UH Alumni Profiles
- Network news anchor
- Hawaiian chorus director
- Friend of the forest
- Second generation coach
- Microbial savvy musician
- Picture perfect benefactors
- New novelist
Network news anchor
Cheryl Castro Petti
BA in journalism ’94
Career: CNNRadio network anchor/editor
Family: Married to Dean Petti (BS in math ’94, MA ’99 Mānoa) and adopting a baby from Russia
College memory: Eating the ʻono pork hash and rice cakes sold outside Crawford Hall between journalism classes
Sports loyalties: Atlanta Thrashers hockey and Braves baseball teams
Working for America’s leading cable news network at its worldwide headquarters in Atlanta, Cheryl Castro fondly reminisces about the people who gave her a jump start in her career. As a student employee in the Office of University Relations, she wrote for this alumni magazine and recorded University Report for radio. "The people there were very supportive and gave me my first real-life experience in the media," she reflects.
One of her favorite memories was her final journalism project, co-anchoring a newscast. "Professor (Gerald) Kato was fantastic! He was very encouraging and patient," she says. Castro earning an MS in broadcast journalism at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in 1995. She hosted radio and television news programs in Hawaiʻi, Washington, D.C., and Delaware, picking up journalism awards along the way.
In 2001, Castro joined CNNRadio, where she anchors the CNNin60 and Business Minutes newscasts during morning drive time. "I write, produce and anchor a wide variety of stories from hard news, to business, to entertainment, to sports," she says. "What makes my job exciting is mixing things up and the creativity involved."
Hawaiian chorus director
MA in music education ’93
Career: Musician and artistic director of Na Leo Nahenahe
Roots: Watertown, N.Y.
Family: Partner Steven, cat Kaʻena (from Mākaha), dog Gossett
Instruments played: Piano, organ, trumpet, oboe and harp
First exposure to Hawaiian music: His grandparents gave him The Best of Peter Moon. "I blasted the tape from my New York college dorm window to annoy students who were blasting heavy metal below me."
Favorite opera role: Robert Shallow in Plump Jack for San Francisco City Summer Opera. "It was bizarre, contemporary and a fun old man character to sink my teeth into."
Looking around San Francisco, Lehrack found the Hawaiian music scene a little lacking. "There were many hula hālau in the Bay Area and just as many Hawaiian bands but no choral group." So Lehrack quit his day job, founded the choral group Na Leo Nahenahe and serves as its artistic director, drawing on his choral experience on Oʻahu.
"I loved singing with Auntie Nola Nahulu at the University of Hawaiʻi, and always watched the Kamehameha Choral Competition," he says. Na Leo’s 20–40 singers nearly all have ties with Hawaiʻi. Their music comes from Lehracks’ singing days on Oʻahu, ʻohana at Kamehameha Schools and through Na Leo’s own arrangements.
Lehrack was trained in classical music and listens to Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn but prefers Hawaiian music to almost any other. "I stream 105.1 KINE over the internet when I’m at my desk," he says.
Learn more about Na Leo Nahenahe.
Friend of the Forest
BA in agriculture ’98
Career: Natural resource manager, The Nature Conservancy of Hawaiʻi
Roots: Haʻikū, Maui
Mantra: Leave the ʻāina in better condition than you found it.
Hobbies: Free-diving and bodysurfing
Francis Quitazol grew up with a forest in his backyard. Literarlly. His adventures under the canopy of pine at his ʻohana’s Kokomo Christmas tree farm seeded his desire to preserve Maui’s natural resources.
So after working for the U.S. Forest service in Idaho and as a firefighter in California’s Eldorado National Forest, Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park and Haleakalā National Park, he turned down a full-time job that would take him back to California. "My love for the ocean, my family and the forests of Maui brought me back," he says.
After completing a two-year fellowship program with the Nature Conservancy, 32-year-old Quitazol assumed oversight of the conservancy’s 5,230-acre Waikamoi preserve on the windward slope of Haleakalā. His duties include mapping natural resources and monitoring ungulates and invasive plants. Under the canopy of red pompon flowers of rare ʻōhiʻa trees and koa, serenaded by the songs of colorful honeycreepers ʻiʻiwi, ʻapapane, ʻamakihi, ʻākohekohe, Quitazol continues his adventures in the forest.
Fallowing the family foot(ball) steps
BA in speech ’03
Career: Running back coach, Temple University
Roots: Jacksonville, Fla.
Family: Father, Kevin Sr., is quarterback coach for the New York Giants
Batting average: .308 in his senior year with Rainbow Warrior Baseball
On Hawaiʻi: "People you meet outside of Hawaiʻi think it’s the beach that makes the place special. Hawaiʻi is beautiful, but it’s the people who make it special."
Kevin Gilbride Jr. may still get ribbed about his heritage in his latest coaching post, but at least he won’t be accused of misplaced loyalties. After two years as a graduate assistant coach at Syracuse University, the one-time Warrior football special teams player spent the 2006 season as tight end coach at Georgetown University. There, he dared support dad’s arch rival New York over the hometown pro Washington Redskins team. "Hey, I have to root for him. He is my blood," he would shrug.
With Kevin Jr. now in Pennsylvania, an area he recruited for Georgetown, the Gilbride guys will likely continue their weekly telephone tradition. They typically speak after the college game on Saturday, after the Giants’ game on Sunday and once during the week. "He gives me great advice," the son says of the father, who spent a year as head coach of the San Diego Chargers and another as an ESPN analyst. "You think you know the game as a player. When you coach, you have to see the game differently. To see how far I have to go as a coach is exciting for me."
Microbial savvy musician
MA ’99, PhD in music education ’05
Career: Assistant professor of music and department chair, Malone College
Previous positions: Band director for Christian Academy in Honolulu, graduate assistant band director for UH Mānoa, award-winning band director for Marion Independent School District in Texas
Instrument: The horn
Activities: Advisor to the Ohio Collegiate Music Education Association
Students may not expect a microbioogy lecture in band class, but Cynthia Bridges revives her unusual cross-disciplinary doctoral research each semester for band methods and brass students.
Bridges examined the bacteria found in 26 instruments used by Mānoa’s marching band and wind ensemble. She identified 37 of the bacteria residing just beyond the mouthpiece, including species common to the upper respiratory or lower digestive tracts or associated with food spoilage. Brass contains properties that kill bacteria, but only if instruments are allowed to dry, she reminds her students.
"When they see me on the podium, I want them to think about bacteria and then go home after rehearsal and clean out their instruments so they stay healthy and their instruments play optimally," she says.
Picture perfect benefactors
Bruce and Jackie Mahi Erickson
BA ’67 and JD ’77, respectively
Career: Photographer (Bruce) and chief attorney for Hawaiian Electric (Jackie)
Honors: William S. Richardson School of Law Outstanding Alumna, 2006
Sports: Wahine Volleyball supporters
$395 stretched the budget in 1984, but Bruce and Jackie Mahi Erickson decided to buy the painting of Hilo Bay that caught their eye in a Big Island gallery. They were rewarded when Bruce’s research suggested that artist Joseph Hoʻoluhi Nawahiokalaniopuʻu—an attorney, lawmaker, newspaper publisher and advisor to Queen Liliʻuokalani—was also the first Native Hawaiian to paint in the western representational manner.
When public television’s Antiques Roadshow came to Honolulu in the summer of 2006, the Ericksons took the painting and were rewarded once more—with an estimate of $100,000–$150,000. After a professional appraisal set the value at more than $450,000, the couple donated the painting to Kamehameha Schools, where it will go on permanent display when the Kaʻiwakīloumoku Hawaiian cultural center opens on the Kapālama campus in 2009.
Maxwell Taylor Courson
PhD in American studies ’76
Career: Retired journalist, public information officer and professor, most recently at the University of South Florida
Roots: Baxley, Ga.
Family: Wife Naomi
Inspiration : Step-daugher Shannon Greenland, a romantic mystery writer
Nearly three decades after Max Courson finished his doctoral dissertation on the rise and decline of journalists as American movie heroes, he learned it was listed on a University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication website. He was subsequently named an honorary associate of USC’s Image of Journalist in Popular Culture project.
Mostly retired from his own academic career, Courson explores popular culture of a different kind as a fiction writer. He says his first novel, The Pulpwood Annie Chronicles, is based on a "well-known, true-life hustler who plied her trade in a nearby town when I was a college guy" in Georgia. Any similarity between the book’s smart-alecky college student and his own undergraduate days? "No comment," the author says.