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Young Alumni Impart Wisdom about Life after Blair at Skeptics

Posted: September 30, 2016

Each fall, four accomplished recent graduates return to campus to share their academic and professional experiences with current students, divulging wisdom and helpful insights into life beyond the “Blair bubble.”

This year’s Young Alumni Skeptics panelists— Geoff Brunn ’02, Macailagh Herman ’03, Jon Phillips ’03 and Ho-Jung (Rachael) Tseng ’10—represented a wide array of interests and career paths, from art, running and investing to marketing, law, structural engineering and architecture. On October 4, the group shared with students their experiences and tips for excelling in college, breaking into the workforce, and following and realizing their passions in the “real world.”

To watch a video of their presentations, click "play" below.

History teacher Martin Miller, PhD, moderated the forum, which included an exciting and engaging question-and-answer session. The much-anticipated Skeptics event was held in Bogle Hall’s Cowan Auditorium.

Blair welcomed the following alumni back to campus:

Geoff Brunn ’02
As manager of the engineering start-up FIRMITAS, Geoff oversees a number of building and renovation projects every day. Geoff’s company, which specializes in the design of creative and sustainable buildings, has numerous assignments taking shape right now, including renovation of a cathedral and a luxury retail location in Manhattan, construction of a new artist's loft and studio in Jersey City and an apartment building in Brooklyn, and an investigation into a roof failure in Portland, Oregon. Geoff earned two bachelor’s degrees from Lehigh University (in civil engineering and architecture) before pursuing graduate work at the University of California, Berkeley, where he completed a master’s in structural engineering. At Blair, Geoff discovered a love for crew; later, the sport led him to meet his wife, Dr. Katie Thoren, with whom he now lives in Westchester, New York.

Macailagh Herman ’03
Macailagh, a dedicated student-athlete and editor-in-chief of The Blair Breeze during her years at the school, earned a bachelor’s degree in American history from Smith College in December of 2006. She secured her first job with Credit Suisse in New York soon after her graduation and began her career as an analyst for the firm’s wealth planning group of its private banking division. While continuing to work full time at Credit Suisse, in 2008, Macailagh began the pursuit of her law degree as a night student at Brooklyn Law School. Macailagh excelled at juggling both a challenging course load and a demanding career, and graduated with her J.D. in 2012. Upon earning her law degree, Macailagh was asked to join the legal department of Credit Suisse as an in-house lawyer for Private Banking North America. She left Credit Suisse in 2014 to focus on the investment advisory business within the private wealth division of Barclays, which was subsequently acquired by Stifel Financial, a brokerage and investment banking firm in New York City, where Macailagh currently works as an in-house attorney. Although much of Macailagh’s career on Wall Street in wealth management has focused on investment advisory, her knowledge and experience over the last decade, on the business side, as a compliance officer and as an attorney, span numerous business practices and fields, including estate planning, marketing and advertising, banking and lending, fixed income, equity, foreign exchange, ERISA, alternative investments, structured products and the Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rule.

Jon Phillips ’03
Since graduating from Blair in the early 2000s, Jon's passion for running has crossed paths with his career. As event guru and marketing manager for Brooks Running, Jon helps create, produce and manage events at major marathon races across the United States. A two-time cross country state prep “A” champion for the Buccaneers, he also competed on the cross country and track and field teams at New York University, from which he earned bachelor’s degrees in Spanish and communications in 2007. Jon, a semi-professional runner, returned to NYU after his graduation to coach several seasons for the collegiate cross country team. Just as his runs typically do, Jon says his professional life has taken many “twists and turns,” and what ultimately landed his career in brand marketing is an “unwavering belief in following passion.”

Ho-Jung (Rachael) Tseng ’10
A multidisciplinary student at Blair, Rachael earned several accolades before her 2010 graduation, including awards for her music talents, fine art, and outstanding achievement in chemistry and mathematics. As a member of the class of 2015 at Cornell University, Rachael continued to flourish in the arts and sciences, earning several internships with architecture firms, including S.O.M. (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill), among others, and completing a bachelor of architecture degree. In August 2015, Rachael joined the workforce as an architectural designer for Rafael Viñoly Architects, where she has designed and coordinated multiple projects to be built in New York City.

The Society of Skeptics was established as a forum for students and faculty to discuss and debate important global issues; it has grown to become one of the premier high school lecture series in the United States. Each week, speakers from the political, social, scientific, economic and literary arenas share their unique perspectives with students, who are encouraged to engage with presenters, asking questions and debating points of view.

The program was an outgrowth of the Blair International Society, begun in 1937. Forty years later, former history department chair Elliott Trommald, PhD, Hon.’65 established the modern Skeptics program as a regular forum for student discussion and debate; history teacher Martin Miller, PhD took over in the mid-1980s and molded the program into a weekly lecture series, one that has since continued without interruption. Under the tutelage of Dr. Miller, Skeptics has featured a wide variety of speakers who are engaging, accomplished in their respective fields and often controversial. For a listing of upcoming Skeptics programs, please click here.

Last Updated: October 13, 2016