FRANK PIZZITOLA ‘73, MBA ‘82
“Once a Celt, always a Celt,” Anthony Frank Pizzitola ’73, MBA ’82, said when he was named this year’s Rev. Vincent J. Guinan Distinguished Alumnus. Presented annually during UST Commencement, the award recognizes outstanding contributions to the University and society through professional and personal excellence and community involvement.
“In his quiet, yet effective way, Anthony has brought the truths and values he learned at UST into the world of business,” said J. Michael Miller, Archbishop of Vancouver. “To know Anthony is to recognize an alumnus of whom the University should be rightly proud.”
For nearly 50 years, the former president of the UST Alumni Association has served UST in a variety of ways, starting as editor of the Summa yearbook along with selling ads. Currently, he offers his expertise to UST students, such as organizing an MBA seminar presented by Disaster Recovery Institute International. He also served as Chapel of St. Basil sacristan for eight years, among many other involvements.
“I feel that earning two degrees at UST and staying close to the school have been the cornerstones to keeping me close to our motto “‘Goodness, Discipline and Knowledge,’” Pizzitola said. “There’s something about staying close to the values of home, that continues to bring one back to home. Current students should continue to develop a relationship with UST that will model their decisions in life.”
Pizzitola’s rewarding career spans construction, facilities operations and maintenance, and emergency planning and disaster recovery for companies like Taco Bell, YUM! Brands and ExxonMobil.
KECHI OKWUCHI ’15
Kechi Okwuchi ’15 surpassed her wildest dreams when she became a finalist on “America’s Got Talent: The Champions” by way of earning the Golden Buzzer from iconic and vocal judge Simon Cowell. Okwuchi’s career has taken off since her win aired in January 2019. She released her first single, “Don’t You Dare,” travels as an inspirational speaker and is an advocate for multiple burn survivor organizations.
Okwuchi, an economics alumna, is one of the two survivors from a 2005 plane crash in Nigeria that killed more than 100 people, 60 of whom were her schoolmates. She suffered burns on most of her body and underwent years of treatment.
“It’s really cool that now I can say I am a singer. I grew up in a very musical household — my mom and I would sing together all the time,” Okwuchi said. “The accident happened, and my voice went through a significant change. My turning point is when my dad got me a karaoke machine; I would sing all the time and train my voice back. In 2017, I started to sing in church and that was a huge step for me.”
Okwuchi was UST’s 2015 student commencement speaker, and she continues to inspire others with her story and music. She was grateful to be a finalist on AGT, although her goal for appearing on the show was not necessarily to win but to gain recognition as a singer and feedback from respected professionals.
“Being on a platform like that is scary,” she said. “I would tell someone that the nerves will always be there, but I think the best things in life happen outside of your comfort zone. Nothing extraordinary happens from being comfortable, but by achieving amazing things. You have to choose the fear that you want.”
LORETTA “LORRIE” PARISE ’84
Loretta “Lorrie” Parise ’84 recently published her first book, “Biography of an Everyday Couple: Turning Ordinary into Inspirational,” a true love story of Parise’s parents, Alice and Fidel, whose 64-year marriage came to a sudden end when Alice passed away. Her father passed away months after her mother.
“He died of a broken heart,” Parise told The Woodlands Online.
The story of the lives of this couple takes the reader through a journey of love and loss. Parise describes her parents as ordinary people who lived extraordinary lives.
“This book is written with such love that it leaps off the pages,” Tracy Young, reviewer for Readers’ Favorite said. “Lorrie Parise has written ‘Biography of an Everyday Couple’ to share her parents with the world, and I thank her for it.”
“Biography of an Everyday Couple” ranks with five stars by Readers’ Favorite. The celebrated book is nominated for Next Generation Indie Book Awards (First Novel and Inspirational Non-Fiction categories) — and Writer’s Digest, (Self-Published category).
The book is available online at Barnes & Noble and Amazon. A portion of book sales benefit local The Woodlands charities.