Alumni Awards 2016: Dr. Henry Baker ’78, Ph.D. ’84, Biological Sciences

In the weeks leading up to the 2016 Alumni Awards Ceremony, we’ll be profiling each honoree in detail here on the blog. This year’s distinguished alum in the Natural and Mathematical Sciences category is Dr. Henry Baker ’78, and Ph.D. ’84, biological sciences. At the University of Florida College of Medicine, Dr. Baker is the Hazel Kitzman Professor of Genetics, as well as a professor of surgery and chair of the department of molecular genetics and microbiology. He is also associate director of the University of Florida Genetics Institute.

h-baker_headshotAs a researcher at the University of Florida College of Medicine, Dr. Henry Baker looks at patients’ genes to determine how they will respond to certain types of treatment for traumatic injuries, as well as what their prognosis might be. The Catonsville native got his start when UMBC was, in his words, “that new college down the street,” conducting undergraduate research in Dr. Frank Hanson’s laboratory. “The biological sciences curriculum was exceptionally well laid out,” he says, “and the integration with undergraduate labs was phenomenal.” After completing his doctorate under the mentorship of Dr. Richard Wolf — someone who Dr. Baker says had the greatest impact on his career — he went on to a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School before accepting a faculty position at Florida, where he’s been ever since. Over the past three decades (and counting), he’s risen in the ranks from assistant professor to endowed professor and department chair, and also sits on the executive and medical admissions committees. He has stayed in contact with his Ph.D. mentor over the years, and says he is proud of how far UMBC has come since he was a student here, particularly in the achievements of President Dr. Freeman Hrabowski and the Meyerhoff Scholars Program. He also takes pride in his relationships with friends, family, and colleagues, and in working with diverse groups of people to help them achieve their goals.

Join us for the Alumni Awards Ceremony on Thursday, October 6, in the Earl and Darielle Linehan Concert Hall.

Alumni Awards 2016: Dr. Vince Calhoun, Ph.D. ’02, Electrical Engineering

In the weeks leading up to the 2016 Alumni Awards Ceremony, we’ll be profiling each honoree in detail here on the blog. This year’s distinguished alum in the Engineering and Information Technology category is Dr. Vince Calhoun, Ph.D. ’02, electrical engineering. Dr. Calhoun is executive science officer and director of image analysis and MR research at the Mind Research Network, as well as a distinguished professor at the University of New Mexico.


Dr. Vince Calhoun first became interested in imaging technology as an undergraduate at the University of Kansas, specifically MRI and how else engineering principles could be applied to map the human body. After earning master’s degrees in both biomedical engineering and information systems from Johns Hopkins, he saw UMBC’s electrical engineering program as the next logical step, given his research interests. Today, Dr. Calhoun is executive science officer for the Mind Research Network, and a distinguished professor of electrical and computer engineering, biology, computer science, neurosciences, and psychiatry at the University of New Mexico. His lab develops algorithms by which scientists can study the brain through imaging and genetic data. He says one of his greatest challenges as a researcher has been translating his findings in a way that helps people, specifically those with mental illnesses like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder: “We are making great strides in developing approaches to aid in disease categorization and diagnosis, but we still have a long way to go.”  Dr. Calhoun is also a five-year cancer survivor, and credits his wife, his three children, and his Christian faith (he holds a certificate in theological studies from the Seminary of the East) for helping him overcome that obstacle.

Join us for the Alumni Awards Ceremony on Thursday, October 6, at the Earl and Darielle Linehan Concert Hall.


Alumni Awards 2016: Dr. Tiffany Holmes, M.F.A. ’99, Imaging and Digital Arts

In the weeks leading up to the 2016 Alumni Awards Ceremony, we’ll be profiling each honoree in detail here on the blog. This year’s distinguished alumna in the Visual and Performing Arts category is Dr. Tiffany Holmes, M.F.A. ’99, imaging and digital arts, Dean of Undergraduate Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

t-holmes_headshotIn the mid-1990s, Tiffany Holmes was teaching art at Canton Middle School as a Teach for America corps member, and when the school opened its first Internet-equipped computer lab, she took on the role of Media Specialist as well. After taking her students on a field trip to UMBC’s Imaging Research Center, Holmes decided to apply to the then-nascent Imaging and Digital Arts M.F.A. program, and was thrilled when UMBC admitted her. “I realized that I wanted to expand my creative practice into digital media,” she says, and in the early days of both the IMDA program and the World Wide Web, there were many paths to blaze on that front. Kathy O’Dell’s art history seminar, in particular, was “so contemporary and relevant to the concerns of a developing media artist.” In her doctoral work at Plymouth University in the U.K., Holmes studied the effects of art and design on electricity conservation efforts, and she earned her Ph.D. in 2010, shortly before the birth of her second child. Environmental themes are a constant in her body of work, which has been exhibited all over the world. Her latest exhibition, “Crooked Data: (Mis)Information in Contemporary Art,” is set to launch at the Harnett Museum of Art at the University of Richmond in February 2017. In addition to her creative work and her post as a dean at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Dr. Holmes has raised two children with her husband of 12 years, Duane Carter.

Join us for the Alumni Awards Ceremony on Thursday, October 6, at the Earl and Darielle Linehan Concert Hall.

Alumni Awards 2016: Thomas Sadowski ’89, Political Science

In the weeks leading up to the 2016 Alumni Awards Ceremony, we’ll be profiling each honoree in detail here on the blog. This year’s awardee in the Distinguished Service category is Thomas Sadowski ’89, political science, Vice Chancellor for Economic Development for the University System of Maryland.

t-sadowski_headshotAs the first person in his family to go to college, Tom Sadowski wanted to get the most for his tuition money. UMBC was his first choice, because it was close to home and first to accept his application. Now, almost three decades later, that investment is paying off in a big way. This past spring, Sadowski took over as vice chancellor of economic development for the University System of Maryland, where he works to leverage system research and build partnerships with the federal government and businesses across the state. Previously, he headed the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore and the Harford County Office of Economic Development. He can trace his passion for his work all the way back to Dr. Sari Bennett’s course on Metropolitan Baltimore, and credits Dr. Arthur Johnson and Dr. Dennis Muniak for their committed guidance. “I have been blessed to have the opportunity to work on big, game changing projects throughout my career,” he says. “UMBC believed in me and gave me the tools and ability to believe in myself.” One of his proudest moments? Working with federal, state, and local leaders to protect and enhance the Army mission at Aberdeen Proving Ground. He is proud of his education, his circle of friends and colleagues, and his family. Says Sadowski: “UMBC helped shape me and gave me faith in myself to take on big challenges and build a life without limits.”

Join us for the Alumni Awards Ceremony on Thursday, October 6, at the Earl and Darielle Linehan Concert Hall.


Why WAS Six Afraid of Seven, Anyway?: Shaun Johnson ’13 has answer in new book

Photo courtesy of Shaun Johnson ’13.

Shaun Johnson ’13, business technology administration, has written and illustrated his first children’s book, Why Was Six Afraid of Seven? The story is part anti-bullying parable and part reading-and-math primer, and involves the numbers Six, Seven, and Nine dealing with an interpersonal conflict and learning how to solve problems amongst themselves. (Spoiler alert: Seven doesn’t actually eat Nine. It’s only a dream, but the message is clear nonetheless.)

Johnson, who uses the pseudonym Es Kay Johns, says the idea first came to him in a creative writing class he took here at UMBC in 2011. “I don’t even think I ended up using it for the class,” he says, but because it was a twist on a familiar joke, “it always stuck out for me.”

Johnson also has a background in design — he went to high school for it — and when he got the Adobe Suite for his graduate program, he saw a perfect opportunity to illustrate his own book. After a successful Kickstarter campaign and a good round of testing with his young nephew and coworkers’ kids (Johnson works for the Department of Defense by day), the book is now available on Amazon in paperback and hardcover.

“I really want kids to [take from the book] that bullying is wrong, and you should be able to talk about your problems. You shouldn’t have to attack someone verbally or physically…[to] work it out,” he says.

Have you published a book recently? Submit a class note to Retriever Stories by Saturday, October 15, and tell us all about what you’ve been up to!

A Correction from the Editor of UMBC Magazine


The cover of the Summer 2016 issue of UMBC Magazine you may have received in the mail has a significant error for which I would like to personally apologize to our readers.

In our image of professors then and now, the magazine cover mistakenly paired a recent photo of Professor Emeritus of Africana Studies Willie Lamousé-Smith with an archival photo of longtime UMBC professor of Africana Studies Jonathan Peters from the Albin O. Kuhn Library’s collection of university photographs.

Our magazine team has redesigned the magazine cover digitally to pair Professor Lamousé-Smith with a correct image – which we have posted on the magazine website, to our Facebook site, and to our wider UMBC Alumni site. But I did not catch the error before the magazine was sent to the printing press and then on to our readers.

As you will discover both in the “Editor’s Note” to this issue and in the story about the founding faculty of the university (“So You Want to Be a Pioneer?”), Professor Lamousé-Smith’s wisdom and spirit have played a significant role in UMBC’s rising fortunes as a university through the decades. I have reached out to Professor Lamousé-Smith personally to apologize for this error.

The many contributions and achievements of our faculty and staff are a significant part of what we are celebrating this year in UMBC’s 50th anniversary. It has been part of the mission of UMBC Magazine to tell these stories accurately. In this case, we let our readers down. We hope this note serves both to correct the record and express our regret for the error.

—Richard Byrne ’86
Editor, UMBC Magazine

Tales of Grit and Greatness: Tootsie Duvall ’75

As part of our 50th Anniversary celebration, we’ve launched Retriever Stories, a place where Retrievers of all stripes can reflect on their UMBC experience and where it’s led them. Check out this brief promo video here, then read on for the story of Susan Mohr ’75, theatre,  otherwise known as Tootsie Duvall. She’s perhaps best known for her role as Assistant Principal Marcia Donnelly on The Wire, and has appeared in numerous films and television series over the last four decades (and counting!). We asked her what grit and greatness means to her, and here’s what she told us…

tootsie-duvallGrit and Greatness is a wonderful 50th anniversary theme for UMBC – and it resonates with me. It took a lot of grit for me to work full time, go to school full time, have my own apartment, and do plays all summer for summer repertory as a teen in the 1970s.

I also had the grit to succeed in my chosen field. I was told in high school by a male guidance counselor in 1971 that “girls” were limited in their career choices. They could be teachers, secretaries, or nurses.  My own father thought it was a mistake for me to go to college.  Unless it was to find a husband.  But I found so much more.

The greatness comes in when you consider that so many of the blessings I count 42 years later flowed from my experiences at UMBC. I met my best friend, Sherry Frank ’73, who took me in to live with her when I had no place to go at age 18.  I just met her first granddaughter, Emerson, last year.  That was great!

I also met William T. Brown, who was the chair of UMBC’s theatre department. He awarded me the scholarship that allowed me complete my education. He changed the course of my life. 

Greatness was also the opportunity to compete for a National Theatre Scholarship in Washington, D.C. Even in its early days, UMBC had one of the finest theatre companies in the country. We were in the American College Theatre Festival twice in the time I went to school there, and I won the Award of Excellence from the Kennedy Center for my participation. 

All of those experiences helped me grow as a young woman, and as a human being.  William Brown even made sure we stopped rehearsing to watch the Watergate Hearings in his office. 

Being the first woman in my family to go to college was a huge event in my life – and it led to great things for me. I was in UMBC’s summer repertory and someone came to see a play that I was in, and they recommended I try out for Totem Pole Playhouse. That lead me to noted actress Jean Stapleton’s theatre. Stapleton was brand new to a show called All in the Family, and she had won numerous Emmy Awards for her performance.

I played Stapleton’s daughter in my first professional acting experience, and she introduced me to other people who became my surrogate family. Noted character actor Howard Morton took me under his wing as my surrogate father and my dearest friend. I lived in both Manhattan and in Hollywood to advance my acting career, thanks to a person who sat in the audience at UMBC for a show one summer and thought I had potential. The people I met at Totem Pole and UMBC formed my extended family and still do 40 years later. And without UMBC, and the confidence and the friendships I gained there, my life would have been much different.

I lived and breathed the theatre at UMBC, when I was not working my way through college as a rental agent. Professor Ivan Meckler taught me the science of music and that made me see science in a very different way.  I took a lot of trips to New York to get standing room tickets to see plays and thought that was a wonderful way to learn my craft by seeing other actors on stage.

What was my favorite place at UMBC? Well, I went to UMBC before the sidewalks were in, and before the four-way traffic light was installed!  (You would think I went there in a covered wagon — but a lot has changed over the past four decades.)

My favorite place was the Theatre Green Room.  I understand that the little building where we did so many wonderful productions is going to be torn down soon. But I was always there, working on costumes, running lines, building sets.  The Green Room is where actors rest before being called to the stage. But many of us would visit in there when there wasn’t a show on, since at the time I went to the school, it was basically a commuter campus. 

When I visited campus to shoot the Retriever Stories video, I could not believe that there was a Chick-Fil-A and a bank! And also so much student housing and apartments. My first apartment was at Howland Square in Westland Gardens. And when we were not on stage or back stage, we were bothering a poor waitress named Ceil at Shooks Bar in Arbutus. A crab fluff and a diet soda were a real treat back in the days!

What would I tell incoming freshman? Put down your cellphone and talk to the people around you.  Don’t just look at life through the screen of your iPhone.  Embrace the wonderful, diverse learning community.  Take walks, talk to people, and be in the moment.  Because those moments go so fast!  I am almost 63 years old, but I still look at the world like I did 40 years ago.  Take chances!  No one thought I would last a day in California.  I was making a movie with Shelley Winters within my first 2 weeks of landing in Los Angeles.  I stayed almost nine years.  Go to as many events on campus as you can, and try to think outside the box.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.  

The friendships and the relationships that you cultivate while you are at UMBC will last you the rest of your life, if you are as fortunate as I have been.  We went from hiding the fact that we smoked from our parents to hiding the fact that we smoked from our children to not smoking at all as per our doctors’ orders. Life is so short.  Don’t miss any of it. Have goals and focus on them, but take time for the sweetness of a spring afternoon to watch the redbirds and the robins.  Find balance and laugh as much as you can.  As Oscar Wilde said, “Life is too short to be taken seriously.”

Susan Mohr ’75, as told to Richard Byrne ’86 and Julia Celtnieks ’13