News & Events

Pingry News & Events

More News

Pingry People

Through the Years

Jennifer Joel '94

Class of 1994

Appropriately, literary agent Jennifer Joel ’94 has been a voracious reader from an early age, always drawn to books and storytelling. Participating in drama at Pingry, she focused on storytelling and context, and learned how to read texts critically. Ms. Joel is captivated by the process of storytelling and why people tell their stories, and decided on a joint major in Literature and History at Harvard University to indulge in books for four years.

Seeking to work at the highest level of the entertainment business in New York, Ms. Joel became an entertainment and media analyst for Goldman Sachs, learning what drives the business aspects of entertainment. When that job ended, she continued to read novels and considered working in publishing. As an agent (combining editorial and sales), she would look at the “big picture” of a book’s content and try to sell the work to a publisher; as a publisher (combining editorial and marketing), she would focus more on refinement and promoting the book.

Ms. Joel knew a lot about sales, so she became an assistant at the literary agency Sanford J. Greenburger Associates, educated herself about the publishing industry, and began to sell books. She then joined ICM Partners as a literary agent for fiction and non-fiction, ultimately becoming a partner and Co-Head of the Publishing Department. Through successes and failures, she learned what works and what doesn’t work to sell a book. One of her notable successes: turning a one-man Broadway play by Billy Crystal (700 Sundays) into a memoir. Her other clients have included Chris Cleave, Shonda Rhimes, and other prominent writers.

Ms. Joel has said that writers entrust agents with their fiscal lives and their dreams, and she believes that an agent who believes in those dreams is inspired to go the extra mile.

Jennifer Joel '94 yearbook portrait

Randy Velischek

Pingry takes great pride in having industry experts as teachers and coaches whenever possible. One example is former professional ice hockey player Randy Velischek, who graced Pingry’s classrooms and coached in the rink from 2007–2009.

For over 10 years, in the 1980s and 1990s, Mr. Velischek competed in several leagues, especially the NHL. He played for the Minnesota North Stars (today, the Dallas Stars), the Quebec Nordiques (today, the Colorado Avalanche), and for five years, the New Jersey Devils. After his playing days, he worked for 11 years (1995–2006) as a color commentator for the Devils’ radio broadcasts and then joined Pingry in 2007.

He spent two years teaching French and German in the Middle and Upper Schools, and he coached Middle School Boys Ice Hockey. Mr. Velischek’s arrival in the language classrooms coincided with the first year of Grade 6 on the Basking Ridge Campus, so he was able to help with teaching the extra influx of students; the Language Department Chair at the time remembers Mr. Velischek’s humility and says that students admired his professional playing background, soft-spoken personality, and supportive attitude.

One Pingry graduate who played ice hockey in Middle School remembers Mr. Velischek’s focus on skill development during practice, assessing each player's experience and skill level and coaching accordingly. This player is also grateful that Mr. Velischek put him in a formal leadership position for the first time, which helped develop his confidence.

In 2009, Mr. Velischek stated that he had developed new respect for teachers and teaching: “I’ve been coaching kids of all ages for 25 years, but the classroom challenge is as great as any I’ve faced. I’m fortunate to have entered this profession—it’s the most rewarding experience I’ve ever had.”

Randy Velischek in the classroom


Chandra Cain Davis '89

Class of 1989

Chandra Cain Davis ’89 likes people and stories and always wanted to be a lawyer. Growing up, she was told that her solid arguments made her persuasive. With that combination of people, stories, and persuasive arguments, law proved to be her career path.

After 12 years at Pingry, Ms. Davis majored in International Studies at Emory University, then earned a Master of Education at the University of Georgia and a law degree at the University of Michigan Law School, where she was exposed to employment law and served as an editor of the law journal, the Michigan Law Review. She decided that employment law would offer the opportunity to make a huge impact by ensuring that employers are compliant with the law and treat their employees properly.

She has handled employment litigation in federal and state courts, representing employers and employees in lawsuits brought under federal laws, and has investigated cases for Fortune 500 manufacturing companies and nationally renowned hospitals. She has also worked as a trial attorney for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

In 2013, Ms. Davis was a co-founding partner of The Employment Law Solution (ELS), an African American–owned, woman-owned law firm. Working with national and international clients, Ms. Davis found that she loved being able to train managers and employees on “how to work in a diverse environment and stay on the right side of the law.”

As of 2022, Ms. Davis left ELS to become Associate General Counsel for Employment at WestRock, an international packaging company with 50,000 employees. She provides legal support to WestRock’s headquarters, as well as offices in the southern region of the U.S., the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico, working to improve the lives of the company’s workers.

1989_Cain_Chandra_Furaha Yearbook Portrait

Gary Liu '01

Class of 2001

Pingry gave Gary Liu ’01 a skill that he considered invaluable in launching his career: learning how to learn, and learning how to learn quickly. He believes that that aptitude enabled him to transition to his first job in the technology industry once he realized that his original career choice didn’t appeal to him.

In the technology field, Mr. Liu worked for companies such as Google, AOL, Spotify, and the online content curator Digg, of which he became CEO. Coupling the education at Pingry with his college years at Harvard, where he majored in Economics, he felt prepared to teach himself about new industry patterns, technologies, and platforms. He fine-tuned his leadership style to focus more on accountability to his workers and the company, instead of just giving directions; he had learned the value of a familial environment at Pingry.

Since 2017, Mr. Liu has lived in Hong Kong and served as CEO of the South China Morning Post, an English-language news media company that has reported on China and Asia for over 100 years. In this role, he seeks to broaden people’s understanding of China and the news. After he took over leadership of the company, two massive stories engulfed the entire newsroom: anti-government street protests and then the COVID-19 pandemic. For the former, he kept open lines of communication and made sure that reporters were on a strict rotation; for the latter, the company made sure it was not unnecessarily putting journalists in harm’s way.

Some of Mr. Liu’s lessons from his career and observing changes in technology: Slow down and don’t jump to conclusions; it is always more worthwhile to listen and learn than to speak; and take the time to formulate your answers.



Dr. Billy Cunningham '77

Class of 1977

Disparities among populations are all-too-common in the United States, so Dr. William “Billy” Cunningham ’77 devoted his career to advocating for the health of marginalized communities. A 27-year member of the faculty of UCLA, where he was a Professor of Medicine and Public Health, he was an in-depth researcher with a passion for knowledge.

He taught graduate-level courses on racial disparities and health, and was director or co-director of programs that involved mentoring of trainees—most from underrepresented students of color in the field—who were aspiring to enter the medical and/or public health professions. Dr. Cunningham also published more than 140 peer-reviewed papers and was a reviewer for the American Journal of Public Health.

Dr. Cunningham was a national leader in addressing racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities among populations living with, or at risk of, HIV. He led a program, LINK L.A. (the first of its kind), which helped HIV-positive men who were released from prison continue to receive medical care. He also led numerous studies, including one that showed the choices some people need to make between receiving medical care and education, or medical care versus food. In an interview, he commented on what he viewed as the artificial division of funding that then requires decisions about which areas to fund. “People shouldn't have to make a choice between starving or bleeding to death,” he said in an interview.

Among many other organizations, Dr. Cunningham was a member of the National Medical Association; the International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care; Fielding School’s UCLA Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Equity; and the Center for the Study of Racism, Social Justice & Health.


Laurinda Stockwell

Award-winning artist Laurinda Stockwell taught at Pingry from 2000 to 2012; her courses spanned the Upper and Middle School, including Photography, Art Fundamentals, Clayworking, Jewelry, and Art for sixth-grade students. She has been exhibiting her photography, glass, and paintings in galleries, museums, and other venues nationally and internationally for over 40 years. While she was at Pingry, her work was seen in multiple exhibitions (sometimes simultaneously) and she worked on a commission for NJ Transit. After leaving Pingry, she moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico to become a full-time artist.

Her artwork originates in her love of nature and the outdoor environment. “I am interested in the intersection between naturalistic detail and abstraction, defining the push-and-pull between memory and impressions of observation,” Ms. Stockwell writes in her Artist Statement. “How much detail do I need to relay accurately in order to define subject matter? What is the initial impression from observation versus detailed study of the observed subject? I feel most satisfied in my process when I don’t really know what I’m doing but I allow the painting to guide me organically . . . I strive for a freshness that suggests the organic subject matter. I want there to be an element of surprise and wonder.”

Among her public art commissions in New Jersey is a wall of glass, with photographic images of water fused into the glass, for Atlanticare Hospital in Atlantic City. To bring it to fruition, she worked with artisans in a glass studio in Munich. Titled “Ocean,” the wall is meant to have a calming effect on hospital patients and visitors.




Captain David Baird '92

Class of 1992

Captain Baird ’92 is committed to helping ensure our nation’s security and pursued a career in the military partly because of Pingry’s Honor Code and its emphasis on ethical behavior, partly to work in an environment with similar core values, and partly to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, a Naval aviator. He believed it is important to serve, and that the military seemed like an exciting and rewarding way to do so.

After graduating with a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy, he reported to Navy flight school and completed master’s degrees in International Relations. In the Navy, he has flown supersonic fighter jets from aircraft carriers, and flown combat missions over Afghanistan and Iraq. He has endless gratitude to the sailors who maintain the aircraft, as he is fully aware of the teamwork needed to prepare a jet for missions off an aircraft carrier, and the fact that the sailors work hard in dangerous environments, including snowstorms and incredibly hot weather.

He has logged over 3,500 flight hours and 800 arrested landings. His decorations include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal (two awards), Navy Commendation Medal (five awards, one with combat distinguishing device), Navy Achievement medal, and various unit, service, and campaign awards. For Captain Baird, a military career encompasses leadership and mentorship; serving as an ambassador of the U.S. and helping promote stability and security throughout the world; and playing a role in missions that can only be completed by the military.

Captain Baird is Commanding Officer of the Navy’s largest European base, U.S. Naval Station Rota, Spain.


First page of the PDF file: 2017-01-27CareerDayUS_1458_1


Elana Drell-Szyfer '87

Class of 1987

A veteran of the cosmetics industry, Elana Drell-Szyfer ’87 credits Pingry with helping her land an entry-level position, namely because the School developed her love of French—an important influence and language in the cosmetics industry—global travel, and the aesthetics of Art History.

Ms. Drell-Szyfer has seen it all during her career, which has included time with industry giants such as Avon, L’Oréal, and Estée Lauder (“I tried to learn everything I could about my business and the competition. I treated preparation for big meetings like studying for a test”), as well as smaller, independently owned companies. She is a three-time CEO, leading AHAVA Dead Sea Laboratories, Laura Geller Beauty, and currently RéVive Skincare. One of her key lessons about succeeding in the industry: a brand must speak to the “head and heart” of its customers.

Along with her leadership roles, Ms. Drell-Szyfer is an Operating Advisor at Tengram Capital Partners, where she advises on Tengram’s beauty portfolio and helps source new investments. She also serves on the Board of Algenist Skincare and Cos Bar, the specialty retailer, and previously served on the boards of Nest Fragrances and This Works Skincare.

Among her numerous honors are the James E. Marshall Foundation Beyond Beauty Award and March of Dimes Spirit of Beauty Award, and being named a “Woman of Influence” by UJA’s (United Jewish Appeal) New York Chapter. She has also been named a “Woman to Watch” by Jewish Women International and was named as one of the “50 Most Influential Jewish Americans” by The Forward.




Ron Rice, Jr. '86

Class of 1986

“Life changing” is how Ron Rice, Jr. ’86 describes his Pingry experience. Compared with his “homogenous community in Newark, NJ of mainly African American families,” he says Pingry offered connections with students from varied backgrounds, he discovered the Honor Code, and he learned about keeping one’s word and the importance of hard work. “I felt safe and protected, and knew that I had several individuals who were invested in my future and my becoming the best version of myself post-Pingry.”

Because Mr. Rice came from an economically disadvantaged community and a family with a record of public service, one Pingry memory relates to awareness. “I was always a world-conscious student focused on solving inequities within our nation and the world. When my friends and I decided to create The Awareness Society to help educate others at Pingry about how the other half lived, I initially thought it would be met with reasons why it would not work. Instead, teachers stepped up to help.”

In his career, Mr. Rice has sought to continue solving inequities, first as a two-term City Councilman in Newark. “Education was personal for me. The failure to deliver a challenging curriculum in urban areas is detrimental to the American dream, so education became a big part of my platform—to fundamentally change the offerings of Newark schools.” His solution was to create and expand charter schools.

That motivation provided a natural transition to his current position, Senior Director for Government Relations with the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools in Washington, D.C. The alliance seeks to build a strong charter school network across the country, which means that Mr. Rice advocates for the next generation. “Parents need choices for their children’s education, and charter schools should be part of the menu.”



Ed Scott, Jr.

Edward Scott, Jr., a member of the Magistri and an accomplished runner, taught and coached at Pingry from 1968 to 1995. In his first years on the faculty, he taught drafting, mechanical drawing, woodshop, and arithmetic, but spent most of his 27 years teaching P.E. As a coach, he started with track and field his first year, then added cross country in 1979, with football and freshman basketball also part of the mix.

Mr. Scott came to Pingry with considerable success as a runner, winning meets at the high school, county, central New Jersey, and state levels. Working with Pingry’s teams, he focused on individual runners and helping each athlete improve. Speaking with The Pingry Record for a profile in November 1982, he stated, “It is just as good a feeling seeing the last-place guy improve as it is seeing the first-place finisher improve.”

However, every runner trying to become “the best” was not a priority for him. In an article for The Pingry Record in June 1984, Mr. Scott explained that he wanted to help athletes accept their ability and level of competitiveness. “I am very much against the over-indulgence toward the rank of being number one,” he said. Indeed, those who ran for him, and the students who learned from him in P.E. class, remember his kindness and constant encouragement to work harder.

Among his accolades, fellow coach Victor Nazario honored him in 1997 by establishing Pingry’s annual Ed Scott Middle School Invitational, and Mr. Scott was inducted into Pingry’s Athletics Hall of Fame in 2001, recognizing his career record of 343-141-3 and impact on Pingry athletics.



Rebecca Mozo '00

Class of 2000

Award-winning actress Rebecca Mozo ’00 is drawn to the stage like a magnet—ever since high school, the stage has felt like home. Thanks to a childhood friend who convinced her to audition for a neighborhood musical, Ms. Mozo fell in love with theater, became an active participant in Pingry’s drama program, and used her Independent Senior Project to write and perform her own play.

“My time at Pingry was so much about discovery—discovering the theater and finding myself through the creative process of telling stories,” she said. A significant part of storytelling involves the authenticity of one’s character, and Ms. Mozo is committed to honesty and authenticity in all aspects of life because of the enduring value of the Honor Code. Plus, at Pingry, she learned about commitment. “In life, on stage, in your work, in your relationships—commit fully. The really great things happen when you are present.”

Speaking of discovery and great things happening, Ms. Mozo shares a memory of performing the title role in Pingry’s 1999 production of the Stephen Schwartz/Joseph Stein musical The Baker’s Wife. “We needed a big cast, and we needed more male performers, but we were having difficulty getting people . . . Being on stage can be daunting and scary, vulnerable . . . we were able to recruit all these great guys, most of them athletes. They jumped in, committed, and ended up loving it. I loved watching them discover theater; we created this terrific community and built that show like a band of unlikely misfits. It reminds me that anything is possible.”

Along with her career on stage, film, and television, including appearances on Grey’s Anatomy, Modern Family, and The Young and the Restless, Ms. Mozo narrates audiobooks and, in 2020, won AudioFile’s “Earphones Award” for her narration of Martin L. Shoemaker’s science fiction story The Last Campaign.




Andre Birotté, Jr. '83

Class of 1983 

The Honorable Andre Birotté, Jr. ’83, a federal judge in California, was supposed to have gone into medicine to follow in his father’s footsteps as a doctor, but it didn’t work out that way. Chemistry class at Tufts University was not a strength, and the medical field as a whole did not interest him, so... enter Court TV? Yes, indeed.

“Seeing real trials about real issues grabbed me,” he said. “I liked watching lawyers in court, and I liked the drama of trials. I am inherently a shy person, but I was hooked on the drama and storytelling that take place in a courtroom.” With a trip across the country from New Jersey to California, to attend Pepperdine University School of Law, he began his pursuit of a law career.

Over the years, Judge Birotte assumed a series of jobs: deputy public defender; Assistant U.S. Attorney; at a law firm, representing individuals charged with white-collar crime; Assistant Inspector General with the Los Angeles Police Department, then Inspector General of the department; U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California (the first African American in the position, nominated by President Barack Obama); and now, a United States District Judge of the United States District Court for the Central District of California. He was nominated by President Obama and unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Through it all, Judge Birotté has benefited from three constants: mentors, Pingry, and its Honor Code. “Pingry taught me how to raise the bar with my work ethic. Integrity and good judgment are fundamental qualities.”




Claudia Hu '16


Claudia Hu ’16 thought she wanted to be a doctor when she was growing up, but after starting to play the piano at age six, she improved to the point where she couldn’t envision giving up music. It was in high school that she first considered dedicating her college experience to piano, and she ended up majoring in Classical Piano Performance at Manhattan School of Music. Her next step: a master’s degree in Classical Piano Performance at her alma mater.

Already in her young career—and even before she graduated from Pingry—Claudia has won competitions and performed in summer music festivals and renowned concert halls, such as Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall and Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall. In 2014, she appeared as soloist with the Plainfield Symphony, and she has performed concertos with other orchestras.

Asked once what she considers the most important quality in a pianist, Claudia responded with several attributes that have to do with one’s state of mind: be calm and introspective, and become familiar with the background of a piece of music as well as the life of its composer.

For one of her competitions during high school, Claudia wrote an essay about her goals for a career in music. "One of my main goals is to learn from every single performance, even the concerts that I am just watching. Another one of my goals is to inspire others to play and listen to classical music. I want others to see how beautiful and passionate it can be . . . By performing and encouraging others to listen to music, I hope I can continue this tradition by inspiring the younger community to learn about classical music."



Dr. Bon Ku '91

Class of 1991

How do doctors make a difference? In the case of Dr. Bon Ku ’91, he tackles all sorts of challenges as an Emergency Medicine physician at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, and he made it his mission to address lots of other challenges as Co-Founder and Director of the Jefferson Health Design Lab. If the concept of a “health design” lab seems unusual, that’s because it is unusual—Dr. Ku is bringing the concept of “design thinking,” which relies on imagination and creativity, to the healthcare field.

Finding novel solutions in medicine requires keen problem solving, and Pingry equipped Dr. Ku in that area. “Pingry emphasized the principles of a STEAM curriculum years before this pedagogy was popularized in education,” he said. “A blended approach to education that emphasizes the arts as equally as science and math kept me from being trapped in my own silo of expertise and made me a better problem solver.”

The School also gave Dr. Ku “a safe environment to explore, create, and imagine,” such as the power of improvisation through the baritone saxophone, and learning to think critically and communicate precisely in English classes. Above all, at Pingry he learned how to fail, “one of the biggest lessons in life. Learning how to fail fast—a core principle of design thinking—can increase our ability to deal with uncertainty and accelerate problem solving.”

Illustrating the importance of improvising and problem solving: Dr. Ku has been part of a mobile vaccination team setting up clinics in parking lots, streets, and parks to give Philadelphians access to the COVID-19 vaccine.



Frederick Trapnell '17

Class of 1917

The International Air & Space Hall of Fame welcomed Frederick M. Trapnell, Class of 1917, as a 2015, posthumous inductee (he died in 1975) to recognize his tremendous influence on the U.S. Navy and the history of naval aviation.

He spent 29 years in the Navy, 26 of them as a naval aviator, becoming the foremost engineering test pilot in a century (attributed to his superb skills as an aviator and a diagnostician of airplane behavior). His talents would help the Navy modernize its aircraft and initiate advanced procedures for naval air testing and development.

Two of his most significant accomplishments contributed to the U.S.’s victory in World War II—the development of two fighter airplanes, the Corsair and Hellcat. Regarding the Hellcat: standard Navy approval cycles required six to eight months of testing before starting production of an airplane, but the Navy needed a fighter with superior performance. So, the Bureau of Aeronautics agreed that, if Trapnell approved the production model, the bureau would authorize production. He completed his test flights in one day, made a few recommendations, and the Hellcat became the most successful fighter in naval aviation history.

During the war, Trapnell became the first Navy pilot to fly America’s first jet airplane and, following the war, he guided the Navy through the transition to a new jet age. His principles: test pilots should be superb fliers with a firm grasp of aerodynamics and aircraft mechanics, as well as the vocabulary to communicate with aeronautical engineers, and flight tests must probe every aspect of an airplane’s operation and behaviors.

For his achievements, U.S. Navy Vice Admiral Trapnell is celebrated as the “Godfather of Modern Naval Aviation” and “Premier Navy Test Pilot of All Time.”