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Alumni Spotlight

Learn more about Radford University alumni - where they are now, what they are accomplishing, and why their connection to Radford University is important to them.


Rachel Blankenship-Tucker '09, an RU theater graduate, is a member of the high-energy Appalachian band After Jack -- a female trio with a unique twist on traditional mountain music.

Blankenship-Tucker started playing Appalachian music when she was five years old.  "I had a few years of experience under my belt before I came to RU.  However, coming to Radford and collaborating with other Appalachian musicians, really helped to inspire me," says Blankenship-Tucker.

After Jack's new CD will be released on April 22. The band will be performing on Radford's campus April 18 starting at 8 p.m. in Pridemore Playhouse, Porterfield Hall.
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Dave Mattingly '86 credits Radford University and RU radio station, WVRU, for his success in broadcasting.  Mattingly is a morning news anchor for National Public Radio.

"I was heavily involved with WVRU.  I was a news anchor and writer for three years and news director for two," says Mattingly.  WVRU Radio's advisor, Ted McKosky, helped to educate and influence Mattingly in his career choice.  "Ted gave us the hands on experience that we needed.  He coached us to success and by the time we graduated, we were prepared for the real world," says Mattingly.

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Alicia Sable '01 has been a part of the Radford family since she was 12 years old. 

"I was involved in the Community Arts School on campus.  I took voice lessons from former professor Betty Turner and sang in her children's choir.  When it came to my college decision, Ms. Turner made it simple," says Sable. 

Today, Sable works alongside John Goodman in the new Amazon series Alpha House, starring as Tammy Stackhouse. "I like doing theater, but I love T.V. Working with Alpha House is a dream come true.  It is everything I have ever worked for," says Sable.  Sable had starting roles in many shows including Gypsy and Notorious Bettie.

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Mason Gates '89 had never set foot on campus prior to committing and sending his deposit to attend. 

“The Radford representative, who came to my high school, sold me on the university.  I applied and was accepted. It was one of those things -- the moment I was there, it was home," says Gates.  Gates became passionate about the creative side of business and majored in marketing.  The ambition didn't stop there, "I ultimately knew I wanted to start my own business," says Gates.  He, along with the talented teams around him, created four. 

Today, Gates is Director of Business Development for CSO Research.  CSO (Career Service Office) is a company that helps to launch the careers of the college-educated workforce.  They automate the entire career services process for educators in college and university career services, cooperative education, internship, and student employment offices.  CSO serves 840 universities in 11 different countries, one being Radford University's database, 'Hire a Highlander.'  "I help develop ideas.  I put all the data we receive into a 'bucket' and assist in creating something new," says Gates.

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Lynne Geisz '90 was the first in her family to graduate college. She says her time at Radford University was unforgettable.

"My favorite memory was the week of graduation.  I had been on such a journey.  I couldn't be more thankful for the people that helped me along the way.  The day of graduation, I could see my whole family in the audience.  I felt like we all were walking across that stage.  It was such a proud moment for me," says Geisz.

Today, Geisz serves as the Chief Operating Officer for PartnerMD.  She says her faculty mentors, such as accounting professor Felix Amenkhienan, were instrumental in her future success.  "Senior year, professor Amenkhienan gave me guidance regarding how to pursue my career goals.  He told me, 'Companies don't want the best GPA or resume.  People that inspire other people, that really bridge conversation and motivate others -- that's what they want.’  I have carried that lesson with me my whole career.  There are always people with more experience, but if you focus on what makes you different, the results will speak for themselves," says Geisz.

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Bill Garne '85 and his wife Lilo Navales founded Leather Goods of Spain in 1997. 

"My wife is from Spain and her family has been in the leather business for over 100 years.  While traveling to visit relatives we decided to take a risk and bring unique leather goods to the United States," says Garne.  The company started off small, but in no time began adding travel luggage, fashion accessories and custom orders. 

"We have the ability to produce custom leather goods in almost any shape or size.  We work with an idea from the client to create the final tangible product," says Garne.  Many of the custom made products are incorporated into the company's main line and sold to their retail community. 

"We work with about eight or nine different countries.  Not only do we have leather goods from Spain, but scarves made of silk and polyester from Germany and Italy, alpaca shawls from Peru, key rings and other small items from the Philippines, and men’s silk ties handmade in Hong Kong," says Garne.
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Marquett Smith '85: Achieving His "Best Possible"

Marquett Smith ’85 is driven by his mission to maximize his potential. “I grew up in the ghetto of Washington, D.C.  I’m fortunate to be where I am today,” he says.  He is currently the president of the Washington/Baltimore/Virginia region for Verizon Wireless.  He holds full profit and loss and operational responsibility for a $2.8 billion revenue stream for the nation’s largest wireless company.  He’s a two-time winner of Verizon Wireless’ President’s Cabinet Award for sales excellence and the prestigious Verizon Chairman’s Award for outstanding business leadership.  “I look back on things that I have accomplished, but I’m not done yet.  I don’t hang up plaques.  I’ll put them up when I’m done,” he says.

Smith says it’s important to balance work life, community engagement and family life. “Sometimes you need to measure your success by those you help along the way.  Not your personal success, but how many lives you have positively impacted along the way,” says Smith.  In addition to sitting on the boards of Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Redskins Foundation, Smith has committed $50,000 to endow The Cassidy Achievement Resources and Equality Fund (C.A.R.E.) at Radford University.  The purpose of the fund is to assist students from diverse ethnic backgrounds at Radford University who experience an immediate personal need for funds to continue their college education.
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"It was written in the stars for me to attend Radford University," says Melissa Costa '00. 

As a high school student, she wanted to be just like her mentor.  "Beth Flory Markwood, a Radford graduate, was such an inspiring person.  She taught the high school marketing program and was also my cheerleading coach.  I was lucky enough to have her as a teacher and mentor for three years. She would always talk about her days at Radford.  I wanted to follow in her footsteps and have a chance to be a great woman like she is," says Costa.  Now, Costa is the Head of Marketing for Zappos’ luxury website Zappos Couture (zapposcouture.com), in Las Vegas.  "This is my complete dream job.  I get to travel to New York and preview collections at fashion week. We just hosted an amazing event for Anna Wintour of Vogue and I got to meet Michael Kors and Alexander Wang,” says Costa.

At Zappos, Costa often thinks back to her time at Radford University. "During junior year, I was president of Sigma Sigma Sigma.  I learned how to project manage, nurture ideas, retain and recruit talent and meet the chapter’s financial goals.  The business experience that I gained from that will forever be with me.

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Mike Morsberger '87, Vice President of Development and Alumni Relations at George Washington University, has a contagious passion for Radford University. 

"I was the first generation in my family to go to college.  I was a ‘B’ student from RU and here I am one of the VP's running a major university.  Who would have guessed, certainly not my professors.  I learned something along the way from Radford, they gave me my launch pad and prepared me for success," says Morsberger. Morsberger did not just find passion inside the classroom, but outside as well when he met his future bride MaryBeth. 

After graduating and starting their lives together, Mike and MaryBeth Morsberger have given back to the University.  "Radford gave us so much.  It gave us a great education, and in a way, it gave us one another and lifelong friends.  We feel very grateful. It seems to us that it is our obligation to give back," says Morsberger.  The Morsberger's generously included Radford University in their estate and made a $25,000 gift to RU for a scholarship in their name.  "In honor of our 25th wedding anniversary, we decided to go back 25 years in time to where we met and express our gratitude to Radford University," says Morsberger.

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Nicole Robinson '02 credits advice from one of her favorite Radford University communications professors Dr. David Dobkins, now retired, for helping her to become the youngest vice president in the history of SES Government Solutions, a defense contractor and global satellite company.

"Dr. David Dobkins gave me the best piece of practical advice, which is a quite simple, yet incredibly impactful common expression -- 80% of life is showing up.  In order to apply yourself and be in a position to grow and advance, you have to put yourself out there, raise your hand, and take on new challenges.  To this day that serves as a basic guiding principle that continues to have influence in my life," says Robinson.

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Gina Gallagher '85 paves the path to success for small businesses.

Gallagher is the President of Pathfinders International, a business development consulting firm she joined in 2008.  Prior to joining Pathfinders, Gallagher has held several senior level positions at EDS (HP), DynCorp (CSC), and Titan (L3). Gallagher also holds the Strategic Program Director position at Systems Made Simple (SMS), a company that is an industry leader in the delivery of leading-edge solutions that leverage information technology in the Healthcare domain.

Gallagher refers back to her Radford roots every day. "In a marketing class I took at RU, we created a cereal box and presented how we'd make people want to buy our cereal.  When I meet with companies, I find myself asking, ‘what makes them different?  How can I make their cereal box sell?’" says Gallagher.

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Entrepreneur Kevin Donahue '95 welcomes new adventure. 

He is currently involved in three successful business ventures -- Partner in Brand Ingenuity Group, Founder and CEO of The Executive Sales Source, and is a Business Development Officer for The Genius Network Mastermind Group. For Donahue it all started in the classroom of Dr. Jim Unnever at Radford University. 

"If I had to pick a professor who changed my life, it would be him," says Donahue.  Unnever encouraged Donahue to think critically about the world and his place in it.  "I was raised in a community that taught me you always follow the rules and don’t question, but Dr. Unnever taught me to question.  From that day forward, I did, resulting in the adventurous person I am today," says Donahue.

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Paula Squires '76, managing editor of Virginia Business, has been digging for stories for three decades. 

"I find there is a story behind every business, and I’ve met some interesting leaders," says Squires.  Some of the people on her high-profile list: AOL cofounder Steve Case and hotelier and philanthropist Sheila Johnson. One of her all-time favorite assignments was touring a coalmine in Southwest Virginia with Mike Quillen, the former chairman of Alpha Natural Resources.

Being in the field for more than thirty years, Squires has seen trends come and go.  "The whole thing about tweeting is new to me, but it is so fun! Writing stories online is easy, but some of the other digital components can be challenging,” she says. One drawback to the new technology, says Squires, is losing that personal connection. "You are only as good as your sources. If you focus too much on tweeting, instead of talking to people, you lose that personal interaction.” 

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Abby Springmann '10 has never paid a cent for advertising.  She is an expert in leveraging her ingenuity, intelligence, talent and innovative use of social media to become a well respected, high-end wedding photographer. 

Springmann's love for photography began at Radford University when she took Photography 101 during her junior year.  "I discovered I really loved photography and spent most of my time in the dark room.  By my senior year, I shadowed a wedding photographer and instantly found my passion," says Springmann. From then on, Springmann apprenticed with wedding photographers on the weekends.  After a year, she started booking her own clients.  "It all started through Facebook and word of mouth.  Once I began booking many weddings, I decided to start blogging, in order to create buzz about my work," says Springmann.  

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Just two years after graduating from Radford University, Angela Drummond '90 became a smashing success in the business world by starting her own company called SiloSmashers. 

"Right out of college, I worked for a government contractor.  I enjoyed consulting and helping the government.  I knew I had found my passion," says Drummond.  She had the idea of modernizing the company by bringing groups together to work as an efficient team.  "In the '90s we didn't have the internet but there were some new tools in the business world that would allow people to come together and make things easier," says Drummond.  She took this idea of adapting new technologies to her boss, but he turned it down.  "I take no as a challenge.  If you don't believe in me or my ideas, I will still pursue them," says Drummond.  She then landed a contract that allowed her to kick start her company. 

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Deejay Gray '10 says his first role was baby Jesus in his church Christmas play as an infant, and his passion of the stage continues today. 

“Once you play the baby Jesus, you kind of have to keep going,” he laughs. Gray was recently featured in Richmond’s popular arts and culture newspaper, Style Weekly, as the youngest member of their 2013 Top 40 Under 40 issue. He was also recently nominated for Best Actor at the 6th annual Richmond Theatre Critics Circle awards for his role in Riding the Bull, as well as Best Acting Ensemble for his role in The Glass Menagerie by Tennesee Williams – which he and his cast won together.

In March 2012, Gray started his own theater company, TheatreLAB in Richmond.  "We like to be seen as a launching point for young artists.  We work hard to create an environment where we are not only teaching others, but constantly learning more ourselves.  I truly would not be where I am today if it wasn't for the training I received at Radford," says Gray.

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Tracy Kunzler '84 is a writing whiz and a passionate RU alumna.

“I absolutely loved my time at Radford.  It’s such a beautiful campus, and I found it to be just the right size.  It’s large enough to meet folks from all over the state, the country and even the world while enjoying lots of ‘bigger school’ amenities. Yet, it’s also small enough that I didn’t get lost in the shuffle.  My professors knew me, and I felt that my education and growth mattered to them.  That gave me the confidence to take the steps needed to launch my career,” said Kunzler.

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Jeff Graves '89 is the perfect example of someone who "seizes the day."

He accepts challenges and failures as they come.  "I still like to say I have to figure out what I want to do when I grow up," says Graves.  Graves who served in the United States Marine Corps as an Officer after graduating Radford University, has started eight companies, lives on his seven acre vineyard and horse property, and currently works for Hodges-Mace Benefits Group as a Principal.

"Deciding to come to Radford was one of the three best decisions I've made in my lifetime," says Graves.

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The proverbial "glass ceiling" was no obstacle for Kathy Johnson '71. 

She has blasted through it by holding numerous high-ranking government positions with the United States government. Johnson says her time at Radford helped her realize her goals in the criminal justice profession.

"Radford was a life-changing experience for me that I did not realize at the time.  I am truly grateful for the education afforded to me through grants, work scholarships and student loans.  I could not have achieved what I did in my career without that degree.”

Learn more about Johnson's path to success in law enforcement and her determination to succeed in the male dominated profession.




Alumna exemplifies persistence and creativity while pursuing her dreams.

Penny Pennington ’83, a writer, producer, and filmmaker, recently published her debut novel, "It Burns a Lovely Light.”  The inspiration for her novel came to her early in her career as she worked on films in Pittsburgh.  "We were constantly filming on sets built in abandoned steel mills; evidence of Pittsburgh’s abrupt loss of its great steel industry," said Pennington.  Impressed and inspired by stories of Pittsburgh’s reinvention and ultimate renaissance, she began compiling notes for a book. “Although it took fifteen years for me to finally put pen to paper.”

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Ned Ward '95 is giving voice to people's ideas and watching them come to life thanks to his RU education

Ned Ward '95, Group Vice President for New Jersey-based public relations, marketing and digital communications firm Stern + Associates, says his responsibilities include transforming the complex ideas of thought leaders to easily digestible concepts for the media and the general public to understand and apply.  "I give voice to people's ideas and help bring them to life," says Ward. As a new Radford University freshman in 1992, Ward was unsure of the path he wanted to take for his future.

Faculty members at Radford helped Ward find direction and his interests and talents in business and communication. Learn more.



Lisa Reed '96 discovered her love of fitness through opportunities and challenges.

For Reed, owner of Lisa Reed Fitness LLC, fitness is her life and career. Her Washington, D.C. based company provides group training, boot camps, weight loss and nutrition programs to national and international clients.  As a student at Radford, Reed was an energetic gymnast who fell in love with Radford's gymnastics program.

Learn more about how opportunities at Radford led her to become a strength and conditioning coach to internationally renown athletes like tennis champion Monica Seles.



Told he might be a failure, Scott Moore '81 proved an RU education equals success.

Scott Moore '81 of Tampa, Florida, founder of Urban Body Clothing, Inc., is proof positive that a Radford education will take you to places and careers you've never imagined.

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Richmond businessman Jake Crocker '99 stays connected to his Radford roots

Jake Crocker ’99 used his time as a Radford student in the late 90s to find the direction and inspiration that have served him well on his journey to becoming a successful restaurateur. He is currently co-owner of five restaurants and a catering company.  In 2012, he was named one of the Greater Richmond area’s Top 3 Entrepreneurs by Richmond Magazine.  Business success hasn't always come easy for Crocker.  However, remembering a saying on a wall plaque in RU's Pocahontas Hall that he admired as a student, gave him the motivation to not give up.

Learn more about Crocker and his determination to succeed.


Alumna keeps legacy of a First Lady alive

As co-founder of the Edith Bolling Wilson Homeplace Museum, Farron Smith '75 probably knows as much about United States President Woodrow Wilson's wife Edith than anyone. That knowledge and her determination to keep this unique First Lady's story alive for future generations have reaped huge dividends.

The entrepneurial spirit she embraced as a student at Radford College brought her to the forefront of a massive undertaking that required far more than just what can be learned from a history book.

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“The Neon Man and Me” Author Slash Coleman ’89 Publishes Memoir “The Bohemian Love Diaries”

Slash Coleman ‘89 admits that he enrolled at Radford University to get away from his eccentric, but loving, family of artists. “I actually thought it was on the coast.  I’d heard of Roanoke Island during my visits to the Outerbanks and I’d been surfing since I was 10 years old. Imagine my surprise when the Roanoke near Radford wasn’t the same one.  In fact, I was landlocked.” He says his time at RU was life-changing from his experiences on campus to his friends he made along the way.

Coleman, who now resides in New York City, is a celebrated performer, storyteller, producer and author for his production “The Neon Man and Me,” dedicated to his best friend from college and Franklin County neon artist Mark Jamison ’90.  He has recently published his latest work "The Bohemian Love Diaries," in which several chapters mention his time at RU.  Learn more about Coleman and his latest work.


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