Alumni Association honors 13 standout Penn Staters with Alumni Achievement Award

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — What do an FBI forensic expert, a Special Olympics International executive and a disaster specialist have in common? They all graduated from Penn State before launching their successful careers and have now been honored with the Alumni Achievement Award. 

Background details about these 13 accomplished alumni — 35 years of age and younger — are below. The honorees officially will be recognized next month, when they visit the University Park campus for guest lectures and a ceremony on April 8. 

Alumni Achievement Award recipients are nominated by an academic college or campus and invited by the president of the University to return to campus to share their expertise with students and the Penn State community. Honorees demonstrate to students that Penn State alumni succeed in exceptional fashion at an early age.

The Alumni Association Award began in 2005, and since then has honored 130 outstanding alumni, including this year's class. Award recipients also will meet and talk with students on the Thursday night before the awards ceremony at the Hintz Family Alumni Center, and many will guest lecture in classrooms to share insights on their successes in life and business. 

Following is a brief description of each honoree; full bios of these recipients will be posted on the Alumni Association’s website next month. You can also read about past honorees and view videos of their acceptance speeches by clicking here.   

James P. Brandau is a 2003 graduate of the Smeal College of Business. He is senior vice president at Brown Brothers Harriman & Co., a privately held financial services firm. Brandau and his team manage more than $4 billion in assets for private business owners, business executives, endowments, foundations, and high-net worth investors with more than $10 million in assets. Prior to joining Brown Brothers Harriman & Co., he was a private wealth adviser at Morgan Stanley Private Wealth Management from 2005–14, serving substantial private business owners and corporate executives.

Jill Jayne is a 2004 graduate of the College of Health & Human Development. She is the creator of "Jump with Jill," a music-based health program that is billed as the world’s only rock and roll nutrition show. "Jump with Jill" uses music and dance to celebrate healthy habits by transforming nutrition education into a live concert. Jayne, a registered dietitian, serves as writer and producer for the show’s music, scripts, video productions, and lesson plans. To scale the program, she casts and trains other Jills to perform the show across the country. To date, "Jump with Jill" has been performed more than 2,500 times to 750,000 children.

Bridget Lasda is a 2002 graduate of the College of Education. She is vice president of national accounts for Heineken USA. She began her career with The Coca-Cola Company, rising to become vice president of sales before joining Heineken USA in her current role. She views leadership as a form of coaching, and throughout her career has used her education as a teacher to lead and coach others. She not only coaches her team, but also has mentored women at Coca-Cola and students at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School.

Erin L. Marsh is a 2005 graduate of the College of Education. She is the math coach at Pierre Indian Learning Center in Pierre, S.D. She has dedicated the past 10 years to refining learning experiences that inspire children who have grown up in poverty to reach high levels of achievement in mathematics. Marsh hosts monthly professional learning communities at her school and presents research-based best practices instruction throughout South Dakota. Marsh’s job includes teaching students from 15 different American Indian tribes from South Dakota, North Dakota, and Nebraska. She recently started an after-school program for first- through eighth-graders called “Crazy 8s,” which features hands-on, STEM-based activities.

Brandon McCollum is a 2006 and 2008 graduate of the Eberly College of Science. He is a forensic examiner in the DNA Casework Unit at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, where he began in 2009 processing thousands of forensic DNA samples. Considered a subject matter expert in the areas of forensic serology and DNA, McCollum supports FBI criminal casework and counterterrorism investigations from all over the world. McCollum is also responsible for providing expert court testimony to explain the forensic results obtained from using the FBI’s most advanced tools in analyzing biological evidence. He has also achieved certification as an FBI adjunct faculty instructor in forensic biology.

Mandy Murphy is a 2002 graduate of the College of Communications. She is a Special Olympics International executive who is the account director overseeing and implementing a global partnership with ESPN. In 2015, that partnership included ESPN’s global presenting sponsorship of Special Olympics Unified Sports (which brings athletes with and without intellectual disabilities together as teammates and friends); official broadcast and multi-platform coverage of the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles by ESPN; and ESPN and ABC’s media partnership with the Special Olympics Unified Relay Across America. Murphy is the conduit and daily relationship executive between Special Olympics International and ESPN, working with teams in the U.S., Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, India, Australia, and other key international offices.

Krishna C. Nadella is a 2004 graduate of the Smeal College of Business. He is the head of Americas Sales for Portfolio Valuations & Regulatory Solutions at Bloomberg L.P., a global financial information and news leader. He is responsible for the company’s fixed income and OTC derivative valuation service, in addition to its regulatory services and solutions in both North and South America. Promoted to his current position in June 2013, Nadella has built and managed multiple sales desks for multiple firms, servicing clients in North and South America, Europe and Asia, dealing with all aspects of operations. Prior to joining Bloomberg L.P., Nadella was a director at Moody’s Corporation and vice president at Citigroup Global Markets Inc.

Aleks Radovic-Moreno is a 2005 graduate of the College of Engineering. He is a senior associate at PureTech, a cross-disciplinary health care technology research and development company located in Boston. Radovic-Moreno collaborates with fellow scientists and entrepreneurs to commercialize academic science into new companies to address the growing health needs of the world’s population. Radovic-Moreno was previously a research scientist at the biotech startup AuraSense Therapeutics, where he was a lead inventor of the company’s core immunotherapy platform, taking an idea from concept to preclinical evidence of applicability in cancer, infectious disease, and auto-immune disease. Radovic-Moreno completed his graduate work in chemical and biomedical engineering as a National Science Foundation Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Rachel C. Sayre is a 2011 graduate of the School of International Affairs. She is a senior disaster specialist for the U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). USAID is the leading government agency responsible for administering civilian foreign aid, working to end extreme global poverty. After being selected for the federal government’s prestigious Presidential Management Fellows Program, Sayre rose rapidly within USAID, becoming chief of staff to the chief information officer, and then senior adviser to the administrator of the agency. As senior disaster specialist, Sayre advises the agency’s leadership on policy for today’s most challenging complex emergencies, including in Yemen and Syria.

Scott E. Shirley is a 2003 and 2004 graduate of the College of Engineering. He is executive director of Uplifting Athletes and CEO of Pledge It. Uplifting Athletes is a national nonprofit inspiring the rare disease community with hope through the power of sport. Shirley established the organization while on the Penn State football team and started the inaugural “Lift For Life” event in 2003. In 2015, the Penn State chapter of Uplifting Athletes surpassed $1 million raised during the annual “Lift For Life.” Uplifting Athletes has chapters in every major college football conference, with student-athletes running each chapter. Uplifting Athletes has had an estimated economic impact of more than $400 million on the rare disease community.

Timothy D. Watson is a 2002 and 2005 graduate of the College of Earth & Mineral Sciences. He is senior geoscientist at Noble Energy, a leading independent energy company engaged in worldwide oil and gas exploration and production with core operations both onshore and offshore. Watson has more than 10 years of oil industry experience in an array of geologic and geophysical positions, predominantly focused onshore in the continental 48 states. He began his career in 2005 with ConocoPhillips. In 2008, Watson moved to Rosetta Resources, where he gained experience in both conventional and unconventional asset development, exploration and new ventures, as well as acquisitions and divestitures.

Ethan D. Wendle is a 2013 graduate of the College of Engineering. He is the co-founder, president, and CEO of DiamondBack Automotive Accessories, a company that designs, markets and manufactures a line of pickup truck covers and accessories. Wendle’s entrepreneurial skills and perseverance have led Diamondback from its founding in 2003 — while Wendle was a student at Penn State — to become a company with more than 40 employees located in Philipsburg, Pennsylvania. DiamondBack Truck Covers has been on the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest growing, private companies for the past three years. Today, DiamondBack operates in a 26,000-square-foot facility and grosses more than $6 million in annual revenue.

Gregory A. Zimmerman is a 2002 graduate from Penn State Erie, The Behrend College. He is the director of global application and product engineering for the SKF Aerospace business unit. SKF is a world leader in rolling bearings and related technologies, including sealing solutions, lubrication systems, mechatronics and services, with more than 48,000 employees located at 140 sites in 32 countries. Zimmerman leads a cross-functional, multinational team of engineers leveraging global resources to support SKF’s sales team and their customers. He also championed the creation of the SKF North America Aerospace Innovation Center, a research space in a $40 million technology complex, located within Knowledge Park at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College.

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Last Updated March 25, 2016