CAS Alumni Embody Spartan Spirit and Will

Posted on: May 7, 2013

To top off an extraordinary set of graduation events last week, CAS celebrated its 2013 outstanding alumni at the annual awards dinner on Saturday evening. Two things that they exuded in their interactions with students while on campus and in their remarks at the dinner were how much they treasure and still draw upon their years as a student at MSU and their passion to see the students in our college today succeed.

At the end of the evening, there was no doubt in the room that the overwhelming dynamic that ignites Spartans’ fiery passion is inspiring our students to take full advantage of the rich educational opportunities here on campus, as well as the network of devoted alumni around the world as they pursue their dreams.

As I highlight each of this year’s award recipients, hopefully you will be able to fully appreciate just what an inspirational and moving night it was for both our students and the faculty who work so hard all year to prepare our students to follow in the footsteps of alumni such as these.

One of the most recognizable voices of the evening was CAS alumnus and national political correspondent for National Public Radio (NPR), Don Gonyea. Holding two degrees from the College of Communication Arts and Sciences (B.A. in Telecommunication, 1978; B.A. in Advertising in 1980), Gonyea is the first to be awarded the WKAR Media Master Award. This new award “honors an individual who exemplifies the best of the best in the media industry, inspiring colleagues, aspiring journalists and other media experts to pursue excellence in their professions.”

Many of us have followed Gonyea throughout his career, first in Detroit when he covered labor and the automobile industry, and more recently as NPR’s White House correspondent covering Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. His long-time listeners and colleagues will agree that he is the perfect choice for setting the bar high for this prestigious award.

Chelsey Susin, a 2007 Advertising graduate (B.A.), was awarded the Rising Star Award. Susin is planning director at Mullen San Francisco where she works with Google and is charged with bringing in new business. She started her career in Detroit at Campbell-Ewald, leading strategy on major vehicle launches for Chevrolet. She moved to San Francisco to help rethink brands like Walmart and PayPal and also led digital strategy and campaign integration for Audi and the Google+ team. Today she stays active on the MSU Marketing and PR Advisory Board and continues to mentor students and work with faculty.

Beverly Halls Burns is this year’s Honorary Alumni Award recipient and a 1967 MSU graduate (B.A. English). She is a lawyer with the Detroit law firm Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone. Both Beverly and her late husband Ben (B.A. in Journalism, 1963) have been strong supporters of the School of Journalism, taking the lead in volunteering for the Journalism Centennial Committee. Together, they rallied donor and alumni support to successfully reach the funding goal for the Second Century Journalism Endowment. Additionally, the Benjamin J. and Beverly Hall Burns Spartan Scholarship Challenge was established with a preference for students studying journalism.

Six very accomplished individuals were presented with the Outstanding Alumni Award and include Thomas Culligan (B.A. in Advertising, 1967); Chris D’Arienzo (B.A. in Journalism, 1994); Patricia Dorn (B.A. in Audiology and Speech Sciences, 1981); M.L. Elrick (B.A. in Journalism, 1990); Jeff Genthner (B.A. in Telecommunication, 1980); and Anne Marie Schiller (B.A. in Advertising, 1984).

Thomas Culligan is special consultant to the President and CEO of The Washington Times. Prior to serving in this position, he was the chief revenue and marketing officer of the Times and has held numerous executive-level positions across the country. He is also a recipient of the prestigious American Marketing Association’s Golden Effie for Advertising Effectiveness and serves on the college’s Alumni Association Board.

Chris D’Arienzo is an independent writer, screenwriter and director. He wrote the five-time Tony Nominated Broadway musical, “Rock of Ages,” which recently entered the Top 50 Longest Running Musicals of All Time, as well as the feature film adaptation starring Tom Cruise. His feature film, “Barry Monday,” won the Outstanding Achievement in Filmaking Award at the Newport Beach Film Festival and Spotlight Film at the 2010 South by Southwest Film Festival. He wrote the script for and is directing a new film, “Always on My Mind,” starring Nick Nolte and Glenn Close with original music by Elton John and Bernie Taupin.

Patricia Dorn, Ph.D., is interim director of the Rehabilitation Research and Development Service for the Veterans Health Administration. Dorn is responsible for the intramural research program dedicated to advancing all rehabilitation needs of America’s veterans. She is also the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development. Dorn earned her M.A. in audiology at Ohio State University and her doctorate in audiology and hearing science at Purdue University. She completed a clinical internship at Upstate Medical Center in New York and was a post-doctoral research fellow at Boys Town National Research Hospital in Nebraska.

M.L. Elrick is a Pulitzer Prize and Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter, now working for Fox News 2 In Detroit. Before joining Fox, he led the Detroit Free Press’ award-winning coverage of then-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. His work at the Free Press with Jim Schaefer won most of print journalism’s top reporting prizes. He is co-author of “The Kwame Sutra: Musing on Lust, Life and Leadership from Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.”

Jeff Genthner is the Senior Vice President and General Manager of four Atlanta-based sports networks: Fox Sports South, Fox Sports Carolinas, Fox Ports Tennessee and Sports South. He has played a pivotal role in launching and managing regional sport networks in New York, Chicago, St. Louis, Michigan and Florida. He was also the managing director of the U.S. Olympic Committee’s Entertainment Properties Division and served as the liaison with NBC and the International Olympic Committee during the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney. He has made several trips back to the MSU campus to share his expertise and coach CAS students including the Spartan Sports Journalism Classic held this April.

Anne Marie Schiller is a 25-year advertising and marketing professional with more than 15 years with the RAPP network, a data-driven “customer experience agency.” She is currently the Global Chief of Client Operations, serving the RAPP network of 50 offices in 30 countries. Schiller’s management experience spans multiple industries and includes managing brands such as Toyota, DirectTV and AT&T. She has advanced certifications in change management, lean thinking and agile technologies.

As you can see, CAS graduates are true Spartans, creative problem solvers and innovators who now hold key leadership roles in major industries across the board. Congratulations and thanks to each of you, particularly for how you continue to give back to our students!


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