Dennis "Denny" McWilliams (COM 1969) died on Oct. 21 at the age of 70 in Hendersonville, N.C. A native of Level Green, Pa., he is survived by his wife of 28 years, Kathaleen Rhoads McWilliams and sons, Jeff McWilliams and Brad McWilliams. For 35 years, he worked in industrial publishing and communications sales for Chilton Company, Cahners Publishing, CapCities/ABC and Disney. McWilliams earned his degree in journalism and communications at Point Park, where he was an officer in Delta Phi Kappa fraternity. He is fondly remembered by fellow alumni, including John Crisafi (COM 1970) of Dubois, Pa. Read McWilliams’ full obituary.
Tom Kayser (COM 1974) will retire as the president of the Texas League on February 28, 2017 after 25 seasons, the longest tenure in league history. On December 6, he received the Baseball America Minor League Baseball Executive of the Year award at the Baseball Winter Meetings at National Harbor, Maryland. A resident of San Antonio, Tx., Kayser earned his degree in journalism and communications at Point Park in 1974.
Joseph R. Greco (BUS 1971), president and CEO of Greco Gas Inc., has been honored with the Bob Jackson Memorial Award in recognition of his contributions to the Independent Welding Distributors Cooperative (IWDC), the industrial gas & welding industry and surrounding Pittsburgh community. Headquartered in Tarentum, Pa., Greco Gas is one the oldest continuously owned independent gas and welding distributor in North America. Joe Greco has been leading his company’s growth for more than 37 years, during which the company has expanded to four locations, installed a state of the art cylinder fill plant, launched a microbulk gas offering and diversified into specialty gases, dry ice and propane. Greco graduated from Point Park in 1971 with a bachelor’s degree in business management.
Kim Payne COM 1979) has been named communications director for Florida Hospital Center Ice. A veteran marketing, media and public relations professional, Payne was previously the staff writer and media coordinator at Saint Leo University. He has more than 35 years of experience in professional communications in various settings, including corporate, healthcare, non-profit and academic. His new responsibilities encompass all marketing and public relations activities for Florida Hospital Center Ice. Payne is also a National Hockey League Off-Ice Official for the Tampa Bay Lightning. At 150,500 square feet, the newly completed Florida Hospital Center Ice is the largest ice sports facility in the southeastern U.S. The facility features five ice pads – an Olympic-size rink, three NHL rinks, and a mini rink. One NHL rink can be converted into a multi-purpose floor for additional dry sports. The complex includes a fitness center, dance studio, turf track and skills area, as well as a pro shop and a full-service restaurant and bar. Florida Hospital is the facility’s major sponsor and naming partner and the Tampa Bay Lightning is a program rink partner. Payne and his wife Susan reside in Wesley Chapel, Fla.
David Lee (COPA 1975) shared the news that he has completed a 10-month assignment to make a video about a circus in Cambodia, in which most of the performers were recovering from genocide and war. A resident of Washington, D.C., Lee earned a triple fine arts degree, with an emphasis on filmmaking, at Point Park.
Carol Riden Spendiff (A&S 1972), Mary E. London Gibbon (A&S 1972), Robin Mason and Nancy Davis-Kahrs (COM 1972) reunited and shared Point Park memories at a recent wedding in Tampa, Fla.
Peter Wentzel (COPA 1982) is senior vice president of production finance at Media Rights Capital (MRC) in Los Angeles, where he has been overseeing feature films The Dark Tower, starring Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey, and Baby Driver, starring Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, Jon Hamm and Ansel Elgort. Both are scheduled for release in 2017. Wentzel is currently in pre-production on the film Mortal Engines, by Peter Jackson, writer/director of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.
Mark Ansani (COM 1992) writes, “I am newly hired by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation in their Driver's License Center in Allison Park, Pa. I also was recently promoted to Master Sergeant in the United States Air Force Reserve.” He earned his degree in journalism and communication at Point Park.
Patricia Lonsbury (BUS ’00) was recently appointed director of development for the School of Medicine at West Virginia University. Prior to that she was a major gift officer for the American Red Cross, Southwestern Pennsylvania Chapter and a managing director at Bob Carter Companies. Lonsbury has also managed international philanthropy projects for UNICEF and has had a long career in development and fundraising. She earned her M.B.A. in international business at Point Park in 2000.
Robert L. Horvat, Jr. P.E. (A&S ’06) has joined Entech Engineering, Inc. as the regional director of the company’s Pittsburgh office, as well as a project manager. He has nearly 25 years of industry experience in the municipal, water, and wastewater fields, including operations, applications, and engineering. Entech’s Vice President and Civil/Environmental Resources Manager Robert Weir, P.E., said, “We’re excited to have Rob join us and continue to build Entech’s presence in the Pittsburgh area, as well as throughout the Commonwealth. We know with his great attitude and experience, he will do great things.” Horvat earned his bachelor’s degree in civil engineering technology in 2006.
Lindsey Whissel Fenton (COPA ’08), a senior producer/director at WPSU Penn State, was honored with a 2016 Mid-Atlantic Emmy for excellence in a program or special that covers schools, teaching or education. Fenton produced the winning program, You Can't Say That, which documents Penn State's popular SOC119 course on race and ethnic relations. She earned her degree in cinema and digital arts at Point Park.
Jennifer Bullano-Ridgley (BUS ’07), senior director of communications and media relations for the Pittsburgh Penguins, was honored with a 2016 Mid-Atlantic Emmy for excellence in the “Sports - One-Time Special” category for There's No Place Like Home with Sidney Crosby (in which hockey superstar Crosby himself was among the nominees). She earned her M.B.A. degree at Point Park in 2007. The Mid-Atlantic Chapter, which represents Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and parts of Ohio, presented 86 Emmys in 78 categories for excellence in television programming and individual achievement.
Scott Schubert (A&S ’08, ’09) has been appointed the new acting chief for the Pittsburgh Police. He earned his bachelor’s degree in accelerated law enforcement in 2008 and his master’s degree in criminal justice administration in 2009, at Point Park.
Anthony Pignetti (COM ’08) was recently promoted to chief director of business development with the Reading Fightin’ Phils baseball team, the A.A. affiliate of the Philadelphia Phillies, located in Reading, Pa. He is a 2008 graduate of Point Park, where he earned his degree in broadcasting.
Melodee Holsinger (COPA ’02) is now known as Miss Melodee to children across the country. Her music and videos are available on iTunes, Amazon, Google+ and more, and featured on Speakaboos.com, a top 5 reading app for preschool children. She is also the owner and president of Miss Melodee Studios, specializing in dance and arts education for children, and a co-owner of Melstar Entertainment, which manages her children's music and entertainment brand. Melstar Entertainment's feature film division, Sure Crossing Films, recently released a family adventure film, Lost & Found, through Sony Pictures and AMC Theaters. The movie, which stars Cary Elwes, Jason Patric, Justin Kelly, Benjamin Stockham, Celeste Desjardins and Greg Bryk, opened in limited theaters (including Pittsburgh) on Jan 6 and is now available VOD/DVD. See the trailer. Holsinger earned her degree in musical theatre at Point Park in 2002.
Ange Loiseau (COM ’10), former program coordinator and organizational support at Bayer Corporation/Bayer MaterialScience, is now community affairs officer for Covestro (formerly Bayer MaterialScience).
Gianna Martello (COM ’11), is a choreographer best known for her work on Lifetime’s hit series Dance Moms, which follows the training and careers of children in dance and show business under the tutelage of Abby Lee Miller. Martello has appeared on the show since season one, assisting Miller to choreograph the performances of the show’s stars such as Maddie Ziegler, Mackenzie Ziegler and Kendall Vertes. Martello has been choreographing routines for the Abby Lee Dance Company (ALDC) since she was 16 years old. She has been a part of the faculty at the ALDC for 11 years and has been a guest instructor and judge around the world on competition circuits. Her award-winning routines have earned her regional and national titles, as well as awards for choreography. Martello’s choreography can also be seen in music videos for Todrick Hall, Kendall Vertes, Alexx Calise and MackZ. Martello earned her degree in advertising and public relations from Point Park in 2011. She currently splits her time between Pittsburgh and Los Angeles.
Matthew Walsh (BUS ’16) and Christina Forster were married on July 9, 2016 at St. Mary’s of the Mount church in Pittsburgh.
Olivia Ciotoli (COM ’14) writes, “I have started my own LLC, The Black Cat Market. It will be Pittsburgh's very first cat cafe, where customers can enjoy coffee, tea, and baked goods while interacting with adoptable cats. We are partnered with Animal Rescue League and will be located in Bloomfield. The Black Cat Market will be opening this January/February. Learn more about the market. Ciotoli earned her degree in photojournalism in 2014.
Elena LaQuatra (COM ’14) and Aster Teclay (BUS ’14) were honored among Pittsburgh’s 40 Under 40 for 2016. Pittsburgh Urban Magnet Project (PUMP) and Pittsburgh Magazine hosted the 18th annual 40 Under 40 Awards to recognize individuals under the age of 40 whose creativity, vision, and passion enrich the Pittsburgh region. LaQuatra earned her degree in broadcasting and Teclay earned his M.B.A. at Point Park. Both graduated in 2014.
Claire Gysegem (COM ’13) earned a master’s degree in public media from Ohio University in 2016. She is now the community liaison for Trumbull County Children Services in Warren, Ohio. She graduated from Point Park with a degree in broadcast journalism in 2013.
Deandre Williamson (COM ’13) has been honored with the prestigious Walter Cronkite Bust for a first place finish in the conference paper competition. Williamson, an editor /journalist, also addressed the 3rd Annual Walter Cronkite Conference on Media Ethics and Integrity, held at the Missouri Western State University last November. The conference is both a celebration of the legacy of Walter Cronkite and a discussion of the future of journalism. A member of The Bahamas Press Club, Williamson presented on the topic 'Ethical Challenges in Bahamian Journalism: The Case for a Code of Ethics.' “This is a research study I did for my master's thesis as a student at Point Park University. I'm proud of my work in journalism research, which took me two years to complete,” she said. Williamson is a former editor and reporter at The Bahama Journal. She was a student speaker at Point Park’s Graduate Hooding Ceremony in 2014 and received an Academic Excellence Award in Journalism and Mass Communication. She interned at KDKA-TV, Pittsburgh and at CNN Headline News in Atlanta.
Kaitlin Villines (COPA ’12) and Ian Lupo (A&S ’14) were married in June 2016 in Pittsburgh. The bridal party included Sarah Garren Owens, Sarah Rills Mayer, and Bri Feindt, all members of the class of 2012. Other alumni in attendance included Elizabeth Birdsell Mutschler (BUS ’11), Melissa Tyler (COPA ’09) and Nicole Flasch Jamison (COPA ’13). Kaitlin, who earned her degree in dance (with a minor in accounting) in 2012, is a ballet dancer with Bodiography Contemporary Ballet. Ian, who earned his degree in electrical engineering in 2014, is an engineer with Industrial Scientific Corporation. The happy couple said they moved to Pittsburgh to receive their education from Point Park, but fell in love with the city and have made it their home.
Richelle Szypulski (COM ’13) is an editorial assistant for Travel+Leisure; Emily Berk (COM ’11) is a producer for the Today Show, NBC Universal; and Kate Santichen (COM ’07) is a senior video producer for Money magazine. They joined Jan Getz, former Point Park faculty member and broadcaster-in-residence, for a mini-reunion at Obao restaurant in New York City in fall 2016.
By Timothy Cox (COM 1980)
As an alumnus and frequent reader of The Point, I often peruse the magazine to see if I recognize any of my classmates from the mid to late 1970s. Several months ago, The Point did a wonderful feature on Ron "Moondog" Esser, a philanthropist and owner of Moondogs, the famous Blues music club in Blawnox, Pa.
Esser is also my former band-mate, who joined me and three other musicians to form what we [believe to be] the first-ever Point Park Jazz Ensemble in 1978. We initially used our jazz stylings to accompany [Point Park] dancers, who utilized our music to help prepare for dance performances.
We later renamed ourselves WOODSTREET, in homage to our downtown Pittsburgh location, and performed popular music including punk-rock sounds created by then-new groups such as The Police and The Cars. Of course we also played The Beatles. We managed to stay true to our jazz origins by continuing to play contemporary funk-jazz tunes like "Mr. Magic" by Grover Washington Jr., and "Pickup The Pieces" by The Average White Band, along with compositions by Count Basie, Dave Brubeck and Tom Scott. The band typically rehearsed in one of the dance studios [used] by students who studied jazz, ballet, Afro, tap [and more]. Needless to say, we had close ties with the student dance community.
Our quintet featured a diverse group of college kids who came from various parts of Pittsburgh and western Pa. I received my degree in journalism and communications in 1980. I continued in music after moving to Atlanta in the early 1990s, and currently perform with (and manage) a successful wedding band in Augusta, Ga. called “PlayBack-The Band," now celebrating its 25th anniversary.
In addition to Esser and myself, the Point Park band included: Philip Smith (tenor sax); Phil Harris (rhythm guitar) and Tony Sanchez (lead and rhythm guitars). I played drums and Esser was the bass player. Smith is now a successful businessman and entrepreneur in suburban Washington, D.C., Harris owns a bookstore in Sewickley, Pa. [and enjoys] a career as a music writer, and Sanchez continues practicing law in metropolitan Pittsburgh. I now live in suburban Washington, D.C., where I work as a technical writer in the defense contracting industry.
Philip Smith and I [recently reconnected through Facebook] and reunited about a year ago to trade stories, after a 30-year lapse in contact. In retrospect, he should be credited for having the forethought to form [the band]. He was a music major at West Virginia University before transferring to Point Park [and] was our unofficial band leader."
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