Dr. Diane Petersen ’66
Dr. Petersen is a Medical Doctor and ear, nose, throat specialist who has retired but continues to work as a consultant with HealthCare Partners in Torrance Beach. She specializes in plastic reconstructive surgery and otolaryngology. Prior to this, she worked for Bay Shores Medical Group. Ms. Petersen helped start the speech and hearing therapy department at Cook County Hospital in Chicago.
At Ohio Wesleyan, Ms. Petersen was in the Delta Delta Delta Sorority. When she joined, its national Texas headquarters berated OWU for accepting an African American member to the point where she withdrew her acceptance. They even sent a news crew to interview Ms. Petersen. Eventually, she re-joined and the sorority standing by her inspired then-OWU-president Elden Smith to require all Greek houses to sign a non-discrimination clause.
Ms. Petersen was also active on campus and served in the OWU Senate, the Association of Women Students, as Residence Hall Senior Advisor, with Angel Flight, and as a Chaplain Student on Mission Break.
Ms. Petersen earned a master’s in communicative disorders from Northwestern University in 1968 and medical degree from University of Michigan in 1982.
Philanthropically, Ms. Petersen has been involved with Sandpipers, where she also served as president, an organization that raises funds for scholarships for non-profit agencies in the community.
Denise Sabo Brenner ’00
Ms. Brenner graduated from Ohio Wesleyan in 2000 with a BA in Psychology and a minor in Sociology and Anthropology, and earned an MBA degree from The Ohio State University Fisher College of Business.
She has worked in non-profit/association management since 1999, and is currently a Senior Financial Accountant at Kappa Kappa Gamma Fraternity Headquarters. She works closely with the KKG Foundation, one of the largest educational foundations in the fraternity/sorority system. Additionally, she maintains a small consulting practice focusing on association management, accounting and individual tax preparation. She is a member of the Ohio Society of CPAs and American Institute of CPAs, and holds the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation.
Ms. Brenner has served as a local, regional and national volunteer for her sorority, Delta Zeta. She also serves on the Ohio Wesleyan Alumni Board of Directors, the Leadership Team of the Central Ohio OWU Alumni/Parent Chapter, and is the President of the OWU Alumnae Panhellenic Council.
Denise and her husband Mike, a 1999 OWU graduate, live in Columbus, Ohio.
Patsy Belt Conrades ’63
Patsy is a loyal OWU alum who has dedicated her life to her family and service to others. Patsy and her husband, George ’61, are the parents of five children and grandparents of twelve. She has moved her family 10 times, including to Tokyo, Japan, in support of George’s career.
After graduation, Patsy became a physical education instructor at The Columbus School for Girls and was active in many civic activities. She later was a founding member of the Scarsdale, NY, volunteer ambulance service and then later became a volunteer certified paramedic in Greenwich CT. At age 48, Patsy enrolled at Norwalk CT Community College to gain her degree in Nursing. She has served as a volunteer Registered Nurse at Mount Auburn Hospital in Boston and at Volunteers In Medicine Clinic serving the least fortunate in Stuart, FL and has served on the Boards of both.
Along the way, Patsy has served as the President of the Junior League Garden Club of Boston and is currently the President of the Jupiter Island Garden Club in Florida where the couple now reside.
Patsy and George gave the lead gift to support the construction of the Schimmel/Conrades Science Center, created the OWU Neuroscience program named for David O Robbins, and gave a substantial gift toward the Branch Rickey Athletic Complex. As a Life Trustee of Ohio Wesleyan, she and Evan Corns co-chaired the preceding OWU Capital Campaign.
Ginny Kirkwood ’64
A Cultural Anthropology major, Ms. Kirkwood was accepted into the Peace Corps during her junior year and upon graduation from Ohio Wesleyan and served for two years in Turkey, where she cared for and raised funds for orphaned children. She then spent time in Thailand; Washington, D.C.; and Singapore before moving with her husband, Charles, to Shawnee on Delaware, Pa., where they have lived for 32 years.
In the Keystone state, Ms. Kirkwood served as chair the Pennsylvania Special Olympics. Because of her experience in Asia, she later helped to create multiple Special Olympics programs in Thailand, Pakistan, Nepal, China, Singapore, and the Philippines.
Ms. Kirkwood maintained her Peace Corps ties and in 1990 became director of the Peace Corps in Thailand. In this role, she introduced an extensive AIDS education program and helped to expand environmental and engineering projects. She served as director until 1993, and remains on the advisory board.
She also is a member of the board of trustees of Boston-based World Education, Inc., which aids educationally disadvantaged children in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, as well as the United States. She serves on the board of the Bangkok-based Kenan Institute Asia, which works to build sustainable competitiveness in Thailand and the Greater Mekong Sub-region. Additionally, she is the director/owner of The Shawnee Group, which runs the Shawnee Ski Area and Shawnee Inn. Ginny is married to Charles W. Kirkwood, chairman of The Shawnee Group, and they have five children and 17 grandchildren.
Ms. Kirkwood was the recipient of an Ohio Wesleyan Distinguished Achievement Citation in 2004 and delivered the 2009 commencement address.
Julie Podolec ’07
Co-Founder, CEO and Brand Ambassador of Modern Pop, Inc., a fruit-focused foods brand based in Southern California. Modern Pop was founded in 2013 when Julie and her husband recognized a void in the market for a healthy frozen fruit bar. At the time, they had a teething infant in need of soothing, so they were desperate for a solution. When they couldn’t find it, they created it. Julie started selling the frozen fruit bars out of a cart in Laguna Beach, CA and within three years has added 100+ points of distribution, along with a top-tier list of accounts including Costco, Whole Foods and Amazon. The company targets 1,000 points of distribution in 2017. Modern Pop frozen fruit bars are made with 50%+ whole fruit, have five or less ingredients, and are naturally sweetened. Modern Pop believes they are the first frozen novelty company to showcase their ingredients on the front of their box. Julie and the Modern Pop team plan to innovate categories with their fruit first products and Southern California inspired branding. Julie graduated from Ohio Wesleyan in 2007 with a BFA in Fine Arts and marketing.
Carol Latham ’61
Carol Latham is the retired founder, president, and CEO of Thermagon, Inc., a custom manufacturer of high performance heat transfer materials for electronic components. She has combined her creativity and technical skills to develop a unique technology for producing high thermal conductivity materials with better performance than the market has seen to date. In five years, her business has grown from less than $500,000 in sales per year to $18 million in sales per year.
Ms. Latham is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University with a degree in Chemistry. She has presented papers at major technical conferences and has had works published in several technical journals.
Thermagon has received national publicity in The Wall Street Journal and Inc. magazine. Ms. Latham sits on the Boards of Enterprise Development, Inc.; CAMP, Inc.; the Greater Cleveland Growth Association; the Old Stone Foundation; and the Northeast Ohio Technology Coalition. She has received numerous awards for innovation, leadership and entrepreneurship, including the 2000 Business Woman of the Year Award for Northeast Ohio and the Inner City 100 Award. Thermagon placed 8th nationally of the top 100 fastest growing, privately held companies and was the only company who placed in the top ten on this list for three consecutive years.
Vernita Johnson ’95
Shi-Ly-Ku, which translates into “women of virtue, queenly anointed” is the inspiration behind Shy-Stones, a jewelry business owned and operated by Vernita Johnson.
She uses quartz varieties such as onyx, jasper and African opal to craft hand-made jewelry pieces. Ms. Johnson’s work has reached many as she’s participated in art shows like the Avant Garde Art and Craft Show, attended multiple women’s conferences, and been featured at the North Market. Her jewelry has also been displayed in Mary B’s Gift Shop and on Etsy. Additionally, in 2009 Johnson was one of four artists invited to sell jewelry at the Columbus Museum of Art.
Initial inspiration for creating her jewelry line came from being laid off after she attended a workshop on seeking new employment. During that workshop, the presenter stressed the importance of “doing something that makes you happy” in the midst of seeking new employment. No sooner after that workshop, Johnson took a trip to the local toy store and purchased the jewelry kit that started her journey.
In the summer of 2004, Johnson decided to officially start her business selling jewelry after many people liked and expressed interest in purchasing pieces. She has since worked tirelessly at turning her hobby into a viable business.
Johnson continues to grow as an entrepreneur, recently utilizing Pinterest and other social media platforms to increase product exposure and business revenue. Additionally, she has enrolled in the Individual Development Account (IDA) program and is on track to receive a grant to continue the expansion of her business. Johnson not only has been able to increase her confidence level, but charges other entrepreneurs to take advantage of the services offered by the Women’s Business Center in Columbus.
Ms. Johnson is a Teacher at Hannah Ashton Middle School, Reynoldsburg, OH, who graduated from Ohio Wesleyan with a degree in Sociology. She went on to Ashland University where she earned a Masters degree in Literature.
Kristen Hajduk ’05
Kristen R. Hajduk is the Advisor to the Acting Assistant Secretary in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict and a Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. She provides technical oversight and guidance to U.S. Special Operations Command, advocates for Special Operations policies within the Department of Defense, and responds to legislative requests. She was previously at the Institute for Defense Analyses where her research included nuclear policy, strategic wargaming, operational analyses, continuity of government policies, NATO strategic planning, and defense talent management policies. From 2008 to 2010, she worked at the Homeland Security Studies and Analyses Institute, where she provided on-site support to the Department of Homeland Security Office of Policy for the production of the first-ever Quadrennial Homeland Security Review. Kristen was the Co-founder and Co-director of the No Exceptions initiative and is a Center for a New American Security Next Generation National Security Leader.
Kristen received her Master of Public Policy degree with a National Security Policy concentration from the University of Chicago. During this time, she interned for the Chicago Policy Review and the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Kristen holds a Bachelor’s degree (Hons) with dual majors of International Relations and English Literature from Ohio Wesleyan University. While there, she interned at the Geneva Center for Security Policy and the National Defense University. Kristen volunteers at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and is a native Texan.
Marcia Kunstel ’69
International correspondent Marcia Kunstel has pursued her excitingly peripatetic profession covering history-making events in many troubled areas of the world. After graduating from Ohio Wesleyan with a degree in journalism, she began her journalistic career reporting for the Hartford Times, moved on to the Montgomery Advertiser in Alabama (where she was the first female political reporters in the South) and then joined the Atlanta Journal as a city reporter.
She left domestic reporting In 1983 to become a freelance correspondent based in Rome, writing mostly out of the Middle East and Africa for newspapers including Newsday, the Dallas Morning News, and the Miami Herald. In 1988, she became a correspondent for Cox newspapers in Washington, reporting at home and abroad.. She and her husband, Joseph Albright, also a foreign correspondent, completed a four-year assignment as Moscow correspondents in 1997, after which they spent two years based in China. She has covered wars in Lebanon and Kosovo, rebellions in the Sudan and Afghanistan, the U.S. bombing of Libya, and the release of Nelson Mandela.
In 1988, Ms. Kunstel won the Overseas Press Club award for foreign reporting with her husband. In 1990, they won the Headliner Award for their coverage of the Persian Gulf Crisis. The pair jointly wrote two acclaimed books based on their overseas experiences, a history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and Bombshell: the Secret of America’s Unknown Atomic Spy Conspiracy.
They now live in Jackson Hole, WY, where they run a remote mountain dude ranch. Marcia also focuses on environmental issues as a national board member of The Wilderness Society and of Earthjustice.
Bridget Donnell-Newton ’80
Bridget Donnell-Newton is Mayor of Rockville Maryland, and serves as the council liaison to the Financial Advisory Board, Rockville Economic Development, Inc. (REDI) and Rockville Seniors, Inc. (RSI). She is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. In addition, Mayor Newton is a member at large of the Maryland Municipal League (MML) Board of Directors and served as president of MML’s Montgomery County chapter from November 2012 through May 2015. She is in her sixth term on the MML Legislative Committee, of which she was appointed committee chair in June 2015. Her former work with MML included serving as District 5 Vice President on the MML Board of Directors and as Vice Chair of the MML Legislative Committee.
While on the City Council from 2009-2013, Mayor Newton served as the liaison to the Rockville Planning Commission, Rockville Housing Enterprises, the Senior Commission, the Recreation, and Park Advisory Board, the Communications Task Force, the Rockville Youth Commission, and the Landlord Tenant Affairs Commission.
Before her election to the City Council, Mayor Newton served as Chair of the Town Center Action Team, Chair of the Compensation Commission, and as a member of the Imagine Rockville visioning process.
Mayor Newton has spent more than 34 years in Rockville and she is married with two kids. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan with a BA in both History and Politics and Government. She was also in the Delta Gamma Sorority.