Ken Sufka named prof of the year

11 Dec


Ken Sufka, our VISIONS Across America-featured alum for the state of Mississippi, has been named the 2014 Mississippi Professor of the Year. The award comes from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Ken (’86 psychology, MS ’88, PhD ’90) is a professor of psychology and pharmacology at the University of Mississippi. You can read our VISIONS Across America story about him here.

Heemstra honored for his work on the VISIONS Across America project

6 Oct


We all know Jim Heemstra’s work on the VISIONS Across America project was AMAZING. On Friday, Oct. 10 he’ll be honored with the 2014 Impact Award during the ISU Homecoming Honors & Awards ceremony. The Impact Award honors individuals who have brought broad recognition to the university during the previous year (Cyclone basketball standout Melvin Ejim is the other 2014 recipient).

Jim is being honored for his work with the VISIONS Across America magazine and museum exhibition this past year. But I like to think of this as a lifetime achievement award for the thousands of incredible images Jim has made of the ISU campus and for VISIONS magazine. He’s a legend, and although he’s not so keen on winning awards, he is definitely deserving.

Here’s a link to all the awards being given on Friday to many other deserving Iowa State alumni and friends. Congrats to all.

The VISIONS Across America tour

3 Oct

VAA Twin Cities pc[1]_Page_1

Now that the VISIONS Across America: Portraits of Iowa State Alumni by Jim Heemstra exhibition has ended its April-August run in the Brunnier Art Museum, we’re taking the show on the road.

A select number of portraits will travel to five cities beginning this fall. Locations include the Twin Cities (Oct. 22), Chicago (Nov. 13), Kansas City (March 10), Omaha, and Denver. Those last two dates will be announced as soon as they are set.

I’ll be going on the tour, along with photographer Jim Heemstra and ISU Alumni Association president Jeff Johnson and others from our staff. We’ll be bringing about 20 portraits to each city; the portraits will vary depending on the location.

So excited to be taking the show on the road!

TRICE is one step closer to becoming a reality

29 Sep


John Arends (’77 journalism) has devoted much of his life to telling the Jack Trice story. And now it’s one step closer to getting the national attention it deserves.

We profiled John as part of the VISIONS Across America project back in September 2012. Since then I’ve eagerly followed his progress toward getting his Jack Trice movie screenplay produced.

Just last week it was announced that John was chosen as one of six screenwriters to travel to Las Vegas for the second-annual Black List Screenwriters Lab. Hosted by Tony Hsieh’s Las Vegas Downtown Project, the lab is a week-long intensive workshop with professional mentors focused on elevating the writers’ work and preparing them for the “realities of life” in the profession.

The Black List is an online community where moviemakers find scripts to make and writers to write them … and where screenwriters find moviemakers to make their scripts and employ them. John says Trice has been trending on the Black List website for more than a year.



They’re all here

1 Jun

My apologies to On the Road subscribers who have been inundated with notifications of stories being posted on this blog. I thought it was time to post all the stories featured in the spring 2014 special VISIONS Across America issue of the magazine, so I added all 51 stories the past two days.

You can now search “categories” by state, and all the stories written about alumni who live in that state or our travel to that state will appear. You can also search by month posted under “archives” — but obviously that only works if you know the month the story was posted. For the most recent ones, search May 2014 and June 2014.

Happy reading!



1 Jun


After 30 years in the Navy, Don Hess thought it was time to retire. After all, he had commanded two ships and was chief of staff for aircraft carrier operations in the Person Gulf during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. He had also served as a Congressional liaison on behalf of the Department of the Navy with the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C.

And now he was taking it easy in Hawaii.

But his wife, Joy, whom he met in 1995, said to him one day, “Don, you know, you were a lot more interesting when you were working than now that you’re retired.”

Still in his early 50s, Don had to agree that he really was too young to be retired, so he started “casting about” for something to do. He became a volunteer leader for the United Way.

“That gave me the first feel-good feeling that I’d had since I left service,” Don said. And from that involvement, through the friend of a friend, he learned that a not-for-profit group was looking for somebody to take charge of a retired Naval ship that was destined for Pearl Harbor.

That ship was the USS Missouri, a legendary battleship with a long history of service. A world-famous battleship where Japan surrendered to end World War II. A battleship with Don Hess’s name written all over it.

Don signed on as the vice president of operations for the USS Missouri Memorial. He helped coordinate the vast undertaking of towing the ship to Pearl Harbor, and he developed a plan to exhibit the ship to visitors.

The Memorial opened on Jan. 29, 1999, with 1,500 visitors coming aboard the mighty ship on the first day. In 2000 Don became the Memorial’s executive vice president and COO, and from 2002 to 2008 he served as president and COO.

“Volunteers are the lifeblood of the organization,” he said. “When we first brought the ship here, we had a staff of maybe half a dozen. But as soon as we docked here, there were volunteers at the gate just waiting to say, ‘How can we help you?’”

Don retired from the Memorial in 2008, but he’s taken on yet another career: as executive vice president of Wakelight Technologies, a company founded by his wife.

Life in Hawaii suits the retired Navy captain.

“What do I love about Hawaii? I haven’t worn a tie in years. I love being barefoot,” he said. “There’s a saying that when you’re in Washington, D.C., no matter how good the day, when you walk out of the office at the end of the day, you’re still in Washington, D.C. Whereas when you’re in Hawaii, no matter how bad the day, at the end of the day when you walk out the door, you’re in Hawaii.”

Biking Alaska

1 Jun


Two years out of college, Laura Tauke was ready for a change. The Dubuque native had been working as a graphic designer for design firms in Madison, Wis., but found that agency work was not a good fit.

“I was 23 years old; I wasn’t ready for a desk job,” she said. “I was used to being active.”

So Laura (’05 graphic design) joined AmeriCorps and went to Alaska.

It was love at first sight.

Laura worked with at-risk teenagers at an alternative high school. She also resumed her active lifestyle, taking full advantage of the mountains and other outdoor recreation opportunities. At the same time, she began a successful freelance design business. Everything just clicked.

“I had bought a round trip ticket, but I just didn’t go home,” she said.

That was in 2007. Since her AmeriCorps service ended, Laura has lived in Kodiak (where she freelanced, hiked, biked, camped on the beach, and learned to fly-fish) and Seward (where she worked at the Alaska SeaLife Center and learned about Alaskan marine wildlife).

Now she’s back in Anchorage, working as an art director for “the best agency” – Solstice Advertising. She just bought a house and is engaged to be married.

Alaska has continued to offer unlimited opportunities and adventures. Laura’s outdoor activities include mountain climbing, deep-sea fishing, caribou hunting, and back-country skiing. But that’s usually on the weekend. During the week, she bikes. Year-round.

“There’s a population that bikes year-round up here,” she says. “It’s easy to get places, easy to park. You can even put your bike on the buses here.

“Exercise every day makes me happy.”

Postscript: Laura married Rich Pribyl in October 2012.

A heartland view

1 Jun


For all the criticism and headlines and speeches and votes that go along with being a longtime leader of the Federal Reserve Bank – and now the vice chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, better known as the FDIC, in Washington, D.C. – Thomas Hoenig is a humble Iowa boy at heart.

Tom (M.S. ’72 economics, Ph.D. ’74) grew up in Fort Madison, Iowa, the oldest of seven children. It was there on the banks of the Mississippi River that Tom learned about basic economics as a child in his father’s plumbing company.

“I was an inventory taker when I was 9 years old,” he says. “I think my father has a lot to do with my work ethic. He grew up on a farm. He worked from morning till night. After World War II he became a plumber, then bought his own business and built it and raised seven kids doing it.”

Tom’s Midwestern upbringing may explain his often-dissenting votes and outspoken criticism of “too big to fail” banks.

“We feel like Tom represents a heartland view of the economy you don’t necessarily get from New York or Washington,” Terry Moore, president of the Omaha Federation of Labor of the AFL-CIO, told Bloomberg Businessweek Magazine in 2010. “He’s an old farm boy from Iowa, and we like that.”

When he hears that quote, Tom chuckles. “It’s flattering,” he says, sitting in his new office at the headquarters of the FDIC in Washington, D.C. “I was at the bank during the banking crisis of the ’80s and the farm crisis of the ’80s and the energy crisis of the ’80s and the real estate crisis of the ’80s and saw all the damage that did, first of all to the banks that made the loans originally thinking that prices would never go down and interest rates would never go to 20%. So that had enormous influence on my thinking through this round.”

After 38 years at the Federal Reserve Bank in Kansas City (20 years as president), Tom was nominated in fall 2011 by President Barack Obama to become vice chair of the FDIC.

“I wasn’t expecting it,” Tom says. “I was pleased. It’s something I did want to do. It’s very consistent with the work I had been doing and consistent with my views on the banking industry that I’d expressed over many years. For me, it was a great opportunity.”


The sky’s the limit

1 Jun


Bobbi Doorenbos was 5 years old when her dad took her to the airport in Sioux City, Iowa, to watch him take off in an F-100 fighter jet. She knew right then that she wanted to fly.

“It was loud,” she remembers. “I loved the sound and the smell of the jet fuel. It’s been my lifelong dream to fly.”

She nearly didn’t have the chance. When she first approached a U.S. Air Force recruiter in Des Moines and told him she wanted to fly fighter jets, he told her she couldn’t do that because she was “a girl.”

Fortunately, the secretary of defense opened combat aviation to women in 1993 – just a year after Bobbi graduated from Iowa State with a degree in finance. She became one of the first women in the country to go through F-16 pilot training, and she was one of “just a handful” of women flying fighter jets in the 1990s.

Bobbi’s home base started out in Sioux City. She flew to Kuwait and Saudi Arabia as part of Operation Southern Watch and was deployed in 2003 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. She spent 16 weeks in Venezuela on a drug intervention mission. She rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel.

Once, she was called on to fly over Jack Trice Stadium at the beginning of an Iowa State football game.

“That was really special for me,” she said. “The timing has to be just right. You fly over when the national anthem ends. It was really cool. You could hear the crowd cheering.”

Bobbi loved flying those jets. She said the experience is hard to describe. “It’s spectacular,” she said. “It’s like utter freedom.”

In 2004, Bobbi was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

“That changes your career,” she said.

Bobbi had moved to Washington, D.C., in 2002 after Sioux City lost its F-16 squadron. Following her diagnosis, she studied at the Defense Intelligence Agency, and she applied and was selected to become a White House Fellow, working for one year with the secretary of agriculture in the USDA.

Later, she served as a defense and intelligence adviser to Vice President Joseph Biden for two years. She managed classified information for the vice president, traveling with him to Africa, Turkey, Italy, China, and Japan.

“That was fantastic,” she said. “My role was to help him through anything related to the Department of Defense. It was a fantastic place to be a fly on the wall.”

Bobbi currently manages acquisitions for the Air National Guard at Andrews Air Force Base. She moved to Annapolis, Md., in 2005, falling in love with her three-story 1832 house.

“I love the historic district, the history of the area,” she said. “I love the water. When it’s quiet, you can hear the clanking of the sails.”

Bobbi still maintains her commercial and private pilot’s licenses and says she plans to stay in the military for now. “But after that, who knows?” she said. “The sky’s the limit.”

‘The best country’

1 Jun


When Fangqui Sun moved to Ames, Iowa, to study at Iowa State University, she was overwhelmed by kindness and generosity.

As a graduate student in her native China, Fangqui had been frustrated with her lack of academic choices. Her decision to move to the United States in 1995 for educational and personal freedom was the right one, she says, but not without its challenges.

“I had to leave my family behind, but for my future I could sacrifice a lot of things,” she said.

In Ames, and at Iowa State, she found a “pure American culture” and a place that she could focus on her studies.

“Iowa State has very generous programs for international students,” she said. “I chose Ames as my first choice to go to America.”

Fangqui described her academic preparation – she received a combined master’s degree in economics and statistics in 1997 – as “tremendous.” She landed her first job at Freddie Mac home mortgage company and then moved to New York City to work for American Express, where she built her quantitative skills.

Today she’s a senior vice president for risk management at Citigroup in Wilmington, Del., a position for which she says Iowa State prepared her well.

“Iowa State built for me a solid foundation – solid, not fluffy stuff,” she said. “They prepared my analytical mind to solve any problem.”

Fangqui and her husband, Hong Zhang, a professor at Rowan University, have two children, Peryn, 8, and Helen, 5. Fangqui embraces both her Chinese and American cultures; her children speak Mandarin at home and English at school. She says the Chinese community in Wilmington is not large, but it’s close-knit and the region celebrates the culture with a number of special events.

Fangqui is grateful to Iowa State and to America for providing so many “splendid” opportunities.

“This is the best country in the world,” she says happily. “I am so lucky!”