Archive | West Virginia RSS feed for this section

A place to land

1 Jun


It’s 7:30 a.m., and Michael Clow (’78 naval science) is walking through the Morgantown Municipal Airport. He’s checking out the facility and the airport grounds, looking for anything out of the ordinary, anything that’s not functioning properly, anything that’s not perfectly clean. He stops to talk to the pilots, the rental car representatives, and the United Express agents.

It’s the way Michael starts each day as the director of the Morgantown Municipal Airport. The daily walk-through is followed by meetings, perhaps a discussion with the FAA or the state aeronautical commission, and media inquiries.

“When anything is going on in the world regarding air travel, [local reporters] call me,” Michael said.

The Morgantown position is a step up from Michael’s previous jobs at the Tallahassee, Fla., airport, where he spent 13 years, most recently as the airport’s planning and development manager. He arrived in Morgantown in September 2011, just as West Virginia University joined the Big 12 Conference.

“This is the first time I’ve been anywhere that Iowa State came to play,” Michael says. “The volleyball and women’s basketball teams flew in here last fall, and I got to greet them as they got off the planes.”

Morgantown Municipal is a relatively small airport, with about 40,000 operations (takeoffs and landings) each year. The airport is served by United Express through Washington, D.C.

Michael and his wife, Teri, enjoy living in a college town.

“Morgantown is a great place to live,” he says.


18 Jul

07-01-13 SUSAN IMG_6845

Susan (Kennedy) Elkin (’70 applied art) always loved animals and always loved art. Her mix of classes in animal science, pottery, and other art subjects at Iowa State prepared her for a life on Cobun Creek Farm in Morgantown, W.V., where she has 38 acres of land, a pottery studio, and a flock of Coopworth sheep. She also has a smattering of geese, chickens, peacocks, and angora goats; a house full of purebred Maine Coon cats; an alpaca; and a couple of Great Pyrenees dogs to guard the sheep.

Though she came to Iowa State to study veterinary medicine, Susan fell in love with creating pottery the first time she took the class, and she says her work at the Octagon Center for the Arts in Ames set her on a path to making pottery for a living. She’s since given up the activity due to a number of health issues, but she stays active on the farm, breeding, raising, and selling animals and their products, including wool and peacock feathers.

“I try to be as creative as I can with the sheep,” she says, pulling out container after container filled with naturally dyed wool and yarn in a rainbow of beautiful colors. She sells her products directly to customers, but also to local shops and at the annual Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival.

A sign in Susan’s kitchen proclaims “I’m creative, not neat,” and, indeed, Susan’s home, barn, log cabin, and studio are filled with such an assortment of stuff that you could spend a month just discovering all that’s there.

She says she couldn’t manage the place without her friends. And although she says she “misses Iowa terribly,” she’s content for now to live among her flowers and gardens and her real-life petting zoo.

The last of the east

9 Jul


Our VISIONS Across America trip to Indiana, Ohio, and West Virginia (the last of the eastern states!) will be remembered for its unique sounds and smells: A jet engine, fresh-baked brownies, a professional football team’s locker room, hot asphalt, wet sheep, and an impromptu living-room banjo concert.

Alumni in these three states are an eclectic bunch. We met folks in big cities, suburbs, and small towns. All had great stories to share.



We started with a daylong drive to Indianapolis to meet with two alumni in that capital city. The first was Dr. Douglas McKeag (’68 zoology), professor emeritus and former chair of the Department of Family Medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine. He’s also the founding director of the IU Center for Sports Medicine and has been on the sidelines as the team physician for a number of university and professional sports teams. We met Doug at the impressive Lucas Oil Stadium on the south side of downtown Indianapolis; after some wrangling with the facilities folks, Jim was allowed to photograph Doug on the concourse and even in the Indianapolis Colts’ locker room. Pretty cool!


Later that day – after lunch in a downtown Indianapolis eatery and a quick peek at the excellent Indianapolis Museum of Art – we were treated to a toe-tapping banjo/fiddle concert at the home of Donald Somers (’58 ag journalism), accompanied by his friend, Bill Banker.

06-27-13-IMG_4719In an email to me, Don described himself as a “rabid banjo enthusiast,” and that was pretty obvious once I saw his music room filled with banjos (above) and learned that he had more banjos in the closet and under the bed…a real banjo explosion. Don played in a bluegrass band in Milwaukee, Wis., but he now plays “old-time clawhammer style” every week with friends near Indianapolis. He even treated Jim and me to a banjo rendition of the Iowa State fight song!



Continuing east the next day, we dropped in on Nate Carr (’85 sociology), one of Iowa State’s most outstanding wrestlers of all time. Nate was busy working with a group of young wrestlers at Troy Christian School just north of Dayton at a Carr Wrestling Club summer camp, but he took time out to visit with us. Nate’s a husband (he met his wife, Linda, at Iowa State), father of seven children (oldest son Nate Jr. wrestled for Iowa State and graduated in 2012), coach, minister, Olympic medalist – and just a super nice guy. We got to meet Linda as well as their youngest son, 14-year-old David.


Our next stop was hands-down the sweetest experience we’ve had on our VISIONS Across America travels. I think I may have gained a few pounds, and I certainly got my sweet tooth satisfied – all thanks to Mark Ballard (’84 family services; MS ’86 professional studies in education). Mark is co-founder and co-CEO of Sugardaddy’s Sumptuous Sweeties, a brownie and blondie boutique bakery in Columbus. These are not your ordinary treats…they are decadent and amazing. Believe me, I tried a lot of different flavors (caramel, peanut butter, and toasted coconut with cashews, to name a few) and I could very easily work my way through the rest of the menu (cherry almond, nutty blonde, campfire s’mores, chai spiced, cinnamon, rich mint, and more) – all hand crafted in small batches and sold fresh the day they’re made. Mark is a master marketer and businessman, and he’s taken Sugardaddy’s way beyond a typical local bakery: His company has received national attention from the Food Network, Ellen DeGeneres, InStyle magazine, and many others. You can visit Sugardaddy’s three locations in Columbus or order on the Web.


Morgantown, W.V., is home to the newest member of the Big 12: West Virginia University. We met two alumni in Morgantown and also took a tour of WVU’s Erickson Alumni Center, one of the nicest alumni facilities I’ve seen. (Join us there this fall for a football tailgate!)


Our first alumni visit was with Michael Clow (’78 naval science). We met him at the Morgantown Municipal Airport, where he is director. It was a hot day – way too hot to be photographing someone on the tarmac, if you ask me. But Michael spent the last decade-plus in Florida, so he was used to the heat, and Jim will do anything to get a great shot. (I preferred sitting in the air-conditioned pilots’ lounge.)


We woke the next morning to stormy skies and steady rain. This was not a good thing, because our travels took us to Susan Elkin (’70 applied art), owner of Cobun Creek Farm. Susan has 38 lovely acres, a flock of Coopworth sheep, geese, chickens, peacocks, angora goats, a house full of purebred Maine Coon cats, and a couple of Great Pyrenees (the polar bear of dog breeds) to guard the sheep. By the time we left, we were both wet from the rain, muddy from the sheep, and I was covered with cat hair (my own fault, I’ll admit). Susan’s place is like a real-life petting zoo.


I’ll be writing more about each of these alumni and posting some of their stories in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, the big countdown is really on: 39 states completed and just 11 more to go! Next up is Nebraska, the Cornhusker State (and a super quick drive from Ames!)