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Butler Alumni Have Their Companies Moving Fast

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PUBLISHED ON Jul 20 2016

Two of the fastest-growing Indianapolis-area private companies are being run by Butler University Lacy School of Business graduates, the Indianapolis Business Journal reported in its July 18-24 edition.

GreenLight LLC, which ranked No. 6 in the IBJ’s “Fast 25,” is headed by CEO Russell Hughes ’04, who was a Butler Business Scholar winner. Greenlight sells collectible diecast model cars.Fast 25

Williams Creek Management Corp., No. 13 on the list, is run by President Neil Myers ’99. Williams Creek specializes in natural-resource construction—projects where communities want to meet regulatory requirements associated with the Clean Water Act and create something practical and beautiful.

“Huge congratulations to both Russell Hughes and Neil Myers for successfully leading the tremendous growth of their companies,” said Steve Standifird, Dean of Butler’s Lacy School of Business. “I’m delighted to see Lacy School of Business alums having this type of positive impact in the local business community."

According to the IBJ, GreenLight has grown 199 percent from fiscal year 2013 to 2015. The newspaper reported that to build the business, GreenLight put together a strategy to add licensing agreements with the likes of the Elvis Presley estate, IndyCar and other high-profile entertainment entities, and purchased diecast manufacturer GMP out of suburban Atlanta.

GreenLight is now in the process of buying First Response Replicas in Frankfort, Kentucky. In the past two years, it has also grown its relationships with retailers and distributors, adding Walmart and Target to the list of places that sell GreenLight cars.

Hughes told the IBJ that GreenLight has several high-end license agreements in the works that should add to the company’s opportunities for retail and promotional exposure.

“We’re very careful how we manage inventory and license agreements and guarantees,” he was quoted as saying. “Despite the growth, we are conservative in how we go about things.”

Williams Creek has grown by 125 percent from fiscal year 2013 to 2015, the IBJ said, and Myers was quoted as saying that the company expects similar growth over the next three years.

Williams Creek’s projects include things like rain gardens, storm water management systems and pond edge planting systems that prevent soil erosion. In Lafayette, Williams Creek was part of the team that created the Durkees Run Stormwater Park outside Lafayette Jefferson High School. The park is part of the city’s long-term plan to reduce raw sewage overflows and improve the water quality of the Wabash River. Durkees Run prevents sewer overflows by diverting 100 million gallons of storm water from Lafayette’s Wastewater Treatment plant.

Myers told the IBJ that early on, it was a challenge to get potential customers to buy into his company’s idea.

“We were on the cusp of creating a market in central Indiana that did not exist, and we were one of the early pioneers and adopters of this kind of work,” he said. “It’s become more of a natural course of acceptance than anything else.”

Media contact:
Marc Allan
mallan@butler.edu
317-940-9822

Campus

Butler Alumni Have Their Companies Moving Fast

Two of the fastest-growing Indianapolis-area private companies are being run by Butler University Lacy School of Business graduates, the Indianapolis Business Journal reported.

Jul 20 2016 Read more
Campus

Butler's School Counseling Degree Rated Among the Best

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PUBLISHED ON Jul 14 2016

TopCounselingSchools.org has rated Butler’s M.S. in School Counseling degree as one of the best in Indiana.

In ranking Butler second in the state, the website wrote that "students are trained to respond to a host of issues facing the lives of public school Top Counseling Schools Best Valuestudents from every background. From diversity awareness to career planning, Butler’s curriculum contains actionable learning that students will apply every day in their future career in the Indiana public school system. Although this affordable counseling graduate degree program is geared towards those working in schools already, Butler also offers a ‘fast-track’ option that allows students to complete their degree in under three years.”

Schools were ranked based on their program completion rate, job placement rate, licensing exam pass rate, accreditation length, research productivity, and tuition and fees.

College of Education Dean Ena Shelley said the School Counseling program is highly respected "because of its rigor and relevance in counselor education. The faculty are exceptional and are leaders in the field at the state and national level."

Top Counseling Schools’ purpose is to contribute to the academic mission of higher learning institutions by providing pertinent and objective information that counseling students and professionals find relevant to the field of counseling.

 

Media contact:
Marc Allan
mallan@butler.edu
317-940-9822

Campus

Butler's School Counseling Degree Rated Among the Best

TopCounselingSchools.org has rated Butler’s M.S. in School Counseling degree as one of the best in Indiana.

Jul 14 2016 Read more
Campus

Butler Again Listed in 'Fiske Guide to Colleges'

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PUBLISHED ON Jul 01 2016

Butler University is again among the roughly 300 schools listed in the Fiske Guide to Colleges, a reference book for prospective students looking for “the best and most interesting schools.”

Butler University's Jordan Hall exterior June 6, 2014

In the 2017 edition, which was released on July 1, Butler is listed as strong in dance, international business, pharmacy, biology, marketing, chemistry, and early education.

“The university’s most popular programs are also among its best,” the book says.

Butler also is noted for its Honors Program (“designed to foster a diverse and challenging intellectual climate and features courses, events, independent study, and research opportunities”) and study abroad options.

“Butler University desires to provide students with a strong undergraduate liberal arts experience and access to professional programs of ‘local impact and global reach,’” the guide says, quoting a freshman as saying, “Butler cares about its students as individuals.”

Students “have taken note of the school’s revamped programs, improved facilities, and focus on personal attention,” the guide says, quoting a sophomore as saying, “Butler truly becomes a community for our students. The students and faculty all work to make Butler life an enjoyable experience for all.”

 

Media contact:
Marc Allan
mallan@butler.edu
317-940-9822

Campus

Butler Again Listed in 'Fiske Guide to Colleges'

Butler University is again among the roughly 300 schools listed in the Fiske Guide to Colleges.

Jul 01 2016 Read more
Campus

Justine Koontz MM '16 Earns Fulbright to Study in Latvia

BY

PUBLISHED ON Jun 29 2016

For nine months beginning in September, Justine Koontz MM ’16 will be living in Riga, Latvia, to determine how “the country that sings” maintains and burnishes that reputation.

Justine KoontzShe’ll have this opportunity as a recipient of a prestigious Fulbright award—the third for a Butler student or alumnus this year.

“We know some of their history and some of their music, but we don’t have the story,” Koontz said. “We don’t have the whys. So it’s an ethnographic study to be over there and be a participant in their culture and take note of what is going on. A lot of this will be observation and participation, getting to know people while I’m there and finding out what they have to teach me.”

For Koontz, the idea of traveling began in the middle of spring semester 2015, when she started thinking about what she wanted to do after graduate school. She decided to attend an informational session that Butler’s Center for High Achievement and Scholarly Engagement was holding about Fulbright awards.

She hadn’t studied abroad previously, but the Baltic region caught her attention, and she found the idea of exploring a country with a rich singing tradition appealing.

“They have a massive repertoire of folk songs and really great contemporary composers, yet we don’t program their music that much in the United States,” she said. “And I think that’s because we don’t understand the background of their music. Why are they still singing these songs? Why are these songs so important to them? So part of this is going over there and understanding their culture and their value system and their history as a way to inform our programming here.”

Koontz plans to spend time with professional choirs, university choirs, church choirs, and anyone who can share information about Latvia’s musical culture. Ultimately, she said, this information will be valuable to other choral conductors. She plans to disseminate her findings through the American Choral Directors Association and other organizations for choral conductors. The Fulbright will pay for her travel and living expenses, as well as provide a stipend.

Koontz said the time in Latvia also will allow her to seek some understanding of her upbringing. She grew up in Maryland and had little involvement with choirs until she sang in a choir during her junior year of undergraduate work at McDaniel College in Maryland.

“Singing was not a thing in my family,” she said. “I can’t really imagine a culture where you are expected to sing, where you sing before you talk. That’s something they do naturally.  What is their backstory versus what is mine?”

After graduating from her undergraduate institution, she took four years before starting graduate work. Some of that time was spent at choral conferences, where one of the people she met was longtime Butler Professor Henry Leck. Through her audition at Butler, she met Professor of Music Eric Stark, who became an important mentor while she majored in choral conducting and composition.

“Butler was exactly the right place to be at the right time for me,” she said. “Attending grad school in my own time has allowed me to maximize what I have gotten out of the experience.”

 

Media contact:
Marc Allan
mallan@butler.edu
317-940-9822

Campus

Justine Koontz MM '16 Earns Fulbright to Study in Latvia

Koontz said the time in Latvia also will allow her to seek some understanding of her upbringing.

Jun 29 2016 Read more
Campus

All-American Erik Peterson Qualifies for U.S. Olympic Trials

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PUBLISHED ON Jun 28 2016

Butler All-American Erik Peterson has earned a spot in the upcoming U.S. Olympic Team Trials – Track & Field. He'll join 23 of the best runners in the country in the 10,000 meters on Friday night, July 1, Erik Petersonin Eugene, Oregon. The field was set late Monday night.

The men's 10,000 meters final highlights the first day of competition in Eugene, with the event set to begin at 6:15 PM (Pacific, 9:15 p.m. Eastern). NBC Sports will provide coverage of the Olympic Trials throughout the week.

"For Erik to rise to this level from such modest beginnings is a testament to his remarkable work ethic and his consistency," said Butler head coach Matt Roe. "Much like his stride, he is a moving picture of economy and efficiency. He does exactly what he needs to do, when he needs to do it, exactly as prescribed. He never wastes a step, and equally as important, he never overthinks it. Erik is as steady and as consistent as any athlete I have ever coached."

Peterson is the youngest runner in the field and the only with remaining collegiate eligibility heading into the 2016-17 academic year. He turned 22 just two weeks ago. Peterson was also the youngest in the field when he competed at the 2015 USA Track & Field National Championships in Eugene almost 12 months ago.

"Most of the men in the field are full-time professionals in their late 20s to early 30s," said Roe. "That is the peak age range for an elite distance runner. Beyond sheer talent, it takes tens of thousands of miles of running volume to get to the Olympic Trials 10,000 meters. Recent athletes who have qualified for this race around Erik's age have almost universally been phenoms, guys like Galen Rupp, Dathan Ritzenhein, and Chris Derrick."

As a frame of reference, Peterson is one month younger than Rupp was when he first ran in the Olympic Trials in 2008.

Peterson's time of 28:26.08 gave him the 24th and final spot in the field.

Earlier this month, Peterson earned All-American honors by finishing eighth in the 10,000 meters at the NCAA Championships.

Rupp has the top qualifying time in the event at 27:08.91.

 

Media contact:
John Dedman
317-940-9414
jdedman@butler.edu

Campus

All-American Erik Peterson Qualifies for U.S. Olympic Trials

Peterson will join 23 of the best runners in the country in the 10,000 meters in Eugene, Oregon.

Jun 28 2016 Read more
Campus

Student Business' Product is 'Totes Cool' (As the Kids Say)

BY

PUBLISHED ON Jun 27 2016

They say if life hands you lemons, make lemonade. But what if life hands you empty coffee bean bags?

If you’re Butler junior Jack Sigman, you start a company that turns the coffee bags into tote bags.

Model with bagIn the four months since Sigman and fellow Lacy School of Business students Cole Geitner, Maree Smith, and Jared Rushton opened Java Threads, they’ve already sold more than 200 bags and received some attention from the TV show Shark Tank.

“I think we are really solving a problem,” Sigman said. “Everything we do is hand-crafted, locally sourced, and environmentally friendly.”

Java Threads buys the empty bags from Hubbard and Cravens coffee shops, which means the sacks are kept out of the garbage. All of the money they pay for the bags is donated to charity. They buy the fabric lining locally and hire people in Indianapolis to sew the linings and handles on the bags.

Even the leftover scraps of material are donated to schools to be used as art supplies.

They sell the bags for $19.99 online at java-threads.com and in a couple of local store, The Good Earth and Pogue’s Run Grocer.

The idea for Java Threads came to Sigman while he was working at Hubbard and Cravens. He saw 200-300 coffee bean bags being discarded every month and thought about potential ways to put them to good use.

He and his classmates, now all rising juniors, started their company in fall 2015 as part of the Real Business Experience course, a yearlong class in which sophomores create and run their own company. They wrote a business plan, then had 40 prototypes made to test the market.

In February, they began selling the bags.

Roland Dorson, an Executive Career Mentor in the Lacy School of Business, worked with the Java Threads team for the entire academic year. He said he recognized from the outset that the students had a viable concept.

“What's better than an idea that combines upcycling, practicality, a hint of fashion, and competitive pricing?” he said. “Plus, and maybe most importantly, the kids believed in the product—and I mean really believed.”

They believed so strongly, in fact, that they decided to keep Java Threads going. Sigman, who is from Indianapolis, has spent part of his summer selling the bags at farmer’s markets and trying to get them into stores, and his partners will join him in the venture once they return to school. They’re also hoping to hear back from Shark Tank, which asked them to make an informational video about the company—the first step in perhaps getting the businesspeople on the show to invest in the company.

Dick Halstead, their Instructor in the Real Business Experience class, said Java Threads did a good job identifying a market niche that supported a sustainable business model, partnering with community suppliers, and creating a heightened awareness of environmental issues regarding their product.

Their next step should be to focus on growth: new market and product development, manufacturing support, and distribution.

Sigman is confident they can succeed.

“I have a passion for this,” he said. “We all do. And Professor Halstead said this could be something special. So we’re going to run with this and see how far we can take it.”

 

Media contact:
Marc Allan
mallan@butler.edu
317-940-9822

Campus

Student Business' Product is 'Totes Cool' (As the Kids Say)

They say if life hands you lemons, make lemonade. But what if life hands you empty coffee bean bags?

Jun 27 2016 Read more
Campus

Butler Student-Athletes Post Success on the Student Side

BY

PUBLISHED ON Jun 20 2016

Butler student-athletes posted a department grade point average of 3.253 for the fall 2015 semester and followed that up with a GPA of 3.338 for the
Belle Obert

spring 2016 semester. Additionally, all 17 of Butler’s athletic teams boast cumulative GPAs above 3.0. These were among many 2015-16 academic highlights for Butler’s student-athletes in the classroom that were announced Wednesday, June 15.

“The Butler Way has always made academic achievement a top area of focus, and once again, our student-athletes have posted a very successful academic year,” Butler Vice President/Director of Athletics Barry Collier said. “I’m very proud of the caliber of student that we recruit to Butler University and the effort these students display to produce this level of accomplishment. I want to thank not only our student-athletes, but their coaches, our support staff within Athletics, and the great professors who do so much to assist students with their academic endeavors.”
Sean Horan

In the fall semester, 223 Butler student-athletes were named to the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll with a GPA of 3.25 or better. Twenty-nine Bulldogs posted a perfect 4.0 GPA for the fall 2015 semester. Those numbers increased for the spring 2016 semester with 266 student-athletes earning a 3.25 GPA or better and 38 individuals registering a 4.0 GPA.

Butler University annual recognizes its Top 100 students. Included among those Top 100 students for the 2015-16 academic year were four student-athletes: Kailey Eaton (women’s tennis), Sean Horan (football), Nicole Johnson (women’s golf), and Belle Obert (women’s basketball). Additionally, Horan and Johnson were designated among the Top 10 Male and Top 10 Female Students, respectively.

Men’s soccer standout David Goldsmith was awarded third team Academic All-America honors from CoSIDA. Kellen Dunham, who graduated in May, was named the BIG EAST Men’s Basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year. Football student-athlete Matt Shiltz earned the distinction as the Pioneer Football League’s Co-Scholar Athlete of the Year. He was one of nine Bulldogs to earn Academic All-PFL honors for their work in the classroom and play on the field. Numerous Butler teams earned accolades from their respective coaches associations for achieving a certain level of grade point average.
Nicole Johnson

The women’s golf team posted the top team GPA for both the fall 2015 and spring 2016 semesters, with performances of 3.651 and 3.708, respectively. The women’s cross country team ranked second in the fall 2015 semester (3.591) and third in the spring 2016 semester (3.633). Butler’s men’s tennis team had a 3.541 GPA in the fall semester, the third-best mark among Bulldog teams, while the women’s track and field team posted a 3.653 GPA in the spring, the second-best mark for that semester.

Eight squads posted at least a 3.25 GPA as a team in the fall semester (men’s cross country, women’s cross country, women’s track and field, football, women’s golf, softball, women’s swimming, and men’s tennis), while 11 teams accomplished the feat in the spring semester (baseball, women’s basketball, men’s cross country, women’s cross country, men’s track and field, women’s track and field, women’s golf, women’s soccer, softball, women’s swimming, and men’s tennis).
Kailey Eaton

Erik Peterson of the cross country team and Sophia Maccagnone of the women's soccer team were named institutional winners at Butler for the 2015-16 BIG EAST Institutional Scholar-Athlete Scholarships, which were announced by the conference in February. The award recognizes athletes for their academic and athletic achievements, and also their involvement in community service.

Additional BIG EAST academic honors for the 2015-16 academic year, including the BIG EAST All-Academic Team and the BIG EAST Team Academic Excellence Awards, will be announced later this summer.

**Butler offers 20 Division I sports. Women’s lacrosse has its inaugural season with the 2016-17 academic year and has yet to accumulate a GPA. Butler offers indoor and outdoor track and field for both men and women, but for the purposes of this report, those teams are designated as men’s track and field and women’s track and field, which makes a total of 17 rosters associated with GPAs for the 2015-16 academic year.

 

Media contact:
John Dedman
jdedman@butler.edu
317-940-9414

Campus

Butler Student-Athletes Post Success on the Student Side

Butler student-athletes posted a department grade point average of 3.253 for the fall 2015 semester and followed that up with a GPA of 3.338 for the​ spring 2016 semester.

Jun 20 2016 Read more
Campus

Aaron Hurt '08 Named 30 Under 30 Among Venue Managers

BY

PUBLISHED ON Jun 10 2016

Aaron Hurt ’08, the Director of Operations for the Butler Arts Center, has been selected as one of the International Association of Venue Managers Foundation (IAVM)’s 30 Under 30, which recognizes emerging leaders in the venue-management industry.

Aaron HurtHurt has been in event and venue management since 2009 with a variety of venues and ensembles and has worked with artists including Marvin Hamlisch, Sylvia McNair, Josh Radnor, and Allen Toussaint. In addition to working for the Arts Center, he teaches a seminar on Venue Management for Butler’s Arts Administration program.

“I’m humbled to be selected as one of IAVM’s 30 Under 30 recipients,” Hurt said. “Managing multiple venues, like we do at Butler Arts Center, is always presenting new, exciting challenges, and I’m truly privileged to have such a fun career where I’m able to solve those challenges every day. It’s quite an honor to have IAVM recognize my work in the field thus far, and I’m thankful for their support and recognition.”

The 30 Under 30 Class of 2016 will convene at VenueConnect, IAVM’s annual conference and trade show, July 23-26, in Minneapolis. They will also be provided opportunities for continued education for professional growth in the venue industry to help them become better, more productive employees.

Award recipients receive full complimentary registration to the conference, an $850 travel stipend, and a one-year complimentary Young Professional IAVM Membership. They also will be recognized at the Venue Industry Awards Luncheon at VenueConnect on Monday, July 25.

The Butler Arts Center includes Clowes Memorial Hall, the Schrott Center for the Arts, Eidson-Duckwall Recital Hall, and the Black Box Theatre in Lilly Hall.

 

Media contact:
Marc Allan
mallan@butler.edu
317-940-9822

Campus

Aaron Hurt '08 Named 30 Under 30 Among Venue Managers

the International Association of Venue Managers Foundation (IAVM)’s 30 Under 30.

Jun 10 2016 Read more
Campus

Building COE, One Wooden Block At a Time

BY

PUBLISHED ON Jun 10 2016

Butler University is represented twice in the Indiana State Museum’s new exhibition Indiana in 200 Objects, a celebration of the state’s 200th birthday, which will be on view through January 29, 2017.

The first is recognition of the Sigma Gamma Rho, a sorority emphasizing “sisterhood, scholarship, and service” that was founded at Butler in 1922. Sigma Gamma Rho is the only predominantly black sorority not founded at a historically black college, and the only sorority or fraternity founded at Butler University.

Eliza Blaker ArtifactsThe other Butler artifact foretells the founding of the College of Education. It’s Froebel Gift Blocks, wooden toy blocks used by kindergarten pioneer Eliza Blaker and loaned to the State Museum from the University archives. A description card with the blocks says:

Early education has a huge impact on small children. As head of the free kindergarten movement in Indianapolis, Eliza Blaker (1854-1926) was in the forefront of education reform. The groundbreaking theories Blaker promoted in her classroom and the Teachers College of Indianapolis—that children learn through play, should be encouraged to discover the world for themselves, and shouldn’t be beaten for making mistakes—are common knowledge today. 

In 1930, Butler University bought Blaker’s college and merged it with Butler’s then-new College of Education. Her portrait still hangs outside the College of Education offices.

“Eliza is one of the people most Hoosiers don’t know about but are impacted by every day,” said Ena Shelley, Dean of Butler’s College of Education. “Every day you take a child to kindergarten, you can thank Eliza Blaker for that.”

Blaker was brought to Indiana from Pennsylvania by a group of society women to start a kindergarten program for their children. Blaker agreed to come, but only if all children could attend her kindergartens. When she arrived, she discovered that she didn’t have the workforce she needed.

“So now she had to create kindergarten programs and train teachers,” Shelley said.

That spurred her to start her teacher-training school, which opened in 1892.Eliza Blaker

The idea was risky on multiple levels, Shelley said. Blaker had to raise money to fund her school and had to find the right students to train to be teachers.

“We owe her,” Shelley said. “She started the whole idea of parent education – teaching families the importance of nutrition, the importance of talking to your child, the importance of reading to your child. We take that for granted now, but that was saying to parents, ‘This is what you should be doing. That was leading edge at that time.’”

Blaker demanded that all students have access to kindergarten—highly unusual in the early 1900s—and had rigorous standards for who could become a teacher. She cared about her students, but she was strict with them.

She was far ahead of her time, and she wasn’t afraid to be far ahead, Shelley said. “She wrote a letter to the legislature more than 102 years ago telling them why they should invest in early childhood education. If she were alive today, she’d say, ‘You’re still talking about that?’”

Starting in 1922, Teachers College of Indianapolis and Butler began talking about a merger. Blaker died in 1926, and the merger took place in time for the 1930-1931 school year. Butler incurred some debt, but that was “part of our vision of who we were to be in the community,” Shelley said.

Being trained at the Teachers College of Indianapolis was considered extremely prestigious. “And I’m proud to say that today, when our students say that they graduated from Butler, people have the same reaction,” Shelley said. “I think Eliza would be proud of that.”

 

Media contact:
Marc Allan
mallan@butler.edu
317-940-9822

Campus

Building COE, One Wooden Block At a Time

Butler University is represented twice in the Indiana State Museum’s new exhibition Indiana in 200 Objects, a celebration of the state’s 200th birthday, which will be on view through January 29, 2017.

Jun 10 2016 Read more
Campus

Brandon Gaudin '06 to Be the Voice of Madden NFL 17

BY

PUBLISHED ON Jun 08 2016

Brandon Gaudin ’06, former voice of the Butler Bulldogs men’s basketball broadcasts, will be the new voice providing play-by-play for Madden NFL 17 video games.

Brandon GaudinGaudin will be joining the Big Ten Network as a play-by-play announcer this fall after being the voice of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets since 2013. Additionally, he has been named the lead college football play-by-play voice for Westwood One Sports, and will also call occasional NFL games for the network.

Gaudin will continue to serve as one of the voices for Westwood One’s coverage of men’s basketball, including conference championship week and the NCAA Tournament.

Madden NFL 17 is developed in Orlando, Florida by EA Tiburon and will be available for Xbox One the all-in-one games and entertainment system from Microsoft, Xbox 360® games and entertainment system, PlayStation®4 computer entertainment system and PlayStation®3 entertainment system on August 23.

Matthew VanTryon '17 at the Indianapolis Star has more details here.

Media contact:
Marc Allan
mallan@butler.edu
317-940-9822

Campus

Brandon Gaudin '06 to Be the Voice of Madden NFL 17

Brandon Gaudin ’06, former voice of the Butler Bulldogs men’s basketball broadcasts, will be the new voice providing play-by-play for Madden NFL 17 video games.

Jun 08 2016 Read more
Campus

Professor Forhan Discusses His Starkly Honest Memoir

BY

PUBLISHED ON Jun 06 2016

In many ways, from participating in Pinewood Derby to playing near construction sites, Associate Professor of English Chris Forhan’s suburban Seattle childhood had a Leave It to Beaver-like quality.

But then, Ward Cleaver wasn’t an undiagnosed manic depressive who took his own life when the Beaver was 14.

Chris ForhanThe happy and the horrible times of Forhan’s youth—and what happened after—are the subject of his starkly honest memoir, My Father Before Me (Scribner, $26), which comes out June 28.

Chris was the fifth of eight children born to Ed and Ange Forhan. His parents never talked about personal or emotionally difficult topics, and there was a lot of family history he didn’t know. So in 2010, he began researching—interviewing his mother and siblings, scouring Ancestry.com, the Seattle Times archives, and other Internet sites to glean what he could about his father.

“My reading of it was that his interior life drowned him,” said Forhan, who joined the English Department faculty in 2007 as a poetry professor. “He was in some ways a wonderful father. He didn’t beat us, didn’t yell at us. We had security. He paid the bills and made sure the car ran OK. But emotionally, he didn’t contribute much.”

What Forhan uncovered in his reporting and writing is in many ways an ordinary story about families and family dynamics. The specifics are unique to the Forhans, but the themes are universal.

“I generally do believe—and I feel this way as a writer and a writer of poetry—that the further inside yourself you go, the more you meet everybody else,” Forhan said. “Even with all the talk about diversity and putting yourself in somebody else’s skin, we do have basic human similarities. I hope the memoir touches on that.”

During an interview in his Jordan Hall office, Forhan talked more about the book and his family.

Q: Tolstoy wrote: “Happy families are all alike. Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” What do you think made your family uniquely unhappy?

A: I don’t know that we were uniquely unhappy. And you know that Tolstoy quote is famously controversial—easily quotable but not necessarily true. To push against your question, I hope that we were representative. I think my parents are representative of certain values and habits of the culture they came from and the generation they were a part of: two Depression era babies. My father was Irish Catholic and my mother, while not particularly religious as she was growing up, came from a Scandinavian background. Those two cultures are just generally known as cultures that nurture repression and deflection. But I think my parents are representative of a time and a place and certain cultures.

My father, though, had a particularly horrific upbringing. His father abandoned him and his brothers and mother. His mother I don’t know a lot about because he didn’t say a word about her to us. I infer that she was not completely dependable as a mother. And his little brother drowned at 5, when my father was 7, and then his mother died when my dad was 11. All he knew, it seems to me, was loss and instability in his childhood. Then he was raised by grandparents who were caring but distant and put a lot of responsibility on him to be the good boy, the successful boy—whatever that might mean. And he came from a generation that was about not looking inward. So he had particular demons that I don’t think he confronted sufficiently. And then he got sick—he got diabetes. He seemed to be manic depressive, but probably not diagnosed as such.

My mother was exceedingly strong. She kept a stiff upper lip to the degree it was possible and always made sure the trains ran on time. She helped shelter us eight children from the worst of our father. We were happy in our own way. There was great joy. But the unhappiness had to do with that silence and mystery. We were just hunkered down in our rooms. My brother and I talk about how we kept our heads down. That’s how it felt.

Q: Your memoir is different from a lot of others in that the typical memoir is someone’s recollections. In your case, there was a lot you didn’t know, and you had to do reporting to find out. What was that process like?

A: That was fun. And I’m sure I would have not written the book if a lot of research had not been involved. That was what compelled me to write the book. I wanted to figure out my father. I came to a point in my life—I was turning 50—where I said, “What was that, anyway?” It seemed like history. There was this historical period that obviously affected me and was still in memory, but I had never figured it out and I was very curious. Who was this man? Who were the people who came before him and might have made him who he was? I really wanted to figure him out. And through that research, I came to know him in a way I never had before—as if he were still alive.

Q: In the chapter immediately after your father commits suicide, you have direct quotes from your mother and your siblings about their recollections. What was it like to gather that?

A: I felt that was important to do. I know it’s my memoir—I told my mother and all my siblings that I was doing this project—but I did understand that this was something that happened to my family. There were eight children and we were all different ages, so we had different experiences. My sister Theresa was 24 when my dad died and my little sister Erica was 5. Different experiences completely. So I thought it was important to open up the windows of the book and let the air come in. All these different voices, different perspectives. So I wasn’t pretending mine was the only experience. And secondarily, I wanted to give my siblings that gift. I knew he was their dad, too, and here was a chance for them to say what it was like for them.

Q: How comfortable were you in divulging personal details about yourself?

A: Pretty comfortable. When I decided to write this, I was all in. The most embarrassing thing I described was receiving a phone call at the high school radio station where I worked and swearing at the caller, thinking he was a prankster friend of mine. Just a stupid kid mistake. I still feel intensely guilty about that. But I felt OK otherwise. I wondered how my mother would feel about my telling the story of her life. And I was so honored and feel so lucky. She never said, “Don’t tell my story. Don’t tell the details.” She shared the details with me and she knew very well I would use them. She just asked me to change a couple of things that were factual errors or about which she had a different memory than I did. So I haven’t felt conflicted about sharing my experiences. This was a theme of the book. I was tired of the silence. So why not share it?

Q: I was surprised that after your dad’s suicide and the family’s memories, the book goes back to being your story. He’s part of the story, but he doesn’t become a distraction.

A: That’s a nice way of saying that the book is incoherent (laughs). His silence in some ways became my silence, and the last third of the book is about me dealing with that silence. Writing the book is a way of counteracting that silence, but it’s also about finding poetry—a way to use language to communicate what is real instead of to obscure it.

Q: What do you think your father would think of the book?

A: I’m not making this up—sometimes, when I was writing the book, and I was deep into it, and I was confronted with some riddle about him—I thought, well, I’m going to call him up and ask him. I really had this sense that he was so real to me and so alive on the page. But of course, if he were alive, I wouldn’t be writing the book.

I have no idea what he would think. One part of me thinks he would be embarrassed and find it presumptuous of me to do what I’ve done. On the other hand, would he be the 85-year-old guy who’s got some perspective on his life and actually would find it touching that I would devote attention to his life in this way? I wish I had a pithy answer, but I don’t.

 

Media contact:
Marc Allan
mallan@butler.edu
317-940-9822

Campus

Professor Forhan Discusses His Starkly Honest Memoir

The happy and the horrible times of Forhan’s youth—and what happened after—are the subject of his starkly honest memoir, My Father Before Me .

Jun 06 2016 Read more
Campus

Micah Nelson '11 Named IPS Teacher of the Year

BY

PUBLISHED ON Jun 06 2016

Indianapolis Public Schools has named Micah Nelson MS ’11 its 2017 Teacher of the Year.

Nelson teaches sixth- through eight-grade social studies at Center for Inquiry (CFI) School 2. IPS said her commitment to global awareness, project-based learning and integrating literacy, and writing instruction into content area curriculum make her an example of excellence in education.
Micah Nelson (photo courtesy of IPS)

Nelson joined IPS in 2004. She is a member of the CFI building leadership team and serves as a District Lead Literacy Teacher, leading professional development trainings for her fellow educators. She has been published for her research on Progressive Education and student buy-in.

In IPS’s announcement, the district said that Nelson did not always know teaching was her calling. It wasn’t until she was a college student witnessing the reactions around her after the World Trade Center attacks on 9/11 when she realized her passion to promote global awareness.

“I had all kinds of minors, and kept taking classes to try to figure out what I really wanted to ‘be when I grew up,’” she said. “Finally, on September 11, 2001, it came to me. In the discussions that occurred after that event, I realized that many soon-to-be college graduates did not have the slightest understanding of world events. I felt like the education system had failed them. Here were students at a well-respected university who had never been pushed to think critically about world events, and had an overly-simplistic view of complicated issues and histories. At that point, I added an education degree to my history degree, and have been trying to inspire an interest in world events in my students ever since.”

Nelson graduated from Purdue University with degrees in history and education. She went on to complete a master’s in Teacher Leadership from Butler University, and is pursuing her master’s in Education Administration from Butler.

In addition to positively impacting the lives of students, Nelson is helping to train the next generation of educators. She is an instructor in Butler’s College of Education, leading prospective teachers through a course on secondary education. Nelson enjoys mentoring future teachers as well as educators in their first and second years of classroom instruction.

To select the district’s top teacher, each IPS principal was invited to nominate their building-level Teacher of the Year for consideration. The selection committee reviewed each nominee’s portfolio, including teaching philosophy, professional accomplishments, and instructional practices, to determine the finalists and the 2017 winner.

 

Media contact:
Marc Allan
mallan@butler.edu
317-940-9822

Campus

Micah Nelson '11 Named IPS Teacher of the Year

Indianapolis Public Schools has named Micah Nelson MS ’11 its 2017 Teacher of the Year.

Jun 06 2016 Read more

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