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Class Notes and more

“Stand clear of the closing doors”

Millions of New Yorkers ride the subway every day, sharing standing room with their neighbors—and sharing sound waves with Charlie Pellett ’77.

“Stand clear of the closing doors, please,” his warm, booming voice announces.

Pellett is a reporter and anchor for Bloomberg Radio. Years ago, as part of an effort to improve the clarity and audibility of subway announcements, he auditioned alongside co-workers to become one of the most ubiquitous voices in America.

Pellett’s fascination with the recorded voice began in childhood. Born in London, he was teased for his English accent when he moved to the United States as a child. In response, he trained himself to speak with an American accent by listening to the radio.

“When I was in college I fell in love with radio,” Pellett said in a 2013 interview. His time at the UMass radio station WMUA led to a decades-long career at Bloomberg and a voice that spans the boroughs.

Pellett even brought his distinctive voice to an appearance on Conan O’Brien’s show in 2017, and lent it to the song “Bang!” by pop group AJR. Though his voice is in high demand, he’s always there for New Yorkers each time they board the train.

Pellett isn’t the only alum with a voice lent to transit—Frank Oglesby ’83 has been the voice of Boston’s “T” for more than 25 years.



Brace your shelf

Looking to curl up with a good book? UMass Amherst boasts a diverse and talented pool of alumni writers, so there’s always something novel (pun intended) to discover. New releases that are making a splash:

Paul Harding ’92, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Tinkers (Bellevue Literary Press, 2009), was profiled earlier this year in The New York Times about his third novel, This Other Eden (W. W. Norton & Company, 2023), which was inspired by a true story about an island off the coast of Maine that became one of the first racially integrated towns in the Northeast.

Nathan Hill ’04MFA, bestselling author of The Nix (Knopf, 2016), is back in bookstores with Wellness (Knopf, 2023), billed as a “poignant and witty novel about modern marriage, the often baffling pursuit of health and happiness, and the stories that bind us together.”

Ana Reyes ’03 became an instant New York Times bestselling author earlier this year with her debut novel, The House in the Pines (Dutton, 2023), an atmospheric psychological thriller set in western Massachusetts that was selected by Reese Witherspoon for her book club.

A new book from Jane Yolen ’76MEd? Always! Author of over 400 books for adults and children, Yolen has won the Caldecott Medal, the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement, and many other awards. The Scarlet Circus (Tachyon Publications, 2023), a collection of romantic fantasy stories, is just one of the books she’s published this year.



Class Notes

An older man wearing a blue t-shirt using a weightlifting machine.

Photo: Hanover Area YMCA

Iron Age

Les Savino ’48, age 100, has a level of self-discipline many younger people might envy. A profile by Today revealed that he drives to the gym and works out for three hours most days. The great-grandfather spends three days a week lifting weights and two doing cardio at the Hanover Area YMCA in Pennsylvania—a schedule he started back in 1983. If that routine sounds too spartan, don’t worry—Savino still eats dessert and drinks two martinis every day as well. “If you enjoy life, it preserves you,” he says. “You want to keep on going. Here I am at 100. I don’t want to stop.”

Nemat “Minouche” Shafik standing in front of a bookshelf.

Photo: Mark Bader/Columbia University

Leading Minds

In July, Nemat “Minouche” Shafik ’83 started her new role as president of Columbia University—the first woman in history to hold the position. Shafik has previously served as president of the London School of Economics, deputy governor of the Bank of England, vice president at the World Bank, and deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund. In a letter to the campus community, Columbia’s board of trustees called Shafik a “brilliant and able global leader, a community builder and a pre-eminent economist who understands the academy and the world beyond it.”

Natalie Lewis singing in a green gown.

Photo: Natalie Powers/Metropolitan Opera

Hitting a High Note

Natalie Lewis ’21 is one of six winners of the 2023 Metropolitan Opera Eric and Dominique Laffont Competition. Now in its 69th year, the competition is designed to discover promising young opera singers and assist in the development of their careers. Lewis, who distinguished herself during her time at UMass through her participation in the UMass Chamber Choir and Vocal Jazz Ensemble and in productions like Mozart’s The Magic Flute, has started her career strong with a string of successes, including receiving a Kovner Fellowship to attend the Juilliard School in New York City to pursue her Master of Music in Vocal Arts, winning the Houston Grand Opera’s “Concert of Arias” competition, and making her Carnegie Hall debut this past spring.

1970s | 1980s | 1990s | 2000s | 2010s | 2020s


Bill Meissner ’72MFA is the author of 12 books, most recently Summer of Rain, Summer of Fire (Texas A&M University Press, 2022). This family drama draws from a true story about an aerial bombing of a Midwest powder production plant during the Vietnam War. National Book Award winner Tim O’Brien writes: “This novel captures those small, powerful details that combine to produce an indelible image of one of the most wrenching eras in our nation’s history.” Meissner’s next novel, The Wonders of the Little World, is due out in the spring.

Daniel Kennedy ’73MEd reports that his messaging business, USA Writing Services, recently opened a new office in Vienna, Austria, where it now offers German-to-English translation and editing for businesses in the heart of central Europe. Kennedy is also the founder and executive director of Daniel Kennedy Communications Services, an award-winning international PR and marketing communications consultancy.

Bill Ballou ’74 wrote an article for the Worcester Telegram about being on the committee that chose the nickname “Minutemen” 50 years ago. Ballou, who was the sports editor for the Massachusetts Daily Collegian, calls the moniker “the most enduring of the University of Massachusetts nicknames.”

Dennis M. Desmond ’77 published his debut novel at the age of 70. Eddie and the Vegetarian Vampire tells the story of 12-year-old orphan Eddie, who befriends the vampire Count Bloodless, rejected by his own family because he is a vegetarian. The two forge an unlikely friendship as Eddie helps the Count find the food he needs, and the Count helps Eddie unlock the secrets of his past.


Called the “Steampunk Guru” by The Wall Street Journal, Bruce Rosenbaum ’84 runs a steampunk art and design company, ModVic, with his wife, Melanie. The couple purchased an 1876 Victorian church in Palmer, Massachusetts, which they converted into a home, gallery, and workshop space in the retro-futuristic steampunk style. The building, known as Steampunk Wonderland, was featured on the Netflix series Amazing Interiors.

Bestselling author Laura Zigman ’85 released her latest novel, Small World (Ecco, 2023), which was named a New York Times Editor’s Choice and was noted in People magazine. The book is “a heartfelt novel about two offbeat and newly divorced sisters who move in together as adults—and finally reckon with their childhood,” says the publisher.

Bill Janovitz ’89, widely known as the singer and guitarist of alt-rock band Buffalo Tom, is also a successful author. His most recent book, Leon Russell: The Master of Space and Time’s Journey Through Rock & Roll History (Hachette, 2023), became a New York Times bestseller. The Boston Globe profiled Janovitz upon the book’s release and said he possesses “an insider’s understanding of how music is made and a literary flair for bringing that process to life on the page.”


Mike Yates ’92, head brewer at Springfield’s White Lion Brewery Company, joined forces last year with former UMass (and NBA) basketball star Marcus Camby ’96, ’17 to create the successful Marcus Camby New England IPA. Earlier this year, the two teamed up again to open a second location for the brewery in Amherst, with a plan to eventually operate as a nano-brew house and offer one-off experimental ales, a test kitchen, a taproom, and outdoor space.

Tem Blessed (Temistocles Ferreira) ’96 and Michael LaRiccia ’01 have written and illustrated the young adult graphic novel Planeta Blu: Rise of Agoo (Dark Horse, 2023). The afrofuturist adventure tells the tale of inner-city youth teaming up with animals to take on a global ecological crisis. Initially launched through a successful Kickstarter campaign, the book was picked up by Dark Horse Comics, one of the largest comics publishers in the nation. It can be preordered now and will be released on November 7.

Brothers Joe Maruca ’96 and Michael Maruca ’01 won a Silver Award at the 2023 New York International Olive Oil Competition for their TRE Olive brand olive oil. Their family has been making extra virgin olive oil in the Calabria region of southern Italy since 1934 and created the TRE brand in 2010 to ship high-quality olive oil directly to consumers.


Multimedia storyteller, artist, and photographer Julia Swanson ’00 launched The Art Walk Project, a series of self-guided micro-tours that help people engage with public art in their community. Currently available in Boston and Cambridge, each Art Walk includes a short written introduction, a map, information about the artists (where available), a photo gallery to help identify each work, and downloads of both the map and the artwork.

Meeting with the Taliban and the United Nations was just part of the job for Hina Rabbani Khar ’02MS, who has served as the Pakistan Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. This was her second time in the role, which she was originally the first woman to fill in 2011.

Marissa (Alarie) Santos ’06, ’22MBA was named to New England Home Magazine’s “5 Under 40” list for her interior design work. Santos runs her own firm, Marissa Santos Design, just outside of Boston.


Fadia Nordtveit ’10MA, ’15PhD launched the multimedia project Talking Out of Line, which brings together leaders from a variety of industries to discuss issues related to diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. The streaming video series features a different industry and leader on each video episode.

In 2009, Christina Roth ’11 created the College Diabetes Network in order to connect with other UMass students who had type 1 diabetes. The peer support group grew to include more than 10,000 students at over 300 college campuses and received 501(c)(3) nonprofit status in 2010. Last year, the organization rebranded as The Diabetes Link to be more inclusive to all young adults.

Aurora Vergara Figueroa ’11MA, ’12PhD was appointed Minister of Education of Colombia. A specialist in diaspora studies and Latino, Latin American, and Caribbean studies, Vergara Figueroa earned her doctorate in sociology.

Capt. Nixon Roberts ’11MPH has been working as a dentist in the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) Commissioned Corps, a branch of the nation’s uniformed services that advances public health. Roberts provides dental care to vulnerable populations, and he says, “I have always believed that I was called to serve the underserved, and therefore the USPHS Commissioned Corps was a natural home for me.”

Maxwell Bochman ’14 and Rene Hurtado ’14 went viral on TikTok when they got married in their front-row seats at a Taylor Swift concert. They performed their 3-minute ceremony during a mid-show costume change, receiving cheers from the nearby audience and a coveted “like” from Swift herself the next day on a video of the wedding.

Rachel Vallarelli ’15 became the first woman to sign with the Professional Box Lacrosse Association, which launched last winter. A star player during her time at UMass, Vallarelli was ranked the nation’s number one goalie during her senior year and finished with the eighth-best goals against average in NCAA history.

Katy Geraghty ’16 was interviewed by WBUR about her experience playing Little Red in a touring production of Into the Woods. Geraghty, who first played the role in a North Shore Music Theatre production at age 9, spoke about her evolving perspective on the character, how UMass helped launch her career, and fat representation in theater.

Josie Pinto ’17 is the co-founder and executive director of the Reproductive Freedom Fund of New Hampshire. She received a Social Justice Award for Emerging Leadership from Dartmouth College, where she recently completed her master’s of public health at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice.


Ian Goodine ’21, ’22MS and Ethan Walko ’21, ’22MS were named to the 2022 class of “25 under 25” by BostInno, a media hub for Boston’s innovation, startup, and technology news. The two were recognized for the startup they created while at UMass, rStream, which provides a groundbreaking approach to separating recyclables and compostables from trash and diverting them from landfills.

Mackenzie Gilligan ’21, ’22MPH converted a school bus she panic-bought into a living space so she could travel. She spoke to Business Insider about the joys and struggles of van life, as well as her tips for finding remote work.