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12 Penn Staters Honored With Alumni Achievement Award

Twelve of Penn State’s finest alumni have been honored for early success after graduating from the university.

The Penn State Alumni Association handed out its Alumni Achievement award to 12 prominent Penn Staters — 35 years old or younger — who “demonstrate to students that Penn State alumni succeed in exceptional fashion at an early age,” according to a Penn State News release. The recipients were nominated by an academic college or campus and have been invited by President Eric Barron to speak about their experiences with students and the university community.

The 12 honorees will receive commemorative medals designed by 2007 Alumni Fellow Jeanne Stevens-Sollman, who earned a Penn State graduate degree in 1972, at a March 27 dinner. On that Thursday night, March 26, the honorees will meet with students at the Hintz Family Alumni Center and many will guest lecture in classes on Friday.

Here’s a breakdown of the 12 alumni and how they’ve succeeded since leaving Penn State:

Sharifa T. Anozie (Communications ’08) — Anozie is a writer and has interviewed celebrities including Spike Lee, Piers Morgan, Ne-Yo, and Idris Elba. She has worked for CBS’ “The Early Show,” “48 Hours,” and Katie Couric’s evening news program. Anozie is currently an editorial assistant at The Hollywood Reporter and owns a jewelry company called The Sacred Word. Anozie interviewed civil rights advocate Carolyn Goodman and wrote a poem dedicated to her, which received widespread media attention.

Rebecca Allen Delaney (Engineering ’06) — Delaney earned bachelor and graduate degrees from Penn State and currently works as a mechanical team leader for design firm Skidmore, Owens and Merrill’s sustainable engineering studio in Chicago. Delaney was the lead mechanical engineer for a recently proposed office building in the Middle East, which would be the tallest such tower in the region. She held the same role in designing the Chicago Police Department. Back in Happy Valley, Delaney helped found the College of Engineering’s Young Alumni Advisory Board.

Christopher Fanini (IST ’12) — Fanini is only three years removed from Penn State but has already made major strides in his industry. He is the co-founder and Chief Technological Officer for Weebly, a vastly popular and user-friendly web publishing platform started at Penn State.

Andrew Giffin (Intercollege ’05) — Giffin is one of the most prominent lighting designers in the entertainment industry. He currently serves as the associate lighting designer on Ariana Grande’s 2015 world tour. Giffin previously programmed lighting for Justin Bieber and music festivals including South by Southwest and Coachella. It’s not just sports that Giffin works with, though, as he ran lighting for the 2015 NHL All-Star Game.

Aaron M. Gotwalt (Intercollege ’04) — Gotwalt co-founded Orphid five months ago, which focuses on mobile interactions. He has also founded businesses including CoTweet and Seesaw. He began entrepreneurial work at Penn State by founding a company that provided content management systems from charities.

Ryan J. Healy (Smeal ’06) — Healy is the president and founder of Brazen Careerist, a technology business that works in hiring and recruiting, growing the company by more than 100 percent on an annual basis over the last four years. Worth Magazine named Healy as one of the top 20 entrepreneurs to watch.

Kim Kingsley (Communications ’02) — Kingsley works as the chief operating officer for POLITICO, a political media organization that covers American politics. Kingsley works with business and strategic operations for POLITICO. In 2014, popular magazine ELLE named Kingsley as one of the 10 most powerful women in Washington, D.C.

Katherine A. LaBelle (Earth & Mineral Sciences ’06) — LaBelle is an executive for the National Weather Service, running the government agency’s Office of Communications. She previously worked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s leadership program, assisting in inter-agency meetings and fiscal issues. LaBelle is an adviser for Penn State’s Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk within her former college’s meteorology department.

Raymond P. Mastre (IST ’04) — Mastre is the director of SAP Security consulting at PricewaterhouseCoopers, a multinational professional services network. He is the youngest advisory board president in the history of Penn State’s New Kensington campus. Mastre has also led the New York City chapter of the Penn State Alumni Association, which boasts 23,000 members.

Javier Moreno (Agricultural Sciences ’07) — Moreno is the manager of external affairs and communications for Toyota Motor’s North American division. Moreno is essentially the United States spokesperson for Toyota, handling media, government, and community relations. Moreno worked his way up the Toyota ladder after interning with them in 2005.

KerriLaine Prunella (Liberal Arts ’01) — Prunella works in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as the senior advisor to the deputy assistant secretary for human resources. She works with leadership on human resources policy and strategy for the department, which has 11 divisions and over 92,000 employees. She was previously the president of the Alumni Association’s Metro Washington, D.C. chapter and the Penn State Professional Women’s Network in the same city.

Emilia Speal-Harris (Engineering ’04) — This alumni is the head of Boeing Company’s Military Aircraft Intellectual Property Strategy Team. She also runs the airplane/aerospace company’s IP strategy division within research and technology.

Congratulations to all 12 esteemed Penn State alumni for the award and their immense success. These are just a handful of examples that prove how much a Penn State degree means in nearly every industry.

Correction: A previous version of this story stated that Franco Harris is an employee of Weebly. In fact, he is used in advertising for Wix. We apologize for the error.

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About the Author

Zach Berger

Zach Berger is a reporter and Onward State's Managing Editor Emeritus. You can find him at the Phyrst more nights than not. If he had to pick a last meal, Zach would go for a medium-rare New York strip steak with a side of garlic mashed potatoes and a cold BrewDog Punk IPA. You can reach him via e-mail at [email protected] or on Twitter at @theZachBerger.

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