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Notable Alumni

USM's storied history of superior academics and supportive community have developed numerous notable alumni. As an alumna/alumnus, you share a common bond with these extraordinary people. New in 2019, we will begin an inclusive approach to what makes our alumni notable. From economists to activists and artists, alumni of all ages and generations have remarkable accomplishments that span throughout their lives and careers. The purpose of this page is to highlight the achievements of our alumni, and to share stories of their personal and professional growth and success. As the accomplishments of our alumni continue to grow, this page will always be a work in progress. If you know any alumni who should be featured, please submit them for inclusion.

List of 15 frequently asked questions.

  • Elisa Tharps Basnight '87 - Former Chief of Staff at the U.S. Mint

    Elisa Tharps Basnight '87Elisa Tharps Basnight '87 joined the U.S. Mint's leadership team in January and will serve as the Chief of Staff.

    In her role, Basnight facilitates collaboration within the U.S. Mint and external stakeholders; reviews policies that involve bureau-wide interests and scope; and leads cross-departmental initiatives addressing key strategic priorities. In her previous Presidential appointment, she served the Department of Veteran Affairs as the Director of the Center for Women Veterans, where she was the primary advisor to the Secretary of Veteran Affairs on programs and issues related to women veterans. Basnight is also the founder of Girls Action Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping girls maximize their potential through exposure to career and educational options.
  • Rakesh "Raj" Bhala '80 - International Trade Law and Islamic Law Expert and Professor

     '80Following his graduation from Harvard University, Raj Bhala '80 began his career as an attorney with the legal department at the Federal Reserve Back of New York. He was twice awarded the President's Award for Excellence for his work as a delegate to the United Nations Convention on International Trade Law. He also received a Letter of Commendation from the U.S. State Department for his work in drafting the 1992 Model Law on International Credit Transfers. 

    In 2003, Bhala joined the faculty at Kansas University, where he teaches courses on international trade law and Islamic law to United States Special Operations Forces. He has been awarded the Kemper Teaching Award, George and Eleanor Woodyard International Educator Award, and the Moreau Award. He has also taught classes at numerous other universities, including Washington University, the University of Michigan, Duke University, and internationally at the Heidelberg Centre for Latin America (Chile), the World Trade Institute (Switzerland), LaTrobe University (Australia), the University of Auckland, and the University of London.

    Additionally, Bhala is the author of dozens of scholarly articles and 13 books, and is regularly featured by BloombergQuint (India) for his work on international law and economics. He became the first non-Muslim American law professor to author a textbook on Islamic Law designed for English-speaking students and teachers. He also authored "International Trade Law - An Interdisciplinary, Non-Western Textbook," which has been endorsed by trade experts across the world.
  • Emily Cooley '08 - Composer

    Emily Cooley '08 Emily Cooley '08 was recently awarded the Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, an honor reserved for exemplary young composers. Cooley is currently serving under the Milton L. Rock Composition Fellowship at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, and frequently travels the country to work with orchestras and ensembles.

    Cooley played in Upper School concert and jazz band and cites Dain and Ellen Shuler as impactful influences on her career. "My fondest memories are of playing in the orchestra pit for the Upper School Musicals," Cooley said. "The Shulers put on those productions and their love for music was contagious."

    "The arts can bring students together in a combined creative effort that can be emotionally meaningful. Even disregarding music, I can't imagine what my life would be like if I hadn't taken drama courses and been in plays at USM. Students need variety in what they learn and how they learn it."
  • Cristina Costantini '07 - Film Director

    Cristina Costantini '07 Cristina Costantini '07 has enjoyed an atypical career path as an award-winning reporter following graduation as USM, using her skills and abilities as a social scientist as a springboard to a career as an investigative journalist. Costantini, who worked for the Huffington Post before settling in as a journalist for Fusion, an ABC/Univision collaboration, won an award at Intel ISEF in 2004 for her research and study of the impact of peer pressure and conformity.

    While Constantini did not ultimately pursue a career in science, it's undeniable that many of the researching, long-term planning, and organizational skills she sharpened as a scientist have served her well in her chosen field. 

    "It's clear that USM has one of the strongest science programs in the country, one that fosters fruitful, independent learning," Costantini said. "My experiences in science and innovation have helped me study complex issues on a micro level, and have served me well as a journalist."

    Constantini returned to Intel ISEF in 2016, interviewing several participations for an upcoming documentary that she hopes to produce and release by the end of 2017.
  • R.P. Eddy '90 - Security and Intelligence Expert

    R.P. Eddy '90R.P. Eddy ’90 is a globally recognized security and intelligence expert who serves as the CEO of Ergo, a leading intelligence and analysis firm in New York. He also previously served as director of the White House National Security Council, chief of staff to the United Nation's U.S. ambassador, senior adviser to the Security of Energy, and senior policy officer to the Security-General of the United Nations, where he served as an architect of the Global Fund to Prevent AIDS, TB, and Malaria.

    Eddy is also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Board of the Middle East Institute. He has served as a senior fellow at Harvard University, the Madison Policy Forum, and the Manhattan Institute. He is also the co-author of "Warnings: Finding Cassandras to Stop Catastrophes," which was published in 2017.

    While a student at USM, Eddy was involved in many facets of school life. He was a prefect and a member of the student council, earned all-conference honors as a football player, and served as an editor for Charter, the school's former newspaper, among other activities.
  • Gus Fuldner '00 - Executive and Insurance Expert, Uber

    Gus Fuldner '00Whether facing the Fed Challenge as a USM student or tackling global issues as a member of the Uber executive team, Gus Fuldner '00 has always relished solving complex problems. Fuldner, a senior director and global head of insurance with Uber, a ridesharing app that provides transportation to users in nearly 500 cities in the U.S. and abroad, has helped pass more than 40 state laws and changed regulations in many other countries that have allowed each Uber ride to be insured. As a result of his efforts, Fuldner was named Business Insurance's 2016 Risk Manager of the Year."When we started at Uber, the concept of ridesharing was still pretty new, so there wasn't legislation governing the process, nor products for the market," Fuldner said. "I feel incredibly fortunate to be here on the front lines reshaping both the transportation and insurance industries."

    Fuldner's passion for solving complex problems was cultivated at USM, where he was challenged as a student and in extracurricular activities such as the Fed Challenge and Academic Decathlon. Fuldner credits USM's senior speech program for providing a "running start" for his ability to effectively communicate in front of regulators and at industry conferences, and cited former Upper School math teacher Tom Bergen and former history teacher and Fed Challenge coach John "J.S." Stephens as influential in his development as a thinker and problem-solver. He remembered Bergen as a teacher who "always pushed for his students to master the concepts instead of memorizing formulas," and Stephens, who "used current events and real-world examples to bring the theoretical part of economics to life."

    After graduating from USM in 2000, Fuldner matriculated to Yale University, where he double-majored in economics and computer science and turned his professional focus to the payments industry. Fuldner worked for Higher One, a payments industry startup, and McKinsey & Company, where he gained international business experience serving as a consultant in New York City and Hong Kong. Fuldner then earned his MBA from the Stanford Business School in 2011 and became a venture capitalist at Benchmark Capital, a major firm in the San Francisco Bay Area that was an early investor in current thriving businesses such as Twitter, SnapChat, Yelp, and Uber, which he joined in 2013. 

    Moving forward, Fuldner sees himself continuing to serve as he always has-as an elite problem-solver.

    "I want to keep learning and solving complex problems," Fuldner said. "I didn't expect to be in the insurance industry, but whether I'm working insurance or something totally unrelated, albeit likely in the technology world, I anticipate that I'll continue to seek out complex problems to solve."
  • Maxine Hupy '07 - Professional Dancer and Choreographer

    Maxine Hupy '07 A passion for dance has guided Maxine Hupy '07 from USM to Northwestern University and, ultimately, to Hollywood, where she currently plies her craft as a professional dancer and choreographer. Hupy, who has worked with artists including Iggy Azalea and Cee-Lo Green, among others, is still inspired by a passion for dance that began during her years at USM.

    "I still remember the encouragement that I received from USM facutly members and my classmates," Hupy said. "That was impactful in my development as a dancer, and for my confidence in general."

    Hupy credits dance with providing the self-confidence to perform in front of thousands of people, and for her abilty to express herself on stage, in a board room, and as a networker. Through that self-confidence, Hupy has found success on the highest levels in her field doing what she loves.

    "People driven by passion will build an empire that not only consumes them, but excites them every day."
  • Matt Junker '85 - Software Engineer

    Matt Junker '85 For many young boys, working in the field of astronautics is a childhood dream, but for Matt Junker '85, his passion for innovation helped make it a reality. Following his time at USM, Junker graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with degrees in engineering and computer science and entered the U.S. Navy, where he underwent a series of trainings before emerging as a submarine officer and instructor of missile launching procedures.

    After completing his navel duties, Junker joined the Astronautics Corporation of America as a software engineer, where he has served for the last 19 years, working primarily with cockpit display software and airborne servers. Meanwhile, Junker has served as a judge at the USM Upper School Science Fair and remembers his time at the School fondly, reflecting that he often learned most during his formative years from making mistakes. 

    "Pay attention to the details, be curious, challenge yourself, and have fun," Junker said. "I've found that some of the best experiences come from experiments that fail."
  • Dick Kramlich MCDS'53 - Venture Capitalist

    Dick Kramlich MCDS '53Recognized as "one of the top boys in his class" from this days at Milwaukee Country Day School, to his time as a technology pioneer in Silicon Valley, Dick Kramlich MCDS '53 has made an incredible impact throughout his academic and entrepreneurial career. 

    A visionary venture capitalist who has been involved with 10 companies that have grown from the start-up or near start-up stage to accrue market value in excess of $1 billion, Kramlich was recently inducted into the inaugural class of the Global Silicon Valley Hall of Fame in 2015."I consider myself an entrepreneur, not a financier," Kramlich said. "I always approach new opportunities with a 'we' mindset rather than a 'they' mindset."

    Described as a "venture capitalist trailblazer", Kramlich's induction took place during the Pioneer Summit, an annual gathering of the world's foremost technology leaders, investors, and rising stars who are working together to build a stronger society. 

    A steward of countless highly profitable organizations, Kramlich has been involved with Juniper Networks, Ascend Communications, ImmuneX, Macromedia, Financial Engines, and Xoom, among many others. He was also a seed capital investor in Apple in 1977. 

    Kramlich currently serves as co-founder of New Enterprise Associates, Inc. (NEA), a leading venture capital firm based in Silicon Valley, and is chairman of the NEA Management Company. He began is venture career in 1969 as a general partner with Arthur Rock and Co. following nine years in general and investment management.

    "I don't accept failure. If something doesn't go your way, you need to pull it in a different category, perhaps you were aiming at the wrong target," Kramlich said. "Perseverance is one of the keys to success and the ability to address and overcome obstacles is critical."

    Following his family's move to Milwaukee from Appleton to expand Krambo, the family-owned grocery chain, Kramlich entered Milwaukee Country Day School as a freshman in 1949 and excelled both inside and outside the classroom. He was a member of the student council and served as class president for his sophomore, junior, and senior years, and also as an athlete in football, basketball, and tennis. 

    He reflected most fondly on his time playing for legendary MCDS and USM football coach Ken Laird, who implored a young Kramlich to add weight. Working as a "pea pusher" at a factory in Waukesha over the summer, Kramlich took Laird's advice, developed as a student and an athlete, and was subsequently named Most Improved Player and second team all-conference during his senior year. 

    Following his distinguished career at MCDS, Kramlich earned a BS in History at Northwestern University and obtained his MBA from the Harvard Business School. He currently resides in San Francisco with his wife Pamela, and enjoy collecting art, hiking, traveling, swimming, playing tennis, and spending time with his four children and six grandchildren.
  • Bruce Lee '81 - Private Banking and Investments

    Bruce Lee '81Great things happen when great minds come together. This is evident every day within our School community, as members dedicate themselves in so many ways to supporting the educational development of our students while contributing to the vitality of USM. 

    The new Bruce '81 and Jennifer Lee Community Room will be an asset for all at USM–a place where parents and other community members mingle, connect with teachers, exchange ideas, and share more than a passing hello at drop-off and pick-up.

    The room will feature collaborative work spaces, coffee-and-conversation areas, and flexible seating for larger gatherings, including admissions events and faculty and Parent's Association meetings. 

    Crediting his senior year experience at USM as a "pivotal year" in his education journey, Lee believes that it is the intimate parent-teacher-student interaction that sets the School apart. 

    "When all three work together as a team, the outcome is a better education," Lee said. The new space, made possible due to his family's support, will help to foster the strength of the School's community. 

    Lee currently serves as a member of USM's Alumni Association Board, along with other community organizations in Chicago, and works as the Managing Director, Private Banking and Investment Group at Merrill Lynch. USM is grateful to the Lee family for their generous contribution as we strengthen our commitment to building connections and camaraderie among all members of the USM community.
  • Mark Rylance '78 - Actor

    Mark Rylance '78From stage to screen, there may not be a more talented and accomplished actor in the world today than Mark Rylance '78. The three-time Tony Award winning thespian earned the 2016 Best Supporting Oscar for his role in the Steven Spielberg-directed Cold War thriller "Bridge of Spies", as he continues to bolster his resume as one of the very best character actors. Rylance will also star as the lead in Disney's "The BFG", another Spielberg film, in July 2016 while continuing to shine as a stage actor.

    Rylance played Romeo in "Romeo and Juliet", and worked on adaptations of Homer's Odyssey and Fyodor Dostoevsky's "The Idiot", during his time at USM before matriculating to London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. 

    During a previous assembly with USM Upper School students, Rylance described himself as "one of those odd people who has a clear direction at an early age for what he wanted to do with his life." While attending USM, he made the stage his home, admitting to students that on more than one occasion, he hid in the ventilation ducts overnight on the weekends in order to work on stage sets. "I met Shakepeare at this School," Rylance said.
  • John Scheinfeld '71 - Film Director/Writer/Producer

    John Scheinfeld '71John Scheinfeld '71 is a respected writer, producer, and director of documentaries. His film "Chasing Trane: The John Coltrane Documentary" recently premiered in New York and Los Angeles, with a local screening in Milwaukee too. In total, the film has been shown more than 100 screens throughout the country, and the documentary is also available on Netflix and PBS.Scheinfeld also wrote, directed, and produced (with David Leaf) the feature-length documentary "Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him)?." The film had its world premiere at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, and was also an official selection of the Seattle International Film Festival and Mods and Rockers Film Festival.

    Scheinfeld and Leaf also wrote, produced, and directed the feature film documentary "The U.S. vs. John Lennon," an official selection of the Venice Film Festival and the Toronto Film Festival. It was released in theaters by Lionsgate in September 2006.

    "The first thing I ever directed was at USM. It was my senior year, the Vietnam War was still going on, and I decided it would be a fine idea to direct and act in an anti-war play. I'm sure this gave several teachers and administrators great pause, but to their credit they were totally supportive. The play was not unlike my film, "The U.S. vs. John Lennon" in that... although it was a story rooted firmly in the past (WWII)... it had great resonance for a contemporary audience. In so many ways, this was representative of my USM experience—a nurturing environment in which I was able to learn, grown as a person, and take on new challenges," Sceinfeld said.

    Among his credits are productions on such iconic figures as Frank Sinatra, Peter Sellers, Nat 'King' Cole, Bob Hope, Bette Midler, and the Bee Gees; and Grammy nominations as a producer of "Beautiful Dreamer: Brian Wilson" and the "Story of SMiLE."

    Other credits include writing, producing, and directing "No Fighting in the War Room: Dr. Strangelove and The Nuclear Threat" as well as two critically-acclaimed documentaries for the National Geographic Channel, "Tomb of Jesus" and "In The Name of Heaven."

    Before going out on his own, Scheinfeld was an executive with both Paramount Pictures Television and MTM Enterprises where he developed and supervised the production of pilots and new network series. He received a bachelor of arts degree in communications and sociology from Oberlin College and holds a masters of fine arts in radio/television/film from Northwestern University (the first such degree ever awarded by the school).
  • Kurt Stiehl '03 - Product Designer, Apple

    Kurt Stiehl '03 After excelling in the early days of the USM Science Fair and as a member of the Upper School theatre crew, Kurt Stiehl '03 brought his intellectual curiosity for design to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and eventually, Apple, Inc., where he now thrives as a product design manager. Responsible for many of the Apple product accessories that so many of us carry on a daily basis, including iPhone "bumper" cases, earpods, and more, Stiehl still reflects on some of the lessons learned from his days developing his science project, which involved the acoustic modeling of rooms.

    "(Former USM Upper School Science Teacher) Brian Pack was a huge influence on me, encouraging me to push with my project and advising me on how to better run my experiment," Stiehl said. "His deep intellectual curiosity propelled me further to think outside of the box."

    That curiosity and problem-solving ability has served Stiehl well as he leads product development teams that solve complex design issues for Apple. When asked what kind of advice Stiehl would give to the next generation of aspiring USM innovators, he stressed the importance of teamwork and an eagerness to attack problems intellectually, even if it leads to failure from time to time. 

    "Dream now, and don't wait to try and solve the problems around you," Stiehl said. "Learn fast, build fast, and try again. And don't be afraid to ask for help."
  • Vic Thomas '74 - Associate Entertainment Director, Summerfest

    There is not a typical day on the job for Vic Thomas'74, Associate Entertainment Director at Summerfest. Thomas, who started at Summerfest while at University School earning money for college, is involved in the planning and execution of all of the events on the Summerfest grounds, from the MS Walk to Irish Fest to the Big Gig.

    Although some might assume that most of Thomas’ work is done a few months prior to the World’s Largest Music Festival, Thomas explains that when not planning for the upcoming festival, he and his colleagues are reviewing the successes and challenges of the prior summer’s events. With a chuckle, Thomas says, “I literally talk about Summerfest every day of the year.” Thomas contends that good people skills are essential to his work at Summerfest, which includes scouting and communicating with potential talent for the festivals. Thomas says these skills “come from way back” and credits University School with helping to develop his ability to speak to large groups, particularly because of the group presentations he was assigned in the Upper School. Thomas modeled those skills during his presentation at an Upper School assembly on October 29, 2011. 

    Thomas, who was a prefect his senior year at USM, has “done a number of things” professionally. “Like anyone, I’d like to say there was just one thing, just a straight path, but of course, there wasn’t,” Thomas explains. After graduating from Oberlin College in 1978, Thomas spent four years in Los Angeles in the U.S. Air Force and worked in sales for a variety of companies before landing back in Milwaukee to rejoin Summerfest in 1986. “Good family and friends” brought Thomas back to the Midwest and he notes that many of those friends were University School classmates. Thomas looks back on his time at USM fondly. He sums up his experience by noting that USM, “has obviously made a difference in my life. That’s probably the best way to say it.” Thomas comments that he felt accepted and, even at the time, knew he was a part of a special community of not only students, faculty, and parents, but alumni as well. Thomas says that at times, for his parents, sending him to USM “was quite a struggle [financially]. But looking back it was definitely worth it.” 

    Thomas believes that USM has its own diversity. He says, when arriving at USM he met “a number of people that I had never met like that before– whether it was social status, political beliefs, or whatever– we still had to get along, get together on teams, in choir– things that anyone has to do in this type of social situation. We did it– I was very happy to be a part of that.
  • Bennett Williamson '11 - Fashion Designer

    Bennett Williamson '11 Currently working towards his college degree, Bennett Williamson '11 has wasted little time making his mark on the design industry. In addition to his courseload, Williamson works as an assistant designer for Naeem Khan in New York City and also owns his own company, Evelyn Brawner, a custom designer of eveningwear.Williamson took every arts class that he could at USM, and credits the depth of his portfolio as key to getting into a high-quality arts program. "Mr. Geniusz was absolutely amazing,"

    Williamson said. "I was interested in fashion from the time I was five, and every project that I did was influenced by that. He saw that, and pushed me." He also credits Sarah Markwald with helping him develop a discerning eye, and the entirety of USM's Upper School arts programming to help him refine and sharpen his skills and taste.

Athletic Hall of Fame

University School of Milwaukee is pleased to recognize and induct alumni with notable athletic accomplishments to the USM Athletic Hall of Fame. The Athletic Hall of Fame has been established to forever commemorate a long legacy of exceptional athletic performance and contributions by former USM and predecessor school athletes, coaches, teams, and distinguished contributors, and to recognize the important role of athletics within the culture of our school. For additional information about the Athletic Hall of Fame, including a list of inductees and details on the nomination process, please visit the USM Athletics website.
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