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Briana Curtis
Santa Rita Hall 108

Phone: 973-290-4208
bcurtis@steu.edu

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An SEU alumni takes a photo of her classmates at reunion.

Saint Elizabeth University is comprised of a diverse body of alumni who excel in every discipline. The Alum of the Month shines a spotlight on the personal and professional accomplishments of our alumni. If you would like to nominate yourself or a classmate of yours as our next Alum of the Month, then fill out the nomination form.


Jonadad Fequiere, ‘17

Jonadad Fequiere

For our August Alum of the Month, we are spotlighting Jonadad Fequiere, ‘17, this year’s guest speaker at SEU’s opening Convocation. As an immigrant and first generation student, Jonadad understands the need to feel a sense of culture and belonging on college campuses.

While at SEU, Jonadad studied business administration and communication. She shared in her Convocation speech that the experiences she had in college greatly influenced her future.

“I was undecided my first year and had no idea who or what I wanted to be for the rest of my life,” said Jonadad. “My values changed as I learned more about myself and the ways I wanted to contribute to the world and serve others. My time at SEU prepared me to pursue my MBA following graduation and a career in higher education.”

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Hayley Holzhacker, ‘18

Hayley Holzhacker

Sylvia Rosamond Finnegan, ‘28, was encouraged to apply to Saint E’s by a Sister of Mercy and teacher at John Bapst High School in Bangor, Maine. The Sister was an advocate for women to achieve a higher education degree and knew that Sylvia would receive a world class education at the institution. Sylvia’s graduation sparked an almost century-long legacy for one New England family.

“The four generations of women in my family who have attended Saint E’s forged a path that will forever inspire me,” says Hayley Holzhacker, ‘18. “Knowing that I continued their legacy is something that has truly empowered me.”

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Ryan McKay, '22

Lt. Ryan McKay poses in front of police vehicle

Early in his career, Ryan McKay, ‘22, worked as a police dispatcher at the Morris County Communications Center. Answering 911 calls, Ryan remembers the countless times he provided CPR instructions to callers over the phone. With one dispatcher in charge of up to five towns in the county, and nearly eight monitors flashing on each desk at a time, the intensity of the job is not for the faint of heart. For Ryan, the job sparked a lifetime of interest in helping others.

“It was certainly a foot-in-the-door job experience for me as it solidified my goal of being on the other side of the radio as a police officer,” says Ryan. “You really have to excel at being able to multitask and handle the stress that comes with it.”

For the past decade, Ryan has been with the Morris Plains Police Department in positions of increasing responsibility. He was most recently promoted to a lieutenant position in October of 2021.

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Khajayah Little, '22

Khajayah poses with a friend.

Khajayah Little ‘22, was among the first in her family to graduate from high school so her decision to attend college was highly unexpected.

“A lot of my dad’s family didn’t make it to their high school graduation so attending mine was a huge step for our family,” explains Khajayah. “It was an even bigger shock when I told them I was going to college but I just knew I wasn’t finished yet.”

Inspired by time she spent with her cousins who have Down syndrome and autism, Khajayah decided to pursue a degree in Health Science with the intention of continuing at SEU to earn her master’s in Applied Behavior Analysis.

“Society overlooks children with disabilities but they are just like us,” says Khajayah, who plans on dedicating her life to helping children thrive. “They may function differently than we do but they are no different than us. We are all one.”

While Khajayah is set on using her education to improve the world, she almost didn’t earn her degree. Originally a student at a larger New Jersey institution, Khajayah struggled immensely during her freshman and sophomore years. As a first-generation college student, Khajayah could not figure out what was expected of her.

“I wasn’t doing well and I was falling behind on the standards I set for myself,” recalls Khajayah. “There was no guidance at my first college, I was completely on my own and I started to think that maybe college wasn’t meant for me after all.”

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A photo of Judy Messing posed in front of a colorful backdrop.

 

Judy Messing, '68

Judy Messing was a computer scientist before the computer science major was even invented.

“At the time, companies looking for computer programmers hired math, music or philosophy majors because we all had courses in logic,” recalls Judy, who earned her bachelor’s in mathematics in 1960.

Fascinated by the intellectual challenges in this burgeoning field, Judy was able to put her talents to work writing diagnostic programs for an experimental line of computers called UNIVAC (Universal Automatic Computer) shortly upon graduating. In the years to follow, Judy would work in different capacities for multiple computer-related companies and agencies.

Some of her accomplishments include programming large displays of military information, coding war game simulations, coding systems for the U.S. Army, testing early email programs and looking at solutions for protecting classified information. Judy even co-wrote a research paper on a mechanism to track access to computer files called “Beyond the Pale of MAC and DAC.”

“I’ve really enjoyed my working life,” says Judy. “I always worked with very smart people, had interesting projects, and was never bored.”

Read Article A photo of Anne Lanute holding a wooden rolling pin and metal whisk.

 

Anne Lanute, '98

“I was the first in my family to go to college because the opportunity just hadn’t been there for anybody else,” says Anne Lanute, ‘98. “Graduating from SEU was such a big day for me and my family.”

While interested in education, Anne’s parents were denied the ability to complete college due to family responsibilities. Her mother had to stop attending nursing school to care for her four small children and her father could not sacrifice their financial stability to earn a degree.

“Earning my degree was a gift to my parents because they felt they missed out on that experience,” recalls Anne. “It was something that meant so much to our entire family.”

A perpetual student, Anne has channeled her love of learning into her hobbies and personal interests. She believes that constantly learning introduces people to concepts they never knew they would find fascinating. This curiosity for the world actually led Anne to her career as a pastry chef.

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A professional portrait of Dr. David Jefferson, Jr.

Dr. David Jefferson, Jr., '21

“When I was in first grade, my teacher tied me to a chair with a jump rope and left me there for more than an hour,” explains Dr. David Jefferson Jr., ‘21. While this abuse initially made David weary of educators, he soon realized that his calling was to become the person he needed most in that moment.

“My time in education has gone from trauma to triumph,” explains David, who recently earned his doctorate in educational leadership at SEU. “That experience set the backdrop for me working with at-risk students who have also had challenges in education.”

A multi-vocational leader, every aspect of David’s professional, vocational and personal life has centered on assisting and inspiring young people to overcome obstacles blocking their success.

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Kibbe McGaa Brown points to a chart in a book.

Kibbe McGaa Brown, ‘93, Dietetic Internship Program

A ring of red and a loaf of white ushered in an era of unprecedented illness and disease among members of the Lakota tribe. Representative of the refined carbohydrates and processed meat found in a bologna sandwich, this pithy phrase illustrates the movement from traditional food ways to more modern manners of consumption.

“The bologna sandwich was an alternative to standing at the stove, cooking all day,” explains Kibbe McGaa Brown, ‘93 a Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Public Health Service and a graduate of SEU’s dietetic internship program. “Eating this way became a matter of status because some people had the ability to afford convenience.”

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Gilliam Ojedis-Lucas in her graduation regalia.

Gilliam Ojedis-Lucas, ’20

Gilliam Ojedis-Lucas, ’20, began her clinical practice in student teaching during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Shortly after Gilliam’s clinical practice ended, she was hired as a full-time first grade teacher and was presented with another unique challenge: teaching entirely online.

“Whenever the other teachers at the school found out that I was doing my student teaching, they would all respond in the same way,” says Gilliam. “They would look shocked and say: ‘You’re doing it now? Well, you’re definitely going to be ready when you’re finished.’ And they were right, I was ready.”


SEU alumnus Matthew Thomas

Matthew Thomas, ’20

Matthew Thomas, ‘20, served in the US Navy from 1997 to 2001 and worked as a Hull Maintenance Technician Fireman during his years of service.

“My maternal grandfather Major David A. Thomas was the real reason why I served. I spent a lot of my time as a child with my grandpa and would always recount his stories of his time in the Air Force,” says Matthew. “He was my inspiration and hero.”

Following his time in the military, Matthew spent three years working as an EMT in Los Angeles, CA, where he met his wife and fellow SEU alum Heather. Working as an EMT later inspired Matthew to complete his degree in Health Administration at SEU.

“I am so happy that I attended SEU and had a wonderful time there. The professors that I met along the way were some of the greatest educators that I have had in my college career,” says Matthew.

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Nada Mays prepares food outside.

Nada Mays, ’21

"I joined the Peace Corps to better understand the world," explains Nada Mays, who served in the Kingdom of eSwatini, a small landlocked country in the southern region of Africa. "As a Black and Palestinian person, I am very aware of how some regions of the world are portrayed in a falsely negative light."

While living in eSwatini for two years, Nada gained first-hand experience with the HIV pandemic. When she returned to the U.S., she was offered a position with a local community agency. In this role, she worked with incarcerated residents who were about to be released and counseled them about living with HIV.

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Dr. Hardy stands in front of an airplane in flight gear, when she was in the US Air Force.

Dr. Marion Hardy, '60

American flags waved from every street corner, marching bands played patriotic tunes while confetti streamed over large crowds and Dr. Marion Hardy, '60, stood in the middle of it all.

It was June of 1944. The Allied Forces had just invaded Normandy, securing a victory that would ultimately lead to the end of World War II, and Hardy's mother took her to New York to celebrate. In that moment, even though she was only a child, Hardy's admiration for the military was born.

"If I could, I would reenlist today," says Hardy, who spent several decades serving in the United States Air Force and retired as a full colonel. During her military career, Hardy filled positions that had never before been held by a woman. She was one of the first to fly in an F16 fighter aircraft as a Flight Surgeon, the first to hold the position of Commander, Chief of Hospital Services and one of the first to be appointed State Air Surgeon of New Hampshire.

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Dr. Guzman smiles for the camera after delivering his dissertation.

Dr. Alex Guzman, '20

Growing up in a Spanish speaking household, Dr. Alex Guzmán was in English Language Learner (ELL) programs until the third grade. Alex's personal experience as an ELL student spurred his interest in researching this population for his dissertation. ⁠

Alex intends to use knowledge attained through earning his doctorate in educational leadership at SEU to create these equitable learning environments and encourage his peers to do the same.

"Continuing to higher education is difficult for low-income families," says Alex. "My mom, my sister, and I worked tirelessly to put me through college. I was the first to graduate from college, the first to earn a master's and now a doctorate."⁠

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Thomas Michael working at his desk at Enterprise.

Thomas Michael, '20

"My internship gave me a head start in my career," says Thomas Michael, '20.

Last year, when he was nearing the end of his college career, Thomas realized that he wanted more hands-on experience. He became very interested in acquiring the experience and expertise necessary to operate a business effectively and turned to his advisors for assistance. As a psychology major with a business minor, Michael was looking for an internship that joined his two passions.

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Heidi and Roger Biller pose together on Heidi's graduation day.

Heidi, '18 and Roger Biller, '93

A decade ago, Heidi Biller promised her seriously ill father Roger that he would see her graduate from Saint Elizabeth University. As the first male valedictorian to graduate from the University's “night and weekend” program in 1993, seeing his daughter walk across the stage at graduation was vitally important to him. Unfortunately, Roger was unable to attend Heidi’s college graduation due to complications from a liver transplant.

However, exactly ten years later, Heidi was able to fulfill her promise and Roger proudly watched as his daughter earned a master’s in educational leadership from the University.

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