Class Notes

Photo of Erich Schwartzel (’09) by Andrew Rush

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

There was no plotting this career path. From “fracking to film” is how Erich Schwartzel (’09) describes the recent twist in his journalism journey. In April 2013, Schwartzel was named to Editor & Publisher’s “25 Under 35” list for his Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporting on the Marcellus Shale; three months later, he was settling into a new desk at the Wall Street Journal’s Los Angeles bureau to cover everything Hollywood.

“Gas drilling was never on my list of dream beats when I graduated from BU,” he says, “but by the time I left the Post-Gazette, I was obsessed. Going from complete ignorance to total immersion in just a couple years was a huge lesson for me—to be patient with a new beat, and to look everywhere for stories.”

The cast for Schwartzel’s articles might have changed since his switch to Tinseltown, but his approach to covering them hasn’t.

“My time in Pittsburgh encouraged a ‘say yes’ mentality—whether it was joining turkey hunters at 4 a.m. for a story on hunting near gas rigs or knocking on the doors of Amish farmers to see if they’d leased their land. The stories in Hollywood are much different—everything from the latest Michael Jackson estate trial to the Christian movie marketplace—but the willingness certainly translates.”—AT

Alan S. Feinstein (DGE’50, COM’52), a philanthropist and founder of the Feinstein Foundation, launched his 17th annual $1 million giveaway to nonprofit agencies that fight hunger. Learn more at

Amnon Kabatchnik (’54) was a finalist in the ForeWord Book of the Year Awards for Blood on the Stage, 1975–2000: Milestone Plays of Crime, Mystery, and Detection (Scarecrow Press, 2012). Learn more at

Kenneth Richardson (’55) published a poem, a work of creative nonfiction and a photo in volume three of the juried literary magazine the Agora, produced annually by the Participatory Learning and Teaching Organization associated with the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s division of continuing studies.

Robert Levy (DGE’61, COM’63) was reelected to his third four-year term on the Plantation, Florida, City Council and selected to serve as council president. Robert was also selected for the Broward County Senior Hall of Fame. Email Robert at

Phyllis Zagano (’70) published Women & Catholicism: Gender, Communion, and Authority (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).

Gary Larrabee (’71) published Sensation at Salem: The Legendary Babe Zaharias’s Historic 1954 US Open Victory (Cricket Press, 2013).

Adrienne Gusoff (DGE’73, COM’75) published Lucky in Love: Secrets to Being Irresistible (CreateSpace, 2013). Adrienne is a relationship coach and lecturer. Learn more at

Gregory Pearson (’76) published Fenway Fanatics: 50 Boston Red Sox Fans Tell Their Stories (Surry Cottage Books, 2013). Gregory interviewed fans from Massachusetts to Uzbekistan. He writes: “Their stories include the Vermont man who built a miniature Fenway Park on his property, the Rhode Island couple who delayed their son’s birth to avoid a conflict with opening day and the Massachusetts woman whose last wish was that people wear Red Sox gear to her wake.”

Karen Kang (’77) published BrandingPays: The Five-Step System to Reinvent Your Personal Brand (BrandingPays Media, 2013).

Jody Davis (’78) writes: “I’m back on the air as a volunteer program host at Flagler College radio, WFCF 88.5, for Theater 88Five, an old-time radio show that airs each Saturday morning. I provide fun facts à la Robert Osborne on Turner Classic Movies. I also produce student re-creations of old-time radio shows and serve as a guest lecturer and student mentor when requested.” Listen to Theater 88Five Saturdays at 9 a.m. EST on Email Jody at

Bob Sarles (’79) produced, directed and edited the documentary film Sweet Blues: A Film about Mike Bloomfield for Sony Legacy. Visit

Ron MacLean (’80) published his third book of fiction, Headlong (Last Light Studio, 2013), a literary thriller about fathers, sons, ecoterrorism, murder, immaturity, anarchism, marriage, friendship and failure.

Ricardo Guthrie (’84) is an assistant professor of ethnic studies at Northern Arizona University (NAU). He completed an ethnographic mural project titled The Historic Southside Mural at the Murdoch Center, which reflected the contributions of Flagstaff’s African American leaders. He received the NAU Research and Creativity Award for Most Significant Artistic and Creative Work.

Jennifer I. Paquette (’84) coauthored her debut mythology novel, The Awakening of Agnostos (Write More Publications, 2013), with her son, Nicholas. It is the first novel in the Myths of the Olympians series and is available in paperback from and e-book on, and

Saraann S. Parker (’84) joined the law firm of Armstrong Teasdale as a partner in its St. Louis office.

D. Brenton Simons (CGS’86, COM’88, SED’94) is president and CEO of the New England Historic Genealogical Society in Boston, Massachusetts. Brenton, who has helmed the 170-year-old society since 2005, is steering a $55 million capital campaign for the organization and has led its participation in several television shows, including PBS’s Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

David Steinberg (’88) completed his four-year term as president of the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association at the conclusion of the group’s 2012 conference, held as part of the UNITY 2013 convention in Las Vegas. In October 2012, David was elected treasurer of UNITY: Journalists for Diversity for the 2013–2014 term. Email him at

Did you know that Scituate is the most Irish town or city in Massachusetts? Or that Fenway Park was built by an immigrant from Derry, Ireland (Charles E. Logue)? Michael Quinlin (’92) offers these and other fun facts in the second edition of Irish Boston: A Lively Look at Boston’s Colorful Irish Past (Globe Pequot Press, October 2013).Quinlin, who has Irish roots and is a founder of the Boston Irish Tourism Association, is no stranger to exploring Boston’s Irish heritage. But researching Irish Boston still taught him a thing or two. “I no longer think of the Boston Irish as monolithic, ruled by titans, chieftains, cardinals and bosses,” he writes in the introduction. Keeping in mind that “much has occurred since the new century turned,” he adds: “There is now room to look at the unsung heroes, generous organizers and individual geniuses who stepped into the limelight to display their athletic skills, artistic talents and musical accomplishments.”—JR

Paul J. Riccio (CGS’88, COM’90) writes that his short film, Space Cadet, was included in the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2013.

Vineeta Sawkar (’90, CAS’90) joined the Star Tribune Media Company as the on-camera host for video news operations. An Emmy Award-winning journalist with 17 years of experience in the Twin Cities, she will support the media company’s increased video presence on the Web. Watch Vineeta at

Rachel Sobel (’91) was promoted to senior managing editor at GLC Custom Media, a content marketing agency in Northbrook, Illinois. Her husband, Alex Rubenstein (’91), earned tenure as an elementary school teacher in the Park Ridge, Illinois, public school system. The couple celebrated their twentieth wedding anniversary in summer 2012.

Curtis Epstein (’95), a staff editor at Aviation International News, was named the National Air Transportation Association’s Aviation Journalist of the Year.

Katie (Dyer) Avebe (CGS’00, COM’02) writes that her nonprofit theater company, Royal Family Productions (RFP) in New York City, produced a benefit performance in May 2013 featuring selections of Walking the Volcano, a chain of 10-minute plays by the late Jon Lipsky, a BU College of Fine Arts professor of playwriting and acting. The performance was part of RFP’s Emerging Artist Program. Jess Moss (CFA’11), a member of the program, played the lead role.

Amiee J. Shelton (’02) will travel to the Slovak Republic in spring 2014 as a Fulbright Scholar.

Alex Lipschultz (’06) produced Computer Chess, the critically acclaimed film written and directed by former BU Adjunct Professor Andrew Bujalski. Houston King (CAS’95) coproduced and Gerald Peary, who curates BU’s Cinemathèque, stars. Computer Chess premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2013 and was dubbed “sneakily brilliant” by A. O. Scott of the New York Times. It was nominated for the John Cassavetes Award at the Independent Spirit Awards.

Turning on a light switch isn’t generally cause for a party. But in a village without electricity, it’s another story. Alyssa Snow Callahan recalls how the villagers of rural Ulolela, Tanzania, celebrated—with a ceremony and dancing—when she and her husband opened a solar-powered learning center there in 2011. Thanks to the Callahans, students now have light for nighttime study.

The Callahans with some of the children of Olasiti village.

The Callahans with children from Olasiti village. Photo courtesy of Alyssa Snow Callahan

Alyssa (’10) says she and her husband Brendan (SMG’09) have always been drawn to nonprofit work, and that she’d hoped to use her public relations skills to help others someday. After Brendan returned from what Alyssa calls a “life-changing” trip to Tanzania with the Boston University Catholic Center in 2007, the couple founded Achieve in Africa to expand, refurbish and build classrooms and schools in the country.

The Callahans are determined to continue their mission even in the face of danger. In May 2013, a grenade attack on a crowd of Catholic worshippers at a church in Olasiti village in Arusha killed 3 people and wounded 60. The incident, which occurred just feet from a primary school that Achieve in Africa had renovated, is believed to reflect national tensions between Muslims and Christians. Alyssa was shocked by the unusual flare of violence: “It’s such a peaceful village, and the groups really work together.” She hopes Achieve in Africa’s work will help peace prevail. “We just think that education as a whole, and going to school with people from different backgrounds, promotes acceptance and peace.”—JR

Caitlin Graham (’07) is a writer-actor-director who just formed her own production company to produce the pilot of a darkly comedic Web series called No Method. The semiautobiographical series follows the trials and tribulations of a cynical Brooklyn actor as she skids toward rock bottom. To see the pilot, visit

Josh (’07) and Benny (’08) Safdie premiered their documentary, Lenny Cooke, a film they directed for Shop Korn Productions, at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2013. The film is a tragic story about the No. 1-ranked high school basketball player in 2001 who did not get the chance to play in the NBA. Visit for more information.

Jessica Sirls (CGS’05, COM’07) performed in the season-four opener of the sketch comedy Web series The House on South Bronson in July. Visit

Danielle Bellini, photo courtesy of EA Sports

Sideline reporters at a football game have plenty of live excitement to fuel their performance: the players racing across the field, the crowd roaring in enthusiasm. But Danielle Bellini (’02) had to imagine those details; she was reporting from a recording studio.

As sideline reporter for the Madden NFL 25 video game (EA Sports, 2013), Bellini spent months studying scripts and recording voice-overs for the project. “The challenge was making it feel as live and real as possible,” says the Emmy Award-winning reporter, “so I was able to incorporate the elements from my time as a news reporter to the project.” When delivering her lines, she says, “I would visualize being on the real sideline, having the camera in front of me and the people there and the craziness and the passion of a football game.”

Bellini, who’s reported for networks including NBC and the CW, called on both her COM training and her minor from the College of Fine Arts in tackling the project’s storytelling and theatrical elements. She shared her experience with COM students at the Young Alums Sports Panel in October 2013. “I really tried to stress to them that the things that they’re doing now at COM will be somehow related to opportunities in the future. If you put everything that I’ve done on a map, the core is COM.”

Learn more about Bellini’s work on Madden NFL 25.—JR

In Memoriam

Photo by Vernon Doucette

Tom Fauls, photo by Vernon Doucette

Throughout his 30-year career, Associate Professor Tom Fauls rode the “tsunami of changes” that digital media imposed on the advertising field. Associate Professor of Journalism Susan Walker wrote this tribute on a memorial website for Fauls, who died in June 2013 at age 65. His students recall that he wanted an Xbox—not to play video games, but to study how they employ in-game advertising—and Walker says, he “taught me a lot about trends in online advertising. This old gal had never heard of FarmVille until Tom.”

Fauls’s cutting-edge approach to advertising took him to the top of the field. He began as an account executive in a large house agency and quickly rose to the position of advertising manager for a Fortune 500 company, then served stints as a senior copywriter, executive creative director and principal in his own integrated marketing agency. He developed innovative campaigns for high-profile brands like Discover Card, Radisson Hotels, Kraft, Mobil, Sears and IBM, and contributed a chapter to Advertising & the Business of Brands. Tony S., a former advertising colleague, wrote on the memorial website that Fauls was “as selflessly nurturing and supportive of those under him in the workplace as he was in the classroom—in fact, he viewed his students as future professionals and helped them gain a professional mindset by treating them accordingly.” His students agree.

Ryan Ferland (CAS’00, MET’07) is one of five of Fauls’s students who founded the Boston-based Embryo Creative ad agency, which has created a scholarship in Fauls’s memory. Fauls “urged me to sign up for his class to see if advertising was ‘right for me,’” Ferland wrote on his agency’s website. “Tom’s passion convinced me to take a chance. He inadvertently set forward the path of my life. Years later, I often hear his polite, Midwestern voice pushing me to take chances.”—LE

Samantha Smikle (CGS’05, COM’07) majored in print journalism but has since pursued a career in jewelry. She has launched her own line called TNEMNRODA (pronounced nem-row-dah) and was featured in Jet magazine. Learn more at

Mary Dolan (’08) was named director of social media and media outreach at the Los Angeles-based Operation USA, a nongovernmental organization specializing in domestic and international disaster relief and development programs. Learn more at

Mandi Mellen, photo by Jordan Ancel

Mandi Mellen (’05), a Los Angeles-based actress, writer and producer, was one of 20 Justin Timberlake “superfans” featured in a Target commercial for his 2013 album The 20/20 Experience.

The idol surprised the group during filming as they sang his song “Mirrors,” walking into the shot while applauding their performance. The group then had the opportunity to sing with Timberlake.

“I was kind of in shock,” says Mellen. “It was really exciting.”

See the commercial here.

Robyn Neeley (’08,’09) published Destination Wedding (Crimson Romance, 2013), a comedic romance novel. Visit for more information.

Amanda Curtis (CGS’07, COM’09) started a fashion-tech company called 19th Amendment (, a portfolio site for emerging fashion designers to showcase, receive critiques and sell their work. Amanda studied fashion design at Parsons, and her work has been featured on the runway at New York Fashion Week. She has also designed for Ellen DeGeneres and made it to the final round of admission to London Fashion Week. Email her at

Katie Garcia (’09) is general manager and co-owner of the Brooklyn-based independent record label Captured Tracks, where she began working as an unpaid intern. In December 2012, Katie became engaged to Dustin Payseur, lead singer of the band Beach Fossils. Visit

Samantha Cox (’10), who works at CRT/tanaka, was recognized as the 2013 PR Rising Star by the Public Relations Society of America’s Richmond chapter.

Kelsey Aten O Ciardha (’11) was appointed digital and graphic designer at Calypso Communications. She currently manages graphic design and web development work for Derry Imaging Center and Massachusetts General Hospital.

Andrew Kightlinger (’12) directed the short film Paper People, which was an official selection at the Oscar-qualifying Palm Springs ShortFest in June 2013. He also directed his first feature film, Dust of War, a postapocalyptic action film set in the prairie of South Dakota and starring Tony Todd (Candyman) and Doug Jones (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy).

At the SXSW Film Festival in Austin, Texas, (from left) Sam Slater, Jessica Klapman, Paul Bernon, Joe Swanberg, Ashley Bernon and Ben Richardson. Photo by Ryan Terrell

Growing up, Paul Bernon (’01) “was always running around with a camcorder, making videos with my friends,” he says. He majored in film and television at COM, but he wanted to establish a strong foundation in business before embarking on a film career, so he became a successful real estate developer with Wellesley-based Rubicon Real Estate. And he kept writing scripts. (His comedy Teacher of the Year played at the Tribeca Film Festival and was highlighted on Will Ferrell’s website,

In 2012, Bernon took the big leap into the film industry when he founded Burn Later Productions with Sam Slater, a fellow real estate developer with an interest in film production. The duo selects projects that allow them to “play a role in developing good scripts and ideas into movies,” Bernon says. In just two years, they’ve produced six films, and their most recent project, Drinking Buddies, opened in theaters in August 2013. Helmed by indie director Joe Swanberg and featuring actors including Olivia Wilde and Anna Kendrick, Drinking Buddies has garnered rave reviews. The New York Times called it a “nimble, knowing and altogether excellent new film” that “refuses to dance to the usual tune” of romantic comedies.

Bernon and Slater dream big. With their innate entrepreneurial skills, the real-estate-developers-turned-producers plan to cultivate Boston’s film industry, which has been expanding since Massachusetts passed a tax credit that reimburses producers up to 25 percent of filmmaking costs. “Not to geek out,” Bernon said in a Boston Globe interview. “We’re proud to be from Massachusetts.”—LE


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