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.

Empowering Learners

Karen May

Moorhead Academic Center

For more than 20 years, Karen May has worked with Taft students and faculty to effectively maximize classroom experiences, while empowering students to harness their full potential as learners. 

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Sonic Playground

Nick Gotten ’93

Blending the technical with the creative—that’s what Nick Gotten ’93 loves about his job as a re-recording mixer and sound engineer. Gotten takes recorded dialogue, sound effects, and music to create the final version of a soundtrack for a feature film or television program. He won an Emmy for his work on mixing the sound for the Disney juggernaut show, Sofia the First.

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Called to Nursing

Torie Snyder Pearce ’04

Torie Snyder Pearce ’04 has always been inspired by Taft’s motto, Not to be served but to serve. A strong resonance with Non ut sibi helped persuade her to become a pediatric nurse, and to cofound Urgent Care for Kids, an urgent care company specializing in pediatrics in Texas.

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Overcoming Epilepsy’s Challenges

Chanda Gunn ’99

Former Olympic hockey player Chanda Gunn ’99 helped lead Team USA to a World Championship in 2005 and an Olympic Bronze Medal in Turin in 2006 while battling epilepsy. Diagnosed at the age of 9, she has turned a substantial obstacle into a fulfilling career. A longtime spokesperson for the Epilepsy Foundation of America, Gunn now works for the Epilepsy Foundation New England.

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Local Beat, National Audience

Sophie Quinton ’06

In her work as a staff writer for Stateline.org, a news service affiliated with the Pew Charitable Trusts, Sophie Quinton ’06 is filling the need for deep, fact-based reporting on trends at the state and local level by uncovering stories in smaller communities throughout the U.S.

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Secretive Felines

Pete Alexander ’94

Pete Alexander has something in common with the animals he researches as a biologist. Like cougars, he pursues his prey, following them up mountains and through canyons in Wyoming. Unlike the big cats, though, Alexander is studying, not stalking.

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The Power of Jobs

Caitlin Kennedy ’12

In the two years since graduating from Hamilton College, Caitlin Kennedy has already established herself in a career that wholeheartedly channels Taft’s ethic of Non ut sibi. Kennedy works as a contracts associate at the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO), a New York-based nonprofit providing employment services to men and women with criminal convictions.

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Styled Simplicity

Katie Putnam Martinez ’00

San Francisco-based designer Katie Putnam Martinez likes rooms and places that feel layered with old and new. “I gravitate more toward contemporary aspects in terms of clean lines and simplicity,” she says, but she often includes vintage pieces in her projects. Martinez focuses primarily on West Coast residential projects, but she has also worked on offices and a store.

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A Balanced Life Workforce

Jamie Cheney Flaherty '98

Like many of the most successful start-ups, 1998 alum Jamie Flaherty Cheney’s innovative search firm Prokanga was born from a place of personal experience. Cheney asked herself the question frequently pondered by working moms who are experienced professionals: Can you care for your child and also hang on to the career that you’ve invested so much in? As a result, she launched Prokanga, a search firm blending access to traditional and flexible workforces.

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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.

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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. It also led her to Yale this summer to study international affairs and global security as a Yale Young Global Scholar.

  • Admissions
  • SummerJourneys
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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, CT, property into a fresh-cut flower garden that produces about 45,000 flowers a year. Since 2011, her business has grown to include a small retail cottage, wholesale accounts, weddings and events, workshops and presentations, and a local flower delivery subscription service.

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The Digital Architect

Clarence Kwei ’91

Clarence Kwei is VP 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 moved to 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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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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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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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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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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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.

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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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A Baker Who Serves

Billy Himmelrich ’82

Since 1999, owner Billy Himmelrich ’82 has been running Old School Bakery in Delray Beach, Florida, and providing bread to top restaurants, hotels, and country clubs in Southeast Florida, along with donating unsold bread to the Palm Beach County Food Bank and helping raise money for hunger relief through events.

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Finding Balance

Andrew Farrier '17
Hockey Captain, Student Leader

 

Andrew Farrier came to Taft from a much larger school near his home in Canada. What he found is that the strength of a community does not lie in its numbers.

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Rocket Woman

Jane Kinney '06 
Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineer


When Jane Kinney ’06 was five she knew she wanted to be involved in aerospace. Today, her aspirations have become a reality.

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