Forward under 40 Awards Honor 13 Young Alumni

Forward under 40 2012

Contact: Kate Dixon, Wisconsin Alumni Association, (608) 265-8769,

MADISON, Wis. — Don Fraynd PhD’04 is positively transforming Chicago’s public schools.

As principal of Jones College Prep in Chicago, he led the school to achieve a Top 100 ranking from U.S. News & World Report and earned the first Blue Ribbon Schools designation that the U.S. Department of Education awarded to a Chicago public high school. Today, Fraynd is leading innovation across the district as chief school improvement officer for Chicago Public Schools.

As founder of the Guatemala-based Range of Motion Project (ROMP), Eric Neufeld ’98 has worked to provide more than 1,500 custom-made prosthetic limbs to people in developing countries since 2005—people who, without Neufeld’s help, might have never regained mobility.

Fraynd and Neufeld are among the 13 outstanding alumni of the University of Wisconsin-Madison honored with this year’s Forward under 40 awards from the Wisconsin Alumni Association. These nominees all embody the Wisconsin Idea, the century-old guiding philosophy that UW-Madison outreach efforts should positively impact the lives of people in Wisconsin and throughout the world.

“I’m continually inspired by the ideas and ambitions that flow from the young people the UW graduates every semester,” said Paula Bonner MS’78, WAA’s President and CEO. “These particular alumni are extraordinary, even by Badger standards.”

Honorees are featured in the fourth edition of Forward under 40, a publication distributed in March 2012 to UW-Madison alumni and WAA members. The 2012 award recipients are:

  • Don Fraynd PhD’04, Chicago. Regarded as a national innovator in education, he is chief school improvement officer for Chicago Public Schools.
  • Tamara Grigsby MS’00, Milwaukee. Grigsby is a Wisconsin Representative for Assembly District 18, and a vocal advocate for African-American and low-income families.
  • Jon Hardin ’08 and Scott Resnick ’09, Madison. Hardin is President and CEO at Hardin Design and Development, an industry leader in mobile applications and software development. Resnick is Vice President of the company, and serves on the Madison Common Council.
  • Melissa Holds the Enemy JD’10, Billings, Mont. As deputy executive counsel to the Crow Nation, one of America’s largest Indian reservations, she uses her law degree to help inform and involve Crow tribal citizens.
  • Rustem Ismagilov PhD’98, Pasadena, Calif. A professor at the California Institute of Technology, he is contributing to the field of chemistry by revolutionizing medical diagnostics through microfluidics.
  • Shisir Khanal MIPA’05, Madison and Nepal. Khanal is executive director of Sarvodaya USA and president of Sarvodaya Nepal, international nonprofit organizations guided by Nepali values that work toward sustainable development.
  • Justine Nagan ’00, Chicago. Creator of an award-winning documentary on art and industrialism in a small Wisconsin town and executive director of Kartemquin Films, she heads a nationally recognized filmmaking organization focusing on social justice.
  • Eric Neufeld ’98, Chicago. Neufeld is director of the Range of Motion Project, a non-profit that provides prosthetic limbs to people in developing countries, and managing partner and certified prosthetist/orthotist at Scheck & Siress.
  • Maggie Rodgers ’09, Madison. A registered nurse and medical coordinator, Rodgers uses her nursing degree to provide desperately needed medical care in places like Nairobi, Kenya, Haiti and Port-au-Prince.
  • Casey Rotter ’05, New York City. Rotter is a major gifts officer and manager at UNICEF Next Generation, a fundraising initiative focusing on engaging young donors to support UNICEF’s humanitarian programs for children around the world.
  • Caroline Savage MA’02, MA’04, Washington, D.C. Savage is a foreign service officer who was a top leader in Russian and Eurasian diplomacy; she is training to become head of public affairs for the U.S. embassy in Mozambique.
  • Demondrae Thurman MMusic’98, Tuscaloosa, Ala. Thurman is associate professor of music at the University of Alabama, director of the University of Alabama’s Symphony Orchestra, and a founding member of the internationally acclaimed Sotto Voce Quartet.

Honorees receive a commemorative silver medallion designed by artist Jason Noble ’07, and are invited to engage with alumni, students and the campus community throughout the year.

Interactive profiles of the 2012 and previous year’s award winners are available at