ED VOVSI ’59: Fleeing the Holocaust | MICHAEL FINEMAN ’70: Crisis communicator | JAN MICHELSEN ’77: Vision 2020 | SUE GREEN MATIYA ’74 and SUSAN CLAYTON SMITH ’94: Let’s talk turkey | DEREK GLENZINSKI ’91: Super recruiter | MILES COOKSY ’07: Murrow award winner
Escape to America: Fleeing the Holocaust
Next July, a vacation for the ED VOVSI ’59 family will be more than a pleasure cruise across the Baltic Sea. Departing from Oslo, Norway, their second port will be Riga, Latvia, where Ed lived until age seven. He has not been back.
His parents arranged to leave Latvia in 1940 just weeks before all Jews were required to move to the Riga ghetto. With the safety of his wife and son in mind, Ed’s father, a law professor and successful journalist for the London Times, made intricate plans to emigrate to America. Ed tells their story in The Refugee: A Story of the Holocaust, which was released in May.
Ed hopes the family home is still standing in Riga. It was an impressive place with enough space for a cook, a maid, and Ed’s governess, Lisa. Part One of the 254-page book details the family’s suspenseful and hasty departure from Latvia.
“The first part of the book is totally different than the second part,” Ed says. For example, Ed renames himself Edmund Kaufmanis. “I tried in the beginning to write in the first person, but I found that I couldn’t. I could look at it from the outside as if I wasn’t involved in it personally. It’s the way I had to do it.”
The second half of The Refugee focuses on Ed’s growing-up years in America. Upon landing in New York, the living arrangements for the family of three changed drastically. Unable to find work in New York, Ed’s father accepted a job stocking shelves in Peoria — a job arranged by an agency that helped European Jews resettle. At times, the family lived in a rooming house. A later, more spacious residence was a duplex on University Street where Ed and his teenaged friends enjoyed having Constance Hall, a women’s dormitory at the time, practically in the backyard.
Later, Ed enrolled at Bradley, served in the Air Force, and then returned to Bradley where he majored in journalism. He considers emeritus professor Paul Snider a close friend.
“Paul Snider is a great man. I can flatly say that if it weren’t for him, I probably wouldn’t have made it through Bradley,” Ed remarks. “I met him when I was back from the service.”
Another life-changing meeting was in the Field House at rehearsal for a homecoming stunt show. Ed noticed his wife of almost 53 years, MARY JANE WILMSEN VOVSI ’57, as she was painting scenery. Now their family includes three children and two granddaughters. All have grown up with Ed’s stories of escaping Latvia and coming to America. “I’ve passed it on to them so nobody forgets,” he notes.
Ed and Mary Jane moved from Springfield to Las Vegas in 1996, after Ed retired as the executive vice president of the Illinois affiliate of the American Heart Association. Mary Jane continues to enjoy painting. One of her watercolors recently placed in a juried show and is hanging in Las Vegas City Hall.
MICHAEL FINEMAN ’70 might be a familiar name to those who followed the recent Toyota recall or BP oil spill.
A public relations expert and owner of Fineman PR in San Francisco, media personalities often turn to Michael, a trusted crisis communicator, for his opinion on PR slip-ups.
His “Top Ten PR Blunders” list released annually since 1995 has been profiled by The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Washington Post, and Time Magazine. It has pointed out recent oops such as AIG’s all-expense-paid retreat just days after receiving an $85 billion government bailout and Kanye West’s snubbing of Taylor Swift at the MTV Video Music Awards.
Michael’s 11-person company has won nearly 100 awards since its founding in 1988, most recently two gold, best-in-nation Bulldog Awards and a Gold Effie Award for Best Company Positioning and Branding for Foster Farms’ “Say No to Plumping: Redefining Natural and Exposing Cheap Chicken” campaign, aimed at exposing fresh chicken “plumped” with saltwater at a higher economic and health cost to consumers though labeled as “natural.”
The company has helped many food and consumer packaged goods companies become nationally known. Michael’s “brand PR” approach helped promote Fresh Express Farms, Republic of Tea, Fantastic Foods, Schlage Lock Company, and Clif Bar. Michael has also worked with clients in health care, building and construction, wineries, and movies.
The agency’s crisis communications practice has helped in labor actions, product recalls, natural disasters, and workplace health and safety issues, among others. In 2005, Fineman PR began offering multicultural communications, with emphasis on the Latino community. The new division, Mosaico, has worked in consumer products, foundations and causes, women’s health, real estate, finance, and food and beverage.
“Effective communications is about understanding the impact of language on a variety of audiences. For organizations, it’s about helping people understand what need the company fills and why anyone should care,” Michael says. “Business is difficult, and businesses often get a bad rap. In many cases it is because they have failed to help the public understand their contributions.”
Armed with an English degree, the Philadelphia native began his career teaching high school in Oregon. Quickly learning he needed more career satisfaction, Michael began working at a PR firm in San Francisco before eventually opening his own.
Michael shares his story and expertise with Bradley students in Dr. Ron Koperski’s public relations classes through videoconferences and internships. Michael says his most influential professor has become a close friend. “Ron helped boost my confidence in my own abilities and skills. He had a lot of great ideas and is still very inspiring.”
Michael lives in Foster City, Calif., with his wife Lori. They have two college-aged sons.
JAN MICHELSEN ’77 was selected as one of two national delegates from Indiana to participate in Vision 2020, a decade-long project organized by the Institute for Women’s Health and Leadership at Drexel University College of Medicine. She was also recently chosen as a Fellow in the Litigation Counsel of America. Jan is a lawyer for Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart. She focuses on counseling and defending management in labor and employment law. Jan holds an MBA and a juris doctorate from Indiana University. She lives in Fishers, Ind.
Let’s talk turkey
Unsure about thawing your turkey? Confused about brining? You might want to call the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line. Ten thousand cooks did last year — on Thanksgiving Day alone. Two of the experts who dispense answers and helpful advice are Bradley alumnae SUE GREEN MATIYA ’74 and SUSAN CLAYTON SMITH ’94. They know turkey.
“We go to training sessions at Butterball University [also known as BU!] every October for three days and work in the test kitchens. We cook turkey different ways. It’s amazing the information they teach you,” says Matiya, a family and consumer sciences teacher for 33 years. She retired from Andrew High School in Tinley Park in 2007, and began working the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line that fall. Calls are taken from November 1 until Christmas Day. The lines are also open in early October, Matiya explains, to help Canadian callers with their Thanksgiving meals (the second Monday of the month).
Not only do the 53 talk-line experts study new recipes that appear in magazines and on The Food Channel and Food Network, they actually prepare some at home. “Then if callers ask about them, we know exactly what they’re talking about,” says Matiya.
“We also get a lot of questions about food safety. Some callers suspect that something isn’t exactly right, so they call to double-check,” says Matiya. “The callers are very appreciative that we are here. I’m amazed each year how nice the people are who call Butterball.”
She remembers many of her calls. Last year, for instance, a caller was preparing turkey for coworkers on an oil rig off the coast of Louisiana. Another was in Japan, making Thanksgiving dinner for buddies in the service.
Smith, an 11-year veteran of the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line, recalls a soft-spoken caller who revealed she was phoning from inside a closet at her son’s house. She feared her daughter-in-law wasn’t preparing the turkey correctly. Smith was able to reassure her that the turkey would be fine.
A registered dietitian, Smith also works for the American Dietetic Association as manager of education programs. She has a page on Butterball’s website and is also a media contact for the company. On Thanksgiving Day, she often provides last-minute preparation tips, prepares turkey recipes, and shows Chicagoans how to carve a turkey on WLS-TV.
What Smith enjoys most, however, is talking to the callers. “We get all different ages, from newlyweds who are preparing their first Thanksgiving dinner to seasoned cooks who want to try a new cooking method.”
Few people would disagree when Smith says, “It’s one of the most important meals of the year.”
She resides in Glen Ellyn with her husband Chuck and their infant daughter. Matiya and her husband Jim live in Homer Glen and in Estero, Florida. They are the parents of two children.
To reach the Butterball Turkey Talk-Line, dial 800-Butterball or visit butterball.com.
DEREK GLENZINSKI ’91 is sales director for ConAgra’s store brands, managing the company’s central and western regions from Naperville. He develops private-label offerings for grocery stores such as Costco and SuperValu. Derek joined ConAgra in 2006 and previously worked at General Mills. He is the team lead for ConAgra’s recruitment at Bradley and for the past two years, he has been part of the Bradley Employer Advisory Board for the Smith Career Center. Derek also works with the sales program in Bradley’s Foster College of Business. Derek and his wife Shelley live in Downers Grove with their son.
Murrow award winner
MILES COOKSY ’07 was awarded an Edward R. Murrow award from the Radio-Television Digital News Association for his photojournalism work on “Twisted Family Tree,” a story of a Manitowoc, Wis., family with a history of abuse and assault. The story won top honors in the video reporting/hard news category. Miles is a photojournalist for Fox6 in Milwaukee. The award will be presented to Miles’ team at the RTDNA awards dinner in New York on October 11. Miles and his wife ANGELA TAYLOR COOKSY ’07 live in Kenosha.