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Class Notes and more


Groups of children are lined up in front of their teachers outdoors in Gujarat, India

Students of Project KIDS, an educational initiative started by Parekh in 2001 in Gujarat, India

Improving education around the globe

Many UMass alumni work at UNICEF and similar international organizations. So, what is it about UMass that helps people find this career path? According to Kimberly Parekh ’19PhD, senior education advisor at UNICEF, “The Center for International Education (CIE) is really building that capacity.”

As part of the College of Education, CIE was founded in 1968 to manage research studies and education development projects and serve as a learning community for graduate students with an interest in international education systems. “I spent most of my 20s in the field,” says Parekh. She picked this UMass program because, as she says, “I wanted to think a little bit more deeply about everything that I had been doing.”

Person sitting in front of large lake.

Parekh’s career has taken her around the globe, from Afghanistan to India to Japan, with work ranging from teaching to starting and running schools to engaging with donors. Currently, she works with UNICEF in the Middle East in a bigger-picture role, consulting on safe school reopening after COVID-19 and other issues of importance in the region.

CIE offered Parekh a place to consider the kind of impact she wanted to have in the world of education. “It’s a blend of theory and practice, which I love.” She also appreciated how closely students and faculty worked together, along with the international diversity of the community she found there. “It was such a right decision for me,” she says.




Still image from the new movie Worth with actor Michael Keaton

Michael Keaton as Kenneth Feinberg in the movie Worth

What Is Life Worth?

Film chronicling victim compensation fund released for 9/11 anniversary

For attorney Kenneth Feinberg ’67, ’02H the question of how to determine the value of a human life is far from theoretical. Following the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Feinberg was called upon by Congress to administer the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund—a task that required him to assign a monetary value to the lives lost.

Movie poster for Worth.

Feinberg, a former UMass professor and a native of Brockton, Massachusetts, chronicled his journey in the 2006 book What Is Life Worth?: The Unprecedented Effort to Compensate the Victims of 9/11. Last year, a film version of his experience, Worth, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Starring Michael Keaton as Feinberg, the film was acquired by Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company, Higher Ground, and debuted on Netflix in September, coinciding with the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

Worth explores Feinberg’s emotional experience while working closely with the families of victims, and how their grief, frustration, and courage guided his process. “The 9/11 fund was unique,” Feinberg told the Los Angeles Times. “You begin to realize you can’t just use a calculator. It won’t work. People are injured and they’re psychically impacted and you better find a way.”

Watch a fireside chat with UMass President Marty Meehan and colleagues Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros.

Fireside Chat with Kenneth Feinberg & Camille Biros



Class Notes

Illustration of uterus with flowering blossoms

A steady diet of friendship

In 1983, Hillary Wright and Elizabeth Ward were junior nutrition majors taking the same organic chemistry class together. Now, nearly 40 years later, the pair of 1984 nutrition alumnae, registered dietitians, and lifelong friends have written their first book together, The Menopause Diet Plan: A Natural Guide to Managing Hormones, Health, and Happiness.

Making a move for music

Sasha and the Valentines, an indie band composed of UMass alumni Sarah Addi ’16, JB Bergin ’17, Billy Hickey ’17, Alex Whitelaw ’15, and Tim Zoidis were featured in an article in The Austin Chronicle just before the release of their debut LP, So You Think You Found Love? “Austin surprised me,” Addi tells the Chronicle. “It was the right age, and time, for us to give music our full effort. Because it’s the live music capital, we’ve been able to really get seasoned and just play a lot.”


Microbes attaching to cancer cell.

Alums against cancer

Drew O’Brien ’92, Brendan Keenan ’00, and Spencer Moore ’16 have made a major health care breakthrough in the treatment of multiple myeloma, a type of cancer that attacks white blood cells. Working for bluebird bio, the trio developed a new drug called Abecma that has just been approved by the FDA. It is the first B-cell maturation antigen-directed chimeric antigen receptor T cell immunotherapy for this type of cancer.

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UMass Amherst alum and basketball star George “Trigger” Burke ’56, now a Quincy attorney, donated $500,000 toward the construction of the new Newman Catholic facility. In 1956, Burke made his mark as the first basketball player ever to lead UMass in both scoring and assists during the same season.



Eve Schatz ’77, founder and executive director of the nonprofit Berkshire Center for Justice, was chosen by the Massachusetts Bar Association to receive their Access to Justice Legal Services Award.



Jennifer Jordan Gear ’80 and Liza Rodman met on the third floor of Field House when Liza knocked on Jennifer’s door to see if she could get a cup of Jennifer’s great-smelling French roast coffee. A lifelong friendship took hold and has now resulted in a professional collaboration with the publication of their book, The Babysitter: My Summers with a Serial Killer, part memoir, part true-crime thriller.

Cartoonist Steve Lafler ’80 wrote and illustrated the recently released graphic novel Death Plays a Mean Harmonica. Lafler, who worked as a cartoonist at the Collegian during his UMass days, uses memories from his time living in Oaxaca, Mexico, to inform the story of Gertie and Rex as they acclimate to life in a surreal new world.


Joan Lester ’81EdD published her memoir, Loving Before Loving: A Marriage in Black and White, a book about her marriage to Julius Lester and the challenges they had to overcome in the days before the Loving v. Virginia Supreme Court ruling which struck down bans on interracial marriage.


Chemical engineering alum Andrew Hoffman ’83 published two books this year with Stanford University Press, Management as a Calling: Leading Business, Serving Society and The Engaged Scholar: Expanding the Impact of Academic Research in Today’s World, adding to his long list of publications focused on sustainability, climate change, and social engagement on those issues.


Carol F. Barton ’86 was selected as a 2020 recipient of the prestigious National Professional Advisor of the Year by the American Cancer Society. This award was given to recognize her dedication to the American Cancer Society’s mission and her work in the Planned Giving Program.

After over two decades dedicated to designing, developing, and engineering work touching almost all of Apple’s products, Dan Riccio ’86 will take his leadership skills to a new role as he embarks on a new project—reporting to CEO Tim Cook directly. “After 23 years of leading our product design or hardware engineering teams—culminating with our biggest and most ambitious product year ever—it’s the right time for a change,” says Riccio. “Next up, I’m looking forward to doing what I love most—focusing all my time and energy at Apple on creating something new and wonderful that I couldn’t be more excited about.”


Former monetary policy head Denny Kalyalya ’89MA, ’93PhD has been named co-chair of the International Development Association’s 20th replenishment (IDA20) by donor and borrower country representatives of the World Bank’s special wing. As co-chair, Kalyalya will champion stronger policy and financial support for IDA20 at political and other stakeholder levels across IDA donor and borrower countries.



Courtney A. Moore ’90MS has been hired as the vice president for diversity, equity, and inclusion for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Moore earned her master’s degree in sports management from UMass and is eager to put her knowledge and experience toward her team’s initiatives.


Kevin F. Hallock ’91, an economist and a compensation and labor market scholar, was unanimously elected as the University of Richmond’s 11th president. Hallock joined the university community this year. Hallock will also hold an appointment as a professor of economics in the School of Business with affiliated faculty appointments in the Jepson School of Leadership Studies and the Philosophy, Politics, Economics, and Law program in the School of Arts & Sciences.


Jessica Lahey ’92 was profiled in People magazine for her latest book The Addiction Inoculation, which offers her insights for parents looking to protect their children from substance abuse.


Jenn Brandel ’94 recently published her second book called When Rabbits Spill Their Tea: Metaphors to Guide Us Through Difficult Times. As a psychotherapist, Brandel noticed the growing rates of anxiety and depression nationwide and wrote the book to offer hope and comfort.


Matt Pottinger ’96, one of the first from within the intelligence community to raise concerns about COVID-19 in China, was featured in the January 4 & 11, 2021, issue of The New Yorker in a story about the mistakes the U.S. government made in responding to the pandemic.


Robert T. McMaster ’97PhD recently published his book All the Light Here Comes from Above: The Life and Legacy of Edward Hitchcock. Hitchcock played a vital role in the establishment of the Massachusetts Agricultural College and Mount Holyoke College.


Jane Rosenberg LaForge ’98MFA recently published her second novel, Sisterhood of the Infamous. Situated in ’70s Los Angeles, the murder mystery is also a semi-biographical story exploring the complex relationship of two sisters.

Matthew Rufo ’98 may have taken an unconventional path to authoring children’s stories, but his book Freddie the Frog Flying His Frisbee shows his creative side, outside of his work running his construction company.

Ramy Eid ’98 was the first Egyptian American named to the Jersey City municipal court bench seven years ago. He has now been promoted to chief municipal judge of that court, Mayor Steve Fulop announced.


Thomas Douglas ’99 was featured on an episode of Elevating Voices, a new TV series celebrating minority-owned and racially diverse businesses and their importance to Maine’s economy. Douglas is an experienced litigator specializing in business disputes, intellectual property, and wage and hour litigation, representing clients against large corporations.

Maju Varghese ’99 was featured in the Hindustan Times for his work on the Biden-Harris 2021 inauguration. Varghese also served as chief operating officer and senior advisor for the Biden-Harris campaign as well as holding multiple positions in the Obama administration.

Lamar Gore ’99MS, refuge manager at Philadelphia’s John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge, was featured in Philadelphia magazine discussing the uptick in refuge visitors during the pandemic and his hopes for America’s first urban refuge.



Gregory Smokler ’03 was part of the team that won an Oscar—specifically, a Scientific and Engineering Award—for the development of the ruggedized Teradek Bolt wireless video transmission system for on-set remote monitoring.


Anna Slive Hardwood ’05MS co-founded the Mike Slive Foundation, a nonprofit promoting prostate cancer education. Hardwood has raised $1.4 million dollars for cancer research over the past three years.


Meghan Maury ’06, ’07MS has been appointed senior advisor within the U.S. Census Bureau by the Biden administration.

Felicia Lundquist ’06, ’12MEd, who has worked at Springfield College for about six years, was profiled in an article in The Springfield Student. Lundquist has become a powerful voice on campus by taking the lead on many projects and initiatives contributing to a more equitable student experience.

Juan Padró ’06, restaurateur and founder of Culinary Creative, opened a COVID-19 rapid testing site in Denver, Colorado, as a way to get restaurant workers faster test results. He was inspired to refocus his creative energies toward the testing site when he saw the huge negative impact the pandemic was having on his restaurants and staff, and sought to ensure safety and continued steady employment for his staff.



Varshini Prakash ’15, executive director and co-founder of the Sunrise Movement, has been awarded the Sam Rose ’58 and Julie Walters Prize at Dickinson College for Global Environmental Activism. The $100,000 prize is awarded annually and given to a person or an organization that is making a difference on behalf of the planet, its resources, and its inhabitants. The Sunrise Movement is a grassroots organization of young people working to stop climate change and create well-paying jobs in the process.


Andrea Labb ’19 was featured in the Los Angeles Times for her work as a City Year Los Angeles Americorps member. City Year, an organization dedicated to helping and mentoring students and young people, had to devise new strategies to reach students during the pandemic. Labb and the rest of her team reached out to their mentees on Zoom and texted throughout the day to help bridge the gap.