Carnegie Mellon University
Skip navigation and jump directly to page content

Nov. 4: Carnegie Mellon To Present Alumni Awards During Homecoming Weekend, Nov. 4-6

Contact: Abby Houck / 412-268-4290 /

Carnegie Mellon To Present Alumni Awards
During Homecoming Weekend, Nov. 4-6

AlumniAssoclogoPITTSBURGH—The inventor of the computer mouse, an internationally renowned Japanese woodcut artist, a NASA International Space Station flight controller and co-founder of the Juicy Couture brand are among 19 individuals Carnegie Mellon University's Alumni Association will honor during its 2010 Homecoming Weekend. The following are descriptions of the award recipients' professional accomplishments and service to the university and its alumni.
Alumni Distinguished Achievement

Stuart Card (TPR'70, H&SS'78): A pioneer in the field of human-computer interaction, Card worked with faculty members Tom Moran and Allen Newell to publish "The Psychology of Human-Computer Interaction" in 1983, a book that remains one of the most referenced works in the field. He joined Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center following graduation, where his study of input devices led to the commercial introduction of the first computer mouse. He also laid the groundwork for an area of research known as information visualization. Card has served on the advisory boards for Carnegie Mellon's Department of Psychology and Human-Computer Interaction Institute and is a distinguished career professor at the university's Silicon Valley campus. Just a few of his many awards include the ACM Special Interest Group in Human-Computer Interaction's Lifetime Achievement Award, the Franklin Institute's Bower Award and Prize for Achievement in Science, and membership in the National Academy of Engineering.

Naoko Matsubara (CFA'62): A printmaker and painter, Matsubara is considered one of the world's foremost Japanese woodcut artists. Her work is exhibited at locations such as the White House, Boston Museum of Art, Royal Ontario Museum, British Museum and Tokyo Museum of Modern Art. She has donated numerous prints to the university's Artistic Properties Collection, many of which are displayed in Warner Hall, Stever House and Morewood Gardens. Matsubara resides in Ontario, Canada, and was named a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 1981. In spring 2009, the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh hosted an extensive exhibition of Matsubara's work, and Chatham University awarded her with an honorary degree.

Alumni Achievement

Richard E. Gray (CIT'56): This internationally recognized expert in geotechnical engineering, engineering geology and subsidence engineering is a principal at DiGioia, Gray and Associates LLC. Prior to joining the firm, he spent more than 45 years at GAI Consultants and its predecessor companies. Gray has led three major U.S. engineering geology groups, including the Geological Society of America's Engineering Geology Division, Association of Engineering Geologists and the U.S. Committee of the International Association for Engineering Geology and the Environment. He has also been involved with the American Society of Civil Engineers, American Association for the Advancement of Science, Pittsburgh Geological Society and National Academy of Sciences, among many others.

Neil Heffernan (SCS'01): Prior to conducting post-doctoral research at Carnegie Mellon, Heffernan taught math for two years at inner-city Baltimore schools through Teach for America. During his time in Pittsburgh and now as a faculty member at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, his love of teaching has translated into the development of intelligent tutoring systems. His research group has raised more than $9 million in grant funding from the National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Education and other sources to advance the ASSISTment system. This educational technology, which is widely used throughout Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, empowers teachers and school administrators with actionable, detailed information about their students' skills, knowledge and achievements in mathematics.

Ihor Lys (CIT'91,'93,'98): Lys is a leader in the development of technology that increases the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of LED lighting systems. He co-founded Color Kinetics, now Philips Solid-State Lighting Solutions, in 1997 with fellow alumnus George Mueller. He currently serves as chief scientist of the company, which is based in Massachusetts. He has contributed to more than 30 issued patents and has been named to several prestigious industry lists, including the Technology Review TR 100, Mass High Tech All-Stars and Entertainment Design magazine's "50 Most Powerful People in Entertainment Technology." He also was named the Intellectual Property Owners Education Foundation's National Inventor of the Year in 2008.

Gela Nash-Taylor (CFA'78): This actress-turned-fashion designer started the multi-million dollar Juicy Couture lifestyle brand with partner Pamela Skaist-Levy in 1996. Their initial $200 investment has grown to a company with nearly 100 national and international boutiques offering distinctive clothing, shoes, accessories and fragrances. Nash-Taylor and Skaist-Levy have been featured in top fashion magazines including Elle, Harper's Bazaar, InStyle and Vogue. Mattel also immortalized the duo as collectible Barbie dolls. Juicy Couture actively supports the Children's Hospital in Los Angeles and created its own charity, Juicy Gives, to benefit women's shelters in Los Angeles.

Linda Sheets (HNZ'91): Operation Safety Net (OSN), an outreach program of Pittsburgh Mercy Health System, has benefited from Sheets' leadership since 1993. OSN provides more than 1,500 unsheltered homeless in Pittsburgh with medical care and social services annually. Sheets initiated the first International Street Medicine Symposium in 2005, in which professionals from 15 cities in Asia, Europe, Central America and the United States gathered in Pittsburgh to share best practices. Her expertise is sought after by many organizations, and she serves on the board of directors for the Allegheny County Hunger and Homeless Bureau Advisory Board, Allegheny Engagement Network, Allegheny On-Track, Catholic Health East Homeless Directors and the Street Medicine Institute.

Alumni Distinguished Service

David E. Williams (CIT'64): Williams is a model of what it means to be a Carnegie Mellon "Loyal Scot." Members of the class of 1964 know him as an enthusiastic reunion coordinator and champion of reunion giving. He is a past board member and president of the Pittsburgh Alumni Chapter and remains active in chapter activities. Williams is a champion of the Delta Upsilon fraternity and coordinates alumni events at Homecoming and Spring Carnival. He has served as the fraternity's alumni adviser and is working diligently with the university on a plan to recolonize the fraternity. He is a strong supporter of monthly alumni lunches at the Engineers' Society of Western Pennsylvania and student-alumni events like the Dinner with 12 Tartans. Williams also spearheaded the Pittsburgh Alumni Chapter's efforts to host a water station at the Pittsburgh Marathon, encouraging fellow alumni to collectively serve the greater Pittsburgh community.

Alumni Service

John W. Kovacs (CIT'93): Civil engineering students recognize Kovacs as a mentor with an upbeat spirit and genuine interest in their careers. He has served on the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department's Advisory Council since 2004 and played a key role in establishing the department's Strategic Endowment Fund. He is a frequent guest speaker and received the department's Outstanding Alumni Service Award in 2009. Kovacs is a partner, vice president, and regional manager for Gannett Fleming Inc., a top-ranked international planning, design and construction management firm. He has arranged for his company to sponsor alumni events and participate in university job fairs. The American Society of Civil Engineers Pittsburgh Chapter also has benefited from Kovacs' leadership and service. The chapter named him its Outstanding Young Civil Engineer in 1999 and Pittsburgh Civil Engineer of the Year in 2007.

Pamelyn Shefman (H&SS'95): Shefman is the driving force behind the Houston Alumni Chapter and has served as its president since 2006. She is recognized for instituting a formal chapter leadership structure and initiating creative programming that attracts a diverse group of alumni and their families. Shefman also is committed to building meaningful interactions between current students and alumni. The chapter hosts welcome receptions for incoming students from the Houston area, as well as networking events for students who are home during semester breaks. Shefman accomplishes all of this in addition to her full-time position as associate director of Rice University's Student Center.

Patrick Stuart (H&SS'99): In 2008, Stuart assumed the role of the San Francisco Bay Area Alumni Chapter president and has been instrumental in increasing the visibility of Carnegie Mellon on the West Coast. Through his leadership, the chapter reorganized its structure, significantly improving communication and increasing the frequency of events. Fellow alumni report attendance at chapter events has increased to levels not seen since prior to the dot-com bubble burst. Stuart is project manager for the U.S. Navy BAMS-Demonstrator Unmanned Air System, which is a variation of the Northrup Grumman Global Hawk. He was a member of the Naval ROTC while at Carnegie Mellon and spent seven years following graduation as a Naval flight officer.

Recent Alumni

Kristine Ferrone (MCS'04): Ferrone is a role model for women in the sciences — someone who has had remarkable success during her short career as a result of taking risks. Ferrone first worked as a researcher a Brookhaven National Laboratory and then earned an MBA at the University of Florida. After graduate school, she became a senior mission scientist for the International Space Station and later joined the NASA Johnson Space Center's Flight Planning Branch as an International Space Station flight controller. She spent a month at the Mars Society's Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station in 2009, where a six-member crew lived and worked in the Canadian polar desert to simulate a mission to the Martian surface. Ferrone also has conducted admissions interviews and represented the university at college fairs as a Carnegie Mellon Alumni Council volunteer.

Megan Hilty (CFA'04): This talented ambassador for the School of Drama made her Broadway debut as Glinda in the musical "Wicked," composed by fellow alumnus Stephen Schwartz. After a year on Broadway, Hilty reprised her role on the "Wicked" national tour and Los Angeles production. Her rendition of Doralee Rhodes in Dolly Parton's Broadway musical "9 to 5" earned nominations for Outer Critics, Drama Desk and Drama League awards. She has appeared in several television series, including "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation," "Ugly Betty" and "Desperate Housewives." Hilty has taught master classes at the School of Drama and introduced the senior talent showcase in New York City, the same annual event in which a casting director for "Wicked" first saw her perform.

Faculty Service

Amy Burkert (MCS'90):
The Mellon College of Science has benefited from Burkert's service as an alumna, teacher, curriculum developer, adviser, role model and mentor for more than 15 years. She continues to make a transformative impact on students and alumni in her new role as vice provost for education. Through the Department of Biological Sciences, Burkert has advised more than 1,500 students and alumni interested in pursing health professions. She works with these individuals to prepare applications for top-ranked programs and offers meticulous practice interviewing sessions. She also engages with alumni at Homecoming and Spring Carnival and supports student-alumni events like the Dinner with 12 Tartans.
Student Service

Samreen Anjum (SCS'11): This Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar student is recognized for academic achievement and engagement in many facets of campus life. Anjum represents the university at regional and international programming competitions and volunteers at outreach events like the CS4Qatar workshop, which introduces Qatari high school students to computer science. She is president of the Active Women's Club, an organization that promotes women's issues. Anjum also has contributed to the International Day Planning Committee, Audio-Visual Club, Consortium for Computing Sciences in Colleges, Association for Computing Machinery and Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

Heather Bernard (MCS'11): Faculty, staff and fellow students recognize Bernard as a leader and mentor who is poised to become a compassionate physician. She is involved in countless activities such as the Highland Ambassadors, Chemistry Student Activities Council, Women in Science, COMPASS, Minority Association for Pre-Health Students, National Society of Black Engineers, Black Student Advisory Council and SPIRIT. She is the co-creator of a special-interest housing community called SPICE, which stands for "Speak Peace Inspire Change and Empower." Bernard's impact extends beyond campus through tutoring high school students and interpreting for Spanish-speaking patients at Salud Para Niños, a bilingual clinic at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Rohith Salim (CIT'11): Salim has dedicated countless hours to making the world a better place for those in the United States and abroad. As vice president of Students In Free Enterprise, Salim served as a mentor to more than 200 students involved in business-related service projects. As a Human-Computer Interaction Institute research assistant, he developed an e-learning game for mobile phones that is now used in fifth-grade classes in Karnataka, India. He also conducted research to identify ways to provide memory support to people affected by Alzheimer's disease. In addition, Salim has provided leadership to the College of Engineering's First-Year Advisory Board, Undergraduate Marketing Organization, and Bulls and Bears Press.

Damian Valdes (TPR'10): Valdes has played a pivotal role in enhancing student engagement with alumni. He is a member of the inaugural class of the Highland Ambassadors and also served as the first lead ambassador. He has mentored many first-year students as an orientation counselor, orientation leader and resident assistant. He has held several leadership positions within the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and received the 2008 Greek Service Award. Valdes also led 14 members of Students in Free Enterprise on a spring break trip to assist entrepreneurs in Nicaragua.
Honorary Alumni Award

Charles "Corky" Cost (HA'10): The Office of Alumni Relations is pleased to name Cost an honorary alumnus for more than 20 years of unwavering support for the university and its athletics programs. He has served on Carnegie Mellon's Athletics Advisory Board on several occasions and funded a state-of-the-art varsity weight room in Skibo Gym. As chief executive officer of Cost Company, a Pittsburgh-based masonry contractor, he also has been involved in the Cornerstones Program, an outreach program of the Donald H. Jones Center for Entrepreneurship at the Tepper School of Business. Carnegie Mellon is fortunate to count itself among the many Pittsburgh institutions that Cost supports. His philanthropic efforts also have benefited the University of Pittsburgh (where he was a nine-time varsity letterman), Robert Morris University and Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.
More information on Homecoming Weekend events is available at: