the Jack Welch College of Business & Technology; the Dr. Susan L. Davis, R.N., & Richard J. Henley College of Nursing; and St. Vincent’s College. Sacred Heart stands out from other Catholic institutions as it was established and led by laity. The contemporary Catholic university is rooted in the rich Catholic intellectual tradition and the liberal arts, and at the same time cultivates students to be forward thinkers who enact change—in their own lives, professions and in their communities. The Princeton Review includes SHU in its Best 389 Colleges: 2024 Edition, and Best Business Schools: 2023 Edition. Sacred Heart is home to the award-winning, NPR-affiliate station, WSHU Public Radio, a Division I athletics program and an impressive performing arts program that includes choir, band, dance and theatre.

Submitted by Fairfield, CT

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