VCU Alumni honors 16 shining stars

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From revamping the nation’s ninth-largest transportation agency to researching ways to eliminate diabetes patients’ need for insulin injections and defending inmates on death row, Virginia Commonwealth University alumni are making their marks on the world around them.

VCU will honor 16 of its most accomplished alumni Friday, Nov. 6, at the 2015 Alumni Stars ceremony.

Our stellar graduates are proud of their university, and we are proud of them.

The biennial event, hosted by VCU Alumni, honors alumni from across the university’s academic units for their remarkable personal and professional achievements.

“In art, commerce, education, service and health care, VCU alumni are solving, discovering and enhancing the quality of our lives,” said Gordon McDougall, associate vice president for university alumni relations. “They have become known for their commitment to excellence—excellence in their work and in how they live their lives. Our stellar graduates are proud of their university, and we are proud of them.”


School of Nursing: Wilsie Bishop, D.B.A.

Wilsie Bishop, D.B.A.
Wilsie Bishop, D.B.A.

The education and experiences Wilsie Bishop, D.B.A. (B.S.’70/N; M.S.’78/N), acquired at the VCU School of Nursing laid the foundation for a remarkable career in leadership within the health sciences.

“My nursing education at VCU was paramount in preparing me for a successful life and a successful career,” said Bishop, vice president for health affairs and chief operating officer for East Tennessee State University.

Bishop, one of only two nurses in the nation to head an academic medical center, oversees the five health science colleges of the ETSU Academic Health Sciences Center. She credits her VCU education for emphasizing the critical role teamwork plays across the clinical disciplines, and in her role as professor at ETSU, she works tirelessly to share that perspective and her leadership journey with students.

Her commitment to nursing has earned her numerous honors, including a 2013 induction into the Tennessee Women’s Hall of Fame.


VCU Honors College: Minh Q. Tran, M.D., FACP

Minh Q. Tran, M.D., FACP
Minh Q. Tran, M.D., FACP

After years of struggling with his Vietnamese family through war, asylum camps and relocations, Minh Q. Tran, M.D., FACP (B.S.’92/H&S; M.D.’96/M; H.S.’99/M) started to live a dream with his 1988 admission to VCU’s Honors College. That dream brought him through a medical degree and to prominence in the fields of geriatric medicine and hospice care.

Tran specializes in internal medicine at Virginia Physicians Inc.’s Reynolds Primary Care office in Richmond and fulfills a passion for hospice and palliative care as medical director at AseraCare Hospice. Widely recognized for his passion and his bedside manner — Richmond magazine named him as Top Doc in geriatric medicine — Tran remains active in the VCU community.

“I have graduated but never felt I have left the university,” he said. “Since I began my private medical practice, I have continued to teach and mentor other VCU premed and medical students. I feel that I contribute to shaping the next generations of doctors and influence them in a positive way.”

I have graduated but never felt I have left the university. 


School of the Arts: Morgan Yacoe

Morgan Yacoe
Morgan Yacoe

Morgan Yacoe (B.F.A.’11/A) has used her talent and knowledge of art and shape in a nontraditional way within the field of medicine. While still an arts student at VCU, she played a key role in the surgery to separate conjoined twins at VCU Medical Center. Working alongside the medical team, she built a sculpture of the twins’ bodies that allowed the surgeons to practice a variety of medical procedures to determine the best way to cosmetically care for the twins post-separation.

After graduating, Yacoe began teaching sculpture to VCU medical residents and producing models for use in medical education. Currently, under a VCU fellowship, she teaches figurative sculpting to plastic surgery residents.

“My career since graduating from VCU has been devoted to exploring the deep connection between the fine arts and medicine,” she said.


School of Pharmacy: Jean-Venable “Kelly” R. Goode, Pharm.D., BCPS, FAPhA, FCCP

Jean-Venable “Kelly” R. Goode, Pharm.D., BCPS, FAPhA, FCCP
Jean-Venable “Kelly” R. Goode, Pharm.D., BCPS, FAPhA, FCCP

In 1996, Jean-Venable “Kelly” Goode, Pharm.D., BCPS, FAPhA, FCCP (B.S.’89/P; Pharm.D.’94/P), accepted an unusual position with VCU, one focused on enhancing the role of the pharmacist in a community pharmacy setting. In the two decades since, she has earned a national reputation for developing successful patient services in community pharmacies. 

“My education at the VCU School of Pharmacy has opened up many doors and created an enduring belief that anything is possible,” said Goode, professor in the School of Pharmacy and director of its Community Pharmacy Residency Program.

Her contributions to the field extend to service in professional associations at both the state and national levels, most significantly with the American Pharmacists Association, where she is president-elect.


School of Social Work: Grace E. Harris, Ph.D.

Grace E. Harris, Ph.D.
Grace E. Harris, Ph.D.

A 1954 honors graduate from Hampton University, Grace E. Harris, Ph.D. (M.S.W.’60/SW), was initially denied admission to VCU’s School of Social Work because of her race. After studying out of state at Boston University alongside Martin Luther King Jr., she returned to the university and completed her master’s degree. In 1967, she joined the faculty of the School of Social Work, became dean in 1982 and the university’s vice provost in 1990. She also served as acting president of VCU twice before her retirement in 1999 as provost and vice president for academic affairs.

“My story is proof that times change and people change. We’ve come a long way in the South, in Virginia and at Virginia Commonwealth University,” she said.

To honor her career of leadership, the VCU Board of Visitors established the Grace E. Harris Leadership Institute and renamed the former School of Business building Grace E. Harris Hall. 

 My story is proof that times change and people change. 


Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture: Katherine Wintsch

Katherine Wintsch
Katherine Wintsch

Katherine Wintsch (M.S.’01/MC) took the skills she mastered at VCU’s Brandcenter and focused them on motherhood, a focus that has now made her one of the nation’s most recognized experts on motherhood. Her two young children might not listen to her, but a number of major national and international corporations certainly do.

As founder and CEO of The Mom Complex, an internationally acclaimed consulting company, Wintsch has appeared on many major U.S. media outlets and has spawned ideas and products in a number of family- and children-connected industries.

“The education I received at the VCU Brandcenter was remarkable,” she said. “And the work ethic I developed as a result propelled my career to great heights in a very short period of time.” 

Wintsch has been named one of Ad Age’s 40 Under 40 and one of Business Insider’s 30 Most Powerful Women in Advertising. And she was recently named the 2015 Richmond, Virginia, Christmas Mother, where she’ll help raise support for underprivileged women and families in the Richmond region.


School of Medicine: Norma Sue Kenyon, Ph.D.

Norma Sue Kenyon, Ph.D.
Norma Sue Kenyon, Ph.D.

Driven by a strong professional and personal interest in the immunology of diabetes, Norma Sue Kenyon, Ph.D. (Ph.D.’87/M), has become a major force in the field. Her research focuses on islet cell transplantation, which has the promise of reducing or eliminating the need for insulin injections. She was the first to demonstrate that transplanted pancreatic islets could survive long term and reverse diabetes.

“Never give up,” said Kenyon, the Martin Kleiman Chair in Diabetes Research at the University of Miami’s Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. “Persistence is a Kenyon family trait — an intense desire to continuously learn new things, meet new people and work toward the common good.”


School of Education: Michael T. Gamel-McCormick, Ph.D.

Michael T. Gamel-McCormick, Ph.D.
Michael T. Gamel-McCormick, Ph.D.

Michael Gamel-McCormick, Ph.D. (Ph.D.’95/E), has built his career on improving the lives of children and others with disabilities. Ten years ago, he led the establishment of an inclusive child care center at the University of Delaware, and he has consulted with the government of Dubai to create a newborn screening program.

As education policy adviser for the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, he collaborated on a bill to advance disabilities rights, legislation President Obama signed into law. 

“The law reauthorizes the Rehabilitation Act and provides resources to help youth with disabilities prepare for competitive, integrated employment,” said Gamel-McCormick, associate executive director for research and policy for the Association of University Centers on Disabilities.


School of Business: Thomas J. Dorsey

Thomas J. Dorsey
Thomas J. Dorsey

Thomas J. Dorsey (B.S.’75/B) didn’t expect to get into college. He has dyslexia and struggled to just pass his classes in high school. But he prospered at VCU and built on the opportunities he discovered here.

“My experience at VCU was intoxicating to say the least. Every class I took got me closer to that coveted degree I was never expected to attain,” he said.

Today, as co-founder of Dorsey, Wright & Associates, he has become an internationally known provider of technical research to the financial industry. An investing pro with 41 years of experience, Dorsey has written nine books on investing strategies, appears regularly on financial news programs and is a frequent speaker worldwide on the market, technical analysis and momentum investing.


College of Humanities and Sciences: Barbara L. Hartung

Barbara L. Hartung
Barbara L. Hartung

Barbara L. Hartung (B.A.’72/H&S) took philosophy into the real and mercurial world of the law. After earning a degree in philosophy from VCU, she obtained her law degree and went to work defending the accused, with a particular focus on those sentenced to death.

“My philosophy studies provided excellent training in logical thinking and analysis,” she said. “These skills were essential to both my professional and personal life.”

Hartung has been involved in a number of high-profile capital murder cases, two of which were heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. In several death penalty cases, her clients’ sentences were changed to life in prison.


VCU Life Sciences: Sterling Thomas, Ph.D.

Sterling Thomas, Ph.D.
Sterling Thomas, Ph.D.

Sterling Thomas, Ph.D. (Ph.D.’10/LS), solves problems with data. He has successfully developed analytical tools to combat threats in national security, biological and financial arenas — a career path shaped by his time at VCU.

“VCU Life Sciences provided me with the skills and motivation to stay on top of new technology and act as a thought leader,” he said.

As a fellow at Noblis, a nonprofit research corporation in Northern Virginia, he has led the establishment of its Center for Applied High Performance Computing, Big Data Lab, and the Advanced Analytics and the Agile IT Division. These organizations provide advanced analytics research and development for clients in state, federal and private sectors for projects ranging from developing human diagnostics to developing financial algorithms for equities markets.

VCU Life Sciences provided me with the skills and motivation to stay on top of new technology and act as a thought leader.


School of World Studies: Jonathan W.B. Waybright

Jonathan W.B. Waybright
Jonathan W.B. Waybright

Jonathan W.B. Waybright (B.A.’90/WS) realized his life’s interest quite suddenly, in the middle of a VCU class titled The Bible as Literature. It was a realization that has guided his research and career interests for the next 24 years.

“I have found the most rewarding aspect of teaching is knowing that the classroom can be such a catalyst for inspiration and life change beyond mere intellectual growth,” he said.

Now, an instructor of religious studies and internship coordinator for the VCU School of World Studies, he is seen as an expert in the field of archaeology and has led an archeological project in Israel for more than 20 years. He also serves as the core faculty member for Open Minds, a series of VCU service-learning courses held at the Richmond City Jail in partnership with the Richmond City Sheriff’s Office.


L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs: Keith T. Parker, AICP

Keith T. Parker, AICP
Keith T. Parker, AICP

Keith T. Parker, AICP (B.A.’90/H&S; M.U.R.P.’93/GPA), studied urban and regional planning at VCU but learned something else as well: leadership. And he has leveraged those skills into national prominence in transportation.

Since 2012, as general manager and CEO of the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, the nation’s ninth-largest transit system, he has directed its complete financial and operational turnaround. From deficits and shrinking service, Parker has brought MARTA to surpluses, expanded services and a growing positive reputation.

Echoing that accomplishment, his transit peers named him the Most Outstanding Public Transit Manager of 2015.

“Serving as president of several student organizations provided me with a great platform to develop meaningful leadership skills that I employ to this day, as CEO of a multibillion-dollar organization,” he said.


School of Allied Health Professions: Christine S. Zambricki, D.N.A.P., CRNA, FAAN

Christine S. Zambricki, D.N.A.P., CRNA, FAAN
Christine S. Zambricki, D.N.A.P., CRNA, FAAN

For 30 years, Christine S. Zambricki, D.N.A.P., CRNA, FAAN (D.N.A.P.’12/AHP), has built a nationally respected career in health care advocacy and in association and hospital leadership.          

Since 2013, she has served as CEO of America’s Blood Centers, the continent’s largest network of community-based blood centers, providing half the U.S. blood supply to 3,500 hospitals.

She’s also a scholar, writing more than 40 papers and articles focused on education, advocacy and safety in the profession. One article stemmed from a journal club discussion she led as a doctoral student at VCU that brought light to a potentially hazardous practice.

“Because of the opportunity provided by VCU to compare clinical safety issues with colleagues, our conscience is clear that we have made the risk known,” she said.


School of Dentistry: Del. Todd E. Pillion, D.D.S.

Del. Todd E. Pillion, D.D.S.
Del. Todd E. Pillion, D.D.S.

Republican Del. Todd E. Pillion, D.D.S. (D.D.S.’01/D), paid for his first year of college with the herd of cattle his dad taught him to raise as a boy in Southwest Virginia. As a VCU senior, he participated in the Missions of Mercy dental clinic in Wise, Virginia, near his hometown. The needs he saw exposed by that experience reinforced his determination to return home, after graduation and service in the Virginia Army National Guard, to find solutions to the problems he witnessed with that morning.

Today, as a dentist and a delegate, Pillion works to improve the lives of Southwest Virginians.

“From the battlefield of Iraq to the floor of the Virginia General Assembly, I am always proud to be a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University,” he said.

From the battlefield of Iraq to the floor of the Virginia General Assembly, I am always proud to be a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University.


School of Engineering: Brad Trevillian

Brad Trevillian
Brad Trevillian

A senior-year engineering project taught Brad Trevillian (B.S.’06/En) to gather information, to plan and to lead the successful completion of a client-focused project. He’s used that lesson throughout his career at Trane, a creator of high-performance commercial buildings. 

“At Virginia Commonwealth University, I was afforded the opportunity to leverage diverse talents and perspectives to begin shaping my future,” he said.

As a general manager at Trane, he oversees 110 employees and a $100 million revenue stream. His management approach focuses on employees first, so they will better serve customers and drive up overall business performance, an approach that earned him the top 2015 Sterling Workplace Award from the Richmond Society for Human Resource Management.