Selected alumni profiles.Barbara Dodsworth-Feldman ’54Norma Taylor ’74James Tingley ’75Gladys Corvera Baker ’83Holly M. Barker ’87 John Christian Hopkins ’87Frank Marini ’94
Class Acts Profiles
Barbara Dodsworth-Feldman ’54
Given that women make up only 22 percent of the science and engineering work force in America today, it is difficult to imagine what it was in the ’50s.
For Barbara Dodsworth-Feldman, statistics were irrelevant. It didn’t matter that she was the only woman in her class to earn a physics degree. Though she was denied induction into Phi Kappa Phi honor society because of her gender, she focused instead on the challenge of a graduate physics program.
Five decades later at the annual Phi Kappa Phi induction ceremony in 2004, URI finally honored Dodsworth-Feldman for her achievements. Modestly, she commented that while touched, she really hadn’t thought about her missing induction: “I mentioned it casually to a colleague and thought that was the end of it. I moved on with life.”
After earning a Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley, she received a Marie Curie fellowship to work in Paris on a research project that yielded three papers in photon-photon interaction in gasses. She describes that time as the highlight of her career.
Dodsworth-Feldman’s passion for research eventually led her to medical school: “I was working with a friend on his magnetocardiology project, and he suggested I get an M.D. I had thought about medical school while at URI, but it wasn’t financially feasible. At this point, I was 38 and decided to apply.”
Soon after enrolling in Brown University, she married and became pregnant. She studied through morning sickness and earned her degree as a mom to Andrea, whose birth marked “the highlight of my life.”
Her plans to pursue medical research were interrupted by the death of her husband: “Research is time-consuming, and I had my daughter to think of.” Working as a practicing ophthalmologist was a better solution, one that continues to suit her needs. Today, she practices part-time.
A model for women who aspire to careers in the sciences, Dodsworth-Feldman advises, “If it’s something you’re committed to, just do it.”
— Maria V. Caliri ’86, M.B.A. ’92
Norma Taylor ’74
In the last 12 months, tennis fans have witnessed Maria Sharapova’s stunning upset of top-seeded Serena Williams at Wimbledon and Martina Navritolova’s last appearance at the Australian Open. Among the many defining moments in tennis this year, one has propelled a former URI athletic standout to glory.
Norma Taylor, who played the No. 1 position in New England, was recently inducted into the 2004 New England Hall of Fame in a ceremony held at the Tennis Hall of Fame in Newport. She joins a select group of noted players, including professional Beth Norton-Keibler. This honor recognizes Taylor’s decades of accomplishments in the sport as a player with nine year-end No. 1 rankings in New England and two national No. 1 rankings and as the women’s coach at Brown University, where she led her team to two Ivy League titles.
Taylor is thrilled about her selection, calling it “a great honor for someone who played tennis in a playground and never had formal lessons.”
An overachiever, Taylor also held the titles of state champion in squash and racquetball. Quite possibly, Taylor is the only Rhode Islander to hold championships in three racket sports. While she enjoys all three, tennis is “in her blood.”
She defines her best win as a doubles match against professional Betsy Nagelsen and her partner, Frances O’Sullivan. Paired with Lillian Peltz-Petow, Taylor employed a simple strategy—hit everything to Frances.
Of her coaching career, Taylor cited the exceptional 1997 season, when her team at Brown ranked 34th out of 300 Division I women’s teams. Rarely does an Ivy League university enjoy that level of success given the lack of athletic scholarships.
After 19 years at Brown, Taylor, who holds an undergraduate degree in natural resources, is using her coaching skills off the tennis court. Last spring, she joined New England Tech as an admissions officer. “I was ready for a change. I will still be coaching in the sense that students entering college need a little help along the way to determine the right path.”
— Maria V. Caliri ’86, M.B.A. ’92
James Tingley ’75
Encouraged by classmates to relocate to Washington, D.C., in 1980, James Tingley considered the change a great opportunity. Most of his friends had jobs, but he had found that long-term employment as a radio announcer at any of the Rhode Island stations he worked at was seemingly unattainable.
Since that time, Tingley, who holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration, has never looked back. Instead, he’s looked up into deep space. Tingley’s programming ability landed him a job with a government contractor to NASA: “I answered a two-line ad for an entry-level FORTRAN programmer, and the rest is history.”
History in the making, that is. Tingley is currently working on the Cassini-Huygens mission, one of NASA’s most ambitious. Launched in 1997, the Cassini spacecraft reached Saturn and its moons this year and will orbit the system for at least four years. Tingley provides software support and systems administration for the Composite InfraRed Spectrometer aboard the spacecraft. CIRS, a remote sensing instrument (akin to human sight), is measuring infrared emissions from atmospheres (gases that surround a planet) and analyzing the chemical composition of molecules in the Saturnian region.
Among his many responsibilities, Tingley ensures that the computer systems and data servers receiving information from CIRS are operable and that operating systems are updated. He also retrieves, standardizes, and distributes the raw data CIRS provides from space. In analyzing this information, scientists develop a keener understanding of the solar system and Earth’s origins.
Prior to the launch of Cassini-Huygens, Tingley assisted with the data analysis for the Voyager mission: “I worked closely with the co-investigator and maintained a legacy 5,000-line FORTRAN program for a synthetic atmosphere. We would change the parameters and run the model to try to match it to the actual data.”
Tingley’s work with NASA is a natural extension of an interest in space he developed as a child: “I grew up watching the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo missions, so I was quite excited when I became a part of the space program.”
— Maria V. Caliri ’86, M.B.A. ’92
Gladys Corvera Baker ’83
It has been an unlikely journey from Cochabamba, Bolivia, to Providence, R.I., for Gladys Corvera Baker. Throughout her travels, Baker has learned the importance of serving others before herself. After graduating from URI’s Feinstein College of Continuing Education with a B.A. in psychology and sociology and earning an M.S.W. from the School of Social Work at Rhode Island College in 1985, Baker has established herself as a pioneer in Hispanic social services.
Since graduation, Corvera Baker has been involved with many organizations that help youths, women, and the elderly. Perhaps her greatest contribution to the Hispanic community occurred in 2001 when she founded and directed the International Gallery for Heritage and Culture, which is based in her hometown of Cochabamba. The organization focuses on developing arts and cultural programs for seniors, children, and low-income families.
According to Corvera Baker, “the major purpose of social work is to help people achieve their maximum potential given the opportunities presented to them.” Single-handedly, she has incorporated her ideals of social services into an organization that helps people from Providence to Cochabamba learn about their culture, appreciate the arts, and discover themselves.
Corvera Baker’s passion for social work was cultivated by traditional family values and a good education. To this day, Corvera Baker is enthusiastic about sharing the positive effects school had on her current success:“ The Psychology Department at URI helped me learn to relate to people through listening and creating solutions with an open heart.”
As a result of her tireless efforts, Corvera Baker has received numerous honors within the Hispanic community. Recently, she was recognized as a member of the 2004 RIC Alumni Honor Roll for Social Work. After accepting the award, she proudly proclaimed, “the people that inspire me to do the work, I have met at school. I would never have accomplished the things that I have without URI and RIC.”
Holly M. Barker ’87
Growing up on Upper College Road, Holly Barker wanted to make a difference in the world. Her father, Walter Barker ’60, M.A. ’62, was a professor in URI’s English department for 33 years, so Barker was immersed in the URI community.
What she learned from professors and faculty families has helped her make a difference far from Kingston. Barker, an English major who lives in Seattle and teaches part-time at the University of Washington, has worked for the Republic of the Marshall Islands’ (RMI) Embassy in Washington, D.C., since 1990, a job she landed after serving in the Marshall Islands with the Peace Corps.
Barker recently published Bravo for the Marshallese, a book detailing the effects of U.S. nuclear weapons testing on the health and culture of the Marshallese. The title refers to both the Bravo test of 1954 (the largest thermonuclear weapon ever tested by the U.S. Government), and the courage of the Marshallese in defining themselves as survivors rather than victims of the testing program.
“After the U.S. liberated the Marshall Islands from Japan, the people felt indebted to Americans,” Barker explained. “When the U.S. asked to test something dangerous for a greater good, the Marshallese had no idea what they were saying yes to.”
The testing resulted in tragedy. Generations of Marshallese families have been decimated by exile from homelands, cancer, and other radiation-related illnesses caused by the testing between 1946 and 1958. “Some cancers appear decades later,” Barker said. “People are still contracting illnesses and still can’t return home because of residual contamination. This generation of Marshallese will come and go, but the legacy of the nuclear testing will endure for centuries.”
Barker is currently conducting research with a fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for a project entitled, “Considering the Consequential Damages of Nuclear War: Legacies and Lessons from the Marshall Islands.”
For more information about the Marshall Islands, visit www.rmiembassyus.org.
—Shane Donaldson ’99
John Christian Hopkins ’87
After years of carrying scraps of paper covered in notes and ideas, John Christian Hopkins is finally seeing those notes turn into novels.
Hopkins has published two books in the last year, making a dream into reality after years of submitting manuscripts and developing ideas.
Hopkins, a journalist who is a member of the Narragansett tribe, published his second novel, Nacogdoches, in April 2004 through PublishAmerica. It’s a western tale following the trials and tribulations of the Ringo Kid, the new sheriff of a small Texas town, and his pal, Tumbleweed, as they battle the bad guys.
“The story blends history with humor,” Hopkins said. ”I love to take actual events and people in history and create a story. To see a final copy is a dream come true.”
Nacogdoches was picked up the same day his first novel, Carlomagno (iUniverse) went to press. Carlomagno is the story of the son of the legendary Wampanoag chief King Philip (c. 1675). The boy is captured and sold into slavery in the West Indies. He escapes, becomes the great pirate Carlomagno, and battles his way home to New England.
While Hopkins has been writing articles and columns for several Rhode Island papers for years, it took more than 20 years to get his first novel published. “As an author, you are going to face rejection, but I knew I had a gift from God,” Hopkins said. “When I was little, instead of a teddy bear, I fell asleep holding books. When my first book was published, it was overwhelming. I just started crying. I only wish my parents were still alive to see it.”
Hopkins now has an agent and is shopping a third novel, Shadow Across the Sun, which focuses on the last royal family of the Narragansettes, the Ninigrets. Hopkins himself is a descendant of the Ninigrets.
“I’ve been lucky because I’ve never had writer’s block,” Hopkins said. “My problem has been too many ideas floating in my head.”
—Shane Donaldson ’99
Frank Marini ’94
Frank Marini has the kind of job college kids dream about. It involves exotic destinations, adventure, nightlife, and lots of young, fun people. As the new president of Contiki Holidays, Marini is in charge of the world’s largest travel company for 18- to 35-year olds.
Marini began as a mailroom clerk with Collette Vacations while still in high school. He quickly moved his way up the ladder progressing from tour manager to international sales manager to regional sales manager. He has lived in England, Canada, Australia, and now California.
He and Contiki are a perfect match. As Marini explained, “I got a call from the former president, who was moving back to New Zealand. It was an amazing opportunity for me. Contiki was looking for someone young, experienced, and passionate about travel who understood the company’s 18 to 35 demographic.”
Contiki handles more than 100 tours, resorts, and cruises to Europe, North America, Australia, and New Zealand. Marini is focused on managing and expanding Contiki’s U.S. business operation in North America. Contiki has been featured on MTV’s Real World and Dr. Phil, and Marini appeared on ESPN’s Cold Pizza morning show. This may seem an odd career for someone with a B.A. in political science and theater. Marini laughs when asked whether he had intended to make travel a career choice. “I didn’t start out thinking that I would do this for a living. I was actually getting ready to go to law school.”
“The great thing about Collette was that they gave every employee a chance to go on trips including part-time people,” says Marini. After graduation, he finally took his trip. “I had such a great time that when I came back I decided to put off law school for a year to take a full-time job that had opened up at Collette. And I’ve never looked back.”
He may be traveling less himself this year, though. In September he became the father of twin boys, Roan and Vance.
—Jennifer Sherwood ’89