Chris Cigal and his wife, Laurie, reunited with fellow WPI classmate Tom Fieldsend and his wife, Vonnie, in Bar Harbor, Maine. Chris and Laurie were visiting the area from Georgia to hike in Acadia National Park. He writes, “We hadn’t seen each other in 16 years and what was supposed to be an hour meal and conversation turned into almost four!”
Did you get a promotion? Get married? Receive an award? Expand your family? Write a book? Meet a personal goal? Chat with a fellow alum about the good old days? We want to hear from you and your WPI classmates do, too! Tell us your latest news and it may appear in Class Notes—it’s a great way to reconnect with your fellow alumni: email@example.com.
Don Zwiers was passionate about sustainability long before the term was in the common vernacular. According to his daughter Nancy, he was an early adopter of recycling and composting, cajoled his family to turn off lights, and even carried a trash picker-upper stick so he could clean up litter. It was that passion for sustainability that led him to start his own company, Deco-Link, to recycle fiberglass scraps destined for landfills. For almost 40 years, his company manufactured upcycled fiberglass products for clients as big as Chicago’s O’Hare Airport and Maywood Park horse racing venue. Not even a recent move to an assisted living facility can slow him down. When he discovered his new home had no recycling program, he championed an effort to start one. He’s talked with the kitchen staff about composting and with the landscaping crew about adding more raised garden beds. And at 89, he still picks up litter.
Elliott Heith proudly shares: “I have three grandchildren—two teenage girls living in California and a teenage boy living in New York City. My older granddaughter just got accepted to the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. My younger granddaughter, a longtime soccer player, kicks extra points and field goals for the boys’ junior varsity football team. My grandson has won one of 50 New York state writing awards and one of 50 national writing awards.”
Robert White and his wife, Ginny, have moved into their newly renovated home in Presque Isle, Maine, after 27 years in Caribou, Maine. He writes, “It’s nice at our stage in life to have everything on one level!”
Jeffrey Webber has published his first novel, a sci-fi fantasy Enimnori: Arrival. The book, 20 years in the making, was first published in December 2021 by Newman Springs Publishing. The second book in the Enimnori series is due to be published in the fall of 2022, with two more in the works.
Arthur Huggard was promoted to vice president of digital technology at Build-A-Bear Workshop, where he has worked for the last five years. He says, “Leading the teams that run our award-winning website (www.buildabear.com) has been fun and certainly interesting, as the pandemic forced most of us to shop online. In my web career, I have gone from running the world’s most macho website at Bass Pro Shops, to the least macho at Build-A-Bear. Previous positions also entailed running websites for Hudson Bay Company (North America’s first corporation) and Sigma Aldrich—a science company that has sold almost a billion dollars of science supplies to research companies and universities online. I think I qualify for an alumni award as the person who has wandered the farthest away from my WPI degree in chemical engineering.”
John Kelly is retiring after almost 40 years with Pfizer. He writes, “Through this time, I have had the pleasure to work with so many amazing colleagues, many of whom have become good friends. I look back fondly on my experiences, with work locations in Brooklyn, Puerto Rico, and New York City, and business travels that have taken me to more than 30 countries, where I have learned of the many rich cultures that make up Pfizer. I have been fortunate to have many interesting and challenging assignments throughout my career, and I thank those leaders who gave me the opportunities. In turn, I have attempted to pay it forward in my leadership roles and through being actively engaged in mentoring. A shout-out to the many mentees I have worked with and learned so much from.
Through it all, I am very proud of the work Pfizer colleagues do to discover, partner, develop, and supply life-saving and life-enhancing medicines and vaccines of the highest quality to patients around the world, while operating our facilities safely and environmentally responsibly. I now look forward to spending more time with my family and whatever the future holds.”
Gail Baker joined the Board of Advisors of Capewell, an engineering aviation and life support solutions organization. According to a company announcement, her 35+ year career has included “leadership positions in engineering, program management, business development, mergers and acquisitions, global factory management, and P&L oversight.” Her new role will help advance innovations in the design and manufacture of military equipment produced by Capewell. She has been a unit leader for a Fortune 500 aerospace and defense conglomerate and was responsible for $11 billion in revenue during her time as president of Aftermarket Services for Collins Aerospace.
Michael Duquette joined Precision Coating Company’s senior management team as group vice president of operations. According to a company announcement, he will bring his years of experience in medical device manufacturing to his new role. “I’m drawn to innovative, growth-oriented companies with the vision to match their goals,” he says. “I’m excited to join PCCI and am committed to helping my colleagues continue as global leaders in high-performance medical coatings.”
George Aghjayan wrote an opinion piece for The Armenian Weekly titled “The Need for Earnest Dialogue.” In the article, he discusses the detrimental impact of a society’s inability to discuss topics to reach consensus during an open dialogue. He also details the issue surrounding the denial of Mourad Papazian’s entry into Armenia and the discourse surrounding it. He is director of the Armenian Historical Archives and chair of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Central Committee of the Eastern United States. In his retirement, he concentrates on Armenian-related research and projects focusing on the demographics and geography of western Armenia, Armenian genealogy, and genocide denial.
Ray Franz was promoted to area manager of Northern California for Keller, the world’s largest independent geotechnical contractor. According to a company announcement, he has more than 30 years of experience in geotechnical consulting and specialty construction, and he has worked with “micropiles, auger cast piles, anchors, dynamic compaction, rigid inclusions, vibro compaction, and various types of grouting.” He started at Keller in 2003 and most recently worked as a pre-construction manager in Chicago. He is a member of the Geo-Institute of American Society of Civil Engineers and the Deep Foundations Institute.
Guido Jouret was appointed interim chief technology officer and senior technology advisor for Vivera Phamaceuticals. He has over 25 years of experience in technology sectors such as software, services, networking, cloud platforms, and hardware. In his role, he will provide guidance to help identify key areas of focus as the company develops the technology for ZICOH, its patented electronic prescription delivery device. “Technology lets us empower patients to take charge of their own healthcare,” he says. “We can improve effectiveness and the overall quality of life in new ways. I’m excited to work with the team at Vivera to bring their innovative offerings to the benefit of millions of patients worldwide.”
Kate Donaghue (MS CS) was featured in a Telegram & Gazette article about her campaign for state representative of the new 19th Worcester District in Massachusetts. According to the article, she is a longtime political advocate and has worked on various campaigns, including her first in 1982 supporting Governor Michael Dukakis’s reelection. After working in nonprofit advocacy, she says she turned her attention to political engagement because she saw it as a way to make real change. After retiring as vice president of a software company, she says she now considers herself a “full-time candidate,” tirelessly pitching to voters on issues she cares about, including the opioid epidemic, healthcare, senior care, climate change, and supporting K-12 education. Many of these issues have personally affected her, including the loss of her son to opioid addiction and her husband to pancreatic cancer.
Don LeBlanc has joined StackCommerce, a commerce and content platform, as CEO. He has extensive experience in e-commerce across business-to-business and business-to-customer brands. His new role will oversee the company’s next phase of growth as it builds its commerce platforms. He says, “This is an exciting time to be stepping into a leadership role at StackCommerce, and I can’t wait to see how we can further disrupt the industry, solidify our commerce and content expertise, and build better tools for all our partners. I believe in the value of commerce storytelling as an elegant advertising solution that will remain powerful for the foreseeable future, and I’m very much looking forward to working with the whole Stack team.” Don has over 20 years of experience working for companies such as VistaPrint, Simplisafe, and Staples.
Gerry Burns, who has worked as a serial CEO and business consultant, reports he is dedicating himself to coaching and training individuals and teams with a focus on applying conscious leadership to one’s personal and professional journey through practical applications and experiences. These retreats can span multiple days and support views toward curiosity, learning, openness, and responsibility. Previously, he served as an advisor and mentor to WPI students as part of the WPI Tech Advisors Network and was a guest speaker in the WPI course Engineering Innovation and Entrepreneurship. He also has advised leaders of start-ups and established businesses in markets such as high-tech manufacturing, Web 3.0, and artificial intelligence.
Daniel O’Connell was named vice president of strategic accounts at Yield Engineering Systems (YES), a leading manufacturer of process equipment for semiconductor advanced packaging, life sciences, and “More-than-Moore” applications. He has been with the company since November 2021. According to a company announcement, he will “work closely with the company’s sales, marketing, and technology teams to nurture strategic customer relationships and ensure YES’s alignment with current and future customer technology requirements.” He has extensive experience in the semiconductor industry and has held various management and leadership positions.
Dayna Badhorn was named regional president for Avnet’s electronics parts group. According to the company’s announcement, in her new role she will “oversee all actions tied to Avnet’s electronics parts enterprise and handle the operations group supporting enterprise within the area.” She has worked for Avnet for 23 years and previously served as international vice president of strategic planning and company advertising. About the new role, she says, “It’s an honor to be named to this role at such a pivotal time within the distribution business. I look ahead to additional delivering on Avnet’s century-long promise of delivering best-in-class options that assist our companions and suppliers to meet their evolving wants.”
Michael Brown was appointed vice president for Canadian businesses at Davis-Standard, an organization that develops and distributes extrusion and converting technology. According to an announcement in Plastics Technology, he will oversee the business operations plans, strategies, and performance initiatives for the organization’s Toronto-based subsidiaries. He recently worked for Gillette/Procter & Gamble as operations manager for injection and extrusion operations. He has extensive experience in expanding businesses’ profitability, safety, aftermarket services, lean manufacturing, and footprint utilization.
Peter Cavallo was recently presented with Temple University’s Part-Time Faculty Excellence in Teaching and Instruction Award for 2021–2022. According to a Temple announcement, the award “recognizes part-time faculty members for their high-quality pedagogy; efforts to evaluate, assess, and improve one’s own teaching; and mentorship fostering academic and professional achievements of students.” He received one of only three awards presented annually to adjunct faculty and is the first faculty member selected from the College of Engineering. He teaches fluid mechanics, aerodynamics, compressible flows, and computational fluid dynamics in Temple’s Mechanical Engineering Department.
Jason Chin has joined Vision Government Systems as chief technology officer. Vision supports various aspects of property appraisals across the United States. He writes, “Blessed to be joining as CTO in a time of incredible business growth and opportunity. Can’t wait to learn all the ins and outs of the business and what makes us the leaders in driving digital change in the property assessment industry!”
Shilpa Shroff was named vice president of process sciences by Scribe Therapeutics, a California-based molecular engineering company that creates technologies for CRISPR-based genetic medicine. She brings two decades of manufacturing and technology experience from BioMarin Pharmaceutical, where she served as executive director of technology development in process science. She earned her PhD at the University of California and her MS at Stanford University.
Steve Vassallo was interviewed on Daniel Scrivner’s podcast Outliers and discussed topics such as “Minimum Awesome Product,” the prepared mind vs. open mind, and learnings from tearing down and rebuilding an investment firm. Vassallo is a general partner at Foundation Capitol. About the interview, Scrivner says, “Very few venture firms survive a single decade, let alone multiple decades. And those that do survive for decades have to reinvent themselves time and time again, which is exactly why I wanted to interview Steve Vassallo. Over the last 15 years, he’s helped reinvent Foundation Capital, turning around lagging performance, investing in entirely new types of businesses and companies. And in the process, he’s helped usher in an incredible new era at Foundation Capital.”
George Willwerth is president of Colantonio, one of the largest construction management firms in Massachusetts. He has been with the firm for 28 years, and was appointed president in 2015. He first worked for the company while earning his civil engineering degree at WPI. In his role as president, he oversees all estimating, project management, field supervision, and contract negotiations. He says, “The most rewarding part of my job is the interaction with Colantonio personnel and seeing the professional growth we’ve all had in our tenure here. I also get a lot of personal satisfaction at the end of a project when the client is moved in and happy, and ultimately all parties see it as a success.”
Joseph Maraia, a partner at the Boston-based law firm Burns & Levinson and co-chair of its intellectual property group, has been named a 2022 IP Star by Managing Intellectual Property for the ninth consecutive year. The IP Stars list includes the country’s leading intellectual property professionals who have been highly recommended by their clients and peers. According to the firm’s announcement, he is “considered a visionary by his engineering arts and biotech clients for his uncanny ability to look at a new technology and visualize exactly what the company is trying to accomplish and how it can be incorporated into a commercial product.” The announcement notes his range of experience in several industries, including medical devices, LED lighting solutions, semiconductor equipment, power supplies, lasers, image processing devices, and machine learning, among others.
Michael Driscoll was appointed artistic director of Commonwealth Chorale, an adult community chorus based in Newton, Mass. He says, “I am excited to begin working with Commonwealth Chorale. I remember attending one of their performances 20 years ago when I first moved to Boston, and I was impressed with the quality of their performance. I look forward to carrying on the excellent work of David Carrier and the talented singers of Commonwealth Chorale.” He has served as a music director and a music teacher for various organizations throughout Massachusetts.
Dianne Kelly (MS) is now president of Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents (MASS). According to an article in the Revere Journal, she has been superintendent of Revere Public Schools since 2015 after having been a math teacher in Revere, among other roles. She says, “It is definitely humbling to know that people who are your colleagues in education feel that way about your work and trust you enough to lead the MASS.” She will work with other Massachusetts superintendents to push education goals and initiatives for the next year. She has served on several educational committees and in such roles as dean of students, district director of mathematics, and assistant superintendent.
Jeffrey Hastings was featured in an article by The Reminder, a publication based in Western Mass., regarding his recent installation as the Melha Shriners’ 112th potentate (president). He earned his MS in biomedical engineering at WPI, worked in areas of biomechanics research and development, and currently works for BizTech Solutions as a senior interface developer. According to the article, the Melha Shriners are currently celebrating 125 years of community service, which Hastings now leads. He serves as a representative to Shriners International Fraternal Corporation and the Shriners Hospital for Children Corporation. He is also a member of the Melha Highlanders, a Scottish pipe band, in which he has played the snare drum for the past 25 years. Currently, he is the chief (president) of the band after serving as secretary for many years.
Jose Jimenez was named vice president and director of life sciences at Gilbane Building Company, which provides a range of construction and facilities-related services. According to a company announcement, his role will “support Gilbane’s life sciences clients across Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Washington, D.C., and Virginia.” His professional experience includes work in construction management and medical device manufacturing. He was also featured in the BioBuzz “5 Questions With …” series, discussing his education, career, and current trends in the biopharma sector.
Deepthi Bathina (MS) was appointed to the Advisory Board of ManagingLife, a digital health start-up that aims to lower the cost of chronic pain for insurers, employers, and health systems through its clinically validated digital solution, Manage My Pain. She also recently joined the Board of TCV Acquisition Corp, a special purpose acquisition company of TCV, a private equity firm specializing in growth-stage technology, and has been invited to be a member of Extraordinary Women on Boards (EWOB), a networking organization for senior executives who serve on public or private boards and one that focuses on raising the presence and influence of women in the boardroom. Boston University invited her to be the keynote speaker at its annual graduate student conference focused on “Uncovering Experiences for Actionable Insights” to discuss AI in healthcare. She is a senior healthcare and technology executive with a range of experience, from start-ups to Fortune 50 companies. She is currently CEO and founder of HealthTech Ventures and advises executives, boards of directors, and investors in the health technology sector.
Jason Ferschke was featured in a Milford Daily News article after being named Natick’s new fire chief. He previously served as Westborough’s deputy fire chief, starting in 2016. During his time at WPI, he lived in a firehouse and became a junior firefighter. According to the article, while growing up in Auburn he became interested in firefighting at an early age. After his time as a junior firefighter, he became a call firefighter in 1996 and has risen through the ranks ever since. In addition to getting to know the Natick community, one of his other goals as the new chief is to improve emergency medical services after the closure of the MetroWest Medical Center. He told the reporter, “I’m looking forward to working in Natick. It’s a great community.”
Paul Muller was recently promoted to the rank of colonel in the United States Air Force. He and his wife, Amanda (Kight) Muller, currently reside in Arlington, Va. He is stationed at the U.S. Department of Energy, National Nuclear Security Administration; she is a consulting artificial intelligence systems engineer at Northrop Grumman.
Thomas Collins was hired by ProofID as a professional service engineer. The UK-based company is an identity security partner and service provider that delivers methodologies for digital user experiences. His role on the professional services team will focus on service delivery, and he will work remotely from Worcester with the U.S. subsidiary in Colorado. He writes, “It’s a big change from being internal IT for two great academic institutions (WPI and Northeastern), but I’m up for the challenge.”
Liz Hitchcock won a Merit Award of Excellence from PLAN NH for her property The Factory on Willow. The award recognizes the property’s positive impact on the surrounding community through good planning, design, and development, according to an article in the New England Real Estate Journal. The apartment complex, created from a former mill building in Manchester, features 76 live/work apartments and micro-hotel units, commercial/retail tenant spaces, event space, and large outdoor areas.
Ben Sandofsky, founder of an app development company, Lux Optics, recently won a 2022 Apple Design Award for his app “Halide Mark II.” The camera app works to mimic a film camera and allows users to customize their photography with the iPhone and iPad. This app is meant to help users create more dynamic visuals in their digital photography.
Jeremy Hitchcock will be honored with the Walter R. Peterson Award for Education and Public Service by the Community College System of New Hampshire. The award is presented to an “individual whose contributions best exemplify the values of public service and dedication to higher education.” He is a technology entrepreneur and investor in areas that include internet performance management and cyber and next-generation communications. He also owns an independent bookstore in Manchester, N.H., and The Factory on Willow, a workspace for creators, innovators, and entrepreneurs.
Michael Couts was named in an Energy Northern Perspective’s publication that featured the new Bayonet Ocean Vehicles team. The company develops, manufactures, and distributes an amphibious robot line and is the latest to join the Greensea Systems group. He is the mechanical engineer of the team and has extensive experience in the ocean robotics industry. He has overseen the concept, design, prototype, and pre-production builds of two new product lines.
Ryan Graves appeared on the Lex Fridman Podcast, one of most prominent tech forums worldwide. In the 2.5 hour interview, Ryan talked about his various experiences in the Navy. Topics discussed include fighter jets, UFO sightings by the U.S. military, and autonomous weapons systems, among others.
Nicholas Pelletier was named 2022 Realtor of the Year by the North Central Massachusetts Association of Realtors (NCMAR). According to an article in the Leominster Champion, “this award is given annually to the Realtor who best exempliﬁes professionalism and service to the industry based on volunteerism, civic engagement, and outstanding achievements on local and national levels.” In addition to serving as the current president of NCMAR, he is also president of Pelletier Properties, which focuses on revitalizing abandoned properties in North Central Massachusetts. His volunteer activities include serving on the boards of St. Bernard’s High School in Fitchburg, Mass., and the Rise Above Foundation in Worcester, which provides enriching opportunities for foster children.
Vishal Sunak’s company, LinkSquares, was featured in the Boston Business Journal list of Best Places to Work in 2022. The company was listed No. 1 in the medium-sized category. According to the announcement, the company puts a lot of focus on employees’ mental health and paid time off, including parental leave for fathers and mothers. The Boston-based firm, founded in 2015 and employing just over 250 people, provides software to business clients across a range of industries that use artificial intelligence to find key terms, like particular names, dates, or clauses.
Linnea Paton and Guillaume Marceau ’12 welcomed twin girls, Marjolaine and Juniper, in April of this year. They write that their oldest daughter, Adaline, “is thrilled to be promoted to ‘big sister’ status!”
Julie Mullen’s company Aclarity was featured in a story for BusinessWest.com. The article discusses the company’s advancements in water treatment technology—a novel electrochemical approach to combating pollutants in water. The process destroys “forever chemical” compounds and breaks them into their component parts by passing an electrical current through the water. Julie, who co-founded Aclarity in 2017, won the top award at the UMass Innovation Challenge, claiming $26,000 in seed money to help jump-start the company.
Nathan Fournier was featured in This Week in Worcester about his company, HomeHarvest Central MA, a full-service landscaping company with a focus on “regenerative agriculture” and “permaculture.” The article discusses his focus on creating environmentally friendly outdoor spaces that can produce food and attract pollinators, which creates a natural ecosystem that supports each aspect of a person’s yard. He told the reporter, “The age of the grass lawn is over,” and that permaculture works “in a cohesive symbiotic way with nature instead of using brute force.” He is also a general contractor, real estate investor, a member of the Green Worcester Advisory Committee, and vice president of the Worcester Rugby Football Club.
Cassandra LaRochelle ran into Professor Doug Weeks at the performance of Turandot at Opera51 in Concord, Mass. She was one of the horn players in the orchestra. Weeks noted that Cassandra was a recipient of the Kranich Prize during her time at WPI and said, “It was a real treat to work with her and nice to see she is utilizing the skills and knowledge she acquired in HUA at WPI.” Cassandra remarked, “It’s always fun running into other WPI musicians!”
Jean Paul Miralda has been named chief operating officer at Emerge, an IT services and IT consulting company based in Toronto. His new role started only months after joining the company, and he hopes to use his position to enable more humanitarian and social-equity projects within the organization. Emerge focuses on pioneering humane innovations by offering impact-as-service in emerging technologies and Web3 space.
Martins Zaumanis published the book Peer Recognized, which is aimed at scientists who want to improve their presentation skills. The book includes a story about Higgins House and Martins’s time as a student at WPI. This book is part of a series he is writing about scientific communication and each book will refer to his time at WPI.
Sarah Hernandez was named director of research programs at the Hereditary Disease Foundation, which “funds research to find treatments and cures for Huntington’s Disease.” According to a company announcement, she has spent her education and career researching Huntington’s Disease—a condition that has affected her family. Her role at the foundation will oversee its “scientific research portfolio and work closely with its Scientific Advisory Board to identify the most promising research and make recommendations for funding.”
Amogh Raghunath discussed his work to create a tool that analyzes refugee data in an interview on Tech Bullion. He currently works with Audible (an Amazon company) in Newark, N.J., as a software engineer. His work includes designing or blueprinting data platforms used to solve various data science/business intelligence and marketing needs. During his time as a master’s student at WPI, he worked with Professor Andrew Trapp on a research project that involved the LIRS organization, a refugee resettlement agency. The project created an automated process for finding the best places to send refugees once they arrive in the United States.
Professor Doug Weeks shared that he discovered Kerry Muenchow is a member of an orchestra he conducted in Connecticut recently. According to Weeks, she also recently played in a concert at the Unitarian Church in Worcester. During her time at WPI, she played first violin in the Medwin Honors Quartet and was the orchestra concertmaster. He writes, “She’s from Colorado and the decision to attend WPI was largely because of the opportunity to play in the orchestra.”
Chris Rene ran into Professor Doug Weeks at the performance of Turandot at Opera51 in Concord, Mass. He was part of the brass ensemble for the performance. Weeks remarked that Chris was a recipient of the Kranich Prize when he was an undergraduate at WPI and is still actively involved in music. Chris says, “It was fantastic to play with Doug again and meet others who have been taught by him as well,” noting that another WPI alum, Cassandra LaRochelle, was also part of the brass ensemble.
Tej Sheth was the subject of an article in The Eagle-Tribune that discussed his career at Amazon, where he has worked since graduation. At the new Amazon facility, due to open in North Andover, Mass., he will work on the systems design of robotics to help meet the needs of the fulfillment network. According to the article, he worked as a solutions design engineer on 17 robotic fulfillment centers for Amazon before moving into his current position. He cites WPI’s project-based learning as something that helped him succeed in the robotics field.
Madelyn Uryase participated in Operation Playhouse, an event sponsored by Habitat for Humanity International that provides custom playhouses for the children of veterans. Her team was assigned the daughter of a U.S. Marine who served two tours in Iraq and received a Combat Action Ribbon. Her employer, Consigli Construction Co., gives employees paid time to volunteer and, having been a student volunteer as part of WPI’s Alpha Phi Omega fraternity, she says she jumped at the opportunity to help on this project.
Three teams of Consigli employees (30 people total) headed to Elm Park for the Operation Playhouse Build-a-Thon hosted by Habitat for Humanity. She says, “Of the 30 employees, there were three other WPI alumni present (Will Feraco ’14, Caitlin Kelley ’12, and Janice Narowski ’01). This event consisted of building a playhouse from a kit created by a local technical school. The three houses we built were of the themes Patriotic, Log Cabin, and Cozy Cottage, that the children were able to select themselves. From 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. we painted, learned some roofing skills, assembled the house, and added our own decorations specific to each child. We were fortunate enough to meet each family and present their children with their very own ‘certificates of occupancy’ for their new playhouses. Seeing how happy it made them made this experience truly rewarding, and it is something I can see myself doing again for many years to come.”