University of Pittsburgh Alumni Spotlight: Jennifer (Beaver) ’01 and Bill Viola Jr. ’99
Jennifer (Beaver) Viola graduated from the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg in 2001 with a BS in Business Management. Bill Viola Jr. graduated summa cum laude in 1999 with a BS in Political Science and Sociology minor.
Recently celebrating their 10th wedding anniversary, Bill and Jenn met while students at Pitt-Greensburg. Bill said that meeting Jenn was his fondest memory on campus, along with the Spring Flings and school trips to New York City. Jenn added that the wedding party photos were taken in front of the campus’ fountain.
Both Jenn and Bill were working when they were drawn to Pitt-Greensburg. Jenn said she had a “great job” as a manager at Comtel Communications, so she wanted to stay close to home. Bill was teaching martial arts full-time. He said the campus was “the perfect fit in proximity while offering me solid pre-law options.”
Bill said the campus had a “hometown feel.” His first impression was the friendliness, as he saw a lot of familiar faces from the Norwin and Hempfield areas that made the transition very easy. Jenn agreed that the campus was welcoming and “not overwhelming.”
Ecology of the Rocky Mountains—a weeklong field study—with Dr. Tim Savisky was one of Jenn’s favorite memories as a Pitt-Greensburg student, which she was able to share with some of her closest friends, including now-husband Bill, Addie (Viola) Krisfalusy ’01, and Jenna (Reamer) O’Shell ’02. She also enjoyed her time in Japanese class with “Sensei” Vitaly: “He encouraged me to take a leadership role in the Bushido Club where I became president.”
“Without a doubt,” Bill recalled Dr. Carl Poke as the faculty member who had the greatest influence on him. “He inspired me to be a better student and set me up as an intern with Federal Congressman Ron Klink of the Pennsylvania 4th District in North Huntingdon,” Bill said. “Dr. Poke was a great mentor and advisor who helped me realize my potential.” He added that “you had to respect a man who could rock the bow tie like Dr. Poke!”
Immediately after graduation, Bill established his own production company, Kumite Classic Entertainment Corp. Under its umbrella, he produces fitness expos and martial arts events, publishes magazines and books, and offers talent management services in the Pittsburgh region. He earned membership into SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild‐American Federation of Television and Radio Artists) and has had the distinction of being an Amazon-bestselling author. To this day, he still teaches at the same karate school (Allegheny Shotokan) that his father established in 1969 and loves being Sensei. He recently launched a life-skills based curriculum called Sensei Says.
Bill said that these days his biggest inspiration is his daughter, Gabriella (Gabby) Capri Viola: “She just started kindergarten and is active in karate, swimming, and piano.” Gabby inspired Jenn to start her own business, 123 Mommy and Me, a child-parent bonding class. Following graduation, Jenn continued her education and received a master’s degree in Elementary Education. Today, she teaches children social skills through music, movement, and art. And, in her spare time, she likes to stay active, stating, “I love working out and keeping up with the latest trends in fitness and nutrition.”
In his spare time, Bill likes to write. He said, “I have a new self-help book series in development called CommonSensei that offers advice to young people who are ready to take on the world. I also enjoy staying active in the film industry both as a writer, consultant, and producer. My most recent work is Tough Guys (2017), which was inspired by my book Godfathers of MMA.”
As to why Bill and Jenn are interested in staying connected to Pitt-Greensburg, Bill said, “The University represents my roots. I love Western Pennsylvania and the opportunities this region has given me. I own and operate Pittsburgh’s largest multi-sport convention and fitness expo, but few people know that my first Kumite Classic event was hosted at Pitt-Greensburg in the gymnasium. Pitt-Greensburg was my springboard.”