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Recently in the news: Famous alumni from UC

We regularly update alumni found in our 15 Famous Alumni categories. We list their current achievements below. A Recently in the News Archive is also available.


Alumna assoc. producer of HBO documentary aims to curb domestic abuse

by Deborah Rieselman

Every minute in the United States, 24 people fall victim to rape, physical violence or stalking by an intimate partner. Each day, four of those female victims will die from the abuse. HBO calls it “Private Violence,” which is the title of its newest documentary, airing on Monday, Oct. 20, 2014, at 9 p.m.

Responsible for the film’s creation and promotion are three women — one of them a domestic-abuse victim who now works as a advocate; another one UC alumna Un Kyong Ho, JD & M (A&S) ’10, who is the film's associate producer; and the third one an experienced documentary filmaker. All three were on campus to discuss the film at its advance screening at the UC College of Law on Oct. 3 and later that night at its world premiere at the International Freedom Center, downtown Cincinnati, in a packed theater.

Kyong Ho holds graduate degrees from the College of Law and the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences through a joint program coming out of the Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, the country's first interdisciplinary, feminist study of law and social justice. The department hosted a domestic-abuse summit during the day, attracting more than 50 specialists and concerned activists to brainstorm over ideas for putting emotions into actionfollowing the viewing.

LINK: Read full UC Magazine story.

CCM talent creates thrills and chills in ‘Gone Girl’ movie

Two UC alumni lent their creative talents to Ben Affleck’s new movie thriller, “Gone Girl,” which brought in $38 million during its debut weekend, Oct. 3-5, 2014. And that nice number took the box-office lead for the weekend.

Dawn Swiderski, CCM '89, was 20th Century Fox film’s art director, and actor Cooper Thornton, M (CCM) '92, played the role of Dr. Benson. According to a RgberEbert.com review, the film is “art and entertainment, a thriller and an issue, and an eerily assured audience picture.”

Both alumni graduated from the College-Conservatory of Music and have long lists of movie and TV credits to their names.


Flaherty's musical 'Little Dancer' streamed live Oct. 5 from Kennedy Center

A photo of a ballerina that is very similar to an Edgar Degas sculpture.

Thanks to the brilliant composition by Stephen Flaherty, CCM ’82, Edgar Degas’ most renowned sculpture “Little Dancer, Aged 14” will magically come to life before a sold-out house at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, D.C., on Sunday, Oct. 5, 2014. Those without tickets to the world premiere musical can get a box seat right on their couches when the center streams the show live, beginning at 7:30 p.m. ET.

Flaherty, the Tony-winning composer of the Broadway musical “Ragtime,” composed the music for what is being called “the splashiest Kennedy Center production of the season.” His lyricist partner Lynn Ahrens penned the lyrics and book. In 1998, they both won Tony and Drama Desk awards for Best Original Musical Score for "Ragtime." In 1991, they won the Best Musical Tony Award for “Once on This Island.”

“Part fact, part fiction,” the musical is set in the “harsh backstage world of the Paris Opera Ballet,” where the young dancer Marie van Goethem is struggling to find her place, according to Kennedy Center publicity. “'Little Dancer' is inspired by the young ballerina who posed for Edgar Degas and became, inadvertently, the most famous dancer in the world. Torn by her family’s poverty, her debt to the artist and the lure of wealthy men, Marie struggles to keep her place in the ballet corps — a girl on the verge of womanhood, caught between the conflicting demands of life and art."


Alum's composition sung by daughter at Madison Square Garden

A University of Cincinnati alum Kanniks Kannikeswaran had a musical composition performed at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Sept. 28, 2014, as the opening ceremony song for the mega-event staged for India’s new prime minister, Narendra Modi. What makes it even more special is that it was Kanniks' daughter and UC student who performed it in front of the 18,000-plus audience.

Kanniks, M (Eng) ’86, M (Bus) ’88, also a CCM adjunct faculty member, had his composition, “Mahavakya — Anthem for the Indian Diaspora,” performed by daughter Vidita Kanniks, a CCM sophomore double majoring in music history and music education.

Kannikeswaran is considered to be a pioneer of the Indian American choral movement, and his groundbreaking work has led to the formation of Indian community choirs in Cincinnati (the first in the country); Chicago; Washington, D.C.; Atlanta; Fort Lauderdale; Tampa; Minneapolis/St Paul; Toronto; Allentown, Penn., and across the Atlantic in The Hague.


Brutally honest book about life without lower legs

Growing up in Cincinnati as one of 11 children, Eileen Cronin, A&S ’82, was known as the girl who was born without legs. But skinny-dipping after dark with her girlfriends, she became something else entirely.

“In a pool, I moved without a single compromise because I was liberated from my legs. Without them, I became an elusive mermaid, the Venus de Milo spit from the ruins or a comet firing across an endless sky.”

That is just one of many revealing moments in Cronin’s candid debut book, “Mermaid: A Memoir of Resilience.” The creative writing graduate's work made it onto Oprah’s list of “Memoirs Too Powerful to Put Down.”

From the outside, most people would probably say Cronin’s “chops” had already been tested. Born with legs that ended at the knee, Cronin was no stranger to adversity. As a young child, she had to “squiddle” from one place to another instead of walk. Later she would wear clunky prosthetics that resulted in what she refers to as “chewed-up flesh.” In the eighth grade, three of her classmates shoved her down two sets of staircases.       — posted 9-14


Lewis Johnson wraps up coverage of his eighth Olympics

Once an All-American middle-distance runner and a UC Hall of Famer, Lewis Johnson, Univ '86, just completed his stay in Sochi, Russia, covering the 2014 Olympic Winter Games as a bobsled, luge and skeleton reporter. He has reported on every Olympic game (summer and winter) since the 2000 Sydney games. After graduating from UC, he became an Olympic hopeful, competing in two Olympic trials. Now, he has found his place among popular Olympic commentators.

LINK: Read his story, and read about UC's other Olympic connections.

DAAP alumna Asha Daniels on new TV series

Fashion-design graduate Asha Ama Daniels, DAAP ’13, is competing on Tim Gunn’s new show, “Under the Gunn,” which premiered Jan. 16, 2014, at 9 p.m. on the Lifetime channel. She is one of 15 competitors whom will be divided into three teams, each one mentored by a former "Project Runway" contestant. Each team will create a look to present before the judges. The show was filmed at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles.

Other alumni by categories ...


CCM's Flaherty scores two movies for Broadway musicals

Although previews for Broadway musicals often last weeks and even months, booking the shows overseas is a relatively new occurrence, but one that renowned composer Stephen Flaherty, CCM '82, is thoroughly enjoying along with his lyricist writing partner Lynn Ahrens.

Their first German work, produced by Sylvester Stallone, was "Rocky: Das Musical," which opened in Hamburg, Germany, in November 2012. After receiving knockout reviews from German critics, the show is now going the distance — to Broadway. Previews are scheduled for February 2014 at the Winter Garden.

Flaherty and Ahrens wrote 20 new songs for the show and retained three popular oldies: "Eye of the Tiger," "Gonna Fly Now" and "Take You Back." Because the story is set in Philadelphia, Pa., in 1975, "the score combines a lot of sounds of the period — funk, soul, pop, rock and folk," Flaherty says. "We look back to that time, but it is really a contemporary score."

In the meantime, the writing partners are working to bring the 1997 animated feature film "Anastasia" to a Broadway stage. The pair had originally scored the animated film, which was nominated for two Oscars — Best Original Musical or Comedy Score and Best Song ("Journey to the Past"). For the stage version, they are apparently writing 15 new songs and retaining five of the original pieces.

"Rocky" co-producer Stage Entertainment acquired the rights to produce a stage adaptation of "Anastasia" in 2012. As of late May 2013, the company maintained that the show, with its "beautiful score by Stephen Flaherty," will make its "debut in Moscow in 2013." But no dates or cast have been announced, leaving much up to speculation.


CCM grad Stephen Flaherty poses with his lyricist writing partner Lynn Ahrens.

Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens.

Grad Flaherty's score for 'Rocky' heads to Broadway

After more than a year of packed houses in Hamburg, Germany, “Rocky” the musical will soon open in Broadway, with a score composed by Stephen Flaherty, CCM '82, and his lyricist writing partner Lynn Ahrens. Tickets are already on sale for previews starting Feb. 11, 2014, at the Winter Garden Theatre.

LINK: See entire UC Magazine story and photos.

Five CCM alumnae share Broadway spotlight in 'Annie'

Until Jan. 5, 2014, Broadway audiences have a chance to catch four UC alumnae in a Tony-nominated musical — the revival of “Annie”— as well as one more if you go to the backstage door after the show. The biggest name of the pair is Faith Prince, CCM ’79, HonDoc ’09, who co-stars as Miss Hannigan, the alcoholic matron at the orphange. She joined the show at the Palace Theatre in the summer (2013).

Also joining the show this year have been Kirsten Wyatt, CCM ’97, who plays Lily St. Regis; Danette Holden, CCM 96, who is Faith Prince's understudy; Justin Patterson, CCM ’99, who plays F.D.R.; and Derric Nolte, assistant stage manager.

The current revival of “Annie” was nominated for a Tony for Best Revival of a Musical. The show is expected to run through Jan. 5, 2014, after which a national tour will be launched.

LINK: Read more and see more photos.

Alumna in Tony-winning best musical

Tory Ross, CCM ’02, has been in some top-rated TV shows, movies and now a Tony-nabbing Broadway show — “Kinky Boots.” Ross plays Pat and an ensemble role in the play that just grabbed six Tony Awards on June 16, 2013, including Best Musical, Best Score and Best Choreography.

Prior to the show opening in April 2013, Ross had appeared in two seasons of the British drama “Downton Abbey,” which won the Broadcasting Press Guild Award for Best Drama Series and the Banff Television Festival Award for Best Mini-Series. As of spring 2013, Ross' latest appearance in that show was scheduled to air in the U.S. on Jan. 5, 2014. 



Alumnus entrepreneur named to Forbes "30 under 30" -- 12-11
Twenty-six-year-old Austin Allison, Eng '04, JD ’11, is co-founder and CEO of DotLoop Co., a software design firm that provides a seamless, online solution to effectively automate real estate transactions. Forbes magazine named him in its prestigious "30 under 30" list in December 2011 the technology category.

GENERAL BUSINESS LEALDERS LINK: Read about other alumni who are business leaders.


DAAP alumna's first-place plans to create a first-rate Detroit

Emilie Rottman, DAAP ’08, and colleague James Ramil won first-place an an international competition to revitalize downtown Detroit, as announced in June 2013. Rock Ventures LLC had promoted two contests, called “Redesigning Detroit: A New Vision for an Iconic Site” – one judged by a panel of urban planners and architects and another one judged by the public. Rottman’s entry was the People’s Choice winner.

The contest was intended to generate ideas for the 92,421-square-foot site of the former 28-story J.L. Hudson department store, which was imploded in ‘98. The professional judges selected a first-place winner from Rome, Italy, while the public selected “Hudson’s Quarter,” by Rottman and James Ramil from Washington, D.C.

Covered by a parking garage now, the site of the old J.L. Hudson department store has been a historic one. When J.L. Hudson opened there in 1911, it was the world’s tallest department store, a record held until it was demolished in '98. At 2.2-million square feet, Hudson's, as it was called, was the country’s second largest department store, only surpassed by Macy’s in New York City. In '98, Guinness World Records declared it the "Tallest Building To Be Demolished Using Explosives."

LINK: Read the entire UC magazine article.


DAAP designer helps visual-effects team create sci-fi movie "Elysium"

Conceptual illustrator and visual-effects art director George Hull, DAAP ’93, designed some big sets for the sci-fi action drama “Elysium,” which opened Aug. 9, 2013. Director Neill Blomkamp (director and co-writer of “District 9”) hired Hull "to help design some large-scale environments for the film," Hull says.

"I actually designed a massive robot factory for a Nike Superbowl commercial for Neill years back. So when it came to huge scale sets, I suppose that is why he turned to me."

Starring Matt Damon and Jodie Foster, "Elysium" takes place in the year 2154 when two classes of people exist. The extremely wealthy live on an unspoiled human-made space station named Elysium. The vast majority remain on Earth, languishing in its overpopulated, poverty-laden, crime-ridden and devastated environment. Anti-immigration laws prohibit the Earth population from traveling to Elysium to get medical treatment.

Some of Hulls best-known works include "The Amazing Spider-Man" ('12), "Iron Man 2" ('10), "Avatar" ('09), "WALL-E" ('08 — film won an Oscar and a Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature, and Hull was an artist in the animation dept.), "The Matrix Reloaded" ('03), "Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, Special Edition" ('97) and "Forrest Gump" ('94 Academy Award winner for Best Visual Effects and Best Picture).

Elhai orchestrates 'Iron Man 3'

"Iron Man 3," orchestrated by Robert Elhai, M (CCM) '83, opened in May 2013. Although Elhai is best known for his film work, he is also a serious name in theater, having been the Tony-nominated orchestrator and associate music producer for "The Lion King" on Broadway in '91, in London's West End in '99 and on the U.S. national tour in '02.

His film projects have included the following:

  • "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" with Johnny Depp
  • "The Count of Monte Cristo" with Richard Harris
  • "K-PAX" with Kevin Spacey
  • "X-Men" with Hugh Jackman
  • "The Sixth Sense" with Bruce Willis
  • "What Dreams May Come" with Robin Williams
  • "Alien 3" and "Alien: Resurrection" with Sigourney Weaver
  • "101 Dalmatians" with Glenn Close
  • "Michael Collins" with Liam Neeson

LINK: See 50 of his movie credits here.

Movies and musicals switch roles

Tony-winning composer Stephen Flaherty, CCM ’82, and his professional partner Lynn Ahrens just completed filming on the musical-comedy movie "Lucky Stiff," featuring songs by Flahety and Ahrens and based upon the team's first show — about a hapless shoe salesman who takes a dead bod on vacation to inherit $6 million. Starring Jason Alexander, the movie is expected tol be released in late 2013 or early 2013.

The show was originally performed at Playwrights Horizons off-Broadway in 1988, when it won the Richard Rodgers Award. The next year, it was produced at the Olney Theatre in Maryland, where it won the Helen Hayes Award for Best Musical. The show had its British debut at the Theatre Royal in Lincoln in 1994. In 1997, it had graduated up to a West End production. More recently, it had its New Zealand premiere in January 2011 in Marlborough.



Alumnus, faculty member on NPR

Considered the pioneer of a growing Indian-American choral movement, composer Kanniks Kannikeswaran, M (Eng) ’86, M (Bus) ’88, was featured in a long segment on NPR’s “Morning Edition” Nov. 7, 2013, part of NPR’s year-long series to uncover and celebrate the diversity and richness of sacred music in the U.S.

Kanniks (as he prefers to be called) is a a musician, music educator and writer with several recordings, productions and scores to his credit. He has been teaching Indian music theory and history as a CCM adjunct faculty member since 1994. According to his website, he bases all of his music instruction on “the core of commonality between the Hindustani and Karnatic streams of music.”

He founded the Greater Cincinnati Indian Community Choir, which won two silver medals in the recent World Choir Games held in Cincinnati in July 2012. He helped create similar choruses in Bethlehem, Penn.; Houston, Texas; Tampa and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minn.; Toronto, Canada; Washington, D.C. and across the Atlantic in The Hague, Netherlands.


CCM grad's White House gig No. 2

Phil Solomon, CCM ’93, gave special thanks this Thanksgiving for the way he kicked off the holiday season weeks earlier — spending Halloween 2013 entertaining 5,000 trick-or-treaters on the White House lawn, while donning a Herman Munster costume and climbing atop giant stilts. "It was a super successful event," Solomon says, "and we even had a private meeting and photo with the president and first lady. A sublime time indeed!"

Solomon is founder and CEO of Way2Much Entertainment, a premier award-winning live-event production company. Solomon is also a coordinator and international Master Trainer for Cirque Du Soleil.


GENERAL NAMES WORTH DROPPING LINK: Read about other alumni who are namels worth dropping.


CCM grad returns to primetime series

Diana Maria Riva, CCM '91, MFA (CCM) '95, returns to primetime television as a series regular in a new comedy starring George Lopez. The half-hour “Saint George” premiered on March 6, 2014, and shows at 9 p.m. ET on Thursdays on the FX channel.

In the show, Lopez plays a newly divorced working-class Mexican-American who has become a wealthy entrepreneurial businessman. Riva plays Lopez’s “tough and sexy” boss, as described in FX press materials. Her character, Concepcion, is the assistant principal at a downtown Los Angeles school, where she supervises Lopez teaching an evening history class — his way to give back to the community.


Psych grad now co-host, paranormal investigator on SyFy Channel's new TV series

Molly O’Connolly, A&S, is now a co-host and part of an investigative team of five people who travel around the world searching for legendary and loathsome historic figures, including Jack the Ripper in London and Vlad the Impaler in Romania. She invites TV viewers to watch them “investigating epic and purportedly haunted locations in search of answers to history’s most infamous and heinous crimes.”

The new SyFy Channel series, called "Contact Killer," premiered during primetime on Dec. 4, 2013. The first episode dealt with Jack the Ripper, with team members in London. Next they move to Romania to investigate Vlad the Impaler.

LINK: See full UC Magazine story on O'Connolly.

Grad wins Emmy for getting in people's hair at 'Sat. Night Live'

Cara Hannah Sullivan, Cler '97, M (CCM) '02, hairstylist and wigmaker on “Saturday Night Live,” took home a primetime Emmy in the fall of 2013. She and the rest of her SNL hairstyling team won the award for “Outstanding Hairstyling for a Multi-Camera Series or Special.”

The statue honored their work on two episodes — one featuring Zooey Deschanel in February 2012 and the other one featuring Jennifer Lawrence in January 2013.

CCM grad's 4th Emmy nomination

For the fourth year in a row, lighting director Travis Hagenbuch, CCM '07, received a primetime Emmy nomination for Outstanding Lighting Design in the category of Lighting Direction for a Variety Special. Winners were announced Sunday, Sept. 22, 2013. Hagenbuch and his team had been nominated for the televised Grammy Award broadcast that attracted 28.3 million viewers in February. Although they won Emmys for the previous two Grammy shows, as well as one for the preceding Olympic opening ceremony in Vancouver, they lost this year’s Emmy to the SuperBowl Halftiime Show.


Queen Latifah logo

Queen Latifah welcomes CCM alumnus

Three-time Emmy-winner Travis Hagenbuch, CCM '07, began working as the lighting director and director of photography for the “Queen Latifiah” show, which just started in September 2013. Hagenbuch is best known for his work on award shows and commemorative specials, including the following:

  • three Grammy Awards ceremonies
  • two Academy Awards ceremonies
  • four Academy of Country Music Awards ceremonies
  • one Primertiime Emmy Awards ceremony
  • one Tony Awards ceremony
  • one Winter Olympics opening ceremony
  • an Obama Inaugural Celebration

“I helped design the show over the summer,’ he says of the daytime talk show, “and so far it has been a nice change of pace from all the travel and late nights involved in the award shows and primetime TV specials — though I still plan to get out and do other shows now and then to keep things interesting.”


All Famous Alumni categories …

— page compiled by Deborah Rieselman / updated 10-14