December 2015
A Periodic Publication



Alumni Office Message

Welcome to the VIS alumni newsletter, a periodic publication.  You are receiving this newsletter because you regsitered on our Alumni Network.  This is our attempt to share information about the school and about your fellow alumni.  It is also a venue to celebrate alumni successes, notify you about events, and assist with alumni networking.  If you have any questions or annoucements, please email them to

School News


Alumni Network

We have 50 new registrants on our Alumni Network since sending out the last newsletter. Total registrants is now close to 700. We are currently researching a proper alumni database so that we can be in better contact with our alumni not only through the newsletter but also through reunion events and career networking opportunities.

Refugee Assistance

We at VIS gathered in September to discuss how we could help the refugee crisis in Austria. Below you will see a wide variety of efforts being spearheaded by both staff and alumni. Well done everyone!

Jim Pearson

Many of you probably already heard about the passing of Jim Pearson on October 26 after a brave battle with pancreatic cancer. For those of you who had the good fortune to have Jim as your music teacher in the Primary School, you will be aware of the extraordinary role that he played in creating a passion for choral and instrumental music. The annual Primary Choir events were so popular that families would wait for hours in the mall just to get a good seat in the theatre. Jim took great pride in establishing a sense of belonging with every child that he taught. On the VIS Alumni Facebook page, students who left VIS 25 years ago speak with huge admiration for the man who still remembered their names many years after they left the school. Funeral services and a celebration of Jim's life were held in Vienna on November 21.  Please email the if you would like to send memories or photos about Jim to be printed in the 2015-16 VIS yearbook.

PA to the Director

After 18 years of service and working under six school Directors, Janice Lopez retired from VIS. Janice was a dedicated employee who was loyal to the Director and the VIS Board. She was reliable, trust-worthy, hard-working and committed to the school's mission. She will be truly missed by her colleagues. She returned to her beloved home country, the Philippines, at the end of November. Ursula Ullmann is now the PA to the Director.

Connected Learning

After many years of research and analysis, the school implemented its Connected Learning (1:1 computer) programme in the 2015-16 school year. For grades 4-5-6, the students have the opportunity to use a Macbook during classtime for a variety of on-line activities and research. Children in grades ELC - 3 were recently given iPads that were loaded with age appropriate Apps to facilitate learning. Next year, the proramme will expand further into the Secondary school.

Alumni Parents

Good news, we have a growing pool of alumni parents (over a dozen) who now have their children attending VIS. Many say they want their children to have the same experience they did. If you are interested in enrolling your child at VIS, then please contact

Alumni Events


1990 Reunion

August 2015

2005 Reunion

September 2015

Class of 1994 Charity Event

September 2015

Our active alumni couldn't turn a blind eye to the refugee crisis in Austria. A successful wheelchair rugby fundraising event was held at VIS in September. Over 100 people attended and they raised 2,500 Euros, which was donated to Caritas. The event was organised by Shadi Abou Zahra and photographed by Shervin Rafsandjani, both 1994 graduates of VIS.

VIS Winter Reunion 2015

December 2015

This annual reunion will, once again, be held at the Leopold Café starting at 10pm on December 26. Many thanks to Shimi Buchacher and Marc Melich for organising the gathering. Close to 250 people have already expressed interest in attending on Facebook. In the spirit of giving, the VIS Alumni Association has partnered with Life2Live (l2L), a non-profit organisation founded by five VIS alumni. Two Euros from every guest will go directly to one of the current projects that L2L is working on.

Life2Live Charity Event

January 2016

This is a musical charity event tentatively scheduled for Saturday, 23 January 2016 in the VIS William Kirk Theatre. Please check the VIS calendar for more details. Life2Live is a non-profit organisation started by five VIS alumni whose main goal is to help the refugees in Austria.

1996 Reunion

June 2016

The 20th reunion for the Class of 1996 is currently scheduled as a BBQ event for Saturday, 18 June 2016 starting at 12 noon at VIS. To date, over 40 people have expressed interest in attending. Please contact the organizer, Patrizia Reindl-Schweighofer, if you want more information or check your class Facebook page. More details will be shared in 2016.

1991 Reunion

Summer 2016

The Class of 1991 is in the initial planning stages for a 25 year reunion in summer 2016.  Since the 2011 reunion was a such a huge success, the thinking is to repeat the format used then, which involved a kick-off event at the school premises on a Friday evening, then Heuriger on the Saturday evening, followed by an overnight stay somewhere outside of Vienna on the Sunday to Monday night. Please contact Armando Piedra or Natascha Wickramasinghe to share your ideas and find out more information.


Alumni News


Over the past year or so, we've been collecting stories about our alumni. Most of them were provided to the Development Office from VIS faculty, who keep in regular contact with our alumni. Want your story in print? Then please email

Alex Wilson (1990)

Alex is a composer, arranger, performer and educator in the world of Latin music and jazz. In 1993, after gaining a degree in Electronics and Computer Engineering from the University of York, he embarked on a professional career as a pianist. With a deep experience of international collaborations and the ability to work in English, Spanish, French and German, Alex's projects include the Afro-Latin project Mali Latino commissioned by Aldeburgh Music (Benjamin Britten's music centre) and recorded/mixed at Steve Winwood and Peter Gabriel's studios. The project won a 'Top of the World' accolade from Songlines Magazine.

He now runs his own record label Alex Wilson Records with eight album releases and a production company Services for Musicians. Continually in demand as a pianist, recent years have seen Alex accompany Jamaican guitar legend Ernest Ranglin, two appearances with Wynton Marsalis and performances with the fantastically unique production Do You Speak Djembe. In the commercial world, Alex writes prolifically for the screen through his production company Latin Music for TV and Film with placements on CNN, the US drama series 24, the feature films From Prada to Nada and Sandra Bullock's The Proposal, a solo piano film score for artwork at London's Saatchi Gallery and a featured track on the Xbox Just Dance 3 game. Find Alex at

Jose Blesa (1983)

He recently worked on the Costa Concordia Wreck Removal Project in Giglio Island, Italy. He has held several international senior and staff project management positions with major oil companies including: Parker Drilling, Exterran, National Oilwell Varco, and Schlumberger. Jose has been in charge of delivering major projects for clients such as PDVSA, Woodside, Weatherford, and Exxon Mobil. These projects included concept developments of harsh environment (Arctic) drilling rigs, gas treatment plants, and compression plants. He holds an Industrial Engineering degree from the University Jose Maria Vargas in Caracas, Venezuela, and an MBA from Keller Graduate School of Management. He has been an active Project Management Professional (PMP) since 2005.

Ramin Farinpour (1998)

He studied English & European Law at the University of Essex, with an Erasmus year at the University of Amsterdam. Following his LL.B, he continued with an LL.M at the University of Essex in EU Law. After completing his national civilian service in Austria, his work life started at the European Ombudsman in Strasbourg, followed by working for the Austrian Federal Ministry of European and International Affairs in Vienna, DG Enlargement of the European Commission in Brussels as a Project Manager for several years, before ending up in his current job at the Academy of European Law in Trier, Germany.

Amy Siegfried (1997)

She completed a programme in media design at the SAE Vienna. She worked as a designer for a few years and then moved into the marketing team of a Viennese law firm. She then moved to the UK, where she studied Drama at the University of Exeter and started an MA in contemporary dance. Recently, she completed a PGCE in primary teaching and now supports children with speech and language difficulties.

Ben Cornish (2007)

Ben Cornish married Katie Shifman in July 2015. They are living and teaching in Toronto, Canada.

Paula Mandel (2002)

She received BFA from the School of the Art institute of Chicago. She currently owns a screen printing shop in Southern California -

Lila Ramos (1985)

Assistant Secretary Lila Ramos Shahani is currently Head of Communications of the Human Development and Poverty Reduction Cabinet Cluster, which covers 26 Philippine government agencies dealing with poverty and development. She is also spokesperson of the Advocacy and Communications Group of the Inter-Agency Council Against (Human) Trafficking. She was formerly Assistant Secretary and Head of Communications of the Philippine National Anti-Poverty Commission. She also spent many years in New York, where she worked for Oxford University Press, the United Nations Children's Fund and the United Nations Development Programme. Shahani did her undergraduate work at Brown University, received a Masters Degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and is now a doctoral candidate at Oxford University.

Matthew Clarke (2010)

He did a four-year bachelor's degree from the University of Edinburgh in Molecular Genetics. At the moment, he is performing cancer research for his master's degree at the Institute for Genetics and Molecular Medicine in Edinburgh.

Thomas Hohenberg (1999)

He studied law at the University of Vienna from 2000 - 2005 and completed a postgraduate degree at University College London in 2005/2006. In 2007/2008 he worked at Citigroup in New York and from 2008 to 2013 in reputable law firms in Vienna. In 2014 he established Hohenberg Law and is specialized in Corporate Law, Immigration Law and Real Estate Law.

Rafael Kroiunigg

Rafael attended VIS from 1993-2006. He holds an MA in Modern European and British History (Balliol College, University of Oxford) and is currently reading for a PhD in History at the University of Cambridge, supervised by Sir Richard J Evans. His AHRC-funded research explores "the lives and afterlives" of two subcamps of the Mauthausen concentration camp (Ebensee and Loiblpass) between their inception in 1943 and beyond their memorialisation in the postwar period. Kropiunigg's first book Eine österreichische Affäre: Der Fall Borodajkewyczwas published by Czernin Verlag in early 2015. A shorter, English version of this study is available in this year's volume of the Austrian History Yearbook: 'The Rehabilitated Austrians and the Borodajkewycz Affair', Austrian History Yearbook 46 (2015), 360-385.

Patti Marchesi

Patti is an Assistant Professor of English at LaGrange College. She earned her doctorate in English literature at the University of Colorado at Boulder. "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is featured in her doctoral dissertation, which explored the theatricality of magic on the early modern English stage.

She spent five years on the faculty of Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff before coming to LaGrange this fall. LaGrange College's focus on global engagement appeals to Marchesi, who speaks three languages and has working knowledge of others.

In some ways, Marchesi is an unlikely Shakespeare scholar. A native of Brazil, her first language was Portuguese. She moved to Europe with her family at age 11 and attended high school at Vienna International School in Austria.

Her love of English literature blossomed during that time, and she came to the United States for college, majoring in English at Hamilton College, then getting her master's in English literature at the University of Delaware.

Amana Khana (2002)

She recently wrote a moving Op-Ed for the popular British newspaper The Guardian, entitled "We Shed More Tears when the West is Attacked - and more Blood". The article opens by stating, "Much has been said about the asymmetry of western grief, which weeps for Paris and shrugs at blasts in Beirut or Baghdad. But that is not the only disparity in the way the east and west reacts in the face of terrorist attacks. When terror strikes the west, it is rare that just tears flow. The blood of those we bomb flows, too."

Purang Mafi (2000)

Five VIS Alumni headed by Purang Mafi started a non-profit organisation called Life2Live. The organisation focuses on those people who lack the basic needs. They call these the five pillars of life: food, water, shelter, medicine and education. In Purang's recent email to VIS, he said: "We truly value the trust of our donors and supporters. Therefore LIFE2LIVE emphasises on accountability and transparency in all its projects. Our team works voluntarily and 100% of all donations reach the people in need. With the help of the many volunteers who assist LIVE2LIVE, we are able to provide a variety of support." The following is a summary of some of their projects that are helpding refugees in Austria:

  1. Food and clothing distribution
  2. Shelter assistance and information regarding registration
  3. Charity events to raise more funds
  4. Kids Art workshops (coming soon)

Haas Family

The Haas' are currently spread across three continents: Africa, Asia and the US. Astrid is an economist in South Sudan and Uganda for the policy think tank, the International Growth Centre. She works with the governments in both countries on demand led policy advice based on frontier research (learn more about Astrid here). Oliver is a design engineer based in Hong Kong, working for the city's biggest carrier Cathay Pacific Airways. As part of their Innovation Centre, he is developing technologies that we will see in airports and airplanes in the near future. Nathaniel is in the final months of his degree in Marketing and Business Administration at the University of Miami in the United States at the same time as working as a successful DJ.

Our mission is to empower all of our students to be successful and responsible in a nurturing and diverse learning community, so that they can achieve their potential in a changing world.

In harmony with the ideals of the IB learner profile, and the spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, we aim for students to be inquiring, inspired, and involved lifelong learners.

Strasse der Menschenrechte 1
1220 Vienna, Austria
phone: +43 (1) 203-5595
fax: +43 (1) 203-0366

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