Alumni in the News

Anna '14 is the daughter of Stacy Thomas Spracklin '83 

Steve Brunner '80: International...Sports...Olympics

Tell us a little bit about King of the Mountain Sports Marketing?

King of the Mountain Sports Marketing is a company I founded when I left the U.S. Olympic Committee more than 14 years ago. We’re mainly a sports events-based marketing and communications company. We work in the Olympic and endurance (mainly professional cycling) space. We’ve been the marketing agency for many of the top professional cycling races in the U.S. but also have worked several World Championships for various sports, including most recently lacrosse and wrestling. We’ve also represented several athletes over the years and done some consulting. A small crew but big world-class events.

You were very active with the United States Olympic Committee, is that how you ended up living in Colorado Springs? 

When I left the U.S. Olympic Committee several years ago, I knew I wanted to found my own company. I always liked the agency business and I’m not a corporate-kind-of-guy. Colorado Springs, where I was living, had no real sports marketing agencies in the Olympic world, and it seemed logical to start here. Plus, my whole family is outdoorsy and likes it here.

Early in your career I know you were one of the country’s foremost experts in cycling, how did that come about?  Were you into bike racing? 

My roots go back to covering the races at the Velodrome in Kenosha for the newspaper. I did that for two summers while in college. I always liked the sport and wanted to try it competively but never had the money for a bike as a kid. After I ran in college, I wanted to keep competing and took up triathlons and duathlons and probably was better as a multi-sport athlete than just a runner. I fell in love with the bike. Then, I got offered a job to work the Tour de Trump (yes, named after Donald Trump) and moved out east to work on that event, which was a 12-day bike race patterned after the Tour de France. The race went through places like New York, Boston, Washington. It got me vested in the sport and the culture which I liked.

Who are some of the people you’ve worked for in your career?

I worked for Donald Trump and Ted Turner for starters. I was young and somewhat green and had to present to them which made me sharpen my skills quickly. Both were world-class characters. Ted Turner was one of the smartest guys I ever met. Brilliant. One of my biggest influences, however, was a guy named Mike Plant. He was an Olympic speed skater who grew up in Milwaukee. He was my first real boss and I worked for him on two occasions. Unbelievable work ethic and a guy who was street smart and unrelenting in getting things done. He’s one of the Atlanta Braves’ presidents now. I also worked for Jim Scherr on two occasions. He went on to become the CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee. He was a former Olympic wrestler who was super smart and understood long-term strategies. In my opinion one of the best CEOs the USOC has seen.

Who are some of the athletes you’ve worked with or met in your career?

I’ve been super fortunate in my career. I worked with the original Dream Team and met all those guys like Larry Bird to Magic Johnson to Michael Jordan. I’ve also met almost all of the world’s top cyclists of the past couple decades including Greg Lemond, Lance Armstrong. And, Olympic icons  like Bob Beamon, Jim Ryan, Carl Lewis, Dan Gable, and Mary Lou Retton, and more contemporaries like Rulon Gardner, Michael Phelps, speedskater Apollo Ohno and Dan O’Brien (former decathlon world record holder). Boxers Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson, Marvin Hagler, and Joe Frazier. In my business, I’m not really star struck, even as a huge sports fan growing up. I’ve never asked for an autograph because I thought it was not being professional. The athletes that haveleft an impression have been the ones that surprised themselves and won a gold medal like Rulon Gardner or won a race breaking through as a youngster trying to make it in the pros.

You have been all over the world covering sports and involved in the Olympics, where is the coolest place you have been? 

Really I never thought a kid from the (then) blue collar city of Kenosha, WI, would go so many places and be a part of so many cool sporting events. We staged an event that finished at the Great Wall in China in the 1990s, well before the country was open to a lot of Westerners. I’ve been on the set of The Tonight Show three times with three different athletes. I’ve worked six Olympics on four continents. Sydney ranks among the top for cities but going to Beijing and last year to Tel Aviv and is just so different. On the personal front, I love New Zealand where I bungee-jumped off a 365-foot bridge  and  then just this summer I ran in the Scottish Highlands through shades of green I didn’t know existed.

Going local for a minute, if it was game day at Newman Park and everyone was in their prime, you have first pick for an old-fashioned Newman Nugget baseball game, who ya’ takin? 

Man, that’s stretching the boundaries of the memory bank. I do remember playing baseball, basketball and football literally everyday growing up in the Newman Park district. That said, probably Paul Grochowski. He batted left-handed, had a sweet swing and the home run was the pavement and the field was short going to right.

I know you were recently back in KTown, did you get a chance to do anything KTownish while you were here? 

I was back for my brother’s daughter’s wedding. Visited a lot of family. Had to have Pizza. Had to go to The SpotCommon Grounds downtown for coffee. Drove my youngest son, who is in high school, past my old-school St. Joseph. Kenosha is not short on great food. There is NOWHERE in the world with better pizza or Italian food than K-town. I think my five best pizzas are in Kenosha. Oh, and I made the annual stop to Tenutas. You’re blessed with great food and great people in Kenosha.

What do you miss most about your hometown?

Family, food, and running at Parkside. The lakefront isn’t bad either.

What is next on the horizon for Kenosha’s own King of the Mountain? 

Things are never dull in sports marketing. I am working on a big one-day professional race in Baltimore and just got done working a world lacrosse event (in Canada). Believe it or not, I’ve been back in Wisconsin and meeting with various officials on a world-class event in a TBD city for 2021 or 2022. We’ll see what happens. FYI, unfortunately it’s not Kenosha.

You’ve obviously interviewed and worked with some of the giants of the sports industry, who were you most “star struck” by? 

Not Bob Costas, he’s on my least favorite list. I’ve met a lot of great people, many with A-type tendencies, which can be perceived as arrogant or selfish, but you learn that most world-class athletes all have that trait in common to become the best.  On the athlete front. maybe Magic Johnson or Larry Bird because I was a big basketball player in my formative years when they were stars. Like a true Kenoshan, I’ve always tried to stay humble and do my job, not stray into idol worship. My mom and dad always raised us to treat everyone the same. I’ve tried to carry that throughout my life and career.

Last question….be honest, the King of the Mountain name really came from running up the side of a 30-foot around, 20 foot high chunk of ice in the corner of the St. Mary’s playground only to get thrown down on our faces, right? 

That’s hilarious and true at the same time. Judging by the number of fights or crazy things I did as a kid like King of the Mountain on a snow hill in a parking lot, I’m glad to have made it out of childhood alive. KING OF THE MOUNTAIN is a cycling term, but, also is a nod to location of the company which is in the shadows of Pikes Peak here in Colorado Springs.  10.2.2019


Grace Kessler '12 daughter of Rick & Jeanne Huck Kessler '77


The Catholic Herald | 

For a lot of students who are approaching their eighth grade graduation, the process of selecting a high school can be daunting — overwhelming, even.

Not so for Dr. Grace Kessler, PT, DPT. In fact, for Kessler, it was a decision that was made even before junior high began. As she finished up sixth grade at St. Mary Parish School (now part of the All Saints school system), she knew that her future was at St. Joseph Catholic Academy (SJCA). At the time, the school served students in grades seven through 12; it has since expanded to include preschool and elementary school.

It was a transition that was “seamless,” said Kessler. Her mother and other family members before her were St. Joseph graduates. “It was where I wanted to be.”

In her four years of high school at SJCA, Kessler said she found an environment of support, fellowship and virtue that laid the groundwork for the life and career she enjoys today as a physical therapist in the St. Louis area.

“Having those experiences in high school ultimately allowed me to make better decisions for my future,” she said.

A diverse menu of extracurricular activities, a model of personalized instruction and genuine community are all hallmarks of a Catholic high school education in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, according to data compiled from a recent research study of Catholic high school graduates.

The study’s conclusions suggest that Kessler’s experience at SJCA is typical of many graduates of the Archdiocese’s 16 high schools. Catholic high school respondents were 22 percent more likely to attend college immediately following high school graduation and 29 percent more likely to earn a bachelor’s, master’s or Ph.D/advanced degree, as Kessler did at St. Louis University. Catholic high school graduates were also more likely to develop values like compassion, integrity and respect.

Grace Kessler’s story

Kessler began her freshman year at SJCA in 2009 and quickly became involved in volleyball and music, singing in choir, serving as cantor at Masses and performing in musical theater productions. The smaller class sizes offered by the school meant more meaningful interaction with her teachers and fellow students, she said.

“You get to know everyone a little better,” she said. “I had the ability to be involved in tons of different things and meet tons of different people and really develop relationships with people not only in my graduating class, but really, with all ages. To this day, I still have relationships with people who did not necessarily graduate with me.”

Reflecting on her time at SJCA, what Kessler remembers most is the “Lancer Value system” — spirituality, humility, generosity, respect, acceptance, integrity, accountability and commitment. These are standards by which staff and students alike are expected to abide, and that Kessler said permeated the academic curriculum and broader culture at SJCA.

“It was the idea that you help one another and you really are able to volunteer in your community and put others’ needs before your own,” she said. “Those values weren’t just in faith and religion classes, but they were kind of instilled throughout your whole time there.”

In keeping with the Lancer value system, service was also a hallmark of her experience at SJCA, said Kessler. “We had a course I took senior year dedicated to service in the community; we went out every day and went to different facilities and schools (to serve others),” she said.

Following her graduation from SJCA in 2012, Kessler attended St. Louis University, where she studied physical therapy, earning her doctorate in 2018. Her interest in human science was piqued back at SJCA in Mike Mroz’s advanced honors anatomy class.

“That was my favorite class,” she said.

She is now a physical therapist with Concentra Occupational Health, which has more than 500 locations in 44 states, and she still keeps in close contact with many of her friends from SJCA and makes it back to her alma mater for school events when she is back home in Kenosha.

“The smaller class sizes, the increased opportunity for activities — you really get exposure to so many different things that probably wouldn’t be the case at so many other schools,” she said. “The things I was able to see and participate in led me on this path of where I ended up today.”



Sr. Maria Virgen Oyente (Laura) Johnson '06 is the daughter of Dan Johnson '78



Mike Hodge '14, son of Maggie Regner Hodge '90, grandson of the late John Regner '61


Congratulations to Nick Van Exel '89 on being inducted into the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame











Congratulations to John Willkomm ‘65 on receiving the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award from the FAA!


When an air show came to Kenosha’s old airport in 1961, it was more than a spectator opportunity for John Willkomm.

“It was a pretty big deal,” Willkomm said. “My friends and I were talking about it. We all pedaled our bicycles there.”

For Willkomm, who at the time was 16 years old, watching planes take flight from the airport’s old grounds on what today is home to Tremper High School was an awakening of a desire.

“I wanted to fly,” said Willkomm, who continues to live in Kenosha County, in Paris, and was recently given a top-level award for his dedication to commanding planes in the past five-plus decades.

Early this month, Willkomm was named a recipient of the Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award from the Federal Aviation Administration. It is the top honor given by the FAA.

The award, named in honor of the two aviation pioneers, “recognize(s) individuals who have exhibited professionalism, skill and aviation expertise for at least 50 years while piloting aircraft as master pilots,” according to a statement on the FAA’s website.

To receive the Master Pilot award, several supporters had to write letters of recommendation on Willkomm’s behalf.

“It’s a very prestigious award,” Willkomm said. “It’s very much an honor to get it.”

Flew in Army

Willkomm, who served in the Army, honed his skills while on active duty, taking lessons through a flying club.

In the 1970s, upon returning to civilian life, Willkomm said he shared his love of flying through multiple avenues.

He became an aerobatic pilot, which gave him the opportunity to practice flying maneuvers that typically are not used in regular flight. Taking part in different competitions also was a big part of his experience over the span of more than three decades.

When asked what he enjoys about aviation, Willkomm said the all-encompassing experience has continuously drawn him in over the years.

“It’s a hoot — everything about it,” Willkomm said. “You can fly an airplane in all three dimensions (as an aerobatic). It’s really very exciting.”

Shared with others

He said the experiences he has shared with fellow flying enthusiasts has been another treasured opportunity.

“I’ve flown with a lot of people,” Willkomm said. “You never know who you’re going to compete against. Nobody ever cared what you did for a living.”

Another golden experience, Willkomm said, has been the opportunity to travel to different venues across the U.S. for competitive events.

Willkomm, who still flies once or twice a week, continues to share his love of flying in a number of ways. An annual trip to Oshkosh each summer for the EAA AirVenture show is a must, he said.

If anything, Willkomm said flying over the decades has given him pearls of wisdom that he tries to share with other people in his midst.

“The adventure is not where you’re going,” he said of an adage that applies to, but is not limited to, flying. “The adventure is in getting there.”

He added, “It really has been an exciting 50 years.”




 Danny Freund '04

When Danny Freund walked into his basement as a child, he'd often see his father, Bob, riding the family's exercise bike in front of the television.

Bob would be watching VHS recordings of the most recent college football games. Every Saturday, he taped as many as possible to watch back later.

Bob wasn't just watching for enjoyment. As the longtime championship-winning head football coach at Kenosha (Wis.) St. Joseph's, he was looking for ideas that he could implement with his high school team.

When he saw a play that piqued his interest, he'd run into his office and write it down. He might use it next week.

"It's funny because a lot of those plays he ran in high school -- that was my first influence in football -- there's some influence in some of the stuff we're running out here today," Freund said after Saturday morning's practice at Memorial Stadium. "As you grow up, you take bits and pieces and kind of say, 'Hey, if I'm ever in charge of running an offense or calling plays, I'd like to do that.'"

That time has come for Freund.

He is in charge of calling the plays now.

The 33-year-old former UND quarterback was named offensive coordinator this offseason, replacing Paul Rudolph, whose unit struggled during a 6-5 season a year ago.

While Freund admits there's always some learning on the job, this is one he's prepared for since childhood.

He was born in Kalamazoo, Mich., while his father was a Western Michigan University grad assistant coach under Jack Harbaugh (the other graduate assistant was John Harbaugh, now the head coach of the NFL's Baltimore Ravens). He was raised in Wisconsin, watching his father use every possible resource -- including those old VHS tapes -- to learn new coaching ideas and construct new plays.

Freund's annual spring vacation was to the University of Michigan, where he'd watch spring practices. Bob was friends with some members of the Wolverines coaching staff. Freund routinely rode over to Madison with his dad to take in University of Wisconsin practices. And when Bob attended coaching clinics, Danny was there by his side.

"You just kind of tag along, and you learn football and it kind of becomes who you are," Freund said. "When I grew up, people would ask: 'What do you want to do?' Well, coaching is pretty much the only thing I've ever wanted to do."

Some things have never changed for Freund, including that burning desire to coach.

Upon graduating from UND, he landed a good job as a financial analyst in Kenosha. But within a year, he knew he couldn't work a 9-to-5 desk job and resigned to get into coaching full-time.

His enthusiasm has never changed either, not even as he has transitioned from UND's wide receivers coach to the offensive coordinator this fall. It would surprise no one at UND to learn that when his father's team played for a state championship, a 7-year-old Freund, working as a ball boy, sprinted all the way down the field to celebrate with the players after a touchdown. The coaches yelled at Danny to get off the field, but it was hopeless.

Like his father, Freund's eagerness to pick up new ideas and constantly learn and innovate has never stopped either. Instead of doing it on VHS tapes, Freund does it on DVR and Twitter.

"You're constantly looking and watching games and figuring out, 'Hey, how can we incorporate that into our offense?' Or, 'How can we make that work within our system without trying to add too much?'" Freund said. "You always want to have base plays. But if you can find a way to implement something in a way your guys can understand, I think you're always looking for stuff. The game is always changing. Football is always changing. If you don't keep up with it and don't adapt, then it becomes harder."

Offensive philosophies

Freund doesn't view his offensive philosophies as being derived from one person or team, rather a collection of knowledge he's learned over the years.

Some of the changes will be easy to spot

Through the first two fall practices, it appears that the offense is going to be more up-tempo. There won't be as much coming to the line, waiting for the calls to come in, and forcing offensive linemen to be in their stances for an extended period of time.

As a quarterback, Freund also knows the perils of taking hits and negative plays that put offenses in long-yardage situations, so his offense will emphasize the quarterback getting rid of the ball quickly.

UND is still going to run the ball, but Freund said there are creative ways to do that.

Like most offensive coordinators, Freund is going to put a premium on getting the ball to skill players as much as possible.

"I'm a big believer and maximizing all of the skill players on offense," Freund said. "I think getting the ball to your best players is something that's important to me."

And he also wants his team to enjoy what they're doing.

"I think you've got to have fun," Freund said. "That's a big thing for me. You've got to have fun and find ways to make the offense exciting and still attack defenses but make it a little unconventional. You know, you watch what Mike Leach has done at Texas Tech and Washington State, where they have fewer resources and they're still beating bigger teams. I think finding different ways to be different, yet keeping it simple for your players so they can learn and play fast is a big thing for me."

"We've got some guys that can create mismatches, I would say, on offense. We've got to continue to develop depth."

As Freund goes through his first fall camp as offensive coordinator, he will continue to look for ways to fine-tune the offense ahead of the season opener Aug. 31 against Drake.

It will just be a little different than riding an exercise bike while watching VHS tapes.

"He might still have a vault of them somewhere," Freund said.



 Margaret Heller '66

Art is a personal medium, but some artwork is more personal than others.

For Kenoshan Margaret Heller, the pieces in the local exhibit “Imagenes de Latin America” are very personal indeed.

The collection was created by her aunt and uncle, Patricia Tully Baird (a Kenosha native) and her husband, Tom Baird.

Tom Baird was an executive at a paper product company called Carton y Papel de Mexico (which Heller calls “the Uline of Mexico”) and, each year, he commissioned about half a dozen pieces by Latin American artists.

“He would have special paper flown in from France and have 150 prints made of each piece to give to clients,” Heller said. “My uncle loved this project; he got to meet the artists.”

Those artists, she said, “are some of the top Latin American artists. Many of them have museums devoted to their works.”

Heller remembers visiting her aunt and uncle in 1972 and seeing their art collection.

“I made some comment about Monet to my uncle,” she recalled, “and he said something to me like ‘Americans only look to Europe for great art. You need to look at art from the Americas, too, and other artwork in the world.’ That’s what I’m hoping this exhibit will do here in Kenosha — open their eyes to artwork from places other than Europe.”

The collection had been scattered among family members, and Heller brought 31 pieces together for this show, which she hopes is the first of several public exhibits.

Besides the family connection to the prints, Heller has a personal connection to this show in particular. It’s a memorial to her sister, Patte Heller Bleil, who died at her Kenosha home last fall.

“I poured my grief into doing this show,” Heller said. “Patte’s friend Karen Enroth helped fund it through The Enroth Family Fund through the Greater Milwaukee Foundation.”

Once the prints were gathered, Heller and Francisco Loyola, the Kenosha Creative Space’s executive director, had the pieces framed locally at DeBerge’s and Seebeck Gallery.

“This is an important collection that represents a lot of great artists,” Loyola said. “They were influential and are not just from Mexico. There are artists here from Cuba and the United States and other places, too.”

The exhibit was hung Monday and Tuesday at Creative Space, and Heller is excited to see the prints together for the first time in decades.

“I knew they were valuable pieces because my uncle told me so,” she said. “I am delightfully excited to see them framed and on display.”

The show, she added, “is in honor of my aunt and uncle and my sister, but it’s also important to show the rich, varied life in Mexico. That side of the country doesn’t get reported in the news. I feel pride in this artwork. It’s pretty amazing.”




Will Pechous '16

Pechous bikes across America for Journey of Hope

What would for most college students be a fairly routine family event was a unique homecoming: Pechous, 21, was dropping in on his family on Day 45 of a bicycle ride across the United States.

With him were the 21 other bikers and a host of support personnel.

Pechous and his fellow cyclists are on a fundraising ride that started June 9 in San Francisco and ends Aug. 10 in Washington, D.C.

The ride is called the Journey of Hope, a fundraiser for the Ability Experience, an organization that helps support agencies nationwide working with those with disabilities.

Each year, three teams of 20-some riders cross the country via three routes, raising $700,000 to $900,000 for those with special needs. 

Pechous and his team are on the North Route, and by the time they roll into D.C. they will have ridden nearly 4,000 miles across two mountain ranges and through 13 states. 

One of the unique facets of the fundraiser is that it is a philanthropic arm of a national university fraternity, Pi Kappa Phi, organized in 1988. Since then, thousands of dollars have been raised to help those with special needs.

Will, a student at the University of Wisconsin, joined Pi Kappa Phi specifically to become part of this fundraising experience to support his fraternal twin brother, Sam, born with Smith-Magenis syndrome, a developmental disorder.

On his social media fundraising page, Pechous writes:

"My main reason for doing this is my twin brother Sam. Sam is a person with disabilities and has been and continues to be a driving force in my life for all that I do. He is my rock, my hero, and my best friend. Without him, I would not be here today."

The News first caught up with Pechous by phone on Day 35 when the team was resting for the afternoon in Des Moines, Iowa.

"It's been fantastic. This has been a life-changing experience," Pechous said.

He explained that for 63 days, the team rides between 30 and 125 miles, staying at high schools, YMCAs or churches that have been pre-arranged by trip organizers.

When the riders arrive at their daily destination, their next order of business are Friendship Visits with area special needs agencies. During the visits, the riders might go bowling or participate in picnics or dances with agency clients and staff.

Pechous says even after a long ride, the Friendship Visits are very special for all of the riders.

"Sometimes we ride in double lines and sign shirts and autographs feel like a rock star," he said. "It’s like Christmas for them."

Not only do they like the interaction, but they're aware that the ride is raising money to support these agencies, Pechous said.

"The impact we make lasts a lifetime," he noted.

"There are rest days during the trip, but barely any days we can just hang out and take in a city."

The son of Charles and Kim Pechous, Will is a 2016 graduate of St. Joseph Catholic Academy. He is studying computer science at the University of Wisconsin, where he will be a senior in the fall.

"I joined the frat with the intention of helping start a chapter of Ability Experience. The Madison chapter is the first one in Wisconsin," he said. 

Last year Pechous participated in a 900-mile ride across Florida, also an Ability Experience fundraiser. 

In Wisconsin on Day 45, with 18 to go, the team had clocked 2,739 miles, a number Pechous rattled off the top of his head during his visit with his parents.

"We'll be riding a total of 3,720 miles; it doesn’t seem real," he said. "Miles are just a number right now."

Interestingly, Pechous said he was riding on the same tires he had during his 900-mile ride through Florida.

"We repaired a few flats but kept the skins," he said.

Among Will's personal highlights for the trip so far has been the day the team climbed 12,000 feet to Loveland Pass, Colo.

"I felt on top of the world," he said. "I called my parents and girlfriend — it was all surreal. I thought, 'I’m actually doing this!' I still get misty-eyed thinking about it."

On Tuesday, the team rode from Menomonee Falls to Northbrook, Ill., for their overnight stay. From there they took the crew support vans to Kenosha for a barbecue picnic with Pechous' family.

"It's surreal to be home; it doesn't feel like I'm on the trip any more," Will Pechous said.

When asked by his father what his toughest day so far has been, Will replied, "The day we rode up to Lake Tahoe. It was Day 4 and we had ridden 90 miles, then had to go two miles straight up."

"What was the scariest day?" Charles asked.

"When I fell and slid on my head and shoulder while going into Craig, Colo.," Will said.

Although he was OK except for some scuffs and scratches, Will's bike was temporarily sidelined for repairs. It was soon fixed, and Will caught up with the team by riding in one of the support vans.

He doesn't regret the miles missed that day, saying, "You only haven't ridden a mile if you quit."

Asked if she was proud of Will's accomplishments, his mother Kim, said, "I'm proud of all my children, but what I love most about what Will is doing is his connection with his brother."

Said Will: "(Sam's) always been the reason I am who I am. I would be more self-centered without him. ... Plain and simple, I am doing this because I want to affect others like my brother has affected me."

The impact of the fundraising is top of mind for Will and his teammates.

"It goes to make the lives of those with disabilities better," he said.

He is also modest about riding a bicycle across the country to do so.

"It’s an ability for me to ride, and I have the ability to make a change in someone’s life," he said. "I have an obligation to live a life I can, because (Sam) can’t.

"You can do extraordinary things if you open yourself up to it. If you go out and search for it, you can be someone’s superhero by just riding a bike."


Judith Placzkowski '66


Archer Parquette '14



Miss Kenosha earns Miss Congeniality honors

Lily Karnes '19

Lily Karnes Miss Kenosha.jpg

Though she didn’t finish as the winner or a semi-finalist in the Miss Wisconsin pageant, Miss Kenosha Lily Karnes still walked away being named Miss Congeniality.

Miss Congeniality is an award voted upon by the contestants and is given to the contestant they believe best embodies the spirit of the competition and has a great attitude and mindset.

Earning this honor meant a lot to Karnes, especially after all of the time she spent with her fellow competitors.

“It’s amazing that after spending a week with each other, (the other competitors) voted for me,” Karnes said. “When I got there, I opened myself up to the other girls, and I was myself. I think that made others comfortable to be themselves too.”

Being herself was something that Karnes was no stranger to during her run through the pageant circuit. Karnes said the most important part of her doing the pageants was the impact she made talking about mental health.

“A lot of people have reached out to me to talk about their situation,” Karnes said.

Karnes, who graduated from St. Joseph Catholic Academy earlier this month, has been open about her own struggles.

As a freshman in high school, Karnes’ life took a dark turn when she stopped hanging out with friends and doing the things she loved.

With the help of her parents and a counselor, she was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

Competing to become Miss Kenosha was a way for her to spread her platform of mental health awareness and stopping the stigma that surrounds mental illness.

Karnes talked to people of all ages, but it was her conversations with kids that meant the most to her as well as being able to see the impact she made with them.

Competing at the Miss Wisconsin pageant was, Karnes said, probably the best week of her entire life.

However, she is still unsure about whether she will compete again next year.



Dan Zamudio '86


Interiors-Exteriors: Life in a Factory


Logan Square has its very own Factory. When Logansquarist paid a visit on a blustery day this past March, no latter-day Edie Sedgwick teetered down the precipitous staircase, nor was there any evidence of recent debauchery. The scene was, in fact, replete with coffee and cookies. But Andy Warhol would, I think, still approve.

The boundaries between art and life are simply non-existent in the renovated Wold Airbrush Factory, located steps from the California Blue Line stop. Home to artists Julie Sulzen and Dan Zamudio and their two teenage children, Bella and Vaughn, it doubles as the Sulzen Fine Art Studio and gallery, where the couple create and display their work and, sometimes, the work of other artists. Domesticity and industry blend seamlessly in the lofty space, which from the late 20th century to 1980 served as headquarters and manufacturing center for Olaus Wold, an innovator in airbrush paint technology. (Wold airbrushes are now made in New Zealand.) MORE....

You can see more of Dan's work at



Andre Speed '97 & Brandon Morris '01


By Mike Johnson -Kenosha News

Brandon Morris remembers the shoeboxes.

The ones full of letters from major NCAA Division I men’s basketball programs. The ones belonging to Andre Speed.

Speed was a standout at St. Joseph then. And not just any standout. He was the show at Madrigrano Gymnasium, the heir to Nick Van Exel’s throne for the Lancers, the next player from Kenosha who was going to make it big.

Morris and David Tolefree, both future standouts at St. Joseph themselves, were in middle school, and boy did they look up to Speed.


“We were going into the stands watching those games, excited because of Andre Speed,” Morris, who recently completed his first season as the St. Joseph boys basketball coach said over dinner with Speed and the reporter of this story recently.

“And then, once we were able to build a relationship with him — as little seventh-graders — and then going over to his house and seeing shoeboxes full of college letters and all that stuff, it was just like, ‘Dude, we’re going to St. Joe’s. We’re going to be like ‘Dre Speed.’ MORE.....





Eric Wistrom '09

Eric Wistrom, a St. Joseph High School graduate has been selected to present a paper at a doctoral seminar sponsored by the Hermes Consortium for Literary and Cultural Studies. That’s a big enough deal, but here’s the even cooler part: The seminar takes place in May in a castle. Yes, a real, honest-to-goodness castle, specifically Rauischholzhausen Castle. The seminar is hosted by the International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture at Justus Leibig University in Giessen, Germany.

Wistrom is a doctoral student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, studying French and Francophone literature — specifically studying the Maghreb (Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia) — and his proposal was evaluated by a campus committee. MORE....



Mahone Fund honoree Don Gillespie '77 on volunteerism: ‘Do what you can’


For multiple decades, Don Gillespie’s influence on Kenosha has been visible in a number of ways — from heading up a gospel music brunch to organizing a live music series in a previously underused park.

For Gillespie, volunteering and plugging into the community any way he can has been an opportunity to forge connections and foster relationships.

“I really believe it’s natural and important to do what you can,” said Gillespie, whose professional background is in consumer finance. “You help people find their purpose.”

The Mary Lou & Arthur F. Mahone Fund has named Gillespie, a lifelong Kenosha resident, as the recipient of its inaugural Shebaniah B. Muhammad Signature Award, to be presented at this year’s Reaching for Rainbows Gala on April 9.

The Mahone Fund’s first-ever award is designed to recognize a person or organization for continuous leadership and legacy support through the fund and its programs.

Last year, the Mahone Fund’s Board of Directors, which Gillespie serves on, decided to rename the award in honor of Muhammad in recognition of his longtime commitment and dedication to the fund’s mission.

In a statement released in February, at the time award winners were announced, Tim Mahone — chairman of the Mahone Fund — said Gillespie was a logical first recipient for the Signature Award.

“It is most befitting for Don Gillespie to receive the inaugural award, given his 20 years of service to the Mahone Fund,” Mahone said.

He further stated Gillespie’s “grassroots commitment, energy, expertise and loyalty have been the backbone of (the fund’s) mission to support young people and empower future leaders.”

Gillespie said he learned of the award when Mahone delivered the news during a visit to his home.

“I was humbled,” Gillespie said. “Really, what I do is a small effort within something bigger.”

At the same time, Gillespie said he is honored to have his name associated with an award bearing Muhammad’s name.

“He really has a way of lighting up the room,” Gillespie said of Muhammad. “It’s good company to be in.”

As he reflects on the various figurative hats he has worn within the Mahone Fund, Gillespie said he feels blessed to be a part something that is moving Kenosha in a positive direction.

As the original sponsor of the Reaching for Rainbows Gospel Brunch, Gillespie has witnessed a range of choirs share their vocal talents.

Serving on the board of directors, Gillespie said, has been an enriching experience.

“It’s populated by pretty sharp folks,” Gillespie said. “There’s quite a mix of different talent.”

Assisting with the Lincoln Park Live series, Gillespie said, has been a satisfying endeavor.

“It was an opportunity to shine a light on one of the gems in Kenosha,” Gillespie said. “Lincoln Park was underused, and I think we helped improve the aesthetics.”



Kim Westphal '08

Gregory Hyde '13

Congratulations to Greg Hyde '13, UW Whitewater '17 on being accepted as a Ph.D. candidate at Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College.


Cameron Kormylo '15


Congratulations to Cam Kormylo '15, University of Notre Dame '19 on being accepted as a Ph.D. candidate in Business Information Technology at Virginia Tech! Cam is the son of Rodger & Peggy Schlater Kormylo '90 and grandson of Fredric '63 & Lena Caira Schlater '66.





Sandra DeAngelis Bisciglia '68

Sandra Bisciglia.jpg

                            Care of the spirit at the end of life

  • In our lifetimes, each of us will be challenged to help a loved one face the end of life, whether that person is an aging parent or a terminally-ill child. Most of us will focus on lessening the physical suffering of those we love while having more difficulty approaching their spiritual needs.

Healthcare professionals face similar struggles in caring for dying patients. Yet, they consistently report that they receive little training on how to address patients’ end-of-life spiritual needs.

As a result of this identified gap, we are currently collaborating across the fields of nursing and religion to teach an undergraduate course focused on communication strategies to guide spiritual care of patients at the end of life. In doing so, we wish to integrate the advice of the true experts: patients who are dying and their families. Through the sharing of case studies of individuals facing the end of life, we are teaching our students how to help patients find peace.

Spirituality is complex and can vary dramatically from one person to the next. For some people, spirituality involves a focus on connections with friends, family members, or colleagues; for others, a relationship with God or a higher power is a central focus. It is common for spirituality to involve an individual’s personal beliefs and values, as well as important principles like hope, faith, and meaning and purpose in life.

Through the incorporation of case studies, our students learn that despite these and other differences, patients have many of the same hopes and fears as they approach the end of life. Children with cancer, as well as elderly patients who are dying, often struggle with expressing their feelings and fears, for they do not want to burden loved ones. They also wish to leave a legacy behind to ensure they are remembered.

Dying patients search for things to hope for in the future, whether that involves a rib dinner next Sunday or the belief in the afterlife. Many individuals want to know they are appreciated and loved, to find meaning in their life and death, and to uncover the purpose of their lives. They search for forgiveness from those they have wronged or to forgive those who have hurt them. Finally, dying patients of all ages long for supportive relationships with those they love, including God.Mute

You may wonder why spirituality is so important to end of life care. Prior studies have shown a relationship between spirituality and positive coping in patients facing the end of life, as well as improved quality of life and enhanced satisfaction with health care.

Compassionate communication is at the heart of spiritual care, allowing for the creation of a trusting relationship between a patient and healthcare professional in which the patient feels supported to explore very personal concerns and struggles, as well as the opportunity to express feelings and fears.

Our course gives Carthage students experience with communication strategies and listening techniques to allow them to better understand what gives hope and a sense of graced moments to the terminally ill. Our hope is that the course will allow our students to respond with a higher level of sensitivity to the spiritual needs of the dying, as well as provide them with an overview of what people of different religious traditions might want from caregivers at the end of life. These are skills necessary in a global world, where our students will encounter people from many different religious traditions and cultures.

We believe that preparing our students for these rich and varied encounters is the essence of a liberal arts education. We also advocate for all educational programs — for undergraduates studying to work in the healthcare professions and for those working on advanced degrees — to include this critical training to prepare those in the health professions to aid the dying to find spiritual peace.

Sandra Bisciglia, MA, is an assistant professor of religion and women and gender studies at Carthage College. Cheryl Petersen, PhD, RN, is an assistant professor of nursing at Carthage College.



Michael Schilf '93

What: The short film "SWORN"

Plot details: The action is set in the mythical land of Nath, where four of the five kingdoms have fallen to the invading barbarian Thorns from the Wasteland. Jarl Vallon (plyaed by Kenosha native Michael Schilf) has led a valiant stand to defend Fendholm, the last free kingdom. As Vallon falls, the fate of Nath rests on the shoulders of Capt. Andin Marr and his five elite warriors, known only as SWORN.

Project details: Schilf and the rest of the "SWORN" production team are using this short film as a pitch for an eight-hour fantasy TV series.

Michael Schilf: 5-second bio

Grew up: In Kenosha, the son of Julie Schilf, who now lives in Pleasant Prairie.

School: He graduated from St. Joseph High School, where he was a champion cross-country runner.

College: He went to Marquette University, majoring in broadcast communications and English.

Post-college: Schilf said he "took a year off after college more by accident than by plan. I took some creative fiction writing classes at Marquette, and that's how I ended up in Los Angeles. When I started writing short fiction, I realized I really enjoyed that whole writing process, and I love film and TV, so I got into screenwriting, which blends both passions." he worked construction jobs for seven moths, saved up some money and traveled through Europe for six months before earning his master of fine arts degree in screenwriting from the University of Southern California's School of Cinematic Arts.

Academic career: Schilf has been a professor for nearly two decades at Glendale Community College, teaching composition, literature, screenwriting and motion picture film analysis.

Outside the classroom: Schilf is a screenwriter, script doctor and advertising consultant. He has written nine features, six TV pilots, numerous short films and has written for more than 100 ad campaigns for clients such as Nike, American Express, KIA, Volvo, Ford, Target, Chrysler, Lexus, BMW and Mercedes Benz, to name a few.

Personal life: He is married, with three kids and two dogs. Huskies, to be exact. (The dogs, not the family members.)

Fun fact: As a fifth-grader at St. Mary's Catholic grade school, he made it to the top three finals in a national Lego competition. "They flew my mom and I to New York," he said. The three 10-year-old finalists had three hours and a pile of Legos to crate something. Schilf built a factory with a working conveyor belt, crane and truck. The winner, however, built a working Mickey Mouse clock. "I was a distant, distant second," he recalled. "It was crazy what that kid built. The clock face looked like Mickey, and it had internal gears and actually told time. It wasn't even close, but it was a great trip, and I got to ride in a limo."

"SWORN"  - Michael Schilf '93 is film's writer and star. Click here to read the full article.  



Ali Cesnovar Fett '99

 Ali Cesnovar Fett '99  seeks to help others go from good to great as she launches new consulting agency.  For those who know her, describing Ali Fett in one word is a difficult task. This is because she is so many things to so many people: a mother, a co-worker, a cheerleader, a support system, a problem-solver, but most of all, an inspiration. Fett, who currently lives in Oshkosh, has always lived a life of servant leadership. This line of thought speaks to the core of her person and the life she strives to live daily. “

At a very young age, I remember seeing people differently than how they saw themselves, and even today I have such a great passion for almost mirroring to them their beauty – who they truly are and the gifts they bring to the world,” Fett said. “This has always been a joy and a passion for me.”

Keeping in tune with her personal and professional life goals, Fett is launching her own talent consulting business, Tashi Deley LLC, located in Oshkosh, with the hopes of becoming a nationwide phenomenon. The organization will serve both individuals and organizations by assessing their strengths and how they can contribute to their organization and society as a whole.

“The whole goal of the company is to pull out what is already the greatness within people and help them clarify their purpose,” Fett said. “I want to show people who you are is good enough, and together, we can foster the greatness in who you already are.”

The name Tashi Deley is derived from a Tibetan greeting that means “I see you and I honor the greatness within you,” which is the basis of Fett’s developmental training, motivational speeches, and one-on-one coaching.

Fett had quite a few other life experiences that have shaped her, such as the TEDx talk she gave in August, her days playing and coaching basketball, becoming a school principal at age 28, working for the Milwaukee Bucks and, most recently, leaving her job at Verve, a Credit Union as the assistant vice president of talent development where she worked since 2013.

The most influential parts of any of these experiences though, according to Fett, were the people she met and the experiences she had along the way. “I’ve had such wonderful experiences that have been encompassed with beautiful leaders and mentors that I’ve been privileged enough to be around and that have always seen something in me,” Fett said. “They’ve always thought I could do a job that I thought I wasn’t qualified for.” 

After lots of reflection and self-discovery, something Fett does best, she realized it was time to answer her calling of serving others in a new way – by opening Tashi Deley. While there is still work to be done on her next adventure, Fett said she is optimistic and excited about the company’s future. “I hope this is something that lasts long beyond me,” Fett said. “It’s not about Ali Fett in the least bit. This is about lasting beyond looking to potentially affect others globally. We’ll be rooted here (in Oshkosh) but will hopefully affect many lives for years to come.”