QUEST’s 25th Anniversary Gala – A Night to Remember

QUEST celebrated 25 years of continuous improvement with over 420 alumni, current students, parents, corporate partners, and UMD friends on October 7, 2017! Jacob King (Q27) provides his account of the evening below.

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Walking into the grand new lobby of The Hotel at the University of Maryland, we were ushered upstairs to the ballroom level where we were immediately enveloped into a different time era. It seemed as though we were thrust back 60 years as all the males were dressed to the nines and women were in dresses to the floor, taking stunning pictures off the balcony overlooking the valet. Overhead were enormous twinkling glass structures that added to the ambiance as we walked into the ballroom itself. As I grabbed myself a drink from the bar, I looked around at all the fabulous people around me, all the brilliant QUEST students and alumni dressed up to celebrate the anniversary of this wondrous organization that brought us together. I began to walk around to catch up with old friends who had graduated, and I was astounded to see the turnout of not only current cohort members from 25-30, but members of cohorts from the very beginning. I was even introduced to people from cohorts 5,13,18,19 and 20.

It is one thing to network and make acquaintances, but it is another to talk to QUEST alumni about your story and how your time in QUEST is benefiting you. The cocktail hour quickly elapsed, and as we sat down for the main event, we had no idea just how humbling and inspiring our speakers were about to be. With our emcee, the chairman of the QUEST Alumni Board, Mr. Ricky Wilson, the night kicked off without a hitch. While it makes sense to have the three deans represented from the three schools (business, engineering and computer, mathematical, and natural sciences), the speeches they delivered were completely awe-inspiring as they praised not only the program, but told stories of how QUEST has helped shape the best students within their schools.

Corporate partners were recognized for giving back to QUEST over the years. Leidos, IBM, and Orbital ATK were announced as Corporate Visionaries; Lockheed Martin was recognized as a Corporate Innovator; and BD, dlhBowles, Pwc, Unilever, and Tulkoff Food Products were recognized as Corporate Catalysts.

Jerry Goodman and ToniAnn Thomas from IBM then went on stage to announce the winners of the IBM Design Challenge. Team International Business Men took home the grand prize, a trip to the IBM Global Headquarters in NYC. Team members included: Conor Casey (Q27), Tim Chen (Q28), Cameron Harner (Q25), Varun Mohan (Q28), and Jeff Zhao (Q28). To learn more about the IBM Design Challenge, click here.

It soon came time to recognize the alumni from QUEST who strove to push past the normal call to action that comes with graduating from this honors program. To Jason Gates (Q16), who pushed the original 190H course to its fullest extent and sought innovation through his own career, the QUEST program awarded the Innovative Professional Achievement Award. For the individual who has helped QUEST increase its corporate visibility, the program awarded Steve Kutchi (Q1) with the Outstanding Corporate Connector Award. Presented next was the Outstanding Service Award to Danny Laurence (Q19), Bryan Towns (Q7) and Ricky Wilson (Q6) for giving back to the program. For early career achievements, the Outstanding Young Alumna/us Award went to Linda Rassenti (Q17).

Winners of the Alumni Awards and the presenters

Next, three alumni, Debbie Feinberg (Q1), Vlad Tchompalov (Q14), and Addrenia Smith (Q18), provided remarks on their time in the program. As those in the audience listened to the stories of these alumni and their seemingly unachievable success or commitment to the program, one could see the passion start to bubble and the gears start to turn as current students tried to devise ways to achieve these same heights. As I started to leave the event, I turned around and looked at those around me: the alumni who are following their dreams and the students who are building passions and elevating themselves to get there. That is the beauty of QUEST. It is not in the rigorous coursework or the extracurricular activities or even the prestigious faculty (no matter what Dr. Suarez says). The people are what make QUEST great- the congregation of like-minded scholars who are hungry to learn and vicious in the classroom, yet collaborative and intuitive, with a drive to push those around them to new heights. This positive feedback loop of each QUESTee helping one another and giving back has led to the placement and growth of hundreds of alumni, with many more to come.

Here’s to the first 25 years of QUEST, and another 25 or more of great students, faculty, alumni, and corporate partners! To check out more photos from the Gala, click on this link!

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