Category Archives: Tiger of the Week

Tiger of the Week: Goalie Mike Condon ’13, A New Princetonian in the NHL

Mike Condon ’13 makes a save during a Nov. 27 Montreal win against the New Jersey Devils. (Ed Mulholland, USA TODAY Sports)

Mike Condon ’13 makes a save during a Nov. 27 Montreal win against the New Jersey Devils. (Ed Mulholland, USA TODAY Sports)

After going undrafted in the NHL following his time as a goalie on the Princeton men’s hockey team, Mike Condon ’13 was unsure of what to do next. He had played four seasons at Princeton but only started his senior year. When the Tigers’ season ended in March, Condon flew to southern California to try out for the Ontario (Calif.) Reign, a mid-level professional team then in the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL), while trying to finish his senior thesis about post-Cold War arms transfers.

Condon played well in California and was called up to play backup goalie for the Houston Aeros, the American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate of the Minnesota Wild. It wasn’t long before Condon caught the attention of the Montreal Canadiens, signing a contract in May 2013. After honing his skills during the last two seasons with the Canadiens’ ECHL and AHL affiliates, the Wheeling Nailers and Hamilton Bulldogs, Condon earned the role of backup goalie for the Canadiens. He has played in 23 of the team’s 36 games this season, filling in for the starting goalie, Carey Price, who is out with a lower-body injury until at least mid-January.

The jump from minor-league hockey to the NHL “is a challenge, and there’s a little bit of doubt in your mind,” Condon said. “At first it’s a little intimidating to be on the ice with [NHL players] because you don’t know how you’re going to fare. But the best way to do it is to jump into the fire, play with confidence, and trust your training.” Continue reading

Tiger of the Week: David Zabel ’88, Television Writer, Producer, and Co-Creator of ‘Mercy Street’

By Jeanette Beebe ’14

David Zabel ’88 (Courtesy David Zabel)

David Zabel ’88 (Courtesy David Zabel)

On Dec. 7, in front of a full-house audience of star-struck undergraduates and artsy locals, David Zabel ’88 spoke from a stage that supported the early days of his career — literally. It was at 185 Nassau, the longtime home of the arts at Princeton, that he spent hours and hours at late-night rehearsals and intensive writing workshops.

Once he discovered the theater at Princeton, Zabel said, his other interests (history, for example) quietly faded away. It snapped his future into focus.

“I was interested in a bunch of different things,” he said. “It was just theater that embraced me — earliest and most fully.”

Zabel is now an award-winning television writer, producer, and director. He wrote more than 45 episodes of ER, the medical series on NBC. He was the showrunner of ER for the program’s final five years, and he was also the showrunner and executive producer of Detroit 1-8-7 and Betrayal (both on ABC).

Zabel returned to 185 Nassau not as an actor, as he’d been as a student, but as the co-creator and executive producer of a new six-part Civil War-era television series on PBS that premieres this January: Mercy Street. The first episode will air Jan. 17 at 10 p.m. (after Downton Abbey). Mercy Street, PBS’ first American-made drama in over a decade, is based on real events.

After a special preview screening of the show and a presentation of a short video about Zabel’s work, produced by the Lewis Center of the Arts, Zabel shared the stage with Mercy Street cast members Josh Radnor (How I Met Your Mother), McKinley Belcher III, and Tara Summers, and historians James McPherson and Audrey P. Davis. Continue reading

Tiger of the Week: Mark Pavlyukovskyy ’13, Teaching Tech Skills Through Minecraft

Mark Pavlyukovskyy ’13 (Courtesy Piper)

Mark Pavlyukovskyy ’13 (Courtesy Piper)

After his junior year at Princeton, Mark Pavlyukovskyy ’13 traveled to Ghana, supported by a global-health fellowship, and developed a game-based curriculum to teach children about malaria. The effort seemed to be succeeding, Pavlyukovskyy said, but his work was cut short when he came down with a severe illness and had to be evacuated to Paris.

As he convalesced, Pavlyukovskyy had time to think about more ways to help kids in the developing world, and his thoughts kept coming back to technology. Skills like computer coding know no national boundaries, he reasoned, so “if you give people these tech skills, they can participate in the global economy.”

Pavlyukovskyy, a molecular biology major, didn’t know much about computer coding or electronics, but he vowed to learn more. Three years later, he’s still following that path, helping to spread tech skills around the globe through an educational startup called Piper. The company’s first product release is a “Minecraft toolbox,” a do-it-yourself computer kit that kids can build and then use to play an interactive version of the popular video game. Continue reading

Tiger of the Week: Randy Hobler ’68 Dreams of Broadway — and Brings Princetonians Together

If someone had told Randy Hobler ’68 in his senior year that he would go on to have a successful career in theater, he probably would not have believed them. When Hobler was a student at Princeton, the theater department did not yet exist. While Triangle Club and Theatre Intime provided extracurricular opportunities in the performing arts, Hobler said the “notion of going out and doing theater [as a career] was alien to the culture of Princeton at the time.”

Randy Hobler ’68, left, with his undergraduate bandmates Marty Faletti ’68, Bill McCabe ’67, Kit Hinsley ’67, and Pete Stockman ’68. (Courtesy Randy Hobler)

Randy Hobler ’68, left, with his undergraduate bandmates Marty Faletti ’68, Bill McCabe ’67, Kit Hinsley ’67, and Pete Stockman ’68. (Courtesy Randy Hobler)

Hobler instead channeled his creative expression into music as a member of a rock band and a drummer in the Princeton University Band. “In doing that music,” he now realizes, “I was expressing something inside me.” That spark he felt eventually led him to create his musical The Spirit of River City.

The show explores the notion of “reorchestrating one’s life” through a bio-fantasy narrative about famous playwright Meredith Willson. Upon his death, Willson returns to the past to influence his younger self not to make the same mistakes and endures a series of adventures along the way.

The narrative began as sequel to Willson’s famous musical The Music Man. Hobler, who had a family tie to Willson through his father and grandfather’s work, aimed to celebrate the famous playwright by adding details he had left out about himself in The Music Man. Hobler researched extensively and worked hard for over a decade to make The Spirit of River City both historically accurate and novel. Continue reading

Tiger of the Week: Daniel Velasco ’13, Teach for America Alum and Charter School Mentor Teacher

Daniel Velasco ’13 (Courtesy Daniel Velasco)

Daniel Velasco ’13 (Courtesy Daniel Velasco)

By Jeanette Beebe ’14

Outside Daniel Velasco ’13’s classroom window at the 21st Century Charter School in Gary, Ind., stands an abandoned building with boarded up windows. But the view doesn’t bother Velasco — his focus is on his students, not his surroundings.

“I absolutely love all of my students, even those that make me want to pull my hair out,” Velasco said with a chuckle. “The greatest lesson I have learned from them is patience.”

This is Velasco’s third year at the charter school. During his first two, he taught full time as a Teach for America fellow. Velasco taught AP United States history, AP world history, economics, government, and world history. He has also tried to build relationships with his students, and to connect with them as a mentor.

“When I teach my kids, stay after school with them, and host tutoring sessions during breaks, I think about the teachers that did that for me,” he said.

After completing his two-year Teach for America commitment, Velasco decided to stay at the 21st Century Charter School as a mentor teacher. In this role, he continues to teach half time, and he also serves as a building leader. Although he is young, he has considerable responsibility at the school. He works closely with two building administrators and 25 teachers.

In the mornings, Velasco teaches economics and government classes to 12th graders. In the afternoons, he observes teachers in their classrooms and gives them feedback in order to help them improve their teaching style and instruction.

“Life as a teacher is both draining and rewarding,” he said. “My life is completely different than when I was at Princeton, because I no longer have just my education and my future to worry about, but also my students’.”

Velasco’s own education was global. He’s a city-loving, second-generation Mexican Midwesterner who was born and raised in Chicago. He spent much of his time at Princeton — well, not at Princeton. Continue reading

Tiger of the Week: Race Car Aerodynamicist Arron Melvin ’01 *07

Arron Melvin ’01 *07 (Courtesy Arron Melvin)

Arron Melvin ’01 *07 (Courtesy Arron Melvin)

Arron Melvin ’01 *07 raced cars before coming to Princeton, and as a mechanical and aerospace engineering major, he found he had a knack for understanding the science of what makes cars go fast — fields such as fluid mechanics and aerodynamics. “What I enjoy doing in an academic sense was consistent with the career I wanted to pursue,” said Melvin, who now works as the chief aerodynamicist for Chevy IndyCar.

Melvin joined Pratt & Miller Engineering and the Chevy team in 2012, and much of his work came to fruition in 2015 when Chevy and its IndyCar rival, Honda, both released new aero kits — body components designed for greater speed and versatility. Chevy outpaced Honda to win pole position in each of the season’s 16 races, and two Chevy drivers, Juan Pablo Montoya and Scott Dixon, won the two biggest titles on the circuit, the Indianapolis 500 and the Verizon IndyCar Series Championship, respectively.

Racer magazine, in its season recap, wrote that Chevy was the clear winner in what would be remembered as “the Year of the Aero Kit,” and Melvin and colleagues Charles Ping III, Christopher Berube, and Mark Kent won the 2015 Louis Schwitzer Award, for “innovation and engineering excellence at the Indianapolis 500.”  But Melvin, who also has worked on the hyper-competitive Formula One circuit, knows that technological advantages often are short lived. He and his team are hard at work designing improvements for next year. “I’m very driven by the competitive side of things,” he said. “We’re pretty pumped up for 2016.” Continue reading