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John Davies ’49 and Jennifer Williams ’98, MS ’00

So Strong a Bond

Jeff Stanich ’16

from Spring 2019

As you glanced around at Butler University’s Homecoming tailgate, alumni donning their Bulldog gear stretched as far as you could see in all directions in a sea of blue.

Yet there was something that stood out about one pair walking arm-in-arm at the autumn gathering in 2018. Though it’s not the many years of age that he has on her, nor the inches in height she has on him.

It’s their beaming faces. Because whenever John Davies ’49 and Jennifer Williams ’98, MS ’00 are together, it’s clear they are enjoying the kind of bond you wish to have with your favorite family member: caring, enthusiastic, with every moment treasured.

And it all started with a scholarship letter more than 20 years ago.

“One day it was just in my mailbox at ResCo. I had no idea what The John Davies Family Scholarship even was,” Williams says, recalling the moment from her junior year at Butler. “Now, Butler is not cheap and my parents and I were working hard to keep me enrolled. That’s why it was such a blessing.”

Presented with an option to reply, Jennifer chose to write back. To directly thank John Davies and his wife, Margie.

Davies, not expecting a response, was delighted. “We had no idea what would happen, we just knew we wanted to give back to Butler and help a few people get a great education there like I did,” he says. “But there weren’t any guidelines on how to proceed, so Margie and I just decided to write back again.”

That’s how it all began. Two individuals, states away from one another, corresponding on the basis of both loving Butler.

“I knew I was going to respond because that’s how my parents raised me. But it was so exciting because they just kept on writing back. Neither one of us knew what was going to happen,” Williams says. “Now I know them so well that members of my family will ask about them. ‘Oh, John? Margie? How’re they doing?’ They’re family. My angels.”

That bond was built gradually and naturally with a simple routine. Several times each year, the Davies would call and let Williams know when they’d be back in Indianapolis from Florida. She would clear her schedule and pick them up for lunch, with the conversation always carrying on long after the plates were cleared.

Since then, she’s stayed at their home in Florida, accompanied them to Butler basketball games where they talk basketball strategy—“she knows a whole lot more than me,” Davies happily admits—and have maintained the lunch routine for more than two decades.

The friendship is still growing. When hearing them actively sift through the significance of their bond, it’s clear that their trust in one another means more now than it ever has.

“We lost Margie a few years ago, and that was devastating,” Williams says after pausing to reflect. “I guess I thought they would last forever because I knew that my love for them would.”

Davies, in the wake of the loss, remains incredibly grateful for the moments they all shared together. To him, every memory is very much alive, still bringing him joy in the moment—his voice sparkles through the phone as he looks back.

“I remember—back in 2002, I think, but don’t quote me, I’m old—I was put up for an alumni recognition award. Williams was elected to provide the introduction, which was written for her. But she went off script and left us stunned,” Davies says. “She spoke of the love, laughter, and friendship we share. She’s the reason we kept on giving through the scholarship.”

That ceremony was just one of many moments that Williams intends to keep holding on to with Davies.

“I don’t know how much longer he’ll be able to travel up here alone, so our chats now are especially cherished. I cancel any plans I have standing in the way when he comes to town,” Williams says. “Who knew that choosing to come to Butler would be the start of a bridge that connected two unlikely sources for a lifelong friendship?”

That’s why Williams is giving back now. In every facet of life, and especially as a Guidance Counselor at North Central High School in Indianapolis. Whether it’s giving money or time, she is more aware than most of the kind of impact that mentorship can have on a young person, even if the pairing is odd to begin with. And it’s why she scoffs at anyone who wouldn’t choose to write back.

“Those people have no idea what they’re missing. No matter what you put in, it can grow 20, 50, or a hundredfold,” Williams says. “Their love and life story has become mine.”

 

To read John Davies' handwritten letter about why he gives to Butler University, click here.

John Davies ’49 and Jennifer Williams ’98, MS ’00
People

So Strong a Bond

  

by Jeff Stanich ’16

from Spring 2019

Read more
Doug Boles ’88

On Track

Marc D. Allan, MFA ’18

from Spring 2019

Doug Boles ’88 is right where he belongs—in the corner office at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with windows that look out on the back side of turn 1 and the entry to the short chute on the south end.

“It’s not the greatest view in the world,” the Speedway President says with a smile. “But it’s not the worst view, either.”

A lifelong auto-racing fanatic, Boles is a guy who chose Butler University in part because of its proximity to the track.

. . . Who, when he would hear cars testing their engines, would finish his classes, grab a burger, head to the track and do his homework in the Speedway museum parking lot.

. . . Who created a Motorsports Task Force when he worked for Indianapolis Mayor Steve Goldsmith.

. . . Who helped start a racing team, Panther Racing, which won 15 races and two championships while he was part of it.

. . . Who cares so much about the Speedway that—well, we’ll let three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Unser tell you that one.

“I’ve seen him on what they call the Coke Lot and he’s down there picking up trash,” Unser says. “I could not believe this. Not with a stick, not with some guy who works for him following him. No, just doing it himself. He’s that way. He’ll stop and talk to you. He wants to know how you are. Who would ever, ever, ever do that? This guy’s the boss, and he isn’t doing it to impress somebody. He’s doing it because it’s his track to run. I thought that was more than amazing. Nobody’s like Doug Boles.”

Boles traces his influences to a home where auto racing and Butler University were the cultural touchstones. His parents, Jeff and Susie, and a great aunt are Butler alumni. So are most of his parents’ friends. Both of his sisters went to Butler, as did their husbands.

Still, Boles was preparing to attend DePauw University when Butler swim coach Bob Waymouth offered a partial scholarship.

He joined Lambda Chi, the closest fraternity to Hinkle Fieldhouse (“With those 5:00 AM swim practices, you could sleep in five minutes longer”), worked as a campus tour guide, and majored in Journalism. An internship on the Indianapolis Star obituary desk convinced him that “I’m not sure this is for me,” so he followed his other love—politics—into a job doing public relations for the Indiana House Republicans.

Boles went from the Statehouse to the Indianapolis Mayor’s Office, where he worked as Director of Governmental and Corporate Affairs, and on the side managed the Indianapolis Motorsports Task Force. In that role, he met ESPN producer Terry Lingner, who hired Boles to be a producer’s spotter on the weekends for ESPN Racing.

Through that job, Boles met a mechanic named John Barnes, who proposed the idea of starting a team.

After help from attorney Jack Swarbrick (now Athletic Director at University of Notre Dame) pitching Pennzoil sponsorship, Boles became part of a team along with Barnes, Lingner, Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jim Harbaugh, and auto dealer Gary Pedigo.

Boles spent 10 years with the team—and earned his law degree from Indiana University in 2000—but the travel and constant workload began taking its toll. He sold his interest in Panther Racing to spend more time with his wife, Beth, and family. He worked as a consultant for three years, then joined the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2010 as Director of Communications.

That role expanded to Director of Communications and Vice President of Communications for all of Hulman & Company—the Speedway, the IndyCar Series, and Clabber Girl. In 2013, he became Chief Operating Officer (COO), and that summer he was named President—a job that typically had gone to ownership or family.

It seems like the culmination of a lifelong dream, but as Boles tells people, “You couldn’t dream about this job because you never would have thought it would be an opportunity.”

It’s worked out well for him, the Speedway, and Butler. Danny Kibble, Butler’s Executive Director of Alumni and Engagement Programs, says the University is “fortunate that someone such as Doug, who has achieved such incredible international success, continues to remain involved with Butler University.”

Looking back at his achievements at the Speedway so far, Boles is most proud of his team’s effort to sell out the 100th running of the 500 in 2016 (a crowd of 350,000-plus), bringing in the Rolling Stones for a July 4, 2015 concert that attracted 55,000 fans, and spending roughly $120 million on grandstand upgrades and infrastructure improvements.

He keeps reminders of the renovations in his office, including a rusty beam that had collapsed into the grandstand and a “core sample” of the track that includes an original brick along with all the layers of pavement that had been added over the years. The thing looks like a bricks-and-mortar lasagna.

Beyond racing, for the past three years now, the Speedway has presented Lights at the Brickyard, an event that lets cars drive around the 2.5-mile track and look at some 3 million holiday lights. More than 150,000 people took the opportunity in its first year, 2016—and about half of those had never been to the track.

Boles’ efforts have earned the admiration of his peers.

“Doug’s passion and energy around motorsports is infectious,” says Chip Wile, President of the Daytona International Speedway. “He is always thinking about ways to be innovative at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and create an exciting environment for fans when they visit his iconic track.”

Boles says that’s the challenge he faces—to stay relevant, grow new audiences, and make sure the IMS is active beyond the month of May when the Indianapolis 500 takes over.

“We’re the Hinkle Fieldhouse of racetracks,” he says. “The question is: How do you take what is essential to your DNA and promote that? You can make subtle changes,” Boles says, “but you can’t walk away from who you are.”

Doug Boles ’88
People

On Track

  

by Marc D. Allan, MFA ’18

from Spring 2019

Read more
Brandon Gaudin ’06

The Players Aren’t the Only Ones Practicing

Monica Holb ’09

from Spring 2019

Luck is a word that Butler University graduate and play-by-play sportscaster Brandon Gaudin ’06 just can’t stop saying.

“I’m lucky, and I realize that,” he says, reflecting on the adventure that began when he was young. “No one has had bigger cheerleaders, bigger mentors, and better friends throughout this entire walk.”

His walk started at age 7 on October 24, 1991—the day his parents took the family to World Series Game 5, Braves vs. Twins.

“When I walked into Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, that is when I fell in love with sports.”

And he fell fast, and hard. Gaudin devoured the Atlanta Braves’ 1992 season at home in Evansville, Indiana, on TBS, constructing a bat and ball from the cardboard of a paper towel roll and a wadded-up balloon and making an outfield fence with pillows. He mimicked Braves announcer Skip Caray and hoped to follow in his footsteps.

And he has—as a play-by-play announcer for FOX and BTN and the voice of the Madden NFL videogame for EA Sports.

Brandon Gaudin calling a game at Hinkle FieldhouseGaudin has always known what he wanted to do, and when he first visited Butler, he realized the University could provide a foundation for his future success.

“What I saw in Butler was potential,” he says. “I knew at Butler that I would be an individual. Butler would provide me a chance to get a lot of hands-on experience earlier than I might have been able to at a bigger school.”

And experience, he got: During his years on campus, Gaudin took on two majors and two minors, interned at ESPN, and was named a Top 10 Male Student.

After graduating, he went right to work, putting in time broadcasting Single-A baseball south of Salt Lake City, Utah. Though not a glamorous start, Gaudin says, “I had no grand expectations of graduating from college and being on national television within six months, and I wouldn’t have wanted that. I feel very fortunate for the journey I’ve had.”

That journey led him to serve as the play-by-play voice of Butler Basketball, where he could allow his pride for the Bulldogs to shine through. He moved on in 2013 to become the voice of Georgia Tech’s football and basketball programs, and eventually to the national stage he’s on now.

Along the way, he’s been on the mic for a few special endings, like the University of Michigan’s buzzer-beating win over the University of Houston in the second round of last year’s NCAA tournament.

It’s the same call he made thousands of times years ago in his living room.

“When those moments have happened, my mind always travels back to acting them out as a child all those years ago in Evansville.”

Today, as a national television and radio broadcaster, he is still practicing. Like the little kid listening to Skip Caray, Gaudin as an adult admires the three gold standards of the industry: Jim Nantz, Al Michaels, and Joe Buck.

“Those are individuals I’m always trying to glean something from. So when I was asked to voice the Madden video-game, one of the many things that was so special was that Jim Nantz did it before I did.”

If Gaudin is lucky to be where he is today, it is because he ensures preparation meets opportunity. He works hard to blend the art and science of calling games. The groundwork of gathering statistics is a science. The art comes into play when he turns on the microphone to tell a story.

“You have a ton of stuff committed to memory, but if Kamar Baldwin is up at the free-throw line and I want to tell a story about him, I can look down at all the notes I have and weave them into the broadcast.”

For Gaudin, “what’s next” is more easily answered by what game is coming up or what flight number he’s packing for. (He logged over 200 flights in 2018.)

“I love what I am doing now and wouldn’t trade it for the world,” he says. “As cliché as it sounds, I try to enjoy the steps of the journey and not worry about tomorrow. I feel blessed to do what I do today. I am one of the luckiest people, and I realize that.”

Brandon Gaudin ’06
People

The Players Aren’t the Only Ones Practicing

A sports broadcaster gets an early jump on career experience.

by Monica Holb ’09

from Spring 2019

Read more
Dr. Craig A. Anderson ’76

Focusing on Behavior

from Spring 2019

Dr. Craig A. Anderson ’76 has been on the leading edge of research about aggression for over 40 years. In February, his efforts were recognized with the Distinguished Scholar Award from the Society of Personality and Social Psychology.

The award honors a scholar who has made distinctively valuable research contributions across his or her career that bridge personality and social psychology or bridge personality or social psychology with another field (i.e., law, education, organizations, or medicine).

“Dr. Anderson’s work is remarkable not only for its sheer quantity and quality but also for its breadth,” says Distinguished Scholar Award selection committee member and University of Texas at Austin Psychology Professor Sam Gosling. “His research spans a wide range of areas, including judgment and decision-making; depression, loneliness, and shyness; personality theory and measurement; attribution theory; and human aggression.

“His work is also particularly notable for its applied implications well beyond the realms of academia; this feature is perhaps best illustrated by his groundbreaking work looking at the effects of media violence on behavior.”

He traces his interest in aggression to his childhood.

“I was a fairly angry child,” says Anderson, who grew up on a farm in Northern Indiana. “I was always one of the smallest in my class, getting picked on. I distinctly recall a point at 15 or 16 when I realized being angry wasn’t satisfying or productive.”

Not long after this epiphany, Anderson nearly got an up-closeand- personal look at aggression in its most institutionalized form. Attending the University of Notre Dame during the Vietnam War, he felt safe from joining the fight—at least until graduation. Suddenly, in 1971, President Richard Nixon cancelled student deferments, making undergraduates like Anderson subject to the draft.

“It was clear I was going to be drafted while still in college, and they were sending everyone to Vietnam,” he says. “So, I voluntarily joined an Army Reserve unit.” Anderson attended basic training and vehicle mechanic school at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, then tank mechanic school at Fort Knox.

Once he knew he could fulfill his reservist duties primarily on the weekends, Anderson turned back to his studies. He accepted a scholarship to Butler.

From the time he got to Butler—where his senior research project examined whether a researcher’s gender could influence the outcomes of a study—Anderson has been intrigued by the motivations behind people’s behavior.

“I’ve always been interested in what influences the way people think,” Anderson says. “How humans interpret the world underlies all my research.”

He says the Psychology Department at Butler helped his life’s work get off to a good start.

During those years, he also met and dated Dona Caprice (“Cappi”) Odom ’77, who was attending Butler’s School of Pharmacy.

They spent a lot of time together in the Psychology Department. Then one day, he recalls, one of his professors, Dr. J. William Hepler, took him aside and said, “‘Anderson, you’ve got to marry this girl. Not only can she can cook, but she can earn a living, and you’re not going to be able to make any money!’ So, I did.”

They just celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary. (Their daughter Caitlin graduated from Butler in 2012 with a degree in Psychology.)

After Anderson graduated from Butler, he went on to earn his master’s and doctorate from Stanford University. He taught at Rice University, Ohio State, and University of Missouri- Columbia before joining the Iowa State University faculty in 1999 as Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychology.

“He is undeniably the most well-known, accomplished alumnus of the Psychology Department at Butler, and he’s very important as a social psychologist and a psychologist in general,” says Provost and Professor of Psychology Kate Morris. “His work is compelling and impactful—he’s testified before Congress. We’re obviously proud to have him as an alumnus.”

Michelle (Skinner) Brown ’09

Closing the Gap

Hayley Ross ’17

from Spring 2019

When Michelle (Skinner) Brown ’09 created CommonLit, Inc. she saw it as just a teacher website.

That was in 2014. Today, with the help of a $3.9 million grant from the United States Department of Education and another $3.5 million grant from Google, the online reading program for grades 3-12 is reaching over 8.3 million users, and averaging 21,000 new users every day.

In fact, Brown says, “CommonLit has grown so big that it’s rare that I meet an English teacher today who hasn’t heard of it. It’s pretty crazy.”

Brown created CommonLit to be a completely free, online compilation of literary and teaching resources. Professional, high-performing teachers create all of the lessons on the site, which include new articles, poems, short stories, and historical documents. The works themselves are donated by authors and publishers that support CommonLit’s mission of improving literacy for vulnerable populations.

StudentThe path to its creation was not a traditional one, however.

Brown came to Butler University from New Braunfels, Texas to study classical ballet. However, one of her professors, Dr. Marshall Gregory, inspired her to change her major to English.

“His classes made me believe in the power of literature to change people’s minds. In fact, Dr. G ended up writing my letter of recommendation for Teach for America, which is what brought me to the education sector.”

After graduating from Butler, Brown taught for two years at a school in a highly impoverished and extremely rural part of the Mississippi Delta. It was there that she got the “teaching bug.”

“Ultimately, what I am doing now directly correlates to teaching there,” she says. “CommonLit was born out of my experience in the classroom.”

Brown followed up her time in Mississippi with a Master’s in Education Policy and Management from Harvard University. It was upon completion of this program that CommonLit was born.

In the five years since its inception, the nonprofit has done so well, in part, because of something Brown calls “best practices.”

“Our theory of action is that if we give teachers high-quality resources and help change teacher practices, we can nudge them toward practices that support students who are struggling in reading,” Brown says. “We pick a handful of best practices that have been shown, through research, to move the needle in reading achievement—particularly for students who are struggling.”

For example, a best practice would be for a student who is an English language learner to explicitly be learning high-leverage words—words that you might see over and over again, no matter what class you’re in throughout the school day. This ensures students have strong foundational knowledge from which to build.

“Reading and writing is a predictor of life’s outcomes, of student earnings,” she says. “It really is the ticket to the middle class. Our mission is to close that gap.”

With the new multimillion-dollar grant, the company will aim to close the gap internationally as well, starting with a pilot in Mexico.

“We are actually writing original Spanish content, getting really great local stories, and building a curriculum that is more localized for Mexico,” Brown says. “Then we are trying to see over the next two years how we can build student achievement there.”

StudentsCommonLit currently has a three-person team in Mexico City that is working with the Ministry of Education as well as other partners who are local to the region and understand the unique context there.

“Literature and text selection are so localized and very cultural and are how people are socialized in their country,” Brown says.

“We aren’t just saying we are making a CommonLit for the U.S. and then lumping the rest of the world together. We’re thinking ‘what’s our global strategy,’ and thinking country by country.”

The under-resourced schools her team is working with in Mexico City just recently gained access to computers and broadband internet. Through its latest grant, CommonLit will be working on offline solutions as well.

“Our mission is to serve students who are in low-income areas and who are underserved,” she says. “And in international context, that usually means they don’t have consistent access to internet. So, that is something we will be pursuing in 2019 and 2020: How can we make an interactive version of CommonLit that actually works offline.”

CommonLit has grown exponentially and impressively over the past two years, but Brown says it’s the individual stories that have the most impact. She shares the story of a high school teacher in New York whose student had recently immigrated to the United States. In order to graduate with a high school diploma, he had to pass his New York State Regents exams— but he spoke no English.

“This teacher used CommonLit basically every day with him in English and Spanish, and the result was that he exceeded the average on the English exam at the end of the year,” Brown says. “He used the Spanish and English resources and started to understand the structure of the text and it was a total success... It’s moments like that when you realize that you’re really making a big impact.”

Michelle (Skinner) Brown ’09
People

Closing the Gap

  

by Hayley Ross ’17

from Spring 2019

Read more
Kena (Woods) Swanson ’98

The Hunt

Rachel Stern

from Spring 2019

Kena (Woods) Swanson ’98 is OK with failure. That’s because she doesn’t really view it that way. Failing is really just getting closer to discovering the right answer.

That is the world of vaccine discovery. Decades of research, years of clinical trials, and, unfortunately, more often than not, failure. And that is Swanson’s world.

“This is certainly not for the faint of heart,” says Swanson, a Butler University Biology graduate who currently works at Pfizer as Director in Viral Vaccines and is the research lead for the RSV vaccine program. “It takes passion, drive, and a lot of persistence to really see where the light will be at the end of the tunnel. But it’s also so worth it because you know you’re a small piece of the larger puzzle that will have so much impact beyond yourself.”

Swanson has spent the last five years working on finding an RSV vaccine at Pfizer’s Research and Development campus in Pearl River, New York. In her 10 years at Pfizer, she has also worked on finding vaccines for Chlamydia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Before that, Swanson went to graduate school at the Indiana University School of Medicine, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship in Chlamydia pathogenesis and vaccine antigen discovery research at Rocky Mountain Laboratories (part of the National Institutes of Health).

But it was at Butler that she really discovered her passion for science and research.

She remembers sitting in Professor Emeritus of Biology James Shellhaas’ immunology course as a junior. He was comparing a virus battling against one’s immune system, to a game of tug of war. And right there, in that classroom, Swanson knew she wanted to hunt for vaccines as a career.

“I was hooked,” she says. “I knew I wanted to keep chasing after this. It was a great class. There were only five students, so there was a ton of discussion back and forth. Shellhaas made the connection that you need to know the biology of a pathogen and how it interacts, in order to make an effective vaccine. He opened my eyes to this dynamic, complex, interesting challenge and since then I have wanted to chase these answers.”

In between pitching for the Butler softball team—Swanson says there was a lot of studying in hotel hallways—she found time to present her research at the Butler Undergraduate Research Conference, take part in Butler Summer Institute, oh, and meet her husband, Wesley ’00—in the library, of course.

Her summer project for the Butler Summer Institute was teaming up with Shellhaas to research the immune response of macrophages when infected with various bacteria. It was her first experience handling research animals, and what sticks out is the patience of Shellhaas to teach her the basics of research—how to collect cells, grow bacteria, analyze it, tell a story, troubleshoot, and draw conclusions.

“These are all skills that are the foundation of a career in research,” Swanson says. “At Butler, you have the chance to do so much more than what is in the curriculum. There were so many different opportunities, by the time I was off to grad school, I already had an understanding of how to design an experiment, how to do research. But the thing is, it goes beyond these practical lab skills. I learned the analytical thinking that you need to be successful as a researcher. The skills to look at something one way, then realize, wait, there’s an alternative path out there in case you run into a road block, which you will.”

But a road block doesn’t mean failure. It just means getting closer to the right answer.

Kena (Woods) Swanson ’98
People

The Hunt

  

by Rachel Stern

from Spring 2019

Read more
New York City Skyline

Unleashed in New York

Marc D. Allan, MFA ’18

from Spring 2019

You know what the song New York, New York  says: If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere. And that sentiment is what motivates tens of thousands of people to pick up and move to New York City each year.

The potential of great risk, great reward is too tempting to pass up. We talked to four Bulldogs who’ve moved to NYC in the past decade or so—and are most certainly making it.

 

A Matter of Time

Joe Ziemer ’05Joe Ziemer ’05 worked at Nuvo, Indianapolis’ alternative newspaper, and Clowes Memorial Hall for about a year after graduation. But by 2007, he was off to New York, where he’s been ever since.

“I knew it was inevitable,” he says. “It was just a matter of when.”

Ziemer had spent time in New York with his family growing up, and while at Butler he and classmate Steve Dumas ’05 did internships there rather than study abroad.

“We both took the view that if we were going to do a semester away, we wanted to do it in a place where we thought there was a likelihood that we would move to,” Ziemer says.

To get hired in New York, Ziemer borrowed a friend’s New York mailing address so he would look like a local applicant. He landed his first job with TriplePoint, a boutique communications firm, where he wound up running the New York office for the San Francisco-based company.

After five and a half years, he moved to Betterment, an automated investment service. At the time, it was a small, unknown startup with 10 employees managing $50 million. Six years later, Betterment has 240 employees and manages $15 billion in investments.

Ziemer is Vice President.

“It was definitely a career risk to take the plunge to a small startup, but it’s gone incredibly well,” Ziemer says.

So has the move to New York. After nine years in Manhattan, he moved to Brooklyn and also bought a small house upstate with his wife and two dogs to be able to “recapture a little bit of fresh air and nature when needed.”

He’s found New York to be “incredibly welcoming.”

“Almost nobody is from here, which makes it a really attractive place to move,” he says. “They’re accepting of different cultures and ideologies.”

 

An Overnight Success—14 Years in the Making

Katie Hannigan ’08On August 2, 2018, after 10 years in New York, Katie Hannigan ’08 got the kind of break that can catapult a standup comic’s career: She performed on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

The result, she says, has been “a nice little bump” that included getting a Home Depot commercial and increasing her road bookings.

“It definitely is a huge career milestone for me,” she says. “This is something I’ve been working toward for years and years and years.”

Hannigan has been working toward her goal for at least 14 years, if you go back to her first year at Butler. After graduating from Warren Central High School in Indianapolis, where she was fascinated by experimental theater, Hannigan came to Butler as a Theatre major and immediately found herself cast in Top Girls, a play by unconventional writer Caryl Churchill. Everyone in the cast was older, and “I felt quite distinguished and honored to be able to do that show.”

In that production, she worked with director Constance Macy for the first time. They teamed up again two years later on The Underpants, and she credits Macy, an Indianapolis actress and director who works frequently with Butler Theatre, with helping her develop a critical eye for comedic timing.

At Butler, Hannigan also worked at the Holcomb Observatory for two years, which “helped me develop my interests outside of performing, which is so important to be able to draw on.” (She’s now hosting a podcast called Apodcalypse about ends-of-days scenarios in pop culture and religious legend.)

Hannigan moved to New York a week after graduating from Butler. She moved in with her former Butler roommate Leah Nanako Winkler ’06—who has also gone on to great success as the 2018 winner of the prestigious Yale Drama Series Prize—and they worked together in experimental theater.

“I felt that if I went to New York,” she says, “I would find exactly what I was interested in focusing on for a long period of time.”

But that took some time. Two years later, Hannigan started in comedy. She spent four years going to open-mic nights five to 10 times a week to hone her act. A couple of years in, she also took a job at a comedy club so she could get more stage time, and she began to hit the road to work at clubs and comedy festivals around the country. She also started posting jokes regularly on Twitter—and still does @katiehannigan.

She had other gigs, too, including preschool teacher (“the kids were teaching me … that I hate kids,” she says in her act) and New York City tour guide. She developed such an extensive knowledge of New York City that she’s appeared in episodes of The Travel Channel’s Mysteries at the Museum as an expert.

And even as her comedy schedule filled, she continued to act. During summer 2018, she shot two TV pilots, including one about city yuppies who decide they’re going to live off the land but find they’re woefully unprepared.

In the near term, she appreciates that standup comedy is the skill that’s bringing her the most attention.

“The weekend after I performed (for Colbert), it was quite a shock to my system to have accomplished that kind of goal,” she says. “I was feeling kind of overwhelmed as far as what do I do next. The Late Show is something that will help my career as a comedian, but I do have some big things ahead that I’m looking forward to.”

 

A Pretty Cool Place to Work

Radley Haddad ’13Radley Haddad ’13 didn’t have a favorite baseball team growing up, but he sure has one now—the New York Yankees.

Since 2017, the former Butler Baseball player has been the bullpen catcher for the Yankees, and at the end of the 2018 season he signed a contract for another two years. (Also in 2018, he married Arielle Hemrick ’14, who’s now a dentist in Brooklyn.)

“Being in New York has been a great experience so far,” he says. “Getting to be in Yankee Stadium every day is a pretty cool place to go to work.”

Haddad grew up in Carmel, Indiana, and transferred to Butler after two years at Western Carolina University for a chance to get more playing time. Then-Coach Steve Farley—“a really good molder of men”—helped Haddad get into a good summer league where he could play every day until he was eligible to play for Butler. And in 2012 and 2013, he started 93 games for the Bulldogs.

Haddad wasn’t selected in the Major League Baseball draft, but a week later the Yankees signed him to a free-agent contract. He played four years in the minor leagues, getting as high as the Double-A Trenton Thunder. During spring training in 2017, the Yankees gave him a choice: Go back to the minor leagues again or come to work as a bullpen catcher.

Haddad was 26 at the time. The choice turned out to be easy.

“It was tough to walk away from the game as a player, but the transition was easy.”

His qualifications for the job were basic: “I have the skills to catch guys who throw hard and I’m a generally pleasant person to be around. Those are probably the two job requirements that I filled.”

His first season—being part of a team playing in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series—“was just surreal.” Nine months earlier, he was “a grinding minor leaguer,” and here he was, warming up starting pitcher C.C. Sabathia.

“The path that your life can take in a short time is pretty remarkable,” he says.

Haddad still enjoys catching—“I get to see what Aroldis Chapman throws and all these guys who are probably future Hall of Famers”—and he also does some coaching, game planning, and analytics.

His plan is to “just continue to mold into the best version of myself and help the team win in any way possible, whether that’s as a bullpen catcher or coaching assistant or in baseball operations. Just continue to make the people around me better is my goal.”

 

Reading the Signs

Aaron Simms ’98In his bio, Butler Theatre alumnus Aaron Simms ’98 describes himself as “a New Yorker from Cincinnati.”

He’s been in New York since 2003, after detours that took him from Butler to Wisconsin (Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Wisconsin Shakespeare Festival), Ohio (Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Human Race Theatre Company), and West Virginia (Theatre West Virginia).

“That’s what you do,” Simms says. “You gig. You go where the work is. That’s the job of a professional actor.”

That mindset motivated him to pursue his craft in New York with just enough money for two months of living expenses and the phone number of someone he knew in theater.

Simms called while he was getting off the plane, and his acquaintance said that his theater company was having auditions that day. Simms went to the audition and booked his first job in NYC.

“That was kind of a sign that I should be here,” he says. “It’s strange for an artist, but the signs point you in the right direction. That was a strange and wonderful occurrence.”

That job led to others—“Work breeds work,” Simms says—and as his craft evolved, he began producing and general-managing shows.

He’s still doing that as General Manager of the York Theatre Company, which produces and develops new musicals and old gems from the past in Midtown Manhattan, and as founder and Executive Producer of Inwood Art Works in Upper Manhattan’s Inwood neighborhood. Simms says Inwood lacked galleries, theaters, cinemas, and other creative spaces, so he decided to create a cultural arts hub through programming showcasing artists who live in the neighborhood.

Simms, who earned his Master of Fine Arts in Theater Management and Producing from Columbia University in 2015, says his career is an outgrowth of what he learned at Butler.

“You have to create your own path,” he says, “which is something the chair of our department, Dan Warrick, instilled in us. That’s something I’ve carried with me from Butler.”

New York City Skyline
People

Unleashed in New York

  

by Marc D. Allan, MFA ’18

from Spring 2019

Read more
Jonathan Purvis

Beyond Year One

Jeff Stanich ’16

from Spring 2019

In April 2018, Jonathan Purvis joined Butler University as Vice President for University Advancement. A respected leader in higher education advancement with 20 years of experience, Purvis came to Butler from Indiana University where he served as Vice President for Development and Regional Campuses. In a recent interview, he reflects on his first year with Butler and the challenges ahead.

Beyond the new academic buildings rising on campus, past the hallways filled with hammering sounds of renovations in Jordan Hall’s basement, Butler University’s future is unfolding in a single-window office with high ceilings.

There, Jonathan Purvis finishes up an email before the University breaks for the end of 2018, which has been the first year of what Purvis intends to be a long career as the Vice President for University Advancement.

“The minute this opportunity came up, there really wasn’t any discussion on it,”he says. “I wasn’t exactly looking for a new position, but it’s all upside here no matter what’s happening in higher education. Here, there’s tremendous loyalty with the alumni base, great engagement with the community, and an exceptional faculty. I feel very fortunate to be at Butler at this particular time.”

Despite the years of experience that qualified him for this position, Purvis knew his role would entail challenges. As a whole, higher education in America faces the reality of rising costs and dwindling applicant pools, with a Midwestern, private university such as Butler facing even more of an uphill battle.

But Purvis is all smiles. He’s thinking five, 10 years down the road. He is making sure people get to know him while aligning his office’s goals with President Jim Danko’s vision for the University’s growth in the 21st century. And that all started by realizing just how significant Butler can become in the lives of those it touches—not just for the individuals he has met, but also for Purvis himself.

“The very first college campus I set foot on was Butler’s,” the Noblesville, Indiana, native says. “I was a little kid seeing my oldest brother on stage in a production of Godspell thinking, ‘Oh my God, this is what college does for you.’ It was transcendent. So that’s what higher education has always meant to me—transformation.”

That’s why Purvis has made it his mission to make that same transcendent experience possible for every person who comes to Butler. So, when he speaks about the University to members of the community, he doesn’t just sell the importance of giving back in terms of dollars and cents. Giving of one’s time through mentorships can make even more of an impact.

“I see philanthropy as any way that people can express their appreciation and commitment to the Butler Way, to make sure that unique and critical experience continues to happen for our young people,” he says. “That is why the main focus of the Office moving forward will be to enhance what we at Butler already do so well.”

Only time will tell exactly how Butler fuels its future. But if his smile before the winter break was any indication, plans are coming sooner, not later. If you were thinking big, Purvis suggests you think bigger.

Jonathan Purvis
People

Beyond Year One

  

by Jeff Stanich ’16

from Spring 2019

Read more
Marc Allan

The Marc I Know

Nancy Whitmore

Butler Professor of Journalism

from Spring 2019

A writer whose byline graced the pages of this magazine for 15 years is retiring. While I have enjoyed his lively features and marveled at his ultra-concise emails, I am most grateful for the time this writer spends reading.

Most Bulldogs know Marc Allan as a writer, but he can have a profound impact on the career of a student—just by reading. Ask Dana Lee. She had never met Marc. But he knew who she was and more importantly the quality of her writing and reporting when he recommended her for the Indianapolis Star’s Our Children fellowship. As an avid reader of the Butler Collegian, Marc had taken note of Dana’s work since she began writing for the paper. So, when a reporter for the Star called him looking for a student intern who could research, investigate, and write stories on local children’s issues, Marc knew who to recommend, and Lee landed the fellowship.

Marc has played a role in the careers of Butler students and graduates that few realize. For years, I’ve been sending students his way as he will literally read any student’s work. Alumni who are now themselves professional journalists and writers continue to reach out to him for advice. You see, they know the behind-the-scenes Marc. The Marc who serves as the go-to counselor for anyone interested in a career in journalism.

In this role, Marc draws from a deep well of experience. He worked as a reporter for 24 years, spending the last 16 years of his newsroom career at the Indianapolis Star where he covered the arts beat in Central Indiana. As an arts critic, he has reviewed thousands of concerts and performances from Bob Hope (at age 90) to Elvis Costello. In his columns, Marc was not one to hold back criticism—even if it meant he would likely receive it as well. His two-star review of Fleetwood Mac’s 1997 performance prompted one angry reader to write that Marc “must be blind and deaf.” Marc once told me that he keeps a file of these “fan” letters. I guess for Marc, it just comes with the territory. But what I appreciate the most is what his thick-skinned attitude teaches aspiring journalists and Collegian reporters, who unfortunately face much harsher criticism in these current times.

Marc joined the Marketing and Communications team at Butler in 2004, but has continued to write and report, maintaining a connection to journalism as a freelancer whose work has been published in The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Delta Sky Magazine and countless other publications. Locally, he is a frequent contributor to the Indianapolis Business Journal and Indianapolis Monthly, where he continues to cover arts and culture. According to the Indianapolis Monthly, Marc has “actually had a more successful journalism career” since he left the Star.

Given all his experience, it only made sense that the head of Butler’s Journalism program wanted Marc in the classroom. In 2005, Marc brought his expertise in writing and reporting to Butler students, and except for a brief two-year sabbatical to complete an MFA in Creative Writing, he has been an Adjunct Instructor of Journalism ever since.

Marc loves working with students, especially those who have a passion for journalism but don’t necessarily know how to channel that passion into publishable work. And this is why he reads and why he sends complimentary notes to students when they produce an exceptionally well reported and written story for the Collegian—even if the story results in negative publicity for the University.

In a public editor’s column for The Collegian, Marc explained this relationship. “Occasionally, I read The Collegian and wince,” he wrote, “because in my job, negative stories and commentary sometimes leave my department—and, often, me—answering for the University.

“But I say that with a smile, because I also teach journalism here as an adjunct, so I want to see young journalists doing their best work—even if that means more work for me.”

Marc ended this column by reminding us that student journalists are here to learn and we are here to teach. Even though he is retiring in May, I know that Marc will never stop teaching, advising, recommending, and most importantly … reading the work of those he so generously helped to educate. And for that and for all he has meant to Butler Journalism, I am so very grateful.

Marc Allan
People

The Marc I Know

  

by Nancy Whitmore

from Spring 2019

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Eric Stark
PeopleCampus

Prestigious Fulbright Grant Awarded to Choral Director Eric Stark

BY Marc Allan MFA `18

PUBLISHED ON Apr 04 2019

When he was working on his doctorate in choral conducting, Eric Stark would come home to Indianapolis from Bloomington, have dinner, then drive to Butler University and sneak into one of the practice rooms in Lilly Hall to do his homework because he needed access to a piano.

"I would always think: If I could only get a job at a place like this," he says.

In 1996, he did, and since then his choral activities have taken him to Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, and around the world. The next stop is Brazil, where he will be a Fulbright Scholar conducting and studying in residence during the first half of 2020 at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

For Stark, Butler's Director of Choral Activities, it's another milestone in a career filled with them.

Over the years, he has conducted in the Oriental Art Center Concert Hall in Shanghai and the Forbidden City Concert Hall in Beijing. He has made conducting appearances in Greece, Italy, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, and Uruguay, and has led choirs on domestic tours in New York City, Boston, Atlanta, Chicago, New Orleans, Orlando, and Tampa.

When Madonna performed Like a Prayer at halftime of Super Bowl XLVI in Indianapolis, Stark directed a 200-person choir that included 22 members of the Butler Chorale.

"I'm astounded this is my life, this is my career, because you roll the dice on being a musician and you just never know what's going to happen," he says.

Stark plans to teach at Butler through the 2019 fall semester—he's still leading the popular Rejoice! holiday concerts—then leave for Brazil over winter break. The school year in Brazil starts in March, so he and his husband, Adriano Caldeira, who is Brazilian, will travel around the country in January and February to observe some music-making.

Stark will teach at Federal University from March through June. He will be teaching in Portuguese—some of which he already knows from studying the language for a couple of years ("I feel like I could lead a rehearsal right now in Portuguese"), and some of which he's going to learn this summer at the University of Coimbra in Portugal, thanks to a grant from Butler.

In addition to his work at Butler, Stark has been Artistic Director of the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir since 2002.

The Fulbright Program awards approximately 8,000 grants annually. Roughly 1,600 U.S. students, 4,000 foreign students, 1,200 U.S. scholars, and 900 visiting scholars receive awards, in addition to several hundred teachers and professionals.

Stark discovered his love for music growing up in Columbus, Indiana, where he was inspired by the music at First Presbyterian Church. He sang in church choirs for 12 years and took piano and organ lessons from the choir director, Ray Hass.

The church, he says, was his musical awakening.

"He was a great musician and a great organist, and I can remember even as a 7 or 8 year old how much I enjoyed hearing him play the organ," he says. "That tickled something in my head I had never been aware of before. From time to time, I take the Butler Chorale down there and we sing concerts at that church, which is always fun."

Stark earned his bachelor’s from Wabash College, and both his master’s and doctorate in choral conducting from Indiana University.

When a job opened at Butler, Henry Leck, Butler's longtime Director of Choral Activities, got Stark in to see then-Dean Michael Sells, who hired Stark on a one-year, part-time contract. That turned into a one-year appointment, and then a full-time hiring. In the interim, Stark also taught at Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, and Christian Theological Seminary.

In 2014, he succeeded Leck as Butler's Director of Choral Activities.

“It’s no surprise to any of us in the Jordan College of the Arts that the significance of Eric’s work as a choral conductor and pedagogue has been recognized on an international level," says Lisa Brooks, Dean of Butler's Jordan College of the Arts. "The connections he will make while in South America will be invaluable to our students, and to the greater Indianapolis community.”

Stark says he's hopeful that his time in Brazil will lead to interesting partnerships and projects.Indianapolis has a sister city relationship with Campinas, Brazil, just outside Sao Paulo, and there is "a lot of multinational cross pollination between businesses here and there."

"There's positives on all sides of the equation, and that's what's so exciting for me about this—that possibility of sharing," he says. "Maybe I'll meet some undergraduate students in Brazil who study with me and might want to come to Butler for graduate studies. That's happened in the past. I'm certain that folks down there would love to do a concert date together with the Butler Chorale or the Symphonic Choir or both down the road. That's pretty exciting to think about."

Eric Stark
PeopleCampus

Prestigious Fulbright Grant Awarded to Choral Director Eric Stark

Butler's Director of Choral Activities will travel in early 2020 to Brazil as a Fulbright Scholar. 

Apr 04 2019 Read more

Shane Battier on Leadership and The Catalyst Effect

 

When most think about leadership, a CEO or All-Star athlete might come to mind. Think Bill Gates or LeBron James. However, according to recent research from two Lacy School of Business professors, we may have it all wrong.

Now, think retired NBA player, Shane Battier.

The book The Catalyst Effect highlights how the most successful organizations (or teams) are full of individuals who lead from wherever they are. In this interview exclusive to Butler University, Shane Battier shares his advice for leading from within with co-author and Butler MBA adjunct professor Jerry Toomer.

Stephanie Fernhaber: A Butler Professor Taking Learning Beyond the Classroom

by Sarah Bahr

While visiting a friend 4,300 miles away in Morocco last fall, Butler University Associate Professor of Entrepreneurship Stephanie Fernhaber came face-to-face with her first-world privilege.

She encountered a woman her age—43—who’d never attended a day of school in her life. The woman could neither read nor write.

“I’d read about the percent of women who are illiterate, but she wasn’t a number,” Fernhaber says. “She was an actual person.”

Fernhaber was inspired by the Moroccan mother’s determination to send her daughters to school, to break the cycle of illiteracy.

Back in Indianapolis, Fernhaber had a similar experience in 2017 when she discovered that the city she lives and works in was ranked last in the nation for food deserts, or areas where residents must travel a mile or more to reach a grocery store.

“I was shocked,” she says.

But, in both cases, she was also inspired. And she turned her shock into action.

All in the Family

Fernhaber grew up in a small town in northern Wisconsin—Gresham, population 586 as of the 2010 census—as the daughter of community-minded parents.

“I was familiar with social justice before I ever learned the word,” she says.

She credits her father, who owned a construction company, for instilling her passion for community-conscious activism.

“I was always conscious of the balance between business, community, and social impact,” she says.

Fernhaber has now lived in Indiana for nine years—she moved after she took a teaching position at Butler in 2010—but her passion for social entrepreneurship, or using start-up companies to develop and implement solutions to community issues, transcends location.

A longtime dream came to fruition when she developed a social entrepreneurship course at Butler, which she inaugurated in spring 2014.

Nonprofits in Indianapolis were scrambling to address big-picture issues like food insecurity and refugee resettlement with limited resources.

She had a captive audience of 24 students for 16 weeks (and could have had even more, but she caps the class, which she says always fills, to ensure it remains meaningful for students).

What can we do to help?, she thought.

A Class of Dreams

Fernhaber calls the Social Entrepreneurship course her “dream class”—in more ways than one. Yes, it allows her to share her passion for utilizing entrepreneurship to create social justice solutions, but it also inspires students to exercise their creativity.

“I wanted them to have a chance to see what’s happening in the community and have the chance to dream, and this class allows me to do both,” she says.

This spring, her fifth semester teaching the course, her students will split into teams of three and partner with eight community organizations. Past partners have included the Indianapolis Canine Assistance Network, Exodus Refugee Immigration, and Indy Reads Books, but Fernhaber adds new ones each year.

Each team will assess their assigned organization’s business model based on the social enterprise concepts they’re learning in class, as well as provide recommendations for how the organization can better serve their target population.

They’ll also produce a short video that will highlight the impact the organization is having in the community. At the end of the semester, the videos will be shared on the Central Indiana Social Enterprise Alliance website.

Beyond the Classroom

Butler sophomore Jordan Stewart-Curet, 20, helped Boys & Girls Club Teen Council members develop youth empowerment initiatives as part of the communityINNOVATE project, an initiative Fernhaber developed in 2016 to inspire the community to co-create solutions for social issues.

“The best memories I have are from the group discussions that would take place with the teen groups,” Stewart-Curet says. “To see them transform from shy, reserved individuals to powerful, confident community leaders are experiences I will forever take with me.”

Stewart-Curet calls Fernhaber someone who “truly, truly cares” and “is full of passion and drive to better the community.”

“She is a phenomenal woman,” Stewart-Curet says. “She has a heart for not only the students she works with, but issues of justice and equality for the community around her.”

Case in point: Teaching a class on social entrepreneurship and empowering her students to better their community wasn’t enough.

Fernhaber does so in her free time as well.

She’s developed a myriad of social entrepreneurship initiatives in Indianapolis through her communityINNOVATE project, among them the 2018 Indy Youth Empowerment Challenge and the 2017 Indy Healthy Food Access Challenge.

“I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be cool if we could bring some of these processes from the class into the community?’” says Fernhaber.

Through communityINNOVATE, Fernhaber brings together a group of change-makers from Indianapolis businesses, nonprofits, and citizens to devise solutions to one social issue per year.

In spring 2017, she launched the Indy Healthy Food Access Challenge to facilitate discussions among businesses, church groups, and neighborhood residents to answer the question: “How might Indianapolis residents better access healthy and affordable food?”

She followed up the effort with the Indy Youth Empowerment Challenge in spring 2018, a four-month process designed to pinpoint the obstacles preventing youth empowerment in Indy — and implode them.

She worked with the Kheprw Institute, an Indianapolis nonprofit that works to empower young people through mentorship, to host workshops to teach young people about social capital—for instance, putting participants in groups and asking them to plan a trip to Florida in 10 minutes, including how they’d get there, where they’d stay, and what they’d eat.

The catch? They couldn’t use money.

Attendees instead had to think about how to leverage their existing relationships to make the trip happen, relying on social rather than financial capital.

As for 2019? She’s taking a hiatus from hosting a challenge to map out the initiative’s future, but with plenty of social problems left to solve—Indy’s increasing gap among the haves and have-nots, the race divide, and economic problems among them—she’s sure to be busy for the foreseeable future.

No Day But Today

Fernhaber’s Social Entrepreneurship students will soon dive into this spring’s projects with partner organizations ranging from Nine Lives Cat Café in Fountain Square to RecycleForce, a recycling company that employs formerly incarcerated individuals.

And some students, such as Stewart-Curet, might even come away from the class with changed career goals.

“I want to become a creative director for a nonprofit or minority-owned business that focuses on intercommunity efforts and youth empowerment,” she says. “This project definitely influenced that.”

Fernhaber is clever like that: Students think their work is impacting the Indianapolis community, but the greater impact may actually be on them.

AcademicsPeople

Stephanie Fernhaber: A Butler Professor Taking Learning Beyond the Classroom

Fernhaber brings together a group of change-makers to devise solutions to  social issues.  

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