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Life is a journey

1 Jun

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Ike Harris grew up on a soybean and cotton farm near West Memphis, Ark., the son of parents whose schooling ended in the primary grades. His mother wanted the best for her children and insisted they attend a good-quality high school. Ike and a few of his cousins were the first African Americans to attend the formerly all-white school during the desegregation era of the 1960s.

Ike was a “tall, skinny lineman” on his high school football team. He caught the eye of a coach at Iowa State – the only Div. I school to recruit him. Ike came to Iowa State, working harder than he ever dreamed of working, both as an athlete and as a student.

“I was a ghost at Iowa State,” he remembers. “I focused on football and academics and nothing else.”

But it was at Iowa State where he met his life partner: Independence, Iowa, native Charlene Kruempel (’75 textiles and clothing), and it was at Iowa State where he was prepared for a lifetime of success.

After graduation in 1974 with a degree in accounting, Ike played professional football for seven years with the St. Louis Cardinals and New Orleans Saints. He then put his business degree to work at Supervalu and Peat Marwick (now KPMG) before joining the BellSouth Corporation in Atlanta. He eventually became president and CEO of the company. In 2005 he was named one of 75 most powerful African Americans in corporate America by Black Enterprise Magazine.

Ike retired in 2007. He and Charlene now live in Palm Coast, Fla., where life is a little slower.

His life would be easy to summarize with a list of accolades, awards, and achievements. But in reality, he says, it’s not about the success; it’s about the journey. As he sits on his back patio overlooking Florida’s intracoastal waterway, he strokes the fur of a small, white dog on his lap as he reflects on what has been a truly wonderful life.

“The proudest I’ve ever been was the day my son was born,” he said. “I thought I’d never equal that, but then our daughter was born.”

“If I look back at Iowa State, I think about what I achieved in this order: I found a lifelong partner. I received an educational foundation that allowed me to compete with anyone, anywhere. And I had an opportunity to play sports after graduation.”

Ike says he and Charlene, now married 40 years, “have a blast” at anything they do together. They’re always active: exercising, playing golf, traveling, biking, hiking.

“When I think about fun,” he says. “Charlene’s in the middle of it.”

Celebrate your state! (And participate in Cy’s Days of Service this month)

5 Apr


So here’s a fun thing that crosses into a lot of different areas of the ISU Alumni Association in April. It’s sort of a VISIONS Across America meets ISUAA Clubs meets community service meets Iowa State pride.

It’s called Cy’s Days of Service, and it’s a project that runs throughout the month of April 2013. It’s designed to unite alumni in every state – and across the world – during the month of April, because that’s VEISHEA month. VEISHEA, as we all know, has a great tradition of service, so we thought this would be a cool way for alumni to continue that spirit of service even after they graduate. The ISU Alumni Association started this program last April, and it was a huge success (Cyclones donated a combined 1,500 hours of service worldwide).

Several of the ISUAA Clubs participate in Cy’s Days of Service as a group, but even if you don’t live in an active club area, you can get your own group of Iowa Staters together or even do a service project on your own.

If you do participate in Cy’s Days of Service (or even if you don’t) you can show your Iowa State pride no matter what state you live in by wearing your own custom ISU T-shirt. Yep, you can order a shirt that tells the world, “I’m a FLORIDA Cyclone.” (Obviously, you’ll just substitute your state name if you don’t live in Florida.)

Don’t forget to log your service hours and submit photos so everyone will know the awesome work you’re doing. Also, you can promote and follow service projects via our Cy’s Days of Service Facebook page.

Isn’t this a great project?

Thanks to Bridget Moore (’02 English) and Rafael Perez-Micheli (’97 art & design, ’03 graphic design) for modeling their shirts for Jim and me when we visited them in Sanford, Fla., in February.

Sunshine in a glass

12 Mar


What could possibly be more “Florida” than orange juice?

The state of Florida produces 67 percent of all U.S. oranges and accounts for 40 percent of the world’s orange juice supply. Next to tourism, citrus production is one of the top moneymakers for the state.

Tropicana buys 30 percent of all oranges grown in Florida. The Tropicana plant in Bradenton, Fla., processes 50 million oranges a day. That translates into a million gallons of orange juice.

Brenda Lanning Marlow (’88 consumer food science) is a manager in manufacturing at Tropicana, where she’s worked in a variety of positions for the past 21 years. She’s a quality control expert, working to roll out new products, keep production costs down, and improve efficiencies in the manufacturing process.

During our visit to the plant in mid-February, Brenda gave Jim and me a tour of just a small part of the huge, 285-acre plant, including the fruit-receiving area where truck after truck filled with fresh-smelling oranges pulled in and dumped their loads.

A Marshalltown, Iowa, native, Brenda is an avid Cyclone sports fan, as evidenced by her office decorated with Iowa State posters and other paraphernalia (“I really didn’t do this for the photos,” she insists. “It always looks like this. Just ask my co-workers.”) She’s also the president of the ISU Alumni Association Club of Tampa.

As we prepared to leave, Brenda gave each of us two cold cartons of orange juice to drink on the road. And then she mentioned, as if it were no big deal, a huge personal accomplishment: She recently lost more than 90 pounds and has begun organizing Weight Watchers meetings for a group of co-workers, resulting in more than 100 pounds of weight loss within the group just over the past few weeks. Wow – that’s  truly impressive leadership.

Brenda is married to Steven Marlow and has two stepchildren, Joshua and Rachel.

A perfect match

4 Mar


At first glance, Rafael Perez-Micheli and Bridget Moore seem like total opposites.

Bridget (’02 English) grew up in Ames, Iowa, the daughter of “hippie” parents. She was a “nature girl” who loved to get her hands dirty, to go camping, and to crawl under things looking for salamanders.

Rafi, as he prefers to be called, (’97 art & design, ’03 graphic design) grew up in a large city in Puerto Rico, the son of conservative parents. He’d only been to the United States once before enrolling at ISU: to visit Disney World. And he’d never seen snow.

The two met in the unlikeliest of places: Hickory Park Restaurant in Ames. Bridget was an on-again-off-again college student working as a waitress; Rafi was following in his sisters’ footsteps attending Iowa State and was working as a cook.

Their home in Sanford, Fla., is the perfect mix of their backgrounds: Its size, downtown area, and vibe remind Bridget of Ames. The summer heat reminds Rafi of Puerto Rico. They both agree that they “love everything about this town.” Sanford is home to an annual film festival, monthly juried art shows and street parties, funky bars and restaurants, art galleries, theatres, a farmers market, and antiques stores.

“The town is disgustingly cute,” Bridget says, laughing. “It’s an oddball town, with musicians and artists and creatives going in a hipster direction.”

The couple has been together 16 years and married for 10; they moved to Sanford in 2004. Bridget, who has a master’s in English with a technical writing focus from the University of Central Florida, is a proposal development supervisor for Akimeka, LLC, an IT services firm. Akimeka has multiple office locations; Bridget works in the corporate office in Maitland, Fla., just north of Orlando. Rafi is an art director for the Parenting Group at Bonnier Corporation, which is owned by the Swedish Bonnier Group. He works at the Winter Park location of Bonnier Corp.

When Jim and I visited them on a Saturday in mid-February, they were shopping for fresh produce at a farmers market in downtown Sanford. It was such a nice change of pace from central Iowa in the winter to see fresh okra, avocadoes, strawberries, cabbage, radishes, beets, and kale. Both Rafi and Bridget eat a healthy diet: Rafi recently ran his first Disney Half Marathon, and Bridget finds a wide variety of gluten-free foods in Sanford’s restaurants, bakeries, and markets.

The Sunshine State

21 Feb


Our travels to the state of Florida proved once again that Iowa State has fantastic alumni all across the country. Jim and I are never disappointed and, in fact, nearly always WOWED by the people we have met through our VISIONS Across America project.

IMG_0699On this particular trip, we met Brenda Lanning Marlow (’88 consumer food science), a manufacturing manager at Tropicana and a huge Iowa State fan. In fact, she’s the president of the ISU Alumni Association Club of Tampa. Brenda showed us around the Tropicana plant in Bradenton, in west-central Florida just south of the Tampa/St. Petersburg area. We watched truck after truck filled with Florida oranges pull into the receiving area and dump their loads. Brenda says Tropicana purchases approximately 30% of all oranges grown in Florida. That’s a lot of oranges. Brenda’s office (and Brenda herself) was decked out with Cyclone gear. She says she didn’t do anything special for the photo shoot — she’s just really, really proud to be an Iowa State alum.

IMG_1337We met Rafael Perez-Micheli (’97 art and design, ’03 graphic design) and Bridget Moore (’02 English) in historic Sanford – a community north of Orlando that’s known for its picturesque lakefront as well as its art, theatre, film festivals, food, and antiques. Bridget (an Ames native) and Rafi (originally from Puerto Rico) met in Ames, married more than 10 years ago, and have lived in Sanford since 2004. Rafi is an art director, and Bridget is a proposal manager — and they both totally love living in Sanford, which Bridget says reminds her a lot of Ames. They took us to the marina, to the local farmers market, and to a popular German restaurant: Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Cafe. We had so much fun, we hated to leave.


On the eastern side of the state, north of Daytona Beach, we had a delightful visit with Ike Harris (’74 accounting) at his home in Palm Coast. Ike is a former ISU and professional football player and was president of the Bell South communications corporation in Atlanta before moving to Florida with his wife, Charlene (’75 textiles and clothing). The two met as students at Iowa State and have raised two children.

Jim and I are back in Iowa now, with a winter storm bearing down, so I’m thinking maybe we should have stayed awhile longer in the Sunshine State. I’ll tell you more about some of these alumni and share more of Jim’s photos in the coming weeks.