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Rocketing on the water: sailing yarns from Key West

There’s just something about improbability and coincidence that leads to the best stories.

More about that later.

The Holy Toledo! crew, from left, Clif Vaughan, Tom Andrews, Al Newell, Steve Morrow, George Sipel, Daniel Miller and Luke Gossman leave the docks of the Ft. Lauderdale Yacht Club for the start of the Ft. Lauderdale to Key West Race Jan. 14.

The Holy Toledo! crew, from left, Clif Vaughan, Tom Andrews, Al Newell, Steve Morrow, George Sipel, Daniel Miller and Luke Gossman leave the docks of the Ft. Lauderdale Yacht Club for the start of the Ft. Lauderdale to Key West Race Jan. 14.

Four years ago, I was introduced to the world of competitive sailboat racing through some good friends at the Center for Creative Instruction (CCI) on Health Science Campus, and it immediately became a labor of love. So, when I’m not making pictures as UT’s photographer, I’d rather be out sailing. Especially in the middle of winter.

In January, I had the incredible opportunity to indulge and join an all-star crew, racing a yacht named The Holy Toledo! in the Ft. Lauderdale to Key West Race. The 40th iteration of the offshore ocean race attracted participants from such far-reaching places as Texas and Rhode Island and even included a brand new 88-foot state-of-the-art carbon fiber super yacht among the competitors. Quite a daunting prospect for a relative beginner like myself, but the 70-degree temperatures of Florida in winter did sound pretty good, so I told the rest of the crew to count me in. Hot on the heels of the Rockets’ victory in the GoDaddy Bowl, we hit the road with the sailboat in tow.

So far I’ve written about the race, but not the crew. I have to confess how surprised I was to find out how much sailing talent we have here on Lake Erie and at the University. Two of the boat’s owners, Tom Andrews, a UT alumnus and one of the founders of CCI, and Clif Vaughan, UT alumnus and husband of Bobbi Vaughan, the current CCI director, have decades of sailing experience and have won more races than they can count. (I’m guessing that means the real number is more than 10 apiece.) We also had the privilege of counting UT engineering student Luke Gossman as one of the crew. Luke is a member of the UT Sailing Club that won accolades at the Intercollegiate Offshore Regatta, earning the right to compete in the 47th EDHEC Sailing Cup in La Rochelle, France, this April. Clearly, I was in good company and by far the least experienced sailor onboard. No pressure.

Misty Matter and Al Newell posed with Key West Police Officer Bob Bulnes on the shoulder of Florida State Road A1A in Key West Jan. 17.

Misty Matter and Al Newell posed with Key West Police Officer Bob Bulnes on the shoulder of Florida State Road A1A in Key West Jan. 17.

I’ll risk being anticlimactic in saying that the race went very well for us and hope it’s not overly hokey to report that we had “fair winds and following seas.” It was a great sail and The Holy Toledo! finished first in her class, ahead of seven other boats, with a time of 23:51:39.

No trip is complete without some interesting stories, so this is where the aforementioned coincidence comes in. The night after docking in Key West, I was doing some “sight seeing” at an establishment of local color, as sailors do, and found some crew from another boat that belongs to the same yacht club as ours. As we were exchanging congratulations, I mentioned my position at UT and the boat owner’s son got really excited, saying that his father just had to meet me. It turns out that they were Bill Bollin and his son, John, and were huge UT supporters. Even more unlikely, Bill was on the same charter flight as I was, traveling to and from the GoDaddy Bowl, not 11 days earlier! We spent more time talking about the football game than the race.

I really thought the odds against “running into” a fellow Toledo alum like that were pretty long. As it turns out, stranger things can happen, and I apparently knew nothing about odds. (In my defense, I was an art major, not mathematics.)

So, the time had come to pack everything, hitch the boat up to the truck, and head back to Toledo. As you might imagine, Key West can be cramped and full of tight corners, which isn’t an ideal place to be pulling a 33-foot boat, so we were being extra careful navigating around some closed streets. As we hit the A1A, right next to the ocean on the south side of the island, we pulled over for a routine check of the trailer lights. That’s when the first Key West patrol car pulled up. It was eventually joined by four more. As we were told by the first officer, we were being pulled over for hit and run — on another police car. Oops.

Unknowingly, we scratched the front bumper of a patrol car with the trailer’s license plate while turning one of the many corners. After the officer in question arrived, we went to look at the damage and talk to him about what had happened.

This was when I learned that the universe truly does have a warped sense of humor. As luck would have it, we quite literally ran into another UT alum.

Key West Officer Bob Bulnes told us how surprised and amused he was when he saw the name of the boat. (Not amused enough to help us evade a ticket for failure to maintain lane, though.) Just being an alum wasn’t enough; he was actually a tight end for The University of Toledo’s football team from 1979 to 1981, and he finished his athletic career with a Rocket victory in the California Bowl. Despite living in the city that claims the southernmost point in the country, Bulnes said he makes a special trip back up to Ohio every year for the Bowling Green game, and he still keeps in contact with former Head Coach Chuck Stobart.

Miller is photographer 2 at the University.

BowTies & Basketball

A night to remember …

I believe I’ll look back to Jan. 26, 2013, as a testament to the state of BowTie Cause … but more importantly, a testament to the great organizations we partner with. It also made me realize the value of our work for other people and organizations.

Ken Rosenthal and I met at his hotel in Ann Arbor and drove down to The University of Toledo for their annual “Tie One On” event. On the national night of “Coaches vs. Cancer,” it was cool to see all the coaches rockin’ BowTie Cause for a basketball game that had the Toledo Rockets playing against the Bowling Green Falcons.

As our first time attending, we didn’t know what to expect but it definitely exceeded all expectations. The practice court served as the staging area for tying on BowTies, and I must have helped at least 100 people “tie one on,” as did other staff and administrators.

It was obvious that the community embraced the event and there were hundreds of people rockin’ UToledo retro BowTies, including the band, the athletic director and the head coach. The dance team used them as bows in their hair, and the players even had the BowTie image on their warm-up tops! As a former basketball coach, I thought that was very cool.

Prior to the beginning of the game, Ken was asked to give a locker room speech to the team, which he told me he had never done before. At halftime, he addressed the crowd and told the story of our partnership to support The University of Toledo’s efforts in fighting prostate cancer in collaboration with the Dana Cancer Center.

By the end of the game, we had tied a ton a BowTies, met new friends, and even took some photos with the mascots.

Spearheaded by Larry Burns and Lindsay Ackerman, it was awesome to bear witness to a community that cared. A community that came together on the night of a basketball game to use BowTies as a conversation piece, a fundraising piece, and a piece that in essence, “tied” them all together for a common cause.

And… it was a good night for the Rockets, winning convincingly, 75-62. It must have been the BowTies, right?

Williamson, BowTie Cause CEO, is a partner of UT’s “Tie One On” event. Reach him @BowTieCEO.

Remembering 9/11: Testing faith and humanity

A decade ago, a tragedy that ranks with the Mongol sacking of Damascus, the burning of Rome by Nero, and the bombing of Pearl Harbor occurred on Sept. 11. The idyllic innocence of America was shattered. From the acrid plumes of smoke and ashes of that day’s horrendous tragedy also arose the natural demons of hate. In early days and weeks of the tragedy, it appeared that hate was a desired emotion felt by every American toward the perpetrators. Hate — antonym to love — is a strong word as well as a harsh feeling, but in those unguided moments of spiritual emptiness, one could feel, fathom or express nothing but hate.

Hate was the dark face of evil that the nation saw in the hollow craters of Shanksville and the Pentagon. Unfortunately, before we knew, we allowed that natural human reaction to transform into induced hate. Soon it led to a blinding rage, only to manifest itself in two unwinnable wars. As a reaction to the mass murder on the U.S. soil, The New Republic Editor Martin Peretz summed up the situation by writing that “we are all Israelis now,” meaning now we can all be persuaded to hate Muslims — even if we’ve never met one. A decade later, we know that hate also bankrupted our nation financially and psychologically. In addition to our financial powerhouse status, we also lost our innate humanity, compassion and empathy.

That day, American people and institutions were the sole target of that attack. Soon, we knew Islam also was the victim. That day, we surmised that planes were hijacked, buildings were rammed into, and thousands of innocent people died. In the intervening decade, a storied faith was incessantly molested by some of its own in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and all across the globe. Its more than a billion followers worldwide became pariahs and ostracized for as long as it takes for the fog of ignorance and disbelief to lift. This was the hate induced from within.

Personally, for me as a Muslim, the fabric of the very faith that taught me how the life came about in the first place and what constitutes its decorum was torn and its sanctity untethered. The precepts of Islamic creed forbid Muslims from taking life in a cowardly and unjust way — their own or those of others. The morality instilled by this single Qur’anic commandment made Abu Bakr, the successor to Muhammad, order his military commanders [who] helped make the Muslim empire once upon a time the largest in the world. He said: “I advise you 10 things. Do not kill women or children or an aged, infirm person. Do not cut down fruit-bearing trees. Do not destroy an inhabited place. Do not slaughter sheep or camels except for food. Do not demolish the sanctuaries and places of worship of other faiths nor harm the people in prayer therein. Do not burn bees and do not scatter them. Do not steal from the booty, and do not be cowardly.” (Al-Muwatta 21.3.10).

War is a business of sheer savagery and yet nowhere else in the entire history of mankind would one find such humane rules of wartime engagement!

On the 10th anniversary of 9/11, my emotions are running high. I am reminded of that fateful day’s events and the following days and weeks, and how friends and strangers came together and formed a circle of hope around ourselves. Many offered me support, solace and affection instead of anger, hatred and abuses, as well as protection in their homes, lest I should be harmed in the frenzy of resentment against me because of my faith.

I’m a Muslim. I’m an American. And the past decade has given me plenty of reasons to be proud of being both.

On that fateful day, I mourned with you. I stand in hallowed silence with you today. And as we grieve, let us resolve that we do so constructively.

Azad is a professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering.

Olof Palme: JFK of Sweden

Earlier this year, Sweden marked the 25th anniversary of the death of one of its most charismatic leaders, Olof Palme. On Feb. 28, 1986, he was gunned down while returning home after watching a late night movie with his wife in a theater near his residence. She also was hurt but survived. I’ve walked through that spot several times during my stay in Sweden, and like anyone who has either read his biography or known him in one way or the other, I too felt some inexplicable reverence and attachment to him, even in his untimely death. As if magnetically, you are made to pause, reflect and pay your respect to him.

Palme

Palme

In life, Prime Minister Palme was a great Swede, and in his tragic death, he uncannily epitomized JFK. On both accounts, he was admired and loved by the world just as much as JFK. But it is his sudden death brought by a ruthless, senseless and random act of assassination by an alleged small-time criminal that astounded Sweden and the world.

As in the case of President John F. Kennedy’s killing in the United States, there was a stunned reaction to the assassination of Palme around the world. In both tragedies, people wept and suffered from nervousness, anger and disbelief. In both countries, the events left lasting impressions on the people. Most remembered where they were when they heard about the assassinations. But most of all, the tragic death of Palme made the Swedes suspect the innocence of human beings and shattered the cocoon of protection that had made them feel safe from violence.

In the ’80s, Sweden was deemed a patch of heaven on earth because of the tranquility of life and practically nonexistent violence. Eerily, this was in stark contrast to the unrest engulfing the globe during the same period by the Cold War. Palme had strong and unhidden opinions on the attitude and behavior of both American and Russian leaders. His strong critique on this issue led to a popular conspiracy theory that he was assassinated by either the KGB or CIA, but neither found any traction. His murder — the first of its kind in modern Swedish history — had a great impact across Scandinavia.

Palme’s biography makes an interesting and inspiring read. His American education and experience molded him to be what he became upon his return to Sweden. He exemplified what one can learn from the principles and values of others and he used them in the context of his own — a quality that is missing in many of today’s world leaders. It is amazing that Palme was as much of an American as he was a Swede, in more ways than one.

Born in Stockholm to a father of Dutch ancestry and a mother of Baltic German origin, he came from an upper-class conservative family. But his political leaning and thoughts were greatly shaped by his firsthand observation of deep-rooted racial segregation in the United States and economic inequality in the Third World. This instilled in him the ideals of socialistic democracy.

After graduating from Kenyon College in Ohio with a BA in 1948, he crisscrossed the United States. In Detroit, he met his hero, Walter Reuther, the leader of the United Auto Workers. Fascinated by his interest, Reuther sat down with Palme for an interview that is said to have lasted several hours. It is perhaps this encounter and honest conversation that led Palme to believe workers deserved dignity, better wages, decent hours and a right to air their grievances to their employers, and that socialism was the path that Sweden would follow. In his later years as a suave Swedish politician, he would remark that it was the United States that made a socialist out of him — and that became a bone of contention.

Even when Sweden was politically a diminutive player on the world stage due to its small size, Palme made her stand tall and be respectfully visible. It is safe to say that the philosophy of “soft force” that Sweden applies today behind the scene on many fronts was the brainchild of Palme that endeared Sweden to much of the world. His became a voice to be listened to on every topic of international relevance: from the American entanglement in Vietnam, to communism, to apartheid, to the plight of Palestinians, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. In fact, the Swedish-American relationship was at a record low due to his outspokenness and fierce criticism against the Vietnam War.

But the truth is that his love and admiration for the United States were germinated in what he saw here during college and afterward. Rather than being repulsed by what he found, he was inspired by the strength and the foundation of faith the Americans displayed.

He was one of those politicians of our times whose humanity and compassion were not robbed by the zeal to have it all. He was gifted with the power of influencing people emotionally — friends and critics alike.

Some of his memorable quotes are so profound that on the 25th anniversary of his death, they sound almost prophetic:

“Apartheid is a unique form of evil. It is a form of tyranny that burn marks an individual from birth only because of the color of her skin. Apartheid cannot be reformed. It has to be eliminated.”

“The rights of democracy are not reserved for a select group within society; they are the rights of all the people.”

“Human beings will find a balanced situation when they do good things not because God says it, but because they feel like doing them.”

“Throughout history, people have lived in poverty and misery. They have been degraded by hunger and ignorance, they have tormented each other and been driven into war. Yet not everything has remained the same: The difference is that we have acquired greater knowledge. The difference is, above all, that we are beginning to display a willingness to take responsibility for each other. Therefore, it is not without meaning when we react, take a stance and, to the best of our ability, try to influence human development.”

Dr. Abdul-Majeed Azad posed for a photo in front of Uppsala Cathedral in Sweden.

Dr. Abdul-Majeed Azad posed for a photo in front of Uppsala Cathedral in Sweden.

“My generation is haunted by the images of the Jewish children in the ghettos and the concentration camps. The crimes committed against them caused us grief that haunts us through our lives. But for the very same raison d’être we feel outraged by the images of persecuted Palestinian children, and this time it is Israel that is responsible for the offenses.”

If alive today, it is very likely that through his vision and philosophy of noncombative interventionism, Olof Palme would have averted many calamities that the world witnessed in the past quarter of a century since his assassination, notably the Bosnian War, events of 9/11, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Azad is a professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering. He returned this month from his term as a 2010-11 Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Alternative Energy at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden.

The power of ‘Yes’ leads to Carnegie Hall

Dr. Ben Pryor, dean of the College of Innovative Learning and assistant vice provost, and UT alumnus Pete Cross rehearsed with the Toledo Symphony Orchestra at the Peristyle while projections designed by UT film major Brandon Boettler played behind them.

Dr. Ben Pryor, dean of the College of Innovative Learning and assistant vice provost, and UT alumnus Pete Cross rehearsed with the Toledo Symphony Orchestra at the Peristyle while projections designed by UT film major Brandon Boettler played behind them.

The phone rang early last August; it was Bill Connor from CAPA, the group that manages the Valentine Theatre, where the Glacity Theatre Collective performs. He said the Toledo Symphony Orchestra (TSO) needed a theater component for a piece they wanted to do in the spring; it was going to be big, but he couldn’t say much then. Would Glacity and/or UT be interested? I said, “Yes.”

That “yes” led to a lunch meeting with the president and conductor of the symphony and I learned more of the details — that the “theater component” was a play and a symphony by Tom Stoppard and André Previn called “Every Good Boy Deserves Favour,” and that it would be performed in the Toledo Museum of Art Peristyle and at Carnegie Hall in New York as part of a new festival. Did I think I could put a group together to do it? Again, I said, “Yes,” and went back to my office to e-mail my UT and Glacity colleague, Cornel Gabara, who was in Italy: Could I count on him to direct? Another “Yes.”

Dave DeChristopher, UT theatre instructor, and Toledo Symphony Orchestra Conductor Stefan Sanderling are seen in this rehearsal scene.

Dave DeChristopher, UT theatre instructor, and Toledo Symphony Orchestra Conductor Stefan Sanderling are seen in this rehearsal scene.

Months later, we were at the Peristyle. “Every Good Boy Deserves Favour” is quite a unique piece, and the difficulties involved in staging it have caused it to be infrequently performed, even more infrequently with the full orchestration as originally composed. But it’s a privilege to do anything by playwright Tom Stoppard, and we were thrilled to work with the symphony. Assistant Professor Gabara, lighting designer and UT Visiting Assistant Professor Donald Robert Fox and I had been in weekly production meetings by conference call with Tim Lake, UT alumnus and TSO stage manager, and the other members of the symphony’s production team. The actors rehearsed daily for two weeks, but now we had just six and a half precious hours of rehearsal to integrate the actors and the musicians into one coherent piece.

The Peristyle performances went very well. Audience members, who as symphony patrons were somewhat startled to see actors talking to the musicians, interrupting the music, and running around the stage at a concert, adjusted to the oddity of the piece and responded positively.

This was the flyer listing dressing room assignments at Carnegie Hall.

This was the flyer listing dressing room assignments at Carnegie Hall.

Friday morning, the company gathered at Toledo Express Airport for the charter flight to NYC. The largest instruments — everything bigger than a cello — traveled to New York by truck, but all other instruments went through security screening along with their musicians. The cellos were called first, and other instruments followed. After wrestling the huge suitcase holding all the costumes out of my car, I was happy to turn it over to the baggage handlers.

After the flight came the bus ride to the hotel — and an evening off in the city. Load-in at Carnegie started at 8 a.m. Saturday, with a tech/run-through rehearsal scheduled for 3:30 p.m. I had my wardrobe duties to attend to — unpacking, pressing, arranging wig prep for actress Pamela Tomassetti, and other highly glamorous jobs. On our way into the hall, we saw a flyer on the bulletin board listing our dressing rooms, and we couldn’t resist taking a photo.

The floor where the dressing rooms are is lined with pictures of those who have performed or spoken there. Such illustrious company we were keeping! To see my own name taped to a dressing room door in Carnegie Hall was, as my students would say, “pretty awesome.”

The rehearsal went well. Those who were not too nervous to eat headed over for TSO’s dinner. And then it was 7:30 p.m.

The sound quality on the dressing room monitor was not good enough for us to hear exactly what was said as President Kathy Carroll and the TSO were introduced, but there was no way to miss the roar of enthusiasm when the audience was asked to “show some hometown spirit.” The musicians tuned, there was applause as conductor Stefan Sanderling walked out, a moment of silence, and then the opening notes of Shostakovich began to play. Since our piece was in the second act of the program, I stayed backstage with the actors in case there were last-minute problems. There were none; the actors went through their warm-up routines while Gabara paced. At intermission, I applied the maestro’s mime face makeup and headed out to the house to watch the show.

Cornel Gabara, UT assistant professor of theatre and Glacity Theatre Collective artistic director, posed for a photo with actor Yazan “Zack” Safadi during the flight to the Big Apple.

Cornel Gabara, UT assistant professor of theatre and Glacity Theatre Collective artistic director, posed for a photo with actor Yazan “Zack” Safadi during the flight to the Big Apple.

The acoustics at Carnegie truly are amazing. The symphony sounded fantastic, and the actors were clear and easy to understand.

As actor Zack Safadi sang his last line, “Everything will be all right,” and the last instrumental notes died away, I switched my attention to the audience reaction. A large number of audience members immediately leapt to their feet, others quickly followed, and the applause was strong and sincere. Sanderling, actors in tow, was called out for four bows; on the third bow, he brought Gabara with him, and all gestured out to the house, where composer André Previn sat. Previn waved back, smiling, pleased with the debut of his composition, 40 years after he wrote it, at Carnegie Hall.

Then it was backstage to pack up the costumes and accessories, which had to be loaded on the truck before our four-hour performance-and-strike window closed, and then on to a party at the Russian Tea Room.

There’s been a lot of positive press about the performance. In addition to the review in The Blade, excellent reviews have appeared in The New York Times, Financial Times and the Wall Street Journal. If you weren’t there (or even if you were), you can hear the performance and an interview with Gabara on WGTE’s website, wgte.org.

And all I had to do was say, “Yes.”

Monsos is associate dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts and executive director of the Glacity Theatre Collective. She designed the costumes and props for the production.

Thanks for the life lessons, Coach Cullop

Congratulations to the Lady Rockets for their amazing season culminating with the WNIT Championship win over USC, 76-68. What a team to take defeat in the Mid-American Conference Tournament and turn it into a history-making championship run. Now Coach Tricia Cullop is being described as one of the “hottest coaching talents in the country” for her team’s performance, but what are the keys to her success?

Cindy and Dr. Clint Longenecker posed for a photo with Toledo basketball players, from left, Melissa Goodall, Lecretia Smith, Andola Dortch, Haylie Linn and Naama Shafir.

Cindy and Dr. Clint Longenecker posed for a photo with Toledo basketball players, from left, Melissa Goodall, Lecretia Smith, Andola Dortch, Haylie Linn and Naama Shafir.

We have followed the Lady Rockets for more than 25 years, have had close relationships with many players, and have had the chance to address the 2010-11 team. In January, we had the unique privilege of being the “sixth man” (as a couple) on the Lady Rockets bench; this provided a wonderful opportunity to see, feel and hear the inner workings of a team that had something very special going on. With this backdrop, here are several observations about what makes Cullop a great coach that goes well beyond simply being a great student of the game:

She is a tireless and effective recruiter. While it is obvious that she has recruited outstanding basketball talent, she has surrounded herself with an exceptionally talented and motivated coaching and support staff that operate with great passion and professionalism. Oh, and if you hadn’t noticed, she also recruited all Toledoans for each tournament game and has already recruited us for next season.

She has staked out a strong, positive identity for her team. Coach constantly says, “This is who we are …” and then fills in key virtues and qualities that are her team’s identity. We are “blue-collar,” “family,” “serious in the classroom,” “a buzzer-to-buzzer team,” “don’t finish ugly,” “demonstrate character”; these are a few of the encouraging and elevating epitaphs that are repeated and reinforced. This identity has created a lifestyle and mindset that lead to high performance. And when performance falls below expectation, she reminds her team, “This is not who we are.”

She has a real talent at connecting with people. Coach has the uncanny ability to make people feel like the center of her attention. She demonstrates great emotional intelligence and a genuine talent for communicating with everyone regardless of the stressfulness or loudness of the situation. She also has great listening skills — frequently found wanting in strong leaders — that are needed for motivating, solving problems, scouting and understanding others. Catch her eye one minute before tip-off and she focuses her attention on you as if she has all the time in the world.

She understands the power of synergy and family. When you look at the talent and athleticism of UT’s WNIT opponents, it is apparent that we won because of team play. Coach creates synergy, as the whole of the team’s performance was far greater than the sum of its parts. Everyone in the stands knew that they were witnessing a group of individuals that were playing and winning synergistically. This team is a family “by design” as team building on and off the court has created a “family” with intangible qualities that few teams ever achieve. On the floor after each game was a family gathering to celebrate the community and team’s success that was orchestrated by the coach and her players.

Coach is always coaching. Players will tell you that she sets very high, clear expectations for everything: academic performance, practice, travel, game preparations and the games themselves. She and her staff then do everything in their power to equip players to meet those expectations. This is where she truly shines by providing continuous situational feedback. When each player returns to the bench, she receives immediate feedback. A player is not left guessing as to her quality of play on and off the court. Watching Cullop on the floor after winning the championship was a delight as she fought her way through the crowd to personally congratulate each player and to hug her and to whisper some personal comments. One can only imagine her feedback, but the smiles on the players’ faces revealed they knew that they were valued.

Coach demonstrates humility and that it is not about her. Finally, our coach has been quick to give credit for our national championship performance to the fans, her players, her staff, the UT Athletic Department, the administration and Toledo. Somehow all 7,301 of us felt like we were the “sixth man.” That was the winning combination. When she told us that the team could not have won these games without us, the fans, we truly believed her and felt like we had done our part for the team. Humility pays dividends!

So the run is over, the newspapers are still on kitchen tables but on their way to recycling, and life has moved on. But even after the games were over, our family cannot help but sing and dance each night along with the Black Eyed Peas as they perform the Lady Rockets’ theme song, “Tonight’s Gonna Be a Good Night.” And what a good night it was. Thanks for the life lessons, Coach Cullop, and for the championship! We love you!

Clint is the Stranahan Professor of Leadership and Organizational Excellence in the College of Business and Innovation. Cindy is a homemaker, teacher and community servant. Both are UT graduates and former intercollegiate athletes.

Helping the people of Haiti through Mission Possible

Rachel Powell held a baby in Montrouis, Haiti, during her recent with Mission Possible.

Rachel Powell held a baby in Montrouis, Haiti, during her recent with Mission Possible.

I welcomed 2011 serving the Haitian people through my job at Mission Possible, a nonprofit Christian agency in Findlay.

On Jan. 1, I co-led a team of 24 people from the Findlay and Akron areas, as well as California, Texas, and Ontario, Canada, to Haiti for a week full of service.

Mission Possible, which has the mission to “equip the next generation of Christ-centered leaders,” has six schools and one vocational school in Haiti and one school in the Dominican Republic. The schools are run by the native people, and there are about 3,500 students between the two countries. The focus of Mission Possible is to teach the students to become sustainable and to know Jesus and bring Him into their communities and to give the nation Christ-centered leaders in their communities.

Our January trip was focused on community health education. We went to each of our schools, some of which included an hourlong hike up the mountains because vehicles can’t get to them, to set up medical clinics in these communities.

The volunteers also set up educational sessions in which we taught the Haitians about cholera prevention and treatment, how to sanitize water, how to dig a latrine, and how to properly wash their hands.

It was so rewarding to see the Haitians so intent on the cholera teaching. They are so afraid of cholera because they don’t know much about it. All they know is more than 2,000 people have died from it. The question was raised at one of our schools, “Can you come back and teach more people about cholera?” We encouraged them to take ownership of this, and they were really excited to go out and teach their neighbors and save lives.

We saw a total of 649 patients in four days. We treated people with problems that included malnutrition, skin conditions like ringworm and intestinal worms, and a variety of stomach problems.

During the trip, we educated about 1,000 people and passed out 1,000 adult and children health kits that included soap, shampoo, a toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, and educational information in Creole on cholera and teeth brushing. A big thank-you to all of the community members who donated the supplies.

Though we were able to touch a lot of people’s lives, the work in Haiti is not near over. During our trip, we saw many children with signs of malnourishment, including orange hair. There were many families who hadn’t eaten because there simply is no food.

Our hearts broke for these people and the many who suffered during the last year trying to recover from the Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake.
Mission Possible is working hard to teach the Haitian people about sustainability and not dependability. We want them to invest in their lives and make something of their situations.

Interested in joining me at Mission Possible? Visit www.ourmissionispossible.org or contact the organization at 419.422.3364 or rachel@ourmissionispossible.org.

Powell is a graduate student in the Master of Public Administration Program.

No Vikings, but no dearth of warm glow in frigid Sweden

“Hej till du från Sweden! Hur mår du? Mycket bra, ja!”

(Hello to you from Sweden! How are you? Very well, yeah!)

Dr. Abdul-Majeed Azad posed for a photo on the campus of the Chalmers Institute of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Dr. Abdul-Majeed Azad posed for a photo on the campus of the Chalmers Institute of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden.

It is nearly four months that I’ve been at Chalmers Institute of Technology in “Göteborg” (pronounced “Yeotébory” or, in English, Gothenburg) on a Fulbright assignment. Even in this short period, I’ve become fascinated by Sweden’s exotic natural landscape, well-preserved historical archives, insane aristocratic homes filled with all the equally insane eccentricities that money can buy, its people, culture and the society. When the time comes to bid adieu to Sweden in June, it will be an emotional struggle.

Chalmers is a 180-year-old private school of international repute in engineering and technology. Its engineering and applied science departments are well-respected in Europe and around the globe for their entrepreneurial niche.

The Division of Energy Technology, to which I’m attached for nine months as a Fulbrighter, is spearheading a clean energy manifesto with its world-renowned program in chemical looping combustion (CLC) and chemical looping via oxygen uncoupling (CLOU) processes. The program brings perhaps the world’s finest team of faculty, researchers and Europe’s brightest PhD students together. Thanks to Europe’s and Sweden’s obsession with the environment, CLC is well-funded by the European Union, Swedish Science Foundation and industrial energy giants that include Vattenfall. The CLC group also has well-established collaborations with similar groups in Spain, Austria, France, Belgium and Norway.

I’m certainly indebted to the Fulbright Commission for this wonderful opportunity. I consider myself very fortunate to be associated with such timely activities at Chalmers. I’m trying to synchronize my materials background with their exemplary expertise in large-scale fluidized bed reactor engineering that caters to power generation to the tune of 100 to 1,000 kilowatts-thermal, using fossil fuels in the most benign and cleanest possible way with the most sensible scheme of sequestering carbon dioxide from stationary power plants. It is Chalmers’ technological innovations coupled with its people’s passionate devotion to doing things right that I find not only fascinating but contagious, too. I hope this invigorating fervor stays with me.

Besides my work pertaining to the design and fabrication of the next-generation oxygen carriers, I’m also observing the pattern of rich ethics and healthy lifestyle that this nation has adopted. Some of the things I’ve fallen in unconditional love with in Sweden: the innate habit of recycling, passion for climate and its preservation; almost nonexistent waste of food; sense of keeping things in order; an uncannily efficient public transport system; and an almost religious addiction for “fika” (coffee with pastry, cookie or cake several times a day). And yet I’ve not spotted Starbucks peppered around! I can’t seem to find one obese person in Gothenburg!

Sweden’s population is a little more than 9 million — smaller than Belgium’s and more sparsely populated than Brazil. On a more familiar scale, it is about as big as California with a smaller population. It is also among the countries of the world farthest removed from the equator. And that for me where the Swedish fascination begins, with its shortest days (only few of them bright and sunny) in winter and the longest ones in summer.

Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, is the most beautiful city in Europe. It consists of several tiny islands, each telling a history of its own. It represents the perfect amalgam of Sweden’s mystifying Christian old and the modern. Thanks to the Fulbright Commission’s periodic summons for pleasant excursions and sightseeing, the more I go there, the more intense my infatuation with the city grows.

I’m resolved to learn more about Sweden and her culture as I slowly explore its landscape, interiors and borders with Norway and Denmark during the remainder of my stay.

Among many things I’ve experienced so far, one thing that has touched me most and will perhaps remain vivid in my mind’s eye forever is the Nobel Prize Award ceremony. As Fulbright grantees, we were invited to be part of this year’s event in Stockholm’s most impressive concert hall on Dec. 10.

There were 1,350 guests — including the Swedish Royal family, many heads of states and ambassadors — all in their best attire: It was no doubt the Golden Globe event for the best minds on this planet. The ceremony was not only a once-in-a-lifetime experience but also a very humbling and moving one. The ambiance was serene yet electrifying, soothing yet energetic. Above all, there was an unmistaken humility. It felt as if the divine kindness had descended on Stockholm that evening. And the audience savored every moment of it. Then there was one moment when time almost froze — or so it seemed — for an eternity.

When Professor Richard Heck’s name was called as one of the three Nobel Laureates in Chemistry, he slowly stood up but had difficulty walking toward the king to receive the honor. As if on an impulse, Professor Andre Konstantinovich Geim, this year’s Nobel Laureate in Physics, stood up, held Professor Heck’s elbow gently, and helped him walk. After Professor Heck had received the honor, Professor Geim helped him back to his seat with utter respect and deep reverence. Everybody watched with rapt admiration at what unfolded on the Nobel podium. The standing ovation from the audience was part congratulatory and part admiration of Professor Geim’s fine “Nobelity.”

Many of us later confided to one another that this humanistic gesture by Professor Geim brought mist of joy to our eyes. This made me think. Beyond the gold medal, citation and seal of immortality for individual genius, the true legacy of Alfred Nobel is to celebrate the best in mankind, irrespective of its source and background, and to raise the innate selflessness of fellow humans to surpass the ranks of angels. And in this legacy is the shining example of Sweden.

Azad is a professor in the Department of Chemical Engineering and a 2010-11 Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Alternative Energy at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden.

Life lessons from a broken Haiti

On Jan. 12, 2010, a catastrophic 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti, and the country again was thrust onto the world stage with 24-7 news coverage. We were stunned by horrific scenes of death and destruction from a place that is driven in and out of our consciousness by natural and manmade disasters — famine, tropical storm, aid scandals, coup d’état or epidemic.

Dr. Clinton Longenecker and his son, Clint Jr., took a break from helping to build an orphanage in Port-de-Paix to pose for a photo with some orphaned Haitian children.

Dr. Clinton Longenecker and his son, Clint Jr., took a break from helping to build an orphanage in Port-de-Paix to pose for a photo with some orphaned Haitian children.

For my family and me, the earthquake became a very emotional experience as we have deep, personal ties to this country that is the poorest in the Western Hemisphere. More than 1.2 million homeless and 230,000 dead are numbers too staggering to comprehend.

I began my Haiti “experience” as a UT MBA student in 1978 researching baseball manufacturing in the country for an international business course. I knew nothing about the country but was intrigued because of its people and rich history, being the first black republic gaining independence in 1804 and the only nation to be born out of a slave rebellion. I took my first trip to Haiti in 1983, leading a team of 35 high school and college students to construct a school in a remote village. After that summer, I left with a new appreciation for life and Haitian people. My wife, Cindy, worked in Port-au-Prince for three years in a mission school touching countless lives, and we got engaged in the capital in 1987. (People frequently ask how I was able to get Cindy to marry me; to my advantage, she had malaria, a 103-degree temperature, an infection in her eye, and the city was under martial law, which made me look pretty good on the day she said “Yes.”)

My 22-year-old son, Clint, has been to the country seven times working at an orphanage, and my daughter, Shannon, a UT junior pre-vet major, made two trips this past summer to work with a medical team and tropical veterinarian. As a family, we have learned much from Haiti, which means “the land of high mountains.” I share this background and the fact that for the past 27 years I have been making regular trips to Haiti building, working at orphanages, and conducting training programs to say that each time I leave Haiti, I do so reminded of critical life lessons worth remembering.

Here are a few learned from our time there and working side by side with Haitians: Every meal is a blessing; never take electricity for granted; life without clean water is impossible; something as simple as aspirin can save a person’s life; happiness is not based on what a person owns; doctors and dentists perform miracles every day; without soap, disease is not far away; complaining is almost always a waste of energy; necessity is the mother of invention; and contentment is a choice. Talk to anyone who has been to Haiti or any Third World country and they can share the same. When surrounded by comforts, it is a constant effort for me to integrate these lessons in my everyday life lest I forget how blessed I am.

Last summer I returned to post-earthquake Haiti and was blown away by the scope of destruction and suffering that was still playing six months later. As I traveled Port-au-Prince, I realized that Internet pictures and TV couldn’t capture the new reality of Haiti, which always has been an extremely difficult place to live, work and travel. The presidential palace and government buildings were knocked down, and the churches were in rubble. Roads, telephone poles, electricity and water systems were still in disrepair. Tent cities and temporary markets were everywhere. Schools and shops had sprung up out of the debris, and Haitians were going about their daily lives sidestepping rubble at every turn.

I was reminded of a new set of life lessons:

• Countries really can work together regardless of politics and culture when they choose to; I counted aid workers from more than 20 of the 70 different countries that stepped in to help Haiti get through the crisis;

• Individuals can and do make a difference using their talents and treasure to help others less fortunate as I met people from every walk of life pitching in;

• The Haitian people are among the strongest, most patient and resilient people in the world as they are coping with a situation that would cause many to give up;

• Leaders must lead in a time of crisis; meeting with government officials, I observed a lack of planning, organizing and action to move the country forward; and

• It is one thing to hear of more than a million homeless and another to see a mother and her four children huddled together in a tent in the rain over a charcoal fire knowing that there is nowhere to go and tomorrow will bring the same.

As we begin 2011, let us not forget the people of Haiti who survived the quake only to be hit with storms, flooding, a cholera outbreak and an uncertain future. While Haiti may not be in the headlines, the people still need our help, and we can learn great lessons from them as we take on the challenges that come with the new year.

Longenecker is the Stranahan Professor of Leadership and Organizational Excellence in the College of Business and Innovation.

Warmth in the Cold War: Letters of condolence on the death of President Kennedy

In her recent book Letters to Jackie: Condolences From a Grieving Nation (New York: Ecco, 2010), historian Ellen Fitzpatrick published 250 letters from ordinary Americans written to Jackie Kennedy following the assassination in November 1963 of her husband, President John F. Kennedy. The letters in Fitzpatrick’s book were culled from thousands she discovered at the Kennedy Library in Boston. The letters detail in deeply personal ways how Americans from all walks of life were touched by the death of their young president.

This photo of Foy Kohler, U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union, and President John Kennedy in the Oval Office is part of Kohler’s papers housed in the Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections.

This photo of Foy Kohler, U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union, and President John Kennedy in the Oval Office is part of Kohler’s papers housed in the Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections.

Perhaps a more astonishing story of the impact of tragedy can be found in the papers of Foy D. Kohler that are housed in UT’s Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections. The collection contains more than 100 similar letters written in 1963 to Kohler, who was then serving as the United States ambassador to the Soviet Union. These letters were not from Americans, however, but rather were written by citizens of the Soviet Union.

Coming at the height of the Cold War, just a year after the Cuban Missile Crisis when the United States and Russia had aimed nuclear warheads at each other, these letters show a surprisingly different side of the Soviet Union. Rather than a Cold War, they reveal the great warmth of the Soviet people and the profound sense of tragedy they felt on the death of America’s president.

“Allow me to present my deep and sincere condolences and sympathy in connection with the death of the president of your country, John F. Kennedy. I am only an ordinary Russian citizen, but nevertheless I presume to convey to you my sympathy, since I am so deeply shaken by the tragic death of your distinguished compatriot, a good, wise and great man,” stated A. I. Odintzov, in a letter penned Nov. 23. The letter humbly ends, “Excuse me for bothering you.”

Leonid Victorov, who identified himself only as “a reader,” wrote, “In a period which was critical for the world, this man overcame the most difficult obstacles and took the road toward improving relations between our great peoples. Let us remember the words of another distinguished American, Franklin Delano Roosevelt: ‘Hope springs eternal’ and lead ourselves to this great truth.”

The letters are from Russians of all walks of life, from a class at a middle school to students at Moscow University. One contained a poem:

As a soldier at the battle post
In the prime of his life and creative deeds
He was slain by a villain.

Deserted is Kennedy’s family,
Deserted are the people,
Deserted is all the earth.
Grief and pain are left.

The Frenchman is grieving.
Italy goes into mourning.
Chairman Khrushchev stood silent minutes in Sadovaya
In memory of him —
He stood for us, for Russians.

The poem was simply signed “Iazarev.”

The Canaday Center for Special Collections holds letters received by Foy Kohler following the assassination of President Kennedy.

The Canaday Center for Special Collections holds letters received by Foy Kohler following the assassination of President Kennedy.

Most of the letters convey a common theme. In addition to the senselessness of the tragedy, there is the fear that any hope for world peace was lost. Many of the Soviet citizens appear to have seen President Kennedy as a voice of reason in an unreasonable world. “For us, ordinary peoples of the world, he was the defender and the protector of the peace, the defender and protector of our rights, of our liberties, of our dignities. With these human values his name will always be linked,” wrote M. Mandossian. “We and the Soviet people knew Mr. Kennedy as a very good realist. He saw that the people of the whole world want only the peace,” wrote Igor Yova. Tamara and Volodya Kulishov noted President Kennedy was “known as a great statesman, as a prominent fighter against racism, who has done so much for peace, to promote further cooperation between our two countries. We came to respect him.”

Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s signature is on the top line of this condolence book that is among the papers of Foy Kohler housed in the Canaday Center for Special Collections.

Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev’s signature is on the top line of this condolence book that is among the papers of Foy Kohler housed in the Canaday Center for Special Collections.

One letter even included a photograph of the writer’s two young children.

In addition to providing insight into the thoughts of everyday Russians, Kohler’s papers also reveal the more formal side of the ambassador’s duties following such a shattering event. Included is a copy of the letter sent by Kohler to his counterpart, Andrei Gromyko, minister of foreign affairs, on Nov. 23 that officially conveyed the news of Kennedy’s death and the succession of Lyndon Johnson to power. The letter notes that beginning that day, the American embassy would recognize 30 days of mourning, and that a book of condolences would be available to leave messages of sympathy. Kohler’s papers include that book. It contains the signatures of most of the ambassadors from countries with embassies in Moscow. It also contains the signature of Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and several of his close associates.

Ambassador Kohler was clearly moved by the outpouring of sympathy he received on the death of President Kennedy. The files also contain a letter he sent to the editor of Izvestiya, a Moscow newspaper, asking that the paper publish “a notice of our deep appreciation for the sharing of our grief by so many Soviet citizens.”

Foy Kohler remained in Moscow as ambassador through 1966. In his later career, he served as deputy undersecretary of state for political affairs, as a consultant to the Department of State, and a professor at the Center for Advanced International Studies at the University of Miami in Florida. His last position was a senior associate at the Advanced International Studies Institute in Washington, D.C.

Kohler died in Jupiter, Fla., in 1990. Because of the fondness he felt for The University of Toledo, which he attended from 1924 to 1927, he donated his papers to the Canaday Center. The collection of more than 90 linear feet of historical material documents all aspects of Kohler’s career, including that fateful day in November 1963.

Floyd is director of the Ward M. Canaday Center for Special Collections.