In This Together: Edition 4

St. Mike's and the "Vermont Ventilator," a front-porch wedding featured in NYT, new community heroes feature, a virtual student recital and more news from a time of pandemic

April 9, 2020
Mark Tarnacki
Staff Writer

Staff in the College’s Marketing & Communications office are continuing to find and post stories from our community during these uncommon times brought on by the COVID-19 This Together

We’ve invited anybody among us to share whatever from their daily lives might inspire and make us feel connected, from the more serious to the whimsical. Please continue to share your news items, however seemingly small. We also welcome broader updates from your offices, departments and homes. Live links in the text for further information below are in purple. Thanks to everyone who shared the following submissions and community snapshots. Keep them coming – email to


Vermont Ventilator team has St. Mike’s connection

Nick Clary, emeritus professor of English, this week shared the close connection St. Mike’s has with an important story for Vermont and beyond during the COVID-19 crisis: “Guy Kennedy, Saint Michael’s Fine Arts alumnus and son of deceased Art Professor Roy Kennedy, is a member of the team that has developed the ‘Vermont ventilator.’ It is now at the FDA for approval.  Guy is in the Department of Molecular Physiology and Metaphysical at UVM.” Nick also passed on this further background from the UVM website:  “Guy G. Kennedy, Research Project Engineer: Guy works as part of the [UVM] Molecular Physiology and Biophysics team researching the structure and function of molecular motors. Guy’s BS in Fine Arts highlights his creative sensibilities, but his love for conceptualizing, designing, fabricating, and servicing physical systems led to his start at IMF in 1984. After initially servicing complex instruments on the UVM campus, Guy’s exceptional skills were put to work in mechanical, electronic, and optical design and fabrication.  Since 1995, he has been a member of the Molecular Motors Group in the Molecular Physiology & Biophysics department. His innovative instrument and research designs have led to grants, papers, and patents at one of the world’s leading research centers. ‘I express my sincere enthusiasm and highest regards for the contributions Guy Kennedy has made to my program’ — David Warshaw, Ph.D. Chairman, UVM Physiology.” Recent stories about the Vermont ventilator can be seen from the UVM news website, and in the Burlington weekly Seven Days article by Saint Michael’s alumna Courtney Lamdin ’09.


Alumni wedding gets major ink in Times feature

While reading The New York Times of April 4, Rit DiVenere ’67, retired from a long career as a leader in Institutional Advancement for St. Mike’s, spotted a familiar face in the Sunday Styles section, which often features weddings — so he shared it with us, along with Angela Armour, director of alumni and parent engagement, and Joanne Nelson ’84, seeing that the groom in question is Jo Nelson’s classmate Joe Hillyer ’84. Jo Nelson worked many years for the College Alumni and Campus Ministry offices. The feature was a full page in The Times telling about Joe Hillyer’s recent “front porch wedding.” Responded Jo, “They know how to live joy!” She further notes, “Joe is a huge SMC guy. He’s worked for years at Scholastic and I used to visit him in NYC when I worked in alumni office. He hosted alumni socials at work and supported the [former longtime art professor and well-known painter] Lance Richbourg events in SOHO. He was Fine Arts at SMC, good friends with Don and Joanne Rathgeb, founders of the St. Mike’s theater program.”


Prine influenced Ellis among many others

Many music-lovers among our community were saddened by news this week that the estimable folk guitarist, songwriter and singer John Prine died from COVID-19. We asked Bill Ellis of the Saint Michael’s Fine Arts/Music faculty if he might share any insights about or connections with Prine, given that Bill is a leading authority on American folk music while his father is a legendary performer in the genre who has shared his talents at Saint Michael’s in the past, performing with Bill in a banjo-and-guitar collaboration.

Bill Ellis

Here’s what Bill shared: “I never knew John Prine, nor did my dad. But like many in the folk and country music worlds, I first explored fingerpicked guitar as a teen through his incredible catalog. That said, I knew many folks in Memphis who had worked with Prine – Keith Sykes, Todd Snider, Sam Phillips and his son Knox – and who never had anything but the utmost respect for him as a songwriter and person. Prine was a musical titan, not unlike Johnny Cash in his ability to express often intensely profound observations from ordinary life and through the most direct and unadorned of musical means. That first, eponymous album and his fifth, Bruised Orange, are about as perfect a collection of songs as you will find in all of Americana.” Bob Niemi of the English faculty, who closely follows American popular culture, added on Facebook, “He was an incredibly talented artist – loved his humor, his highly inventive lyricism, and his subtle but abiding class-consciousness. Got to see him in concert 3 or 4 times over the years and he never disappointed. R.I.P.”


‘From case analysis to singing the ABC’s’

Karen Popovich of the business administration and accounting faculty has another tale from the world of virtual college that brings a smile: “In my senior business strategy course, we have a discussion board that allows us to check in with each other on our challenges, successes, and personal reflections as we are adjusting to our online course. In a recent post, Sarah Donahue ’20 wrote that her Mom suggested that we should watch her pre-school videos for a break!  Well, we did!  Due to the pandemic, Sarah’s mother, Michelle Murray Donahue, Saint Michael’s class of 1990, has moved her pre-school classes online with short videos for lessons, letters, stories, and physical activities. Each video has an objective for the day. The videos are infused with lessons with laughter, giggles at “recording oops,” and personal messages to each of her students. Since we checked in on Michelle’s class, she gave all of my students a shout out hello in a recent video called ‘Circle Time.’ Check out the shout out at minute 1:12! Michelle is the Head Teacher at Colchester Cooperative Nursery School in Colchester, CT.”


Music major posts virtual senior recital piece

Margaret Patel, a senior Fine Arts/Music major from Belchertown, MA, composed a beautiful original piano piece titled “You’ve Come a Long Way,” which she intended to play at her senior recital this spring on campus. Writes her piano teacher Susan Summerfield of the Fine Arts faculty, “Margaret says that this piece is a reflection on all that she learned as a student at St. Mike’s. This would have been played along with other pieces for piano and organ on a live recital. Unfortunately that event will, of course, not happen.” However, we hope community members will take time to enjoy Margaret’s video performance of her lovely and haunting original piece.


Reynolds ’19: ‘Time is scary,’ but honor abounds

Nice to hear from Lance Reynolds ’19 who is now a newspaper reporter for the Republican American in Waterbury, CT after St. Mike’s experiences that included majoring in journalism, covering a ton of sports and having a life-changing semester in Tanzania: “Time is scary. Despite these hard times, there is a whole lot of good going on throughout the nation and the entire world. People are stepping up and caring for their community in unprecedented ways. These past couple weeks I’ve tried to find stories in the Republican American circulation area that shine a positive light. Two weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to learn and write about honorable efforts by two high school students, in my assigned coverage area, bringing their community, and beyond, together through social media. On Friday, Chris Murphy, a U.S. Senator from Connecticut, found the article and shared it on his Facebook page. It was amazing seeing the story get picked up like that! Look forward to telling similar, positive stories. Stay healthy and safe, everyone! Find that light. Much love!”


Major hockey magazine features Loebs mask efforts

Josh Kessler, the College’s sports information director, wanted to share this news with the community – another angle on a previous report from Josh and these pages: “Here’s a nice story about someone doing good – Emily Loebs ’16, a former women’s ice hockey and lacrosse captain and SAAC president, was profiled by USA Hockey Magazine thanks to her efforts to create masks for frontline personnel during this pandemic. I know some folks have seen what we wrote recently and have posted about her already, but this is a deeper look and also gives an update, not to mention it was written by the staff of the official magazine of USA Hockey. We have it linked on our website while this is the original direct link.”


Instagram highlights St. Mike’s ‘heroes’

Admission staffers Danielle Schiestle and Jacob Pelletier have begun a new project on the Admission Instagram Page to give credit where credit is due among the Saint Michael’s campus community. Explains Danielle, “Each picture has a caption which gives some details about who the community hero is, what their role at St. Mike’s looks like, and what they’re doing above and beyond right now. Jacob Pelletier and I craft those captions based off of nomination information that I then use when I post a picture or pictures of the community hero.” So far they have featured Mary Masson, director of the Bergeron Wellness Center, and the dynamic duo of Brian Lee and Megan Ohler from Student Residential Life. Excerpts from those hero posts:

“Our first SMC Community Hero is Mary Masson, MSH, APRN. Mary is the Executive Director of Bergeron Wellness Center, Director of Student Health Services, and a Nurse Practitioner.

Mary Masson

She has been with our community for 22 years and we cannot be more thankful for all the ways she supports our students – her role here encompasses seeing students and meeting their health needs, as well as watching public health trends on campus and in the community so as to provide a safe and healthy environment for the SMC community. Mary’s nominator had the following to say: “Mary has been working closely with other colleges, the Vermont Department of Health, and information from the CDC to keep our campus informed of best practices.”

Brian is the Assistant Dean of Students & Director of Housing Operations – he has been at SMC for 19 years.

Brian Lee and Megan Ohler

Megan is the Associate Dean of Students & Director of Residential Operations & Systems – she has been with SMC for 25 years. Both Brian & Megan are working tirelessly to carry on with our returning student room selection process.”

If you would like to nominate a @saintmichaelscollege community hero who is going above and beyond during these times, please send their information to, or


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