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Class Notes

1970s

George C. Schirm (A&S 1979) writes, “I attended Point Park from Sept.1964 to April 1970 and received a bachelor’s degree in business management, [and] continued to attend Point Park and received a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering in 1979. I now work at Raytheon Space Systems as a project engineering manager. I previously worked at Westinghouse corporate and overseas, and worked at Volkswagen manufacturing automotive plant, and at Bechtel Engineering/McDonnel Douglas Air Craft/General Dynamics. I also served in U.S. Army. [I am] a veteran from the school’s beginning, and I want to thank Point Park for my success.”

James H. Riggs III (COM 1973) retired in December 2014 after 39 years working in the sports department at The Post-Journal in Jamestown, N.Y., and the last 34 years as sports editor. Locally, he mainly covered and took photos of Jamestown Community College sports, Jamestown High School football, and the Jamestown team in the New York-Penn League. He was also the official scorer for Jamestown’s team in the NY-P League for 38 years. Riggs covered major golf events in the area and created the P-J Champions tournament for area men’s scratch club champions. On that national scene, the highlight of Riggs’ career was covering the U.S. win over the Soviet Union at the 1980 Winter Olympics along with the gold medal victory over Finland. He also covered four U.S. Open golf championships, a PGA Championship and the 2008 Ryder Cup. Riggs took photos at Buffalo Bills home games and handled visiting locker room interviews during the team’s stretch of four Super Bowl appearances. Though battling health issues, he and his wife, Sharon, are looking forward to spending time in Nashville, Tenn., visiting with their son, Jim IV, daughter-in-law Melissa, and grandchildren Brennan, Cora and Seth. Riggs’ successor at The Post-Journal is former assistant sports editor, Scott Kindberg (COM 1982) who is also a Point Park graduate.

Glenn Ricci (COM 1971) writes, “I recently published a book (in 2015) of my life's artwork which goes back to, and includes works from, my Point Park College days. It is titled Through The Mind Of An Artist - From 1968 to Present.” According to the book’s description: “Creativity, artistic processes, and ideas are revealed in pictures and words to reveal how final images came to be what they are from initial drawings to the resulting metamorphosis. Ricci reveals the creative process with explanations of how images evolved from initial idea or beginning sketch to a finished work... The love he feels in revealing the creative process can be inspiring; readers find themselves drawn into these images that exhibit wonderment, in-depth discovery, a heartbeat of structure, mastery and naiveté all mixed together in presenting works of art from the heart.” Read more.

1980s

Beverly Edwards (COPA 1983) is the general manager of Breakfast at Tiffany’s, now on stage at Theatre Royal Haymarket in London’s West End.

Kathleen Conery (COPA 1983) recently completed her 20th year as the costume shop manager at James Madison University's School of Theatre and Dance. Over the past two decades she has designed numerous theatre, dance and children's theatre costumes, overseen the production of almost 200 shows, and taught sewing and pattern making to a countless number of students. She writes, “the coming year will bring more of the same, with designs for two JMU productions, one for the local community theatre, and a multitude of students learning the art of sewing on a button (and hopefully more!).” In addition to her work responsibilities, for the past six years she has served as president of a local textile guild, teaching classes and demonstrating in spinning, knitting, weaving and beadwork. With the end of her term limits coming this June, she says she looks forward to learning the meaning of the words “spare time,” though she suspects that it just means more time to weed the garden.

Irene Kent (COPA 1988) and friend and fellow alumna Angela Garrison (COPA 1988) were the focus on an article on Starbound Talent and Consulting for college needs. Read more. Kent earned her degree in dance and Garrison earned her degree in musical theatre at Point Park.

Jim Caskowski (COM 1980) is an accomplished artist who specializes in woodturning and creates original works in his North Carolina studio. His works can be found in galleries and shops in the Ashville, N.C. area. Caskowski recently donated an original wood turned bowl to his alma mater, and it is now displayed in the 8th floor administrative office area in Point Park’s Academic Hall. Caskowski was a journalism and communications major who served as the business manager of the Point Park Pioneer, and has fond memories of working with the head of the Journalism and Communications Department, Dr. Vincent LaBarbra.

In Memoriam

Sara Jane (Beardsley) Freese (BUS 1982) passed away on February 2 in Kansas City, Mo. She was 56. Born in Pittsburgh, she earned her bachelor’s degree in accounting at Point Park. According to her obituary in the Kansas City Star and Legacy.com, she also “did graduate work in theology and had a lifetime teaching certificate in Missouri. Sara was an administrative secretary at St. John's United Methodist Church in Kansas City. Sara enjoyed being a mother, was a fabulous cook, and an accomplished artist. The lovely Sara was a wonderful wife, mother, sister, and aunt; a faithful helpmate, and full partner in ministry. In addition to her husband Barry, Sara is survived by her daughters, Ruthan Constance Freese of Durham, NC, and Samantha Leigh Freese of Kansas City…” Read the entire obituary.

1990s

Scott Kleinberg (COM 1995) has accepted a new position in New York City. After 11 years at the Chicago Tribune, Kleinberg is moving back to where he was born, where he'll be the director of social media and digital engagement in the New York City mayor's office.

Jeff Poffenbarger (COPA 1996) was recently promoted to senior executive producer at the Toys for Bob video game development studio, a subsidy of Activision, Inc. Jeff has produced a number of games during his 18 years at Activision including the best selling Skylanders video games.

Ed Weigle (COM 1990), a veteran voice actor, celebrates his 15th year as the international radio voice of World Wrestling Entertainment in September. Today, he’s responsible for conceiving, voicing and producing all radio spots heard across America and in every English-speaking nation across the globe for WWE. According to Weigle, 48, he began doing voiceovers at 13 and became a radio personality at 15—believe it or not, with the indirect help of screen icon, Jimmy Stewart—influenced by his close friend, the late Pittsburgh icon, Porky Chedwick (whose biography he’s now writing). With the help of Point Park’s Professor Joan Williams-Guiliani, he landed his first national voiceover job at 19. He is heard today narrating three television series on the NBC Sports Channel, Outdoor and Sportsman, as well as announcing (and sometimes co-hosting) the nationally syndicated radio program, The Cigar Dave Show, heard on more than 140 radio stations coast to coast. In 2012, producer Casey Tebo and Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler recruited him to do the tongue-in-cheek narrative at the beginning of the music video for “Legendary Child,” the group’s first video in eight years. His unmistakable voice has also been heard on Cartoon Network, ESPN, Nickelodeon and ABC-TV over the past several years. He’s even featured in the book, Legendary Locals of Latrobe, along with his friends, Arnold Palmer (with whom he did a radio and TV ad campaign for 84 Lumber, in the ‘90s, which may have been the only to feature two Latrobe High School grads) and Mister Rogers.

Michelle Lawrence-Schmude (BUS 1999) has been promoted to associate dean for admission, enrollment management and financial aid, at The Commonwealth Medical College. She earned her M.B.A. in international business at Point Park.

2000s

David Flora (COM ’09) writes, “I now work as a producer for PGA Tour Live and PGA Tour International.” He is based in Jacksonville, Fla.

Shane Portman (COPA '02) wrote and co-created a series of original stop-motion animated shorts for HMH Publishing's new app, Curious World. Produced through Bix Pix, Moonlight Storytime follows follows a brother and sister, Adeline and Albert, who read popup book tales to their little turtle friend, Tot. Each time they open the cover and the popups fold out, the home viewer is taken into the book and the stories come to life in whimsical re-imaginings of Aesop fables. The children and turtle are animated in traditional 3D stop motion with plasticine and ball and socket puppets and sets (designed by the award-winning staff at Bix Pix) and the popup book characters were animated in 2D paper animation (designed by Disney paper artists, Kevin Kidney and Britni Brault). And, to make this experience even more memorable, two of the stories came from the imaginative mind of his fiancé, Ruth Gamble (COPA ’03). Portman is also the current script supervisor for Bix Pix's Emmy Award-winning stop-motion series Tumble Leaf on Amazon Prime. Learn more.

Benjamin Cole (COM ’09) has accepted a new position at KDKA-TV in the station’s Traffic Department. Prior to this he was traffic manager at Renda Broadcasting (WISH 99.7). While at Point Park, Ben was active in both WPPJ (assistant general manager) and U-View. According to Cole, he's excited to enter the world of TV, leaving radio behind. He joins his wife, Annie Perri Cole (COM’09), at KDKA-TV, as well!

Stephanie Rex (COM’07) is the new vice president of public relations, marketing and social media at Z Brand Group, a full-service marketing and advertising agency located in downtown Pittsburgh. She will lead client projects by creating and implementing marketing, public relations and social media strategies, internal communications planning and implementation, writing for various mediums, and media relations. “I am thrilled to join the talented team that is led by our founder and principal, Goldie Z. Ostrow, and I look forward to the creative work and experiences ahead,” she said. Rex has more than 10 years of communications experience working for local and national nonprofit organizations, a local boutique PR firm, and as a former reporter and editor. She earned a B.A. in journalism from Point Park and an M.A. in public relations from Kent State University.

Ashley Laverty (COPA ’09) recently founded Kerfuffle, Arizona's first theatre company devoted to creating performances with and for children under 5 years old. Laverty, who earned her degree in musical theatre at Point Park, also wrote and directed their premiere production, The Caterpillar's Footprint. Learn more.

Dustin Fitzharris (A&S ’03) has returned to ABC News and is now working as an associate producer for network’s 20/20 specials. He previously worked as an associate producer for the daytime drama All My Children. Fitzharris earned his degree in elementary education at Point Park.

2010s

Mallory Marinack (COPA ’12) is currently dancing with Dayton Ballet, and previously danced with Texas Ballet Theater for two seasons.

Trumaine "Tru" Verret-Fleming (COPA’14) writes, “From the time I graduated I was able to find lots and lots of work in the city of Pittsburgh. From plays, to musicals, to commercials, to being a full time singer/entertainer with a wedding and corporate event band, to finally joining Royal Caribbean International as a lead vocalist for their Vision of the Seas fleet. Prior to joining Royal (I'm now rehearsing in Miami) I was able to obtain my Actors' Equity Card from The Rep professional company at Point Park’s Pittsburgh Playhouse. I played Pharus Young in this season's second show Choir Boy. I also recently got married. Coming to Point Park (even as a non-traditional student) has changed my entire life and has lead me to new journeys in Pittsburgh and abroad. I am a proud alum!”

Katherine Lancaster (BUS ’13) writes, “I recently accepted a new position at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust as a show marketing manager, and married Carey McKelvey (a current Point Park MBA/MA graduate student) in November 2015.”

Margie (Trax) Netzel (COM ’12) now serves as the content manager of Scott Enterprises, which owns and manages 27 different hospitality properties, including Splash Lagoon Indoor Water Park in Erie, Pa and Peek ’n Peak Resort in Clymer, N.Y. She is also the social media manager for the LECOM Health Challenge on the PGA Tour's Web.com tour. Netzel lives in Geneva, Ohio with her husband Andy and their children Emily and Clark Netzel.

Ashley Kress (COM ’15) writes, “after graduating with a 3.96 GPA, I moved to Madison, Ind. where I am now serving as the member services specialist for the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce.” Kress, who earned her M.A. in communication technology) says she chose Point Park because I desired a program that would teach me communication theories and how to conduct research (in case I decided to seek my Ph.D.), but that would also give me hands-on experience working with digital marketing programs and situations that I would encounter in the workforce.” In her new position, Kress says “I work within the Madison area to support local businesses, while also connecting the community to these businesses, so the economy can prosper. My duties primarily focus on supporting our members through digital marketing initiatives (like social media, email marketing, graphic design and content creation). But, I also get to dabble in planning networking events and festivals for the community. My very first project was to lead the transition of the Chamber's website to a new platform, as well as redesigning the whole site to be more user friendly. The website project led to the redesign of our marketing materials as well.

Justin Karter (COM ’14, A&S ’15) has been accepted into the Ph.D. program in counseling psychology at UMass Boston, where he will continue his work in psychological ethics. He earned his M.A. in journalism in 2014, and his M.A. in community and clinical psychology in 2015, at Point Park. He will marry Hannah Steere, M.D., on Seneca Lake in western New York on August 5, 2016.

Dana Fitzgerald (COM’15) is an events assistant at the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden. She earned her B.A. in public relations and advertising at Point Park.

Melissa Ferraro (A&S ’11, BUS ’13) is the development director at the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden. She earned her B.A. in behavioral sciences and her M.A. in organizational leadership at Point Park.

Jared Passante (COPA ’14) writes, “I am now working for the Los Angeles production company Mythology Entertainment as the executive assistant to the vice president of film development and production. The company was founded, and is run by, the producers and writers of such films as Zodiac, Black Swan, Shutter Island, Truth, White House Down and Amazing Spider-Man.” Passante earned his degree in cinema and digital arts at Point Park.

Michael W. Mann (A&S ’11, BUS ’13) has been named one of “Pittsburgh’s 50 Finest” by the Cystic Fibrosis Association and was featured in Whirl magazine. He is the regional business manager at the dental practice of Bobbie Lee Hawranko, D.M.D., in the Shadyside neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Mann earned his bachelor’s degree in elementary education and his M.B.A. at Point Park. Read more about Mann's honor.

Kishor Pradhan (BUS ’12) is IT testing and quality analyst at Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield in Pittsburgh. A native of Sarpang, Bhutan, he earned his M.B.A. with a concentration in health systems management at Point Park in 2012. He also earned a master of commerce degree at Uttaranchal University and a bachelor of commerce degree at the University of Calcutta. According to Pradhan, “When I first arrived to the United States, I was working in contract positions for various health care organizations. I felt that pursing an American degree would help me to obtain a full-time, permanent position. In addition, I believed that an M.B.A. degree focused in health systems management would be important to have with the new health care laws coming.”

Suresh Chockiah (BUS ’13) is vice president, strategic services and enterprise architecture at PNC Financial Services. He earned his M.B.A. with an international business concentration, Point Park in 2013. Previously, he earned his B.S. in math and computer science at the University of Madras. He is also a Project Management Institute certified Project Management Professional, a TOGAF certified Enterprise Architect, and Carnegie Mellon University certified Enterprise Architect. A native of Chennai, India, Chockiah says, “My M.B.A. education has definitely helped me move beyond just having a technologist viewpoint. I’ve gained a broader perspective on how my decisions and strategies affect PNC's business.”

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