Class Notes Summer 2020


Spike Vrusho reports, “Since moving to Vero Beach, Fla., in 2009, I have been fundraising chairperson of my Unitarian Universalist Fellowship and have raised over $200,000 from yard sales, auctions, discount coupon book sales, and potluck dinner auctions of unwanted Xmas gifts.”


Through an item in Class Notes, Bob Magnant was able to connect with Dan Prouty, an old acquaintance who facilitated WPI projects that exposed students to the realities and the practicalities of on-site construction projects. “Dan still lives in the heart of Oxford, Mass., my home town,” writes Bob. “He tracks WPI activities with a Journal subscription. The last time I saw him, he was a skinny 10-year-old who was living in his family home, which then was just across the street, no more than 1,000 feet from mine! I was then 23; I had just come back from Vietnam.” Inspired by Bob’s note about his recent publications, Dan tracked him down. “We had several wonderful conversations for starters,” Bob reports. “But time does fly; we also survived Hurricane Dorian and a wedding last year.” He also notes that he now has all seven of his books set up as free downloads on Apple Books.


David Johnson writes, “My wife, Jan, and I were fortunate to complete a wonderful expedition cruise to Antarctica on January 20, before the pandemic exploded. We got to walk in some of explorer Ernest Shackleton’s footsteps on South Georgia Island and make a number of stops on the Antarctic peninsula. Utilizing email and Zoom to stay in touch with fraternity brothers while staying at home during the pandemic.”


Dean Kamen was named one of  “9 People That Prove ‘OK Boomer’ Should Really Be ‘Thank You, Boomer’ on the Interesting Engineering website.


As CEO of Professional Systems Engineering, Jerry “Dutch” Forstater and his engineering and atelier design firm received the 2019 Outstanding Engineering Achievement in Controls and Electrical Engineering award from the Engineering Societies in Delaware Valley, Philadelphia Chapter, and the Pennsylvania Society of Professional Engineers, for the design and engineering of the Pennsylvania Capitol Police Integrated Command Center. Features of the mission-critical facility include more than 1,000 high-resolution cameras to watch over the 5-million sq. ft. premises, while hundreds of intelligent readers monitor traffic, along with a highly integrated system of phone, radio, and call boxes.


Nitsch Engineering announced the immediate retirement of Founding Principal Judy Nitsch on April 1, in keeping with the ownership and leadership transition plan that she embarked on many years ago. She founded the company (then called Judith Nitsch Engineering, Inc.) in 1989, and led it as president until 2011, when chairman and CEO Lisa Brothers transitioned into the role of president and CEO. In a press release Judy said, “When I founded Nitsch Engineering, I envisioned a company that went above and beyond to meet client needs, and that would do excellent engineering work with, as we like to say, ‘a smile on our face.’ I’m truly delighted with the company that Nitsch Engineering has grown to become, and how the leaders and employees are so well prepared and poised to bring the company to even more success. I know the company will be ‘building better communities with you’ for a long time!”

She will remain involved in the architecture/engineering/construction industry through service on various boards and advisory groups. The release also detailed her long history of giving back to her alma mater. Judy was the first alumna member elected to WPI’s Board of Trustees; she served as chair of the Facilities and Campus Infrastructure Committee for 16 years. Her leader- ship on two university master plans was noted, as well as on the construc- tion of the Rubin Campus Center, the Bartlett Center, and the Sports & Recreation Center. She was named a trustee emerita in 2012 and received an honorary doctor of engineering degree from WPI in 2015.


Allen Apel writes, “After over 42 years of working at Pratt & Whitney Aircraft in East Hartford, Conn., I retired at the end of November 2019. My title at retirement was Associate Director, Engine System Modeling Discipline Chief. I worked on developing engine simulation models to predict the performance of jet engines for my entire career. I joined Pratt in June of 1977, and worked on all of its commercial and military engines. I had the pleasure of working with and mentoring many outstanding WPI graduates at Pratt. Jayne and I continue to live in East Hartford.”


Wes Wheeler is the new president of UPS’s Healthcare and Life Sciences unit. He joined the company in 2016 as part of its acquisition of his former employer, Marken, where he served as president and CEO. His career has been focused on key functional areas in pharmaceuticals, including manufacturing, drug development, supply chain logistics, marketing, and engineering. Wes has two adult children and currently lives in North Carolina.


Chris Wilmot writes, “After a 40 year career in the defense-related industry, I decided to take early retirement and am thoroughly enjoying being home with family and spending time with grandchildren, as well as activities such as biking, family genealogy, and other projects/interests. We are currently renovating our retirement home in Delaware and have been living in Virginia for the past 20 years where, fortunately, we live close to our children and grandchildren. I will always treasure the chemical engineering education at WPI and the friends I made at Alpha Tau Omega fraternity.”


Martin Rowe writes, “On January 13, I joined WTWH Media, heading up a website for engineers called 5G Technology World ( In the coming months, we’ll be adding technical articles, product announcements, blogs, and videos to help engineers learn about developing products and systems that use 5G. 5GTW will also address other forms of RF communications, as well as wired (optical and electrical) communications.”


Scott Harris is a Mentor-in-Residence at WPI, with scheduled office hours to assist others with start-ups. A co-founder of Onshape, he retired as VP of Product Definition & User Experience in 2017, but continues to serve the firm as a consultant. His previous roles include distinguished visiting engineer at Olin College, co-founder and VP of New Product Concepts at SOLIDWORKS, director of product engineering at Computervision, and serving as an engineer at Pratt & Whitney Aircraft. His profile notes his hobbies as “kayaking, long-distance cycling with Team Onshape, designing and building furniture, and general tinkering.”


Keith Ruskin writes, “Even though my ‘day job’ is anesthesia, my academic interests involve aerospace medicine. I recently had the opportunity to participate in a microgravity research flight with an organization called Project PoSSUM. The research is fascinating, and it’s always fun to explore your own physiological limits. (Spoiler alert: microgravity is a blast!) When I’m not in the air, my wife (Anna Ruskin) and I work together on the faculty of the Department of Anesthesia and Critical Care at the University of Chicago.”


Tom Arseneault (’87 MSEE) is president and chief executive officer of BAE Systems. He has been with the company in senior leadership positions since 2000, when his previous employer, Sanders, a Lockheed Martin Company, was acquired by BAE Systems in 2000. He holds an MBA from Boston University.


Steven Landry was named department head of the Penn State Harold and Inge Marcus Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering, moving up from associate department head. With a research focus on air transportation systems engineering, he has published widely on areas such as flight deck automation, human–computer interaction in aerospace, and human factors in aviation. Before joining the faculty at Purdue in 2005, he was an aeronautics engineer for NASA at the Ames Research Center, researching and developing air traffic control automation. He previously served as an aircraft commander, instructor, and flight examiner with the U.S. Air Force.


Stephen Farr was elected to the Board of Directors of Nitsch Engineering, where he serves as a senior project manager. His role has centered around the preparation of design documents, development of work schedules and budgets, management of junior staff engineers, and coordination with various local and state authorities for transportation engineering projects in municipalities throughout Massachusetts. He is active on the Town of Needham’s Conservation Commission, and has been a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers since 1988.


Debora Jackson (MS, ’00 MEng) published Meant for Good: Fundamentals of Womanist Leadership. Her latest book uses the biblical story of Joseph’s exile and rise to power in Egypt to highlight leadership fundamentals that can be gleaned from that story and from the stories of black women’s experiences—lessons that may be redeemed for the good of ourselves and our organizations. The publisher’s website notes that “African American women survived nearly 400 years of oppression by crafting a creative culture of resistance, personal perseverance in the struggle, and the ability to adapt while remaining undergirded by faith.” She is a former director of lifelong learning at Yale Divinity School and former executive director of the Ministers Council, ABCUSA, and a former senior pastor of the First Baptist Church in Needham, Mass.

Mark Macaulay reports another successful pond hockey tournament in February. Gathered with him for the annual alumni tourney in Vermont were Chris Altemus ’87, Mike Fitzpatrick ’89, Billy Hamilton ’89, Kevin O’Connell ’89, Paul Pelkey ’89, Jimmy Dellagatta ’90, and Kevin Fitzpatrick ’90.


Mike Fillion shares, “Relocated back to New England after 22 years away. Living in Middleton, Mass., with my wife, Tracy, and son Jack, a freshman at St. John’s Prep. Our daughters, Katie (BU) and Abby (URI), attend school in New England as well. Enjoying my new role as EVP of Global Operations for Tecomet in Woburn. 


Loree Griffin Burns continues to publish science and nature stories for readers of all ages, including an article about “Big Night,” the annual spring migration of several amphibian species, in Yankee magazine. Her newest book for children, a picture book celebration of moths and moth-watching, has been called “entomological ecstasy” by Kirkus and “an engaging approach to nature study” by Booklist, in starred reviews. You’re Invited to a Moth Ball is Loree’s seventh book, published by Charlesbridge Publishers in April 2020. The promotional copy asks, “Most of us are asleep when moths come out at night, but what if we were to stay up late one night? What if there were a way to invite local moths onto our porches and into our green spaces? Moth-watching is actually a thing, and this book invites readers to give it a try.”

Shawn Gordon was one of 58 recipients of the Northrop Grumman’s 2019 President’s Award in the Quality Excellence category for his systems engineering leadership on the James Webb Space Telescope Quality First Culture Change Campaign. The citation notes, “The Culture Change campaign focuses on empowering employees to individually and collectively drive quality across the program.” Shawn’s group was credited with collaboration that produced more than 60 creative problem-solving ideas to drive down cost and schedule risks.

His wife, Kellie Moore Gordon, tells us, “Shawn’s engineering career has humble origins rooted in his early engineering days at WPI when he was inspired to take his love of Star Trek beyond his lab bench and into practical aerospace applications.” Recruited by TRW (now Northrop Grumman), he moved from Massachusetts to Redondo Beach, Calif. She adds, “Shawn is humble and doesn’t toot his own horn, but this an incredible achievement—and I just had to share.”


Greg Humora took the helm as the new city manager of La Mesa, Calif., in February. He had been serving as the city’s assistant manager since 2016. Prior to that, he was director of public works for more than a decade. He holds a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.


Tim Brosnihan was named executive director of the MEMS & Sensors Industry Group (MSIG), a SEMI Strategic Association Partner. The press release stated, “A skilled electronics industry executive and seasoned technologist, Brosnihan brings MSIG extensive MEMS and sensors, product development, and manufacturing experience” to his new role in directing global activities in research and development, standards, and technical programs. He will also spearhead MSIG executive conferences and develop new services for the MEMS and sensors industry. 


Kylie Williams and Brigitte Perera ’16 serve together at Skanska USA Building as assistant superintendents. “We are both working on the Brookline (Mass.) High School Expansion project,” Kylie writes. In March, the two were featured in Boston Real Estate Times as part of Women in Construction Week, a project of the National Association of Women in Construction. She adds, “There are lots of stories (and deservingly so) about women making new discoveries and developments in high-tech and biomedical fields, but there’s a big solid group of us getting down and dirty in work boots and hard hats getting it done as well.” Kylie also appeared in the Boston Globe recognition of Women in Construction Week.


Christopher Gallagher was promoted from town engineer to director of public works in Foxboro, Mass.

Amanda Kimball (’04 MS FPE) was named executive director of the Fire Protection Research Foundation, which is the research affiliate of the National Fire Protection Association. She has been with the organization for the past eight years and previously worked for Arup. She called the new appointment “an honor,” and noted that her predecessor left her big shoes to fill.


Ann Mariano (MS, IT) took on the role of information technology director in the Framingham, Mass., school district in January. She previously worked in other IT roles in Massachusetts—in Stoughton, in Gloucester, and at Ursuline Academy in Dedham. She most recently was director of education technology at Foster-Glocester Regional Schools in Rhode Island.


Mary Schubert (’10 MFE) and her fiancé, Erik Mikalsen, recently moved to Oklahoma so that she could pursue a role as general manager for an aviation overhaul shop. She was also recently honored with the UTC Mead Medal for innovation in engineering or science. “When not moving or running marathons,” she writes, “we are planning for our upcoming New Year’s Eve wedding in New York.”


Erika Hall (’08 MS BME) was installed last December as the 2020 President of the Realtor Association of Central Massachusetts. The ceremony took place at WPI, in Alden Memorial. She writes, “In this role, I will continue advocating for home buyers, sellers, and housing policies that promote the American dream of home ownership.” She also serves as a director for the state Association of Realtors. Erika currently resides in Northborough, Mass., with her husband, Dan Filipe ’07, and their daughter, Ivy Rose—“Class of 2038?” Erika jokes.

Megan Hall was spotlighted in the Boston Globe in a story about vegan Super Bowl parties. Her specialties include Guinness cupcakes with Irish cream frosting (using Bailey’s almond milk) and seitan wings made with vital wheat gluten (which she says is much higher in protein than chicken). She told the Globe reporter that people are pleasantly surprised by how good the food is, and by how the taste and texture is much like meat. “I don’t get it when people say they couldn’t go vegan because they would miss this or miss that,” she said. “What’s to miss?” She is a realtor with Keller Williams Elite.


Patrick Crowe returned to campus as a new instructor and lecturer in the Department of Humanities and Arts, with a special focus on theatre. As a student, Crowe double majored in mechanical engineering and theatre. Prior to his return to campus, he worked as a mechanical engineer, specializing in industrialized indoor farming, and sprinkler and food processing equipment design. He was also a fire protection engineer, working on NFPA Code reviews for nuclear power stations.

Huan Lai serves as director of engineering at Hopper, where he directs the teams that build Hopper’s Flights products. In an interview for VentureFizz’s Career Path Q&A feature, he said, “Much of my job involves figuring out how to scale the people, processes, and technology to not only keep up with the growth, but accelerate it.” His advice on pursuing a career in engineering: “If you don’t love what you do, do something else. Our line of work is not easy, and you will run into your fair share of failures along the way. Loving what you do provides that extra push of motivation needed to get across the finish line.”


Medium profiled Julie Bliss Mullen (’13 BS EE), cofounder of Aclarity, in an article called “Water for Everyone: How Julie Bliss Mullen Is Using Her STEM Background to Solve the Clean Water Crisis.” The article traced her background in environmental policy and engineering back to her dual major at WPI. It also stressed her service on water harvesting projects in Guatemala with WPI’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders as key to her motivation for her current work. As CEO of Aclarity, she is focused on commercializing and distributing the electrochemical water purification technology she developed, and on collaborating with other organizations to provide community drinking water systems in developing countries. In 2019 she received the “Eat It” Lemelson-MIT Prize and was named to that year’s Forbes “30 Under 30” list in the Science category.

Alison Kapushinski, previously a senior staff engineer at Langan Engineering, is now town engineer for Wallingford, Conn. She holds a master’s degree in civil engineering from Stevens Institute of Technology.

After graduation, Michael Sao Pedro and Cameron Betts started Apprendis with their advisor, Janice Gobert, formerly of WPI, now a professor of educational psychology at the Graduate School of Rutgers University. The company is a spin-off of WPI’s Office of Intellectual Property & Innovation. It specializes in developing digital materials for performance assessment of skills in science, including the Inq-ITS (Inquiry Intelligent Tutoring System). Apprendis’s Inq-ITS is a virtual learning and assessment system for middle school science, developed using proprietary, educational data mined algorithms. Acting as a virtual lab, the software engages students in scientific inquiry and allows for real-time guidance for the student as well as real-time assessment for the teacher.


Classmates Angela Simpson and Brian Joseph were married Oct. 5, 2019, in Porter, Maine. They first met doing theatre during the 2010 production of New Voices. Brian’s parents are also WPI alumni, Barry and Gayle (Dalawrak) Joseph, both Class of 1984). “There was quite the WPI reunion at the wedding,” they report, “with over 40 alumni from 1984 through 2016!” The gathering included John Foody ’15, Ben LaVerriere ’11, Tina Dutra ’15, Jason Rosenman ’14, Giovanna (Olson) Chabot ’14, Larry Marini ’84, Erin Saari ’12, Zeph Cady ’13, Krishna Narayan ’84, Alex Rock ’12, Emma (Begbie) Cady ’13, Anika (Blodgett) Pavis ’12, Bailey Sarber ’13, Sean O’Brien ’13, Jackson Nickerson ’84,  Owen West ’15, Rich Pavis ’10, Eileen Wrabel ’14, Jeff Rosen ’12, Mary Clare McCorry ’12, Angela (Simpson) Joseph ’13, Brian Joseph ’13, Sebastian Bellisario ’14, Ari Nitzel ’16, Carol (Wood) Sutherland ’10, Joel Sutherland ’10, Sarah Bailey ’16, Amy Castonguay ’06, Lena (Pafumi) Brown ’15, Hannah Brown ’15, Sam Moniz ’11, Emma Raymond ’16, Joe Brown ’15, Sarah Gardinier ’16, Maeve McCluskey ’16, Mel Wiater ’14, Sarah Fischer ’12, Rick Desilets ’10, Kristen Brann ’15, Andrew Wilkins ’10, and Pat Thomas ’15.


Konstantinos Georgiadis now works full time with his brothers, importing olive oil from his grandfather’s farm in Corinth, Greece, which they sell under the brand name Mr. Papou. (Papou is “grandfather” in Greek.) He left his full-time work in sales management to take on internal analytics, bookkeeping, and sales for the company. The Telegram & Gazette ran an article on the oil being used at the baptism of a great-grandchild at Saint Spyridon Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Worcester, and the Keene Sentinel reported on the family and its other food-related businesses. Locally, Mr. Papou is available a few blocks from WPI at Bahnan’s International Marketplace, Bakery, and Café, and it’s used at some of the area’s Greek restaurants, including Meze Estiatorio on Shrewsbury Street and Zorba’s Taverna on Stafford Street, the Telegram reports.


John Stegeman writes, “I have launched my own Smart City company with my dad’s help and am getting some local publicity.” The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on how John, as co-owner and chief technology officer, brought his robotics engineering expertise to Labyrinth Technologies to design controllers for LED streetlights that can be set to make sidewalks brighter at certain times of night, such as when crowds emerge from sporting events. Future add-ons could include networked message boards, weather sensors, and surveillance cameras. The company has received 15 patents for the lighting systems, which feature strips that can turn different colors—blue and gold for the Blues, red for the Cardinals, and a festive combination of purple, gold, and green for Mardi Gras.

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