Tiger Tales in a time of Crisis: Alumni Stepping Up


We are a community in times of celebration, but more importantly, we are a community in times of uncertainty.  All across the globe #TigerNation is stepping up in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. On the front lines and behind the scenes, we want to hear from you. In this unprecedented time, let’s share our stories of hope and courage. Please share your stories and photos to [email protected].  Please continue to check back as stories of tiger heroes will be updated regularly.

Thank you!

Lisa Friedlander Berns ’87

“I am a registered nurse in The Surgical Intensive Care Unit at the Cleveland Clinic. Today, I am at the frontline alongside many of my amazing colleagues who are committed and devoted to fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. I rise to the challenge in spirit of the true essence of nursing, in which patients come first. Caring for the sick and vulnerable is my duty, it’s my passion, it’s in my blood, and it is who I am.”


Monique L. Donaldson ’90

“When I first heard of the virus, I immediately thought of my children and grandchildren of who would protect them.  I had a lot of mixed emotions.  I went to grocery stores, stocked up on food, supplies, masks for everyone and gloves.  I am grateful for the daycare that my son and grand children attend Learn, Play and Grow.  They have pandemic license so that I can still go to work, and they keep them safe.  I am blessed to still be employed.  I am a pediatric doctors secretary at University Hospital.  I work full time Monday thru Friday. We can work from home a few days out of the week to rotate with the other secretaries, but assist with phone calls, appointments, and paperwork for our patients.  Our patients are understanding when they call.  That makes a huge difference to us when we reschedule their appointments. We are offering telehealth video calls or phone calls to our patients.  Stay positive for yourself and for our patients that are in need.  We are all in this together.  We wear masks all the time and latex gloves when we leave the office for errands or lunch in the cafeteria.  We spray Lysol and use hand sanitizer throughout the day.  The secretaries are 6 feet away from each other. This COVID pandemic has affected our hospital in so many ways.  We are the difference.  We are the UH way to be there for the patients in a need of a crisis.  We are kind, loving and respectful.    I feel that this will go on for a long time.  That this is our new norm. I love what I do and love being the UH difference.  Stay blessed.”

Richard Watson ’90

“I am the Energy Marshall for Microsoft Corp.  My job is to ensure safety for our staff and the public.  I also maintain the Cloud for the food industry.  The most difficult part of my job is being away from my family for extended periods of time.  Secondly, re-enforcing safety first to my staff and others is difficult as well especially since we all want to be home with our families.  Most important is keeping family (in my heart next to me) and friends safe in this time of crisis.”


Katy Mathews Benjamin ’91

“I was angry. I was frustrated. I was scared. Yes, I am dedicated to my nursing career. But I was so torn thinking…what am I willing to risk? My health, the health of my family which includes an immunocompromised little boy? Everyday at work there was new protocol and trying to keep up was exhausting. Prepping for the unknown for weeks. Waiting until it was my turn to face the awful virus. Then there she was…my first positive. A patient younger than me, also scared, also with a young family. At that moment, COVID-19 had a face, a name, a family. I was no longer scared or angry but determined to never again lose my faith or question my place in this fight. Thankfully, in South Carolina, so far we have been spared the surge of cases that are other states are experiencing. I am headed to a new adventure…There is a need for nurses in Atlanta more than here at this moment. MUSC Health has a formed a partnership and is sending 13 nurses and 9 respiratory therapists. I’m excited as this brings me back to my old travel nurse days. I will come home once a week for a few days to see my family. Hopefully soon this will all be behind us ! Wish me luck.”


Vanessa Farrell Maier, Class of ’91

“My job has changed dramatically in response to coronavirus.  In my primary care practice at MetroHealth Beachwood I have transitioned most of the care I provide to telehealth.  We are seeing very few patients in the office in the hopes that we can limit transmission of the virus.  I had never done a video visit prior to coronavirus, but I am now learning how to treat a multitude of problems by video.  For my patients who don’t have access to video visits, I am connecting through phone calls, hoping to help them manage chronic illnesses, treat acute problems and generally keep them safe, healthy and out of the hospital.  I also cover the MetroHealth coronavirus hotline, answering phone calls from patients with concerning symptoms, helping people manage symptoms at home if possible, and assisting with expediting treatment in the hospital if needed.  Although it has been over 5 years since I have treated patients in the hospital, I am on the list of physicians willing to help with surge capacity.  If needed, I will join my colleagues in the hospital to help cover the MetroHealth inpatient service.   I often think of this pandemic as a tsunami that I can see coming, but can’t quite grasp its size or scope, how devastating its consequences may be and how the world will look once it has passed over us.  I am proud to be an Ohioan and grateful for inspiring and courageous leaders who have made the tough decisions for all of us.  But I know social isolation has been, and will continue to be, financially devastating.  I worry about small businesses, my patients out of work, students out of school.  I sometimes worry we haven’t done enough to ‘flatten the curve.’ I worry about my patients with lung disease, all my patients who are high risk.  I worry about my family, my parents, my son who is immunocompromised.  I worry about healthcare workers intimately interacting with COVID patients, putting themselves at risk, even as they know many won’t make it through.  But then I witness the amazing courage of my patients who stay home, even when they are suffering with symptoms, knowing they are doing their part to help someone sicker than they are get the care they need.  The innovation and collaboration in the medical profession, empowered by science and fueled by a passion to understand and to heal, and another 80-year-old patient is successfully extubated after 10 days on a ventilator, getting ready to go home.  All the small ways people are taking care of one another, with kindness and compassion, showing us all, we are in this together.  And together we will get through.”
Joey Cremo, Class of ’89
“I’m am a commercial Front load driver for Waste Management INC. I was asked to tell about what some of the challenges there have been for us since the covid-19 event has started. On March 18 our CEO sent a text video message to all 45,000 WM employees. The first thing he said in that message was “We are in uncharted waters” he also stated that while they are working very hard to get us more PPE. There is a shortage in this country. Since then  we have gotten a couple of items. My route is downtown Cleveland. I service downtown to university circle Monday thru Friday. The challenges of this event is how do I protect myself from contracting covid-19. We as garbage men have to assume everything is infected with it. There is no way for us to know which apartment build,nursing home hospital or medical center etc. could have people there with it and what did they throw out. We as refuse collectors have to go back to the basics and ask ourselves. Did I do everything to keep myself safe at this stop? Did I wear my gloves? Did I wear my glasses? Do I have a face covering? There are times everyday I get out and either pull out the dumpster and or open the corral and unlock the combination locks. When I get back in I use my hand sanitizer. At the end of every day now I wipe down all the controls in the truck and spray disinfectant. We are trying really hard not to bring that home and get our families sick. My boss has a saying about work. If you do what you are supposed to do. You will have nothing to worry about. Be safe, things will get better.”




Tisha Tisdale, Class of ’89

“As a pediatric nurse, I am a jack of all trades. Mother to some, friend to others and sometimes even foe, but my duty to keep kids safe and healthy never changes. I am grateful each day to be a blessing to others. It is just a benefit that I can do it in a bright, colorful, and fun place. Although I’ve been nursing for years, nothing has prepared me for the pandemic we currently face. I am now one of those nervous parents I help through their storm. Working in the midst of a pandemic is not fun and there is nothing I can do as a pediatric nurse to dress it up. It is terrifying. Resources are limited, staff is sometimes short, and I constantly wonder if I may accidentally bring something home to my family. However, as a nurse, I made a vow to care for others no matter what; and that is what I am doing. The smiling faces of a toddler or gentle thank you from a 15-year-old is all the thanks I need to keep me moving forward and performing my duties as a nurse. This profession is not always easy, but it is one of the most rewarding and humbling things I have done thus far. I am a PROUD pediatric nurse.”


Simon Taxel, Class of ’03

“EMS providers are the healthcare vanguard during this pandemicand I am a Pittsburgh Paramedic. I am passionate about my work and my career. I am also a husband and a father. This week, as we begin to adjust to the new reality I am experiencing a new emotional dichotomy. While there will be no winners, this pandemic is our super bowl. The work that we do, the obstacles that we overcome, the lives that we save, and the lessons that we learn will be the stuff of legends. They will be enshrined in journals and text books and passed down to the generations that follow. Those that walk this path know that this kind of situation is the ultimate motivator and it will bring out the best in us. We will unflinchingly rise to the occasion and provide care without pause or fear. I am accustomed to putting my own health and safety in jeopardy on the job. It comes with the territory and I am at peace with it. The difference with this virus is that when I go to work I am also putting my family at risk. Today, we have adequate personal protective equipment and we are following evidence based best practices to minimize the risk but it still exists. Many are concerned about the complications of staying home and social distancing (there many and they are legitimate). I am terrified of the consequences of going home and holding my wife and children close. I acknowledge the immense privilege of stable employment and income in this current situation and I do not post this to minimize the terrible struggle that many people face this morning. We do not need praise, thoughts, or prayers. We need everyone to follow the directions of public health experts and stay home. We also need the federal government to ensure that there is an adequate supply of masks, gowns, gloves, and ventilators. I will forever be in dept to my wife Nicole Taxel for her unconditional support during these challenging and unprecedented times.”


Lisa Hunt, Class of ’88

“As we ALL learn to navigate this new terrain brought on by the pandemic & doing so much of it digitally the message of family engagement remains critical & even more central to the support students need & deserve. Our District has been working on building effective, meaningful partnerships that help families work with schools in support of students success. I am a firm believer in silver linings & if we have to find one, it would be that in this new time we will better learn & know how we all must engage & work better together. Working from home while adding home schooling for many of us is a reality now. effective family engagement is all about how we work together for the common good  & growth of Our students, families & community. I believe that together we will get through this and be better & stronger than before.”


Beth Backer, Class of ’91

“I work as a cashier at Heinen’s in University Heights. A couple weeks ago when it was mentioned that there were three cases in Cuyahoga we had people panic buying. The amounts that people have been buying still amazes me. We also have been verbally attacked. As scared as we are because the chances of us getting infected is very high. We still have to hold it together. There are moments I go home in tears. Regardless we have to stay strong because my job is considered essential. Next time you’re looking down your nose at us, remember you would not survive this without us. We beg you please give us space. Don’t come with your children, siblings or spouse.   It’s too overwhelming for us and we are already on edge.”


Harris Senturia, Class of ’87 

“Proud to be working at the FTC, where we remain focused on protecting and educating consumers. Scammers will follow the headlines, and they have been trying to take advantage of fears and concerns about the Coronavirus. Please see the FTC’s dedicated web page at ftc.gov/coronavirus for timely information about scams and FTC law enforcement actions, graphics to share on social media, and links to other resources (including the CDC, FDA, and WHO). And please pass this information on!”


Darryl Rugley, Class of ’95
For weeks, Darryl has been giving back to our community through his business, Goodfella’s BBQ in Cleveland Heights, by providing free food to kids while they are out of school.  “I’m really doing it to give the parents a break! I know they have to feed there kids all day long so hopefully this gives them a little help!  At first it was just ok, but then the word got out and now it’s overwhleming, a lot of kids everyday.  My family always helped out during times of need.  My grandparents had 11 kids, but they always fed the whole neighborhood. So it just rubbed off on me that’s all.  Plus it was to make my Mama proud.  It’s a lot financially because I’m not turning no kid away.  It’s a lot going on in the world that’s not good so… give them a little bit of good like you know, ‘this guy looked our for us!’  To all that donated to help feed the kids thank you, to all that sent cash apps, walked in & gave a donation & to all that mailed a donation in thank you! It helped out a WHOLE lot!!! We in this together.”