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It’s never too late to tri
When Barbara Mathewson ’71 decided to start an exercise routine at the age of 30, she had no idea it would lead to her completing the 140.6-mile, 2007 Ironman Triathlon World Championship in Hawaii. Mathewson, 58, finished in seventh place overall—only six minutes short of making it into one of the top six spots.

The triathlon consisted of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run. Her finishing time was 13:35:01.

Despite her rigorous training—she ran 45 miles a week, swam five and biked 200 more—Mathewson feels it was inexperience that kept her from reaching a top spot. “I had never done the full Ironman distance before Hawaii and it is very difficult to know how your body will respond to going that distance. The biking part was harder, and it was hot because we were in the middle of lava fields,” said Mathewson.

Mathewson, who earned a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education, said she chose to attend GSC not only because it was affordable but also because it gave her the opportunity to play varsity sports. “Anyone could try out, and I don’t remember anyone getting kicked out,” said Mathewson.

During her time at GSC, she played field hockey and lacrosse and participated in swimming, diving and gymnastics. She was voted the most outstanding athlete in the Class of 1971 and was Women Athletic Association president as a senior.

“GSC got me in a competitive roll,” said Mathewson. “It stirred up my competitive juices.” Other fond memories include a 10:15 p.m. curfew in Mimosa, where she was a dorm supervisor, and wearing a dink as freshman.

Mathewson, who earned a master’s degree in recreation from Indiana State University, in Terra Haute, Ind., works as a part-time fitness consultant and is a part-time athlete. She holds the 5K-run record in her age group in Virginia, where she resides.

Her story is an example that regardless of where you are in life, there’s always time to exercise. “I spent most of my 20s out of shape,” said Mathewson. “It’s never too late.”

—Susan Mariduena ’08

Our woman in the White House
Following in the footsteps of Elaine Chao, secretary of the Department of Labor, Julissa Marenco ’97 joined one of the most prestigious leadership programs in the United States—the White House Fellowship.

This highly selective program—she was one of only 15 selected from over a thousand applicants—provides opportunities for individuals who have shown leadership, community commitment and professional achievement to work in the highest level of government.

“Upon finding out I had been selected to be a White House Fellow, I was in shock,” said Marenco. “I felt extremely honored, humbled, fortunate, elated—and nervous!”

Marenco began her year-long program last August in the Environmental Protection Agency. She has been involved in projects concerning agriculture, children’s health and U.S./Mexico-border environmental initiatives.

“Our White House Fellowship educational sessions have proven to be interesting, thought-provoking and at times, awe-inspiring,” said Marenco. “I have had the chance to explore work encompassing television public service announcements. In October, [EPA] Administrator Stephen Johnson invited me to travel with him to Los Angeles for the launching of an Energy Star campaign.”
But this was not Marenco’s first experience with television.

To be in the program, Marenco had to take leave from her job as the general manager of Telemundo WZDC-25—the leading Spanish television station in the Washington, D.C., market—where she manages 25 employees and the station’s daily operations. “It’s a small station, but I’m involved with each department. I’m in charge of putting the wheels in motion,” she explained.

“I always knew I wanted to work in Spanish language television,” said Marenco. With a bachelor’s degree in radio/TV/film and a minor in Spanish, Telemundo was a perfect fit.

At Rowan, Marenco hosted a weekly classical music show on 89.7 WGLS-FM. “I don’t remember how I ended up doing that,” she laughed. “It was a funny experience trekking across campus every Sunday morning.” She also was involved in many organizations including SGA, Delta Zeta and PROS.

Marenco has a track record for leadership, making her an ideal choice for the White House program. A 2006 recipient of the ZGS Communications Leadership Award, she has served on several boards including the YWCA-National Capital Area Chapter and the Greater Washington Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. As a graduate of Leadership Greater Washington, a nonprofit leadership organization, she also works to solve regional issues in D.C. In 2001, Marenco became the youngest visiting professor for Howard University’s Media Sales Institute, where she mentors young graduates.

“The past months represent a medley of experiences; too many to count and too few to forget,” said Marenco. “From the simple—such as learning dozens of government acronyms—to the surreal experience of meeting with the president of the United States in the Oval Office…my White House Fellowship experience has presented one-of-a-kind opportunities for growth and development.”

Even in the midst of her achievements, she has not forgotten her alma mater. “I have always credited my time at Rowan with much of my success. There is something so special about Rowan; it stays with you forever,” Marenco said. “As a White House Fellow, I am dependent upon strong writing and communications skills. Rowan’s top-notch communications program continuously serves as a backbone and incredible foundation.”

“In the future, I hope to be able to continue to serve my country be it in the broadcasting industry and/or the government communications arena,” she said. “With the knowledge I gain from this program, I’m sure I’ll be able to contribute even more than I have before.”

—Katie Ponzi ’06, M’07

When you wish upon a hero
Everyone has a wish. Anyone can be a hero. These simple words have attracted more than 10 thousand members to Wish Upon A Hero, an online donation community. Created by Dave Girgenti ’94, the site has handled over 13 thousand wishes, over half of which have been granted.

“Right after September 11, the one thing that struck me was that everyone wanted to do something but didn’t know what. After Hurricane Katrina, I thought the same thing,” said Girgenti.

With those events as a catalyst, Girgenti began the long process of piecing together the Wish Upon A Hero concept. With the help of coworkers at CramerSweeney, a full-service corporate communications firm in Mount Laurel, Girgenti was able to create the website, which went live in October.

Since then, thousands of people from around the globe have either made or granted wishes. The process, which is free, is simple: Create an account on the website and either make or grant a wish. Users can enter up to three wishes at a time.

Wishers have asked for a diverse range of items, from money to pay bills to clothing to food. Some just ask for prayers; others seek donations of several hundred dollars or more to pay for medical treatments or rent. Some of the wishes granted were huge, such as the donation of LASIK eye surgery.

WUAH’s heroes “restored my faith in humanity,” said Girgenti, a graphic design major who worked on D’Kine, Rowan’s art magazine. “There’s so much bad stuff in the news. I wanted to know there are good people out there.”

The site “is wildly different from other donation websites,” said Girgenti. “You can make a contribution and help people instantly.”

WUAH includes an extensive search database, allowing heroes to find wishes according to category, date asked or those most viewed or discussed. So unlike donors to organizations that don’t clearly state who benefits from contributions, WUAH’s heroes know who they are helping.

“People are overjoyed to have a site like this,” said Girgenti, who is creative director and partner at CramerSweeney.

Commenting on how Rowan helped his career, Girgenti said, “I was designing on Apple computers before most colleges even had Apple computers. I was learning real-world design in a classroom setting. That type of education is priceless.”

And his Rowan education did pay off for Girgenti, who has won over 65 graphic design awards and has had his design work published in six graphic design books. He also was recently included in NJBIZ’s (New Jersey Business Journal) “Forty Under 40” list. The list recognizes young men and women who have made outstanding contributions to their fields.

The website, which has been featured in several South Jersey newspapers and television stations, including The Philadelphia Inquirer and NBC10, certainly fits the list criteria. Girgenti thinks WUAH could potentially become a television show like ABC’s “Extreme Home Makeover.”

“There are stories that happen on the site that are unbelievable. It’s not just about giving money or objects. These are all stories of inspiration. I want the heroes to get credit and the wishers to have their story told,” said Girgenti. In addition, a television show “will draw more people to the site. More people mean more heroes—and that means more people getting help.”

—Amy Ovsiew ’08

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