Class of ’89 Is First to Celebrate 25 Years
There were hugs and laughs as alumni from the Class of 1989, the first four-year graduating class of Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology, greeted each other on the Friday afternoon preceding TJ’s Homecoming football game. (Coincidentally, the former Thomas Jefferson High School is currently celebrating the school’s 50th anniversary). Many had not seen each other in years, and some hadn’t been on campus since their graduation. As children of alumni played on the nearby softball field, faculty members enjoyed burgers and met up with former students, while alumni, including some from later classes, traded TJ stories and caught each other up on career and family news.
After the barbecue, the whole crowd headed over to the Homecoming game, where they sat together in the bleachers, per TJ Reunion tradition. Some went out for a late “happy hour.”
The next day, as Class of ’89 Reunion festivities continued, alumni met for a family-friendly picnic at an Arlington playground near the hotel that would host the dressier event that evening.
The highlight of the evening event were the videos from the vault, compiled by reunion organizer Maura McNerney, who together with co-organizer Seain Gutridge, TJ Alumni Association Secretary, made the reunion weekend happen.
A Few Big Names:
Ashley Edward Miller: Ashley Miller is a Hollywood screenwriter known for his work in both film and television. While writing for the television series “Andromeda,” he met his future collaborator, Jack Stentz. The pair wrote scripts for “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles,” and “Fringe,” the films “Thor” and “X-Men: First Class,” and a young adult book about a boy with Asperger’s, Colin Fisher.
The highly regarded Miller-Stentz writing team is currently at work on two talked-about scripts: a reinvention of the classic Power Rangers series, due out in July, 2016; and “Acme,” which is based on Looney Tunes cartoons and will star comedian Steve Carell.
Jason Hintz Llopis: A twenty-year veteran of the Walt Disney Company (Disney), Hintz Llopis is a Producer for Disney’s Research division, where he drives creative and technical collaborations among research scientists, as well as develops and manages innovation partnerships between Disney’s Research labs and its business units, including The Walt Disney Studios, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, ESPN, Consumer Products, and Disney Interactive. He is co-inventor on two patents pending. At Disney Animation, where Hintz Llopis served as Production Manager before moving to Disney Research, he worked on thirteen animated films, including blockbusters “Tangled,” and “Tarzan.” He recently worked on the 2014 comedy animated film “Big Hero 6,” that has received rave reviews, including kudos for its treatment of important issues in science and technology.
Frank Probst, MD: Dr. Probst is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Molecular and Human Genetics at Baylor College of Medicine and a practicing pediatrician and geneticist affiliated with Texas Children’s Hospital. An MD/PhD well-known in his field for discovering and mapping “Martin-Probst Syndrome,” a rare X-linked disorder characterized by deafness, cognitive impairment, and other features, Probst is currently engaged in novel research using the house mouse as a model system for human genetic disorders. By breeding female mice that have only one X chromosome with male mice, he has generated excellent mouse models for human X-linked genetic diseases.
Karin Verspoor: Dr. Verspoor is an Associate Professor in the Department of Computing and Information Systems at the University of Melbourne in Australia, where she teaches and conducts research in the areas of text and data mining with an emphasis on biomedical data analysis. Her current research is focused on building tools to support biological discovery and clinical decision support, with particular emphasis on methods that enable the use of the biomedical literature for improving biomedical data analysis. Author of over well over one hundred publications, Dr. Verspoor is widely cited in the fields of computational linguistics, bioinformatics and text mining and is currently President of the Australasian Language Technology Association.
Kirk Rieckhoff: Air Force Captain Kirk Rieckhoff was awarded a silver star, the third highest military service medal, for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action,” while piloting an F-15E Strike Eagle in March, 2002 in Afghanistan. “By inflicting direct losses to al Queda and Taliban forces located seventy-five meters from friendly positions while subjecting himself to enemy fire, Captain Rieckhoff’s aviation prowess was responsible for the eventual rescue of twenty-three American personnel and the advancement of the United States’ war on terrorism,” the award states. After serving the Air Force for thirteen years, from 1993 to 2006, Captain Rieckhoff joined McKinsey & Company, where he is now a partner.
Alumni Couple (and Kids) Start Over From the Ground Up . . . Literally
Excerpts from sojournchronicle by freelance writer, John Atwell, TJ ’89
THE (CRAZY) IDEA: After 23 years of steady, dual-income government jobs with six figures and all the trappings of modern East Coast life, writes John Atwell, TJ ’89 (right), on behalf of himself and his wife, Esther (Chan) Atwell, TJ’ 89, in the blog that documents his family’s new beginning, we are in the process of selling all we own, unplugging from the Washington, DC, area, and establishing an off-the-grid homestead on the Big Island of Hawaii with our four kids (whom we will homeschool). Crazy? Absolutely.
The broader idea is something like this…go debt free, minimize regular bills, grow food to feed yourself, limit purchases of permanent infrastructure and maintenance — hungry machines — sell surplus for petty cash, develop other income streams as needed for taxes, gas, medical bills, etc.
LIFE ON THE BIG ISLAND: Buying land in Hawaii is a process that I shall call ‘unique’ when compared to securing land in suburban areas on the East Coast. For starters, cesspools are still a common and legal means for managing human waste on plots. Rain water catchment (supplying all in-house water needs) is common, as are solar water heaters and photovoltaic electrical supply. Land completely out of range of any municipal utilities is common. Property contracts include disclosures on singing tree frogs, stinging red ants, wild pigs, mongoose, unexploded ordinance, and unpredictable volcanic activity.
I am increasingly convinced that God has chosen the Big Island as a testing ground for fine tuning the details of the final rollout of the Apocalypse. As this soon-to-be hurricane approaches, the ongoing volcanic eruption continues to ooze lava toward the good people of the quaint village of Pahoa . . .
GOING OFF-GRID: [In the rental house before homesteading] The kids quickly adjusted to better water management practices, including the shower habit of shutting off the water while you lather up. Absent air conditioning, they started to get comfortable sleeping with windows and doors open. We had to start driving into town to pick up a cell phone signal, mail, free spring water (for drinking), and drop off trash, recyclables, and limited green waste. All laundry is line dried. We have also begun to experiment with the limitations and quirks of solar lanterns and flashlights that we brought along as we work to keep the house electric bill down. Next step is to fire up the Kelly Kettle (above) to get used to alternative (free) ways to quickly and efficiently heat water and do light cooking.
HOMESTEADING: Living in conditions that lay somewhere between those of a college dorm and a second rate sleep-over summer camp for misled youths in an oddball B-movie, it was a harried week of settling in at the base camp on our newly settled property.
There is nothing like a solid breakfast of buckwheat flapjacks and self-spiced sausage patties cooked on a griddle over the hissing eyes of a Coleman camp stove to help you forget that you live out of a tent, shower out of a bucket, and rely on plastic baggies made for solid human waste to manage your family’s ‘output.’
Rather than grow large amounts of one crop, like corn, that has to be sold so that the farmer can then buy his own food, the focus is on growing food in the first place—a robust vegetable garden, fruit trees and bushes, egg laying hens, a dairy animal, a meat animal, honey bees, mushrooms. I kicked off two formal courses: one on soil science at the local college and one on permaculture through a sustainable farming establishment nearby. ‘Machete-in-hand’ is now a common state for any of us.
NEW SOURCES OF INCOME: I—or more accurately, we the family—picked up a paper route in the neighborhood of our new property during the first week of this period. With me behind the wheel, the bride serving as navigator, and our youngest assembling the paper sections and inserting ads and coupons, we have set off each morning these two weeks between 2:30 and 3:30 to bring the good people their morning news. As the first people on many of the roads in our area each new day, it turns out that we also get first dibs on free wild food. On one morning alone, we collected 10 recently fallen avocados and I have lost track of how many guava we have enjoyed.
My bride is quickly becoming the Mary Kay of the granola crunchy world with her homemade toothpaste, tallow balm, and shampoo. She began an intensive (8-hour per week) course on business aspects of agricultural endeavors, which included going to several local farmers markets to conduct market surveys for her own potential products.
THE (TJ) MORAL OF THE STORY: This adventure is full of STEM-related issues of the applied technology and biology sort, Atwell wrote in an email. You never know when, or how, your TJ education is going to come in handy. On the side of the hard sciences alone, I have tapped concepts first learned in the Biotechnology Lab to more quickly grasp my current needs in the soil science arena, and those Geosystems classes back in my senior year make it easier to understand and work with meteorological phenomena and seismic activity that now fill my days as a food grower on a volcanically active island. My side income as a freelance writer would not be possible were it not for an intensive effort at TJ back in ’89 to make us all decent writers.