15 Most Interesting 14 Years Later

Every year, FM chats with the 15 most interesting seniors at Harvard. But what happens after that? We tracked down a few “most interestings” from the Class of 2003 and found out how the real world’s been treating them since then.

Ryuji Yamaguchi
Ryuji Yamaguchi ’03, known 14 years ago for being a dance phenomenon, spent the past nine years as the Director of Residential Life and head of the Department of Fine and Performing Arts at a newly founded boarding school in Jordan called King’s Academy.

Yamaguchi is passionate about the impact boarding school can have on a student. He has carefully considered the impact his own presence has had at King’s Academy. “As an artist and dance teacher, what kind of dance should I be teaching that is not colonialist?” he recalls asking himself. “How can I bring what I have to the community while respecting each individual and respecting the culture that is already there, and also bringing what I have experienced from the United States?”

Now, Yamaguchi is back in the U.S. as a graduate student at Columbia University Teachers’ College studying private school leadership. He is also creating and performing in dance pieces.

Michelle Kuo
In 2002, Michelle Kuo ’03 was “unsure of her plans for next year, torn between applying to Teach for America, driving an ice cream truck, and opening a children’s bookstore in her Michigan hometown called ‘Kalamazoo Zoo.’”

Kuo opted to teach, and ended up in rural Arkansas at a school for kids who had been expelled from other institutions. After completing her program with Teach for America, Kuo returned to Harvard for law school. After that, she worked with undocumented immigrants in Oakland, Calif., then clerked for a judge on the federal appeals court. Eventually, she ended up at the Prison University Project, which grants college degrees to prisoners. There, just when she had given up “completely on ever finding a partner,” she met her husband.

Now, the two live in Paris, where she teaches law and society classes at the American University of Paris. She has a new book out soon.

Carl E. Morris
At the end of his senior year, Carl E. Morris ’03, then-Ivy League football MVP for two years running, signed with the Indianapolis Colts. During his six-year professional football career, he transferred to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Miami Dolphins, New Orleans Saints, and, eventually, the San Diego Chargers.

As stressful as college athletics can be, Morris describes professional football as infinitely more difficult. “It was a lot of work and it was a lot tougher than most people would think from the outside,” he says. Much of the anxiety came from “always fighting for your job.” Ultimately, though, Morris was grateful for the time he spent playing, because it was “something unique that not a lot of people have the opportunity to do.”

Now, he works in the surgical field, doing marketing for a company called KCI, which focuses on wound care. Although he has moved on from playing football, Morris remains a devoted Crimson fan, and says he tries to make it up to Cambridge once a year to see Harvard play.

Justin A. Erlich
Justin A. Erlich ’03 is single-handedly responsible for the transformation of the Quincy Grille from an unreliable, modest dive into the popular late-night eatery it is today. But Erlich’s post-college legacy has been far less culinary. He worked as a teaching assistant at Harvard before joining the Kerry campaign in 2004, going to law school, clerking for a federal judge, and consulting at McKinsey & Company. Today, he advises California Attorney General Kamala Harris as her special assistant for technology, privacy & data.

His interest in the public sector dates back to his college days, so he isn’t surprised at where he ended up. But in the future, he is interested in venturing into the “fourth sector,” which he describes as “how to get all the other sectors (public, private, non-profit) to work together.”

Richard T. Halvorson
Richard T. Halvorson ’03 is the CEO and founder of Synergy Fuels, where he primarily focuses on energy technologies. Currently, he works with a nuclear engineer “to create innovative approaches to how we do nuclear power.” But he’s a man of many interests, just as he was in college. Halvorson is also interested in global efforts to open developing countries, like Cuba. And he’s exploring a collaboration with the Marines to advance human performance. In addition, he eventually hopes to work to improve inner-city schools.

But deep down, he explains jokingly, all his work is merely an attempt to satiate this newspaper’s readership. “I’m just trying to live up to what The Crimson asked me to do all those years ago,” Halvorson says.

Matthew E. Spotnitz
Since he last spoke with Fifteen Minutes, Dr. Matthew E. Spotnitz ’03 finished his thesis on nanotechnology. In fact, it was published—“I’m very proud of that,” he says.

After college, Spotnitz went to University of California at Los Angeles for a master’s in physical chemistry. There, he started to explore “how cool it would be to use nanotechnology to fight and diagnose disease.” He headed to medical school, then back to Harvard for a degree in public health.

Currently, Spotnitz is a radiology resident at Pennsylvania State University, where is learning diagnostic and interventional radiology. He also tries to keep up with his research.

Julia Jarcho
When Julia Jarcho ’03 was a freshman at Harvard, she was cast in what she described as “a really bad Shakespeare production.” She spent so much time sitting around, she says, that she decided she would never do it again. She remembers thinking: “I’m never going to let someone tell me what to do.”

This manifesto led her to a passion for “making things.” Now settled in New York City, she works as a playwright and director at her company, Minor Theater. In 2013, her play “Grimly Handsome” won an Obie, a prestigious award for off-Broadway plays. She is also a professor in New York University’s English department.

Jarcho categorizes her plays as “experimental theater” because “they’re narrative, but the narratives tend to be bent or fractured or fragmented.” She exlores themes of desire, violence, and identity.