Alumni Stories that Inspire

One of Madison Public Schools' greatest assets is the diversity of our students and their experiences, a strength exemplified by the variety of our alumni stories. We hope you find inspiration in these stories, featured with great pride.

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A Trailblazer for Women in the Financial Planning Industry

Madison Central High School class of 1966 alumna Betty Harris Custer is proud to come from a long line of Madison public school alumni. Both her mother and father attended Madison High, as did their siblings. Her father, Bob "Boomer" Harris taught and coached in MMSD for over four decades and is something of a local legend. “Even to this day,” Betty comments, “when I provide people with my last name I often get asked if I’m of THE Harris family – the one related to Boomer.”

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Counseling a Wide Range of Fortune 500 Companies

La Follette High School (LHS) class of 2005 alumna Anne Marie (Annie) Malecha is the Executive Vice President and Partner of a Washington, DC-based Management Consulting Firm, called Dezenhall Resources, that focuses on Crisis Management, Public Affairs and Litigation Communication. Anne Marie directs the firm’s client services and public affairs strategy and specializes in crisis communications, advocacy strategy and reputation management. She’s counseled a wide range of Fortune 500 companies, trade associations and national non-profit organizations in the U.S. and internationally in the defense, food and agriculture, consumer product, legal, healthcare, biotechnology, energy, financial services, technology, education and retail sectors. She also leads Dezenhall’s executive media training team.

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From Inventing for the White House to 7 Software Patents

West High alumnus Robert Listou is finally ready, at the age of 97, to retire from a long and successful career that has resulted in seven software patents and a projector patent. His story starts with graduation from Madison West High School in 1941. He then attended the UW-Madison until World War II, when he enlisted in the Army Air Corp and served as a pilot for 21 different aircrafts and an instructor for the C-47. When his outfit was shipped to Europe for the invasion, Robert was instead sent elsewhere in the US to continue his instructing.

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A 20-Year Legacy of Making Markets Transparent Around The World

Memorial High class of 1974 alum Jeffrey Sprecher has gone on to have a tremendously successful career in the highest echelons of global trading and investing. After making a mark in energy, commodities, equities and data, the newest frontier for his company, Intercontinental Exchange, is digitizing the mortgage industry. His work remains an example for young Madison students who have big dreams and goals of their own.

Now a well-known name on Wall Street and in finance capitals around the world, Sprecher used to deliver the Wisconsin State Journal on his bicycle. Football legend Elroy Hirsch was on his route. He attended Glenn Stephens Elementary, Orchard Ridge Middle, and Memorial High, and cites his Madison public school education as a key to his subsequent success.

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Inspiring a Citywide Movement

West High class of 1981 alumnus Dr. Alex Gee is the Lead Pastor of Fountain of Life Covenant Church, a multiracial, multigenerational and multi-class congregation in Madison, WI. He is the most tenured Senior Pastor in the entire city. He is also the host of the Black Like Me podcast as well as the president and founder of The Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership Development, a non-profit organization that inspires, develops and mobilizes emerging African American leaders to become partners in revitalizing and transforming our community. His passion lies in promoting inspiration, transformation and justice for disenfranchised African American people, for the benefit of the entire city.

Gee is nudging his local community to rethink racial disparities in Madison, WI, through an incredible citywide movement called Justified Anger, named after a stirring front page essay he wrote about his experiences growing up in Madison as a Black man. Since its launch in 2013, the movement has has produced a comprehensive framework designed to unify Madison's divide called “The Our Madison Plan”, mobilized over 1,000 non-black allies into the community, and gained Gee national attention for this work.

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Continuing a Leadership Journey that Started at LHS

My name is Danyelle Wright, Principal of Cottage Grove School serving grades 1-2. I am so proud to be a La Follette High School (LHS) Lancer, class of 2006. LHS is were I started my leadership journey as a student leader. I joined the student council, played basketball and soccer, and even joined the swim team with no prior swim experience (that story is for another time). LHS challenged me to look beyond being a student and a student athlete by exploring other student leadership opportunities in and outside of school. I became president of the student council, volunteered with community organizations, and throughout my tenure at LHS made some lifelong friendships. 

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Seeking to Create Positive Change

East High class of 1995 alumna Elizabeth O’Callaghan, PhD has over 20 years of experience in higher education administration, academic research, and graduate-level teaching. She has published books and research articles in peer-reviewed journals on topics including the glass ceiling in higher education for women and people of color. 

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Continuing on the Path to Adulthood

When Capital High class of 2020 alumnus Cheviest “Chevy” Branch reflects on his most unusual Senior year in Madison, he thinks about opportunities -- some were lost, chances to close out 4 years of High School with staff and peers at Monona Terrace where Capital High holds their graduation ceremony and some were gained, flexibility to work and do school more seamlessly at the same time.

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Grateful for Shabazz City High School

Shabazz City High School class of 2004 alumna Alexis Johnson is the executive assistant/office manager at HealthX Ventures, a digital healthcare-focused venture capital firm in Madison, WI. Before that, she spent six years at Noric Consulting, helping the company to grow from less than 30 employees to over 800 by the time she left. But had it not been for her experience at Shabazz City High School, she's not sure she would have even graduated high school. Here is her story...

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An Award-Winning Dedication to Public Service

La Follette High School (LHS) class of 2002 alumnus Andrew Bentley recently graduated from the Harvard Kennedy School, with a Masters in Public Administration. He was a Presidential Scholar in the Mid-Career Program that included 200 other people representing more than 60 countries, and his studies focused on racial justice, leadership and economic empowerment. After graduation, Bentley was awarded the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Excellence in Public Service, which is one of the most prestigious honors given to graduates. He recently accepted an offer to work for Harvard Kennedy School's nonprofit consulting firm, the Government Performance Lab (GPL), which provides pro bono support to local and state governments who are taking on difficult social challenges. He'll be leading the GPL's new efforts on economic mobility.

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