We prepare our alumni to do great things. They never disappoint.
Read where their paths have led and how York prepared them for the journey.
MAGGIE FINNEGAN '02 of Winchester, MA has achieved second place in The American Prize in Vocal Performance, 2017-18—The Friedrich & Virginia Schorr Memorial Awards, in the women's professional opera division. Maggie was selected from applications reviewed this fall from all across the United States. The American Prize is a series of new, non-profit, competitions unique in scope and structure, designed to recognize and reward the best performing artists, ensembles and composers in the United States based on submitted recordings. The American Prize was founded in 2009 and is awarded annually in many areas of the performing arts.
The American Prize in Vocal Performance—Friedrich and Virginia Schorr Memorial Award honors the memory of the greatest Wagnerian baritone of his age, Friedrich Schorr, who commanded the international operatic stage between the world wars, and his wife, Virginia Schorr, who taught studio voice at the Manhattan School of Music and the Hartt School of Music for nearly fifty years. The Prize recognizes and rewards the best performances by classically trained vocalists in America in the current year, based on submitted recordings.
"Hailed by Opera News for her 'strong voice and noteworthy acting prowess,' Maggie Finnegan is a versatile soprano, singing repertoire spanning from medieval to contemporary. She was awarded the S&R Foundation's Washington Prize and last June made her Kennedy Center debut as First and Audience Prize winner at the Washington International Competition for Voice. She has premiered operas with The American Chamber Opera Company,Vital Opera, the Center for Contemporary Opera and the Juventas New Music Ensemble. Solo performances this season include debuts with Boston Lyric Opera's Signature Series, City Choir of Washington, The New Dominion Chorale, The Avanti Orchestra and the PyeongChang Winter Music Festival in South Korea. She has performed with Paper Mill Playhouse, The Metropolitan Opera Guild School Programs Tour and The Metropolitan Opera Chorus. She splits her time between New York City and Boston, where she shares a home with her partner and her three step-kids." www.maggiefinnegansoprano.com.
York graduate Julian Brown '11 and Keaton Stubis, Julian’s mate from MIT, placed 1st, sharing the $10,000 award at the Small Satellite Conference hosted by Utah State University. College graduate and undergraduate students from across the globe pursuing degrees in engineering or science competed in an Oral Presentation at the Technical Conference. The top six papers were selected based on technical content, scientific merit, industry relevance, and clarity of writing. The panel of judges drawn from industry, academia and government scored each student finalist based on their twelve minute presentation and response to questions.
Julian’s research began while he was a summer intern with the Naval Research Enterprise Internship Program (NREIP) at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey. York parent and former astronaut Dr. James Newman was his mentor, and assigned the star tracker project for satellite navigation. The success of Julian’s work warranted an article on the navy’s website, and led to the award of the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory Fellowship in 2015. While working there as a researcher developing new technologies for satellite systems focused on communications, he earned his Master of Engineering in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science at MIT in 2016.
Julian is currently pursing a PhD in Aeronautics and Astronautics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Read his current paper: “TETRA: Star Identification With Hash Tables”. Or try out the star tracker with your own photos of the stars on Julian’s website here: http:// tetra.rocks/
Christina Willis-Ott '02 and her husband Dan recently gave up their jobs to travel around the world. During a stop in Quito, Ecuador, they had lunch with an uncle of a friend they met while living in Washington, DC. Tio Pablo's daughter Paula and her friend Gabriel also came to lunch. While talking, Gabriel Moyer-Perez '07 and Christine were absolutely stunned to discover they were both York alumni. They of course proceeded to bore everyone to tears reminiscing about York, their classes, and the teachers we were so fond of. It is, in fact, a small world after all.
UNDERGRADUATE DEGREE/UNIVERSITY: Bachelor of Music /Manhattan School of Music
GRADUATE DEGREE/UNIVERSITY: Master of Music /Peabody Conservatory
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Winner of the Washington Award from the S&R Foundation, to be honored at a Gala in June 2017 and will receive a $5,000 award.
"Something extra cool about this award is that last year, Lembit Beecher, also a York graduate, won this award! I sang two pieces of his at the Gala and that's how I got introduced to the S&R Foundation and eventually applied for their competition! Go Team York! Lembit's wife, Karen Ouzounian, cellist, is also a Washington Award winner this year."
UNDERGRADUATE DEGREE/UNIVERSITY: B.A. History/Near Eastern Studies, UCLA
GRADUATE DEGREE/UNIVERSITY: M.A. Arab Studies, Georgetown University and
Ph.D, Modern History, University of Oxford
CAREER HIGHLIGHTS: Professor in Istanbul, Turkey (3 years), Professor in Madrid, Spain (3 years)
CURRENTLY: Assistant Professor of Middle East History, California State University San Marcos
I am writing from an apartment in Rome on a humid August day in 2014, where I have just finished teaching summer school at an American university here. I spent this morning walking the Appian Way, the Roman version of Highway 68 that we all had to take to get to York. In 10th grade, I would have never thought that Mr. Sturch Latin’s lessons would have any relevance in my adult life. The Latin I studied not only helps me to navigate through time and space in Rome, but it helped me pick up Italian and Spanish with relative ease, proving a dead language can help one to learn live languages.
I am a history professor today because I was inspired by my instructors in York. It was Dr. Henry Littlefield, the former Head of School, who encouraged me to major in history, and as a professor I imitate Mr. Borrowman’s teaching style to this day in my auditorium of close to 100 university students. My inspiration to become a history professor was not just from my history courses at York. The critical history scholar inside of me was born in Thomas Murray’s senior year English class, inspired by his interpretations of A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, A Clockwork Orange, to the various poems he assigned us from the 20th century.
Ms. Aronowitz, my European history teacher, told us York prepared its students to be Renaissance men. (That was back in 1987. I’m sure today York prepares its students to be Renaissance “people.”) Had I gone to any other high school, I would have not had the opportunity to develop into a Renaissance person. Ironically, I now have the opportunity to directly experience the Renaissance in places like Rome and Florence, but also try to inculcate a strong appreciation for the humanities in all my university courses to a 21st century generation of students who are more and more seeing an education as just a means for employment.
This summer, I have been commenting on the recent crisis in Iraq to the media. The most often invoked narrative in U.S. media as this crisis unfolds is how painful it has been for American veterans, who fought to keep Iraq together after 2003, see it fall apart in 2014. Every time I hear this comment I think of one veteran in particular who was also studied at York. I wanted to include the words I wrote for my York alumni update back in 2007. They are even more poignant to the events in Iraq in 2014:
The strongest memory I now have from York is of one of my high school friends, Kylan Jones Huffman who was killed in Iraq. Kylan and I shared several similar interests. We both ran track and field and were members of the Junior Statesmen of America. He was the only member of his graduating class to get an acceptance into the US Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. During his time there, he studied Arabic and Persian, just as I had done at UCLA. He went on to serve as a naval officer with a Marine unit patrolling post-war Iraq. He was in the passenger seat of a vehicle caught in traffic in the town of Al-Hilla, about 60 miles south of Baghdad, when a gunman approached and opened fire on him. I was in Kuwait, about to travel to Iraq when I learned of his news. I searched for his obituary in the online version of a local California newspaper. It wrote that he was a budding haiku poet. The last haiku he ever wrote was:
body armor shifting
on the car seat.
More poignant words, I could not imagine. Art reflecting reality. I pictured Kylan, my friend, sitting uncomfortably in his car seat, sweating under his body armor in the last moments of his life. It left me with the unsettling feeling that my friend died cleaning up a mess that he did nothing to create. I felt an odd sense of responsibility and even a tinge of shame. If someone had asked the students at York which one of us would be the first to go to Iraq, I would have named myself. If someone had told me that it was going to be Kylan, I might have even been a little bit jealous. Imagine that.
After his military service, Kylan wanted to become a teacher. His life paralleled mine on so many levels. We went to the same high school, we taught ourselves Middle Eastern languages, and we both wanted to be teachers. Something I read in my high school friend Kylan’s obituary came back to me. His father Jim had said, “It’s a terrible waste. As a teacher he could have impacted thousands of lives.” Kylan would never have the chance to become a teacher, and I try to continue his legacy today.
One of my most popular university courses is called “War on Modern Society,” where we analyze how American society creates the image of all-testosterone, gung-ho soldier in popular media such as videogames and films. In my course, I invoke Kylan to demonstrate the anti-thesis of that image. York gave him the environment to develop into a true Renaissance man. The town of Al-Hilla, where Kylan passed away, is situated in ancient Babylon, a fact that I was reminded of by an Iraqi student from there who I taught this summer. Al-Hilla is now in one of the more stable parts in Iraq, and the stability there allowed this student to travel and take my course and learn from me about Kylan and his sacrifice for her town. That is York’s legacy. It allows me to spread the humanistic education that Kylan and I benefitted from for students, both in the U.S. and around the world, for generations to come.