Frank van Vliet, MBA ’08 Wendy van Vliet, B.A. ’08 Drew van Vliet, B.A. ’11 Elise Smith, B.S. ’18
The van Vliets all have a ready sense of humor and share, among other things, a commitment to service and to family. And four of them—father Frank van Vliet, MBA ’08, mother Wendy van Vliet, B.A. ’08, son Drew van Vliet, B.A. ’11, and daughter Elise Smith, B.S. ’18—have something else in common: they’ve all earned degrees from the University of Baltimore.
The van Vliet’s alumni legacy begins with Frank, executive in residence and holder of the G. Maxwell Armor Chair and Professorship in the Merrick School of Business. Frank began his career as a sales and marketing executive in his native Ontario, Canada, where he and Wendy met and married 38 years ago. (The couple’s oldest son, Chris, still lives in Canada.) As he was offered new opportunities the family relocated to New York and then to Baltimore, where Frank joined the Baltimore AirCoil Company.
He chose to attend UB when his company offered to sponsor his MBA. During his program, Merrick professor Tigi Mersha asked Frank if he was interested in becoming an adjunct. For the last seven years he’s taught courses in marketing, strategic planning and entrepreneurship.
“I was in the right place at the right time—teaching is the most fun I’ve ever had,” he says. This fall he debuts a new online course in digital marketing and social media, which dovetails well with his other venture: running a small sales and marketing consulting firm, SalesBrewers LLC.
Frank is also an instructor in UB’s Second Chance program, in which incarcerated men at Jessup Correctional Institute are earning their undergraduate degrees. He was recently awarded the University System of Maryland Board of Regents Faculty Award for excellence in public service for his work in the program.
Drew and Wendy’s UB stories are intertwined—Wendy, who is lead pastor at Davidsonville United Methodist Church, decided to register for classes while on a campus visit with her son. “I was waiting for Drew and a counselor came out and said, ‘Are you my next appointment?’” Wendy recalls. At the time she had a three-year degree from a Canadian university; Canada has a different higher educational system than the United States.
Wendy’s Canadian degree is in computer sciences, and she worked as a program analyst there. “But I had also been involved in volunteer organizations and knew I was called to serve,” she says. “The counselor showed me how my credits could transfer so I could complete my undergraduate degree to U.S. standards and prepare for seminary.”
Wendy says she had some self-doubt about returning to school. “I had to learn to be a learner again, and I wanted to be an A student,” she recalls. “I found that my professors held me accountable, but also provided feedback and resources so I knew what was expected.”
When Drew (the funniest member of the family, according to the others) and Wendy selected their courses, they unknowingly registered for the same psychology class. “My mother sat right up front and I sat in the back,” Drew, a sales development manager at cybersecurity firm Tenable, says. “It took the professor pretty much the whole semester to figure it out.” After reaping the benefits of studying together, the two later registered for the same art history class.
Drew decided to transfer to UB after beginning his degree at the University of Maryland, College Park. “I discovered I didn’t enjoy classes in lecture halls with 300 other students,” he recalls. He was working full time in retail management during his time at UB, and says he appreciated not only the “vibe of being right in the city with older, more experienced classmates, but the flexibility of having online and evening options for classes.”
When she enrolled at UB, Elise had completed her associate’s degree and was also working full-time; she is a benefits manager at defense contractor AVIAN, Inc.
“I wanted to enhance my career but was a little uncertain about juggling everything,” the mother of five recalls. “My father reminded me of the story of eating an elephant, taking it just a little bit at a time.” Elise completed her business degree entirely online, and was even able to travel to Thailand on a study abroad program for an upper-level marketing course. “I didn’t expect that to happen and it was one of the coolest things I did—especially since I was able to share it with my Dad, who came along as a faculty member,” she says.
Elise points out that the van Vliets have another UB legacy: her fifth child, Merrick’s, name was inspired by the business school. “I was pregnant with him during the journey, so we decided it was appropriate,” she says.
Frank reflects on how his family’s different educational goals and experiences reflect larger trends: “I didn’t need to get my MBA, but it opened new doors for me. And for my students—many of them may have 7 or 8 career changes, not jobs, but entire career changes—in the course of their working lives. So it’s great that their educational options are constantly morphing, and that UB is, too”
Paula Novash is managing editor of the magazine.
If you are a UB legacy family and would like to share your story, contact the Office of Alumni Relations at 410.837.6131 or email@example.com.
Tokyo Direkston, B.A. ’13, M.S. ’16, is the homeless services site and program manager for the Downtown Day Services Center in the District of Columbia, an organization that supports adults who are experiencing homelessness. “It’s right where I’m supposed to be,” she says.
The Center is a bright, upbeat space, housed in the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in the business district. “I want our guests to feel welcome and have a sense of normalcy,” Direkston continues. “I know what they are going through to survive.”
Direkston can appreciate her guests’ struggles because she’s been there: for a decade she was homeless and addicted to crack cocaine. She recently acknowledged 20 years of sobriety. “Every day I remember something I thought about when I was homeless, something that was especially hard for me. It helps me serve our guests better,” she explains.
Daily, an average of 150 people access Center resources that include meals, laundry services, computers, case managers, peer specialists and harm reduction specialists. Direkston is concerned with every little detail, making sure everyone hears “We’re so glad you’re here,” when they enter, and that each receives fresh towels and hygiene kits, as well as privacy, for showers. “We treat people with dignity and respect,” she says.
Direkston grew up in the Philadelphia area and was living in New York when she was recruited by a DC-area program to teach carpentry skills to former inmates. “I didn’t want to move away from friends and family,” she recalls. “But I had the qualifications in construction, and they wanted more women, especially women of color, in nontraditional roles, so they persuaded me.”
Direkston liked the work, but she was lonely. One weekend, she says, “I made some bad decisions and tried crack cocaine. That’s where my life took a different path. It took me five years to admit I had a problem, and another five to decide to do something about it.”
Her own experience with hitting rock bottom gives her a greater understanding of others’ struggles. “You have to stop for you. If you do it for me, then I’m the problem and I’m the reason you begin using again,” she explains. After going through a recovery program, Direkston settled in Maryland and went back to school, eventually transitioning from construction management to human services.
She credits her then-partner, who has since passed away, with helping her believe she could be successful in higher education. “I was told for years that I wasn’t smart enough, and that’s hard to overcome. I’d come home from class and cry, ‘I can’t do this.’ And then I’d wind up getting an A. After a while she would just look at me and say, ‘You got this.’”
Direkston says she loved her experience attending UB. “I call it my big girl school,” she says. “My professors expected a lot, but they supported me, too.” One of her goals is to teach, but, she says, “I don’t just want to teach, I want to teach at UB.”
In Direkston’s vision of the future, she’s developing a Baltimore nonprofit to tackle homelessness. “I just want a city block of abandoned homes,” she says, where she would renovate a few houses at a time with the hands-on help of those who would eventually live there. She’d also build a commercial kitchen to provide food service training. With her combined background in construction, human services and developing programs, she’s more than ready to begin. For now, though, Direkston spends her commutes strategizing about how to better provide for the Center’s guests.
Direkston shares that 20 years ago, she attended a 12-step meeting in a historic sanctuary known for its social justice mission—the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, where the Center is located today. “How is that for a clear message from a higher power?” Direkston says with a laugh. “Now I have a job here I love. There are more things I need to do—but I know my starting point for that next step is here.”
*Class notes featured were received from June 1, 2018 through May 31, 2019.
Richard G. Lubinski, B.S. ’70, was elected Region III Vice President for the Association of Energy Engineers for 2019.
Nathaniel C. Fick Jr., J.D. ’75, received the third annual Dean’s Award at the Law Alumni Association Dinner in May for his contributions to the UB School of Law and the legal community.
John C. Wilson, M.A. ’80, and Robert Hitz were married in August 2018 in Pikesville, Maryland.
Wendy G. Rothstein, J.D. ’82, was elected Judge of the Court of Common Pleas in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, in November 2017.
Raymond J. Brusca, J.D. ’84, retired in December 2018 after a 38-year career, most recently as the chief human resources officer for Techtronic Industries, a manufacturer of power tools and vacuum cleaners. Ray and his wife will split their time between homes in Naples, Florida and Nantucket, Massachusetts.
Daniel J. Clifford, J.D. ’84, was appointed in 2018 by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania as vice chair of the Supreme Court Domestic Relations Procedural Rules Committee for a three-year term.
Siblings and law school graduates Kathleen O’Neill, J.D. ’81, head of the Civilian Personnel Law and Special Projects Section in the Office of Counsel at the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), Michael O’Neill, J.D. ’82, general counsel and chief legal officer for Avnet, a global technology company, and Peter O’Neill, J.D. ’84, a partner at Murnane and O’Neill, a general practice firm in Glen Burnie, Maryland, participated in a panel discussion hosted by the Law Career and Development Office in November 2018 about forging their own career paths. They noted that although they grew up together and attended the School of Law around the same time, their personal experiences led them on their own distinct paths in the legal field. They encouraged students to always be willing to work hard and try something new.
John J. Varley, J.D. ’84, was named senior vice president/chief administrative officer and general counsel at ExpressJet Airlines in January 2019. Previously, he was senior vice president and general counsel at Virgin America.
Raymond L. Bolger, B.A. ’86, had his book, Operation Devil Horns: The Takedown of MS-13, published in October 2018.
Joseph F. Clocker, M.P.A. ’87, retired in December 2018 as director of parole and probation at the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services after 41 years of service.
George L. Salis, M.A. ’88, was promoted in 2018 to principal economist and tax policy advisor at Vertex, Inc., a global tax software and technology company. He is also a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School Executive Certification Program in Trade Policy and Comparative Tax Policy and Administration.
George F. Shevlin IV, J.D. ’88, joined American International Group as vice president, government affairs in June 2018.
R. Steven Redding, J.D. ’90, was appointed circuit court judge of the 23rd Judicial Circuit by West Virginia governor Jim Justice in February 2018. He was elected to retain the position in May 2018.
Philip P. Lloyd, B.S. ’91, is the information technology program manager for the Ordnance Information System (OIS) for the U.S. Navy at the Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP). He has been with NAVSUP for 19 years.
Jill P. Carter, J.D. ’92, was elected to the Maryland State Senate, representing Legislative District 41, in November 2018.
Catherine Fischer, B.S. ’92, married Robert W. Vincent of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in July 2018.
Valentine A. Brown, J.D. ’95, received the Cheryl Bryson Leadership Award, which recognizes significant professional development, leadership and mentoring contributions by a lawyer to women in the legal profession, from the Duane Morris Women’s Impact Network for Success (WINS) in October 2018. Brown was selected for her work as an advocate and mentor to women at Duane Morris and beyond.
David C. Jordan, MBA ’95, joined Stevenson University as vice president of Human Resources and Title IX coordinator in January.
Charles J. Acquisto, J.D. ’96, was named partner at the Law Offices of Stephenson, Acquisto & Colman in Burbank, California, in June 2018.
Greg Derwart, M.A. ’96, joined Maller Wealth Advisors in Hunt Valley, Maryland, as chief operating officer in January.
David A. Weiskopf, J.D. ’96, was appointed county attorney for St. Mary’s County (Maryland) in December 2018.
Claude de Vastey-Jones, J.D. ’98, joined Carney, Kelehan, Bresler, Bennett & Scherr, LLP, in Columbia, Maryland, in January.
Melissa M. Boyd, J.D. ’99, spoke at the 11th Annual Montgomery Bar Association Family Law Section Toby L. Dickman Seminar in Pennsylvania on November 9, 2018. The seminar focused on the legal steps to make it through the custody battle process as efficiently as possible, with the main goal being the relief of any unnecessary suffering for the child involved. Speaking at the seminar with Boyd was fellow School of Law graduate, the Honorable Daniel J. Clifford, J.D. ’84.
David F. Katz, J.D. ’99, joined the Atlanta, Georgia, law office of Adams and Reese in February. He specializes in the area of privacy law and compliance, data security, information governance, vendor management, corporate governance, crisis management, regulatory compliance and ethics.
John M. Putman, B.A. ’99, joined Vintun, LLC, in Columbia, Maryland, as a senior consultant in September 2018.
Joseph H. D. Solomon, J.D. ’00, assumed command of the United States Coast Guard’s Maritime Law Enforcement Academy (MLEA) in North Charleston, South Carolina. As MLEA’s commanding officer, Captain Solomon also serves as a member of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Accreditation Board.
Suzanne C. Johnson, B.A. ’01, J.D. ’04, was named and sworn in as clerk of the Maryland Court of Appeals in December 2018.
Christopher G. Marasco, B.S. ’02, joined Revere Bank in Ellicott City, Maryland, as senior vice president in June 2018.
Shelby A. Kinnaird, M.A. ’03, recently had two books published. The Diabetic Cookbook for Electric Pressure Cookers: Instant Healthy Meals for Managing Diabetes was published in March. The Pocket Carbohydrate Counter Guide for Diabetes: Simple Nutritional Strategies to Lower Your Blood Sugar was published in June 2018.
Berke Attila, MBA ’04, a budget analyst with the City of Baltimore, was included on The Daily Record’s 2018 Very Important Professionals List as a Successful Professional Under 40.
Matthew F. Penater, J.D. ’05, LL.M. ’06, and Ashley E. (Wagner) Penater, J.D. ’10, welcomed a baby boy in January 2018. Matthew opened The Penater Law Firm, LLC, located in Lutherville, Maryland, a few months later in May.
Lauren R. Quesada, B.S. ’05, was promoted to marketing manager at OneBlood, an organization in Florida that encourages blood donation, in October 2018.
Simone J. Christian, B.S. ’07, M.A. ’10, is an instructional designer at Notre Dame of Maryland University in Baltimore.
Benjamin A. Kelley, J.D. ’07, was named partner at Ballard Spahr, effective July 2018. Kelley is also a member of the firm’s Real Estate Department and is co-leader of the Insurance Company and Institutional Investments Team.
Katherine M. Noonan, J.D. ’07, a real estate attorney with Ballard Spahr, served as lead writer for the 2018 update to the Building Owners and Managers Association’s Green Lease Guide: A Guide for Landlords and Tenants to Collaborate on Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Practices.
LaNette N. Parson, M.S. ’07, published her book, Chasing the Skinny: Transforming My Life Despite Adversity, in August 2018.
Paul T. Sellers, B.S. ’07, joined Masters Title & Escrow in Towson, Maryland, as an account executive in August 2018.
Christopher D. Wright, J.D. ’07 joined the Law Offices of Evan K. Thalenberg, P.A. as an attorney in January.
Philip A. Dacey, J.D. ’08, was elected to an at-large seat on the Frederick County (Maryland) Council in November 2018.
Marie K. Thomas, B.A. ’08, M.A. ’13, is the director of creative services for Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland. Thomas manages all of Washington College’s graphic design projects in addition to developing and implementing strategic communication and marketing plans for undergraduate admissions.
John A. Butler, M.A. ’09, J.D. ’14, joined the Baltimore office of Tydings & Rosenberg LLP as an associate in October 2018.
Abioye E. Mosheim, J.D. ’09, became the assistant general counsel at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in January 2018. She is also a government member of the Freedom of Information Act Committee at the U.S. National Archives and Record Commission.
Jonathan P. Novak, J.D. ’09, joined the Dallas, Texas, law firm of Fears Nachawati in October 2018. His focus is on litigation related to the opioid epidemic. He played a key role in the 2017 investigation featured in The Washington Post and on CBS’ 60 Minutes that exposed how opioid distributors lobbied several members of Congress to limit the authority of the Drug Enforcement Agency.
Dawn M. South, J.D. ’09, established DeBoerSouth, PLLC, a family law firm in Richmond, Virginia, in February.
Alicia D. Stewart, J.D. ’09, was elected partner at Niles, Barton & Wilmer, LLP, in Baltimore, in January.
Matthew J. Youssef, J.D. ’09, was elected partner at Niles, Barton & Wilmer, LLP, in Baltimore, in January.
Heather M. Arbogast, J.D. ’10, was elected partner in January at McGuireWoods in Baltimore.
Andrew N. Illuminati, J.D. ’10, joined Webb, Cornbrooks, Wilber, Vorhis, Douse, Leslie & Mathers, LLP, in Salisbury, Maryland, in January as an associate attorney. His practice focuses on criminal defense and civil litigation.
Kevin A. Fields, M.P.A. ’11, a Roman Catholic priest, serves as parochial vicar of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Rockville, Maryland.
Lynette M. Lewis, B.A. ’12, M.S. ’16, is attending Ashford University in California seeking her doctorate in Human Services. She is also a published author of 11 books.
Molly M. Martin, M.P.A. ’13, was named senior director of program operations for the Arc Northern Chesapeake Region in October 2018.
Regina T. Boyce, M.P.A. ’14, was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in November 2018 to represent District 43. The 15-year Waverly resident has served the N/NE Baltimore community as an advocate and community leader and credits “knowledge that works” for allowing her to represent and work for Baltimore City and state residents in Annapolis.
Jennifer L. Burroughs, J.D. ’14, and Jeffrey Toppe, J.D. ’14, helped coach the University of Baltimore’s Black Law Student Association’s Moot Court Team for two recent competitions. The team took first place in the Thurgood Marshall Moot Court Competition held in Annapolis in February and advanced to the national competition in Little Rock, Arkansas, in March.
Katherine M. Furek, M.P.A. ’14, was hired as the assistant district attorney for Hale County, Alabama, in January.
Elizabeth A. Paige, B.A. ’14, M.A. ’17, won a prestigious Newman Civic Fellow Award in March. The award honors student leaders dedicated to creating lasting change and building a better world. Paige, a current student in UB’s School of Law, was recognized for her work to establish a food pantry on campus, as well as her commitment to ensuring access, equity and inclusion for all UB students.
Darryl L. Tarver, J.D. ’14, is the chair of Maryland Legal Aid’s (MLA) Equal Justice Associates, a group of young lawyers who support MLA through fundraising, advocacy and pro bono legal work for low-income clients. Tarver recently received a 2019 Leadership in Law: Generation J.D. award from The Daily Record and notes “At UB, I not only got a great legal education, but I also built lasting relationships through my volunteer work. Both of those are key components of what I’ve been able to accomplish early on in my career.”
Juarez R. Lee-Shelton, B.A. ’15, M.A. ’18, is a historian, writer and transit professional in Baltimore. He also began teaching Constitutional Law at St. Frances Academy in Baltimore in January.
Sean E. DeSchepper, B.S. ’15, is a distribution designer at Shah and Associates in Forest Hill, Maryland. He also reports he was recently married and moved into a new home.
Michelle Richardson, B.S. ’15, assignment desk editor at ABC7-WJLA in Washington, D.C., and her news team won an Emmy award in June. The Emmy was presented for their coverage of the June 28, 2018 Capital Gazette shooting in Annapolis. Richardson said, “The grit and tenacity our team showed that day was to honor our colleagues, and this Emmy is dedicated to the five journalists we lost that day.”
Lauren S. Ellison, J.D. ’16, joined Tydings & Rosenberg LLP as an associate in December 2018.
Clayton D. Zook, M.S. ’16, was promoted to technology coordinator at Towson University in July 2018.
Ashley E. Plack, MBA ’17, founded Strategist Marketing in February 2018. It is a digital consulting firm based in Baltimore and a Google Partner agency.
Tova Z. Brody, J.D. ’18, joined Council Baradel as an associate in its family law practice in December 2018.
Bethany D. Graham, M.P.A. ’18, began a full-time position as an entry-level analyst with the U.S. Government Accountability Office in February.
Bryana K. Spann, J.D. ’18, served as a law clerk to the Senate Judiciary Committee during the September 2018 congressional confirmation hearings for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Submitting a Class Note is easy. Just visit ubalt.edu/classnotes.
Dr. Catherine Gira, a beloved member of the University of Baltimore community for more than 25 years, passed away in March at age 86. Gira joined UB in 1965 as a professor of English. Later she became dean of the College of Liberal Arts, then provost. Gira was the inaugural recipient of the Yale Gordon Endowed Chair for Teaching Excellence, among many other accomplishments.
“We’re all better for having known her,” UB Provost Darlene Smith, B.S. ’78, MBA ’80, says, adding that she felt fortunate to have Gira as a mentor. “Catherine had an uncanny ability to ask the right questions. She was an effective listener and wonderful at guiding you to navigate your own path.”
Along with Baltimore attorney and philanthropist LeRoy Hoffberger, Gira founded UB’s Hoffberger Center for Professional Ethics in 1987 to promote ethics across the curriculum. UB professor Fred Guy, director of the Hoffberger Center and a longtime colleague of Gira’s, says “Catherine combined assets and virtues that might be a contradiction in someone else. She harmonized a steel will with kindness and empathy—and she always wanted our students to know what was valuable about them, valuable about an education and valuable about being at UB.”
In 1991 Gira was named president of Frostburg State University, a post she held for 15 years. Alexander Giles, J.D.’97, is a Baltimore litigator who specializes in maritime law. He met Gira when he was a member of Frostburg’s student government association (SGA) and ultimately worked closely with Gira when he served as the SGA president.
“Catherine was a consensus builder who very much valued the student perspective,” Giles recalls. He says Gira was instrumental in his attending UB law school, and they stayed close as part of a regular lunch group. “I had a wonderful time with Catherine, driving to those lunches,” he says. “She had a great sense of humor, and she was very dedicated to staying in regular contact with her many groups of friends and former colleagues.”
Adds Smith, “Hers was an unconventional path to becoming a university president and, at the time, the only woman president in the University System of Maryland. Catherine was such a respected scholar, teacher, and advisor—and incredibly successful at them all.”
Read a special poem dedicated to Dr. Gira by Kendra Kopelke, associate professor.
Whether she is mushing a team of huskies in Alaska, speeding down the track at 150 mph at drag racing school or figuring out how to bathe in a bucket in a remote village in Greenland, Christie Fisher, MBA ’06, makes the most of her time away from her corporate executive position.
Fisher has a history of forging her own path. A native of the Seattle area, she was a pioneer in the world of online MBAs, enrolling in the University of Baltimore’s program in 2004 when online degrees were not as widely known or respected. She knew that earning a business degree would open up doors in her career, but says “I didn’t want to go get an MBA to become a high-finance Wall Street-type of person. I was looking to build my business acumen, find ways to give back, those kinds of things.” During her second year at UB, Fisher was hired by Microsoft.
For conferences and to conduct trainings, Fisher traveled to such exotic places as Thailand, the south of France, Ireland and Prague. “That really started in me the desire to explore and have adventures,” she says. After a couple of beach vacations in Hawaii and Mexico, “I realized I’m much more of an adventurous traveler, and to travel with purpose is even better.” With that goal in mind, she planned a trip to Scotland and Iceland for her 40th birthday.
In Iceland, Fisher made a fateful connection: she met a team of explorers with an organization called Global Exploration and Recovery (GEaR), who were traveling to Greenland to find the remains of three WWII servicemen who had disappeared in 1942. (The amazing story of the U.S. military cargo plane crash, followed by the subsequent crashes of two other planes sent on rescue missions, was the subject of the bestselling book, Frozen in Time, by Mitchell Zuckoff.) Several search missions have attempted to find the final crash site; all have failed so far.
Fisher thought, “I wish I could be a part of something like that.” In fact, she was ideally positioned to do so. “Microsoft has this amazing commitment to philanthropy and giving back,” she explains. The company provides support to employees who volunteer time or donate money to nonprofits.
The first order of business was finding out if GEaR was a nonprofit. They were not, but expressed interest. “I thought, ‘Well, here’s my in,’” says Fisher. Armed with her MBA skills, she had created a 501(C)3 at the barn where she rides horses. She offered to help turn GEaR into a nonprofit. Over the next few years, Fisher’s role grew from informal business consultant to include fundraising and expedition planning.
Last summer, Fisher accompanied the GEaR team on a second expedition to Greenland, where she coordinated basecamp operations and communications. During the three-week trip, Fisher lived with a local family in a small Inuit village with a population of 250. As part of her preparation, she traveled to Alaska for a two-person overnight mushing expedition to acclimate herself to the cold and solitude.
Once in Greenland, Fisher found her biggest challenges included trying to buy cold medicine when she couldn’t speak or read Greenlandic, hiking while avoiding polar bears and figuring out how to bathe in a house with no running water. While the GEaR expedition did not uncover the WWII wreckage, it was a success in other ways. Through social media, Fisher connected with a teacher in the Wisconsin hometown of one of the missing men, and later traveled to the school to give students her firsthand account of the expedition. Fisher also wrote three articles about her experience for her local paper.
She also came back with stronger leadership skills. “I find that I can be a better leader for my organization by taking those breaks and learning about myself in very different circumstances,” she says. “There is something universal about leadership, whether you’re doing it in Alaska or in Greenland or in the boardroom. And I think the more varied your experiences are with developing your own leadership style, the more effective you are.”
Abigail Green, M.A. ’01, is a writer based in Baltimore.
Readadditional articles Christie wrote about her adventures.
Kendra Kopelke, associate professor in the Klein Family School of Communication Design, wrote the following poem. A tribute to her longtime friend Dr. Gira, it was a special part of the memorial service held at UB in May.
Used with permission.
There Was No One Like Her for Catherine Gira (1932-2019)
There was no one like her. No no no no one. Was there. Not one. No one anywhere we know was like her. We know because we have looked and lived and now must sit together on the 8th day of May with this newly assembled absence among us and what to make of this sound. What can we make of the sound of her gone with all of us here but her. Who described the world and told us what it meant and it calmed us. What can we make of this sound but listen. She taught many students. She taught students how to teach themselves. She taught them how to read Homer and Dante and in reading how to think. And in thinking how to grow. And in growing how to live. She had a way of teaching Rosemary and John and Kimberly and Jo that taught them how to go a bright new way. Can we live with more intelligence, please. She did that so well and she laughed a lot too at her own stories of her beloved Meb Turner. When he came back to UB after a weekend at his beach house full of ideas she would take that Monday off knowing that by Tuesday life would return to normal. She loved her own solutions. She loved mavericks and eccentrics and impossible people especially which is part of what made her special. Not merely a model but a muse. A muse and a model. A mentor and a monarch of mentoring to many.
Don Mulcahey team teaching a classics class with Catherine. Without that class he is not the Don Mulcahey he cares about. Jon Shorr knows that. Steve Matanle knows that. Peter Fitz. Wayne Markert. Neil Kleinman. Fred Guy. A cadre of admirers. To try to grasp all she did for everyone would be impossible madness. That way madness lies. And she was not impossible. She made impossible things possible. She made business and law and liberal arts faculty go away together and spend the night discussing King Lear. She made them think that there was no other way to develop as a school but to think about King Lear and then bunk together for the night. (She made Meb Turner think he was president. Betty Little made her think she was provost.) She made universities that might not work so well work so well. She made two universities work, helping them imagine themselves more daringly and not desperately as they might have done without her. She made a remote university rise above its remoteness. She made a working-class university classy. She was a woman for all seasons, a consummate quester who put her iron fist in her velvet glove and then said, Let’s have lunch at the Hopkins club. She was not impossible but she was possibly like no one else we know or will ever know. Her handwritten notes at just the right moment. Her generous praise. Our famous friend who treated us like family.
Who made us believe that without us she would not be someone she wanted to be. All of us here (and not here) form her perfect university. Her husband Joe, her thriving children and grandchildren, her friends, students and colleagues. The sound of her missing is the sound of us remembering. Is the sound of us loving. Is the song of us singing.
To learn more about the Real Estate Venture Fellows and the Pitch for a Million competition, watch this video produced at UB.
Applying to the Fellows Program
Current UB students and alumni who are interested in joining the 2020 cadre of Real Estate Development Fellows may submit applications through January 15, 2020 here. Fellows receive a $1000 stipend for their participation. For more information, visit our website.
If you’d like to donate to the real estate program to support our students and initiatives like the Real Estate Fellows program, contact Leslie Joyce (firstname.lastname@example.org | 410.837.6217).