Class Notes Fall 2023


Alexander E. MacDonald PhD’75, a pioneer in computer weather prediction also known internationally for his research into addressing climate change, received an honorary doctorate in humane letters from Montana State University, where he earned his bachelor’s degree before joining the Air Force. There, he realized the potential for earlier and refined weather forecasting to reduce suffering and death worldwide through the emerging technologies of satellites and computer modeling. After earning his doctorate in meteorology, he joined the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, where he spent the bulk of his career, making important original contributions to weather forecasting, energy systems, and international science education.


Mark H. Paul BA’87 is the new executive director of the University of Utah Health Center for Medical Innovation. A fourth-generation U grad, Paul was previously president of the neurovascular division at Stryker Neurovascular based in Fremont, California. He is an industry pioneer in the development of microtools used in brain surgery.

Michael Kirklen

Michael Kirklen BS’88 established the Michael Kirklen Scholarship, which is offered to a recipient of the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Youth Leadership Awards, a U co-sponsored honor recognizing outstanding middle and high school students statewide for actively contributing to their communities. Kirklen is CEO of Blooming Property Management & Lodging and Second Home Mike.


Manny Hendrix BS’94 MS’04 (Athletics Department), Sumiko Anderson MSW’06 (College of Social Work), and Bethany Hardwig MLS’22 (Office of Alumni Relations) were honored during the U’s 2023 Black Faculty + Staff Awards, which recognize those who holistically enrich, support, and advocate for Black faculty, staff, trainees, and students through their work on campus and in the community. James Jackson III BS’02 was also honored at the event with the Ronald G. Coleman Black Alumni Award.

The art of David Meikle BFA’94 MFA’06 features prominently in the new Wes Anderson film Asteroid City. Meikle created the painting for the movie’s poster and seven other original works of art used in the film, helping bring its aesthetic to life. Meikle is well-respected for his captivating paintings of the West, which are now held in many private, corporate, and permanent collections. His work for the movie was highlighted in a large feature in the art magazine Western Art Collector. His artwork has previously made an onscreen appearance in the TV sitcom The Last Man on Earth.


Jason Curry BS’00 is the director of Utah’s Division of Outdoor Recreation. His role includes expanding and improving the state’s recreational opportunities. Curry was previously a deputy director with the Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands.

Danny Chi BA’01, senior director of communications and West Coast publicity for ESPN, was honored with the University of Utah’s College of Humanities Distinguished Alumni Award. At ESPN, Chi is responsible for a variety of media relations initiatives, with a primary focus on leading National Hockey League communications strategy, media relations, and collaboration across The Walt Disney Company’s functional teams, while managing league relationships with NHL Communications. Chi also oversees all communications aspects for the X Games franchise and action sports properties.

Heidi Czerwiec

Heidi Czerwiec PhD’02 has the collection Crafting the Lyric Essay: Strike a Chord forthcoming in 2024 from Bloomsbury Press. Czerwiec was a professor and writing conference director at the University of North Dakota for 12 years before absconding to write and teach in Minneapolis, where she is now a senior editor for Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies. Her prior work includes four poetry chapbooks, the full-length poetry collection Conjoining, and the lyric essay collection Fluid States, winner of Pleiades Press’ 2018 Robert C. Jones Prize for Short Prose. Recent work appears in Brevity, Superstition Review, Waxwing, and River Teeth, and in the anthologies A Harp in the Stars, Nasty Women Poets, and New Poetry from the Midwest.

Amy Tibbals BA’03, Katie Bald BA’11, and Ryan Holbrook BA’19 co-authored What’s Good Salt Lake City, described as an “incomplete and biased selection of ghost towns, dim sum, pizza joints, patios, chair lifts, arches, architecture, green spaces, pastry cases, taquerias, theatres, bookstores, art works, doughnuts, coffee shops, camping spots, cocktails, and colloquialisms.”

Judge Jay T. Winward BS’03 currently serves on the Fifth District Court of Utah. After law school, Winward was a partner at Winward Law and then was a federal prosecutor, during which time he served a detail in Bogota, Colombia, on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice and trained prosecutors throughout the country. Winward also teaches Business Law at Utah Tech University.

Jessica R. Kramer

Jessica R. Kramer HBS’04, a U biomedical engineering assistant professor, is one of four national recipients of the 2022-23 Marion Milligan Mason Award. A biannual honor bestowed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the prestigious award is given to promising early-career women in the chemical sciences. Kramer also holds an adjunct assistant professorship in molecular pharmaceutics.

John Willis BS’05 is the new city manager of St. George. Willis was previously community development director for the city and has over 17 years of experience in land use, planning, and zoning.


Timothy Horton, Jr. BS’18 is one of the first African American designers to collaborate with a professional hockey team, with his GRIZZ GANG collection of varsity jackets, hoodies, and more created for the Utah Grizzlies in celebration of Black history. Horton first released his KODA’FE brand of luxury streetwear in 2017. “My dream and vision have always been wrapped around fashion since I was 13 years old,” he says. He has recently been working on a personal collection with Footlocker. KODA’FE is an acronym for “Keeping Our Dreams Alive For Eternity.”

Ashley Magnus

Ashley Magnus MBA’13 is the executive director of the Acorn Center for the Performing Arts in Three Oaks, Michigan. Magnus has worked at the Chicago Opera Theater and began her career at the Utah Symphony/Utah Opera as a production coordinator for the opera department. In 2019, she was named one of Musical America’s Top 30 Professionals in the Performing Arts.

Carly Nelson

Carly Nelson BS’19 is the new goalkeeper for the Orlando Pride soccer team. Nelson played on the Us soccer team, earning All Pac-12 honors during her senior year. Prior to Orlando, she had most recently played with FC Nordsjælland of the Danish top-flight.

Mandi Barrus

Award-winning mezzo-soprano Mandi Barrus MMU’19 recently visited the Blinn College District choir in Texas for two concerts along with a master class for the college’s choral students. Barrus runs an independent opera company in Utah and is a recent winner of Utah Operas AriaFest and the Us Concerto Competition.

Mali Noyes BS’12 BSN’20 recently co-directed, co-produced, and co-starred in the short film Girl Crush, which tells the story of a group of skiers heading out on a winter camping trip for five days of ski mountaineering in the Tetons, where they face wild animal encounters, unexpected weather, and more. Noyes is an oncology nurse at Huntsman Cancer Institute as well as a competitive skier. She transitioned into big mountain skiing after her career as a Nordic skier on the U ski team.


Desange Kuenihira BS’22 BS’22 recently wrote a memoir, unDEfeated Woman, where she takes readers on the challenging journey of her childhood, beginning with fleeing with her siblings from the civil war raging in Congo and facing the subsequent daily struggle of life in a refugee camp in Uganda, where she suffered many forms of abuse. Later, she relates her journey to America, the culture clash of living with American foster families, and her quest for education and the ability to control her own life. Kuenihira is now an academic advisor at Southern New Hampshire University. In gratitude for her opportunities and to extend them to others, Kuenihira launched the nonprofit UnDEfeated to help educate and empower other underprivileged girls and women in Uganda.

Hannah Peterson MS’20 was named a Young Geospatial Professional to Watch in 2023 by xyHt, a magazine for geospatial professionals. Peterson works at Aero-Graphics, where her focus is aviation. Peterson’s role includes helping hire and train new employees, execute flights, and more. As a graduate research assistant at the U, she focused on measuring snowpack depth by using motion remote sensing.

Peter Saunders

Major Peter Saunders PhD’20 was recently recognized as Air Education and Training Command’s Weather Field Grade Officer of the Year. Saunders is currently serving as an assistant professor for the Air Force Institute of Technologys atmospheric science program.

Tom Rieber DNP’21 is currently a nurse practitioner in the Critical Care unit at St. Mark’s Hospital. “My life path into health care has been anything but straightforward,” he notes. “I have chosen to follow my curiosities.” Rieber was previously the director of the largest cross-country bike ride in American history, raising more than $8M for the American Lung Association. He also spent 10 years with IBM as a business/data analyst, co-founded a small electronics company with relative success, and holds a U.S. patent. His main passion outside work is still cycling, and he has achieved podium finishes at the state and national levels.

Aathaven Tharmarajah

Aathaven Tharmarajah BFA’22 recently starred as Emmett Forrest in the national tour of Legally Blonde The Musical. Tharmarajah is an actor and performing artist based in New York City. Originally from the Bay Area in California, he grew up performing in choirs and has always loved singing. As a performer, he says his passion for storytelling “comes from a joy and need to reach others’ hearts and provoke reflective thinking through honesty and vulnerability.”

Chloe Carr

Chloe Carr BS’22 completed her bachelor’s degree in marketing in December (after just two and a half years) before becoming the U’s 2023 student commencement speaker. She recalls, “In school, I was challenged beyond what I believed I was capable of and pushed out of my comfort zone into that space where I’ve been told growth happens.” She is now a communications specialist at Korn Ferry Institute, an innovation center focused on illuminating key trends and drivers of human and organizational performance.

Katya Podkovyroff Lewis

Katya Podkovyroff Lewis BS’23 recounts that during her very first semester at the U, “I got my first taste of lab work and fell in love.” A few summers later, she joined her first field research experience and realized, “I could get paid to camp in the forest and do science at the same time.” She says, “Exploring the outdoors and daydreaming of how everything was connected was what fueled my childhood. Learning that I could do the same thing as a job was euphoric.” Her next step is to attend the University of Oregon as an NSF graduate research fellow, pursuing a doctorate in biology.

Janice Darko

Janice Darko DDS’23, an immigrant from Ghana, used some of her time at the U’s Dental School to create the Black & Art Dental Student Association to help showcase her and other students’ artistic sides, heritage, and culture; to build community; and more. In addition to academic pursuits (previous studies have included biochemistry and nutritional science), Darko has been a member of the U.S. Navy Reserve for more than 11 years.

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