Taking the Pulse of the American Dream

Here’s a challenge. How do you document a subject of national importance that people see all over the news, but rarely ever think about?

It’s a question Kat Ryder and her student interns are answering with the Permanent American Dream Video Archive, a project of the Center for the Study of the American Dream. The archive supplements the Center’s aggregate surveys and research by offering a glimpse of how individuals perceive the American Dream.

“We wanted to take a different view,” Ryder says. “We wanted to talk to people from all walks of life about how they see the American Dream.” The project began last August, and Ryder already sees it fulfilling its objective: to be “a memorial for lives lived and an inspiration for the next generation’s American Dream.”

The routine is simple and student-driven. Ryder’s student interns identify individuals who embody the American Dream in some way. Then they contact that person, explain the project and, if they’re willing, schedule an interview.

The students record the interviews, edit them and finally post the finished product on the project’s website. So far the students have interviewed CEOs, journalists, immigrants, entrepreneurs, musicians and more. The interviews have taken place on campus, around Cincinnati, in New York City and Las Vegas—and over Skype.

The result is an intimate series of portraits of America’s trademark concept.

“Having a video archive, you get to see the person,” Ryder says. “You get to feel the energy. It’s much more engaging than a written-out interview.” It also helps personalize what can be an abstract idea.

“The media talks about the American Dream every day,” Ryder says. “And I know. I get Google Alerts about it.” But people rarely consider how the concept relates to them. “You don’t really think about it,” she says. “You think it’s a corny subject that’s just in books. But when you realize that people here have the opportunity and freedom to go after their dreams, their passions, you start to really believe in the American Dream.”

The students are trying to document a broad range of individuals. Recent subjects have included the CEO of dunnhumbyUSA, a homeless woman who went to Harvard, the life coach at Zappos and a French business owner who found in America the keys to his success. Ryder says the goal of the archive is to gather as many voices as possible in what she hopes will become a searchable database.

“We want to know what real Americans think,” she says.

One of the archive’s interns is Kevin Tighe, a senior English major. His first interview was with an active-duty Marine named Brian Giera who was adopted from Korea as a baby. When Tighe talked to him, Giera had already served a tour in Afghanistan and was on his way to Europe.

Tighe chose him as a subject because he wanted to know how someone thought about the American Dream who is currently fighting for it. Tighe reached Giera via Skype at his base in Hawaii, shortly before he deployed to Europe. Tighe was impressed by the sense of duty in Giera’s perception of the American Dream.

“He kept emphasizing it’s what he is called to do, because he was given so much,” Tighe says.

Tighe has received positive responses from other interview subjects as well.

“People want to talk to students,” he says. “That’s why I really enjoy this project.”

And Tighe isn’t shy of asking high-profile people for interviews—people like Bob McDonald, the CEO of Procter and Gamble­—even though he knows they are more often than not going to decline the request.

“If I get a no, it’s a no, that’s the worst they can say. So why not? I’m really a shoot-for-the-moon, land-in-the-stars type of guy.”

If he could interview anyone in America though, it would be Bruce Springsteen.

“He’s like the embodiment of America,” he says. “I’d, like, faint if I found out I’d be talking to the Boss.”

Short of that, Tighe is happy to keep asking everyday Americans about their personal American Dream.

“Everyone knows someone that has a good American Dream story,” he says. “Even the smallest person can have the biggest dreams, and achieve them.”

That’s the idea this country was built upon.

Watch videos here.

Where Are They Now?

Next year marks the 40th anniversary of the end of Xavier football.

It was a turning point in the history of the University. Agree with it or not, one thing can’t be argued: Xavier produced some quality players—and people. We tracked down some of them to see what they’ve been doing in the years since they left campus.

 

[divider]Tim Dydo ’74 [/divider]

A quarterback takes risks. A placekicker doesn’t. And that is what Tim Dydo spends his days doingTimDydo as a financial consultant with Country Financial in the northern Chicago suburb of Libertyville, Ill.—figuring out who’s a quarterback and who’s a kicker; that is, who likes to take risks with their investments and who likes to play it safe.

Dydo, an honorable mention All-American quarterback during his time at Xavier, also keeps a steady hand in football, serving as a wide receiver and defensive backs coach for the last 15 years, first at Libertyville High School and now at nearby Vernon Hills. He also likes to keep track of his former players who went on to college and the NFL, including Kevin Walter of the Houston Texans; Evan Spencer, a wide receiver at Ohio State; and DaVaris Daniels, a wide receiver at Notre Dame.

Dydo almost didn’t make it to Xavier. He was recruited out of high school by several Ivy League schools, including Brown. One of the assistant coaches there was Dick Selcer, who continued to recruit Dydo when he got the head coaching job at Xavier for the 1970 season. Dydo ended up throwing for 3,690 yards, second-most in school history to Hall of Famer Carroll Williams. He helped the Musketeers to wins in the final three games of the program’s history, with wins over Northern Illinois, Villanova and Toledo to end the year 5-5-1. But Dydo, who was inducted into the Xavier Hall of Fame in 1992, sounds wistful nearly 40 years later. “It was not enough to keep the program,” he says.

[divider]John Shinners ’69 [/divider]

Athletes and the media have always had a tenuous relationship. Except with the Shinners family. They seemed to love them both. After a standout career at Xavier, John Shinners became a first-106 John Shinnersround draft pick of the New Orleans Saints and spent eight years butting heads with players in the NFL. After retiring in 1977, Shinners followed in the footsteps of his father, a former minor league baseball player who began the Hartford Times-Press in 1933. In 1954, he became the co-owner of the Menomonee Falls News in Wisconsin, and in 1969 he bought several weekly newspapers in the Milwaukee area. “That is the environment I grew up in,” says Shinners, a liberal arts graduate. Shinners eventually became president of Shinners Publications before selling the company in 1997. He now lives in Sturgeon Bay, Wis., works as a business consultant and does work with a local radio station. Shinners was the 17th overall pick in the NFL draft—a move that even surprised him. “Being drafted in the first round was exciting,” he says. “I was not highly recruited out of high school, let me put it that way. I never thought I would play professional football.” He was playing golf with NFL quarterback Billy Kilmer when he learned he got traded to the Baltimore Colts prior to the 1972 season. There, he got to snap the ball to Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas. He then played for the Cincinnati Bengals from 1973-1977 and was roommates for several years with quarterback Ken Anderson. In all, Shinners played in 97 games in the NFL, 66 with the Bengals.

[divider]Bill Howe ’74 [/divider]

The last game in Xavier football history saw Bill Howe reach a personal milestone. “I got an Howeinterception that set a school record for career interceptions,” Howe, a defensive back, says of that home win over Toledo the day after Thanksgiving in 1973.

That team was 3-0-1 in its last four games, all at home, to finish the year 5-5-1 overall. It was the only non-losing team that Howe played on at Xavier. “We put up a lot of offensive numbers and we needed them because of our defense,” Howe says with a laugh.

But Howe says it was team play and not individual milestones that stays with him nearly 40 years later. “It was a good lesson in teamwork. Football helps you deal with people and get along with people, since you spend so much time together,” he says. “For the most part your best friends are in that college environment.”

Howe received his bachelor’s degree from Xavier, a Master of Law in taxation from New York University and a JD from the University of Cincinnati College of Law. He has been practicing business and tax law since 1978 and for nearly 20 years has been with Cincinnati’s DeVita and Howe, where he is a partner.

Howe enjoys tennis, classic rock and spending time with his family at a favorite vacation spot in Destin, Fla. He and his?wife, Janie, have five children and one of them, Patrick, was a long snapper for Ohio State and ended his college career in the 2010 Rose Bowl.

[divider]Mark Pfeiffer ‘73 [/divider]

Mark Pfeiffer knows the drill, so to speak. He tells people what he does for a living and then sits back and waits for the groans and bad jokes. “What a painful job.” “That job’s like pulling teeth.” markP“Your job must be filling.” Truth be told, the former Xavier wide receiver is part of a family business that many people want to have no business with. He has a doctorate in dentistry and has an office in Fort Thomas, Ky., that he now shares with one of his four sons. Their motto: “We cater to cowards.”

Pfeiffer never ventured far from his roots. He played football at neighboring Covington Catholic High School and is in the school’s Hall of Fame. “I am still married to my high school sweetheart. I wanted to stay local,” says Pfeiffer.

Pfeiffer clearly remembers the first game of his junior season. The game was against Marshall, which lost 37 players in a Southern Airways plane crash in 1970 after returning from a game at East Carolina University. In its first home game after the crash, Marshall beat Xavier, 15-13, for the first win for the new program. A few years ago, Hollywood turned the game into a movie.

But that’s not what Pfeiffer remembers the most about football at Xavier. It was the people. His teammates. Like Ben Ballard who was the best man at his wedding. That’s what made Xavier football special. And still does.

[divider]Mike Dennis ’73 [/divider]

A little romance helped Mike Dennis end up at Xavier. A football standout at St. Mary’s High School in Sandusky, Ohio, Dennis was recruited by Navy, Penn, Case Western and Toledo, among others. But none of the others stood a chance.mike dennis

“I met a girl down there on my visit to Xavier,” he says. “She lived near Toledo.”

So is that girl now his wife? Does the story have a fairytale ending? “No,” he says with a laugh. She was just a girl. But she was enough to land the center at Xavier.

Dennis was also attracted to the Xavier program by Dick Selcer, the head coach in 1970-1971 who later went on to be a longtime assistant coach in the NFL. “He was an excellent salesperson and very charismatic,” says Dennis.

Dennis graduated from Xavier with a bachelor’s degree in physics and then got a master’s degree in radiological physics from the University of Cincinnati in 1974. He followed that with a doctorate in medical physics/biophysics from the University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Science in San Antonio in 1979, and he is now an associate professor of radiology at the Medical College of Ohio in Toledo.

He has a son who is an engineer in Arizona, an older daughter who has a doctorate in bioengineering and a younger daughter who has a nursing background and is a captain in the Air Force.

[divider]Herman “Buck” Motz ’54 [/divider]

Herman Motz collapsed in his home on Sept. 8, 2011. It was his 82nd birthday. “I was passed out,” Motzhe says. “I had a bleeding ulcer and was in the hospital for a week.” After 14 pints of blood, Motz was released and cleared to attend a ceremony honoring his 25 years of coaching high school football in Denver. Thomas Jefferson High School, where he prowled the sidelines as head coach from 1976-1989 and accumulated an astonishing 135-30-1 record and two state championships, was naming its football field after him.

“It is kind of strange,” he says. “You expect someone has to be dead for such recognition. But it was really great. A lot of the players came back that day. It was just wonderful.”

Motz, who taught Latin, English and even some sciences at Thomas Jefferson from 1967-1992, was in ROTC when he graduated from Xavier with a degree in business administration. As he finished up his military commitment in Fort Collins, Colo., “I met the most wonderful girl. She was from Pueblo [Colo.]” Motz married her and never left the state. That was 56 years ago.

Interestingly, Motz came to Xavier despite two challenges: He didn’t play high school football because his school in Newtown, Ohio, didn’t have a team. And his mother wanted him to attend medical school. “I told my mom I was going to a school where I can get a different education. She didn’t like it very much.”

With football and teaching now behind him, Motz has become a master gardener and volunteers at the Denver Botanical Gardens. “I work inside with our wildflower collection,” he says. “We have 48,000 species.”

 

[divider]Steve Bailey ’68 [/divider]

His playing days are long gone. But Steve Bailey of Cincinnati is still involved in football on and off the field as president of the local chapter of the National Football Foundation College Hall of Fame.

“What we do is we honor from 13 to 14 student-athletes each year in southwest Ohio and Northern Kentucky for their football, scholastic achievements and extracurricular activities,” he says.DSC_0192

Bailey has been impressed with the credentials he has seen over the years from these young men, be it their status as first-team all-state players on the field or their leadership as student council presidents off the gridiron. Each year the organization at the national level has a dinner at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City.

Bailey, a partner with The Drew Law Firm, also finds time to get on the field as an assistant coach for the varsity football team at Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky, where his son, Steve, is a center.

Bailey, who’s been called Beetle since eighth grade, played at Newark Catholic in Ohio. “I came to Xavier as a running back,” he says. “Those were the days that you went both ways. I got redshirted my second year and then became a cornerback. I started three years.”

And, like many of his teammates, once he came to Cincinnati he never left. “I came here and loved the city. Playing football at Xavier opened doors for me. The first law firm I went to, the managing partners were guys who followed the football program. When I applied, I got a return letter in two days that said come on in.”

[divider]Carroll Williams ‘69 [/divider]

As top executive for the Golden Eagle Mediation Group and Victory Coach Inc. for the past 15 years, Carroll Williams’ South Florida consulting service has focused on offering team-building Williamsexercises and self-esteem classes for individuals, athletes and corporations. “I counsel people about gaining confidence.”

As starting quarterback at Xavier, Williams didn’t lack in confidence. He set 12 school football records and, in his junior year, led the University team to an 8-2 season, its best in 15 years. Williams was selected to the All-Catholic All-America Team that year and was also chosen as the 1965 Catholic College Player of the Year.

Williams played professional football for five years in the Canadian Football League, with the Montreal Alouettes and British Columbia Lions. He then returned to his hometown of Miami to begin a three-decade career as an educator, high school principal and coach with the Miami-Dade County Public Schools system.

In his role as life coach, Williams works with people on organizing, prioritizing, and developing positive chemistry. A client “may want more success, more money, closer relationships, a deeper meaning in life [or to] break down prior actions to get to the root of those processes and behaviors that get in the way and set goals relating to self-esteem, relief of anxiety and confidence building.

“Many believe that there is a price to pay to get what you want. This price can be poor health, unbearable stress, strained relationships or lessened productivity. The unfortunate consequence of hanging onto this belief is that it hinders focus on individual goals.”

[divider]Bob Pickard ’74 [/divider]

Bob Pickard wants to set the record straight. He has heard and read that he scored the first touchdown in the history of the Pontiac Silverdome as a member of the Detroit Lions in 1974. Bob Pickard President of Interior Supply JUL-23-2012 Photo by Jo McCultyPickard shakes his head. Nope. His claim to fame was that he caught the first pass in the first exhibition played in the domed stadium. Pickard played in 14 games for the Lions and caught eight passes for 88 yards and one touchdown in 1974, his lone season in the National Football League.

But Pickard said it was providential that in his only season in the NFL, his wide receiver coach was Raymond Berry, who was a Hall of Fame wide receiver for the Baltimore Colts. “He was my boyhood idol,” says Pickard. “It was the highlight of my life. He is such a quality person.”

Berry, a committed Christian, would give note cards to Pickard with Bible verses and other motivational sayings. “He wrote some of them when he was playing. I still have those cards to this day,” he says.

Years later, Pickard’s son, Brian, was an all-state wide receiver at Dublin [Ohio] High School and went on to play at the University of Kentucky under head coach Guy Morriss, who, ironically, played on the offensive line for the New England Patriots when Berry was the team’s head coach. Apparently the Berry doesn’t fall far from the tree either.

Off the field, Pickard has built a life as president of Interior Supply Inc., a business he started in the late 1980s that now has locations in seven cities in Ohio. The company sells building material such as drywall and ceiling supplies—materials that weren’t in high demand when the real estate bubble burst. But, as any good wide receiver would, Pickard knew where to find the openings.

“We have been able to weather the tough times,” he says. “We have done pretty well.”

Granted

In June, Xavier was named one of 15 schools nationally awarded a $100,000 grant from the American Council on Education and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for its innovative work in faculty retirement.

The selected institutions are working together to share and enhance their best practices around three culminating stages of faculty careers: the development of a legacy, the transition into retirement and the continuing involvement of faculty in the University post-retirement.

As a Jesuit Catholic university, Xavier’s mission includes the Jesuit value of “cura personalis,” care for the whole person, which guides it to support employees along the various stages of their career paths. Retired faculty have been provided with a range of opportunities to stay engaged in the University, ranging from continuing to receive basketball tickets to being asked to temporarily fill administrative leadership roles during moments of restructuring.

Xavier also has a long practice of awarding a semester-long sabbatical to retiring faculty who have been at the University for 30 years or more. This is seen as a significant recognition of their impact in shaping the institution. The most promising retirement transition practice started in 2009 with “The Second 50,” a program that focuses on the second half of life.

Enhancing Jobs with a Black Belt

The Department of Management and Entrepreneurship in the Williams College of Business is taking a page out of the popular Six Sigma business development method by creating a similar black belt program, but this one is geared specifically for entrepreneurship. It’s the first such program in the nation.

To be awarded a blue or black belt, students submit applications about their experience managing or starting a business and meet four qualifications: high academic achievement, positive faculty recommendations, their project’s impact on the college and a

comprehensive interview.

A committee of faculty and two management and entrepreneurship board members, who are also Six Sigma black belts, judged the participants’ work in the program’s first year. In April, the seven winners were awarded three blue and four black belt certificates. A blue belt is for those who manage a business. Black belts are reserved for those who start up their own.

“Students gain preparation for their future and confidence and understanding how to survive in the business world,” says Daewoo Park, department chair. “It’s very challenging.”

Bracken Books

It was a busy summer for longtime Xavier Jesuit Joseph Bracken, S.J. The professor emeritus of theology, who began teaching at Xavier in 1982, published his 10th book, Does God Roll Dice? Divine Providence for a World in the Making, a response to Albert Einstein’s oft-quoted saying that “God does not play dice.”

Bracken combines his knowledge of both religion and science to form a foundation for his process theology beliefs, and does so well enough that at least one reviewer called the book “A must read if you are interested in the harmonious totality of the nature of existence and a rational, well-thought-out teleology to go along with it.”

Bracken was also the subject of a Festschrift, a book the academic community puts together to honor those respected in their field. Festschrifts typically contain original essays by colleagues. Bracken was honored with the Festschrift, titled Seeking Common Ground: Evaluation and Critique of Joseph Bracken’s Comprehensive Worldview, at two conferences over the summer, one for the Catholic Theological Society of America and one for the College Theology Society. Panelists at both conferences offered their own thoughts on Bracken’s work and

process theology.

“It was all very nice,” says the 80-year-old Bracken, “except they all kept referring to me in the past tense.”

Dream Course

The first time the American public heard the phrase “American Dream” was in 1914, when Walter Lippmann referred to it once in his book Drift and Mastery to describe the importance of the “enterprising individual” in America.

The public barely noticed. It wasn’t until 1931 when John Truslow Adams used the term more than 30 times in The Epic of America that the phrase took on the iconic symbolism it retains today. It has since become part of the American vernacular, a phrase that defines the essence of what America is all about.

But the Dream is looking a little frayed of late. With globalization, polarized politics and the anemic economy, Americans are beginning to doubt the promise of hope that the American Dream has always represented.

Just ask Roger Fortin. After 47 years at Xavier as a professor, an administrator and, most recently, as academic vice president and provost, Fortin is taking on a new role, making the American Dream his specialty. Beginning this fall, he is becoming the executive director and administrator of Xavier’s Center for the Study of the American Dream. And he is teaching a senior seminar on the American Dream to the 16 seniors in the Philosophy, Politics and the Public honors program.

“In the course, I will discuss that even though the term was not coined until 1931, it has had ongoing relevance since the immigrants came for opportunity and a fuller life,” Fortin says. “The term is a promise and is closely connected with and embedded in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights.”

The history of the American Dream is a relevant topic to study today because a lot can be learned about this nation when viewed through the lens of the Dream. In his book, Adams notes that early presidents embraced the ideal that all Americans should have the same opportunities for advancement. Others, like Roosevelt, agitated for social reform to ensure all citizens had access to those opportunities. Later presidents rallied around its concepts, Fortin says, such as Nixon, who was the first to refer directly to it, and more recently Reagan, Clinton and Obama.

From the first settlers who crossed the ocean seeking religious freedom to the swarms of immigrants who followed to find a better life, to the veterans who sought refuge in home and family, the American Dream has meant different things to different generations, Fortin says. It has such far-reaching implications for the future of America that it has become an issue of discussion again, something to be studied formally.

The course covers the history of the Dream from the arrival of the Puritans in the 1600s to the present day. Students will study what lured the first immigrants to America, the shaping of the new nation, and what the Founding Fathers were seeking when they wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. \

“We’ll be asking how have the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness changed and evolved since then, how they are at the heart of the American Dream,” Fortin says. “We will evaluate the success of the American Dream, and we’ll look at those who have been omitted from the Dream, the paradox of the declaration of freedom for all versus slavery, women subordinate to men, and Native Americans. Not all immigrants were included.”

They will study how presidents of both parties have invoked the Dream, in particular Reagan and Clinton, and see how each envisioned different paths to the same goal. They will learn that the Dream “doesn’t belong to any political party, because it’s an American Dream.” And they’ll look at how the Dream is affected today by factors that seem beyond the reach of most Americans.

“Today people doubt whether the American Dream will be realized by their children,” he says. “So many are concerned about the future of the Dream because they’re not sure there will be enough jobs, education, opportunity. It’s fundamentally about hope, and we will ask, how is it faring today? We will study, at its root, how does the American Dream allow people to fulfill themselves.

“My take is that people are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It’s a contract with the people. It’s an attempt to make society as feasible for as many people as possible. Walter Lippmann believed the American Dream was fulfilled when we make sure that no one is forced to live in poverty.”

Living Well

As he entered retirement, Jim Ollier worried about all the stories he heard over the years of people falling apart without the dependable demand of the daily workplace routine. What was he going to do? How was he going to cope?

“All of a sudden you’re not going to work everyday. What happens?” Ollier says. “I heard horror stories of people not knowing what to do. I had finished working and was ready to move on, so I was looking for what others have done and how do you transition into it.”

Ollier and his wife Nancy, both of whom graduated from Xavier in 1963, learned about a new program Xavier was offering called The Second 50 that promised to help older people in retirement find meaning and purpose in the second half of their lives.

That it was founded and led by Leo Klein, S.J., a favorite acquaintance of Ollier’s, made it all the more exciting. The Olliers signed up, joining a class of, 40 who met nine times over six months. They read books, watched films and had discussions about seven topics pertinent to people as they age, such as memories, wisdom and spirituality, and loss.

“People come because they instinctively know there’s more to do, there’s more to life,” Klein says. “The challenges of old age are the new challenges.”

Klein got the idea for the program from his readings about the Hindu religion, which breaks life into three phases—youth, a time of acquisition; middle age, a time of responsibility; and old age, a time of wisdom and perspective. Klein calls it the diminishment period when people experience loss—the deaths of friends and family, retirement from work, children moving out—and says it’s another in a series of challenges people face throughout their lives.

“In America, people look at it as living their lives to the top and then going downhill, but I think you keep going up and at each stage of the journey, you have different challenges to deal with,” Klein says. “At the end, there is another challenge. Getting old. You are going up to the climax of your life. You close your eyes in death and see the face of God.”

Klein designed the program thinking Xavier needs to take care of its alumni long after graduation. It’s been so popular that he recruited a fourth class for this fall, limiting it to 34 students. He also invited retiring faculty and staff.

The group gathers on campus for food and discussions of the assigned film, book or essay. After completing The Second 50 program, Ollier was motivated to return to a project he started after retiring in 2008, writing a collection of “life’s lessons,” words of wisdom for his grandchildren.

But he was swept away by the topic of loss and limitation after watching the movie “Away From Her.” In the film, an elderly woman with Alzheimer’s disease decides to go to a nursing home against her husband’s wishes. In time she doesn’t recognize her husband and becomes attached to another man.

“That hit me, and I started thinking, what’s going to happen to us? Will one of us get Alzheimer’s or a disease?” Ollier says. “I realized we don’t know what’s in store, and The Second 50 gives you a format to help with developing a perspective for those things. The program really helped me focus on what I need to be doing in this phase of my life.”

To learn more about the program, call 513-745-4286.

Life’s Playground

Monica Scalf was teaching a freshman composition class at Xavier when someone in the class had one of those ah-ha moments—those times of discovery when the light bulb of understanding suddenly pops on.

As it turns out, the ah-ha person was her.

She asked her students to perform a writing exercise to put them in touch with the things that made them happy—a joy map. To inspire them, she put her own joy map on the board. Around the word “joy” she drew circles, each representing something that she loved to do. Biking. Reading novels. Playing with her children. Date night with her husband.

When she turned to look at her joy map on the board, she stopped short. She realized she didn’t do any of those things anymore.

“My bike had a flat tire. There were no date nights. I didn’t read novels anymore,” she says. “I knew something had to change.” She decided to stop teaching at Xavier, where she worked as an adjunct faculty member from 2004-2007 after earning her master’s degree in English in 2003, and concentrate on writing. She would restore the balance in her life.

“The joy map was a big clue to me that I had let all the things that brought me joy be replaced by things that were stressful. I had let those good things go and was not giving them priority. I was just getting through the day.”

By reorganizing her life, Scalf regained the balance she lost, and she also discovered her newest line of work. She continued writing a humor column about motherhood for a weekly newspaper, expanded her blog The Ordinary Matters on the same topic, wrote a book, Live In The Little, became a certified stress management coach and began accepting public speaking gigs.

Then after her father died suddenly, Scalf realized she wanted to work at helping people decrease stress and increase the energy and joy in their lives. She formed a small business, the Playground Group, in 2009 that gives workshops to help people manage the stress in their lives by rediscovering the joy they felt as children.

Her first client was a group of women at Procter & Gamble. Since then she’s given talks or held workshops for about 24 local organizations including Lexis Nexis, North American Properties and Xavier.

Scalf makes her workshops fun to get her message across. Her favorite prop is a backpack into which she puts canned goods that represent the stresses in a person’s life. She advises people to manage the items in their backpacks by dealing with the biggest stressors first. She also recommends sleep, exercise and an expanded social life to help cope with the demands of work and home.

Now, Scalf is as busy as she wants to be. And she’s happier. “My life is definitely more balanced,” she says. “I have learned a lot about myself and I have to practice what I preach. I’m very honest with audiences to say these are things I have to practice, too.”

Golf Marathon

The economic misery of the Great Depression apparently had a positive side effect. No, not market regulations. Entertainment.

Short on money, the people went to bizarre if not amusing lengths to find ways to entertain themselves and take their minds off the desperate times. Case in point: Grueling dance marathons. Be-bop until you drop. And a variation for the sports set: golf marathons. Jim Ducibella, a 1974 grad and longtime sports reporter for the Virginia Pilot, details perhaps the longest of these odd events in his new book King of Clubs: The Great Golf Marathon of 1938 about two stockbrokers who—to settle a bet—covered 600 holes over four days in eight cities.

Ducibella stumbled on golf marathons while writing his first book, Par Excellence: A Celebration of Virginia Golf. He then promptly forgot about it. Six years later, cooking up another book idea, he discovered that the papers of the marathon ace, J. Smith Ferebee, were bequeathed to Virginia Military Institute.

Ferebee, who was born in Virginia Beach, had a dispute with fellow stockbroker Fred Tuerk about 296 acres in Virginia Beach. Tuerk wanted to sell the land. Ferebee didn’t. They came to an impasse and decided to settle it with a bet—Ferebee had to play 144 holes of golf in one day. The brash amateur golfer raced through the eight rounds. Tuerk was ready to surrender his stake but cried foul when Ferebee’s appearance on the “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” radio show ignited golf marathons all over the country in which players knocked off more than 144 holes. A rematch to end all golf marathons—600 holes over four days in eight cities—was arranged.

One of the pair’s clients, Reuben Trane of heating and air conditioning fame, wanted to promote his new AC unit that could be placed on the roof of office buildings, so he backed the event. Betting subsequently ballooned, and characters aplenty came out of the woodwork.

The entourage traveled by rented plane and Ferebee ran every course (182 miles over four days), hustled dawn to dark and beyond at a breakneck pace. He won the bet.“He slept one and a half days in New York after finishing, flew back home and played 18 holes after landing.”

And, says an astonished Ducibella, after “hitting more than 2,800 shots in four days, he never lost a ball.”

Fun at Work

Bright, bouncy balloons have always been the calling card of fun and games. But the world of color-shot latex is serious business for Kathy and John Bunker.

The couple—Kathy, a 1987 MED graduate, and John, a 1983 marketing graduate—are owners of Balloon Works and have created everything from an 80-foot octopus to dragons, menorahs and the Eiffel Tower out of balloons as small as five inches and as large as five feet and more.

“It’s a lot of fun, but also a lot of early hours,” Kathy says laughing, getting ready for a weekend with two birthday parties—one for an 80-year-old, the other for a 5-year-old. “Every day is a surprise. I can’t begin to guess anymore what people will ask for.”

 

John’s parents ran Celebrations, a downtown Cincinnati shop that dabbled in balloon decorating. Kathy pitched in and learned the creative side while in college. When their son was born, she turned back to balloons. John joined her in the late 1990s.

Today, they create fantasy balloon décor for birthday parties, proms, weddings, even funerals, using hundreds of latex and Mylar balloons to fashion themed spaces with sweeping arches, elaborate framework and ceiling clouds that “rain” balloons.

“What we have today is not like the lady who starts a business out of her garage with a bunch of balloons and a helium tank,” says Kathy.

Their projects take planning, advance staging and sometimes thousands of balloons. Their biggest project was the Millennium New Year’s Eve celebration at the downtown Convention Center in which they staged a balloon drop of 10,000 balloons.

Fortunately, they don’t have to blow up each balloon. There’s a machine for air and one for helium. But there’s no such machine for tying the knots on each one.

“There’s really no trick to it. I can do 100 in 10 to 15 minutes now,” says Kathy. “Of course I’ve been doing it for 20 years.