At Marietta College, our pioneers have the knowledge, the passion and the courage to pursue change for the greater good, to make a difference in the lives of others, and to pave the way for generations to come. These are stories of people who are committed to making an impact in their professions, their communities and beyond.
Studio Art and Communication major Rome, Italy (Education Abroad)
Artist • Entrepreneur • Youth Mentor • PioBiz Proof of Concept Winner • Marietta Community Foundation Intern
For Studio Art major Leah Seaman ’21, the thought of becoming a “starving artist” was never what brought her sleepless nights laden with anxiety — it was the idea of having a typical 9-to-5 desk job doing the same work for years on end.
Coming from a small town in rural West Virginia — population of less than 3,000 people — this daughter of two entrepreneurs began creating commissioned works in high school.
“For the past six years, making art was a way for me to make sure my parents never pushed me to get an ‘actual job’ — and please make sure you use air quotes with that! My parents never pressed me to work in a restaurant or things like that because I was so busy earning an income with my work. The more I did it, the more my parents were like, ‘Oh, you’re actually making a living. You’re fine, you keep doing that because we can see you’re maintaining your work ethic.’ And it felt natural because I never really saw any other options.”
Leah works in a variety of mediums and her work has garnered interest both inside and outside the art scene. Most recently, two pen drawings were selected for the 2020 Emerging Artists Exhibit by The Arts & Culture Center in Charleston, West Virginia. One other drawing from that same four-drawing series was included in the 2019 Juried Art Exhibit, as well. She also sells hand-painted customized clothing — from jackets to graduation caps — and is a widely sought-after commissioned artist whose works have been created on barns, an old mill saw and a school bus, in addition to traditional portraiture.
Above: Leah poses in her studio with drawings created during her study abroad in Italy. Inset: Leah creates work in her studio as well as on location.
During her time at Marietta College, she worked with the Entrepreneurship Program and the PioBiz Competition to help develop a business plan that will allow her to create an art company, under which she will be able to continue producing commissioned work and customized apparel, as well as pursue her own personal works for exhibit.
“As far as what motivates me to create in the morning, my favorite thing about art — and this is ironic because, as a Communication major, I love to talk and I have a lot of words — but most of the time, the only time I really feel like I can ever communicate is when I’m creating visually. Because that’s the time that people can really connect with what’s going on in my own mind. And it’s just so much fun being able to have that visual conversation with people and also seeing how they interpret what I’ve done completely differently than what I intended.”
When considering herself a “Pioneer,” Leah says it goes beyond dedicating herself to being a self-supporting, full-time artist — it’s about being the example and the voice to younger artists that she never had growing up. In addition to working nearly nonstop on commissioned works for her patrons, during the pandemic, she began mentoring a group of girls in her hometown of Philippi, West Virginia. She wants to be the example she never had — a full-time artist from a low-income, limited-resources community who allowed herself time to identify and develop her passions in life.
Leah — I, Pioneer
“I said it so much over the summer, I probably annoyed my girls: You do not need to know at all what you want to do right now. There is no part of you that needs to know that because you have not lived enough to figure it out. And if someone tries to pressure you into figuring out what you want to do or make a huge financial decision based off of zero life experience, then you need to tell them to re-prioritize their advice. It’s so much pressure to put on young people and I had so many nights of anxiety because I felt so much pressure to identify ‘the career.’ The career kind of surprised me.”
While many people struggled with the isolation aspect of the pandemic, Leah felt justified in being able to work in her art studio for hours. The pandemic gave her the time that she needed to isolate herself in a way that helped her grow her work.
“Over the (2020) summer, I was cranking out work. I was waking up at 6:00 and going to bed at 11:00, trying to get as many pieces done as possible before I came back to school. A few of my patrons sent me videos of the pieces they had me do when they gave it to their loved ones. I called my mom the other day and said, ‘I feel like a superhero right now. I did that.’ That’s so cool to see in the midst of all this insanity, someone found joy in something I spent time doing. Sometimes, when I get down, I’ll watch those videos and think, ‘It’s all cool. It’s bigger than me.’”
See more of Leah’s art on her professional social media pages:
Ashley Thomas ’14
Garfield Heights , Ohio
M.Ed., Cleveland State University B.A. Sport Management, Marietta College
Founder of Sevynteenth, a nonprofit dedicated to the advancement of today’s youth • First African-American person elected to the Garfield Heights City Schools Board of Education
There are no days off for Ashley Thomas ’14. As a single mother of a young daughter, a Care Coordinator for Catholic Charities, Diocese of Cleveland, and the founder of the Sevynteenth nonprofit, Ashley may look like she’s being pulled in a thousand different directions, but in reality, she’s the one pushing everything else forward.
For her, it’s about progressing her community — and it all starts with the children. With the birth of her daughter, Sevyn, Ashley became driven to help improve the educational system in Garfield Heights, which is why she decided to run for a seat on the school board. When she was sworn in, she became the first African-American person elected to the Garfield Heights City Schools Board of Education.
“I ran a city-wide campaign, knocked on a lot of doors, canvassed businesses and spoke to a lot of community members. Our school board hadn’t changed in 20 years but our student population did. Our district is about 85 percent minority and comprised of five schools. Our city just celebrated its 100th year and I’m the first African American elected for a full term on the school board. Our district offers a good education, and our board is working together to improve the way our district works. The community is very open about what they want to see happen and they were ready for a change!”
Listen to a podcast with Ashley Thomas
Above: Ashley at the Garfield Heights Board of Education office. Inset: Ashley’s campaign materials that she used to go door to door helped to get her elected.
In addition to helping lead the district at the administrative level, Ashley found that a great deal of impact could be made by providing additional learning opportunities to children through community outreach, which is why she founded the nonprofit, Sevynteenth. The organization serves the Greater Cleveland area by providing educational programming and mentoring to children in the region, as well as opportunities for other community leaders to become involved with local youth.
The endless hours of planning, fundraising and activism that Ashley puts into her community are a reflection of how much she cares about her Cleveland-area neighborhood.
“I, Pioneer of Garfield Heights City School Board, will help change the lives of every student in this district by making sure every child has access to exceptional educational opportunities.”
See more profiles on social media
Adriana Roberts ’90
San Francisco, California
B.A. Radio/Television, Minored in Art
Owner and CEO of Bootie Mashup • Activist for Trans Community
“I throw parties for a living. I jump up on stage, get everyone excited about having a good time and we have a dance party. You wonder, ‘How the hell did MC prepare me for this?’”
Though very little of it made sense at the time, Adriana Roberts’ undergraduate experience at Marietta College was a roadmap to her career as the owner and CEO of Bootie Mashup, an international company that throws nightclub and mashup dance parties.
For starters, Roberts came to Marietta determined to create her own major: creative media. She gravitated to creative projects — she wrote and created her own video and film projects, hosted a radio show and a cable-access show, and worked in the theatre. Her work study job was in the College Relations Office, where she learned graphic design. As the McDonough Leadership Program was still in its early years, she paid attention to the business and leadership tones that permeated from the newly established program into other academic programs. And, of course, at the core of her liberal arts education was a strong focus on written and oral communication.
When Roberts graduated from Marietta, she had been involved in so many different programs and extracurricular groups that she had keys to just about every academic building on campus. Though she settled into a Radio/Television major, an Art minor and a Communication Certificate, it was graphic design that would carry her through the early part of her career after she graduated.
“Everybody at MC thought I was going to move to Hollywood and become a famous director,” she says. Roberts did move to California to attend graduate school at the University of Southern California — but her time at USC was short-lived. “I’m from Ohio and there was plenty of [financial aid] for me. USC was a rich kid school and I just couldn’t afford it. I went to San Francisco to visit a friend and then eventually I moved there.”
Listen to a podcast with Adriana Roberts '90
Above: For nearly two decades, Adriana’s company, Bootie Mashup, has brought a special energy to San Francisco’s nightlife and beyond
For years, she worked as a graphic designer, but the pull to do something else was growing. That “something else” would require her to focus all that she learned at Marietta College and
apply it to what she was passionate about: bringing a vibrant and new experience into the nightclub scene. Roberts’ DJ skills, blended with her theatre experience, strong communication skills and marketing ability, transformed into a high-energy, entertainment company that is based in San Francisco. Bootie Mashup employs a team of DJs from around the world.
“This is such an interdisciplinary career. It’s a confluence of skills that have been weirdly developed during my time at Marietta,” she says.
The pandemic has caused her to switch gears — and even change continents — until the restrictions in California are lifted and people can enjoy packed night clubs and other party venues. Roberts, who has moved to Berlin, Germany, for the foreseeable future, hosts a podcast, radio show, webcasts and virtual Twitch parties.
Flying to Germany brings up another facet of her life that has helped to make others’ lives a bit easier. Roberts, who identifies as a trans feminine woman, is a trans activist and was one of the first people in California to successfully change their gender to “non-binary.” The legislation that was passed in order to offer that identification also included the “X” option in the gender category on her driver’s license. This identification, coupled with educating Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers in airports on transgender identify awareness, allows transgender people to go through airport screenings easier.
“My career and my identity — my day-to-day life — are not wrapped up in gender politics,” she says. “I’m a DJ and an entertainer and a business owner, and I want to normalize (gender rights). Literally, we are only talking about humanizing people. … Awareness is half the battle. Most people are not aware of people other than themselves — whether that’s gender, race, religion. The way that I have chosen to live my life, I always try to lead by example. No soapboxes. I try to be as good as I can to other people.”
Dr. Kenneth Andrus ’70
B.S. Biology/Pre-Med, Marietta College; M.D., The Ohio State University College of Medicine Residency, U.S. Naval Hospital, Portsmouth, Virginia
Fleet Surgeon, United States Pacific Fleet/U.S. Navy • Captain, U.S. Navy (retired) • Medical Doctor (Private Practice) • Veterans Affairs (retired) • Author, The Defender Series & Congratulations and Your Daughter Is Engaged, Now What? A Father’s Emotional Survival Guide
From being a decorated medical officer in the U.S. Navy to becoming a published author, Dr. Kenneth Andrus ’70 understands what it takes to reach whatever goals in life you may set for yourself: preparation.
After he earned a degree in Biology from Marietta, he continued to medical school — following the medical path of his father, who was a physician, and his mother, who was a registered nurse. He completed his residency and was Board Certified in internal medicine at the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Virginia, and he decided to pursue a career in the U.S. Navy. After 24 years, he retired at the rank of Captain. He began a private medical practice but then returned to public service to work for another 12 years with Veterans Affairs.
“And that brings me full circle back to Marietta. I could not have imagined in my wildest dreams that Ms. Kingsbury’s mandatory freshman English writing class with its dreaded ‘Blue Books’ would have such a major impact on my life, both as a physician, leader, and now as an author. I learned how to express my thoughts in writing in a coherent way, notwithstanding this short piece. These statements come with a caveat. In the era of full disclosure, I must admit that I still can’t spell worth a flip — so a shout out to Spell Check — well, unless I’m muttering under my breath, ‘Curse you, spell check.’ ”
As an avid reader, Andrus enjoyed authors like James Michener, Allen Drury, Allen Eckert and C.S. Forrester. It was his time in the service that provided a focus for his newest career as a novelist.
Listen to a podcast with Dr. Kenneth Andrus '70
Above: From the dreaded blue books in Prof. Mary Anne Kingsbury’s freshman English class to serving as the Command Surgeon for the U.S. Navy medical forces in theater during the First Gulf War, Dr. Kenneth Andrus ’70’s life experiences have played important roles in helping him with his newest career as a novelist.
“What really drove me, though, was my experiences in the First Gulf War where I served as the command surgeon for the navy medical forces in theater. I won’t go into the details, but I felt compelled to write a book that provided some insight into the incredibly difficult decisions that had to be made that could not be espoused in a 30-second sound bite on the evening news, i.e., those behind the scene decisions that began with the president and how those decisions impacted the men and women on the front lines who had to execute the mission.”
Of course, his medical and military experiences provided the heart of his book ideas — but he still needed to prepare for the actual writing process.
“[With] study over the ensuing years, writing conferences, and a major assist from three phenomenal mentors, all New York Times best-selling authors: William Bernhardt, William Martin, and Jaquelyn Mitchard, I’ve managed to publish Flash Point and Amber Dawn, the first two novels of a five-novel set.”
Andrus said new authors are usually advised to “write what you know,” but he also adds to really get to know every character.
“The other trick to writing a thriller in the general class of a Tom Clancy novel is to get the details right. With my readers, if I make a mistake on some technical detail, they’re likely to close the book and move on. Research, research, research. Even if you only use 10 percent of what you’ve filed and written in your outline. Sigh — yes, an outline. There’s no way you can get your story arc correct without one. Thinking of just sitting down and knocking out a three-hundred-page novel? Dream on.”
In addition to the military-based thrillers, Flash Point and Amber Dawn, which are part of his Defender Series, Andrus authored, Congratulations, Your Daughter is Engaged. Now What? A Father’s Emotional Survival Guide, a book that proved to be just as challenging to write as his longer novels because of its emotional and personal nature.
With the vantage point of someone who has delved into and succeeded in complex professional fields, Andrus offers his insight — with zero arrogance — into his ability to have fulfilling careers in medicine, the military and in the publishing industry.
“Life will present many second or third chances be it your education at Marietta or in life. Seize the moment, seize the opportunities when they present. Never leave yourself in a position to say, ‘If I had only done ….’ Make the most of where you are and leave everywhere you’ve been a little better for having been there. Learn how to learn; always have an open, active mind; and learn how to adapt and thrive in these changing times.”