Craig Woodard ’92
Craig Woodard ’92 released his second book, Down Syndrome, Blessed with This Ability! It tells the story of his family and six other families’ experiences with their children who have been blessed with Down Syndrome. He said, “It gives a firsthand perspective for people, including expectant parents who receive a positive diagnosis for Down syndrome. Through our journey, these parents will see that their life with their new blessing will turn out just fine.” His first book was an autobiography called Sharing Life, Sharing Moments and was released in 2015.
Elizabeth Rathburn ’15
Elizabeth Rathburn ’15 wrote and released her first book, “Fulfilled, not Famous” in December 2019. She said she has always loved writing! She has drafted a few fictional novels just for fun and has contributed her writing to the Odyssey website through Mercyhurst University where she completed her undergraduate degree and is studying for her master’s. Elizabeth graduated in May of 2019 with degrees in music and communications, and she plans to complete her master’s in organizational leadership in May of 2020.
A professor from Georgetown University, Eric Koester, reached out to Elizabeth through LinkedIn to ask if she would participate in one of his entrepreneurial courses remotely because he was expanding the course outside of Georgetown. She was hesitant and assumed it was some sort of spam message initially. After some research and a few phone conversations with Eric, she requested the information on the course and decided to go for it. She was one of about sixty students from all over the US participating in the project. The project lasted for about ten months.
The course was an entrepreneurial course as opposed to a writing one, and each student could choose what type of book they wanted to write and what they wanted to write about. Eric told them to “write the book that is going to get you where you want to be in life.” All the students in Elizabeth’s class chose to write nonfiction research-based books. Elizabeth always saw herself writing fiction but decided to choose nonfiction, and she said she is very happy with her decision. Her degree in communications led her to the idea of researching YouTube bloggers. She was able to bring it all full circle through being able to write a book, as she always dreamed of, and using what she knows and learned through her degree to accomplish that daunting mission.
Julie Craig ’01
Julie Craig ’01 released her debut solo album on January 10, 2020, featuring her soprano vocals in the classical crossover style, backed by a full, 46-piece orchestra from Budapest, Hungary. Producer Daniel Weidlein of BioSoul Music arranged and orchestrated, bringing his classical and jazz composition background to create exciting covers of existing classics, as well as original music. Most recording was done at The Village in Los Angeles, one of the most historic recording studios in operation, where the album was mixed by engineer to the stars, Matt Dyson.
Made entirely without a label, the full budget of the album was raised on the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo with grassroots marketing. Julie is sometimes described as “the female Josh Groban.” Her voice training began in opera at age 12. The album blurs the line between classical and pop in a genre that is primarily vocal. Julie’s background also includes live performances in New York and around the world. She has been seen in Off-Broadway productions such as The Apple Tree, Bye Bye Birdie, The Fantasticks, The Black Monk, and many operettas at City Center with the NY Gilbert & Sullivan Players, among others. She was nominated for a Barrymore Award for her performance as Cosette in Les Miserables, toured worldwide playing Maria in West Side Story, and can be heard on the original cast recording for The Black Monk. Other notable recent performances include the National Anthem for the San Francisco Giants, the Google holiday party at San Francisco City Hall, and the 4th of July Spectacular with the Santa Rosa Symphony at the Green Music Center, conducted by Maestro Michael Berkowitz.
Sarah Signorino ’00
Sarah Signorino ’00 is in her second year as Director of Mission and Identity at her alma mater, Canisius College. Last year, she was chosen to be 1 of 21 delegates representing North America at the Global Congress to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the creation of Secretariat for the Social Apostolate. The congress consisted of 210 delegates representing 62 countries who all gathered together in Rome. The five-day gathering, held November 4–8, celebrated the successes and failures of 50 years of the Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat, examined how the Society of Jesus promotes faith and justice across all works, and, in the spirit of the Jesuit martyrs, allowed delegates to prayerfully identify challenges and opportunities to discern where God is calling us in the coming years through the lens of the Universal Apostolic Preferences.
Father Arturo Sosa, the Super General of the Society of Jesus, addressed the Congress on the first day and invited them to be bold, collaborative, and creative as they, members of and lay collaborators with the Society of Jesus, consider the Universal Apostolic Preferences and the priorities of the Social Apostolate. Father General’s keynote provided a lens for the delegates to look through as they examined consolations and desolations happening in the global social apostolate. Then, on November 7, they were blessed with a private audience with Pope Francis. The Holy Father addressed the Congress and spent time greeting each individual person. “Since we each only had a few seconds with Pope Francis, I said, “Thank you for your joy”, as I shook his hand. I loved watching Father Sosa and Pope Francis greet each other as Jesuit brothers.”
The Congress concluded with mass at the Church of the Gesù, the mother church of the Society of Jesus. The bodies of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, and Pedro Arrupe are both buried inside. Father Sosa presided over the gathering and reminded the congress of the “centrality of the spiritual dimension to our commitment to social justice and integral ecology, the need and complexity of broadening collaboration among ourselves, and to promote processes of reconciliation.” After mass, delegates were invited to tour the original rooms of St. Ignatius, where he spent his final years in Rome. “I found walking through the simple spaces to be so moving and powerful.” Visitors can see St. Ignatius’ shoes, and a first edition of the Spiritual Exercises and pray in the chapel where the founder of the Jesuits would celebrate mass and where he would die.
Sarah concluded, “The SJES Congress filled me with hope, inspiration, and a fire for justice. Pope Francis, in his address, reminded us that we need a true cultural revolution, a transformation of our collective gaze, of our attitudes, of our ways of perceiving ourselves, and of placing ourselves before the world.”
Elenora Pertz ’11
Elenora Pertz ’11 is currently a classical pianist living in Berlin, Germany. She has performed in ten countries and has, so far, worked in two of the three opera houses in Berlin. She is working as a Répétiteur, a member of an opera company who accompanies rehearsals on the piano and coaches the singers. She started in the opera houses at the age of 25, which is quite young in that field. She is now fluent in German and can also speak Italian and French well. This all stemmed from a trip to Vienna the summer before she started college; she loved it and all of the musical culture it came with.
Nora is an IB Diploma graduate of Mercyhurst Prep, and she feels that the IB program really helped her get to where she is today. She felt more academically challenged in her senior year at MPS than during college. Nora said it made her really have to think outside of the box, and all the critical thinking and balancing that the program required was great preparation for the future. After MPS she acquired her degrees in Solo Piano Performance and European studies, focusing in German and Austrian, from Vanderbilt University. This is after studying pre-med for a year because she thought she wanted to be a doctor. However, she was miserable in those studies and knew deep down that music is what she wanted to pursue. She had received scholarships for music and decided she wanted to be happier and take that leap of faith.
Once the decision to focus on her music was made, it took off from there. She took a summer and studied German at the Middlebury Language Schools in Vermont where students are required to only speak the language they are studying, six hours a day for two months. This is how she became fluent in German, which, she said, opened so many doors. While studying abroad in Vienna for seven months during her junior year at Vanderbilt, she met a teacher there who strongly encouraged her to return to Vienna and work with her on a master’s degree. After graduation from Vanderbilt, that is just what she did. She attained her master’s in Vocal Accompanying from MUK – Musik und Kunst Privatuniversität der Stadt Wien, The Music and Arts University of Vienna in Vienna, Austria. While studying there she met another teacher who led her to Berlin where she is currently working and studying for a second master’s in Art Song Accompanying from Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler Berlin, Hanns Eisler University of Music Berlin.
Nora’s accomplishments are far and wide, and this is just the beginning. Her advice to anyone else who is scared to go for what they really want is to take that Leap. She said, “If you have a passion and you’re good at something, you’re motivated and smart, then find a way to turn it in to a career. It will take a lot of hard work, and you may need to think outside of the box, but it is worth it.”
Solitaire Miles ’85
Solitaire Miles ’85 is a talented artist, singer, and musician also known as Susie Blue, her musician name. It has not always been easy for her, but she has persevered through life and fondly credits the Mercyhurst Prep environment and teachers for always encouraging her and teaching her how to never give up. After graduating from MPS she went on to Gannon, but after two years suffered from Epilepsy and Lupus, which took her away from school for a while. She chose to move to Chicago in hopes of finding some new treatment options so she could continue to get better. While there, she was able to obtain her music degree from De Paul University after studying opera. She has been utilizing her talents for amazing things ever since.
Most recently her artistic talents were featured on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert as part of their “Fan Art Friday” segment. A couple months ago her drawing of Stephen Colbert was chosen as that week’s feature. She is actually a professional illustrator, creating artwork and book covers for companies like Time Life Books, Random House, and Harlequin. She took classes for a year at the Art Institute of Chicago but said that her background from the classes she took at MPS really helped.
Not only is she a talented artist and professional illustrator, but she is musically talented as well. She is the lead singer of the Grammy-nominated band, Susie Blue & the Lonesome Fellas. She started the group in 2014, and they have been performing in clubs and theatres around Chicago ever since. Their music is a Western Swing style that Solitaire describes as an offshoot of Big Band Swing from the early 1940’s. She said, “It’s basically like singing swing/jazz with a twang.” Their first album was released in 2015 and the next will be released in the spring of 2020. Prior to this group, Solitaire worked in Chicago and New York City for over twenty years as a jazz singer, but she was ready for a change and wanted to set herself aside from all the other jazz singers out there.
The talent is ample when it comes to Solitaire, but it is wonderful to hear how MPS helped her get to where she is today. “I don’t think I could have learned the ambition to create and succeed had I not been a student at MPS. In addition to training us to create art and music, the school also trained us to want to succeed in life, and they taught us discipline and perseverance.”
Dominic Notarione ’99
Dominic Notarione ’99 is quite the adventurer. His life after Mercyhurst Prep has been exciting and exhilarating to say the least.
He went to Penn State University on an Army ROTC scholarship. After graduating, Dom spent five years as an active duty officer in the Army. Two and half of those years were spent in Baghdad, Iraq, where he and his team were awarded a Bronze Star for building the largest flight following network in theater at that time. In 2009 he left the Army as a captain and went on to work in the Naval Nuclear IT field here in the US and in England for a few years. He has been back in Pittsburgh, PA, since 2013 working at the Naval Nuclear Lab. He manages an IT organization that builds Simulation trainers to train Navy Sailors how to operate the nuclear reactor power plants on their submarines and aircraft carriers. He also started a Real Estate Investing company in July of 2018 with his girlfriend, Sue. Since the start, they have bought, renovated or are currently renovating, and operated $1.4 million in properties. He plans to make this full time within a few years.
Aside from all the success in his career, he keeps active and busy outside of work, too. Within the last two years he has completed two major climbs, neither of which he felt were overly strenuous, hiking 7-8 miles a day. In 2018 Dom and a friend took a trip to Nepal where they spent 13 days trekking from Lukla (9,383′) to Gokyo Lakes (16,400′) then over Cho La Pass (17,782′) to Kala Patar and Everest Base Camp (17,600′). He said, “That was probably the most amazing hike I’ve ever done and couldn’t possibly recommend it more! Around every turn there was another grouping of snowcapped monstrous mountains as far as you could see.” Then, in 2019, he and another friend climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro. This was a 6-day trek to the top and back. They began in a tropical rain forest, hiked through a high desert, and ended up traversing the three glaciers at the summit. Dom said, “On summit day we left at midnight and climbed the 9 hours to Uhuru Peak in 20 degree temperatures with 20-30 mph winds. Our guides made it seem like it was pretty normal, but after we summited and were on our way back down, they were laughing about how ridiculous the weather was this time.”
Some other fun facts about what Dom has accomplished are he keeps in shape by running and playing soccer, softball, and golf, and he snowboards. In his life, he has completed over 50 marathons and half marathons all over the world. He is an alpine ski patroller at Seven Springs. He lived and worked on three continents for over two years each and has traveled to every continent besides Antarctica. He met his goal of visiting 40 US states by the time he was 40 years old; he just has New Mexico and Alaska left. We can’t wait to hear about Dom’s next adventure.
Gregory Guelcher ’81
Gregory Guelcher ’81, PhD, is the 2019 recipient of the Sharon Walker Faculty Excellence Award at Morningside College. This is the third time Greg has won this award, receiving it the very first year that the award was introduced in 2003, then again in 2008, and now for a third time. Candidates can apply for the award every three years. The award is based upon the accomplishments and activities of a faculty member during the previous academic year, and they must demonstrate excellence in four categories: teaching, advising, scholarship, and service. These factors are looked at in relation to both within the college setting and outside, in the rest of the community as well. It is very competitive, and a team of outside evaluators chooses the winners following a lengthy application process. Greg has been teaching at Morningside since 1996. He is currently a Professor of History and serves as Chair of the Graduate Education Department. Congratulations, Greg!
Katie Nixon ’14
Katie Nixon ’14 wrote, produced, and stars in her very own one-woman show, 52 Pickup. It is a musical about coping with trauma. It is a funny, hopeful, and emotional portrayal of a journey that finds beauty from pain. Katie said she started creating this show piece by piece, almost by accident. To learn more about it check out the website.
After Mercyhurst Prep, Katie earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts in Acting with a minor in vocal performance from Penn State University. She graduated this past May. Throughout her time at PSU, she had created monologues for different courses that she took, and that is how the idea for 52 Pickup came about. Penn State University offers grants through an organization called the Student Engagement Network to fund projects that their students want to pursue. Katie was the recipient of one those grants, which made 52 Pickup possible for her. In April of 2018 it was created and she premiered the show at Penn State that December.
Her international tour began this past May in Canada, Windsor and then Ottawa. She performed at the Windsor-Walkerville Fringe Festival and at the Ottawa Fringe Festival, where she was awarded the Outstanding Solo Performance. She has since performed in Washington, D.C., at Capital Fringe and then returned to Ottawa for encore performances. She has performed locally at Penn State Behrend and PACA in downtown Erie. Katie also returned to Mercyhurst Prep to perform a slightly edited version of the show for the entire student body. It has been a wild ride and she may not be finished with it yet, possibly performing the show in NYC in the future. But what she has accomplished so far is pretty spectacular, and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for Katie.
Eric Sciotto ’93
Eric Sciotto ’93 has accomplished major success in his career after MPS. His latest achievement is being cast as Giuseppe in the Chicago run of Light in the Piazza starring opera-sensation Renee Fleming. During Eric’s four years at MPS, he performed in all of the spring musicals, was in a few of the winter plays, and was also a member of the show choir and dance company.
After graduating from Mercyhurst Prep, Eric went on to further his performing arts education at the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music, one of the top musical theatre programs in the country. Since receiving his BFA in 1997, his career has taken off. He has performed in twelve Broadway shows: Aida, Annie Get Your Gun, Sweet Smell of Success, Sweet Charity, 42nd Street, A Chorus Line, Cry-Baby, Pal Joey, Rock of Ages, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, and most recently Something Rotten in which he starred as William Shakespeare. He has even toured the nation in a couple of shows.
Aside from all of his success on Broadway, he also works behind the scenes. He flies around to teach master classes in musical theatre performance and musical theatre dance, and he directs and choreographs musicals and plays as well. Just this past fall, he joined the musical theatre faculty at the University of Utah.
Meghan O’Brien ’15
Meghan O’Brien ’15 is currently working at NBC as part of NBC Universal’s Page Program. This program is a year-long rotation where college grads get the opportunity to further develop their interests within television from the business, content, and consumer perspective. Every year there are over 15,000 applicants, and just over 200 are chosen for the program; it is extremely competitive. Meghan learned about the program in her sophomore year at Syracuse University and knew it was what she wanted to do after graduation.
During Meghan’s 4 years at MPS, she was involved in the performing arts, the spring musicals, and dance company. She was also on the cheerleading squad, so it was clear that she liked to perform and put herself out there. “Performance was always a huge aspect of my life, and something that I could fully grow into at MPS.” Meghan knew that she wanted to continue to be “on stage” as she furthered her education, but she didn’t necessarily want to pursue musical theatre or dance as a career. Her love of performing led to her interest in communications, specifically broadcasting. She felt that broadcast journalism was a natural fit because it allowed her to be creative and in front of an audience on camera. It is like performing, just in a different way.
Meghan received her degree in Broadcast and Digital Journalism from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. She graduated this past May and moved to New York City to begin the NBC Page Program. She now lives and works in NYC and is loving it. Since she began the program, she has worked on NBC’s late night shows like, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Late Night with Seth Meyers, and SNL. Over the summer, she ran the green room and managed all of the guests for the Today Show, and currently she is working at NBC Sports. She is producing, editing, and creating content for NBCSN, the Olympic Channel, and NBC. Her next rotation will begin mid-December.
Mary Oliver Masi ’04
Mary Oliver Masi ’04 has had a very successful writing career since her days at Mercyhurst Prep. After high school she went on to Emerson College in Boston where she studied writing. After graduating college, she moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in television writing. She has lived and worked out there as a TV writer ever since. She has worked on various shows during her career, a few being Chicago PD, APB, and Take Two. She currently works on the CBS show, FBI. Most of her work has been for network procedurals. The amazing part of Mary Oliver’s story is that she credits one of her former MPS English teachers for helping her succeed in her writing career. That teacher is Mrs. Pirrello, who has been retired from MPS for a few years now. Mary said, “I credit her so much for nurturing my love of creative writing and giving me the confidence to pursue it as a full-time career.”
Cassie Zimmer ’15
Cassie Zimmer ’15 was chosen as a fellow for the largest qualitative study ever undertaken about life in the United States. Cassie is one of 75 fellows, selected from over 1,500 applicants, for the American Voices Project. It is an initiative of Stanford and Princeton universities with the goal of interviewing 5,000 people in all 50 states and Puerto Rico about life in the US. The interviews will take place in about 200 different US communities. The goal is to take the information gathered and use it to inform local, state, and federal policy to improve the country. Some of the topics discussed are healthcare, education, politics, and social media. The study lasts one year and will take Cassie throughout the Southwestern United States, California, and Alaska, moving every 6 weeks.
Jonathan Nolan ’93
Jonathan Nolan ’93 has been honored multiple times for the amazing work he is doing. He, along with the Woodrow Wilson Middle School music program, was selected as a 2019 Merit Award winner. This is awarded by the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association, and Jonathan also received a special citation from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for all his hard work and dedication to his music program. He has been the dedicated band teacher at Woodrow Wilson since 2004. Even more recently, Jonathan was awarded the 2019 Imagine Award from Erie Arts and Culture. This award recognizes an educator who has made an outstanding contribution to the community by using arts and culture in an educational setting to inspire and empower their students. Photo by R. Frank Media.
Geoffrey Glover ’90
Geoffrey Glover ’90, PhD, received the Tina and David Bellet Excellence in Teaching Award this past April. This annual award recognizes outstanding and innovative teaching in undergraduate studies in the Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Pittsburgh. Geoffrey has his PhD from Carnegie Mellon University ’12, and he currently teaches at the University of Pittsburgh. Geoffrey studies and teaches African American Literature, Science and Speculative Fiction, and 20th century American Literature with a special focus on the politics of speculation—or, in other words, why and how different groups use speculation about alternative worlds.
Kelly Miele ’06
Kelly Miele ’06 was recently awarded the Young Alumni Award from Gannon University. She graduated from Gannon in 2010 with her Bachelor of Arts in English/Secondary Education and again in 2014 with her Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction. She now teaches English at Fairview High School. She teaches the Advanced Placement classes, which she began teaching after only three years on the job. This September marked her tenth year of teaching and she has spent all ten years at Fairview.
In 2017 Kelly received the Golden Apple Teacher of the Year award. Students are the ones who nominate their teachers for the golden apple awards, so it is a true testament to how Kelly’s students feel about her. One of her students said, “Her teachings will forever guide me because she has been so successful in encouraging personal growth by means of academic achievement. Miss Miele consistently radiates a positive enthusiasm toward English and teaching in general, allowing her to have a strong impact on me, both within the English subject area and far beyond.” Kelly has a true passion for English and is truly great at sharing that with her students.
Sadie Curtin ’09
Sadie Curtin ’09 is currently a theology teacher at Magnificat High School. It is an all-girls college preparatory high school located in Rocky River, Ohio. She is one of two teachers who created an assignment called the Agape Experiment. It is a very involved semester-long project that takes place in the second semester of junior theology in the Catholic Social Teaching course. The course covers a wide variety of social justice topics, and the project was created so that students have the opportunity to explore an injustice and work to create a solution. The Agape Experiment is based on the Genius Hour model used in companies where 20% of the work week is used to pursue a passion. Sadie and her fellow teacher took this model and implemented it into their classroom so that about 1 day a week students are able to explore an area of social justice they are passionate about. The students have complete freedom in how they want to learn—listening to podcasts, watching documentaries, reading articles, interviewing people, using social media, reading blogs, and watching YouTube, among other ways they find attractive to their learning style. Throughout the course of the semester students begin to develop a “solution” or “product” to help alleviate their injustice in the world. The sky is the limit—students are encouraged to shoot for the moon and to try anything they think will make the world more just and loving. They are not graded on this assignment and failure is acceptable, as long as they honestly try. There have been remarkable outcomes. Sadie said, “The Agape Experiment started with a leap of faith and has resulted in a beautiful response of young women taking action in our world to make it more just and loving in a way that suits their passions and talents.” Read the story of one student’s noteworthy success from the project.