(Mary Lou) Slater Barron ’75, studio art
As the first lady of lint, Slater Barron has spent 40 years creating portraits and sculptures from the fuzz found in laundry dryers. The 86-year-old’s artwork has been showcased by Ripley’s Believe It or Not! (which commissioned life-size lint depictions of John Wayne, Princess Diana and several monarchs), assorted museums, and television shows hosted by Huell Howser and Johnny Carson. Originally from New Jersey, Barron moved to Orange County after serving as a naval officer during the Korean War and dabbling in painting while living in France. She enrolled at UCI as a 40-something mother of four and credits the school with “opening my eyes to conceptual art.” Many of her pieces are whimsical (lint replicas of sushi and candy), but she tackles serious subjects too, such as her mother’s descent into Alzheimer’s disease. And fuzz isn’t Barron’s only medium. Her Long Beach studio also features art fashioned from teddy bears, dancing shoes and even a wasp’s nest.
Geoffrey Pyatt ’85, political science
When the revolution came, Geoffrey Pyatt had a front-row seat. He was a few months into his term as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine when gunfire and explosions shook the central square of Kiev, eventually leading to the ouster of the former Soviet satellite’s president. The 2014 uprising remains one of the most indelible memories from Pyatt’s 27-year diplomatic career, which began in Latin America and most recently brought him to Athens as ambassador to Greece. A native of La Jolla, he initially dreamed of being an oceanographer – “until I encountered organic chemistry” – then gravitated toward the foreign service as an Anteater. After earning a master’s degree in international relations at Yale University, he worked for a Washington think tank before joining the U.S. State Department. Last year, Pyatt’s nomadic career won him recognition at UCI’s annual Lauds & Laurels gala as a distinguished alumnus from the School of Social Sciences.
Cynthia (Stoker) Guidry ’92, civil engineering
Her fingerprints turn up all over LAX – from the emergency defibrillator cabinets inside each terminal to a 2.5-mile elevated people mover scheduled to debut in 2023. As deputy executive director for planning and development at the airport, Cynthia Guidry oversees a staff of about 360 engineers, architects, planners and others working on various construction and improvement projects. “LAX is a city unto itself,” says the Texas transplant, who moved to Los Angeles at age 5 and later attended Canyon High School in Anaheim Hills. After finishing at UCI, Guidry began her career in sanitation for L.A.’s public works department but soon switched to aviation. She also earned an MBA from Pepperdine University. Her team is currently laying the groundwork for a $5.5 billion airport face-lift that includes remodeled terminals, a consolidated rental car center and the people mover, which will connect LAX to a Metro station.
Kevin Liang ’01, neurobiology, Ph.D. ’07, neurobiology & behavior
Designer lab coats and a dementia care device are two of the ideas Kevin Liang has helped bring to life as a health industry entrepreneur. Hailing from Encinitas, he was part of UCI’s first undergraduate neurobiology class before earning his doctorate and launching several companies. His stylized doctor/scientist apparel – which features a silky lining and waterproof pockets – was conceived when Liang was a grad student and “could not find a lab coat that I was excited to put on every day.” More recently, he co-founded Ceresti Health, a Carlsbad-based startup that offers customized mobile tablets to assist and train families taking care of Alzheimer’s patients at home. The digital system provides access to a daily action plan, expert coaching and other resources. It also sets up a personalized collection of family photos, videos, favorite music and interactive activities intended to trigger soothing memories and lift the patient’s mood.
Willow Osage ’15, physics
Cheerleading and plasma physics might seem like an odd combo – unless you’re Willow Osage. Born on a hippie commune (known for making hammocks and nut butters) in Missouri’s Ozark Mountains, she later moved to Northern California with her parents and became captain of a nationally ranked high school cheer squad in Fremont. At UCI, Osage – whose last name was invented by her parents – researched plasma physics and submillimeter galaxies while working as a cheerleader camp instructor. After graduation, she landed an engineering job at Broadcom, then jumped to Irvine-based ClariPhy Communications, where she designs software and hardware to test the company’s high-speed semiconductor chips. In her off hours, Osage is studying for a master’s in electrical engineering at Cal State Fullerton. She also volunteers as a mentor to UCI physical sciences students.
Dion Shepherd Jr., M.A.S. ’16, criminology, law & society
Going to jail isn’t normally considered a good career move, but Dion Shepherd Jr. thought it could help him better understand his ex-con and at-risk-youth clients. So the Detroit native voluntarily spent two months in the slammer as part of an A&E undercover documentary series called “60 Days In.” The unnerving experience wasn’t Shepherd’s first television gig. In 2013, he trained as a bounty hunter on “Dog and Beth: On the Hunt,” then worked as a bail bondsman, security guard and youth counselor. More recently, he and his fiancée, Ashlee Wade – who’s studying at UCI for a master’s in legal & forensic psychology – started the Justice League Consulting Group, which aims to assist former inmates in finding jobs and acclimating back into society. The pair are also involved with gang prevention efforts.