Alumni News

Class of 2017 Joshua Witkowsky's service continues beyond ND

Class of 2017 Joshua Witkowsky's service continues beyond ND

(L to R) Don Martone '87; Joshua Witkowsky '17

During quarantine, Joshua Witkowsky '17 found a creative way to answer a community member's call for help. Witkowsky deployed one of his family's tree removal bucket trucks to "lift" a family's spirits -- and their line of sight -- by helping them to see their grandmother while remaining socially distant.

"One afternoon, as I was scrolling through Facebook, and I came across a post that was written on my town's community pride page. It was a man asking for assistance in helping to see his grandmother, for possibly the last time, as she had been diagnosed with COVID-19 at a local nursing home.

In his post, the man asked if anyone could “lift” him and his family up to the third floor of the building, to see and say hello to his grandmother through the window. I knew right away that a bucket truck would be able to do the job, and coming from a Family Owned Tree Company, we had the equipment -- why not reach out a hand to help?

I messaged him offering our assistance, and right away he was overjoyed and accepted the offer. We went to the nursing home and allowed each and every one of his family members to go up in the bucket, and see their mother/grandmother.           

To be able to help a family who is affected by this virus is something worthwhile and extremely memorable. Seeing the look on their faces, was beyond rewarding. Knowing that we just helped a family see their loved one felt amazing. With everything that is going on and the challenges we are facing today, if I was in their shoes I would want someone to do this for me. Living in the unknown and not knowing when you are going to see a grandparent for the last time is scary. I am so happy to have been able to put smiles on people’s faces and would do it again in a heartbeat. Since graduating from Notre Dame High School, I have taken some lessons with me. Coming from a school that was a “family of brothers,” I have learned the value of family itself, and how to cherish those you love and who you are close too. I became a leader at ND, I lead my football team with great pride, and that quality I still carry with me while working and leading J. Witkowsky & Sons Tree Service with my brother."

Class of 2016 alumni begin new careers

Class of 2016 alumni begin new careers

Over the past four months, we have heard umpteen stories and seen countless videos about how the Classes of 2020 celebrated their commencements. Ceremonies were postponed to later dates; degrees were conferred virtually; Mom-Dad-Grad photos were taken on front lawns. With these disappointments in full view, we were very happy to see ND’s Class of 2016 posting new career choices on our Notre Dame of West Haven Alumni LinkedIn page and our AlumniFire Professional Networking platform. Here's a snapshot of what our 2016 grads are up to:

Ian Folan ND ’16; SUNY Maritime College ’20 BE Mechanical Engineering.  With internships at Con Ed (2018) and IBM (2019) behind him, Folan is now employed at IBM as a Mechanical Procurement Quality Engineer.  His SUNY experience was an extension of his ND experience.  His involvement in ND’s Robotics and Science Clubs led to his participation in the SUNY Chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers; he followed suit with swimming via the Maritime College’s Swimming and Diving Team (captain) and Waterpolo Club.  “Even though I was a transfer student (Bethel High School), Notre Dame played a major part in where I am and who I am today. The faculty and staff at the school helped me develop a good work ethic and kept me spiritually grounded. In and out of the pool, I have been able to rely on my training as an ‘ND man’ to help me through college and now in my career.”

Matthew McManus ND ’16; UConn School of Nursing ’20 BSN.  Like many newly minted RNs, McManus found himself on the front line of the battle to control COVID-19 in Connecticut.   With clinical rotation placements at Yale, Hartford, and Rockville General Hospitals, he spent the last four months back at YNHH, providing staffing support in the pandemic. “When I was first hired to provide staffing support during the COVID-19 pandemic, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. I was scared about keeping myself healthy or possibly carrying the virus back to my family.  My three months at YNHH were filled with learning experiences and countless opportunities to strengthen my clinical skills. Working with the hematology/oncology population has shown me the true meaning of why holistic care is the foundation of nursing.”  McManus begins his nursing career as a PICU Nurse at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.  

Joseph Morris ND ’16; UConn School of Business ’20 BS Management.  Morris began his business career as a pricing analyst at Travelers Insurance Product Management Development Program in July.  ND’s 2016 Man of the Year filled his post-ND summers with employment as a painter (with Coach Don Martone ’87), camp counselor, and retail sales clerk.  However, nothing prepared him for the business world like his internship within the Travelers PMDP last summer. His roles and responsibilities included driving profitable growth through market analysis, communication, innovation, and execution. “Notre Dame instilled many life skills that I’ve carried with me to this day. It was a place where you were encouraged to get involved early and often, and I made sure to do just that. Through those connections, I was able to grow and learn, slowly becoming a Notre Dame Man along the way. Although education is extremely important and was the reason I attended Notre Dame, what I value most about my time there are the relationships that I made along the way. Notre Dame is a place where you make lifelong bonds which can’t be broken by time or space. Just one of the reasons why I and so many other alumni cherish it so much.”

Elliott Paintsil ND ’16 University of Chicago ’20 BA Psychology with a minor in Biological Sciences.  In the 2016 ND Yearbook, Paintsil chose a quote from Soccer Legend Pele: “Success is no accident.  It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and most of all, love of what you are doing.”  He took these words to heart, and, no doubt, his impressive list of summer research experiences paved the way for his acceptance into Columbia University’s Master’s Program in Human Nutrition;  2017 UChicago Pediatric Mobile Medical Unit; 2018 Yale School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry; 2019 Yale School of Medicine, Department of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry.  In 2018, Paintsil visited Ghana, his ancestral home, and volunteered at the Don Bosco Child Protection Center at Tema, Ghana.  Before heading to Columbia, he has a summer Postgraduate Associate position at Yale.  Under the direction of Dr. Saad Omer, Paintsil is a member of a research team designing epidemiological studies focused on  COVID-19.  Paintsil’s athletic skills in Indoor and Outdoor Track and Field were among his considerations in his choice of U of Chicago.  He excelled at ND and proved himself again in the Windy City.  In his senior year, he captained the University’s indoor and outdoor track teams.  “From the beginning of my time at Notre Dame, one of the things that was consistently emphasized by upperclassmen and staff was ‘don’t be an 8:10-2:30 student’, which underlined the importance of getting involved outside of school hours. Looking back to my time at UChicago, that same advice played a critical role in all facets of my undergraduate career. I made an effort to get involved early on, from student-run organizations, varsity athletics, and several summer research opportunities, all of which made it possible for me to gain the opportunity to attend a prestigious university such as Columbia en route to medical school in the near future. I am forever grateful to my peers and educators at Notre Dame for instilling that mindset in me at an early age, paving the way for success later on in life.”


Click here to see a list of other 2016 alumni who have shared information about their careers.  

Class of 2021 begins journey as Peer Counselors

Class of 2021 begins journey as Peer Counselors

The 2020-2021 Campus Ministry Peer Counselors returned to ND on Monday and Tuesday, August 3, and 4 for the annual orientation program. Notre Dame’s Peer Counseling program began in the 1981-82 academic year.  This year’s team is composed of 43 seniors. Under the direction and supervision of Michael Abbott ‘95, Director of Mission Effectiveness, the orientation program was led by Colin Cannon ’20, Michael Dion ’20, Michael Maher ’20, Nicholas Pacelli ’20, and Dylan Schwartz, ’20.  Faculty and Staff members were also on hand to guide the program: Mrs. Lucy Abbott, Mr. Michael Celentano ’86, Mr. Joseph DeCaprio, Dr. Sean Gleason, ‘03, Mr. Lino Izzo ’00, Mrs. Casey LaMonaca, Mr. Adam Laput ‘89, Mrs. Kathy Mathews, Mr. Matthew Milano '07, Mr. Joseph Ramirez, and Mr. Ryan Stewart.  Each 2020 alumnus shared reflections on his experiences as a peer counselor during the past year. 

Recognizing the unique challenges that we face in this academic year, Mr. Michael Abbott arranged for special presentations to help the Peer Counselors prepare for the unexpected.  Reverend Geoff Sinibaldo (Pastor, St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Old Saybrook, CT) shared information on digital prayer experiences.  Dr. Louis D’Onofrio, DNP, ’05 (Director of Clinical Care, Westport-Weston Health District) presented on Leadership During a COVID Pandemic.   On Tuesday, a panel of four Notre Dame alumni shared perspectives on the Black Lives Matter movement and the current state of racial unrest in the United States:  Burnell Burrell III ‘84 (Behavioral Specialist, Maloney HS, Meriden), John Giammattteo, JD, ’97 of (Yale Fellowship at Lutheran Social Services, NYC), Marshal  James Mack ’08 (Judicial Marshal, Bridgeport), and William Corey Moore ‘14 (Financial Leadership Associate Program, Raytheon Technologies, West Hartford). Other topics covered by student and faculty presenters were: Holy Cross Leadership (Dylan Schwartz ’20), Freshman Orientation (Mr. Lino Izzo), Difficult Situations (Mr. Joseph Ramirez), Second Changes (Mr. Joseph DeCaprio), The Notre Dame Code (Dr. Sean Gleason).  Each day, faculty and staff members led small group discussions and the Peer Counselors had time for reflection and journaling.

Notre Dame President, Robert Curis welcomed everyone on Monday morning, while Brother George Schmitz, CSC, ’65 led the commissioning ceremony on Tuesday afternoon.  

Dylan Schwartz ‘20 gave the Keynote address on Holy Cross Leadership. View his talk here.

Remembering Jim Guercia

We have established a James Guercia Memorial Fund. Contributions will benefit Notre Dame’s Physical Education program through which Jim mentored countless Notre Dame alumni.

Remembering Jim Guercia

Michael Barone: "I have nothing but great memories of Coach, and a heart full of gratitude that he was there for us when we were boys, teaching us to be Norte Dame Men."

Nicholas Amodio: "Coach Guercia had patience and knowledge like no other. You could tell he cared for the students. This is truly a loss for the Notre Dame Community."

Peter Montini:  "Very Sad to hear this news. I had the privilege of knowing Jim Guercia as a coach and teacher; I learned many valuable lessons on and off the playing field. I will keep you and your family in my thoughts and prayers." 

Gary Vitagliano:  "So sorry to hear this news. It was a privilege to play for him as he worked closely with us outfielders. He worked us hard and we never had so much fun. He was a great person, mentor, and coach."

Eric Lindblom: "Mr. Guercia was not my coach, but he was my gym teacher. He had an incredible amount of patience and encouragement for those of us who were not naturally athletic. I always appreciated him for being as understanding as he was."

Nick Sambides, Jr.:  "I remember him for always being very classy, kindly, and encouraging. He treated everyone well and always made you feel like you have something worthwhile to contribute."

Burnell Bear Burrell:  "I’m numb!! Thank you for everything Coach, your knowledge, patience, your sense of humor and most importantly not only the experience of playing for you but the opportunity to coach alongside you."

Carmen Alvarez:  "My deep condolences to all of you. Jim was such a kind, and strong person and will be so missed. My sons were better men having had him as a coach and teacher. My prayers for all of you." 

Charles Filardi:  "Loss is always difficult and words of condolence never seem to be enough. I hope that you and your family can find some comfort in knowing that your father had such an incredibly positive influence on the lives of literally hundreds of young men."

Brian Bodner: "Very sorry for your family's loss. I will always remember how supportive your dad was of all of us who played for him. He was a great coach and teacher."

James Funaro:  "He was just a great coach and teacher. He connected with us as students and players. He just got it. He will be missed."

Eric Ryan:  "My locker was near his office and after he found out in freshman year that  I liked to fish, for the rest of high school he'd occasionally call me over when I'd walk by to ask where I had gone the weekend before or tell me about a fish he'd snagged that weekend. He was truly someone who everyone in the school enjoyed being around."

Henry Panza: "Mr. Guercia helped me to believe in myself! Together with Mr. Marcucci they taught me what it truly means to be a man! My condolences to his family and may he rest in peace!"

Kevin Dickson: "Coach, you were a leader and a mentor. Thank you for your contributions to NDWH and all of your inspiration to ND’s students/athletes. My thoughts and prayers to you and your family."

Connor Sauer: "RIP Coach Guerc. My class and many others were blessed to have been in your presence during our time at ND. Rest easy."

Stephen DeBenedet: "RIP Coach! You taught us more than just football work ethic!"

Lou Frio:  "RIP coach. One of the nicest men I had the pleasure of knowing and learning from. Payers go out for Mr. Guercia and his family."

Tony Thompson: "Great guy. My track coach who always had nothing but encouraging words in my ‘career’. Also a fitness instructor at a gym after I graduated. He was so strong, good looking, and it is tough to believe he is gone. Rest in Peace Mr. G."

John Franco: "I spent many hours with him in PE class trying the fundamentals of shooting a basketball. Class of 2007. I ended up joining the Army. I have never been any good at basketball. However, I appreciate his efforts."

Chris K. Papcun: "I'll always remember his classic smile and laugh when I was up to something! Always encouraged me in the weight room. Unforgettable!"

Shawn Logue: "What I appreciate about Mr. Guercia as someone who had zero known athletic ability was that he offered the idea of trying a different position or practicing a fundamental. A great example of this: 'They pay people a million dollars in the NFL if you can figure out how to hold a ball for the kicker and that's all you do.' For all my resistance to gym, he did not give up on me and I will always appreciate that. I think I can accurately say I learned more from him than any other gym teacher I ever had. RIP and my condolences to the Guercia family and the Notre Dame community."

Shane Quinn: "Lovely tribute. RIP Coach Guercia. A true ND legend. I’ll always have fond memories of him and the impact he had on my development as a Notre Dame man. Prayers and condolences to his family and all of ND Nation."