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Alumni Profiles

Jane Mess Pfefferkorn ’58

Jane Mess Pfefferkorn ’58 has spent her life as a champion of the arts in education. With Midwestern sensibility, she decries the undermining of arts in wry fashion, “Of course, I deplore the situation. But, on one level I understand it,” she says. “The arts are destabilizing because they demand that people think for themselves. Terming the arts as frills is an easy way out.”

At Cornell she was drawn to the history department, and found an inspiring group of professors including Bill Heywood, Eric Kollman, and Howard Lane.

She went on to earn her master’s degree in drama from Wake Forest University 20 years after graduating from Cornell. In 1977, Pfefferkorn was offered a full-time position as a drama teacher. In 1995 she earned her Ph.D. in curriculum and teaching from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. For many years, she was program manager for Arts Education and Summer enrichment for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.

She and her husband, Bill, proudly preside over a thirsty-for-knowledge brood of children and grandchildren, including daughter Katherine Pfefferkorn ’85. Jane Pfefferkorn continues her education still. “We spend the summers at the Chautauqua Institution,” she says. “We take classes in everything and attend daily lectures on many subjects as well as nightly concerts, plays or operas.”

Jane Mess Pfefferkorn ’58

Angela Felecia Turner Epps ’80

Angela Felecia Turner Epps ’80, drawn to a love of rules and order, wanted to be a lawyer since she was in seventh grade. Unbeknownst to her at the time, lawyers communicate orally but more importantly—and more often—in writing.

“Although I didn’t realize it completely at the time, the reading and writing skills I developed in high school and refined at Cornell are essential to success as a lawyer,” she said.

Epps is associate dean for academic affairs and professor of law at University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law. Previously she was a Judge Advocate in the U.S. Marine Corps and worked with the Georgia Legal Services Program.

Epps credits her faith for her good fortune. “God has opened so many doors for me and given me the courage to walk through them,” she says.

In all of her accomplishments, she feels the greatest sense of pride in the family tradition of an unwavering commitment to law and altruism.

“The thing that has meant the most to me is being able to serve my country in the Marines, being able to help low-income people in Albany, Georgia, and helping students on a day-to-day basis at Bowen,” she says. “The thing I am the most proud of now is my daughter, Eliza Epps, who is a second-year law student at the College of William and Mary.”

Angela Felecia Turner Epps ’80

James Salaiz ’98

For someone who was drawn to Cornell because of One Course At A Time, James Salaiz ’98’s art career has called upon his ability to juggle quite a lot at once. Last fall, for example, his work was on exhibit in London, Paris, Tokyo and Mount Vernon, all in the same month.

Salaiz, who majored in ceramics and photography, credits Professor Doug Hanson as significantly shaping his outlook on life. “He was one of the catalysts for the path I decided to pursue as an artist, helping me to build the foundation for my career as a ceramicist, and Professor Tony Plaut helped me refine my eye and aesthetic through photography. I was honored to be part of Doug’s show, I felt like my artistic life had come full circle at that exact moment,” he says.

The Cornell exhibit meant a lot personally, but the other exhibits were huge coups for him professionally. He was asked to exhibit in London, Paris, and Tokyo by Adrian Joffe, head of the fashion label Commes des Garcons.

“It was a thrilling moment and allowed me the opportunity to travel to London and Paris,” he says.

Saliaz has a strong appreciation for his liberal arts education at Cornell. “It’s very important to be able to discuss your work intelligently and convey the story you are trying to tell.”

James Salaiz ’98

Joel Furmanek ’06

When he’s not racing beat up cars around frozen lakes—he says it’s a Wisconsin thing—Joel Furmanek ’06 is immersed in the world of theatre production: behind the scenes at The Glimmerglass Opera in New York, and in theatrical equipment sales and installation at Electronic Theatre Controls (ETC).

After graduating with a theatre degree and minor in art, Furmanek earned his MFA at Yale University. “Having the desire to teach someday, and a perceived need to gain more specialized training from professionals in the field brought me there,” he says.

It was during his first year at Cornell that Furmanek became involved at Glimmerglass. “I managed to get an interview and eventually a job,” he says. “I worked there the next six seasons and grew into being in charge of the electrics department.”

In an era where disposable and quick are the norm, Furmanek shows an old-world work ethic. “I take pride in my craftsmanship, my problem solving and being able to deliver what I said I could,” he says.

With this experience in the technical aspects of theatre, Furmanek moved next to the world of theatrical lighting and rigging manufacture. “Being a part of launching a brand new product line (Prodigy Rigging) here at ETC has been pretty exciting,” says Furmanek, now based in Madison, Wis. “It’s hard work but being at a trade show and realizing the buzz is about something you’re working on is pretty neat.”

Joel Furmanek ’06