Forward under 40 awards honor nine young alumni

March 12, 2013

Photo: collage of Forward under 40 winners

Top row, left to right: Forrest Woolworth, Justin Beck, Murat Kalayoglu, Jensine Larsen. Bottom row, left to right: Adam Schweitzer, Dar Rollins, Natasha Haynes-Smith, Serena Pollack, Ben Relles.

Ben Relles is taking his UW education viral.

The 1997 graduate and founder of one of YouTube’s most viewed channels, “Barely Political,” Relles is transforming the world of online video and digital media. As head of programming strategy at YouTube, Relles instills his Wisconsin values as a leader and innovator, all while helping others bring their ideas to life.

As founder and CEO of the World Pulse website, 1999 grad Jensine Larsen gives a voice to women in some of the world’s most impoverished and remote locations. The website has not only attracted attention from mainstream media outlets, it has also been recognized by New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. In his book “Half the Sky,” Kristof recommends joining World Pulse as one of the top four things people can do in 10 minutes to support women globally.

Relles and Larsen are among the nine young UW-Madison alumni honored with the 2013 Forward under 40 awards, presented by the Wisconsin Alumni Association. WAA describes all recipients as living examples of the Wisconsin Idea, the guiding philosophy upon which this award is based.

“There were many admirable applicants for this year’s award, and that made the selection committee’s job extremely difficult,” said Dale Nitschke, a 1984 graduate and member of the national WAA Board of Directors who served on the award selection committee. “These particular alumni stood out as being extraordinary, even by Badger standards.”

Honorees are featured in the sixth edition of Forward under 40, a publication distributed in March 2013 to UW-Madison alumni and WAA members. The 2013 award recipients are:

Natasha Haynes-Smith MA’97, Union City, N.J. Working behind the scenes as a producer for the popular cable TV show Showbiz Tonight, she takes center stage in her role as a mentor to aspiring journalists.

Murat Kalayoglu ’94, Ph.D.’98, MD’00, Silver Spring, Md. Founder of HealthHonors Corporation and president and CEO of Topokine Therapeutics, he develops chemicals designed to alter fat cells and hopes to ultimately help cancer patients.

Jensine Larsen ’99, Portland, Ore. As founder and CEO of the World Pulse website, she gives women from developing nations a chance to tell their stories and provides them with a forum to work for social change.

Serena Pollack ’97, Fox Point, Wis. A partner at Gonzalez Saggio & Harlan LLP and chair of the firm’s national restaurant and hospitality practice, she is a highly regarded advocate for the Gulf Coast seafood industry.

Ben Relles ’97, Fort Washington, Penn. Head of programming strategy at YouTube, he helps others bring their ideas to life as a leader and innovator of online video and digital media.

Adam Schweitzer ’99, Jericho, N.Y., and Dar Rollins ’95, Sherman Oaks, Calif. Co-heads of talent at International Creative Management, one of the world’s largest talent and literary agencies, they help guide the careers of actors, writers and other artists in film, television, publishing, music and theater.

Justin Beck ’09 and Forrest Woolworth ’09, Madison, Wis. The two entrepreneurs are making Wisconsin a big player in the video game industry as co-founders of PerBlue — a mobile and social gaming company based in Madison.

Honorees receive a commemorative silver medallion designed by artist Jason Noble ’07, and are invited to engage with alumni, students and the campus community throughout the year.

More than 80 alumni have been honored with the Forward under 40 award since its creation in 2007.

For more information about this year’s honorees, visit forwardunder40.com.

—Libby Blanchette