Taft Voices

Tafties come from all walks of life, each with a story that fascinates and inspires. Meet some of our students, faculty, and alumni here.

Olympic Mettle

Craig Reistad ’80

At the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in South Korea, Craig Reistad served as Olympic security coordinator for the U.S. contingent of athletes, staff, media, and dignitaries. Reistad was there for a nearly two-year assignment with the Diplomatic Security Service, the State Department equivalent to the Secret Service that provides protection at U.S. embassies and consulates around the globe and at major international events.

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Summer Journeys: A Global Perspective

Francesca Nyakora '19

For Francesca Nyakora ’19, international relations is a way of life: with family in Kenya and relatives working for the United Nations across the globe, her exposure to the world outside of Taft has helped shape her interests and define her passions. It also led her to Yale this summer to study international affairs and global security as a Yale Young Global Scholar.

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From On the Ice to On Air

AJ Mleczko ’93

Former Olympic gold medalist AJ Mleczko had her fifth assignment as NBC’s women’s hockey analyst at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics for her post-playing broadcasting career, which started in 2006. In May 2018, she also became the first female broadcaster to call an NHL playoff game from the booth.

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A Business in Bloom

Evelyn Barata Lee ’75

Evelyn Barata Lee transformed her Southport, Connecticut, property into Butternut Gardens, a fresh-cut flower garden that produces about 45,000 beautiful flowers every year. Since 2011, her business has grown to include a small retail cottage, wholesale accounts, weddings and events, workshops and presentations, and a flower delivery subscription service for local customers.

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The Digital Architect

Clarence Kwei ’91

Clarence Kwei is vice president of product and engineering at Univision Communications Inc., where he oversees product and technical strategy across the company’s digital platforms for web, mobile, and television. If you’ve been on websites owned by the media brands Meredith, Time Inc., Condé Nast, or Univision, you’ve seen Kwei’s website development work.

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Big IT, Big Impact

Marina Martin '03

After serving as the chief technology officer for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Marina Martin is now a partner with Layer Aleph, a digital services company that restores complex systems to service. Her true passion, though, is finding ways to make the nation's complex foster care system function safely and efficiently to minimize the time children spend in foster care.

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2018 Horace Dutton Taft Alumni Medal Honoree

Philip Howard '66

As an author and founder of Common Good, a nonpartisan reform coalition that describes itself as working to simplify government to put humans back in charge, cut red tape, and limit bureaucracy that prevents progress, Philip Howard is being recognized for his impressive work with Taft's highest alumni honor. He is also senior counsel at the New York City law firm Covington & Burling.

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Fashion into the Future

Vanessa LeFebvre Robinson ’95

Vanessa LeFebvre Robinson is leading the women’s merchandising team at Stitch Fix, one of the most successful and exciting fashion/technology companies in the world. Starting at her mother’s clothing store before she went to UPenn, then moving on to a position as a buyer at Lord & Taylor, along with other prominent retailers, she is now at the forefront of fashion selection using technology.

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Coming to Netflix

Dennis Liu '02

Netflix has ordered a 10-episode series of the sci-fi family drama called Raising Dion, based on Dennis Liu's short film and comic book of the same name. A graduate of NYU's Tisch School for the Arts, Liu has spent much of the last 10 years directing commercials and music videos for a variety of artists.

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A Workout That Takes You Somewhere

Tom Losee ’84

Combine running and stand-up paddleboarding and what do you get? RUN/SUP®, outdoor sports entrepreneur Tom Losee’s increasingly popular training program that fuses his two favorite recreational fitness activities. For more than 10 years, Losee has worked in the stand-up paddleboard business in Florida’s northwestern Gulf Coast.

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Teaching with a Worldview

Adam Yonkers '89

Adam Yonkers '89 says that making a huge career change in his early-30s freed him to take on a career that feeds his soul. He went from corporate communications—marketing and public relations at a big corporate law firm—to teaching U.S. history and foreign policy to high schoolers at Palo Alto Unified in California.

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Go Think...About Retail

Katie Maxey Sorrentino ’85

Ever wonder how retailers seem to know what you want to buy before you do? Mining data about our likes and dislikes to help perfect the relationship with consumers is what Go Think!, the company of Katie Maxey Sorrentino ’85, is doing to help guide retailers across the nation.

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Being the Change

Mihir Nayar '19

Mihir Nayar '19 witnessed the effects of poor nutrition on learning during his summer in India. His recent win at a pitch competition will help him do something about it.

  • Admissions
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Pumped Up By Renewables

Harrison Clay ’92

Early in his career, Harrison Clay ’92 began thinking about methane as a solution to the nation’s dependence on foreign oil and a way to reduce greenhouse gases. Read about Clay’s role as BP’s vice president of strategic development, global environmental products, and his work in biogas and biomethane project development.

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Following the Money

Simone Foxman ’07

As an investing reporter for Bloomberg, Simone Foxman’s beat specific to the finance industry allows her to “uncover stories that the public deserves to hear,” she says. Read about her role as a journalist that allows her to be part of conversations happening at the highest level in the world of finance.

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Algorithms in Action

John McGowan ’81

John McGowan ’81 created Mathematical Software, a start-up dedicated to researching and developing tools and algorithms that can be used to automate complex data analysis. Learn about his work to help firms analyze their research and development in data-intensive areas such as medicine or pharmaceuticals, finance, and engineering.

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On Modern Slavery

Klara Skrivankova ’96

In her role at Anti-Slavery International, Klara Skrivankova ’96 works with businesses on tackling forced labor in supply chains. Read more about her efforts to eradicate the modern slavery that reaches, often invisibly, into many aspects of our lives.

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Serving in the Skies

Doug Ellis ’54

After a long career in the textile industry, Doug Ellis ’54 decided it was an ideal time to return to his passion of flying. Ellis is a volunteer pilot for Angel Flight, which offers free transportation to patients in need of medical treatment.

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Tap. Book. Dock.

Tyler Kneisel '99

Dockwa, cofounded by Tyler Kneisel ’99, makes reserving boat slips a snap. Since its launch in 2015, tens of thousands of boaters now find, reserve, and pay for moorings in real time, using the award-winning Dockwa platform on their computers or the free mobile app.

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Be the Change

Aditya Balsekar '18

Founder, Meaningful Summers

 

Aditya Balsekar combined his passion for service with his talent as a leader to change his community for the better.

  • Admissions
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A Slice of Italy in Oyster Bay

Peter Van Der Mije ’98

After working for notable chefs in New York City, Peter Van Der Mije ’98 opened Osteria Leana, a chic, casual Italian restaurant in Oyster Bay on Long Island. He’s established a place that is small, local, and accessible for diners craving a city experience along the North Shore coastline, with easy access to excellent fresh produce and seafood.

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A Healing Counselor

Liila “Lee” Hass ’77

A trained naturopath, yoga instructor, and counselor, Hass works as a high-needs support counselor at Risdon, and her role is to focus on inmates with mental health issues and other disabilities—people who have brain injuries from long-term drug use or trauma or who have other mental health issues.

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Wineries Counsel

Luisa Bonachea ’00

Luisa Bonachea ’00 combines her legal training with her love of wine in a fulfilling career. Read about her work as an intellectual property attorney based in Napa Valley and serving the wine industry.

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A Q&A with Max Sandvoss ’98 of First Light Farm & Creamery

Max Sandvoss '98

Read about the goat farm and creamery owned by Max Sandvoss ’98 in upstate New York and his transition from actor to experienced farmer and cheesemaker. He and his brother, Trystan, are committed to the entire natural process with grass-fed animals and organic pastures. First Light sells its cheeses at farmers’ markets and to stores and restaurants across six states.

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Four-Wheeled Love Affair

Nick Firestone ’84

Nick Firestone ’84 has loved racing since age 3. At 51, he’s a professional race car driver who has raced among the most acclaimed drivers in the world and has been racing since the late 1980s. Firestone’s niche is go-karts, and he regularly races in the U.S. and internationally.

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