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Fisherman’s friend

31 May

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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.”

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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 Pillsbury.com, 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.”

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.

Farm family

4 Sep

When I learned that Richard Prestegard (’02 agriculture business) had returned to farm with his family in southern Minnesota as the FIFTH generation of family farmers, I knew this story was something special.

Meeting Richard and his father, Al, who attended Iowa State in the early 1970s in the farm operations course, it was easy to see what drew their ancestors to the land near Blue Earth and what drew Richard back. (Richard and Al are pictured above.)

Both sides of Richard’s family have deep farming roots. His great-great-grandfather on his father’s side, Peter Prestegard, came to the Owatonna, Minn., from Norway. His great-grandfather, Carl; his grandfather, Omar; and his father, Allen, all farmed land in Minnesota.

The land Richard and Al currently farm is from Richard’s mother’s side of the family: the Fensky side. Richard and his wife, Brooke (’03 history and political science) live on the farm that was his grandparents’ home on his father’s side. You sort of need a genealogy chart to keep track of it all.

Richard says he always knew he’d come back to the family farm. He attended Iowa State to learn about agricultural management and agronomy as well as the “technical side of things”: cash flow, balance sheets, good business management practices. He and his dad raise corn and beans, and in addition they run a truck resale business and a trucking company.

“It’s all about diversification,” Richard says. “Farming is a peak-and-valley business. We want to maintain full-time people.”

Richard and Brooke hope their two boys, Hayden (almost 3) and Hudson (9 months) will continue the family’s farming tradition, but Richard says they’ll have to want to become farmers.

“I’m a firm believer that farmers are raised, not born,” he says.

The couple also hopes the boys will become Iowa Staters. I asked Richard and Al if Hayden liked the Cyclones, and they answered in unison: “”He doesn’t have a choice.”

Hayden proved them right, cheering for the Cyclones during an otherwise dull (for a preschooler) family photo shoot.

The Upper Midwest

24 Aug

What a phenomenal experience we’ve had the last two weeks! Jim and I had an opportunity to meet with so many friendly, passionate, successful Iowa Staters in the upper Midwest states of Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. It never ceases to warm my heart that Iowa State grads are doing such amazing things all over the country.

We began our 10-day journey in Dearborn, Mich., world headquarters for Ford Motor Company and home to our own Matt Dunker (’00 mechanical engineering). Matt is a vehicle architect for Ford, and he’s had a love affair with cars since he was just 15 years old. Matt will be featured in our special VISIONS Across America issue in spring 2014. That’s Matt and me above at Ford World HQ.

Also in Michigan we met with Greg Clites (’74 meteorology, MS ’81 civil engineering/water resources). Greg lives in Ann Arbor and teaches high school math in nearby Tecumseh. Greg struck me as being genuinely interested in students and their success – the kind of math teacher I wish I had in high school. His approach to teaching makes math relevant in students’ lives. I’ll feature Greg (shown at right in his Tecumseh High School classroom) in the next several weeks on this blog.

Between our appointments with Matt and Greg we visited the University of Michigan campus. The fall semester had not yet started, but the campus and downtown Ann Arbor were already lively and vibrant. I always think it’s a treat to visit university campuses when we travel, so we try to make the time to do that whenever we can. We also made sure to stop by Zingerman’s Deli, a gastronomical institution in the city of Ann Arbor. Yum!

Leaving Michigan and entering Illinois, we headed for the big city of Chicago. There we had a trio of wonderful interviews and photo shoots with alumni, and we had a rocking good time at the ISUAA Club of Chicago “Cyclone Summertime Happy Hour” event at the Millennium Park Grill (see earlier blog post).

Our first stop was with Theaster Gates (’96 community & regional planning, MS ’05 interdisciplinary graduate studies). Theaster (right) is a hard person to describe in a few words. He’s an artist, an urban planner, and an arts administrator. But within each of those categories, there’s so much more. He’s the director of arts program development for the University of Chicago; he’s a potter and installation artist; he’s a community organizer and cultural entrepreneur. We toured a few of the buildings within the Dorchester Project, an area he’s developed for community arts on Chicago’s southeast side. I can’t wait to tell you more about him in the special issue of VISIONS.

We spent a full morning at the Lincoln Park Zoo – mostly for work, but I have to admit I always enjoy visiting a good zoo. It’s especially fun when you have a tour guide like Anthony Nielsen (’97 fisheries & wildlife biology). Anthony is the lead keeper of the Kovler Lion House and Seal Pool, and he gave us a behind-the-scenes tour of both. I even got to touch Della, the gray seal. (That’s Jim photographing Anthony and Della in the seal pool above.) Anthony has been with the zoo for 12 years, and he clearly loves the animals he works with. I’ll write more about him, too, in the coming weeks.

Our last Chicagoland meeting was with John Arends (’77 journalism & mass comm) in Batavia, Ill.  John is president and CEO of ARENDS, a communication and marketing company founded by his father, Don Arends, who is also an Iowa State graduate (’52 ag journalism). The Arends family has quite a number of Iowa State ties, including being named Family of the Year in 2010. John’s wife, Anne (’78 PE & dance), and two of their three children, Allie and Kate, graduated from Iowa State; son David is a senior this year in kinesiology and health. Jim and I spent a fascinating afternoon with John, Anne, and their dog, Ellie, at John’s office, which is located in an 1870s-era former windmill factory on the Fox River. (That’s John with Ellie above.)  John has quite a story to tell, and I’m really excited to be able to share it with you (soon, I promise).

I love Chicago, but I was relieved to leave all that traffic behind. Our next few interviews and photo shoots were scheduled in southern Wisconsin, an area that just cries out to be photographed. When we weren’t on assignment, Jim and I rambled through the rolling countryside in search of the perfect red barn and the perfect black-and-white dairy cows to photograph.

Our first appointment in Wisconsin was with a dynamic duo that has both Iowa State connections and local ties.  Kelli Cameron (’02 ag education) and Steve Servantez (’89 DVM) have a unique, interconnected story to tell. They both live in Janesville, Wis., and are equally enthusiastic about Iowa State and about their local community service projects. (Jim and I are with Kelli and Steve above).

Next up we met a young couple in Mt. Horeb: Karlee Michalski and Eric Meisel, left. Karlee is a 2010 apparel merchandising, design, and production major who works as an assistant technical designer at Lands’ End. Eric is a data analyst at Medseek, a healthcare software firm in Verona. They are planning a May wedding. I love the story of how they met at Iowa State and how they’re using their degrees in their first jobs right out of college.

The next morning we headed to Lands’ End headquarters in nearby Dodgeville. Lands’ End is a big deal in this part of Wisconsin, and a quick look at our alumni database shows at least 30 Iowa State alumni currently working there in some capacity. Chief among them is Chris Kolbe, a 1992 fashion merchandising graduate who holds the title of executive vice president/brand president for the company – one of the very top positions. Chris has also worked for such fashion giants as Ralph Lauren, Saks Fifth Avenue, Liz Claiborne, and J. Crew.

While I was at Lands’ End I also ran into Heather Sinclair, a 2011 graduate who practically lived here at the Alumni Center – she was really, really active with Student Alumni Leadership Council, and she worked briefly with me in alumni communications. Heather graduated with a double major in apparel merchandising, design, & production and journalism & mass communication (wow, that’s a lot of “and”s). She now works for Lands’ End as an assistant merchant and seems to love her new job and her new state of Wisconsin. We had fun catching up, as you can see in the photo of us above.

The last Wisconsin alum we met was Faye Perkins (’79 PE & biology, MS ’85 exercise physiology). Faye (left) made my day when she posted a comment on the Wisconsin web page that ended with, “ONCE A CYCLONE, ALWAYS A CYCLONE!! I LOVE ISU!!” Faye is one of Iowa State’s pioneer female athletes, one of our earliest female scholarship winners, and a member of the ISU Athletic Hall of Fame. She’s been a faculty member, administrator, and softball coach at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. I found our time together absolutely inspirational.

At this point, we were three states down, one to go. But I was so enthusiastic about the story potential in Minnesota that I scheduled seven alumni in that state. So we still had our work cut out for us (and another three days on the road).

As it turns out, I am not the least bit sorry I “overscheduled” us in Minnesota, because the alumni we met there were outstanding, and every one was unique.

First off: Ron Schara (’66 journalism). If you live in Minnesota, and if you are a hunter or fisherman, you know Ron Schara. Even if you don’t live in Minnesota, if you are a hunter or fisherman, you probably know Ron Schara. He’s a living legend.

Ron is the executive producer of the popular television show “Minnesota Bound,” which he hosts with his black lab, Raven. We met Ron and Raven and got to sit in on part of the outdoor filming of one of his shows. If you can’t wait to read more about Ron, you can watch episodes of his shows online. That’s Jim photographing Ron and Raven by the Rum River.

Later that same day we caught up with Natalie Boike, an alumna after my own heart. She’s a magazine editor! So we had lots in common and lots to talk about. Natalie has worked for a variety of publications, most recently the Mpls.St.Paul Magazine. Natalie is a 2005 journalism and mass communications grad. (We’re showing off our respective magazines in Nicollet Mall above.)

The next day, Jim and I once again found ourselves on a university campus: the University of Minnesota’s main campus in Minneapolis. There we met with Louis Mansky (MS ’86 microbiology, PhD ’90), a professor and director of the Institute of Molecular Virology. Louis (shown at right in his office) spends his time focused on the important study of the HIV virus and how it evolves and mutates. Fascinating stuff.

It was a thrill to meet our next alumna, Ann Lindemeyer Burckhardt (’55 home economics journalism), because I grew up with her cookbooks. Do you remember the Betty Crocker cookbook? I think my mom had several versions. For a long time, that cookbook was THE go-to gift to take to a bridal shower. And Ann was the editor from 1956 until 1963.

She also published 11 cookbooks of her own and wrote for the food section of the Minneapolis Star Tribune for 24 years. I could tell you more about her, but then I’d give away all the good stuff. Needless to say, we spent a delightful afternoon with Ann in her Edina apartment (above).

Later that day we met Jeff Prouty (’79 industrial administration) for a decidedly NOT difficult appointment – on his boat in Wayzata. He had offered the opportunity for Jim and me to take a spin with him on Lake Minnetonka and said we could invite a few Iowa Staters to join us. I immediately called Russ Snyder (’73 landscape architecture), our ISUAA Club of the Twin Cities president, and he put together a small invitation list that included club leaders and members of our Young Alumni Council. Jeff is a management consultant and the chairman and founder of The Prouty Project in the Twin Cities. We had a thoroughly relaxing evening on his Think Tank II (that’s Jeff with the boat above). It was the perfect way to end the day.

The next morning we left Minneapolis and headed to the southeast Minnesota town of Rochester, home of the world-renowned Mayo Clinic. There we met Lucas Carlstrom (’08 animal science), an MD and PhD student in molecular neuroscience at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine. Luke (left) is starting the fifth year of an eight-year program there, and his list of accomplishments is already impressive.

And, finally…drum roll, please…our LAST interview on our LAST DAY on the road (for awhile) took us to the Prestegard Farm in rural Frost, Minn. A recent graduate, Richard Prestegard (’02 ag business) works with his father, Al, who attended Iowa State back in the early 1970s in farm operations.(That’s Richard, left, and Al, right, chillin’ in the field with Jim.) They currently farm land that’s been in the family for five generations. Their corn-and-soybean operation offered a dramatic backdrop and a perfect end to a fantastic trip to the upper Midwest.