Thirteen young Penn Staters honored with Alumni Achievement Award

April 09, 2010

Thirteen young Penn State alumni will be honored for outstanding professional accomplishment and presented with the Penn State Alumni Association's Alumni Achievement Award at a dinner ceremony Friday (April 9) at The Nittany Lion Inn on the University Park campus.

The award winners, who live from “Chocolate Town” to “Tinseltown,” work in areas ranging from high-tech laser light shows and Internet startups to marketing buttery soft pretzels. These moguls-in-the-making are receiving the 2010 Alumni Achievement Award for reaching an extraordinary level of professional accomplishment, all by the age of 35 or younger. Academic colleges or campuses nominate young alumni who are then selected by a University-wide committee. Penn State President Graham B. Spanier invites them to return to campus for several days to share their expertise with students and the University community. The Alumni Achievement Award program began in 2005 and since then has honored 62 outstanding alumni.

Spanier will present each award recipient with a commemorative medal. The medal was commissioned by the Alumni Association and designed by internationally recognized artist Jeanne Stevens-Sollman, a 1972 graduate of Penn State's Master of Fine Arts program.

This year’s Alumni Achievement Award recipients, along with their year of graduation, current title, place of employment, and residence are:

•    Caroline Casagrande '99, assemblywoman in the New Jersey State Legislature, Colts Neck, N.J.
•    George Dodworth '99, owner of Lightwave International Inc., Eighty Four, Pa.;
•    Edward A. Faylo '02, plant manager for Eaton Corporation’s Clutch Division, Rock Hill, S.C.;
•    Christopher D. Krewson '98, editor of, Burbank, Calif.;
•    Holly Williams Leppo '98, partner and vice president of SMB&R Inc., York Springs, Pa.;
•    Paul M. Markowski '96, associate professor of meteorology at Penn State, State College, Pa.;
•    Heather Leed Neary '09g, chief marketing officer for Auntie Anne’s Inc., Lancaster, Pa.;
•    John D. Rusenko Jr. ’07, CEO and co–founder of, San Francisco;
•    Mark Shulman ’96, Northeast vice president for talent at AEG Live, Milburn, N.J.;
•    Matthew L. Silvis ’02g, assistant professor for family and community medicine, and orthopedics and rehabilitation at the Penn State College of Medicine, and medical director for primary care sports medicine at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Hershey, Pa.;
•    Brian Smithmyer ’05, photojournalist for CBS affiliate WHP–TV, Harrisburg, Pa.;
•    Rachel L. Tereska ’00, ’01g, founder and principal of Newell, Tereska & MacKay Engineering Inc., Hummelstown, Pa.;
•    Farnoosh Torabi ’02, personal finance author and journalist, New York City, N.Y.

For full biographical information about past award recipients, visit online.

More detailed biographical information on the 2010 Alumni Achievement Award recipients follows.

Caroline Casagrande ’99 was the youngest assemblywoman ever elected to the New Jersey State Legislature when she was elected in 2007. Currently, she serves on the Assembly’s Regulatory Oversight and Gaming Committee and the State Government Committee. Casagrande’s leadership in the state legislature has helped to improve the ethics and conflict of interest laws for elected and appointed public officials in New Jersey. Prior to being elected assemblywoman, she was a partner in the law firm of Menna, Supko and Casagrande in Shrewsbury, N.J. Casagrande began her political career at Penn State when she was elected Undergraduate Student Government president.

George Dodworth ’99 is owner of Lightwave International Inc., a multi-faceted production company headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pa. Lightwave International specializes in dazzling laser light shows and special effects for musical, corporate and civic events, producing shows for millions of audience members on every continent except Antarctica. Dodworth’s company -- which he started while a student at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College -- has designed laser shows for many international musical tours, including tours for Madonna, Korn, Ghostland Observatory, Fall Out Boy and Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters. In 2009 alone, Lightwave International received nine awards from the International Laser Display Association.

Edward A. Faylo ’02 is the plant manager for Eaton Corporation’s Clutch Division manufacturing facility in Charlotte, N.C. There, he oversees the operation of a $90 million clutch assembly plant, which manufactures clutches for the medium- and heavy-duty North American truck market. In previous Eaton roles, Faylo was responsible for leading the Lean manufacturing deployment process across a global $4 billion business sector, with more than 70 operations in North America, South America, Europe and Asia. He also was responsible for leading integration activities for multiple acquisitions in North America and Europe. Faylo has worked in operations and engineering roles with Boeing and General Motors and is recognized as an ASQ Certified Quality Engineer.

Christopher D. Krewson ’98 has been the editor of, a premier source of news about the entertainment industry, since February 2010. He oversees all editorial content on the Web site, as well as the ongoing development of Variety's vision and content strategy. Krewson started his career as a reporter at the Centre Daily Times in State College, Pa., before moving on to The Morning Call in Allentown, Pa., where he was online producer, online editor and multimedia editor. Before joining Variety, Krewson was executive online editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer. At Penn State, he was an arts writer for The Daily Collegian and editor of Penn State Hazleton’s The Highacres Collegian.

Holly Williams Leppo ’98 is a partner and vice president of SMB&R Inc., a mid-sized architecture and structural engineering firm located in Camp Hill, Pa. Leppo leads the firm’s architecture department. A registered architect and certified interior designer, Leppo was named one of Building Design and Construction’s “40 Under 40” in 2009. She is a LEED- (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) accredited professional and has co-authored technical review guides that prepare candidates for the LEED and Architecture Registration exams. After graduating from Penn State in 1998, Leppo received her master of architecture degree in 2000 from Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., and became a registered architect in 2004.

Paul M. Markowski ’96, an associate professor of meteorology at Penn State, is widely recognized for his improvement of severe weather warnings. Markowski’s analysis of VORTEX (Verification of the Origins of Rotation in Tornadoes Experiment) data has become textbook material on severe storms. He has now begun an even more ambitious follow-up to the original VORTEX project, VORTEX2. Beyond his research, Markowski has published numerous articles, authored a meteorology textbook used at more than 30 universities worldwide and contributed an article on thunderstorm safety to Golf Illustrated. Among his many honors, he’s received the National Science Foundation’s CAREER Award.

Heather Leed Neary ’09g is the chief marketing officer for Auntie Anne’s Inc., purveyor of buttery soft pretzels at more than 1,000 locations worldwide. Neary oversees marketing, menu development, communications and creative strategy for the Auntie Anne’s system. Under her leadership, sales grew from $275 million in 2006 to more than $357 million in 2009. Before joining Auntie Anne’s in 2005, Neary was a brand manager for Esselte Corporation, maker of office supplies. She also worked as managing editor for Advisor Media, a San Diego-based publisher of software and technology journals and magazines.

John D. Rusenko Jr. ’07 is the CEO and one of the founders of, a San Francisco-based tech startup. With more than 3 million users as of January 2010, Weebly offers a simple and powerful way to create a Web site, blog or online store. allows small businesses, teachers, professionals and individuals to easily design and publish a Web site. As a junior, Rusenko wrote a program for his IST 402 “Emerging Issues and Technologies” class that helped other students easily create an e-portfolio. The project eventually became Weebly, the company Rusenko launched with fellow Penn State students Dan Veltri ’07 and Chris Fanini in 2006.

Mark Shulman ’96 is the northeast vice president for talent at AEG Live, a leading producer of live entertainment and sports events. Shulman currently manages projects as diverse as music festivals, venue development and high-profile concerts. He created and supervised the construction of the Nokia Theatre Times Square, which has hosted artists such as Bon Jovi, The Eagles, Prince and Janet Jackson. Before joining AEG Live, Shulman worked for the Agency for the Performing Arts with artists such as The Black Crowes and Steve Miller Band, and for Metropolitan Entertainment, promoting shows at various New York venues with artists such as John Mayer and Lenny Kravitz.  

Matthew L. Silvis ’02g is an assistant professor for family and community medicine, and orthopedics and rehabilitation at the Penn State College of Medicine. He also is the medical director for primary care sports medicine at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. In addition to teaching first- and second-year medical students, Silvis developed and teaches a fourth-year elective in primary care sports medicine. In 2008 and 2009, he received the Exceptional Role Model and Exceptional Teacher awards. Before returning to Hershey, Silvis spent a year providing full-spectrum family medicine -- including emergency medicine and trauma -- in the Wyoming wilderness. He also is the team physician for the Hershey Bears Hockey Club and the Harrisburg Senators baseball organization.

Brian Smithmyer ’05, a photojournalist for CBS affiliate WHP-TV in Harrisburg, Pa., handles assignments from daily news coverage to special investigative reports. In 2008, Smithmyer played a vital role in the award-winning investigative coverage, “Harrisburg’s Hall of Shame,” documenting a con artist’s scheme that defrauded the city of Harrisburg of tens of thousands of dollars. For that coverage, Smithmyer won two 2008 first-place Associated Press awards in the Enterprise/Individual Reporting and Continuing Coverage categories; a 2009 Mid-Atlantic Emmy in the Continuing Coverage category; and a 2009 Edward R. Murrow Award, recognizing the spirit of excellence that Murrow made a standard for the broadcast news profession. Smithmyer started with WHP-TV as a production assistant. 

Rachel L. Tereska ’00, ’01g is a founder and principal of Newell, Tereska & MacKay Engineering Inc., a women-owned engineering firm in Dillsburg, Pa. The firm provides professional engineering design and training services in hydrology, hydraulics and waterway permitting for public- and private-sector clients. In particular, Tereska conducts hydrologic and hydraulic analyses for bridge and culvert replacement projects, primarily for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. Tereska also has instructed a portion of a Professional Engineer review course for different organizations. Tereska, Donna Newell ’93, ’96g and two other partners founded Newell, Tereska & MacKay Engineering in 2006.

Farnoosh Torabi ’02 is a personal finance author and journalist. In 2008, Torabi published "You’re So Money: Live Rich Even When You’re Not," a book for young adults searching for financial independence. Currently, she is the host and money coach for SoapNet’s new series “Bank of Mom and Dad,” focusing on young women struggling with debt. Torabi is a contributing editor to Seventeen magazine, and AOL’s Her second book about formulating a financial philosophy and building personal wealth is due out later this year. Previously, Torabi was senior financial correspondent and host of “Wall Street Confidential” with Jim Cramer for

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated April 05, 2012