Sam Kass, LAB’98, AB’04. (Tyler Golden/NBC)


Highlights from the latest alumni news columns.

Top chef

Former White House chef Sam Kass, LAB’98, AB’04, is now a senior food analyst for NBC News. Kass, who was also a senior policy adviser on nutrition in the Obama Administration and the executive director of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign, provides commentary on Today and NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt and writes a monthly online column for Today Food.

Artistic expression

Composer, performer, and multimedia artist Francisco Castillo Trigueros, PhD’13, won the University’s 2015 Claire Rosen and Samuel Edes Prize for Emerging Artists, given to a recent graduate. The $30,000 prize will allow Trigueros to spend a year completing his current project, a song cycle about the town of Xilitla, Mexico.

North to the future

James R. Johnsen, AM’96, has taken the helm as president of the University of Alaska. A former business executive and administrator at the university, Johnsen is focusing on diversifying revenue sources and streamlining administrative services, graduating more educators, and supporting research that benefits the State of Alaska.

Making a big bang

Jeremiah P. Ostriker, PhD’64, is a recipient of the 2015 Gruber Prize in Cosmology. Presented by the Gruber Foundation at Yale under guidance from the International Astronomical Union, this year’s prize honors Ostriker’s theoretical contributions to the big bang theory, including his early formulation of what is now called dark matter and dark energy. Ostriker is professor emeritus at Princeton University, where he has taught for five decades.

Studying humanities

The Clemente Course in the Humanities, a series of college-level classes designed to improve the lives of low-income adults, has received a National Humanities Medal. Founded in 1995 by Earl Shorris, EX’54, at Manhattan’s Roberto Clemente Family Guidance Center, the series currently offers 30 Clemente Courses at colleges and universities nationwide.

Energy expert

Mark Peters, PhD’92, is the new director of the Idaho National Laboratory, which focuses on nuclear energy research and development. Formerly the associate laboratory director for Argonne National Laboratory’s energy and global security division, Peters is also a senior adviser to the US Department of Energy and a 2015 fellow of the American Nuclear Society.

Constitutional authority

Michael Gerhardt, JD’82, has become the first independent scholar to advise the Library of Congress in updating the US Constitution Annotated (CONAN), the official documentation of the Constitution and its legal interpretation over time. A professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law, Gerhardt has advised congressional leaders and White House officials on a variety of issues, and is the only legal scholar to have participated in the confirmation hearings of five out of the nine current Supreme Court justices.

Fatherly leadership

John Kartje, AB’87, SM’89, PhD’95, has been appointed rector and president of Saint Mary of the Lake/Mundelein Seminary, the principal seminary and school of theology in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago. Trained as an astrophysicist at UChicago, Kartje became a priest in 2002 and has been on the seminary faculty since 2009.

Music man

Composer Philip Glass, AB’56, has two major works premiering next year. The Witches of Venice, an opera-ballet for children, is scheduled to have its American debut at Opera Saratoga’s 2016 Summer Festival. Glass is also composing the score for a 2016 Broadway revival of Arthur Miller’s 1953 play The Crucible.

Cultural leader

The DuSable Museum of African American History has appointed attorney and architect Perri Irmer, JD’91, as president and CEO. Irmer is seeking to expand the museum’s reach through partnerships with cultural and educational organizations and businesses. As a lifelong Hyde Park and Kenwood resident, she says she has a “vested interest in the museum’s success, in maintaining its independence and preserving its philosophical mission.”

Star power

Warner Bros. is developing a film about astrophysicist Carl Sagan, AB’54, SB’55, SM’56, PhD’60, popularly known for writing and hosting the TV show Cosmos and for his research on extraterrestrial life. The movie will be produced by Sagan’s widow, Ann Druyan, and a producer of Contact and Interstellar.