1780 – The Official Blog of Transylvania University

1780 | The Official Blog of Transylvania University

Transylvania to host panel featuring outstanding alumni April 25

headshots of four people

From sending a solar sail craft into space to producing a Billy Ray Cyrus video, Transylvania University alumni have a lot of interesting things to talk about.

Four of them are visiting their alma mater Thursday, April 25, at 6:30 p.m. in Carrick Theater for this year’s TOPs (Transy’s Outstanding Pioneers) Alumni Panel sponsored by the Center for Academic and Professional Enrichment.

Transylvania students, visitors arriving early for Alumni Weekend and the general public are invited to the panel discussion, which will be followed by breakout sessions.

“It isn’t every day that you get to network with a decorated foreign services officer, NASA propulsion technologist and author, an FBI intelligence analyst, and a director, producer and writer all in one place,” said Tracy Stephens Dunn ’90, assistant dean for academic affairs. “They are all eager to share their experiences with the Transy community. Speaking with these professionals can certainly give students a valuable connection when they consider careers in these areas.”

TOPs panelists

Mariju Bofill ’99 is the coordinator for logistics and platforms in the Office of the Coordinator for Afghan Relocation Efforts. She was the acting senior director and deputy senior director for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the National Security Council at the White House. Before the NSC, Bofill served as chief of staff to the assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere at the U.S. Department of State. She also was a foreign policy adviser at U.S. Southern Command in Miami, where she was the first adviser to be deployed on the Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort. Additionally, she has served in diplomatic assignments in Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, France, Greece and Mexico.

Bofill began her career at the Department of State as a presidential management fellow. In Washington, D.C., she was the special assistant to the assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs, special assistant to the assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs and country desk officer for France, Malta and Monaco.

A recipient of multiple superior and meritorious honor awards from the Department of State, Bofill received the Joint Civilian Service Achievement Award by the Office of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Department of State’s Equal Employment Opportunity Award and the American Foreign Service Association’s William R. Rivkin Award for Constructive Dissent.

A lifetime member of the Council on Foreign Relations, she received her J.D. from American University’s Washington College of Law and her B.A. from Transylvania.

Les Johnson ’84 is a physicist, NASA technologist and author. He was the principal investigator for the NASA Near-Earth Asteroid Scout mission, which launched into space aboard Artemis 1 in 2022, as well as many other space technology missions and projects. During his career at NASA, Johnson served as the manager for the Space Science Programs and Projects Office, the In-Space Propulsion Technology Project and the Interstellar Propulsion Research Project. He holds three space technology patents. 

Johnson is an elected member of the International Academy of Astronautics, a fellow of the British Interplanetary Society and a member of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. He is also the author of “A Traveler’s Guide to the Stars,” a popular science book about how we might one day reach the stars, and multiple science fiction novels.

Johnson earned his B.A. from Transylvania in 1984 and M.S. in physics from Vanderbilt University in 1986.

A native of Greensburg, Kentucky, Blake Judd ’04 is an award-winning producer and director whose unconventional path to success began at Transylvania. Originally majoring in computer science, Judd switched to English his junior year seeing the landscape of technology was rapidly changing to cater to creatives who did not want to learn coding and technical aspects of computing. Influenced by professors on campus including Ingrid Fields, Tay Fizdale, Anthony Vital, Martha Gehringer, Don Dugi and Peter Fosl, Judd began eyeing film school upon graduation.

Along with his passion for film and writing, Judd played three seasons for the Transylvania men’s basketball team. He was a member of Don Lane’s final team in 2000-01 and played two years under Brain Lane while starting the first game in the Beck Center. 

Upon graduation, Judd realized the cost and obligations of film school, choosing instead to stay in Kentucky. He began working in local television before finding his niche a decade later in the film landscape with music-based content. Judd has written, produced and directed more than 80 music videos for the likes of Kid Rock, Sturgill Simpson, Billy Ray Cyrus, Blackberry Smoke, Black Stone Cherry, Evanescence, Amanda Shires and Thomas Rhett. Rhett’s video went to No. 1 on the CMT Hot Country Countdown.

The short film “Shooter Jennings’ the Other Life,” written, produced and directed by Judd, won the top prize at the 2013 HorrorHound Convention. A feature documentary on Charlie Louvin, “Charlie Louvin: Still Rattlin’ the Devil’s Cage” featuring George Jones and Emmylou Harris, premiered at the 2014 Nashville Film Festival. 

Currently, Judd is producing a film “Bluebell” written by Jerome Dillon of Nine Inch Nails with Knight Shamrock Productions out of Lexington, as well as documentary projects for Kid Rock’s Rock The Country tour and a second Blackberry Smoke project. He is slated to produce the 2024 Kentucky Music Hall of Fame program in the fall.

Elizabeth Harvey Matson ’94 graduated with a degree in political science. She earned her master’s degree in international politics from the University of Kentucky’s Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce. 

Matson joined the FBI as an intelligence analyst in September 1996. She spent eight years at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C., working international terrorism and counterintelligence matters. The opportunity to return to Kentucky arrived in 2004, when she was offered an analyst position in the FBI’s Louisville Field Office. 

In 2008, the FBI’s intelligence program underwent a significant transformation, and Elizabeth became the collection management coordinator, a strategic analyst position assessing FBI collection efforts to address threat understanding and mitigation. She has been in this role since 2008 and helped create — and now teaches — the required collection management course for all FBI analysts assigned to the position. Matson also serves on the national FBI Collection Management Working Group, which is shaping new policies and providing guidance to all field offices. She is also an intelligence analyst assessor and serves on interview panels as well as review boards to hire new FBI intelligence analysts. 

During her career, Matson served on various working groups at the national level, was detailed to other government agencies for temporary assignments, served as a primary relief supervisor for many years, and traveled domestically and internationally to support investigations, earning numerous awards, including the FBI’s prestigious Exemplary Performance Award.