Alumni Profiles

Alumni Profiles

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie ’01

“Amanda” Adiche shares her stories of the Nigeria of her childhood with the world through her talents as a novelist and writer of short stories and nonfiction.

Edmund Chibeau, professor of communication, knew he was in for something special when Nigerian-born Chimamanda “Amanda” Ngozi Adichie ‘01 enrolled in his History and Criticism of Radio and Television class in fall 2000. “Amanda showed me some of her short stories,” Chibeau says, “and I knew she had a great talent for writing.” Adichie’s storytelling was so powerful that Chibeau asked her to write some articles for the Campus Lantern and then made the articles required reading for his class. Adichie, who says she’s been writing ever since she could spell, also agreed to write poetry in Igbo, her native dialect, for Chibeau’s All Ears Radio Theater, a live radio show that grew out of his scriptwriting class. (more)

Jonathan Alpert ’95

New York City based psychotherapist, columnist, and author of BE FEARLESS: Change Your Life in 28 Days. He appeared as an expert in the 2010 Oscar-winning film Inside Job. He is also regularly interviewed by media around the globe on a range of issues including lifestyle, mental health, current events, hot-button, celebrities, and politicans. His highly controversial New York Times Op-ed piece garnered international attention and led to much debate. (more)

Jeffery Benedict ’91

Jeffery R. Benedict graduated from Eastern in 1991 with a Bachelor of Science degree in History. He received a Master’s Degree in Political Science at Northeastern and a J.D. from the New England School of Law.

Even while pursuing his law degree, Jeff was developing his career as a professional writer. In 1997, he wrote his first book, Public Heroes, Private Felons: Athletes and Crimes Against Women while interning in the District Attorney’s Child Abuse Unit in Boston. By the time he earned his law degree, he had published three more books: Pros and Cons: The Criminals Who Play in the NFL; Athletes and Acquaintance Rape; and Without Reservation: How a Controversial Indian Tribe Rose to Power and Built the World’s Largest Casino. By then he’d decided to be a writer instead of a prosecutor. (more)

David Bosso ’97

When David Bosso ’97, a social studies teacher at Berlin High School, was named Connecticut’s 2012 Teacher of the Year, he felt honored to be recognized for doing what he loves. His dedication to teaching has taken Bosso around the world, expanding his global understanding and increasing the impact that he has on his students.

“I enjoy working with my students, watching them grow, and knowing that I played a part in enhancing their understanding of the world around them.” Bosso has traveled to Ghana, China, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Egypt and Israel, working with teachers and students to better understand the culture and educational system of each country. Through his travels and time in the classroom, Bosso has been able to build on his Eastern education. (more)

Anthony J. Brandenburg ’75

Anthony J. Brandenburg currently serves as Chief Judge of the Intertribal Court of Southern California. He has more than eighteen years of service on the bench in both municipal and superior courts. He served in the United States Marine Corps and received an Associate’s Degree from Palomar College in 1965. Judge Brandenburg earned his BS in Education from Eastern in 1975, and went on to earn his MA in Education from the University of Connecticut and his JD from Thomas Jefferson University.

Judge Brandenburg has worked as an attorney in private practice, specializing in criminal law, business contract law, and labor, family and juvenile law. He was appointed to the California Municipal Court in San Diego where he conducted numerous settlement conferences and established a mediation hotline program for settling civil disputes.(more)

Kenneth Briggs ’02/’06MS/’10MS

Kenneth Briggs (’02/’06MS/’10MS) is constantly moving forward in his life and in his career. Since coming to work for Eastern in 2000, he has obtained a bachelor’s degree and two master’s degrees from the University and has worked his way up in the Office of Financial Aid. He has grown to consider the people at Eastern a family. When he is busy in his new role as Associate Director of Financial Aid at Three Rivers Community College, Briggs will remain connected to his alma mater as the newest president of the Alumni Association Board of Directors.

“I want this board to be legendary,” he says. With the energy and optimism that he puts into everything, there is little doubt that Briggs will accomplish much during his time as president. His vision begins with greater board participation and more members present at every alumni event. (more)

The DeVivo Family – Willimantic Waste Paper Company

Willimantic Waste Paper Co., one of Willimantic’s higher profile businesses, was started by Patrick DeVivo in the 1940s. Patrick’s son, James, joined the family business, and when he passed away, his wife, Mary Lou DeVivo ’60, took over. She ran the business with her sons, Timothy DeVivo ’89 and Tom DeVivo until her death on July 1, 2015. What began as a family-owned business that recycled metal, rags and paper in the Willimantic area has grown immensely over the years and is firmly rooted in the Willimantic community. (more)

Dressler ’79/Weitz ’88 – D & W Development and Design Center

A short walk from Eastern in a new location on Meadow Street is D & W Development and Design Center East, where Mark Dressler ’79 and his half brother, Michael Weitz ’88, have built their family- owned construction business from the ground up. They began by working for local landlords on simple home repairs and eventually decided to strike out on their own and start a business.

“Opening the business presented an enormous learning curve,” explained Dressler, who graduated with a degree in psychology and had no prior experience running a business. “If I had known then what I needed to know, I probably wouldn’t have done it.” (more)

Michael Endler ’81

In more than three decades since transitioning from primarily a teachers college to a liberal arts university, Eastern has of course produced several dozen alumni who went on to become attorneys. If Michael Endler ’81 is not the most accomplished of them, he is among a very small group vying for the title.

After distinguishing himself as Public Policy & Government and Communication student here and going on to Georgetown University’s law school, he has distinguished himself even more as a top government lawyer and partner in two law firms. He is currently a partner in the Albany office of Boies, Schiller & Flexner LLP, a national firm headed by one of the country’s most famous lawyers, David Boies. Boies is best known for representing Presidential candidate Al Gore in the controversial Bush v. Gore Supreme Court case in 2000. (more)

Dr. Francis Y. Falck, Jr. ’75

Dr. Francis Y. Falck, Jr. ’75 is an ophthalmologist/cataract surgeon and director of Falck Eye Center, LLC, of Waterford and Mystic. After graduating from Eastern and working for a while, Dr. Falck began graduate school at the University of Michican, where he was enrolled in a combined M.D./Ph.D. program. At that time there was a group of eye specialists in his department working for the World Health Organization studying the prevalence of world blindness and how to prevent it. Dr. Falck was invited to get involved, and when he went into the operating room with one of the study participants he had an epiphany. “I said, ‘this is what I want to do.’” (more)

Marc Freeman ’93

Dr. Marc Freeman ’93 has been selected as the new director of the Vollum Institute at Oregon Health and Science University.  The Vollum Institute is a privately endowed research institute dedicated to basic research that will lead to new treatments for neurological and psychiatric diseases.  Vollum scientists have broad-ranging interests that coalesce around molecular neurobiology and cellular physiology. (more)

Andrew Gutt ’09

Andrew Gutt ’09 is an Eastern graduate establishing himself as a member of Willimantic’s business community. His dream of opening his first restaurant was realized in November 2009 in the form of Cafémantic, a local café serving coffee, espresso, tea and light fare that opened on Main Street in downtown Willimantic. While he always imagined himself opening a restaurant, the timing and location all came together during his senior year. The café’s building at 948 Main Street was undergoing a transformation. Gutt paid close attention to the renovations, unable to imagine anything but a coffee shop inside the space’s new façade. While attending Eastern, Gutt always felt that a coffee shop was something that Willimantic was lacking, so he took it upon himself to try and open one. (more)

Dr. Michael P. Johnson ’97

Dr. Michael P. Johnson ’97 is an oral surgeon with Hamden-Shoreline Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery Associates, P.C. of Hamden, Guilford, and Clinton. His occupation offers something new, interesting and rewarding every day, and Dr. Johnson enjoys the surgical and intellectual challenges he is continually faced with. Since he began, Johnson has seen drastic changes in his field with the integration of computers, the Internet and advanced electronics with patient care. What was once done through paper charts is now done electronically. “Virtually all patient orders in the hospital are done electronically, reports are submitted electronically, radiography is digital, and almost everything can be easily accessed through one of the many computer stations in the hospital.” (more)

Sarah Kannas ’03
Sarah has not only accomplished a lot professionally, but also personally as a wonderful mother of two young children.  From her advancement at Savings Institute to her volunteer activities with Eastern Connecticut State University, Sarah has made many contributions along the way, and is establishing herself as a leader in the Connecticut banking industry. (more)

William Kelly ’82

In a dual upper management role for Bank New York Mellon involving international investment, Bill Kelly oversees a financial portfolio that even the folks in the government in Washington would consider “real money.” As Deputy Director of Securities Lending for the worldwide banking giant, he is responsible for $300 billion of business activity. In his related job of Global Head of Client Management, he makes sure the various national central banks, pension funds, foundations and endowments, financial institutions and other major institutional investors that are the bank’s clients are satisfied because the investment professionals he supervises are doing their jobs well. (more)

Ellen Lang ’81

Ellen Lang ’81 RN, MPH, received her biology degree from Eastern as a nontraditional student. She has been a registered nurse for more than 35 years and has worked in an array of specialty areas within the field of nursing, with a focus on home health care. Ellen was a practicing home health care nurse as well as the administrator of two home health agencies, and helped to establish the Infectious Disease Clinic of Norwich, CT.  She graduated from the William W. Backus Hospital School of Nursing with highest honors and holds a master’s degree in public health from the University of Connecticut. (more)

Andrew Mitchel ’89

Andrew Mitchel PhotoAndrew Mitchel is an international tax attorney with more than 25 years of tax experience.  He advises businesses and individuals on a wide variety of cross-border transactions.  He was a senior manager of international tax planning at PepsiCo, Inc. before establishing his own law firm in 2004.  Andrew attributes his success in large part to the strong academic foundation he received at Eastern.

He is a member of the International Fiscal Association, the Connecticut Bar Association and the Connecticut Society of Certified Public Accountants.  Andrew is a frequent speaker on U.S. international tax matters, and has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Yahoo News, CNBC, Bloomberg, and other media on international tax topics.  Additionally, he is an adjunct professor of law at Quinnipiac University School of Law where he teaches international tax. (more)

Justin Piro ’05

Since his graduation in 2005, Justin Piro went on to earn his Ph.D. in biochemistry from Dartmouth College and is now employed as a postdoctoral scientist at Pfizer. His work in the Neuroscience Research Unit has him examining neurodegenerative diseases and developing therapeutics to target those diseases. While a student at Eastern, Piro took full advantage of all that the biochemistry major had to offer, from small classes and personal attention to hands-on work in the lab. (more)

Kathy Regan-Pyne ’79

Kathy Regan-Pyne ’79 grew up in New Britain, CT and never really saw herself as having much in the way of a “career.”  But she was a gifted athlete, and came to Eastern with her twin sister Beth in the mid-1970s to play basketball for Coach Robert Miller.  She earned her degree in Elementary Education, and began her career as a teacher and youth worker before leaving education for a career in insurance.  Over the next 15 years, Kathy developed a strong skill set in the field of human resources, including staffing, compensation and employee development, budgeting and financial management, insurance services and marketing. (more)

Pamela Riccio ’87

Pamela Riccio ’87 is vice president of business process and technology at Gartner, Inc., a $1 billion information technology research and advisory firm headquartered in Stamford. Riccio, who double-majored in business administration and economics, has worked at Gartner for 21 years and says the problem-solving and relationships skills she learned in her classes at Eastern helped launch her career trajectory. “I particularly appreciated my courses in labor economics and political economics, especially looking back on them now. I learned how the theories of economics are applied to things I see every day — how they impact day-to-day life in the business world,” she said, adding that the group projects and classwork provided a framework for management in a real-world setting. “Relationship management, project management, how to tackle problem-solving — that’s what I’ve built my career on.” (more)

Bob Schmidt ’00

Bob Schmidt’s career has taken him from the Navy, with six years of service as a submariner in the 1970s and 1980s, to the Navy, as a civilian member of Chief of Naval Operations’ staff in the D.C. area for the past six years, with a stint at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Groton and later in Newport, RI, in between. During that period working in Groton and Newport, he also took the time to go to Eastern as a nontraditional, evening student and earn a degree in Computer Science in 2000.
Schmidt is very complimentary about his Eastern experience.

Jeff Sizer ’80

I attribute much of my professional and personal success to the people at Eastern, the campus environment, and the many opportunities presented, including the opportunity to play basketball. In addition, I met my wife Brenda Coffey (Sizer), also an Economics major, at Eastern.

We are proud parents of two fine young men now 26 and 23. Our oldest, Dan, works in Dubai after graduating from South Carolina University in International Finance and Spanish. Our youngest son, Chris, is in his senior year at West Virginia University, majoring in marketing. (more)

Jonathan Vervoort ’97 Biology

In high school, Jonathan Vervoort ’97, an Associate Director in Global Marketing at Merck, had little interest in academics. After earning his diploma, he chose to join the Marine Corps, where he served for four years before leaving as a Corporal.

It was after the Marine Corps that Vervoort elected to give academics another shot, enrolling at the University of Connecticut. He majored in physics, took on a large course load, and found that he was struggling. Not willing to give up, Vervoort decided to give Eastern a try. “I’m thankful they accepted me,” he says. (more)

Susan Wilson ’73

From at least the time she came to Eastern after two years and an Associate’s degree from Middlesex Community College, Susan (Hidler) Wilson ’73 knew what she really wanted to do was be a writer.  It didn’t happen right away, and then it was a sidelight for a long while, but today Wilson can say that she’s an author.

Susan, a resident of Martha’s Vineyard for more than a quarter century, is now the author of nine novels and publishing a new one roughly every year and a half.  The next, working title A Dog’s Best Friend, was well underway in the summer of 2015.  Susan is best known for her stories reflecting the strong bonds between humans and their dogs and how canines support and sustain people in their times of travail.  Her most successful book to date, One Good Dog, St. Martin’s Press, 2010, was on the New York Times best seller list for six weeks and has been optioned for film.  (more)