American Magazine March 2015

americanuniversity

This issue, meet DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, learn about the influx of post-9/11 veterans on college campuses across the country, hop on the Metro to Farragut North, and get to know some of AU's 600 Phoenix transplants. Also in the March issue: the psychology behind selfies, attorney Tom Goldstein's path to the Supreme Court, and cartoonist Tony Rubino's tools of the trade.

WRITING TEAM SERVES

UP LATTE TROUBLE

p. 18

RANKS OF STUDENT

VETS ARE SWELLING

p. 22

SICK KIDS ENJOY FACE

TIME WITH CLASSMATES

p. 28

UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE MARCH 2015

25 questions with

Madam Mayor, SPA/MPP ’00

p. 32


An AU insider’s

perspective on next page


Though Michelle Pendoley can carry a tune, the arts

management grad never envisioned a career on the stage.

Instead, as director of public relations at the WOLF TRAP

FOUNDATION FOR THE PERFORMING ARTS,

she supports the scores of musicians and artists who pass

through the Vienna, Virginia, venue each year—including 70

just last summer.

“Public relations touches every part of an organization,

from the artists and managers to the ushers and box office

people,” says the Massachusetts native. “The nature of my

job is incredibly fast-paced. I RARELY SPEND A FULL

DAY AT MY DESK, which is just how I like it.”

The only national park dedicated to the performing arts,

Wolf Trap sits on 100 acres of lush greenery gifted to the US

government in 1966 by the late Catherine Filene Shouse. On

any given evening from May to September, you can hear POP,

COUNTRY, FOLK, BLUES, OR OPERA wafting from

the complex, which includes the 7,028-seat Filene Center and

the 382-seat Barns at Wolf Trap, an intimate indoor venue

housed in two eighteenth-century barns.

Ten months into her job, Pendoley, whose duties include

accompanying photographers to shows (it’s a tough job, but

someone’s gotta do it), IS STILL PINCHING HERSELF.

“Wolf Trap is as good as it gets.”

Michelle Pendoley

CAS/MA ’06

18

22

28

32

Cleo Coyle keeps

readers buzzing

Post-9/11 vets

trade rucksacks

for backpacks

Charity born from

one boy’s battle

for life

Homegrown

Muriel Bowser helms

nation’s capital


1 POV

4 4400 Mass Ave

Ideas, people, perspectives

16 Metrocentered

36 Your American

Connect, engage, reminisce

AMERICAN

American University magazine

Vol. 65, No.3

MANAGING EDITOR

Adrienne Frank, SPA/MS ’08

ASSOCIATE EDITORS

Suzanne Béchamps

Amy Burroughs

STAFF WRITER

Mike Unger

WRITERS

Amy Burroughs

Katlin Chadwick

Adrienne Frank

ART DIRECTOR

Maria Jackson

DESIGNERS

Jel Montoya-Reed

Rena Münster

PHOTOGRAPHER

Jeffrey Watts

CLASS NOTES

Traci Crockett

VICE PRESIDENT,

COMMUNICATIONS

Teresa Flannery

ASSISTANT VICE PRESIDENT,

CREATIVE SERVICES

Kevin Grasty

ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR,

CONTENT STRATEGY

Laura Garner

American is published three

times a year by American

University. With a circulation

of 120,000, American is sent

to alumni and other members

of the university community.

Copyright©2015.

An equal opportunity, affirmative

action university. UP15-003

For information regarding the

accreditation and state licensing

of American University, please

visit american.edu/academics.

Courage after fire

If my husband knew I was devoting many of this column’s

442 words to him, he would be mortified. Sam’s incredibly

humble—but more on that later.

In this issue, writer Mike Unger explores issues affecting

post-9/11 veterans. The idea sprang from David Finkel’s

incredible Thank You for Your Service, which chronicles

soldiers’ return home from Iraq and Afghanistan and their

struggle to reintegrate—both into their families and into

American society. I plowed through the book in two nights

and passed it on to Mike.

As we talked about the book, a story of our own for

American began to take shape. AU—like many institutions

across the country—is seeing an influx of student veterans.

But higher education is just one path young vets can take in

civilian life. Rates of unemployment, homelessness, suicide,

and PTSD are higher among post-9/11 vets than those

without military affiliation. I wondered: Why does one vet

end up in college and another on the streets?

I’m sorry to say, you won’t find an answer in our story.

I don’t even think David Finkel has an answer.

What I do know is how my husband ended up in college.

Sam hails from a no-stoplight town (the town’s lone light

was removed sometime in the late ’90s). He enlisted in the

Air Force to pay for college and left for boot camp a week

after high school graduation.

After five years on active duty, civilian life was jarring.

Sam’s military service, including a tour in the Pentagon,

didn’t mean much to employers, and college presented its

own challenges. After being out of school for six years,

algebra felt like a foreign language. His classmates were

younger and unmarried, and he missed the camaraderie of

military life. Still, Sam pushed forward. Community college

led to a top-25 business school, which led to an MBA from

AU—all while serving in the guard and working full-time.

Sam isn’t one to brag about his accomplishments or his

service. He’ll tell you that—like so many other student vets—

he just did what he had to do. (I’ll tell you, the guy who

struggled with algebra can now decipher derivatives.) His

tireless work ethic, discipline, and commitment to the

mission—traits that always existed but that were honed in

the military—continue to inspire me.

I don’t know, exactly, what brought 328 veterans, their

spouses, and their dependents to AU. I suspect, like Sam,

they believe that higher education is the key to a successful,

satisfying life. Whatever the reason, I say to them: thank you

for your service—you make the AU community stronger.

Adrienne Frank

Managing Editor

Send story ideas to afrank@american.edu.


syllabus

COMMUNICATION 515

Children, Youth, and Digital Culture

Ever since George Gerbner fired up

the RCA Victor in 1960 to study the

impact of TV on kids, researchers

have been riveted by the role of

media in children’s lives. But a half

century after the University of

Pennsylvania professor published

his pioneering cultivation theory, it’s

Twitter, tablets, video games, and

Google that have the attention of

researchers like Margot Susca.

“Digital media changes so rapidly.

As academics and policy makers,

it feels like once we’ve solved one

issue, a new technology has emerged

in its place,” says the School of

Communication professor.

In her popular course—developed

by another giant in the field of

children’s digital media, SOC’s

Kathryn Montgomery—Susca

explores the cognitive, behavioral,

social, and emotional effects of 24/7

connectivity on kids. The class delves

into controversies over violent video

games, sexual and indecent content,

Internet safety, and online privacy and

examines the role of youngsters as

digital media participants, content

creators, and consumers.

“These students grew up with

media, they know media—or they

think they do,” Susca says. “It’s

exciting to explore how media has

shaped their view of the world.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, Susca

created a hashtag (#COMM515) to

encourage real-time discussion

among her 24 tech-savvy students.

“We can debate after-hours. Or if

students are watching TV or reading

an article, they can tweet me in the

middle of the night. It’s all about

meeting today’s digital students

where they are.”

Next swipe

INTERNATIONAL SERVICE 633

Digital Diplomacy

Students explore new digital

diplomatic tools being adopted by

governments around the world in

the wake of developments such as

WikiLeaks and Arab Spring.

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY 466

Cyber Security Risk Management

Data security wonks study the

risks associated with information

management in the digital

economy—and the best practices

to mitigate those risks.

4 AMERICAN MAGAZINE MARCH 2015


expert

3 MINUTES ON . . . Selfies

Stef Woods

Instructor, Department of History,

College of Arts and Sciences

Selfies capture a moment

in time—how we looked,

where we were. Selfies say, “I

was here.” It started with

celebrities, who took selfies as a

way to show a

different side of

themselves. In

the age of the

paparazzi, selfies give celebs

control over

what they

share. Then

they made their

way to youth,

who are active on social media.

A Today/AOL

study showed that

for 65 percent of

teenage girls, selfies boost

self-confidence. It

gives them control over how they

present themselves

online, at a time when

they want more

control than

they’re allowed.

It’s the idea that “I can’t choose

whether I go to school, what my

curfew is, or when I can drive.

But an outfit? That I can do.”

The critics say, “Look

at these girls who are so

obsessed

with their

looks.”

That’s taking

away from their

agency, from their feeling of

comfort in their skin. It

could also be a bit of envy

that’s motivating

judgment. When

someone takes a selfie looking

great in a bikini, I chuckle

to myself and

think I might

do the

same

thing if I looked that good.

Throwing around the term

“narcissism,” when you’re not

a mental health professional,

might not be the best idea,

since narcissism is

a mental health

disorder. All social media,

in some

sense, is

self-promoting. We’re expressing

ourselves in a way that we

hope will get a

response—that’s what

communication is.

There’s so much negativity

in this world. If this

is an easy way to

get a smile or a

confidence boost, why wouldn’t

we do it? Would every phone

have these resources if

it wasn’t something

that was desired?

Would “selfie”

have been named

the Oxford Dictionaries 2013

Word of the Year?

I take “welfies” of myself and my

daughter, and I post them because

they make me

happy. I hope

that someday

she’ll look at

them the same way I look at old

photo albums of my parents.

But in this culture of

likes and positivity, there is

also the culture of

trolls and criticism. In the

case of the Alabama

teenager who was

criticized for tweeting a selfie

at Auschwitz, it came down

to context. If she had included,

“Dad, I’m here on

the anniversary of

your death, thinking

of how we studied

World War II and wishing you

were here with me”—but she

was constrained by

characters. Was it the

best move? Maybe not. But we’re

judging a teenage girl on how

she’s processing grief in the loss

of her father.

It’s human nature

to take a selfie and post it, because

we see

others do

it. Even

President Obama took a selfie

in 2013 with the British and

Danish prime ministers. We’re

staking our own American flag in

whatever our moon is for that day.

FOLLOW US @AU_AMERICANMAG 5


As part of the Department of Literature’s Writer as Witness Program—

now in its 17th year—all incoming students read a common text and

meet with its author. After the colloquium in Bender Arena, most of

the books end up on dorm room shelves, collecting dust.

This year, however, hundreds of copies of Brooke Gladstone’s The

Influencing Machine—which chronicles two millennia of media history

through vivid comics by acclaimed artist Josh Neufeld—found a happy

home in alumna Jennifer Coleman’s Long Beach, Mississippi, classroom.

“I was following news of this year’s Writer as Witness text with

much interest and a tad of envy,” says Coleman, CAS/MFA ’11, who

teaches at Long Beach High in a school district still recovering from

the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. “I couldn’t help but dream

about the lessons and activities that would be possible with such a

versatile and relevant text. I knew my high school students would be

invigorated and engaged with a book like The Influencing Machine.

And that’s when I had this idea: What if AU freshmen were asked

to donate their copy of their Writer as Witness text after they were

finished using it?”

Hundreds of students answered Coleman’s call, and Professor John

Hyman (pictured) spearheaded the effort to ship the paperbacks

south to Mississippi.

“This partnership is just the latest affirmation of many positive

experiences I’ve had since joining the AU family in 2008,” Coleman

says. “The entire Long Beach community thanks you, AU.”

Twenty-five years ago, sharpshooting

point guard Derek Hyra

had sights set on the NBA. When

a coach urged him to venture out

of the suburbs to hone his skills

on New York City’s fabled asphalt

playgrounds, Hyra joined the

Rucker League on 155th Street

in Harlem, where Julius “Dr. J”

Erving and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

once played.

While Hyra didn’t go on to

play at a premier Division I

school, the experience profoundly

shaped his career. Harlem, like

many cities in the late 1980s and

early ’90s, had been devastated

by drugs, gangs, and crime. On

and off the court, Hyra learned

about race in America from

teammates who lived in Harlem

and the Bronx.

Today, as director of the

School of Public Affairs’s new

Metropolitan Policy Center, Hyra

is leading a team of researchers

interested in issues that continue

to plague urbanites: affordable

housing, racial and ethnic

diversity, social service provisions,

and economic development.

The center, which hosts an

urban speaker series showcasing

research by AU faculty and grad

students, houses academics

from across campus. Current

projects include Bradley Hardy’s

examination of the efficacy of the

DC supplemental earned income

tax credit and Daniel Kerr’s

historical research project with

residents of DC’s Community

for Creative Non-Violence

homeless shelter, located just

blocks from the Capitol.

“It’s great that we have

more inclusive, mixed-income

neighborhoods, but when

you really get into these

racially diverse, redeveloping

communities, there is

microsegregation, racial power

imbalances, and social tensions,”

Hyra says. “These challenges are

still the defining urban issues of

our time.”

MASTERS OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

AU’s international relations program is the ninth-best in the country,

according to Foreign Policy’s annual rankings, released in February. The

School of International Service clocked in at No. 8 for master’s programs

and No. 22 for doctoral programs. Results were based on responses

from 1,615 IR scholars at 1,375 US colleges.

THE ART OF ILLUSTRATION

John S. Dykes’s civil rights illustrations from the November 2014

issue of American were among 400 works showcased at the Society

of Illustrators’ annual exhibition in New York City. The exhibit, which

ran through February 28, featured the year’s best illustrations

commissioned by newspapers and magazines.

6 AMERICAN MAGAZINE MARCH 2015


news

One in eight Washington

households is “food-insecure,”

according to DC Hunger Solutions.

Ever the good neighbor, AU

and its dining services provider,

Aramark, have teamed up with

the Food Recovery Network to

help Washingtonians who are

struggling to put food on the table.

“With an institution the size

of AU and its daily dining needs,

it’s inevitable that we will have

leftover food. Donating it to

reputable, local organizations

whose mission is to feed the

hungry seemed like the most

sensible and socially responsible

thing to do,” says Jo-Ann Jolly,

Dining Services’s registered

dietician.

Last year, AU donated almost

300 meals, including more than

$3,000 worth of fresh produce,

ready-to-eat meals, and bread.

Twice a week, students collect

and distribute the food to local

nonprofits like Martha’s Table.

The Food Recovery Network

was founded in 2012 at the

University of Maryland. The

organization, which now boasts

partners at 110 colleges in 30

states and the District, has

donated more than 500,000

pounds of food.

Sixteen years ago, University Chaplain Joe Eldridge posted a flier in

the Kay Spiritual Life Center lounge, advertising a spring break trip

to Honduras. But instead of sunning themselves along the Caribbean

Sea, AU’s spring breakers were to help with relief efforts in the wake

of Hurricane Mitch, which killed 5,000 people and destroyed more

than 33,000 houses.

And with that, the Alternative Breaks program—a cornerstone of

the AU experience—was born.

Hundreds of students have since spent their summer, spring, and

winter breaks immersed in social justice issues in all corners of the

world, from Appalachia to Zambia. Now, a new endowment bearing

Eldridge’s name will enable even more students to participate.

“Alternative Breaks is such a valuable program for our students

and so in line with the values of this institution,” says Fanta Aw,

assistant vice president of campus life, who spearheaded the

effort to create the Joseph T. Eldridge Social Justice Alternative

Break Endowment.

“We’re celebrating the legacy of a great person who continues to

do this work, day in and day out.”

The award will provide financial assistance to students for whom

traveling abroad is cost-prohibitive. Visit giving.american.edu to

make a gift.

PHOTO BY MATTHEW BURGOYNE

¿DÓNDE ESTÁ EL BAÑO IN BULGARIAN?

Pronunciator, the library’s newest online learning tool, enables

users to master 80 languages in any of 50 languages. The range of

permutations means that a Spanish speaker can learn Chinese, or

a Thai speaker can learn Russian (just to name a few of the 4,000

combinations). Access to the database is free for alumni.

MEET THE PROFESSOR

Emmy Award–winning producer Betsy Fischer Martin, SPA/BA ’92, SOC/

MA ’96, has returned to the School of Public Affairs as an executive in

residence. Fischer Martin— More magazine’s new Washington, DC, editor

and former executive producer of NBC’s Meet the Press—will help shape

SPA’s political communications curriculum.

FOLLOW US @AU_AMERICANMAG 7


on campus

WITH 236 CLUBS, AU students

have an array of activities from which

to choose. From Bollywood dancers

to Shakespearean actors to aspiring

accountants, “there’s something for

everyone,” says Annalise Setorie,

student activities coordinator.

The largest group, College

Democrats, boasts 202 students, while

the smallest ones have eight—the

minimum amount to be recognized.

(In case you’re curious, AU College

Republicans has 37 members.)

But it’s often the smallest groups

that have the mightiest voices, Setorie

says. “I always see AU Texans out

tabling in cowboy hats and boots,

repping their state.”

Launched by 13 proud Lone Star

Staters, AU Texans was one of 30 new

clubs last fall. If a student has an

interest—and seven other recruits—

a club can soon follow. Foodies? Spoon

University. Singers? Pitches Be Trippin’.

Sci-fi fanatics? Doctor Who@AU.

Join the club

Although interests come and go,

clubs have been part of student life

at AU for 90 years.

AU’s first club, the Areopagus

Society, formed in December 1925.

The 15-member debate team (whose

first match in early 1926 against

Washington College centered

on the Child Labor Amendment)

was followed by the Pi Mu Kappa

Mathematics Club, the History Club,

and the AU Orchestra.

Today, just as they did nearly a

century ago, “clubs help students

find their AU family, people who

understand them on a deeper level,”

says Tatiana Laing, SPA/BA ’16,

Caribbean Circle president.

And for Setorie, that’s a win: “My

job is to help students find their place

on campus.”

ART BY DENNIS FLEMING

8 AMERICAN MAGAZINE MARCH 2015


mastery

ILLUSTRATION BY PETER HOEY

1992

Earned political

science degree from

University of North

Carolina–Chapel

Hill, where he met

future wife and law

partner Amy Howe.

Sowed seeds of oral

argument talent on

UNC debate team.

1993

Discovered destiny by

accident, interning with

NPR Supreme Court

reporter Nina Totenberg.

“I DID IT FOR

TWO SUMMERS

AND FELL IN

LOVE WITH THE

SUPREME COURT.”

1995

Graduated from WCL.

Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers: The Story of

Success offers a formula for success—being born

at the right place and time and investing at least

10,000 hours in pursuit of your goal. After more

than 100 Supreme Court cases, attorney Tom

Goldstein, WCL/JD ’95, is a seasoned veteran

of the nation’s highest court. In a profession

that loves tradition, his entrepreneurial spirit

ruffled feathers—at first. Today, colleagues

emulate his once-unconventional strategy for

landing cases. SCOTUSblog, the site Goldstein,

44, cofounded with wife Amy Howe, has made

the court more transparent than ever, for lawyers

and laypeople alike.

2003

Daughter Betsy born.

On a whim, created

SCOTUSblog with Amy. With

an encouraging 30 hits the

first day, Goldstein decided

to keep blogging. Today,

SCOTUSblog is an unparalleled

source for reporters, lawyers,

legislators, and lobbyists.

Caught a televised game

of Texas Hold ’Em on ESPN.

Got hooked.

2000

Served as second chair

in Bush v. Gore on behalf

of Vice President Al Gore.

1999

Started Goldstein & Howe

out of his spare bedroom,

hustling for Supreme Court

cases from the get-go. Raised

eyebrows by cold-calling

attorneys and offering to file

appeals for free. “IT WAS

DEFINITELY FROWNED

UPON . . . BUT IT WAS

THE ONLY WAY I

WAS GOING TO GET

IN THE DOOR.”

Argued first case before the

Supreme Court. Didn’t win,

but learned a lot.

2004

Cofounded Stanford

Supreme Court

Litigation Clinic.

2005

Established Harvard

Supreme Court

Litigation Clinic.

2006

Joined Akin Gump

to establish firm’s

Supreme Court

practice. Stayed five

years, becoming

partner and litigation

practice cochair.

2007

Daughter Nina born,

named in honor of

a certain Supreme

Court reporter.

2008

Won a seat in World

Series of Poker by

beating 130 opponents

in a charity tournament.

2011

Rejoined his law

firm, now Goldstein

& Russell.

Made gentleman’s

bet with friend and

professional poker

player Dan Bilzerian:

Goldstein’s Ferrari

458 Italia vs.

Bilzerian’s 1965

AC Cobra (with

NASCAR engine) in

quarter-mile race

at Las Vegas Motor

Speedway. Lost

race, but “IT WAS

A LOT OF FUN.”

2010

Served as creative

consultant for NBCcommissioned

script

for Tommy Supreme,

a TV series based

on his life. “THIS

WAS A TERRIBLE

IDEA, WHICH

I TOLD THEM

FROM THE VERY

BEGINNING.”

SCOTUSblog became

first blog to win

American Bar

Association’s Silver

Gavel Award.

2009

Landed on GQ’s list of 50

Most Powerful People in

Washington, DC.

2012

On the day the Supreme

Court upheld the Affordable

Care Act, SCOTUSblog

scored 5.3 million hits from

1.7 million unique visitors.

“THAT WAS A HUGE

THING FOR THE BLOG,

BECAUSE THERE

WERE SO MANY

PEOPLE PAYING

ATTENTION TO US

AS A SOURCE.”

Invited to appear on The Daily

Show with Jon Stewart. Did

so well that he was invited

back a year later.

2013

Named one of 100 most

influential attorneys in the

country (for the second time)

by National Law Journal.

SCOTUSblog became first blog

recipient of prestigious Peabody

Award. Blog readership keeps

growing: roughly 45,000 hits

on a quiet day, 200,000-plus

for big court decisions.

2015

Argued 34th Supreme Court

case. “I FEEL LIKE

I’M STILL LEARNING

SO MUCH EVERY

YEAR. IF YOU PAY

ATTENTION TO

THE SAME NINE

PEOPLE AND

EVERYTHING THEY

DO, YOU’VE GOT TO

GET DECENTLY GOOD

AT UNDERSTANDING

WHAT IT IS THAT

THEY ARE TRYING

TO DO AND HOW IT

IS THAT THEY DO IT.”

DOWNLOAD the American

magazine app to hear more of

Goldstein’s story in his own words.

FOLLOW US @AU_AMERICANMAG 9


play

My jaw hurts. I’m not a regular

gum chewer, but I also don’t

usually sit on the bench with a

Division I women’s basketball

team during its conference home

opener. Before my stint as AU’s

honorary guest coach for its

January 7 tussle with Loyola, I

had popped a piece of Orbit, and

as the game gets more and more

intense, so does my chomping.

The action is fast and freeflowing

from floor level. My

chair sits between the relentlessly

upbeat players to my right

(“Let’s go, white!” they scream)

and the always-coaching coaches

to my left (“Call out screens!”

they shout nonstop).

My role is ceremonial—the

only assignment is handing Coach

Megan Gebbia her clipboard

during timeouts—but the

experience offers a fascinating

behind-the-scenes look at a

college basketball team.

“It’s important that the faculty,

staff, and alumni feel like they’re

a part of our program,” Gebbia

says. “They get to see what the

girls go through on the court and

before the game. Our players

study basketball.”

In the locker room prior to

opening tip, the second-year head

coach lists five keys for beating

the Greyhounds. The first four

are technical (example: contain

dribble penetration), but the fifth

is psychological.

“Control the game,” she says to

her attentive team. “In the Patriot

League, we should be able to go

into most games and feel like

we’re in control. Where have we

struggled? In the first half. We’ve

got to find a way to keep them

at bay. That’s part of you guys

growing and maturing as a group.”

Her words resonate. AU jumps

out to a 30–13 lead and takes a

16-point lead at halftime. Gebbia’s

pleased, but she makes a point to

stress to her players the importance

of minimizing turnovers. Loyola

outscores AU by four in the second

half, but the Eagles still cruise to a

62–50 victory, which puts them on

top of the Patriot League with a

3–0 record.

In the postgame locker room,

you would think AU had lost.

“Fifteen assists to 15 turnovers

against this team is not good,”

Gebbia says. Her voice never rises.

She’s teaching, not scolding. “This

should be a 20–25 point win for us.

That really bothers me, because I

want to win and I want to win big.

You guys are so much better than

you’ve shown.”

She then surprises me by asking

if I’d like to say a few words.

“I’ll be a little more positive,”

I say while clapping my hands,

drawing a smile from the coach

and laughter from the players.

“Great win!”

As the guest coach, my night is

over, but for the real coaches and

players, the season is one long blur

of seemingly never-ending work.

“Tomorrow morning, you have

lifting at nine,” Gebbia tells the

team, which might have to leave

for its upcoming road trip early to

avoid a predicted snowstorm.

“We’ve got Colgate on Saturday.”

—Mike Unger

IT MUST HAVE BEEN THE COACHING

With a dominating 41–29 win over Navy on February 25, the women’s basketball team clinched the Patriot

League regular season title and the top seed in the conference tournament. The Eagles were led by senior

Jen Dumiak, who scored 22 points and was named to the Capital One Academic All-America Division I

women’s basketball team a day later.

ALL-TIME GREATS

The late Shawn Kuykendall, SOC/BA ’05, who waged an inspiring battle

against cancer, was inducted into the Stafford H. “Pop” Cassell Hall of

Fame on February 14. Joining the former soccer standout in the hall

is Magdalena Aguilar, CAS/BA ’03, a four-time All-Patriot League field

hockey player, and former basketball star Calvin Brown, SOC/BA ’78.

10 AMERICAN MAGAZINE MARCH 2015


news

Last November, 30-year-old Elise

Stefanik became the youngest

woman ever elected to Congress.

Mia Love of Utah won her

race and will be the inaugural

female Republican African

American to serve in the House

of Representatives. For the first

time, a woman, Gina Raimondo,

is the governer of Rhode Island.

These and other high-profile

victories made the 2014 election

a monumental one for women—

or so it seemed.

“Symbolically, it was important

because the total number of

women in Congress passed the

triple-digit threshold,” says

School of Public Affairs professor

Jennifer Lawless, director of the

Women and Politics Institute. “But

in terms of actual progress, it’s

really minimal.”

A closer look at the numbers

reveals why. Before the election,

there were five female governors—

the same as after it. The Senate

remained 20 percent female. And

what about the number of women

in the House jumping to 103? The

previous Congress had 99.

Fifty-one percent

of Americans

are female, yet

women make up

just 23 percent of

the US Congress.

Lawless believes 2014 was

“Not a ‘Year of the Woman’ . . .

and 2036 Doesn’t Look So Good

Either.” That’s the title of a paper

she published with Richard Fox

for the Brookings Institution.

The biggest impediment to

women winning political office,

Lawless believes, is that not

enough of them run.

“When women are competing

in only about a third of the races

across the country, there aren’t

that many opportunities for

them to make substantial

gains,” she says. “Even

in this election cycle,

which was an antiincumbency

year,

about 95 percent

of incumbents

were reelected.

So if men are

80 percent of

the members

of Congress,

and 90 percent of them seek

reelection, and 95 percent of

them get reelected, that does

not allow opportunities for any

traditionally marginalized groups

to make gains. That’s exacerbated

when women are far less likely

than men to run for office in the

first place.”

Lawless and Fox found that

the difference in men’s and

women’s political ambition begins

to appear in college. Although

the same proportion of high

school boys and girls say they

would “definitely” be interested

in running for office, college men

were twice as likely as college

women to show interest in a

future candidacy.

“If we can intervene on

college campuses to close that

gap, that can have long-standing

effects,” Lawless says. “Unless

something changes, there’s no

reason to believe that things are

going to look any different 22

years from now.”

How addicted to social media are

today’s college students? Consider

this: a number of apps allow users to

purposely lock themselves out of their

social media accounts, ostensibly

so they can study.

One site millennials are not liking

much these days is Facebook, which is

increasingly populated by old fogies

(that is, anyone over 30).

“Facebook is sort of like breakfast,”

says School of Communication

professor Scott Talan, an expert on

social media. “Older people tend to

have breakfast pretty regularly. Younger

people, especially college students,

because they’re up later, are skipping

breakfast. But they’re still eating. They

are having snacks and other meals at

other times, whether that’s Instagram

or Snapchat. In the past 12 months, the

rise of anonymous apps—Yik Yak in

particular—came out of nowhere.”

Yik Yak allows users within a

10-mile radius to post comments

anonymously. It’s available on roughly

1,500 college campuses.

“You definitely get a real insight

into the minds of college students,”

Talan says. “There’s the good side:

I like someone, what are some

suggestions for letting them know?

On the negative side, there’s

everything from drinking to sexual

matters, in pretty graphic language.”

While it’s the latest social media

craze, Yik Yak certainly won’t be the last.

You can bet that something new will

burst onto the scene soon, Talan says.

“Social media is ubiquitous,

omnipresent, and omnivorous because

humans are social.”

MODEL GENES

GOOGLE WORTH

GERMAN EXCHANGE

Chemistry professor Stefano Costanzi has created a 3-D

computer model of a receptor protein derived from a

gene linked to human growth. Costanzi’s model, detailed

in the New England Journal of Medicine, may lead to the

development of drugs to treat gigantism and dwarfism.

SOC’s Laura DeNardis has received a

$51,676 Google Research Award to advance

her work on the destabilization of Internet

governance. The grant will provide full

funding for one of SOC’s doctoral fellows.

SIS professor Stephen Silvia has been awarded the 2014 German

Academic Exchange Service Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in

German and European Studies. Silva, whose current research centers

on the industrial practices of German automobile “transplants” in the

United States, is the 20th scholar to receive the award.

FOLLOW US @AU_AMERICANMAG 11


ARTEMUS WI

Lincoln laughed. That much we know. His

war secretary did not. The rest of the

cabinet either collectively chuckled or

uniformly scowled, depending on whose

account you believe.

It was noon on September 22, 1862, five days after

Antietam, the bloodiest one-day battle of the Civil War.

The president, meeting with his advisors in what is

now the Lincoln Bedroom of the White House, was

about to sign his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation.

As a preamble to this historic act, the tall, somber

executive read aloud the words of Artemus Ward—the

national jester of the Civil War era and America’s first

stand-up comic.

For anyone familiar with the intersection of

Massachusetts and Nebraska Avenues, something might

sound a bit off. Isn’t the statue at the center of Ward

Circle of a Revolutionary War general? Yes, it is. It’s also

a statue of Artemas Ward—with an a. It’s time you got

to know Artemus with a u.

Artemus Ward was a persona dreamed up by 23-yearold

New Englander and newspaperman Charles Foster

Browne (née Brown—he added the e to affect an

English air). Browne started out as a humble typesetter

but rose to transatlantic fame thanks to this immensely

popular alter ego he created to fill out the pages of the

Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Browne developed the character of Ward—a plump,

balding, opportunistic sideshow promoter—through

dozens of comically misspelled letters ostensibly

written to newspapers and magazines to recount his

travels and pitch his bogus sideshow, one “ekalled

by few & exceld by none.” Intolerant of religious

and political fervor, the Ward travelogues satirized

extremists and institutions of all stripes using

butchered attempts at highfalutin language.

In that 1862 cabinet meeting, Lincoln read Ward’s

“High-Handed Outrage at Utica,” in which a country

moralizer destroys a wax figure of “Judas Iscarrot” to

punish the false apostle for daring to show his face

in town. “What did you bring this pussylanermus cuss

here fur?” the avenging local asked Artemus while

clobbering the statue to bits.

Ward had skewered Lincoln himself, poking fun at

his humbler-than-life, folksy image. But apparently,

honest Abe was big enough to laugh at himself. That

day, in fact, he felt he needed to.

“With the fearful strain that is upon me night

and day, if I did not laugh I should die,” he said to his

cabinet after reading the Utica story, “and you need

this medicine as much as I do.”

Ward’s letters helped Browne become editor of

Vanity Fair, a humor publication unrelated to today’s

magazine. The position was short-lived but established

Browne as an arbiter of an emerging, national comedic

style. He became a regular at Pfaff’s, a legendary

bohemian saloon in New York City where Walt Whitman

also imbibed.

Around this time, Browne transformed Artemus

from a character in the pages of the Plain Dealer into

the touring star of a comedic lecture, essentially an

hour-long stand-up routine.

The Ward of the stage, as portrayed by Browne, was

thin, with a prominent nose and imposing mustache.

His signature opening was to remain silent with such

a sustained straight face that its woodenness in the

awkward pause inevitably prompted laughter. At that

point, he would take extreme and bewildered offense,

offering to continue only once the audience had

stopped interrupting him.

On a coast-to-coast lecture circuit, Browne set

attendance records, earned handsome sums, and drank

heavily. In Virginia City, Nevada, he spent 10 raucous

days with another aspiring writer who employed a

pseudonym—Mark Twain.

Browne later gave a career boost to his literary

peer, asking Twain for a story to pad the pages of a

book anthologizing the Artemus letters. Twain sent

one, but it arrived too late. Instead, Henry Clapp, who

hosted the gatherings at Pfaff’s, published the tale

of a celebrated jumping frog, and it became Twain’s

breakout hit.

Twain borrowed inspiration—and a few jokes—

from Ward as his career developed but later tired at

comparisons to the more famous storyteller. Their

12 AMERICAN MAGAZINE MARCH 2015


TH A

BY BRAD SCRIBER, CAS/BA ’97

ILLUSTRATIONS BY NATE BEELER, SOC/BA ’02

careers often intertwined, but they never met in

person again.

Browne’s final tour as Ward was to London, where

he was the talk of the town and contributed to the

humor magazine Punch. Browne died there in 1867, and

his body was brought back across the Atlantic, landing

in New York Harbor just as Twain was outbound on his

own trip to Europe.

Twain eulogized Browne as “one of the kindest

and gentlest men in the world” and “America’s

greatest humorist.”

It is unclear if Browne picked his pseudonym in

homage to Artemas Ward, the Revolutionary War general.

That’s one explanation he offered, but he also claimed to

have lifted it from a showman of the same name.

Ward, the general, has no connection to AU. By the

whim of a planning commission, his statue was installed

at the Massachusetts Avenue intersection, and the

campus now brushes against the circumference of the

circle that bears his name. He may stand at the center

to greet campus visitors, but his relation to our alma

mater is—both historically and geometrically—

only tangential.

Nonetheless, AU has embraced General Ward as a

mascot of sorts, adopting his name for the School of

Public Affairs building and the annual Artie Ward Week

celebration. Imagine what might have been if the other

Artemus had been enshrined in that spot.

Perhaps we would be home, instead, to a School

or Public Satire ekalled by few & exceld by none.

FOLLOW US @AU_AMERICANMAG 13


service

WHEN THE AMERICAN

UNIVERSITY MUSEUM

OPENED IN 2005, volunteers

made it possible for a tiny staff of

two to manage the 30,000-squarefoot

space. A decade and an inch

of paint later (the walls have been

painted 250 times to accommodate

more than 25 exhibits each year),

45 volunteers continue to give the

museum an accordion-like ability to

do more.

The volunteer corps comprises

alumni, students, retirees, and working

professionals, who do more than simply

man the front desk. They lead tours,

develop programming, and spread

the word about exhibits and events

throughout the arts community. Many

of the volunteers live in AU Park—

making it likely that visitors to the AU

Museum will be greeted by a neighbor.

“The volunteers are the best thing

that’s happened to AU’s relationship

with its neighborhood,” says museum

director and curator Jack Rasmussen

(pictured, far right).

The group makes museumgoers

feel at home in the three-story gallery,

perched off Ward Circle. It can be a

challenge, with five or more exhibits

rotating every eight weeks (including

Locally Sourced, pictured above). The

volunteers, many with an encyclopedic

knowledge of art history, wrestle with

the new works, before figuring out how

best to engage visitors.

“Every two months we start from

scratch,” Rasmussen says. “I give

a presentation to volunteers about

how to be open to the artwork and

facilitate visitors’ experience. It’s

about knowing how to start the

conversation in each room.”

Hands to work

For AU Museum volunteers, this

is more than a service gig. It’s an

opportunity for a tight-knit group of

art lovers to share their knowledge

and enthusiasm with even the

youngest museumgoers.

“Our hands are in a lot of what you

see,” says Shelley Broderick, who

cochairs Kids@Katzen with Susan

Cole. Geared at youngsters ages 5 to

12, Kids@Katzen features artist talks

and crafts inspired by the exhibits.

“We feel like we’re part of something

where we can make a difference.”

Visit american.edu/cas/museum for

details on exhibits opening April 4.

14 AMERICAN MAGAZINE MARCH 2015


wonk

Q. How did you come to believe in the importance of organ, eye,

and tissue donation?

A. My husband and I learned that I was pregnant with identical

twins when I was halfway through my degree at American. When I was

about three months along, we learned one of the twins had a fatal birth

defect, anencephaly, and would not survive. It was a very difficult time.

It was hard to feel happy about having a baby, and it was also

hard to feel sad. It was a time of suffering.

I tried to think of a way to ease the suffering or

find some meaning, and I thought of organ donation.

My mother and I approached Washington Regional

Transplant Community to ask if this was possible. But a

lot of babies just don’t need hearts or lungs that are that

small. We couldn’t donate for transplant, but we could

donate to research.

Thomas was the sick twin and Callum, who is now four, was

healthy. The day they were born, we weren’t sure if Thomas was

going to survive. He lived for five days, so we were able to take

him home. In a lot of ways, he seemed like a healthy baby. He would

cuddle us and fall asleep in our arms. But he started having seizures.

He died at home.

Thomas’s liver went to a research center in North Carolina, his

retinas went to the University of Pennsylvania, and his corneas went

to Harvard University Schepens Eye Research Institute. I learned

that Duke University was doing research on anencephaly, and they

said they would be grateful to receive his cord blood.

It is awesome to be able to brag about

Thomas. Moms like to brag about

their kids, and when you have a child

who dies, there is mostly pity. People

feel sorry for you or they don’t want

to talk about it. It’s really nice to have a

happy reason to talk about Thomas’s life. I

like to say my son got into Harvard and the

University of Pennsylvania and Duke. It’s

a source of pride.

People who want to be a donor can

register at donatelife.net. A donation

for research can help unlock the

mysteries of medical science. Through

transplant, one organ, eye, and tissue

donor can save between 8 and 10 lives,

heal up to 100 people, and provide

sight to 2 people.

SARAH GRAY

SOC/MA ’14

Director of marketing and public affairs,

American Association of Tissue Banks

FOLLOW US @AU_AMERICANMAG 15


Emily Roseman, SOC/BA ’12

Video producer, Associated Press

Noah Black, SPA/BA ’05

Vice president of public affairs,

Association of Private Sector

Colleges and Universities

Julie Rogers, CAS/MA ’15

Public history fellow,

White House Historical Association


An urban playground. A laboratory for learning. A professional hub.

A vibrant collection of neighborhoods—and neighbors. Washington’s

got it all. And for our alumni, students, and faculty, Metro is their

ticket to ride, connect, and explore AU’s backyard.

Which Metro stop is the center of your world? Share your story: magazine@american.edu.

Jared Farber, Kogod/MBA ’06

Director of digital marketing, Washington Post

Rachel Wojnilower, CAS/BA ’08

Digital marketing manager,

Golden Triangle Business

Improvement District

Philip Coyle, CAS/BS ’15

Research assistant,

US Chamber of Commerce

Isel Galvan, SOC/BA ’10

Digital strategist, Delucchi Plus

FOLLOW US @AU_AMERICANMAG 17


Ann Arbor, Michigan-based artist Cathy Gendron has drawn the

covers for all of Cleo Coyle’s Coffeehouse Mysteries (see page 21).

American commissioned Gendron’s illustration of Alice Alfonsi

and Marc Cerasini, the writing team behind the series.


BY AMY BURROUGHS

BIG APPLE

BLEND

WITH NEARLY 1 MILLION BOOKS IN PRINT, THE HUSBAND-AND-WIFE WRITING TEAM

OF MARC CERASINI AND ALICE ALFONSI, WASHINGTON SEMESTER ’83, KEEPS READERS

BUZZING WITH TALES OF MURDER AND MOCHAS IN NEW YORK CITY.

ILLUSTRATION BY CATHY GENDRON

Alice Alfonsi and Marc Cerasini are skilled

at plotting murders, robberies, and

hit-and-runs. They know about New York

City treasures that some natives don’t even

know about, like Socrates Sculpture Park and

the rooftop gardens at Rockefeller Center.

And they are coffee connoisseurs, with

expert knowledge of the common bean and

discriminating palates to rival any

wine aficionado.

Cerasini and Alfonsi, a husband-and-wife

writing team, connect each of those threads

in their best-selling Coffeehouse Mystery

series. (Their pen name, Cleo Coyle, was

inspired in part by their cat, Cleocatra.)

Published by Penguin, the series launched in

2003 with On What Grounds. Their 14th book,

Once upon a Grind, hit shelves in December.

By the time they started the series,

Alfonsi—a 1983 alum of AU’s Washington

Semester Program—and Cerasini had more

than 20 years of experience writing and

editing books, essays, magazines, and media

tie-ins, such as novels based on Fox’s television

show 24. Alfonsi spent her Washington, DC,

semester taking journalism classes at AU

and interning at the Federal Times, before

graduating from Carnegie Mellon. The

Washington Semester Program, established

in 1947, brings undergraduates worldwide to

study at AU and complete an internship.

Alfonsi moved to the Big Apple in 1984,

launching her career as a cub reporter for the

New York Times. Cerasini landed in New York

in 1979. She and Cerasini didn’t know each

other in those early years—they both worked

in publishing, which is how they eventually

met—but they shared common roots in

working-class neighborhoods near Pittsburgh,

a love of literature, and a dream of writing

careers in the big city.

They married in 2000 and have been

writing together almost as long. When

they decided to create their own mystery

series, an amateur sleuth managing a New

York City coffee shop piqued their interest

from the start.

The City

On a frigid January day, Alfonsi and

Cerasini are having lunch at The

Cuckoo’s Nest, one of many Irish pubs in their

Queens neighborhood. With burnished wood

floors, red club chairs, and a wooden bar that

runs the length of the restaurant, it’s a warm

respite from the sharp wind. The Nest is also

one block from the subway station for the

Number 7 train, which appears in their book

A Brew to a Kill.

New York plays a huge role in the authors’

creative process: locations suggest a storyline,

a cabbie becomes a character, real-life

incidents plant the seed of a plot.

“That butcher shop across the street—

people come from all over the city to go there,”

Cerasini says. “I’ll get a good meal and a story

at a place like that.”

The couple moved to the city long before

former mayor Rudy Giuliani’s reforms in the

1990s, which cut crime and improved quality

of life. They remember a plague of drugs and

violence. Early on, when Cerasini lived in

Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood, “They

found a corpse down the road by the end of

my block—a Mafia corpse.” Alfonsi remembers

graffiti, drug dealers, shootings, and smashand-grabs

where criminals stole radios out of

parked cars.

Despite all that, they loved the city.

“There’s a lot of energy from the people,”

Alfonsi says. “As writers, it fuels us. You

just get in a cab and talk to the cab driver.

We don’t tell people we’re writers; we

just engage people in conversation and we

hear stories.”

FOLLOW US @AU_AMERICANMAG 19


In a city filled with characters, they find an

almost endless supply of colorful detail. Take

that rooftop garden at Rockefeller Center:

“It’s fantastic,” Cerasini says. “So we had a

murder up there.”

New York also inspired their choice of a

protagonist: Clare Cosi, amateur sleuth and

manager of the fictional Village Blend coffee

shop. Cerasini describes her as a “workingclass

heroine.”

“The powerful working-class roots in New

York City are ignored in a lot of stuff in popular

culture,” he says. “You just see the gritty side—

you’re talking Taxi Driver—or you see mob

crime, or you see the rich people like Gossip

Girls. You don’t really see how the average New

Yorker lives.”

The authors also

I was taking


pictures of this one

door. The next thing

I knew there were

guards standing all

around. They said,

‘What are you doing?’

They thought I was

planning a robbery.

I was planning a

robbery, but only

for the story.


—Marc Cerasini

wanted their leading

lady to be a strong female

character; Clare Cosi is

empowered, Alfonsi says,

but not in an exaggerated

way. They took equal

care with their character

Madame, a wise, elegant

woman who defies

stereotypes of older

people as bumbling and

clueless, and a gay barista

whose sexuality is neither

caricatured nor unduly

highlighted.

The Village Blend

isn’t based on an actual

coffee shop (to the

disappointment of fans

who email the authors to

ask for an address, so they

can visit), but the authors

did have a specific reason for setting their

books in storied Greenwich Village.

“We started to see the disappearance of

the old Village,” Alfonsi says, recounting the

area’s rich history, which ranges from Cold

War spies to legendary artists to the roots

of gay rights activism. Nowadays, New York

University owns much of the neighborhood

real estate, and national chains have pushed

out many boutique businesses.

“My favorite comic book store is a phone

store now,” Cerasini says.

Conducting research in the city does create

interesting challenges. Cerasini recalls the day

he scoped out the Metropolitan Museum of

Art for the book Espresso Shot.

“I was taking pictures of this one door. The

next thing I knew there were guards standing

all around. They said, ‘What are you doing?’

They thought I was planning a robbery. I was

planning a robbery, but only for the story.”

The Coffee

When Alfonsi and Cerasini started

their series, coffee shops were just

emerging in American popular culture. But

Alfonsi, the daughter of Italians, knew all

about the espresso scene. Her first job, in fact,

was pushing a coffee cart at church bingo

when she was 12. Cerasini also

encountered coffee early: in

high school, he served coffee

at a Greek deli in Carnegie,

Pennsylvania.

Today, more than a decade

after they started writing

about baristas and specialty

beans, Alfonsi and Cerasini are

experts in their own right.

“There are so many levels

now to the coffee business,”

Alfonsi says.

Just as oenophiles study

vineyards and varietals, coffee

enthusiasts learn about coffee

farms, agriculture practices,

and sustainable sourcing.

Alfonsi and Cerasini tap local

experts to learn certain aspects

of the business, and they can

rattle off the best roasters in

the country.

Their connoisseurship shows

when The Cuckoo’s Nest waiter stops by to ask,

in a light Irish brogue, if anyone wants afterlunch

coffee. Alfonsi says sure, and Cerasini

hesitates, then orders a cup.

“I hope it’s good coffee,” he says, after the

waiter leaves. “We’ll see.”

Alfonsi gives him a glance and a little smile,

like she knows what’s coming next.

“I don’t even like to say it, but the best

coffee in the city is at our house,” Cerasini

says. “We make it the way we like it.”

The authors set their stories in a coffee

shop, in part, because it’s a location that

nearly everyone visits.

“You have the beat cops coming in for

coffee, you have kids coming in after school,

you have baristas dealing with people who

are aficionados of the bean,” Alfonsi says. “It’s

the village within the village.”

The fictional Village Blend, in fact, is

named to reflect that mix of humanity.

“We’ve had a mystery about a homeless

man dressed as a Santa Claus, and we’ve had

a mystery about a billionaire,” Cerasini says.

“And it can only be possible because they’re

both New Yorkers and they both came to the

Village Blend.”

The Crimes

The authors’ writing process starts with

the crime that kicks off the story. Then

they create an outline—“that will always,

always change,” Alfonsi says—and each writes

certain parts of the story.

“It’s brick by brick,” Alfonsi says. “One of

us will have a stronger feeling about [writing]

a scene, but then once it’s done, we hand it

over to the other person and they may layer

in jokes or extra observations or details.”

Alfonsi writes in a nearby coffee shop,

Lucid Café, where the hum and bustle help her

concentrate. Cerasini works at home, for good

reason: “I would be ridiculous in a room full of

normal people. I talk to my characters.”

When it comes to research, the authors

have found creative ways to gain insight

into characters. Take members of the New

York City Police Department, who appear

frequently in their books. When one of

Alfonsi’s friends, an Upper East Side resident,

attended a meeting with detectives after a

series of crimes in her upscale neighborhood,

Alfonsi tagged along to observe how cops

interacted with the neighbors.

Day-to-day living provides ample

opportunity to collect details and information

that later might be useful for a story. When

Alfonsi’s car was broken into, Cerasini says,

“We were grilling the cops who came over.”

Today, after making good on their goal to

become full-time authors in New York City—

a dream that has lured and defeated many

aspiring writers—Alfonsi and Cerasini are

grateful for their success.

“Our point of view is to bring as high a

standard as we can to what we’re doing,”

Alfonsi says.

So, how is the coffee at The Cuckoo’s Nest?

Cerasini shrugs. “I thought it was okay.”

20 AMERICAN MAGAZINE MARCH 2015


Excerpt from Espresso Shot: A Coffeehouse

Mystery by Cleo Coyle

The way I see it, a wedding is a new beginning, full of

hope and possibility. Death is an ending—black, dark,

final. Flowers are involved with both, and tasteful music

selections, but for the most part, brides and corpses

have nothing in common, unless you’re talking about the

Bride of Frankenstein, in which case the bride is a corpse.

This particular wedding story involved a bride and

several corpses. I was not one of the corpses. I wasn’t

the bride, either. The one and only time I’d been a bride

took place at Manhattan’s City Hall, where I waited with

my groom in a long line of couples to obtain the proper

paperwork, after which my future husband and I were

ushered into a room with all the charm of a DMV office.

A fleshy-faced justice of the peace in a snug-fitting suit

then auto-stamped our marriage license in the midst of

declaring us wed, which sounded something like—

“I now pronounce you” . . . ker-chunk . . . “man

and wife.”

I was nineteen at the time.

In calendar years, my bridegroom was barely three

years older than I. Sexually speaking, however, Matteo

Allegro had traveled light-years beyond. Case in point:

our first date.

The life-altering event began with my giving

him a chaste tour of the Vatican Museums. It ended

in a Roman pensione with me giggling naked and

blindfolded on a narrow bed, my future husband hand-

feeding me bites of gorgonzola-stuffed figs. Eve had the

apple. For me it was a Mediterranean fruit drenched in

honey and balsamic vinegar.

Dozens more times, I’d succumbed to Matt’s perilous

charms (not to mention those figs), and by summer’s end

my fate was sealed. I’d gone to Italy a virgin art student,

determined to expose myself to Renaissance genius. I’d

returned pregnant with a daughter named Joy.

Matt had been the one to name our daughter, a child

he loved dearly (too often from afar), but ultimately Joy’s

name had not been a good predictor of the years ahead,

and after ten difficult laps with my groom around the

sun, I forced myself to admit that the magnetic young

man to whom I’d passionately pledged my undying

fidelity viewed our vows not as a sacred covenant but as

a loose collection of suggested guidelines. (His addiction

to cocaine hadn’t helped, either.)

After our divorce, I’d made a new life for myself

and our daughter. We moved to a suburb in New Jersey,

where I put together an odd collection of part-time

jobs: assisting a busy caterer, writing freelance for

coffee industry trades, and baking snacks for a nearby

day care center (caffeine free, I assure you).

Unfortunately, my new address across the Hudson

and a ream of fully signed legal papers did little to stop

my infrequent reunions with my ex-husband. Given

his perpetual itches and my own pathetic weakness,

the man’s magic hands, hard body, and low intentions

occasionally found their way back into my lonely,

single-mom bed.

Now, with our daughter grown and working

abroad, I was back in Greenwich Village. My marital

partnership with Matt remained dissolved, yet our

alliance continued in other ways: like the parenting of

Joy, for one, and the running of the Village Blend coffee

business, for another . . .

On good days, my ex and I actually acknowledged

what we meant to each other. Even on bad ones, we

managed to remain begrudging friends. So, when he

asked me, I agreed to help out with aspects of his second

wedding, a union with the annoyingly swanlike Breanne

Summour, disdainer-in-chief of Trend magazine.

For months now, Breanne had been planning the

nuptials and reception. Photographers were hired (still

and video), flower and cake designs selected (elaborate

and expensive), dress fitted (a House of Fen original),

and venue reserved (New York’s Metropolitan Museum

of Art). In sum, the event was shaping up to be a tad

more lavish than the unceremonious City Hall kerchunking

of the man’s first marriage to me.

This was the week that brought us down to the

wire. The groom-to-be had just moved back into the

apartment above our coffeehouse, and the bride was

moving into panic mode . . .

All rights reserved. Text under copyright and published by

arrangement with the authors and the Penguin Group.

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FOLLOW US @AU_AMERICANMAG 21


Many of the nation’s 2.8 million veterans who served after 9/11—

including 40 percent who saw action in Iraq and Afghanistan—have

higher education. Thanks in part to the enhanced Post-9/11 GI Bill,

the ranks of veterans on college campuses across the United States,

including AU, are swelling to record numbers (1.1 million at latest

count). Vets who trade their rucksacks for backpacks bring to the

classroom unique perspectives and challenges. In many cases, they’ve

experienced more violence, tragedy, and loss—both on the battlefield

and on the home front—by their 21st birthday than most people see in

a lifetime. And while their high-and-tights or the straight and tall way

in which they walk across campus might betray their former lives,

student veterans share one thing in common with their traditional

classmates: the hope, the belief, that a college degree will better their

future. These are a few of AU’s veterans’ stories. BY MIKE UNGER

22 AMERICAN MAGAZINE MARCH 2015


It’s reasonable to assume that few—if any—

of Matthew Hawkland’s classmates, many

of whom aren’t old enough to legally

buy a Budweiser, have experienced a day

like the one the 29-year-old is recounting in

chilling detail.

As we sit on stone benches in the courtyard

outside Asbury Hall on a pleasant mid-

November day, his mind is transported back

to Afghanistan, where he served three tours

in the infantry. The School of International

Service undergraduate does not strain to

conjure minutiae—whether he likes it or not,

hardly a day elapses without memories of

combat and the friends he fought alongside

inhabiting his brain.

“I watched my mentor take a shit-ton of

shrapnel to his face and body,” he says, his

voice as calm as the leaves rustling around

us. “I watched my private die. We were in a

firefight for 45 minutes. That was the one time

in my life when I was like, ‘I’m probably going

to die tonight. That’s cool.’ I came back inside

the wire and I just started crying.”

Hawkland’s one of the lucky ones. He

made it home alive, his body and mind

intact. He doesn’t consider the unease he

occasionally feels among big groups of

people or his jumpiness at loud noises (twoby-fours

clapping together sound an awful lot

like rifle rounds passing overhead, he says)

symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder

(PTSD)—a psychological condition many

veterans consider serious yet often unfairly

branded upon all of them. Rather, Hawkland

believes these behaviors are just a part of his

personality now, the fabric of his new normal.

As America’s longest-ever foreign war

winds down in Afghanistan, institutes of

higher learning are increasingly populated by

veterans. Like all students on campus, who

range from slackers to studious, veterans

are not a homogenous bunch. Some, like

Hawkland, flew halfway around the world,

taking the fight to the enemy. Others carried

out their service stateside from behind a

desk. Still, they all bring backgrounds and

experiences that differ from those of the

traditional student.

Approximately 1.1 million veterans

attended colleges in 2013, according to

Student Veterans of America. (About 16

percent of those went to a private school.)

At American University, 328 veterans and

their spouses or dependents were certified

for benefits for the fall semester under the

Post-9/11 GI Bill (a 2008 law that provides

enhanced education benefits for service

members who have served on active duty for

90 or more days since September 10, 2001), up

from 223 in 2012. Overall, AU has seen a 175

percent increase in veteran enrollment in the

past five years.

A desire to smooth their transition to

scholastic life led AU to create its Veterans

Liaison Network, a collection of staff from

the counseling and career centers, academic

advising, admissions, and students from

AU Vets.

“The cultures in the military and on

college campuses are very different,” says

Jeanne Piette, assistant director for training

at the counseling center. “There are also

developmental differences. A number of

I can’t tell you

“ how many times

I’ve watched

walls explode

with AK-47

fire. One of my

soldiers died,

two of them lost

legs. The only

people you can

really talk about

[this stuff] with

are people who

share your own

experience.

—Matthew Hawkland ”

veterans coming to campus will already have

a life partner or kids, which is really different

from an 18-year-old. Sometimes finding

connections to people on campus can be a

little bit challenging.”

That, in part, sparked AU to open a lounge

specifically for veterans in Asbury Hall. It’s

where Hawkland, SIS/BA ’16, who’s the

president of AU Vets, spends a lot of time.

“I’ve stepped over three IEDs, I’ve had

six RPGs shot at me,” says the former staff

sergeant, who left active duty in 2013. “I can’t

tell you how many times I’ve watched walls

explode with AK-47 fire. One of my soldiers

died, two of them lost legs. The only people

you can really talk about [this stuff ] with are

people who share your own experience. You

tell some of these 18-year-olds about some

of the things I’ve seen and done, they can’t

comprehend it.”

The tears he shed that fateful day were

his last in Afghanistan.

“My platoon sergeant slapped me straight

across my face and pushed me up against a

wall and said, ‘You better man up. You have a

responsibility. They see you like that, what’s

that gonna do to everybody else?’” he recalls.

“You have to internalize everything because it

can affect your soldiers.”

More than 16 million Americans

served in the military during

World War II, and most were

greeted as heroes upon their

return home. But in the 1940s and ’50s, many

of the transitional issues that are openly

discussed now were ignored publicly, which

is not to say that veterans then didn’t face some

of the same challenges their contemporary

counterparts do today.

“One didn’t hear about a suicide problem.

That doesn’t mean it didn’t occur, but there’s

no evidence that there were a lot of suicides

after the war,” says AU history professor Alan

Kraut. “Remember, the ability to save lives

during the Second World War was not as

great as it is today. Many of the people who

are returning without limbs today would have

simply died in the Second World War.”

Vietnam veterans came back from their

tours to an often hostile homeland. Many

left the military with drug habits they didn’t

have going in, which may have been their

way of coping with PTSD, a term that hadn’t

yet entered the mainstream lexicon. Almost

31 percent of Vietnam veterans suffer from

PTSD, according to Department of Veterans

Affairs estimates.

After Vietnam the draft was abolished, and

today’s all-volunteer force has more soldiers,

seamen, marines, and airmen who enter the

armed services having never established a

career path. Unlike veterans from previous

wars, many either have no vocation to return

to or find their skills don’t transfer to the

civilian world when they leave the military.

For some that can lead to difficulties when

they enter the crowded workforce.

“In the case of most soldiers who are

coming out at 22 or 25 or somewhere in

that area, they have never held a civilian job

FOLLOW US @AU_AMERICANMAG 23


THE

CHALLENGES

POST-9/11 VETS

FACE aren’t limited

to the classroom. Veterans—

of which there are nearly 22

million in the United States,

spanning World War II to

the War in Afghanistan—

wrestle with unemployment,

homelessness, PTSD, and

suicide at rates higher than

the average American. In

many cases, young vets are

the hardest hit.

WOMEN make up 10–12% of the military

ranks and 27% of student veterans. < < < < < <

In the US,

of veterans

graduate—

slightly

less than

the rate for

traditional

students

(56%).

54%

OF VETERANS

are pursuing

associate degrees

or certificates

44%

OF VETERANS

are enrolled

in bachelor’s

programs

Nearly1MILLION veterans have used

benefits offered through the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

before,” says Lt. Gen. (Ret.) David Barno,

distinguished practitioner in residence at SIS.

“So going into that employment environment

when you’ve had no opportunity, no

experience in how to write a résumé, how

to sell yourself—which is actually frowned

upon in the military—how to negotiate a

salary, how to understand what your actual

skills and strengths are versus what your

employer is looking for and align those two,

is a very big challenge.”

Todd Hunter, SOC/MA ’14, served eight

years, five months, and 14 days in the Marine

Corps. In some ways, he believes, that time was

easier than the months following his departure.

“Transitioning out of the military has

been infinitely more difficult than joining the

military,” he says. “There’s a lot of what-ifs

and uncertainty. Coming in, you’re broken

down to fit a mold the military wants you to

be. It’s easy, because the entire time you’re

surrounded by a group of peers going through

the same thing, so you have a support system.

When you get out, you’re all on your own.”

Veterans also must deal with preconceived

notions employers might have about them.

Hawkland faced this when he applied for a

data entry job.

“The interviewer actually asked me how

PTSD would affect my job,” he says. “I was

insulted. If it affects my performance, then

you should fire me. And who are you to know

anything about it? You have an engineering

degree. You have no concept of what it’s like.”

Hawkland, who attended college before

joining the service at 21, always planned

to return to higher education (he chose

AU because of its strong reputation in

international studies). Nontraditional

students like him face an entirely different

set of challenges.

“In the academic arena, the big change

for most veterans is moving from an

environment that is very structured and

hierarchical and predictable to a very

unstructured environment,” Lt. Gen. (Ret.)

Barno says. “That’s a sea change even for

officers who leave the military, but particularly

for young soldiers, young marines.

“You decide whether to go to class or

not—you should go to class, clearly—but

nobody’s checking up on you on a daily basis.

You don’t have to be standing in a prescribed

uniform at 6:30 every morning to do physical

training or show up at 9:00 to get the orders

for the day. So they’ve moved from an

environment that’s very deliberate and

predictable to one that is none of those

things. I think that psychological change is

an immense challenge for many people.”

For others, military experience is an

asset in the classroom. William Hubbard,

SIS/BA ’11, is vice president of government

affairs at Student Veterans of America. He

attended AU while serving in the US Marine

Corps Reserve.

“It was a balancing act, but in the end it was

quite worthwhile,” says Hubbard, who plans

to serve 20 years in the intelligence field. “You

gain the discipline of focusing on two different

aspects of your life and succeeding in both.”

The presence of veterans on campus is

enriching to universities in a multitude of ways.

At private schools like AU, the Yellow Ribbon

Program allows a university to voluntarily

enter into an agreement with the VA to fund

tuition expenses that exceed the highest public

in-state undergraduate tuition rate. In addition

to the financial benefits, veterans bring a

wealth of unique knowledge to classrooms.

“The folks who have been in the military

oftentimes will have been overseas and

experienced other cultures,” Barno says.

“They have had to accomplish some very

difficult things, sometimes under some

immense pressure. In some ways, they’re

more mature because they’ve had these

significant life experiences. They also have

perhaps a broader experience of what life’s

challenges and difficulties and dynamics are.

24 AMERICAN MAGAZINE MARCH 2015


16%

private

27%

for-profit

57%

public

In 2013, 1.1 million

student veterans

attended institutions

of higher education.

Veterans are,

on average,

25

YEARS

OLD

at the start

of their

postsecondary

education;

44%

ARE

MARRIED

28% of post-9/11 veterans work in the public

sector; the federal government employs 16%

of post-9/11 veterans

The

unemployment

rate in

2013

for post-9/11

veterans

was 9%—higher

than that

of all

veterans (6.6%).

Among those

AGES

18–24,

veterans had a higher

unemployment rate

than nonveterans

(21.4% vs. 14.3%).

Sources: American Council on Education,

National Conference of State Legislatures,

Pat Tillman Foundation and Operation

College Promise, Student Veterans of

America, US Department of Veterans Affairs

and

54%

HAVE

CHILDREN.

62% of post-9/11 vets

believe civilian employers

see their military service

as an advantage

Sources: US Bureau of Labor Statistics,

Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation

They’re going to bring a very different flavor

and outlook to the classroom. I think that is

very valuable to both the students and the

professors alike.”

PTSD is a psychiatric diagnosis that

affects people who have experienced

a horrific or life-threatening event.

Reliving the experience through

nightmares or flashbacks, difficulty sleeping

or concentrating, and feeling anxious or

hypervigilant are among the 20 symptoms

defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical

Manual of Mental Disorders.

“In the US, the best studies suggest that

approximately 8 percent of Americans will

experience PTSD in their lifetime,” says

Mark Miller, CAS/BA ’91, a staff psychologist

in the behavioral sciences division of the

National Center for PTSD at the VA Boston

Healthcare System. “From the wars in Iraq

and Afghanistan, we’re seeing 15 to 20 percent

of combat veterans having PTSD.”

Studies suggest that biological variables

may place one person at greater risk for

developing PTSD than another, Miller says.

But the fundamental question remains:

does PTSD alter the brain or do brain

differences reflect higher vulnerabilities

for the development of PTSD?

Talk to enough veterans and you’ll hear a

common theme: experiencing post-traumatic

stress is not a disorder.

“I think it’s important to note that PTSD,

which I want to call PTS, is a spectrum

disorder,” says Todd Hunter, the national

director of communications for Disabled

American Veterans. “There’s different

symptoms that affect people at different

levels. I know there are guys who went

through a hell of a lot worse things than I did

and actually came out better, and I know that

there’s people who went through a hell of a lot

less than I did, who are having some serious

problems functioning day to day. I’ve been

lucky to be okay for the most part.”

While at AU he wrote an honors capstone

on the military, the media, and PTSD.

“I know people who have it and I don’t

think it’s right to portray everyone as ticking

time bombs,” Hunter says. “But also I noticed

that a lot of the people who I know, I feel like

they didn’t get help because they were so

worried about the stigma of having a disorder.

I feel like the civilian media will more likely

portray you as a victim because you have a

certain condition. To me, there’s nothing

wrong with it. There would be something

wrong if you went to combat and came back

the same. That’s just not possible.”

Despite that inevitable change, Piette

says veterans who seek counseling often

are dealing with the same problems other

students have. We shouldn’t assume, she

says, that their lives are always indelibly

harmed by their military experiences.

“We have some pretty powerful myths

about veterans,” she says. “They can go in

many different directions. The hero myth, or

for some people, veterans as villains. Or the

PTSD sufferer.

“None of us want to be seen as stereotypes.”

Ben King is urging his students to get

taller. Soften your feet; drop your

chin; pull your shoulder blades back,

he tells the half-dozen students

standing on mats in a studio at the Cassell

Fitness Center on campus.

They’ve come to this free class on

Veterans Day to learn King’s blend of yoga

and meditation, which he says helped save

him from the physical and emotional scars

inflicted on him during a year of combat in

Iraq. He calls the program “Armor Down.”

The room is peacefully quiet, save for the

sound of a fan and King’s booming voice.

“I want you to take a deep breath in and

hold it,” he says. “Feel the pressure. You’re

going to start to feel your body telling you

FOLLOW US @AU_AMERICANMAG 25


half hour into Fort Bliss, Claudia

A Myers’s emotionally stirring

film released late last year, Staff

Sergeant Maggie Swann, wearing

green army fatigues and a guarded

look, walks into the office of her new

commanding officer. She’s a medic

and single mother who has returned

to Texas from a tour of duty in

Afghanistan to discover her bond with

her 5-year-old son has been broken.

She’s also recently reenlisted.

“So how does it feel, to be

back a second time around?”

the officer asks.

“It’s always an adjustment, sir,”

responds Swann, played by Michelle

Monaghan of True Detective fame.

“I always say, coming home’s a lot

harder than going to war,” he says.

“So many damn expectations.”

The weight of those expectations,

shouldered by both soldiers and

their loved ones, is at the heart

of Myers’s film, which she

wrote, directed, and produced.

It received critical acclaim

during its limited theatrical run—

including the audience award

at the Champs-Élysées Film

Festival—and it’s now streaming

on Netflix and available on

iTunes and Amazon.

In the tradition of cominghome-from-war

classics like The

Best Years of Our Lives, The Deer

Hunter, and even this year’s smash

hit American Sniper, Fort Bliss

aims to capture how everyday

life unfolds after the euphoria

of familial reunion wears off.

(Unlike previous movies, it does

so from the perspective of a

female lead character.)

“It’s not just the reunion we

see at the homecomings,” says

Myers, a School of Communication

professor. “That’s actually just

the very beginning of a long and

complicated journey for people to

get to know each other again when

both have changed.”

She became interested in the

topic after making a training film

for the army about leadership

at the junior officer level and a

documentary for the VA on the

evolution of women’s roles in the

military. During those projects,

she forged relationships with

veterans and their families,

and realized the gulf that exists

between their expectations

and reality.

“I believe that most people

don’t see or grasp the social

impact of war,” Myers says.

“When a soldier deploys, the

family’s at war, too. They have

their own stresses and their own

challenges. When the family is

back together, it’s disruptive in

a way, and it’s difficult. Everyone

is affected.”

THE MAJORITY OF

HOMELESS VETERANS

ARE SINGLE MEN WHO

LIVE IN URBAN AREAS AND

SUFFER FROM MENTAL

ILLNESS, ALCOHOL OR

SUBSTANCE ABUSE,

OR BOTH; 40% ARE

BLACK OR HISPANIC.

Sources:

National Coalition

for Homeless

Veterans, US

Department

of Housing

and Urban

Development,

US Department

of Veterans

Affairs

to exhale. That’s an impulse. It’s an impulse

similar to anger, rage, whatever. Your body is

always communicating with you. The trick is

to learn how to listen to it.”

It took King, SPA/BA ’03, CAS/MA ’10,

several years to heed his own advice. Always

fascinated with guns, war movies, and

societal ideals of masculinity, he joined the

army while a student at AU and deployed

in 2006. On New Year’s Eve he was driving

down a South Baghdad road he’d been on a

thousand times before.

“I looked back at the lieutenant who came

with us and said, ‘I bet you didn’t think you’d

be spending New Year’s in a Humvee,’” he

recalls. “Then it was, boom!” His voice

explodes and he smacks his hands together.

“Time stood still. There was a bright

flash—heat, rocks, dirt, and metal came

rushing in my face. I remember thinking,

‘Close your eyes.’ I remember pain in my leg,

pain in my hand, pain in my groin. I opened

my eyes slowly and there was blood all over

me. The guy in the turret was bleeding out

of his face, and the guy in the back was

screaming about his neck. I was medevaced

to the Green Zone where they took care of

my injuries. I sustained burns and lacerations

to my leg and hand and blunt force trauma to

my left testicle.”

26 AMERICAN MAGAZINE MARCH 2015


post-9/11 veterans

were homeless or

in a federal program

aimed at keeping

them off the streets

in 2013—

almost

triple the

number

in 2011.

INCIDENCES OF PTSD ARE 250% HIGHER IN THE

YEAR AFTER DEPLOYMENT (VERSUS IMMEDIATELY

AFTER VETS RETURN HOME).

IN ANY

GIVEN YEAR,

11 to20

OUT OF EVERY

100 POST-9/11

VETERANS HAVE

PTSD.

SINCE 2006, 400,000

VETERANS HAVE APPLIED FOR

MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES.

3.6% OF

THE GENERAL

POPULATION

HAS PTSD

Sources: Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN),

US Department of Veterans Affairs,

Washington Post and the Kaiser

Family Foundation

EVERY

65

MINUTES,

A VETERAN

DIES BY

SUICIDE.

9%

of homeless

veterans are

between the

AGES

OF

18–30

50,409

veterans have been

wounded in action

since October 2001;

239,174 have been

diagnosed with PTSD

Sources: CBS News, Congressional Research Service, National Center for PTSD,

US Department of Defense, US Department of Veterans Affairs

NEARLY

20% of

female

post-9/11

veterans

have been

diagnosed

with PTSD.

of post-9/11

veterans know a

service member

who’s attempted

or committed

suicide

IN 2013,

132

SERVICE

MEMBERS

DIED IN

COMBAT AND

475

COMMITTED

SUICIDE.

Three days later he was back on duty. After

finishing his tour (he received a Purple Heart

and honorable discharge), King struggled to

find himself. He was working as a personal

trainer in Washington yet felt tremendous

physical pain in his back and knees. He

couldn’t sleep, couldn’t turn his mind to “off,”

couldn’t find inner peace.

He believes he was suffering from PTSD

during this time, and he still is waiting to be

evaluated by the VA.

“Once the euphoria of coming home wore

off, my mind began to overwhelm me, to the

point where I was never at ease,” he says. “My

mind was constantly racing, it was an electric

hum in my head. I had no recourse to do

anything about it. I felt constantly pressed.”

He took a chance on a yoga class and

was instantly hooked. A membership to a

wellness center began to inform his thinking

on the mind-body relationship, and soon he

established his workout program, designed to

help veterans realign their bodies and minds

to nonmilitary living.

“Once you exhale, the reward comes in the

presence of an impulse of thank you,” he tells

his students. “That is the same as having an

impulse that gets stuck. Take post-traumatic

stress. For me, impulses like doubt, worry,

fear, guilt—that is a sensational experience.

“I didn’t understand it. I thought it was

a thought process. I had no relationship to

the physical, sensational experience of it. But

when you begin to see that it’s not that you

eliminate anger, fear, guilt, frustration, it’s that

you begin to recognize that, yes, it’s there, but

with awareness I can watch it show up and

watch it leave.”

For King, helping other veterans traverse

the road to mental, physical, and spiritual

recovery is a critical part of his own

readjustment to civilian life. It’s a tricky path

to negotiate, and the consequences of failure

can be dire.

The statistic is almost too ghastly to

contemplate: a veteran commits

suicide once every 65 minutes.

That’s 22 veterans taking their

own lives every day. (It’s a horrific, muchpublicized

number, but it may not be a direct

result of the War on Terror. While a Los

Angeles Times report found the figure to be

misleading—about 72 percent of veterans

are 50 or older, accounting for more than

15 of the 22 per day—even one suicide is

one too many.)

Tim Lawson, SOC/BA ’16, started the 1, 2

Many: Veteran Suicide podcast in response to

the torrent of media coverage of the issue.

“I was reading articles on how horrible

the problem was. They were just talking

about the numbers and statistics,” he

says. “It really angered me that we were

dehumanizing the crisis.”

A marine veteran who did not serve in

combat, Lawson was planning just 10 to 12

episodes of the show until he discovered

how many people were willing to share their

stories. He extended it indefinitely.

“Each week I feature a veteran or a family

member who’s lost someone to suicide, and I

get the raw story of what happened,” he says.

“The objective is to remove the stigma, to

help us realize what suicide prevention really

means. Are we having the right conversation

about suicide in general? I want to make it an

easier conversation to have.”

Hawkland knew two soldiers who took

their own lives, seemingly out of nowhere.

Each appeared to be doing well in the “real

world.” They’re a tragic reminder of his

former life, which on this breezy afternoon—

and all others—feels like it was both yesterday

and light-years ago.

After an hour-long conversation filled with

memories prideful and painful, he heads back

to the veterans’ lounge, where friends and

comrades—and his textbooks—await.

FOLLOW US @AU_AMERICANMAG 27


Len Forkas was determined to connect his sick, homebound

son to his friends and teachers at school. Hundreds of other

children continue to reap the benefits of his resolve.

BY MIKE UNGER

he skinny 22-year-old man with a thick

tuft of brown hair sitting at the kitchen

table and the photo of the bald, sallow

9-year-old boy, his cheeks severely swollen,

share only one obvious similarity.

The same broad smile.

When Len Forkas’s calves were pulsating,

his back tightening, his head pounding, his

lungs gasping for oxygen, he thought often of

both the boy in the photo and the man that

boy has become. But throughout the 3,000-

mile Race across America he completed

in 2012, he also drew inspiration from the

roughly 14,000 other children who, like his

son Matt a decade earlier, are diagnosed with

cancer every year. Len, Kogod/MBA ’89, rode

his Trek Madone 5.9 bike from the Pacific

Ocean to the Chesapeake Bay to raise money

for Hopecam, a charity born from his son’s

battle for life.

On a mild December day that seems too

warm for the wire polar bears and other

holiday decorations on the front lawn of the

family’s Vienna, Virginia, home, father and

son sit next to each another, recounting the

darkest days of their lives and the blessings

those trials ultimately brought.

“Everybody gets tested in their lives,

and it comes in different forms,” Len says.

“The question is, when it happens to you,

what do you do? Fortunately, as a family, we

didn’t look at ourselves as victims. We fought

it. We turned a negative into a positive by

focusing on ways that we could help other

people going through the same thing we

went through.”

Matt is home for winter break from Stetson

University in Florida, where he’s majoring

in business and digital arts. He’s a bit more

laid back than his telecommunications

entrepreneur, marathon-running, bike-racing,

55-year-old father, but the two did team up to

summit Mount Kilimanjaro last summer to

raise $25,000 for Hopecam. Matt bears almost

28 AMERICAN MAGAZINE MARCH 2015


no resemblance to that sickly kid in the photo,

whom he hardly recognizes anymore.

“It’s not like I’m happy that I got [cancer],

but I don’t think I’d be who I am today

without getting sick,” he says quietly. “It

matured me very quickly. Faced with death

so young kind of sped up that process. It gave

me a lot more to be grateful for. It made me

a lot more grounded. It’s so long ago that it

almost seems like it didn’t happen, but at the

same time, I have so many things to show

that it did happen. Like Hopecam.”

he phone rang in Len Forkas’s office

at 10 a.m. on January 18, 2002. He

remembers the date and time precisely.

“Can we wait until after school?” Len

asked the physician on the other line, who

was unmistakably concerned about Matt.

“No, he’s got to come in right now.”

The urgency in the doctor’s voice was

alarming.

For the first eight years of his life, Matt

Forkas was a healthy, normal boy. He loved to

play basketball with his friends, but he began

getting curiously short of breath during games.

Doctors struggled to pinpoint the problem.

One diagnosed whooping cough, which his

parents, Len and Elizabeth, found odd. Who

gets whooping cough anymore? He missed

numerous days of school with headaches and

generally felt under the weather.

During a family vacation his color turned

yellowish, so his parents took him to the doctor

for blood work when they returned home.

After dropping him off at school, Len was now

being told to bring him back. Immediately.

“That’s when they told us he had

leukemia,” Len says. “Nothing prepares you

for that, and I had to explain it to him. I

said, ‘We think you have cancer. Cancer is

something we can fight, and we can win it.

I’m going to be with you the whole way.’”

They drove to Inova Children’s Hospital

in Falls Church, Virginia, parked in the

garage, then walked across a skybridge

toward the building.

“It’s five o’clock, it’s dark and cold,” Len

says as if he’s describing yesterday, not a

Friday more than a dozen years ago. “I look

down and Matthew is holding in his hand

a statue of St. Matthew that my mom gave

him when he had his first communion. That’s

the moment he asks me if he is going to die.

It’s almost like our old life is over here on this

parking deck, and the new world is behind

these big steel doors, and it feels like we’re

going through this tunnel. You don’t know how

far it goes or how long it’s going to go, and you

can’t see past.”

That was the first day.

Matt’s chemo treatments for acute

lymphoblastic leukemia were extremely

intense. His thigh was injected with vincristine,

and he received methotrexate, which caused

painful sores in his mouth. He took steroids

to shrink the swelling of his cells, but that

caused his face to puff up. Because doctors

were trying to kill as many of his cancerous

white blood cells as possible, he was at high

risk for contracting pneumonia, and he was

homebound for the rest of the school year.

The nine-year-old boy began losing his

hair, as if he were 49.

Seeing his son virtually bedridden and

depressed tore at Len. He was determined

to reunite Matt with his friends, even if they

couldn’t physically interact. So he decided

to equip computers in Matt’s bedroom and

fourth-grade classroom with cameras, and

connect the two. In 2002, eons before Skype or

FaceTime, this was no easy task. He contacted

the Fairfax County School System’s head of

technology, who helped him figure out answers

to his myriad questions. What software could

be used? How could they test it? Was it even

legal to put a camera in a classroom?

“The hardest part was to create a sense

of urgency to make this happen, because the

clock was ticking,” Len says. “Every single

day I came home and saw Matt and how

tough it was for him. School was going to

be over in June, so I was really trying to get

this done quickly. In the end it took us eight

weeks. All the roadblocks that got thrown in

front of us, we picked them off one at a time.”

Using Microsoft’s NetMeeting software,

Matt was able to see his classroom and talk

to his friends every morning and after recess.

“Seeing everyone smiling and waving

made me feel like I was there,” Matt says. “It

almost made me forget that I was undergoing

all those treatments. Everyone looked at me

like it was me. They weren’t scared.”

Len believes it was a transformative

experience for all involved.

“He didn’t even recognize himself, but

those 24 kids in the classroom could see

him and they knew it was Matt,” Len says.

“They reminded him that he hadn’t been

forgotten and you’re coming back. Your desk

is still there waiting for you. The unintended

consequence of this was we demystified what

cancer was for the 24 kids, and we taught

them empathy and how valuable it is to stay

connected to your friends.”

When Matt returned to school in the fall,

some of his buddies rubbed his head for

good luck.

“When I saw how easy it was for him

to transition back to school, that’s when

I realized the value of it. Those kids

understood what he went through, he didn’t

have to explain it to anybody. They saw

it. That to me was the magic of what we

stumbled on. I’d gone through all the red

tape and cut through all the bureaucracy, and

I can’t even imagine what another parent

would have to go through trying to do

what I did. That’s when I realized I’ve

got to find a way to help more kids.”

n the early 2000s, laptops ran about

$1,000 and Internet connections were

far from ubiquitous. Len knew that to

provide other sick kids with the connectivity

that benefitted his son, he’d have to raise

money. Fast.

So he started running.

30 AMERICAN MAGAZINE MARCH 2015


“When Matt was born, I ran the Marine

Corps Marathon,” he says. “I promised I

would never do another one of those. But

I started running more and biking more to

cope with the stress of his illness. I ended up

doing the Marine Corps again, then I signed

up for a 50-mile ultramarathon, and I raised

five grand. I bought five computers, I went to

a clinic, and we found five kids to help. The

next year I raised 10 grand. Every year I raised

more money to help more kids.”

Hopecam was officially born in 2003,

and its growth has been powered by Len’s

grit and determination. He completed an

Ironman triathlon, which raised $30,000 for

the charity, enabling him to hire a part-time

director. Next was a 400-mile, 24-hour bike

race in Florida, which raised enough money

to make that director full-time. By 2012 Matt

had been declared cancer-free, and Hopecam

was helping dozens of kids throughout the

mid-Atlantic.

The organization provides kids with a

tablet computer equipped with a webcam,

and Internet access if needed, then works

with schools to establish a regular

connection, enabling housebound children

to participate in classroom activities and

interact with friends.

“We are the ombudsman for the parents,”

Len says. “Lots of charities can give you an

iPad with Skype, but to be able to connect

to the school and cut through the red tape,

that’s the real differentiator.”

few years ago, Len, who Matt says

sleeps four hours a night and takes

10-minute catnaps that completely

reenergize him, had an itch.

He wanted to take Hopecam to the next

level, so he recruited a crew of 11 volunteers to

help him compete in—and complete—the Race

across America. Only half the entrants in the

race from Oceanside, California, to Annapolis,

Maryland, generally finish it, but Len had a

motivation the others did not: Hopecam.

Sleeping for two-hour clips and subsisting

on a largely liquid diet, he finished the race

in 11 days, 4 hours, and 47 minutes. He was

one of just 28 of the 45 solo competitors to

finish the race. Of those 28, Len placed first

in his age group (50–59) and 10th overall.

In What Spins the Wheel, the book

he wrote about the business and

leadership lessons he learned from the

race (he’s founder and CEO of Milestone

Communications, a wireless infrastructure

company that has developed and managed

more than 100 wireless towers in the

Washington region), Forkas described the

physical toll of the grueling endeavor.

“In the desert, the sun is melting you. The

headwinds are making you feel like you are

Sisyphus rolling a rock up the hill, only to have

it roll down again and have to start all over.

Then you are in the Rockies, your extremities

numbed by the cold. Finally you summit the

highest peak and coast into the Great Plains,

only to find the Kansas crosswinds acting like

ropes pulling you back and forth and sideways.

You have never ridden this far in a training

ride and so everything now is uncharted

territory . . . and you haven’t even gotten to

the Appalachians yet, the final push that feels

harder than the Rockies because the hills, like

going 25 rounds with the boxer Mike Tyson,

just keep coming at you.”

Len dropped 10 pounds and raised

$350,000 for Hopecam, which last year

helped 359 kids in 38 states.

Isaac Benjamin was one of them. Unable

to attend first grade in Port Orchard,

Washington, while he undergoes treatment

for leukemia, the six-year-old Skypes for a

half hour with his classmates each week.

“It was so special for us,” says his mother

Sarah. “All his little first-grade classmates

were super excited to talk to him. They were

quizzing him on his math just for fun, they

read a book to him, and they talked to him

about Christmas. There was a lot of joy in

that meeting.

“This journey that you’re on with cancer

is pretty gloomy and gray. You get these spots

of sunshine that people send your way, like

Hopecam,” Sarah says. “Those things that

people do, they really do help, even if

it’s a little thing. Okay, Isaac got to spend half

an hour talking to his class. It’s just a little

spot of sunshine, but it makes a difference

on your journey.”

DOWNLOAD the American magazine

app to read more thank-you notes from

Hopecam’s kids.

FOLLOW US @AU_AMERICANMAG 31


BY

MIKE

UNGER


wanted a selfie with the

mayor. One month after Muriel Bowser’s inauguration, the leader of

the nation’s capital held an open house at her new professional home.

More than 2,500 men and women of all ages, races, and religions trekked

downtown to the John A. Wilson Building after work on a cold, dark

Monday in February for a chance to meet Madam Mayor, as many people

formally address her. Along with the calypso sounds of a steel drum, a

strand of pure optimism particular to a new administration filled the air.

“Call me Muriel,” the 42-year-old said while people swarmed her as

if she were a rock star.

In some ways, she is. A native daughter of DC, Bowser, SPA/MPP

’00, is the second woman and second-youngest person elected to the

District’s highest office since Congress oh-so-generously began letting

residents of the capital of the world’s strongest democracy choose their

own mayor in 1974. Virtually unknown in political circles a decade ago,

her meteoric rise has invigorated a city where her two predecessors

proved wildly unpopular.

“It didn’t seem like such a novel idea, but people left so energized,”

Bowser said of the open house 10 days later, during an interview with

American. It was past 7 p.m., and she’d just come from a marathon of

meetings that included interviews with potential fire chiefs. Ten hours

into her workday, which usually runs about 12, she took a seat on one

of the two white couches in her new office, which she moved from the

sixth floor to the third to be closer to her staff and constituents.

“We had people who had never been in this building,” she said. “For

us to have a building as beautiful as this one, on Pennsylvania Avenue,

a stone’s throw from the White House, is a remarkable thing for the

people of the District of Columbia.”

As is Bowser’s ascent to office No. 310H from the North Michigan

Park house she grew up in. Her father, Joe, was a school facilities

manager who dabbled in local politics, and her mother, Joan,

was a nurse. She attended a small women’s college in Pittsburgh

and AU’s School of Public Affairs before she got into politics. In

2000 she bought a row house in Riggs Park (where she still lives),

and four years later was elected as an advisory neighborhood

commissioner. When Ward 4 councilman Adrian Fenty won the

2006 Democratic mayoral primary (and later the general election),

Bowser was working as an assistant director of an economic agency

in Montgomery County, Maryland. It was then she began to feel an

unmistakable pull toward public office.

Q. People call you Madam Mayor.

Have you gotten used to that yet?

People call me a lot of things: Muriel, Miss

Mayor, Madam Mayor. I answer to them all.

Q. What, if anything, has surprised

you about the job one month in?

It’s interesting, I’m not all that surprised by the

job. Maybe because I was running for so long

that I eased into the type of decision making

and the type of accountability that go along

with it. But, at the end of the day, when you’re

a candidate or when you’re on the council, you

can point out all the problems. When you’re

the mayor, whether you’re the cause of them or

not, they’re now your responsibility. That’s not

a surprise, but it is a heavy reality.

Q. When did you first know you

wanted to be a politician?

It hasn’t been a lifelong aspiration, but I

certainly saw while working in the community

and in government that going the elected route

was the fastest way to make change.

Q. Why did you decide to go to

AU for your master’s degree?

I wanted to come home. At the time I was

living in Philadelphia, and I was looking for

a top program. I knew that I wanted to be in

a policy program that was really substantive.

AU fit all of those criteria.

AU stretched me in some ways because

of the quantitative focus. I enjoyed looking

at government decisions from an economic

policy model. That really shaped the way I

deal with a lot of the issues and problems

that I interact with. It’s made me realize how

important data are to evaluate how we’re

distributing resources.

Q. You really jumped into politics

when you ran for Adrian Fenty’s

Ward 4 seat. How influential was he

and is he to your political career?

He’s a great friend and mentor, and I think

we share an energy and vision for how

government should serve people in our

hometown, and a restlessness about getting

things done. We also share a passion for how

we pull along people who are like-minded.

Part of my political career has been trying to

find talented, hardworking people who share

my energy and restlessness about change.

Q. Your dad ran—unsuccessfully—

for city council in 1994. What

have you learned from him about

politics?

I think my father represents the best of

grassroots politics. In DC, as much as we’re

known for being the capital city and the home

of Congress and the White House, we’re really a

small town in some ways, and grassroots politics

matter here. My father was very good at them.

Q. Do you enjoy the process

of campaigning?

I do. I really love every aspect of it, but mostly

because when you’re on the campaign there’s

really no filter between you and the people

you serve.

I campaigned from the ground, so

knocking on doors, being in churches and

with community groups, talking to people

about what their real concerns are. When

you’re in government, sometimes you can

get isolated from what real people are saying,

especially in this time when there’s so much

focus on 24-hour news and social media.

Sometimes the insiders just get busy talking

to each other.

In governing, my style is also open and

transparent and close to the ground. That’s

one huge difference between how we have

set out to govern and how others have. This

[February] we have the whole senior team

out in community meetings.

We’re going to upend the budget process

so that we’re getting feedback from people

before we actually go “pencils down” and

submit it to the council. People thought it

was kind of funny that I said we’re going to

have a fresh start, but we really do mean that

we’re looking for ways to start fresh across

the whole government.

FOLLOW US @AU_AMERICANMAG 33


Q. Is feeling filtered or isolated

something you’re experiencing

now that you’re in office? Is it

tougher to interact with people?

You have to be intentional about it. I lead a

government of 30,000 people, so it’s not my

job to do everything that needs to happen in

government. My job is to hire great people,

set metrics for them to reach, hold them

accountable. It’s important for me to listen

to the community and be the voice of the

community in this building. I also realize

that it’s the mayor’s job to make the big asks.

Be the salesperson, be the recruiter, but

ultimately be the person that holds all the

leaders accountable.

Q. What are some of your

priorities for your first year

and term?

We are right now really looking at the things

that are important to accomplish in the first

100 days. What I’ve told everybody is that like

every other mayor in the history of mayors,

you inherit the successes of your predecessors,

but you also inherit the overdue promises and

everything else that could go wrong in a city.

We inherited a city that’s growing. Business

is coming, people are coming, but we’ve also

inherited the stresses of growth. Soaring

housing prices, homelessness, especially family

homelessness. We have systems that aren’t

working the way they should be in our public

safety sector, but on balance a lot of cities

would like to be in our position.

I promised that I would continue growth

in this city while being very intentional

about expanding our middle class. Our first

budget will be due on April 4. Affordable

housing and jobs are what we’ll focus on. I’m

committed to putting $100 million toward

affordable housing.

Q. You also inherited a sizable

budget deficit. How does that

impact your agenda?

I’m not a sky-is-falling type of person; I

think that we have a manageable gap. This

year is about $80 million, next year is about

$240 million out of $12 billion. We have to

be prudent, but we can get our priorities

met. I’ve asked the agencies to go through

an exercise of cuts that will allow us to

meet the gap but also fund new initiatives.

We’re going to meet our commitment for

$100 million for the housing, we’re going to

meet our commitment to change the way

we do job training, and we’ll meet all of our

commitments around schools.

“My job is to hire

great people, set metrics

for them to reach, hold

them accountable. It’s

important for me to listen

to the community and be

the voice of the community

in this building.”

Q. We’ve seen what happened

in Ferguson and New York.

How would you assess the state

of relations between District

citizens and their police force?

I think they’re very good, especially relative

to the incidents that you reference. I wouldn’t

have said the same thing 20 years ago. A

lot of great police leaders and officers and

community members and elected officials

have improved the state of relations between

our department and our communities. We

have improved our ranks, and we’re holding

our officers accountable. They’re getting the

training and support that they need. We have

stable and very good leadership at the top

with [Chief ] Cathy Lanier; she’s done a great

job of promoting, within the ranks, really

talented leaders in the department.

We’ve built a lot of trust between the

police and the community. The thing I see

that tells me if communities are working

with police is when crimes get solved,

especially violent crimes.

When there’s a homicide in your city and

somebody’s getting arrested, it’s because, nine

times out of ten, the community helped the

police. Nine times out of ten, in this city, when

there’s a homicide, somebody knows who did

it. The improvement in closing cases like that

demonstrates to me that the community and

the police are talking and that trust has grown

and we’re a much safer city because of it.

Q. DC is the only major city where

the mayor, the chief of police, and

the schools superintendent are all

women. What do you think it says

about the city, if anything?

I’m very proud of it. I don’t think any of us

aspire to be the woman chief or the woman

mayor or the woman schools chancellor, but

I think it’s fitting for the nation’s capital to

say that we are appointing and electing the

most qualified people that share our values. I

think that’s why I was elected; people wanted

a mayor whom they could trust, a mayor

who had a vision for how the city grows, but

a mayor who also wanted to expand who is

participating in that prosperity.

Q. Your first week in office, there

was a threat of snow. It seems like

snow removal is the holy grail for

a big-city mayor . . .

Yes, it is.

Q. What can you do about that

short of picking up a shovel and

digging out yourself ? How do you

ensure that city services like trash

removal, snow removal—these

things that affect people on a dayto-day

basis—run smoothly?

We have to have the right people. Period. We

have to have good information and rely on that

information, and we also can’t make excuses. If

we get something wrong, we gotta say we got it

wrong, figure out what happened, and fix it for

the next time. I regard clearing the snow and

removing the trash as one of my top jobs. People

pay taxes, the least they can expect is to get their

trash picked up. It’s not a small matter at all.

I can’t say that I was happy about the first

snow. We’ve had six since then—I don’t think

anybody has mentioned those. We reinstituted

an accountability system called CapStat. The

last administration went away from it; the

Fenty administration was big on it. It’s a way

to look at the data, look at the responses, and

figure out what happened.

Q. You have a unique perspective

because you’re a lifelong

Washingtonian. What would a

10-year-old Muriel Bowser think

of the city right now?

The city is almost not recognizable from

when I was 10 years old. When I was 10 years

34 AMERICAN MAGAZINE MARCH 2015


old, this city was dangerous. When I was

10, my world was my North Michigan Park

home with my family, so you couldn’t tell me

that I didn’t have a great life. Great family, I

had a great education, and I lived in a great

neighborhood where people looked out for

each other.

I would wish my life as a 10-year-old on all

the 10-year-olds of today. Now, knowing what

I know as an adult, looking back at that time,

I think it was not a very stable time in our

city’s history.

Q. When you go to other

cities and people sneer at the

mere mention of Washington,

DC, what do you tell them

about why it’s such a great

actual place, not a conceptual

nightmare?

I’ve never really understood it, to be honest

with you. You couldn’t tell me that I didn’t

live in the greatest city in the world. I left

home in 1990; I went to school in Pittsburgh.

At that time, we were the murder capital of

the world. We were on the nightly news for

all the wrong reasons. Even then, I enjoyed

Washington a lot. I worked in the counties

for a good part of my early career. It was a

different kind of sneer. It was “Why is DC

so screwed up?” They were talking about

DC government, not the Congress and the

White House.

Actually, we weren’t getting it right. We

weren’t picking up the trash. Ambulances

were taking 45 minutes. It really bothered

me a lot. I felt strongly that I should be

in my city making the changes that my

city needed.

Q. Four years from now, or

whenever your time in office

comes to an end, how are you

going to know whether you’ve

been successful?

There’s a lot of different metrics, but I think

that people will say that “She kept her word,

she did what she said she was going to do, she

was honest and had an open government, and

we see an appreciable difference in how the

middle class is growing in DC.”

DOWNLOAD the American magazine

app to watch Mayor Bowser’s inaugural

address.

Q. You can have one great meal

in DC. Where are you going?

I take a lot of people to Acadiana. I love

the low country. I get criticized sometimes,

but I’m a big fan of Ruth’s Chris. I also love

Lauriol Plaza. It has good neighborhood food.

Q. What’s your favorite landmark?

That’s tough. It’s not necessarily a building or

a statue. I would say Rock Creek Park. It’s so

calming, it’s such a beautiful resource. It’s a

well-used park, and we should feel very lucky

to have it.

Q. Who’s your favorite Republican?

I like Connie Morella.

Q. What’s your favorite season?

Summer. I was born in August. I’m over winter.

Q. Should DC become a state?

Yes.

Q. Favorite sports team?

You’re gonna get me in trouble. I do support

all of our teams, but I didn’t grow up with

baseball. My father is a huge baseball fan; he

did grow up with baseball in Washington. I

have caught the Nationals fever. The thing

that I really like about our sports teams is the

social aspect of it. Going to the games, seeing

people, and eating a hot dog. The games

themselves are kind of secondary.

Q. Should the Redskins change

their name?

Yes.

Q. If you weren’t in public

service, what do you think you

would have done?

I would have liked to have owned a flower

shop. I still might.

FOLLOW US @AU_AMERICANMAG 35


department

Nicole Gasmen’s snapshot

from high above Seoul on

Mt. Ansan scored second

place in AU Abroad’s

biannual photo contest.

The picture, taken during

the international studies

major’s semester abroad

at Yonsei University,

“combines two of South

Korea’s greatest loves—

selfie sticks and hiking,”

says Gasmen, SIS/BA ’15,

second from right. (Read

more about selfies on

page 5 and download the

American magazine app for

more winning photographs

from students’ travels.)


1950s

Bob DiChiara, CAS/BA ’50, was

honored at the Veterans Day 70th

anniversary celebration as the

guest of honor. He spoke about

his wartime experiences aboard

the SS Red Oak Victory.

David Pattison, SIS/BA ’59,

WCL/JD ’61, SPA/MA ’65, was

awarded the annual, statewide,

first-place award for the best

photo in a single issue by the

Florida Press Association. He

-1968-

TIME

CAPSULES

TOP TUNE

“Hey Jude,” the Beatles

TOP-GROSSING FLICK

2001: A Space Odyssey

IN THE NEWS

North Vietnamese launch the Tet

Offensive, a turning point in the Vietnam

War; Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated

in Memphis; primetime news magazine 60

Minutes debuts on CBS

FROM THE AU ARCHIVES

Louis Marcoussis’s painting “Abstractions”

is stolen from the Kreeger Music Building

and found in an impounded car in the

police lot, thanks to an anonymous tipster.

AT THE HELM

Luiz Simmons was 1968–1969 Student

Association president. Today, he

represents the 17th District in the

Maryland House of Delegates.

has been writing travel stories for

his local newspaper, the Marco

Island Sun Times, for several

years. He’s traveled to all seven

continents and more than 100

countries.

1960s

Arnold Danielson, CAS/BA ’62,

wrote American Banking through

Crises and Consolidation, an

update of a book he wrote

previously.

David Edgell, CAS/BA ’68, was

honored with the 2014 Board

on Human Sciences Lifetime

Achievement Award, which

recognized a national leader

with a significant history of

advancing human sciences in

higher education.

Sherrill Cannon,

CAS/BA ’69, has

received 28

national and

international

awards for

her books,

My Fingerpaint

Masterpiece,

Manner-Man, Gimee-

Jimmy, The Magic Word, Peter

and the Whimper-Whineys, and

Santa’s Birthday Gift. She is also

the author of seven published and

internationally performed plays

for elementary school children,

which have been produced all

over the world.

UPDATE

YOUR CONTACT

INFORMATION AT

ALUMNIASSOCIATION.

AMERICAN.EDU/

UPDATEINFO.

I’m like a kid in a

candy store. Never in

my life did I expect

to see the ship again,

let alone walk on the

deck. To be 89 and to

feel like I’m 18 again

is in itself a treat.”

—Bob DiChiara, CAS/BA ’50, on

his return to the SS Red Oak Victory,

where he served for two years

during World War II (1944–1946)

Karen Feld, CAS/BA ’69, was

honored by the National

Federation of Press

Women for

1970s

Excellence in

Journalism

with first-place

awards in a

communications

contest for online

feature, editorial/

opinion, and news

stories.

Barry Moss, CAS/BA ’71,

was elected to the Pompano

Beach, Florida, City Commission.

Pompano Beach has about

125,000 residents “in season” and

about 105,000 in the summer.

Don White, SPA/BS ’76, received

the 2014 Joan White Grassroots

Volunteer Award, in honor of 44

years of community service to

organizations across Alexandria,

Virginia. The award was presented

by Alexandria mayor William

Euille at the US Patent and

Trademark Office headquarters

on November 6, 2014.

-1976-

TIME

CAPSULES

TOP TUNE

“Silly Love Songs,” Wings

TOP-GROSSING FLICK

Rocky

IN THE NEWS

US Supreme Court rules that the death

penalty is a constitutionally acceptable

form of punishment; Israeli commandos

attack Uganda’s Entebbe Airport, freeing

103 hostages held by pro-Palestinian

hijackers; mysterious disease that

eventually claims 29 lives strikes American

Legion convention in Philadelphia

FROM THE AU ARCHIVES

A concertgoer loses a finger during the

Peter Frampton show in the Woods-Brown

Ampitheater. The spring concert was

marred by overcrowding, an arrest, a

traffic jam, and “an awesome accumulation

of garbage,” according to the Eagle.

AT THE HELM

Alan Russo served as 1976–1977

Student Confederation president.

Today, he’s a partner at Russo

& Toner, LLP, in New York City.

AMERICAN.EDU/ALUMNI 37


giving

MY MESSAGE IN THIS ISSUE of American is different from previous letters.

I will leave AU in May to become Franklin College’s next president. As I prepare for this new

chapter in my journey, I reflect on the gains we have made together for AU.

Since I arrived in 2008, thanks to our first-rate staff and alumni board, we’ve made noticeable

progress in the development of outstanding alumni programs:

• ALUMNI EVENT ATTENDANCE has increased fourfold, a result of an enhanced alumni

weekend and robust growth in service, mentorship, social networking, and career

enhancement programs.

• PARTICIPATION IN ALUMNI CHAPTERS is up; leaders are engaged in a

reinvigorated alumni board and in new, more active deans’ councils, including the

new Eagles Leadership Council.

• THE ALUMNI ADMISSIONS VOLUNTEER PROGRAM—now 600 strong—was

created to engage alumni in the critical work of student recruitment. They connected

with 5,100 prospective students last year alone.

• MORE STUDENTS CONNECT WITH ALUMNI at wide-ranging events, from

convocation to senior barbecues.

Along with many of you who made important annual gifts, trustees and lead donors have

helped cultivate a greater culture of philanthropy at AU, knowing that private support is

the hallmark of successful higher education.

• OVER FIVE YEARS, total dollars for gifts and pledges nearly doubled to $32 million

annually; cash revenues increased 68 percent to $26.3 million annually.

It has been a

privilege to

work with you

to advance this

great institution

and raise the

profile of AU.

• SEVERAL SIGNIFICANT GIFTS ADVANCED our strategic plan goals, including

seven-figure naming gifts. Among them were:

Cassell Hall

Malsi Doyle and Michael Forman Theater

Susan Carmel Lehrman Chair in Russian History and Culture

Gary D. Cohn Scholarship

Martin H. Steiner Scholarship

Alper Initiative for Washington Art

• I ESPECIALLY WANT TO RECOGNIZE Board of Trustees chair Jeff Sine, who

generously established AU Reach and the Community-Based Research Scholars Program.

My work has benefited tremendously from the talent, commitment, and friendship of so many

of you who care deeply about your alma mater. It has been a privilege to work with you to

advance this great institution and raise the profile of AU. I hope you share my pride in all that

we’ve accomplished.

With your support, the university is well positioned to continue its trajectory. I’m proud to

have called AU home for a pivotal time in my career. As I head to Indiana, I will live by the

mantra repeated so often at alumni events: Once an Eagle, always an Eagle.

Sincerely,

Thomas J. Minar, PhD

Vice President of Development and Alumni Relations

ILLUSTRATION BY BRUCE MORSER

38 AMERICAN MAGAZINE MARCH 2015


vision + planning = legacy

HOWARD LEE, SPA/BA ’69, WCL/JD ’73

Howard Lee is proof that there’s no better place to study government and law than the nation’s capital. A Washington native, Lee is

a veteran of the George H. W. Bush administration and a former staff director for the US House of Representatives’s subcommittee

on domestic finance and monetary policy. “AU’s School of Public Affairs and Washington College of Law provide students the

opportunity to learn from some of the finest policy makers, advocates, and judges serving our country,” says Lee, executive secretary

and managing director of Cosmos Alliance, a DC-based investment group that advances emerging biotechnologies.

An AU alumnus twice over, Lee believes it’s his duty to help safeguard the academic integrity of independent, private

institutions. “It’s important that everyone who has a stake in AU do what they can to ensure its future.” For his part, Lee created

three awards, named in honor of friends and family—Pat Heinaman, SPA/BA ’71; Charles M. Johnson, CAS/BA ’68, and his wife,

Lucy; and his aunt Alice Lee Quan, CAS/BA ’34, and her husband, Lau King Quan—to help AU students cover their academic

expenses. Lee has also provided annual contributions to WCL for more than three decades.

Years ago, the Fredericksburg, Virginia, resident named SPA and WCL in his estate plans. His gift will support scholarships to

help relieve the burden of student debt and better prepare AU Eagles to pursue their passions. “Howard’s commitment to helping

the next generation of AU students fulfill their academic and professional dreams is remarkable,” says AU president Neil Kerwin.

“I am grateful for his philanthropic vision and generous spirit.”

FOR INFORMATION ON HOW YOUR VISION CAN CREATE A LEGACY at American University through a sound charitable estate plan,

contact Kara Barnes, director of planned giving, at 202-885-5914 or kbarnes@american.edu, or visit american.edu/plannedgiving.

AMERICAN.EDU/ALUMNI 39


class notes

1980s

Pamela Demain, Kogod/MBA

’80, was elected president of the

Licensing Executives Society

(USA and Canada) during its 50th

anniversary annual meeting.

Karen Lesmez, CAS/BA ’81,

CAS/MEd ’83, was featured as

an extra in the movie A Deaf

Superhero.

Doug Ballantine, SPA/BA ’84,

was named a “Local Star” in

-1984-

TIME

CAPSULES

TOP TUNE

“When Doves Cry,” Prince

and the Revolution

TOP-GROSSING FLICK

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

IN THE NEWS

Apple debuts the Macintosh personal

computer; Soviet Union boycotts the

summer Olympic games in Los Angeles;

Syria frees captured US Navy pilot,

Lt. Robert Goodman Jr.

FROM THE AU ARCHIVES

Sex therapist Ruth Westheimer visits

AU for a lecture sponsored by the

Kennedy Political Union. The infamous

Dr. Ruth encourages women to carry

contraceptives: “They now come in any

color to match [your] pocketbook.”

AT THE HELM

Darryl Jones was 1983–1984 Student

Confederation president.

It is an honor and privilege to work

for Senator Cruz. His leadership is truly

motivating, and I can’t wait to get started

on our collaboration for liberty.”

—Paul Teller, SPA/PhD ’99, on his appointment as Senator Ted

Cruz’s (R-TX) chief of staff, January 16

Kentucky by Benchmark

Litigation in the areas of

environmental, general

commercial, insurance, and

intellectual property law.

Joseph Nader, SIS/BA ’88,

Kogod/MBA ’90, has been named

to the board of directors of Miami

Children’s Hospital. He will

serve on the finance committee

and continue as a member of the

investment committee, on which

he has served since 2012.

Susan Shelby, SIS/BA ’88, is

the founder of public relations

firm Rhino, chosen by Zampell

Facilities Management

to create and

execute a

comprehensive

marketing and

public relations

program.

Len Forkas,

Kogod/MBA ’89,

and the charity he

founded

with his son, Hopecam,

were featured on Anderson Cooper

360° and Fox and Friends. Forkas

raised more than $300,000 for

Hopecam by participating in

the 2012 Race across America.

Forkas wrote a book, What Spins

the Wheel, about leadership

lessons he learned from the race.

Brian Keane, SPA/BA ’89,

received a Lifetime Achievement

Award from People’s Action for

Clean Energy for his book Green

Is Good.

1990s

KEEP

YOUR FRIENDS IN

THE LOOP. SEND

YOUR UPDATES TO

CLASSNOTES@

AMERICAN.EDU.

Jeffrey Halick, Kogod/BSBA ’91,

SIS/BA ’91, was promoted to

colonel in the US Army

Reserves.

Mary Call Blanusa,

SIS/BA ’93, was

appointed

education

program officer

for US policy

and advocacy at the

Helmsley Charitable

Trust in New York.

Jen Nadol, CAS/BA ’93,

published her third novel, This Is

How It Ends, on October 7, 2014.

-1996-

TIME

CAPSULES

TOP TUNE

“Macarena,” Los del Río

TOP-GROSSING FLICK

Independence Day

IN THE NEWS

President Bill Clinton appoints Madeleine

Albright as the first female US secretary

of state; Congress passes welfare reform

bill; rapper Tupac Shakur dies after a

drive-by shooting in Las Vegas

FROM THE AU ARCHIVES

Thirty-five members of AU’s Free Burma

Coalition participate in a three-day

fast to bring awareness to business

and political problems in the embattled

Southeast Asia country.

AT THE HELM

Thomas Palermo was 1996–1997 Student

Confederation president. Today, he’s

an assistant US attorney at the

Department of Justice.

James Morris, CAS/BA ’96, will

publish his new book, Eye on the

Struggle: Ethel Payne, The First

Lady of the Black Press, through

HarperCollins.

Michael Dovilla, SPA/MPA ’99,

was elected to a third term in the

Ohio House of Representatives

and was chosen by colleagues to

serve as majority whip in the 131st

General Assembly (2015–2016).

Paul Teller, SPA/PhD ’99, was

promoted to chief of staff in the

Washington, DC, office of US

senator Ted Cruz.

CONNECT

alumniassociation.

american.edu

FOLLOW

Twitter.com/

AmericanUAlum

LIKE

Facebook.com/

AmericanUAlum

VIEW

Flickr.com/photos/

AmericanUAlum

40 AMERICAN MAGAZINE MARCH 2015


teamwork

ART GROWS HERE

Baye Harrell, CAS/MA ’15 + Brooke Kidd, SIS-CAS/BA ’91, CAS/MA ’98

+ Neena Narayanan, CAS/MA ’12 + Michael Herman, WCL/JD ’92 (not pictured)

Twenty years ago, Kidd had a vision for a cultural center that would NURTURE ARTISTS AND NEIGHBORHOODS alike.

Today, her vision is thriving: JOE’S MOVEMENT EMPORIUM, where she is artistic and executive director, is a hub of

Prince George’s County’s Gateway Arts District, a two-mile stretch of arts-driven revitalization from Mount Rainier to Hyattsville,

just north of DC. Named for “the average Joe”—and the notion that EVERYONE CAN DANCE—Joe’s offers performances,

classes, and a program to prepare at-risk teens for careers in theater production. “A lot of YOUNG PEOPLE ARE CRAVING

DEVELOPMENT AND EXPRESSION, and that’s something we can provide,” Kidd says. Joe’s is also a major player in the

district’s “creative place making”—think POP-UP GALLERIES, art-and-farmers markets in abandoned lots, and a recording

studio for young musicians. Kidd, who found Joe’s permanent home in Mount Rainier seven years ago, says, “We were totally

welcomed into this community and EVERYTHING JUST GREW.” Narayanan, who interned at Joe’s as a grad student, joined

the team full-time in 2013 to lead Art Lives Here, a community engagement program. Harrell joined Joe’s through a fellowship

program at AU, but his connection is also personal. A Prince George’s native, he has watched the district evolve: “I knew Joe’s had

played a role in that.” Herman joined Joe’s board last year and now serves as its chair. Kidd is watching her seeds take root and

flourish: “I think we’ve become A HUB OF A HEALTHY COMMUNITY.”

AMERICAN.EDU/ALUMNI 41


class notes

2000s

Sarah Moss, SOC/BA ’01, sang

with her former boss, Colorado

governor John Hickenlooper, and

“The Hick-Tones” in the Denver

Press Club Gridiron political

satire show on October 10. In

-2003-

TIME

CAPSULES

TOP TUNE

“In Da Club,” 50 Cent

TOP-GROSSING FLICK

The Lord of the Rings:

The Return of the King

IN THE NEWS

North Korea withdraws from the

nonproliferation of nuclear weapons

treaty; Saddam Hussein captured by

American troops; Supreme Court upholds

the right of affirmative action in higher

education; United States declares official

end to combat operations in Iraq

FROM THE AU ARCHIVES

Students smash an old campus van to

raise money for an alternative spring

break in Chiapas, Mexico. Participants

shell out $1 for three hits, $3 for 10

seconds, and $5 for 20 seconds.

AT THE HELM

Haley Stevens was 2003–2004

Student Confederation president.

Today, she’s the associate director of

workforce development at the Digital

Manufacturing and Design Innovation

Institute in Chicago.

August, she began her master’s

degree in public administration

at the University of Colorado–

Denver.

Amy Anda, Kogod/BSBA ’02,

was named a 2014 Woman of

Distinction Award finalist by the

National Association of Women

Business Owners of Greater DC.

The award recognizes women

who advance women’s business

in meaningful ways.

Sharon Foster, SOC/MA ’02,

recently published a book, Live

Lightly: A Summer of Poetry.

The poetry collection is grouped

into seven sections: change,

inspiration, love lost, love found,

the streets, humanity, and beauty.

Laiza Reidenbach,

SIS/BA ’03, and

Jason Reidenbach,

along with big

sisters Melissa

and Victoria,

welcomed

Alexandra

Adriana on May

29, 2014.

Robert Kelley, SIS/

BA ’04, has published Agency

Change: Diplomatic Action beyond

the State on the Rowman and

Littlefield imprint.

2010s

Lauren Ryczek, SIS/BA ’10, and

Michael Stubel, SPA/BA ’10, were

married on September 25, 2014,

KNOW

ABOUT UPCOMING

EVENTS. VISIT

AMERICAN.EDU/

ALUMNI/EVENTS.

It’s a thrill hanging around the Capitol all

day, picking up a nugget of information

and turning that into a must-read story.”

—Heather Caygle, SOC/MA ’12, on her job as Politico’s

federal transportation policy reporter

in Chicago. Many AU alumni

attended, and Kelly Lanza, SOC/

BA ’10, and Tim Gallivan, SPA/

BA ’10, were members of the

wedding party.

Hayley Tamburello, CAS/BA ’10,

opened her own immigration law

office, the Law Office of Hayley

Tamburello, in Baltimore.

Heather Caygle,

SOC/MA ’12,

writes the

daily Morning

Transportation

column for

Politico Pro.

Ryan Briggs, SIS/

PhD ’13, has been

appointed assistant

professor in the Department

of Political Science at Virginia

Tech’s College of Liberal Arts

and Human Sciences.

Benjamin Leffel, SIS/MA ’13, is

a scholar-practitioner of US-

China local-level relations. He

is starting a PhD in sociology

at the University of California,

where he will focus on US-China

subnational relations. He also

serves as director of research for

the nonprofit Tai Initiative.

Olivia Curl, SIS/BA ’14, and her

partner Lena Shareef, SOC/

BA ’11, were among 10 finalists

selected by National Geographic’s

Expedition Granted. They

founded a social media movement,

#GIRLWITHABOOK, in response

to the assassination attempt

on Pakistani youth education

activist Malala Yousafzai. They

hope to lead an expedition to 12

counties in 12 months to highlight

individuals and organizations

who are breaking barriers to girls’

education.

To update your address

EMAIL

alumupdate@american.edu

VISIT

american.edu/alumni/connected

WRITE

Office of Alumni Relations

American University

4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW

Washington, DC 20016-8002

Francis Duffy, CAS/

MEd ’64, September 13,

2014, Arlington, Virginia

Barbara Williams,

SPA/MPA ’76, August

22, 2014, Silver Spring,

Maryland

Cheryl Mitchell, CAS/

BA ’86, September 14, 2014,

Little Elm, Texas

Josette Balthazar,

Kogod/BSBA ’97, September

28, 2014, Washington, DC

Carla Williams, SOC/

MA ’97, July 22, 2014,

Billings, Montana

Todd Levett, SPA/

BA ’05, October 30, 2014,

Baltimore, Maryland

42 AMERICAN MAGAZINE MARCH 2015


memories

PHOTOS BY SAMANTHA STORCH

DID YOU

stand up for

social justice at

AU or in DC?

Email magazine@

american.edu.

1968

In a decade that saw scores of antiwar gatherings,

50 AU students and faculty members joined other DC

demonstrators at the Department of Justice to protest

the indictment of Benjamin Spock and four other

leaders of the peace movement, who were charged

with conspiracy to counsel, aid, and abet resistance

to the draft. After the protest, the AU group walked

to nearby Western High School to “engage in draft

resistance counseling.”

1970

Following the shooting deaths of four unarmed, antiwar

protestors at Kent State, 250 AU students overran

Ward Circle, urging motorists to “honk for peace.”

Protestors passed out antiwar flyers while members of

DC’s Civil Disturbance Unit stood by with clubs and tear

gas. Pleas to honk for peace “were met with a noisy

response,” according to the Eagle, but “some drivers, no

doubt, honked for other reasons, as traffic backed up”

Massachusetts and Nebraska avenues.

1982

“Why can’t Johnny read? He can’t afford to learn.” More

than 3,000 sign-toting students swarmed the quad to

peacefully protest a proposed 18 percent tuition hike and

a 19.3 percent increase in housing costs. “One of the most

famous educators in history, Socrates, taught his students

to question everything. We are emulating his teachings,”

the Student Confederation said in an open letter to the

university president. Despite the students’ best efforts,

the Board of Trustees approved the hikes two weeks later.

2014

In the wake of the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by

police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, 100

students staged a “die-in” to support the Black Lives

Matter movement (pictured left). The protestors laid on

the steps of Mary Graydon Center for 4 minutes and 30

seconds to symbolize the 4 hours and 30 minutes that

Brown’s body was left in the street after he was shot. “I

feel like AU represents America as a whole, so if we’re

quiet or complacent about things, then we’re never

going to see any change,” said senior Akosua Bamfo.

DOWNLOAD the American magazine

app to see more of senior Samantha Storch’s

photos of the Ferguson protest.

AMERICAN.EDU/ALUMNI 43


THE VALLEY OF

THE SUN (OR

SUNSTROKE,

DEPENDING ON

THE SEASON) is the

Grand Canyon state’s largest

city and its capital. Home to

haboobs—giant walls of dust that

envelope the city during monsoon

season—and Super Bowl XLIX,

Phoenix is also known for its

stately saguaros, sprawling

suburbs, and striking sunsets.

Incorporated in 1881, 31 years

before Arizona attained statehood,

Phoenix stacked its early economy

on the five Cs: copper, cattle,

climate, cotton, and citrus.

Though the nation’s sixth-largest

city was the epicenter of the

housing bust in 2008, real estate

is again booming in Phoenix;

financial services, manufacturing,

health care, and retail round out

the top five industries.

The vast Phoenix metro area is

home to 4.4 million people—and

about 600 AU alumni. What

besides SPF 50 bought in bulk, a

taste for Mexican food, and a

disregard for daylight savings time

do these Phoenicians share? The

insider’s knowledge of DC, gained

while studying at American

University. Get to know some of

AU’s desert dwellers here.

ZACKERY HAYHURST, CAS/MA ’11, DIRECTOR OF ARTISTIC ADMINISTRATION, ARIZONA OPERA

When most people think opera, they

conjure up the classics: La Bohéme,

Madame Butterfly.

But it was Cruzar la Cara de la Luna—

not Carmen, or a century-old Puccini

production—that reenergized the Phoenix

opera scene, signaling what Arizona Republic

theater critic Kerry Lengel called “a change

in direction at the once-staid Arizona Opera.”

Arizona Opera kicked off its 43rd season

in October with the world’s first mariachi

opera and saw a huge crescendo in single

ticket sales, according to Zack Hayhurst.

“One thousand people turned out for

that production that had never been to

the Arizona Opera before,” he says. “We’ll

always do the traditional operas, but more

and more, we want to tell stories that our

community can relate to,” like Cruzar, an

affecting story of an immigrant Mexican

family told in English and Spanish.

Arizona Opera is nestled off palm

tree–lined Central Avenue, downtown

Phoenix’s main drag. It’s part of the newly

designated Central Arts District, which

includes the Phoenix Art Museum and the

Heard Museum, home to one of the world’s

largest collections of American Indian art.

About $60 million has been invested in

the district in recent years, including the

construction of Arizona Opera’s gleaming

new headquarters.

A native Floridian, Hayhurst—whose

duties include casting, budgeting,

scheduling, and “anything else that has

to do with the talent on stage or in the

orchestra pit”—is excited to be part of the

Valley of the Sun’s sizzling arts scene.

“We have two major theater companies,

a ballet company, a symphony orchestra,

and a number of local choral organizations.

There are so many cool restaurants,

coffee shops, and bookstores.” And on this

particular day, he says, “it’s 65 and sunny.”

Bravo.

SANDRA DAY O’CONNOR

COLLEGE OF LAW

Marcy Karin, SPA, CAS/BA ’00, clinical

professor. Karin heads the Work-Life Law

and Policy Clinic at ASU’s law school, named

for the retired Supreme Court justice, who

grew up on an Arizona cattle ranch.

PHOENIX BUSINESS JOURNAL

Mike Sunnucks, SIS/BA ’89, SPA/MA ’94,

senior writer. Sunnucks covers commercial

and residential real estate for the weekly

paper, which boasts a circulation of more

than 16,000.

ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY

Alyssa Chamberlain, SPA/MS ’03,

assistant professor, School of Criminology and

Criminal Justice. The Urban Institute veteran’s

research centers on neighborhood dynamics

and crime.

44 AMERICAN MAGAZINE MARCH 2015


where we are

C. Murphy Hebert

SPA/MA ’07

COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR,

ARIZONA HOUSE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS

HAYHURST AND HEBERT PHOTOS BY RICK D’ELIA

Being a Democrat in a traditionally red state is enough

to make someone blue. But C. Murphy Hebert is up to

the challenge.

“I really enjoy local politics. I grew up here, I went

to school here. I know this community, and I love this

community. And man, it’s a good place to fight,” says

Hebert, an alumna of the Campaign Management

Institute, now in its 30th year at AU.

A former newspaper reporter who discovered she

was more interested in participating in politics than

writing about it, Hebert serves as a liaison between the

press and the 24 Democratic members of the Arizona

House of Representatives. She crafts speeches and

talking points, drafts constituent materials, and

maintains the caucus’s website and social media.

“I’m surrounded by passionate people who are

smart, dedicated—and have a great sense of humor,”

she says with an infectious laugh of her own.

Arizona has traditionally been a Republican

stronghold (about 53 percent of voters cast ballots for

Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election).

However, last spring, registered independents edged

past Republicans, becoming the state’s largest voting

bloc. Of Arizona’s 3.2 million registered voters, 35.78

percent are independents.

So, does Hebert foresee more blue in Arizona’s

future—or at least a purplish hue?

“There’s an opportunity for more progressive values

to take root here. Arizona is a place where people

value financial and political independence—and that’s

an environment where progressive values can prosper.”

ARIZONA TRAIL ASSOCIATION

Andrea Michaels, CAS/BA ’73, chief steward,

northern region. The scenic 800-mile Arizona

Trail, which runs from Mexico to Utah, traverses

postcard-perfect mountains, deserts, and canyons.

TRIWEST HEALTHCARE ALLIANCE

David Brooks, SPA/BA ’91, vice president, data

management. Founded in 1996, this Phoenix-based

company provides health care services for service

members, veterans, and their families.

FIRST SOLAR

Dana Diller, Kogod/BSBA ’87, vice president, US

business development. This Tempe-based firm is the

global leader in photovoltaic solar energy solutions,

with more than 8 gigawatts installed worldwide.

AMERICAN.EDU/ALUMNI 45


teamwork

THE EYES HAVE IT

Elizabeth Tobbe Swibel, SOC/BA ’98, SPA/MPA ’05 + Matt Swibel, SOC/BA ’99

Photographed at the new School

of Communication building

She first noticed his BLUE EYES AND DIMPLES. It was spring of 1995, and she was a freshman leading a group of high

school seniors around campus. He was visiting from Chicago, bound for AU that fall. Beth’s best friend (and later maid of honor)

encouraged her to STRIKE UP A CONVERSATION. “I didn’t know she was recruiting a husband—I thought she was just

recruiting freshmen,” Matt jokes. Back at AU that fall, they became fast friends. Conversation flowed easily, and THEY MADE

EACH OTHER LAUGH. Their first date was on October 27: dinner at the iconic Old Ebbitt Grill and a walk to the Willard hotel

to pick out their home state seals on the storied lobby ceiling. After that, Matt says, “We found ourselves finding ways to spend more

and more time together.” By 2000, both had graduated and were READY TO START THEIR LIFE TOGETHER. That May,

Matt—then a Washington Business Journal reporter—placed a marriage proposal ad in the newspaper. While Beth read it, he got

down on his knee. “SHE WAS SO EXCITED, SHE GRABBED THE RING AND PUT IT ON HERSELF,” Matt says.

“I said, ‘I’m assuming that’s a yes.’” They married August 11, 2001. Today, she is a grant-writing consultant, and he directs corporate

sustainability for Lockheed Martin. Both have kept AU ties: Beth earned a master’s, and Matt spent three years as an adjunct

professor. Their sons, Jacob, 9, and Aaron, 6, join Matt for runs on the AU track. Beth credits their happy marriage to A STRONG

FRIENDSHIP. But, she says, “HIS BLUE EYES AND DIMPLES DEFINITELY HELPED.”

46 AMERICAN MAGAZINE MARCH 2015


top picks

Libby Umstead’s path to

Tinseltown unfolded like one

of the Hollywood scripts that she

sets to song as a music supervisor.

While driving cross-country in

2005, Umstead, CAS/BA ’04, had

a serendipitous meeting

in a Memphis bar with a

screenwriter who introduced

her to Dana Sano, founder of

Santa Monica–based Zenden

Entertainment. Umstead, a lit

major and longtime music lover

(she knew she wanted to pair

music with movies after seeing

Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet

in ninth grade), has been working

with acclaimed music supervisor

Sano ever since.

Umstead—whose own iTunes

collection numbers more than

300,000 songs—works with

directors and composers to craft

soundtracks for films and TV

shows, securing the rights to each

selection. “We’re always looking

for the goose-bumps moments.”

Her credits include Horrible

Bosses, August: Osage County,

and the highly anticipated Fifty

Shades of Grey, which

hit theaters in February. The

soundtrack to the erotic drama,

based on the best-selling novel

of the same name, features songs

by Beyoncé, Ellie Goulding, and

The Weeknd.

Umstead’s favorite

soundtracks:

1. THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994)

Music can be transcendent. The prisoners

and guards have a unifying experience when

“The Marriage of Figaro Duettino” plays on

vinyl in the library scene. Tim Robbins took

that piece to solitary confinement.

2. LONE SURVIVOR (2013)

I watched this on a plane and the

flight attendants kept checking on me

because I was sobbing hysterically. The

orchestration and electronic elements

made it very modern.

3. AMADEUS (1984)

For Mozart, music was a friend, lover, foe,

challenge, and chase. The filmmakers did

an excellent job of using his masterpieces

to show all those nuances.

4. THE LORD OF THE RINGS TRILOGY

(2003)

Howard Shore just did an incredible job of

creating an epic score with soft, whimsical,

ethereal, magical elements without being

sappy. He carried those themes throughout

the trilogy and built on them.

5. ROMEO + JULIET (1996)

I have a musical theater background, so I

love drama. Pairing an old story with new

music was revolutionary.

6. MONEYBALL (2011)

Mychael Danna did an amazing job with the

score, which was more on the minimal side.

“It’s a Process” is a gorgeous score cue.

7. THE LION KING (1994)

Along with Aladdin and The Little Mermaid,

The Lion King redefined animated movie

soundtracks. It featured an all-star group of

musicians and composers and introduced

scores of children to Elton John.

8. AMERICAN HUSTLE (2013)

As music supervisors, the goal is to give

the audience a sense of time, place, and

tone. We create a sonic atmosphere in

which to experience the story. American

Hustle did just that with such elegance.

9. PULP FICTION (1994)

It’s crazy, it’s cool, it’s very Quentin.

The scene where Uma Thurman and

John Travolta dance to Chuck Berry’s

“You Never Can Tell” is great.

10. THE SOUND OF MUSIC (1965)

I grew up with this one. It’s magnificent

and timeless. Maria brought happiness to

the Von Trapp family because she brought

music to their hearts.

—Michael Menachem, SOC/BA ’04

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*SOC/BA ’92, New York–based creator of syndicated comic strip Daddy’s Home, author, and fine artist (rubinocreative.com)

1. I use paint for my fine art (some of the

work is also digital). As a cartoonist, I

use ink pens for the line art when I’m

finished with the sketch.

2. I sketch on the iPad with a stylus and

sketching app. I also use it to watch TV

or listen to music. I need silence when

I’m writing, but I like to listen to music

when I’m drawing.

3. A couple years ago, I started doing

fine art—mostly pop art—and I’ve had

shows in Chicago and New York. The

city is filled with art, whether it’s public

sculpture, graffiti, or an exhibit at

MoMA. I’m so inspired by the city.

4. My reading glasses with a mild

prescription make me look smarter.

5. I work out of my apartment, but I take

the subway to meet with my agent,

publisher, and Avanti Publishing, a

greeting card company with whom I

work as a creative consultant.

6. Beats by Dre headphones are great for

blocking out street noise. I use them to

listen to music (the Rolling Stones are a

favorite) and talk on the phone.

7. I wear my lucky Communist hat while I

work. It’s not really lucky, but I like that

it makes me look like Che Guevara.

8. We’ve been doing one comic a day since

2008. Ideas come from everywhere. I

have pads to jot down an idea or quick

sketch, and I use a vellum pad for inking.

9. The worst thing I can do is stare at a

blank page. Ideas come to me while

I’m working out or walking in the city.

10. I used to drink coffee, but I find diet

Red Bull is a more efficient means of

delivering the drug. I drink four a day.

11. I’ve written 10 books. One of them, Why

Didn’t I Think of That? 101 Inventions That

Changed the World by Hardly Trying, led

to a column that’s distributed overseas

by a London syndicate.

12. I had one of the first Macs ever and I’ve

just kept upgrading. I use my MacBook

Pro for social networking and design

work and to manage all my businesses.

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artwork by Tony Rubino.

PORTRAIT BY TONY RUBINO

48 AMERICAN MAGAZINE MARCH 2015


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