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2011 End-Of-Year Newsletter

posted Dec 26, 2011, 6:07 PM by Jeremy Hurwitz   [ updated Dec 28, 2011, 8:36 PM ]
"Easily the most profoundly educational experience of my life. I don't know how to describe it, but when you have a group of high school juniors contemplating the meaning of space-time and the shocking beauty of mathematics, it's a transformative experience."
     -- a PGSS 1995 alumnus

Dear fellow PGSS alumni,

As 2011 comes to a close, I want to review our progress in building an alumni network and getting the PGSS program restarted.

In the past year we have increased our alumni database by locating hundreds of new alumni. We also collected $110,000 in donations from over 400 alumni! This fundraising helped us get the attention of Governor Tom Corbett and Secretary of Education Ron Tomalis, who met with us and told us that they are enthusiastic to restore PGSS with a combination of public and private funding. We subsequently had several meetings with members of Secretary Tomalis's staff. We also hosted a summer reunion in Pittsburgh and a regional reunion in Boston. It has been great to see so many fellow alumni this year, both virtually and face to face.

I'm including links to several items of interest about our work this past year. Please click on any of the following articles to read more.
We are making serious progress, and next year will bring new opportunities. We will officially change our name to the PGSS Campaign in an effort to attract foundation and corporate grants - we want to avoid being perceived as a social club rather than as a legitimate nonprofit with serious educational goals. We will continue our appeal to the Governor for state help, and we will submit a series of grant applications to the private sector. We will organize more regional reunions; our goal is to create gatherings at least in Seattle, San Francisco, New York, Penn State, and Boston, and we are open to other possibilities if we can find volunteers to host them. We will continue to improve our alumni online interactions and the functionality of our alumni database. Our biggest goal, of course, is to have PGSS back up and running in the summer of 2013.

I want to thank all the volunteers who have done so much for our cause in 2011. I also want to thank everyone who has responded to our survey this month - the survey has produced lots of data that will be valuable to us in our grant-writing efforts in 2012, including valuable quotes like the one at the top of this page. If you haven't replied to our survey request yet, please take a moment to do so.  Every data point helps.

We will continue to need your support in 2012.  Please let us know if you have suggestions for us, or if you are interested in volunteering some of your time to the cause.  We still have lots to do!

Remember, it's not too late to make a tax-deductible contribution for 2011. You can do so at http://www.pgssalumni.org/donate.

Happy Holidays!

David Reiley
PGSS Alumni Association, President
Class of 1986; TA 1989, 1991




 

Meet The Board

Ben Campbell, Vice President of the PGSS Alumni Association, is an Assistant Professor of Engineering at Robert Morris University, near Pittsburgh.  Prior to that, Dr. Campbell was a laser engineer at the Penn State Electro-Optics Center, specializing in manufacturing applications and fundamental studies of laser-material interaction using ultrashort pulse lasers.  He was a member of the 1997 class of PGSS and returned as a TA for four summers (2000-2003).  In 2005, Dr. Campbell joined the PGSS faculty ranks, teaching the Laser Technology and the Science of Music electives, and also running team projects.  He continued to serve on the faculty until the program was canceled in 2009. He is working to restore PGSS because he knows the profound impact it had on his life and has seen its effect on countess students in the 9 summers he spent with the program. Dr. Campbell is also one of the Pennsylvania representatives on the Board of Directors for the National Conference of Governor’s Schools.

Zachary Gates is an intellectual property litigation attorney at the Boston office of Burns & Levinson LLP.  He is licensed to practice law in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont, and is a registered patent attorney before the United States Patent & Trademark Office.  Zachary attended PGSS as a student in 1997, as a TA/counselor in 2000 and 2001, and as co-residence life director in 2002.  He graduated from The Pennsylvania State University in 2002 with a B.S in Chemistry and minor in mathematics, and received his J.D. degree, cum laude, from The Pennsylvania State University - The Dickinson School of Law in 2005.  His wife, Sarah, and he are the proud parents of a son, Isaac, and are expecting their second child in January 2012. He joined the Board to assist future generations of Pennsylvania teenagers explore the many opportunities that a scientific training can afford them.

Janet Hurwitz, Secretary of the PGSS Alumni Association, is a teacher of gifted students and students with learning disabilities at the South Williamsport Area Jr.-Sr. High School in South Williamsport, PA. Janet is the mother of Jeremy Hurwitz, a PGSS govvie from 2003. After earning a Bachelor of Science from the University of Rhode Island in Child Development and Family Relations with a minor in Early Childhood Education and a Master of Education in Special Education from Rhode Island College, she went on to teach every grade level from preschool to 12, as well as parenting classes. Janet is married to Ken Weiss and has another son Jason who is engaged to be married in August, 2012.  She is determined to see PGSS re-started as soon as possible so that other students can have the same opportunity her son had. It is her belief that PGSS is invaluable due to the academic rigor offered, the advisory access to colleges and majors through TA’s and professors, and the many social benefits enjoyed.

Jeremy Hurwitz, Treasurer of the PGSS Alumni Association, will be starting as a software engineer at Google in Mountain View, CA in January. He graduated from MIT with degrees in math and computer science, before obtaining an M.S. in theoretical computer science from Caltech. Jeremy attended PGSS in 2003, returning as a TA in 2006, and now works as the webmaster and treasurer of the Alumni Association in the hope that future students will get the same wonderful opportunity that he had.

Beverly Jogan is a small animal veterinarian living in Philadelphia. She and her husband, Keith Mathers, both attended PGSS in 1997, and both returned as TAs in 2002 and 2003. Having attended high school in an underfunded urban public high school, her experience at PGSS was a major factor in encouraging her to set higher goals. It took her out of her comfort zone academically, but into a comfort zone socially. She then pursued her undergraduate studies in Biology and Physical Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania, and continued at Penn to earn her Veterinary Medical Degree. Beverly feels very strongly that PGSS is a unique and extremely valuable experience for students who want to learn for the sake of learning, and inspires them to have greater ambition to contribute to their communities and to advances in science.

Muriel Liberto is a founding and emeritus board member of the PGSS Alumni Association. Working with inspiration from the tireless and indefatigable David Reiley, she drafted the organization’s founding documents and obtained its federal tax-exempt status. Muriel’s law firm, Mintz Levin, donated over $15,000 to the cause. Muriel is a member of the PGSS class of 1986. She holds a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the College of William and Mary and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from the Ohio State University where her work focused on discovering new molecular targets for the treatment of breast cancer. Muriel continued her breast cancer research at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University for a number of years before deciding to pursue a career in law. Muriel is a graduate of Fordham University and practices patent law at the New York offices of Mintz Levin. She lives in Hoboken, NJ with her husband, Joe, and their three children. Muriel was inspired by her PGSS summer and the wonderful people she interacted with there to pursue her love of the sciences, which continues unabated to this day.

David Reiley, President of the PGSS Alumni Association, is a Principal Research Scientist at Yahoo! Labs in California, where he uses controlled experiments to measure the effects of advertising on purchases and other consumer behavior. He previously was a professor at Vanderbilt University and at the University of Arizona. A member of the PGSS class of 1986, he subsequently served as a physics TA in 1989 and 1991. He holds a bachelor's degree in astrophysical sciences from Princeton and a PhD in economics from MIT. He is passionate about PGSS because it is the only educational institution he's ever been associated with where all the students wanted to learn and all the teachers wanted to teach. He lives in Berkeley with his fiancée Jill Sazama.

Alfred Schnabel grew up in New Castle, PA and attended PGSS in 1994. He got a BS in Astronomy at Case Western Reserve University in 1999 and now works as a software UAT (user acceptance testing) analyst at Verizon Wireless. He lives outside Pittsburgh and spends his spare time reading, gaming and playing trombone in several community bands. PGSS was one of the most important and influential times of his life and he wants to ensure that future Pennsylvania students have the same opportunity he did.


Summer Reunion at CMU

The first PGSS Alumni Association Reunion was held July 15 - July 17 in Pittsburgh, PA.  22 alumni, with strong representation from the classes of '86 and '01, attended events in and around the Carnegie Mellon campus. Many of the Association's Board of Directors were also in attendance.

Events kicked off Friday night with dinner at Bridges Restaurant and Lounge in Pittsburgh's Oakland neighborhood.   On Saturday, alumni heard talks from Alumni Association Vice President Ben Campbell (PGSS '97), who gave a talk on the history of Governor's School. Ben's talk memorably featured T-shirts from many PGSS classes, with Dan Dennis (PGSS '03) bravely acting as a human mannequin. We also heard from Barry Luokkala, PGSS Director from 2000 - 2009, who spoke on why we still need a program like PGSS, highlighting the importance of STEM education programs.

Breakout sessions were held to discuss grant writing and searching for missing alumni. General discussion about how to revive the program continued over a picnic lunch in Schenley Park.

Dinner that night was held at Gullifty's in Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill. Dr. Thad Starner (PGSS '86), the Director of the Contextual Computing Group at Georgia Tech, gave a fascinating talk about his research in wearable computing, complete with a demonstration of the wearable computer he carries with him at all times.  He also talked about the work he is doing at Google and his work into using computers to allow parents to communicate with their deaf children. It was a great demonstration of what PGSS alums are capable of!

Sunday wrapped up the reunion with a round-table discussion of the next steps to take in bringing back PGSS.  Everyone left the reunion feeling good about the potential to restore PGSS.  Many great ideas and memories of PGSS were shared, old friendships renewed and new friendships made.

Special thanks to Corinne Powell for organizing the reunion and Janet Hurwitz and Michael Pirrello for acting as reunion coordinators.

Submitted by Alfred Schnabel (PGSS '94)


Boston-Area Reunion

On September 30, 2011, Zachary Gates (PGSS ’97) hosted the first PGSS Boston Regional Reunion at his law firm in downtown Boston. Around 30 alumni and friends attended the Friday evening event.

After an initial cocktail hour, David Reiley (PGSS '86; TA '89, '91), President of the PGSS Alumni Association, spoke to the group via videoconference about the mission of the PGSS Alumni Association, its progress to date in restoring PGSS and what his vision for the future of PGSS was. He spent some time after his presentation engaging the group in a question-and-answer session, which led into a broader brainstorming session among the attendees regarding what could be done to restore PGSS and what that restored PGSS should be. Not surprisingly, given such an analytical group of people, many interesting ideas and perspectives were shared!

After the discussion ended, the attendees spent quite some more time socializing. We hope to organize another Boston area event soon, if for no other reason than to give this group a chance to hang out and chat again, perhaps in a less-formal setting! However, the event did serve more than a social purpose. Via donations made with the fundraising cards at the tables, the event raised money toward re-starting PGSS; a big thank you to all who donated!!  Futhermore, the group's ideas were recorded and passed along later to the Alumni Association as constructive guidance in their efforts to restore what all of us agree was a unique and great program.

Submitted by Jen Zarutskie (PGSS '91)


Grant Applications and Changing Our Name

During 2011, Board members and the Executive Director sent Letters of Inquiries and grant applications to the NSF and various Pittsburgh-based foundations, corporations with a strong presence in Pennsylvania, and other science-based companies. We will be increasing these efforts in 2012. As part of this endeavor, the Board has decided to change our name from PGSS Alumni Association, Inc. to PGSS Campaign to avoid some donor’s prohibition against funding alumni association requests. We believe our grant writing efforts to restart the program in 2013 will be more acceptable with the new name.

Many volunteers have assisted with grant research and construction and your efforts have been invaluable.  The information alumni have submitted in response to recent class surveys has also provided excellent material for grant content and PGSS descriptions. If you have time and experience to assist with grant writing now, please contact Corinne at corinne.powell@pgssalumni.org as we intend to begin submitting new applications in early 2012.


The National Conference of Governor's Schools

The National Conference of Governor’s Schools (NCOGS) held their annual meeting October 6-8 in Fargo, North Dakota. It was attended by representatives from nearly 20 states, with programs that range from one to six weeks in length and host anywhere from a dozen to a thousand students. Ben Campbell (PGSS '97; TA '00-'03) attended on behalf of PGSS and gave a presentation about the progress made restoring PGSS, entitled “How to Resurrect a Governor’s School: Preparing Your Program for a Worst-Case Scenario.” He shared the struggles and successes from the methods used to unite alumni and organizing a cohesive movement of support. Sadly, Pennsylvania is not the first state to defund their Governor’s Schools and it won’t be the last. There was discussion about how other programs survived cuts and how to prepare for lean times before they occur. Through NCOGS, PGSS has access to a national support network of programs for ideas and shared resources.   

Submitted by Ben Campbell (PGSS 1997)


Fun Facts about the Alumni

Our goal is to have up-to-date biographical and contact information for all of the alumni of the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Sciences. In the past year and a half, we have located over 2,000 of the 2400 alumni, as well as many TA’s and faculty members. The classes of both 2007 and 2008 have successfully located everyone, and several classes have under six people left to find.  If you have contact information for any of the missing govvies or can help to search, please contact janet.hurwitz@pgssalumni.org.

Fun facts:
The top six undergraduate institutions attended by PGSS graduates (that we know of so far) are:
Penn State         170
Carnegie Mellon  157
MIT                    135
U. Penn              132
Harvard               129
Princeton            112

So far, there are 8 govvie couples (that we know of).

Just a sampling of career tracks: We have approximately 250 doctors, including 50 medical professors. We also have several veterinarians, a dentist and an acupuncturist. We have about 50 lawyers, half of whom are patent attorneys. This also includes a White House Counsel and two Assistant US Attorneys. We are approximately 130 professors strong, with most in some area of science or technology, although we do have 14 in the humanities. We have about 30 teachers in grades 4 to 12, most in public schools. We have two Peace Corps volunteers and officers in the Navy, Army and Air Force. Oh, and 2 jugglers.

If you haven’t already weighed in, please fill out the survey at https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/viewform?hl=en_US&formkey=dE03UlUtcHd5aU9RcDNhYmdHSkd3ZlE6MA so we can include you in our records.

Submitted by Janet Hurwitz

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