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Class Notes [Fall 2019]

September 13, 2019


At 103, Mort Fine appears to be WPI’s oldest living alumnus. Of his class, only Frank Rollins is unaccounted for. Anyone with information on Frank can contact


Margaret Sanborn writes with news of the death of her father, Malcolm Sanborn, on April 30, 2019. “My father was a proud member of WPI’s Class of 1949 and proud of the engineering skills he honed there. After WPI, he earned master’s degrees at the University of Virginia and Syracuse University. He enjoyed a 35-year career as a senior systems engineer at IBM, holding some three dozen patents for innovations in his field. He was honored by IBM for his work on robotics in computer chip manufacturing. He is survived by my mother, Anne, with whom he shared many fond memories of WPI and the friendships they formed there.” Margaret notes that Anne still reads the WPI Journal as a link to Malcolm and the memories of meeting him more than 70 years ago in Worcester when she was a student at Becker. “In fact, she’s carrying the most recent issue in her Rollator tote bag. She’s 91 now, and memories are everything to her.”


John Calhoun is now in a nursing home, but remains in contact with a WPI contingent in the Plymouth, Mass., area. “The man across the hall is Jack Barrett ’46,” writes his daughter, Mary Jane Calhoun-Donelan. John’s sons are Jack ’82 and Dave ’84, and his son-in- law is Jim Bundock ’86.

“My Dad grew up in the shadow of Boynton Hall, at 34 Westland Street,” she says. “He received his U.S. Navy commission in 1955. He worked in his major, mechanical engineering, for the local Heald Machine Co. He earned a graduate certificate from WPI’s School of Industrial Engineering in 1981, and he became VP in charge of Human Resources at Heald. It’s interesting to have so many ‘Engineers/Goats’ here in Plymouth, America’s Hometown, which will be 400 years old in 2020.”


Darlene Gunn informs us of the death of her husband, Charles Gunn, on June 13, 2019, after a long battle with dementia. “Charlie spent over 43 years in community service and 39 years as an employee of a utility company. He enjoyed many hobbies: his favorites were antique automobiles and traditional jazz music. He served as board member and president of the National Ford V-8 Club of America, and as board member and volunteer of the Greater Connecticut Traditional Jazz Festival. He enjoyed people and life.”


Carol France writes, “It is with much sadness that I am writing to inform you that my husband, Kurt France, died on May 22, 2019. He was so proud of his school, and loved to attend his reunions.”

Marion and Spike Vrusho were recognized as “Genies” at an awards ceremony at the Vero Beach Theatre Guild, where they served as judges in the organization’s annual competitions, including best actor, best actress, best play, and best director. As Genie judges, they attended all six of the Guild’s presentations; as benefactors, their names were placed on a plaque on a donor remembrance wall.


WPI received word of the death of William Segulin, who started with the Class of 1958 and studied electrical engineering from 1954 to 1956. “He was a member of the 1954 undefeated football team,” notes his wife, Nancy.


Bob Magnant writes, “I just published my sixth Apple Book, INCREDIBLE Storytelling! It’s 200-plus pages, with a separate Appendix of approximately 100 pages of my personal reviews, lists, and blogs. We are all storytellers, and by promoting some understanding for traditional communications and the ways of writing that the earlier generations learned, I hope to influence my grandbabies and users of these powerful devices in the iPhone/ Internet/Information era. This book summarizes the ideas that I have been sharing with everyone in my earlier iBooks. Go to storytellers.html for a free download.”


Diane Pritchard Clayton (MS CS) writes, “I recently became a certified Lay Servant in Zion UMC, and I’m working to become a certified Lay Speaker. I’m also a Lay Leader in my church.”

George Yesowitch writes, “I am retired after a career mostly in sales and sales management, selling to high-tech companies, including Bay Area chip manufacturers, refineries, and biopharmaceutical companies. I’ve lived in the San Francisco area since 1977 and now reside in Napa, with Irene, my wife of 21 years. We have two daughters and two West Highland White Terriers. We plan to spend some of the year traveling to London, Manhattan, the Riviera Maya in Mexico, and Oahu, Hawaii. Between 1994 and 2002 I had my own manufacturers’ rep firm. I now have a small dog walking business—Walks by George!—to keep myself busy and well exercised.” Read more about George’s new career on page 44.


Barry Braunstein writes, “After a long career in high-tech marketing and sales, I have started a second career as a business and individual headshot photographer. You can check out my work and my services at

Judy Nitsch was honored at WTS- Boston’s 23rd Annual Leadership Forum for her 40+ years of “commitment to building better communities and the vision and skillful strategy that have made her a leader.” according to the organization’s website. She was introduced by board president Sarah Dennechuk ’99, who acknowledged Judy’s role in guiding her to WPI as a high school senior through a letter with the general message, “Please come to WPI – it’s a terrific school.”

Judy writes, “The Admissions Office asked me to write those letters to all accepted women. I did that for several years—amazing to hear the impact of those letters so many years later. Sarah clearly is a proud alumna! At the time, I never thought I’d meet her and, of course, now I’ve known her throughout her career!”


Denis Villiard retired from Sensata Technologies, formerly Texas Instruments, after 36+ years. He held various positions throughout his career, in engineering, operations management, and quality assurance, as well as product and program management. As a member of the technical staff, he was recognized by both TI and Sensata for his expertise in electroplating, and for consulting on numerous designs and products. Denis also achieved Certified Quality Engineer status as a member of the American Society for Quality. He and his wife, Joan, have sold their home in Mansfield, Mass., and moved to Sarasota, Fla. Classmates at a send-off party included Richard Escolas, Mary Polanik Sherman, Paula Belair Zukas, and Walter Zukas.


Domenico Grasso is chancellor of the University of Michigan-Dearborn. He was interviewed in the Detroit Free Press on his goal of “holistic learning” and his plans to double the school’s size in about five to 10 years.


Michael Beaudoin shares that the 1978 FIJIs gather frequently for large reunions and smaller get-togethers. A recent outing brought together classmates Ray Dunn, Tom Medrek, Mike Beaudoin, and Tony Fernandes for some camping and paddling through the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia.


Trustee George Oliver, chairman and CEO of Johnson Controls, received the 2019 Fire Department of the City of New York Foundation Fire Commissioner’s Humanitarian Award for the company’s continued support of the FDNY and FDNY Foundation.


Joel Kearns received his PhD in materials science and engineering from WPI on May 9, 2019. His thesis was “Origin of Growth Twins During Czochralski Growth of Heavily Doped, Dislocation- Free Single Crystal Silicon,” under the direction of Professor Diran Apelian. Kearns has conducted materials science R&D on semiconductor single crystals since 1985. After serving as deputy director for Space Flight Systems at NASA Glenn since 2013, he was promoted
in March to director of Facilities, Test and Manufacturing, at the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio.

Eric Soederberg, president of Sunrise Labs, received the 2019 New Hampshire Tech Alliance Entrepreneur of the Year award. His career includes over 20 years of product development leadership at Draper Labs and Motorola. He was also part of the DEKA team that brought the iBOT mobility to market. Sunrise, in Bedford, N.H., specializes in developing medical device and life science instrumentation.


Lee-Anne (Charbonneau) Dullea writes, “I was sorry to miss our 35th reunion but I was in France with my daughter and son celebrating his graduation from the University of Maryland. I continue in my role as director, Special Defense Operating Unit, of Northrop Grumman Undersea Systems in Annapolis, Md., where I’ve worked since we graduated. I’ve had positions in almost every part of the organization and have loved it. I never would have guessed that I’d be doing what I’m doing!”


Eric Peterson is co-owner and co- president of engineering of Innovative Products and Equipment, along with partners Kevin Prince ’84 (operations) and Dale Beaver ’82 (technology). The only IPE partner who did not graduate from WPI is Rich Brownstein (business development). The privately owned company is in the custom automation equipment industry, servicing mostly medical companies. “We have been in business for almost four decades, with $40M in sales last year,” they write.

The company, now located in Hudson, N.H., was purchased by the senior management in 2004, and has grown to 80 employees. Engineering services, which include product and process development, cater to clients whose products require special consideration, such as automated assembly in a clean environment, or whose automation equipment must pass exacting validation procedures.


Chrys Demetry writes, “I’ve been selected to participate in the 2019–2020 cohort of the Executive Leadership in Academic Technology, Engineering and Science (ELATES at Drexel) Program, which involves three weeklong residencies. I was nominated by Provost Wole Soboyejo and supported by deans Art Heinricher and John McNeill. I’m excited to be selected and to participate.”


The 2019 WPI team that competed in the Frostbite Face-Off in Fairlee, Vt., in January included (from left) Michael Fitzpatrick, Kevin O’Connell ’89, Billy Hamilton ’90, Mark Macaulay ’89, Chris Altemus ’87, Kevin Fitzpatrick ’90 (Michael’s brother), and Paul Pelkey ’89. “We’re all WPI grads, and all played together on the hockey team, with one exception,” Michael writes. “Just think, we’ve skated with each other for more than half our lives, (except Billy who wasn’t on the team), but we’ve all known each other for decades.”


David Black was promoted to vice president of Global Operations & Facilities Management at Fortune 500 United Health Group, out of the Twin Cities. A registered civil engineer, he has been with UHG for six years; prior to that he was with the U.S. Navy Civil Engineer Corps, Northwest Airlines (facilities design and properties),
and, more recently, transportation infrastructure consulting firm HNTB (“design-build, design-bid-build operations and project management,” he writes). “I received my MBA from the University of St. Thomas. Now I’m happily married and a proud father of four. Recent college visits have brought back many great memories of WPI. I wish all my fellow Engineers well!”

John Lombardi and Bradley Howard ’89 hadn’t seen each other since parting ways at WPI in 1990, but recently met up again when they co-judged high school student chemistry projects at the Intel International Science & Engineering Fair held in Phoenix.

John writes, “We had kept in touch via social media, but it was great to spend time reminiscing about the past and suggesting that some of the science fair participants consider continuing their project interests at WPI.”


Mark Cloutier was named director of project management at Clear Automation in Southington, Conn.


Jim Kokernak sends this update from Niskayuna, N.Y. “I’m excited to announce that our daughter Charlotte has committed to run for the WPI women’s track and cross country teams under Coach Brian Chabot. She will be joining WPI’s Class of 2023 as a 3rd generation legacy and plans to major in biomedical engineering.”


USAF Colonel Spence Cocanour continues as Vice Commander, 24th Special Operations Wing, Air Force Special Operations Command, Hurlburt Field, Fla. He was a recent guest speaker at the monthly meeting of the Greater Navarre (Fla.) Area Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Council.


Sarah Dennechuk is president of WTS- Boston. She currently serves as senior project manager, Horizontal Projects, in the Massachusetts Port Authority Capital Programs and Environmental Affairs Department.

Patty Leavenworth (MS CE) was selected as Woman of the Year by WTS-Boston. Her career includes 32 years with the DOT, where she became chief engineer of the Highway Division in 2013. She and her teams work to deliver a $1 billion construction program annually, with hundreds of projects in 351 towns and cities across Massachusetts.


Lizabeth (Amaral) Leveille (’02 MS BT) is head of the Merck Boston Innovation Hub, a business development & licensing team focused on early-stage therapeutics (prior to human proof-of-concept). Before that, she worked at the Novartis Institutes for BioMedical Research (NIBR) in the Strategic Alliances department. She holds an MBA from the F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business at Babson College.


Luke Connery was named senior manager at Conquest Firespray.

Sara Swiatlowski writes, “In June, Howie (Rappaport) and I celebrated my cousin’s graduation from Ware High School. Shelby Tweedie is now a first-year student at WPI. We are so excited for her.”


Jeremy Hitchcock joined the Zoom Telephonics board of directors.

Emily Nodine and Mike Wilson ’01, who met on the WPI ski team and were married on the Aerial Tram in Jackson Hole, Wyo., in 2015, recently left their engineering careers to found Maine Craft Cannabis, an organic, fully compliant medical cannabis farm. “Indoor farming actually requires quite a bit of engineering to properly control the climate and growing environment,” they write, “so our engineering skills are being put to good use in their new roles! We are very excited about having the opportunity to participate in the emerging legal cannabis industry and are excited to continue to grow our company.” Learn more at


Janese Cerulli works at Rubius in Smithfield, R.I., an R&D lab with headquarters in Cambridge, Mass. She writes, “I have been asked over the years, ‘If you could do it again would you go to WPI?’ Initially there was some slight hesitation giving a firm ‘Yes,’ but over the years I have been able to answer that question more confidently, ‘Of course!’

I recently had a revealing moment that made me even more happy to have gone.

“I was asked to help the plant manager on a project to charter a cross-functional/cross-site initiative. A huge opportunity for me, but it has such an MQP feel and dynamic. Having experienced MQP, and now being part of this initiative at work, I have the confidence I can be successful in such a large-scale project! I am grateful for my experience at WPI even though it was challenging. I hope to be able to give back to the school with a scholarship for someone like myself who almost couldn’t go to WPI.”

Linnea Paton received the Young Energy Professional of the Year award from the New York Association of Energy Engineers for her work in energy engineering and climate change advocacy. She is an energy and sustainability manager at JLL, where she works to increase energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions in corporate real estate portfolios. She was also a founding member of the successful campaign to divest New York City pension funds from fossil fuels. “Much of my passion for energy work stems from my involvement with WPI Students for a Just and Stable Future, which I founded in 2009,” she writes. Linnea lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.


Georgi Kardzhaliyski writes, “Hello WPI alumni. I’m challenging myself by running over 120 km to raise money for Teach For Bulgaria. You can help too, by donating to my GlobalGiving fundraiser to provide every child in Bulgaria, my home country, with equal access to quality education and place teachers in all classrooms, including remote locations where they are most needed.” He adds, “I’ve been using WPI’s TechConnect to share updates and stay connected with the WPI Alumni community, with stories about the random acts of kindness from faculty members, staff, friends, and the Worcester Rotary Club that came my way during my time at WPI.

“One is about the time my ESL teacher invited me for Christmas dinner with her family. I was a sophomore, hadn’t been home to Bulgaria for two years, and wasn’t looking forward to the holidays. They greeted me with a printout of the Cyrillic alphabet and had made the effort to learn some basic phrases in Bulgarian. I was so touched! It felt like a home away from home! I’ve been enjoying this creative process of finding and developing my writer’s voice. I would like to publish the stories I’ve been writing in a book someday, but for now I’ve been sharing them online at” Georgi notes that he’s working as a product manager at Mitrend, with founder and CEO Paul Timmins ’02 (MS CS).

JP Miralda writes, “Developing great connections with the alumni crew in Dallas!” A photo and write-up on the Dallas/Ft. Worth group, which gathers for meals and an occasional ball game, appeared in the Summer issue of WPI Journal.


Jessica Prashaw graduated with her JD from Albany Law School on May 24. She reported plans to sit for the bar exam at the end of July and noted, “At Albany Law I focused my studies on Intellectual Property, and I cannot wait to start my career at the United States Patent and Trademark Office in September.”


Tyler Golemo writes, “Since graduating, I’ve started two jobs, one in systems design with a small firm in Bedford, N.H., and the second coaching the New Hampshire state champion  Science Olympiad team at Merrimack High School. Attending the national competition the last two years, I’ve helped aspiring STEM students improve their overall rankings by ten places, and won the Lockheed Martin Coaching Excellence award in 2018. This year, team member Nate Liscouski joined the WPI Class of 2023!”


Celeste Marsan has gone on to doctoral work in the chemical engineering program at the University of Texas at Austin, with funding from an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship.

Colette Ruden writes, “Thankful to have graduated this year with the best of friends by my side every step of the way!”