Archive | September, 2012

New England bound

28 Sep

I’ve been anticipating our next VISIONS Across America trip to New England for six months now, ever since we first contacted alumni in the area back in April. I wanted to get the logistics of this trip nailed down early because we’ll be visiting New England during the most crowded time of the year for tourists: leaf-peeping season.

It seemed like a no-brainer to me that we should go to New England during the fall. I am looking forward to seeing gorgeous fall color in Jim’s photographs of the 14 alumni we are scheduled to meet. We’ll be flying to Boston tomorrow, then renting a car and traveling to Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, and back to Massachusetts, visiting with alumni in all five states.

I am eager to meet these alumni, many of whom grew up in Iowa, graduated from Iowa State, and chose to locate in a very different part of the country. It will be interesting to learn about the cultural differences, the weather, the local history, and even the food. I’m hoping to taste real maple syrup. Cheers!

Dynamic duo

26 Sep

Kelli Cameron and Steve Servantez are cheerleaders for Iowa State University – and for each other. How they came to meet is a story with many twists and turns.

Kelli (’02 ag education) and Steve (’89 DVM) grew up in different decades and in different states. Kelli is originally from Milton, Wis.; Steve was born and raised in Mason City, Iowa. Steve attended Iowa State in the 1980s for his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine; Kelli was a farm girl who attended Iowa State right around the turn of the new millennium.

Their paths crossed briefly when Kelli decided to attend Iowa State. By this time, Steve was living and working as a veterinarian in southern Wisconsin, and he learned of Kelli’s interest in Iowa State. As an ISU Alumni Ambassador for the area, Steve wrote Kelli a letter and enclosed a check for $100 to help with tuition.

Kelli never forgot this act of kindness from a complete stranger. However, years passed before she and Steve would cross paths again.

In 2010, Kelli had moved back to Wisconsin and was involved in raising money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

“I was doing a fundraiser in Milton, Wisconsin,” Kelli says. “We were doing haircuts for $20 a person. Steve and his wife, Julie, were photographing the event.”

Steve continues the story: “Kelli came up to me and said, ‘Do you know who I am?’ She had just moved back to the area.”

Even though Steve has been an ISU Alumni Ambassador for 20 years and has written many, many letters to prospective students, he did remember Kelli. “I remember that she thanked me,” he said. “It was so nice for a high school student to do that.”

It didn’t take long for the two to reconnect. Steve supported Kelli’s Leukemia and Lymphoma Society work by writing a check for $1,000.

“He donated his time and also financially to the fundraiser,” Kelli said. “It was really nice to have that support.”

So now that Kelli and Steve are living in the in the same area, they “keep running into each other.” They have many of the same friends and the same interests. They’re both involved in Rotary and see each other every week. Steve is good friends with Kelli’s fiancé, Jon.

When I met with Kelli and Steve in Janesville in early August, they could not stop singing each other’s praises:

“Kelli is community minded,” Steve says. “She’s a fantastic person.”

“I never forgot Steve’s support,” Kelli says.

Steve and Kelli remain closely connected with Iowa State, too. Steve continues to recruit students – especially veterinary students – to go to Iowa State. He and Kelli both talk to parents of college-bound students. Kelli always encourages families to visit the ISU campus.

“Parents have to support kids to go out of state,” Kelli says. “But it’s a different experience that they can’t have anywhere else.”

“I tell parents it’s an investment,” Steve adds.

Kelli and Steve both come back to campus regularly to attend Cyclone football games (when Kelli’s fiancé surprised her with tickets to a game and took her campaniling, she “knew he was a keeper.”) Steve just bought a 1978 Volkswagen bus and plans to drive it to campus for the Homecoming game.

In their professional lives, Steve is a small-animal/exotic-animal veterinarian with Badger Veterinary Hospital in Janesville; Kelli is the director of the Foundation and Alumni Association for Blackhawk Technical College in Janesville.

Janesville – and Iowa State – is lucky to have them.

The cookbook lady

24 Sep

Meeting with Ann Lindemeyer Burckhardt (’55 home economics journalism) at her Edina, Minn., apartment was – dare I say it? – well, it was like meeting with Betty Crocker herself.

OK, I know Betty Crocker isn’t a real person. But if she was real, I imagine that she would be just like Ann Burckhardt.

But before you think I’ve gone and stereotyped Ann as an apron-wearing (which she is), cookie-baking (which she is), grandmotherly type who spends all her time in the kitchen, let’s get something straight: She is one tough cookie (no pun intended). She’s smart, she’s independent, she’s an entrepreneur, and she is still making things happen at the age of 79.

Ann greeted Jim and me in the hallway of her high-rise cooperative with a huge smile and a big “There you are!” before ushering us into her two-bedroom apartment – one of which, she points out, is her office.

On her table is a tray of cookies with three glasses for “mock champagne” (equal parts apple juice and ginger ale – delicious!). “Oh, you baked us cookies,” I say.

“Oh, no,” she says. “They’re store-bought.”

And then she pauses. “Imagine that. The editor of the Betty Crocker Cooky Book serving store-bought cookies. It’s just because I’m too busy!”

And that is Ann in a nutshell.

She was, indeed, editor of the famous red 1963 Betty Crocker’s Cooky Book – as well as editing the even-more-famous Betty Crocker’s New Picture Cook Book and many other general and specialty cookbooks produced by the Betty Crocker Kitchens between 1956 and 1963.

“I really cut my teeth in those kitchens,” she says.

All told, she worked on 11 books for Betty Crocker. Books that sold millions. Books that taught generations of young newlyweds how to cook.

She had every one of the cookbooks she authored or edited spread out on her dining room table for us to look at, except for one: the original Betty Crocker’s Dinner for Two booklet, which sold for one dollar. Sadly, she does not have a copy of that one.

Ann grew up in Strawberry Point, Iowa. Her father ran the newspaper there. Ann wanted to be a librarian but ultimately followed in her father’s footsteps. For 24 years (from 1971 to 1995) she was a reporter, columnist, and food editor for the “Taste” section of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

For seven years (1990-1997) she also ran the Park Row Bed and Breakfast in St. Peter, Minn., serving “lovely” breakfasts, including her famous hash brown quiche.

She continues to write, edit, and produce cookbooks. Her A Cook’s Tour of Minnesota, for which she traveled throughout the state, was produced in 2003 and contains 40 topics, including “memorable places,” “celebrations and festivals,” and recipes from many of the ethnic groups that have settled in the state. And in 2006, her Hot Dish Heaven, which hit the New York Times Notable Books list (the reviewer called her “a pretty sophisticated cook”) featured comforting casseroles from the 1950s, ’60s, and ’70s. That book is now in its fourth printing and “continues to sell very well,” Ann says. Midwest Living magazine has dubbed her the “Hot Dish Queen.”

Somehow, between the writing and the editing and the running of a B&B, Ann raised a daughter, Barbara, now 43. And she found time to travel: She’s been to Europe 10 times for a month each time, learning to love Greek and Italian and other multi-ethnic foods.

“I call it ‘traveling on your stomach,’” she says.

Just this year, Ann has written articles for the Edible Twin Cities magazine, appeared on a local television program showing how to prepare a simple hot dish, demonstrated her cooking skills at the Minneapolis State Fair, and judged a hot dish contest for Andrew Zimmern’s “Bizarre Foods” on the Travel Channel. (“That’s entertainment, not journalism,” she explains.)

These days, Ann cooks mostly for herself: soups, salads, quick breads, and the like.

“With each passing year, I relax a little more,” she says.

Jim and I could literally have spent days talking to Ann.

“I love what I do,” she told us. “It was so much fun to pull everything together for this get-together!”

We loved it, too.

Conquering HIV

21 Sep

HIV – the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS – was first recognized more than 30 years ago. But today there is still no cure and no vaccine for the virus.

Louis Mansky (MS ’86 microbiology, PhD ’90) has spent much of his career trying to understand how and why HIV evolves and mutates.

“My lab is primarily focused on looking at HIV evolution and how it relates to developing drug resistance,” he explained. “We’re trying to develop therapeutic strategies” to conquer the disease.

Louis got his start in plant virus research at Iowa State. He switched his focus to human virology, working first at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and then at The Ohio State University. He’s been the director of the Institute for Molecular Virology at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis since 2003.

“What’s rare about [HIV] is that we can’t cure it,” Louis says. “We can now treat it as a chronic long-term infection, but you’re infected for life. No vaccines are available.

“We have a population of HIV-infected people who could live long lives. With that, we’ve come to see accelerated aging and high risks of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and neurological diseases. They are at a higher risk of pretty much everything.”

On top of that, Louis says people in this country are starting to take greater risks and increasing the rate of infection because suddenly “HIV is not a death sentence.”

In addition to HIV/AIDS, Institute for Molecular Virology researchers study the herpes virus, Avian and pandemic flu, SARS, West Nile Virus, and other areas of research.

Louis and his wife, Kim, a professor at the University of Minnesota, have three children: Rachel, Sarah, and Joshua. Smiling photos of the kids are posted throughout his office — even on bookshelves filled with books on virology.

Louis laughs. “I’m the connection between happy kids and scary viruses.”

Trends in the city

19 Sep

Party trends. Real estate. Health care. Education. Yogurt bars.

Natalie Boike (’05 journalism & mass comm) has written about them all. As an editor for Mpls. St.Paul Magazine, she’s kept her finger on the pulse of the Twin Cities.

Natalie grew up in Clarion, Iowa, and attended Iowa State as a Hixson Scholar. Following graduation she worked in the newspaper industry for three years.

“I got into journalism for the hard-nosed news,” she said, “but I found that I really liked the human element more. I like finding good stories to tell.”

She went to work for IBM Magazine’s “Mainframe” edition before landing her job at Mpls. St. Paul. Her next challenge will be working as associate managing editor for, editing, curating, and “creating a voice” for the company’s daily e-newsletter.

Natalie lives with her husband, software architect David Boike (’04 electrical engineering), and their 9-month-old daughter, Elisabeth Ames (we love this name!), in the Twin Cities.

“I like living here,” she says. “You can have ‘downtown moments’ but still run into people you know. It’s a big city with a small-town feel.”

To Jack Trice, with love

17 Sep

The story of John Arends and the story of Jack Trice are very much interconnected.

Of course, the Trice story is well known to those of us familiar with Iowa State University history. But John’s story is no less passionate and dramatic: It’s a behind-the-scenes push to tell the Trice story to a broader audience.

Let’s start where the stories begin to overlap.

John was an undergraduate at Iowa State in the 1970s when a debate began on campus and in the local media about whether to name the new football stadium in honor of Jack Trice. Despite strong support by students to name it Jack Trice Stadium, university officials stayed with the name Cyclone Stadium.

John says he was “just a spectator” in the Trice naming controversy during those years. But later, as a graduate student at Iowa State in the 1980s, he attempted to write a play about the Trice story for his master’s thesis.

He never finished the play. However, he did write a guest editorial for the Des Moines Register just as the campus was again debating the stadium name (this time, he said, the university “cut the baby in half” by naming the stadium “Cyclone Stadium” and the field “Jack Trice Field.”) It was 1983, the 60th anniversary of Jack’s death. John’s editorial caught the attention of Newsweek, and the magazine’s Midwest bureau chief wrote an article about Jack Trice titled “Once upon a time in Iowa.”

About that time, a Hollywood producer called John and the two discussed turning the Jack Trice story into a movie. But nothing ever came of it.

Fast forward a couple of decades. Iowa State’s football stadium is now, finally, named Jack Trice Stadium. John (who graduated with a degree in journalism in 1977) and his wife, Anne (’78 physical education & dance), have raised three children (all of whom attended Iowa State). John is the president and CEO of ARENDS, a communications and marketing agency in Batavia, Ill.

And then John turned 50 and it hit him: He still wanted to write a screenplay to tell the Jack Trice story.

“I didn’t want to do the ‘what if?’” he says. So he studied the craft. He wrote two unrelated screenplays (one of which won a writing contest).

It was time to write about Jack Trice.

Now the story comes full circle. As I sat with John at his Batavia office, located in a 1870s windmill factory situated on the banks of the Fox River, I could feel the emotion in John’s voice as the words began pouring out:

“It’s such a great story,” he says. “It’s a coming of age story: taking a stand as a young man on the football field. So many Iowa State students – hundreds, thousands – have embraced this story. It would not go away. Jack died, and it was a horrific thing, but the university has honored him with [the stadium] name.”

John’s treatment of the story could best be called historical fiction. It’s based on the events of Jack Trice’s life, but it’s been embellished.

“It’s inspired by true events,” John explains, “but no one could know what was in Jack’s heart. No one could know what his coach felt.”

John invented a mentor for Jack who was African American. (“There’s always a white protagonist that saves the day. I wasn’t going to do that.”) There’s also a dual love story between Jack and his wife and Jack his mother.

The finished product is Trice, an original screenplay by John Arends.

Getting Trice produced as a major motion picture is another thing entirely. John says it will be too expensive. It will probably never get made.

But then Chicago ScriptWorks chose John’s story to be performed as a staged screenplay reading. John was paired with a director and professional actors. They found a small, off-Loop theater in Chicago, and on Sept. 15, 2010 Trice was performed.

The production was more than a common readers’ theatre. It employed stage lighting and projections. Actors, dressed in black, read from the script but also acted out the football scene, the funeral scene, and more.

Katherine Hallenbeck (’02 MIS/finance) saw the show.

“It took close to 30 years to see John’s work come alive on stage, but it only took me 90 minutes and a talented cast of 15 to fall in love with the Iowa State legend and our football stadium’s namesake,” she said.

What’s next? John is encouraged by the response to the show. He still hopes to be able to tell the Jack Trice story to a broader audience and a new generation of Iowa Staters through film or stage.

“It’s Jack’s story,” he says, smiling sadly. “It has power.”

Animal attraction

14 Sep

Anthony Nielsen moved from rural Iowa to the city of Chicago to work on a farm.

But not just any farm: The farm at the Lincoln Park Zoo.

That was 12 years ago.

Today Anthony (’97) is the lead keeper of the Kovler Lion House and Seal Pool at Lincoln Park, a 49-acre oasis in the middle of Chicago.

Anthony’s parents took him to Sea World when he was five years old, and he still remembers how excited he was to be there. He was an outdoor kid, growing up in rural Oxford, Iowa, and being around animals.

“I couldn’t see myself working inside behind a desk,” Anthony says.

So he came to Iowa State to major in fisheries and wildlife biology with the idea of working in a zoo or aquarium.

Lincoln Park Zoo is a perfect fit.

“I love walking around the zoo, hearing people talking about the animals,” he says. “I love the hard work that goes into it. I enjoy coming to work every morning and seeing my animals.”

The animals respond to him, too. Walking past the outdoor lion yard early one morning, Anthony calls to Myra, the 16-year-old female lion. She looks up at him expectantly. She knows his voice.

Anthony tends to the needs of each of the big cats in the 100-year-old Kovler Lion House – the African lions and Amur tigers, the regal jaguar, lynx, snow leopard, and puma, the tiny servals and hissy Pallas’ cats, and even a too-cute-to-be-real red panda – as well as the sole dweller of the seal pool, Della the gray seal. He feeds them, monitors their health, and sets up enrichment activities for them.

Between his position with the Farm-in-the-Zoo — where he worked with goats, chickens, cows, rabbits, and sheep — and his current position, Anthony worked at the Lincoln Park Zoo’s McCormick Bird House and Regenstein African Journey exhibit, which includes giraffes, wild dogs, rhinos, and more.

He jokes that his wife, Erin, can tell which animals he’s been working with on a given day by the way he smells when he comes home.

Anthony is content with his life in Chicago — where he bikes to work on a daily basis — and with his job at the Lincoln Park Zoo.

“I don’t plan on ever leaving this zoo,” he says. “I just really like the small atmosphere. It’s like working in a small town.”

A match made on Welch Avenue

12 Sep

Karlee Michalski, an apparel merchandising, design, and production major, was searching for a minor to round out her education. Her advisor suggested she try performing arts. So Karlee got involved with the ISU theatre program, working on sets and costumes.

At the same time, Eric Meisel, a management information systems major, thought he’d like to try acting and directing.

The two met during a theatre student ritual: Tuesday nights at Welch Ave. Station.

“I had just turned 21,” Eric says. “I had a core group of theatre friends, and they mentioned Tuesdays at Welch. The first time I went, I met Karlee.”

Karlee was older (“I thought he was jailbait,” she says, laughing).

The next time they saw each other, they “talked the whole night,” got food at Jimmy John’s in Campustown, and made a date to play Frisbee golf the next day.

It was a match made on Welch Avenue.

Karlee graduated first, in 2010, and got a job as an assistant technical designer with Lands’ End in Dodgeville, Wis.

“We did the long-distance thing for awhile,” she said.

Then Eric graduated and found a job as a data analyst with Medseek in Verona, Wis. They found an apartment in Mount Horeb, right in between.

Eric proposed to Karlee in October 2011. They were skydiving…there was champagne and flowers…it was very romantic.

A May 26 wedding date has been set.

‘We were just happy to participate’

10 Sep


Think today’s student-athletes have it rough? Faye Perkins (’79 physical education, MS ’85) can put it in perspective for you.

Back in her day, the Cyclone women’s basketball team did all of its practices and played each of its games in Forker Hall – and if they had 20-30 people in the stands for the game, that would be a good crowd.

During her junior year, the women’s team got to have one practice and play one game in Hilton Coliseum. But Faye and each of her teammates had to sell 20 tickets.

“Back then, we were just happy to participate,” Faye says.

Participation in women’s and girls’ team sports was certainly not a given. Faye remembers that she and her classmates had to petition to have a girls’ basketball team at her Cresco, Iowa, high school. Once they got their team approved, the girls were relegated to practicing in the pole shed at the county fairgrounds.

But – “we had a winning season!” Faye says joyfully. “We had a better record than the boys.”

This was back in 1972, just at the start of the Title IX program. Things were beginning to change in girls’ and women’s sports – for the better.

Faye applied to Grandview College and received a scholarship to play basketball.

But two weeks before school started, Chris Murray, then Iowa State’s head track and field coach, called her on the phone.

“He said I had to come to Iowa State,” Faye remembers.

Murray must have been persuasive, because Faye changed her enrollment to Iowa State and never looked back.

She ran track and field and was a member of the basketball team during her freshman year. In her sophomore year, she dropped track but added softball. Her abilities in multiple sports won her a place in the Iowa State Athletics Hall of Fame.

The Hall of Fame website sings her praises: “Faye Perkins is perhaps the most versatile athlete in Cyclone history, competing in three sports at a high level of excellence,” it says. “In track, she was an All-America performer. She led the 1976 and 1978 Cyclones to conference titles in softball. In basketball, she played on teams that finished with some of the finest in history.”

Faye was also one of Iowa State’s first female athletic scholarship recipients. Upon graduation, she went on to earn a master’s at Iowa State, followed by a Ph.D. from the University of Utah. She has taught physical education at the K-12 level and has been a head volleyball, basketball, track and field, and gymnastics coach at the middle school level.

But softball is her one true love. She coached high school softball, and in 1988 she became head softball coach and an assistant professor in the Health and Human Performance Department at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, where she remains. Over the years she has been an assistant to the vice chancellor for faculty development, department chair, and interim dean of the College of Education and Professional Studies. But she’s most proud of her coaching: her softball team last year made it to the NCAA Div. III regional championship game.

“My job combines my love of academics with my love of athletics,” Faye says.

She said that one of her proudest moments was when she got the phone call in 2004 from the ISU Athletics Department telling her she had been chosen for the ISU Athletics Hall of Fame.

“I could not stop crying,” she said, smiling happily.

Faye and her husband, Joe, have two sons, Paul and Robert.

Bright minds, big hospital

6 Sep

Driving into Rochester, Minn., you see four exits to the Mayo Clinic.

Four exits.

That’s a big hospital. In fact, the Mayo Clinic, St Marys Hospital, and Rochester Methodist Hospital form the largest integrated medical center in the world. More than 350,000 patients annually visit the Mayo Clinic, which, as you probably already know, is famous for its diagnosis and treatment in virtually every known medical and surgical specialty.

What you may not know is that the Mayo Clinic has its own College of Medicine and accepts a small number of ambitious, talented students each year into an eight-year medical scientist training program.

Lucas Carlstrom (’08 animal science/microbiology) is one of those students.

Luke is currently beginning his fifth year of the eight-year program this fall. When completed, he will have both M.D. and Ph.D. degrees, allowing him to practice medicine, to teach, and to continue to conduct specialized medical research.

It’s the ultimate trifecta for a student who has extraordinary drive, ambition, ability, and intelligence, according to one of his ISU mentors Matthew Ellinwood, associate professor of animal science.

“He’s a rock star, no question,” Ellinwood says. The Mayo Clinic has “a very attractive program. They only want the best and the brightest students.”

Luke started out in the pre-veterinary program at Iowa State before shifting his focus to human medicine. As an undergrad, he volunteered his time at the Mary Greeley Medical Center emergency room in Ames. He also worked with Prof. Ellinwood in his animal genetics lab on campus.

During the summer between his junior and senior years of college, Luke received an internship at the Mayo Clinic and, as he completed his bachelor’s degree at Iowa State, his top goal was to pursue a graduate degree at Mayo (though he flirted with the idea of going to Harvard or Johns Hopkins).

His current research emphasis is on molecular neuroscience, focusing on developing approaches to restoring nerves that have been damaged during spinal cord or traumatic brain injuries and by diseases such as ALS.

Luke says he regularly works 12- to 14-hour days, plus weekends. When he’s not working, he somehow makes time to volunteer at local free clinics and to mentor area high school students. He also participates in children’s cancer fundraisers and a local food shelter fun run.

Did I mention that he is also in training for an Ironman Triathlon?

I asked Luke how he could possibly find enough hours in the day to do all of these outside activities on top of an already grueling schedule.

“I’ve found that making time for volunteer activities energizes what I do,” he answered earnestly. “I’ve learned to become efficient.”

And, it goes without saying, “I’ve never been a big sleeper.”

I walked away from our meeting with this extraordinary young alum with huge expectations for his future. I absolutely cannot wait to see what he does next.