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Fall 2002


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2002 Alumni Achievement Award
James (’66) and Angelo (’56) Pizzagalli

UVM, IBM, Husky, St. Michael’s College, Church Street Marketplace. Hospitals, schools, office buildings, industrial parks, condos. It’s nearly impossible to go anywhere in Chittenden County without seeing the work of the Pizzagalli Construction Company. Pizzagalli-built UVM projects alone include the Rubenstein Ecosystem Science Center, Gucciardi Recreation and Fitness Center, Kalkin Hall, and the Cook Building, among others.

Brothers Angelo, James, and Remo Pizzagalli have been key to the more than three-decade run of growth for the company. UVM honored alumni Angelo ’56 and James ’66 with its 2002 Alumni Achievement Award this summer.

One of the great successes among Vermont businesses, the Pizzagalli story starts with family patriarch Angelo, Sr., an Italian immigrant stonecutter. The family business focus would shift from pre-cast stone to general construction in the late 1950s, one of the first projects a simple flagpole foundation at the U.S. Post Office in Middlebury.

From those humble beginnings, Pizzagalli Construction has grown into one of the nation’s largest privately owned building contractors, with nearly 800 employees nationwide and annual volume of some $260 million. Though a great deal of their work is in Vermont, Pizzagalli projects are spread across the nation and internationally.

The company’s diverse projects include advanced manufacturing facilities, commercial and institutional buildings, industrial and manufacturing facilities, and water and wastewater treatment plants throughout the U.S. and in the Caribbean.

The Pizzagalli brothers have also made the time to serve as volunteers on behalf of the full range of Vermont's business and community organizations. Through work on the Board of Trustees (which Angelo chaired from 1986-88), school and college advisory boards, and generous financial gifts to the university, Angelo and James’ alma mater has been a key recipient of Pizzagalli family support.

 

Dot-Comic Novelist
Bill Allard '71

When it comes to unfettered verbal flow, Bill Allard ’71 is a lord of the larynx, a titan of the tongue. It must be said: The man can gab.

Nothing unexpected about that — a powerful line of patter is expected equipment for a comedian, actor, filmmaker, and co-founder of San Francisco’s beloved Duck’s Breath Mystery Theater. But Allard is a novelist, too, so the fact that he harnessed his manic verbal gifts to produce a charming, humane book on San Francisco’s dot-com insanity is pure serendipity.

“I’m not an author,” he says. “I’m a video producer, a comedian.”

But the zaniness of late 1990’s San Francisco piqued his love of the absurd. “That period will go down like the Summer of Love,” he says. “Money didn’t make any sense.” And from the insanity, another vocation — and Splurch.com — was born.

Allard had morphed careers before. He left UVM to attend medical school, but soon found himself drawn to theater. The rush of the stage trumped the prestige of a white coat. The challenge compelled him as well. Allard was sure he could eventually become a good doctor, but was completely terrified of his prospects as an actor. A similar lurch, well, splurch, into the unknown drove his writing. The nascent novelist dreamed up six characters and a spectacularly ill-conceived company for a newspaper serial, and the story grew and grew as he traced their lives, loves and IPO prospects.

Writing the book was compelling, even addictive for Allard, but he still loves film. He recently played a chili-crazed cook in a martial arts western (photo), and he is working on a screenplay with the executive producer of Ali. But the splurch set is still churning in his subconscious. Another novel, perhaps, Bill?

“I have pages of outlines. I can follow those characters until the end of time,” Allard says.

Or at least until the NASDAQ’s next bomb.

Splurch.com is available on Amazon.com.

 

The Short Journey from “Damn!” to “Eureka!”
Annie Keller ’00

Discovery at times springs from the ashes of failure. It’s something that might also be said for Annie Keller’s research career, which essentially began when she flunked her first exam in Professor Joseph Schall’s “Evolutionary Biology” course. She can tell you the score (42) and her rank in the class (last) with a smile these days. “I kind of panicked on the test,” Keller says
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Better prepared mentally for the second exam, she notched the highest grade in the class. A little too high, Schall suspected, and kept an eye on Keller as she took the third. Eyes firmly on her own paper, Keller proved she was neither cheat nor fluke and soon had an invitation from Schall to do research work in his lab. Keller was immediately drawn to the research life. “When I saw some of my first results, it was such a fulfilling feeling of accomplishment,” she says. An unfocused student previously, she homed in on molecular biology.

It wouldn’t be long until Keller would make her first mark as a researcher. Keller, graduate student Susan Perkins G’00, and fellow undergrad Jennifer Martin ’99 were studying haemogregarines — blood parasites common in reptiles, amphibians, and birds — when they became the first people to successfully pick out the parasite’s gene from the blood of its host lizard, and to discover that multiple copies of the gene exist. They would publish their work in the Journal of Parasitology.

Days after graduating from UVM in May 2000 with her bachelor’s in biology, Annie Keller landed a job that would be a career-long dream for many scientists — she works in the gene-sequencing facility at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

Keller teams with other scientists on a NASA-funded project to study the evolution and sequence the DNA of invertebrates such as scorpions, spiders, and cockroaches from throughout the world. “We hope and expect that the genetic information we compile will be beneficial to future NASA discoveries,” Keller says.

The next stop planned for Keller’s scientific career is graduate school for a master’s and likely a doctorate in forensic science, which she plans to pursue while continuing her work at the museum. Keller’s not exactly sure where her path will lead after that, but it is doubtful her focus will waver. She says, “I just really like the idea of using science to change lives.”

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