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Luck be a lady

31 May


That Bob Gannon grew up in Mingo, Iowa, as one of 14 children is one of the least interesting things about him. That he has a seat on the Chicago Board of Trade and is a “Name” with Lloyd’s of London are also far down the list.

That Bob Gannon (’74 ag business) has survived death-defying feats such as flying solo around the world in a single-engine Cessna 182 and landing in more than 1,200 places and visiting every continent on the planet – well, that’s pretty interesting.

He caught the adventure bug back in 1992. He had been a medic on a medevac helicopter in the Vietnam War, and he always enjoyed flying. So he got a pilot’s license, bought a small airplane named Lucky Lady, and flew to Paris. Four months later, he crashed on takeoff in Nairobi, Kenya. He had made it halfway around the world.

For the next eight years, he talked about finishing his around-the-world adventure.

“In 2000 I decided to quit talking about it,” he said. “I was nearly 50. I decided to do it over a 10-year period to allow me to see and experience as much of the world as I possibly could.”

He bought “Lucky Lady Too” and set a world aviation record. He traveled for the next 10 years – for about a month at a time – to 35 African countries, nearly all of the Middle East, and to all North American, South American, and Central American countries – plus the North Pole and Antarctica. In all, he made 43 “legs,” traveling around the world 2 ½ times.

Surprisingly, it isn’t about the flying at all. “I don’t love to fly,” Bob says. “The plane gets me where I want to go. I don’t claim to be a good pilot, but I am a lucky pilot.”

Bob’s adventures have included motorcycle trips in New Zealand and Vietnam, scuba diving, attending a bachelor’s ball in Australia, and climbing to Mount Everest base camp.

Today, at age 60, Bob’s home is in Henderson, Nev., but he continues to travel. “Follow your curiosity,” he says. It’s because of his insatiable curiosity that he traveled around the world.

“I wanted to see things before I die.”

A career gamble that paid off

4 Jan

Alison for blog

More than 320,000 people gathered in Las Vegas last summer for one of the largest music events in North America: The Electric Daisy Carnival. For three nights, fans were entertained by more than 150 musical acts, 500 theatrical performers, and 12 large-scale interactive installations and pyrotechnic displays.

Alison Monaghan (’05 journalism/mass communication) was there. A senior account executive for Kirvin Doak Communications in Las Vegas, Alison worked through the night, making sure the needs of the media and the artists’ publicists were being met.

Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC) is a year-round account for Kirvin Doak, and Alison handles the publicity aspects of the mega-event.

“I work with media coverage,” Alison explained. “It’s very cool to see your first story run in Rolling Stone. It’s one of those pinch-me moments.”

Alison works not just with EDC but with other clients including those involved in Las Vegas entertainment, nightlife, resorts, and real estate. (Once, a story she pitched about bilingual casino dealers made it on the front page of the New York Times.) She also works for clients in the nonprofit world, specifically with the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, a golf tournament in the fall series of the PGA Tour.

The Las Vegas strip is a world away from Alison’s rural hometown of Guthrie Center, Iowa. After she graduated from Iowa State, Alison knew she wanted to travel and live in a big city in a different part of the country, but she wasn’t sure where.

She asked herself: “Where can I move to be on my own and prove I can do it?” She sent resumes to New York with no luck, then moved to San Diego. From there, she was told that Las Vegas was the best place to get a job in public relations.

Alison gambled and won. She’s been in Las Vegas for six years now, and she’s in no hurry to move on.

“For me, this is a place to put some roots down and stay here for a long time,” she said. “For where I am in my life, this is my dream job. I’m excited every day.”

The American Southwest

27 Nov

Jim and I returned Nov. 19 from our tour of the American Southwest, where we met with nine alumni in the states of California, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico. This trip exceeded our wildest expectations; ISU alumni never cease to wow us! Here’s a quick look at places we went and the people we met:


We started our Southwest tour in the Los Angeles area where we met Lana Rushing (’94 journalism/mass communication), principal and owner of Rushing Public Relations, at a coffee shop in Santa Monica. We also learned just how windy it can be on the Southern California coast and what havoc that can create during a photo shoot.

The next day we traveled to Temecula to meet with Rosie (Iverson) Wilson, owner (along with her husband, Gerry) of Wilson Creek Winery & Vineyards. Rosie is a 1952 child development grad, and she and Gerry showed us a terrific time at the winery and restaurant they run with the help of their family. We even got to meet their pet pig, Molly Merlot, who was dressed in flowers and more adorable than I knew a pig could be.



Up next was a trip to Las Vegas to meet Alison Monaghan, a 2005 journalism/mass communication grad. Alison is a senior account executive for Kirvin Doak Communications. We met her on the Las Vegas Strip, which is not the easiest place to do a photo shoot. That’s me, Jim, and Alison standing near the Paris Las Vegas.

The following morning we met Bob Gannon (’74 ag business) at the Henderson Executive Airport. I’ve wanted to do a story on Bob for years, so it was really exciting to interview and photograph him. Bob’s been around the world 2.5 times in a single-engine airplane, and he took Jim and me on a most memorable ride.



After leaving Bob in Henderson, Nev., we drove to Flagstaff, Ariz., for the night. I knew it would be cold during some of this trip, and I thought I was prepared, but I was still surprised that the temperature gauge read 14 degrees the next morning! We did not have an ice scraper in our rental car, so we had to blast the defrost for awhile before taking off for Sedona to meet with Elizabeth “Debbie” (Sisson) Wych. Debbie (’70 elementary education) is a retired elementary school counselor who hikes and volunteers extensively in beautiful Sedona.

From there we drove to Tucson. The next morning we met U.S. Border Patrol public affairs officer Jeremy Copeland, who drove us about an hour and a half to Sells, Ariz., to meet up with ISU alumnus Shawn Kyne (’05 political science). Shawn has been a U.S. Border Patrol agent since 2008. The two of them took Jim and me on a wild ride-along through the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation, which is roughly the size of Connecticut. That’s Jim and Shawn at the U.S./Mexico border fence.


The next day, all we did was drive: from Tucson across southeast Arizona all the way up to north-central New Mexico. It was a long day, broken up by lunch in the tiny town of Hatch, N.M., AKA The Chile Capital of the World. We sampled the famous red and green chiles and found them both delicious. We ended our drive in Santa Fe.

We drove the next morning up the mountains into Los Alamos, where we met Kory Budlong Sylvester (’92 nuclear engineering). Kory is a technical staff member of the Nonproliferation and International Security Division for the Los Alamos National Laboratory. He and his wife, Susan (’86 journalism/mass communication), above, have two sons and long, loyal ties to Iowa State.

From there, we went back through Santa Fe (for dessert and a quick peek through a few art galleries) and on to our final destination: Albuquerque.

Jim and I fell in love with Albuquerque, which was a good thing because we had to kill a full day there. We were scheduled to meet with hot-air balloonists Lyndi Dittmer-Perry (’83 industrial administration) and her husband, Jim Perry (’67 electrical engineering), before dawn near the Balloon Fiesta Park, but the weather didn’t cooperate, nor did it cooperate later that day. So we moved our photo shoot to the following morning, which was also the day we were scheduled to travel back to Iowa. Luckily, everything worked out, and Jim and I had a blast with Jim and Lyndi and their “It’s a Zoo” balloon crew (above, with Jim and Lyndi at the far left). It was the perfect way to end a great trip.

As always, some of these alumni features will be published in the special spring 2014 VISIONS Across America issue and others will appear in the coming weeks on this blog. Thanks for reading!