Alumni Spotlights

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 Former Privateer basketball player Kentrell Martin (third from right on front) has gone from lockdown defender to award-winning author.

Kentrell Martin (BS Management '04)

Around the University of New Orleans, Kentrell Martin is remembered as a lockdown defender for head coach Monte Towe on Privateer basketball teams during a tenure that lasted from 2001 through 2004.

Martin is now on the offensive, an award-winning author, who has published two books – 'Shelly's Outdoor Adventure' and 'Shelly Goes to the Zoo'.

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Blaine Prestenbach (BS Business Administration '08)

This Valentine’s Day marks the long-awaited opening of Charcoal’s Gourmet Burger Bar, the upscale build-your-own-burger concept occupying the sleek new construction at the uptown corner of Magazine and Jackson. Though the idea of a better burger has found its footing throughout the city, Charcoal’s was conceived as a business plan more than half a decade ago when Blaine Prestenbach (BS 08) was still a student at the University of New Orleans. 

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Robert "Bobby" Savoie (PhD Engineering and Applied Sciences '09)

Dr. Robert A. “Bobby” Savoie (PhD engineering & applied science '09) serves as Chief Executive Officer of Geocent, L.L.C, one of the largest information technology and engineering services companies headquartered in New Orleans. On September 19th, the 2012 Governor's Technology Awards honored Geocent as "Growth Company/Organization of the Year" for its demonstration of a "significant rate of revenue, products and services sold, and/or number of employees." Geocent was formed in 2008 to acquire and integrate several related firms in the fields of information technology, engineering services, and defense and aerospace manufacturing support. Since then, the company has grown more than 300% and added over 200 IT and engineering professionals.

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Salman Khan (Mathematics)

The University of New Orleans has long prided itself on providing affordable, high-quality educational opportunities not only for those who fit the classic college student profile, but also those with less traditional backgrounds. Now, Sal Khan, an alum who took upper-level mathematics courses at UNO as a high school student before attending MIT and Harvard, is making his own mark on the world of (very) public education.

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Jay C. Zainey (BS Accounting '73)

United States District Court Judge Jay C. Zainey, honored as the 2012 UNO Homer L. Hitt Distinguished Alumnus, first distinguished himself at UNO when he graduated cum laude with a bachelor of science in accounting in 1973. The Metairie native did not stop there. His prestigious career led to his appointment to the federal bench for the U.S. District Court in 2002, a position he still holds. Zainey has distinguished himself in countless ways beyond his profession, helping those in need at every turn. While president of the Louisiana State Bar Association for 1995-96, Zainey established the first committee to provide legal referral services to the disabled. He co-founded St. Andrew’s Village, a long-term living community serving adults with developmental disabilities — the first of its kind in Louisiana. Zainey formed Homeless Experience Legal Protection (HELP) to provide free legal consultation and notary services at homeless shelters throughout the New Orleans area. In 2002 he co-founded SOLACE, which assists members of the legal community who experience family tragedy. 

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Gary Rucker (BA '96 MFA Acting '00)

Gary Rucker’s list of stage credits as an actor, director and producer – as well as his awards – runs a full 7 pages at 12-point Times New Roman font. Single spaced. These include Big Easy, Storer Boone and Marquee Awards and nominations for directing nearly every year since 2003. It’s no surprise, then, that The University of New Orleans named Rucker the College of Liberal Arts Distinguished Alumnus for 2012.

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Melissa Weber (BA Drama and Communications '00)

Communications Professional / DJ Soul Sister

New Orleans is the kind of city where Melissa Weber (BA, COLA 2000) and her alter-ego, DJ Soul Sister, can exist in harmony. Even before graduating from UNO with a degree in drama and communications (and a minor in English), Weber was on her way to establishing herself as both a communications professional and a renowned DJ-Artist. “Soul Sister life began for me at WWOZ,” she explains. “I’ve done my Soul Power radio show for closer to 20 years than anything else.” Weber had intentions of helping out at a college radio station, willing to “lick envelopes and stuff” just to be near the music, and ended up with her own show. “When people at [WWOZ] got hip to the fact that I collected records and was into all this music, they were like, ‘Why don’t you get on the air?’”

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Kevin Wagner

Senior Project Manager, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)

Every UNO graduate leaves some indelible mark on New Orleans, but few have done so much to literally support the city as Kevin Wagner. An employee of the Protection Restoration Office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), Kevin was honored twice at the 2011 USACE Summer Leaders Conference Awards Dinner as part of “Team New Orleans,” lauded for outstanding achievement in professional excellence and efforts to reduce risk for the people of the Greater New Orleans area.

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Karen Mincey (BS '82)

VP & CIO, TECO Energy

Karen Mincey was the only African American graduate of her 1982 Electrical Engineering class and one of only two women.  Today, Mincey is Vice President and Chief Information Officer for Tampa-based TECO Energy.  She was recently named one of the 75 most powerful women in business by Black Enterprise magazine, a list that also included Oprah Winfrey and executives from FedEx and Burger King. Ms. Mincey was chosen by the UNOIAA to help recruit engineering students, and now each accepted engineering student receives a letter from Mincey encouraging him or her to choose UNO. The UNO Community was proud that she enthusiastically accepted Interim Chancellor Joe King’s invitation to be the Fall 2011 commencement speaker.

Jan Ramsey (Hotel, Restaurant, Tourism ‘80)

Publisher, Editor-In-Chief, OffBeat

Alumna Jan Ramsey, class of ’80, has, for the last twenty three years, elevated the national perception of New Orleans music as the founder of offBeat magazine. Through her efforts, the influence of the music industry on the New Orleans economy has gained recognition and attention, but when Ramsey pressed the first edition of offBeat in 1988, the industry’s impact as a whole was unacknowledged for its economic significance... 

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Marc Miranne (BS Finance '83, MS Accounting '85)

Walking into Marc Miranne’s office it’s impossible not to be dazzled by the many awards decorating his walls.  Surrounded by Marc’s CPA certificate and awards from Edward Jones, his two UNO diplomas hang prominently as the focal point of the wall: the first honoring his 1983 finance degree and the second, his 1985 accounting degree.  After years as a CPA, Marc returned to his background in finance as a financial advisor for the international investment firm Edward Jones.  His overall UNO experience holds many fond memories; it is where he met his sweetheart as well as lifelong friends as a member of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity.  Marc calls himself one of UNO’s biggest fans and owns both a silver and a blue car to prove it.

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Then    &    Now

Don Landry (BS Management '70)

UNO, frequently recognized for its hotel, restaurants, and tourism program, has produced many successful graduates. Don Landry, class of 1970, exemplifies the accomplishments possible with a UNO degree. Now owner of his own firm, his expertise is highly sought after by major hospitality industry clients. His résumé includes posts as president of a 4,000-property, international hotel corporation and as CEO of a hotel real estate and management company with hotels in 25 states.  But at UNO, Don was just like so many UNO students: juggling school and work.  Don credits his experience working in his chosen field of study as a major advantage that gave him the jump-start on his successful career.

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