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Alumni Notes



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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.

October 25, 2022

  • 1960s

    Jay Christensen ’60 B.A., ’61 M.A., joined the PLATO Society of Los Angeles in 2008 and has remained active by coordinating 14 weeks of “Wagons Ho: Settling the American West” and co-coordinated “Brexit; United or Untied?” To date he has coordinated 15 study/discussion groups and participated in at least 60 study/discussion groups over the years.  

  • 1970s

    Jack Gallegos ’71 B.A., Cincinnati, Ohio, recently published “Financial Literacy A Life Skill,” a book that covers the most commonly asked questions and answers about how to effectively manage your money. 

    Bonnie Culp Smith ’71 B.A., Bailey, was nominated for the Excellence in Education Award 2010. She received the Runner-Up Award from the ISEA (Iowa State Education Association). After graduating from UNC she received a master’s in Education from Drake University of Des Moines, Iowa, and added endorsements in Middle School Education, Reading, Social Studies from Viterbo University, Wisconsin and from Upper Iowa University. She taught for 17 years at the middle school level and as adjunct professor of Education and Reading at Upper Iowa, West Des Moines, Iowa Campus.

    Kay Greenhalge Cellura ’71 B.S., Scottsdale, Ariz., retired in 2015 after a fulfilling 45-year career primarily as a psychiatric/mental health RN, on crisis stabilization units at Scottsdale Samaritan Behavioral Health Hospital and later from a community mental health clinic. 

    Sherri Simansky Haynie ’74 B.A., Colorado Springs and a group of sorority sisters from UNC’s Alpha Sigma Alpha chapter from the 70s are having a reunion in Colorado Springs in November. “Some graduated over 50 years ago,” she says. 

    Mario Martinez ’74 B.A., Rio Rancho, N.M., was selected to serve on the governing board of the Sandoval Academy of Bilingual Education, a K-8 charter school located in Rio Rancho in December 2021. Previously, he served five years as a community member on the Sandoval Treasurer’s Investment committee. He also appeared as a background extra for five episodes on the popular TV series “Better Call Saul,” which will air toward the end of the series. 

    A Triple Crown of Service 

    Donald E. Dirnberger ’77 B.A., has served in a “triple crown” of U.S. government service agencies, starting with the Peace Corps as a volunteer in the eastern Caribbean, Antigua and Barbuda, West Indies.

    When Hurricane Mitch devastated Central America in 1998, he returned to service by helping in the homeland country of his mother, Halsey (Halcyon) Dirnberger, who was born on the island of Utila, Bay Islands, Honduras, Central America. With the Crisis Corps (Response) Don served as a disaster relief volunteer then went on to join AmeriCorps and was assigned to Habitat for Humanity, Metro Denver, as a new construction project leader from 2021 to 2022.

    Gary Lewis ’77 M.S., Cape Coral, Fla., recently received the American Numismatic Association Medal of Merit at its 131st Anniversary Convention in Rosemont, Ill. 

    Donnetta Heitschmidt Suchon ’79 Ph.D., Seabrook, Texas, retired from Lee College as the academic dean and the vice president of Students Affairs. During her career, she worked more than 40 years in education in Florida, South Carolina and Texas as an instructor and administrator in both academics and student affairs. 

  • 1980s

    Phil D. Skinner ’82 B.S., Denver, is deputy superintendent of the U.S. Mint in Denver. He joined the business world after a career flying helicopters in the Marines, starting what became an international consulting company leading him to his role with the U.S. Mint. Mike Griebel ’83 B.A., and

    Mike O’Dwyer ’85 B.S., former Bears football players, were inducted into the 58th class of the Colorado High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame at the Inverness Hotel in Denver. Both are still active head coaches; O’Dwyer is at Limon High School and Griebel spent 32 years at Heritage High School and is currently at Thomas Jefferson High School.

  • 1990s

    Victor Rivera ’90 B.A., Sun City West, Ariz., retired after 25 years as a principal, teacher and coach at various high schools. After retiring he continued coaching wrestling in two different schools with plans to close out his coaching career. 

    JT Anderson ’91 B.A., Centennial, has been in chiropractic practice for 28 years and has been the team chiropractor for the Denver Broncos, Colorado Crush and Denver Outlaws lacrosse team. He’s written two books — Outside the Fence: A Father’s Journey from Coach to Fan, and No Bones About It! A Memoir of a Chiropractor.  

    Michael Younger ’92 B.A.E., Alvin, Texas, retired in May 2021 after teaching high school and junior high school science for 29 years. He taught earth science, biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, ecology and paleontology career education, and coached many chess teams. “UNC prepared me for my career remarkably well and was a safe and welcoming home for me for seven years,” he says. 

    David Daniels ’94 M.A., Omaha, Neb., after a career in recreation, now works as event staff for the Liberty First Credit Union Arena and in sales for the Grass Pad/Loveland Lawns. In his spare time, he composes and performs Americana music under the stage name, “Dangerous Dave” Daniels. He recently released his fourth album. 

    Diane E. Miller ’94 M.A., Greeley, has been selected for the Marquis Who’s Who Lifetime Achievement Award based on her career in education, philanthropic endeavors and contributions to society. She is currently serving chair of the Board of Directors for A Woman’s Place. She also serves on the Board of Directors for the Greeley Philharmonic Orchestra.  

    Keri Adams Pugh ’97 B.S., Littleton, co-founded Fusion Financial Group in 2021 with Nelisha Firestone. They focus on helping thriving families, women, small businesses and new investors plan a future worth working toward. 

  • 2000s

    Rosenna Bakari ’00 Ph.D., Maricopa, Ariz., published The Healing Journey: Relationships and Wellness Guide in September 2021. 

    Aimee Miyazawa ’01 B.A., Lakewood, served as head athletic trainer for USA Volleyball Beach National and Olympic Teams from 2015 to  2018, and in 2016, was at the Olympics Games in Rio de Janeiro supporting Team USA and the Beach Volleyball Olympic Teams as medical support. She is currently with Denver Sports Recovery. 

    Sarira Sadeghi ’02 B.A., Santa Ana, Calif., was recently appointed Assistant Dean for Academic Achievement at Chapman University Fowler School of Law. 

    Mandy Johner Heil ’03 B.A., ’05 M.A., Yuma Ariz., has worked in the field of higher education since becoming a UNC orientation leader in 1999.

    Eric Waisman ’03 B.S., Larkspur, Calif., launched the Jaunty Gym, an organization helping people with social skills and social anxiety. 

    Scott Wenzel ’05 B.S., Stamford, Conn., has joined the law firm of Yankwitt LLP. Previously, Wenzel worked for Latham & Watkins and served as a federal law clerk for Judge Debra M. Brown of the District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi. In addition to practicing law, Wenzel was part of the Belgium-based Fuji Geox Test Cycling Team, with which he competed in single and multi-day endurance races in Northern Europe as part of eight-man team.  

    Emily McNellis Kotas ’07 B.S., Denver, was recently appointed director, Corporate Partnerships for Children’s Hospital Colorado Foundation after a nationwide search. She works with corporation partners to invest in and transform the care for kids across an 850-mile radius of care.

  • 2010s

    Kayla Zadel Contardo ’11 B.A., Nashville, Tenn., currently hosts lifestyle TV segments across the nation. In addition to her TV appearances, her media company manages several clients’ social media accounts. 

    Emilie Nemchak Waggoner ’13 B.A., ’16 M.A., Brighton, was promoted to director of Student Transitions at the University of Colorado Denver, where she also created and teaches the extremely popular Anime Goes to College class. She presented at Anime Expo in Los Angeles, the largest anime expo in the United States, on the academic track.   

    Eric Sheley ’18 B.A., Longmont, recently accepted a position as planner I for the Town of Frederick. 

    Hailee Frazier ’19 B.A., Broomfield, attended law school in Oklahoma City, then returned to Colorado where she is practicing as a certified intern with the Colorado State Office of the Public Defender. 

  • 2020s

    Donnie Barratt ’20 B.S., Littleton, earned a master’s degree in Biomedical Sciences at Iowa State University this past spring.

    Carrie Merscham Johansson ’21 Ph.D., Denver, is a psychologist, speaker, and author residing and practicing in Denver. She recently published a book called Self Help On The Go which addresses ways to leverage emotional flexibility to become more resilient and improve how one responds to life’s most common problems.