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20 Interesting Knoxies We Met in 2020

In a year that will be remembered for a pandemic, social unrest, and a pivotal election, Knox students and alumni continue to meet the moment.

Two students in face masks brandish a purple banner reading "#KnoxProud."

There's a lot of bad things to remember about 2020. Instead, let's look back on some of the members of the Knox community whose hard work and dedication were bright spots in a challenging year. 

Mindi Ritchie ’99 (1) and Christian Mahone ’11 (2) both took on the role of school principal in a year where leading a public school was even more challenging than usual. Ritchie is principal of Galesburg High School North, an alternative school serving students who need support that isn’t available in a traditional high school. Mahone is principal of South Side Elementary in Champaign, Illinois, where he says he’s glad students have someone who looks like them in the classroom.

As many organizations struggled to meet the challenges of COVID-19, it was good to know there are Knox alumni on the front lines. Sam Jarvis ’09 (3) faced new challenges as the community health manager for Johnson County, Iowa, one of the first communities in the region to experience a COVID outbreak. Lydia Allen ’20 (4) graduated from Knox last spring after double-majoring in biology and public health and immediately found a position as Knox County’s COVID-19 community health educator and outreach specialist.

The pandemic also challenged health professionals beyond emergency care and infectious disease. Pediatric intensivist Sidharth Mahapatra ’01 (5), cardiologist Adam Nader ’07 (6), and program director of the MedStar Health Internal Medicine Baltimore Residency Program Stephanie Hasan Detterline ’98 (7), each share how their clinical practices have had to adapt on the fly to the pandemic. 

Alumni scientists were also working on important discoveries in the lab. Erika Cline ’08 (8) is an Alzheimer’s researcher at Northwestern University. Alicia Vallorani ’11 (9), working on a doctorate in behavioral neuroscience at Penn State, received a grant from the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH) to study how people process emotions in real time. On the environmental front, both Claire Cody ’18 (10) and Diandra Soemardi ’17 (11) are pursuing doctorates in chemistry with a focus on creating sustainable, clean catalysts for industrial use.

In the arts, Josh Tvrdy ’17 (12) won the Pushcart Prize—one of the highest literary honors for work published in small-press publications—for his poem, “The Out-&-Proud Boy Passes the Baseball Boy.” Young adult novelist Lindsey Currie ’98 (13) published her second novel, Scritch Scratch, and will publish a new book in fall 2021.

Two members of the Knox community produced new albums this year. Education major and multi-instrumentalist Adam Roth ’22 (14) released Fairytale Beginnings over the summer. Recent graduate Sarah Smith ’20 (15) wrote and recorded WorkinProg as her senior capstone project, an indie-folk-pop collection that features collaborations with several fellow students and recent alumni.

On the stage, Tim Lord ’98 (16) returned to Knox virtually to talk with acting students about building a professional theatrical career. Veronica Langley ’21 (17) shared the story of how she came to design and build a puppet “actress” for a Knox production of The Mill on the Floss.

Finally, Knox students and alumni were part of some of the most important non-pandemic developments this year. Jordan Lanfair ’11 (18) helped create You Do What You Can, a collection of essays, poems, and art from Knox alumni and others reflecting on the Black Lives Matter movement and community responses to the murder of George Floyd in May. (Lanfair, an educator, also launched #FeedthePeople to combat hunger resulting from the pandemic-related closure of Chicago public schools.) Meanwhile, despite the fact that Clare Hensley ’21 (19) and Matthew Nevin ’22 (20) both were able to vote in their first-ever presidential elections just this year, both worked as local organizers and strategists in support of candidates in their hometowns.

Above: Benjamin Dolezal '20 with sister Marcella Dolezal, a member of the Class of 2024.

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Printed on Wednesday, January 27, 2021