Skip to the main content of this page.

miami university
Department of English
rotating images of books

Contact Us

356 Bachelor Hall
Miami University
Oxford, OH 45056
fax: 513.529.1392

This page last updated
May 8, 2012

Alumni I-P

Brian Johnson

I’ve had a variety of careers, none of them directly related to being an English/History major, though the writing and editing skills I learned in the Journalism program were often utilized.

Operated the old mainframe computer at Miami U from 1978-89 on 2nd shift, then worked a spell in retail management. After being trained in the use of AutoCad at Lorain County Community College I spent the years from 1995-2007 as a computer aided design drafter. Editing skills were often called upon because members of the engineering community as a general rule are functionally illiterate at worse; inept spellers at best.

Retired June 6, 2007, and have relocated to Mauldin, South Carolina from Vermilion, Ohio.

back to the top of the page

Judy Johnston, B.A. 1968

I graduated from Miami with a Bachelor of Arts in English with certification to teach in 1968. I taught high school English for 36 years, served as the chair for a number of years, and taught at Community College High School East for the last eight years of the 36. After being retired for almost five years and enjoying myself immensely, I began to feel guilty because I was not giving back to the community or to the world in any substantial way. Therefore, I applied to AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), was hired, and am now making presentations to area high school students with disabilities about transitioning from school to work. This VISTA program operates in conjunction with NCED (Nevada Center for Excellence in Disabilities) from University of Nevada Reno.

back to the top of the page

Charissa Jones, B.A. 1992

I’m delighted to see Miami’s English Department engaged in so many exciting aspects of reading and writing: screenwriting, drama projects, digital writing, as well as linguistics and other research projects. When I graduated in 1992 in the midst of a recession I felt that I had perhaps chosen the wrong major—one that hadn’t really equipped me for professional employment in spite of teaching me to think critically and to become a true “reader” of text, people, culture, and history. I drifted into a job as a receptionist and despaired for a couple years until I learned how to better leverage my writing and communication strengths. My sense from your newsletter is that Miami is creating a context for students to cultivate serious learning and engagement, and also explore how their skills can apply to an ever-changing economy.

I now work at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, alongside incredibly bright and passionate colleagues who work to tackle some of the world’s most difficult challenges. I take deep pleasure in my work to craft orientation programs and other learning opportunities that allow them to continue to learn so that they can do their best work. At 21, I did not imagine such a profession—or employer, frankly. I have also taken my English Literature degree into the pulpit. I earned a Master of Divinity degree and am currently providing pulpit supply while the Associate Rector of our Episcopal church is on maternity leave. I know that I respond most to sermons written by women and men who have an English or Theater background; they understand narrative and they know how to read a text in ways that help others rediscover something they thought they already understood. Every sermon I write provokes terror and creative imagining as I enter the work of drawing others into a text that contains many surprises.

Thank you for the part that the Department of English at Miami University played in my development as a writer and a thinker.

back to the top of the page

Carole Kaplan, B.A. 1963

I taught English for five years on the secondary school level in two schools in Massachusetts. After a short break to be a mother of two young children, I returned to school to study interior design. I had a long successful career and have never felt that the first career was anything but an asset to me in my second career. An ability to speak well, to put thoughts together into a whole, to write with correct grammar and context, were abilities I had which contributed to my success in the field of design. The ability to put together a lesson plan and then present it are not so different from the process in preparing for presentations to design clients.

Recently the American Society of Interior Designers National Examiners Committee informed me that they voted to approve my local New England chapter board’s nomination to life membership. This is an honor that recognizes me for “stellar achievements as a member of ASID. The NEC was extremely impressed by (my) long-standing accomplishments within ASID and the Interior Design profession and to (my) commitment to ASID as a member and volunteer.”

The award was presented to me at a gala affair at the Liberty Hotel in Boston on September 24. It was a joyous and overwhelming evening for me and my family.

Thank you for requesting an update. I thank MU and its outstanding professors gave me a lifelong gift and lifelong interest in learning.

back to the top of the page

Sara Kaplan, M.A. 2004

Sara Kaplan completed her M.F.A. in Poetry in 2007 at the University of Idaho. She is an Assistant Professor of English at Del Mar College in Corpus Christi, Texas where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition and writes poetry in her spare time. Her first chapbook, Moon Talk, was published by Trilobite Press; her second, Touring West of the Mississippi (Finishing Line Press), will be available in February 2011 on

back to the top of the page

George T. Karnezis, B.A. 1965

I was in the class of 1965 as an English major. Looking back, I remain impressed with the Miami University college catalogue’s statement that those students who “felt they needed a car should feel free to choose another school.” I also fondly recall the Common Curriculum that was in place then. The fact that the President, John D. Millett, had participated in its design, seems almost mythic from this distance where college Presidents seem less concerned about curricular issues or content. Those Common Curriculum requirements (about which so many complained) signaled to me Miami’s commitment to a liberal education which I have continued to value.

I also have good memories of certain teachers: Professor White, author of A Yale Man, taught a lovely survey in European Lit, and I recall his bringing in to class a recording of a Mozart sonata. I don’t know why he did that, but that action, his crisp Ivy League dress, and his often comic forays while discussing literature, were memorable. I’m also still working on a novel which Professor Walter Havinghurst, another teacher-author, encouraged me to write after reading two of my stories out loud (and approvingly) in a creative writing class. He had also invited me to stop in before graduation day for a final good-bye. I cherish his teaching. 

As English majors were all required to take two courses in a literary period. A good requirement. I chose the 17th Century after being advised that T.S. Eliot claimed its importance for understanding the modern world. Spiro Peterson taught the two semester course. At the time, I judged him rather dull and less than inspiring. But over time I have come to realize how his new critical attention to language was crucial to my education. He also ran against the stereotype of the ahistorical New Critic: we read not only Donne and the Metaphysicals, but the great prose of the period, including the philosophic texts of Hobbes and Locke. Over the years I’ve increasingly valued this combination of depth and breadth of coverage of primary texts, something I fear has been lost. I also remember a course in Shakespeare taught on TV ((1963) that took advantage of filmed scenes and made Shakespeare real for a kid from Chicago who’d never seen a play.

Eventually my graduate education focused in part on English Renaissance Literature, and Peterson’s English 490, 91 became more valuable over time. Like so many other majors, I also flocked to John Weigel’s course in the Modern Novel, something that I hungered for in 1964 after excessive dwelling on anything but the “modern.” Weigel was our “free spirit” model and he was what many of us needed even before we knew what was going to happen to us in the late ’60s.

My grades were not bad, but not outstanding, and I was not encouraged to apply to the better graduate schools. Still, I snuck in to the University of Chicago and managed a Masters Degree and then a college teaching position which saved me from Vietnam. Fast forward a few years to a PhD from Iowa, and further forward to a few frustrating years of underemployment until finally landing full time teaching, first in a community college and then in a comfortably tiny liberal arts school where I continued my interest in interdisciplinary teaching and rhetoric until retiring in 2003.

My start at Miami made a difference and I’m thankful to those who shaped my education. I was a bit of a social misfit, often angry and homesick, missed city life, scorned the fraternity scene, and was often lonely and withdrawn, but remain appreciative of the many teachers I had. Aside from those in English, there was Professor McNiff who taught British History (a requirement perhaps eliminated today for English Majors?), Professor Gustafson who taught a stunning course in Intellectual History, and Ralph Norman and Joseph Summers who taught, respectively, courses in Philosophy of Religion and Philosophy of Literature. Their teaching, in its way, finally led to my interest in literary theory, hermeneutics, rhetoric, and the pedagogies suggested by their various practitioners and theoreticians. 

I regret never thanking these teachers adequately and am reminded of my failure each time, however infrequently, a student thanks me for having made a difference.

I’m still working on that novel.

back to the top of the page

Candice Kelsey (Balish), B.A. 1992

I recently published a book, a trade paperback titled Generation MySpace. You can read about it on my website I’m a mom of three

Also, I’m currently searching for academic positions in literature and composition; I have my masters in literature from LMU (Los Angeles) and have nine years of experience teaching seniors A.P. Literature and Composition.

back to the top of the page

John Krizek, B.A. 1955

I became an English major my senior year by doubling up on English courses—as an NROTC student I had an automatic major in Naval Science, I was a student of Walter Havighurst, and I thought in the long term being able to say I was an English major would better suit my career needs. As it turned out my ship was headed for Melbourne to represent the Navy at the Olympic Games in 1956, and as the only officer aboard with any journalism background, I wound up as the public information officer—now THAT was a glorious experience, which launched me on a career in public relations.

My wife Kay (class of 65) and I are retired in Prescott, Arizona, where I continue to be involved in Western emigrant historic trail issues. (I also was a minor in history.) In 2001 I produced a public television documentary, Forgotten Journey—the Stephens-Townsend-Murphy Saga, about the first pioneers to get wagons over the Sierra to California in 1844 (a copy is in the King Library). These days as marketing chairman for the Oregon-California Trails Association, I’m busy trying to get distribution for a documentary called In Pursuit of a Dream, in which two dozen teenagers spent two weeks on the Oregon Trail living the life and hardships of their peers from 160 years ago. We hope it becomes a useful educational tool.

I sure didn’t start out thinking I’d wind up describing myself as a documentarian, but with an English major, you never know where the ability to string a sentence together might lead!

back to the top of the page

Neil Levy

I have very fond memories of my time at Miami and the talented people I met and worked with who all helped shape and develop me as a writer.

I’ve applied my degree in a slightly different way as I now am writing television, print, radio and interactive advertising as a writer/associate creative director at BBDO, a large multi-national advertising agency. I know, I know, advertising as a whole is an industry maybe only slightly above selling used cars, right? Well that’s what I thought but the truth is, to do it well, advertising demands stretching your mind in ways that a traditional page sometimes doesn’t allow. Not that I wouldn’t be disappointed if I ever manage to pen something worthy of traditional publication.

After Miami, I went to a graduate program to work on my portfolio in Atlanta. Right away, I was much farther along than most students as I had a range of voices I could write in, something that continues to serve me well today. And while I continue to break almost every rule in the English language as a writer, the craft of developing a concept, writing and re-writing are pretty standard to anyone who has ever taken a moment to write anything worthy of someone else reading it.

In a day when the NEA continues to cut funding to up-and-coming writers and publication for many is a pipe dream, I am grateful to be able to help contribute to society in a meaningful way.

Here’s a sample of my work if you care to look:

back to the top of the page

Sue MacDonald, B.A. 1977

After graduating from Miami in 1977 with a degree in English/Journalism, I spent 22 great years as a journalist, news reporter and columnist at The Cincinnati Enquirer, where I covered everything from city council meetings to water main breaks, murders to teacher strikes, lifestyle and women’s issues to a favorite interview with Mr. Fred Rogers, and so much more that I can’t even keep track. For 15 of my 22 years there, I was a feature writer who concentrated on women’s issues, volunteerism, family issues and consumer health. It was a great job, and I miss what journalism was back then.

In 2000, lured by the Internet boom, I left the newsroom for the start-up mindset, and lucked into a company that—unlike most OTHER Internet start-ups that year—did not go bust about 6 months later. That first company,, was bought by a Cincinnati technology company called Intelliseek, which was purchased by our main New York competitor called BuzzMetrics, which eventually was assumed into the Nielsen Company (the same company that measures and reports Internet and TV ratings). Along the way, I learned everything from website/content management to HTML code to online newsletter technology to blogging to data mining to public relations and corporate/sales communications and outreach. Today, I’ve moved into a research manager position for Nielsen’s Internet division, and among my English major-related duties:

  1. Copyediting/proofreading as many client reports as I can, because Lord knows they NEED it.
  2. Offering regular writing and editing training sessions for 40-50 colleagues, most of whom are half my age (and some are younger than my own adult children!).
  3. Managing Nielsen Online’s threat-tracking division, meaning we monitor the Internet for anyone talking smack about the clients who hire us to work on their behalf. We alert clients, via email and phone call and Twitter (sometimes), about potential Internet threats (recalls, safety issues, lawsuits, gossip/rumors, urban myths, viral YouTube videos, cranky consumers, crafty competitors and embarrassing things that often pop up on the Internet). Think scantily clad restaurant workers bathing after-hours in the restaurant kitchen sinkand then posting their bathtime-fun photos on Flickr, and you get a sense of the “fun” things we find for clients.
  4. Writing and sending out a variety of reports that help turn online consumer conversations and “chatter” into relevant insights, marketing strategies and watch-outs.

Along the way, I’ve raised two creative children into successful young adults: daughter Sara, 27, is a recent master’s degree grad in urban planning from Portland State University, and Tim, 24, a Xavier U. ROTC graduate, is a soon-to-be Second Lieut. in the U.S. Army, assigned full-time to the Kentucky National Guard.

My husband and I have written three books on the stretching program he developed to help people get get out of pain quickly and naturally ( and I’ve done occasional freelance work for Miami’s alumni magazine, the Cincinnati YWCA, TriHealth, and various web sites. In 2010, our goal is to move to Colorado or someplace not Midwestern for a change!

Glad to see Miami’s holding its own and doing great things for the world’s future writers and readers…

back to the top of the page

Katie Maichrye (Catherine Erdman)

I married Ryan Maichrye, also a Miami Alumni, created an online magazine,, and designed and edited a yoga guide book,Yoga and the 21st Century Man.

back to the top of the page

Kim Mainous, B.A. 1985

I have been out of school for 25 years. Doesn’t seem possible. Since graduating, I have gotten married and have two wonderful children. I am self-employed and have done a little freelance work, but for the last 13 years I have been employed by Burrelles/Luce as a Publicity Tracker. It is kind of cool, because I see newspapers from all over the country. I am hoping to come back to Miami in the fall as a graduate student to be a school psychologist. I am at Miami every Monday and Wednesday (and most weekends) to watch my son play hockey. He plays for the Butler County Redhawks Peewee B team. My heart still fills with pride and love every time I drive through campus.

back to the top of the page

Stephen Markley, B.A. 2006

I’m a graduate of Miami University class of 2006 and graduated with honors in English. My first book, Publish This Book, comes out in March 2010 from Sourcebooks, Inc.

back to the top of the page

Bettina Miller, B.A. 1987

I wasn’t an A student, but I have made my living via the written word (writing/editing/etc) for more than 20 years now. I’m the editor of a nostalgia magazine called Reminisce (currently owned by Reader’s Digest Association). We have a paid circulation (ABC audited) of 1.2 million readers.

Keep up the good work at Bachelor Hall!

back to the top of the page

Dan Murphy, B.A. 1992

After leaving Miami in 1992, I came oh-so-close to continuing my studies in English…but instead entered the College Student Personnel Master’s program (also at Miami). Since then, I have had a successful career in development working in Ohio (Miami), Maryland (Loyola College, University of Maryland Medical System), and Pennsylvania (Robert Morris University and Heritage Valley Health System). In my new position, I am utilizing my writing skills more than ever. I live in Pittsburgh with my wife Colleen (Miami MS ’96; English undergrad from IU ’93) and three daughters.

My favorite classes were Dr. Frank Jordan’s English Romantics and my Shakespeare class. I can’t remember the name of the professor…but I think he was from Italy and was very tough! I never corrected him when he called on me in class by my first name (“Joseph”)!

I was able to show my daughters Miami a couple of years ago and would love to come back soon…Perhaps someday I’ll return to work in development/fundraising!

I wish you continued success and eat a slice of Bruno’s for me.

back to the top of the page

Kimberly Murray, Ph.D. 2004

I enjoy the department newsletters and look back on my years at Miami as some of the best in my life (especially the younger years with my daughter, Erin, who grew up going to Kramer and Stewart Elementary schools).

After I finished my PhD in composition and rhetoric, I worked for Hillsborough Community College in Brandon, Florida, then started working full time for the University of South Florida as the Assistant Director of Composition alongside Joe Moxley, the Director. I now run the Writing Center at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. It’s one of the largest centers in the U.S., with nearly 400 visits per week from undergraduate and graduate students. I’ve always loved teaching writing, and now I’ve found that I love working in administration, too.

I send all of my former professors, friends, and colleagues at Miami best wishes and gratitude for their support.

back to the top of the page

Betsy Nowrasteh (Elizabeth Giffen), B.A. 1975

I graduated from Miami as an English/Creative Writing major in 1975. My name then was Elizabeth Giffen. Now my professional name is Betsy Giffen Nowrasteh. My most recent writing credit is shared screenplay credit with my husband, Cyrus Nowrasteh, for THE STONING OF SORAYA M. which has won numerous awards and is presently circulating underground with the anti-Islamist rebels in Iran. It played in art theaters nationwide throughout the summer of 2009 and will be available on DVD in March, 2010. In the nineties I wrote a movie which was (and continues to be) shown on HBO called UNDER PRESSURE. When I first moved to L.A. in 1975 I worked as a graphic artist and copywriter in film advertising. I’ve concentrated on screenwriting for the last fifteen years while at home raising our two sons.

back to the top of the page

Bobbie Corley OKeefe, B.A. 1978

I graduated in 1978 with an English degree and, after a 10 year stint in communications and advertising, I went back to school to become a lawyer. My love for English and literature has never ceased, and I would love it if I could take an online literature class from Miami. When are you going to get into the online class business?

back to the top of the page

Rita J. Palmer, M.A. 1973

I was a teaching assistant at Miami in 1971-73 while I earned my Master’s Degree in English. I taught 2-3 classes of freshman comp per quarter in return for free tuition and a stipend that covered living expenses. After receiving the degree, I studied French in Lyon, France, through The Ohio University. I began teaching French and English at North Canton Hoover High in 1973. I just retired in June, 2009, after 38 years of teaching and serving as a summer school principal.

Now things have gone full circle; I am teaching freshman composition at Walsh University and helping to supervise student teachers. I am back where it all began in 1971—in the college classroom.

My career has been good and satisfying and Miami was a significant part of that. Thanks for asking how some of the MU grads are doing.

back to the top of the page

Susan Davis Porter, B.A. 1972

After graduating with a B.A. In English in 1972, I quickly got a job in business-to-business publishing and have stayed in the business-to-business communications field ever since. It has been a terrific career and I’ve been involved with magazines in several fields, including general practice medicine, heavy manufacturing, horticulture, business management, engineering, home services, agronomy, the arts, and others. I’ve been a chief editor overseeing several magazine staffs, travelled extensively in the U.S. (and abroad), opined in numerous editorials, edited and proofed countless articles, conceived and designed new publications, and been a respected and well-known editor in several industries. Who knew?

I’ve met thousands of terrific people I wouldn’t have otherwise met and it has been wonderful. In my role as a leader and manager of large publishing organizations, I realized that the thinking and analysis skills learned as an English major are extremely beneficial for leadership. They help you see the big, strategic picture that leaders need to understand. I have recommended a liberal arts education as extremely important for anyone who needs to think and create, and both my daughters (including the one who also graduated from Miami), have done this.

Along the way, I also became convinced that it would be better for my readers if I understood more about their businesses, and as a result, got an MBA from Cleveland State University. I use that knowledge now in my own business, which combines traditional marketing, editorial, and custom publishing expertise to help clients in the business-to-business community. Everyone needs to communicate better, and we try to help them with that. I’m busy developing an industry-based editorial website along with my other business operations, and continuing to try to keep things easy to read and interesting!

back to the top of the page

A–H | Q–Z