Index of Alumni Profiles

Browse a comprehensive list of all Harvardwood Alumni Profiles below, and find out who our regular Member Profile writers/interviewers are!

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October 2019 | Adam Fratto AB '90

fratto1.jpgVP of Scripted Programming, History

By Stephanie Ferrarie AB '18

A native of upstate New York, Adam Fratto AB ‘90 grew up immersed in theater and culture. His parents, professors of women’s studies and political science, taught at the local college in Geneva, New York. In high school, Fratto acted, though he holds that he wasn’t very good, despite its huge impact on his life. He reminisces back to his kindergarten days, when he would watch movies and direct his classmates in reenacting the films in class.

So it was only natural that Fratto's childhood interests drew him toward theater at Harvard, where he was a board member of the Harvard-Radcliffe Drama Club and directed six shows over his career. His directorial debut was a stripped-down adaptation of the musical March of the Falsettos staged in the Loeb Experimental Theater.

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September 2019 | Elle Johnson AB '86

By Joel Kwartler AB '18

ELLE3.jpgElle Johnson AB ’86’s IMDb page scrolls. She’s written for over a dozen shows in her decades-spanning TV career, from Law and Order to CSI: Miami to Bosch. Yet at Harvard, she never took a single writing class—because the one she applied to rejected her application.

Instead, Johnson was part of the theater community, performing in a production of Jesus Christ Superstar her freshman year. That show led her to becoming the “costume mistress” for the Hasty Pudding, and for two years, she’d wake up at 5am to take costumes to the cleaners. 

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August 2019 | Kieran Fitzgerald AB '03

Writer, Producer, & Director (SnowdenWormwood)

K.Fitzgerald_headshot.jpgBy Emily Oliveira AB '18

Just as Kieran Kitzgerald AB ‘03 starts telling me that he lives here in L.A. with his roommate from Harvard, that very roommate walks over to say hello from within the same coffee shop. After a couple minutes of Harvardian goodwill, Fitzgerald floats by the name of a professor of English who taught Dante—I don’t quite recognize it—and I learn that he graduated with a citation in Italian. For him, moving to Los Angeles several years ago to live and work in the heart of the business has meant letting go of a perfectionistic academic self. Staying up all night to write an essay and earn the ‘A’ is a comparatively streamlined, hard-work-meets-results counterpart to the roller-coaster, collaborative nature of filmmaking.

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July 2019 | Maggie Shipstead AB '05

IMG_6258.jpgNovelist (Seating ArrangementsAstonish Me)

By Emily Oliveira AB '18

Maggie Shipstead AB '05 chuckles as she describes what it means to be a novelist in Los Angeles: tell anyone you’re a writer in L.A., and they’ll assume you write for the big screen. She can certainly hold her own in the face of Hollywood glamour: In addition to her two New York Times-bestselling novels, her travel writing has appeared in Travel & Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, and Departures. She has the distinction of being twice named as a National Magazine Award finalist for fiction. 

For years, her “primary obligation” was to attend workshop—Shipstead is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop—but afterwards found herself suddenly faced with the task of choosing where to live in the world without having a scheduled, round-the-clock job. L.A. was a natural choice of home city for Shipstead, a Mission Viejo native whose parents live in San Diego, and she says there’s something energizing about living in a city of creative people in the constant process of making something.

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June 2019 | Dan Mintz AB '02

mintz.jpg(Stand-up Comic, Voice Actor, and Writer, VeepBob's Burgers, Son of Zorn)

By Daniel Gale-Rosen AB '10

When he was growing up in Alaska, Dan Mintz AB ‘02 had a number of pretty unrealistic ambitions. He thought he might like to be a spy, or a professional athlete, or any number of other careers that seemed totally unmatched to what he felt was his personality. Being in Hollywood was, to him, the same kind of unrealistic ambition, but now, as a writer, voice actor, and stand-up comic, he’s certainly proved his younger self wrong. Although he’s probably best known for being the voice of Tina in the animated series Bob’s Burgers (“that’s the only thing it’ll say in my obituary,” he jokes), he’s been a writer on many television shows, from his first official gig on Crank Yankers to, most recently, the latest seasons of Veep. And he’s been doing stand-up comedy since his sophomore year at Harvard, which he credits with giving him his break into the industry.

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May 2019 | Kelley Nicole Purcell AB '02

Kelley_Purcell.jpg(Senior Director of Member Outreach, The Recording Academy)

By Stephanie Ferrarie AB '18

Kelley Nicole Purcell ‘02 let her love for music guide her path to be a singer, artist, and champion for the artistic community—including our own Harvardwood community! (She served as the Executive Director of Harvardwood from 2009 to 2013). Now the Senior Director of Member Outreach for the Recording Academy, Kelley has toured in Africa with the band Soulfege, released multiple EPs as a solo artist, and now attends the GRAMMYs annually. She also performs in Shattered Glass, a musical-poetry hybrid performance piece surrounding the healing power of art.

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April 2019 | Susan Morris Novick AB '85

smn.jpgPast HAA President; Writer featured in the NYTFood Network

By Cristina Slattery

Susan Morris Novick’s great passion has been the arts for many reasons, not least of which is “its role in creating empathy,” she shares. This former president of the Harvard Alumni Association from 2017-2018 has spent her professional life in and around theater, film, and the arts. 

Morris Novick began her career as a talent agent for actors and writers at The Gersh Agency, eventually creating the book department in the New York office. She then chose to return to writing herself, working as a writer/producer on a restaurant travel show called Dining Around at the Food Network.

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March 2019 | Grant Thompson AB '98

Actor, Writer, & Producer (McFarland, USAUp at Noon with Greg Miller)

By Stephanie Ferrarie AB '18

fullsizeoutput_1766.jpegThe career of Grant Thompson AB '98 is varied and broad, much like his interests. A native of Gainesville, Florida, Thompson grew up playing sports, writing and acting in his high school drama club, and contributing to sketches for homecoming. While well-rounded, he didn’t consider himself a TV or film buff, and until he took Math 21A, he was planning to study math at Harvard. Instead, he studied history.

Meanwhile, he played basketball from freshman through junior year, in addition to being a member of the Phillips Brooks House Association. Thompson recounts his first year at Harvard living on the fifth floor of Weld, where he and his roommates, with whom he remains friends, had a water balloon launcher that they'd use to fire projectiles collected from the dining hall out their window onto the steps of Widener.

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February 2019 | Nicholas Britell AB '03

Film Composer (MoonlightIf Beale Street Could TalkThe Big ShortVice12 Years a Slave)

by D. Dona Le

Photo Credit - Dominic Nicholls“If it feels good, keep going. If it doesn’t, stop.”

That is a “very obvious… but groundbreaking” lesson that film composer Nicholas Britell AB ‘03 discovered at Harvard while collaborating with friend and fellow band member, Jake Rubin AB ‘03. The two were part of a hip-hop group, The Witness Protection Program, comprised of six instrumentalists and two rappers. They were discussing a track that Britell was writing for the band—whether the track was working, going in the right direction—and Rubin’s words struck a chord that lingers with the composer today.

“There are a lot of elements to the creative process. When you’re writing a lot of music, constantly trying to feel what you think works, sometimes there’s a belief that [even] if you’re not feeling something, you just have to trudge through it,” explains Britell. “But I’ve always found that that’s not the case. If you’re not feeling something, stop and do something else. And when it’s working, just keep doing it.”

Here, Britell is describing his work process on a micro level. But even a cursory overview of his career on the macro level proves that everything is working for Britell right now. The young composer is behind the scores for acclaimed films Moonlight, The Big Short, Vice, and If Beale Street Could Talk, to name but a few. He was first nominated for an Academy Award for his score to Moonlight in 2017. He is currently nominated for a Best Score Academy Award for his work on If Beale Street Could Talk. Also the composer for HBO’s drama series Succession, Britell has been described as “the composer with a growing fan club among directors” (NPR) and hailed as “the sound of money in Hollywood” (TheRinger.com).

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