For full interviews, click these links:

Gallant: questions for gallant

DeWanda Wise: dewanda interview

Jose Kelly: Kelly interview

Mr Rosen: Rosen interview

Considering that we had our pep rally recently, and our football team is regional champs, how about a little more pride for Atholton? Many of this school’s past students have gone on to do great things. However, some are particularly exceptional and worth noting. Here are the top ten AHS Alumni.

Allan H. Kittleman

To start off this list, we have one of the most recognizable politicians from the state. Born in 1958, and graduated from Atholton in 1977, Kittleman’s work has ranged from local to nationwide. He was the 9th County Executive For Howard County from 2014 to 2018, and is seeking re-election in 2022. 

At the federal level, Kittleman bounces between the liberal and conservative parties in the social libertarian faction. When his father passed away in 2004, Bob Ehrlich, the Maryland governor of the time, called upon him to take his father’s place as a state senator. He then won re-election twice more, both with decisive victories. During that time, he served as the minority leader from 2008 to 2011. He resigned from the position in January of 2011 so he could go against his fellow Republicans, and during that year’s General Assembly Session, vote in favor of same sex marriage. His time as Senator lasted three more years, ending in 2014.

His career has involved some controversies. In 2017, he vetoed a bill passed by the county council that would make Howard County a sanctuary for illegal immigrants. He is currently working to lessen air traffic around BWI, as noise complaints from Columbia have been common.

Steve Lombardozzi Jr

A member of Rawlings High School All American preseason 3rd team, Steve Lombardozzi Jr graduated in 2007. His father was also an MLB player, and since graduating, Lombardozzi Jr has been following in his father’s footsteps. He is a second baseman and left fielder, with a batting average of 260. He has played for the Washington Nationals, Baltimore Orioles, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Miami Marlins. Steve has also played for several Minor league teams, and currently plays for the Long Island Ducks.  

Thomas Hong

Thomas Hong was a committed speed skater from the age of five, and has competed in multiple Junior Olympics and world championships. He was born in Seoul, South Korea, and moved to Laurel, MD at a young age. He graduated from Atholton in 2015, and currently attends UMD.

Thomas received the chance to return to his home country when he qualified 4th overall in the 2018 US Olympic trials. At the Olympics, he placed 5th in the 5k relay, and 23rd in the 500m relay. He kept this run of good form going into the 2018-2019 World Championships, placing 13th for the 500m relay. 

With the 2022 Winter Olympics rapidly approaching, make sure to keep an eye out for him!

Greg Hawkes

Greg Hawkes may not be the most recognizable name to anyone born after 1992, but he is recognized for his work with The Cars, a staple of late 70’s and 80’s music. Famous for pioneering the use of synths and keyboards in music, Hawkes is the man behind a lot of the band’s magic. 

His musical career began at Atholton High School, where he and his friends started a band called “Teeth.” He graduated from Atholton in 1971, and attended Berklee College of Music, where he eventually joined “Richard and the Rabbits.” It was here where he met his soon-to-be The Cars band members, Ric Ocasek and Benjamin Orr.

The Cars was formed in 1976, and named Best New Artist in 1978 by Rolling Stones. They enjoyed a long and prosperous career until they disbanded in 1988. In 2005, Hawkes and fellow band member Todd Rundgren helped form the New Cars. 

Hawkes now works as a session musician, still fulfilling his love of music everyday.

Brendan Iribe

Many people know someone with a little too much money to throw around. This person probably has a fancy virtual reality headset. One of the most well known VR companies, Oculus Rift, was co-founded by none other than Brendan Iribe. 

Brendan Iribe graduated from Atholton in 1997 and attended the University of Maryland. He originally majored in computer science, but dropped out after two semesters to become a freelance programmer. (This career decision still didn’t stop him from getting a building named after him!)  

Iribe began his programming career working on the Civilization IV UI. The first company he helped start was Scaleform, a UI tech for PC gaming. After years of working on Scaleform, he sold it to Autodesk and began working for Gaikai, a now Sony-owned video game streaming service.

In 2012, Irebe decided to take his career into his own hands, so he, Michael Antonov, Nate Mitchell and Palmer Luckey created Oculus Rift with a Kickstarter campaign. He became CEO of the instantly successful company. It was sold to Facebook in March 2014 for 2.3 billion dollars. At the end of 2016, he stepped down as CEO to lead its new PC virtual reality group. In 2018, he announced he would be leaving the company.

Irebe’s departure from Oculus Rift was not uncommon in the technology industry, where CEOs frequently step down from their positions. Iribe and Facebook had “fundamentally different views on the future of Oculus.” Iribe also was ready for a fresh start, “It’s time to recharge, reflect and be creative.”  However, he has definitely left a mark on the world of computer science, and he didn’t forget to give back to where he came from. He donated 31 million dollars to the University of Maryland, for the new Brendan Iribe Building for Computer Science and Engineering. Next time you’re in Best Buy and see an Oculus, remember it all started here, in Columbia Maryland.

Tatyana McFadden

No words can describe this heavily accomplished paralympian. She lives and breathes sports, with many accolades as proof of such, but her start was all but easy….

Born in 1989, Leningrad, Russia (although, at the time, it was known as the Soviet Union) McFadden was orphaned and born with spina bifida. This rare congenital disability paralyzes people from the waist down, so while most kids were spending the first years of their lives learning to walk, Tatyanna was teaching herself to walk on her hands. The doctors at the orphanage told her she had very little time to live, but that was before she met Debora McFadden. She was visiting Russia as a commissioner of disabilities for the US Health Department, but she adopted Tatyana and relocated her to Maryland.

Tatyana quickly developed a love for sports, trying out swimming, gymnastics, wheelchair basketball, sled hockey and track and field. By the time she was eight she committed to wheelchair racing, and competed in the 2004 Paralympics, where she won a silver and a bronze medal. 

However, it seemed that competing in the Paralympics was fraught with less difficulty than competing for Atholton. Officials claimed that her wheelchair was a safety hazard and gave her an unfair advantage over longer distances. This meant she couldn’t race at the same time as other runners, and had to compete in separate “wheelchair only” races, which often meant circling the track by herself. In 2005, McFadden and her mother filed a lawsuit against HCPSS to allow her to compete at the same time as able bodied athletes. They won, but it wasn’t the end of their problems. It was decided that whatever McFadden scores in races would not count for the team. In 2006, a fellow Atholton teammate lost her victory to McFadden in the 1600m (keep in mind she didn’t get the victory either,) and in 2008 she collided with another runner injuring her legs, which resulted in her missing her conference title meet. McFadden’s lawsuit did eventually lead to Maryland Fitness and Athletics Equity for Students with Disabilities Act, which made Maryland the first state to require equal Physical Education and athletic opportunities for disabled children. It is commonly referred to as Tatyana’s law.

After high school, McFadden attended the University of Illinois, where she was coached by veteran wheelchair racer, Adam Bleakney. As well as doing track she was also on the school’s wheelchair basketball team, and took up marathons. 

The rest of Tatyana’s Olympic career only got better. 2008, four more medals, 2012, another four, three of which were gold. In the 2013 IPC athletics world championships, she became the first athlete in history to win 6 gold medals, meaning she won every category from the 100m to the 5k. In 2014 she got the chance to go back to her home country of Russia, winning a silver medal in cross country skiing in front of a home crowd, which included her biological mother. Her best Olympics was yet to come though, 2016 yielded four golds and two silvers.

As well as a track career, Tatyanna’s marathon career has been win after win, record after record. In 2009, she competed in the Chicago marathon purely for fun, and won. In 2013 She became the first person ever to win the grand slam (yes, that includes able bodied people,) winning the Chicago, Boston, New York, and London marathons all in the same year. She did this again for the next three years. 

Tatyanna shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon, she won a bronze for the 5k in the 2020 paralympics. Her most recent feat is winning the Chicago marathon for the fifth time and, less than 24 hours later, finishing second in the Boston Marathon. Everyday she is inspiring us, showing that it doesn’t matter where you come from, because anything truly is possible.

Josh Kelly

One of Atholton’s most acclaimed programs is definitely the theatre program. It’s raised some phenomenal talents. Josh Kelly was someone Mr. Rosen always described as dedicated. He’s most well known for his part as Stone in Transformers 2 and 3, and playing Jeremy Caner in Unreal. 

Kelly knew he wanted to start acting from a young age, when he did a preschool play at the Little Red Schoolhouse in Fort Meade. His motivation for acting only grew from then on, and he found himself juggling his passion, sports, and academics. (Until junior year, at least, when he was banned from extracurricular activities for half the year.) Romeo and Juliet was his favorite play he did with the drama program, where he played Mercutio. 

After highschool, he began working on his acting career without moving to LA or Broadway. Instead, he joined the army. His reason for doing so was acting motivated. Kelly asked himself “am I just gonna play make believe forever?” His passion was action movies and he wanted to see if he could do all the things depicted in these films himself. He was still able to keep his acting skills sharp by doing skits. These skits were traditionally done by privates to poke fun at higher ranks, but even after Kelly became a ranger the rules were bent so he could still take part. Kelly recalled his colleagues returning after the second tour of Iraq (which he missed due to injury,) “You know the stories weren’t like oh man, we could have used you on this ambush. We could have used you on this raid. Instead, it was all like, man, skits would have been so much better if you were there.”

Josh’s favorite thing about acting is that it allows you to do anything. “Well, I wanted to do a lot of things and I figured acting encompassed all of them…I’ve gotten to be a race car driver…a sheriff…I got to fight decepticons and transformers. They were like my favorite toy growing up!” If he wasn’t an actor however, being an engineer or astronaut would be his top career picks. 

If there is one thing Kelly could say to any high school drama kids, it’s this: “Pursue it, if you love it, you’re going to have to love it because…it’s probably going to be really, really hard at times.” He also said, “don’t let it completely stop you from living a well-rounded life…a lot of actors just focus on being an actor and just living like an, and that makes you boring when you’re going up for roles. What makes you interesting is actually having a life like pursuing other things.”

No matter what you’re planning to do, we could all take a page out of Josh Kelly’s book. Do what you love, and try to live as fulfilling a life as possible. 

Gallant

Gallant

Another affiliate of the AHS theatre program, although he went down the path of singing rather than acting. Gallant exploded onto the R&B scene in 2014 with his debut EP “Zebra.” He was born in DC and moved to Columbia in elementary school, where he stayed until he graduated from Atholton. He was always an introverted child; Mr. Rosen describes him as a man of “few words in high school, and now as well.” He graduated NYU Gallatin School for Individualized Study in 2013, moved to LA, and went straight into the music industry. His passion for music began in middle school, and in highschool he took up theater. He knew, one way or another, that he was a performance artist. 

His career started off strong. “Zebra” was a critically acclaimed album, and his album, “Ology,” was Grammy nominated. He signed to a small label, which was then bought by Warner Records in 2016. He felt uneasy about the new ownership, and said in an interview with the Baltimore Sun that he “felt like an adopted family member.” In 2020, Gallant left the label and went indie for his most recent project “Neptune,” for several reasons.

Gallant stated that his head and the record’s head weren’t in the same place, and it was a mutual agreement to cut ties. He also did it so he could go back to that feeling of when he first started– with the pressure off and the focus on having fun. He said he wouldn’t be opposed to working with labels in the future, although Neptune has succeeded without one.

Gallant looks back fondly on his time at Atholton. According to his, worlds of difference to college, Describing NYU as a “dystopian nightmare” by comparison. He credits his time at Atholton a lot, Especially Mr Rosen. ”My vocals were my  weakest link,” he stated, “Every time casts were announced, I felt like I was subtly being pushed to develop my vocals incrementally.” He also remembers Mr Rosen being one of the most “real” teachers in the building. He recalled, “It always felt to me like Mr. Rosen was giving us his best time.” 

Gallant’s message to current highschoolers in music and drama is simple: “Just have fun with it.” It is important to remember that acting and music making should be fun, and although you should take your work seriously, it’s not life or death.

“It would be a waste to have negative

emotions or stress associated with something that’s supposed to be creative and some

of the truest forms of self-expression.”

Gallant had a passion. He wanted to pursue it, and although the road to success wasn’t easy, he’s come to where he is now with his head held high.

Jack Douglas

“Yesterday, I asked you…” A statement heard millions of times by millions around the world. Maybe you recognize those words, spoken by internet star Jacksfilms. 

Jack always thought of himself as a weird child, but he was very academically inclined. Math and English were his favorite subjects, and he was a total grammar fanatic. This inspired his “Your Grammar Sucks” series. He sometimes had problems with his temper, getting sent to the principal’s office 6 times in 1st grade. He wasn’t too taken with sports, but played the French horn throughout high school and dabbled in piano. At the end of his senior year, he was given an assignment to talk about all the books he had read that year, so Jack and his friends made a video mocking all of them. This is when he found a love for making videos. 

After he graduated, Jack discovered Youtube. He was accepted into the American University where he studied film/music theory, took up piano, and started profiting off of Youtube. Jack stated in his “Draw My Life” video, “Best four years of my life…I found myself, I was confident.”

After countless sleepless nights and hours of editing, Jack reached 1 million subscribers on Youtube. He now sits at 4.6 million subscribers, and he is still growing everyday. Who would have thought that such a successful Youtube career was sparked by an Atholton English project? His legacy is simple: “I just want to make the most amount of people laugh,” and he’s doing a pretty good job at that.   

DeWanda Wise

Last but certainly not least, whose IMDB profile hails her as “One of the industry’s most exciting talents,” another former pupil of Mr. Rosen, DeWanda Wise. Her father attended Atholton before her, and she grew up in Columbia. From a young age she wanted to be a therapist, but AP Psychology made her realize this wasn’t for her.  

Her love for acting came about accidentally, when she was late to Mr. Rosen’s theater class one too many times and got detention. Her detention occurred during the fall play auditions, so she gave it a shot. Just like that, she found her calling. She loved everything about the class, as stated here, “I loved the process of rehearsals, and watching our crew build the set. I thought Tech was just about the greatest thing ever. Hanging out in that theater for hours eating snacks. It was the best.” She remembers Mr Rosen just as fondly as Gallant and Kelly, and said he was the “first great director” she knew.  Theater was her main focus for the rest of high school and college, graduating with honors with a dual degree in Drama and Urban Social and Cultural Analysis. She also received a minor in Community-Based Theater and Performance from NYU. 

After that, her professional career took off. Her most notable work includes the Netflix drama “She’s Gotta Have It,” directed by Spike Lee. The critically acclaimed show got into AAFCA’s Top Ten Shows of 2017. Mr. Rosen was impressed with her work on the show, claiming, “I love being able to tell my classes that I’m two degrees from Spike Lee.” DeWanda Wise’s other television credits include “The Twilight Zone,” “Shots Fired,” “Underground,” “Boardwalk Empire,” and “The Good Wife.” She has also dabbled in producing with “How To Tell You’re a Douchebag,” and screenwriting, with short film “Where You Go.” She said writing, especially poetry, had been a talent of her’s since elementary school. She stated producing was “a natural progression from working with friends on their short films for many years.”

As far as current projects go, she will be in the new Jurassic World movie set to release in 2022. She still works to inspire young talent in Howard County, Mr. Rosen recalled seeing her at the HoCo Theater Festival last year. Her message to current highschoolers is this: “When you’re feeling overwhelmed, try to look at your life with a degree of distance and separation.” She said it’s important to look at where you are, and ask yourself if the present crisis will matter in a year’s time, maybe even just a week from now.

“When you look back, you’ll be in awe of all the terrain you’ve traversed. I promise.” 

From actors and musicians, to politicians, from Youtube stars to athletes, Atholton has it all. It’s great to see the diversity of success that this school continues to produce. Josh Kelly recalled there being, “a lot of crossover people like me, like I was student government, played sports, did drama…programming, etc,” which made a very strong student community. Gallant expressed similar views, “I never felt too tied down or locked in to one category of student life, which gave me the freedom to piece together my own identity and stay true to my own Creativity.” It begs the question, who will be the next big star who can say they graduated from Atholton High School?

Posted by Sam Nixon

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