Notable Alumni

Richard Carranza

A native Tucsonan and College of Education alumnus from 1991, Richard Carranza was the New York City Chancellor until mid-2021. The New York City school district is the largest in the nation. Carranza recently was interviewed on CBS Sunday Morning about the difficult choices parents and teachers face about sending students back to class in the midst of a pandemic.

Joan Ganz Cooney

Just about everyone knows Big Bird, Elmo, and the Cookie Monster. In fact, to many people, these Sesame Street characters feel like family. Because of Sesame Street’s worldwide reach (it’s shown in more than 140 countries!), the program is considered the world’s largest educator. What you may not know is that the creator of Sesame Street, Joan Ganz Cooney, is a UA College of Education graduate.

Ronald S. Feingold

A world-renowned expert on physical education, Ronald S. Feingold '66 spearheaded leading national and international professional organizations and was a lead writer for the New York State Education Department’s current standards in health and physical education. As president of the Association Internationale des Écoles Superieures d’Education Physique and executive board member of the International Council of Sport Science and Physical Education, he helped establish a World Summit on Physical Activity for children held in Berlin. 

Steven Goldstein

Steven Goldstein '77 began his professional career as a social studies and English teacher in Tucson. Since then, he has held a variety of corporate and governmental positions. From 1980-89, he served as chief of staff and press secretary for five different members of Congress. From there, he served as director of the Office of Public Affairs and assistant to the secretary of the interior under the first Bush administration. He then became vice president of communications for Dow Jones & Co. and its main subsidiary, the Wall Street Journal.

Phillip B. Gordon

Former Mayor of Phoenix Phil Gordon '72 was a leader in the movement to revitalize, preserve, and redevelop central Phoenix. Pledging to fight crime and preserve neighborhoods, he was elected to the City Council in the late 1990s in the district that had been his home since childhood. He was elected mayor of Phoenix in 2003, with 72 percent of the popular vote, and was reelected in 2007 with 77 percent of the vote. He focused heavily on revitalizing downtown Phoenix, which thrives to this day.

Mark S. Hamm

College of Education alumnus from 1969 and former Arizona prison warden Mark S. Hamm is considered the world’s leading expert on prison radicalization. He is a professor of criminology in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Indiana State University. His also is a world leading scholar on terrorism and hate crimes, and the author of numerous books, such as The Spectacular Few and The Age of Lone Wolf Terrorism.

Mary Sally Matiella

Mary Sally Matiella, a College of Education alumna from 1973, is an American government official who served as the Assistant Secretary of the Army (Financial Management and Comptroller) during the Obama Administration. After several decades of federal civil service, Matiella served as the Assistant Secretary of the Army, holding office from February 16, 2010, until February 27, 2014.

Ernie McCray

Ernie McCray '60 '62 was a teacher and principal for 37 years who made connections with children with serious emotional issues and impacted countless young lives. McCray set the school's single-game scoring record with 46 points in a 104-84 win over Cal State-Los Angeles in 1960. The record stands today. McCray, who grew up in Tucson and attended Dunbar School, the first and only segregated school in Tucson, was just inducted into the Ring of Honor, "the honor of a lifetime for me,” he said. Read about the induction in the Arizona Daily Star.

Lacey Nymeyer

Olympic swimmer Lacey Nymeyer '09 was on the UA swimming and diving team when the Wildcats won the 2008 NCAA Women’s Swimming and Diving Champsionship. She was also an individual NCAA champion in the 200y freestyle (2007) and the 100y freestyle (2008). No Arizona swimmer has ever won more individual or relay NCAA championships than Lacey Nymeyer’s 10. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, she took home a silver medal as part of a 4x100-meter freestyle team

Michael E. Pilnick

Originally from New York, Michael Pilnick received a bachelor’s degree in secondary education and taught history on the Navajo Nation. After receiving his master’s degree in human resources from New School University, he became the senior vice president of human resources at Columbia House Company in Florida then joined Harcourt Education as the global head of human resources. Carol Hymowitz, writing in the Wall Street Journal, quoted him as an expert on employee recruitment efforts.

Sandra Thiffault

For the last five years, Sandra Thiffault '77 has been the principal of Mary Belle McCorkle Academy of Excellence. During this time, she implemented the New Tech Model Network, which creates equitable outcomes for students by focusing on reflective and collaborative approaches to teaching and learning. She is the recipient of the 2019 Susan Schilling Award, which recognizes directors or principals who demonstrate exemplary leadership at the school and network levels. 

Juliana Urtubey

2021 National Teacher of the Year, Juliana Urtubey earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education in 2009 and a master’s degree in special education in 2011. She will be the spokesperson for Nevada’s roughly 27,000 educators and a resource on the state of education in Nevada. “I owe a lot to my formation at the University of Arizona and my time at the College of Education.”

Alfredo Valenzuela

Mariachi musician Alfredo Valenzuela is the quintessential example of how a life of teaching and community engagement can fuse the power of education and the arts to serve children, youth, families, and communities. “Dr. V" grew up in Arizona, worked as a ranch hand, groundskeeper, and truck driver. He earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in elementary administration. Throughout 40 years of teaching, he transformed beginning students into confident and competent musicians.

Lola White

Lola White '42 worked diligently to make the Two-tailed Swallowtail (Papilio multicaudata) Arizona’s State Butterfly. Why this butterfly? According to White, it is only found west of the Mississippi. “This butterfly has the colors of the Arizona flag and has 14 blue dots to mark February 14, the day in 1912 when Arizona Territory became a state. Having a state butterfly highlights problems that construction, herbicides, and global warming have on butterfly lives. Butterflies are second behind bees for plant and tree pollination.”

Ann Young

How hard would it be to stay in school if you were homeless? We’re talking about students in grade school, middle school, and high school. Ann Young '69 was a counselor at Amphitheater High School in 1986 when she founded Youth on Their Own after noticing that many talented and motivated students were dropping out due to homelessness. For more than 30 years, YOTO has provided financial assistance, basic human needs, and one-on-one guidance to empower more than 16,000 homeless youth to remain in school and become self-sufficient.