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Rockets ready to hit hardwood to open 2017-18 campaign

Men’s Head Basketball Coach Tod Kowalczyk was beaming and upbeat after the Rockets’ first official practice earlier this month.

“I’m really excited about the group we have and can’t wait to get going,” said Kowalczyk, who has guided the Rockets to the second most victories (81) in the Mid-American Conference over the last four years. “I believe the biggest strength of our team this season is going to be our versatility. We have a lot of length; we’re not a big, physical team, but we are long and athletic.

“I also think we’ll be able to cover some ground defensively. I hope that provides us the chance to play with more versatility defensively and with different types of lineups.”

The Rockets are returning a pair of starters, as well as one of the MAC’s top reserves in 2017-18. Junior point guard Jaelan Sanford is UT’s top returning scorer after tallying 13.6 points per game and a 39.2 three-point field-goal percentage last year. Junior forward Nate Navigato registered 9.5 points per game and a 40.8 three-point clip coming off the bench, while sophomore center Luke Knapke notched 6.9 points per game and 3.8 rebounds per game in his initial season at the collegiate level.

UT also is gaining the services of a pair of impact transfers in senior guard Tre’Shaun Fletcher (7.1 points per game and 2.4 rebounds per game at Colorado) and sophomore forward Willie Jackson (5.9 points per game and 4.6 rebounds per game at Missouri). Jackson will not be eligible to play for the Rockets until the conclusion of fall semester.

The Rockets will play their only home exhibition game Saturday, Nov. 4, at 2:30 p.m. vs. NCAA Division III foe Trine University. The contest will follow the Rocket women’s exhibition contest vs. Lock Haven (Pa.) University.

Toledo will open its regular season with three straight contests in Savage Arena, beginning with its home opener vs. Saint Joseph’s Saturday, Nov. 11, at 7 p.m.

The nonleague slate consists of seven home dates and six road contests, including trips to Phog Allen Fieldhouse vs. Kansas, the Carrier Dome vs. Syracuse, and the historic Palestra vs. Penn.

“I thought our schedule last year was tremendous in terms of challenging us, and this year’s version is even better,” Kowalczyk said. “We’re playing at Kansas and Syracuse as part of the HoopHall Miami Invitational and have the unique opportunity to play in the Palestra, which is regarded as the most storied gymnasium in the history of collegiate athletics. I also think we have a good home schedule against quite a few strong mid-major programs, and I believe playing three straight early home games really helps us.”

After tipping off the season Nov. 11 in Savage Arena, Toledo will stay home for two more contests against NCAA Division III foe Ohio Northern Nov. 14 and 2016 NIT participant Oakland Nov. 18. The Rockets then will venture on the road for games at 2016 NIT participant Syracuse Nov. 22, Cornell Nov. 24, and 13-time defending Big 12 Champion Kansas Nov. 28.

UT will open the month of December with four of five games in Savage Arena, starting with a Dec. 2 matchup vs. 2016 NCAA Tournament participant Texas Southern. After making a short trip up I-75 to take on Detroit Mercy Dec. 6, the Rockets will host Marshall Dec. 9, Wright State Dec. 16 and Jackson State Dec. 20. Toledo will wrap up its nonconference slate with road contests against Cleveland State Dec. 23 and Penn Dec. 29.

The first two MAC contests in 2018 will be nationally televised. The Rockets’ road game against Buffalo Jan. 2 and home matchup vs. Akron Jan. 5 will be shown on the CBS Sports Network. UT’s matchup at Akron Feb. 3 also can be seen on the CBS Sports Network.

After its opening week of nationally televised games, the Rockets will host Western Michigan Jan. 9 before playing three of their next four contests away from Savage Arena. UT will visit Central Michigan Jan. 13 and Ohio Jan. 16 before entertaining defending MAC Tournament Champion Kent State Jan. 20. Following a trip to Kalamazoo, Mich., to battle the Broncos Jan. 23, Toledo will finish the month of January with home dates vs. archrival Bowling Green Jan. 27 and Ball State Jan. 30.

UT will open February with a rematch at the Zips Feb. 3 before hosting Northern Illinois Feb. 6 and Ohio Feb. 13. A contest at Miami Feb. 10 splits up the Midnight Blue and Gold’s home encounters vs. the Huskies and Bobcats. The Rockets then will visit Ball State Feb. 17 before meeting Eastern Michigan for the first time Feb. 20 in Ypsilanti. Toledo will close out its regular season with a home game vs. Central Michigan Feb. 24, a road date against Northern Illinois Feb. 27, and its regular-season finale vs. Eastern Michigan March 2.

Students are admitted free to home games with UT ID; tickets are half-price for University employees and retirees.

For ticket information, stop by the UT Athletic Ticket Office in the Sullivan Athletic Complex in Savage Arena, go to utrockets.com or call 419.530.GOLD (4653).

Poet to read, sign book that explores domestic anxieties

The ultimate deadline — that’s what spurred Erin Adair-Hodges to get tapping on the keyboard.

“I’d kept intending to write poetry again only to realize one day in my late 30s that ‘one day’ had probably already passed and that my chance to create is finite,” she said. “This is true for all of us, it’s part of the mortal bargain, but knowing this intellectually and knowing this with your whole soul is pretty different.

“I kept waiting for someone to tell me it was OK to take myself and my work seriously, but it was understanding that no one would do so which actually allowed me to make the commitment to poetry.”

Making that promise led to her debut, “Let’s All Die Happy,” which was released last week. The 112-page book is part of the Pitt Poetry Series published by the University of Pittsburgh Press.

The title is the first line of the poem, “Everybody in the Car We Are Leaving Without You.”

“Titling a book is a fairly soul-crushing process,” Adair-Hodges said. “It has provoked strong reactions — love or hate … But, ultimately, I think it’s an honest presentation of the tone and concerns of the collection.” 

Through witty, spot-on observations infused with cerebral pop culture references, the UT visiting assistant professor of creative writing shares her perspective on being a woman. Titles of poems include “American Idyll,” “Ode to My Dishwasher,” “Self-Portrait as Banshee,” “The Mammogram” and “I Would Have Listened to Rush.”

“Many of us, especially women, are taught that adherence to certain conventions will provide us with meaning and fulfillment — the idea that if we do what we’re supposed to, believe what we’re told, we will be happy. I believed this for a long time until the evidence of my life could no longer support that,” Adair-Hodges said.


“Breaking from what we’ve been inculcated with frees us to find the truest versions of ourselves, but it can also leave us without the security that these kinds of institutions provide. It can be scary, this figuring out of what’s next and why. This has been part of my own personal, intellectual, emotional and spiritual path, one that I’m still on and using art to sort out.”

After receiving a master of fine arts degree from the University of Arizona, Adair-Hodges shelved poetry — for eight years. She was the arts editor of a weekly paper for a while, taught writing, and started a family. After her son was born, the allure of words beckoned.

“At the newspaper, I wrote hundreds of pieces — criticism, profiles, reviews and more — all of which sharpened my attention to language and precision,” she said. “Teaching writing required I be able to articulate and provide evidence for my instruction and insight. All of this provided me with the tools to express the vision of my work I’d been carrying around inside me for years.”

The native of New Mexico recently had her work featured on “PBS NewsHour” and took home the 2016 Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize for “Let’s All Die Happy.”

“I think now as much as ever, we need to heed women’s stories. The work may resonate with some while challenging the imagination or empathy of others, but I believe it has value if for no other reason than it’s an honest expression of my experience in the world.”

That candor comes with comedy.

“As a poet, I use humor to engage, to get closer to the matter,” Adair-Hodges said. “Humor, to me, is a way to honesty, a path that must necessarily cut through some darkness.”

She will read from and sign “Let’s All Die Happy” Thursday, Nov. 2, at 6 p.m. in Libbey Hall. Books will be available at the free, public event sponsored by the UT Department of English Language and Literature. Purchases also can be made at online book retailers and the author’s website, erinmolly.com.

“I think we’re all drawn to poetic expression, the translation of our experiences into art, into something that connects to others,” Adair-Hodges said. “Poetry is only as hard to understand as life is, so I think if you’re inclined to work through some of life’s mysteries and truths, you’ll find value in poetry — often, it’s just a matter of finding the work that speaks to you.”

Sociology and Anthropology students and faculty conduct research, volunteer in Dominican Republic

This past summer, eight undergraduate students and one graduate student from the University journeyed to the Dominican Republic for a field school where they partnered with a social and education development nongovernmental organization called Project Esperanza.

The two-week program was part of a six-week course offered through the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and was co-taught by Dr. Karie Peralta and Dr. Shahna Arps. The program was designed to follow the steps a researcher would take to enter a community and begin work for the first time.

UT students Jacalyn DeSelms, left, and Perfenee Womack ran a camp activity with local children at the Project Esperanza’s school in the Dominican Republic.

During the first few days, students visited cultural museums and local monuments to become more familiar with the history and culture of the Dominican Republic. Students then began volunteering at Project Esperanza’s annual summer camp, which serves the children who attend the organization’s grassroots, bilingual Haitian Creole and Spanish school.

“For many of our students, this was their first time gaining experience working with children, particularly in an educational setting, and several of them recognized that they were good at it,” Peralta, assistant professor of sociology, said. “This involvement was important for our students because it facilitated connections with and deeper understandings of the children whose parents were participants in our household survey.”

Students spent eight mornings running the camp and seven afternoons conducting surveys to gather data on the social demographics and living conditions of families with children who attend Project Esperanza’s school. They collaborated with interpreters and local community guides in the data collection phase, which enhanced students’ cross-cultural research skills. Under the guidance of Peralta and Arps, they also worked on data coding and data entry.

Dr. Shahna Arps, standing left, and Meg Perry started a craft activity with camp participants in the Dominican Republic. UT students Madeline Bengela, seated left, and Melissa Tehan also were on hand to help.

“From a faculty perspective, it was fascinating to observe our students gain confidence in their survey administration, note-taking, observation, and data entry skills,” Peralta said. 

“Our students were eager to learn, adaptable and open-minded,” Arps, lecturer in sociology, added.

In total, the students ended with 92 surveys. The data collected will help inform Project Esperanza’s programming efforts.  

Students also were given the opportunity to attend a talk by a local teacher on Haitian-Dominican relations and Vodou, a creolized religion; a presentation on natural medicine and herbal remedies made from common plants; and a discussion on sustainable tourism.

They also learned about the historical and present challenges of coffee growing, and they planted coffee seeds, made bug traps, and brewed coffee.

“The field school in the Dominican Republic was an outstanding opportunity and experience, and I feel extremely fortunate to have been a part of it,” said Meg Perry, a fourth-year anthropology student. “Working with a developing, materialistically impoverished population has added to my worldview and has made me a more empathetic and humble person.” 

Students who went on the trip presented a panel session titled “Reflections on Field School Research in the Dominican Republic” Oct. 20 at the 16th annual Ohio Latin Americanist Conference at Ohio State University.  

‘100 Years of Toledo Football’ on sale at UT Athletic Ticket Office, online

A commemorative history of Toledo Rocket football is on sale.

Published by The Blade, “100 Years of Toledo Football” can be purchased for $24.95 at the UT Athletic Ticket Office in Savage Arena or at the Glass Bowl on game day.

The book also will be available for purchase at The Blade, 541 North Superior St., or online at the official Toledo Athletics website, UTRockets.com, and at thebladevault.com/books.

The book features stories and photos from the past 100 years of Rocket football, from the founding of the program in 1917, right up to last season.

Included in the book is the Toledo Football All-Century Team, a collection of the greatest 50 players in UT history, as well as a list of the school’s 10 greatest victories of all time.

“I know our fans will really enjoy this book,” said UT Vice President and Athletic Director Mike O’Brien. “This will be a collector’s item that every Rocket football fan will want to have. We would like to thank The Toledo Blade for helping us celebrate 100 years of football at our University by publishing this outstanding commemorative book.”

“Many exciting moments are highlighted in this look at 100 years of great college football,” said Kurt Franck, executive vice president, interim general manager and executive editor at The Blade. “The Blade sports department was there from the very first season, so it seemed a perfect fit for us to work with the University to share some of the great stories from over the years.”

UT celebrated its 100-year anniversary of Rocket football at the Tulsa game Sept. 16. It was a fitting tribute as Toledo won a thriller, 54-51, on a walk-off field goal.

UT alumnus takes third place at international conducting competition

Juan Montoya of Columbia won third place in the prestigious Blue Danube International Opera Conducting Competition in Bulgaria in July.

Montoya graduated from UT in 2009 with dual master of music degrees in piano performance and orchestral conducting under the tutelage of Dr. Michael Boyd, Dr. Lee Heritage, Dr. Jason Stumbo and Rico McNeela.

Juan Montoya took a break during a rehearsal.

The conducting contest is held every two years, and the competition is fierce, as the prizes are coveted conducting jobs in Europe. Conductors from all over the world apply to compete, but only about 30 are awarded competition slots. Out of that number, 12 are chosen for the semifinals and only four for the finals.

At the close of the competition, the top three winners of the competition shared the conducting of a fully staged, full length performance of “Madama Butterfly.”

The other winners were, in first place, Chris McCracken of the United Kingdom, and second place, Nobuaki Nakata of Japan.

Juan Montoya, right, posed for a photo with the other winners of the Blue Danube International Opera Conducting Competition, Nobuaki Nakata, left, who came in second, and Chris McCracken, who came in first place. Montoya took third place.

As one of the winners, Montoya will have several professional engagements with different opera houses around the world. Confirmed engagements so far include concerts in Romania, Serbia, Egypt and Hungary, with more engagements to be scheduled in the coming months.

Montoya is also the recipient of two other international recognitions. He was awarded the golden baton for first place in the Concurso Internacional de Direccion 3.0 with the National Symphony Orchestra of Paraguay in 2016. He also received the jury special mention at the second edition Black Sea International Conducting Competition in Constanta, Romania, in 2016.

While working on his master of music degree at UT, Montoya studied with Stumbo, chair of the Music Department and director of bands.

“As his conducting professor, I kept him busy with score study and provided him opportunities to conduct and lead several chamber and large ensemble performances. He was always eager and prepared,” Stumbo said. “I’m not surprised to see him achieving at an international level, and I look forward to following what will surely be an incredibly successful career.”

Montoya also studied music composition with Heritage, associate professor of music.

“Although conducting has been the focus of Juan’s career, he is also a gifted composer. He wrote pieces during his student days at UT that were beautiful … they were so good that they were published professionally,” Heritage said. “During his last year at UT, his piano and composing skills came together when he wrote a concerto for piano and orchestra that won our concerto competition, and then he played it with the orchestra. Juan is truly a gifted musician.”

Listen to “Baba,” which won the UT concerto competition.

Soon after leaving UT, Montoya lived in Malaysia, where he conducted orchestras, including the Bentley Repertoire Symphony Orchestra. He also served as a music lecturer at Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia’s largest public university, and was the music director for its symphony orchestra. He was also assistant conductor for the Malaysian Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, among others, and was the music director of the Encounters Training Ensemble, both of which are housed in the Dewan Philharmonic Petronas in the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur.

He also worked with the Malaysian Ministry of Education, training several high school symphonic bands throughout the country, work that has taken him to several cities of this South East Asian country. His most recent performance in his native country of Colombia was as a guest conductor with the Universidad EAFIT Symphony Orchestra in 2013.

Montoya is pursuing a doctoral degree in orchestral conducting and opera under the guidance of Thomas Cockrell at the University of Arizona, where he is the music director of the UA Philharmonic Orchestra and the assistant conductor for the Arizona Symphony Orchestra.

Additionally, he is the principal guest conductor of the newly founded Kuala Lumpur City Opera in Malaysia.

UTMC helps BMX racer beat paralysis to get back on track

Sixteen-year-old Dakota Gillett was an avid BMX bicycle racer with the dream of going pro.

“BMX was my passion. It was just my thing,” Gillett said. “I’d just focus on that and do my school — and that’s all I did.”

Dakota Gillett, who was diagnosed with lifetime paralysis after a bike accident last year, was pedaling again recently on Health Science Campus.

On July 3, 2016, while on vacation in Tucson, Ariz., he entered a BMX contest that would forever change his life. When attempting a jump over a barrel, Gillett fell and broke his C3 and C4 vertebrae, which resulted in him being paralyzed from the chest down.

His mom, Heidi, was home in Montpelier, Ohio, when her son was injured. After arriving at the hospital in Arizona, she was not prepared for what she saw.

“There was Dakota, with tubes everywhere. He had a ventilator in. He had tubes coming out of his neck, he had two central lines put in,” she said. “He was just sitting there. He just looked so miserable and so sad. I’ve never seen him like that.”

Eman Jarouche, physical therapist at UTMC’s Outpatient Therapy Services, worked with Dakota Gillett.

After undergoing surgeries and beginning rehabilitation, Gillett was transferred to the Rehabilitation Hospital of Northwest Ohio on the UT Health Science Campus to be closer to home. He then progressed to outpatient care at UT Medical Center.

“He started off here in our facility in a wheelchair,” said Eman Jarouche, physical therapist at UTMC’s Outpatient Therapy Services. “He had mentioned that he was able to stand a couple of times and try to take a step, but that was all he was able to do when he started here.”

During the next nine months, Gillett and his mom traveled more than an hour from their home to UTMC at least twice each week for physical therapy and occupational therapy services.

Gillett and Jarouche

“Once he came here, they instantly put him on a harness, and they put him on a treadmill and got him walking,” Gillett’s mom said.

In spite of a diagnosis of lifetime paralysis with little chance of walking, Gillett was determined to get back on his bike by the first anniversary of his accident.

“As my body got stronger, we started talking about getting back on my bike,” he said. “I went out and bought a helmet and bought a strap for my left leg and said, ‘OK, now it’s time to focus.’ They put the belt on and were like, ‘OK, you’re on your own,’ and I look back and I’m on my own! This was unbelievable.”

“His biggest goal was getting back on the bike by the one-year mark, and now he’s riding with the wind in his hair!” Jarouche said.

Gillett’s mom credits Jarouche and the rest of her son’s therapy team at UTMC for pushing him while giving him the quality care he needed.

“I felt like these guys actually cared and made sure that that person could get to where they needed to get,” she said. “When Dakota would get his goals, they would be doing dances with him. I’m just so happy with this place.”

“My experience at UT is possibly the best experience that I’ve ever had in my whole life because they never give up and they always push you to your limits,” Gillett said.

To watch Gillett’s story, click here.

Paralegal students gain valuable experiences in Norway

For students who have participated in work and study abroad programs, the consensus is that it is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Taylor Sanders, Samantha Denlinger, Travis Peterson and Colleen Anderson, all students in the Paralegal Studies Program, agreed that the knowledge they gained during their time in Norway extended past that related to their future careers.

“Traveling abroad is a 10 out of 10 recommendation for me, whether it be for studies, a job, a vacation or an internship. It was one of the absolute best experiences of my life,” Denlinger said. “I wouldn’t trade it for anything, and I would go back in a heartbeat to see the friends I made along the way. If anyone gets an opportunity to travel abroad, do it. You will learn some of the most valuable things.”

Travis Peterson, Samantha Denlinger, center, and Taylor Sanders posed for a photo in Trondheim, Norway.

The students were guided through the process by John Schlageter, director of the Paralegal Studies Program. Last year, Schlageter traveled to Norway with the goal of increasing collaborations with enterprises in the public and private sectors of the country.

“I believe that international learning helps students understand a variety of cultural and community perspectives. Prospective paralegal employers look favorably upon experience gained while living overseas,” Schlageter said. “In addition, graduate school admissions boards look very highly on study abroad experiences. Many students that obtain a bachelor of science in paralegal studies, an American Bar Association-approved program, use their degree as a pre-law program so they can go on with their education and become attorneys.

“Taylor, Samantha, Travis and Colleen deserve a lot of credit for their willingness to seek out new challenges and put themselves in academically challenging situations. They have represented The University of Toledo and the Paralegal Studies Program very well, and I could not be prouder of them.”

Samantha Denlinger, left, and Taylor Sanders, right, interned at Q-Free, where they worked with Tor Erik Nergård.

Schlageter secured internships for Anderson and Peterson with the Norwegian Courts Administration. They had the opportunity to become acquainted with the Norwegian society and the Norwegian legal system and judiciary; present on the state and federal judiciary in the U.S. to staff at the Norwegian Courts Administration; and present on the structure of the U.S. courts at a judicial regional seminar in Montenegro.

“This unique internship experience has not only given me the opportunity to integrate myself within another culture, but also to work firsthand within the Norwegian Courts Administration and gain knowledge about the Norwegian judiciary,” Peterson said. “By also attending a judicial reform conference in Budva, Montenegro, with the Norwegian Courts Administration to aid Western Balkan countries in improving their judiciary, I was able to speak with judges from many different countries and take back with me a lot of knowledge and experience that I will use in my future endeavors.”

Anderson also spoke highly of what she learned during her time in Norway: “I feel as though my perspective on the world and on the U.S. in particular has really been broadened. Seeing the way other countries run their judiciaries has taught me not to always assume that the way I’m used to is the only way, or even always the best way. To me, this trip only emphasized the importance of international sharing and collaboration. This internship has taught me the importance of being able to work both independently and with other people. It can be easy to decide that you’re a person who can only do one or the other. However, I think to truly be successful, a person needs to know when to focus independently on a project and when to reach out for input from others.

Travis Peterson, left, Audun Hognes Berg, senior adviser with the Norwegian Courts Administration, and Colleen Anderson smiled for the camera in Budva, Montenegro.

“My favorite part about the internship was attending a conference on judicial reforms hosted in the country of Montenegro. At the conference, the attendees spoke several different languages, and we utilized translators so we were all able to understand each other. Seeing this kind of problem solving and collaboration has really helped me realize the boundless possibilities that are available to those willing to pursue them. Participating in the conference itself was such an honor, and I feel as though I learned so much by listening to and conversing with other people who are in the same field I hope to enter one day.”

Denlinger and Sanders spent their summers interning with Q-Free, an electronic toll collection technology development company based in Trondheim, Norway. They reviewed proposed contracts, offers and bids to make sure they complied with Q-Free policies and interests, and learned about risk assessment, potential liabilities, commercial risks, legal feasibility and intellectual property rights protection.

“My favorite part about the internship was learning about the culture and comparing it to our culture back home,” said Denlinger. “The differences were incredible, and I loved seeing what the Norwegian work environment was like. It was truly an incredible experience.

“What I brought home with me was the knowledge of hard work. I learned that opportunities come and go, and that you have to take them whenever they come up. Specifically, I brought home a hard work ethic and the mentality of tackling an opportunity while it’s happening.”

Sanders was happy to speak on her time abroad and how it benefited her: “While working for Q-Free, I learned so much. I learned how to identify and assess potential risks and liabilities in different types of corporate contracts; I worked mainly with public procurement contract bids. The biggest thing I will take away from this experience is that it is important to dive in head first and try something you are unsure about. I’ve learned that no matter what country you are in, there is always a helping hand that will guide you through unfamiliar territory and topics.

“This was the experience of a lifetime, and I highly recommend traveling abroad to any other students contemplating it. I also want to give a little shout-out to John Schlageter, without whom this experience would not have been possible.”

For more information on the Paralegal Studies Program, contact Schlageter at john.schlageter@utoledo.edu or 419.530.7748.

Director delivers ‘Badass’ book

It was a party atmosphere at Sherry Stanfa-Stanley’s book launch Aug. 19 at Barnes & Noble at the Shops at Fallen Timbers in Maumee. The only thing missing? The author’s drink of choice: Bloody Marys.

“I was told no alcohol, sorry,” she told the standing-room-only crowd of about 150.

UT employee and alumna Sherry Stanfa-Stanley read an excerpt from her book, “Finding My Badass Self: A Year of Truths and Dares,” at Barnes & Noble at the Shops at Fallen Timbers in Maumee. It was the largest crowd to attend a signing event there, according to Jana Washington, store merchandise manager.

“Speaking to an empty room is awkward; this is terrifying,” she said. “I know quite a bit about terrifying and awkward.”

She was referring to the 52/52 Project, which she started in 2013. For one year, Stanfa-Stanley challenged herself with a new experience every week as she approached age 52.

“I wasn’t in a rut; I was in a crater. And I just wanted to shake things up a bit,” she said. “After traveling to Italy by myself in 2011, I realized if I could do that, there’s probably a lot of things I can do if I went outside my comfort zone.”

Her amazing, crazy and inspiring year included suiting up as Rocksy the mascot for a UT soccer game; babysitting quadruplets; going on a raid with the vice squad and SWAT team; spending 24 hours with nuns at a convent in Joliet, Ill.; performing as a mime outside a shopping center in Newport, Ky.; and crashing a wedding reception — and catching the bride’s bouquet.

“I took those weird and wonderful experiences and wove them into a book,” the director of communication and fund stewardship at the UT Foundation told the group.

“Finding My Badass Self: A Year of Truths and Dares” was published by She Writes Press and released Aug. 15. The 321-page book is $16.95 and available at most area bookstores and online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book retailers.

As folks flooded in and peeked around book shelves, Stanfa-Stanley read three excerpts from her debut.

She said “Catching a Flight to Nowhere” was one of her favorite adventures; she packed for an unknown destination, went to the Detroit Metro Airport, and booked the next flight out. It was winter, and, luckily, she jetted off to Fort Myers, Fla.

Conversely, “On the Ropes” was the least successful venture, she said. Stanfa-Stanley and two friends decided to skip the high-ropes course at the UT Student Recreation Center after seeing it was 35 feet above the gym floor — and watching an athletic college student slip from a beam and dangle by her safety harness.

Sherry Stanfa-Stanley suited up as Rocksy during a soccer game and exuded good cheer as part of the 52/52 Project.

“It’s obvious I can’t get away from the nude beach outing,” Stanfa-Stanley said and introduced her mother, Gloria Stanfa, a retired UT secretary, who accompanied her on the trip.

“‘Just be sure to mention we both kept our clothes on,’ my mother said,” Stanfa-Stanley read from the chapter titled “Baring it at the Beach.” “‘Um, maybe I didn’t clarify that,’ I replied. ‘I’ll be going au natural, too’ ‘Oh.’ She pondered this. ‘Well, then please don’t sit next to me. I saw you naked as a baby, and I really don’t care to anymore.’”

As laughter erupted during the readings, the author told the audience, “You’re a sadistic lot.”

Many seem to take pleasure in reading about Stanfa-Stanley’s frightfully fun escapades. Her debut has received raves from book bloggers, including dearauthor.com, bloglovin.com and abookishabode.com, as well as positive reviews from trade journals, including Kirkus Reviews, Midwest Book Review and Foreword Reviews. In addition, Buzzfeed.com named the book one of five fall reads “guaranteed to make you laugh out loud.”

In “Finding My Badass Self: A Year of Truths and Dares,” Sherry Stanfa-Stanley writes about the 52/52 Project adventures, which included performing as a mime in front of a Kentucky shopping center.

Even a Los Angeles-based production company headed by a well-known actor/comedian inquired about film and TV rights.

“Usually nothing comes of these requests; it’s happened to a few author friends,” Stanfa-Stanley, ever the realist, said. “But a girl can dream.”

Meanwhile, the 1983 UT alumna is scheduling book-signing events. She’ll have a booth at the Roche de Boeuf Festival in Waterville Saturday, Sept. 23, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. And a reading and meet-and-greet will be held Saturday, Oct. 7, at the UT Barnes & Noble Bookstore at the Gateway; the time will be announced when the Homecoming football game kickoff is determined.

For the latest on appearances, check sherrystanfa-stanley.com, which links to facebook.com/The52at52Project, where the witty writer chronicled her derring-do — and daring don’t — and has more than 5,000 readers.

“I certainly wouldn’t say I’m fearless, but I’m desensitized. I worry less,” she told the crowd.

“My first published book out in the world at age 55 tells you it’s truly never too late to change your life. Maybe my stories will inspire you — or at least give you a couple laughs.”

Alumnus to inspire, sign book Aug. 31 at Gateway

Jacob Spellis will sign copies of his book, “More Than a Statistic: Stop Being Average,” Thursday, Aug. 31, from 1 to 3 p.m. at the Barnes & Noble University Bookstore at the Gateway.

He shares his story to give others hope.

“I was a high school dropout and spent much of my teenage years walking around Toledo’s east side using and selling drugs. My addiction left me isolated and homeless,” Spellis said. “Every day I woke up and said, ‘Man I don’t want to do this anymore,’ but the addiction just hijacks you and all of your pleasure-seeking abilities; it is like experiencing the best and worst feelings at the same time.

“For seven years, this cycle continued, and my mother expected to see me die from my addiction.”

Then a drug trafficking conviction changed his life. Behind bars for nine months, he began to turn things around.

“I acquired my GED from the Lucas County Correctional Treatment Facility, and I had a vision to revamp and reform the criminal justice system,” Spellis said. “In order to do this, I knew that I needed to further my education, and The University of Toledo was there every step of the way.”

With the help of campus support groups and tutors, he was able to get ready for college-level classes — and succeed. He graduated in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in social work.

While pursing a master’s degree at the University of Michigan, Spellis worked as a graduate assistant in the UT College of Health and Human Services’ Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute.

All along the way, he helped others.

“I began speaking to individuals in treatment centers, jails, schools and colleges, which led to my desire to help people reach their full potential,” Spellis said. “As a reformed convicted felon, I advocate for social justice and for other returning citizens in my community. My goal is to revamp the criminal justice system and address disparities within different cultures and communities.

“Social work is a career for most, but a lifestyle to me. On a daily basis, I assist individuals with mental illness, legal issues and substance use disorders to work toward healthy adequate lifestyles.”

After receiving a master’s degree in social work from UM in 2016, Spellis started More Than a Statistic Academy, a nonprofit re-entry coalition in northwest Ohio that helps convicted felons find jobs and those suffering from substance abuse obtain stability and long-term recovery.

His book also was published last year.

“My life is much different from when I was buried in my addiction. I have a beautiful wife, daughter and son,” Spellis said. “I now have over five years of experience in motivational speaking and am passionate about community development.”

Local students with disabilities spend summer living on campus for college prep

“This has been eye-opening and life-changing,” said 21-year-old Elijah Shaffer of Toledo as he waits patiently in his wheelchair for the elevator at Horton International House, a residence hall on The University of Toledo Main Campus.

He is one of nine local students with disabilities, most still in high school, spending five weeks this summer living on campus and working at local companies and organizations as part of an Ability Center of Greater Toledo program designed to prepare them for college, provide them with job experience, and boost their independence.

Waiting outside the Horton International House for the bus to take them to work, were, from left, 17-year-old Alex Bentley of Perrysburg, 19-year-old Zach Cotton of Galion, 17-year-old Donny Stewart of Sylvania, 21-year-old Elijah Shaffer of Toledo, and 18-year-old Ana McGuire of Sylvania.

“I was so nervous,” said 18-year-old Ana McGuire, who will be a senior at Northview High School in Sylvania in the fall and uses a cochlear implant to hear and American Sign Language. “This is the first time I’ve been away from my family for a long period of time.”

McGuire spends her days working with children at the Toledo Museum of Art’s Family Center. In the evenings, she does her own cooking, cleaning and laundry at International House.

The Ability Center provides staff that serve the role of a resident supervisor. They stay in the residence hall suites with the students to provide supervision and any accommodations needed related to their disability.

Donny Stewart read a book while waiting for the bus to take him to work at the Toledo Museum of Art. Stewart lives with autism and will be a senior at Central Catholic High School in Toledo in the fall.

“The other night I made spaghetti and meatballs,” said Donny Stewart, a 17-year-old living with autism who will be a senior at Central Catholic High School in the fall. “I’m learning to live with other people, be more responsible, and make sure I have clean clothes. Mom is not here to do it for me.”

This marks the second year of the Next Steps Summer Program, a component of The Ability Center of Greater Toledo’s Life Skills Department and comprised of community partners.

“The Toledo Museum of Art participates in the Next Steps Summer Program because, as an employer in the community, it’s our responsibility to help all people acquire the necessary skills to become gainfully employed,” Siccorah Martin, human resources manager at the Toledo Museum of Art, said.

Ana McGuire, center, worked with children at the Toledo Museum of Art’s Family Center. McGuire, who will be a senior at Northview High School in the fall, uses a cochlear implant to hear and American Sign Language.

17-year-old Alex Bentley of Perrysburg works at the Toledo Area Humane Society walking and cleaning dogs and cats.

“This experience is awesome,” said Bentley, who lives with Williams syndrome and has had a stroke. “Making new friends is the best part. We’ve gone to Dave & Buster’s, out for ice cream, and next we’re attending a Mud Hens game together.”

“I’ve learned a lot about myself and the people around me,” said Shaffer, a student at Herzing University. “I got to show my true colors.”

Shaffer started experiencing symptoms of cerebral palsy at the age of 3 and uses a wheelchair for long distances. The Rogers High School graduate has a limited range of motion and goes to physical therapy to strengthen his legs.

For employment experience as part of the program, Shaffer works at Preferred Properties, a nonprofit that helps people with disabilities buy homes.

“I’m really enjoying my summer here and also giving back to people like me,” Shaffer said. “It’s incredible to live in a residence hall with a roommate just like my friends. I feel better about myself. Coming here raised the bar for me.”

The program ends Thursday, Aug. 10.

“Our goal is to impact the students now and prepare them for the future as they enter the workforce,” said Mallory Tarr, marketing coordinator for The Ability Center of Northwest Ohio. “We encourage our students to think outside the box and explore what is possible. Our hope is that students will build on their increased feelings of confidence and continue that momentum into the next phase of their life.”