Keeping alumni and friends connected to U-M

Alumni Notes

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Lois Batchelor Howard,
'54, School of Music graduate, continues as organist and choir director at Christ Lutheran Church in Desert Hot Springs, Calif. Years ago, however, her favorite music became the music of words. A much-published poet, she has won many awards in writing. In 2012 her book of poetry, "On The Face Of Things," was published by Finishing Line Press. This year "More Than Moments" will be published. To quote Lois, "I cannot tell you how many doors have opened for me because I am a graduate of The University Of Michigan! One of my favorite memories is studying and playing the carillon in Burton Memorial Tower. Here's to the U of M!!"

Tad McKillop,
'88, is an Ann Arbor artist who specializes in nude figurative work. His art can be viewed at his Ann Arbor studio, where he usually has 50-60 pieces on hand. In addition, Tad is a perennial fixture of college classrooms, teaching sculpture part-time over the years at U-M, Hillsdale College, Washtenaw Community College, and Toledo-area colleges. He also builds motorcycles (choppers) primarily for himself and friends. He recently was featured in an article titled A Cast of Sculptures in the online magazine Concentrate.

Irving Smokler,
Medical School alumnus and former assistant professor at U-M, is the president and founder of the NephCure Foundation. He recently was appointed to serve on the prestigious scientific advisory council of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). The advisory council provides programmatic advice to NIDDK and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on scientific opportunities in kidney disease research. Dr. Smokler founded The NephCure Foundation in 1999. It is the only organization committed exclusively to support research seeking the cause of the potentially debilitating kidney disease Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) and Nephrotic Syndrome, improve treatment, and find a cure. Dr. Smokler's son suffered from FSGS in his childhood. To date, the foundation has committed $14 million to FSGS work.

Aviva Kempner,
a 1969 and 1971 alumna, is happy to report that a special 2-disc DVD edition of her Peabody Award–winning and critically acclaimed film The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg will be released April 24, 2013. The film is a humorous and nostalgic documentary about the extraordinary Detroit Tiger who transcended religious prejudice to become an American icon. The DVD package includes more than two hours of new extras, including a phone interview with Ted Williams and more of Walter Matthau, Bob Feller, and an interview with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The film, originally released in 2000, depicts how during the Golden Age of Baseball, Hank Greenberg's achievements with the Tigers rivaled those of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. However, the slugger's greatest accomplishment extended beyond the field as American's first Jewish baseball star. He helped break down the barriers of discrimination in American sports and society. This compelling documentary examines how Hank Greenberg was a beacon of hope to American Jews who faced bigotry during the Depression and World War II.

David Michael Slater,
LS&A '92, writes books for children, teens, and adults. David's new book for adults, Fun & Games, is set for June release. It takes place in the 1980s—the time of Dungeons & Dragons, banana clips, and Atari. Jonathan Schwartz is growing up in a family like no other. His sisters, Nadia, the dark genius, and Olivia, the gorgeous tease and temptress, manipulate Jon and his friends for their own entertainment. And his Holocaust survivor grandparents? Their coping techniques are beyond embarrassing. A disastrous visit to Jon's class by his grandmother unhinges his famous father, setting off a chain of events that threatens to send the dysfunctional Schwartz clan up in flames once and for all. Fun & Games is a heartbreaking and hilarious story of faith, family secrets, betrayal, and loss—but it's also a tale of friendship, love, and side-splitting shenanigans. Plus: Much of the book takes place in Ann Arbor. David's other titles include 16 picture books with titles like Cheese Louise, Jacques & Spock (a Children's Book-of-the-Month Alternative Selection), and Flour Girl (a 2008 Mom's Choice Award winner). His ongoing six-part teen series, Sacred Books, is being developed for film by producer Kevin Bannerman (Lion King/Curious George) and screenwriter Karen Janzsen (Dolphin Tale). David also teaches at Pine Middle School in Reno, Nev.

Audrey Geyer,
BA '88, is an independent video producer in Brighton Mich., who has worked in the field for more than 15 years. Her nonprofit company is called Visions, and it specializes in the production of social affairs documentaries. Geyer's crew recently completed a one-hour documentary on Michigan Native-American role models. Our Fires Still Burn: The Native American Experience includes a segment on the Pow Wow for Mother Earth, held in Ann Arbor. Geyer executive produced and directed the program, which seeks to dispel the myth that American Indians have disappeared from the American horizon, and reveals how they continue to persist, heal from the past, confront the challenges of today, keep their culture alive, and make great contributions to society. Their experiences will deeply touch both Natives and non-Natives and help build bridges of understanding, respect, and communication, Geyer says.

Winston Wenyan Ma,
MBA '03, was honored as a "Young Global Leader" at the World Economic Forum in Davos in March 2013. Ma is managing director of the China Investment Corp., with an office in Toronto. See the full list of honorees.

Vincent Mourou,
BS '94, writes: Our artisanal chocolate company, Marou-Faiseurs de Chocolat, is located in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and we're one of the first and few artisanal chocolate makers to create chocolate from the cacao bean in the country of origin. (We are actually the first in Asia.) We believe in the sustainability and added value that working locally provides to the betterment of the community, and to the quality of our chocolate. Working directly with farmers year-round is the only significant way to improve quality, and ensure that growers reap the benefits of their labor. Our chocolate is sold at Zingerman's Deli in Ann Arbor, Le Bon Marché in Paris, Fortnum & Mason in London, etc., and we just won gold, silver, and bronze medals in an international chocolate competition. You can find out more on our blog/website,

Barun Brahma, M.D.,
an alumnus of the Michigan Medical School, is a pediatric neurosurgeon and biomedical engineer at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA). He recently led a team of researchers from CHOA and the Georgia Institute of Technology to develop a technique that assists in identifying tumors from normal brain tissue during surgery by staining tumor cells blue. This key finding could be a critical technique used in hospitals lacking sophisticated equipment like an MRI, which guides in tumor removal, in preserving the maximum amount of normal tissue and brain function during surgery.

David Schrade,
2008 Knight-Wallace Fellow, won a 2013 Pulitzer Prize in journalism. Schrade, along with fellow reporters Jeremy Olson and Glenn Howatt of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, were recognized for their powerful reports on the spike in infant deaths at poorly regulated day-care homes, resulting in legislative action to strengthen rules.

Angela Hutchinson,
01, recently completed her first feature film, "Hollywood Chaos," which she wrote, produced, and cast. The movie stars Venessa Jean Simmons (son of Joseph "Run" Simmons of Run-DMC fame). Angela graduated from the College of Engineering. Her production company is called Breaking Into Hollywood.

Mellie Torres,
MPP '97, completed a doctorate in education from New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. Her dissertation explored the relationship between the multiple and intersecting social identities of race, ethnicity, and gender of Latino male students and their academic identities. Mellie received numerous fellowships throughout her doctoral studies at New York University, including the American Educational Research Association's (AERA) Minority Dissertation Fellowship, and the Mainzer Fellowship at the Centre for Gender Studies at the University of Cambridge, UK. Her publications include "Social mobility and the complex status of Latino males: Education, employment, and incarceration patterns from 2000–2009" in Invisible No More: Understanding the Disenfranchisement of Latino Men and Boys (Routledge 2011) and "From the Bricks to the Hall," published in the Harvard Educational Review, 2009. Prior to her doctoral studies, Mellie was a high school mathematics teacher in her hometown of Newark, NJ.

Daniel G. Zavela,
MPH, MRP, writes: As an alumnus of U-M, Ann Arbor, I thought the younger students would be interested in what has happened in the area of "Cold Fusion" also called LENR (low energy nuclear reactions) research. 24 years after the announcement of a "new energy source" on March 23, 1989 by Drs. Pons and Fleischmann, we see a commercially available 1MW unit from Dr. Andrea Rossi ( and a "Fusion Powered Car" project on indiegogo, a crowd funding website. Dr. Dennis Cravens has a project to convert a Model A Ford from gasoline to run on "Cold Fusion" charged batteries. It's a fun project that could use some student support.

Matthew Thorburn,
BA '96 (High Honors), will be in Ann Arbor April 29 to promote his third book of poems, "This Time Tomorrow," which recently was published by The Waywiser Press in the U.S. and U.K. He will be at Nicola's Books for a reading and book signing on April 29 at 7 p.m.

Evelyn Collins,
BA/MA '81, is the founder and executive director of the Onyx Academy for the Performing Arts Charter School. She presently is researching and developing a premiere performing arts high school, which, if approved by the New York State Education Department, will open in Harlem in August 2014. Connected to this arts initiative is her production of the documentary "Dreaming in Color." In the film, prominent artists share their journey in the performing and visual arts. The premise of the film is the question: "When did you know you were passionate about the arts and what did you do?" Evelyn is also completing an Ed.D in Urban Education Leadership at Fordham University.

Lois Batchelor Howard,
Had book of poetry published by Finishing Line Press in Fall of 2012, "On The Face Of Things." A new book of poetry will be published this year, "More Than Moments." Poems also published in Pennine Ink, UK, Daily Word, and online publications in The Avocet Wednesday Weekly Poetry,in The National League of American Pen Women's website Poem Of The Week,in Pen Woman Magazine, and one of the poets in "Women's Voices Of The 21st Century." Lois is the organist and choir director at Christ Lutheran Church in Desert Hot Springs, CA.

Michael Mark,
'62, has had the fourth editions of his first two books published: "Contemporary Music Education" (Cengage, coauthored w/Patrice Madura, Indiana University) examines the profession of music in its social, political, economic, and educational contexts. "Source Readings from Ancient Greece to Today" (Routledge) presents more than 130 writings by leading educators, philosophers, psychologists, and politicians about the value of music education to individuals, communities, and nations. In addition, Dr. Mark coauthored with Patrice Madura an introduction for future teachers titled "Music Education in Your Hands" (Cengage, 2010).

Fritz Klaetke,
BFA '88, principal/design director of the creative agency Visual Dialogue in Boston, is nominated for a Grammy Award for "Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package" for "Woody at 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection" for Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. "Woody at 100" features a 150-page, 12" x 12" book with rare photos of Guthrie, his artwork, lyrics, personal notes, and three CDS of his music. Other nominees in the category include projects for The Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney. "Woody at 100: is also nominated for "Best Historical Album." The 55th Annual Grammy Awards take place on Feb. 10, 2013 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Barbara Troy,
MSW '80, wrote and directed the forthcoming dark comedy "Ticket to the Circus," produced by Elizabeth Keener ("The 'L' Word") for Shady Lady Films. The ultra-low budget feature film takes viewers on a road trip with two young women on the lam for a murder they didn't commit. They become lovers and Detroit's Most Wanted: Thelma and Louise, but younger and gayer. The crew filmed in Detroit and surrounding suburbs. The movie, released in mid-January, is an official selection and will have its world premiere at the Berlin Indie film festival in February 2013. An April screening in Redford, Mich., is in the works. "Ticket to the Circus" features Elizabeth Keener in a supporting role and Detroit rocker Troy Gregory as himself. Leads are Wayne State theatre grad Jaclyn Strez of Detroit and recent U-M grad Kirsten Knisely of Dearborn. Co-producer and production manager Gil McRipley of Royal Oak Township, who has a brief but wonderfully scary supporting role, also graduated with honors from U-M. "Ticket to the Circus" is the third of four films produced by the Shady Lady Film team of Troy, Strez, and McRipley since 2008. Their fourth film together, "Grave Decision," was shot in Toledo during summer 2012 and is currently in post production. The team has two documentaries and several feature films in development at this time. For more info:

Alan Bernstein,
is in production of the documentary film, "When We Went MAD!"—a look at the history and influence of MAD Magazine. Twenty interviews already shot of current and former MAD contributors including Al Jaffee, Jack Davis, Mort Drucker, Dick DeBartolo...A Kickstarter campaign is in full swing through Feb. 9, 2013. Have a look and help us out either through a contribution, or by spreading the word—liking us on facebook, emailing friends and enemies... Spreading the word is the only way we can successfully meet our goal! Find us on Kickstarter.

Harriet Welty Rochefort,
is the author of the new book, "Joie de Vivre: Secrets of Wining, Dining and Romancing Like the French," published by Thomas Dunne Books of St. Martin's Press. Rochefort, an American journalist who married a Frenchman and has lived in Paris for more than 30 years, offers such tips and tricks as how to diet like a Frenchwoman and how to project confidence like a true Parisienne. Rochefort has contributed articles to Time and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and teaches journalism at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris. (

Kenneth C. Frederick,
My sixth novel, Looking For Przybylski, was published in October, 2012 by The Permanent Press. (I write as K.C. Frederick.)

Lois Batchelor Howard,
'54, had a book of poetry published by Finishing Line Press, "On The Face Of Things," now on Amazon. "A graduate of music in pipe organ, and continuing to be a church organist and choir director, my favorite music is the music of words," Lois says.

John H. Rogers,
MSME, '95, is co-author of a new book on fighting climate change through individual action. "Cooler Smarter: Practical Steps for Low-Carbon Living" (Island Press, 2012) is a science-based guide that illustrates the most effective ways to cut your own global warming emissions by 20 percent or more, and explains why your individual contribution is so vital to addressing this global problem. "Cooler Smarter" is based on an in-depth, two-year study by the experts at the Union of Concerned Scientists, including Rogers, a senior energy analyst with more than 20 years of experience working on energy and climate issues. "Cooler Smarter" offers proven strategies to cut carbon, and help save you money and live healthier. But its central purpose is to empower you, through low carbon-living, to confront one of society's greatest threats. Rogers holds an M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan and an A.B. from Princeton University.

Jay Keasling,
MS, PhD, a leading innovator of synthetic biology, is one of five 2012 recipients of the prestigious Heinz Awards. Honored for his work in the category of Technology, Economy and Employment, Keasling's pioneering contributions in the field of synthetic biology have helped revolutionize its use for problem-solving applications. Keasling earned his MS degree at Michigan in 1988 and his PhD in 1991. Honoring the late John Heinz, the Heinz awards annually recognize the contributions of five individuals whose significant achievements have benefitted the following categories: Arts and Humanities; Environment; Human Condition; Public Policy; and Technology, the Economy and Employment.

Robert J. Gibbs,
M.L.A., recently was honored by the Clinton Presidential Library's School of Public Service for his contributions in urban planning and development. Gibbs is a noted Michigan landscape architect and urban planner and the author of "Principles for Urban Retail Planning and Development." He founded Gibbs Planning Group in 1988. He has consulted on over 400 cities and new towns across the United States, Pacific Rim and Europe including: Alexandria, Auckland, Birmingham (MI), Charleston, Grand Rapids, Houston, Naples, Portland, Santa Cruz and Seattle. In addition, Gibbs teaches a planning course at the Harvard Graduate School of Design's Executive Education Program and has contributed to five urban planning books. He holds a B.A. from Oakland University and a M.L.A. from the University of Michigan and is a charter member of the Congress for the New Urbanism.

Lois Batchelor Howard,
I just had a book of poetry published by Finishing Line Press, "On the Face of Things." It is a compilation of serious and whimsical poetry. A graduate of The University of Michigan in Music, I now especially love the music of words.

Susan Bearman,
has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the printing and distribution of her upcoming children's book, the "Animal Store Alphabet Book." The 30-day campaign will end October 5, 2012, and the printed book, coloring book, poster and other related products will be ready by December 2012.

Douglas K. Sheff,
has been elected president-elect of the Massachusetts Bar Association for its 2012-13 year. Senior partner at Sheff Law in Boston and a North End resident, Sheff is a nationally renowned brain injury litigation expert and specializes in all aspects of personal injury law. In addition, is a past president of the Massachusetts Academy of Trial Attorneys, serving on its board of governors for more than 20 years. He recently was honored with MATA's inaugural Excellence in Advocacy Award for his representation of children and adults who have suffered traumatic brain injury. Sheff also holds the title of governor to the American Association of Justice, where he has spent more than 20 years working nationally and locally on issues that affect the trial bar.

David Rubello,
MFA '72, is a Detroit native whose exhibit "Reflection in Form" can be seen at Detroit's Ellen Kayrod Gallery through Sept. 21, 2012. The public is invited to meet the artist at a gallery reception Sept. 14 from 5-8 p.m.

Rubello studied art from an early age at Cass Technical High School and was awarded a scholarship to the Society of Arts and Crafts (now known as the Center for Creative Studies). A keen interest in art history enticed him to travel to Europe, where he earned a bachelor of fine arts degree at Rome's Academy of Fine Art; he also studied at the Kings Academy of Fine Art in Copenhagen. Rubello went on to receive his MFA at U-M. As a professor of art, Rubello has taught painting and drawing at U-M, Pennsylvania State University, and Maryland's Towson State University, among others. His work has been exhibited in national and international exhibitions and included in many public and private collections. In addition, his work has been featured in several issues of The Structurist Journal and his fine art photography has appeared in Black and White Magazine.

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