Alumni Spotlight Archives
"Radford University gives you an opportunity to do something amazing," says attorney David Silek ’94.
“Radford University empowered me in the classroom, and more importantly, outside the classroom,” says Matthew Crisp ’04, co-founder, president and CEO of Benson Hill Biosystems.
“Radford University is the pinnacle of my memories,” says Taylor Ricotta '12. “It introduced me to new relationships and allowed me to grow as a person. It prepared me for the real world."
“It really was an incredible experience to attend Radford University while Maya Angelou was a visiting professor,” says Cindi Napier ’93, MBA ’95.
“No one raises you and tells you that you can be a millionaire. The money is just a reflection of the work. I wanted to change my family’s lifetime and our legacy,” said Pam Cowan Sowder ’79, Chief Networking Officer for It Works!®.
“My time at Radford University was perhaps some of the most incredible years of my life,” says Denise LaRosa '03. “The best part was the support, the love and the community.”
“Radford University does an amazing job of preparing you for all aspects of the real world. It made a lasting impact on me," says Corey Reed '98.
“The entire Radford University economics department gave me a passion for business and economics. It’s a passion I still maintain to this day,” says Eric Ayala ’93.
Political knowledge and skills, along with an interest in education, has led Craig Herndon ’98, M.S. ’00 to Richmond to fight on behalf of Virginia’s college students.
Emma Violand-Sánchez ’66, M.A. ’68 has used her life experience – including her time at Radford University – to change the lives of children in Virginia.
“I was really proud of them. All my mother and daddy did was try to earn enough money support their children. That’s why they went to Radford,” says Jean Bliss ’45.
Going on 20 years as an FBI agent, Jim Harrison ’91, M.A. ‘92 has served the Bureau in numerous roles while being stationed in places like St. Louis, Budapest and Baghdad. He never planned for it to be that way.
Rachel Gregory '11 fell in love with marketing at Radford University. “I love it because it’s the psychology of the consumer,” she said. “You get into the mind of the consumer to see how and why they purchase something.”
Radford University alumna Lisa Graham ’01 applies the skills she learned at Radford University as a marketing minor and as a student-athlete in her career as a successful real estate agent in New York City.
“The education I received at Radford University, both academically and through my involvement with various university initiatives and activities, played a vital role in my overall professional development,” says Dale Ardizzone, Esq. ’85, M.S. ’86.
Standing on stage at New York’s Avery Fisher Hall in Lincoln Center, alumna Penelope Shumate ‘93 had a moment of realization.
Ashley Rosenbaum’s story has all the elements of a fairytale-like story. Her plot line is this: young designer is discovered on social media and her work ends up in British Vogue.
“The smaller class size really allows you to have a more direct relationship with your professor. You’re not just a number in a class. That’s why I chose Radford,” says Chris Nietzold ’10 who, with his wife Kristen ’14, opened Route 8 Donuts in Christiansburg.
“After watching my older sister graduate from Radford University, I knew I wanted to do the same,” says T.C. Johnstone ’96, a director and producer for Gratis 7 Productions.
“Radford University provided me with a wonderful six-year experience and two degrees. I flourished with the professors and the style that Radford University offered,” says Sean Pomeroy ’94, CEO at Visibility Software, LLC.
“Radford University puts people first,” says John Montgomery ’81, executive director of the University of North Carolina Education Foundation. Montgomery and his wife, Sharie, will be hosting the alumni reception for Radford University President Brian O. Hemphill at their home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, on September 22.
“The best thing about Radford is that we come back just because we want to come back,” says Marjie Blassey '86.
“Radford University built my self-esteem to the point that I was able to take a leap of faith,” says Kevin Rogers '87, founder and chief revenue officer of Cypherpath Inc., a Silicon Valley-based information technology infrastructure software company.
“My job is about helping people solve problems every day,” explains Stephan Cassaday ’76, President and CEO of Cassaday & Company, Inc., an independent wealth management firm based out of McLean, Virginia.
Jennifer Pismeny ’06 is giving hope and confidence to many students who struggle. She recently finished her doctoral dissertation to complete her Doctorate of Education in teacher education in multicultural societies. Her goal is to make a difference for students who face educational challenges and to help them thrive.
“Radford University helped me grow as a person and allowed me to meet a variety of people from very different backgrounds,” says Ryan Traylor ’01, director of catering for Mosaic Catering + Events in Richmond. Traylor will serve an essential function for Radford University on July 14, as he and the hospitality company will be catering President Hemphill’s alumni tour stop in Richmond.
Radford University’s College of Humanities and Behavioral Sciences (CHBS) presents Nancy Bell '82 with the CHBS Alumni Award for 2016.
“Radford University provided me the opportunity to develop relationships with many people and left me with a countless number of memorable experiences,” said Jonathan Hanwit ’96, CEO at thinkPARALLAX.
“Radford University provided me with life changing experiences,” says Anne Sluder ’95, an elementary school physical education teacher.
“I knew I wanted to attend the moment I visited the university. I fell in love with the campus and Radford University ended up being the only school that I applied to,” says Donnie Brooks '02, attorney for Brooks Legal Services.
“Radford University gave me a sense of community, the tight knit atmosphere and the constant support from one another made my experience unforgettable,” says Phil Martin ‘08, owner of J. Martasand, a sunglasses company located in Los Angeles, California.
“My experience at Radford is what drove my thirst to learn,” says Drew Thomas ‘92, Principal Engineering Geologist at ECS Mid-Atlantic, LLC (ECS).
“I grew up in a small town of about 1300 people, so to me the diversity at Radford University was amazing,” says Sarah St. Clair ’89, M.S. ‘91.
“When I came to Radford University, I wasn’t sure which path I wanted to take, I just knew I wanted to be in the life sciences,” said Lewis Wheaton ’99.
“People should always be open to new opportunities. I would never have thought I would be designing hats, but here I am,” said Jennifer Storcks ’96.
“I not only reflect on my time at Radford, but I talk about it often with others,” said Claire Geddry Cole Curcio ’64, M.S. ’67.
“When someone hears that I went to Radford University they know there is no question about the quality of my education,” says Dr. Apryl Alexander M.S. ’07.
“I didn’t realize it then, but the criminal justice program at Radford University forced me out of my comfort zone and is responsible for who I am today,” said Russell Pompa ’84. Pompa is a senior agent in the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Norfolk Resident Office.
“A personal goal that I have for myself is to do something big and change the world,” said Scott Anderson ’07. Anderson and his business partners began a start-up their senior year of college that is now a technology company known as OHAVA.
“I learned how to be a leader at Radford,” says Nancy Finch ’60 who, after a career in journalism and public relations that spanned five decades, now serves on a division of Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s Task Force on Prescription Drug and Heroin Abuse.
“Radford University gave me the confidence and drive to pursue my passions, and the skills to realize them,” says Karen Bullard ’88, founder of Sugar Nest, an online boutique featuring a curated collection of home décor and gift items.
“It doesn’t matter what year you graduate, what major you decide to pursue or what it is you get involved in, the experience that students have at Radford University is life changing,” said John King ’91, MBA ’93.
For Patricia Gainer ’14, a Department of Design alumna, her Thanksgiving began at 2:30 a.m. Gainer worked as a dresser at this year’s parade.
Lee Clark ’85 has a passion for facilitating others to come together to make a difference.
“To carve my own path,” says Shyla Vesitis ’96 when asked about what she learned during her time at Radford University. “And to not be afraid to take risks.”
When Jessica Maples ’01 came to Radford University she had one goal in mind, to become an interior designer.
“What got me in the door were my work ethic and my experience from Radford University,” says Chief Financial Officer at Call Federal Credit Union, George Kite III ’03.
“Radford was truly some of the best years of my life. I learned so much about myself during those years, which I feel has led to my successes,” says Sandy Lutton 93'.
“Radford University was a game changer in my life. I was at a fork in the road -- by deciding to turn down Tyler Ave, I knew my life was about to change,” said Shay Carson Onorio ’99.
David Adkins '89 was hired by the Wizards in July of 2014 upon recommendation from a friend. He took the job after coaching stints with the University of Maryland’s women’s basketball team, and before that, a handful of assistant coaching jobs at high schools around Virginia.
Stacey Fraser ’90 came to Radford University to pursue her passion in fashion design. “In high school I was always designing and making my own clothes. I love colors and textures and always enjoy making something that is unique and stands,” says Fraser.
Joshua Taylor ’13 is the Marketing and Sponsorship Sales Manager at The Greenbrier Resort – marketing and selling sponsorships for the resorts major sporting events. The recreation, parks and tourism graduate says that he is passionate about promoting the resort and his hometown.
“I never had a big plan for my career, nor did I have everything mapped out. Each job has been a leap of faith. Yet, there has been a common theme of building and growing organizations and taking some risks,” says Colony Brown ’91.
“Volunteer when you can because it may not seem like it is beneficial for you at the time, but the connections you build will really help you in life. If you have the opportunity to volunteer take a risk and do it. Pay it forward,” said Nathan Charlton ’09
“My biggest take away from Radford was the relationships. Everyone will get the degree which is important, but, what you do with the relationships you make as a student—that is what matters,” says Mike Dolinger ‘91.
The word ardent comes to mind when speaking about Mark Argenziano ’90. He is a basketball enthusiast whose passion guides him on and off the court.
Fernando Sigui ‘95, a native of El Salvador, enrolled at Radford University in 1991 as an international student.
The path Michelle O’Connor ’91 took to her current role as CEO of a multimillion dollar company was not an easy one.
“Sometimes I still have dreams of those great times at Radford University and the hard work I put in during my time there. I remember it quite fondly and I will always have a place in my heart for Radford,” says Robert Mancini ’83.
Samantha Hoey Nelson ’96 just released her book “Artist in B-School,” to inspire creative people be more savvy in business.
Jamie Nolan ’06 is known for her strong work ethic, passion for renewable energy and positive outlook on life. You might even describe her as a “ray of sunshine” that motivates those around her to stay positive and work hard.
June Jennings ’86 has served the Commonwealth of Virginia for almost three decades and was recently appointed State Inspector General.
After graduation Tariq Bokhari ’03 and his wife Krista Bokhari ’03 took a risk and moved to Charlotte N.C. Little did they know, he was about to stumble upon a new passion that made taking risks a part of his future when he landed a job in risk management.
Brenda Lilly ’91 was an English and French literature major at Radford University who found a passion in the beauty industry.
“I moved to the New York area in 1996 and started my career in the industry. I have worked for Revlon, Clinique, L’Oreal-Maybelline, The Estee Lauder Companies and now for Fresh,” says Lilly.
As a student and new graduate, Lilly was interested in theater. ”Right out of college, I received an internship with the Washington Performance Art Society. It was great because I realized I had a lot more interest in business. I also realized the theater industry was not for me. That is what internships are for. I then started pursuing jobs in sales,” says Lilly.
Samantha Steidle ‘04, brand developer of The CoLab, always knew she wanted to be an entrepreneur.
“When I arrived at Radford in 2001, I started my first company as an event planner. I planned weddings and corporate events and would often drive to Roanoke to meet with wedding vendors such as florists, bakers and photographers. I knew I was young, but I wanted the experience of opening and running my own company. When meeting with vendors or clients, I had to meet with them in coffee shops. This is where the seed for the Business Lounge was planted,” says Samantha Steidle.
“The connections that I made through Radford University have impacted my life tremendously. It kick-started my career and gave me lifelong friends. I appreciate my alma mater,” says Jay Rupert ’95.
Rupert has worked in the Press Galleries on Capitol Hill for more than 15 years. “I started off as Assistant Director in the Senate Press Photographers Gallery and stayed there for three years. I then moved to the House Radio/TV Gallery as the Third Assistant for seven years,” says Rupert. Currently, Rupert serves as the Deputy Director at the House Periodical Press Gallery.
“I was encouraged by my professor Dr. Ray Penn to get an internship. He said it would help me figure out my future path. Today, I am the broadcasting director for performance racing network (PRN). Without his advice, I would never be here,” says Alicia Lingerfeldt ’90.
As a student at Radford University, Lingerfeldt majored in speech communication and was involved in the Sigma Kappa sorority. “At Radford, I matured in more ways than I knew I could. The university gives you more than just an education. It gives you freedom, responsibility, guidance and many life lessons,” says Lingerfeldt.
“With the skills I learned at Radford University, my transition into the real world was very smooth. I always had my hands in something and graduated with experience that still serves me today,” says Cyndi Todd ’86.
Today, Todd is a freelance television producer, a media specialist and a publicist. She recently published her first nonfiction biography, Babe Ruth, The Bride, The Battle: The Remarkable Life of Paratrooper Lewis P. Fern.
“After 30 years of hard work, it was such an honor when I got a call from the White House informing me that the president would like to appoint me as the United States Commercial Commissioner,” says Eugenio Pineiro ’79.
Pineiro serves on the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). ICCAT is a governmental fishery organization responsible for the conservation of tunas and tuna-like species in the Atlantic Ocean and other seas.
“I will never forget driving around the corner and seeing campus in front of me. I instantly knew that I made the right decision and that I was home,” says Angela Sheppard Underhill ’86, M.S. ‘87.
Underhill earned her undergraduate degree in 1986 in Communications Sciences and Disorders, then her master’s degree in 1987. “There were only four people in the graduate program at the time. We had an advantage because we all were able to receive first-hand experience in the speech and hearing clinic, because we were responsible for staffing it,” says Underhill.
“When I first applied to Radford University, for an undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice (CJ), I was not successful, but I did not give up. I was encouraged to reapply by my friend’s father. Subsequently, I tried again and was accepted!”
“I embraced all of the opportunities Radford University had to offer. As an undergraduate, I was involved in Residential Life as a Resident Assistant and was involved in the ‘Quest’ program during the summer. These experiences helped me figure out who I was and where my strengths were,” says Rick Walker ’87, M.S. ‘89.
By starting Professional GFX, a web development and graphic design business and running The Gear House, Chris Pund ’08 is not shy about being an entrepreneur.
“My parents owned their own business, so I grew up around a business mindset. Naturally, I knew that was what I wanted. In high school I started a web development business and built websites for clients. While at Radford University, Campus Recreation hired me to build and run its website,” says Pund.
“Radford had a great appeal to me because it was an all-women’s college, and I was very shy and not sure of my capabilities,” says Betty Mitchell Nelson ’57 former Dean of Students Emerita at Purdue University.
Nelson was recently honored with the distinguished lifetime membership award by the Mortar Board National College Senior Honor Society. These awards are presented to alumni who have demonstrated outstanding achievement in their professional lives.
Alumnus Stephan Cassaday ’76 included in Barron’s Top 100 Ranking
Radford University alumnus Stephan Cassaday ’76, president of Cassaday and Company, Inc., was recently listed as the top independent financial advisor in Virginia and 34th in the nation on Barron’s magazine “2014 Top Independent Financial Advisors” list.
Barron’s has ranked independent advisors since 2007 and Cassaday has been included on the list each year. Criteria used to rank the firm includes the advisor’s assets under management, quality of the practice, and the revenue that the advisor generates for their firm.
Marketing graduate Bob Marshall ’01 is always on the go and one to take a chance.
He began his college career at RU in 1988, then left to create an advertising company in Hawaii. “Between my junior and senior year at Radford, I decided to take a two week vacation in Hawaii, and it turned into me leaving there for 10 years. Then, I decided that I needed to complete my degree at RU,” says Marshall.
He said he came back older, at age 32, and determined not to fail. “I met James Lollar during my first day back. I spent a lot of time with him, and he told me that if ‘you put in the time, you’ll do great,’” says Marshall.
Mark Simons ’95 referenced a favorite college book when he started his company, The Goal Inc.
“The Goal was a book that I used in one of my business classes at Radford University. I enjoyed the book and the lessons that came along with it. I also knew that anytime someone said ‘the goal’ in a meeting, I would get free marketing,” says Simons.
The Goal Inc. is a specialized technology consulting firm that assists and provides professional IT services to government contractors and commercial clients.
Jennie Teass Allman '67 earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Radford College, now Radford University, with the intention of a long and wonderful career as a teacher.
Although she taught for only two years, Allman still identifies herself as a teacher and has continued to support her community in roles such as Chairman of the Bedford County School Board.
Allman used her teaching skills to obtain her first job in corporate America as an educational representative with IBM in Roanoke. That position led to a business analyst role as marketing support representative. Then she moved to Dallas, Texas to serve IBM in its marketing department.
“I chose Radford University,” says JP Beckham ’87, “because of its ideal setting, a lot of friends were already attending, and it was just the right size for me.”
Beckham also heard about RU’s outstanding business school. “My Radford University education gave me a very solid foundation for understanding the business world, and enabled me to start a successful career upon graduation for a Fortune 100 Company. RU professors, including my faculty advisor Brack Smith, gave me the confidence to keep working hard and reach for my goals.” Beckham is currently the Director of Risk Management and Compliance at the National Student Clearinghouse.
Dr. Richard Harrell '87 owns The Hearing Clinic, Inc., which operates hearing and balance clinics throughout southwestern Virginia.
"I opened a private practice with a good friend of mine in 1985. In 1989, I took over the practice full-time," says Harrell. As a student at Radford, Harrell received his undergraduate degree in communication sciences and disorders and his master’s degree in audiology. "As a student, I worked in the Speech and Hearing Clinic. As a senior, I was able to participate in providing speech, language and hearing assessments for clients," says Harrell. Working hands on with patients, professors and classmates encouraged Harrell to pursue the path of teaching.
If anybody knows the rewards of hard work and determination, it is Kwabena Osei-Sarpong ’05.
Without having explored the campus prior to his arrival, Osei-Sarpong came to Radford University (RU) as a foreign student from Ghana in 2002. “RU soon became my home away from home," says Osei-Sarpong.
As a student, Osei-Sarpong was very active and highly involved in campus organizations. A few years after graduation, Osei-Sarpong started his own company, RIFE (Real Estate, Infrastructure, Facilities and Energy), International.
Rachel Blankenship-Tucker '09, an RU theater graduate, is a member of the high-energy Appalachian band After Jack -- a female trio with a unique twist on traditional mountain music.
Blankenship-Tucker started playing Appalachian music when she was five years old. "I had a few years of experience under my belt before I came to RU. However, coming to Radford and collaborating with other Appalachian musicians, really helped to inspire me," says Blankenship-Tucker.
Dave Mattingly '86 credits Radford University and RU radio station, WVRU, for his success in broadcasting. Mattingly is a morning news anchor for National Public Radio.
"I was heavily involved with WVRU. I was a news anchor and writer for three years and news director for two," says Mattingly. WVRU Radio's advisor, Ted McKosky, helped to educate and influence Mattingly in his career choice. "Ted gave us the hands on experience that we needed. He coached us to success and by the time we graduated, we were prepared for the real world," says Mattingly.
Alicia Sable '01 has been a part of the Radford family since she was 12 years old.
"I was involved in the Community Arts School on campus. I took voice lessons from former professor Betty Turner and sang in her children's choir. When it came to my college decision, Ms. Turner made it simple," says Sable.
Today, Sable works alongside John Goodman in the new Amazon series Alpha House, starring as Tammy Stackhouse. "I like doing theater, but I love T.V. Working with Alpha House is a dream come true. It is everything I have ever worked for," says Sable.
Mason Gates '89 had never set foot on campus prior to committing and sending his deposit to attend.
“The Radford representative, who came to my high school, sold me on the university. I applied and was accepted. It was one of those things -- the moment I was there, it was home," says Gates. Gates became passionate about the creative side of business and majored in marketing. The ambition didn't stop there, "I ultimately knew I wanted to start my own business," says Gates. He, along with the talented teams around him, created four.
Lynne Geisz '90 was the first in her family to graduate college. She says her time at Radford University was unforgettable.
"My favorite memory was the week of graduation. I had been on such a journey. I couldn't be more thankful for the people that helped me along the way. The day of graduation, I could see my whole family in the audience. I felt like we all were walking across that stage. It was such a proud moment for me," says Geisz.
Bill Garne '85 and his wife Lilo Navales founded Leather Goods of Spain in 1997.
"My wife is from Spain and her family has been in the leather business for over 100 years. While traveling to visit relatives we decided to take a risk and bring unique leather goods to the United States," says Garne. The company started off small, but in no time began adding travel luggage, fashion accessories and custom orders.
"We have the ability to produce custom leather goods in almost any shape or size. We work with an idea from the client to create the final tangible product," says Garne.
Marquett Smith '85: Achieving His "Best Possible"
Marquett Smith ’85 is driven by his mission to maximize his potential. “I grew up in the ghetto of Washington, D.C. I’m fortunate to be where I am today,” he says. He is currently the president of the Washington/Baltimore/Virginia region for Verizon Wireless. He holds full profit and loss and operational responsibility for a $2.8 billion revenue stream for the nation’s largest wireless company. He’s a two-time winner of Verizon Wireless’ President’s Cabinet Award for sales excellence and the prestigious Verizon Chairman’s Award for outstanding business leadership. “I look back on things that I have accomplished, but I’m not done yet. I don’t hang up plaques. I’ll put them up when I’m done,” he says.
"It was written in the stars for me to attend Radford University," says Melissa Costa '00.
As a high school student, she wanted to be just like her mentor. "Beth Flory Markwood, a Radford graduate, was such an inspiring person. She taught the high school marketing program and was also my cheerleading coach. I was lucky enough to have her as a teacher and mentor for three years. She would always talk about her days at Radford. I wanted to follow in her footsteps and have a chance to be a great woman like she is," says Costa.
Mike Morsberger '87, Vice President of Development and Alumni Relations at George Washington University, has a contagious passion for Radford University.
"I was the first generation in my family to go to college. I was a ‘B’ student from RU and here I am one of the VP's running a major university. Who would have guessed, certainly not my professors. I learned something along the way from Radford, they gave me my launch pad and prepared me for success," says Morsberger. Morsberger did not just find passion inside the classroom, but outside as well when he met his future bride MaryBeth.
Nicole Robinson '02 credits advice from one of her favorite Radford University communications professors Dr. David Dobkins, now retired, for helping her to become the youngest vice president in the history of SES Government Solutions, a defense contractor and global satellite company.
"Dr. David Dobkins gave me the best piece of practical advice, which is a quite simple, yet incredibly impactful common expression -- 80% of life is showing up. In order to apply yourself and be in a position to grow and advance, you have to put yourself out there, raise your hand, and take on new challenges. To this day that serves as a basic guiding principle that continues to have influence in my life," says Robinson.
Gina Gallagher '85 paves the path to success for small businesses.
Gallagher is the President of Pathfinders International, a business development consulting firm she joined in 2008. Prior to joining Pathfinders, Gallagher has held several senior level positions at EDS (HP), DynCorp (CSC), and Titan (L3). Gallagher also holds the Strategic Program Director position at Systems Made Simple (SMS), a company that is an industry leader in the delivery of leading-edge solutions that leverage information technology in the Healthcare domain.
Entrepreneur Kevin Donahue '95 welcomes new adventure.
He is currently involved in three successful business ventures -- Partner in Brand Ingenuity Group, Founder and CEO of The Executive Sales Source, and is a Business Development Officer for The Genius Network Mastermind Group. For Donahue it all started in the classroom of Dr. Jim Unnever at Radford University.
"If I had to pick a professor who changed my life, it would be him," says Donahue. Unnever encouraged Donahue to think critically about the world and his place in it. "I was raised in a community that taught me you always follow the rules and don’t question, but Dr. Unnever taught me to question.
Paula Squires '76, managing editor of Virginia Business, has been digging for stories for three decades.
"I find there is a story behind every business, and I’ve met some interesting leaders," says Squires. Some of the people on her high-profile list: AOL cofounder Steve Case and hotelier and philanthropist Sheila Johnson. One of her all-time favorite assignments was touring a coalmine in Southwest Virginia with Mike Quillen, the former chairman of Alpha Natural Resources.
Abby Springmann '10 has never paid a cent for advertising. She is an expert in leveraging her ingenuity, intelligence, talent and innovative use of social media to become a well respected, high-end wedding photographer.
Springmann's love for photography began at Radford University when she took Photography 101 during her junior year. "I discovered I really loved photography and spent most of my time in the dark room. By my senior year, I shadowed a wedding photographer and instantly found my passion," says Springmann. From then on, Springmann apprenticed with wedding photographers on the weekends.
Just two years after graduating from Radford University, Angela Drummond '90 became a smashing success in the business world by starting her own company called SiloSmashers.
"Right out of college, I worked for a government contractor. I enjoyed consulting and helping the government. I knew I had found my passion," says Drummond. She had the idea of modernizing the company by bringing groups together to work as an efficient team. "In the '90s we didn't have the internet but there were some new tools in the business world that would allow people to come together and make things easier," says Drummond.
Deejay Gray '10 says his first role was baby Jesus in his church Christmas play as an infant, and his passion for the stage continues today.
“Once you play the baby Jesus, you kind of have to keep going,” he laughs. Gray was recently featured in Richmond’s popular arts and culture newspaper, Style Weekly, as the youngest member of their 2013 Top 40 Under 40 issue. He was also recently nominated for Best Actor at the 6th annual Richmond Theatre Critics Circle awards for his role in Riding the Bull, as well as Best Acting Ensemble for his role in The Glass Menagerie by Tennesee Williams – which he and his cast won together.
Tracy Kunzler '84 is a writing whiz and a passionate RU alumna.
“I absolutely loved my time at Radford. It’s such a beautiful campus, and I found it to be just the right size. It’s large enough to meet folks from all over the state, the country and even the world while enjoying lots of ‘bigger school’ amenities. Yet, it’s also small enough that I didn’t get lost in the shuffle. My professors knew me, and I felt that my education and growth mattered to them. That gave me the confidence to take the steps needed to launch my career,” said Kunzler.
Jeff Graves '89 is the perfect example of someone who "seizes the day."
He accepts challenges and failures as they come. "I still like to say I have to figure out what I want to do when I grow up," says Graves. Graves who served in the United States Marine Corps as an Officer after graduating Radford University, has started eight companies, lives on his seven acre vineyard and horse property, and currently works for Hodges-Mace Benefits Group as a Principal.
"Deciding to come to Radford was one of the three best decisions I've made in my lifetime," says Graves.
Melissa Epps Wilding '96 travels to find the “next big thing.”
She is the Vice President of Finance, and Director of Sales & International for T.O. Epps and Associates, a manufacturer’s representative organization that works solely on QVC. "My company sells all types of product for the home. However, my area is more specific to home decor, seasonal and gifts,” says Wilding. Some of the products her company sells include brands like Keurig, Leap Frog, and Poo Pourri. "I work with venders to bring their products to QVC, and to help their products be successful on-air,” says Wilding.
Paul Noland '81 is the President and CEO at International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, (IAAPA).
In the past, Noland has worked for Marriott International and Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. Noland has served in a variety of strategic and financial roles including work at Disney to plan new projects such as new parks, hotels and other major land marks.
Bill Lavinder ’93, a Roanoke Valley native, says that people are ultimately the key to a successful business.
The ability to inspire and motivate people is a valuable skill, and he says he learned this at Radford University. “At Radford, I found myself and my voice to help me motivate and inspire people around me.” As President and Managing Partner of a national health care consulting firm, ChampionOne Group, LLC, he and his team travel to healthcare practices in more than 20 states and assess their practices and develop strategic business plans. His team, based out of Atlanta, specializes in increasing profits, inspiring human resources and improving efficiency for their respective clients.
Victor Shiblie ’89, is founder, publisher and editor-in-chief of The Washington Diplomat, an international newspaper and online publication.
He says Radford University helped him find his way. Shiblie was a part of the student team that created the first collegiate division of the International Association of Marketing and Management under the guidance of Dr. Hooshang Beheshti. He also remembers many lessons he learned in Dr. Hsin-Min (Carl) Tong’s Introduction to Marketing class — and in fact still has Dr. Tong’s book, “Inspiring Business Successes,” on his office bookshelf.
Dr. Racquel Collins-Underwood ’01, a cancer researcher at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, knew at an early age that she wanted to make a difference in children’s lives.
“I knew at the age of 12 that I would be a cancer researcher at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. When Danny Thomas was alive, he would have fundraising telethons throughout the year. I was glued to every one of them. When I asked my parents why these kids were dying, they couldn’t answer my questions. I then made it my mission to find out why. Unfortunately, big dreams like this are hard to achieve on your own,” says Collins-Underwood.
In 1934, Lucille Pettyjohn Stewart ’38 was 16 years of age when she was greeted at the Radford train station by Radford College students.
“I came on the train 110 miles from Bristol, Virginia. It took me four hours because we stopped often. No one was with me that I knew, and I had my best clothes on,” she remembers.
Mrs. Stewart is now 96 years old and still remembers the welcome she received. “They were waiting to meet me and carry my baggage up the hill to campus. I checked in at the administration building and learned of where I would be staying,” says Stewart.
RU alumna dances her way to success in Nashville
Whether she is choreographing a dance routine for a pop music tribute band or rehearsing for a national beverage commercial, Katherine (Sammons) Tyler '08 said she is often reflecting on her experiences at Radford University.
Upon graduation, Tyler, a double-major in political science and dance, moved to Nashville where she has found success as a choreographer, a percussionist and, most recently, as a dancer with the national-champion winning indoor football team, the Nashville Venom.
RU MBA prepared Lund for success in his native Denmark
Ove Lund, MBA '07 was born and raised on a farm in Jutland, Denmark. The experiences and knowledge he gained from his farming youth are beneficial in his position as a consultant for an agriculture knowledge center.
Lund also credits much of his career success to the masters of business education (MBA) degree he earned at Radford University.
Securing Success as a Pioneer and Entrepreneur in Web security
For someone whose work for nearly 30 years has been with “the most paranoid people in the world,” Matt Donlon ’82 is open and outgoing.
Donlon, who graduated with a double major in criminal justice and political science, and his colleagues and clients in the security industry are charged with protecting valuable data and sensitive information. They must be vigilant for sure and paranoid occasionally.
And the Emmy Goes to...Alumnus Monte Haught
If you like what you do, so it's said, success will follow. This has certainly been the case for Monte Haught '91.
A hair stylist for TV and movie actors, Haught won the 2014 Emmy award for Outstanding Hairstyling for a Miniseries or a Movie for his work on the horror-drama TV series "American Horror Story: Coven." Two years ago, he also won an Emmy award for Outstanding Hairstyling for a Miniseries and Movie for his work on the TV series "American Horror Story."
Molly Montgomery ’02 says she found her professional path thanks to Radford University's professors.
She began her accounting career in Washington, D.C. as an auditor for international nonprofit agencies. She currently helps entrepreneurs realize their dreams through her firm Ascension Consulting. “They are all trying to add some value to the world by creating, growing, and building a business. I help people who have their heart in it, but don’t have the accounting or tax expertise that is needed for a business to thrive.”
The proverbial "glass ceiling" was no obstacle for Kathy Johnson '71.
She has blasted through it by holding numerous high-ranking government positions with the United States government. Johnson says her time at Radford helped her realize her goals in the criminal justice profession.
"Radford was a life-changing experience for me that I did not realize at the time. I am truly grateful for the education afforded to me through grants, work scholarships and student loans. I could not have achieved what I did in my career without that degree.”
Alumna exemplifies persistence and creativity while pursuing her dreams.
Penny Pennington ’83, a writer, producer, and filmmaker, recently published her debut novel, "It Burns a Lovely Light.” The inspiration for her novel came to her early in her career as she worked on films in Pittsburgh. "We were constantly filming on sets built in abandoned steel mills; evidence of Pittsburgh’s abrupt loss of its great steel industry," said Pennington. Impressed and inspired by stories of Pittsburgh’s reinvention and ultimate renaissance, she began compiling notes for a book. “Although it took fifteen years for me to finally put pen to paper.”
Ned Ward '95 is giving voice to people's ideas and watching them come to life thanks to his RU education
Ned Ward '95, Group Vice President for New Jersey-based public relations, marketing and digital communications firm Stern + Associates, says his responsibilities include transforming the complex ideas of thought leaders to easily digestible concepts for the media and the general public to understand and apply. "I give voice to people's ideas and help bring them to life," says Ward. As a new Radford University freshman in 1992, Ward was unsure of the path he wanted to take for his future.
Faculty members at Radford helped Ward find direction and his interests and talents in business and communication.
Lisa Reed '96 discovered her love of fitness through opportunities and challenges.
For Reed, owner of Lisa Reed Fitness LLC, fitness is her life and career. Her Washington, D.C. based company provides group training, boot camps, weight loss and nutrition programs to national and international clients. As a student at Radford, Reed was an energetic gymnast who fell in love with Radford's gymnastics program.
Told he might be a failure, Scott Moore '81 proved an RU education equals success.
Scott Moore '81 of Tampa, Florida, founder of Urban Body Clothing, Inc., is proof positive that a Radford education will take you to places and careers you've never imagined.
Richmond businessman Jake Crocker '99 stays connected to his Radford roots
Jake Crocker ’99 used his time as a Radford student in the late 90s to find the direction and inspiration that have served him well on his journey to becoming a successful restaurateur. He is currently co-owner of five restaurants and a catering company. In 2012, he was named one of the Greater Richmond area’s Top 3 Entrepreneurs by Richmond Magazine. Business success hasn't always come easy for Crocker. However, remembering a saying on a wall plaque in RU's Pocahontas Hall that he admired as a student, gave him the motivation to not give up.
Alumna keeps legacy of a First Lady alive
As co-founder of the Edith Bolling Wilson Homeplace Museum, Farron Smith '75 probably knows as much about United States President Woodrow Wilson's wife Edith than anyone. That knowledge and her determination to keep this unique First Lady's story alive for future generations have reaped huge dividends.
The entrepneurial spirit she embraced as a student at Radford College brought her to the forefront of a massive undertaking that required far more than just what can be learned from a history book.
“The Neon Man and Me” Author Slash Coleman ’89 Publishes Memoir “The Bohemian Love Diaries”
Slash Coleman ‘89 admits that he enrolled at Radford University to get away from his eccentric, but loving, family of artists. “I actually thought it was on the coast. I’d heard of Roanoke Island during my visits to the Outerbanks and I’d been surfing since I was 10 years old. Imagine my surprise when the Roanoke near Radford wasn’t the same one. In fact, I was landlocked.” He says his time at RU was life-changing from his experiences on campus to his friends he made along the way.
Alumna Leaves the Lab to Lead National Fraternal Group
The Golden Gate Bridge is the backdrop when Chris Covington '90 takes her daily run. When she was a student at Radford, her daily life—which involved a good deal of running about then too—played out against the backdrop of a chemistry lab, meeting rooms and the beautiful campus that she loves.
Covington, a native of Virginia's Tidewater region now living in San Francisco, is the national president of Alpha Sigma Tau. She oversees the 100-year-old organization's strategic plan, budgets, investments, policies, staffing and facilities.
Alumna Patrice Gentile creates a fashion career piece by piece
Patrice Gentile '07 knew she wanted to be a fashion designer when she enrolled at Radford University. What she didn't know was where that choice would take her. Near the halfway mark in her college career, she knew she wanted to start her own business. Out of that revelation was born Aliceanna clothing.
Successful lawyer credits RU with inspiring him to excel
Curtis J. Martin II ’92 of Atlanta is one of the most respected and successful litigation attorneys in the city. He practices at Miller & Martin PLLC, a full-service law firm with about 200 attorneys.
As a student at Radford University, however, Martin wasn't sure the practice of law was where he would find his career. Martin received a B.B.A. in marketing. He credits RU with helping him learn how to think critically and was encouraged by professors who took great interest in his development.
Alumnus John Smith-Sreen Works to Change the World
The water that sustains life and the electricity that sustains a modern lifestyle are often taken for granted in developed nations. Yet in John Smith-Sreen's world, no one takes them for granted. Smith-Sreen works for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) overseeing projects such as helping to maintain a clean water supply in Jordan and providing electricity to parts of Afghanistan.
RU alumnus minds The Gap
Clothing retailers have many tricks up their sleeves to make products more appealing. They know which shirts and pants go together, which belts pull the outfit together and which pose a mannequin should assume to grab the eye.
There is a kind of magic to elegantly presenting products for consumer consideration and, at GapKids, Radford University alumnus Christopher Thompson is now the man behind the curtain.
Alumnus welcomes a new challenge in TV marketing
What makes for a successful college experience? Eric Claytor '94 says the keys are education, relationships and involvement.
As the newly appointed senior vice president of affiliate distribution and marketing for Entertainment Studios Networks (ESN), Claytor says his RU experience has helped him to move through the ranks of the challenging corporate world of television. "RU provided me with an environment to explore these areas with a support system that emphasized the qualities necessary towards achieving a fruitful career."
Alumni says thank you by cranking his pedals
As children, we hop on our bicycles for the freedom of our own transportation. As we get older, we do it for the exercise and to feel like a kid again. Carter Dages, 1983 accounting alumnus, is cranking his pedals for more than 3,800 miles across the country to say thank you. His goal is to raise $50,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project.
The Mechanicsville, Va. resident began his trek in Yorktown on May 2. He’s following the TransAmerica Trail to Oregon. He will then pick up the Western Express to San Francisco. Dages thinks it will take him three to four months on his classic 1991 Schwinn road bike to complete the ride.
Just two years after earning her master’s degree in English at Radford University, Eileen Bramlet '82, MS '84 had a hand in helping to build a "household name"-- America Online (AOL).
She is currently the Vice President of Marketing for the Software and Information Industry Association (SIIA). She often remembers being the young professional in the budding information technology powerhouse, AOL.
Dylan Roukous '10 has a future so bright, he has to wear shades.
Roukous started his own business Nectar Sunglasses in 2011 with his high school friend Sean Holmes. "Nectar is about a year-and-a-half old and is basically a brand inspired by the 'sweet life.' We wanted a brand that was inexpensive but looked good and felt good," says Roukous. His accessories can now be found in more than 250 stores and is distributed in Mexico, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, United Kingdom, Ireland, Spain, New Caledonia, Philippines, Portugal, Belgium, Switzerland and Costa Rica.