Alumnus of the Year – Profiles
Outstanding Examples of the Spirit of St. John Eudes School
2021 – Michelle Mezher (George), of the Class of 2004, attended Lousville High School where she received the Circle of Excllence Award which included a full 4 year university scholarship. After graduating LVHS in 2008, she then attended the Unversity of San Diego majoring in Physical Chemistry. While at USD she was involved in a number of research projects and published several papers on chemistry topics – while also finding time to sing with the university’s a capella group. She was the recipient of prestigious academic awards and graduated in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science Degree. Going on to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, to work on her Ph.D., she conducted research using soft x-ray spectroscopy techniques, worked as a teaching assistant, and participated in overseas projects in Germany and Austria. She defended her discertation in June, 2016, and began doing high level post-doctoral work and research at UNLV. However, having previously enjoyed the beauty and climate of the San Diego area (where she did her undergraduate studies) she decided to move there and continue her post-doctoral work through the Continetti Group at the University of California, San Diego, studying nanoparticles. She was then recruited by General Atomics as a staff scientist in its aeronautics division working to develop specialized coatings for aeronautic systems. Academically she has written and published numerous papers and articles related to materials research, serves as an editor for scientific journals, and was recently recognized for her distinguished career by being awarded the 2019-2020 UNLV Faculty Achievement Award, being nominated by students from the university. She was married in 2018 to her husband Jeff, who she met while an undergrad at USD. In addition to her work, she enjoys exercising by doing aerobics and gymnastics.
2020 – Jenny Crandall, of the Class of 1989, attended Alemany High School and graduated in 1993. She then obtained an A.A. degree at Pierce College and completed her Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Management through the University of Phoenix. Subsequently, she also attended the USC Marshall Business School and obtained a Retail Marketing Certificate. Applying her education to working in the retail business environment for the last 20 years, she has risen in the professional ranks to become the Director of Front-End Operations for Albertsons, Vons, and Pavilions stores in Southern California, which includes operations involving 339 stores and over 35,000 associates. But even though she has extensive business responsibilities, she donates a significant amount of time and efforts to supporting community and charitable organizations such as Special Olympics Los Angeles, the Habitat for Humanity, the Christmas Gift Program at Maple Elementary School, and has for the last 10 years been raising money by walking in the Susan G. Komen 3 Day Walk in support of the fight against breast cancer. Furthermore, she has taken direct leadership rolls in non-profit organizations as a committee member for the Albertson & Vons Foundation which oversees millions of dollars of grants for local non-profits, as well as being a board member and committee chair for The Fighting For Families Charity that focuses on helping local veterans. She has also been extensively involved at St. John Eudes and was one of the co-chairs of the St. John Eudes School 50th Anniversary celebration and continues to return regularly to support our school and parish through her extensive and key involvement in the PTSO’s annual spring fundraiser and the parish Summer Carnival. And she is helping to support and guide our school administrators in developing important parish and educational polices as a member of the St. John Eudes School Board, of which she is currently the chairperson. Jenny attributes much of her business success and dedication to community and charitable causes to the foundational education she received from St. John Eudes School and to the inspirational examples provided by her parents. She also dotes over her 2 nephews and 3 nieces, all of whom currently attend SJE School or are alumni, and who are the children of her two sisters, Colleen Crandall (Quiles) ’91 and Casey Crandall (Lufrano) ’93. And when she has any free time, she loves to travel.
2019 – Theresa “Reese” Abbene Ingino, of the Class of 1996, attended Louisville High School in Woodland Hills. While at Louisville she was extensively involved in student leadership and was president of the Sophomore Class and president of the Lousiville chapter of the National Honor Society. She also participated in the California State Federation Mock Trial program during her junior year, was active in volleyball for most of her high school period, and participated in the Advance Drama program where she won 1st Place in the Drama Teachers Association of So. California Festival. Prior to her graduation in 2000 she received the LVHS Senior Leadership Award, the Leo Parker Memorial Scholarship (a 4 yr. fully funded scholarship to the University of Portland), the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 728 Leadership Scholarship, and the Foresters National Leadership Scholarship. After high school she attended Portland Univeristy. While in college she continued her involvement with student government and leadership as a member of the Academic Senate (one of two student members), the student member of the Student Faculty Judicial Court, and President of the Feminism of Philosophy Club. She was also Chairperson of the UP Judicial Committee, Secretary of the UP Associated Students Executive Board, a Senator of the Associated Students, a participant on the Nationals Mock Trial Team, and Chairperson of the “Stop the Violence, Break the Silence Week.” She graduated from the University of Portland in 2004 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Communication. After college she served with the United Church of Christ Westmoreland Volunteer Service Corps in Washington, D.C. She then worked teaching Jr. High Language Arts in the Los Angeles Archdiocese through the “PLACE Corps” (Partners in Los Angeles Catholic Education), which places young men and women, through a program offered by Loyola Marymount Univeristy, as teachers in Catholic schools in the Archdiocese while they earn a teaching credential and a Master’s Degree in either Education or Childhood and Adolescent Literacy. She received her Master of Arts Degree in Secondary Education from Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, in 2008, and then taught at Immaculate Heart High School in Los Angeles for a year until obtaining a teaching position at Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks. While at NDHS she was the Director of Campus Ministry during most of her term. She also founded an award winning law program and oversaw service learning, student leadership and school culture programming. She recently accepted a position at Los Angeles High Tech Middle School in Van Nuys where she is a social studies teacher, the Director of Curriculum and Instruction, and is currently serving as acting-principal (while the principal is on maternity leave). In addition to her teaching duties, and spending time with her daughter, she is pursuing a Master’s Decree in Educational Psychology at Alliant International University, with the intent to obtain her doctorate.
2018 – Stephan Birgel, of the Class of 1982, attended Chaminade College Preparatory where, among other activities, he participated in the Kairos Retreat as a senior and led numerous retreats following his graduation. After Chaminade, he attended California State University, Northridge, obtaining a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business. He then attended the University of La Verne, College of Law, and earned a Juris Doctor Degree. He was admitted to the California State Bar and as a lawyer he has defended public universities, including the UC and CSU systems, and K-12 schools. He has also provided pro bono services to Children’s Hunger Fund. It is a passion of his to save taxpayer money by defending public entities and he is currently the Chief Claims Officer for ASCIP – a public entity that provides insurance services for community colleges and K-12 schools. Ten years ago, Stephan became involved with triathlons. He has completed two full-distance Ironman triathlons which consist of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2 mile run. He has used his participation in races to raise funds for the National Pancreatic Cancer Foundation, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and the Ironman Foundation. He volunteers his time as the Triathlon Coach for Shepherd Church, helping individuals complete their first triathlon. He has also volunteered as a fundraiser for the YMCA and as a men’s counselor at Open Arms Pregnancy Clinic. Stephan credits the education he received at St. John Eudes for the successes in his professional work, as well as the support of his wife, Dina, and their two children.
2017 – Miguel Davalos, of the Class of 1985, attended Alemany High School, where he was active in the track & field program. He then attended California State University, Northridge, and graduated with a B.A. in Communication. At CSUN he was a member of the Theta Chi fraternity. Miguel has developed exceptional skills as a silversmith and is the head designer at Silver King in Chatsworth (silverkingusa.com). The St. John Eudes Medal (shown on the parish website) was designed by Miguel (and he also designed the yearbook cover for the school during his 8th grade year). Miguel is involved with numerous support efforts for the school and is very active in the parish, being involved, among other activities, with the Men’s Ministry, 3.2.b.1 Marriage Ministry, and the SJE affiliated scout program as a cub scout den leader. For fun, he enjoys yearly 50 mile backpacking trips into the Sierra Nevadas and camping trips with his family, which includes his wife Barbie (who he met during college) and their two children who are both SJE students.
2016 – Jaclyn Beardsley Sutley, of the Class of 2002, began her singing career at St. John Eudes as a member of the Children’s Choir. After graduating from St. John Eudes School, she attended Santa Susana High School in Simi Valley, a magnet school for technology and performing arts. There she participated in choral programs which included jazz, show, and chamber choir, also performing in musical productions. She graduated high school with honors in 2006 and received the Principal’s Award for her senior project. She started her college career at California State University, Northridge, and continued to be active in the parish as a member of the adult choir and as a cantor at Sunday Masses. Transferring to Westminster Choir College in Princeton, New Jersey, she remained active there singing at local parishes, leading a children’s choir, and touring Europe with several choral groups. She also directed a jazz a cappella group and music theater productions. She graduated from WCC in 2011 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Musical Education (with an emphasis on Voice) and teaching credentials, and came back to St. John Eudes to teach music at the school and be the parish Adult Choir Director. In 2014 she accepted a position at Notre Dame High School as Choir Director and is working to take the high school groups on trips to Carnegie Hall and on overseas tours. Jaclyn also keeps busy as a wife and mother.
2015 – Sandra De La Riva Repede, of the Class of 1975, attended St. John Eudes School from 1969-1973. She is a graduate of Chatsworth High School and also studied a year at California State University, Northridge. She transferred to Rutgers University where she earned her Bachelor’s Degree. She came back home to California and studied at the University of Southern California, earning her Master’s Degree in Public Administration. In addition to her academic achievements, she is blessed with many talents, particularly in athletics being a two time U.S. Olympic Team handball athlete, seated on the 1984 and 1988 teams, as well as being the Team Representative in 1992. God prepared her for the spiritual, emotional and physical challenge of raising a child with special needs. Her son, Diego, was born with a congenital heart defect. Sandra reached out to the Sisters of the Pious Schools, along with Mother Paula (now St. Paula Montal) to bring her peace and a few miracles. Principal Sr. Rosemary assured her that Diego would be safe at St. John Eudes School. The SJE School family loved Diego as much as his immediate family. Sandra’s relationship with St. Paula Montal and the Sisters of the Pious Schools has been instrumental in her spiritual journey. It is no coincidence that Diego entered into the kingdom of everlasting life a few months before the canonization of St. Paula Montal in November of 2001. Her deep spirituality was again called upon to help her when she lost another son, Jesse, in 2013 due to an unfortunate accident while he was at college. Sandra truly embraces that value of a Catholic education and encourages our students to apply what they have learned at St. John Eudes School to their future growth. To inspire and financially help graduating 8th Graders, the Diego Baza Memorial Scholarship was established by Sandra in 2001. Students are invited to submit essays about courage. The essays are blinded and Sandra chooses the essay which she finds most inspirational. The essays help our students reflect on the true meaning of courage in relationship to their faith, difficulties they face in their lives, and their plans for the future. Sandra has been active in the life of her local parish and has served in a number of ministries in support of the Church. She also serves the public and works for the City of Ventura as a financial analyst.
2014 – Bryan Suttles, of the St. John Eudes School Class of 1986, attended Chaminade Middle School and then graduated from Chatsworth High School. He attended Moorpark College and completed a plumbing apprenticeship program before joining the family business, Suttles Plumbing. He has extensively supported parish ministries (such as the Men’s Council, bible study programs, and a number of other groups), the school, and community organizations. As an active member of the Parish School Board he was instrumental in recent security upgrades on the parish and school grounds. When Bryan’s mother, Sharon Suttles (who was the St. John Eudes RCIA Director), passed away in 2011 from ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), Bryan and his wife organized yearly groups to participate in the annual “Walk to Defeat ALS” and have raised significant funds (beyond expected goals) to help fight the disease. Bryan is also a leader in the SJE affiliated scouting program and has spent countless hours in the formation and guidance of youth in the group. He and his wife, Sheralyn, have two children, who are both St. John Eudes students.
2013 – Bonnie Mertus Gore is a member of the St. John Eudes School Class of 1980. She attended Chaminade College Preparatory, graduated in 1984, and went on to Santa Clara University, earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management. After college she moved to Roseville, California, where her professional objectives helped her develop local public policy and business experience, and as a member of the business community she manages government and community relations for a local Roseville healthcare and hospital system. She had previously served as a District Representative for a local State Senator and had managed numerous projects which required forging effective working partnerships with community and business organizations, schools, and local government officials throughout the region. She has been extensively involved with the Roseville Chamber of Commerce and in 2010 received the Chamber’s prestigious “Athena Award” which honors women in South Placer County who make significant, positive impacts in the community. Bonnie volunteers her time with Big Brothers Big Sisters and was the founding chair of the Lighthouse Counseling and Family Resource Center. She was elected to the Roseville City Council in November, 2012. Additionally, she is a Trustee for William Jessup University. She and her husband, Rob, have a 16 year-old son, Jacob.
2012 – Kym Piekunka Raines attended St. John Eudes School from 1st through 8th Grades, graduating in 1983. In 3rd Grade she became interested in student leadership and become Student Body President five years later. SJE is also where her passion for the environment and animal welfare was further developed as teachers and administrators encouraged her to fight and “save the whales”. After graduating from Louisville High School, she attended the University of San Diego (USD) where she became active in an alcohol and drug education and counseling program. Her efforts resulted in a significant decrease in alcohol related incidents, including date rape and alcohol poisoning. After graduating with a B.A. in Psychology, Kym began working in group homes with abused children. This position inspired a passion to give a voice to those who did not have one. When her sister Kacy died from her eating disorder, Kym felt there was a tremendous need to educate students about eating disorders and delivered presentations to high school and college students focusing on education, tips, and resources on how to help a friend, family member, or roommate. After delivering one of these presentations at freshman orientation, Kym was offered a position at USD, and as a Resident Director and Program Manager, she served as an emergency on-call respondent for alcohol poisoning, drug use, sexual/physical assault, suicidal ideation, and eating disorders. She frequently mediated and counseled students who had personal, relational and academic concerns. She worked with students suffering from eating disorders who lived in university housing, including concerned and often times traumatized roommates. In addition, she was a member of USD’s Health and Wellness Initiatives and Body Awareness Committees. Kym remained interested in the environment and was instrumental in establishing USD’s first University President-approved Sustainability Task Force. This team implemented a LEED Certified building, solar panels, organic and locally grown foods, and a recycling program. Kym’s continued passion to give a voice to those who do not have one has continued with her blog, Do I Have to Scream It. Her blog gives voice to the lessons learned from her sister’s 15-year eating disorder struggle and advocates for more education, awareness and family therapy for those in the midst of the eating disorder battle. Kym also advocates through speaking engagements, volunteering for the National Eating Disorders Association as a mentor, and offering panel presentations on body image, the media, and eating disorder education. Kym’s goal is to continue her speaking engagements, write a book for families, and focus on educating the parents and educational institutions to understand their important role in helping their children, teenagers, and young adults address the issues of the media, peer pressure, parental influence, sibling relationships, and their own concerns about weight, self image, and self esteem.
2011 – Mark Gendernalik, of the St. John Eudes School Class of 1984, attended Chatsworth High School (after transferring from Crespi) where he graduated in 1988. In high school he enjoyed playing on the volleyball team. He then attended California State University, Northridge, where he was active in student issues. He graduated CSUN in 1992 with a B.A. degree in Criminal Sociology. He later received his Master’s Degree from CSUN in Education and became a 4th Grade teacher at Shirley Avenue Elementary. In 2003 Mark received the NASA Explorer School Grant for his school (being 1 of only 48 awarded nationwide). Due to his experiences with insurance companies, he was invited to testify before Congress during the recent healthcare debate. His testimony was widely reported and cited for the impact it made during the Congressional hearings. In preparing for his testimony Mark said he relied on the writing techniques he was taught at SJE School. Mark and his wife, Bertha (who he married in 1998), have three children − Dean, and twins − Carter and Sidney.
2010 – Dr. Patricia De La Riva attended St. John Eudes School from 1968-1972 and was active on the Girl’s Volleyball, Basketball, and Softball teams. Her classmates in the Class of 1974 may remember her by her nickname “PeeWee”. Sr. Beatrice was principal at the time and “Miss Rita” was the School Secetrary (she is the sister of Sr. Rosemary, who was a young novice-in-training at the time). She fondly remembers her teachers who were Mother Isaura, Sr. Laura, Mr. Allington, and Mrs. Borchard. She attended Chatsworth High School and played on the All City Girls Basketball Team. After graduating CHS in 1978 with honors as a High School All American Scholar Athlete, she continued her athletic career on a scholarship at California State University, Northridge, playing on the Women’s Basketball Team for all four years. She was the team captain and a member of the Varsity N Academic Club. Being the holder of a number of team records, she was honored at CSUN as a scholar athlete and a member of the All CCAA Basketball Team (and was inducted into the CSUN Athletic Hall of Fame in 2001). In 1984 she graduated CSUN with a B.S. Degree in Environmental Occupational Health. She pursued a medical career by attending the University of California, Irvine College of Medicine and graduated in 1989 – the same year that she married her husband, Carlos Fuentes. In 1991 she completed her pediatric residency training at the University of Southern California (USC) Keck School of Medicine and Kaiser Permanente, Los Angeles, upon which she began practicing as a full time staff physician at the Southern California Permanente Medical Group (SCPMG) – Kaiser Permanente Woodland Hills Medical Center. Since beginning her medical career, Patricia has been very active in pursuing her professional and civic interests and has served in a number of capacities: Asst. Chief of Pediatrics at Kaiser Permanente Antelope Valley Medical Offices and Panorama City Medical Center (1991-99), Member of the Pediatric Steering Committee at Antelope Hospital Medical Center (1994-96), Board Member of “Tina’s Learning Center” (a daycare center for children with special needs) (1996-99), Attending Ambulatory Pediatrician at Olive Medical Hospital Medical Center (UCLA) (1999-07), Member of the Regional Cultural Diversity Advisory Committee for SCPMG (2000-02), Latin American Civic Association Board Member (which is the governing body of the Head Start PreSchool Program of the San Fernando Valley) (2000-03), and Member of the Park Advisory Board for theWoodland Hills Recreation Center (1999-06). She has been recognized for her dedication by SCPMG by being awarded the Kaiser Permanente Physician of the Year Award for 2001, the Everyday Hero Award (2005), and the Latino Association Unsung Hero Award (2006). Patricia is Board Certified in General Pediatrics, is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and serves as chair or co-chair of a number of profesional and civic committees, boards, and councils. She is a member of the UCI Alumni Association, and a life-time member of both the CSUN Alumni and Athletic Associations. And above all, she is a loving mother to her two boys, Christian and Alex.
2009 – Sarah Connor graduated from St. John Eudes School in 1981. She graduated near the top of her class and received the Rainbow Award given in memory of Lee Matloz. She then attended St. Genevieve High School and graduated 3rd in her class. She had a perfect 4 year attendance and was selected to “Who’s Who Among High School Students in America”. Attending UCLA, she graduated in 1990 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History. At graduation she received the Chancellor’s Medal of Honor for outstanding volunteerism and oversaw “Project Mac” for abused children at Maclaren Hall. From 1990 to 1994 she worked for UNICEF coordinating volunteers, fundraising, the press and the media. She then went to work for the Rand Corporation in Santa Monica. She was the Program Administrator for Community Trials to increase cancer screening adherence. Later she became the Assistant Project Manager for mammography promotion in churches. She also continued her education and received her Master’s Degree in Public Health in 2000. In 2001 she became UCLA’s Health Team Manager for Project IMPACT – to improve access, counseling and treatment for prostate cancer patients. She then became the Project Manager for prostate cancer related studies and has been published several times in peer review publications. Her work with cancer awareness and treatment took on a more personal meaning when she was diagnosed with cancer herself. She has however used this experience, along with her deep faith in God, to inspire others and to gain a greater insight on how to better help cancer patients. And although she has moved south of the Valley to the Westside, she remained active at St. John Eudes as a member of the choir.
2008 – After graduating from St. John Eudes School in 1986, Paige Huff-Hemmis attended Chaminade College Preparatory and then the University of California at Santa Barbara where she received degrees in Psychology & Theology in 1994. She then began a career in the entertainment industry and has received national recognition as a member of the design team for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition on ABC. She is an author and has her own clothing line called “Tuff Chix”. She credits the principles she learned at St. John Eudes School for the successes in her daily work, but also has used these principles to express her faith through educational efforts and direct personal involvement helping others. She is active with a number of efforts to support community projects that benefit the poor and homeless, and works extensively with Habitat for Humanity.
2007 – Dan Lien was a member of the St. John Eudes School Class of 1974 – also known as the Pioneer Class since its students were the first to attend all 8 years at St. John Eudes. He has remained active with the school and parish giving back with unconditional generosity through volunteering as a coach, referee, PTSO Executive Council Member, and helping with numerous fundraising events. He has also supported the parish and school as a donor, and regularly attends Mass with his family. Dan has given the gift of a Catholic education to his children – all of whom are SJE student alumni. He has embraced the mission of St. Paula Montal to teach and inspire children and families to be life-long learners who live their faith.