Class Acts

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Kimberli Lagree-Simmons

Kimberli Lagree-Simmons

Wholesale manager, A People United
St. Paul’s School for Girls class of 1998

A People United is known to Mount Vernon shoppers for its tempting storefront, but more than 80 percent of its business is wholesale. Kimberli Lagree-Simmons oversees the distribution of its Baltimore-designed clothing collections to high-end reps. A People United is a socially responsible business; the clothing designs are made in Nepal by workers earning a living wage. A portion of sales supports the Nepalese Santi School where A People United provides scholarships and helps steer educational policy reform and teacher training.

For Lagree-Simmons, who’s been a model, fashion show producer and TV host, her job brings together her passions for humanitarianism, diversity and design.

She began at St. Paul’s when she was just 9 years old. Her public school recommended that her mother expand her daughter’s academic opportunities by sending her to private school, which she did through the Baltimore Educational Scholastic Trust (BEST). She earned an additional full scholarship, was the first middle schooler chosen for the high school dance team, and was active in student government. She co-coordinated the first statewide diversity conference with the National Association of Independent Schools.

“Because St. Paul’s embraced diversity, I learned to walk into situations with an open mind—which opens you up to so many opportunities you might otherwise miss,” she says. “That was the most important thing I learned there that I hold with me today.”



Kathleen Cusack Lyon

Kathleen Cusack Lyon

Co-owner, The Senator and The Charles Theaters
Friends School class of 1997

When Kathleen Cusack Lyon looks back on her time at The Friends School, what she remembers most was that the school instilled the ideas of tolerance, love and understanding at a time when most kids are only interested in what they’re doing on Saturday night.

“They taught us about living simply and to change the world,” she says. “It was a very outward-looking philosophy that very much asked ‘what are you going to do to make the world better?’ which is really neat to hear as a teenager when you’re at the peak of your self-absorption.”

Lyon went on to a career as a lawyer, but left to join her father, who owned The Charles, in the movie theater business. Shortly after she quit her day job, The Senator went to auction. After acquiring the iconic theater, the co-owners spent four years navigating the oft-muddy waters of historic restoration. The landmark opened in October 2013 and now features three new theaters, which should ensure its stability well into the future.
Though any business can feel exhausting at times (“people think we sit around waxing eloquent about movies all day, but it’s really more about popcorn and paperwork”), Lyon says she still works hard to live by some of the principles she learned at Friends—mainly to listen to others and treat them fairly. “I can’t be everyone’s friend, but I feel I’ve succeeded if people see a decision I make as reasonable if it’s not popular.”



Murdock Henderson

Murdock Henderson

Founder & CEO, Intaba, Inc.
Boys’ Latin class of 1988

Murdock Henderson’s life story sounds like that of an over-achiever scholar athlete. Henderson transferred to Boys’ Latin from public school at the encouragement of his lacrosse coach and saw the BL team to a championship title. He graduated magna cum laude from his M.S., M.A. and doctoral degrees. While riding his bike from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., to celebrate his 40th birthday, he decided to start a nonprofit.
What makes Henderson’s story unique is that he’s been deaf since birth.

Henderson explains that he communicated with spoken English at Boys’ Latin. “I’m a longtime survivor and able to adapt in different situations,” he explains. “It was definitely a challenge to communicate and there were some cultural barriers to overcome. [But] I think that’s led me to where I am.”

Today Henderson is an adjunct associate professor at Gallaudet University and active father of two, but his heart is in Intaba, a nonprofit he began after a trip to South Africa in 2007 showed him the substandard opportunities available to deaf children in the developing world. Intaba raises funds and partners with local organizations in countries including China and Guyana to help those who are deaf or hard of hearing to overcome barriers and improve their quality of life.

On that solo bike ride, Henderson realized attention-grabbing sporting events were a great way to raise money. Hence, this summer he will be paddling the Amazon River—more than 3,000 miles—in hopes of raising $1 million for the cause. He doesn’t see his deafness as an issue and even quips that “most people would be scared of what they’re hearing in the Amazon!” Yet his hope is “to spread the word that people with disabilities can overcome anything.”



Judah Adashi

Judah Adashi

Composer
Gilman class of 1994

When Judah Adashi premiered his composition “Inner City” at the Walters Art Museum last November (a piece commissioned by the museum) his first-grade teacher from Gilman School was in attendance. He also keeps up with his old history teacher, whom he credits with piquing his interest in social justice and civil rights issues, and fondly recalls his high school music teacher.

Adashi teaches at the Peabody Conservatory, but his primary passion is composing classical chamber music. His compositions have been performed throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe. He describes “Inner City” as “a love song to Baltimore” that blends classical music with recordings of sounds collected around the city. Although he knows Gilman’s reputation is for academics and athletics, he found it a nurturing environment for an artsy kid.

“It was an incredibly formative time in terms of what I do now and who I am personally and professionally,” he states. He directed and sang with the student a capella group and did musical direction and played piano for theater productions including his most memorable, a performance of “West Side Story” his junior year.

“In high school, music became something communal, something I shared with other people,” he says, “and that’s really what I do now.”



Heather Harvison

Heather Harvison

Founder and CEO, My Sister’s Circle
Maryvale class of 1989

Heather Harvison gets to impact young women every day. Through My Sister’s Circle, the nonprofit Harvison founded in 2000, she matches at-risk young girls in Baltimore City middle schools with mentors who help them navigate the difficult years of adolescence. The organization also provides enrichment opportunities such as summer camp and college and career counseling. In many ways, Harvison is honoring the lessons she says she learned at Maryvale.

“Maryvale did teach the gospel of social justice,” she says. “I always say I was given so much love and support and guidance through Maryvale and my family, that I, in turn, want to pay that forward and offer that opportunity—those resources and that network of connections—to my girls.”

Harvison, who describes her young self as “on the shy side,” says she grew in Maryvale’s close-knit environment where young women were encouraged to be leaders. She was the lead in a school play and worked on the student newspaper. She excelled in her public speaking class where students were made to put money into a jar if they uttered “Um” or “like.”

Harvison started My Sister’s Circle when some volunteer work exposed her to the need for young, urban girls to have positive role models,. To date, 130 girls have benefited from My Sister’s Circle programs and a new affiliate recently opened in Dallas. One of the first participants just graduated from Temple University and is entering Teach For America.



Melissa North Grant

Melissa North Grant

Marine Biologist, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences (UMCES) Horn Point Oyster Hatchery
Garrison Forest School class of 1997

Melissa North Grant does not have a glamorous job. It’s often cold and wet. There’s frequently mud. But as a researcher at UMCES’ Horn Point Oyster Hatchery she’s helping to correct the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem by restoring the native oyster population. Oysters are a keystone species that act as essential filters for the bay’s water. Oyster reefs are also an important habitat for fish and other animals. In the 2013 season, the hatchery deployed 1.2 billion spat—that’s baby oysters—into the bay.

Grant unequivocally credits her career success and her passion for learning to her high school education. “Garrison really taught me how to be a scholar,” she says. “We learned how to think critically, to be independent, out-of-the-box thinkers.”

Even in her research today, she pushes herself to look beyond standard answers to deeper meanings. A strong sense of community, the encouragement that comes from being in a family-like environment and the reality that her school was invested in her both emotionally and academically were powerful motivators for Grant later in life.



Erika Feller, M.D.

Erika Feller, M.D.

Medical director of heart transplant and ventricular assist devices at the University of Maryland Medical Center
St. Timothy’s class of 1985

When Erika Feller joined the University of Maryland Medical
Center’s transplant team in 2004, the program was in its infancy, conducting perhaps five transplants a year. The program has since flourished; Feller sees more than 50 patients a week, the program does up to 20 transplants a year and people come from all over the East Coast to obtain ventricular assistance devices.

Feller cultivated an interest in acute cardiac care while training at Temple University, but her understanding of leadership, self-motivation and the hard work required to make it to the top of her field were established during her time as a boarder at St. Timothy’s.

Because it was a boarding school “you really had to have grit because you had to do things on your own,” Feller recalls. “You didn’t have your mom or dad kicking you out of bed to go get breakfast. You had to be a self-starter.”
Although it wasn’t explicit, she says St. Tim’s instilled a sense of purpose in graduates as well.

“They kind of say that you’ve been given a huge opportunity in life to do something and you better do it, because that’s why we’re here—to give back and be productive in our lives,” she says. “If it’s something that’s important to society, great. If it’s something that’s important to just a few people, that’s great, too. Whatever it is, just do it with gusto and pass your knowledge on.”

“We were expected to succeed, without question,” says Grant, “and when someone believes in you like that, it really drives you.”

Alumni Notables

“Being the first woman speaker and breaking the marble ceiling is pretty important. Now it’s time to move on.”
Nancy Pelosi
’58 Institute of Notre Dame


Jason Odell Williams Emmy-nominated writer and producer of “Brain Games,” a documentary series for the National Geographic Channel.
’92 McDonogh


Peacemaker. International Conflict Specialist Works to establish health care, support democratic governments and facilitate elections in post-conflict nations.
Elizabeth Dvorak-Little
’82 Oldfields School


Mary Renner Beech
Chief marketing officer at Kate Spade
’90 Roland Park Country School


Gen·ius. The world’s greatest living theoretical physicist.
Edward Witten
’68 Park School of Baltimore


Tiffany Zappulla
Emmy-nominated set designer.
’85 Garrison Forest


Steve Johnson
Baltimore Orioles Pitcher
‘07 St. Paul’s School for Boys


Richelle Parham, chief marketing officer, eBay, ’86 Bryn Mawr.
Jason Winer, producer and director for “Modern Family” and “New Girl,” ’90 Friends School.
Natalie Standiford, author of “The Secret Tree” named one of the best books of 2012 by The New York Times, ‘79 Friends School.
Patricia M.C. Brown, president Johns Hopkins Healthcare, LLC, ‘78 Maryvale Prep.
Justin Boston, professional race car driver, ’08 Boys’ Latin.
Kerry Kavanaugh, reporter, WBAL-TV, ‘96 Maryvale Prep.
Eric Papenfuse, indie bookstore owner turned mayor of Harrisburg, Pa., ’89 Boys’ Latin.
Alan Wiggins, currently debuting on Broadway in “The Lion King”, ’01 St. Paul’s School for Boys.
Guy McKhann, neurosurgeon featured in the ABC documentary series “NY Med,” ‘80 St. Paul’s School for Boys.
Sara Kennedy, epidemiologist and co-founder Hope for West Africa, ’03 St. Paul’s School for Girls.
James Piper Bond, CEO, Living Classrooms, ‘77 Gilman.
Tony Foreman, restaurateur, ‘83 Gilman.
Emilie Kirkland MacFarlane, vice president, controller, Lilly Pulitzer, ’96 St. Paul’s School for Girls.
Rachel Magruder Allen, deputy director, Smithsonian American Art Museum, ’68 Roland Park Country School.
Ben Queen, wrote screenplay for PIXAR’s “Cars II,” ’92 McDonogh.
Amitabh Desai, director of foreign policy for the Clinton Foundation. ’94 McDonogh.
Lea Gilmore, blues singer and human rights activist, ’83 Mercy High School.
Bridget Ward Horner, VP-IT, Constellation Energy Nuclear Group, ’81 Institute of Notre Dame.
Kimberly Dozier, AP journalist who survived a bombing in Iraq, ’84 St. Timothy’s.
Nancy Longo, owner, Pierpoint Restaurant, chef of the Baltimore Ravens, ’80 Institute of Notre Dame.
Mandy Cabot, CEO and co-founder of Dansko, ’72 Garrison Forest.
Beth Botsford, Olympic gold medalist for swimming, ’99 Garrison Forest.
Jeffrey Nattans, executive vice president, Legg Mason. ’85 Calvert Hall.
Judith Palfrey, director, Global Pediatrics Program, Boston Children’s Hospital, ‘63 The Bryn Mawr School.
Randy Greer, cinematographer, ‘79 Jemicy School.
Mario Armstrong, Emmy Award-winning TV host and digital lifestyle expert, ’88 Calvert Hall. 

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