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July / August 2010
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Thursday, 08 July 2010

The Sweet Life

Mary Cusano Amsterdam '81

Mary Cusano Amsterdam 

I used to be a lawyer, and everyone hates lawyers; now I make chocolate, and everybody loves chocolate," says Mary Cusano Amsterdam. "It's karmic balance." The former history major is the founder of Amsterdam Chocolates, a boutique candy business in Mountain Lakes, New Jersey. She retired from intellectual property law ten years ago after the birth of her daughter and started making chocolate as a hobby. After getting rave reviews from friends and former co-workers, she began selling her treats full-time.

Amsterdam's business is a one-woman show: she does everything from production to marketing to packaging. She runs the company out of her home, selling a few hundred boxes a year to local customers as well as through her website, amsterdam All of her products—including Belgian chocolate truffles, holiday-themed lollipops, peppermint bark, coconut crisps, chocolate-covered graham crackers, and chocolate-dipped pretzel rods—are nut-free, in honor of her two nut-allergic children. (She even sells "nut" bark made with soy beans.) Her bonbons (priced at $15 for a twelve-piece box) come in such flavors as mango and habanero pepper, cinnamon spice, and Grand Marnier. "For me, it is truly a labor of love," Amsterdam declares on her website, "because the only thing I enjoy more than making the chocolate is seeing how much people enjoy eating it. "

— Erica Southerland '10


Talk of a Nation

Reasey Poch '92

Reasey Poch 

Every workday, Reasey Poch wakes up at 4 a.m. and drives from his home in Virginia to his office in Washington, D.C., to broadcast a radio show halfway around the world. Poch produces an evening news program for Voice of America, which airs in his native country of Cambodia in the Khmer language. As a writer, translator, producer, and interviewer, Poch has a hectic few hours to prepare for each broadcast. "At VOA we have a double mission, to look at the world news and the news in Cambodia," he says. "Because our show is only sixty minutes long, we have to pick and choose stories and there are a lot of last-minute changes."

A survivor of the Khmer Rouge regime—which claimed the lives of several of his family members in the Seventies—Poch moved to the U.S. to attend Cornell's Asian American studies program and began working at Voice of America right after graduation. The network, which originally aired anti-Nazi propaganda during World War II, now broadcasts news in more than forty languages to nations around the world. Poch's interest in Voice of America goes back to early childhood, when he listened to its programming with his father and grandfather.

Poch's show is broadcast via satellite and is available for listening online at In addition to his work in Washington, he has covered stories all over the world and interviewed celebrities such as Robert Redford and Angelina Jolie. But he says the best part of his job is hearing from everyday listeners. "People tell us they rely on us," he says. "That makes you aware your work is important."

— Erica Southerland '10

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Last Updated ( Thursday, 08 July 2010 )