Archive | May, 2014

The sweet life

31 May


When you listen to Mark Ballard talk about his premiere line of brownies and blondies, you can’t help but think these treats are not just special but way-out-of-the-ordinary special.

When Mark (’84 family services; MS ’86 professional studies in education) and his partner, Tom Finney, started their own business in 2005, they knew they had to do it better than anyone else.

“Nobody had done brownies and blondies in a great way,” Mark explains. So he and Tom did research: Who makes the best brownies?

“We ate brownies from New York to San Francisco,” he says.

The result was Sugardaddy’s Sumptuous Sweeties, a brownie and blondie boutique bakery in Columbus, Ohio.

Mark, co-founder and co-CEO of the company, said they focused on creating a “premium product with premium packaging, promotion, and people.” Each batch of “blondes and brunettes” is made by hand by an executive chef and his assistants, using top-quality ingredients including eggs and butter from a local farm. The treats are cut into three-inch rounds and sold in stores or shipped fresh “door to door in 24.” Flavors include campfire s’mores, chai spiced, cinnamon, rich mint, caramel, peanut butter, cherry almond, and more.

Sugardaddy’s has been featured by more than 50 national media outlets, including the Food Network, Today Show, Ellen, InStyle, Midwest Living, and the Washington Post. But Mark says it was the winning “Throwdown! with Bobby Flay” appearance on the Food Network that gained the company the most attention and made the Tahiti Blonde Sweetie a national superstar.

“At first, it was easier to get national endorsements than local ones,” Mark said. But that’s changed, and now Sugardaddy’s has been named a “best local treat” and has expanded to three stores in Columbus.

“Our goal is to satisfy everyone’s sweet tooth,” says Mark. “We make a complete dessert in a three-inch round.”

Note: After 10 years as owner of Sugardaddy’s Sumptuous Sweeties, Mark Ballard announced in late 2013 that he and his partner had sold the Sugardaddy’s brand and business to a couple in Columbus, Ohio.

Medical pioneer

31 May


Dr. Douglas McKeag’s interest in both medicine and athletics led him down a career path that didn’t exist.

After initially attending Iowa State for veterinary medicine, Doug switched his major to zoology and also became head swim coach for the Ames YMCA. He always enjoyed sports – he played basketball for Iowa State during his freshman year – and was interested in physiology and biology, so he says it just made sense to go into sports medicine.

Only, he says, “There was no such thing at that time.”

How Doug became one of the founding fathers of primary care sports medicine is the story of a visionary pathfinder. After receiving his medical degree in 1973 from Michigan State University, he took the “gutsy step” of asking the athletics director there if he needed any help with his athletes. Doug soon found himself teaching, seeing patients, and conducting research during the day and at 5 o’clock going to the training room and, with the help of another young physician, caring for 734 athletes in 24 sports.

“It was a fascinating experience,” he says.

Doug and a few colleagues began what is now the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine. “People were thirsty for sports medicine knowledge,” he says. “There was nothing out there.”

Doug served as head team physician for Michigan State and later a consulting team physician for the University of Pittsburgh as well as the Pittsburgh Steelers and Indianapolis Colts professional football teams. He has authored three books and speaks nationally and internationally on exercise and sport. He’s currently a professor emeritus and former chair of the Department of Family Medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine and the founding director of the IU Center for Sports Medicine.

“Sports medicine is now one of the more popular areas of medicine,” Doug says. One of his primary areas of research has been concussion, and he can take credit for some of the changes in how sports-related concussions are treated.

It’s been an exciting career, he says. “When a player gets injured, it’s like making a house call with 75,000 people watching you.”

Today Doug says he’s “trying to figure out how to retire,” and he’s focusing his attention on global health. He’s traveled to Haiti as one of the first responders to the devastating 2010 earthquake, and he’s gone on medical missions to Nepal, Honduras, and Kenya.

Doug and his wife, Diane, live in Zionsville just north of Indianapolis and have three adult children.

Where art meets urban planning

31 May


The inside of the abandoned Anheuser-Busch distribution center is warm and dark. Theaster Gates struggles to lift one of the enormous garage doors a few inches to let in enough light to illuminate the exposed brick walls and hard-worn concrete floors.

Built in 1907, this building is more than 100 years old. But it’s easy to visualize its potential: 25,000 square feet of artist’s studio and a collection of small neighborhood shops.

This is the south side of Chicago, Theaster’s hometown. It’s here that he created the Dorchester Projects: buildings located on Dorchester Avenue and 69th Street set aside to celebrate the work of artists of color and to honor art as a function of its environment.

The Projects started simply enough. In 2006 Theaster was looking for a home to buy, and he found one that looked like a good candidate for conversion to an artist’s live/work space. Three years later, his neighborhood deteriorating, he began to think he could transform the whole block.

By then, the ISU graduate (’96 community & regional planning, MA ’05 interdisciplinary graduate studies) was an arts administrator for the University of Chicago as well as a rising star in the art world. (The Chicago Reader called it “a meteoric rise.”)

“As my ambition increased, my access to funding increased,” Theaster said. In addition to the Anheuser-Busch building, he’s working to transform 36 Chicago Housing Authority units into artist live/work spaces.

“I have a really great job,” Theaster says of his position as director of arts program development in the University of Chicago’s Office of the Provost. “Being an artist at an academic institution, they value my time in the studio. The way I solve problems is different than other people.”

Radar love

31 May


Matt Dunker scraped together enough money to buy his first car when he was still too young to drive it. It was a red 1966 Ford Mustang. He was 15 years old.

“It was a great-looking car,” he recalls wistfully. “It was like dating a supermodel.”

Cars have always been Matt’s passion.

“I was one of those kids whose bedroom was filled with car magazines,” he says. “I’ve lived and breathed cars since I was 14 or 15.”

So it’s no surprise that Matt (’00 mechanical engineering) went to work for Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Mich.

He likens his job as a vehicle designer to an architect or contractor of a house. “From a mechanical standpoint, I make sure parts fit in the vehicle and that anything mechanical meets its functional requirements.”

Matt works on select new car models, specifically focusing on turbo-charged engines for fuel economy and performance. Vehicle safety is also a big part of the design process, so he interfaces regularly with Ford’s safety team.

His passion for cars has never diminished. His best-loved car was a 1988 Ford Thunderbird turbo coup (“the car that got me into turbo chargers”). He now drives a sporty little Mazda RX8.

“I have a great job,” he says. “I design cars.”


Everything old is new again

31 May


Steve, Shawn, and Scott Foutch saw a need for quality apartments in St. Joseph, Mo. And they saw a building they could purchase for next to nothing.

With a $32 million renovation, the 455,000-square-foot Mitchell Park Plaza was created from the historic Big Chief Tablet factory: 258 luxury apartments with huge windows and balconies, an indoor swimming pool, recreation center, rooftop garden, convenience store, and coffee shop.

Mitchell Park Plaza is just one of more than 20 buildings owned by Foutch Brothers in Missouri, Kansas, and Iowa – with more on the way. The company renovates historic schools, office buildings, and warehouses into apartment-style living spaces and other modern-day uses. But more than that, the brothers’ projects restore neighborhoods and invigorate communities.

“Some of these projects are very special,” says Shawn (’87 civil engineering). “There is a passion in these communities for saving their schools. It’s hard not to develop [your own] passion for these buildings.”

Steve (’88 architecture) and Scott (’86 farm operation & animal science) founded the company in 2004; Shawn joined them two years ago. The brothers, who grew up in Woodbine, Iowa, each brings his own skill set and area of expertise.

The business has its headquarters in Kansas City, Mo., but they “go where the buildings are” – from Leavenworth, Kan., to Shelby, Iowa.

“So many projects are coming at us now that we can be selective,” Steve says.

Making her mark

31 May

Allison cafe

Allison Foss’s parents instilled in her at a young age the importance of making a mark on her community. And at Iowa State she learned about making difference for those who need support.

Those values have stayed with Allison in both her professional career and her personal life.

Allison (’01 child, adult & family services) is a social worker and case manager for individuals with developmental disabilities in Johnson County, Kan. She works with children and adults with mental and physical disabilities, including cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, and autism.

“I have a passion for working with the population of special needs. They very much want your help,” she says.

Allison also helps coordinate the annual Greater Kansas City Myasthenia Gravis Walk, Run & Roll, a 5K run and walk to benefit the Myasthenia Gravis Association of Kansas City.

Allison was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis, a rare form of muscular dystrophy, at the age of 5. She says the Kansas City event raises money and, perhaps more importantly, it also helps raise awareness of a disease that doesn’t get much media attention.

“It’s not like breast cancer where everything turns pink for a month,” she says.

Allison lives in Overland Park, Kan., a community that she says feels like a small town within a big city. The Iowa State connections here, Allison says, make it fun to get involved with social events and philanthropy.

“I’ve always had the itch to give back and be a part of a community,” she says. “Growing up in Fairfield [Iowa], my parents were active volunteering in their church, community, and education. It was a model of how important it is to give back.”

‘Farmers tell a great story’

31 May


Walter Bones is indebted to his family for allowing him to step away from full-time farming to briefly pursue another career: secretary of agriculture for the state of South Dakota.

“I went to them and said, ‘You can’t believe the phone call I just got,’” Walt says. “And not one of them said, ‘Who’s going to plant the corn?’ They all said, ‘That’s a great opportunity.’”

So Walt (’73 animal science) temporarily left the daily management of a livestock operation, custom cattle-feeding business, elevator company, and dairy in the capable hands of his brothers, brother-in-law, and nephews in Parker, S.D. He headed to the capital city of Pierre – and all points beyond.

“I had the opportunity to travel across the state and see people in action,” he said of the two years he spent as secretary of agriculture (2011-2013). He worked with zoning issues, government rules and regulations, agricultural law, and the transition of farms from small to large – even managing fires and flooding.

“One of my focuses was to try to tell the [agriculture] story,” he said. “We’re in a rural state, but not a large percentage of people are involved with agriculture. Farmers tell a great story; they live it every day.”

Walt was no stranger to public service. He’s been active with the National Corn Growers Association, the Midwest Dairy Association, South Dakota Hereford Association, South Dakota Cattlemen’s Association, South Dakota Farm Bureau, and other groups.

Walt’s dad, an Iowa State graduate, served in the South Dakota State Senate while managing the family farm.

“My mom and dad are great role models,” Walt said. “My family holds public service in high esteem.

“Agriculture has been really good to us.”


Color my world

31 May


Welcome to Emily Williams-Wheeler’s world. It’s a world of colorful rabbits and birds and cotton-candy trees. It’s a world of self-expression and new discoveries.

“Color is my strength and my passion,” Emily says. So whether she’s creating artwork to sell or painting a mural for a local mall or teaching creative-thinking classes to local children, the “Studio e” artist is always infusing her world with color.

“If I can bring color to people and make them happy, that’s my goal,” she says. “I had a reviewer once who said I make art contagious.”

When we met Emily in early June 2013 at her home in Fargo, N.D., she had just opened a solo exhibit titled “Soup to Nuts: A Lighter Faire” at Kaddatz Galleries in Fergus Falls, Minn. Her children’s annual spring art exhibit had attracted more than 200 people. A month before, she had finalized the installation of a mural in the Children’s Playland in Fargo’s West Acres Mall.

In 2012, Emily (’86 interior design) was named TOSCA American Artist Series North Dakota Artist of the Year. Her list of projects, workshops, shows, and other accomplishments covers four pages. She and her husband, John Wheeler (’84 meteorology), a meteorologist for WDAY-TV in Fargo, have two children, Maggie and Cameron, and two rambunctious dogs, Phinney and Ollie.

Emily grew up in Iowa, and her initial impression of Fargo was not exactly positive.

“It was awful. I thought it was a barren hinterland,” she says. “It took me awhile to fall in love with it.”

Now, although she “lives in a gray world up here” during much of the year, she sees color everywhere. “Or I put it there,” she says.

Community garden

31 May


When Spencer Crews arrived in Omaha, Neb., to oversee what would become Lauritzen Gardens botanical center, he found 70 acres of vacant fields and the rudimentary beginnings of a rose garden.

But Spencer had a passion for what that land could become.

That was 17 years ago, and the 1980 landscape architecture grad was the gardens’ first executive director. A St. Louis native, Spencer had worked as chair of the Department of Horticulture at East Central College in Union, Mo., and as manager of horticulture for Powell Gardens near Kansas City.

At the fledgling Omaha garden, Spencer led the transition of the botanical center from a small, volunteer-based project to a multifaceted, revenue-generating, event-driven facility. The process took many years, first to fundraise and then to implement. But throughout the process, the key was listening to community leaders.

“We collaborated with the community to build something they wanted,” he said.

With a $30 million investment in infrastructure and the addition of 30 more acres, the gardens took off. Spencer and fellow Iowa State landscape architecture grad Chad Grimm (’89) shared a vision and an aesthetic that would create a botanical garden with a deep sense of place.

“We wanted to capture our part of the country,” Spencer said.

Indeed, the Song of the Lark Meadow is reminiscent of Nebraska’s wildflower-filled prairies. The arboretum and bird sanctuary feature regional plant communities, native grasses, and Midwestern bird species. A model railroad garden has direct ties to Omaha’s railroad history. A woodland trail winds through a native hardwood community.

Lauritzen Gardens continues to expand, with a multi-million-dollar, 20,000-square-foot conservatory currently under construction.

Spencer is clearly delighted by the community’s support of the gardens, and he is especially gratified when he sees children visiting with their parents and grandparents.

“It’s an intergenerational experience,” he says of the gardens. “Influencing and exposing your kids to nature at a young age is so important. It’s a memorable experience that stays with them their whole life.”

Fisherman’s friend

31 May


In this land of 10,000 lakes, Ron Schara is the reigning king of sport fishing.

Ron is the host of the long-running television program “Minnesota Bound” and the author of Ron Schara’s Minnesota Fishing Guide. He is equal parts fisherman and storyteller – with some hunting and other outdoor recreational pursuits thrown in for good measure.

Ron got his start at Iowa State as a fisheries and wildlife biology major. He shifted his career goals slightly when he took a basic writing course and found a new passion.

“The light bulb went off. I discovered that I could write about these things I was learning,” he said. He graduated in 1966 with a degree in journalism and a minor in fisheries.

For 29 years, Ron wrote an outdoor column for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Today he is famous in these parts and beyond, with 17 years worth of “Minnesota Bound” episodes airing in the Twin Cities, Duluth, Rochester, and Fargo. Ron Schara Productions, headquartered in Minneapolis, also creates outdoor-recreation programming for the Outdoor Channel, The Versus Network, ESPN, and Fox Sports. His company even publishes popular Midwest wall calendars, filled with outdoor information on every date.

“The beauty of what I get to do is that I love to fish,” Ron says. “I fish a lot, and I get to do it for a living. And then I get to tell stories about fishing.”

Ron has been filmed on location not only in the state of Minnesota but also in Africa, on the Amazon River, in the Bahamas, and beyond. But one of his signature shots is right in his own backyard in Ramsey, Minn., sitting on a hay bale next to his costar Raven, an energetic black Labrador retriever.

“She’s the star of the show,” Ron says, “and she knows it.”