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Class Notes - Winter 2023

Spartan statue

Class Notes - Winter 2023


VERN SCHOOLEY, ’61 (Engineering), was recently elected vice president of the Ball/Hunt/Schooley American Inn of Court. The Ball/Hunt/Schooley Inn is named in honor of three giants of California law, all of whom are or were active members of the bar in Long Beach, California.


SUSAN WHITALL, ’74 (Arts and Letters) was recently inducted into the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame. A pioneer in music journalism, Whitall became one of the first women to be named editor-in-chief of a national music magazine when she rose to the rank of editor of Michigan-based Creem in the late 1970s.

FRANK FISH, M.S. ’77, Ph.D. ’80 (Both in Natural Science), received the Ig Nobel Prize in Physics for research he performed on ducklings swimming in the wake of the mother to conserve energy. The work was inspired by observing ducks swimming in the Red Cedar River on Michigan State University’s campus. The Ig Nobel Prize is a satiric prize awarded annually since 1991 to celebrate unusual or trivial achievements in scientific research.

MICHAEL GILLILAND, ’77 (Arts and Letters, Honors College), was recently named editor in chief of Foresight: The International Journal of Applied Forecasting. Gilliland serves on the board of directors of the International Institute of Forecasters.

DUNCAN FERGUSON, ’78, MLIR ’79 (Both in Social Science), recently co-authored “Best Boss! The Impact of Extraordinary Leaders.” Distilled from accounts of individual best boss stories, research and author experience, the book seeks to unlock the powerful secrets of best boss leadership by providing a systemic approach for leading the best boss way.

TOM SHANAHAN, ’78 (Communication Arts and Sciences), recently won first place at the 30th annual Football Writers Association of America for Enterprise for his story on the 1962 Rose Bowl. UCLA’s eight Black players and Los Angeles Times sportswriter Jim Murray stood up to segregationist Alabama Coach Bear Bryant seeking a backdoor entry into the Rose Bowl in place of the traditional Big Ten entry.

CHRISTINE J. SOBEK, M.A. ’78 (Education), recently retired from her role as president of Waubonsee Community College. In recognition of Sobek’s 21 years of distinguished service, commitment, leadership and contributions as president of the college, the board also approved the bestowing of the honorary title of president emeritus upon her retirement. 


SUSAN SANOW, ’80 (Social Science), was awarded the 2022 AL!VE Impact Award for Exemplary Service in Volunteer Engagement. The IMPACT Awards celebrate volunteer engagement professionals who have shown exceptional leadership and knowledge in the field. They showcase the importance of the profession and inspire professionals across the country to continue to lead in their communities.

ALTHEA HANKINS, M.D. ’81 (Human Medicine), was recognized for her work as director of ACES Veterans Museum by ESPN on Monday Night Football on November 14, 2022. ESPN focused on the story of World War II Veteran Benjamin Berry. The ACES Veterans Museum is committed to educating visitors about the history and accomplishments of Black and minority veterans.

RAMON SANDIN, M.S. ’81 (Natural Science), recently retired from 30 years of clinical service as pathologist at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida.

JAMES D. GRANT, ’83 (Social Science), received the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) Distinguished Service Award at its annual meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana. The award is the highest honor ASA gives each year and recognizes a member of the organization who has transformed anesthesiology.
Dr. Grant is senior vice president and chief medical officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) in Detroit, Michigan.

KAREN LITZINGER, M.A. ’83 (Education), recently won three awards for her book, “Help Wanted: An A to Z Guide to Cope with the Ups and Downs of the Job Search.”

MICHAEL ALSTON, ’85 (Social Science), was named director of human capital and development of the Department of Medical Assistance Services in Richmond, Virginia.

THOMAS RUTH, ’87 (Social Science), J.D. ’91 (Law), participated in the Fjallraven Denmark Classic, a 75-kilometer hike in Denmark. Ruth completed the hike with his son, Tommy Ruth—a junior at Michigan State University. 

MARGARET LAPORTE, ’89, (James Madison College), recently co-founded Art Against Ageism, a nonprofit based in Chevy Chase, Maryland, that identifies, amplifies and creates artistic endeavors that confront and tackle ageism. 



MARK BLAUFUSS, ’90, (Business), was recognized as alumnus of the year by the Michigan State University Department of Accounting and Information for his support of the M.S. in Accounting program. Blaufuss is currently the managing director of Green & White Advisory, a consulting firm specializing in complex business challenges including mergers and acquisitions, corporate strategy and operational execution.

EDWARD DADEZ, Ph.D. ’91 (Education), has been named the 11th president of Saint Leo University in Florida. As a Saint Leo University alumnus and longtime leader of the university, Dadez holds a strong passion and appreciation for Saint Leo’s core values; its diverse students, faculty and staff; and its life-changing mission. Before becoming the second provost of the university, he was a visiting professor in graduate education.

SHERI CLARKE, ’92 (Lyman Briggs), has been appointed as a board member on the National Board of Osteopathic Medical Examiners (NBOME). NBOME works to protect the public by providing the means to assess competencies for osteopathic medicine & related health care professions. 

JENNIFER JURGENS, ’93 (Business), is the founder of 1 Bold Step, a company that was recently named as a “Top 50 Companies to Watch” by Michigan Celebrates Small Business. 1 Bold Step is a strategic marketing agency that generates leads and drives revenue for clients. 

SCOTT J. SINKWITTS, ’93 (Engineering), J.D. ’97 (Law), was recently elected chair of the environmental law section of the State Bar of Michigan.

MICHAEL TOWNLEY, ’94 (Engineering), was awarded the 2021 AASHTO President’s Transportation Award for Research for his work with Michigan State University and other universities during the American Association of State and Highway Transportation Officials’ (AASHTO) national annual meeting.

PATRICIA PTAK, M.A. ’95 (Education), recently celebrated her sixth year as a dual-licensed licensed professional counselor—28 years in Michigan, six years in Texas—and her fourth year in private practice in Boerne, Texas
JUSTIN REINKE, ’97 (Business), was recently appointed VP of marketing by Beko Home Appliances. Beko Home Appliances is the fast-growing American subsidiary of Arçelik, one of the world’s largest home appliance manufacturers.

MELISSA WHITAKER, ’97 (Agriculture and Natural Resources), recently retired from Michigan State University’s Plant Research Laboratory after 16 years in Dr. Beronda Montgomery’s lab.

ALISON GAUDREAU, ’98 (Engineering) joined Michigan State University as the assistant vice president of engagement for University Advancement.


JAMES LIGGINS, J.D. ’03 (Law), has joined the Greenleaf Trust board of directors of Greenleaf Financial Holding Company, Greenleaf Trust of Michigan and Greenleaf Trust of Delaware. While at MSU College of Law he earned the prestigious George N. Bashara Jr. Distinguished Alumni Award. Greenleaf Trust provides the highest level of comprehensive wealth management services, trust administration and retirement plan services.

HEATHER KENDRICK, Ph.D. ’04 (Arts and Letters), has joined the faculty of Central Michigan University as a senior lecturer. Kendrick will teach philosophy and has been developing courses in the area of environmental ethics and justice. Kendrick is recognized as a subject specialist in environmental and animal ethics at CMU. 

ABDULAZIZ M. AL-FAILAKAWI, ’08 (Social Science), received leadership and entrepreneurship certificates from Harvard Business School, Babson College and Wharton Business School.  

THOMAS W. COKE, J.D. ’08 (Law), recently founded Varsity Gems, LLC, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Varsity Gems helps Division II and III student-athletes benefit through a burgeoning platform using NFTs under the NCAA Name, Image, Likeness rules. 

RAY POIRIER, III, ’09 (Business), was recognized with the Rising Star Award by the Michigan Association of CPAs. Poirier is the owner of RP Financial, providing tax planning, compliance and financial reporting services to closely-held businesses, high net worth individuals, S-corporations, partnerships and corporations. 



BRYAN O. BUCKLEY, ’10 (Natural Science), MPH ’12 (Human Medicine), was recently named health equity director of the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA), Washington, D.C.

ADAM MILLER, ’11 (Agriculture and Natural Resources), was named vice president of Operations at Caesars Palace, Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, and The Cromwell, Las Vegas, Nevada.

ALLISON ALTENBERGER-OLSON, ’13 (Education), recently received the Excellence in Education Award from the Michigan Lottery. Altenberger-Olson is a special education teacher in the Mason, Michigan, school district.  

ALLEGRA W. SMITH, ’13 (Arts and Letters, Honors College), M.A. ’15 (Arts and Letters), received the 2021-22 Hugh Burns Award for the best dissertation published in the field of computers and composition.

DANIEL J. BERKOWITZ, J.D. ’14 (Law), recently rejoined the Aronberg Goldgehn firm as a member focusing his practice in insurance coverage litigation and analysis as well as business litigation. Aronberg Goldgehn is a premier full-service business law and litigation firm with offices in Chicago and Wheaton, Illinois. The firm represents clients ranging from entrepreneurial individuals and middle-market businesses to Fortune 500 companies. 

DEREK NUGENT, MBA ’14 (Business), has been hired as chief financial officer of GroupeSTAHL. A Michigan-based company, GroupeSTAHL is a global leader in the garment decoration and equipment industry. A dedicated leader in the financial and accounting space, Nugent will be critical in supporting GroupeSTAHL as they drive toward their mission of continued innovation and expansion into new markets. 

ANDY WHITAKER, ’14 (Education), MBA ’22 (Business), was recently honored by Poet&Quants on its list of 100 “Best & Brightest” MBAs.

BRIAN FIANI, D.O. ’15 (Osteopathic Medicine), will join the Livonia, Michigan-based Mendelson Kornblum group in 2023. Fiani is a world-renowned, Ivy-League fellowship-trained neurosurgeon with a sub-specialty focus on spine surgery. 

NICOLE QUINN M.S. ’15 (Agriculture and Natural Resources), recently joined UF/IFAS as an assistant professor of entomology. Quinn will specialize in the biocontrol of invasive insects and mites at the Norman C. Hayslip Biological Control Research and Containment Laboratory in Fort Pierce, Florida. 

JULIE NGOC THAI, M.D. ’17 (Human Medicine), was named the 2020 Resident of the Year by the Michigan Academy of Family Physicians, Flint, Michigan. 

ANN FILKINS, M.S. ’18 (Social Science), has been appointed as clerk of court for the Western District of Michigan by the United States District Court. Filkins has served in the Kalamazoo County Court system for over 20 years. 

RICHARD TANNER, ’19 (Arts and Letters), unveiled a new sculpture called “The Phoenix” on Michigan State University’s campus. The sculpture, located outside of MSU’s Intramural East building, was two years in the making with planning beginning in fall 2019. The original design was based on athletics, and over the course of its creation, its message of rising from the ashes gained an entirely new meaning. As the COVID-19 pandemic raged on and people around the world suffered the loss of loved ones, “The Phoenix” transformed into a beacon of hope.



RACHEL GORMAN, MBA ’20 (Business), is director of development at Pioneer Resources, and was recently awarded the 2022 Lakeshore Athena Young Professional Award. 

VANESSA GARCIA POLANCO, M.S. ’20 (Agriculture and Natural Resources), was recently promoted to policy campaigns co-director of the National Young Farmers Coalition based in Washington, D.C. 

RYDA SUNDILA, ’21 (Arts and Letters), has joined Ford Motor Co. as a product designer. Sundila credits her experiences and education gained through the Experience Architecture program at Michigan State University for helping her strive in her career. 

JACK BUDDE, ’22 (Business, Honors College), and JULIA LOWER, ’22 (Business, Honors College), were honored on Poets&Quants’ list of 100 seniors. Poets&Quants’ annual “Best & Brightest Business Majors” list celebrates outstanding undergraduate seniors for their stellar accomplishments. 

JAYLEN SIMONEAU, ’22 (Social   Science), was admitted to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, Brunswick, Georgia.


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