By Kate Csisack

As we advance into a new school year, we think of those who were here before us. We think of the students who sat in the desks we sit in now, walked the halls we talk in now, and who read some of the books we read from now.  One can’t help but think, “How many of them did great things after graduating this school?” or “Am I sitting next to someone who is one day going to initiate world peace or find the cure to cancer? Will it be me?” No matter what address Our Lady of Lourdes called home at the time of their attendance, the following people are just a few of the many who have heard God’s calling for them and answered in the best way possible.

After graduating OLL in 1975, Hal Pontez went to Syracuse University and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering and an MBA with Marquette University’s Business School program.  Though he was only in his mid-twenties, he was offered growth opportunities from industrial control companies from around the world. Mr. Pontez has held executive management positions with Allen-Bradley, Eaton/Cutler Hammer, Honeywell and, finally, with Hawker Siddeley Dynamics Engineering, then Vosper Thorneycroft Controls.  

In 2002, he founded HPI LLC, a wind turbine company dedicated to spreading safe and reliable energy around the world.  Among many other successes, Hal and HPI provided emergency power to the nation of Kuwait in 2006 and started developing power plants in Ghana in 2009 and more in 2015.  Because of his experience and great success, he was nominated as a finalist for the 2010 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. In addition, Mr. Pontez has been one of Lourdes’s most generous benefactors, funding the recent updates to the Biology, Chemistry, and Physics labs.  You may have recognized the Pontez family name, as Lourdes’ Science wing is named after them. Click here to learn more about Mr. Pontez and his accomplishments.

Ed Bastian graduated from Our Lady of Lourdes in 1975 and went on to graduate from St. Bonaventure University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration.  He started his career with Price Waterhouse where he became an audit partner in its New York practice and held senior finance positions at Frito-Lay International and Pepsi-Cola International.  In 1998, he joined Delta Airlines as Vice President – Finance and Controller and was promoted to Senior Vice President in 2000. Mr. Bastian left Delta briefly in early 2004 and became Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Acuity Brands, returning to Delta six months later to become Chief Financial Officer, and then President in 2007.  In May 2016, he was made CEO of the company, which is the position he holds to this day. Click here to learn more about Mr. Bastian and his career on the OLL website.

After graduating Our Lady of Lourdes in 1977, Joseph Bertolozzi went on to Vassar College and graduated from there in 1981.  He then attended Accademia Musicale Chigiana, Juilliard School of Music, and Westminster Choir College. Some of his works include “The Contemplation of Bravery,” which Bertolozzi wrote for the West Point Band, who performed it for the bicentennial celebration of the U.S. Military Academy, and his incidental score to “Waiting for Godot” at the Festival Internationale de Café Theatre in Nancy, France.  

In 2004, Bertolozzi had an ambitious idea: he wanted to play Poughkeepsie’s own  Mid-Hudson Bridge as an instrument, record its sounds, and make it into music. In 2006, he was finally able to get permission to go on the bridge and record sounds of the bridge, which were mostly simple taps and rhythms played on metal beams with various mallets, hammers, and wood blocks.  The finished product was a whole new kind of “metal” music. Mr. Bertolozzi used the sounds to compose series of suites that would be played live on the bridge from September 5-7, 2009, and recorded onto CD. This project was called Bridge Music.  This album reached #18 on the Billboard Classical Crossover Music Chart in 2009.  A few years later in 2013, he was able to go to the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France and make more of the same type of music he had created on the Mid-Hudson Bridge.  The final result was Tower Music.  Click here to visit Mr. Bertolozzi’s personal website or here for more information about him on the OLL website.

Kristine Sullivan, a 2004 OLL graduate, received her BA in history from Holy Cross in 2008, an MA in secondary Education from Loyola Marymount University in 2010, and received an MA in Global Development and Social Justice with a research focus on education in Uganda from St. John’s University in 2016.  She taught in inner city Los Angeles schools for five years, then went on to co-found and direct Educate for Change, in Gulu, Uganda.  Educate for Change is a non-profit organization that works to help bring education to students in Northern Uganda, and has now been able to spread their work to Rwanda and India.  Kristine is also the Country Director of the African Hope Network.  Click here to learn more about Kristine and her work on the OLL website.

At just 19 years old, ‘06 graduate Jessica O. Matthews invented the Soccket ball, a soccer ball that can harness enough kinetic energy after just a couple hours of play to power a lamp for a few hours.  A Nigerian-American dual citizen, Jessica wanted to provide her Nigerian friends and family with a stable source of clean energy. She succeeded with her innovative Soccket ball. After earning a degree in Psychology and Economics from Harvard University and an MBA from Harvard Business School, Jessica founded the company Uncharted Power (previously Uncharted Play), which works to develop clean and reliable energy sources.  They do this by using generally the same type of technology in the Soccket. And thus M.O.R.E. —Motion-based, Off-grid Renewable Energy— was born.  M.O.R.E. tech can generate hundreds of kilowatt hours per day when installed in high activity areas.

After founding Uncharted Power, Jessica then expanded her reach to global infrastructure projects. She became the Co-Founder and Executive Director of a 30 megawatt hydropower dam in Nigeria called KDDC. Jessica is currently serving as an Ambassador of Entrepreneurship for Nigeria.  Due to her amazing accomplishments, she has been named Fortune’s 2015 Most Promising Women Entrepreneurs, Forbes 2014 30 under 30, Black Enterprise’s 2013 Innovator of the Year, and the Harvard Foundation 2012 Scientist of the Year, just to name a few. Click here to learn more about Jessica and her work on the OLL website, or visit Uncharted Power’s website here.

It is clear that our alumni have gone on to do incredible things. As you walk the halls of OLL or sit in your classrooms, imagine and prepare for the wonderful opportunities that await in the future. Many thanks to Mrs. Wells and Mrs. Kolosky who helped with information for this article.