Notable Alumni

As alumni of the UA College of Education, you join a distinguished group of education professionals. Our alumni make excellent education a daily reality for every student in every community across this state and country. Whether you’re teaching on a reservation, consulting on leadership in Washington, D.C., or a principal in Iowa, you are always a member of the UA College of Education family. Here's proof that we have the most outstanding graduates anywhere:

Joan Ganz Cooney
Ronald S. Feingold
Steven Goldstein
Phillip B. Gordon
Lacey Nymeyer
Michael E. Pilnick
Alfredo Valenzuela
Lola White
Ann Young

Joan Ganz Cooney

Just about everyone knows Big Bird, Elmo, and the Cookie Monster. In fact, to many people, these Sesame Street characters feel like family. Because of Sesame Street’s worldwide reach — it’s shown in more than 120 countries! — the program is considered the world’s largest educator. What you may not know is that the creator of Sesame Street, Joan Ganz Cooney, is a UA College of Education graduate. After graduating from the University of Arizona in 1951 with a degree in elementary education, she worked as a newspaper reporter. In 1954, she moved to New York City to write for television. Ten years later, she received a local Emmy Award for her study of the anti-poverty program in New York. She then embarked on one of the most significant projects of the late 20th century. After studying the use of television for preschool education and successfully soliciting more than $8 million in funding from foundations and federal agencies, Joan Ganz Cooney founded the Children's Television Workshop and created Sesame Street.

Ronald S. Feingold

As you must know by now, UA College of Education graduates end up with some of the most amazing careers. Check out our health and physical education authority.

A world-renowned expert on physical education, Ronald S. Feingold — College of Education Class of 1966 (M.Ed. in P.E.) — has spearheaded leading national and international professional organizations and was a lead writer for the New York State Education Department’s current standards in health and physical education.

He was appointed dean for Adelphi University School of Education and continues to serve as chair of the Department of Health Studies, Physical Education, and Human Performance Science, a position he has held since 1974.

As president of the Association Internationale des Ecoles Superieures d’Education Physique and executive board member of the International Council of Sport Science and Physical Education, he helped establish a World Summit on Physical Activity for children held in Berlin in 1999 and was on the organizing committee for the Pre-Olympic Congress in Greece. In 2003, he met with representatives from more than 100 countries in Paris at the UNESCO headquarters as a participant in the World Summit on The Value of Sport for Children.

Feingold continues to be active at the national level, as well. He is a principal investigator assessing the effectiveness of Physical Best, a national fitness education curriculum, and is spearheading a national recognition program connecting schools to the community.

Often sought after for his expertise, Feingold has given more 70 presentations across the globe and has produced over 30 publications and six monographs. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of New Mexico, an M.Ed. from the University of Arizona, and a B.S. from the University of Illinois.

Steven Goldstein

You’ve probably heard of TIAA-CREF since it’s one of the world’s largest retirement systems and ranks as one of Fortune magazine’s 100 largest U.S. companies.

But you probably didn’t realize that UA College of Education graduate Steven Goldstein — Class of 1975 — is TIAA-CREF’s executive vice president for public affairs. He oversees the company’s marketing strategy, advertising, corporate communications, and Web strategy. Goldstein also is responsible for the organization’s relationships with federal and state government officials and educational associations.

His background is impressive, to say the least — just more proof about the quality grads who come out of the UA College of Education. He began his professional career as a social studies and English teacher in Tucson.

According to Goldstein, “My time at the UA provided the foundation for my professional career. The lessons I learned from my professors at the College of Education enabled me to be a better teacher, a stronger manager, and a more effective leader. The skills I practiced then are the same skills I use today.”

Along the way to his current position, he advised McKinsey & Company on restructuring its communications group and evaluating its global reputation, and he served as vice president and chief spokesperson for Dow Jones & Co. and its main subsidiary, The Wall Street Journal. From 1993 to 2001, Goldstein served as vice president, and then senior vice president, of the Insurance Information Institute in New York, directing its press offices in New York, Washington, and Los Angeles.

This Nashville, Tennessee, native also worked in the first Bush Administration as assistant to the secretary and as director of the Office of Public Affairs in the U.S. Department of the Interior. He came to that position after working for several members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Phillip B. Gordon

Have you ever heard of the front-porch bench initiative? Phoenix Mayor Phillip B. Gordon — who happens to be a 1972 UA College of Education alumnus — and City Council members launched the initiative in 2004. It’s amazingly simple, and here’s how it works: Residents are encouraged to buy a bench and sit on their front porches or in their front yards. “The front porch bench serves as a symbol, and we are asking residents to get to know their neighbors, watch who comes and goes, know who is alone, who has children, or who doesn’t belong in their neighborhood,” said Gordon on the site. “By paying attention, being vigilant, and assisting others, we will help to build healthy, crime-free communities.” Thousands of benches have been donated to the project.

Before serving in elected office, Gordon was a leader in the movement to revitalize, preserve, and redevelop central Phoenix. Pledging to fight crime and preserve neighborhoods, he was elected to the City Council in the late 1990s in the district that had been his home since childhood. He was elected mayor of Phoenix in 2003, with 72 percent of the popular vote.

Lacey Nymeyer

We have a lot of winners at the College of Education — perhaps one of the best known is Olympic swimmer Lacey Nymeyer, who took home a silver medal in Beijing in 2008. Arizona swimmer has ever won more individual or relay NCAA championships than Lacey Nymeyer’s 10, including five in 2008, as she led the Cats to the team title as well. An outstanding freestyler, she is ranked among the top six swimmers in the 50-, 100-, and 200-meter freestyles, according to USA Swimming.

Her relay prowess has led to a pair of world and U.S. Open records. A 19-time All-American, Nymeyer comes from outstanding athletic stock, as her grandfather, Ed Nymeyer, was an all-conference basketball player for Arizona from 1955-58. In Beijing, Nymeyer won a silver medal in the 4 x 100-meter freestyle relay. She graduated from the College of Education in May 2009.

Recently, she was named the 2009 NCAA Woman of the Year.

Nymeyer accepted the award — among the most prestigious the NCAA bestows — during the 19th annual NCAA Woman of the Year event in Indianapolis. The award honors female student-athletes who have completed their eligibility, demonstrated academic and athletics excellence, and engaged in community service and leadership opportunities.
"Without the opportunities provided to me through my participation in college athletics, I doubt I would have such a clear sense of self-worth and purpose outside the skills of my sport," Nymeyer said in her personal statement on her nomination form. 

Michael E. Pilnick

Many of our alumni are significant leaders in business. Just look at this shining star: Michael E. Pilnick is an accomplished executive with broad experience in both domestic and international environments. Originally from New York, Pilnick received a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from the UA College of Education. He taught high school history on the Navajo Nation in the 1980s.

Pilnick continued his teaching career in New Jersey, and soon became involved in training and development of curriculum. After receiving his master’s degree in human resources from New School University, he became the senior vice president of human resources at Columbia House Company in Florida.

Pilnick joined Harcourt Education as the global head of human resources. Harcourt is a leading textbook publisher with $1.7 billion in revenue. Pilnick is responsible for the firm’s human resources function worldwide, leading human resource initiatives, and supporting the strategic and operating plans of all Harcourt businesses.

Pilnick is a much sought-after speaker and is often cited in both human resource publications and the mass media. In fact, Carol Hymowitz, writing in the Wall Street Journal, quoted him as an expert on employee recruitment efforts.

Alfredo Valenzuela

Self-taught mariachi musician Alfredo Valenzuela is the quintessential example of how a life of teaching and community engagement can fuse the power of education and the arts to serve children, youth, families, and communities.

“Mr. V,” as he is known, grew up in Arizona, worked as a ranch hand, groundskeeper, and truck driver. After serving in the U.S. Army, he earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in elementary administration from the UA College of Education. Throughout his nearly 30 years of teaching, Mr. V has transformed beginning students into confident and competent musicians — so accomplished that, since 1982, they have performed with the Tucson International Mariachi Conference.

He established and directs Mariachi Los Aguilitas de Davis (the Little Eagles of Davis), the performing mariachis at Davis Bilingual Magnet School. His participation and leadership in education has built a musical bridge across traditions that span geography and culture. He has earned many honors for outstanding teaching, service to local communities, and commitment to education.

We are proud to call him one of our own, as is the University of Arizona. In fact, Mr. V was presented with an honorary degree of Doctor of Music by Dean Ronald W. Marx in 2008.

Lola White

Who better to spotlight Lola White, our very own alum (1942), who worked diligently to make the Two-tailed Swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata) Arizona’s State Butterfly.

Why this butterfly? According to White, this is a beautiful butterfly that is indeed Western, since it is only found west of the Mississippi. “This butterfly has the colors of the Arizona flag (yellow, red, and blue) and has 14 blue dots to mark the date of February 14, the day in 1912 when Arizona Territory became a state!” White says, enthusiastically.

White has been interested in butterflies since childhood. She grew up in Nogales, and her mother had a beautiful garden with many flowers and insects. “We even had flying fireflies at night and, of course, many butterflies during the warm, sunny days,” she says. “The purpose of having a state butterfly was to focus on the problems that construction, herbicides, and global warming were having on butterfly lives. Butterflies are second behind bees for plant and tree pollination.”

Now, to celebrate the sixth anniversary of the day Governor Hull signed house Bill 2247 on June 11, 2001, making the Two-tailed Swallowtail Arizona’s State Butterfly, White has developed an excellent resource for teachers and others, and it’s free!

Butterfly Quest 2007 is a project that gives clear information about butterflies in readily accessible digital files. It is written so that anyone can make a presentation about butterflies, even with little or no butterfly background. The downloadable files have interesting information about butterflies and moths, the kind of plants that attract those insects, and important conservation hints. Colorful Power Point slides accompany the text.

As White says, “It’s more than a series of beautiful butterfly pictures. It’s like having a butterfly presentation available at one’s convenience.”

For more information on Butterfly Quest 2007, go to her site here, or contact White directly at

White is proof once again that the College of Education has the most amazing graduates!

Ann Young

Many of us take our educations for granted, but just think how hard it would have been to stay in school if you had no permanent place to live. We’re not talking about college students — we’re talking about students in grade school, middle school, and high school. Youth On Their Own (YOTO) is a nonprofit organization that specializes in school dropout prevention for homeless and near-homeless children between the ages of 8 and 22.

YOTO has a long history of providing compassionate support in keeping teens off the streets and helping them realize their potential in life. Last year, YOTO assisted 519 students in more than 86 schools throughout Tucson and Pima County, with 163 students who graduated from high school. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

The College of Education is happy to let you know that the founder of YOTO is one of our very own grads. Ann Young — Class of 1969 — was a counselor at Amphitheater High School in 1986 when YOTO came to fruition.

Young recalls, “Many of our students were living from couch to couch and struggling to stay in school. Some didn’t make it. I was desperate for a way to help them stabilize their living situation so that they could graduate with their class. My church announced a meeting to talk about helping Tucson’s homeless.

"I turned to my husband and told him that I was going to that meeting to share the story of Amphi’s homeless students. We had four teenaged girls in our home that morning, two of whom had no place to go had I not brought them home. My husband felt that we were never going to be through raising teenagers!

“One thing led to another and the church (St. Andrew’s Presbyterian) opened a home for our girls. We thought we wanted a home, but we learned a lot the two years it was open. It was too expensive, too energy draining, and too limited. What did work was placing the kids from the house we opened into volunteer homes, where they had one-to-one interactions. We started giving all of the volunteer parents $100 a month to help offset some of the costs. After two years, we closed the church home, but continued to provide what we began to call stipends to the youth in the program or to their volunteer parents. We started the stipend program in 1988.

"By that time, we were helping 50 students a year. The number of students we have been able to help has doubled every year until we reached a maximum of 500 in 1992 and 1993. Hundreds of volunteers and many individuals, churches, and service organizations provide encouragement, hours of volunteer labor, and much-needed financial resources. We base our success on the graduation of our students. They don’t disappoint us. About 85 percent of our students manage to graduate from high school with a helping hand from YOTO.

“I won't be satisfied until every student who can benefit can get help from YOTO so that staying in school until graduation becomes a reality for them. That may take twice as much money as we raise now for stipends, but I do believe it can be done.”

Somehow, we think Ann Young will make it happen! Here are just some of the things YOTO helps with:

  • $125 monthly living expense stipend, based on school attendance and academic progress
  • Special-needs assistance, such as rent, utilities, sports fees, and equipment
  • School enrollment
  • Transportation
  • Finding alternative housing
  • Finding employment
  • Free medical and dental care from volunteer practitioners
  • Basic needs such as food, clothing, and hygiene/household and school supplies
  • Tutoring and guidance by volunteers
  • Identifying and securing college aid
  • Career and education planning, as well as life skills development

For more info on YOTO, go to