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The college announces 2018 Alumni Award winners

Spring | Summer 2018

This fall, five alumni of the College of Arts and Sciences and its predecessor institutions will be honored for their exceptional contributions to their fields and to the lives of others. The awards presentation will take place during Homecoming and Reunion Weekend, Oct. 11–14, 2018.

Distinguished Undergraduate Alumnus

Michael Lubin (CIT ’68), an executive in the telecommunications and semiconductor industries for some 40 years, earned a bachelor’s degree in physics at Case Institute of Technology. His subsequent studies led him to Yale University, where he completed a master’s degree in physics, and to Wesleyan University, where he pursued doctoral work in general relativity. Before entering the corporate world, he was a physics professor and an academic dean at Worcester Junior College in Massachusetts.

Lubin has fostered advances across a broad range of technologies. During the 1980s, he was a leader in the development of Ku-band VSATs, a satellite communications system for home and business users. A company he co-founded in the 1990s produced handset chipsets (integrated circuits for mobile phones) and wireless routers. Lubin’s team also patented a cellphone with an Internet Protocol (IP) address—a device that some regard as the first smartphone. Another company he founded was a pioneer in Internet music.

Since 2005, Lubin has been vice president–corporate development and senior advisor at ViaSat, where he is involved with mergers and acquisitions, strategic partnerships and emerging uses of broadband connectivity. Recently, he was invited to speak at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in Rome on whether connectivity should be a human right.

Lubin has served on boards and advisory councils of several corporations, arts organizations and educational institutions, including Case Western Reserve.

Distinguished Graduate Alumnus

Toby Maloney (GRS ‘73), who holds a master’s degree in English from Case Western Reserve, spent much of his career as a senior communications executive, first with SmithKlineBeecham (now GlaxoSmithKline) in Philadelphia and London and then with KeyCorp in Cleveland. In 2001, he and his wife, Melanie, a specialist in organizational training and development, signed on as senior managers and investors for a fledgling magazine called Mental Floss. The publication has since evolved into a digital media company with a global audience and a flourishing sideline in branded merchandise.

After the firm was acquired by Dennis Publishing in 2011, Maloney became active in Cleveland’s entrepreneurial community as a mentor and angel investor. He has played a major role in the growth of BoxCast, a high-tech media streaming company co-founded by Gordon Daily (CSE ’00, GRS ’01). Farther afield, he has become an investor and advisor for Waggit, a Boulder-based company that has created a “smart” dog collar with health monitoring and tracking capability. He and his wife live, appropriately enough, in Novelty, Ohio.

Distinguished Service Alumnae

Everywhere she has lived, Margaret Clossey (FSM ’68) has helped address the needs of vulnerable populations. Her husband, William M. Clossey Jr. (ADL ’66, GRS ’67), is a retired executive whose work periodically required the family to relocate. “With each move,” she recalls, “I looked for a volunteer commitment where I felt I was serving others and which I found personally rewarding.”

A graduate of Flora Stone Mather College with a degree in political science, Clossey has been especially devoted to assisting abused and neglected children. She first became involved in this cause while living in Los Angeles County, where she learned that children who had been removed from their families were housed in a former detention center while awaiting placement in foster care. Clossey volunteered for, and eventually became board president of, United Friends of the Children, an organization whose members visited these youngsters regularly, providing emotional support and donating amenities to make the facility seem less institutional.

Later, in Chicago, Clossey became a Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA), speaking in court for the best interests of children who had experienced neglect or abuse. She also joined the boards of Illinois Action for Children, which sponsored the local CASA program, and the Juvenile Protection Agency, a private social service organization. Clossey continued as a CASA volunteer in Morristown, N.J., where she and her husband now live. In addition, she has been active in the Women’s Association of Morristown Medical Center for the past 18 years.

Sally Reisacher Petro (WRC ’82, SAS ’84, GRS ’90, SAS ’90) holds three degrees from Case Western Reserve: a bachelor of arts in communication studies and religion, a master of science in social administration and a doctorate in social welfare. When she enrolled at the university, she was following a family tradition established by her mother, Mary Lou Geltz Reisacher (FSM ’39), and two uncles, Ralph W. Geltz (CIT ’34) and Carl F. Geltz (CIT ’37). “I grew up hearing them talk with great affection about their college experiences,” Petro says, “so it was natural for me to choose CWRU as my college when the time came.” She adds that once she completed her undergraduate studies, “My love for the university led me to remain.”

Petro launched her career in social services at Cleveland’s Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry, where she directed a training program for staff members in adult care homes throughout Northeast Ohio. Eventually, she would write and lecture nationally about issues concerning residents’ quality of life in such facilities. Petro went on to become the ministry’s associate director of aging services. After relocating to Pittsburgh in 1997, she established a consulting firm that offered educational programming to adult care homes across the country, and for 13 years she published a national periodical, Board and Care Quality Forum.

Since 2007, Petro has been the full-time volunteer coordinator of the Unity Food Pantry in Greentree, Pa., a suburb of Pittsburgh. In 2016, she received the Joyce Rothermel Peace and Social Justice Award from the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank.

Petro is a former board president of the Western Reserve Alumni Association and former co-chair of the Visiting Committee for the College of Arts and Sciences.

Distinguished Young Alumnus

Neil Ursic (CWR ’08) worked as a financial analyst and management consultant after completing a bachelor’s degree in psychology at Case Western Reserve. In June 2015, he became the CEO of a small consumer research agency, Crush Republic, in Cincinnati. Whereas most companies seek insights into consumer behavior by conducting surveys and focus groups, Crush Republic sent consumers on “missions” with a mobile app that allowed them to report directly on their shopping habits and their use of products.

In May 2017, Ursic acquired another Cincinnati firm, Batterii, a developer of software to support collaboration, and merged Crush Republic into it. Today, Batterii’s clients include P&G, Adidas, REI and other major corporations, and it has consumers completing missions around the world in more than 10 different languages.

Ursic has been a mentor to many local startups. An active runner, he serves on the board of the Cincinnati Athletic Club. He and his wife, Jane, have one daughter, Audrey.

Photo of Michael Lubin by Bradley Lau; photo of Sally Reisacher Petro by Jumpstart Video Productions; photo of Neil Ursic by David Stephen Kalonick. All other photos courtesy of their subjects.

To nominate graduates of the college or its predecessor institutions for the 2019 Alumni Awards, please contact Sharon Jordan-Davis, the college’s executive director of constituent relations, at The deadline for nominations is Dec. 31, 2018.

Two Art History Faculty Members Win Major Prizes

This spring, members of the college’s art history faculty received two of the most prestigious awards in the field of medieval studies, presented by the Medieval Academy of America.

Elizabeth Bolman, the Elsie B. Smith Professor in the Liberal Arts and chair of the Department of Art History and Art, received the 2018 Digital Humanities and Multimedia Studies Prize.

Professor Elina Gertsman was a co-winner of the inaugural Karen Gould Prize, which celebrates outstanding books in the field of medieval art history.

Elizabeth Bolman. Photo by Keli Schimelpfenig

Bolman was honored for a project that enables Internet users to visit one of the monumental treasures of late antiquity: the Church of Saints Bishai and Bigol, also known as the Red Monastery Church, in Upper Egypt. Beginning in 2002, Bolman directed a 12-year study and conservation of the building’s richly colored architectural sculptures and wall paintings, which date back to the 5th and 6th centuries. The results of this effort were then documented in vivid, three-dimensional detail, using the most advanced photographic and laser technologies. The Digital Red Monastery Church includes a 360-degree panorama of the sanctuary and a virtual-reality survey of the entire building.

This project, the academy observed, “brings a marvelous, high-level visualization of this significant structure to those far outside the small group of scholars who had known of it previously.” It also preserves for further study an art historical landmark that ranks among the world’s most endangered cultural sites, threatened by rising groundwater and other environmental menaces. The conservation of the Red Monastery Church and the subsequent digital rendering were funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development through a grant administered by the American Research Center in Egypt.

Elina Gertsman. Photo by Keli Schimelpfenig

Gertsman won the Gould Prize for Worlds Within: Opening the Medieval Shrine Madonna, published by Penn State Press. The title refers to statues of the Virgin Mary, mostly in wood, that were popular in Western Europe from the 13th through the 15th centuries, but of which only 40 examples survive. A vertical slit runs down the middle of each figure, which opens to reveal a dizzying array of devotional images—carvings, paintings or both—inside.

The question driving Gertsman’s study is how worshippers perceived and responded to the Shrine Madonna. She argues that theological beliefs, theories of vision and memory, liturgical performances and ancillary rites, and ideas about medicine all played a role in shaping viewers’ experience of these objects. Unlike previous scholars, she emphasizes the worshipper’s physical engagement with the statue, whose body must be opened to disclose the sacred truths it contains. Through her exploration of the Shrine Madonna, Gertsman provides insights into the religious, social and visual cultures of late medieval Europe. In the award citation, the academy praised Worlds Within as “an exceptionally multidisciplinary book.”

The Digital Red Monastery Church is divided between two websites: and Worlds Within is featured on the Penn State Press website:

art/sci, etc.

Norah Feeny, professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences, received the 2017 Distinguished Mentorship Award from the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies. Feeny, who specializes in developing and evaluating treatments for post-traumatic stress disorder, was honored for her guidance of students throughout their professional training.

William Marling, professor in the Department of English, received the 2018 Nancy Dasher Award from the College English Association of Ohio for his book Gatekeepers: The Emergence of World Literature and the 1960s.

John Broich, associate professor in the Department of History, is the author of Squadron: Ending the African Slave Trade.

Angela Hein Ciccia, associate professor in the Communication Sciences Program in the Department of Psychological Sciences, won the 2017 Distinguished Member Award from the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine for her contributions to the organization’s work. Ciccia’s research explores barriers to pediatric rehabilitation for children with brain injury or other acquired neurogenic conditions.

John Flores, associate professor in the Department of History, is the author of The Mexican Revolution in Chicago: Immigration Politics from the Early Twentieth Century to the Cold War.

John Grabowski, the Krieger-–Mueller Joint Professor of History, is the author of Cleveland A to Z: Historical Essentials for Newcomers and Residents in Northeast Ohio.

Renée M. Sentilles, associate professor in the Department of History, is the author of American Tomboys, 1850–1915.

Blanton Tolbert, associate professor in the Department of Chemistry, has been appointed to the National Office of AIDS Research Advisory Council.

Erin Benay, the Climo Junior Professor and assistant professor in the Department of Art History and Art, is the author of Exporting Caravaggio: The Crucifixion of Saint Andrew, the latest volume in the Cleveland Museum of Art’s Cleveland Masterwork series.

Sarah Diamond, assistant professor and the George B. Mayer Chair in Urban and Environmental Studies in the Department of Biology, has been elected as an Early Career Fellow of the Ecological Society of America.

Brooke Macnamara, assistant professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences, was selected as one of her discipline’s 2017 Rising Stars by the Association for Psychological Science.

Richard Drushel, senior instructor in the Department of Biology, and Karie Feldman, lecturer in the Department of Sociology, were among four winners of the Outstanding Faculty Advocate Award from the Disabilities Resources office, Educational Services for Students.

Dave Lucas, SAGES Fellow and lecturer in the Department of English, has been named Ohio’s Poet Laureate. His mission during his two-year term is to “foster the art of poetry, encourage literacy and learning, address central issues relating to the humanities and heritage, and encourage the reading and writing of poetry across the state.”

Brad Ricca, SAGES Fellow and lecturer in the Department of English, was nominated for a 2018 Edgar Allan Poe Award in the Best Fact Crime category for his book Mrs. Sherlock Holmes: The True Story of New York City’s Greatest Female Detective and the 1917 Missing Girl Case that Captivated a Nation. The awards competition is administered by the Mystery Writers of America.

Cecelia Ivy Price, a graduate student in the Art Education Program in the Department of Art History and Art, was the subject of a solo exhibition of paintings and conceptual works at the Octagon Gallery in Westfield, N.Y., earlier this year.

Ross W. Duffin and Beverly Simmons are the recipients of the 2018 Howard Mayer Brown Award for lifetime achievement in the field of early music. They accepted the honor, conferred by Early Music America, at the association’s annual meeting in May.

Duffin, the Fynette H. Kulas Professor of Music, is retiring this spring after 40 years as a member of the music department’s faculty and as director of the Historical Performance Practice Program. Last year, the university named him a Distinguished University Professor in recognition of his contributions as a scholar, educator and practitioner.

Simmons, a former faculty member in the Department of Music, was the founding director of the CWRU Early Music Singers, which she led for two decades. For 25 seasons, she was the co-artistic director (with Duffin) and manager of Chapel, Court and Countryside: Early Music at Harkness, which brought international touring artists to campus. Beyond the university, she served as a founding board member and executive director of Early Music America and as the founding publisher of the association’s magazine.

In Memoriam: T.J. McCallum

T. J. McCallum. Photo by Daniel Milner

Todd Jason (T.J.) McCallum, a psychologist who improved older adults’ quality of life through his research, clinical work and community engagement, died Dec. 5, 2017, at age 50. His family and colleagues paid homage to him in a ceremony at Amasa Stone Chapel on Jan. 20.

McCallum, who earned his doctorate at the University of Southern California, joined the Case Western Reserve psychology faculty in 2001. In 2007, he became the first African American to earn tenure and promotion to the rank of associate professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences.

Much of his early research focused on stress, coping and resilience among elders caring for family members with dementia. McCallum was especially interested in how cultural beliefs and practices ease or exacerbate the psychological burdens of caregiving. He published comparative studies of African American and white caregivers in the United States, and he developed a project with colleagues in Brazil to learn, as he put it, “what dementia caregiving is like in another part of the world.” His overriding goal, said professor and department chair Heath Demaree during the memorial ceremony, was to identify ways to “protect and nurture people as they experience the stress of caring for a loved one.”

Later in his career, McCallum turned to the potential role of new technologies in promoting older adults’ health and well-being. In 2009, he opened the Brain Emporium, a public computer lab offering local residents access to cognitive enhancement programs. While serving as a community resource, this pioneering “senior brain gym” yielded data on the efficacy of software designed to help elders maintain their attention, memory and reasoning skills.

McCallum’s record of service to the university included three years as director of the CWRU Psychology Clinic and two years as a member of the Committee on African American Studies. He was also a faculty sponsor for Habitat for Humanity and Teach for America on the Case Western Reserve campus. “T.J. was incredibly giving of himself,” Demaree said, “and he had an indelibly powerful impact on all the people he touched.”

In another tribute, Erin Lea (GRS ’13) described the intellectual excitement that came with having McCallum as her graduate school mentor. “We would nerd out over articles from our favorite gerontology researchers and labs, mulling over the methodology and the theoretical implications,” she recalled. They were on a shared quest for findings that would change the landscape of their discipline. Beyond this, Lea noted, “T.J.’s passion for anything was infectious.” She was alluding to his fierce devotion to the Chicago Cubs.

Lea went on to speak of McCallum’s absolute confidence in his students—“he made me a believer in my own abilities,” she said—and his desire to see them flourish both professionally and personally. “He was truly invested in helping me discover what I wanted out of life, even if that meant diverging from his specific line of research,” Lea said. “He also showed care and concern for my life outside of school.”

This spring, as an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences, Lea co-taught a course on adult development and aging that McCallum had created. This was in addition to her duties as a clinical health psychologist at the Louis Stokes Cleveland VA Medical Center. On her last visit with McCallum, she had the chance to tell him that, through her teaching and her work with older adults, she would be one of the people sustaining his legacy.

T.J. McCallum is survived by his sons, Daniel and Miles; his sister and brother-in-law, Robin McCallum-King and Olujimi King; and his partner, Lisa Shafer.

Alumni Notes

Daniel A. Singleton (CIT ‘80), the Davidson Professor of Science and professor of chemistry at Texas A&M University, received a 2018 Distinguished Achievement in Research Award from the university’s alumni association.

Lauren Fierman (CWR ’82; GRS ’82, English) has been appointed principal of Green Mountain Union High School in Chester, Vt.

Pamela Hickson-Stevenson (LYS ‘84) has been named director of the Akron-Summit County Library.

John P. Vourlis (CSE ’84; GRS ’88, English) is the director of Breaking Balls, a documentary now available on DVD and from digital streaming outlets. An exploration of the game of bocce ball and its place in Italian American culture, the film premiered at the 2017 Cleveland International Film Festival.

Scott Hotes (CIT ‘87) was named chief technology officer at TeenSafe, a software firm whose products enable parents to monitor their children’s smartphone use.

Cadmus Rich (WRC ’87) has been named chief medical officer of Aura Biosciences, a biotech company in Cambridge, Mass.

Donna Gessell (GRS ’89, ’95, English), professor of English at the University of North Georgia, was named a 2017 UNG Distinguished Professor.

Patricia Hubbard (CWR ’89) has been appointed senior vice president and chief technology officer at Cabot Corporation in Boston.

Carl Schimmel (CWR ‘97), associate professor of music theory and composition at Illinois State University, is a 2018 Guggenheim Fellow.

Victor Ryzhov (GRS ’98, chemistry), associate professor and director of graduate studies in the Department
of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Northern Illinois University, received a 2017 Distinguished Graduate Faculty Award.

Steven Gribar (CWR ’99) has joined the team of surgeons at Excela Health Medical Group in Pittsburgh.

Andi Cumbo-Floyd (GRS ’01, English) is the author of Love Letters to Writers: Encouragement, Accountability, Truth-Telling.

Britany Salsbury (CWR ’05) has been named associate curator of prints and drawings at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Yukang Zhao (GRS ’07, science and technology entrepreneurship) has been named associate director of the Global Launch Program at Shire, a biotechnology company in Boston.

Aura Newlin (GRS ‘08, anthropology), assistant professor of sociology and anthropology at Northwest College in Powell, Wy., received the 2018 Faculty Award from the Wyoming Association of Community College Trustees.

Donte Gibbs (CWR ’10; MSASS ’12), youth engagement director at Neighborhood Leadership Institute, has been named the George Gund Foundation Fellow for 2017–19.

Daniel Batchelder (GRS ’18, historical musicology) received the Eva Judd O’Meara Award, which is presented annually for the best review published in Notes, the quarterly publication of the Music Library Association.

School and Degree Abbreviations

CIT              Case Institute of Technology
CWR           Undergraduates, 1989 and after
GRS            School of Graduate Studies
LYS              School of Information and Library Science
WRC           Western Reserve College
CSE             Case School of Engineering
MSASS        Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences

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The notes in this section are compiled from news releases, other publications and messages from alumni like you. We want to hear about milestones in your life. Please send your updates, with your graduation year, to



Page last modified: May 9, 2018