The Wedding Planner: Linnyette Richardson-Hall ’84

This time of the year, Linnyette Richardson-Hall’s phone never stops ringing.

The brides – 22 of them this season, to be exact – call her about the important details of their weddings at all hours of the day. Should they go with organza or satin gowns? Fresh tulips or gardenias? Garden tents or opulent ballrooms? At every turn, Linnyette’s ready.

“People think being a wedding planner is so glamorous, but it’s not,” said the Baltimore native who, in addition to running a high-profile business – Premiere Event Management – also serves as a consulting “wedding diva” on the Style Network’s “Whose Wedding is it Anyway?

“It’s really hard work,” she said. “Television has glamorized this business, but there’s a lot of pressure. (Weddings are) a financial investment and an emotional investment.”

So, how did a sociology major with interests in religion, politics and economics wind up becoming an expert on all things matrimony? Richardson-Hall certainly didn’t see it coming following her 1984 graduation from UMBC.

“Did I have any idea I was going to be a wedding planner?” she asked. “Of course not. I had a degree, but I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do.”

Following graduation, Richardson-Hall “fell into” the financial industry, working her way up the ladders of a variety of local institutions. She then moved into telecommunications, serving as a regional administrative manager for what would later be known as MCI While her career fulfilled Richardson-Hall’s need to work with people, it still left her craving more.

It wasn’t until Richardson-Hall planned her very own wedding for 300 guests in 1993 that she truly found her calling. She thrilled in the planning, the details – and the compliments she received from her guests.

A year later, she launched Premiere Event Management and, “and it’s been going gangbusters ever since,” she said, laughing.

With an ever-growing list of clients, television and publishing commitments and a side business training wedding planner wannabes, Richardson-Hall appears to have found a niche, catering to a clientele interested in creating something new and different – often while preserving the traditions of a variety of cultures.

“I don’t do cookie-cutter weddings,” said Richardson-Hall, whose Web site touts several of her weddings, including a Carribbean-themed “Moonlight on the Beach,” a formal “Hollywood Glamour” event, and a “Fall Fantasy” wedding, complete with wreaths and décor meant to bring the colors of autumn indoors.

In handling such events, Richardson-Hall seems to have found the secret to wedding planner success: knowing that the bride is always right.

“I get very close to my clients. There are so many details, but they trust me implicitly,” she said. “They’re all a creative challenge.”

– Jenny O’Grady
Originally posted in July 2005

Investing in his Future: Don Blair ’89

Question: How do you surprise a guy whose job it is to see ahead into the financial future?

Answer: Make him think he’s emcee for the night, then — quick! — pull a fast one and hand him the award.

“They got me!” admitted investment banker Don Blair ’89, of Tampa, Fla., who was named this year’s UMBC Economics Alumnus of the Year. “It was great to be back and to catch up with everybody.”

The economics department honors one graduate every year and celebrates the winner’s work at a banquet. Dr. Charles Peake, economics professor emeritus, said Blair exemplifies what the department is all about.

“Number one, he was a great student,” he said. “Number two, he’s been an active alum and he’s contributed to the university. That’s exactly the kind of person we look for.”

Blair started out at UMBC an engineering major, taking economics classes as electives just for fun. However, the more econ classes he took, the more the Catonsville native got hooked.

“I just got a lot more excited about those classes,” including “Money and Capital Markets” with Dr. Peake, he said. “The topics we covered were really relevant.”

After graduation, Blair worked as an accountant for two years in Baltimore. When he passed his CPA exam the same year, he did so with flying colors, earning the Elijah Watt Sells Gold Medal Award for the highest score in the nation.

Blair later earned his MBA from the Darden Graduate School of Business at the University of Virginia in 1994, which allowed him to move into investment banking. After working for Goldman, Sachs & Co. in New York for three years, he joined Raymond James & Associates in Tampa, where he currently serves as Managing Director of Investment Banking and head of IT services.

Somehow, he manages to balance his career with his family life. He and his wife, Laura, have three kids — Allie, Bo and Luke — which mean Blair spends an awful lot of time coaching T-ball.

“We’ve got a lot going on,” he said, laughing. “It’s challenging, but you’ve got to keep your priorities straight.”

— Jenny O’Grady
Originally posted June 2005

A Winning Strategy: Kathleen Warnock ’80

If you’re ever in the position of having to choose teammates, pick Kathleen Warnock.

Not only was she calm and collected in “the hot seat” on ABC’s “Who Wants to be a Millionaire,” she walked away from the game with a cool $50,000.

“I’m a big fan of game shows,” said Warnock, an editor with Frommers travel guides in New York who graduated from UMBC with a degree in interdisciplinary studies in 1980.

Warnock may be understating her devotion a bit. In fact, she has appeared on no less than four trivia game shows – from an obscure VH1 flop to the heights of gamedom, Jeopardy – always leaving at least a little richer than when she arrived.

Warnock seems the perfect candidate for tests of random knowledge. In addition to her work as a travel editor, she’s a playwright – one of her shows, “Grieving for Genevieve,” will be performed in New York this summer – and she’s a contributing editor with ROCKRGRL magazine. While a student at UMBC, she acted as sports editor and editor-in-chief of the Retriever, minored in ancient studies, and even took a stab at fencing.

But her winnings on the daytime version of “Millionaire” in March blew all of her other game show appearances away. Warnock attributes her good fortune to the fact that she was able to sit in on a taping before hitting the hot seat herself.

“I had a chance to spend the day watching and coming up with my strategy,” which was to use all the tools provided to her, she said. “I used all of my life lines, and all of them got me further along in the game.”

Warnock breezed through the early rounds, easily answering questions concerning compote and geldings. When a tough math question came up, however, she called her first life line, her brother-in-law, a science teacher in Montgomery County. Later on in the game, the audience helped her correctly narrow down the answer to a question about a NATO embassy bombing and up the stakes to $25,000.

After successfully using up her final strategic play – the option of switching one question for another – Warnock finally met her match with the following $100,000 question: What planet was once named “Georgium Sidus” in honor of England’s King George III?

Really, now. Does anyone know the answer to that? (It’s Uranus, by the way.)

“It was like, OK, it’s time to go home,” said Warnock, happy enough with the fifty grand. “And I walked away a winner.”

– Jenny O’Grady
Originally posted May 2005

2006 UMBC Alumni of the Year & Distinguished Service Award Winners

Originally posted Spring 2006

Outstanding Alumna

Natural & Mathematical Sciences
Diane Auer Jones ’88, M.S. Applied Molecular Biology

In addition to a successful career as an entrepreneur, government policy maker and administrator at Princeton University, in November Jones was appointed Deputy Associate Director for the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy. She also has served as an active member of the UMBC Research Park Corporation’s board of directors for the past eleven years.

Outstanding Alumnus
Steven Eidelman ’73, American Studies

After serving for three decades as an advocate for people with disabilities – most recently as national executive director of The Arc of the United States – Eidelman last fall was named the University of Delaware’s first Robert Edelsohn Chair in Disabilities Studies, as well as a Senior Fellow at the university’s Center for Disabilities Studies. In his new position, Eidelman also develops leadership training programs for government and not-for-profit managers who support people with disabilities.

Outstanding Alumnus
Visual & Performing Arts
Billy Kemp ’95, Visual and Performing Arts – Music

An accomplished multi-instrumentalist and producer, Kemp received three nominations from the Washington Area Music Association (WAMA) in 2004 including best producer. In 2003 Kemp produced Grammy-nominated and Wammy award-winning singer Debi Smith. He has been the composer for the regional Emmy award-winning Maryland Public Television series, “Outdoors Maryland,” since 1997. He has been adjunct faculty at UMBC since 1996.

Outstanding Alumna
Social & Behavioral Sciences
Lisa L. Dickerson ’78, Political Science

Prior to her appointment as the first African-American female Administrator for the Maryland Transit Administration in 2005, Dickerson served as Assistant Secretary for Equity and Economic Empowerment at the Maryland Department of Transportation, and before that garnered successes working as a congressional fellow in Washington and serving as vice president of a national telecommunications firm. During his time in office, President George H.W. Bush also appointed Dickerson to the prestigious Committee for Small Business and the Republican Council of 100.

Outstanding Alumna
Engineering and Information Technology
Donna Stevenson ’87, Information Systems

As head of Early Morning Software, Stevenson is one of only a few minority women CEOs of an IT company in Maryland and the rest of the United States. She remains an active volunteer at UMBC, most notably as a member of the Center for Women and Information Technology advisory board and a mentor-in-residence for the ACTiVATE program, which promotes entrepreneurship among women.

Distinguished Service Award
Michael L. Oster ’74, Economics

As chairman of the UMBC Economics Advisory Board since its inception in 2001, Oster has helped shape the council’s objectives, facilitate scholarships and internships for students and created many valuable connections for the University. An accomplished banking executive, Oster joined BB&T in 1999 as a regional president and became Maryland Group President in 2001. His time and talents also benefit the boards of a number of worthy organizations, many of them in his home, Carroll County.

Visionary Leadership Award

The Alumni Association Executive Board will present this special award to the Reginald F. Lewis Event Committee in recognition of their achievement in advancing the mission of the Alumni Association. The committee members are:

Kisha Matthews ’03
Yvette Mozie-Ross ’88
Devin Walker ’89
James Wiggins ’75
Gary Brooks ’79
Michael Sterling ’85
Juan Holcomb ’81
Crystal Watkins ’95

UMBC Athletic Hall of Fame

The UMBC Athletic Hall of Fame was instituted in 1970’s, and has grown to include 96 members. Hall of Famers are chosen by a committee of athletic alumni based on their excellence on the fields and courts and their subsequent graduation from UMBC.

Visit the UMBC Athletic Hall of Fame online

Past UMBC Alumni Award Winners

Distinguished Alumna/us of the Year Award

Established in 1988, the Distinguished Alumna/us Award was presented to an alumna/us who has achieved national recognition for excellence in his/her profession or field of endeavor.   This award was presented until 2003. Past recipients were:

2003:    Diane L. Bell-McKoy ’73
2002:    Ram S. Mohan ’92
2001:    Richard Chisolm ’82 and William Whiteford ’80
2000:    Dr. Tayebeh Pourmotabbed ’86
1999:    Robert G. Seasonwein, Esq. ’71
1998:    Charles L. Bevins, M.D., Ph.D. ’76 & ’86
1997:    Dr. Charles A. Taylor, ’73
1996:    Dr. Richard Lytel ’75, Dr. Lauren A. Schnaper ’71 and Peggy Southerland ’75
1995:    Dr. Jo Ann E. Argersinger ’74
1994:    Dr. Blair Grubb ’76
1993:    Ruth Williamson ’77
1992:    Dr. Stephen Vicchio ’73
1991:    Dr. Rita Berndt ’71
1990:    Dr. Paula Grabowski ’76
1989:    Dr. Robin West ’76
1988:    Dr. Winston Griner ’74

Outstanding Alumna/us Award

Established in 1991, the Outstanding Alumna/us Award was presented to an alumna/us who received recognition for the contributions s/he had made to his/her profession or community, and for the individual’s volunteer participation and advancement of UMBC.   This award was presented until 2003. Past recipients were:

2003:    The Honorable Adrienne A. Jones ’76
2002:    Paul W. Behrens ’80 and ’83
2001:    Karen Johnson ’85
2000:    Jennifer Anne Cooper ’94
1999:    Roosevelt Hairston, Jr., Esq. ’87
1998:    George Thomas Grace, M.D. ’77
1997:    Richard S. Foster ’73 and Richard Moreland ’83
1996:    W. Jack Mullen ’72 and Kimberly Joseph ’83
1995:    Dr. Scott M. Rifkin ’81
1994:    Nathan Chapman, Jr. ’80
1993:    The Honorable Dana Levitz ’70
1992:    The Honorable David Young ’74
1991:    The Honorable Lawrence LaMotte ’71

Alumni Community Leadership Award

Established in 1994, the Alumni Community Leadership Award recognized an alumna/us who had demonstrated, through dedicated service and leadership, including voluntary service beyond employment, a commitment to strengthening the community and creating positive change for society. This award was presented until 2003. Past recipients were:

2003:    Emily A. Byrne ’70
2002:    Elsa T. Collins ’95
2001:    Gary M. Brooks ’79
2000:    Cheryl Burke-Schwarz, D.V.M. ’82
1999:    James P.M. Atsaides, Ph.D. ’71
1998:    Anita Maddox Jackson ’80 and Karin Wagner Walker, M.Div., D.Min. ’85
1997:    Jack B. Neil ’77
1996:    The Honorable Thomas H. Dewberry ’73
1995:    Dr. Michael L. Zollicoffer ’80
1994:    Bobby Richardson ’89

UMBC Volunteer(s) of the Year

This award was presented until 2003. Past recipients were:

2003:    Robert A. Baruch ’89
2002:    Michael A. Rowe ’78 and C. Emmerson Small, II ’74
2001:    Scott E. Weber ’85
2000:    Jack Suess ’81
1999:    Maureen McCormick ’91
1998:    Diana Fertsch, M.D., Ph.D. ’82 and Stephen Rice ’79
1997:    Robert Dietrich ’70 and Mary “Mimi” Haw Dietrich ’70
1996:    Lori Smith-Watson ’85 and Yvette Mozie-Ross ’88
1995:    William Glover ’90
1994:    Michele Hayes ’85
1993:    James Andercyk ’88 and Jose Barata ’79
1992:    Tyrone Bullock, Sr. ’84
1991:    Edward Hodges ’82
1990:    Sandra Geest ’72, Mary Beth Schoch Engelbride ’84 and James L. Wiggins ’75

2005 UMBC Alumni of the Year & Distinguished Service Award Winners

Originally posted Spring 2005

See a slideshow of the event

Life Sciences
Sheldon Broedel, 1984 M.S. and 1990 Ph.D. Biological Sciences, is chief executive and science officer of Athena Environmental Sciences. This 10-year-old company, headquartered at techcenter@UMBC, specializes in “ecologically responsible and economically sound solutions to environmental problems.”

Sean Carton, 1990 English, is Dean of Digital Design at Philadelphia University, the author of Dot Bomb and a frequent contributor to Wired magazine. As co-founder of Carton Donofrio Interactive, a web and multimedia design firm in Baltimore, he created a multi-million dollar company with numerous Fortune 500 clients.

Visual and Performing Arts
Brian Dannelly, 1997 Visual and Performing Arts, whose first feature film “Saved!” was released in 2004. It was reviewed by major national media and is now on DVD. Dannelly has several other feature projects under way.

Social and Behavioral Sciences
Renato A. DiPentima, 1984 Ph.D. Public Policy, is president and CEO of SRA International, a leading provider of technology services to clients in national security, government, health care and public health. Fortune magazine has named SRA as one of the “100 Best Companies to Work For” for five consecutive years.

Engineering and Information Technology
Dr. Yue (Joseph) Wang, 1995 Ph.D. Electrical Engineering, an associate professor at Virginia Tech, leads a $5.5 million breast cancer research effort. He was recently inducted into the College of Fellows of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering for his contributions to biomedical informatics.

Distinguished Service Award
Walter Kerr, 1996 B.S. and 1997 M.S. Emergency Health Services, a flight paramedic with the Maryland State Police, provides in-flight clinical training for UMBC paramedic students, a unique opportunity available only at UMBC thanks in large measure to his efforts.