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Alumni in the Big Apple

The view from the office of Sara Lin Yoder '09, in NYC
The view from the office of Sara Lin Yoder '09, in NYC

It all started with a proud mom forwarding a Facebook post that included two of her daughters with former classmates in New York City and the caption “High School reunion in NYC!”

Joy Anderson — aforementioned mom, who is also a music teacher at Eastern Mennonite Elementary School (as well as a director with Shenandoah Valley Children’s Choir) — added some detail.

The photo, left to right: Zach Stoltzfus, Laura (Anderson) White, Tucker Wheatley and Emily (Anderson) Walls. “I think they all just decided to get together,” she said, noting:… Zach works in film, Tucker’s been living there as a professional musician, and works for the National Children’s Chorus.. Laura teaches third grade in Richmond City schools. Emily is a historic preservationist working for an interior design firm in Philly.

A little research into those alumni who happened to be in New York City, led to research on other alumni in the Big Apple. Here’s what we learned (in alphabetical order).

Erin Bergey ‘05
BS in math ‘09 from William & Mary; masters in secondary education ‘10 from William & Mary; math teacher at Cosby High School in Midlothian, Virginia for two years; Duke Law School ‘15.

Currently is an associate at Latham & Watkins LLP on Third Avenue where she is a member of the Corporate Department and Investment Funds and Private Equity Practices.

Thoughts on ways EMHS was formative…

The two things I enjoy most about my job: 1) it requires a good deal of logical reasoning and problem solving and, 2) the negotiation is collaboration-focused as opposed to adversarial.
I think my affinity for both of those characteristics can be traced back to my experience at EMHS. A significant component of what we do is assist clients in structuring fund entities and the mechanics within those entities to reflect the economic deal between the investors and the private equity sponsor; we also address specific tax and regulatory needs of each. Logical reasoning and problem solving are key skills to that process.

I have always attributed my love of math to Marlin Yoder’s Analysis class. He taught using a problem-solving focused approach as opposed to a rule-based approach. That was very engaging and is the reason I majored in math and went on to teach high school math.

As far as the negotiation aspect of being a corporate attorney, you obviously first to have to serve the interests of your client, which in my case is the private equity sponsor. However, as the sponsor is negotiating against their potential investors who will be invested in their private equity fund for 10+ years, there’s very little incentive to be abrasive or aggressive in negotiations. The negotiations tend to be much more collaboration-focused with the end goal being a fund that is structured in a way that meets everyone’s needs.

EMHS’ curriculum as a whole and emphasis on conflict resolution instilled in me the skill of looking at a conflict between two parties that can be resolved in a mutually beneficial way as opposed to something that needs to be won. That approach to conflict has served me well as a funds attorney.

Jackson Cline ‘13
Studied Musical Theatre Performance at CAP21 (Collaborative Arts Project 21), a professional musical theatre training conservatory in New York City.

Career highlights include:

– Performing in several plays and musicals in NYC and across country, most recently three musicals produced by Surflight Theatre in Beach Haven, NJ: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Bullies in the Hall, and Schoolhouse Rock Live Too!
– Team member of The Ensemblist, a podcast and blog celebrating artists who work in Broadway ensembles.
– Merchandise manager of the Broadway revival of She Loves Me and national tours of Cabaret and The King and I.

Thoughts on ways EMHS was formative…

Having the opportunity to assistant direct the middle school plays when I was a high school upperclassman showed me first-hand how crucial arts education is. Yes, it helps prepare young artists for their careers, but more importantly, it helps young people develop many powerful skills and traits — teamwork, communication, confidence, and empathy, among others. I’m often hired to perform in musicals for young audiences, and those experiences at EMHS directly impact how I approach this work.

Studying the work of Henry David Thoreau and Walt Whitman in Kim Johnson’s English class helped me to embrace the multitudes I contain and step to the beat of my drum. My lifestyle in New York is anything but traditional, but it is 100% true to who I am. Understanding what makes me unique and bringing my authentic, one-of-a-kind self to the table every day has helped me succeed in both my personal life and career.

Bethany Gingrich ‘08
Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts (Crafts and Materials Studies focused on textile and ceramic media) at VCU

Past work: Museum Technician at The Valentine Museum in Richmond.

They have an amazing costume and textile collection, one that includes men’s and women’s garments from the 18th century, quilts and embroideries that tell the history of the city of Richmond, as well as unique pieces that tell the story of the history of fashion. While there, I helped to maintain the collection, which involved research, object preservation, collections management, and putting on exhibits.

Master’s degree in Fashion History at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York.

Current work: Metropolitan Museum of Art, with day-to-day operations of the collections department

I think of myself sometimes as an art handler for very delicate and unusually shaped art. Most days, I work on an ongoing project involving creating customized archival storage mounts for the collection of over 2,500 hats. This involves using my arts degree skills by creative problem solving, sewing, gluing, cutting, carving, and designing pieces that will protect and improve the longevity of the objects.

Jessica Stauffer ’99, J. Michael Stauffer ‘02 and Steven Stauffer ‘06
This sibling group graduated not only from EMHS, but also from Eastern Mennonite University. Separate paths took them to New York City. Read about their journeys, involvements and see more images in a June, 2018 article in EMU’s Crossroads magazine.

Zach Stoltzfus ’08
Studied at NYU with majors in film and television
Currently is a freelance cinematographer in NYC

Project sample: Monkey Business, “a sweet little documentary that explores the personal lives of the creators (now deceased) of Curious George. It’s a project that I had a big part of (mostly behind the scenes so I’m mostly not credited online for it)…”

Website: www.ZachStoltzfus.com

Thoughts on ways EMHS was formative…

EMHS teachers that had a positive impact on my learning, both academically and personally included Ernie Martin, who I remember as thoughtful, ever-critiquing, and honest; Patsy Seitz; Myron Blosser; Kendal Bauman; and Jay Hartzler, who openly treated his students as he would his peers.

Tucker Wheatley ’08
Bachelor of Music at NYU and Master of Music at Manhattan School of Music

Tucker is currently the Marketing & Development Manager of the National Children’s Chorus, a national arts organization serving NYC, DC, LA and San Francisco. He is also the organist and music director at the Oratory Church of St. Boniface and the Church at Point O’Woods.

Thoughts on ways EMHS was formative…

My experience at EMHS really solidified my love of choral music, which has been my focus the past 10 years that I have been in New York City. The choral scene in NYC is very different from the special community we had at EMHS, where there was often deeper meaning and heart behind the art of singing with others, and I still strive to find similar moments here in the big city. Many thanks to Mr. Hartzler for creating that unique experience for all who were involved in Touring Choir. I’m actually traveling to South Korea and Japan this summer with my current choir, but these trips are never quite the same as what we had at EMHS.

Sara Lin Yoder ‘09
Bachelors of Music, voice performance, University of Minnesota ‘13
Masters of Music, voice performance, University of Colorado – Boulder, ‘16
Married to Frank, also an opera singer

Current work: Cantoring two days a week for a Roman Catholic Church in the Bronx, singing in a “chamber punk” band called Ecce Shnak, managing the touring, publishing, and record label associated with Ecce Shnak, and working a day job as an assistant at a hedge fund. Other gig opera and new music gigs.

Website: www.saralinyoder.com

Thoughts on ways EMHS was formative…

Mr. Hartzler’s Advanced Music class is the most invaluable class I have ever taken (university courses included) because it laid the foundation for working in a fast paced musical environment. The logistics and expenses to rehearse as a group in NYC are horrifying. Often times we go on stage with little to no rehearsal. But because Mr. Hartzler expanded my music theory and sight-reading abilities at a young age, I have mad skills for learning new music on the fly. Thanks, H!

What did we miss?

Who did we miss? We’d love to hear updates from others in New York City… or anywhere! Maybe we’ll see other themes we can highlight, such as alumni in particular fields or regions.

Let us know at alumni@easternmennonite.org

Check out some more photos from this story

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