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People briefs

For immediate use

June 27, 2007

Local angles: Burlington, Cary, Chapel Hill, Durham, Wilmington

Trohanis, champion of children with disabilities, dies at 64

Pascal “Pat” Trohanis, senior scientist at Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at UNC and long-term director of the National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (NECTAC), died Saturday (June 23) after a long battle with cancer. He was 64.

“FPG has lost one of its important early leaders with the passing of Pat Trohanis,” said James Gallagher, a fellow and former director of the institute. “We will remember Pat with a smile and with great gratitude for what he has accomplished for all of us and for the children with special needs to whom he gave so many years.”

Trohanis joined the institute in 1972 and became director of NECTAC’s predecessor organization in 1987. At NECTAC, Trohanis worked to ensure that young children with disabilities could participate fully in community life with dignity and respect. NECTAC’s impact is now felt by one million children throughout the United States. NECTAC is the U.S. Office of Special Education Program’s national resource for states on implementing the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, particularly the early childhood provisions.

Trohanis was a devoted parishioner of the Greek Orthodox Church of St. Barbara in Durham and received the St. Barbara achievement award and the Archangel Michael award for leadership at the diocese in Atlanta.

He was born Feb. 6, 1943, in Cincinnati. He received a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University, a master’s degree at Bridgeport University and a doctoral degree in educational technology from the University of Maryland.

Trohanis is survived by his wife of 38 years, Donna; daughter Zoe Elena; mother Mary Trohanis; and brothers Andy and Bill. Gifts in Trohanis’ memory may be made to the St. Barbara Greek Orthodox Church Building Fund, P.O. Box 1149, Durham, NC 27702-1149.


Nine months in Rome to follow ‘I do’s’

Soon after their Sept. 9 wedding, John Henkel and Frances Higgins of Chapel Hill will head overseas for the ultimate honeymoon: the entire 2007-2008 academic year in Rome.

But it won’t be a “Roman Holiday” (1953), a la Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. Henkel, a doctoral candidate in classics at UNC-Chapel Hill, will be studying, thanks to a merit fellowship he has just received for research at the American Academy in Rome.

The Berthe M. Marti Affiliated Fellowship, worth approximately $30,000, will fund work on his dissertation, now titled “Myth, Stars and Poetic Tradition in Vergil’s ‘Georgics.’” Marti (1904-1995) taught classical and medieval Latin at Bryn Mawr College for 33 years and at UNC-Chapel Hill for 13.

She established the fellowship in a bequest, making it open to students from either school, said George W. Houston, Ph.D., professor of classics emeritus in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences. “Berthe’s principal interest was to provide an opportunity for young scholars to come to know Rome, its many resources for scholarship and the Romans themselves,” said Houston, the executor of Marti’s estate.

Higgins will no doubt be up to the trip, having earned a bachelor’s degree in Italian from Smith College and a master’s in comparative literature, focusing on Italian and English literature, from UNC-Chapel Hill last year.

This summer, both are on campus – he, teaching Latin in summer school; she, working in UNC’s Office of International Student Scholar Services. Both also are planning their wedding – and a most lengthy study abroad.


Professor’s documentary wins top award
A documentary film by UNC communication studies professor Gorham “Hap” Kindem recently won the Best American Documentary Award at the 2007 Swansea Bay Film Festival in Wales.

“Pushing the Limits: Ski for Light USA” focuses on inspiring Paralympians and American skiers with disabilities. Also at the international festival, Kindem’s music video, “Talk Straight,” was nominated for Best Public/Community Service Video.

Proceeds from “Talk Straight” help support Carolina for Kibera, a nonprofit organization that operates a youth soccer league and other programs in Kibera, East Africa’s largest slum. The group is part of UNC’s Center for Global Initiatives.

Another Kindem film, also about Paralympians, won the International Documentary Short Award at the Beverly Hills Hi-Def Film Festival in December. “Pushing the Limits: Norway’s Ridderrenn” focuses on Norwegian and Danish Paralympic skiing champions. It also was shown in April at the Aarhus Festival of Independent Arts International Film in Denmark.

Kindem’s research and teaching interests include documentary production, film history and media aesthetics. His documentaries have aired on PBS and the Discovery Channel.


Biomedical engineering students garner awards

Four biomedical engineering students have won two awards for devices they developed for people with disabilities.

Recent graduates Andres Afanador of Burlington and Laura Malone of Cary placed third in the National Scholar Award for Workplace Innovation and Design for the “SS Timer,” a device which helps people with disabilities keep track of what task they should perform.

The competition is sponsored by NISH, formerly the National Institute for the Severely Handicapped, an organization that promotes opportunities for people with disabilities in the workplace.
Afanador and Malone will receive $3,000, with matching funds going to the department of biomedical engineering and Goodwill Industries of North Carolina, the community partner for the project.

Shawn George, a rising senior from Durham, and Nancy Du, a recent graduate from Wilmington, were selected in the top five of 15 finalists in the Student Design Competition for their project called the “Walking Monitor.”

The “Walking Monitor” detects when people with Parkinson’s disease experience “freezing of gait” and start falling behind from their walkers, a potentially serious safety hazard. The device sends automatic vibrations and a light to help patients prevent and stop the “freeze.”

George and Du’s device will be featured in a publication from the Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America, which sponsors the competition.


Gangi wins national academic advising award

Gregory J. Gangi, an academic adviser in environmental sciences at UNC, has received a 2007 certificate of merit from the National Academic Advising Association. He was recognized in the faculty academic advising category.

Gangi, a research assistant professor in and associate director of UNC’s Institute for the Environment, also directs academic programs for the institute. He earned a Ph.D. in ecology from UNC in 1999. Gangi has taught courses including “Environment and Society,” “Coral Reef Ecology and Management” and a Summer Burch Program in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. His interests include conservation and sustainable development.

“Greg Gangi is a truly remarkable teacher and outstanding adviser,” said Carolyn Cannon, associate dean of academic advising in the College of Arts and Sciences. “Students let us know this every year when he is nominated for an excellence-in-advising award. He is a gem. Usually when I see him, he is surrounded by students in an atmosphere that is professional and relaxed. Students seek him out because he cares about them as individuals, provides them with counsel that goes deep into the subject matter and takes into consideration their personal interests and strengths.”

The National Academic Advising Association promotes and supports quality academic advising in higher education to enhance students’ educational development.

Web sites:
American Academy: (Click “Other Residency Opportunities” and “Affiliated Fellowships” for the Marti Fellowship site.)
Carolina for Kibera:
Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America:
UNC Academic Advising:
National Academic Advising Association:

Note: Henkel is most easily reached via e-mail to He is available from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays at (919) 962-7637. For Houston, email or leave a message at (919) 962-7191.
Kindem can be reached at (919) 942-6734, (919) 593-7383 or; Gangi, at or (919) 962-9805.

FPG contact: Tracy Zimmerman, (919) 966-0867,
College of Arts and Sciences contact: Kim Spurr, (919) 962-4093,
Biomedical engineering department contact: Richard Goldberg, r.goldberg@unc.ed
News Services contact: Clinton Colmenares, (919) 843-1991,