Class of ’94 Celebrates 20 Years
Reunion organizers Beth Finn and Suzzette (Rodriguez) DeMers put their phenomenal skills to work for their special class, resulting in a well-attended reunion weekend that had the whol
e class laughing and crying and remembering why they love TJ. The October 10th-11th (Columbus Day weekend) festivities included:
Friday Night Social, hosted by classmate Joanne Liu at Crios, her “Modern Mexican” restaurant in Dupont Circle. A kid-friendly early dinner was followed by appetizers on-the-house for all alums, as well as for any retired or current faculty, all of whom were invited to attend reunion events free of charge.
- Family-friendly Picnic, Saturday afternoon at an Arlington park, a bring-your-own-lunch affair supplemented by snacks, drinks, and desserts. The chilly, cloudy, and even occasionally rainy Fall day didn’t deter the diehard group of nearly 100 alumni and family members from hanging out on the playground for hours.
- Main Event, Saturday evening in Founders Hall Ballroom at GMU Law School in Arlington. Clearly all classes are not created equal, as this one had a palpable vibe throughout this lively event that featured hors d’oeuvres, desserts, and an open bar, along with a photo booth, a DJ with a full slate of vintage tunes, and an unbelievable collection of old video and still footage from back in the day.
After retired Biology teacher and Class of ’94 sponsor John Berryman congratulated the class, both organizers addressed the crowd. Suzzette DeMers observed that the “heavy- backpack intensity” of the school brought everyone closer, helping them appreciate each other more. She mentioned that in twenty years, the class had felt both joy and loss, including the loss of two classmates.
Beth Finn informed the crowd that the class had already raised an amazing $25,000 for the Campaign for TJ, thanking by name those donors who had given $1,000 or more, and asking that everyone join in at some level so that the class could lead the way in alumni participation. Finally, she announced that the $25,000 gift would be used to name a classroom in honor of the classmates who had passed away, Seth Mitcho and Christopher Venturini.
Class of ’94: Where Are They Now?
Dan Rubén Odio: A serial entrepreneur since 2000, his most recent start-up, Socialize, was acquired by ShareThis last year. He and his wife live in Palo Alto with their one-year old daughter. “[I’m thinking of starting] a micro-lending pool that gives TJ kids the capital to go out and start businesses, funded by alums as LPs and managed by an 8th period group of TJ kids.”
Jose Llana: He made his Broadway debut as “Lun Tha” in The King & I (1996) and has appeared in five Broadway shows since. “Twenty years later I’m proud to say I’m doing exactly what gave me so much joy and confidence back in the TJ music and drama departments.” A fellow ’94 alum introduced him to his long-time partner, Erik. “My hope is that we’ll be legally married on the federal level by our 25th TJ reunion.”
Kira Gnesilidoff and Rob McInturff, one of several TJ ‘94 couples: She works as a professional facilitator and executive coach while he is a Foreign Service officer. They’ve lived in Monterrey, Mexico; Kabul, Afghanistan; San Salvador, El Salvador; and are now in Quito, Ecuador with their three girls. “Any TJ alum interested in visiting South America should really consider coming and staying with us in Quito.”
Dustin Thomason: With classmate Ian Caldwell, he published the wildly successful novel, The Rule of Four. He’s now working on “Manhattan,” a TV drama set in Los Alamos during the building of the atomic bomb, which will air in July. (“If I’d paid a little more attention in physics at TJ, I might fare better in our writer’s room discussions.”) “Ian and I are also busy at work on another novel together. If our history is any indication, it should be out by the time of the 30th reunion.” He lives with his girlfriend in Venice, CA. “As a former TJ Today editor, I often find myself enjoying current issues of the student newspaper online. And they say no one reads in Hollywood.”
Lana (Nguyen) Tyrrell: She and her husband have seven kids. “In addition to volunteering at my kids’ school as a FIRST Lego League coach and coordinating and teaching part of an extra-curricular science program, I decided to go back to school and figure out what my next twenty years are going to look like.”
Melissa (Seymour) Fahmy: She is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at U of Georgia. She and her husband have two children. “My path and my achievements are not nearly as exciting as many others, but I am a fully employed female philosopher (women are highly under-represented in this field – more so than physics!) under 40 who has children. You will have to take my word for it, but this is actually quite rare!”
Catherine Carroll: After a Supreme Court clerkship*, she joined the DC law firm of Wilmer, Hale, where she is now a partner. “I get to work on issues ranging from antitrust to immigration to employee benefits to First Amendment to death-penalty appeals. I spend a good chunk of time on pro bono work and constitutional matters, which is quite rewarding. And it’s been fun to cross paths with several TJ alums in the DC legal community over the years.” *From Mike Park: “When I began clerking on the Supreme Court, there were 4 TJ alums among the 36 law clerks, more than from most top law schools.”
Brian Suskiewicz: He is Chief Executive Strategist for Coaches Across Continents, an organization that uses soccer to teach life lessons. “I have seen former child soldiers re-integrate into society, visited 50 countries, and had more fun than any person should be allowed on the company’s dime. I have crossed paths with many old TJ friends in the states and overseas. The greatest thing that I have seen in the TJ alumni isn’t their successes in their chosen fields – but rather the success of being happy in their chosen lives.”
Nicole (Cash) Saks: She is Associate Principal Horn with the San Francisco Symphony and lives with her husband in Oakland. “I’m not the brilliant scientist my parents assumed I’d turn into when I entered TJ, but I’m so grateful to be able to make music and get paid to do it. I’ve played in the great symphony halls of Europe and Asia, given recitals in Australia and Japan, and become peers with the very people I looked up to as idols when I was younger. I credit spending four years at TJ with 400+ super smart overachievers for helping me to achieve this kind of success. Thanks guys!!!”
Lauren Hale: A professor in the School of Public Health at SUNY Stony Brook, she is the Principal Investigator on a large NIH-funded grant that is measuring sleep and physical activity among nearly 1,000 teenagers across 20 US cities. She and her husband have one son and are expecting a second.
Brian O’Connell: He is an attending physician at a trauma center in Greenville, NC. He is also an Air Force reservist, where he works with a critical care air transport team to support aeromedical evacuation. “To all the TJ grads who went into the military or became military spouses, thank you for all you have done!”
Staci Wilson: Olympic Gold Medalist, USA Women’s Soccer in 1996; Defensive player of NCAA tournament, NCAA Champions – North Carolina (see feature article in June 2014 Newsworthy)
Mehret Mandefro: Practiced medicine for HIV communities in Africa and New York; Worked on behavioral health policy issues while a White House Fellow; Started a nonprofit, which produced an award-winning documentary (see feature article in March 2014 Newsworthy)
At the invitation of two of TJ’s popular political interest clubs, Young Democrats and Teenage Republicans, Alumni Rob Sarvis took his Libertarian message of free markets and deregulation to TJ’s 8th period on Friday, October 24th. With just ten days until the voters were to cast their ballots in the Virginia Senate race that was narrowly won by Democrat Mark Warner, Sarvis explained that a significant third-party showing would force the major parties to respond.
Sarvis, who captured 6.5% of the vote — including 15% of the under-30 vote according to exit polls — in last year’s Virginia gubernatorial election (see previous article, Nov. 2013), had a tougher time breaking into this fall’s Senate race, where he garnered 2.4%.
Dr. Glazer, who stopped by as Sarvis was answering a student’s question about minimum wage laws, asked the alumni candidate what he felt about TJ. “Having gone to TJ should give you the confidence that you can do anything,” Sarvis told the students, who filled the Library. “You learned how to learn, so be entrepreneurial. Try new things. This is a unique experience, so get the most out of it.” To show his appreciation for the privilege of attending TJ and to strengthen it for future students, Sarvis, together with his two siblings who are also alums, have made a major gift to the Campaign for TJ and will be naming a classroom in the new building in memory of their late father.