There’s one reason I will never go to Mars: I get claustrophobic when trapped in the revolving door at the Hyatt.
It’s not the only reason, but it’s a good one, and it will keep me from ever experiencing space firsthand. So, instead, I get my space fix by reading about it, talking to researchers about it, laying on my back in the grass and staring at it as the fireflies dance between my eyes and the great unknown.
You’ve read more than a few stories about Mars on these pages through the years, thanks to my mild obsession and our researchers in the advanced high-temperature materials group at the UD Research Institute. They’re at it again, this time making sure the next generation of Mars rovers can operate no matter the temperature of the landing site chosen by NASA.
This spring, with cots and sleeping bags handy, UDRI scientist Chad Barklay and UES engineer Allen Tolston spent 36 hours camped next to one of two UDRI test generators that are identical to those used on Mars (except that ours run on electricity, not plutonium). The researchers slept only 2.5 hours each during the test as they heated the Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator to 428 degrees F, approximately 100 degrees hotter than the maximum temperature experienced by Curiosity, the rover currently studying Mars. The researchers, who were prepared to quickly shut down the experiment if they observed any behavior that threatened the system, held the power unit’s temperature steady for 24 hours.
The test was a success and allows NASA to choose from any of the three potential Mars 2020 landing sites including the Columbia Hills, which rise from the bed of a crater that records temperatures approximately 35 degrees warmer than the location where Curiosity now roams.
Research is a big part of our work at UD. We engage the brightest minds who solve problems that test human ingenuity. Supporting their work are students, full of ambition and prepared to accept intellectual challenges that expand our horizons. At the heart of all their work is an understanding about research’s role in furthering the common good through innovation, collaboration and discovery.
As President Eric Spina shared in his speech during his installation ceremony [see Page 27], UD has an obligation to focus on the local, to achieve success for our neighbors with an eye toward global applications. For Barklay, his collaborators and the approximately 10 students whose work has supported the Mars generator project during the past five years, their horizons stretch even farther.
Look out, outer space. I may not be coming, but they are.
When Brother Blaise Mosengo, S.M., joined the Marianists, he, like all vowed religious, accepted the call to go wherever God needed him.
During the last five and a half years, that place has been the University of Dayton.
“I came to UD as a mission,” Mosengo said. “I live in a community of people who teach here and work here. That’s their mission. God called me to go to UD and to study. That’s my mission — to be a student.”
A native of the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly known as Zaire), Mosengo came to UD in fall 2011 when Marianist superiors wanted him to obtain a master’s degree to enhance his administrative skills. Mosengo, a high school principal in the neighboring
Republic of Congo and 2013 graduate of UD’s educational leadership program, is now working on his doctorate.
Mosengo is one of about five international Marianists pursuing advanced degrees at the University with the goal of returning to their home nations to strengthen established missions there. With Asia and Africa providing the bulk of the Catholic Church’s growth in the late 20th and early 21st century, the Marianists see those two continents as crucial to spreading the Gospel, and established Marianist schools there already educate thousands of students annually.
“How can we assist our growing presence in the developing world? We have an excellent university,” said Father Jim Fitz, S.M. ’68, who lives in the Stonemill community with Mosengo. “We can bring them here for academic studies, especially from east and west Africa and India. It’s one thing we can contribute at the University of Dayton to the worldwide Marianist community: educating them so they can then enhance their educational missions at home.”
Fitz, vice president for mission and rector, said the Marianists commit to supporting advanced degree study at UD for four to five international members at a time, and an alumnus, who chooses not to be named, funds their living expenses. Brothers from Kenya, Congo, India and Togo, among other nations, are currently completing graduate work.
“Having these men here allows us to maintain a global perspective,” Fitz said. “We’re not just ‘filling holes.’”
Father Ignase Arulappen, S.M., is another member of the Stonemill community studying at UD with assistance from the Marianists. “Father Iggy,” as he’s nicknamed, was executive director of the University of Dayton Deepahalli Educational Center in Bangalore, India, before coming to UD in August 2016.
Arulappen taught theology in India and is completing a doctoral program in theology with a focus on Mariology through the International Marian Research Institute. When he’s done, he plans to return to Bangalore.
“All my life as a Marianist, I have been teaching and administering a formation program,” he said. “My interest in education was already there, and the Provincial Council in the United States and the Regional Council in India made a request to me to see if I wanted to take a break from my work and do these studies.”
During their time here, the international Marianists also get involved in the greater UD community. Arulappen presides at the Eucharist at Holy Angels Church adjacent to campus, and the communities host students for dinner and conversation. Mosengo has developed friendships with students from China and Saudi Arabia through the Center for International Programs, and they often reflect on the commonalities they share beyond their individual faith traditions.
“We come from different faiths, but we come together to talk about one God,” Mosengo said.
The international Marianist presence in Dayton extends beyond the men receiving graduate-level scholarships. Koreans study at the novitiate at Mount Saint John, as no novitiate exists in South Korea, and five Marianist sisters from Vietnam, Italy and India have studied on campus, learning English through the Intensive English Program.
The international Marianist network isn’t a one-way connection either. Other partnerships develop when American-born UD students spend time at international Marianist missions in places like Zambia, Kenya and Malawi. Fitz notes the example of Matt Maroon ’06, who spent a year at a mission in Malawi and remains there more than a decade later operating the nonprofit charity Determined to Develop.
As for the Marianists who do earn advanced degrees and return to Africa and Asia, they’re already making a difference. Brother Basant Kujur, S.M., earned a master’s degree in human services in 2010 and works as a scholasticate director in Bangalore as well as a faculty member at the Deepahalli Educational Center.
“The UD environment opened up a new horizon for me to see the new reality of Marianist pedagogies of education,” Kujur said. “I am very grateful to all my professors and classmates, Marianist brothers, sisters and
fathers, and the entire UD environment for giving me a golden opportunity to learn and to be formed as what I am. I am grateful to
God and to my Marianist family.”
Mosengo, the Congolese high school principal, noted that the United States is currently the only nation with Marianist universities, meaning Marianist higher education is unavailable to most of those they serve.
“In many countries in Africa, parents and students will complain that we provide education until a student graduates from high school, but there’s no follow-up,” Mosengo said. “The idea is that we can start having a Marianist presence at a higher educational level in the countries where we are.”
With his impending doctoral degree, Mosengo hopes to further that mission.
“I would love to teach in college, but I can also help in the administration,” he said. “I want to go back somewhere in Africa, but which country, I don’t know. I know what I would like to do, but I will wait and see where they ask me to go.”
It might have been the Chef Boyardee pizza kit he received from a grade school friend as a birthday present, or the cookbook his mom gave him with the peanut brittle recipe he couldn’t wait to try. Or, maybe, it was the “bologna-banger” sandwiches — an original recipe — he loved to whip up at lunchtime.
When Glenn Lyman’s love affair with the kitchen began isn’t clear, but it is unmistakable.
“I cooked in high school for my friends and our dates before dances,” said Lyman, Class of 1990. “In college, I’d leave campus and go to Dorothy Lane Market and just look around.”
The culinary arts, however, weren’t an immediate career path for the communication management graduate. Lyman spent more than a decade working in sales — his first commission check, in fact, went to buy a gas grill. His kitchen time was limited to nights and weekends but, at the urging of his wife Lynda Kely Lyman ’90, that all changed in 2003 when he finally shifted gears and became a personal chef.
“It was the scariest thing I had ever done, but the best thing I’ve ever done,” he said. “I drove home the day I gave my notice
and felt free. It was incredible.”
Six months into his new endeavor, everything changed when he met with a young NBA rookie in his penthouse apartment — LeBron James.
“I cooked his first pregame meal of the preseason,” Lyman said.
Within days, the Cleveland native was the personal chef for the now four-time NBA Most Valuable Player — a position he held for five years.
The owner of GCooks, in Charlotte, North Carolina, has built an athlete client list that has included five-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Steve Smith Sr., four-time NASCAR Cup champion Jeff Gordon and 12-time Olympic medalist Ryan Lochte.
While much has changed since he regularly grilled out on his porch in the UD student neighborhood, he said one thing has not — his passion for cooking.
“Looking back, this journey has been amazing, and I’m not done yet.”
I am a vowed Marianist religious with nearly 40 years of profession. When I talk with our young religious — women and men who feel excitement about this moment of possibility in the Church — too often the conversation shifts to the recent past. They comment on how disheartening it is to hear others talk not about the vibrancy of religious life but about the loss of the great numbers of religious we once had.
It’s important to acknowledge the sense of loss that many older Catholics feel when invoking the “diminishment narrative” about today’s religious life. But the reality is that we no longer need large numbers of religious to build hospitals or create schools — those Catholic institutions already exist and in many places are thriving. While we’ll continue to support the spirit of such institutions, we are listening for the spirit to understand how we should focus our energies into the future. Marianist co-founder Blessed William Joseph Chaminade told us “new times call for new methods,” and it’s especially instructive in this challenging moment of U.S. history.
How do we leverage transformation of the society for God’s vision for the world? For God’s people — which is everybody, not just the Catholics, not just the poor?
While there is a genuine questioning from Catholics about what the future will hold, we can look to our foundations for insights into our ways forward. For our first 15 years, Marianists were a lay group, and only later a small number of individuals felt called to dedicate their life energy to fostering those communities. Chaminade called us “religious sodalists,” reinforcing that we are a continuation and extension of the lay groups.
The laity will be our partners and even our leaders in whatever our future holds. It’s a gift we’ve been given for the Church — that lay and religious are equal and have gifts that are complementary. We celebrate our Marian model for the Church, one which has its foundation at Cana when Mary recognized the needs and called them to Jesus’ attention to meet them. At the University of Dayton, having lay leadership allows the religious to focus our energies not on the day-to-day business of the University but on making sure we provide the support for the people who fill those crucial administrative roles: President Eric Spina, Provost Paul Benson and Director of Campus Ministry Crystal Sullivan. Although the religious have had more opportunity to steep in the charism, our faculty and staff who are Marianist Educational Associates own the charism also. They bring it to campus and the classroom in greater numbers and in ways that are unexpected and inspiring for our students. We have students who each semester study the Marianist charism and make a commitment to share it here at the University and beyond as they move on.
Recently, I was invited to give a talk in Rome to the International Union of Superiors General where I discussed Pope Francis’ challenge of moving “from the center to the margins.” People in religious life today are quite accustomed to having been at the center of things — of the Church, of the big institutions we built. But our call is also to move to the margins and to be with and people who aren’t at the center and perhaps don’t have access.
How do we share our resources with people who live on the margins? The congregations in Rome are doing all they can to respond to the immigrants in need on their shores. In the United States, how are we at Catholic universities going to stand for the protection of our own students and those whom society has put at its margins? We may not know what the future will hold, but we certainly have hints about where we need to put our energies.
We know that as Marianists we are always going to be providing community spaces because faith formation in community is our method. That’s what attracts people — students and staff, faculty and presidents — to Marianist institutions. They recognize communities in which they can thrive.
That is our gift in the Church.
We have to make sure that the people at the margins have access to that kind of community.
When the angel visited Mary, she said “yes” so that Christ could be born into our world in her very flesh. The newest generation of vowed religious are saying “yes.” They are called today to give flesh to God’s Spirit in a world both blessed and broken by globalization; they are called to be blessed to communicate and partner with people from all parts of the globe who are excluded and oppressed for their race, class, ethnicity, geography, religion and a host of other identities.
Whether lay or religious, we will re-shape our institutions and communities and our very selves.
We will take the Gospel, as Pope Francis has charged us, to the margins.
Sister Laura Leming, F.M.I., is director of novices, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Dayton and a board member at St. Mary’s University. She received a master’s in theology from UD in 1987.No Comments
For Ichen Wu Jiang ’93, Chinese painting and calligraphy is the way to her heart. She has been teaching this subject for 19 years and says she has found her true passion in life in her work.
The fine arts and interior design major founded Ichen Art Academy in 1997. Her studio is the first comprehensive art institute dedicated to Chinese-Western art education in the Bay Area of San Francisco.
“I really like to share my passion of art to other students. Throughout the years, I get to see my students grow up and go to college, often to art colleges,” Jiang said. “I am very happy we make a difference in their lives.”
Jiang initially began her work as an interior designer in Florida, but soon realized it wasn’t the best fit for her artistic nature.
“I loved it, but you have to treat customers according to their taste, which may not be yours. You have to adapt to what they like,” said Jiang. “I am an artist person and I like to like my work.”
Jiang started teaching in her home studio with just two students. Today, the academy has expanded to two locations in California, one in Fremont and the other in Pleasanton.
The students range in age from toddler to adult, with all levels of experience. Students can choose classes such as
children’s art exploration, children’s creative art, watercolor and oil painting.
“Teaching is like sharing with other people. I love my job,” Jiang said. “I think the most fortunate thing you can do is something with your life you really love. I feel really lucky to have that.”
As they entered the World War on April 6, 1917, the U.S. Army had something to prove. They succeeded with the help of great men, including Dayton-born Joseph T. Dickman, a former student at St. Mary’s Institute. He would become commanding general of the Army of Occupation under Gen. John J. Pershing.
The life story of Joseph Dickman lives on campus in a yellowed scrapbook in the archives on the second floor of Albert Emanuel Hall. Carefully turn back the pages and you’ll discover brittle newspaper clippings with headlines like “Dickman Leads Advancing Army.”
His sister kept the scrapbook; she signed the inside back cover, “Mrs. Chas. Frech, 16 1/2 Auglaize St., Wapakoneta, O.” As you unfold each story you reveal a new account of his life, from his many campaigns in Europe to his trip to Dayton in 1923 to receive from his former secondary school, now known as the University of Dayton, an honorary Doctor of Laws.
“It is a genuine pleasure … as this is the scene where the Brothers laid the foundation of my education more than half a century ago,” Dickman said in his address to the Class of 1923.
Dickman was born in Dayton Oct. 6, 1857. When his father went to fight in the Civil War, Dickman’s mother took the children to live in Minster, Ohio. There, he attended the village’s elementary school. In 1871, he returned to Dayton to attend St. Mary’s Institute. When his father was elected sheriff of Auglaize County, Ohio, the family moved to Wapakoneta, where Dickman graduated from high school before entering West Point.
In the army of the early 20th century, Dickman rode horseback to capture Mexican bandits, policed union strikes in Chicago, sailed to Cuba for occupation duty, fought insurgents in the Philippines and provided relief to China at the end of the Boxer Rebellion.
When war was declared in Europe on July 28, 1914, Dickman wrote that his cavalry unit was living a calm and peaceful existence. “Little did we dream that our cozy garrison of Fort Ethan Allen [Vermont] was soon to become one of the initial points in the hegira of a great American army to transatlantic fields of action,” he wrote in his memoir, The Great Crusade.
The United States had, as Dickman wrote, taken an “ultra-pacific” position on the war raging overseas. It was not until continued attacks by German submarines, and an intercepted correspondence showing Germany meant to ally with Mexico and threaten our southern border, that the U.S. intervened.
Dickman transferred to Camp Greene, North Carolina, where he assumed command of the 3rd Infantry Division and trained until they deployed to France in April 1919.
When the Americans arrived, they found the French influence on their activities stifling: Their units were distributed among the French, they took command instructions from the French, and they received little credit for victories they achieved. American officers began to question why the Americans could not lead independent operations, with Dickman particularly vocal about what he saw as the superior manners of his men. As Dickman wrote in his diary, “Colonel P. Brown C. of S. 2d says our secret service has written evidence that the reason English and French try to prevent us from having Corps and Army organization is that a victorious American Army would have too much influence in the peace negotiations. I asked Gen. [Hunter] Liggett whether the
time had come for us to speak out a little.”
The Americans began pushing their tactical suggestions, such as allowing the Germans to advance unmolested into the open before an attack. “[T]he principal object of the bit of bravado had only been to convince our Allies that the American rifleman was not under intimidation,” Dickman wrote in his memoir.
After a successful defense at Château-Thierry by the American Expeditionary Forces, Dickman noted a change in the French
attitude: “[I]t became apparent … that the days of tutelage, patronage and condescension had passed.”
Dickman wrote that he saw such respect intensify during battles, including the reduction of the St. Mihiel salient and at Meuse-Argonne. After the Armistice, Dickman was honored by an appointment as commanding general of the Third Army. Under Pershing, the Third Army became the Army of Occupation, with Dickman and his troops following the retreating Germans through France and back to the Rhine River.
As a forward to The Great Crusade, Pershing wrote of Dickman’s valor: “In July, 1918, the German advance against his front was halted by a regiment of his division in a most brilliant action. His Corps in the battle of Saint Mihiel and in the grilling struggle of Meuse-Argonne performed distinguished service. After the Armistice, under circumstances requiring tact and discretion, he commanded our Army of Occupation on the Rhine for several months with marked efficiency.”
“His services both in staff and line, whether in peace or war, have been marked by constant devotion to duty,” Pershing wrote.
For Dickman, the conclusion of his 45-year military career brought more travel, including an assignment to Texas. He attained the rank of major general, and he retired in 1921.
As an officer, Dickman held his men in high esteem. After the war, he wrote of their discipline and how it influenced the role America played in the World War. “Their conduct not only surprised the Europeans but exceeded the expectations of our best-informed officers,” he wrote. “From the moment of their enrollment they exhibited a degree of willingness, loyalty and devotion to duty that was beyond praise and was of inestimable value during the formative period of their careers.”
The admiration was returned. His men considered him a “soldier’s soldier” and endeared him with the nicknames “Uncle Joe” and “Daddy Dickman.” The evidence lies in the family scrapbook. Open it and unfold a tattered newspaper tucked lovingly inside. Upon his death, the newspaper of the 3rd (Marne) Division, The Watch on the Rhine, devoted its entire cover to the man the headline calls both a commander and a friend.
As it wrote, “His graciousness of spirit and nobility of character were symbolic of his life.”
To read an excerpt from Joseph T. Dickman’s memoir, please click here.
Among the battles in which Joseph T. Dickman commanded troops was the battle for the reduction of the St. Mihiel salient. The chunk of land in northeastern France had been seized by the Germans and blocked the Allies’ communications and transportation lines. In the war’s first independent U.S. operation and supported by the Allies, forces attacked the Germans in September 1918. Dickman commanded the IV Corps, sending three divisions in from the south. This included the 3rd Division, which he had commanded as it landed in France in April 1918. In Europe, Dickman found himself fighting not just the Germans but also the perceptions of the French and British militaries, which regarded the American troops as underprepared and the American tactics as foolhardy for their embrace of open warfare tactics. The success at St. Mihiel, followed closely by the battle of Meuse-Argonne, proved the mettle of the U.S. troops and the strategy of the Americans. It also made Dickman proud of his men.
The edited excerpt below is from his book The Great Crusade, published by
D. Appleton & Co. in 1927 just months before Dickman’s death following a heart attack. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. ___________________________________________________________________________________________
The immense fields of wire known to exist in front of the enemy’s lines gave me much concern. One method proposed of overcoming this obstacle was by means of portable sections of wire matting, which were to form a kind of bridge over the entanglement for the passage of attacking doughboys. A demonstration at Vaucouleurs on Sept. 8 was fairly successful.
The next day there was an exhibition of the operation of five French tanks at Autreville. These machines, in addition to dealing
effectively with machine-gun nests, were counted upon to go through fields of wire, unless the rains should make the soil of the [Plain of the] Woevre too soft and slippery. However, our principal reliance was placed on wire cutters, and arrangements were made to secure a large supply of the powerful two-handed kind to assist in clearing the way for the advance.
The only cavalry in the IV Corps was a squadron of the 2nd Cavalry, comfortably located in barracks and stables at Dommartin,
a mile east of Toul. A review of the squadron was held and an inspection of its equipment made, partly to show the troopers that, [as] their former colonel, [I] had not forgotten them among the large forces of the other arms now under [my] command.
One of the difficult things to teach new troops is the avoidance of exposure, not only on account of the unnecessary personal danger, but also, in many cases, to avoid betrayal of the plans of the High Command. At one time the division recently arrived in the Marbache sector was suffering daily casualties from artillery fire, about noon, although the sector was rather quiet at other times. One of the enemy’s aviators had discovered that the American soldiers formed long lines in the streets while waiting for their turns to be served with the midday meal at the company kitchen. This exposure furnished good opportunities for artillery concentrations which the enemy was not slow in utilizing. Eventually our local Commanding Officer realized that this artillery activity was not a mere coincidence, so he ordered that the men come up in groups of four, the rest remaining behind a wall or other cover until ready to be served.
The original plan of the American Commander-in-Chief, [Gen. John J. Pershing], contemplated a strategical operation of the highest importance, namely, a break in the enemy’s line and a deep advance at a point seriously menacing the line of communications so vital to the existence of his army. When the Meuse-Argonne operation was decided upon by the Allied High Command, the reduction of the St. Mihiel salient was considered as preliminary thereto and thus became a secondary and limited operation to flatten out the salient and to liberate the enclosed territory and several important lines of railroad.
The principal attack was to be made by nine American divisions; the secondary attack by two American and one French division; and the holding attack by a French corps of three divisions.
The Germans had established a succession of strongly fortified defensive lines, with many bands of wire. Their command, as organized, was divided into three groups, [with] six divisions in reserve.
The American concentration commenced on the 28th of August. As secrecy was highly important the movements were made by night, the marches being about 10 miles per day for foot troops and 15 miles for vehicles. In the daytime the troops were concealed in woods and buildings. In this way our forces opposite both sides of the salient were increased to about 600,000 men, but depositions on the outpost line were not changed until the last day, to prevent identifications. Although the Germans expected an attack, it came sooner and much stronger than they had anticipated.
The IV Corps was to attack on a front of about 6 miles, from Limey to Richecourt with the 89th, 42nd and 1st Divisions in line from east to west, each with a front of about 2 miles.
Promptly at 1 a.m. Sept. 12, the battle commenced when our artillery opened an intense fire of penetration that was intended to damage the German wire, destroy many of the enemy’s machine guns, and drive his troops to cover. On the southern face of the salient this artillery fire continued until 5 a.m., and the infantry of the corps front then moved out under a powerful barrage.
Some of the French generals had gone to the hills of Boucq to observe the great bombardment from the walls of the château. This was too far from Corps headquarters, where a busy time was in prospect; but a position on high ground about 200 yards in advance of the Corps dugout enabled me to witness, for about an hour, a display of fireworks never seen except in a great war. More than 2,000 fiery mouths belched forth their vehicles of destruction against the enemy who scarcely made a reply.
The attack came as a tactical surprise to the Germans who were thrown into the utmost confusion. Mustard gas fired on occupied woods and crossroads contributed to the disorder; large trains of transportation were caught on the roads and destroyed.
Rainy weather had left the ground soft and in poor condition for military operations. The 12th was cloudy, with squalls of rain; our air observation was deficient and rendered very mediocre assistance. The tanks got into trouble early in the game, on account of the mud, rough country and impassable trenches.
Much of the wire was found to be old and insecure. The enemy was demoralized by our artillery fire and the rapid advance of our troops, and made but weak resistance. Numbers came out of dugouts and gave themselves up. Occasional strong points and machine-gun nests made more resolute opposition, but as a rule the resistance was quickly overcome.
In the evening of Sept. 12 a report was received that the retreating German artillery was choking the roads south of Vigneulles and Hattonchâtel. The rumbling of retreating German transportation on that highway was audible in the night. This indicated a
good opportunity to make huge captures. Accordingly, the 2nd Brigade, with machine guns and cavalry, was ordered to advance in force to the outskirts of Vigneulles and Hattonville, so as to close all roads to the north and east of these towns.
y the evening of Sept. 13 the St. Mihiel operation practically was over. All the exits from the salient had been closed since early morning and the escape of the troops remaining therein cut off. Early in the day the last division had attained the Army Objective, and all divisions were consolidating their positions and operating towards
the Exploitation Line.
Sept. 16 marked the end of the battle of St. Mihiel, the front having become stabilized. The operation was a success in every respect. We captured nearly 16,000 prisoners, 182 guns, hundreds of machine guns, and an immense store of material, supplies and ammunition. [We] recovered 200 square miles of territory and freed the Paris-Avricourt railroad. The force and speed of our attack had overwhelmed the enemy so that he offered but slight resistance. Our casualties were so small, less than 7,000 during the period of advance, that these units were immediately available for another and greater operation in a new theater of war.
The greatest results of the victory were moral. It raised the morale of our troops and of our Allies; the Germans were correspondingly discouraged and began to realize that final defeat was inevitable. An efficient American army had been developed and its fighting power demonstrated to friend and foe. The victory gave our troops implicit confidence in themselves and a sense of superiority over the enemy. Wire entanglements ceased to be regarded as impassable obstacles, and training for open warfare required no further
To read some historical background about Joseph T. Dickman, please click here.No Comments
Los Angeles holds the top international spot for its claim to entertainment, fashion, cuisine and cultural hotspots. While being home to some of the world’s most famous actors and actresses, the City of Angels is also home to over 800 Flyer Faithful. With summer weather year-round these alumni get to enjoy tourist attractions like the Walk of Fame, the Hollywood sign, Rodeo Drive, Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Getty Center just by going out their back doors.
Question: What was your biggest celebrity sighting?
I saw Mark Wahlberg at the West Hollywood Target. Much shorter in person; they all are! It seems on a weekly basis you do a double take and think, “Aren’t you that one person from that one thing?” It’s usually common to see a reality star or someone from a commercial. —Jimmy Scharpf ’11
I ran into Giuliana Rancic from E! News one morning when I was training for a snow bike race in the Santa Monica Mountains. She and her husband asked me what I was doing up in the mountain on my snow bike. And I’ve passed Forest Whitaker on the sidewalk across the street from my office. My husband and I have a mutual friend with Tig Notaro, so we sometimes do activities with her too! —Stephanie Grant ’01
I have only seen a few people, but the most “star struck” I got was when I saw a woman who used to write for the TV show Leverage. That was one of my favorite shows, so I was gushing
a bit when I found out. I’m a writer, so I suppose
it figures I would get that excited to meet a
fellow writer. —Erin Dooley ’00
Los Angeles Alumni By the Numbers
Total Alumni 829
Flyer Fusions 62
Most 1970s with 169
Arts & Sciences 386
Education & Health Sciences 103
Law 28No Comments
Sitting in the empty 50-seat theater with the tunes of Bach or Mozart filling the silent void, Tom Flynn ’77 finds his creative energies most focused. It is here, with only the light of his laptop flickering, where the screenplay writer says his characters speak to him best.
Flynn said he knows he has something special in that theater when stacked hours seem like mere minutes, and his “characters talk so fast, you have to tell them to slow down.” The whole process, he said “is kind of schizophrenic.”
But, his characters knew what they were talking about back in 2011, when a writing frenzy produced Gifted, a major Hollywood movie set to hit theaters nationwide April 12.
The story follows the difficulties of Frank Adler, played by Chris Evans, who tries to give his child prodigy niece (McKenna Grace) a chance for a normal life. Difficulties occur when Frank’s mother (Lindsay Duncan) wants to separate them. Other major actors and actresses set to appear in the film include Octavia Spencer and John Finn. The film was directed by Mark Webb.
For Flynn, this success is a testament to the frustrations of his early writing career. When he moved to Los Angeles in the early 1990s, his scripts got picked up by some big Hollywood players: Paramount Pictures, Universal Studios, Warner Bros., the Weinstein Co., Twentieth Century Fox and The Walt Disney Co.
“I wrote nothing but comedies and romantic comedies while I lived in Los Angeles,” he said. “Comedies are fun because you try to make yourself laugh as much as possible, and you could sell them for a lot of money.”
That first script he wrote was sold to Paramount and, according to Flynn, had Eddie Murphy attached to it. More than 15 years later, Flynn was standing in front of the actor in a coffee shop and told the barista to add the tab for the guy standing behind him.
Murphy found Flynn and asked why he bought his coffee.
“Because you bought me my first house,” Flynn said to a very confused Murphy. “When I told him that he was attached to my first-bought script, he laughed and said, ‘You owe me a lot more coffee than that.’”
That script, along with so many others, stayed hidden from the silver screen.
“I’d have all these big sales that made me hot again [in the industry], but then they never got made,” Flynn recalled.
The long hours in isolation, bringing to life the characters and places his mind created, weeks away from his wife Andi Matheny — none of it seemed worth it.
“I was done with it,” Flynn said. “I was done writing and selling and then nothing happening.”
He left his paper and pen behind and moved to St. Petersburg, Florida, to rehab old houses. But he couldn’t let it go. For three years, he had stories and ideas but refused to be disappointed again.
Matheny, a voice-over artist, provided the final push to encourage her husband: Either write a drama or get a normal job. And as Flynn admitted, “Having a cartoon mouse yell at you like that is sobering.”
Five weeks later, he had written Gifted. The script caught the eye of Hollywood legend Meryl Streep in 2013, giving it a boost of street cred. The next year, Gifted was selected by The Black List, a filmmaker survey, as one of the best unproduced screenplays of 2014.
At 61, the English graduate seems to have some long years of scriptwriting ahead of him. He is currently rewriting the movie TOGO for Disney, as well as writing the script for a movie adaptation of the Peter Heller novel The Dog Stars.
“The good and bad thing about Hollywood is this: You write scripts and never get a movie made. But the good side is there are automatic elevators if you do get a movie made.”
It seems Flynn is on that elevator now and hopes the gift of Gifted lets him ride it for as long as he can.
George Scott Baker is an average guy. He’s OK with it, though, and he wants other average folks to embrace their averageness too. In fact, he gives entire seminars on how to be average. Baker, the alter ego of Andy Boehnlein, says that being average gets a bad rap when it really shouldn’t.
“People think of average as not even trying,” said Boehnlein. “But it’s really about being OK with who you are rather than
being stressed out all the time trying to keep up with the person next to you.”
George’s debut was hardly average, however. He appeared on Chicago’s famed The Second City stage in what Boehnlein called, “kind of a terrible sketch.” Still, Boehnlein, who spent six months studying sketch writing, improv and acting during his sophomore year, never forgot about his pal George.
Years later, Boehnlein wondered what George would look like and what he would have to say. He revived the quirky fellow thanks, in part, to his general studies major that included comedy, leadership and philosophy.
“It built a steady foundation for us both,” said Boehnlein who today demotivates (as George, of course) university staff and
recreational sports departments all over the U.S. His message?
“It’s really rooted in living a purposeful life and being OK with being you,” Boehnlein said. “I then relate it to leadership and how it applies to a job.”
As for the goofy outfit and terrible wig, Boehnlein said it relaxes people and reminds them not to take themselves too seriously.
“People hear this kind of message a lot, but I like to say that I trick people into really understanding
Boehnlein, who also works for the University of Michigan intramural sports league, would eventually like to introduce George to the corporate world. For now, he’s happy with George being, well, average.