"Cornell students dream bigger dreams."

--Frank H.T. Rhodes, Cornell University Commencement, May 28, 1995

Monday, December 29, 2014

22. Dave McKew

San Francisco, California · Arts and Sciences

Twitter: twitter.com/backawayslowly
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dave.mckew

Tell us about what you're doing with your life.

I'm the operations manager at a small software/web development company, but my passion, ever since my Cornell SKITS-O-PHRENICS days, has been writing, performing, directing, and producing stage comedy.  In the last decade, as part of a sketch comedy duo with Colin Benoit '98 (and on my own) I've done hundreds of performances in San Francisco and at comedy festivals all over North America, and even had a short film air on Comedy Central. Colin and I also created a two-man play where the two of us played all 27 roles in the show.  But the greatest accomplishment of my life came in 2011-2012 when, via nutrition and exercise, I lost 112 pounds in 365 days.  I've been pretty good at keeping my life interesting, I suppose!

What was your favorite class at Cornell, or the one you found the most useful?

Psyschology of Visual Communications with James Maas and 16mm Filmmaking with Marilyn Rivchin.  Maas' seminar was basically a photography class about designing effective pictures. Rivchin's class was whatever you made of it—I used it to learn storytelling.  Both classes taught me a lot about patience and connecting to an audience.

What extracurricular activity or hobby from your time at Cornell was the most meaningful?

No question that it was my three years as a charter member of the Cornell SKITS-O-PHRENICS, the now 22-year-old sketch comedy troupe!  It was during this time that I found my passion and realized that I was, first and foremost, a story-teller.  I learned a lot about teamwork, self-expression, group dynamics, compromise, and censorship... plus the really important stuff like how to eat a stick of butter on stage and where to get the best cheap plus-size dresses in Ithaca.

What random or surprising encounters with Cornell or Cornellians have you experienced since you left?

My Cornell nickname was "Madonna Dave."  Twice in the last decade, I've bumped into old classmates from freshman year who happened to ask me what I was up to WHILE I WAS HEADING TO A MADONNA CONCERT (via train/plane) and I had to sheepishly admit it.  "Some things never change," they said!  I swear, it's not the only thing I do, but I have seen 17 Madonna concerts. Another small world story: I did a show in SF a few months ago with a woman who, like me, lived in 227 Risley - many years after I did!

Monday, December 22, 2014

23. Niraj Shah

Boston, Massachusetts · Engineering

Twitter: twitter.com/nshah10

Tell us about what you're doing with your life.

I live in Boston with my family (we have two kids, ages 10 and 8) and am one of the co-founders of Wayfair, which is a leading online retailer of home goods. I have been in Boston for about 20 years now and I now think of it as home!

What was your favorite class at Cornell, or the one you found the most useful?

The most useful class was the Entrepreneurship and Personal Enterprise class taught by Professor David BenDaniel in the Johnson School. The reason for this is that it led to Steve Conine and myself starting our first company together right after graduation in 1995. That company, Spinners, was based on the business plan which we wrote for that class as our class project.

Which Cornell classmates do you keep in touch with?

I keep in touch with a few but most closely with Steve Conine and Mike O'Hara, both Engineering '95. Steve, Mike and I have worked together for a long time. Steve and I are the co-founders of Wayfair which we started in 2002 and it is the third company we started together.

What advice would you give to a student starting at Cornell this year?

I would encourage that student to take advantage of all that the college offers—all types of classes, meet all types of people, all types of activities. The broad diversity is an amazing thing and I think students may not often take full advantage.

Monday, December 15, 2014

24. Andrew Tsang

Hong Kong · Engineering


Tell us about what you're doing with your life.

My Cornell engineering training allows me to juggle and optimize my time spent in work, family, and leisure. 

I work in an Asia regional management role that requires 2-3 business trips to Southeast Asian countries per month. Luckily each trip lasts 2-3 days and I can still enjoy business class flights until the next cost cut.

I am married to a Cornellian in the same class with 2 boys. My elder son plays violin while the younger one plays cello. I try my very best to coach them properly; otherwise my living room will be filled with screeching noise instead of pacifying music.

Lastly, I must give thanks to God for all of the above. I am a church council member, play clarinet and cello at worship times, and occasionally organize music concerts at church.

What was your favorite class at Cornell, or the one you found the most useful?

My favorite class at Cornell was Information Theory. It was a graduate class at that time but I took it as an undergraduate student (yet able to get an "A"). Cornell is so famous in the theoretical space, compared to, say, MIT being famous in the practical space, and this class exemplifies this strong area of the university. I enjoyed it a lot, and yes, I did go to MIT for a master's degree in Business Administration. However, I still find Cornell's theoretical strength carries more charm!

What is your favorite memory of your time at Cornell?

One of my favorite moments at Cornell was being the President of the Hong Kong Student Association. A major event of the year was to organize a cultural show to promote what Hong Kong was like to the Cornell community. There was singing, dancing, drama, slide shows, and certainly a lot of fun. Most importantly, it highlights the diversity and harmony of sub-cultures within Cornell. An event lasts an hour or two, but cross cultural friendships last forever.

How has your time at Cornell influenced you since you graduated?

Living in Ithaca to me, someone who grew up in a metropolitan city like Hong Kong, was like living in a different planet. But I liked it! There were many beauties of nature, the Cayuga Lakes, the snow, the small but close community, etc. that cities like New York or Hong Kong could not offer. I learned to appreciate different environments. I learned to be more patient. I learned to enjoy life in more ways.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

25. Paul Terranova

Austin, Texas · Engineering

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/paul.terranova.37

Tell us about what you're doing with your life.
Been living in Austin, Texas with my fantastic wife of 10 years, Meredith, and our 2 German shorthaired pointers, Flyer and Shiloh.  When we are not trail running, cycling, swimming, or traveling to events involving such fun, Meredith is a sports dietician and I'm a consultant helping deliver transportation projects.  I also serve as a CAAAN volunteer for prospective Cornell students in the Austin area!

What extracurricular activity or hobby from your time at Cornell was the most meaningful?

Definitely my 4 years as a lightweight rower and Army ROTC.  The discipline, sacrifice, and hard work set the stage for a budding semi-professional career as an ultra trail runner later in life.  No excuses, do the work.  

Which Cornell classmates do you keep in touch with?

Most of my current close Cornell connections are through rowing, Army ROTC, and the best-man at my wedding Kevin Yelenik '95!

What are you most looking forward to at Reunion 2015?

Showing my wife Meredith (a native Texan) around campus for the first time!

Monday, December 1, 2014

26. Abra Perrie

Every few weeks, Cornell '95 Faces features a profile of one of our class officers. This week, meet one of the class correspondents.

North Wales, Pennsylvania · Engineering 

Name at Cornell
Abra Benson


Tell us about what you're doing with your life.

I recently moved back to the Philadelphia area and am a stay-at-home mom to Leah, 4, and Flynn, 2. Prior to children, I worked in the airline industry for 6 years post MS, and later, after a Cornell(!) MBA, in pharmaceutical market research for 6 years. While I do miss aspects of professional life and having days that involve much less cleaning of others, I have never had better bosses.    

What are your duties as class officer and what have you enjoyed about the job?
As one of the Class Correspondents, I am in touch with everyone!  I've written our Class Notes column for almost 15 years, and I love hearing from classmates.  he Class of 1995 is very important to me. It gives me great joy to learn what people are up to as we go through our life journeys together. I feel more connected to my peers and a little more comfortable about what's going on in my on life. You are my touchstone.

What advice would you give to a student starting at Cornell this year?
You are being taught by leaders in their fields, experts in their specialties, and the best professors out there. Pay attention in class.  Pay a lot of attention in class. It will help you learn the material better and make studying for exams much easier. You only have a short time to be in this exceptional environment. Don't chat with your friends, sleep, or stare at your phone. Be present in class. Soak it in and make the most of the lecture.  

If you could change anything about your Cornell experience, what would it be?

I had a wonderful time at Cornell and was involved in a variety of school activities, but sometimes I wish I had gone down more rabbit holes. I wish I had pushed myself into more college life adventures. I should have volunteered for some of the random psych experiments advertised on Uris boards or posed nude for painting classes. I wish I had tried sorority life and gone to more fraternity parties. I should have participated in Cornell Concert Commission, the Cornell Concert band, and Semester at Sea. I wish I had more time for everything! 

What are you most looking forward to at Reunion 2015?

Everything!!  I can't wait to breathe the Ithaca air, stroll by gorges and lakes, walk uphill everywhere, sleep in a dorm room, eat at Collegetown Bagel, and, of course, be surrounded by my fellow Cornellians, especially those from 1995. Over the course of our past reunions, I've developed a fun group of friends who have basically become my reunion dates. They make my experience extra fun, and I am definitely looking forward to another reunion with them (you know who you are, so you better show up!). Also, I am both looking forward to and dreading seeing the changes to my beloved campus. Change can be hard to take, whether it's good or bad, especially when it happens to a place you love. I already miss you, Ruloff's.