Class notes

Fall 2015 edition


Chris Steppig (left) and Rich Clarkson.

Chris Steppig (left) and Rich Clarkson.

Rich Clarkson (BSJ 1955) was enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Sept. 11 in Springfield, Massachusetts. Clarkson is the first photographer to receive the Basketball Hall of Fame's Curt Gowdy Award for excellence in print media and the first photographer to be honored with a lifetime media award by any of the four major sports halls of fame. Clarkson is pictured with Clarkson Creative vice president Chris Steppig, who is also a KU graduate.

Read the story here.


Bob Dotson (BSJ 1968) was awarded a 2015 Edward R. Murrow award by the Radio Television Digital News Association for “American Story.” Dotson, who was the recipient of this year's William Allen White National Citation Award, retired from the “Today” show in the fall.


J.B. Forbes at the 2015 Pulitzer ceremony.

J.B. Forbes at the 2015 Pulitzer ceremony.

J.B. Forbes (BSJ 1972), who has been a photographer with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch for 40 years, was part of a team of photographers at the newspaper that won a Pulitzer Prize and other national awards for coverage of the Ferguson, Missouri, protests. In 2014, Forbes was named the Region 7 National Press Photographer of the Year for the fourth time. During his career, Forbes has traveled with the paper to more than 30 countries and received more than 100 awards. He has covered Super Bowls, World Series, a visit by the pope, floods, earthquakes, tornadoes and hurricanes. Overseas, he has been in war zones in Central America, Bosnia, Kosovo, Albania, Iraq and Afghanistan. He also has been on assignment to Haiti seven times.

Kent Cornish

Kent Cornish

Kent Cornish (BSJ 1976), president/executive director of the Kansas Association of Broadcasters, has received the 2015 Huck Boyd Leader of the Year award in Community Radio and Television. Cornish has been president and executive director of the KAB since 2008 and was general manager of stations in Topeka and Wichita. The Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development and the Huck Boyd National Center for Community Media at Kansas State University made the selections and presented the awards on Nov. 5 in Manhattan. Read more here.

(From left) Audrey B. Lee, Julie Johnson Staples and Erica Hawthorne-Manon.

(From left) Audrey B. Lee, Julie Johnson Staples and Erica Hawthorne-Manon.


Audrey B. Lee (BSJ 1976), Julie Johnson Staples (BSJ 1978) and Erica Hawthorne-Manon (BSJ 2002) are among the 12 recipients of the 2015 KU Black Alumni Network's African-American Leaders and Innovators award. The network, sponsored by the KU Alumni Association, honored the recipients Sept. 26 during its biennial reunion. Read the KU News story here.

Mike Goff (BSJ 1976) has been named executive vice president for account leadership for the Kansas City-based advertising agency Barkley. Read more here.


Mike Binkley (BSJ 1980) retired from WCCO in Minneapolis after 34 years in TV news. Watch a video of his goodbye here.

Barbara Bichelmeyer (BSJ 1982) has been named executive vice chancellor and provost of the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Read story here.

Steve Flood (BSJ 1983) is director of sales, planning and retail operations at Hyundai Motor America in Orange County, California.


Gretchen (Pippenger) Meinhardt (BSJ 1990) is an assistant professor at Donnelly College in Kansas City, Kansas. She teaches English for preparatory education students, as well as some ESL classes. She considers it a privilege to work with students from the urban core, most of whom are first-generation college students. Her earlier career included work as a newspaper photographer and later a public relations/marketing professional. She went on to earn a master's degree in education and has been teaching college classes for the past several years. Gretchen and her husband, Cliff, live in Parkville, Missouri, with their two children.

Candice Niemann Wolken (BSJ 1990) is the director of interactive communications at Unity World Headquarters in Unity Village, Missouri. She lives with her husband and two children in Overland Park, Kansas.

Sue Vella Kriss (BSJ 1991), who worked as marketing and public relations director for Independence Regional Health Center and Discover Vision Centers, retired as office manager for a dental practice in 2013.

Larry Washburn (BSJ 1991) is in his 14th year as a computer operations analyst for Wells Fargo in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin.  He lives in Greenfield, Wisconsin, with his wife and three children.

Julie Browman (BSJ 1992) is the Colorado Avalanche TV sideline reporter and co-host of the Avalanche weekly show at Altitude sports in Denver.

Russ Hembrey (BSJ 1992) is now teaching journalism and digital media at Bishop Kelley High School in Tulsa, Oklahoma, after working more than 20 years as a video professional. 

Todd Seifert (BSJ 1994) is director of communications for the Great Plains Conference of the United Methodist Church, encompassing Kansas and Nebraska. He and his wife, Amy, live in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Maria Arnone (MSJ 1995) is vice president, client relations, of Social Driver, a digital innovations firm based in Washington, D.C.

Brian Ma (BSJ 1996) has been named senior vice president and executive creative director of Leo Burnett Interactive after spending several years with Leo Burnett Hong Kong.

Erin Streeter (BSJ 1996) has been named one of the Top Women in PR by PR News. Streeter is the senior vice president of communications for the National Association of Manufacturers. Read more here.

David L. Teska, captain, U.S. Coast Guard Reserve

David L. Teska, captain, U.S. Coast Guard Reserve

David L. Teska (MSJ 1997), captain, U.S. Coast Guard Reserve, retired after 31 years of active and reserve service in the Coast Guard and U.S. Army on June 30, 2015, at a ceremony at the Pentagon during which he received the Defense Meritorious Service Medal. His service included deployments to Operation Desert Storm, two Gulf Coast hurricanes, and the largest oil spill in history, the Deepwater Horizon event. Teska is currently employed with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in Kansas City, Missouri. He and his wife, Kristy, live in Lawrence with their children, Stephen and Laura.

John Kepley (BSJ 1998) is director of executive communications for the University of Michigan after working in California for 15 years.

Mike Rigg (BSJ 1998) is senior producer of the Colorado Rapids game broadcasts and creator and producer of the weekly Rapids TV show.


Stacy Abernethy (BSJ 2000, MSJ 2010) is business development specialist for Papyrus and Recycled Paper Greetings. She is responsible for business development in Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Texas, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Wyoming and Colorado. She lives in Prairie Village, Kansas, with her rescue dog, Guido.

Tony Berg (BSJ 2001) has been named president and publisher of The Kansas City Star. Read the story here.

Christopher T. Borniger (BSJ 2001) was elected to partnership with the firm Morris, Laing, Evans, Brock & Kennedy, Chtd. The firm has offices in Wichita and Topeka; West Palm Beach, Florida; Chicago; and Cleveland, Ohio. Borniger focuses his practice in the areas of civil litigation, financial services, bankruptcy, real estate and title. He also recently joined the board of directors of Harry Hynes Memorial Hospice, a nonprofit hospice based in Wichita.

Brian Hanni (BSJ 2002), the voice of the Texas Tech men's basketball and baseball teams on the Texas Tech Sports Network, was inducted into the Topeka West Athletic Hall of Fame this year. Hanni created "Rock Chalk Sports Talk" in the summer of 2002, and the show was picked up by the Jayhawk Network in 2008. 

Autumn Bishop (BSJ 2003), who is accounting technician for the Douglas County District Court, also became communications coordinator and social media manager for the court in early 2015.

Andy Marso (left) with his parents at his Rehab Hall of Fame induction.

Andy Marso (left) with his parents at his Rehab Hall of Fame induction.

Andy Marso (center) visits with KU Hospital staff.

Andy Marso (center) visits with KU Hospital staff.

Andy Marso (BSJ 2004) was inducted into the KU Hospital Rehab Hall of Fame in September. While he was a student at KU, Marso lost part of his hands and feet to a bacterial meningitis infection that almost killed him. He now covers health issues for Kansas Health Institute. He also has written a book, "Worth the Pain." Watch the video of KU Hospital ceremony here.

Nathan Vernon (center) at the Tony Awards.

Nathan Vernon (center) at the Tony Awards.

Nathan Vernon (BSJ 2005) was one of the producers for  Broadway musical "Fun Home," which won a Tony Award this year. Read the KU News story.

Jennifer Bono (BSJ 2006) started her own business, Signature Design Video, creating photo slideshows after working nine years for Kansas Athletics.

Jimmy Chavez (BSJ 2006) recently accepted a position as play-by-play announcer for KU women's basketball.

Steven Levy (BSJ 2008) works with the Summit Group ad agency out of Salt Lake City, Utah, as the regional account manager for Missouri/Kansas Subway Restaurants. Levy works remotely and lives in Overland Park.

Hanna Soltys (BSJ 2008) is beginning a graduate degree in library and information science, archives management concentration, at Simmons College in Boston. Soltys, who lives in Brookline, Massachusetts, previously was a copywriter in Chicago for the last six years.

Destaney Sperry (BSJ 2008), who is a producer for KNXV ABC15 in Phoenix, won a Rocky Mountain Emmy Award for best morning newscast for her team's coverage of the city's record-breaking rainfall in September.

Carlos Beltran (BSJ 2009) directed a video for National Geographic about kumache, a special hot sauce made with giant ants and termites in Venezuela's Gran Sabana region. Watch the video here.

Elizabeth Kanost (BSJ 2009) is communications coordinator at the Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas. She completed her master’s of public administration degree at KU in May 2014.


Chenin Pecora (BSJ 2012) is marketing manager for Which Wich Superior Sandwiches, a 350-plus location sandwich chain.