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Notable Alumni

Virginia C. Albanese, '85, '95 M.B.A.

Virginia C. Albanese is president and CEO of FedEx Custom Critical, North America's largest, critical-shipment carrier. The company provides 24/7 service across the United States and Canada and to other countries throughout the world, delivering hundreds of thousands of critical shipments each year. Since joining FedEx Custom Critical in 1986, Albanese has worked with various departments to streamline processes and use technology to provide even better and more efficient service to internal and external customers.

As director of safety, recruiting and contractor relations in 1995, Albanese led the reorganization of the safety department into work teams that handle all areas relating to safety, from qualifying new driving contractors to coordinating permits. Albanese improved productivity by automating many of the safety processes. She also worked with the contractor relations area to offer new and innovative programs to contractors.

As managing director of service and safety in 1999, Albanese led a cultural initiative in the surface expedite division to refocus on customer satisfaction, reorganized the company's recruiting organization and expanded the operations leadership team.

As vice president of customer service and operations, Albanese led the company's overall operations. She was responsible for strategic planning, employee development and process improvements to ensure the highest quality, most efficient service to customers. Her responsibilities also included maintaining fleet safety standards, recruiting contractors and improving retention and satisfaction among the contractors who lease their vehicles and services to FedEx Custom Critical.

Albanese earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Kent State University in 1985 and an Executive MBA from Kent State in 1995. She serves on a number of boards to benefit the Northeast Ohio community, including the Greater Akron Chamber of Commerce and The Boys and Girls Club of the Western Reserve.


Tom Batiuk, '69

batiukA humorist with a heart, Tom Batiuk has been bringing real-life issues to life in comic-strips for more than 37 years.

Born in Akron, Ohio, Batiuk became interested in art at an early age. In high school, he won a national scholastic art award and went on to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts with a certificate in education from Kent State University in 1969. In 1970, his career as a cartoonist took root in a drawing panel for the teen page of the Elyria Chronicle-Telegram. The panel led to the 1972 creation of Funky Winkerbean.

Through Funky Winkerbean, Batiuk has highlighted sensitive issues, beginning with teen pregnancy in a 1986 strip. Since then, he has brought the issues of alcoholism, cancer, teen-dating abuse, teen suicide, guns in schools and dyslexia to life through his characters. In 1998, Batiuk introduced breast cancer to the funny pages through “Lisa's Story,” a storyline in which one of Funky Winkerbean's main characters faces the disease.

Batiuk has won numerous awards for his work, including the “Friend of Education” award from the Ohio Education Association, an Ohioana Citation in the Field of Art, the Ohio Governor's Award and the Media Citation Award from the Journalism in Education Association.

Batiuk's body of work extends beyond Funky Winkerbean. In 1979, he co-created John Darling, a strip that ran for 12 years. His third comic strip, Crankshaft, is based on the school-bus driver in Funky Winkerbean.

Batiuk lives in Ohio with his wife, Cathy, and their son, Brian.


Robert L. Billingslea, '64

BobBillingslea-ColorPhotoRobert L. Billingslea is vice president of corporate urban affairs and development for the Walt Disney Company. He began his career with Disney as a senior personnel representative at Disneyland Park and advanced through positions in employee relations and human resources at the Walt Disney World Resort and the Walt Disney Company to pioneer Disney's corporate urban affairs operation in the late 1990s.

For more than a decade, he has been a valued advisor to Disney's senior management on diversity-related issues and other areas of social concern. He is responsible for helping to establish and maintain strong relationships with diverse constituents nationwide in support of the corporate mission to include diversity in all aspects of its business.   

Billingslea has served on the boards and in leadership roles with such diverse organizations as the NAACP's Special Contributions Fund Board, Image Awards and ACT-SO Committees; the Bill Dickey Scholarship Association; Bethune-Cookman University; Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Florida; Metropolitan Orlando Urban League; League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC); 100 Black Men of Orlando; United Negro College Fund (UNCF); Children's Defense Fund; Congressional Black Caucus Foundation; the National Black MBA Association's Strategic Business Alliance; and the League of Black Women.

He is also a member of the Executive Leadership Council (ELC) and the Kappa Alpha Psi and Sigma Pi Phi (Boulé) fraternities. He has received a vast array of honors and awards in recognition of his personal and professional commitments and contributions.

Billingslea was born and raised in Youngstown, Ohio, and received his bachelor's degree in sociology from Kent State University. In recent years, he served on Kent State's Centennial Campaign Committee and was a member of the university's Capital Campaign Fund Committee. He was also among the first alumni to receive Kent State's President's Social Responsibility Award for work in developing programs and activities that support positive development of underrepresented individuals. Billingslea and his wife, Deidre (“DeeDee”), reside in Windermere, Florida. He is the proud father and grandfather of one son and two grandchildren.


Kathleen Chandler, MPA '90

ChandlerState Representative Kathleen Chandler (D-Kent) of the 68th District is currently serving her fourth term in the Ohio House. The veteran public servant represents most of Portage County and has sponsored several bills to protect our citizens and to preserve our past.

Rep. Chandler believes in the value of a quality education. She earned both bachelor's and master's degrees from Michigan State University. She then returned to Ohio to earn a Master of Public Administration degree from Kent State University.

Rep. Chandler served her local community for more than two decades before moving to the Statehouse. She began her career as a Kent City Councilwoman, a position she held for eight years before being elected mayor.  She followed up a seven-year stint in that office with six years as a Portage County Commissioner.

Rep. Chandler remains intensely loyal to her local community. She is a member of many organizations, including the League of Women Voters, Women's Club, University Women of Kent State University, NAACP, Portage County Democratic Central Committee, Federated Democratic Women's Club of Portage County and Leadership Portage County.

Rep. Chandler is chair of the Local Government and Public Administration Committee of the Ohio House. She is also a member of the Aging and Disability Services Committee, the House Finance Committee and its Higher Education Subcommittee and the House Ways and Means Committee.

Chandler resides in Kent with her husband, Charles. They have three daughters and sons-in-law, five granddaughters and two grandsons.

Thomas A. Christopher, '70

Tom-Christopher-BWThomas A. Christopher, a 1970 graduate of Kent State University, is president of the Follett Higher Education Group; the largest operator of college and university bookstores and a leading provider of used books and retailing services to independently managed bookstores. Christopher came to Follett in 2002, bringing with him vast experience in retail, where he served in various senior management positions for leading national retail companies.  

After obtaining a bachelor's degree in business from Kent State, Christopher began his work in retail in Cleveland, with Pier 1 Imports. He worked his way up through the ranks, eventually becoming Vice President of Operations. In this position, Christopher was the primary overseer of stores, real estate, distribution, logistics and financial planning.

Christopher's other experience includes serving as president of Barnes and Noble. During his time with the bookstore company, the superstore concept was developed, and sales increased from $150 million to $700 million. Christopher also worked for Restoration Hardware, serving as president, chief operating officer and director. Under his leadership, the company expanded from a regional chain of five stores accruing $4 million a year, to a public company of 107 stores, generating $370 million a year.

In addition to his current position with Follett Corporation, Christopher also served as a director of two NASDAQ companies, a privately held corporation and was an officer of a New York Stock Exchange corporation.

Christopher is also active in the community, having served on the board of Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Tarrant County and Travis County, Texas.


Barry E. Fetterman, '74, MBA '76

fettermanBarry E. Fetterman retired from Sirach Capital Management, an institutional investment management firm in June of 2004 after serving as a principal and portfolio manager since 1990.  In addition, he was a member of the firm's Board of Directors.

Fetterman's career included a wide range of experiences in the finance industry.  He was one of four original partners in a boutique investment banking firm and spent ten years with SEI Corporation, a leading financial services firm, in a number of management positions.  These included serving as the Director of the Western Region with responsibility for the firm's Financial Services and Information Systems Divisions.   He also provided consulting services to fifty of the largest investment management firms in the Western United States.  His career began at IBM where he worked in Cleveland in the large systems group.

Fetterman met his wife, Jo Ann, while both were attending Kent State University.  He was a four year letterman and two year co-captain of the varsity soccer team.  Barry has continued to serve his alma mater as a member of the Centennial Commission. Since 2000 he has been a member of the Board of the Kent State University Foundation, which he currently chairs.

Barry and Jo Ann live on Bainbridge Island, Washington.  He is a former president and current board member of the Bainbridge Island Land Trust and is a trustee of the Bainbridge Community Foundation.

Fetterman earned a Bachelor of Business Administration and Master of Business Administration was elected to the Beta Gamma Sigma business honorary. His hobbies include skiing, bicycling, kayaking, and the occasional game of golf.


Mark P. Ford, '79

fordIn October, 2008 Mark Ford was appointed president and group publisher of the newly formed Time Inc. News Group comprised of The SPORTS ILLUSTRATED GROUP, THE TIME GROUP, THE FORTUNE/MONEY GROUP and LIFE.COM. 

Ford's TIME INC. career began as a divisional sales manager for TIME in 1985. The assignment to the launch team of ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY in 1989 proved one of Ford's most rewarding career experiences. There, he worked with a core group of TIME INC.'s best and brightest to develop one of the most successful new magazines in the history of publishing. In 1992, Ford accepted the position of midwestern sales director for PEOPLE, EW and LIFE, then went on to the role of division director, Central Region for Time Inc. Corporate in 1993.

TIME INC. selected Ford to lead the newly-acquired MEDIA NETWORKS INC. (MNI) in 1997, where he reinvented the company by developing new strategies, recruiting talented people and setting high expectations.

Before taking the helm at SI, Ford was President of TIME4 MEDIA. From 2001-2005 he shaped the company by honing its strategy and mission, revamping the sales-and-marketing organization and affirming a commitment to editorial excellence.

Later, Ford was appointed president of the SPORTS ILLUSTRATED GROUP. His four year tenure was marked by consistent, year-over-year bottom line growth, an expanded global footprint, groundbreaking digital development and the launch of an event marketing division.

Ford received a Bachelor of Science in journalism from Kent State University in 1979. A die-hard fan of his hometown Cleveland Indians and Browns, Ford also enjoys skiing and other outdoor sports with his wife, Maggie, and their three children.


William H. Oliver, '64, M.A. '67

OliverMr. William H. Oliver is a graduate of Kent State University, having received his Bachelor of Arts in journalism in 1964 and his Master of Arts in political science in 1967.

Oliver began his career in Washington, D.C., serving first as administrative assistant to a senior member of the U.S. House of Representatives; then as director of manpower and reserve affairs for the Department of Defense.

His career in the private sector began in 1977 when he created a public affairs organization for PACCAR Inc. Four years later, he became vice president of Global Communication for Weyerhaeuser, the forest products company. In 1988, he was named vice president, Communications at TRW Inc., a global aerospace and automotive component manufacturer.

Oliver joined AT&T in May, 1994 as vice president, Corporate Public Relations, responsible for media relations, financial communication, employee communications and executive speechwriting. A year later, he also assumed responsibility for International Public Relations, directing the work of AT&T's extensive global PR apparatus in Europe, Asia and Latin America. Later, he also became the head of PR for AT&T's Consumer Services Organization.

Since 1996, Oliver has led the building of a professional public affairs organization to help AT&T achieve its federal and state public policy objectives. Over the years, AT&T's public affairs capability has been recognized as one of the most successful, creative and efficient operations of its kind.


Catherine L. Ross, ’71

ROSSDr. Catherine L. Ross is the director of the Center for Quality Growth and Regional Development at the Georgia Institute of Technology. The Kent State alumna is also the Harry West Chair for Quality Growth and Regional Development, making her the first endowed faculty member in Georgia Tech’s College of Architecture. 

In her current role Ross heads the newly created center, an educational research arm of Georgia Tech’s College of Architecture that examines key issues of land use, community design, transportation and the environment throughout the Atlanta region and beyond. 

Prior to joining the center, Ross was executive director of the Georgia Regional Transportation Authority. She previously was a faculty member at Georgia Tech in the graduate City Planning program. She also held various administrative posts there, including vice provost for academic affairs, co-director of the Transportation Research and Education Center and director of the College of Architecture’s doctoral program. 

At the national level, Ross is a former senior policy adviser to the National Academy of Sciences’ Transportation Research Board, past president of the National Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning and a national advisory board member for the Women’s Transportation Seminar. In the Atlanta area she serves on several boards and committees including the Metro Atlanta Quality Growth Task Force, the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Westminster schools Strategic Plan Committee.  

Ross earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Kent State in 1971, a master’s degree in regional planning from Cornell University in 1973, and a Ph.D. in city and regional planning from Cornell in 1979.

Ross lives in northwest Atlanta with her husband. They have two children.


Connie Schultz, '79

schultzConnie Schultz, a 1979 graduate of Kent State University, is a respected journalist and winner of the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for commentary. Schultz won the award for her outstanding work as a newspaper columnist for Cleveland's Plain Dealer. 

Schultz was raised in Ashtabula County and attended Kent State. After receiving her degree in journalism, she worked as a free-lance writer for 15 years before joining the Plain Dealer in 1993.  In awarding Schultz the Pulitzer, judges commented that her columns and feature stories "provided a voice for the underdog and underprivileged."

In 2003 Schultz gained acclaim as a Pulitzer Prize finalist for her series of articles titled, "The Burden of Innocence." These stories outlined the struggles of a man who spent 13 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. While the series did not win the Pulitzer, it received many honors including the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Social Justice Reporting, the National Headliner Award's Best of Show and journalism awards from Harvard and Columbia Universities. In 2004, Schultz received the Batten Medal, an award that honors journalistic work that conveys "compassion, courage, humanity and a deep concern for the underdog." 

Schultz's other honors include; the Scripps Howard National Journalism Award for Commentary and the National Headliner Award for Commentary. In addition, she is a member of the Cleveland Journalism Hall of Fame, and has been recognized by the American Society of Newspaper Editors and the Associated Press Society of Ohio.

Schultz has written a book titled Life Happens, which will be published this spring. She lives in Cleveland with her husband, U.S. Rep. Sherrod Brown. They have four children.


Michael D. Solomon, '74

Solomon1Michael D. Solomon is a 1974 graduate of Kent State University, having received his Bachelor of Business Administration in marketing.

Over the past 30 years, Solomon has built his career as an entrepreneur in the audio and computer industries as software and computer industry executive and a venture capitalist. He has brought his marketing expertise into his work with such companies as Apple, Netscape, Microsoft, eTrade, CMGI and Direct TV. He joined Audessey Laboratories Inc. in 2004 as chief executive officer. Audessey Laboratories, a technology company that traces its origins to UCLA, is the first company to develop technology that calibrates and acoustically equalizes audio and theater systems for business and consumer markets.

In 2001, Solomon founded the Michael D. Solomon Entrepreneurship Speaker Series in the Kent State College of Business Administration with the purpose of inspiring students to start their own businesses. Through the speaker series, students are able to connect with the world of business and entrepreneurship outside of the classroom with guest speakers. Solomon himself served as a guest lecturer in October of 2005.

Solomon was the 2002 recipient of the College of Business Administration Distinguished Alumni Award and serves on the Kent State University Foundation Board.


Robert Woods, M.M. '04

BobWoodsWith 12 Grammy Awards as a classical record producer, Robert Woods, president and co-founder of Telarc International, has been a guiding force behind the company. Since its launch as a commercial classical label, Woods, a Kent State alumnus, has helped the company evolve into the genres of jazz, crossover, blues, instrumental pop and popular music. In 1978, the Cleveland-based company was the first to utilize digital recording technology commercially in the U.S. and was one of the first to release CDs in a cooperative effort with Sony Corporation in 1983.

Under Wood's supervision, Telarc launched a jazz label in 1989, attracting legendary guests including Oscar Peterson and the late Dizzy Gillespie. In 1993, a blues label was launched, followed by the acquisition of the Heads Up label in 2000. The combination entity represents a wide variety of artists and musical genres from around the world. Woods has been instrumental in bringing the world's foremost orchestras to the label.

In 1999, the company began collaboration with Sony and Phillips in the development of a new technology called Direct Stream Digital (DSD) and in 2001 began distribution of high-definition 3-D audio recordings based on the Super Audio CD (SACD) technology.

Woods received a Bachelor of Music Education from Otterbein College and a Master of Music from Kent State University. He lives in Shaker Heights, Ohio, with his spouse and colleague, Elaine Martone, and their two children.