Class Notes Winter 2024


Michael Marushack BS’82 is the new president of the North Carolina Orthopedic Association. He also serves on the North Carolina Board of Athletic Trainer Examiners as a physician member and is a member of the board of directors of EmergeOrtho, the country’s sixth-largest orthopedic group. Marushack practices in Wilmington, North Carolina. 

Drew Baird

Drew Baird  BS’83 received the 2023 Arid Lands Hydraulic Engineering Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers, Environmental and Water Resources Institute. Baird was honored for his “distinguished contributions to river restoration, sediment transport analysis, river and bank stabilization, and reservoir sedimentation in the ephemeral streams in the Western U.S. arid and semi-arid environment.” The award is a significant milestone in Baird’s career spanning 40 years of dedicated service at the Bureau of Reclamation.


Andrew Hunt  BA’90 PhD’97 recently published Beatlemania in America: Fan Culture from Below. Hunt is the author of eight widely disparate books, including the highly lauded, Tony Hillerman Prize-winning City of Saints, the first in a trilogy featuring Mormon police detective Art Oveson, and We Will Begin Bombing in Five Minutes: Late Cold War Culture in the Age of Reagan. 

Brenda Stanley

Brenda Stanley BS’92 wrote The Still Small Voice, which recently won first place in the Mystery/Thriller category at the Chanticleer International Book Awards in Bellingham, Washington. The book is a mystery novel about family secrets and a woman’s quest for redemption. Stanley lives on a small ranch in Idaho and is the author of three other novels and four cookbooks.

Laura Toledo HBA’97 was named among 2023’s Most Influential Business Women by the St. Louis Business Journal for her work as counsel in the Lathrop GPM LLP firm’s Financial Services Practice Group. Toledo provides representation in all aspects of lending, loan workouts, restructurings, and commercial collections litigation.

Daniel Thacker BA’99 BA’99 was promoted to managing director and associate general counsel at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in the Government Investigations & Regulatory Enforcement group. In his new role, Thacker leads a diverse team of attorneys responsible for internal reviews and government investigations. Based out of New York City now for some time, he previously represented the company in Hong Kong for four years.

Miles Borrero

Miles Borrero BFA’99 wrote Beautiful Monster: A Becoming, a memoir in which he shares his gender and cultural boundary-breaking journey to embracing his authentic self. Borrero grew up in Colombia before moving to Salt Lake City to pursue acting and then embarking on a winding trajectory that eventually landed him in the New York City yoga scene. He is now a senior yoga teacher who leads retreats all over the world.

Ann House BS’99 MS’03 is director of the Financial Wellness Center at the U. “I have helped students with paying for the upcoming semester, paying current and past bills, individual budgeting, and money management for couples,” she notes. “It’s tough to be 17, 18, 19 years old and making these big decisions that impact you for years to come. … I want students at the University of Utah to leave here and have lifelong financial security. I want them to know how to advocate for themselves and how to make good, responsible financial decisions and to continue throughout their lives to save, invest, and spend wisely so they too can have healthy relationships with money.”


Melissa Holyoak

Melissa Holyoak BA’00 JD’03, most recently Utah Solicitor General, was nominated by President Joe Biden to serve as a commissioner of the Federal Trade Commission. Holyoak joined the Utah Attorney General’s Office as solicitor general in September 2020. She was previously president and general counsel at the Hamilton Lincoln Law Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based public interest law firm.

Sue Sundar

Sue Sundar MBA’02 PhD’14 was recently honored by Utah’s 40 Over 40, which celebrates women who are taking chances, changing lives, and making an impact in their 40s and beyond. Sundar is director of the Operations & Supply Chain Program at the David Eccles School of Business. A passionate teacher at the U, she has also been a recipient of the Brady Faculty Superior Teaching award and the Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative Leadership in Ethics Education Award.

Alex Smith BS’04 and Eric Weddle ex’06 were both named to the 2024 College Football Hall of Fame Ballot, marking the second year in a row that each was nominated. Smith was a quarterback in the NFL for 16 seasons, making an astonishing return from a life-threatening injury before retiring in 2021. Weddle played safety in the NFL for 14 seasons, coming out of his initial retirement to help the Los Angeles Rams win a Super Bowl in 2021 before retiring again.

Matthew Batt

Matthew Batt PhD’06 recently published The Last Supper Club, a witty and down-to-earth memoir of how as a forty-something university professor on sabbatical, he found himself returning to a job waiting tables—and loving it. Batt’s work has been featured in the New York Times, Outside Magazine, Tin House, and elsewhere. His prior memoir Sugarhouse is an improbably funny account of how the purchase and restoration of a disaster of a fixer-upper saves his young marriage. The recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the McKnight Foundation, and the Aspen Writers’ Institute, Batt teaches creative writing at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn.


Tim Haslam

Tim Haslam BS’08 is the director of operations for the Utah Men’s Lacrosse Team. Haslam has been the voice of the Utes since 2019, working as a play-by-play announcer and analyst for lacrosse home games. He also served as the program’s sports information director from 2017-18.

Kinley C. Puzey BS’08 MAR’10 founded the Onyx Design Collective, a design firm that specializes in high-end residential and custom commercial projects. A licensed architect, Puzey has worked on a range of projects including an off-the-grid home on the Navajo reservation, public art installations, restaurants, university buildings, multi-story office buildings, and multimillion-dollar custom homes. He is a recipient of the AIA School Medal and Certificate for Merit and Excellence, the College of Architecture’s highest award.

Brenna Marron

Brenna Marron BS’09 BS’09 is the director of governmental affairs for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Marron works on coordination of the agency’s legislative affairs, Congressional relations, and policy matters affecting federal, state, and local government. Previously, Marron was deputy executive director of the department’s House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee.

Noella Sudbury BA’06 BUS’06 JD’09 is the founder and CEO of Rasa Legal, an organization that expunges criminal records. Sudbury says that when she began her career as a legal defender, “I found myself passionate about fixing the broken justice system.” When she was offered a position as director of the Criminal Justice Advisory Council for Salt Lake County in 2016, Sudbury says, “It was a chance to do policy work and change the system to create scalable change.” She led the effort to pass Utah’s Clean Slate law, which will expunge over a half million criminal cases in Utah. “This law will provide thousands of low-income families with an opportunity to obtain better housing and employment opportunities,” she notes. Yet it was the limitations of the new law—the expensive and complicated process to expunge records—that led Sudbury to found Rasa Legal in 2022. In about three minutes, clients can find out whether they are eligible for record expungement. Rasa Legal’s team then uses software to streamline the expungement process, making it more affordable.


Heather Tanana JD’10 has been speaking with national media about the U.S. Supreme Court’s Arizona v. Navajo Nation ruling, which centered on the tribe’s rights to the Colorado River, and the Court’s decision to uphold the Indian Child Welfare Act. Tanana is a research assistant professor and Wallace Stegner Center Fellow at the S.J. Quinney College of Law. She is experienced in state, federal, and tribal courts and clerked at the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah. She founded the Indian Law Section of the Utah State Bar Association.  

Luther Elliss

Luther Elliss BS’11 just finished his second season as the Utes’ Defensive Tackle coach. Elliss is a former All-American for Utah Football, where he played from 1991-94, earning consensus All-America honors, three-time all-conference selections, and WAC Defensive Player of the Year in 1994. Elliss was inducted into the Polynesian Football Hall of Fame in 2015. His son, Jonah, currently plays football for the U.

Pamela Portocarrero

Pamela Portocarrero BA’14 BA’14 is a Government Innovation Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School Government Performance Lab, where she works directly with local and state governments to help them streamline processes, implement effective governance, put new research into action, and improve their services. A U Honors College alumna, Portocarrero graduated as a first-generation student, with dual degrees in international studies and political science.

Laura Leon JD’16 is an immigration attorney and founder of Laura Leon Law PLLC in Bryan, Texas, having persevered through challenges, such as failed first-time bar exams and the global pandemic, to realize her dream. A first-generation Colombian American, she currently serves on the Education Committee for the Hispanic Forum of Bryan/College Station and the Risk Management Committee for the Brazos Interfaith Immigration Network.

Jasmine Stack MFA’17 directed Utah-based band Little Moon’s music video for their song “Wonder Eye,” which won NPR’s 2023 Tiny Desk Concert contest. Stack is a freelance video editor and filmmaker, as well as an adjunct assistant professor of dance at the U.

Ash Patlan

Ash Patlan BFA’18 BS’18 performed in Mi Abuela, Queen of Nightmares at The Tank Theatre in New York City this past fall, playing several roles in the story of a young Salvadoran American woman navigating trauma and family mythology through magic and folklore as she comes of age. Patlan, a first-generation Mexican American, said it was poignant and special appearing for the first time in a Latinx show. She has previously appeared in pieces with the New York Theatre Workshop, the Actors Theatre of Louisville, and Pioneer Theatre Company (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime), among others.

Grayson Murphy BS’18 won gold in December at El Cruce, a challenging three-day, 100K race in Patagonia’s Nahuel Huapí National Park, running alongside current Utah student Keelah Barger, who took third-place in women. Murphy is a former Utah All-American and a two-time world champion in mountain and trail running, as well as a four-time U.S. national champion in mountain running and vertical kilometer.


“Ignorance is a jail cell,” says Luis Ramirez BS’23, a first-generation college alum, the son of Mexican and El Salvadoran immigrant parents whom he watched struggle to build a better life here. The U, he says, gave him “the three keys that liberated my mind from the shackles of oppression: scholarship, critical knowledge, and mentorship.” As Ramirez progressed at the U, he began helping others similarly transform their lives. Serving as an Eccles Ambassador, he mentored freshman business students and planned Business Scholars program events to help build community. As a Presidential Intern, he worked to foster dialogues between students and police officers to promote equitable campus policing practices. Ramirez aspires to earn a doctorate in business administration and become a business school professor to continue supporting students. But with tensions rising between the U.S. and numerous countries, he plans to first serve as an officer in the Marine Corps for four years before attending grad school.

Gabriel Misla

Gabriel Misla BA’21, a photojournalist for KUTV 2 News in Utah, received a Rocky Mountain Emmy for Investigative Multiple Reports for his and his colleagues’ coverage on “Failing the Innocents,” a series of reports on the tragic deaths of two three-year-old boys in Eagle Mountain. A graduate of the Department of Film & Media Arts, Misla is also an accomplished filmmaker and recently curated the 2024 Slamdance Film Festival’s Revolution Short Film Program. As a student, Misla founded the U of U Film Production Club.

Josefine McBrayer

Josefine McBrayer PhD’22 was awarded the Truman Fellowship by Sandia National Laboratories, which will allow her to continue her innovative research to improve battery lifetimes. McBrayer was selected for both her academic excellence and her passion for and extensive experience in energy storage research.

Nizhoni Porter BS’23 became passionate about dentistry after a childhood dental experience. And at the U, she engaged in the Native American Research Internship, which deepened her resolve to serve Indigenous communities. “Seeing education’s power to transform lives,” she says, “I’m driven to be a role model for Indigenous youth, showcasing the rewards of higher education.” Her next step is dental school, with a commitment to giving back to her community and continuing her research endeavors.

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