In the fall, Ursinus Magazine introduced a three-part series to celebrate the college’s 150-year history and recognize some of the people who have made an indelible mark on Ursinus, both on the Collegeville campus and beyond. The series is meant to be a living document, one that is sustained throughout our anniversary year; and one that grows as new names are suggested and added.
The first in the series introduced you to our pioneers, those who helped to shepherd the Ursinus way, as well as alumni who are forerunners in their fields; and our philanthropists, the people who make giving back and paying it forward their life’s mission.
In this second part of the series, we’re proud to present our mentors, teachers in and out of the classroom helping to inspire a new generation of Bears; and our thought leaders, cutting-edge researchers, thinkers, philosophers and scholars. Each has been put forward by members of our campus community, by the college’s 150th anniversary committee, and by you—our readers.
In a 2018 Ursinus Magazine article, Carolyn Smith Strainic ’11 said of U.S. Ambassador Joseph H. Melrose ’66:
I try to approach situations the way he would.”
Strainic followed in Melrose’s footsteps to the United Nations, where she is a diplomat for the U.S. Mission in New York and one of countless Ursinus alumni that, to this day, are proud to call the late Melrose a mentor.
He embodied global citizenship and, while at Ursinus, advocated for a liberal arts curriculum that cultivated sensitivity to cultural, demographic, economic and political differences. Five years after his death, his legacy continues through the Melrose Center for Global Civic Engagement, which fosters civic service worldwide.
Nearly every Ursinus graduate has that one person who helped shape their life—a mentor who influenced them, advised them, challenged them and inspired them.
For many students, that person was Rev. Charles Rice, who spent two decades serving the pastoral needs of the college community, overseeing the chaplaincy program and advising and counseling students. Christian Rice ’98, who mentors current Ursinus student leaders as assistant professor of philosophy and the humanities and assistant dean for civic engagement, said that Charles Rice was “always challenging students to be their best selves—intellectually rigorous, honest and kind.”
Another spiritual adviser, Martha Bean Kriebel ’56, was pastor during a different sesquicentennial anniversary: the 150th year of Trinity Reformed United Church of Christ, located across the street from Ursinus in Collegeville. She was the first woman to earn a degree from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. At Trinity UCC, she is now pastor emerita, a term used by the church to honor a person whose lengthy ministry has been one marked by distinguished service.
Intellectual rigor is a common thread for many former students who credit professors like Kelly Sorensen for challenging them to think critically. And every summer, Sorensen guides at least 70 students through the popular Summer Fellows program, where students pair with faculty mentors on research and creative pursuits.
In Ursinus Magazine’s call for mentors, many faculty were put forth by alumni: In the sciences, Ellen and Robert Dawley, Ron Hess, Roger Staiger ’43 and Vic Tortorelli; in the humanities, Ross Doughty ’68, Becky Jaroff ’81, M. Nzadi Keita and Jon Volkmer; Heather O’Neill and Lynne Edwards ’88 in social sciences; John French and Domenick Scudera in the performing arts.
Becky Jaroff ’81 (right) with an Ursinus Summer Fellow
Those names are only a small sample of the number of professors—many of whom could also be listed on the very next page as thought leaders—identified as teachers who inspire and challenge students to be introspective, and encourage them to be leaders, innovators and creators.
Teaching is the life’s work of many Ursinus alumni, too. Harriet Metzgar Gould ’68 was an elementary principal and K-12 curriculum director in Nebraska, where she developed programs that led to her school’s designation as a Blue Ribbon School by the U.S. Department of Education. Robert Hoffert ’62 created a transcendent ethnic studies program at Colorado State University. During his service to California University of Pennsylvania, Jack Bauman ’60 established and led its urban studies program, addressing a crucial programmatic need for the institution. All three are past recipients of the distinguished Henry P. and M. Page Laughlin Educator Award.
So many of our mentors also serve as advocates. Alexandra Peters Adams ’11 is a child advocate attorney who also guides students in Ursinus’s pre-law program. Meanwhile, Tracie Johnson ’13 was so inspired by her experience as a Bonner leader at Ursinus that she, too, sought out a career in law. As an Equal Justice Works Fellow, she creates career pathways for women and girls of color who face barriers to employment and higher education because of their juvenile and adult criminal records.
No list of mentors would be complete without our coaches. Of the late wrestling coach Bill Racich, Scott Flannery ’92 wrote:
He built a family the spans four decades of combatants; men who are undoubtedly more successful in life because they had ‘Coach.’”
Among Racich’s many mentees was Pat Curry ’01, often lauded himself for his commitment to the program as a devoted volunteer assistant coach and liaison for UC wrestling alums.
Eleanor Frost Snell, included in the previous issue of this magazine as an Ursinus pioneer, mentored generations of young women and helped to establish a legacy on the playing field that continues to this day at Ursinus under Director of Athletics Laura Moliken and coaches like Pete Gallagher and Kevin Small, and even at other institutions thanks to the leadership of Jen Shillingford ’54, Steve Donahue ’84 and Dan Mullen ’94.
Beyond academics and athletics, no Ursinus student’s experience ever seemed complete without the mentorship of Debbie Nolan, who for 33 years advocated for student leaders and challenged them to take risks, lead with their hearts and strive to always be their best selves; or Carla Rinde, who during her 35 years provided thousands of students with guidance down career pathways by embracing uncertainty and seizing opportunity.
The groundwork Rinde laid continues through Ursinus’s office of career and postgraduate development, where a vast alumni network serves to advise current students. And at the U-Imagine Center for Integrative and Entrepreneurial Studies, Entrepreneur-in-Residence Maureen Cumpstone ’79 inspires students to think creatively across disciplines to address societal issues through new business endeavors.
Each of these mentors share a common trait: a passion for preparing new generations of leaders.
The Thought Leaders
Thought leaders are trailblazers who are unafraid to challenge conventional wisdom.
If that sounds like an “Ursinus thing,” well, that’s because it’s ingrained in students from their very first days on campus through the shared Common Intellectual Experience.
Take Winnifred Berg Cutler ’73, for example. As part of her groundbreaking work, she coauthored the first study that showed fertile men and women produce pheromones, has performed novel breast cancer research and founded the Athena Institute for Women’s Wellness. Highlighted in a 2016 Ursinus publication, Cutler said, “Someone who thinks like an entrepreneur recognizes an opportunity.”
Winnifred Berg Cutler ’73
That entrepreneurial spirit drives Jeevan Sekhar ’99, a physician who helped establish the Reid Cancer Center in Richmond, Ind., where he began to realize that complementary therapies could enhance the lives of his cancer patients. Similarly, Bonnie Nemeth Clarke ’87, director of the Clinical Trials Network at the Society of Nuclear Medicine and Molecular Imaging (SNMMI) in Reston, Va., is helping change the way pediatric tumors and cancer are being detected and, as a result, cured. And Jesse Kremenak ’08 is a founder of Kremenak NanoTech, Inc., which is committed to creating and commercializing innovations that will improve human and environmental health.
Graham “Mac” Mackenzie ’74 is noted as being an innovator in the creation of smart cards and prepaid debit cards for use by Armed Forces personnel overseas. His wife, Ann Helfferich Mackenzie ’77, is herself a teacher and mentor. Both spend countless hours volunteering at Ursinus and elsewhere.
Ann Helfferich Mackenzie ’77 (left) with her husband, Graham “Mac” Mackenzie ’74 (right)
Innovation is a term used often in the motor vehicle industry. After graduating from Ursinus, George Dupont ’70 rose from his start as a service technician to executive positions at American Motors/Jeep Corporation, Land Rover North America and the Ford Motor Company. An entrepreneurial thought leader, his “pay it forward” mentality inspired him to create an annual fund scholarship that supports students from Souderton, Pa. He has also written Ursinus into his estate plan, committing $2 million for scholarship support.
Ursinus thought leaders have always been part of public service. Alan Novak ’71 was the longest serving chairman of Pennsylvania’s Republican Party (1996-2005). Margaret Hewitt George ’49 served the Pennsylvania House of Representatives as the first woman and only Democrat to have represented her legislative district. The late J. William Ditter Jr. ’43 was senior United States District Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, nominated into the role by President Richard Nixon in 1970. Samuel Totaro Jr. ’69 is renowned in Pennsylvania for his accomplishments in the field of adoption law and related adoption litigation. And Matt Weintraub ’90, who currently serves as district attorney for Bucks County, Pa., has more than a quarter century of experience as a prosecutor.
On the education front, as an Ursinus student, Elizabeth Cannon ’10 was integral to the creation of UCARE, the Center for Advocacy, Responsibility and Engagement and today works as senior associate director at Civic House at the University of Pennsylvania, which closely mirrors UCARE. Nola-rae Cronan ’01 was a member of the first-ever cohort of TED-Ed Innovative Educators, a yearlong professional development program for dynamic educators who are dedicated to celebrating the ideas of students and teachers around the world; and Layali Eshqaidef ’03 created a program for young children to learn the Arabic language through hands-on projects and immersion programs.
Elizabeth Cannon ’10 (right) with President Brock Blomberg
Each of these thought leaders have drawn inspiration from their Ursinus experiences, capturing the essence of what it means to be a Bear in their everyday lives.