Alumni Success Stories
Matt Chmura ’03 knows the business of sports. As vice president of communications and content for the Boston Bruins, Chmura enjoys strategizing how his operation – media, public relations, website, and publications – can support the rest of the organization’s needs so the Bruins can be equally successful on and off the ice.
A four-sport athlete in high school, Chmura chose not to play in college. “I wanted to focus on academics and finding my path, which I thought would be law,” he explains. But he decided to write for The Crusader and was assigned to men’s hockey – back in the game, where he’s been ever since. Chmura wrote for the paper all four years and was a stringer for the Boston Herald. He also joined WCHC as a play-by-play announcer, working three NCAA championships and becoming station manager. Internships with the New England Revolution, Tennessee Titans, and New England Patriots rounded out his experience. “I majored in political science and learned to think creatively. Then, with the help of the staff in Student Affairs, I learned something very specific. It was as though I put together a second major in sports marketing,” Chmura says.
After four years in the communications department of New York’s major league soccer franchise, Chmura joined the Bruins. He’s happy to be working for a team he grew up rooting for, serving as a trustee of his home town Boys’ and Girls’ Club, and staying in touch with the wider Holy Cross community as a career advisor and a member of the College’s Alumni Marketing Advisory Group.
Jim Collins ’87 believes in the value of daydreaming. The former Holy Cross physics major and class valedictorian went on to become a Rhodes Scholar, earn a doctorate in medical engineering at Oxford University, and create one breakthrough after another at the intersection of biology and engineering. One example is the first “genetic toggle switch” to start or stop various cellular activities, a discovery with potential to transform the understanding of cancer and other serious diseases. At the root of his high-tech achievements, however, are two simple, powerful drivers: compassion and reflection. Collins first became inspired to help people with medical problems by his two grandfathers, each of whom developed a severe disability. And he has long recognized the role of reflection in the creative process, noting that he makes it a priority to “just spend time thinking about cool new ideas.”
Since 1990, Collins has taught biomedical engineering at Boston University, where he co-directs the Center for Biodynamics and has received the university’s highest teaching award. A pioneer in complexity science, Collins uses engineered bacteria and synthetic gene networks to explore ways to develop more effective antibiotics and other drugs. In 2011, he was elected to the National Academy of Engineering, among the highest professional honors accorded to engineers. In 2012, he was also elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of America's most respected honor societies, and was awarded a Grand Challenges Explorations grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to pursue a new approach to cholera prevention. He has also been named a MacArthur Fellow and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, both of which provide funding for future innovation.
Actress - TV, film, stage
Ann Dowd ’78 is easy to find. Just turn on your TV, head to the movies or the theater and you’re likely to encounter this hard-working actress. She has guest-starred in many shows, including House and Law & Order and appeared in films, such as Clint Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers, the family comedy Marley & Me, and the drama Compliance. She has also taken the stage, starring in Blood From a Stone alongside Ethan Hawke and the Broadway production of Chekhov’s The Seagull.
This was not the career Dowd envisioned when she entered Holy Cross as a health professions student. “My life at Holy Cross was studying science and acting in plays. I had a fantastic acting teacher, and when she – together with my roommate and organic chemistry professor – advised me to take a hard look at an acting career, I thought I’d better pay attention,” she explains. “They were right – acting was what I truly loved.”
After graduating from Holy Cross, Dowd studied at The Theatre School at DePaul University and spent several years in Chicago before moving to New York. Her career began on the stage, and she made her Broadway debut as Shaw’s Candida, winning the 1993 Clarence Derwent Award for her performance.
“At first my mother was concerned about my choice,” Dowd recalls. “But parents shouldn’t worry when their children become actors. An acting career teaches you to go out there swinging, and you learn very quickly whether you can hang in. Even more important, acting makes you figure out who you really are, because the self is the instrument you use to do your work.”
Anthony Fauci, M.D., ’62 fights HIV/AIDS with science and compassion — a powerful combination that draws on his background as a health professions classics major at Holy Cross. Since 1984, Fauci has been director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. As a researcher, he has made groundbreaking scientific observations about the regulation of the human immune response and developed effective therapies for formerly fatal diseases. He has also contributed significantly to the scientific understanding and treatment of HIV/AIDS.
Fauci graduated from Cornell University’s medical school and joined NIAID after completing his internship and residency at a Cornell-affiliated teaching hospital. He has written and edited more than 1,000 scientific publications and been named one of the most cited scientists in the world. His work has been recognized with numerous high-profile awards, including the National Medal of Science. Yet Fauci has never lost sight of the people who suffer from the diseases he studies. AIDS, he notes, “was and is a combination of a real disease in the classic sense, a huge societal problem with disenfranchised populations, an ethical issue, a social issue, a very charged political issue.” These qualities make the disease the perfect challenge for Fauci, who credits Holy Cross with helping him to develop a deep social consciousness.
Producer, Law & Order
Peter Jankowski ’86 produces Law & Order as president of Wolf Films. “There’s no flight plan for a career in TV, so liberal arts is a great background. At Holy Cross, I learned to think for myself, hold onto my values, and listen to others – all valuable skills in Hollywood,” says producer and former history major Peter Jankowski. President of Wolf Films since 1996, Jankowski oversees the company’s operations and is executive producer of the Law & Order franchise. He also holds producer credits on the Academy Award-winning documentary Twin Towers and the Emmy-nominated Doors documentary When You're Strange.
Before that, he spent 10 years at Universal Television, where he became executive in charge of production for such successful series as Northern Exposure, Coach, and Quantum Leap.
“Producing is the right career for me,” he says. “First and foremost, I’m a fan of TV and film. I enjoy working with different people, especially making it possible for those with something to say to say it. And I’m bull-headed – you have to be, because everyone in this business wants to say ‘no.’ Some of the best shows in television history weren’t successful at first, including Cheers, Seinfeld, and Law & Order.”
Jankowski ponders major issues in television, from the effect of new technologies to the responsibilities of news reporting. He is married to his Holy Cross classmate Linda Caruso, a lawyer, and they have two young sons who, as he observes, “can’t watch any of the shows I work on.”
Edward P. Jones ’72 explores The Known World and wins the Pulitzer Prize, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and a MacArthur Fellowship. Growing up in Washington, D.C., Jones was encouraged to read by his mother, who never learned how. He made his way from Spider-Man comics to serious literature and gravitated to works by Southern writers, both black and white. He applied to Holy Cross almost by chance, motivated by an acquaintance who was studying to be a Jesuit priest. In the first creative writing class offered at Holy Cross, he began to find his vocation.
Later, Jones earned an M.F.A. at the University of Virginia and supported himself writing for a professional newsletter while working on a novel and creating short stories about life in Washington that became his collection Lost in the City. Laid off from his job in 2002, he finally completed The Known World, a stunning novel of slave-owning free blacks before the Civil War.
Despite his literary fame, Jones continues to live simply and has inherited the work ethic of his mother, who washed dishes and cleaned hotels to support her family. “If you write a story today, and you get up tomorrow to start another story, all the expertise that you put into that first story doesn’t transfer over automatically to the second story,” he explains. “You’re always starting at the bottom of the mountain. So you’re always becoming a writer. You’re never really arriving.”
Burke Magnus '88 owes the career he loves to the communication skills he honed at Holy Cross. Now ESPN's senior vice president for college sports programming, overseeing multimedia coverage of football, basketball and NCAA Championships, Magnus has been with the company since 1995. Though he didn't play varsity sports in high school or college, "I loved sports growing up," he says. "But I never imagined having a job in sports." Magnus found himself at a crossroads several years after graduating. He had imagined going to law school, but after stints as a paralegal at firms in New York and San Francisco, he realized he wanted a different path.
He decided to pursue what he loved and dove into a sports management graduate program. "I think they were intrigued by a history major's application," he says. At Holy Cross, he had reveled in the broad-based education, exploring widely before focusing on American history and, in his senior year, doing an independent study on Franklin Roosevelt's presidency. He also received hands-on journalism experience interning for the National Catholic Register during a Washington Semester. He's been with ESPN since 1995, winning accolades nationally for managing the complex launch of the ESPNU network. "I love what I do," Magnus says. "Holy Cross taught me how to write and how to communicate, which gave me the structure to be successful in almost anything."
Chris Matthews ’67 plays Hardball. If politics is your game, Chris Matthews is the color commentator to watch. Matthews is the star of MSNBC’s Hardball and NBC’s The Chris Matthews Show, and you can often find him as a guest on Today and The Tonight Showwith Jay Leno. He’s also the author of five best-selling books, including Life’s a Campaign, in which he reveals some practical truths about how to achieve success in politics and in life, and, most recently, Jack Kennedy: Elusive Hero.
Matthews developed his insights through hard-won experience. Following two years in the Peace Corps in Swaziland, the Holy Cross economics major knocked on 200 doors on Capitol Hill and was rewarded with a 15-year career that started with his working as a legislative assistant in the Senate, continued to a post writing speeches for President Carter, and then led to the role of top staffer for Speaker of the House Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill Jr. Next, Matthews turned to journalism, both print and broadcast, covering such world events as the fall of the Berlin Wall, the first all-races election in South Africa, the Good Friday Peace Talks in Northern Ireland, and every presidential election campaign for the last two decades.
How did Holy Cross prepare Matthews for his career? In his words, “We argued about what we really believed about life, about God, about truth, about right and wrong, and how or if we could ever get to the bottom of it all. I still pursue those arguments, just on a larger stage.”
Kevin O’Connor ’90 loves sawdust. After all, he’s been handling tools since he was a kid constructing tree houses with his brothers. And he loves to talk. So naturally, he ended up as the Emmy-nominated host of "This Old House" and "Ask This Old House," the co-host of DIY Network’s "This New House," and the author of "The Best Homes from This Old House." The odd thing is the Holy Cross history major never aspired to a career in broadcasting. He did public policy work after graduating, then earned an MBA and joined the banking industry. It was through an email query to "This Old House" that O’Connor ended up on camera learning how to remove wallpaper. That appearance, plus his enthusiasm for remodeling and insatiable appetite for asking questions, prompted the job offer in 2003. “After 10 years, I still love what I do, and I’m really thankful for that,” he says.
Could O’Connor’s success as a broadcast journalist have been predicted by his undergraduate career? Well, he was the guy in Mulledy Hall who watched "This Old House" instead of sports. And when he wasn’t studying, he was building something out of wood. But O’Connor says he was also soaking in the diverse liberal arts curriculum and learning to be a critical thinker, an articulate communicator, and a man for others. “These skills serve me very well,” he says. “My job is being a good consumer advocate and asking probing questions the audience wants to hear. And I win people’s trust so they can be articulate themselves.”
Joyce O’Shaughnessy ’78 shaped her approach to medicine at Holy Cross. Today, as a prominent medical oncologist specializing in breast cancer, she treats patients, conducts research, and is active in her field. Since 1997, she has practiced at Texas Oncology, PA, and conducted research through US Oncology, a network of 100 oncologists nationwide, at the Baylor-Sammons Cancer Center in Dallas.
O’Shaughnessy’s life took a major turn during her first year at Holy Cross, when her 10-year-old sister died of leukemia. “This event focused me on cancer research, and I knew I needed to start right away. Holy Cross made that possible with a grant for me to begin research at the Worcester Foundation for Experimental Biology the summer after my freshman year,” she recounts. That work resulted in her Fenwick Scholar thesis on human childhood leukemia.
O’Shaughnessy earned her M.D. at Yale Medical School and began her career in breast cancer research at the National Cancer Institute. “In medical school, I realized that I was better suited to internal medicine and adult cancer than to pediatric leukemia,” she says. “One of the most important things I’ve learned is that you need to focus on your interests, but at the same time stay open to specific opportunities. In a sense, you need to wait to find where the road will take you.”
Founder, J.D. Power
J.D. “Dave” Power III ’53 became a household name as the voice of the customer. J.D. Power and Associates is a global marketing information firm that surveys customer satisfaction, product quality, and buyer behavior. It is a highly trusted resource for consumers shopping for big-ticket items like cars and boats and for services including hospital care and insurance. Power established the firm in 1968 after earning an M.B.A. at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and working for corporations including the Ford Motor Company. In 2005, J.D. Power and Associates became a business unit of The McGraw-Hill Companies, and Dave Power assumed the title of “founder.”
Power’s business philosophy centers on the concepts of integrity, independence, and impact. “We try to maintain our integrity by telling it like it is,” he says. “We remain independent by doing our own research. And we can have greater impact by remaining independent.”
A Worcester native from a Holy Cross family, Power jokes that he had no choice about where he would go to college. “My training at Holy Cross influenced my personal philosophy,” he explains. “I respect the inquisitiveness that the Jesuit education gave me to dig down for basic truths and learn how to ask the right questions. That has served me well in the business world.”
U.S. Navy Commander
Bernadette Semple ’82 takes command of situations — enthusiastically. A former U.S. Navy commander, Semple says that choosing Holy Cross was the best decision she ever made. That’s quite a statement, because she has obviously made many good ones as she rose quickly in the Navy. The former economics major claims to have disliked math, but says that with a Holy Cross education, a person can learn and do anything. Her history bears that out; she went on to earn multiple advanced degrees in fields including information resources management and cyber security. One of her proudest accomplishments was as commanding officer, helping the 53 African nations build a new secure computer network for sharing information. During her career, Semple had some remarkable experiences, including working for the Joint Chiefs of Staff in an exclusive intern program and for Office of the Secretary of Defense. She was serving in the Pentagon on 9/11, where, she says, “The level of calm and professionalism was amazing. Everyone’s training kicked in.”
Semple recently retired from the Navy. She is now focused on service to Holy Cross, where she is a trustee and a champion of the basketball and track programs. On her horizon is likely to be law school or a business career. But the ultimate ambition of this passionate native New Yorker is to serve her state as an elected official. She’s a woman who means what she says, so watch for her.
Tony Award winner
Bartlett Sher ’81 plays on a very large stage. Still as intense and long-haired as when he arrived at Holy Cross to study philosophy, Sher now earns glittering accolades in the theater world, including a 2008 Tony award. Described by The New York Times as “... one of the most original and exciting directors, not only in American theater but also in the international world of opera,” Sher won his Tony as best director of a musical for the Lincoln Center Theater revival of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific.
No stranger to the Tonys, Sher has been nominated for directing New York productions three times before, and the Intiman Theatre in Seattle, where he is artistic director, took the Outstanding Regional Theater Tony in 2006. Never one to rest on his laurels, after his South Pacific triumph, he has dived into numerous other productions, including August Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone, which earned him another best director Tony nomination, and Clifford Odets' Golden Boy, currently playing at Lincoln Center Theater.
Sher began his theater career at Holy Cross. For his senior thesis in English, he wrote a play – Fish Every Day – that was staged in Fenwick Theatre. In retrospect, he describes it as “a crazy, upside-down play about Catholic School, with its own language and weird rituals. It caused an uproar.” He went on to teach English in San Francisco, start a theater company in San Diego, earn a graduate degree at the University of Leeds, and hone his craft at some of America’s best regional theaters.
Mark Shriver ’86 knows that children are our future. As senior vice president for strategic initiatives and senior advisor to the CEO for Save the Children, he drives efforts to motivate and mobilize Americans to make children at home and abroad a national priority. Shriver’s career also pays tribute to his family’s legacy of social justice. His late mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, started the Special Olympics, and his late father, R. Sargent Shriver (subject of Mark’s book "A Good Man: Rediscovering My Father, Sargent Shriver"), was the first director of the Peace Corps. “My father and mother exposed us kids to people who were much less fortunate than we were," he says. "And that showed us it was important to help."
But Shriver also credits his years at Holy Cross for solidifying his understanding of the importance of social justice. "Fr. Kuzniewski, Fr. Brooks, Fr. Rule, Fr. Miller, Fr. LaBran: They all taught me you need to be a man or woman for others,” he says. "I learned that faith without action is not sufficient, and action without faith is also not sufficient. You need to think and pray and have a relationship with God but you also need to act."
Shriver founded The Choice Program in 1988, which helps at-risk and delinquent youth make choices that strengthen their families and communities. Today, through Save the Children, Shriver is advocating for measures to reduce gun violence and increase access to mental health services, as well as establishing a National Commission on Children to address the myriad challenges kids in the United States face today.
Shriver is married to Jeanne Ripp Shriver ’87. Their three children volunteer for the Special Olympics and Best Buddies International, he says. "We’re trying to do what our parents did — expose our children to injustices and show them they can make a difference in people’s lives."
Supreme Court justice
Clarence Thomas ’71 found an unexpected role model at Holy Cross. Thomas, associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, credits his Readings in Renaissance Prose course with introducing him to Sir Thomas More (1478-1535), the Catholic lawyer and counselor to King Henry VIII who was executed for opposing the king’s break with Rome. Thomas calls More a lifelong “hero and a role model” for his character and principled dignity. Further, he cites Professor Emeritus Thomas Lawler, who taught this course, along with other Holy Cross faculty members, for helping find his way through the tumultuous late ’60s. “They refused to accommodate my feelings; they demanded that I think rather than feel,” says Thomas.
Thomas transferred to Holy Cross in the fall of 1968 from Immaculate Conception Seminary, where he was studying for the priesthood when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated the previous April. As he explains, “How could I stay at the seminary when the world seemed to be disintegrating around me? It seemed to be pointless. All that religion and education had seemed to promise no longer mattered to me.”
At Holy Cross, Thomas reclaimed his belief in education and went on to earn his law degree at Yale. Before being named to the Supreme Court in 1991, he served in several government positions, including assistant secretary for civil rights within the U.S. Department of Education, chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Photograph by Steve Petteway, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States
Maggie Wilderotter ’77 means business. Wilderotter, who majored in economics at Holy Cross, is chairman and CEO of Frontier Communications and sits on the boards of Xerox and Proctor & Gamble. In 2010, she was appointed by President Barack Obama to be vice chair of the President’s National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee. She shattered the so-called "glass ceiling" for women executives early in her career and has been president and CEO of an interactive television company, a senior vice president at Microsoft, and a leader in both the cable television and cellular industries. Ranked among Fortune magazine’s "50 Most Powerful Women" and Financial Times' "Top 50 Women in World Business 2011," Wilderotter is passionate about increasing opportunities for women in business, particularly on corporate boards, which are instrumental in recruiting chief executives.
As a Holy Cross student, Wilderotter taught low-income women in Worcester typing and stenography – essential business skills for women in the 1970s. Every woman ended up securing a job. "It is a great feeling to help people change their lives for the better," she says. "Mentoring was further proof, at a relatively early age, that a value-based existence is a necessity for me. It is the foundation of my personal and business life."
Wilderotter credits Holy Cross with challenging her academically and nurturing her commitment to social responsibility. She adds, “Holy Cross also taught me to explore and try new things – from finding my place on a campus that had just become coed to heading sports radio on WCHC. I discovered that I thrive on adventure and challenge."
David P. Anderson ’51- Sports columnist, The New York Times; winner of a Pulitzer Prize in 1981
Karen Baldwin ’85 - Partner and senior executive vice president of Creative Affairs, Baldwin Entertainment Group; Producer of the films Mystery, Alaska; Ray;Sahara; A Sound of Thunder; The Game of Their Lives
Mary G. Berner ’81 - Former president and chief executive officer, Reader’s Digest Association
Hon. Timothy H. Bishop ’72 - Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrat from New York
Leigh Anne Brodsky ’80 - President, Nickelodeon and Viacom Consumer Products
Hon. Robert Casey ’82 - Member of the U.S. Senate, Democrat from Pennsylvania
Joseph A. Califano Jr. ’52 - Founder and chairman, The National Center on Addiction & Substance Abuse; former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare
Rabbi Norman M. Cohen ’72 - Rabbi, Bet Shalom Congregation, Minnetonka, Minn.
Billy Collins ’63 - Former Poet Laureate, consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress (2001-2003)
Robert J. Cousy ’50 - Basketball legend and NBA Hall of Famer; led the Boston Celtics to an unprecedented five straight NBA titles
Michael Daniels ’76 - Retired senior vice president and group executive, IBM Global Technology Services
Jon Favreau '03 - Former chief speechwriter for President Obama
Anne Schiffman Fink ’85 - Senior vice president, PepsiCo Sales
Stanley E. Grayson ’72 - Vice chairman and chief operating officer, M.R. Beal and Company, New York
Julie A. Halpin ’84 - Founder and CEO, The Geppetto Group, advertising company specializing in products for children
Thomas W. Heinsohn ’56 - Former Boston Celtics player and coach; NBA Hall of Famer
John J. “Jack” Higgins ’76 - Editorial cartoonist for theChicago Sun-Times; winner of a Pulitzer Prize in 1989
Mark G. Holowesko ’82 - Chief executive officer and president, Templeton Capital Advisors, Inc.
Capt. Thomas G. Kelley, USN (Ret.)'60 - Recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor
Capt. Joseph P. Kerwin, M.D., USN (Ret.) ’53 - First medical doctor in space; director emeritus at National Space Biomedical Research Institute
Paul O. LeClerc ’63 - Former president and chief executive officer, New York Public Library
Edward J. Ludwig '73 - Chairman of the board and chief executive officer, Becton, Dickinson and Company (global medical technology company)
William J. McDonough ’56 - Retired president of the New York Federal Reserve; former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York; former chairman of the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board
Hon. James P. Moran Jr. ’67 - Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, Democrat from Virginia
Joseph E. Murray, M.D. ’40 - (1919-2012) - Nobel laureate 1990 for the first successful kidney transplant; professor emeritus of surgery, Harvard Medical School
Carolyn Risoli ’86 - Former president, Marc by Marc Jacobs; currently fashion industry consultant
Daniel E. Shaughnessy ’75 - Sports columnist, The Boston Globe; author of The Curse of the Bambino
Joe Shortsleeve '79 - Chief correspondent for WBZ-TV News in Boston
William J. “Bill” Simmons III ’92 - Columnist for ESPN.com’s “Page 2” and ESPN The Magazine
Amb. Harry K. Thomas Jr. ’78 - U.S. Ambassador to the Phillipines
Lieutenant General Bernard Trainor, USMC (Ret.) '51 - Senior fellow for National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations; associate at the Center for Science and International Affairs at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University
Theodore V. Wells Jr. ’72 - Partner and co-chair of Litigation, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, New York
Hon. Peter Welch ’69 - Member of U.S. House of Representatives, Democrat from Vermont
Robert C. Wright ’65 - Co-Founder, Autism Speaks and retired vice chairman of the Board, General Electric Company and former chief executive officer, NBC Universal, Inc.