Golden Brick Award winners
Presented each year at the annual Faculty & Staff Alumni Breakfast, this special award goes to alumni faculty and alumni staff who go above and beyond in connecting and engaging with our graduates.
Michelle Magee ’05 MS (information technology), senior associate director for Employment Engagement, Office of Career Services and Cooperative Education: Magee has continued to serve in support of the Alumni Association with a level and balanced presence. She has identified, created and nurtured relationships with hundreds of corporations, not only to have them hire students for co-ops, but expanding the relationship to include support of the university as a whole. Magee offers her time and talent to mentor students. In particular, she has created sustainable and substantive programming for women in computing. She is a First Friend, supporting the Lobozzo Alumni House.
David Long ’16 Ph.D. (color science), director of RIT MAGIC Center: Long is an active member of the university community. He has served for 10 years as the inaugural program chair for the motion picture sciences program. He has advised, mentored and supported each and every student in that program. He continues to support several students through his continued teaching in the program and the advisement of several independent studies and thesis projects. Long has been the adviser to several student clubs and organizations and each year takes students to two major conferences: SMPTE and NAB. He has played a key role in the establishment of the Entertainment Advisory Board (EAB) and has been a design principal for MAGIC Spell Studios. In addition, Long has chaired the Frameless Labs initiative and has served as a member of the Light and Sound Interactive Conference committee. He is also an active board member at WXXI and the Little Theatre, representing RIT.
Kerry Hughes ’03 MS (training and instructional design), project and events manager, Office of the Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs: Hughes is a strong supporter of student activities, volunteering many hours for events on campus, including orientation activities, Lighting the Way, Rock the Vote and the Q Center. She serves on numerous university committees, has been a member of Staff Council and participated in university initiatives such as the SIS implementation team.
Hamad Ghazle ’88 (diagnostic medical sonography), director of the diagnostic medical sonography program: Ghazle has been instrumental in the university’s acquisition of more than $1.25 million for outfitting of the program’s ultrasound lab. He has used his industry connections to cultivate relationships with Carestream Health, URMC and other organizations to ensure the lab is outfitted with the latest equipment. His dedication to these development efforts have ensured that sonography students leave prepared for a career using the latest technologies. Ghazle has served on the Academic Senate multiple times. He has also been on committees both inside and outside his home college, including Future Faculty Task Force, Chair Faculty Grievance Committee, Faculty Affairs Committee, Institute Council, Institute Strategic Planning Steering Committee, the Student Success Task Force and others.
Cahill became a faculty member nine years ago and, since then, he has gone above and beyond in his commitment to the RIT community. He has been a faculty adviser to numerous graduate students, he supervises independent study courses and regularly hosts and invites speakers to campus to share their expertise with students. One nominator stated that Cahill is incredibly dedicated to the students working in his research groups and he not only organizes research trips for these students, but often will fund the trip himself. Cahill’s generosity and love for RIT shines through in every aspect of his work.
Nally has been with the financial services department for 36 years helping to guide students and parents through the complicated financial aspects of higher education. She can be found sharing her Tiger Pride at lacrosse and hockey games, alumni events, throughout the Rochester community and in the first-year courses she teaches. Nally is an instrumental partner to Alumni Relations and has built relationships with key donors to help secure gifts in support of graduate education for the Rochester City Scholars program. As an alumna, staff member and parent to a student, Nally lives and breathes RIT.
Ortiz is a dedicated volunteer and is involved in many campus activities. She is a member of WOCHA, a member of the Engagement Committee for the Faculty and Staff Alumni Chapter and is a sister of Sigma Lambda Upsilon/Senoritas Latinas Unidas Sorority Inc. She is always there to provide a helping hand, particularly when it comes to the Alumni Relations office. From helping with the Presidents’ Alumni Ball to supporting the new Lobozzo Alumni House, Ortiz is eager to show support and be a strong advocate for alumni and the entire university. When people ask what RIT for Life means, nominators suggest simply showing a picture of Ortiz.
Podeszek is a fixture at the Rochester alumni chapter meetings and events on campus. She never hesitates when it comes to helping students and dedicates at least 10 hours each week to working with and mentoring NTID students one-on-one. Podeszek is always showing off her Tiger Pride, both with her RIT hockey jersey and her commitment to volunteering at events. According to her nominators, if someone were to name any event RIT hosts, Podeszek has most likely volunteered or helped with it in some capacity. One nominator said Podeszek is a shining example of devotion and dedication to the success of RIT, and working with her has been a positively rewarding experience.
Carvalho-McGrain is a proud alumna that bleeds RIT-orange. She has dedicated 20 years to University Communications covering a diverse set of beats including student affairs, the College of Liberal Arts, NTID, the MAGIC Center, Simone Center and more. Carvalho-McGrain has also served as editor for the award-winning Athenaeum newsletter. Working behind the scenes, her sunny disposition and professional nature have helped her connect with both faculty in her office and many leaders across campus.
Lisuzzo has done much volunteering on campus. She was instrumental in reinvigorating the RIT Faculty and Staff Alumni Chapter and has served as chapter lead of RIT’s Staff Council several times. Lisuzzo is incredibly happy and proud to be a part of the RIT family as an alumna.
Phelps actively works to change the way RIT students perceive and engage with their college experience. He helped create the game design and development undergraduate and graduate programs, helped found the School of Interactive Games and Media and established the RIT MAGIC Center with former RIT President Bill Destler. Phelps is leading the new MAGIC Spell Studios, a program through the MAGIC Center that encourages students to engage in business start-up activities related to digital media, and had advocated for a new facility for the program, which is now scheduled to open in the fall of 2018. Phelps wants to keep engaged with the RIT community and is actively involved with alumni, faculty and current students working in game production and ownership roles in local game companies. He works hard to make positive change for students and alumni at RIT, and is adept at spreading the RIT brand throughout all of his work.
St. Jean is highly dedicated to RIT and shows it in many ways, including dedicating his time and energy to the university. St. Jean is an advocate for students and shows his support as an adviser and faculty member by helping organize and run as many student-oriented events he is able to, even on the weekends. St. Jean’s colleagues can always count on him to help with their questions or at an event. He is often described as the embodiment of what it means to be an RIT Tiger. Over the 15 years he has been working at RIT, he has built a reputation as a generous, passionate and dedicated staff member and alumnus. He lives, breathes and bleeds RIT, and gives back to his alma mater whenever and however he can.
Amico volunteers to help with many RIT events including: Tiger Walk, ROAR Day, United Way Campaign, Commencement and the Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival. She works hard to rally her fellow colleagues around these RIT initiatives. Her colleagues call her a cheerleader and comment on her great spirit and positivity.
Phillips is a leader in the Faculty & Staff Alumni Chapter, as well as longtime RIT employee. He personally welcomes each new alumnus or alumna hire. Additionally, he gives to scholarships.
Provenzano has been an outstanding campus partner for many key alumni relations initiatives. She coordinates some of the biggest events on campus, including commencement and convocation. Provenzano touches the first things students interact with when they come to RIT and the last before they become alumni.
Smith has been instrumental in helping bring together alumni in cities like Brooklyn and San Francisco, and he is connected to alumni around the country. He has also been a valuable partner with RIT fundraising initiatives.
Richard is the Director of NTID Institutional Research as well as a dedicated alum who expends a great amount of energy at RIT/NTID. Since 2009, Dirmyer has volunteered annually Brick City Homecoming, Imagine RIT, and Commencement.
Dr. Laverne McQuiller-Williams, faculty member of the Criminal Justice Department and member of the class of 1992. Dr. Williams exemplifies what it means to be an excellent advisor, chair, colleague, and professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
Diedra is one of the first people to sign up to volunteer at several of RIT’s signature events such as Expressions of Kings Legacy, Imagine RIT, and Brick City Homecoming weekend, and commencement and convocation ceremonies. She makes herself available to students to ensure their success in college.
Steven Morse is involved! You just have to take a look at what he's involved in on campus that is affecting our alumni in a positive way:
- Board member of the NTID Foundation
- Co-advisor of the Next Generation Accountants (NGA), a student club in Saunders
- Nathaniel Rochester Society Executive Committee member
- Works with the Development Division on the Fund for RIT, including volunteering on Roar Day
- Participates on the Four President's Award Selection Committee, and is a past recipient himself
- Volunteered for commencement on several occasions, welcoming in our newest alumni
- He's a member of the Saunders Accounting Advisory board
- And serves as a judge for the annual RIT K-12 Leadership Program competition
Steve is also a regular attendee at our alumni events and always speaks positively and enthusiastically about RIT to our alumni.
Dr. Heath Boice Pardee '11 is truly an ambassador for RIT. Heath has a network of former OAs, RAs, SG leaders, while at RIT, he took under his wings, and they've gone on to do great things, a testament of a good mentor.
He has encouraged RIT undergraduates to pursue careers in student affairs by not only creating the student affairs fellows program, but by also working on one of the nation's first student affairs graduate programs focusing on innovation and service leadership. The experiences these students have gained have propelled them into the next stages of their lives as alumni. He's been a good partner for alumni relations as he believes that engaged students, become engaged alumni!
Lissa J. Schaefer '75 is an energetic, enthusiastic, loyal ambassador for RIT and RIT Alumni Relations. She answers the volunteer call regularly, and when she interacts with alumni and others at RIT events, she proves as knowledgeable as AR staff–if not more!–about the many benefits and services available to alumni.
Whether it's rallying our alumni to support our athletic teams or kicking back and relaxing on an alumni wine tour, Lissa is always there for her alumni friends and a true partner for the Office of Alumni Relations.
Venessa Mitchell '02 graduated from RIT with her Masters in Human Resource Development in 2002, and began her RIT career some 6 years later. She works in the Mechanical Engineering Office where she works diligently – assisting students, faculty and staff in financial matters, which we all know, can be tricky (smile).
Venessa knows the meaning of a college education, and has, for the past several years, been RIT's team organizer for the City of Rochester's "Pillars of Hope". The Pillars of Hope initiative brings teams of minority role models from the community into city schools with a simple message, "We've done it, and so can you!" She has successfully managed 7–10 trips, per school year, to RIT's adopted school, Nathaniel Rochester School #3, in the Corn Hill area. Each month, a team of RIT volunteers heads to School #3, with a range of information from introductory ASL, or extracting DNA from a strawberry to entrepreneurship. In addition to her Pillars work, she's also a diversity champion here on campus, as seen with her role on the Executive Board for RIT's AALANA Faculty and Staff. Venessa Mitchell is driven and committed to making a difference as an alumna in the community as well as on campus.
Mr. Hasan Zelenjakovic '08 '02 has a way of making everyone feel like his most special customer at Midnight Oil. When we bring our alumni guests in for coffee, he shows genuine interest in them, setting a warm, welcoming tone for the alum's visit with us.
For the alumni, faculty and staff that visit him on a daily basis, he makes our mornings just a little more tolerable. Not just because of the coffee, but because of his genuine smile, wonderful attitude and superior service. He speaks highly of RIT in the community and encourages the many students that work with him to get involved with the alma mater when they graduate.
Steve Czompo has consistently done a literally award-winning job of producing many of our alumni recognition videos. He makes our job easier, and he makes our amazing alumni seem even more so through his technical expertise and creativity. He's humble and self-effacing, making working with him a true joy.
Michael is a strong supporter of RIT Alumni Relations and everything we have been building with the School of Photographic Arts and Sciences. Through things like the Big Shot, Michael has made sure to include Alumni Relations and understands the importance of keeping up–to–date with our alumni and connecting AR with those out in the field. Unfortunately, Michael was unable to join us at the 2012 Alumni Faculty/Staff Luncheon. Michael is traveling internationally – obviously meeting up with alumni – so his brick is pictured here with RITchie!
Without Tammy's wise, patient guidance in HR matters, our Alumni Relations staff wouldn't be as strong as it is today. Tammy's advice on how to handle sticky situations, make good hiring decisions, coach staff to achieve their best, and more, is all invaluable. And, not only is she wise and patient, but she's perpetually positive and cheerful, too. No wonder she's surrounded by so many good friends and colleagues!
Jeannette Vargas ’13, senior staff specialist for NTID’s Development office: Vargas is the adviser to the Latin American Deaf club, the Latino America Unida fraternity, Lambda Alpha Upsilon. For years she has been committed to the promotion and engagement of Latino students and alumni.
Donna Tuffner ’94, ’09, ’13, ’14, teaching assistant in NTID’s business studies program (pictured right): Tuffner has worked as a volunteer coordinator for NTID’s 45th Anniversary Reunion, volunteered during numerous past reunions at NTID and assisted during several Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity festivals.
John Stratton ’64, professor emeritus in the College of Applied Science and Technology (pictured second from the left): Stratton has served more than 37 years at RIT in various capacities, including as a professor, department chair and associate dean of CAST. He is still working as adjunct professor. Stratton is also an officer with the New York State Engineering Technology Association and works with the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.
Marty Burris ’96, ’99, ’06, director of the University Studies Program (pictured second from the right): Burris has built strong relationships with the University Studies students and is staying in touch with her first class of graduates. She connects current University Studies students with alumni from all disciplines, encouraging students to explore prospective career options through the experiences of alumni mentors
Jodi Carville ’81, ’83, director of the Women Engineering program (WE@RIT) (pictured left): Carville is always looking for and finding great opportunities to engage alumnae with current females engineering students as speakers, mentors and in other capacities.
Catherine Rappazzo ’07, sales and marketing manager for Dining Services: Rappazzo ensures that the food for alumni events on campus is well-prepared and professionally presented. She comes up with creative menus that fit the budget. She keeps a close eye on quality, keeps her campus colleagues well informed and is always enthusiastic and energetic.