Distinguished Alumni Award 2019

College of Art and Design

Head shot Theresa Fitzgerald

Theresa Fitzgerald ’84
Vice President Creative, Sesame Workshop

Theresa Fitzgerald is known for leading creative teams with the spirit of joy and collaboration for brand brilliance. She has had the privilege to inspire some of the world’s biggest kids’ brands like Nickelodeon, Snoopy and the Peanuts Gang, Scholastic, and Mattel. Currently, Theresa is vice president creative at Sesame Workshop, the global nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street with the mission to help kids grow smarter, stronger and kinder. Along with her in-house team, outside agencies and freelancers, she creates in order to express the brand across multiple touch points for smart and relevant expression, including digital games, theme parks, consumer products, marketing, philanthropic communications, and social impact content. Theresa is passionate about the possibilities in the design profession and shares her knowledge and experiences with students while teaching at New York University Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development. She is also on the education council of the Cooper Hewitt, advisory council of the Brooklyn STEAM Center at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, and a recent collaborator with RIT’s 2019 senior class of Industrial Design students to re-imagine play.

College of Engineering Technology

Head shot Theresa Fitzgerald

Kyle Sayers ’99
Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer
LeChase Construction Services, LLC

With more than two decades of industry experience, Kyle L. Sayers brings well-rounded expertise and knowledge of field and office operations to the LeChase team, overseeing the management of projects and client relationships, and providing direction and leadership to support the team’s continuous growth.

Kyle began carving his construction career path as a teen, working as a carpenter and heavy-equipment operator for a residential contractor and the local municipality where he grew up. He continued honing his skills as a project manager for DiMarco Constructors Corporation. In 1997, he brought his passion for the business to LeChase, joining the ranks as a project engineer. Since that time, he has worked on a wide range of projects and markets in various capacities including director of preconstruction and director of field operations. In 2009, Kyle was promoted to vice president, in 2012 was named executive vice president, and in 2018 was named chief operating officer.

He is a graduate of the Green Building Contractor’s Future Construction Leaders of NYS Program and RIT’s Construction Management Advisory Board. He is also a member of the Sons of the American Legion—Matthew Clary Post. Kyle served as co-chair of the 2016 Highland Hospital Foundation Gala.

He earned his B.S. degree in civil engineering technology from RIT, where he has helped inspire and educate future construction professionals as an adjunct professor.

College of Health Sciences and Technology

Head shot Edward Shanshala

Edward D. Shanshala, II ’85, ’87, MS ’00
Chief Executive Officer
Ammonoosuc Community Health Services, Inc.

The decade after Watson, Crick, and Franklin discovered DNA, Edward Shanshala entered the world. Born in a sleepy little town named after General Joseph Warren in the heart of the Allegheny National Forest in Northwest Pennsylvania, it was a place that benefited from the post-World War II industrial boom. The collapse of the United States steel industry would come a decade later.

Ed’s first recollections of healthcare were that of penicillin and the pain inflicted by the blunt bit end of autoclaved needles, as well as from the orthopedic visits he received monthly in a cold, dark basement of a church where the physicians came to care for his feet at the “Crippled Children’s Center.” It was these experiences that began his quest to “find a better way” in all he pursued.

After an exceptional high school education, Ed headed to RIT to pursue chemistry and biotechnology, minoring in philosophy. Eight years of pharmacology research and a master's degree in education and human development from the University of Rochester Warner School followed. Soon after, a unique opportunity presented itself.

In 1997, shortly after Congress passed the Balanced Budget Act, Rochester’s Strong Memorial Hospital was faced with a immediate need to reduce costs. This was Ed’s opportunity to use his background in science and technology on reengineering efforts. His team was successful, yet it also led to the department’s dismantling. Off he went to rural Home Healthcare and Finger Lakes Visiting Nurse Service (FLVNS) which faced an equally daunting transition from Medicare Fee-for-Service to Medicare Prospective Payment System. Ed made this project the thesis for his master of science in health systems administration from RIT’s College of Health Sciences and Technology. The success of this project was easy to measure—while 30% of the nation’s 10,000 Medicare Certified Home Health Agencies went out of business—FLVNS did not!

Next, Ed headed to urban Rochester Primary Health Network a Federally Qualified Health Center. It was here he first encountered the “Health Center Movement” which aligned health care with community and a focus on primary preventive care. Eager to apply skills honed, he accepted the invitation of CEO Norrine Williams, to join Ammonoosuc Community Health Services, Inc. (ACHS) in rural New Hampshire In 2005 to become COO transitioning to CEO in 2008 when Norrine retired.

Today, Ed enjoys being part of a team that wrestles with the hard questions facing today’s healthcare. He is a leader in healthcare at a time that is demanding a paradigmatic shift in how we think about individual and population-based health. He works to forge a healthcare paradigm that embraces healthcare as prerequisite to our right of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Together with his team they seek to redefine the funding of healthcare as an investment with a return on investment, and to create support structures for individuals and populations to take accountability for their healthcare choices now and for future generations. The goal is to develop the right interventions, for the right people, at the right time, at the right price; increasing access and decreasing disparities. He believes this is the nexus for investing in healthcare.

Ed’s career can best be described as eclectic and circuitous. He continues to be a life-long learner and has had the privilege of mentorship from individuals who have pushed him professionally and personally to pursue excellence. He considers himself a curator of a corporate and clinical culture—where language matters in framing the why, what, and how of our mission. He believes people do not work for him, rather with him, and together for the patient in the process of co-creating optimal individual health and community wellness across the continuum of care and the span of a well lived life experience. This is where his passion lies; in leading the way forward with those of like mind; focusing on primary preventive efforts some of which have yet to be imagined.

College of Liberal Arts

Head shot Kathy Yu

Kathy Yu ’91
Board Advisor and Former Technology Executive

Motivation, passion and a bit of timing factored into Kathy Yu’s (PTC ’91) career choices spanning over two decades at Intel, Samsung, Applied Materials, Transmeta and Microsoft during the beginning of the technology revolution in Silicon Valley. None of this would have happened without the mentoring Kathy received at RIT from Dr. Diane Hope, who rescued her when she was a floundering student from a Korean immigrant family with a Hawaiian Island upbringing.

Shortly after graduating from RIT, Kathy launched her business career in the emerging technology sector at Intel’s manufacturing division, optimizing process with a focus on strategy and partnerships. The capstone of Kathy’s career at Intel was receiving the prestigious Divisional Award for excellence. Following Intel, she took a position with Samsung Semiconductors to manage the memory chip product line for North America. At Samsung, she was awarded the Product Marketing Engineer Award despite lacking an engineering degree. Kathy then held leadership positions at: Applied Materials, managing their semiconductor equipment product line in Europe; Transmeta, managing the entire product portfolio while fending off major microprocessor competitors; and Microsoft, seeding semiconductor companies to make chips capable of running Microsoft’s Windows Media code. Kathy also developed strategic alliances and managed mergers and acquisitions to enable Microsoft’s mobile ecosystem, which was the leader in mobile at that time.

Named one of San Francisco’s “Coolest Power Moms” in 2012, Kathy has served on the boards of Golden Gate Mothers Group, The Exploratorium Catalyst and the Cow Hollow School. She is also an active contributor to the Boys and Girls Club of SF, Homeless Prenatal Program, the Hamlin School, the Wender Weiss Foundation for Children, the Women’s Foundation of California and the Conquer Cancer Foundation.

Kathy continues to leverage her technology and business background as she angel invests to support and encourage the next generation of entrepreneurs, just as her RIT mentor Dr. Diane Hope had done for her.

College of Science

Head shot of Susan Gordona

Susan Gordona ’94
Senior Vice President of Marketplace Strategy
Fidelity Investments

Sue Gordona is a leader with over 25 years of experience delivering innovative solutions and value to customers and leading diverse teams of highly engaged employees. Her roles have spanned business strategy, product management, and functional leadership of large, global organizations. She is currently a senior vice president at Fidelity Investments, and in her current role she leads a team focused on leveraging strategic partnerships to deliver valuable solutions to clients across Fidelity’s diverse business units.

Sue first joined Fidelity in 2002 as a director of solution delivery, developing and delivering innovative products to customers. She has gone on to hold a series of positions with increasing responsibility at the company, including vice president of retirement products, vice president of investment planning tools, senior vice president of solution delivery, and ultimately her current position which she has held since late 2017.

Prior to joining Fidelity, Sue worked for global management consulting firm A.T. Kearney from 1999 to 2002, where she provided strategic management and technology consulting services for various Fortune 100 companies. Sue’s first job after graduating from RIT in 1994 was as a systems consultant for Hewitt Associates.

For the last 15 years, Sue has participated in the Pan-Mass Challenge, an annual bike-a-thon that since 1980 has raised over $600M for cancer research and treatment at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The event raises more philanthropic money than any other single athletic fundraising event in the country. In 2018, the Pan-Mass Challenge raised a record $56 million. In addition, Sue is an active volunteer in the Boston area through the Fidelity Cares volunteer network.

In addition to her RIT degree, Sue earned an MBA from Babson College’s F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business in 1999.

Golisano College of Computing & Information Sciences

Head shot Alice Jo Lictman

Alice Jo Lichtman MS ’79
Retired Principal Systems Consultant
LPA Software

Alice Jo Lichtman was born in Buffalo, New York in 1937, where her father John Josiah Maisel was an internist-gastroenterologist and her mother Ida Rubenstein Maisel was a homemaker who was active in various organizations in the community.

Alice Jo, along with her mother and sister, lived in Phoenix, Arizona from 1942 to 1945 to be near the military base where her father was stationed during World War II. They remained there while he was sent overseas. He was a medical officer and was in France, Austria, and Germany caring for wounded troops in mobile military hospitals. He was attached to Patton’s 3rd Army and participated in the liberation of the concentration camps, the conditions in which he documented on a small pocket camera.

After the war her family returned to Buffalo, where Alice Jo completed grade and high school. She attended Wellesley College for three years majoring in economics. In the summer after here third year, she married Marshall A. Lichtman, a medical student at the University of Buffalo, and finished her fourth year of college at the University of Buffalo. After graduation, she worked as the administrator of a small psychiatric clinic, newly established to provide services for patients of limited means.

She moved to Rochester, New York in 1960 for her husband’s medical residency training and had two daughters during that time, Susan and Joanne. The family spent two years in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where her husband fulfilled the government service required of young men in that era. In his case, he served in the Public Health Service.

They returned to Rochester where he completed his training and joined the faculty of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. Soon, thereafter, Alice Jo had her third daughter, Pamela. Alice Jo returned to work as a school librarian, which provided her with flexible hours. As her children became more independent, she returned to graduate school to obtain her master’s degree in computer science at RIT.

Thereafter, she worked, initially, for Security Trust Company where she was part of a team that designed the first automatic teller machine in Rochester. Subsequently, she joined LPA Software, a small company that provided consulting services for the development of customized computer programs for companies, many at that time in the Fortune Five Hundred category, including Eastman Kodak, Xerox, Data General, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and others. Since several of the installations were in Central American subsidiaries, she traveled to those locales and learned sufficient Spanish to help in her dealings at those facilities.

She retired in 2002, after which she has done volunteer work with a number of community groups. She also has the great joy of spending time with her six grandsons and one granddaughter. She recently moved to Los Angeles to be closer to two daughters and their families who live in California and to obtain the benefits of a kinder climate.

Kate Gleason College of Engineering

Head shot of Clayton Turner

Clayton P. Turner ’90
NASA Langley Research Center

Clayton Turner is the director at NASA’s Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia. Langley, founded in 1917, is the nation’s first civilian aeronautical research facility and NASA’s first field center. Langley is where NASA researches solutions to challenges ranging from global climate and access to space, to air travel, and future aviation vehicles. Prior to his appointment as Deputy Director, Clayton served as the associate director where he was responsible for managing day-to-day operations with a focus on Center commitments. In this capacity he was also responsible for aligning Langley’s institutional resources and infrastructure to meet current and future NASA mission needs, optimizing both effectiveness and efficiency.

Clayton has also served as the director of the Engineering Directorate at Langley. In this capacity, he was responsible for the conceptualization, design, development, and delivery of ground and flight systems in all NASA mission areas; and for enabling future and maintaining current multi-discipline engineering capabilities aligned to meet current and future NASA mission needs.

Clayton began his career with NASA Langley in 1990 serving as a design engineer with the Lidar In-Space Technology Experiment project, where he spearheaded development of the laser aligning, bore-sight limit system. Over the next 28 years, Clayton served in various roles with progressively increasing responsibility. He led Langley’s engineering contributions to many successful flight projects including the Earth Science Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation Project; the Earth-observing technology development Gas and Aerosol Monitoring Sensorcraft Project; the materials technology development Gas Permeable Polymer Materials Project; the Shuttle Program return-to-flight; the flight test of the Ares 1-X vehicle; the flight test of the Orion Launch Abort System; the entry, descent, and landing segment of the Mars Science Laboratory Project; the Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment Project on the International Space Station; and the Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System Project.

Prior to joining NASA, Clayton was the chief engineer at Dynamic Recording Studio in Rochester, New York, where he was responsible for technical and artistic recording of audio and video content spanning multiple musical and instructional styles.

Throughout his career, Clayton has received many prestigious awards such as the Presidential Rank Award, the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal, the NASA Exceptional Engineering Achievement Medal, and the Paul F. Holloway Non-Aerospace Technology Transfer Award. Clayton is an inductee into the Monroe Community College Alumni Hall of Fame. He is also an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and is a member of RIT’s President’s Round Table.

Clayton has served as the NASA Langley representative on the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Joint Commission on Technology and Science and he has served as a member of the Board of Advisors for the Hampton University College of Engineering and the Old Dominion University College of Engineering. He and his wife live in Hampton, Virginia, and have two sons. Clayton is active in community outreach, coaching youth sports and promoting science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers.

National Technical Institute for the Deaf

Head shot of Michael Rizzolo

Michael J. Rizzolo ’76, ’78, MS ’86
President and CEO

Michael J. Rizzolo is the president and CEO of Interpretek, an American Sign Language interpreting service company based in Rochester, New York. Interpretek provides services nationwide, operates out of seven offices and employs 115 teammates across 22 states. Interpretek is celebrating 25 years in business and continues to expand its efforts to supply quality communication access nationally.

Michael, or Rizz, as he is known throughout the field, began his career as a sign language interpreter when he completed the Basic Interpreter Training Program (BITP) in 1976 while securing his bachelor’s degree in social work from RIT. NTID hired Michael in 1978 as a lead interpreter in the Department of Interpreting Services where he spent twelve years as a manager of a large team of interpreters. During his tenure at NTID, Michael was awarded certification by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID), became a founding member of the local chapter of the RID (GVRRID), served as an adjunct faculty member in the interpreting degree program and was selected to join NTID’s first traveling cast of performers—Sunshine & Company.

While with NTID Michael accepted opportunities to coordinate interpreting services at many national and international professional conferences including Deaf Way in 1989. He has been teaching, mentoring and providing professional development opportunities for both Deaf and hearing interpreters. He is a test administrator for RID Certification Testing and an Approved RID Sponsor for offering CEUs to practicing interpreters. In keeping with his mission to advocate and foster professional growth, Michael established the Interpretek Endowed Scholarship at NTID in 2008 to support and encourage academic excellence among students pursuing an interpreting career. Michael has served on several local boards including the Rochester Hearing and Speech Center and the Rochester City Ballet.

Michael received a master’s degree in human services administration from the Saunders College of Business in 1986 and served NTID as a development officer in 1989 before leaving RIT to start his own business. His wife Kate recently retired from RIT after a 32-year career as a sign language interpreter with the Science and Engineering Core team. Together they have raised three sons, John, Mike and Zack.

Saunders College of Business

Head shot of Jane Elliot

Jane Elliott ’88
Chief Human Resources Officer
Deluxe Corporation

Jane M. Elliott is a charismatic leader whose breadth of experience and accomplishments are reflected in both Fortune 500/1000 companies and smaller, entrepreneurial organizations.

Currently, Jane is chief human resources officer at Deluxe Corporation. Formerly, Jane served as the executive vice president and chief administrative officer for Global Payments, one of the largest worldwide providers of payment solutions. Jane was responsible for aligning and optimizing internal functions with corporate strategic objectives to drive significant cost savings. Jane joined Global Payments in October 2001 with a dual role as vice president of Financial Planning & Investor Relations. As the company grew, the necessity to manage Wall Street analysts and investors became a full-time position in the fall of 2003. In mid-2010, Jane’s role expanded to senior vice president of Strategic Planning & Investor Relations. She became chief of staff in November 2013 and chief administrative officer in July 2016.

Jane has over twenty years of experience in the payment technology space, working at First Data for nine years in Omaha, NE and Atlanta prior to joining Global Payments.

Jane started her career with Laventhol & Horwath Certified Public Accountants in New York City while receiving her CPA. She obtained a bachelor’s degree in accounting with high honors from RIT.

She has served on the board of Junior Achievement since 2015 and served on the boards of Wnet (2014-2018) and Technology Association of Georgia (2015-2018).

School of Individualized Study

Head shot of Ali Shahidi

Ali Shahidi ’13
Chief Innovation and Client Solutions Officer
Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP

Ali Shahidi is the chief innovation & client solutions officer at Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton LLP, a leading global law firm that handles corporate and technology matters, high stakes litigation and complex financial transactions. He has more than 20 years of experience in developing innovative technical solutions for the practice of law.

Ali and his team of knowledge managers, business analysts and data scientists design and deploy systems using advanced technologies such as process automation, data analytics, natural language processing and machine learning to enhance the delivery of legal services to clients.

One of his current projects is focused on addressing pay equity and income equality issues by using multivariate regression and statistical modeling to identify pay gaps across race and gender for global companies. This is offered as a business solution, in conjunction with associated legal services, to Sheppard Mullin’s clients.

Consistent with Sheppard Mullin’s focus on social justice, diversity and equality, Ali has been active as a mentor and volunteer through non-profits and professional organizations, including Fulfilment Fund and Public Counsel, the world’s largest pro bono public interest law firm. His first volunteer role was as an office assistant at RIT’s Ombuds Office more than thirty years ago.