Joseph Earl Thomas ’19MFA “writes and thinks with auratic, shattering intensity, capacious and generous as a supernova,” his Notre Dame advisor, associate professor of English Roy Scranton, gushed on Twitter. Thomas’ talent was recognized with the 2020 Chautauqua Janus Prize, presented annually to an emerging prose writer. He was honored for his memoir, Reality Marble, which draws on science fiction and popular culture, recounting his childhood experience in a third-person voice to depict the younger self as a different person to which he cannot return. Thomas, now a doctoral student at the University of Pennsylvania, told a newspaper that his writing explores “what happens if you’re just another nerdy black kid in a bad situation and not a single inspirational older figure, group or institution ever comes to save you — when more often, you’re expected to save them.” . . . Patrick Kennedy ’78 attended the Indianapolis 500 for 57 years in a row and wrote two books about the automobile race. He was an athlete in his own right, competing in 25 mini-marathons as part of the festival surrounding the race and playing competitive basketball at the Indianapolis Athletic Club. A lifelong Indianapolis resident and fourth-generation president of three family companies, Kennedy died of coronavirus on Easter Sunday. His dedication to the race and to the city was recognized on the date of this year’s postponed Indianapolis 500, August 23, which Mayor Joe Hogsett proclaimed Patrick Kennedy Day. . . .
Regis Philbin ’53 literally broadcast his love for Notre Dame. The legendary television personality, best known for hosting Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, often expressed his enthusiasm about his alma mater on the air. He was a generous benefactor, too, with the Philbin Studio Theatre at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center standing as testament to his generosity. Philbin, who died July 24 at age 88, was laid to rest at Cedar Grove Cemetery after a private funeral service at the basilica. . . . An ambitious New York Times Magazine endeavor — conceived and led by Nikole Hannah-Jones ’98, who also won a Pulitzer Prize for the essay she contributed to it — continues to make a multimedia impact. The 1619 Project, a comprehensive and controversial examination of slavery’s role in the American founding and the institution’s continuing social impact, will be developed by the production studio Lionsgate into television and film projects. Hannah-Jones will be the creative leader of the adaptations in partnership with producer Oprah Winfrey. “I was moved, deepened and strengthened by her empowering historical analysis,” Winfrey said of Hannah-Jones. “I am honored to be a part of Nikole’s vision to bring this project to a global audience.” . . .
Supporting Black women entrepreneurs has been a passion for WNBA player Natalie Achonwa ’14. Her commitment to that cause got a $10,000 boost in July when the Indiana Fever forward received the league’s 2020 Dawn Staley Community Leadership Award. Recognizing outstanding community and team leadership, the award includes a donation in Achonwa’s name to the Madam Walker Legacy Center in Indianapolis. The funding will support four women-run startups. . . . Chauncey Veatch ’75J.D., the 2002 national teacher of the year, only went into the classroom as a second career when he retired as a lieutenant colonel after two decades in the U.S. Army. Teaching was a natural fit. A legend in the Coachella Valley of southern California, Veatch died June 23, leaving a legacy as a history teacher who inspired underprivileged and otherwise troubled youth in a predominantly Latino community. “Where most would see an underserved area with a challenging educational environment and troubled, hard to reach students, Chauncey Veatch saw gifts, talent, as well as a beautiful, vibrant culture and values system,” state representative Eduardo Garcia said in the Palm Springs, California, Desert Sun. “Chauncey truly believed in his students and their ability to achieve without limitation.” . . .
TeamSense is a startup that provides a software platform for organizations to track COVID-19 symptoms among their employees — and, when the crisis passes, to facilitate more efficient communication and planning among managers and their employees. Sheila Stafford ’09MBA, the TeamSense CEO, led the company from initial funding to paying customers in just six weeks this summer, making it the first such business to emerge from a new Seattle innovation partnership. Via text or email, employees answer health questions that determine whether they will be cleared to come to work that day. The health survey is customizable based on the type of work a company does and local circumstances. In addition to tracking the employee wellness data, TeamSense allows managers to contact their staff members directly. “Being able to communicate with employees one-on-one via our system is much easier than what our customers have now,” Stafford told GeekWire.