Archive | December, 2013

Family practice

27 Dec


Peter Bashara grew up in his father’s veterinary clinic. As a sixth grader, he cleaned kennels after school and did other jobs around the Omaha animal hospital.

Everyone asked him the same thing: Are you going to grow up and become a vet like your dad?

Peter always said no.

Until one day in junior high school when he finally said yes.

Today Peter doesn’t remember that encounter, but his dad does. And now Peter can’t imagine doing anything else.

Dr. T. Robert “Bob” Bashara (’63 DVM) founded the Mapleview Animal Clinic in 1965. He practiced alone for 17 years before hiring a second associate veterinarian. In 1985, he expanded the practice to a second clinic, Candlewood, on Blondo Street in Omaha. His third clinic – a state-of-the-art animal hospital at 153rd and Maple on Omaha’s west side – opened in 1999. All three clinics are now known as Gentle Doctor Animal Hospitals.

Dr. Peter Bashara (’93 animal science, ’97 DVM) followed his father’s lead and attended Iowa State, but with a slightly different experience.

“His education and classes were so much different,” Bob says. “I was taught in the old building [the veterinary quadrangle now known as Lagomarcino Hall]. We had 47 graduates in my class, and no women.”

Bob was a veterinary trailblazer in the early days. “I was thrown to the fire with nobody to bounce things off of,” he says of his solo practice.

Peter’s entry into the business in 1997 was far more smooth. “I had instantaneous credibility because of my name. I never suffered from [clients asking], ‘Who are you? How old are you?’ If I hadn’t done this, it would have been a colossal mistake.”

Bob says his son’s decision to join the practice convinced him to expand to a third clinic, and it gave him peace of mind.

“When Peter decided he wanted to come back, I thought it was great,” he says. “I had hoped that he would want to take over the practice. It was perfect for me. It took the burden off my shoulders about what to do when I retire. Now Peter is the main man.”

Both veterinarians are active in their professions. In 2007, Peter received the Midlands Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” award. He works with the Nebraska Humane Society and the Animal Emergency Clinic. Bob is actively involved with the national Doris Day Animal Foundation, for which he serves as the chief financial officer.

The business transition from father to son has been nothing but smooth, they both agree.

“I had a philosophy of practice to provide really good care for animals with really good customer service, and to always be there when they need me,” Bob says. “I had a following of devoted clients. I worried, ‘Will someone else carry on that tradition?’”

There’s no doubt: Thanks to son Peter and Iowa State, the answer is YES.

Baby, it’s cold outside

20 Dec

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Fargo, N.D., has the worst weather in the country. At least according to viewers of the Weather Channel, who annually vote it into the “final four,” often beating out perennial favorites Fairbanks, Alaska; International Falls, Minn.; and Caribou, Maine. The city knocks down its residents with a one-two-three punch of powerful blizzards, extreme cold, and spring floods. Once, Fargo even had one of this country’s most powerful tornadoes.

If there’s any comfort in all of that, it’s John Wheeler.

John (’84 meteorology) is a television weatherman who’s been providing rational, science-based forecasts to citizens of Fargo since 1985.

John knows all kinds of weather; he was born in Louisiana, raised in Alabama, and moved to the Midwest – Madison, Wis., and West Union, Iowa – during his high school years.

At Iowa State, he rejected the minutiae of his engineering classes and moved into meteorology.

“Weather is ‘big picture,’” John says. “It’s so sensible. It’s ‘Is it going to rain on me today?’ That was more appealing to me. It had never occurred to me until I got to Iowa State that I could be a TV meteorologist.”

After graduating in 1984 and meeting his wife-to-be, Emily Williams (’86 interior design) on the Richardson Court paint crew, John joined the staff of WDAY, the ABC affiliate in Fargo.

The combination of being so far north and being so flat makes Fargo the “blizzard country of America.” (“With the exception of western and northern Alaska, we have more blizzards here in the Fargo area than anyplace else in the U.S.” John says. “It’s the windiest, non-mountain, Class 1 weather station in the United States.”)

“It’s also just dang cold,” he says.

If you mention rival-cold-city International Falls, John bristles.

“International Falls gets the sexy low temperatures – you know, the 45 belows. We don’t get those lows. But International Falls gets warm in the daytime, and there’s no wind. We have a lot of days here in the winter where it’s in the 20s below in the afternoon.

“It’s remarkably colder than Iowa was,” he continued. “I was really surprised at that. I used to think Iowa was cold. And I didn’t like cold weather when I lived there. I’ve moved up here and learned to embrace it.”

John walks to the TV station – and to the North Dakota State University campus, where he teaches classes in meteorology – year round because, he says, as a meteorologist he should experience the weather he’s predicting.

He says his job never gets old, because every day there’s a new problem: What’s the weather going to be like tomorrow?  And because a broadcast meteorologist has to be not only accurate but entertaining, he has to be a good communicator.

And people in Fargo always complain about the weather.

“They get really crabby,” he says.

Nuclear family

10 Dec


Just when you’re in total awe of the accomplishments of Kory Budlong Sylvester (’92 nuclear engineering), the program manager for Nonproliferation and Treaty Verification at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, his youngest son, Syler, takes you down a notch.

“Dad isn’t that interesting,” announces Syler, age 11.

Ah, youth.

It’s not surprising that Syler – and, likely, his 14-year-old brother, Max – don’t understand what their father does for a living. It’s difficult for many adults to grasp. The scope is just so BIG.

In his role at Los Alamo National Laboratory, Kory is responsible for managing a portfolio that includes technical support for international safeguards, export controls, arms control verification, and global engagement programs. This includes the Laboratory’s work in the Next Generation Safeguards Initiative, the International Nonproliferation Export Control Program, warhead dismantlement and transparency efforts, and support for the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization. He’s also the U.S. member of an advisory group for the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency. He travels to Washington, D.C., at least once a month and spends much of his time in Vienna, Austria.

And that’s just what he does now.

KoryHe’s also been a congressional fellow to the Committee on Appropriations for the U.S. Senate, a senior technical advisor at the National Nuclear Security Administration, and a congressional fellow to the Committee on Homeland Security for the U.S. House of Representatives. He holds a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from MIT.

“Our work requires in-depth understanding of international security. A key part of my job is to know what Washington needs and help them find solutions to their problems,” he says.

And here’s the really funny thing: You would never in a million years get that Kory works on issues critical to the security of the United States of America by sitting down and talking to him over a cup of coffee on his deck overlooking Pueblo Canyon.

“He’s humble,” his wife, Susan, says. Kory and Susan (’86 journalism/mass communication) met at Iowa State when she was his supervisor in the Honors Program.

“I got him when he was young and moldable,” she says, laughing. By outward appearances, the two could not be more different.

“On our honeymoon, I had a John Grisham book on the beach and he had, I don’t know, a book on differential equations or the creation of the atom or something. He is geek to the bone.”

Kory chuckles but gets back to the business at hand: nuclear nonproliferation.

“We take our jobs seriously here,” he says. “National security is a fundamental mission for the Lab, and I work with an incredibly competent and dedicated group of experts. It’s a sober responsibility to see that nuclear weapons are never used again. We’ve had some difficult years struggling with proliferation challenges, and we like to think we’re part of the solution.”

Almost paradise

4 Dec

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If Jason and Tracy (Blough) Wilwert’s home in Washington – across Puget Sound from Seattle – seems like paradise, it might be because they live near the entrance to Olympic National Park.

When Tracy first wrote to me, she and Jason were living in Port Angeles, just a stone’s throw away from the park entrance, where they had bald eagles fishing in the creek bordering their backyard. They moved to Sequim (pronounced “Squim” by the locals) in February to be closer to church, schools, and Jason’s business; Sequim is a little farther from the park, but their new home has a view of the Strait of Juan De Fuca to the north and is frequented by a herd of elk.

Oh, and the town is famous for its lavender farms. Paradise, indeed.


Jason and Tracy met during their freshmen year at Iowa State. Both were biology majors; both graduated in 1991; both played in the ISU Cyclone Football Varsity Marching Band. Both became physical therapists.

They started their careers in the Midwest, followed by traveling physical therapy work across the country. They moved to Port Angeles in 1999 and stayed. Jason purchased a private outpatient clinic in Sequim, and Tracy is an acute-care physical therapist at the hospital in Port Angeles.

When Jim and I visited them in August, they introduced us to their two very bright, polite children: Carmen, 13, and Keith, 11.

Tracy and Jason like to run, hike, and camp in their northwestern paradise.

“I almost feel bad that I don’t fish,” Jason jokes. “People come from all over to fish here.”