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Ena Shelley at Commencement
People

‘Meant to Be’: Ena Shelley’s 37-Year Career at Butler

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON May 30 2019

Ena Shelley doesn’t have to watch the news to know the weather. Headache, oh, that means a cold front is coming through.

So, on January 9, as she ate her usual toast with peanut butter and honey, showered, put on her earrings—like always—she noticed a headache, but thought nothing more than Indianapolis must be experiencing a temperature shift. It was just her body’s way of giving her a quick weather report before she headed to work.

Like most days, Shelley got in her car, drove 14 minutes to Butler University listening to the TODAY Show, parked in the South Campus lot, and walked into her office in Room 163. She quickly headed downstairs to room 001M for a meeting with her leadership team.

A few minutes into the meeting, she was mid-sentence, when she realized something was very wrong.

“I had this pain like I have never felt before in my entire life. It was shooting down the right side of my head and felt like someone put a knife right through my eye. I knew something was wrong,” Shelley says. “The last thing I remember was wondering why the EMT team was carrying the stretcher down the stairs, as opposed to using the elevator. I remember thinking it would have been much simpler for them to use the elevator.”

Three brain surgeries later, Ena Shelley, Dean of Butler’s College of Education, hasn’t missed a beat. About four months removed from the hospital, she is sitting in her office, surrounded by children’s art work, walls of books, a cardboard cutout of a colleague based in Sweden, and Norman Rockwell’s The Problem We All Live With. It’s a rainy May morning, and Shelley has already had two meetings. She has a full schedule of them ahead of her, and the energy to match.

Shelley will complete a 37-year career at Butler at the end of May, but much like the physical wounds she has amassed since January, it is tough to tell. Those who know her best aren’t surprised.

“Ena is a person with great determination,” says Ron Smith, who is now principal at the IPS/Butler University Laboratory School 60 and was a student of Shelley’s. “I am sure this isn’t the way she would have mapped out her final semester, but if anyone would be back in the office, it would be her. She doesn’t let anything slow her down. She is someone who can endure anything.”

She is still undergoing tests to find out why she had a spontaneous brain bleed that January morning. But, she says, there may never be a definitive answer. She lived in fear for awhile, wondering if headaches were the sign of a weather pattern, or, something that only 3 percent of patients survive, as her doctors warned her husband and children as she was rushed into her first emergency surgery. But now she focuses on living in the moment, not looking back. Instead of getting up each morning thinking about all the tasks she should accomplish, she thinks about how lucky she is to have another day.

With retirement around the corner, though, it turns out everyone else is looking back, and thinking about all the things Shelley has done over her decades of work not only at Butler, but in the Indiana education arena.

She oversaw the infusion of the Reggio Emilia philosophy throughout the COE and the city, and then created two Indianapolis Public School/Butler Lab Schools. She shifted the model of the COE to one centered around student teaching and site-based instruction, established partnerships with several area schools, has been involved in state and national legislation and policy around the education of young children, and established a new physical space for the College on South Campus.

But more than all of that, when Shelley arrived at the COE, there was no clear collective mission or vision, colleagues say. She is, largely, behind a major shift, hiring and looking for collaborative, forward-thinking colleagues who now engage in joint decision making and responsibility, and who now rattle off the College’s mission on demand, they say.

Not bad for someone who never wanted to be a dean.

 

Always a teacher

Born to a funeral home owner and a stenographer, Ena Shelley always knew she wanted to be a teacher.

She loved playing school. She would teach anything to anyone. But, to be specific, it all started with baton twirling. Shelley is a baton twirler, so she would gather anyone who was interested in learning the craft and give baton lessons.

Her older brother and older sister are teachers, too. Her mom was secretary of the school board. Her sister is now president of the same school board back in Shelley’s hometown of Cloverdale, Indiana.

When Shelley reached high school she signed up for a Cadet Teaching program and became hooked on elementary education.

“I was instantly drawn to how children think,” she says.

She looked at Butler when it was time for college. But, ultimately, chose Indiana State University. There was one main difference between the two schools, she says.

“They had a Lab School, Butler did not,” she says. “That was what I was looking for—that hands-on experience where we would watch teachers working with kids and learn directly in a classroom.”

Another draw was a professor she met during her first visit, Jan McCarthy. McCarthy would later become Shelley’s academic advisor, and during one of their first advising appointments, Shelley told McCarthy that she was interested in teaching young children, but was really fascinated by what professors do.

Dr Ena Shelley's name plateMcCarthy never dismissed that, Shelley says.

After graduating, Shelley started teaching kindergarten in Perry Township, while getting her master’s degree at Indiana State. Then, one day, a call came from McCarthy.

“She’s on the other line saying, ‘Do you still think you want to do what I do?’ and I couldn’t believe she even remembered because I mentioned that so many years ago,” Shelley says.

McCarthy offered Shelley a doctoral fellowship. It started in three weeks.

 

Ideals are formed

The house had caught on fire, and the family could not afford to rebuild it. The floors were now dirt. The back walls were made of stapled-up cardboard refrigerator boxes. Taped to the cardboard boxes were the children’s art work, spelling lists, and graded tests.

This, more or less, was the scene that played out every other Saturday when McCarthy, Shelley, and the rest of the doctoral students traversed the state of Indiana as part of the doctoral program. From downtown Indianapolis, to Gary, to Terre Haute, they hit all corners of the state as part of the Head Start Program—a federal program that promotes school readiness for low-income families.

“When you see that kind of poverty it has a huge impact,” Shelley says. “I learned from the teachers in those towns that that is why you never say a parent doesn’t care. You don’t know what is going on. In spite of all that is in that parent’s life, she cares, and she is doing the best she can do. People are so quick to group people. And I say you don’t know those people. By the grace of God you aren’t in their shoes. Don’t make assumptions about that. Every time, no matter where I was, it was parents wanting better for their children, and wanting to do right by their children. That lesson has stayed with me.”

Shelley says she was 26 when she first walked into an IPS classroom. All the teachers were African American, old enough to be her mother, and wise beyond her years. After her first day she called McCarthy.

On the phone, Shelley expressed doubt about what she could possibly bring to the table as a teacher. The other teachers had experiences Shelley didn’t.

“Jan stopped me mid-sentence and explained that was the entire point, I had already learned the lesson. I was there to learn from them,” Shelley says. “And boy, they taught me. Those women really, really shaped what I thought about what we have to do to help all children, and how to understand adversity in a deep, profound way when it comes through the school door. What what can we, as teachers, do, and how do we prepare teachers to be able to work with that? How do you lift a community up, especially when I saw what I saw?”

Shelley also traveled the country with McCarthy during her doctoral program, watching her mentor testify at the state level and national level.

At the time, Indiana had next to no regulations regarding people who work with young children, and McCarthy was the president of the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Essentially, anyone could teach young children.

So, McCarthy traveled the state, at first, talking to legislators about the importance of supporting improved quality of programs for young people. And Shelley would tag along. Then they took their gospel to Washington DC. Summer after summer after summer.

“A lot of people have the ability to teach,” says McCarthy, who is 90-years-old, has been in the education field for more than 30 years, and keeps in touch with Shelley via group text. “But often, they don’t have that extra dimension. That vision side. Ena has that. She sees needs in our field and wants to find ways to meet those needs. She is an idea person and a person who solves problems. She has that extra dimension that allows her to make real impact.”

When it was time to graduate from her doctoral program at ISU, Shelley wondered about applying for a job at Butler—the school she turned down as an undergraduate—because she heard good things about it from teachers at Perry Township.

She applied, and got a call back. But, the news wasn’t so positive. It was the outgoing dean. He called to tell her a new dean was coming in, there were no openings, and they haven’t hired anyone in seven years.

 

‘It was meant to be’

Ena Shelley teaching 2005.After a 37-year career at Butler that included two stints as Interim Dean, that then led to Shelley becoming Dean in 2005, she says it was all ‘really crazy and meant to be.’

That’s because, after applying and being told there were no openings and no new hires in seven years, Shelley crossed Butler off the list. She started looking at IUPUI and the University of Indianapolis.

Then, a month later, her phone rang. It was the new Dean of the College, and there was an opening. Shelley interviewed, and started at Butler as an Assistant Professor in June 1982.

But, things weren’t exactly as she thought they would be, or should be.

“When I first came to Butler, and I don’t mean to sound critical, but I was taken aback,” Shelley says. “Most of our students were placed in very white privileged schools when it came to student teaching. They came from white privilege, and they student taught in white privilege, then they went back to white privilege. I thought to myself, there is this whole other world out there that we need to be placing our students in. there are students who need our great teachers. It was eye opening for me. There simply wasn’t enough rigor in our program. It was very traditional of teacher education and it wasn’t what I had experienced and I wondered why.”

So, Shelley did what she was wired to do: worked to make change.

She felt like Butler students weren’t seeing the bigger picture. From her experiences, she knew partnerships with public schools, and a Lab School, were essential pieces of the bigger picture. But, Shelley was also the lone voice.

Until Arthur Hochman came to interview.

“I was really thinking, I don’t know if I see Butler as the place I see staying,” Shelley says. “I just didn’t know if I saw myself there for the long haul because philosophically, it wasn’t working. Thank heavens, six years after I started, Arthur interviewed, and everything changed.”

Hochman came to Butler from New York City. He had never been to Indianapolis before his interview. But, he vividly remembers interviewing in the basement of Jordan Hall. Shelley was there, and after his interview, he called his wife immediately.

“I told her I met someone who is really, really smart, really funny, and has a wonderful heart,” says Hochman, who has been at Butler now for 31 years. “I asked my wife how she would feel about moving from New York City to Indianapolis. There was dead air.”

Hochman eventually convinced his wife. They moved to Indianapolis because of Shelley, he says. Shelley calls Hochman her ‘kindred spirit,’ the reason her career flourished at Butler. Hochman’s daughter often asked him, ‘can we go see the laughing lady,’ referring to Shelley.

The two of them got to work. They added a couple other ‘kindred spirits’ to the elementary education team who were philosophically aligned.

One of the first things they did was establish a full year of student teaching. Butler became one of the first programs in the country to have that. They also built partnerships with IPS, Lawrence, Washington, and Pike Townships, placing Butler student teachers all over.

Then, there was the master practitioner program, which still exists today. A master teacher would come to Butler and be part of the College for a year, and the College would pay a first-year teacher salary as a replacement. The master teacher would look at the College’s curriculum, teach, and share relevant information with students.

Butler professors also started teaching their classes in schools.

“This was a game changer,” Shelley says. “The partnerships were key because I would be in a classroom with my students on the floor working with kids and students would be by my side, and I would say, see, did you catch what that child just did? That is Vygotsky Proximal Development right there. That is what we just read about. It brought everything to life.”

In the back of their minds, from the beginning, there was always the need for a Lab School.

 

Lab School comes to life

Shelley had read about Reggio Emilia for quite some time. And in 1998, she was ready to go see it in practice, first hand.

So, she took a sabbatical to Italy, and realized everything needed to change.

“It was unbelievable,” she says. “When I was there I knew we had to change our entire curriculum. We had no schools on this pathway, and because of that, it would be impossible to teach undergrads this type of teaching.”

Ena Shelley speaks to children at opening of IPS Lab School 55Reggio Emilia follows the interests of the child, and builds on what children know. It starts with the belief that children are all capable, confident, competent learners, and as teachers, it is your job to not just teach, but also learn. There is no thought that a child can’t do something.

When Shelley returned from Italy, she started implementing this method of teaching at the Lawrence Township Learning Community in the early childhood program. Then, with Shortridge, Warren Early Childhood Center, and St. Mary’s Childhood Center. Eventually, Butler students got involved, too, learning along with the teachers at these schools.

But, that elusive Lab School was always on Shelley’s mind. And she continued to make her pitch.

She eventually got a meeting with Gene White, IPS Superintendent at the time, and Bobby Fong, Butler’s President at the time. They told her to bring a list of everything she needed to make a Lab School happen.

She arrived at the meeting, sitting between the two men. She gave each a copy of her list. There was silence for a long time. Then, they both said the list looked good to them.

“I couldn’t believe it,” Shelley says. “Just like that, I thought, this was going to happen.”

Now, there are two Lab Schools. Ron Smith, who first met Shelley in 1984 when he showed up on Butler’s campus and Shelley was his advisor, is principal at the first Lab School. Shelley told Smith about Reggio Emilia after her sabbatical. She suggested he read a book about it, after he expressed some doubts about its effectiveness.

He finished the book on a plane ride. When he landed he called Shelley and told her he had to get involved in a school that taught this way.

But it is much more than just this philosophy that Smith owes to Shelley.

“I like to say that I am convinced I am Ena’s favorite student of all time, but I know that there are thousands of other Butler grads that also know they were Ena’s favorite student of all time,” he says. “Ena just has a way of making you feel as though you are the most important person in the world when you are interacting with her.”

When Smith walked into Shelley’s office as a freshman, he wasn’t into school all that much. It always came easy to him in high school. Grades weren’t important to him. He suspects he would have gone on to become a teacher regardless of the college he went to, but because of Shelley, and because of Butler, his career has become so much more.

“I often have reflected on what my path might have been and I just suspect that whatever success I have had in life is in large part due to the opportunity I got at Butler, and more importantly, is due to my opportunity to have interaction with, and to learn from, Ena,” Smith says. “The College of Education is a very personal college. It is a college where you feel that people know you and care about you. I just suspect that if I had gone to a larger university, I would have gotten my degree, would have become a teacher, but I don’t think my career would have been what it has been if I hadn’t had the chance to learn from Ena.”

 

‘Everything has worked out the way it was supposed to’

On New Year’s Eve 2018, Shelley wrote in her journal.

“Wow, what a year. Took students to France, took students to Italy, bought a house, decided to retire.”

Then, her journal went blank.

“Maybe next time, I shouldn’t write all that down, I should keep it in my head,” Shelley says. “Maybe I jinxed myself.”

On Jan. 9, everything changed. Doctors tell her now it was a spontaneous brain bleed. After ‘a gazillion’ MRIs, MRAs, and tests Shelley doesn’t even recall, the conclusions all point to just bad luck. A random occurrence that likely won’t happen again.

Her head is still tender. She cannot put headphones in, can only sleep on her back or her left side--she puts pillows up so she remembers not to roll over, and doctors say it will likely be another six months before she feels fully herself.

That day is still fresh in her mind. Angela Lupton called 911. She kept squeezing Katie Russo’s hands as she waited for the ambulance to arrive. There were cold paper towels on her. But she doesn’t remember anything after getting in the ambulance.

They rushed her into surgery. Her brain had been pushed beyond the midline. Three percent of people survive what Shelley ended up surviving. Doctors told her husband, as they rushed her into surgery, that they didn’t expect her to make it out alive. Her son was speeding on the highway, en route to the hospital from Louisville, Kentucky.

Shelley was in intensive care for six days. She doesn’t remember any of it. Then, on Jan. 11, her brain started bleeding again. They went back in for a second surgery. Her husband signed the papers as they rushed her down the hallway and into surgery. Again.

After the second surgery, Shelley was improving. Six days later, she was starting to make progress. She stood up for the first time in about three weeks. A speech therapist arrived and asked Shelley to name as many words as possible that start with the letter F. That was easy. The speech therapist switched to A. Shelley opted with ‘anthropomorphism.’ The speech therapist moved on to another test. Her wires were clearly connecting.

Shelley was making such positive progress that she met her goal—she was able to attend the national American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education Conference in Louisville on Feb. 24. But, after the conference, she had a seizure.

She was rushed to the hospital for another surgery. She had an infection. Her left arm didn’t work for awhile, she answered emails with one finger, and her short term memory is still not where she would like it to be.

“But, honestly, I feel so blessed,” she says. “I don’t have cancer, I have another day. I think of things differently now. Everything has worked out for me the way it was supposed to, and I am just lucky to have another day.”

With retirement right around the corner, Shelley says she is most proud of the 16 people she has hired into the College, as well as the partnerships she has developed, and the Lab Schools.

But more than that, it is the vision and mission of the College that will outlast all of that, she says. It is the work she set out to do when she got to Butler—change the vision of the College—but the groundwork for which was laid as a student long before stepping on campus.

“I believe if you are a teacher, you should be able to be a teacher of all children, not just some children,” she says. “Every child in our society deserves a great teacher, and you may not know where you will be as a teacher, but I feel like the way we shape our country is through education and if we want a better life for everyone, we have to do our part as teachers to make that happen.”

Now, she will retire to Savannah, Georgia, but has family in Indianapolis and Louisville, so will be in town often. She will be as involved, or not involved, in the College as the new Dean would like. But, no matter how physically involved she is, her impact will be felt on campus and in the community.

“It is impossible to be in the education field and not feel Ena’s influence around the city, and quite frankly, the state,” Smith says. “So yes, while she is retiring, her impact will always be felt because of all the work she has done that will, honestly, likely outlast the majority of us. That is true impact and that is Ena.”

Ena Shelley at Commencement
People

‘Meant to Be’: Ena Shelley’s 37-Year Career at Butler

After 37 years of service to Butler, Dean of the College of Education, Ena Shelley retires.

May 30 2019 Read more
Haley Sumner and her dog Ezzie
People

Finding Alternative Ways to Succeed

BY Marc D. Allan MFA ’18

PUBLISHED ON May 10 2019

When Mary Gospel found out she was going to be teaching a student who is blind, she wondered how that was going to work in a major—Communication Sciences and Disorders—that requires so much visual learning.

Then Haley Sumner came to class, and she had her answer.

"I've had Haley in class four times," says Gospel, Butler University Senior Clinical Faculty in Communications. "The only time I really even was thinking about her being vision-impaired was the first class. After that, you just forget because she handles everything so well. Outside of having a dog in the classroom, which is unusual, you just forget. She is such an amazing, strong student, and knows how to advocate for the things she needs to make the material in the classroom work for her."

That's precisely how Sumner wanted it. She has spent her life finding alternative ways to succeed, and she continued that at Butler.

She finished school in four years with a double major in Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) and Spanish. Along the way, she was involved in Student Government Association for three years, and  the Butler University Student Foundation.

"I've been able to develop work connections with graduates, and gotten an idea of what life will look like after college," she says. "If it wasn't for those organizations, it would have been harder for me to make connections, and feel comfortable with the next chapter of my life.”

In summer 2018, Sumner did an internship in the Human Resources department at Eskenazi Health. That spurred her interest in working for a large organization, like Eli Lilly and Co. or Salesforce when she graduates. She's now in the interviewing process.

*

Haley Sumner came to Butler from Ben Davis High School in Indianapolis. Sumner was born three months prematurely, weighing less than two pounds. She’s been blind since birth.

She started in Exploratory Studies, and chose CSD as a major because she had gone through speech therapy when she was young.

"I can't think of a day or even a moment in my life where I thought, 'I wish I could see this right now,'" she says. "I'm so grateful for the experiences I've had. I feel like we're all designed in a unique way."

She has navigated campus with help from her service dog, Ezzie. A text-to-speech machine turned her textbooks to audio. When she had classes that were heavily visual, she relied on tactile formats to feel what she couldn't see.

She says that in one class that dealt with topics such as anatomy and soundwaves, Butler's Student Disability Services office hired older students to draw diagrams she needed for exams and lectures. She has special paper that, when drawn on, makes raised lines, so she can feel what the picture is showing.

Sumner explains that for a drawing of a brain, for example, she can  feel where each lobe is located, and make a square or a circle in her mind, and then try  to put each part together to develop an understanding.

"Once I'm able to gauge where everything is mapped out on the page, then I'm able to make a mental image of it," she says.

*

Gospel says having Sumner in class made her a better teacher. She had to think more purposefully about how, and what, she taught. It forced her to prepare more thoroughly.

In one course, where students were expected to learn phonetic symbols instead of using alphabet letters, Gospel was flummoxed. She was unsure how to possibly make this accessible for Sumner.

Gospel teamed up with Kathleen Camire, Assistant Director of Student Disability Services, and Sumner. Not only were they able to come up with the necessary technology, but the three of them co-wrote a paper that Gospel presented at the American Speech and Hearing Association, about the technology and strategy needed to teach phonetics to a student with vision impairment.

Gospel says Sumner also made an enormous impact on the Butler Aphasia Community, a group of people who have had strokes who come to campus to work on their language skills with Butler students.

"They adored her," Gospel says. "She related to them so well, and they related to her. They saw how she was able to overcome obstacles with a positive attitude and sense of humor. They were inspired by her spirit.

Sumner says she comes at whatever she does with great empathy for others.

"Whenever I hear people complain or I hear them having a bad day, I try to get closer to them and help them find ways to make their situation positive or help them find a positive point in their day," she says.

Haley Sumner and her dog Ezzie
People

Finding Alternative Ways to Succeed

Sumner says she comes at whatever she does with great empathy for others.

May 10 2019 Read more
Maddy Smith and her daughter Arabelle
PeopleStudent LifeUnleashed

A Mother’s Promise: Against All Odds, Butler Senior is Ready to Graduate

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON May 09 2019

INDIANAPOLIS—Madeline Smith was in third grade when she attended her first college class. It was math. Finite, to be exact. And she loved it.

Her mom, Sarah Taylor, didn’t really have a choice but to bring her young daughter with her. She was a 30-year-old college student at Indiana University. She had returned to college years after giving birth to Smith and realizing, if she wanted to stop working 16-hour shifts and provide a better life for her daughter, a college degree would help. So, Taylor packed up her whole house, put everything in storage except for two tents, and headed to Yellowstone Woods in Bloomington, Indiana with Smith. They camped out for two months—Taylor and her 10-year-old. Taylor bused tables, saving up for an apartment. She had a friend watch Smith during most classes, but when she had to, Taylor brought an extra set of hands with her to class. Turns out those hands shot up in the air on more than one occasion when questions were asked. Especially during Finite.

“I knew I had to make a change to make Madeline’s life better in the long-run, and I am very thankful she was a resilient individual, because she powered through some tough times,” says Taylor, who has worked in Human Resources since graduating from IU. “She was my study buddy who would hold up flashcards for me during dinner, while I was doing laundry, everything. She took notes in her own notebook during Economics. She always loved learning and saw firsthand from those days that knowledge is power, and education can transform your life.”

That love of learning was always on display. In elementary school, Smith preferred reading to riding bikes with her friends. And when she brought home her first B at Southport High School in Perry Township, Smith cried hysterically, studying all night, determined to bring her grade back up to an A.

When it came time to make a decision about college, Taylor was biased. She took her daughter back to Bloomington where the two had many fond memories. Smith earned a 21st Century Scholarship—up to four years of undergraduate tuition at participating universities in Indiana—so Taylor knew her daughter had options. They also visited Butler University.

“After being on campus, Butler became a no-brainer,” Smith says. “I loved the atmosphere here. I loved the fact that just six buildings make up the academic section. There was such a community feel right away. With larger institutions, it felt like you had to walk across an entire city to get to class. I didn’t want to be in a department where there are 25 professors and you never meet half of them, and they don’t know your name, and you are just another face. I wanted to be Maddy, and at Butler, it became instantly obvious to me the I would have that type of experience.”

Then, one day during Smith’s senior year of high school, she sat her mom down. She needed to talk to her. Smith was pregnant. They had a long talk—both cried and were scared—but, Smith made one thing clear: her goals would not shift, and she would go to Butler as planned. Taylor explained that she would understand if Smith needed to take a slightly different route, or adjust her timeline. But Smith was adamant. Nothing would change.

Four years later, Smith is on the cusp of graduation. She will join nearly 1,050 other students on Saturday for Butler’s 163rd Spring Commencement. She will fulfill the promise she not only made to her mom, but to herself, and to her daughter, Arabelle.

The Anthropology major and History minor will walk across the stage right on time, just as she planned four years ago. She is a bit more tired, but also incredibly grateful—for the scholarships, support from faculty and family—and proud—for trusting herself and sticking to her plan.

 

‘I’m exhausted’

The timing, actually, could not have been better for Smith. She was determined to not miss any significant class time, and her daughter was due in December, when Butler was closed for Winter Break.

So, Christmas 2015 arrived, she went to the hospital, and Arabelle arrived on December 27, 2015. Two weeks later, school started, and Smith was in class.

“It was really hard. To be honest, second semester of my first year is a blur,” Smith says, “It is recommended that you have six weeks of bonding time with your baby, and I had like two. But, I would have had to take medical leave if I missed school, and I wanted to graduate on time. It was really difficult, and exhausting, and things you don’t think about, like nursing, were messed up, but I knew I had to get through it.”

On top of having a newborn, Smith had to move to Kokomo during her second semester—about an hour from Butler’s campus—because her mom was relocated from Indianapolis to Tennessee for work. She moved in with her aunt and uncle, and then made the hour-each-way commute every day for classes.

Maddy's daughter, ArabelleShe learned traffic patterns very quickly, she says. She also learned time management.

Each day she woke up at about 5:00 AM, got ready for school, got her daughter ready for daycare, drove to campus for classes, and would return home to pick up her daughter from day care at around 5:00 PM. Then it was dinner time, bath time, bedtime for Arabelle, homework time for Smith, and, hopefully at a reasonable hour, bedtime for Smith.

“The way she has juggled everything has amazed me. But that is Madeline,” Taylor says. “I have seen her up until 2:00 AM working on a paper, or sometimes asleep in a book, trying to finish assignments. Her determination is what has gotten her to this point, and her love of learning.”

It wasn’t always clear to Smith that she made the right choice, though. There were times, she says, she missed out on things like parent-teacher conferences, or making snacks for her daughter’s daycare. Or other things, like homecoming, Greek Life, and just a typical social life on campus. Between classes and taking care of her daughter, Smith has juggled several jobs throughout her four years, such as working at a gas station, working at a fast food restaurant, the Butler IT Help Desk, pizza delivery driver, to name a few.

 

Tight-knit community

Elise Edwards has an adult son, and, after a day of teaching Anthropology as an Associate Professor at Butler, she is drained, she says. So, to see Smith, a first-year student who can juggle being a mom and keep up with her studies, amazed Edwards.

“Maddy is an incredibly smart student. She writes well, thinks well, and despite all of the outside pressures she faces, has remained incredibly focused,” Edwards says. “She is very intellectually curious and, miraculously, hasn’t allowed any additional challenges to get in her way.”

Edwards worked with Smith on an independent study project looking at the Anthropology of Africa. The two handpicked ethnographies on Africa and met weekly to discuss the readings. After graduation, Edwards says, she will really miss these conversations.

But it wasn’t just that Smith was able to keep up, Edwards says. She was often ahead of the class. On more than one occasion, Smith would raise her hand and remind the class that rough drafts were due in a week.

Instructor of German Michelle Stigter was the first person on campus Smith told about her pregnancy. Stigter was her First Year Seminar professor, and the two instantly connected.

“I am the child of teenage parents, and I know the odds are stacked against young women who get pregnant in terms of college completion,” Stigter says. “Being a mom and something else is hard enough, but being a mom and a college student is really difficult. Maddy has a tenacity to move forward and make life happen for her and her daughter that has been incredible to witness.”

Most who know Smith, Stigter says, aren’t even aware she has a daughter. She has been determined to be like every other student and not let her family situation influence her college experience.

It was Stigter who nominated Smith for the Betty Murnan-Smith Scholarship—given to single parents enrolled in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, who have at least a 3.0 GPA.

Stigter nominated Smith in 2017, and since then, Smith has received the scholarship for the last three years.

“Without scholarships I never would have been able to come to Butler and receive the education I have received,” Smith says. “To have people that don’t even know you set up scholarships that you’ll eventually benefit from is something I am so grateful for. But, to then have professors looking out for you, and really advocating for you—it is all just so amazing.”

 

An education for everyone

Betty Murnan-Smith ’44 always loved to learn, too.

Born in Indianapolis in 1921, her father died of leukemia when she was 12. Suddenly left to raise Murnan-Smith alone, her mother moved them into the back room of a dried goods store to save money. The two shared a bed, her mother sewed their clothes, and a curtain enclosed their room.

Murnan-Smith rode her bike to school, always eager to get there, says her son, Timothy Smith. A high school English teacher of hers saw her talent as a writer and asked her if she planned to go to college. She said she couldn’t afford college, but her high school teacher told her she still could go, and introduced her to Butler.

“My mom worked her way through school. She had every kind of job you could imagine. She grinded magnesium for airplane parts, she was a soda jerk, an artist model, a Rosie the Riveter,” says Smith, who now lives in Los Angeles. “She was an uncommon woman of her time, one who was fiercely interested in women not following the well-traveled path but taking another option, and daring to do something great with their lives. She got that from her mother.”

Her favorite job, though, was on campus at Butler helping Professor of English Allegra Stewart grade papers. Stewart told Murnan-Smith that she had so much potential, and inspired her to become a professor, too. Murnan-Smith would go on to name her daughter Allegra, after Stewart.

“At a time when most women were becoming domesticated and looking for husbands, my mom went to Butler and had professors who showed her all the potential she had and all the options available to her—that she really could do anything,” Smith says.

Murnan-Smith would go on to teach at the University of Wisconsin-Waukesha. Later in her life she established the Betty Murnan-Smith Scholarship for single parents at Butler.

Her children didn’t even know about the scholarship until the end of their mother’s life, but it certainly doesn’t surprise them.

“It resonates with everything we understood about her. She would save pennies and dimes to help those who are trying to fulfill their dreams, despite challenges,” Smith says. “She taught us from a young age the importance of education. We were 12 and she was telling us the unexamined life is not worth living. She wanted to make sure she did her part to provide that for everyone. She actually sounds a lot like Maddy from the bit I have learned about her.”

 

‘A really special day’

Taylor will be at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Saturday, watching her daughter graduate. Arabelle will not. She would be bouncing off the walls during a long ceremony like that, Smith says.

But, the day will be an emotional one.

“I couldn’t be prouder of my daughter,” Taylor says. “I have seen first hand all she has juggled with school, but also raising my granddaughter and being a wonderful mother, and sticking to her original goals and not wavering. She has always been so driven, but to see everything come to the final stages, it will be such a special day.”

After graduation, Smith is hoping to go into event planning, but she is still exploring her options. Whatever she ends up doing, though, she hopes to one day help others like her—sort of like Murnan-Smith.

Maddy Smith and her daughter Arabelle
PeopleStudent LifeUnleashed

A Mother’s Promise: Against All Odds, Butler Senior is Ready to Graduate

Arabelle arrived on December 27, 2015. Two weeks later, school started, and Maddy Smith was in class.

May 09 2019 Read more
Brooke Kandel-Cisco
UnleashedPeople

Brooke Kandel-Cisco, Determined to Make An Impact, Will Now Lead the COE

BY Rachel Stern

PUBLISHED ON Apr 26 2019

INDIANAPOLIS—Brooke Kandel-Cisco was first drawn to the field of education as a 22-year-old immigration advocate, working on behalf of undocumented women who were abused by their husbands, but threatened by those same men with their status if they took action against the abuse.

Working alongside an immigration attorney, she didn’t get a lot of cases approved by the courts. She saw firsthand the complexities of the system and how things were far from fair. She wanted to help illuminate the glaring systemic issues, and then somehow work toward creating more just and equitable systems.

All of that sounded familiar to Kandel-Cisco—it sounded like the work of an educator. The Illinois native comes from a long line of teachers—both her grandmothers, aunts, uncles—but her 18-year-old self wanted to go against the family grain. So, she majored in Psychology and minored in Spanish at Goshen College. After she graduated, Kandel-Cisco joined AmeriCorps and headed to the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas, where she battled the courts to try and help women who came to the United States and were abused by their husbands, but struggled to get justice.

“Advocating for women and seeing these huge systemic issues every day really piqued my interest in education and in working with immigrant and refugee students,” Kandel-Cisco says. “I was always told I should be a teacher, and I think my work after college showed me how important it is to try and work to address systemic issues. I saw education as one way of doing just that.”

Kandel-Cisco has been doing that ever since. She will start as the Interim Dean of Butler University’s College of Education on May 1 replacing Ena Shelley, who will retire after 15 years as Dean of the College, and 37 years at the University.

Kandel-Cisco started at Butler in 2009 as a faculty member, and throughout her decade on campus has served as Director of the Master of Science in Effective Teaching and Learning Program, Chair of the COE Graduate Programs, and Program Coordinator for COE Graduate Programs.

She teaches courses in English as a second language (ESL) within the COE, works closely with teachers in Washington Township schools’ ESL and Newcomer Programs, which works with students who have recently arrived in the country and are learning English, and is the President of the Indiana Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages.

When Shelley announced her retirement, Kandel-Cisco’s name was put forward by colleagues in the COE as a potential Interim Dean.

Her first reaction upon hearing that Shelley was retiring?

“Oh I pity the person who follows Ena,” Kandel-Cisco says. “But now that it’s me, I will do my best.”

Shelley, on the other hand, says this was a long time coming.

For years, Shelley says, she has been presenting Kandel-Cisco with “opportunities.” There was the time she called Kandel-Cisco in to tell her she had an “opportunity” for her to work on an International Baccalaureate certification process.

“Brooke’s reaction was ‘OK, my child goes to an IB school, but I don’t really know much about IB’,” Shelley says, laughing. “But, in typical Brooke fashion, she rolled up her sleeves and got to work like crazy to get this in place. She always gives it her best shot, and her best shot is always wonderful.”

Shelley would continue over the years to use that phrase on Kandel-Cisco. Finally, she explained that early on in her career she was offered “opportunities” constantly by her Dean at the time. It was clear these “opportunities” were just challenging projects. Her Dean explained she was giving them to Shelley to prepare her to be a Dean one day.

It turns out, that is exactly what Shelley was doing with Kandel-Cisco.

“I know a lot of people use these words a lot, but Brooke is really a visionary, and extremely wise,” Shelley says. “She is very inclusive of people and ideas, a keen listener, which is key as an educator and leader. Someone asked me if this is bittersweet, and I can honestly say no. My heart is happy knowing I am leaving the College in great shape with a strong leader and strong staff.”

It is that great staff that Kandel-Cisco says she will rely on to help move the College forward as Interim Dean. She is looking forward to thinking through how the College fits into Butler’s strategic plan, as well as focusing on a number of new initiatives: a new major, global opportunities for students and faculty, partnerships in the community.

“This is all about making yourself vulnerable and trying new things, which might not be comfortable,” she says. “It is much easier to do because I have amazing colleagues who are supportive and will help move our College forward.”

When Kandel-Cisco was back in Texas working as an immigrant advocate, she realized she wanted to be a teacher. After obtaining her ESL and bilingual education teaching license, she went on to teach ESL students in Houston. After several years of teaching, she applied to doctoral programs.

She transitioned to a full-time doctoral student at Texas A&M, and later became a senior research associate, studying state education data on things like teacher attrition and achievement scores. All of this highlighted more systemic issues in education. And, it became clear again, she wanted to be in a classroom.

On another whim, she applied to several faculty positions, including one at Butler. On campus, she interviewed with Ena Shelley.

“For me, it was about the people,” she says. “Ena, just the way she looks in your eyes, it just felt authentic, and the College was doing educator preparation in a high-quality way. That’s not to say there is one right way to do it, because I don’t believe there is, but the COE approach was in line with my values. And that’s what brought me to Butler.”

Brooke Kandel-Cisco
UnleashedPeople

Brooke Kandel-Cisco, Determined to Make An Impact, Will Now Lead the COE

Kandel-Cisco will start as the Interim Dean of the College of Education on May 1.

Apr 26 2019 Read more
Peter Grossman
People

From Playwright, to Journalist, to Professor, Peter Grossman closes Butler Chapter After 25 Years

BY Marc D. Allan MFA ’18

PUBLISHED ON Apr 26 2019

Butler University Business Professor Peter Z. Grossman thinks of his life as "an unstructured research project."

Grossman, who is retiring from Butler after 25 years as the Clarence Efroymson Chair/Professor of Economics, has been, at various times, an actor/playwright, a journalist, and, of course, a professor. He has taught courses as varied as music appreciation, philosophy, and economics,  and written books about topics that include energy policy, the history of the American Express company, law and economics principles, and a history of the major blackouts of the Northeast.

A student once asked him, "How do I get into the kinds of things you have done?" To which Grossman responded: "I have no idea, because almost all of it was serendipitous."

"Peter is a lifelong learner," says Butler Professor of Economics Bill Rieber, his friend and colleague. "As an example, Peter has offered many different courses in Economics since being at Butler, including Mathematical Economics. When Peter first offered the course, he was already a full professor and a well-established scholar, teacher, and commentator in the media. It had been a while, though, since Peter had gone through the mathematics necessary to offer the course, yet he spent the time and effort to do so."

David Phillips '07 took that very course with Grossman as an independent study, and also studied International Economics and Comparative Economics with him. For the independent study, Grossman would give Phillips a set of problems to work out, then they'd get together to work through them on a whiteboard in the Holcomb Building.

"I'm a professor now, so I probably appreciate better than I did then how generous it was of him to offer to do an independent study with me," Phillips, who's a Research Associate Professor at the University of Notre Dame, wrote in an email. "It's a lot of a work, and I'm sure he didn't get any credit or recognition for it!"

Phillips added that when he went to graduate school, he needed to know how to combine economic intuition and heavy duty mathematics. Having the one-on-one opportunity with Grossman helped greatly.

The independent study also allowed them to get to know each other personally, and that’s where Phillips got a taste of Grossman's understated, self-deprecating humor.

One story Grossman told was how during his dissertation defense at Washington University in St. Louis, one of his professors asked a relatively easy question. Grossman froze, couldn't come up with an answer, but his main advisor, future Nobel Prize winner Douglass North, chimed in.

"Peter, I don’t understand your problem.  I asked you that same question last week in my office and you gave me a good answer,” North said.

Grossman's response: "Really? What did I say?”

When his answer was recited back to him, he said, “Oh yes, that’s a good answer.”

"His sharing those experiences with me was incredibly valuable," Phillips says. "A Ph.D. in economics is very different from undergraduate economics, and American students from small schools often struggle to wade through the technical material of the first couple years. Picking an advisor is an intimidating thing. Both the time I spent with him working out problems on the whiteboard and the time hearing about his own experience in graduate school helped me a lot as I became an economist."

 

*

Grossman grew up in Waterbury, Connecticut, the child of a textile worker dad from Hungary (who gave him the middle name Zigmund) and a piano-teacher mom, both of whom insisted that their sons get an education. They wanted their children to become doctors or lawyers, but in high school, Peter gravitated toward theater.

There was no drama club at any of the high schools in town, so he started a citywide drama group. He performed at the Waterbury Civic Theatre, did summer stock in Cape Cod, and generally thought of himself as an actor.

When he got to Columbia University, he transitioned to playwriting. He wrote plays that were performed in New York, including at the Public Theater, and studied philosophy, then earned a Shubert Fellowship to study playwriting at Columbia's School of the Arts.

After earning his Master of Fine Arts in 1972, Grossman was working a nominal job at Columbia, hoping to become a writer,when he bumped into a former classmate who told him about a trade magazine looking for writers. Grossman pursued the lead and ended up writing about fast food and kitchen design.

"Writing about food always made me hungry," he says. "But I was getting experience. I was learning how to write. I never took a journalism course, but I knew I had to be self-critical in order to be able to write something I would want to read. Essentially, I was teaching myself journalism."

A few years later—around the same time he met his future wife, Polly Spiegel—one of his brothers invited him to a party where he was introduced to someone who called the publisher of Financial World on his behalf. The editor gave him a tryout, assigning him a story about the commodities market.

"I had no idea what I was talking about, but I wrote it pretty well," he says.

It earned him $500 and the chance to write more. It also led him, a year later, to his first teaching job—as an Assistant Professor of Humanities at Polytechnic Institute of New York (Brooklyn Polytechnic)—and his first salaried position, primarily to teach journalism.

 

*

His first class, an Intro to Literature and Writing course, was a disaster.

"I came into the classroom the first day and was going to talk about Beowulf and the origins of the English language but I quickly saw that nearly everybody in the class was a non-native speaker," he says. “And whatever I had planned to say only confused them.”

At the same time, he was getting more assignments from Financial World, and from Money magazine. At Financial World, he became the commodities expert, and he also wrote about that topic for Money.

One day, he got a call from an analyst at a brokerage house who wanted an independent view of where interest rates were going. Grossman had no idea. He'd never taken an economics course. He needed to learn, so he signed up to take a second-level macroeconomics course at Pace University. At the same time, he got his first major book contract—to write a history of the American Express company.

He had unrestricted access to the company's archives and found that he loved doing the research. American Express: The People Who Built the Great Financial Empire came out in 1987.

By this point, he was married, and he and Polly had the first of their two sons. He also found out that he wasn't getting tenure at Brooklyn Polytechnic because they were thinking of eliminating the journalism program.

But the school got a grant to create a Science, Technology, and Society (STS) program, and Grossman was teamed with an electrical engineer, Ned Cassedy, whom he'd known since the late 1970s.Together, Grossman and Cassedy wrote Introduction to Energy: Resources, Technology and Society, which became the textbook for the STS curriculum.

While he was teaching, Grossman also started taking classes in City University of New York's Ph.D. program in Economics. He decided to go back to school full time in 1988, and ended up at Washington University in St. Louis, where his mentor would be Douglass North.

"That was the best decision I ever made, and I made it very stupidly," Grossman says. "I knew about his work, but some of these senior professors are horrible to work under. Doug North took the attitude that (as I was already 40) I needed to get in, get out, and get into the world and use my new-found skills in economics along with my writing and research skills as quickly as possible."

 

*

Grossman finished in three and a half years, but had trouble finding a job. It took him three years. Then, at once, he had two opportunities—one at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the other at Butler.

"I was a visiting assistant professor at Washington University, two years past my Ph.D., and I kept looking at this ad for an endowed chair at Butler," he says. "It said someone with an affinity for the liberal arts, the fields they listed were my fields, and I had my three books and I'd just published a couple of scholarly papers. I said, 'What do I have to lose?'"

He sent a package—"and it did help that I had a Nobel Laureate as one of my recommenders"—thinking that nothing would happen. Shortly after, Bill Rieber called. Grossman started talking about himself and mentioned his theater background, and Rieber said, "Why didn't you put that on your CV?" Grossman responded, "My CV was confusing enough to people."

But Butler was interested and brought him in for an interview.

"It was a beautiful spring day in 1994, I loved the campus—which has only gotten better since I've been here—and I gave a presentation," he says.

Before that presentation, he came face to face with a senior professor who knew and revered Clarence Efroymson—the professor for whom the Chair in Economics is named—and he didn't want the position going to someone who was "a moron." His definition of "moron" was people who weren't reading things other than books in their disciplines.

The most recent book Grossman had read was On the Origins of Species by Charles Darwin, which established that he wasn't a moron.

Then the professor asked: What are your fields?

“Economic history and law and economics,” Grossman said.

The professor asked: Isn't law and economics kind of a b.s. area?

"At that point, I thought, 'Maybe you should just drive me back to the airport,'" Grossman says. "Actually, what he wanted was for me to defend myself, which I did."

Butler offered him the position. Then Illinois also called, offering a tenure-track position.

"As I've thought about it over the years," Grossman says, "I made absolutely the right decision. I was much better placed here just because of who I am and the work I do. I follow that unstructured research plan. I start writing and studying things that interest me. At Illinois I would have been put in a box and all my teaching and research would have had to fit that box. Here I’ve been free."

 

*

At Butler, he wrote four more books, and made use of his journalism background by publishing 140-plus op-ed columns, which gave additional visibility to the University.

Over the years, he taught 14 different courses—several he created, some he revived, all for undergraduates.

"It's been great—the kind of thing I like to do, which is exploring new ideas in different areas," he says. "I never would have been able to do that in Illinois—even if I'd gotten tenure."

And now, going into retirement after 25 years at Butler, Grossman says he's unsure what's next. He's likely to continue writing, he says, but in a life that's been an "unstructured research project," you never know.

"The research will go on," he says, "even though I will no longer be at Butler."

Peter Grossman
People

From Playwright, to Journalist, to Professor, Peter Grossman closes Butler Chapter After 25 Years

Butler University Business Professor Peter Z. Grossman thinks of his life as "an unstructured research project."

Apr 26 2019 Read more
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

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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

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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

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