IOWA Magazine | 09-02-2022

Class Notes Fall 2022

13 minute read
The latest University of Iowa alumni and faculty achievements, including from poet Rita Dove and film producer Mark Johnson, who received honorary degrees this year.


Jason Gao, a biomedical science student at Iowa who is a learning assistant for the chemistry department, undergraduate researcher, emergency medical technician, and UI Hospitals & Clinics volunteer, recently received the university’s Hancher-Finkbine Medallion.


Moala Bannavti (20MS, 22PhD), a graduate of the civil and environmental engineering, water, and the environment program at Iowa whose research aims to improve air quality in low-income schools, recently received the university’s Hancher-Finkbine Medallion.

Amna Haider (22BA), a graduate of the international relations and philosophy programs at Iowa who earned a certificate in human rights, recently received the university’s Hancher-Finkbine Medallion.

Shana Harris (20MA), a doctoral candidate in the clinical science program at the UI Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences whose research focuses on reducing disparities in health outcomes of Black patients with neurological disorders, received the university’s 2022 Diversity Catalyst Award for her leadership in diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives at Iowa.

Michaeljulius Idani (22MFA), a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, recently received the university’s Hancher-Finkbine Medallion and earned a 2022-23 Fulbright Study/Research grant to complete a novel and teach creative writing in Sierra Leone.

Ariel Kershner (21MA), a doctoral candidate in the cognitive psychology program at the UI Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences, received the 2022 Diversity Catalyst Award for her leadership in initiatives to increase diversity and support students within psychology.

Kamal Talukder (20BA, 20BM) is head director of bands at North High School in Sioux City, Iowa.


Emelia Asiedu (18MFA), an actor and co-founder of the Ghanian-based Accra Theatre Workshop, stars in ENO, an original drama series from African streaming service Showmax.

Leah DeGrazia (14BA) is an attorney on the real estate team at Moss & Barnett law firm in Minneapolis.

Nicole Del Castillo (14R), director of the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, has been named a 40 Under 40 Leader in Minority Health by the National Minority Quality Forum, which recognizes those who work for equitable change in health care communities.

Joyce Goins- Fernandez (12PhD), clinical assistant professor of pediatrics and vice chair for diversity, equity, and inclusion at UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital, received the 2022 Diversity Catalyst Award, which recognizes the efforts of those engaged in diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives in the university community.

Emily Hawk (16BA) is associate editor of The Oskaloosa Herald and Ottumwa Courier, newspapers covering Mahaska, Marion, and Wapello counties in Iowa.

Rachel Langholz (17BBA), a consultant for the government and private sector management practice at Deloitte in Denver, Colorado, received the 2022 Henry B. Tippie College of Business Young Alum of the Year award for her engagement with the college, including serving on the Young Alumni Board and Finance Advisory Council and creating the Tippie Consulting Club’s first alumni mentorship program.

Stephanie Lim (11MHA) is group chief strategy officer for Palm Beach Health Network in Palm Beach County, Florida.

Aiqi Liu (12MA, 22PhD) is a visiting assistant professor of Chinese history at University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Anthony Lozama (10PhD), director of new product development for Novartis Pharmaceuticals, has been appointed chair of drug discovery in the neurosciences for the National Institutes of Health.

Chayla Morris (16PharmD, 17R) is an ambulatory care clinical pharmacy coordinator at Broadlawns Medical Center in Des Moines.

Simone Renault (14BA, 14BS) began her residency program in psychiatry at University of California San Francisco Health Systems this past summer after receiving her medical degree from David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and a master’s in science in global mental health from King’s College London and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Poet Rita Dove PHOTO: FRED VIEBAHN Poet Rita Dove

The Highest Degree

Two distinguished University of Iowa alumni returned to campus during commencement this past spring to accept honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degrees from their alma mater. Rita Dove (77MFA) helped shape the path of American poetry as a groundbreaking writer, while Mark Johnson (73MA) has won the most prestigious awards in film and TV and worked with the biggest names in Hollywood.

A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, Dove has risen to the top of her craft, having been named a Pulitzer Prize winner and U.S. Poet Laureate, National Medal of Arts honoree, National Humanities Medal recipient, and much more. “Rita Dove stands out as a uniquely groundbreaking and iconic American voice,” says Iowa Writers’ Workshop Director Lan Samantha Chang (93MFA). “She has reached the pinnacle of American letters and is no doubt among the most distinguished living poets in America today.”


Johnson has worked on more than 50 feature films and numerous television films and series, including Rain Man, The Notebook, Breaking Bad, and Better Call Saul. He was recognized for his significant influence on cinema and television, efforts on behalf of children in need as the founder of the Children’s Action Network, and commitment to investing in the next generation of professionals in the film and television industry. “I tell people all the time that I did my best thinking and was surrounded by the smartest people during my two years at Iowa,” he says. “It was such a wonderful academic and intellectual atmosphere.”


James Ankrum (07BSE), a UI associate professor of biomedical engineering, received the Fulbright Scholar Award to further his research on regenerative medicine during a trip to Ireland.

Beth Westlake Blanco (07BSE, 09MS, 10MS, 16MS), a design quality engineer at Integrated DNA Technologies in Coralville, is president of the Smocking Arts Guild of America, which aims to preserve the art of smocking and other forms of needlework.

Ginelle Bryant (07PharmD), a professor of pharmacy practice at Drake University in Des Moines, received the school’s C. Boyd Granberg Professional Leadership Award.

Jeremy Cauwels (02MD), chief physician at Sanford Health, the nation’s largest rural nonprofit health care system, which is headquartered in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, received a 2022 UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine Distinguished Alumni Award for Early Achievement.

Heather Cooper (08MA, 17PhD, 21MA) is a project archivist who is identifying and addressing underrepresented voices and evidence of racism and discrimination in the Chesney Archives, the repository for medicine, nursing, and public health records at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Jamie Cooper (04MFA), a Portland, Oregon-based poet and writer, recently published The Truth About the Sun, a collection of poems that draws on classical mythology to explore identity.

Brett Faine (07PharmD, 16MS), UI clinical associate professor of pharmacy practice and emergency medicine, received a 2022 Outstanding Alumni Award from the College of Public Health.

Kirsten Greenidge (01MFA) debuted two new plays this past spring, Our Daughters, Like Pillars and Common Ground Revisited, at the Huntington Theatre in Boston.

Jenna Kashou (03BA) is author of Milwaukee Scavenger, a walking guide of the city’s neighborhoods that releases this fall.

Kristine Langley Mahler (03BA) is author of a debut collection of essays titled Curing Season: Artifacts, which is set to be published in October by West Virginia University Press.

Carolyn Johnston Oxencis (04BA, 05PharmD) is the first health system precision medicine clinical pharmacist at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

Alireza “Shami” Shamshirsaz (09R), director of the Maternal Fetal Medicine Care Center at Boston Children’s Hospital and one of the world’s foremost experts in fetal surgery and in the treatment of abnormally adherent placenta, received a 2022 UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine Distinguished Alumni Award for Early Achievement.

Nora Schindel Stelter (00PharmD), associate professor of pharmacy practice and introductory pharmacy practice experiences coordinator at Drake University in Des Moines, received the Richard Morrow Transformational Leadership Award for guiding the school’s efforts to vaccinate more than 10,000 central Iowans, including educators and health care professionals.

Ying Sun (01MS, 06PhD) was named head of the Department of Mechanical and Materials Engineering and Herman Schneider Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Cincinnati.

George Wehby (06PhD) is the John W. Colloton Chair in the Department of Health Management and Policy at the UI College of Public Health.


Anne Bacon (96BA), CEO at IMPACT Community Action Partnership, a Des Moines-based nonprofit that works to reduce the barriers and burdens for families in poverty, received a 2022 Women of Influence award from the Des Moines Business Record.

Yvonne Farley (94MSW) retired after 21 years as a clinical assistant professor in the UI School of Social Work.

Joey Fauerso (98BFA), an artist and professor in the School of Art and Design at Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas, received a Guggenheim Fellowship in the Creative Arts for Fine Arts for her multimedia work that explores themes of gender, humor, and family.

Pat Murphy (91BS, 01MBA) is chief executive officer for Murphy Tower Service, a Midwest-based wireless and wireline infrastructure business that contributes to UI Stead Family Children’s Hospital.

Lia Plakans (91BA, 07PhD), professor of multilingual education and the departmental executive officer for the Department of Teaching and Learning at the UI College of Education, received the 2022 Diversity Catalyst Award for her efforts to improve educational opportunities for multilingual students in the U.S. and internationally.

Eric Pot (91BA), a Los Angeles-based TV director, recently directed his 15th episode of CBS’s NCIS Los Angeles.

Kenneth Saag (93F, 94MS), the Waters Endowed Chair in the Department of Medicine and professor and director of clinical immunology and rheumatology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, received a 2022 Outstanding Alumni Award from the UI College of Public Health for his research contributions to the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis-causing conditions.

Karin Weber-Gasparoni (99MS, 99PedoS, 03PhD), professor and chair of pediatric dentistry at the UI College of Dentistry, recently received a Hancher-Finkbine Medallion, which recognizes leadership, learning, and loyalty at Iowa.


Dan Campion (89Phd), a writer and editor in Iowa City, is author of A Playbill for Sunset, a poetry book released this past summer by Ice Cube Press.

Stephen Corbeil (84MA), retired president of TriStar Health, recently received the UI’s Hancher-Finkbine Medallion for his support of the College of Public Health and work managing health care organizations across the country.

Sharon Goodwin Fogleman (82MD), a physician who has dedicated her career to medical missions in Kenya, rural Appalachia, South Sudan, Uganda, and Ghana, received a 2022 UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine Distinguished Alumni Award for Service.

Michael Luthy (87MBA) recently became emeritus professor of marketing at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky, after serving the institution for 23 years.

Charla Fox Schafer (88BBA), executive director of the Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine in Muscatine, Iowa, received a 2022 Iowa Public Health Heroes Award from the UI College of Public Health for her work to improve health and wellness in the area.

Janet Schlechte (81F), an emeritus professor in the UI Department of Internal Medicine whose clinical research has shaped the understanding of the interactions of the endocrine and skeletal systems, received a 2022 UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine Distinguished Alumni Award for Service.

Debby Tsuang (83BS, 88MD, 92MS, 92R), the director of the Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Geriatric Research, Education, and Clinical Center in Seattle and a University of Washington psychiatrist, professor, and researcher who has made critical contributions to the understanding of dementia and related disorders, received a 2022 UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine Distinguished Alumni Award for Achievement.

Julia Wendell (82MFA), an author and poet, recently released The Art of Falling, her sixth full-length collection of poems.

Lennie Zalesky (83BBA, 90BA), former head wrestling coach at California Baptist University in Riverside, California, and a former three-time All-American wrestler at the UI, has retired after 27 years of college coaching.

Jim Leonard PHOTO: JOHN EMIGH Jim Leonard

Keeping Crafty

Jim Leonard (67BA, 70MA), who retired in 2004 after 28 years as the advertising manager of The Daily Iowan, has been staying active in his retirement by crafting complex wooden art pieces depicting classic cars, trains, and other vehicles. Some, like his 1908 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost, which has over 200 parts, have taken many months to finish.

Leonard’s interest in art was nurtured at the University of Iowa, where he took several art classes, but he credits his uncle, who used to make wooden toys for children in the family, with his continued inspiration to create similar pieces.


Bob Denney (73BA, 79MA), PGA historian emeritus, released his book Driven: The Danny Edwards Story, which details the life of the professional golfer and auto racer Danny Edwards.

Arlene Faulk (70BA), a teacher, writer, storyteller, and businesswoman, is author of Walking on Pins and Needles: A Memoir of Chronic Resilience in the Face of Multiple Sclerosis, which shares her story of overcoming chronic pain through perseverance and tai chi.

James Horan (78MFA) recently retired after a 40-year career in acting, including roles on shows such as Star Trek and voice-over work on many video games.

David Petreman (76MA, 84PhD), professor emeritus of Latin American literature at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, published his 10th book, a translation of two of Chilean writer Marino Muńoz Lagos’s books of poetry.

Chris Ruge (79BA) is program manager at El Centro Family Health in Las Vegas, New Mexico, where he leads a multidisciplinary team caring for the clinic’s more complicated patient cases.

Michael J. Welsh (71BS, 74MD, 77R), a UI professor at the UI’s Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine and director of the Pappajohn Biomedical Institute at Iowa, received the 2022 Shaw Prize in Life Science and Medicine for landmark discoveries that further the understanding of and treatment of cystic fibrosis.


James Christensen (64R), a UI professor emeritus of internal medicine responsible for major contributions to the understanding and management of gastrointestinal tract diseases, received a 2022 UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine Distinguished Alumni Award for Achievement.

Janice Astolfi Ellig (68BBA), CEO of Ellig Group, a premier global executive search firm in New York, received the 2022 Henry B. Tippie College of Business Alum of the Year award for her service to the college, including as a panelist at the Tippie Women Summit, adviser to the college dean, and board chair of the UI Center for Advancement.

Earl Fitz (68BA, 70MA) is author of the book Machado de Assis and Narrative Theory, published by Bucknell University Press, and was interviewed by BBC Brasil for a feature about the late Brazilian author Clarice Lispector.

Larry Prybil (62BA, 64MA, 70PhD), who retired in 2021 as the Norton Professor in Healthcare Leadership from the University of Kentucky College of Public Health in Lexington, Kentucky, has been honored by the college as a Public Health Legend.


Michaela Hoenicke-Moore, a UI associate professor of history who teaches courses on American foreign policy and international relations, recently earned a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship to complete her book The Varieties of American Patriotism.

Donika Kelly, a UI assistant professor of English, received the 2022 Anisfield- Wolf Book Award in poetry for her collection The Renunciations.

Robert Ketterer, a UI classics professor, retired after 34 years.

Kathy Kurth, a secretary for the UI Department of Physics and Astronomy, received a Hancher- Finkbine Medallion for her 44 years of work with the Radio and Plasma Wave Space Physics Research Group.

Steve Roe, UI assistant athletic director of communications, has been elected to the College Sports Information Directors of America Hall of Fame.

Diane Rohlman is a professor and endowed chair in rural health and safety, director of the Healthier Workforce Center of the Midwest, director of the agricultural safety and health training program within the Heartland Center for Occupational Health and Safety, and associate dean for research at the UI College of Public Health.

Marty Sutherland, UI associate head baseball coach, has been named to the Cascade High School Athletic Hall of Fame Class of 2022.

Caroline Tolbert, a UI professor of political science, received the 2022 Goldsmith Book Prize in Academics for her book Choosing the Future: Technology and Opportunity in Communities.

Ed Wasserman, Stuit Professor of Experimental Psychology at Iowa, has been named an American Association for the Advancement of Science Fellow.

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