Class Notes Winter 2023


Harold Alston BS’62 has published Why Do I Find Myself in These Situations?, named for the many unique flying experiences he encountered during 55 years of flying military and civilian aircraft. Alston is a retired lieutenant colonel with the U.S. Air Force.

Clytie Adams BFA’66 was honored by Utah Gov. Spencer Cox with a 2022 Governor’s Mansion Artist Award for positively impacting the arts and her community. Founder of the Clytie Adams School of Ballet, she served four years on the Utah Arts Council Dance Panel and three separate terms as president of the Utah Ballet Teachers Association.

Robert Olsen

Robert Olsen BFA’66 has given an inclusive scholarship to the College of Architecture + Planning that will positively impact aspiring architecture students. Olsen was a first-generation college graduate in his family. His father, Kenneth, did not graduate from high school because he had to work on the family farm. His mother, Sarah, had two years of college and taught school briefly before becoming a full-time homemaker. At the U, Robert married classmate Jody Olsen BS’65 and the pair went into the Peace Corps in Tunisia, then moved to Baltimore, Maryland, where he worked as a planner and architect and their children grew up before further travel and his entrée into international consulting. The couple divorced years ago when Robert came out as gay. “Jody and I are best friends, see each other regularly, and spend holidays together,” notes Robert. “I married Bruce Swanson a few years after gay marriage became legal.” Before Olsen’s father died, he set up a family partnership with his farmland. The family recently sold some land, and Olsen decided to give the equity, diversity, and inclusion-oriented scholarship, named after his parents.


Monica Bertagnolli

Monica Bertagnolli MD’85 is the 16th director of the National Cancer Institute and its first woman director. Bertagnolli was previously the Richard E. Wilson Professor of Surgery in the field of surgical oncology at Harvard Medical School, a surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and a member of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Treatment and Sarcoma Centers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Erik A. Christiansen

Erik A. Christiansen BA’86 BS’87 JD’90 is president-elect of the Utah State Bar. Christiansen is a shareholder at Parsons Behle & Latimer, with more than 30 years of experience in high-stakes litigation, and an adjunct professor of law at the U. He was named Alumnus of the Year in 2019 by the S.J. Quinney College of Law.

Lauri Linder BS’89 MS’94 PhD’09 has been honored as a U Presidential Scholar. The award recognizes the extraordinary academic accomplishments and promise of associate professor faculty members, providing them with financial support to advance their research and teaching. One of the few clinically embedded pediatric oncology nurse scientists in the nation, Linder is a professor in the College of Nursing who has developed a game-based symptom reporting app for children with cancer. Read more in our gaming feature here.


Keith Embray

Keith Embray BA’92 MA’98 recently returned to the U in a dual capacity with the Division of Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion (EDI) and Department of Athletics. Embray is the first executive director of EDI Operations as well as associate athletics director for EDI and Student Belonging. He most recently served as Penn State University’s assistant A.D. for student-athlete welfare and development. In his new role, he will be responsible for infusing student belonging and EDI values throughout Athletics. He was previously an assistant A.D. at the University of Central Florida and an associate director for student-athlete welfare and development at the University of Notre Dame. He also spent more than a decade as a project manager in HR and management consulting, and taught undergraduate sociology courses and was a program coordinator for the federally funded McNair Scholars Program at Westminster College. In addition to his bachelors in history and masters in sociology from the U, he holds an MBA from Westminster. In Embray’s senior season with Utah Football, he was elected a team captain and voted the teams defensive MVP. He went on to play seven years of professional football in the Canadian Football League, Arena Football League, and National Football League, and spent three years as an on-air TV and radio personality and reporter.

Gina Butters

Gina Butters BS’90 MEd’97 is the first female superintendent for Weber School District in Utah. A high school graduate of the district, Butters started her teaching career there in 1992. She gradually moved up in administration, becoming director of student services in 2016 and executive director of secondary education in 2019.

Christy Hopkins

Christy Hopkins  BS’91 MD’96 MPH’06 MPA’17, emergency medicine professor and physician with University of Utah Health, has been named the inaugural chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine in the Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine. Hopkins was previously medical director of U of U Hospital’s emergency department and was recently interim leader of the Division of Emergency Medicine.

Jill M. Pohlman
Diana Hagen

With the appointments of Justices Jill M. Pohlman BA’93 JD’96 and Diana Hagen BA’94 JD’98 to the Utah Supreme Court in 2022, the bench of the state’s top court became majority female for the first time in its history. As a fourth grader, Pohlman fell in love with the law while participating in a special unit on the justice system. “After seeing how the courtroom worked, I thought, ‘I love this,’ ” she says. Hagen had initially sought to go into acting, but a free speech class at the U piqued her interest. She decided to take the LSAT and apply to law school on a whim—and got a scholarship. “I thought, I didn’t have anything to lose, so I might as well try it out.” And the rest is history. The two join Justice Paige Petersen BA’94 BS’94, Justice John A. Pearce BS’92, and Chief Justice Matthew B. Durrant on the court.

Denise Dearing

Denise Dearing PhD’95 is the new director for the Division of Integrative Organismal Systems at the National Science Foundation. Dearing is Distinguished Professor in Biology at the U. Her research focuses on understanding how small mammals overcome challenges related to diet and disease. 

Robin Hutcheson

Robin Hutcheson MS’97 is now deputy administrator of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration at the U.S. Department of Transportation. She was previously the department’s deputy assistant secretary for Safety Policy, coordinating safety efforts across multiple modes of transportation, including COVID response and recovery. She also led the development of the first National Roadway Safety Strategy for the U.S.

Shawn Christensen BS’98 is the new president and CEO of the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce. Christensen was most recently director of Business Outreach and Community Engagement at World Trade Center Utah. He previously led teams at two different SaaS companies and worked in New York and Texas for Hearst Communications.

Scott Bell BS’99 MEd’04 is the new principal at West Lake STEM Junior High School in West Valley City, UT. A city native, Bell began his academic career as a West Lake school counselor and alternative school teacher before moving into administration. He was most recently principal at Kearns Junior High.


Holly Rowe

Holly Rowe BA’04 discussed her journey from The Daily Utah Chronicle to local news to ESPN as the keynote speaker at the U’s Career & Professional Development Center Career Fair on campus this past fall. Rowe has spent more than 25 years covering everything from softball to gymnastics—but especially, college football—for the ESPN sports television network. Read more in our interview here.

Rae Meadows MFA’00 has published her fifth novel, Winterland, in which an 8-year-old from Siberia gets the nod to train with elite athletes in the U.S.S.R. in 1973. Meadows grew up admiring the Soviet gymnasts of the 1970s and in her forties decided to go back to the thing she loved as a child. She is the author of four previous novels, including the award-winning I Will Send Rain, which depicts an Oklahoma family struggling as Dust Bowl storms descend on their farm in 1934.

Ben Hart BS’05 MS’08 is the new executive director of the Utah Inland Port Authority. Hart is an adjunct professor at the U, where he teaches urban and regional economics courses. With more than 15 years of government administrative experience, he had previously served as deputy director of the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity.


Luz Gamarra

Luz Gamarra MSW’09 was named USA Today’s 2022 Woman of the Year for Utah. One woman from each state was chosen for her significant positive impact on her community. As lead academic advisor for Humanities and English-as-a-second-language students at Salt Lake Community College, Gamarra helps immigrants and ESL students get into college, then connects them with peer mentors (in two programs she created), working to help students stay motivated and thrive. Gamarra had worked as a prosecutor for over seven years in Peru, where she obtained master’s and doctoral degrees in law and political science, when she immigrated to Utah in 2004 and found that she would need to essentially start over. “It was very hard in the beginning. But I said to myself, I will achieve, and when it is over, I will help others to find the resources they need to achieve,” Gamarra says. She serves on the boards of several other area organizations supporting education efforts and has previously been recognized for her work with honors including the Peruvian Congress award. Gamarra’s daughter Elizabeth BSW’16 MSW’17 became one of her first peer mentors before graduating from SLCC in 2014 (at age 16) and going on to be a Fulbright Scholar and TEDx speaker, among other achievements. 

Razvan Ungureanu

Razvan Ungureanu JD’10 was elected to the American Law Institute, an independent group that works to simplify and modernize the law. A partner with Smyser Kaplan & Veselka, Ungureanu's practice focuses on civil litigation and appeals. He is also an adjunct professor of law at the University of Houston Law Center, where he teaches Complex Litigation and Conflict of Laws. A native of Romania, Ungureanu is also an avid chess player and has competed in the World Chess Open. 

Dustin Gramoll BS’11 is the new president of North Salt Lake-based Gramoll Construction, which focuses on commercial and institutional projects. The firm’s third generation of leadership, Gramoll has been with the firm since 2003, filling every role from cleanup to estimating, and site superintendent to project management.

Christian Clarke BFA’16 and his wife, Clara, have created a vibrant arts space in a once-empty storefront on the University of Chicago campus, where he now works as a resident head. Southspace, their independent art gallery, provides a new place where students, staff, and community members can share art.


Harrison Lind BFA’20 and Connor Nelis Johnson BFA’21 premiered a new play in Brooklyn, NY, as part of Marooned!, a series of short plays set on desert islands presented by the nonprofit spit&vigor theater company. The Wreck of Queen Thomasina was written by Johnson (co-starring Lind and himself as a pair of rhyming pirates) and directed by Alexandra Harbold, assistant professor in the Us Actor Training Program. It was produced by Johnson and Lind’s new Footpath Theatre Company, founded, Johnson says, as “a locus point for U theater grads in New York to collaborate and create work.

Alexa Knutzen

Alexa Knutzen BFA’21 of Mapleton, UT, is the first national Miss Volunteer America, receiving a $50,000 scholarship and the chance to meet with Creative Artists Agency Nashville, Big Machine Label Group, and other movers. With the motto “Volunteers working to educate and inspire our next generation of volunteers,” the new program seeks to empower young women across the country through educational scholarships and extraordinary opportunities. 

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