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.

The Road to Discovery

Ayden Cinel '22

Ayden Cinel '22 took a deep academic dive into biomedical building blocks through a new, virtual and immersive course in modern biology, part of Columbia University’s prestigious program for high school students.

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But to Serve

Julissa Mota '22

Julissa Mota '22 is a passionate learner. Over the summer she became a passionate teacher, guiding young students in Central America.

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In the Education Business

Blake DiMarco Herrera ’00

Blake DiMarco Herrera has helped run schools for underserved children ever since leaving an earlier corporate career. She’s now product manager of school services at Bezos Academy, a nonprofit is opening tuition-free, Montessori-inspired preschools nationwide that will serve low-income and middle-class families, including families who earn too much to qualify for Head Start.

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Moving in the Write Direction

Jared Jackson ’10

Jared Jackson, literary programs manager for the New York branch of PEN America, helps foster conversations with some of today’s leading minds and works to promote free expression and effect social change, and also also leads the Emerging Voices Fellowship to encourage promising writers and diversify the publishing and media landscapes.

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The Lure & Logistics of Producing Documentaries

Hilary Klotz Steinman ’86

Hilary Klotz Steinman has been producing documentary films for more than 20 years, with subjects as varied as contraception and the environmental toll of the digital revolution. Her most recent release is The Codebreaker, the story of the untold hero of cryptology, Elizebeth Smith Friedman. Along with overseeing her production company, Napatree Films, Steinman is the senior vice president/executive producer of the documentary division of Engel Entertainment.

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Seeing Beyond Artificial Boundaries

Willy Donaldson ’74

Across more than 35 years as a board member, president, and chief executive at eight companies, and more than three decades of teaching, Willy Donaldson has devoted his working life to getting himself and others to see the larger picture through systems thinking. Donaldson is an associate professor and the director of the Biotechnology and Management Program at Christopher Newport University.

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Working (Very) Remotely

Bianca Perren ’93

As a paleoecologist for the famed British Antarctic Survey, Bianca Perren’s fieldwork routinely involves visiting some of the most inhospitable locations on earth. She establishes ecological records through a process called “lake coring,” or drilling holes into the muddy bottom of lakes, retrieving samples from below the surface to gather an environmental record.

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Hail to the Chief

Dave Kirkpatrick ’89

As a coproducer, Dave Kirkpatrick helped create the critically acclaimed film Jimmy Carter: Rock & Roll President, which sheds light on Carter’s close ties to popular Southern rock musicians, both during the 1976 presidential campaign and well into his time in the White House.

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Digging In Locally

Will O’Meara ’12

Will O’Meara cofounded Hungry Reaper Farm in Morris, Connecticut, not far from Taft, with his fiancée in 2020, after nine years of experience farming in New England. O’Meara’s work at his vegetable farm is more than a job—it’s a passion, a calling, and an industry he wholeheartedly believes in and strives to improve.

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Teaching the Universal Language

Bob Anderson ’82

Bob Anderson ’82 is the cofounder of Leading Challenges and 1Hero Sports, which help clients grow and succeed through the power of emotional intelligence. He has spent the last 20 years crisscrossing the globe. “When something isn’t working at an organization, be that leadership struggles or problems within the team, we get brought in,” he says.

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Water, Water—Not Everywhere

Matt Rice '94

As director of the Colorado River Basin for American Rivers, an advocacy group based in Washington, 1994 alum Matt Rice’s work is aimed at getting people in the region to recognize the urgency of the unfolding environmental disaster caused by global warming (aridification and the increasing reduction of water availability)—and to adapt before it’s too late.

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News Sense for Uncertain Times

Susie Banikarim '93

If ever there was a crucible for journalism, Susie Banikarim ’93, as executive VP and head of global newsgathering at Vice News, met this one head-on—a year consumed by a pandemic, protests, and a presidential election. The public health crisis sent media executives like Banikarim scrambling to reimagine the newsroom, coverage, and work-life balance.

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By Design

Rick Wies '71

Throughout his four-decade career as a Connecticut architect, Rick Wies ’71 has stayed open and adaptable to each project that comes across his drawing board. At any given time, he might be designing a new apartment complex, overseeing renovations of a commuter rail station, helping reinvent a local theater, or volunteering to help build a house for a veteran with PTSD—sometimes simultaneously.

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The Art of Layering and Texturing

Eliza Geddes '97

Over the years, artist Eliza Geddes ’97 has explored several mediums—welding, mixed media sculpture—but ultimately chose to pursue painting as a career. Her paintings begin with a focus on color combinations, and she chooses to work with house paint over oils or acrylics. Geddes’ work has been displayed at exhibitions across the U.S. and in London, and is in three permanent collections in New York.

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In It for the Long Haul

Tom Ely '67

As a lifelong musician and amateur songwriter, Tim Ely ’67 will finally see one of his songs make its way into a major motion picture this year. “The Long Haul” is in The Comeback Trail, starring Robert De Niro, Tommy Lee Jones, and Morgan Freeman.

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Meet Justin

Justin is one of the most active and engaged students on Taft's campus. The positive energy he brings to the community inspires others to do more, and be their best. Meet Justin and learn more about Taft through a quick Q & A.

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Meet Paton

Paton has always been a champion of the environment, and has furthered that commitment though her work as an EcoMon at Taft. Learn more about Paton--and about Taft--through a quick Q & A.

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Meet Tim

Tim embraces Taft's motto--not to be served but to serve--through his work on the Community Service Board. Get to know more about Tim--and about Taft--through a quick Q & A.

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Shared Values, Strong Bonds

Key Connections

Director of Residential Life Erin Duffy also teaches Latin. Yuk Sum Chan '21 was in her class freshman year. Their shared values help strengthen their connection as teacher and student, and as advisor and advisee. The rewards for both have been immeasurable.

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The World View, As Shaped by Steven Erlanger ’70

2020 Horace Dutton Taft Alumni Medal Honoree

Steven Erlanger’s enduring newspaper career is rich with vignettes of a nomadic life of war zones, far-flung capitals, and contrasting cultures. As the The New York Times chief diplomatic correspondent in Europe, Erlanger has also served as bureau chief in London, Paris, Jerusalem, Berlin, Prague, Moscow, and Bangkok. Taft recognizes him with the school’s highest alumni honor.

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Lifesaving Public Health

Liz Temkin ’83

As an epidemiologist with Israel’s National Center for Infection Control and Antibiotic Resistance, Dr. Liz Temkin ’83 focuses on how to control the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, how to limit unnecessary antibiotic use, and how to respond to the fact that few new antibiotics are in development.

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Transforming Advertising

Amber Guild ’95

As president of the T Brand portfolio—the marketing services division of The New York Times—Amber Guild ’95 helps brands tell their most powerful stories in innovative ways while connecting them to The Times’ vast and devoted audience.

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Homegrown High-End Bats

Jeremiah Vargas ’16

Jeremiah Vargas ’16 cofounded Tater Bats, a Waterbury, Connecticut-based custom wooden baseball bat and accessories company, with his father and brother. What started in a backyard shed has become a 3,500-square foot workshop and storefront selling to players all over the county, including Major League professionals.

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Drawn to Service

Fiona McFarland ’04

A desire to serve, which first took hold during her time at Taft, has gone on to drive many of Fiona McFarland’s life decisions, including her most recent ambition: being elected to the Florida State House.After graduating from the United States Naval Academy McFarland spent eight years on active duty, including six and a half years at sea.

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Making Remote Work Work

Known as the “Queen of Remote Work,” Sara Sutton ’92 is the CEO and founder of FlexJobs, an innovative career website specializing in full-time and part-time remote jobs, employee and freelance jobs, and on-site jobs with flexible, part-time, and alternative schedules. She recently shared her thoughts about what the COVID-19 pandemic has meant for workers, workplaces, and employers with the Taft Bulletin.

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Equitable Coffee

Rob Terenzi ’01

Rob Terenzi ’01 and his wife, along with a college friend, saw an opportunity to help coffee farmers and upend the supply chain. They formed Vega Coffee, known for its dedication to individual coffee farmers in Nicaragua.

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Learning to Fly

Key Connections

Sophie Savage '20 met Associate Dean of Students Lindsay Leal before she enrolled at Taft; their connection was immediate. As her advisor, Ms. Leal has played a pivotal role in Sophie's Taft carer.

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  • Positively Pivotal
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Partnering for Clean Water

Ellie O’Neill ’11

Based on their view that water scarcity is a pressing issue of our time, Ellie O’Neill ’11 and Jack Hartpence cofounded Powwater, a social business that sells reusable water bottles, coffee mugs, and wine tumblers and reinvests profits into sustainable clean drinking water systems across the globe.

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From Law to Llamas

Charley Rosenberry ’77

CharleyRosenberry ’77, who retired from his law career, now spends his days organizing weeklong hikes for veterans who have recently returned from combat, and also doing llama pack trips into the Cascade Mountains to resupply trail crews working there.

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Sea Change

Irina Prentice ’94

Read about the work of Irina Prentice ’94, who is part of a team at Encounter Edu, a London-based education agency using innovative teaching methods, such as live-stream learning, to help students in classrooms around the world learn about pressing environmental issues.

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Decoding Cancer

Ranjit Bindra ’94

Read about the work of Dr. Ranjit Bindra ’94, co-director of Yale University’s Brain Tumor Center. Bindra is physician-scientist and biotechnology entrepreneur, specializing in the study of pediatric glioma. Two years ago, he started Cybrexa Therapeutics to bring its best tumor targeting technology to patients.

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Madame President Aspirations

Liz Osterhus Fleuette ’84

Liz Osterhus Fleuette ’84 was inspired to start Ms President US when her daughter, Maggie, at age 5 announced that she wanted to be the first female president during a visit to the National Constitution Center. Through the nonpartisan, nonprofit, community-based program and its mentors, girls learn about public speaking, diplomacy and listening skills, local/state/federal government, and women’s history.

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What Is Blockchain?

Wesley Jamieson ’13

In our Q&A, Wesley Jamieson ’13 unpacks what blockchain technology is and isn’t and how it works on a practical level. Jamieson is a lead blockchain technical resource in accounting firm RSM’s Blockchain and Digital Asset Management Consulting practice.

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Alexandra Dickson ’99

For actor and improviser Alexandra Dickson ’99, who performs and teaches at New York’s Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, it all began in an introductory acting class during her mid year at Taft. After studying acting at the Circle in the Square Theatre School and taking workshops at Chicago’s The Second City, she now appears weekly with The Stepfathers.

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Helping Uprooted Families

Donna Eldridge ’76

For Bay Area-based Donna Eldridge ’76, delivering furniture to a family of Afghan refugees in her truck is just another day. But for these uprooted families who have landed in the U.S. with nothing, her services are invaluable, and, ultimately, life-altering. Read about her Non ut sibi-inspired service work.

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Lawrence B. Morris III ’65: 2019 Horace Dutton Taft Alumni Medal Honoree

Larry Morris ’65 received Taft’s highest alumni honor this year for his more than 40 years of work at the Quebec-Labrador Foundation, including as its president for three decades and for his role as a leader in the environmental and conservation fields. Read about Morris’s leadership at QLF with its broad-reaching, community-based conservation efforts.

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Talking Baseball

Scott Barnsby ’94

Scott Barnsby ’94 has spent more than 10 years crisscrossing the country as a scout for the Cleveland Indians. Now as scouting director, his time is spent reading reports and talking with his staff about the club’s directions in the draft, but he’s still connected to the game he loves.

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Onscreen and Onstage

Eliza Clark '03

Based in Los Angeles, Eliza Clark '03 is both an accomplished playwright and the showrunner/executive producer of TNT's popular drama Animal Kingdom. On any given day, Clark is in the writers' room, the editing suite, on set, or in production meetings.

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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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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.

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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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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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