Many a Shocker grad has made a career out of out-of-this-world endeavors.
Two of them are Michael Staab ’13 and Amanda Smith ’15, both of whom
are aerospace engineering graduates. Staab is a mission control engineer
for the Cassini spacecraft and a mission systems engineer for the Mars 2020 rover at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Smith works to support the International Space Station as a flight operator in mission control
at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Keep on space truckin’, Shockers!
He’s Got Rhythm
Timing is everything to Sal D’Andrea ’77. For one thing, it’s the heartbeat
of the business he founded more than a decade ago: Rhythm Connection
offers interactive group drumming, an activity D’Andrea says can “encourage
the purposeful transfer of ideas, reduce stress, build camaraderie and
encourage creativity and team-building,” among other benefits. Rhythm Connection has programs for corporate retreats as well as programs geared toward children’s education. D’Andrea, who lives in Waretown, N.J., received
his bachelor’s degree in instrumental music education from WSU before
heading back East to earn a master’s degree in music from Trenton State College, now the College of New Jersey in Ewing Township.
This Shocker culinary artist is called the “Pasta Queen of Wroclaw.” That’s because not only is she the pasta chef and production manager at Restauracja RAGU Pracownia Makaronu in Wroclaw, Poland, where she lives, but Katarzyna Ryniak ’98 is also a graduate of the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo, Italy. A Wichita State marketing and finance graduate, she shares
her culinary artistry using a unique menu of marketing tools: She blogs at blueoleander.com, writes articles about pasta fresca for the magazine Pyszne
and even has a radio show, Kulinarny Wroclaw, on Radio RAM. Bon appetit, Shockers, or rather Jedzmy!
Giant of a Hit
Conor Gillaspie fs ’08, backup 3rd baseman for the San Francisco Giants, slammed home a game-winning run in the 9th inning of the National League
Wild Card game. It was his first MLB postseason game. The win sent the
Giants to the National League Division Series against the Chicago Cubs.
The Giants were fated to lose the series to the Cubs, but Gillaspie made a
strong showing: He hit a go-ahead, two-run triple in the 8th inning of the
Giants’ Game 3 extra-innings win and went four for four in the Giants’ Game
4 loss to the Cubs, who history has now recorded went on to become the
World Series Champions.
Special Agent Woman
Jennifer Coffindaffer ’88, a criminal justice graduate who went on to a career
with the FBI, is now CEO and instructor at Firearms Beyond International.
(Notice, it’s another FBI!) Coffindaffer retired from the Federal Bureau of Investigation after 25 years. She was a tactical operator on the FBI’s Houston, Dallas and San Juan SWAT teams from 1995 through 2014, was an FBI
firearms instructor for 21 years and an FBI law enforcement street survival instructor from 2003 until 2016. All of that experience has made her a most effective instructor at (the other) FBI, which provides defensive firearms
training, marksmanship instruction, self-defense courses and terrorism
awareness classes. Coffindaffer lives in Westlake, Texas.
Hall of Famer
Alferdteen Brown Harrison ’67, who earned a master’s degree in history at
WSU, has been inducted into the University of Kansas Women’s Hall of Fame. The first African American to earn a doctorate in history from KU, she helped establish the university’s African and African American Studies department.
She is a professor of history and the director of the Margaret Walker Alexander National Research Center at Jackson State University in Jackson, Miss., where this Hall of Famer resides.
Sam Ramey ’68, legendary operatic bass-baritone and native Kansan who
has wowed opera audiences around the world for decades, is not only Distinguished Professor of Opera at Wichita State, but also an ambassador
and artistic adviser for Wichita Grand Opera. In October, Ramey starred in the WGO’s production of “La Bohème” and teamed up with collaborative pianist Warren Jones in a recital celebrating American music at WSU’s Miller Concert Hall. In September, he performed the role of Monterone in WGO’s “Rigoletto.” Having a resident legend on campus and about town — that’s something to
For 45 years now, tens of thousands of devoted bluegrass music fans,
performers and players — a good number of them Shockers! — have put
forth the case that the annual Walnut Valley Festival, held in September in Winfield, Kan., is the best music festival bar-none in America. To bolster this argument, Wichita State friend and supporter Bob Hamrick, working with singer/songwriter Bryan Masters ’83, has created September’s Song. This
full-color, hardcover coffee-table book celebrates “the magic,” as Hamrick
phrases it, of the festival. For more info, visit: septemberssongbook.com.