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Class Notes [Summer 2019]

July 2, 2019


Michael Davis writes, “Rona and I recently returned from a two-week trip to Vietnam and Cambodia. We were joined by Ron Pokraka ’60 and his wife, Claire. We are currently escaping the harsh winters in Sarasota, Fla., and have plans to meet up with Bill Firla ’60 for a Red Sox spring training game and the Alden Society Sarasota get-together to view WPI’s Dickens Collection. Life is good!”


George “Spider” Vittas reports that he is continuing consulting work for DFW International Airport and American Airlines during retirement. He lives in Bedford, Texas, on the Fort Worth side of the airport. “I enjoy meetings with fellow alumni Pat Moran ’65, and Pete Fenner ’64. Stan Szymanski ’64, recently joined the group for lunch while revisiting the Dallas/Fort Worth area after suffering the loss of his wife, Betsy. Pete also lives in Dallas, while Stan has been missed after relocating to the Niagara Falls area. The group has been meeting periodically for a number of years with occasional outings to Dallas Stars and Texas Rangers games. (Life is good in Texas.) “I joined the Alumni Association Board of Directors several years ago and is quite pleased and I am impressed with the work accomplished by the board in planning the improvement of Higgins House to serve officially as Alumni Association headquarters and visitors center.”


Phil Baker writes, “I recently co-authored a new book with legendary rock star Neil Young, called To Feel the Music, that’s due out in September. It’s the story of Neil’s quest to improve the quality of sound in the age of digital, as well as the story of our work together developing new products. I live in Solana Beach, Calif., with my wife, Jane, and continue to work with Neil on numerous technology projects, including his amazing website.” Phil’s previous work with Young on the Pono high fidelity music player was featured in the Summer 2014 issue of the WPI Journal.

Mort Gutman serves as a docent at the New England Air Museum in Windsor Locks, Conn. He writes, “As a former Air Force B-52 navigator, bombardier, and instructor navigator—as well as a private pilot—I love aviation in any form, large and small. During the school year, I go in once or twice a week to team-teach elementary school classes in the basics of the science of flight. We touch upon Bernoulli and Newton, give a guided tour of the museum, and help the kids build small airplanes that they ‘test fly.’ We have over 60 planes on indoor display, and about 12 more outdoors. Unlike some other museums, we allow visitors to actually touch and climb into many of our planes, and we have about a half dozen ‘Open Cockpit’ days during the Year. Mort invites others with an interest in aviation to apply as volunteers. “We also have volunteer restorers who work their magic preparing planes, some of which start out as real wrecks, to ultimately go on display in the museum. Many of our volunteers are retirees from Connecticut’s rich aviation history, including Pratt & Whitney, Sikorski, Kaman, and others.”


Frank Addessio writes, “After 40 years at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, 35 of them in the Theoretical Division, I decided to retire in January 2018. Two weeks later I became bored and returned to the lab part-time. Currently, I am working with a combined theoretical/experimental team that is concerned with the high-rate deformation of organic, single-crystals of energetic materials. The research includes anisotropic, nonlinear elasticity; plastic slip; phase transformations; and brittle failure. Future concerns will consider twinning. I remain grateful for my undergraduate education at WPI and for the friendship of my brothers at LCA.”


Larry Katzman writes, “The alumni brothers of AEPi fraternity have been getting together for almost 40 years now on a regular basis. Initially the gatherings were in the Boston area but more recently they have migrated to Florida. This year 16 AEPi alumni from the classes of 1968, 1969, and 1970 met in the­ Sarasota area to reunite and reminisce about the passing years and adventures, particularly at WPI. To our delight the recollections remain strong (although much more embellished and seemingly more interesting than reality). The bond and friendship is everlasting and the memories meaningful. “Our weekend included kayaking, biking, a trip to the circus, golf, and several dinners, but no food fights. The motley gang of 2019 participants included Neil Glickstein ’69, Gregg Pollack ’69, Jack Siegel ’68, Stan Goldman ’69, Gerry Axelrod ’69, Butch Lofchie ’68, Neil Hodes ’70, Larry Katzman ’69, Pete Saltz ’68, Skip Palter ’70, Steve Phillips ’69, Steve Legomsky ’69, Henry Block ’70, Rich Furman ’69, Gary Leventhal ’69, and Steve Udell ’70.”


Lou Pepi, who left WPI after his freshman year and was drafted, has published a book on his experience serving in Vietnam. My Brothers Have My Back (McFarland Press) takes readers inside the 1969 “November Battle” at the Vietnamese Demilitarized Zone, which Time magazine called the “largest battle of the year.” Lou was with Alpha Company when the Americans were attacked from three sides by 1,500 NVA soldiers. An article in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette last year described his extensive research, which included multiple trips to the National Archives and emotional interviews with the 50 of the “brothers” who fought beside him. After the tears came healing, he relates, as the book “morphed into a testament to their courage and sacrifice.” Lou lives in West Boylston, Mass., with his wife, Pat, and is retired from a career as a residential contractor and building inspector. My Brothers Have My Back is available on Amazon or through the publisher at


On Nov. 25, 2018, Mark Richards was ordained as a Unitarian Universalist minister by the First Parish in Concord,Mass. Mark completed his master of divinity degree at Andover Newton Theological Seminary in 2010. He and his wife, Christina, live in Egg Harbor, Wisc.


Hirant “Ron” Rakijian writes, “As a proud WPI alumnus and mechanical engineer who has been working for The Aerospace Corporation since 1985, and as a senior project engineer and GPS  mission Los Angeles Operations Support System (OSS) lead for the company’s space systems navigation division since 1992, after many years of hard work, tests, and rehearsals, last December we successfully launched the first brand new block of GPS III satellite, and also for the first time on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch vehicle. Previous blocks of the GPS satellites launched on Delta II and IV, and Atlas V launch vehicles.” Ron reports that the new vehicle, named Vespucci, has a nominal SOH (state of health)—that is, functionality as expected and predicted, and that all systems are code green— operating within specified limits.


Ron Simmons writes, “I haven’t submitted a class note before, although I have thought about it several times in the past, and they are always the first thing I read when I get my copy of the WPI Journal. So here goes. I am principal engineer for mechanical and structural analysis at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Bremerton, Wash. I also teach finite element analysis to the Naval community. I keep looking at retirement but then a new and exciting project seems to pop up and I’m off designing and analyzing again. Somehow I can’t let go of the fun in engineering. I blame WPI for this … Thank you!”


GZA GeoEnvironmental named Richard Allen as an outside advisor to the board. He is a former chief operating officer of Stantec Inc., and has 17 years’ experience as an attorney at the Boston law firm of Gadsby Hannah, where he became a partner and later served as chairman of the design and construction law practice. 

James Hall was named to the South Shore Habitat for Humanity’s board of directors. He is senior vice president of Ipsos Healthcare. He and his wife, Laurie, live in Scituate, Mass.

Paul Kalenian writes of the inspiration of his father, the late Aram Kalenian ’33, who achieved 48 patents before his early death in 1948. “I applied for my first patent that same year. At 21, I started a business in industrial biomass combustion. With the help of my wife, Cathy, we established, built, and sold three Central Massachusetts–based businesses, as our careers evolved from biomass combustion, to high-pressure coffee extraction, and, most recently, a Boston-based environmentally focused coffee pod startup with 24 patents applied for and 14 issued to date. “Retirement bought us to Santa Fe, N.M., where I still use my father’s lathe milling machine,  and hand tools. He taught me to use them when I was in third grade, and now they are busy every day, helping me build a very lightweight, rear mid-engine, open-wheel sports car from absolute scratch. The turbo DOHC 4 with transaxle is from GM, and everything else is custom water jet cut from 6061 aluminum, machined and TIG-welded into a monocoque/ bulkhead chassis weighing in at 1100# and running 74 HP. It’s built like a lightweight airplane, will have a Dacron body, and should be on the road this spring. “I return each fall to WPI to oversee a recipient of the Kalenian Award for Entrepreneurship, set up by my mother in my father’s honor. Invention, patents, and entrepreneurship bond our family to WPI.”


Bruce Minsky’s quest to build his dream house was featured in the Houston Chronicle. It included an amusing account of how the radiation oncologist met his wife, Connie Kissinger, on a flight to Honolulu. (His specialty in rectal cancer makes a terrible pick-up line, he acknowledges, but he used it anyway.) The couple worked with architects for a year to design a “minimalist, internally focused home unlike any other,” according to the article. Thanks to classmate Mike Abrams, who lives in the same neighborhood, for sharing the story. For more about Mike, see page 54.


Peter Kujawski was named president of LEID Products. He joined the company as vice president of business development in early 2018. LEID stands for Law Enforcement Intelligent Devices, and the company manufactures biometric asset storage protection and control systems for police departments, library books, medical supplies, and other assets.

Bill Tetreault sends his first-ever update to WPI. “After a 39-year career in industry, I took an early retirement package and am thoroughly enjoying being at home with my wife, Toni, and spending time with the grandkids, amongst our other activities. My summer career spanned the globe in a variety of operational and consulting roles, so we were able to visit many beautiful places around the world. We’ve been living in Texas for the last 20 years and, fortunately, three of our four children and their children live nearby.”


Rich Coleman has returned to upstate South Carolina, after living for many years in Colorado. He is continuing his work in medical information systems as a senior software engineer with Smith Technologies, a manufacturer of pharmacy systems. 


Brian Renstrom has been with the accounting firm BlumShapiro since 2005. In a Boston Business Journal profile, he said he’d figured on a career as a factory engineer, but an offer from Arthur Andersen after graduation brought him into the management field. In 2016 he became BlumShapiro’s managing partner for Massachusetts.


Da-Quan “DQ” Li (MS EE) is director of product management for FTTx at DZS. Prior to joining the firm, he worked at Ikanos Communications, Calix, Motorola, and Lucent Technologies. 


Daniel Farrar was appointed executive vice president and general manager of Mitel’s UCaaS business unit, based in Sunnyvale, Calif. He brings more than 25 years of corporate management and strategic development experience with software vendors, private equity firms, and Fortune 500 companies—most recently Switchfly, where he served as CEO. He holds an MBA from Harvard.


Blair Hawley joined BIC Graphic North America in the newly created role of chief operating officer. He will lead all operations and support functions, including manufacturing, customer service, procurement, inventory, planning, supply chain, and logistics.

David Mahoney writes, “On February 1, 2019, I was awarded a PhD degree in electrical engineering from the University of Massachusetts Lowell. I design antennas and related products for BAE Systems in Hudson, N.H.”


George Aghjayan continues to write for The Armenian Weekly. In a recent column, “What’s in a National Anthem,” he weighed in on the significance of national symbols. George devotes himself to Armenian-related research and serves as director of the Armenian Historical Archives and as chair of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Central Committee of the Eastern United States.

Karen Valentine Anderson celebrated her 30th year at Raytheon in Andover, Mass., where she holds the post of senior mechanical engineer. “I work with leading-edge technology on the next generation of THAAD radars,” she writes. “I hope to switch gears and teach high school math prior to my retirement.”

Former WPI wrestler and head coach​ Steve Hall was inducted into the New England Wrestling Association (NEWA) Hall of Fame in January. His 35-year career began as assistant coach under Phil Grebinar, and he’s now back on the WPI bench as an assistant under Matt Oney ’90. In addition to membership in WPI’s Hall of Fame, he holds two U.S .patents and is known globally as an expert in surface mount technology process development. Steve is retired from a career in electronics manufacturing automation and as president of EKRA America. 

Sue (Giroux) Sontgerath was featured in WPI’s Daily Herd with a story called “Building the STEM Pipeline to Make a Difference.” She recounted her path from an engineering career back to her alma mater, where she now holds her dream job—serving as director for WPI’s precollegiate outreach programs, including Frontiers, Camp Reach, and Girls Who Code. On not being an engineer, she said, “I’ve seen the value of an engineering degree in my own life. It’s a foundation of engineering, of creativity, and of problem solving. The way you learn to look at problems and learn to solve those problems is a foundation that’s transferable to anything. If engineering isn’t the end goal, it’s a strong jumping off point for many things. I think anyone can benefit from that.”


Tom Bartolomei now holds the post of president and chief executive officer at​ NAES Corp., where he was previously chief operating officer and president. Before joining NAES in 2014, he held  senior and executive level positions at ABB, Alstom Power, and Burns & Roe Enterprises.

James Fortin was promoted to principal at Harriman, where he serves as a structural engineer. He and his family live in Lewiston, Maine.


Gene Goldman is chief investment officer and director of research at Cetera Investment Management. He has more than 24 years of experience, most recently as a vice president and market strategist with LPL Financial. Prior to joining LPL in 1996, he spent two years at Liberty Financial, where he was a mutual fund product analyst within the Research Department. He earned his MBA with a concentration in finance from Northeastern University. 


John Lauffer reports, “Have been married for 18 years, have a 15-year old son, and am currently employed by Schneider Electric as an engineering manager in the Secure Power division, working on prefabricated data center projects.”


Tom Dube was named vice president at Bowdoin Construction Corp., Needham Heights, Mass.


Peter Harrod (’99 MS FPE) is a principal at Code Red Consultants, a fire and life safety firm in Southborough, Mass., that boasts 25 WPI grads of its 28 employees, at last count. The firm is six years old and growing.


Janel Lanphere was the Women’s Masters National Champion in the USATF Trail Marathon Championship in 2018, finishing the Moab Trail Marathon, in 5:00:58. This result not only placed Janel first in the 40–44 age group category, but also first among all women’s masters athletes.  Janel ran cross country and track at WPI, and was co-captain of the cross country team in her senior year. She plans to defend her title in Moab next fall.


Rohit Goyal is principal product marketing manager for IoT and AI at​ Nutanix. Prior to Nutanix, he worked at Stealth Mode Startup Co. as a senior product marketing manager, improving the development and deployment of software applications in the cloud. He is a contributor to the online technology blog The New Stack.


Frank Giudici is director of business development at Bedford Cost Segregation. He covers New York State, Vermont, Connecticut, Northern New Jersey, Eastern Pennsylvania, and the ,Western Massachusetts area. He resides in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.


Caitlin Bell is a coauthor of Emerging Contaminants Handbook. The title refers to unregulated compounds discovered in the environment that have been found to represent a potential threat to human and ecological receptors. The book explores their toxicity, lifecycle, and regulation, as well as tools for characterization and treatment. Caitlin is a remediation engineer who focuses on sub-surface treatment of soil and groundwater using in situ techniques. She serves as a senior environmental engineer at Arcadis.


Ashley (Mossa) Lindeman and Jeremy Lindeman ’05 welcomed Ryder Lindeman on Dec. 19, 2018.


Mike and Jesse (Daiglis) Demers ’16 (MBA) celebrated the holidays with their son, Macallen, all outfitted in matching WPI hats. “Class of 2039!” they posit. 


Ashley Sutton graduated from Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine in May 2019 with her DVM degree. “I have accepted a position in a wonderful small animal general practice in Summerfield, Fla.,” she says.


Dan Praetorius and Rachele Cox ’13 report a number of big life changes for 2019. After many years working for Boston Dynamics and Google, Dan recently joined Optimus Ride, an autonomous vehicle start-up based in the Seaport district of Boston. Rachele received her master of public health from Boston University, and is currently living in Dubai, UAE, while working for Harvard Medical School in public health research. Dan and Rachele first met several years after graduating from WPI through a close friend and fellow alumnus. They were excited to celebrate their engagement at the end of 2018.


The Telegram & Gazette’s “Wall & Main” column profiled Mike Audi, founder of Blustream, a Worcester-based service that “creates a care-based relationship between a product, a user, and the provider of the product.” Mike described his first startup, Si devices, and shared what he learned from the experience. He also praised the “hardnosed” culture of Worcester, noting that “the biggest challenge of being in Worcester is the perception that it’s second tier, which makes everything a little bit more difficult.”


Andrew Canniff (MS CE) was one of the San Francisco Business Times 40 Under 40. He is director of business development for Northern California at the general contractor Suffolk. In his profile, he revealed his first job (lobstering in Maine), and his most surprising fact (letting his hair grow to shoulder length in college). 


Sean Kelly (’16 MS MTE, ’18 PhD) was the subject of a “Wall & Main” profile in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. He is the founder of Solvus Global, along with Aaron Birt ’14 (MS MTE), ’17 PhD, and Professor Diran Apelian.


Jean Pierre and Jessica (Williams) Miralda share their wedding story: “We met our freshman year at WPI and recently got married in Massachusetts this past November. Our time at WPI brought along tons of good memories and—more important—a group of really good friends who celebrated our special day with us. We both got new jobs at Velcro Companies and moved back to Manchester, N.H., after living for a couple of years in Houston. We are excited to be back in New England close to family, friends, and WPI.” 

When WPI sought to improve the process of matching juniors with their most desired off-campus IQP centers, Alfred Scott, a systems developer on the WPI web app development team, pitched in. After an MQP team developed an algorithm embedded in a “decision support tool,” he led the integration of the matching tool with the new​ eProjects 2.0 system that streamlines how a student requests, chooses, is matched with openings, in addition to filing project reports. Students now rank IQP sites in a three-tier sorting systems as “very interested,” “interested” and “not interested.” This year, 100 percent were matched to one they gave the highest rating. 

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