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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.”

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Prairie Cyclones

22 Jan

Note: When we met with Mike and Cathy Mores at their Manhattan, Kan., home in September, the temperature was 103 degrees. The current forecast for Ames tonight (Jan. 22) is 8 degrees below zero, and the high tomorrow will only reach 2 above. So even though Kansas was VERY hot, it’s sounding pretty good right about now.

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Mike and Cathy Mores are a small but mighty Cyclone voice among the “passionate purple” Kansas State University fans in Manhattan, Kan.

Cathy (’99 art & design) and Mike (’99 advertising) have twice made their home in Manhattan and have also lived in Big 12 towns of Lawrence, Kan., Boulder, Colo., and Ames, Iowa, as Mike built his professional life in Div. I athletics marketing, advertising, and fundraising. He’s currently the foundation director for Manhattan Area Technical College. Cathy is the owner and art director of Cathy Mores Photography.

Mike grew up in Harlan, Iowa, and he comes from a long line of Iowa State grads. Cathy’s family moved around, from Minnesota to Chicago to Mason City. When she toured the ISU campus, she knew it was where she wanted to be.

The couple met at Iowa State during Greek Week 1997.

“The first time he saw me, I was in a Raggedy Ann costume,” Cathy says, laughing. “I had freckles and pigtails.”

“We didn’t hit it off right off the bat,” she continues. “It took some perseverance on his part.”

The Moreses have a son, Parker, who was born in Ames and may be the biggest 7-year-old Cyclone fan in the state of Kansas.

“We’re die-hard Cyclone fans,” Cathy explained. “We wanted him to grow up feeling connected to something, and that’s Iowa State. He’ll always have this ‘this is where I came from’ no matter where we live.”

Mike and Cathy thrive on the energy they experience living in a college town, and they like living among the majestic Kansas Flint Hills in the heart of the prairie.

“It’s very Midwestern, very ‘Kansas,’” Mike says.

P.S. Here’s an update on Mike’s career: I just learned that he recently accepted a position as director of business development for Scott Rice, a Kansas City-based company specializing in business interiors. He’ll still be working in the Manhattan area.

Missouri/Kansas: Hot, hot, hot

13 Sep

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When we plan our travel to each state, we try our best to go when the weather will be good – not too hot, not too cold, pretty colors, all that stuff. When I scheduled our latest trip for September, I figured that would be a nice time of year to visit Missouri and Kansas.

So it was a bit of a shock to see “103” on the bank’s temperature display in Manhattan, Kan., on a Sunday afternoon in early September, but I guess it should not have been too much of a surprise since our car had been reading between 99 and 105 all afternoon. And, truly, it was equally hot back home in Iowa. Go figure.

Jim and I met with a total of eight alumni in the two states, and even though it was hotter than blue blazes, we survived.

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We started our travels in St. Joseph, Mo., where we met up with three brothers – all Iowa State alumni – who work together doing the coolest stuff. What’s that phrase – making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear? That’s kind of what they do. They take old, historic buildings (generally empty and unused) and turn them into the most fabulous places to live.

The three alumni are (left to right, above) Scott, Shawn, and Steve Foutch, collectively and professionally known as Foutch Brothers. Scott (’86 farm operations/animal science), Shawn (’87 civil engineering), and Steve (’88 architecture) grew up in Woodbine, Iowa. Their company is headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., but their renovated buildings can be found throughout the Midwest. We saw three of the buildings in downtown St. Joseph, including a former paper factory that has been completely transformed into apartments and commercial spaces (above, by the indoor swimming pool). More photos and info to come!

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Our next visit was with Dawn Refsell (’01 agronomy, MS ’03 crop production & physiology), a field market development specialist with Valent USA Corp. Besides being a weed specialist and spending most days with farmers in their fields, Dawn has a lot of other interests: She quilts, gardens, helps her husband with his beehives, and rides a Harley. We tromped around with Dawn in (very hot) soybean and corn fields (above) near her home in rural Lathrop, Mo., and she gave Jim and me jars of her delicious homemade salsa before we left.

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The next morning we met Krista Eilers, MSW, NHP, QRP (’93 social work) at Loose Park, just south of the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Mo. Krista is a holistic practitioner and founder of Holistic Healing, and she’s also a yoga instructor. She practices yoga every day and also power-walks, bikes, and sails.

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From there, we drove to Manhattan, Kan., where we met Cathy and Mike Mores. I’m sure I will never forget this day because it was SO HOT. But Mike (’99 advertising) and Cathy (’99 art & design) were such good sports. We visited for more than an hour in their air-conditioned home, but the idea was to photograph them hiking at the nearby Konza Prairie. At this point I’m thinking, “Here’s a great idea: Let’s hike up the highest hill in Kansas on the hottest day of the year.” But it worked out really well. Even though it was hot, there was a nice breeze, and we did, indeed, hike up what seemed like the highest hill in Kansas and lived to tell about it.

A highlight of our visit with Mike and Cathy was getting to meet their son, Parker. Parker has an awesome Iowa State bedroom – he’s a true Cyclone fan in the middle of Wildcat Country. He is also one of those serious, wise-beyond-his-years kinds of kids — except that while we were hiking, he kept wanting to pour all of the family’s drinking water on his head. That’s how I knew he was 7 years old and not 35.

Here’s a conversation I had with Parker while we were walking together in the prairie, trying to stay out of the pictures:

Me: So, Parker, your dad tells me you have frogs in the pond in your backyard.

Parker: One frog. It’s a medium-sized frog.

Me: Oh, cool. I like frogs. Does he have a name?

Parker, giving me a scornful look: It’s a wild animal.

Me: Right.

Clearly, this kid is more mature than I am, because I would have named that frog.

Everyone should have a kid as cool as Parker.

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Our last appointment in Kansas (state No. 46, if you’re keeping track!) was at the Overland Park home of Allison Foss. Allison (’01 child, adult & family services) is a social worker and case manager for individuals with developmental disabilities in Johnson County. She also helps coordinate the Greater Kansas City Myasthenia Gravis Walk, Run & Roll, a 5K run and walk to benefit the Myasthenia Gravis Association of Kansas City. Allison is definitely the kind of Iowa Stater who makes a difference in her community.

As always, I’m anxious to tell you more about these awesome alumni, either on this blog or in print next spring in the special VISIONS Across America issue of the magazine.

Next up: We’re heading to Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah NEXT WEEK. (Who is doing this crazy scheduling??? Oh, I guess I am.) After we get back, we only have one state left!