2009 UMBC Alumni of the Year & Distinguished Service Award Winners

Originally published Fall 2009

ENGINEERING AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

Dr. James P. Clements ’85, ’91 & ’93, Information Systems, was recently appointed President of West Virginia University in Morgantown, WVa. He is the first UMBC alumnus to lead a major university. Prior to his appointment, Dr. Clements was Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs at Towson University. A TU employee since 1989, he also served as a faculty member, Vice President for Economic and Community Outreach and Chairman of the Department of Computer and Information Sciences. Dr. Clements has published and presented more than 70 papers on management, information systems and technology. The fourth edition of his project management book is used in more than 20 countries and published in four languages.

HUMANITIES

Jeffrey “Duff” Goldman ’97, History, is known for turning traditional confections into out-of-this-world creations on his Food Network show “Ace of Cakes.” After completing his UMBC degree, Goldman attended the Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley, Calif. His company, Charm City Cakes, has baked cakes for events including the “Kung Fu Panda” premier and the Maryland Zoo’s annual Zoomerang gala. In 2000 he was a featured speaker at UMBC’s Alex Brown Center for Entrepreneurship. He also holds a Guinness Book record for baking the world’s largest cupcake, created in March 2008.

NATURAL AND MATHEMATICAL SCIENCES

Dr. Crystal Watkins ’95, Biological Sciences, studied at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She received the David E. Rogers Award for the highest standards of professionalism, medical ethics and community leadership. Dr. Watkins’ graduate research was featured in the Wall Street Journal and led to a U.S. patent for a treatment of diabetic disorders. She has also traveled to Ghana and worked with the Princess of Ada and Ministry of Health to implement HIV/AIDS health education and prevention programs.

SOCIAL AND BEHAVIORAL SCIENCES

The Honorable Jon S. Cardin M.P.P. ’96, Policy Sciences, represents residents of northwest Baltimore County in the Maryland House of Delegates where he serves on the Ways and Means Committee. Much of his legislation focuses on election, tax and education reform. In February he was awarded the Humane Society of the United States’ Humane Legislator Award for developing legislation that gives shelters access to drugs needed to properly sedate animals prior to euthanasia. Cardin also serves as a member of the Board of Directors/Advisors for the Baltimore Shakespeare Festival, the Camp Shohola Scholarship Fund, Baltimore Hebrew University, UMBC Hillel, The American Council of Young Political Leaders, Institute for Progressive Leadership and the Maryland Public Interest Law Project.

VISUAL AND PERFORMING ARTS

Laura Pasquini ’98, Visual Arts, is the director of Youth and Family Programs at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in the Washington, D.C. She oversees the operation of all classes, programs and camps for children and their families. In her time there she has redefined the overall vision and mission of the Corcoran’s after school program, Corcoran ArtReach. She installed and supported fundraising efforts for the annual ArtReach exhibit. At UMBC, Pasquini worked in the Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture as an undergraduate intern where she worked to make art exhibits accessible and interesting to public school students through a series of creative projects based on gallery exhibits.

DISTINGUISHED SERVICE AWARD

Gustavo Matheus, Esq. LLC ’90, Biological Sciences, is always thinking of new ways to connect with UMBC alumni and is particularly interested in engaging alumni in the Washington, D.C. area. He is intimately involved in growing and maintaining the Esperanza Endowment, which supports and inspires current and future UMBC students of Latino or Hispanic ancestry and/or students who are committed to the advancement of minorities. Matheus, who practices law in Rockville, Md., mentors student members of the scholarship committee and has been instrumental in connecting with alumni who choose to support the fund.

RISING STAR AWARD

Alicia Wilson ’04, Political Science, is an associate at Gordon Feinblatt, Rothman, Hoffberger and Hollander, LLC. Prior to her position the firm’s Litigation Practice Group, she served as a clerk for the Honorable David Young for the Circuit Court of Baltimore City. Wilson spent her third year of law school at Susan Leviton’s Juvenile Law, Children’s Issues and Legislative Advocacy Clinic. She also coached the Mock Trail team at the Baltimore Freedom Academy – a high school with curriculum and culture focused on social justice and activism.

2010 UMBC Alumni of the Year & Distinguished Service Award Winners

ENGINEERING AND INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY

Michael George ’87, Information Systems, has spent the past 12 years with Amazon.com in Seattle, WA. Mike started his Amazon career as the Director of Systems and Networking Operations. Since then, he has held senior positions that span several functional areas; Director of WW Third Party Platforms, GM/Dir of WW Marketplace, VP of Human Resources, VP of WW Payments, VP of Spoken Word Audio, and now VP of a yet-to-be-announced new business. Mike joined Amazon through the acquisition of the Junglee Corp. in mid-1998; where he was VP of Business Development. Prior to Junglee, Mike spent 14 years in the newspaper industry; working for the Baltimore Sun, USA Today and the Washington Post Co. Mike is named on several patents and pending patents related to marketplace, payments and group buying business processes and technologies.
HUMANITIES

Vikki Valentine ’96, English, is an award-winning science journalist and senior editor for NPR’s science unit and lead editor of NPR’s environment, energy and climate coverage. Before that, she managed the desk’s daily digital output of science, environmental, health and technology stories, and initiated major features and series. Prior to NPR, Valentine worked at Discovery.com and BaltimoreSun.com. Her writing has also been published by the Smithsonian Channel, The New York Times, National Geographic, Marketplace Radio, Science, and Washingtonian. Valentine graduated with honors from the University College London Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine master’s program in 2005; and magna cum laude from the University of Maryland Baltimore County in 1996, with a major in English and minors in anthropology and writing. She currently resides in Washington, D.C.
NATURAL AND MATHEMATICAL SCIENCES

Michael I. Nishimura ’80 BA ’84 MS ’89, PhD Biological Sciences, has devoted his career to developing novel immunologic approaches for cancer therapy and is recognized for his talents as a scientific mentor. Building upon his strong genetics and immunology training acquired at UMBC, he pioneered the use of retroviral vectors encoding T cell receptor (TCR) genes to engineer an individual’s own lymphocytes to be able recognize and control the patients cancer cells or virus-infected cells. The first clinical trial using TCR gene modified T cells was conducted in Denmark using one of Dr. Nishimura’s TCR’s targeting the melanoma protein MART-1. Dr Nishimura serves as the Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Surgery at the Medical University of South Carolina and has assembled a strong clinical and scientific team committed to bringing this and other novel cellular therapies to the clinic.
SOCIAL AND BEHAVIORAL SCIENCES

Chad Cradock ’97, Psychology, was named to UMBC Athletics’ Hall of Fame in 2004 after a stellar career as a Retriever from 1993 until his graduation in 1997 and immediately became an assistant coach, but his greater contribution to the UMBC family would begin in 2001 when he became just the second head coach of the swimming and diving program. Since he took over, the Retriever men have won nine consecutive conference championships, including seven straight America East titles, while the women have won four conference crowns. In addition, the amount of alumni giving has gone up over 1,200% during his tenure. Cradock and his staff have been named Coach/Coaching Staff of the Year six times, including being named 2010 America East Coaching Staff of the Year.
VISUAL AND PERFORMING ARTS

Dean Alexander ’88, Visual Arts, is a photographer and the owner of Dean Alexander Productions, Inc., based in Baltimore Maryland. His work covers a broad range from advertising and editorial to fine art and has taken him to over 40 countries throughout the world. Clients range from corporations such as IBM and UnderArmour to non-profits such as the National Institute of Health and HealthCare for the Homeless. Subjects range from Oprah Winfrey and Lady Sutherland (Lady-in-Waiting to the Queen of England) to Baltimore’s homeless. He has been invited to speak at various institutions including, MICA (Maryland Institute College of Art), Boston University’s Center For Digital Imaging Arts and the U. S. House of Representatives Page School at the Library of Congress. He has won nearly 100 international awards in his career.
DISTINGUISHED SERVICE AWARD

Gene Trainor ’86, Health Science & Policy and Economics, is the Chief Operating Officer of Foundation Capital, a Menlo Park CA – based venture capital firm. Prior to joining Foundation, Gene served for 10 years as the Administrative General Partner and the Chief Operating Officer for New Enterprise Associates. Prior to joining NEA, Gene was an Executive Vice President and the Chief Operating Officer of Cramer Rosenthal McGlynn, LLC, and before that the CFO/Controller of a Mid-Atlantic venture capital firm and a member of the audit group for Ernst & Young, LLP. A certified public accountant, he earned BA degrees from UMBC in Economics and Health Science and Policy with certificates in Accounting, Finance and Managerial Economics. Gene received his MBA from Loyola College of Maryland. Gene serves on the board of the non-profit Families of Spinal Muscular Atrophy.
RISING STAR AWARD

Aaron Merki ’05, Political Science, graduated from UMBC as a Sondheim Public Affairs Scholar and then attended University of Maryland School of Law as the Bekman Leadership Scholar. While there, Aaron founded the FreeState Legal Project, which provides legal services to low-income LGBT clients throughout the Greater Baltimore region. Aaron was named the National LGBT Bar Association’s 2008 student leader of the year. After graduating law school, Aaron accepted a judicial clerkship with the Hon. Susan K. Gauvey of the United States District Court for Maryland. Now an Associate at Venable LLP, Aaron’s clients range from Fortune 500 companies to low-income individuals. He continues to serve as Chairman of the FreeState Legal Project Board of Directors, which now includes judges, professors, elected officials, and some of Walter Sondheim’s closest friends.