Each year, senior leaders select one graduate from each college who represents the best of RIT. This year, with the addition of the College of Health Sciences and Technology and the establishment of the Center for Multidisciplinary Studies as an independent academic entity, RIT will honor 10 distinguished alumni who stand out among the nearly 110,000 accomplished graduates.
President Bill Destler and the leaders of RIT’s colleges and centers will present the Distinguished Alumni Awards on April 13. For more about the 2012 Distinguished Alumni, go to www.rit.edu/alumni/recognition.
As vice president and chief information officer of Enterprise Business Solutions, John Barbano ’77 is a member of the Johnson & Johnson Senior IT Leadership Team, leading the IT teams that support corporate functions at Johnson & Johnson, and sits on the corporate group operating committee. He is also responsible for the Johnson & Johnson IT Council in the regions of Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Barbano recognizes that technology and trends in the computing industry continue to change. However, the skills he learned while at RIT—communicating well, teamwork, collaboration, presentations skills and time management—proved timeless and are still critical in his success.
Says Barbano, “If there is one thing you can take from college, it would be how to work effectively with a diverse spectrum of people, and that will take you a long way in business and in life.”
Brad Kruchten ’88 earned his master’s degree in statistics and quality management through the Center for Multidisciplinary Studies. His favorite thing about his RIT education was the breadth of courses and opportunities available, and he appreciates that his education always focused on the application of science, rather than just the theory. The hands-on learning experience made it easier to apply his knowledge in the workplace.
Kruchten has enjoyed a successful career at Eastman Kodak Co., serving as senior vice president since 2009.
He is the president of Graphics and Entertainment & Commercial Films Business, which includes Prepress, Entertainment Imaging, Commercial Film and Global Consumables Manufacturing.
Today, Kruchten remains actively engaged with RIT. Kruchten says he is impressed with the co-op program for students, noting that it is beneficial to give students the opportunity for multiple work experiences—including international opportunities—so they better understand the career specialization they ultimately pursue and making them more marketable when they graduate.
His good friend and fellow alumnus, John Siy ’82, ’97, once told Ed Gentile ’84, ’88, “Forget about getting your MBA. Go get another degree, in packaging this time—the opportunities are endless and you’ll never look back.” Heeding his friend’s advice, Gentile did just that while embracing a new passion along with a new career.
After getting a degree in business marketing in 1984, Gentile earned his bachelor’s degree in packaging science in 1988. His first position out of RIT was at McDonald Douglas Corp., where he had worked on co-op. Currently a business development executive at Perfecseal North America, he oversees sales, development and service of flexible and rigid sterile packaging products used in the health care industry. He daily applies what he terms “the great, solid technical skills I learned at RIT.”
Gentile’s advice to students is based on his own RIT success. “Get to know your classmates and professors. They will help you, not only while you’re at RIT but also in the future,” he says. “And don’t ever limit yourself.”
Chrysa Charno ’03, ’09 has a passion for people and brings that to work with her every day as a physician assistant at Vega Aesthetic & Reconstructive Surgery in Pittsford, N.Y. Many of her patients are undergoing reconstructive surgery due to breast cancer, and she enjoys being able to guide them through the difficult situations they face.
Inspired by her mother’s example of bridging the health care and business worlds, Charno returned to RIT for her MBA and became one of the first physician assistant graduates to get the degree. She has spearheaded an alumni-funded endowed scholarship for physician assistant students and continues to support RIT’s physician assistant program.
She has been the featured speaker at RIT’s annual PA Day celebrations on campus and regularly offers to help students in her on-going role as a preceptor and adjunct clinical faculty member.
Charno is the president of the Association of Plastic Surgery Physician Assistants and was recently named leader of the month by the American Academy of Physician Assistants.
She credits much of her success to the team-oriented approach to problem solving and leadership that she learned at RIT.
With an associate degree in applied science and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in professional photographic illustration from RIT, Kwaku Alston ’93, ’94 says that RIT prepared him for his career in photography by giving him the discipline to compete. He remembers sitting in Webb Auditorium and being told to look to his left and to his right and understand that these are the people who might someday hire him: A major key to success in business is relationships. Many of those same classmates went on to pursue careers as photo editors and art producers—and many remain his close friends and professional peers.
Alston encourages today’s RIT photography students to follow their dreams as well as their hearts, to have the courage to show their work and to have faith in their ability to succeed. He also believes it is important to live a balanced life, making time for family and friends, which are—“the most important things in life,” he says. Alston encourages professional equilibrium, balancing the artistic side of photography with the business side and to remember that everyone makes mistakes.“With as many accolades as I have, there are just as many mistakes that I’ve made. It’s all part of the process.”
Entering RIT as a fine arts major, Cheryl B. Rosenblum ’91 struggled to find her place within her department. She had enjoyed fine art in secondary school and it seemed natural to study it in college, but she soon realized that it was not for her and made the leap from fine arts to economics.
She thanks her economics academic advisor for guiding her through a program that led to a fulfilling career, and also credits her academic advisor in fine arts for supporting her as she made the switch.
In the economics department, Rosenblum cultivated a passion for research and a curiosity about environmental issues and their impact on the economy. In graduate school, she researched the economic costs of oil spills and became an expert on energy policy.
She then worked in transportation policy and became a government infrastructure expert.
Now, as director of strategic development for CNA, she examines government preparedness for disaster response and prevention in relation to the impact of climate change.
She cites her strong research ability, learned at RIT, as the foundation for her continued success.
When he was 11 years old, Daniel Mendelson ’88 found personal and professional inspiration in his grandmother’s end-of-life hospice care. Before entering medical school, Mendelson sought an undergraduate major that he was passionate about. He found that passion in his freshman organic chemistry class with former RIT professor Robert Gilman. Then he enrolled in the physician scientist graduate program at the University of Rochester. After earning a master’s degree in biophysics and a medical doctorate, he went on to specialize in geriatrics and palliative care. He says he now strives to be the same kind of mentor that inspired him as he trains the next generation of doctors and health care workers.
Mendelson co-founded the Geriatric Fracture Center at Highland Hospital in Rochester and he lectures worldwide on topics related to fragility fractures.
He is the founder of the Palliative Care Consultation Service at Highland Hospital and helped establish the Palliative Care Consultation Service at Strong Memorial Hospital, also in Rochester.
Mendelson is the medical director of Monroe Community Hospital, the Highlands at Brighton, Visiting Nurse Service of Rochester and Monroe County and the Baird Nursing Home.
Donald Truesdale ’87, a partner at Goldman Sachs, spent his first two years at RIT taking an overload of classes and managing a McDonald’s full time.
He then spent six months each at IBM and Xerox on co-op, took an overload of classes every quarter and still graduated in four years.
Two years later he began an MBA at the Wharton School of Business where, Truesdale admits, the experience wasn’t nearly as challenging. “Wharton was more of a ‘college’ experience than RIT—and RIT was more like a ‘job’ experience. You appreciate (the RIT experience) much more in retrospect.”
Truesdale shows his appreciation for RIT in many ways: funding scholarships, serving as a trustee and coaching current students who are as hardworking as he was. “The positive side is that RIT pushes you very hard and makes you apply your skill; the downside is that the kids are tired. They work a lot.”
RIT students aren’t the only young people to benefit from Truesdale’s coaching.
He combines his personal passion for sports and his desire to support children by volunteering with Harlem RBI, a New York City organization for inner-city youth.
Brad Fluke EE ’84 leveraged his RIT degree into a 25-year career in mixed-signal semiconductors. He credits the co-op program with providing a key first step. Currently CEO of Javelin Semiconductor, Fluke co-founded the company in 2007 to develop revolutionary CMOS cellular power amplifier (PA) technology. Javelin’s PAs are found in cell phones worldwide, including Samsung’s.
Fluke admits that the entrepreneurial side of business is what excites him. “I enjoy the challenge of penetrating a new market by pulling together the right team and defining and developing a new product that provides real value to the customer.”
He is generous, both as a mentor and as a contributor to his community, supporting several charities and serving on advisory boards for the KGCOE and the University of Texas School of Social Work. He also serves on the board of LifeWorks, an Austin, Texas, organization that helps homeless teens.
Fluke advises that staying focused is necessary, but that being able to embrace new opportunities is essential to long-term growth. “I think it’s important to be willing to take chances that lead to new opportunities, but most importantly, professional and personal success comes from believing in what you are doing.”
Jerry Nelson SVP ’69, ’74 believes in challenging the status quo in constructive ways—a talent he developed during his years at RIT/NTID while earning a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering technology.
Along with helping lead the effort that created the NTID student congress and being elected its first president, Nelson was editor of The Transcript, an underground NTID student newspaper.
He represented the college at the first NTID-Gallaudet debate and even worked as a Zamboni driver at RIT’s Ritter Arena. After graduation, he was elected to the first NTID Alumni Board, served as an alumni member of the NTID National Advisory Group and participated in numerous alumni functions across the country.
Nelson currently is involved in alumni fundraising efforts for construction of Sebastian and Lenore Rosica Hall.
He is the director of large accounts for Purple VRS, a video relay service company. He handles accounts for national corporate and deaf-owned businesses and RIT/NTID.