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Beachwood City Schools

2014 Inductees

<div class="blue">2014 BHS GALLERY OF SUCCESS INDUCTEES</div> <div class="line"></div>

MICHAEL ABRAMS, Class of 1966

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In recognition of his scientific advances in the field of geology, developing satellite instruments used by NASA for land surface remote sensing from outer space for the study of volcanoes, the ocean crust, and petroleum and mineral exploration.

Following graduation from Beachwood High School, Michael Abrams attended California Institute of Technology. As an undergraduate, he started as a math major, then switched to English, before settling on biology. He finished his undergraduate requirements in just three years and began research with a post-doctoral scientist extracting blood from chickens and pea plants, purifying DNA, and looking for growth hormones. Michael spent hours in a windowless, basement lab breathing funny chemicals while watching grad students refuse to discuss their work for fear of someone stealing their ideas and getting grants. He then stumbled upon a geology course with the greatest teacher he would ever have, and realized that he wanted to be a geologist. While finishing his master’s degree in geology, Michael landed a summer job at Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a NASA contractor, mapping the geology of the south rim of the Grand Canyon. This was part of the first NASA project to evaluate the use of space images for geologic mapping. After earning his undergraduate and postgraduate degrees from Caltech, Michael was later offered a full-time position with JPL, getting into the beginning of a new field: land surface remote sensing from space. JPL is a unique place where Michael leads teams that propose, design and build satellite instruments to answer science questions that have societal impact. He grew with this young field, and was at the right place at the right time. Michael has been employed with Jet Propulsion Laboratory for more than 40 years.


Embedded Image for: DONNA BICKOFF COHEN, Class of 1966 (201448856084_image.jpg)

In recognition of her leadership in founding, guiding, and supporting the Beachwood High School Alumni Association, and in memory of her unifying spirit and tireless efforts on behalf of those who shared her love for all things Beachwood.


Following her Beachwood graduation, Donna Bickoff Cohen attended Michigan State University, where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree with three separate majors in sociology, psychology, and political science. After college, she worked for the Social Security Administration before starting her family, raising three children who attended Beachwood Schools – all while staying involved in our community and our schools. She started and operated her own successful business, Cleveland Candle & Incense, then later worked in the family flooring business in sales, advertising, and purchasing, eventually becoming its chief financial officer until her retirement in 2009. Donna founded the Beachwood High School Alumni Association in 1993 and served as its first president. During her tenure, she was instrumental in developing the BHS Alumni Association’s reunion database, brick paver tribute plaza at BHS, the annual BHS alumni scholarship, semiannual newsletters, and numerous fundraisers and events. Donna was instrumental in the community’s 2002 passage of a levy campaign, for which she later received a Golden Achievement Award from the National School Public Relations Association. Donna also helped to found the Beachwood Historical Society, served on multiple selection committees for the Beachwood High School Gallery of Success, and was her graduating class’s reunion coordinator who reinforced bonds and friendships among classmates. The Beachwood Schools Foundation endowed the Donna Bickoff Cohen Scholarship in 2011 in Donna’s memory. It is awarded annually to a deserving high school graduate who models Donna's positive spirit, creativity, and "can do" attitude. Donna is missed by her husband Jerry, their three adult children, two grandchildren, and many adoring classmates and friends.


Embedded Image for: JUDI MAGID FENIGER, Class of 1969 (2014488554368_image.jpg)

In recognition of her professional and personal contributions to civic organizations, including the American Red Cross and the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage in its formative years, and her countless volunteer leadership roles in Northeast Ohio.

Following graduation from Notre Dame College, Judi Magid Feniger spent the first half of her career in the for-profit sector. She was president and general manager of the Cleveland unit of Bozell Worldwide, a multi-national communications agency. Her expertise included crisis communication, issues management, executive counsel, brand management and cause-related marketing. Later, she became chief public support officer at the American Red Cross, Greater Cleveland Chapter, where she led a group that tripled the endowment, launched a successful $17 million comprehensive campaign, and conceived and introduced new events. Judi was executive director of the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage during most of its early, formative years (2007-2012) as it became recognized as “the museum of diversity and tolerance” and built collaborations, grew support and outreach, gained national visibility, and greatly increased public participation and student visits. In addition to two permanent collections and robust education and volunteer programs, 18 special exhibitions were presented under her leadership. Judi is now president of the Gordon Square Arts District, a public-private partnership using the arts as a catalyst for economic transformation and community revitalization. A $30 million capital campaign collaboration between Cleveland Public Theatre, Capitol Theatre and Near West Theatre, GSAD has built a vibrant neighborhood environment, attracting 75 new businesses, spurring a burgeoning housing market, creating jobs, and earning national and international notice. She is active in the community through the City Club of Cleveland, Chagrin Falls Planning & Zoning Commission, Hiram College Engaged Ethics Resource Council and Facing History New Tech School Advisory Board. Judi’s previous involvement includes Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity, the Anti-Defamation League, Cleveland Council on World Affairs and Cleveland Jewish News. She received awards for career achievement from the YWCA and the Public Relations Society of America, and a Visionary Award from Smart Business News.


Embedded Image for: MIA BUCHWALD GELLES, Class of 1984 (2014488552799_image.jpg)

In recognition of her environmental health research and tireless advocacy, including for those impacted by autism, and for improving the quality of life for thousands of individuals by founding the Milestones Autism Organization to support, educate and connect affected families.


Following graduation from Oberlin College, Mia Buchwald Gelles went to work as an environmental researcher for Environmental Health Watch, where she worked for 19 years. While at EHA, she was the web site editor, designed custom database solutions for program management and grant reporting, and administered federal research projects on environmental health issues such as childhood lead poisoning, indoor asthma triggers and healthy homes. Upon finding out that her first child, born in 1995, had autism, Mia’s life changed forever. She began a search for anything that would ensure a path to a better life for him. In 2001, she met another mother facing similar issues. Having experienced success with Applied Behavioral Analysis, a system for prioritizing and systematically teaching skills one step at a time, they realized that there were hundreds of other families in the region struggling with the lack of resources for parents or professionals. They launched the Milestones Autism Organization with a conference in 2003. Today, Milestones remains at the forefront of addressing the needs of families impacted by autism through an annual conference, free referral support, extensive online resources and tool kits, and parent and professional workshops and networks. Mia uses her nonprofit management experience as operations director to ensure that her small staff can serve more than 1,500 individuals each year. Mia has also found time to raise her family and has taught a Torah study/learners service for 14 years at Beth El-The Heights Synagogue, where she also leads services.


Embedded Image for: JONATHAN GOLDSTEIN, Class of 1986 (20144885458113_image.jpg)

In recognition of his talents as a Hollywood comedy writer, a Harvard-educated lawyer who pursued his dreams to write scripts for popular television comedies and major motion pictures grossing hundreds of millions of dollars at box offices worldwide; and for his mentorship of the next generation of aspiring writers.

Jonathan Goldstein was born in New York City and moved to Beachwood in 1980 when his mother became vice principal of Beachwood High School and later principal of the Middle School. Needless to say, this was not fun for Jonathan. He attended the University of Michigan and graduated in 1990 with a BA in German Literature, a degree he says led absolutely nowhere. After graduating from Harvard Law School in 1995 and practicing for two years at a large New York law firm, Jonathan ran screaming from his office, moved to LA and became a comedy writer. Over the next 12 years, he wrote and produced numerous network television comedies, including “The PJ’s” starring Eddie Murphy, “The Geena Davis Show,” “Good Morning Miami,” “Four Kings,” and “The New Adventures of Old Christine.” In 2007, in collaboration with his feature writing partner, John Francis Daley, Jonathan sold his first film script, “The $40,000 Man” to New Line Cinema. That script landed on the Hollywood “Black List” of favorite scripts and launched the team’s screenwriting career. Their 2011 comedy, “Horrible Bosses,” starring Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Spacey, Jamie Foxx, Colin Farrell, Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day, earned $209 million in worldwide box office. The two writers recently completed the script for the sequel, “Horrible Bosses 2” due out in November 2014. In addition, they wrote “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,” starring Steve Carell, Jim Carrey and Steve Buscemi, and “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2,” which has made nearly $275 million globally. Jonathan and his writing partner have been hired by New Line to co-direct their script of “Vacation,” a reboot of the Chevy Chase franchise with Ed Helms to star.  In the last six months, Jonathan sold two original film projects, one to New Line and one to Paramount -- the latter will star Sacha Baron Cohen.  

DANIEL L. KALK, Class of 1976

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In recognition of his bravery, professionalism and leadership as a lawyer and police officer specializing in crisis intervention and critical incident response, and his selfless advancement of the law enforcement community as a volunteer educator, trainer and journal author.

Following graduation from Beachwood High School and Cleveland State University, cum laude, Daniel Kalk became a fully commissioned police officer in the State of Ohio in 1982, and then graduated from Cleveland Marshall College of Law in 1983. He has made a strong and positive impact on Ohio law enforcement and his community throughout his career by utilizing his education, training, and experience as a law enforcement officer and attorney. He holds instructor certification in more than 50 separate areas of the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy curriculum and continues to conduct advanced training for law enforcement officers. Daniel is a member of the National Advisory Board of Police Magazine, authoring more than 40 articles on police tactics and procedures, which are used as training materials in police academies and police departments throughout the country. Daniel has received more than 2,000 hours of specialized police training through the FBI, ATF, United States Secret Service, United States Justice Department, Ohio Tactical Training Center, Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy and North Coast Polytechnic Institute. He won first place in a police combat shooting championship, received a Proclamation for Professionalism and Bravery for his participation in the arrest of two suspects wanted for attempted aggravated murder, and received a Certificate of Recognition for apprehending a serial arsonist. He was named SWAT Team Leader of a multijurisdictional tactical team and has served as a detective. He also received the Ohio Distinguished Law Enforcement Service Award, presented annually to an Ohio police officer who has made significant contributions to the Ohio law enforcement community. Daniel presents pro bono lectures, instruction and guidance to members of the law enforcement community and the public, and also volunteers time to many charitable organizations that benefit special needs children and adults.

BRIAN KWAIT, Class of 1979

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In recognition of his personal generosity in mentoring future business leaders and in supporting children’s, medical and Jewish philanthropic causes, while transforming and building businesses through Odyssey Investment Partners, LLC, a private equity firm he founded and grew to more than $5 billion in investments.

With more than 25 years of experience in buying, transforming and building great businesses, Brian Kwait is founder and co-president of Odyssey Investment Partners, LLC, a leading middle market private equity firm with offices in New York City and Los Angeles. Brian helped establish Odyssey in 1998 by spinning it off of one of the world’s largest hedge funds, and grew the firm from a single $750 million fund to five investment funds worth $5 billion. He has a long history of developing and mentoring talent from within his firm, while serving on more than 20 corporate boards and as an advisor to institutions and organizations that once fostered his own development and talent. He proudly serves on advisory boards for both of his alma maters; for Wharton (University of Pennsylvania) to develop global leaders who make a positive difference for investors, customers, employees, and communities regardless of national setting, but with a deep appreciation for the distinctive cultures at play; and for the Ross Undergraduate School of Business (University of Michigan), actively involving him in developing strategies to enhance the engagement of students with the business community, mentoring the leaders of tomorrow, and supporting his passion for education. Brian is also a supportive and willing advisor on business and financial matters to friends, colleagues and peers who seek his advice, counsel and expertise. He believes that it is important and gratifying to support and give back to the community. He supports numerous charitable organizations in education, medicine and the global Jewish community, including the Youth Renewal Fund, UJA Federation of Greenwich, Say Yes to Education, Tourette Syndrome Association, Pancreatic Cancer Fund at Columbia University, SBCC Thrive LA, as well as his and his children’s alma maters.

JENNIFER A. LITVAK, Class of 2004

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In recognition of her tireless dedication to protecting women’s and children’s rights; her research and advocacy on human rights issues; and her commitment to enhancing access to educational opportunities for women and other vulnerable populations worldwide.


Jennifer Litvak’s study of politics and history at Miami University prompted her to experience more of the world. A month backpacking through Europe during the Summer 2006 opened her eyes to the rest of the world and expanded her understanding of her role as a global citizen. She then spent a semester in Rome studying the history of Italian Fascism. Jennifer deferred law school to go to Seoul, South Korea, to teach English to Kindergartners. That year cemented Jennifer’s appreciation for the hard work that goes into creating an effective educational environment. A two-month backpacking trip through Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia followed, further igniting a passion for both international studies and human rights. Jennifer returned to the U.S. and founded The Step-Up Project, a non-profit tutoring and mentoring organization in Euclid, where she discovered what academic support can mean for someone who may not have that support anywhere else. It was then that Jennifer realized that enhancing educational opportunities for vulnerable groups, especially women and children, would be her life’s work. During her master’s degree studies, Jennifer became fluent in Italian, travelled from Morocco to the Maldives, and led a study trip to Dhaka, Bangladesh, to investigate war crimes and examine the status of women and education resulting from its brutal 1971 War of Independence. Following a research role at Save the Children, Jennifer took a position at The Protection Project, the human rights think tank at Johns Hopkins University. She has worked on a variety of projects and publications to enhance access to education, worked with ambassadors and global leaders, assisted in testimony before the United States Congress, and presented research to the United Nations. In July, Jennifer will travel to Geneva, Switzerland, to present a general recommendation on the Right to Education to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

MAJ. BILL M. TERRY, JR., Class of 1989

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In recognition of his perseverance, dedication and bravery while selflessly protecting our freedom through his decorated military service in the United States Army as a soldier and an officer willing to lead, train and protect his fellow soldiers.

Maj. Bill M. Terry, Jr., attended four high schools before arriving for his senior year at Beachwood. Soon after graduation, he joined the Army. He was initially stationed in Texas as a private, where he was promoted to corporal and then sergeant. After marrying his high school sweetheart and starting his family, he entered the U.S. Army’s Officer Candidate School to become a commissioned officer as a lieutenant. He later attended airborne school to become a paratrooper. After being promoted to captain, he served in Iraq and ensured the safe return of every soldier in his unit. After becoming a major and serving in Afghanistan, Maj. Terry retired in 2010. Although he initially intended on serving just a three-year term so that he could return to education and begin a “normal” career, he served 21 years in the Army. While in the Army, Maj. Terry sought to stay relevant and an expert in his field. As a signal officer, he continually sought out the professional certifications required, including Microsoft and CISCO certifications, as well as specialized training and Training With Industry opportunities. He was a two-way radio expert, and later engineered IP-based secure networks supporting U.S.-Joint NATO and coalition forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan. He also led a research and development team during the initial development and testing of the Army Battle Command System, which was eventually implemented Army-wide. His assignments at many different locations throughout the world and the U.S. gave Maj. Terry the opportunity to volunteer with wildlife and natural resources conservation efforts. He once rescued desert tortoises from certain doom on remote highways in the Southern California desert. Maj. Terry continues to be a part of the team by teaching and developing future Army officers through the Kent State Army ROTC program.


Embedded Image for: SHARON CURTIS WEISMAN, Class of 1977 (20144885238765_image.jpg)

In recognition of her dedication to community service and bridging gaps between hearing and non-hearing people by advancing deaf education and culture in Beachwood and the greater community as an inspiring American Sign Language teacher and role model for adoring Beachwood students and staff.

Following graduation from Beachwood High School, Sharon Curtis Weisman earned a B.S. in special education and an M.S. in deaf education from The Ohio State University. She has three teaching licenses: special education, deaf education, and teaching ASL as a foreign language. Sharon began her Beachwood Schools’ career in 1982 teaching deaf/multi-handicapped classes, then deaf education, and has taught American Sign Language at Beachwood High School and Cleveland State University since 2002. She also taught ASL at Cuyahoga Community College for seven years. Sharon has also written curriculum for ASL courses and co-founded and advised ASL clubs at both institutions. A strong advocate of "Engaged Learning," Sharon has always sought to combine ASL instruction with learning about deaf culture by facilitating interactions with the deaf community. The most visible example is BHS’s famed annual holiday party that draws more than 500 children, adults, and families from dozens of schools and organizations throughout Northeast Ohio's deaf and hard-of-hearing community. Under Sharon’s guidance, her ASL students plan this annual party, which provides an opportunity for BHS students to give back to the community and practice the communication skills they have learned in ASL classes. She is involved in numerous research projects related to hearing issues. Sharon is involved with Ronald McDonald House and is a founding member of the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Northeast Ohio, where she served as its first vice president and has worked diligently to raise money to make children’s wishes a reality. Above all, her accomplishments reflect her professional as well as her personal commitments. Sharon has been instrumental in forging Beachwood’s historic bond with Cleveland's deaf and hard-of-hearing community and has been a shining role model throughout her career for Beachwood students and staff.