SOUTHINGTON – Mike Soltys, ESPN’s vice president of corporate communications, is Southington UNICO’s 2021 Gold Medal of Honor recipient.

The recognition is UNICO’s highest honor. Since 1945, the Gold Medal of Honor has been awarded to distinguished citizens in the Southington community. A dinner ceremony in recognition of Soltys is planned for Wednesday, September 22 at the Aqua Turf Club.

“The Gold Medal Award is a real honor,” Soltys said. “My family and I are really looking forward to it. UNICO’s motto, service above self, is something I live by spiritually, intellectually and socially.”

Gold Medal Dinner Committee Chairman and Town Manager Mark Sciota said Soltys embodies the model of “service above self.”

“I have had the honor of knowing Mike for many years and even though he has an unbelievably busy schedule, he always has time to dedicate his time and knowledge to numerous boards and nonprofit organizations,” Sciota said.

Since 2016, Soltys has served as the board chairman of Bread for Life in Southington, an organization whose mission is to provide food, fellowship and a sense of dignity to those in need so no one in town goes hungry. According to Soltys, it has been a “transformative period” for the organization.

“The demand for services goes up every year and we’ve grown with it,” he said. “We received more donations than ever last year to help meet the most basic needs for our neighbors. I hope one day we can close our doors and fulfill our mission so no one is hungry anymore.”

Soltys is also active in St. Dominic’s Church, advises Youth Journalism International and is a mentor for the University of Connecticut. Soltys and his sisters sponsor an annual scholarship at UConn, in honor of their parents, for an undergraduate who is working toward a career in athletic communications.

Soltys also served on the Board of Directors of the Bristol Family Center, the Southington Chamber of Commerce and on a sports information and marketing advisory board for the University of Hartford. He helped open Imagine Nation, A Museum Early Learning Center in Bristol and served there for 10 years as an advisor. He also coached several youth sports.

“I’ve met so many good friends,” Soltys said. “Being involved in the community is so important for the well-being of our society.”

Soltys’ contributions to the Southington community have been recognized by many community organizations throughout the years.

In 2011, the Greater Southington Chamber of Commerce presented him with the Gail DePaolo Community Spirit Award for his “belief in giving back and helping others.” Additionally, in 2013, Soltys and wife Teresa received the Compass Award from the Southington YMCA for their “focus on youth development, healthy living and social responsibility.” In 2015, the Knights of Columbus honored him with a “Catholic Citizens Award.”

Soltys was hired in the summer of 1980 as a college intern by ESPN’s founder, Bill Rasmussen. After graduating from the University of Connecticut magna cum laude in 1981 with a Bachelor’s Degree in communications, Soltys joined ESPN’s communications department full time.

After several promotions, in 1992 Soltys was named director of communications, directing the day-to-day operation of programming media relations activities.

Soltys’ current focus is on ESPNPR’s content creation, including its social media feeds, its corporate blog and media website. Soltys also spearheads publicity and issue management for ESPN’s news operation, including SportsCenter, and all of the company’s college sports coverage and networks.

“My role has evolved over 41 years,” he said. “You just have to keep an open mind and embrace change.”

Tickets to the Gold Medal are only $65 and can be purchased from UNICO members, at the office of Fasulo and Albini, CPAs in Plantsville at 16 Cornerstone Court or at Southington Insurance Center at 85 Liberty St