In Touch of Alumni Spring 2024


Deserai Lee (BA ’23) has been promoted to Child Development Center director at a U.S. Naval installation.

Ralph Anthony Alcazar Jr. (FS ’21) graduated from the California Highway Patrol Academy on November 3, 2023, and was assigned to Bakersfield.

Ariana Avila (BA ’21) was appointed director of development for the Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Athletics Department in September 2023. The former women’s soccer player had been a development associate at Stanford University Athletics.

Ngina Boswell (BA ’21) has started her role as a Tier 2 Intervention Specialist for Fresno Unified School District.

Janelle Solis (BA ’19) was the subject of a January 3, 2024, profile on ABC 30 (KFSN FRESNO TV) for her earring business JES CLAY.

Aaron Chambers (BA ’18) president & principal consultant of Impossible Services Group, Inc., is celebrating the second year of his Madera consulting firm and in October 2023 received the Certified Insolvency & Restructuring Advisor (CIRA) designation. The CIRA program recognizes those who possess a high degree of specialized, professional, financial and operational expertise in the area of business bankruptcy and insolvency. Aaron serves on the board of directors for the California Tax Education Council and the Workforce Development Board of Madera County, as well as the executive committee for the Southern California Chapter of the Alliance of Merger & Acquisition Advisors.

Bao Yang (MA ’18) became a licensed marriage and family therapist. The road to licensure includes graduating with a master’s, completing 3,000 hours of clinical experience and passing two exams. She is on staff at On-Site Counseling Center on the main FPU campus.

Former Sunbird standout Carl Weigley (BA ’17), now women’s assistant swimming coach at UC Davis, will help coach Team USA at the World University Games, working under former FPU coach Peter Richardson, now associate head coach at USC. T.C. Fairfield (MA ’16) is pitching coach for the Kamloops (BC) NorthPaws in the West Coast League, a collegiate summer baseball league comprising teams from Washington, Oregon and British Columbia and Alberta, Canada. Teams operate similarly to professional minor-league teams, but only current college-eligible players participate.

Taylor Poisall (BA ’16) and Davy Vartanian (BA ’16) were among this year’s recipients of the 40 Under 40 recognition, celebrating the Valley’s top young professionals, honored by Business Street Media Group.

Alyssa (Burnett, BA ’15) Cross was appointed alumni and donor relations manager at Bakersfield College Foundation.

Matthew (BA ’13) and Klara (BA ’14) Gilbert were appointed coach and assistant coach, respectively, of the swimming and diving teams at Midland University, Fremont, NB.

Virgel Hammonds (MA ’10) has been appointed CEO of Aurora Institute, an education innovation and support organization.

Yammilette “Yami” Rodríguez (MA ’06) was honored with the 2023 Ohtlí Award from the Consulate of México in Fresno on December 8, 2023. The Ohtlí—Nahuatl for “road” or “path”—is awarded to individuals who devote their work to the advancement of the Mexican community. Yami, now senior director of the Central Valley Youth Leadership Institute, has been a district representative for Assemblymember Sarah Reyes and director of admissions at FPU. She is also a board member at the Vesper Society, Hispanas Organized for Political Equality advisory board and the Central Valley Latino Leaders Academy.

Aaron Bryan (TC ’04, BA ’03) was among the winners of the 38th Annual Horizon Awards, sponsored by the Fresno Arts Council for achievements and contributions to Fresno County’s cultural arts community. Aaron, arts education department director for the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools, was presented with the Ella Odorfer Educator Award on October 26, 2023, during the Inaugural State of the Arts Celebration.

Donny Butkus (BA ’99) is a senior pastor in Fair Oaks, CA. He is married to Roxanna (Sadler, BA ’99) Butkus.

Bruce J. Evans (BA ’99), was elected vice-president/president-elect of the Music Library Association. He began his service in March, and will serve one year as president-elect, two years as president and one year as past president. Bruce has been involved in MLA since 1997, and has been librarian at Baylor University in Waco, TX since 2003.

Donna (Penner, BA ’82) Clay retired September 7, 2023, after 39 years with the Fresno Police Department. She says, “Finally holidays will be able to be celebrated on that day, instead of a week or even a month after the fact.”

Joan Schoettler (MA ’91) published her debut middle-grade novel in August 2023. The Honey Jar: An Armenian’s Escape to Freedom tells the story of a family fleeing the Armenian genocide. The novel, written in verse, was inspired by Kalem Kazarian’s family story. A former faculty member at California State University Fresno, Joan has written three other books.

Rodger (BA ’79) and Debra “JB” (BA ’79) Brayfindley are retired and live in Williams, CA. Rod retired from pastoral ministry and now does guest speaking and teaches karate. JB retired from full-time teaching and is now a freelance photojournalist and works part-time as an adult ESL teacher. During the pandemic, JB created over 100 children’s worship videos with more than 50 United Methodist churches throughout Northern California, creating a series of puppet skits included in the worship featuring “Mort, The Snail.” She received the Bishop Warner H. Brown Leadership Award for Excellence in Innovation and Collaboration at the California-Nevada Annual Conference in Sacramento, CA, in 2021.

Michael Adam (BA ’78) has written his debut novel, Murder in the Choir Loft, a Christian murder mystery published by WestBow Press. The book blends suspense with small-town church life, choir politics and a touch of humor and grace. One review notes, “If you enjoy reading faith-filled suspense fiction that grips you from the first minute, then you will love this inspirational, fast-paced Christian mystery! Murder in the Choir Loft is a darker, American version of the Father Brown books and television series.”


Kelsey Nicole Lowrey (BA ’20) and Samuel Christopher Delk (BA ’19) married on October 8, 2023, after meeting at FPU. Samuel is completing his Ph.D. in Molecular Toxicology at UCLA, while Kelsey is pursuing her Ph.D. in Mathematics at UCSB.

Emily Klein (BA ’15) married Lt. Matthew Phillips on August 30, 2023, in San Francisco. The couple reside in Hanford, CA, with their piebald dachshund, Daisy May. Emily is an early childhood education consultant with Kings County Office of Education and Matthew is an FA-18 fighter pilot in the U.S. Navy.


Mark (MA ’22) and Kimberlie (Raulino, MA ’22, TC ’19, BA ’17) Foster welcomed Josiah Job on January 7, 2024. The couple met teaching mathematics at Sanger High School and completed their master’s degrees together at FPU.

Gloria Hope Strube was born December 6, 2023, to Karl (BA ’06) and Heidi Strube. She joins siblings Norah and William.

Aleiya Jefferson was born to Kristy Sims- Jefferson (MA ’23, BA ’20) and Bernard Jefferson on March 4, 2023. The parents call her a “miracle baby” because doctors believed Kristy would not be able to conceive due to her diagnosis with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, which is now in remission. She joins sisters Kei’Arie, A’Rhya and Maleah. Bernard Jefferson serves as associate pastor at Saint Rest Baptist Church, Fresno.


Laurel L. Clark (BA ’06), 76, of Aurora and Downers Grove, IL, died August 2, 2023. She was born February 5, 1947, in Waterloo, IA, attending high school in Riverside, CA. She enjoyed crafting and loved to enter homemade garments in the county fair. Survivors include husband Daniel; sons Mathew and Mark; siblings Richard, Becky and Michael (Lesli); one granddaughter; and one great-granddaughter.

Daniel McDowell (BA ’95), died August 15, 2023, after a brief illness. Daniel was an international student from Ireland and member of the Sunbird Men’s Soccer Team from 1991-1995. He is survived by wife Chrissy and three children.

Rev. Vyacheslav Tsvirinko (SEM ’95), 74, Fresno, CA, died August 27, 2023. A native of Belarus, Vyacheslav (known affectionately as “VT”) spent many years serving the bachelor’s degree completion program in positions such as director of the Visalia Center (now campus). Survivors include wife Nina; sons David (Inna), Michael (BA ’01) (Irina), Benjamin (MA ’12, BA ’03), Daniel (Olga), Andrei and John (BA ’11) (Korina BA ’12); sisters Zhanneta Tkachuk and Natalya Zhakevich; and 11 grandchildren.

Diana Graziani (MA ’90), 75, died October 6, 2023. A native of Elyria, OH, she spent most of her education career in California at the Exeter Union School District, retiring in 2011 as deputy superintendent. She was named Association of California School Administrators (ASCA) Pupil Personnel Administrator of the Year in 2011. Survivors include sons Dan (Maggie) and Tony (Liz); daughter Alissa Custer (John); sisters Marjorie, Mary, Rosemary and Jan; brother Jim (Kim); and five grandchildren.

Carol Denise Vayda (MA ’95), 73, of Madera, died August 10, 2023, in Clovis. A native of Bayonne, NJ, Carol’s career as an educator spanned the country from New Jersey and New York to Yosemite High School in Oakhurst and 30 years at Madera and Madera South high schools. She was also a Spanish instructor at Madera Community College. Carol is survived by daughter Rebecca Anne Evans-Nadella (Gopi Juhani), brother David Thomas, one grandson and one step-grandson.

Elvera (Langemann) Schmidt (SEM ’00, BA ’70), 83, died April 3, 2023, in Reedley. She was born July 25, 1939, in Coaldale, Alberta, Canada, marrying Henry J. Schmidt (SEM ’72, BA ’70), Ph.D., on August 27, 1960. While supporting Henry’s work during their 50-year marriage—including his 10 years as president and 15 years as a faculty member of the then-Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary—Elvera was a leader in her own right as a kindergarten teacher at Fresno’s Lane Elementary School for over 20 years and active in Fig Garden Bible Church, North Fresno Mennonite Brethren Church and Palm Village Retirement Community. Survivors include daughters Debra Schmidt Brady (BA ’85) (Martin BA ’83); Laura Schmidt Roberts (Mark); Ph.D., professor of biblical and theological studies; and five grandchildren.

Luetta Reimer (BA ’66), 79, died October 28, 2023. Born in Hillsboro, KS, she earned a B.A. from Fresno Pacific College and an M.A. in English from Purdue University, then taught English at FPU from 1968- 2000. In 1969, she married Wilbert Reimer, math faculty. At Butler Church, she taught Sunday School and served on the church council. Survivors include husband Wil, daughter Elaine Reimer-Pare (TC ’98) (Marc), son Paul (MA ’08) (Candi), sister Irene Pauls (PBI ’54), brothers Gene and Arly Feil (PBI ’53) and five grandchildren. Donations may be made to the Wilbert and Luetta Reimer Endowed Scholarship at FPU.

Robert “Bob” Wayne Krause (MA ’95), 83, died January 12, 2024. The Reedley native served in the U.S. Coast Guard and attended Bakersfield College, Pacific Western University and National University. Beginning his career as an accountant, he became a math teacher. He was a member of Congregational Bible Church, Shafter. Survivors include wife Marcia, daughter Kristian, son Michael (Emily) and two grandchildren.

Edwin Lee Nachtigall, 95, died October 25, 2023. A Nebraska native, Ed coached basketball at Fresno Pacific in the late 1950s and early 60s and was inducted as an honorary member of the FPU Athletic Hall of Fame in 2014. He was also a teacher, coach and administrator in Fresno schools for 30 years and a well-known car broker. He belonged to Reedley Mennonite Brethren Church. Survivors include wife Bonnie Lou; sons Kelly (FS ’75) (Kathy FS ‘75), Terry (BA ’78) (Jennifer) and Gerald (FS ’78) (Sheryl); daughter Marcia Frank (Bill); eight grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren.

Jane (Lautt) Dick, 83, died October 22, 2023. Born in Harvey, ND, she graduated from Tabor College, Hillsboro, KS, where she met husband Mervin Dick (SEM ’96). Later in life she graduated from Iliff School of Theology, Denver, CO, and was ordained. The couple moved to Fresno, where Mervin attended Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary and both served as dorm parents at Fresno Pacific. In 1979, the family returned to Fresno, where Mervin pastored and Jane was seminary financial aid coordinator. Survivors include son Kevin (Judy), daughter Kora (Les) Flaming, six grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.