All In The Campaign for Blair Academy 2018-2025
Three Graduates Return for Annual Young Alumni Skeptics
Paula Hong '16

It’s one of the most anticipated Skeptics of the year: the annual Young Alumni Skeptics. Current students benefit greatly, asking recent Blair graduates any number of curious questions, and Blair alumni look forward to returning to their old stomping grounds, reconnecting with faculty and staff, and reminiscing about their younger days. On Tuesday, April 11, Blair is excited to welcome back three young alumni, including CEO and Co-founder of Nth Round Graham McConnell ’10, public relations coordinator at Hearst Magazines Melissa Levinson ’15, and DeCotiis, FitzPatrick, Cole & Giblin, LLP Associate Morgan Valeo ’15

MELISSA LEVINSON

A graduate of Marymount Manhattan College, Melissa Levinson double majored in digital journalism and public relations as well as strategic communications while interning for two years for acclaimed Shark Tank entrepreneur and investor Daymond John. Having recently earned her master’s degree in public relations and corporate communications from Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies, Ms. Levinson now serves as a public relations coordinator at Hearst Magazines, working closely on public-relations efforts across Esquire, Delish, Hearst Autos, the Enthusiast Group brands, Food Network Magazine, HGTV Magazine and The Pioneer Woman.

When she was a student at Blair, Ms. Levinson recalls telling others that she never thought she’d be asked to speak at an event such as Skeptics. However, just in the past two weeks, Ms. Levinson was approached to speak to current students for two empowering events: the upcoming Young Alumni Skeptics and the annual Women’s Symposium, held at Blair on Saturday, March 25. 

“I sat on the panel for the Women’s Symposium last week, which was an amazing event, but was left feeling like I had a lot more to share with the students. So, when the opportunity came about to speak at the upcoming Young Alumni Skeptics, I immediately took it,” said Ms. Levinson in a pre-event interview. 

“The Melissa I am today is very different from the Melissa I was back in high school,” she shared. “I realized, ‘I was in my own way,’ and I hope, if anything, that students at Skeptics will get to hear from me more about what that means and how it’s okay to not know who you are just yet; you’ll find your own way,” said Ms. Levinson.

MORGAN VALEO

During her four years at Blair, Morgan Valeo ’15 was a leading force on the girls’ volleyball and softball teams, an academically strong student, and a kind mentor, especially when it came to lead other day-students. Yet, in the classroom, she admits she wasn’t always the loudest. Looking back on her Blair career now, she hopes “students stay true to themselves and that they become their biggest advocates.” She realized, she explained, how many opportunities she gave up by being slightly more quiet and timid in the classroom. Meanwhile, her peers loudly championed themselves, and when it came time to have to show how hard she worked, she wished she would have spoken up for herself sooner. 
With her awakened sense of humble self-promotion, Ms. Valeo continued on to graduate Cum Laude from Elon University with a Bachelor of Arts in economics and strategic communications and from Seton Hall University for her juris doctorate. Today, she proudly works for the law firm DeCotiis, FitzPatrick, Cole & Giblin, LLP, and welcomes opportunities such as Skeptics to impart her wisdom and pay it forward to her younger peers. 
“Graduating from Blair helped me realize that I can achieve hard goals. I was a day student from Blairstown, New Jersey, sitting in classrooms with students from across the world, who went to prestigious elementary and middle schools, and yet, I could compete with them. Blair challenged me and that challenge helped me throughout college, which helped set me up for law school and pass the bar exam on my first try!” 

GRAHAM McCONNELL

A graduate of Dartmouth, Graham McConnell majored in cognitive science and minored in digital arts before starting his career as a product owner for Relay Network in Radnor, Pennsylvania and then, associate for investment management company AJO Partners. Quickly gaining his confidence within the digital software space, Mr. McConnell co-founded Nth Round within four years of graduating, where he currently serves as CEO of a company that powers private markets through modern equity management tools. 

“I was a little lost when I came to Blair,” shared Mr. McConnell, “but who isn't in their early teen years? At the upcoming Skeptics, I hope to talk about how I felt like the community there was exactly what I needed, to find out what I wanted to do. Academically, it helped turn a video game obsession into a career in software. And when it came to sports, I felt like Blair put me in leadership positions when I didn’t necessarily deserve it, and that really made me into a better person.”

“I missed my 10-year reunion because of COVID, so I’m really excited to get back on campus and reconnect with some of my favorite teachers,” shared Mr. McConnell.

All are invited to hear the alumni speak in the forum of the Chiang-Elghanayan Center next Tuesday at 7 p.m.


History of Skeptics
 
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, which is funded in part by the Class of 1968 Society of Skeptics Endowment Fund, is 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 and his successor, history department chair Jason Beck, Skeptics has featured a wide variety of speakers who are thought-provoking, engaging, accomplished in their respective fields and often controversial. For a listing of upcoming Skeptics programs, please visit Blair’s website.

 

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