Class Notes – Fall/Winter 2011

In March, Erica Hill (’98), cohost of The Early Show on CBS, interviewed President Barack Obama about the U.S. intervention in Libya.

In March, Erica Hill (’98), cohost of The Early Show on CBS, interviewed President Barack Obama about the U.S. intervention in Libya. Photo courtesy of CBS

We are pleased that so many individuals, employers and community members share the personal and professional accomplishments of our alumni. Send news of career advancements, awards, family additions, educational milestones and other achievements to COMtalk at

As Peter W. Mackesy (CGS’60, COM’62) approaches his 50th reunion, he recalls what a wonderful privilege it was to help write and produce his first issue of Bostonia, in 1962, under the leadership of Al Sullivan. Peter and his classmates spent many hours at Prof. and Mrs. Sullivan’s dining room table, writing, proofreading, editing, pasting up and interviewing with a tape recorder for that first issue. He still enjoys reading Bostonia and has almost every issue from the past 49 years. Peter can be reached at

Burt Peretsky (’67) has published his comic Las Vegas adventure novel, Slim Chance, on for Kindle readers and on for Nook and other e-readers. Burt was a senior-level Las Vegas casino industry insider for several years before returning to Boston to be the director of PR for WCVB-TV, Channel 5, in Boston, for 10 years. He also served as director of college communications for Emerson College for four years. For the past decade, Burt has consulted in risk communications for NASA, among other high-profile clients. In his spare time, he is converting his script for an historical TV mini-series, Nevada Easy, into a new novel. To learn more, contact him at

Palgrave-Macmillan has published a new book by Phyllis Zagano (’70), Women & Catholicism: Gender, Communion, and Authority. Phyllis taught at COM from 1988 to 1997 and is senior research-associate-in-residence at Hofstra University in Hempstead, N.Y. She can be reached at

Character Matters

By Rachel Johnson

When everyone thinks you’ve done enough, Bonnie Hammer (COM’71, SED’75) knows you can always do more. Not satisfied with reversing the fortunes of two beleaguered cable stations, Sci-Fi (now SyFy) and USA Network, she transformed USA into the most-watched cable television station of 2010, created an awareness campaign against intolerance and, in January, became the chair of NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment and Cable Studios, earning responsibility for the fortunes of seven cable channels.

AP Photo/Jennifer Graylock

AP Photo/Jennifer Graylock

Known for a management style that insists on advice from all sides, Hammer has accomplished her impressive ratings turnarounds by creating a branding strategy that, she said in an interview with Wired magazine, can “tie together the wrestlers of the WWE with the furry critters of the Westminster Kennel Club and the quirky characters on Monk.”

“Characters” is the key word and the basis for Hammer’s rebranding of the USA Network with “Characters Welcome,” a slogan designed to steer USA’s vision as well as bring in new viewers. It’s worked. Under Hammer’s leadership, the “Characters Welcome,” campaign and branding strategy turned a floundering USA into a ratings darling. It also helped guide development of the new programming that caused the ratings boom. The shows that USA has launched since Hammer took the helm, including Psych, about an offbeat detective who solves cases pretending to be a psychic, and Burn Notice, in which a renegade spy is out for redemption, are all character-driven, and all have what she refers to as a “blue-sky tone”—a feeling of hope.

Hopefulness, seeing the future in welcoming difference and change, drove her other character initiative at USA Network, “Characters Unite,” a public service website aimed at advancing acceptance and combating racism, discrimination and prejudice.

Hammer’s career began at Boston’s WGBH television station helping to produce the acclaimed This Old House, and during her three-decade career, she was president of SyFy, USA Network and NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment and Universal Cable Productions. In 2009, Hammer took time out from her busy schedule to impart some of her wisdom at the COM convocation. In her address, she encouraged the graduating class to embrace the changes occurring in the communications industry, as “it’s these changes that will open up new opportunity.”

2009 College of Communication Commencement Address: Bonnie Hammer

Jill O’Mahony Stewart (’76) has joined Millennia Consulting, after 24 years of heading her own PR agency, Stewart Communications, Ltd. Several of her programs have been recognized with the Public Relations Society of America’s Silver Anvil and the Publicity Club of Chicago’s Golden Trumpet. As part of Millennia Consulting, she will offer communications audits, strategic communications planning and media thought-leader programs, as well as content development for all platforms.

After 17 years as an executive producer at CNN and two more as a deputy director at The Pew Charitable Trusts, Peter Dykstra (’79) is having a great time as publisher of Environmental Health News and The Daily Climate. The two websites scour the world for daily news and opinion on science, health and the environment, and they deliver about 200 aggregated or original news stories every morning, 365 days a year. For free access, contact Peter at

Jim Hanchett (’80) is the news director of the Charlottesville Newsplex, home of the CBS, ABC and Fox television stations in central Virginia. His Fox newscast was honored as the Best Newscast in Virginia by the Virginia Association of Broadcasters, beating out stations in Norfolk, Richmond and other markets. His CBS newscast took second-place honors. Jim is always on the lookout for skilled and experienced COM grads to add to his team. He and his wife, Sally, have four young children often clad in Terrier red. Jim can be reached at

Katie Davis (’81) had her ninth children’s book published this year. Written by her husband, Little Chicken’s Big Day is Katie’s first book as a collaborator, as she both wrote and illustrated the previous eight. The book trailer was nominated for a Moby Award and can be seen here. Katie can be reached at

Mark Fowser (’82) of New Castle, Del., is juggling several responsibilities: anchoring traffic and news for such stations as KYW Newsradio 1060 and Talk Radio 1210 WPHT in Philadelphia; reporting for NPR affiliate WHYY-FM 90.9 and its companion website,; contributing to Delaware First, a nonprofit web-based news service; and anchoring and reporting news on WDEL 1150 AM in Wilmington. Mark can be reached at

Amy DePaul (’83) won a Special Citation from the Education Writers Association for her article on a history teacher who was sued for disparaging religion in the classroom. Amy can be reached at

Norma E. Roth (’85) recently published her first book, Pink Ribbon Journey: Stories From the Heart. Norma, a breast cancer survivor, spent five years working with an award-winning photographer to create a distinctive collection of photo essays that weave together patient and clinical perspectives of breast cancer. Stories are told through the voices of survivors, their families and the remarkable men and women who care for them. To learn more about the book, visit The book is also available on

Sonia Schonning (’86) was recently appointed executive director of the Buttonwood Park Zoological Society in New Bedford, Mass. She would love to hear from classmates and HER House alumnae. You can contact her at

In January, Paula DelBonis-Platt (’88) became a full professor of English and French at NHTI, Concord’s Community College in New Hampshire. Paula is in the process of writing her PhD dissertation on francophone Chinese writers. She lives in Contoocook, N.H., with her husband and two sons. Contact Paula at

Janet Freed (’89) of Brookline, Mass., was recently promoted to director of operations at Harmonix Music Systems, Inc., developer of interactive music entertainment products and technologies, including Rock Band and Dance Central. Says Janet: “Best place, best job, luckiest girl, ever.” She can be reached at

Peter Kaufman (’90) is vice president at Morgan Stanley Smith Barney in Windermere, Fla. He spent ten years in TV journalism before transitioning to financial services. He lives in Orlando and Lake Lure, N.C., with his wife, Bilinda, and their two children, Sydney, 9, and Natalie, 6. Peter can be reached at

Jeff Mandell (’97) and Erin Bix (’97) are proud to have survived yet another Minnesota winter, and are excited to announce the arrival of Lucy Bix Mandell (’33). Lucy joins big brother Sam (’28) to complete this BU family. Jeff and Erin can be reached at

Alex Poulos (’97) of Chestnut Hill, Mass., wrote a Boston Globe op-ed about advertising (“‘Mad Men’ of the future: The world of advertising—consumer, beware,” May 31, 2011). Poulos is president of LaunchPad Media, an interactive media firm. In his commentary, he predicts certain trends will make the ad business more intrusive, invasive, integrated and interactive. Poulos has also written for The Boston Egotist, a blog for the Boston ad community, and for his company blog at Alex can be reached at

Dawn Sullivan (’97) and Ted Sullivan (ENG’95) welcomed son Porter Ralph on August 23, 2010. Porter joins two-year-old big brother Aidan Giacomo. Dawn is the managing director of public relations at HB Agency, and Ted is the senior project manager at Science Applications International Corporation. They reside in Natick, Mass. Dawn can be reached at

Pete Wilgoren (’97) was recently promoted to managing editor of KCBS KCAL Los Angeles. Pete and his wife, Gloria Zelaya (CAS’96), live with their two girls in South Pasadena, Calif. Pete just finished writing his first humor book, Dadmissions. Stay tuned at, or write to Pete at

Tim Geers (’00) has won two Emmy Awards for his work on the public television program Jonathan Bird’s Blue World. Tim shoots both surface and underwater video for the educational series, and acts as field producer.

Jeanne (’00) and Thomas Worster (CAS’00) announce the birth of their second child, Elyse Victoria, born December 16, 2010, joining big brother Korben, age 2. Jeanne can be reached at

Ian Arougheti (’01) has joined Innovative Artists in Santa Monica as the head of the comedy department. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Myriam, who recently headed makeup on the indie film Cherry, starring James Franco and Heather Graham.

Steve Farrell (’01) has been the producer for the Washington Capitals hockey broadcasts on Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic for the past five seasons. He recently earned his second regional Emmy Award in the Live Sporting Event category. Steve visits Boston a couple of times each season when the Capitals take on the Bruins and still has fond memories of Dr. Root and teaching COM 101 as a TA. He is married to Nancy (15th anniversary this year) and has three children—Ben, 12, Amelia, 9, and Brian, 5. The family lives in Annapolis, Md. Steve would enjoy hearing from former classmates and professors. He can be reached at

Ismalis Mendoza (’01) is currently a media supervisor at Marca, a Miami-based marketing agency. Last spring, Ismalis was published for the first time in Portada magazine. Visit

Marcello Bellisario (’02) was promoted to director of casting for ABC Entertainment Group in January. Marcello received this promotion within a year of joining the company.

Marissa Borja (’02), who runs a television production company in her native Guam, has earned two Telly Awards, two Videographer Awards and a Communicator Award for her TV series Pacific Home & Garden. On top of that, she gave birth to her fourth child in August.

Jacqui Trotta (’03) is the owner and cofounder of Museum Way Pearls, a luxury pearl jewelry company based in Boston. She has been featured in Entrepreneur Magazine,, AOL Small Business and more. For more information, contact Jacqui at (She may even give you a discount as a BU alum!)

True Story

By Corinne Steinbrenner

As a young screenwriter in New York, Matteson Perry (’03) tried his hand at stand-up comedy. Then he discovered stand-up storytelling.


Photo by Melanie Overby

In April 2009, he put his name in the hat (actually, it was a tote bag) at New York’s weekly Moth story slam, where the rules are simple: In six minutes or less, tell a story that relates to the night’s predetermined theme (“ditched,” “homecoming,” “busted”); no notes allowed; stories have to be true. Perry’s was among the 10 names drawn, and his story—about the dismal dating scene he encountered upon moving to Alaska after college—was judged the winner.

Perry has since won several more Moth story slams, including two “Grand Slams,” and now hosts the Los Angeles version of the Moth once a month. As host of the contest, he’s heard all manner of tales: an amazing story about winning more money than the casino held in its vault, a harrowing story about a pilot locked out of his cockpit, a moving story about losing a father to cancer. And he’s told many stories of his own—including a funny one about nervously buying condoms for the first time at the CVS on Commonwealth Avenue as a freshman at BU.

The Moth regularly draws crowds of 150 people or more to a variety of L.A. venues. What’s the appeal? At $8 a ticket, it’s cheaper than a comedy club, says Perry, and it’s less aggressive—no audience-ridicule from the stage or heckling from the back row. Most importantly, he says, it’s real.

“I think that’s why people identify with the Moth and storytelling in general. It’s just really interesting to hear about other people’s lives,” he says. “There’s a reason they put ‘based on a true story’ at the beginning of movies whenever they can—because it suddenly becomes more compelling.”

Watch videos of Matteson Perry’s storytelling at

Daniel Remin (’04) is a graphics producer at ESPN, where he primarily works on live SportsCenter shows.

Geoffrey Arthur Drewyor (’05) recently published Wiffle Ball Summer, an offbeat travel memoir that details a journey he took to his native Ohio with a Wiffle ball bat strapped to the frame of his street cruiser bicycle. Along the way he encountered bearded drunks, haunted farm sheds and delightfully dorky Boy Scouts while accidentally discovering the meaning of family and the word “home.” Learn more at, or write to

Dana Cyboski (’06) and Evan Gutwein (’05) of Miami Beach, Fla., were engaged in April. The couple met through friends at BU. Dana is a senior event manager at Triton Productions, and Evan is an attorney at Hamilton Miller and Birthisel.

Kyley Tucker (’07) is associate producer for this year’s top TV show, The Voice. Previously, she worked on the MTV Movie Awards, Independent Spirit Awards, People’s Choice Awards, Starmaker and Heroes. Kyley can be reached at

Kirk Fernandes (’07) won an Emmy as producer for The Dr. Oz Show. He and his wife, Karen Rowan (’08), recently welcomed their firstborn. Karen is managing editor of MyHealthNewsDaily.

Dennis Dizon (’08) was recently hired at Google as an account manager in Commerce Merchant Solutions. He currently lives in San Francisco and can be reached at

Alyson Sheppard (’08) of Brooklyn was recently promoted to associate research editor at Popular Mechanics magazine. Write her at

Following graduation, Kris Ruby (’09) opened Ruby Media Group, a PR company specializing in social media. She was recently featured in an article in Time magazine, which highlights her success as an entrepreneur: For more information, contact her at, or on Twitter at @sparklingruby.

Samantha Barbosa (’10) was admitted to the George Washington University Museum Education Program, Class of 2012. She began her studies in Washington, D.C., in June.

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