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Editor’s Note: Alumni Notes items are submitted by alumni and are not verified by the editors. While we welcome alumni news, UNC Magazine is not responsible for the information contained in these submissions.


November 17, 2017

Gerald Leischuck (BA ’59, MA ’61), Auburn, Ala., has published My Auburn: Four Decades on the Plains – An Autobiography.

Joan N. Murray (BA ’59, MA ’62, EdS ’67), Thornton, published a vintage cookbook in 2007, Creative Cuisine Collection, under her Italian name Giovannina Murray, which is in the Colorado Historical Museum.

Barbara Jo Davis (BA ’64), Eden Prairie, Minn., was inducted into the Minnesota Women Business Owners Hall of Fame for her outstanding leadership as former owner of Ken Davis Barbecue Sauce. Davis helped grow one of the most successful African-American owned businesses in the state.

James W. “Jim” Cantrell (MA ’65), Bardstown, Ky., made history last year by being the first Kentucky artist selected by Churchill Downs to produce the Official Art of the Kentucky Derby, which appeared on the 2017 Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby posters, tickets and programs. Cantrell’s painting career spans six decades. His work is in the permanent collection of 16 art museums around the country and numerous corporate and private art collections.

George Small (BA ’69, MA ’72), Cañon City, is District Governor for Rotary 5470, which supports 57 clubs and 2,200 members in southern Colorado.

Alumnus named to Nebraska Scholastic Wrestling Coaches Association 2017 Hall of Fame

Alumnus Gary Nickal (BA ’68, MA ’70), was named to the Nebraska Scholastic Wrestling Coaches Association 2017 Hall of Fame. Nickal grew up in Scottsbluff and wrestled for UNC (then Colorado State College) under renowned coaches John Hancock and Jack Labonde. Throughout his career, Nickal coached 17 individual state champions in schools across Nebraska, Kansas and Wyoming, and coached 33 wrestlers to state placements.

Donald “Don-Paul” Benjamin (BA ’70, MA ’78), Cedaredge, has traveled to schools and libraries in Colorado and other western states teaching cartooning and story illustration to children. In May 2017, he taught cartooning to his 6,500th student. To commemorate the occasion, the student, a fourth-grader at Cedaredge Elementary School, received one of Benjamin’s autographed cartoons.

Max Carlson (BA ’71), Longmont, wrote A Thousand Little Cuts, published March 2017.

Charles West (BM ’71), Centreville, Va., retired after 30 years as Professor of Music at Virginia Commonwealth University. Among his achievements are Woodwind Methods: An Essential Resource for Educators, Conductors, and Students and Woodwind Instruments: Purchasing, Maintaining, TroubleshootingandMore published by Meredith Music Publications. West is also the recipient of the Award of Excellence, VCU Arts’ highest faculty honor.

Fred Waiss (BA ’72), Prairie Du Chien, Wis., published four books, including Just Lucky, Book 1: Friends and Enemies, his most recent Just Lucky, Book 2: Love and Hate along with two fantasy novels Prophecy of Honor and Witchery.

Claude d’Estrée (BA ’74), Denver, is full professor at the University of Denver. He is the director of the M.A. program in International Human Rights, Director of the Human Trafficking Center (HTC) and Director of the Center on Human Rights Education (COHRE).

Thomas Tornow (BA ’75), Whitefish, Mont., was named the 2017 Citizen of the Year by the Whitefish Chamber of Commerce for his contributions to the community in providing affordable housing for working citizens. Turnow is a housing attorney for low-income seniors, families and handicapped individuals and is a candidate for Whitefish Municipal Judge.

Samuel M. Collier (MS ’77), Vivian, La., worked as a Systems Engineering Consultant for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics in Fort Worth on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter during the System Design and Demonstration (SDD) phase of the aircraft program.

John C. “Chris” Coursey (BA ’77), Santa Rosa, Calif., is mayor of Santa Rosa, effective Dec. 6, 2016.

Mary S. Ernster (BA ’78), Northbrook, Ill., is in the Broadway production of War Paint with Patti LuPone and Christine Ebersole.

Brooke Serpe-Ingold (MA ’81), Sparks, Nev., is an RN case manager and a retired Army Nurse Corps Officer.  

Mark Pargas (BA ’83), Pellham, N.Y., is celebrating his 19th year as a staff editor at the New York Times. Pargas helps produce the Food, Thursday Styles, Sunday Styles, Men’s Style, Real Estate, Sunday Metropolitan, Sunday Business and Arts and Science sections of the famed publication.

Ernesto P. Alvarado (PhD ’87), Thornton, co-authored Our Apache Ways, published by Vanishing Horizons.

Brenda (Walker) Neubaum (BA ’89), Denver, has been named 2017 New Volunteer of the Year by Volunteers of America-Colorado for her work with Hunger Free Colorado. She recently retired from federal service in the Food and Nutrition Service and the National Health Service Corps.

Catherine “Cathy” Lucas (BA ’90), Denver, is chief communications officer and chief of staff at Metropolitan State University and has been named the 2017 Public Relations Person of the Year by the Public Relations Society of America Colorado Chapter.

Ray Hallquist (BA ’94), Littleton, is the owner of a new general construction company, HPM, and looks forward to the construction of his first building at UNC.

Ken Reed (EdD ’95), Littleton, is sports policy director for League of Fans, a sports reform project that advocates for justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports. His book is titled Ego vs. Soul in Sports: Essays on Sport at Its Best
and Worst.

Major Cathleen Marie McManaman (BA ’97), Parker, retired with 25 years of service in the United States Army. She completed five overseas tours in the Middle East and one tour in the Balkans. Her awards include a Bronze Star, two Meritorious Service Medals, five Army Commendation Medals, a Combat Action Badge and numerous other achievement and service awards. McManaman was inducted into the Military Order of Saint Christopher for outstanding contributions to the transportation corps during Operation New Dawn and Enduring Freedom. 

New Leadership at UNC

Former student leader, turned fundraising executive Allie Steg Haskett (BA ’03) assumed a new leadership role this year — UNC vice president for Development and Alumni Relations. As a student Steg Haskett was involved in University Program Council and served as chapter president of her sorority, Delta Zeta. Relying on 14 years of fundraising experience and a strong network of alumni and friends, Steg Haskett is responsible for leading the university’s inaugural comprehensive campaign, The Campaign for UNC. The initiative has a goal to raise $45 million and engage 13,000 alumni through participation, philanthropy and volunteerism.

Joshua Belk (BA ’01), Colorado Springs, teaches theater at Palmer Ridge High School in Monument. His program produced Colorado’s premiere of the musical Starlight Express. The production was awarded a Bobby G Award for Special Achievement for a Colorado Premiere by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.

Jacinda Danner (MA ’03), Palmer, Alaska, was named 2017 Teacher of the Year for Excellence in Braille Instruction by the Braille Institute of America. Danner has been teaching visually impaired students for 25 years and was recognized “for her creative approach to education, her ability to promote resources that support unique complexities of teaching in rural areas of Alaska and most importantly, her ability to connect her visually impaired students with their sighted peers to forge important friendships and partnerships.”

Maria Thomas (BA ’05), Greeley, has been selected to be an O, The Oprah Magazine Insider, one of the magazine’s elite brand ambassadors. Thomas was also selected as a Who’s Next in Education recipient by the Greeley Tribune.

Ruth Kimata (BA ’10), Cheyenne, Wyo., is a reporter with the KGWN CBS Channel 5 news team.

Samantha Provenzano (BA ’10), Austin, Texas, along with UNC School of Theatre Arts and Dance faculty members Mary Schuttler and Gillian McNally, presented at the International Theatre for Young Audience Conference in Cape Town, South Africa, in May.

Cody T. Havard (PhD ’11), Collierville, Tenn., an assistant professor of Sport Commerce at the University of Memphis, was interviewed by the Chicago Tribune about behavior and rivalry among Chicago Cubs fans while playing the 2017 baseball season as defending World Series Champions. Havard also discussed fan behavior and rivalry as it relates to the South Carolina Men’s Basketball Final Four run for The Island Packet newspaper.

Meghan (Nyberg) Schmitz (BA ’11), Colorado Springs, graduated a year early from UNC and is the second youngest person to graduate from the Master of Science in Communication program at Northwestern University.

Ashley Ann Valenzuela-Ruesgen (BA ’11), was selected one of BizWest’s 40 Under Forty emerging leaders in Northern Colorado. Valenzuela-Ruesgen was also recognized as one of Weld County’s Millennial Leaders Making a Difference in Education.

Jennifer Morse (MS ’12), Thornton, leads the physical education program at Prospect Valley Elementary School in Broomfield.

Aisha Jackson (BA ’13), New York, N.Y., was cast in the Broadway production of Frozen. In her third appearance on Broadway, Jackson will understudy for the role of Anna.

Katherine “Katie” Mucci (BA ’14), Atlanta, Ga., was named to the Rising 25 Class of 2017 by Front Office Sports, which honors the top 25 individuals, age 25 or younger, working in the sports industry.

Cashelle Butler (BA ’14), Denver, and Adriane Wilson (BA ’15), Greeley, were cast in the Denver Center for the Performing Arts’ production of First Date.

Priscila Marin Amory (EdD ’17), Greeley, received a job offer as an elementary teacher at a bilingual school in Greeley prior to graduation. As part of the UNC Center for Human Enrichment (CHE) cohort, Marin Amory was recognized for her high GPA and named an Inspiration Student.

Justin C. Ditter (BS ’17), Robert T. Kreiling (BA ’17), Paul S. Reeder (BS ’17) and Zackary H. Schreiber (BS ’17) were commissioned by the Department of Aerospace Studies/Air Force ROTC at UNC as second lieutenants in the United States Air Force.

Laurence Curry (BA ’88), Marco Robinson (BA ’17), Emily Van Fleet-Sneed (BA ’11) and Jenna Moll Reyes (BA ’14) have been cast in the Denver Center for the Performing Arts’ production of Wild Party.