GiVE 365 names nine grant recipients

Daily news story for The Memphis Daily News

Oct. 26, 2012

DeNeuville Learning Center. KIPP Memphis Collegiate Schools. Shelby County Books from Birth. WriteMemphis.

These are some of the nine recipients of this year’s GiVE 365 grants. GiVE 365 is an initiative of the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis whose members pledge a dollar per day per year, and are encouraged to vote on what causes that money will go. This year’s theme was “Eyes on the Prize: Organizations helping students graduate from high school or college,” and 11 finalists were asked to give three-minute presentations in front of voting members.

“Each of these organizations defines what that looks like a little differently,” Melissa Wolowicz, vice president of grants and initiatives said of this year’s theme. “DeNeuville is working with women on their GEDs, Hatilloo (Theatre) wants to teach students a skill set related to the theater and the arts that will give them something to help earn money while they’re getting their education.”

The total grant amount was $50,394 with individual amounts ranging from $3,200 to $7,500.

These are amounts that can make a difference for the respective organizations and in the lives of those they seek to help … (read more)


Parental Party fends off young challengers

“Because I Said So” column for The Commercial Appeal

Oct. 25, 2012

Parental Party candidate wins debate

It is the season of debates, when one side goes toe-to-toe with the other, each certain they know best, they have all of the answers, they can fix any problem, right any wrong, cure any ill.

It’s maddening, isn’t it? The way our kids want to belabor each and every point even when there is no point to be made, not understanding that there is no rebuttal to my order to clean their rooms or remove a bicycle from the driveway.

Just as the president and challenger will stand in front of a national audience to blame someone, anyone, other than themselves for the problems today, so will my kids deny they spilled that milk or lost the television remote. They will rush to tattle on a sibling for the scattered game of Monopoly left on the floor, and argue over whether 82 is too hot for a jacket, until I lock them all out of the house.

What my kids fail to grasp is that this house is not a democracy, there will be no votes on policy, no majority will set a course of hot dogs for supper and cake just before that. This is a one-party system, and that is the Parental Party.

If this population of children wants to hold their own convention to garner support for a contender to the seat of president, the seat at the head of the dinner table, then they are welcome to do so. There will, however, be no debate over who vacuums up all of that confetti and bundles up the dropped balloons.

My writing this is an exercise in diplomacy (some might say futility), but the truth is that I’m slipping in the most current polls. There is a 6-year-old candidate who wants to debate me on the issue of bedtime, meatloaf vs. corn dogs for dinner, choosing what’s on TV and the chance of any homework being done.

And I’ve lost more than my share of showdowns.

To make the situation worse, my moderator has locked herself in our room with a DVR full of “The Voice” and a bowl full of ice cream, leaving me to segue on my own from matters of economics (“Can I get a new iPod?”) to foreign policy (“My friend Susie has one.”).

Any election year can be a lesson in civics and an opportunity to grow and change, just as every other year we have the opportunity to grow and learn as parents, though there is some debate about that. No one is stepping up to challenge us for this job; no one wants an invitation to this parental party.

This debate season, when you tire of the incessant whining, finger-pointing, blame and posturing, then turn off the television, lose the remote, and put the politicians in timeout. Focus more on your immediate constituency, that binder full of children who, at this moment, are holding a caucus, preparing a convention, and planning a coup to unseat you at your very own table.

Permanent link to The Commercial Appeal



Harris’ legal career leans on desire to help community

Law Talk profile for The Memphis Daily News

Oct. 25, 2012

It seems like with so many people, Lee Harris’ eventual career interest was sparked by television.

“All I knew was what I saw on TV, and lawyers seemed very, very powerful and able to get things done,” he said.

Of course there was more to it than an infatuation with prime time drama, but Harris has known since middle school that he wanted to be a lawyer and the reality of the profession, he said, has lived up to his expectations.

The Whitehaven native and graduate of Overton High School traveled far from home for his degrees – B.A. in international studies with a minor in economics from Morehouse College, and a Juris Doctorate from Yale Law School in 2003 – and then returned home.

“There was no question for me,” he says of his choosing to live and work in his hometown. “Never at any time did even a specter of doubt enter my mind, I always knew that I’d return to Memphis. … I knew this is where I wanted to be to practice law, to raise a family and to try to make a change.” … (read more)


Rhodes alumni magazine, Fall 2012

The Sciences at Rhodes – Past, Present and Future

Fall 2012

The Biologists

A profile of former biology majors, current students and department head

(For the full texts, please click this link)

Gary Lindquester
Chair, Rhodes Department of Biology

Rhodes students today are constantly challenged, and they constantly rise to that challenge. This, says Gary Lindquester, Biology Department chair, is one of the reasons that teaching at Rhodes is so rewarding.

“It happens in the classroom with rigorous course material and complex ideas, it’s in the teaching laboratory where we develop exercises that train them in the scientific method and in various techniques … and it carries over into the research laboratories for students who work there,” he says. “The students are highly competent, they are interested and they have a good work ethic.”

Anahita Rahimi-Saber ’13

Anahita Rahimi-Saber was born and raised in Denmark and moved with her family to the United States, and Memphis, in 2000. She attended Lausanne Collegiate School and considered other colleges when the time came to make that important decision.

“I thought I wanted to study outside of Memphis, that I knew it too well and had outgrown it by the age of 18,” she says. “But when it came down to what I wanted to study, and finances and everything, Rhodes just made the most sense. It was the best decision I’ve ever made. I realized how important it is to have a family close by, and when I moved to campus it was kind of eye-opening and refreshing to learn how great Memphis really is and how much it has to offer.”

Veronica Lawson Gunn ’91, M.D.
Vice President of Population Health Management,
Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin

“I felt smarter when I stepped on campus,” Veronica Gunn says as she reminisces about her first visit to Rhodes. Though laughing, she insists there is some truth to that. “My visit at Rhodes was what undoubtedly convinced me that that is where I needed to go, and not to any other place.”

Not only did the aesthetics of the campus and the academic curriculum draw her in, but the professors—including Alan and Carolyn Jaslow in Biology, with whom she remains friends—“are examples of the faculty’s commitment to students, their full development and their full potential.”

Brian Wamhoff ’96
Vice President of Research & Development,
Co-Founder, HemoShear, LLC
Associate Professor of Medicine & Biomedical Engineering,
University of Virginia

Brian Wamhoff points to the atmosphere, the opportunity to play soccer and chiefly to members of the faculty such as Jay Blundon and Dee Birnbaum when asked what led to his interest in Rhodes College. It was these professors’ respective departments—Biology and Business—that would build the foundation for his life’s work.

Having attended the University of Missouri-Columbia for graduate school before the University of Virginia for his fellowship, Wamhoff recently took a path of entrepreneurship and biotech, while balancing life as an academic professor.


The Physicists

A profile of former physics majors, current students and department head

(For the full texts, please click this link)

Lars Monia ’15

After only one year at Rhodes, Lars Monia was given the keys to the moonbuggy, so to speak. The Great Moonbuggy Race is a NASA project for high school and college students who build simulated lunar rovers. It’s a challenge, says NASA, “to inspire them in Engineering and explore Engineering opportunities and possibilities.”

Monia was asked to recruit other students, put together a team to manage, and was given a prospective budget by Physics chair Brent Hoffmeister.

“Hosting a team for the first time was pretty challenging,” says Monia. “I had to teach everyone how to do the engineering programs and how the design process works and what the project even was—what in the world is a moonbuggy?”

Charles Robertson Jr. ’65

For Charles Robertson, a Rhodes education began not when he walked on campus for the first time as a freshman, but when his parents did as students. Thanks to Charles William Robertson Sr. ’29 and Lola Ellis Robertson ’33 being scientists themselves, Charles Jr. may have been looking at a preordained career.

“I had some interest in Engineering, but by the end of my senior year in high school I was pretty much hooked on Physics,” Robertson says. “My father, though a biologist, had a significant interest in the physical sciences and encouraged my interest in Physics.”

Harry Swinney ’61
Sid Richardson Foundation Regents Chair
The University of Texas at Austin

Harry Swinney heard about Rhodes College—then Southwestern—from several people, including the family doctor, James Gladney ’38, in his Presbyterian church in Homer, LA.

“I asked my parents if I could visit Southwestern and they drove me there for a two-day visit in the spring of 1955,” Swinney recalls.

He never considered any other option and enrolled with plans to obtain two bachelor’s degrees in five years in the 3-2 plan, with three years at Rhodes followed by two at Georgia Tech. In his freshman year, however, he took a Physics class from professor Jack Taylor ’44 and “became excited about the subject.” It was a class that would turn his plans, and life, around. In honor of Taylor, Swinney in 2000 established the Jack H. Taylor Scholarship at Rhodes for students majoring in the physical and biological sciences.

Brent Hoffmeister
Chair, Department of Physics

Research teams in Geneva, Switzerland, recently provided proof of the elusive Higgs Boson particle, making the kind of news that gets physicists, and future physicists, excited. Closer to home, Rhodes Physics professor and department chair Brent Hoffmeister is excited about newer courses being offered, including Nuclear Physics, Engineering Physics, Medical Physics, and Fluid Dynamics. This semester, a course on Accelerator Physics, the sort of science that gave the world the Higgs Boson, is being offered for the first time.

Passing along his passion for the sciences is paramount in Hoffmeister’s teaching. “Personally, I like how teaching and scientific research have fused together to become the same sort of thing for me at Rhodes,” he says. “I really enjoy involving students in my research, and I think it is an important experience for the students too. A great way to learn about science is to function as a scientist.”



Diverse career brings Spickler back to Public Defender’s Office

Law Talk profile for The Memphis Daily News

Oct. 18, 2012

Upon graduating from the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law in 2000, Josh Spickler took a fortuitous first step into his legal career with the Shelby County’s Office of Public Defender under A C Wharton Jr.

It was an experience that ignited a passion for the courtroom and public service in the young lawyer.

“I didn’t have grand dreams to be some Atticus Finch kind of guy, but I did, during law school, gravitate toward the courtroom in trial clinics and trial advocacy classes,” Spickler said.

He clerked for the public defender’s office where he said he “just fell in love with the courtroom, with the clients, with the challenge of trying a case against another lawyer and doing it from the hip sometimes and with surprises around every corner.”

But there are experiences to be had in any young man’s life and after a few years he left the public defender to start his own firm, one in which he was able to continue the same sort of work but “was able to get more trial experience a little quicker,” he said.

A law firm, being a small business, demands attentions outside of the courtroom with overhead and marketing, lean months and fat, and once the first of Spickler’s two sons with his wife, Ginger, came along, it was time for a change.

“I kind of panicked because it’s one thing to starve myself … but it was sort of a wake-up call that this month to month and crazy revenue fluctuations is a big risk, it was just a grind,” he said … (read more)


Let’s go: Elmwood Cemetery

Text and photography for the Let’s Go series of the “Living in the Moment” blog by Memphis Parent magazine

Oct. 15, 2012

It seems contradictory to think of visiting a cemetery as a way to appreciate life, but that’s just what we did on a recent in-service day for Memphis City Schools.

When I find myself with my four kids at home (they having invaded the sanctity of my office), my mind naturally goes to the outdoors and activities to keep them entertained.

My oldest had a school project due and would need to be taken to Elmwood Cemeteryto work on a documentary he and some classmates were producing for his class at White Station High.

Their topic was the Yellow Fever Epidemic and the cemetery has entire sections filled with victims and the nuns who cared for them.

The other three kids tagged along with me and we strolled the hilly grounds. From their offices at the 146-year-old Phillips Cottage that acts as Elmwood’s headquarters, a detailed map or self-guided audio tour can be had for nominal fees ($5 and $10, respectively), or a docent-led tour ($15/person) can be arranged.

There are also themed tours – Civil War history, African American history, arboretum – available. We, being adventurous and of short attention spans, opted for a hastily printed free map and our own, aimless wanderings to see what we could discover.

What we found was a monumental number of monuments to fallen soldiers from nearly every war, civic leaders, authors, mothers, fathers and, to my children’s surprise, children.

The headstones along the winding paths and grassy knolls are ornate and beautiful in their own right, and etched with the names of our city, its streets, neighborhoods, and buildings.

The cemetery, founded in 1852, was among a wave of garden cemeteries developed in the U.S. for the living as well as the dead. It was a popular tradition for families to picnic in these park-like settings on Sunday afternoons during the Victorian era. Today, Elmwood holds more than 75,000 grave sites that include generals and senators, mayors and millionaires, governors and paupers.

It’s a place where familiar family names stand out big and bold – Snowden, Church, Crump, Porter, and Overton. A walk through historic Elmwood, or any cemetery, offers the opportunity to teach our kids a little something about life and death, and something, too, about respecting our history.

Permanent link to Memphis Parent magazine


Jig is up on ice cream secret

Because I Said So column for The Commercial Appeal

Oct. 11, 2012

Jig is up on ice cream secret

Every parent has the shared experience of that first time a child walks into the bedroom unannounced. You know that moment well — the humiliation, the embarrassment of it all. You thought you locked the door, were sure you did, but the knob turns, a hinge squeaks, and before you realize what’s happening, you’ve been caught.

There, in front of your innocent child, bathed in the blue glow of Conan O’Brien or Stephen Colbert, you’ve been caught with an enormous bowl of after-the-kids-have-gone-to-bed ice cream.

It feels like the jig is up, doesn’t it? Innocence lost. Will you ever get that time to yourself again? The fear is that you’ll have to do as Daddy says, not as he does, and share your late-night treat. Who among us hasn’t told our children that, no, sorry, there isn’t any ice cream left, only to dish the last heaping scoops for yourself?

And who among us hasn’t told a spouse the same thing?

Me neither.

Young people may not understand the importance of such a dessert. That pitiful bowl of ice cream is our all-night dance club, our favorite indie band at the Hi-Tone, our last call. It’s an escape, oftentimes our only one, a Fortress of Solitude in an icy carton. We recognize each other when we pass on the street, that dribbled spot of chocolate on our shirts is our club’s badge, the glow in our eyes on the frozen dessert aisle a secret handshake. We don’t scream for ice cream, but whisper about it under the cover of darkness.

When little Jimmy walks through that door to find your face smeared with Neapolitan, a mountain of cream cradled in your arms, it’s the first time he suspects that he is not the apple of your eye; that the apple of your eye is actually a cherry on top of a banana split you spent more time planning and putting together than you did his dinner earlier that evening.

It’s the best-tasting dessert there is, isn’t it? There is no more delicious frozen treat — not Baskin-Robbins, not YoLo, not a Jerry’s Sno Cone. My personal favorite flavor is whatever happens to be in the freezer at 9:05 p.m.

We have so little as parents, and it all revolves around food. There’s that coffee in the half-hour before the kids wake up for school, the trip to the Kroger alone for that one thing forgotten on the last shopping trip (and more ice cream), and that bowl after bedtime.

Give it up? They’ll have to pry that spoon from my frozen, chocolaty fingers.

Permanent link to The Commercial Appeal


McNabb turns past of adjectives to legal world of nouns, verbs

Law Talk profile for The Memphis Daily News

Oct. 11, 2012

If not for a burst of pragmatism, Leland McNabb of McNabb Bragorgos & Burgess PLLC, may have become a successful poet instead of a successful litigator.

As a student at Vanderbilt University, the Kentucky native was on his way to an English degree, taking a class on Restoration Literature when he began asking himself what, exactly, he might one day do with such knowledge.

The editor of the university magazine “Spectrum” at the time, McNabb went to interview a group of law professors for a series of stories and what he found in the law school was “the strangest collection of divergent personalities I’ve ever been around in my life.”

His interest was whetted and McNabb graduated from the Vanderbilt University School of Law in 1968, and came to Memphis to work as a clerk for Justice Larry Creson in one of this city’s most turbulent years.

His time with Creson was invaluable to him as a young lawyer just entering the profession … (read more)


Mobbed by community, spirit and cash

Feature story for The Commercial Appeal

Oct. 7, 2012

The mob rushing through the streets of the Cooper-Young neighborhood on Oct. 17 will not be an angry one bearing pitchforks, torches and ill will, but one with open pocketbooks, dollar bills and shopping lists bearing the names of the wanted: The Oblivians, Harlan T. Bobo, Sun Ra and Furry Lewis.

This will be the night of the first Memphis Cash Mob, which will storm the gates of Goner Records, the Midtown citadel of vinyl LPs, 45s and 78s and new and used CDs from local, national and international musicians.

The idea is to support a local business, meet new people and help a charity.

The Memphis Cash Mob was the idea of Cooper-Young resident Shannon Dixon, who wanted to do something positive for her community. But the mother and sole proprietor of a collaborative consulting and organizational development firm didn’t have a lot of time to devote to the cause.

“I was thinking that there are all these cool ideas happening around Memphis these days that I’ve been calling ‘decentralized energy,'” Dixon said. “It’s not some big initiative, it’s not some big thing that one entity is pushing, it’s not a strategy — it’s just people getting excited about doing something small for their community, or getting their creative juices going in some way, and I just wanted to be a part of that. I love that, but I don’t have a lot of extra energy and time being a sole proprietor.”

The first cash mob began in 2011 in Buffalo, N.Y., and the idea was picked up and expanded upon shortly after in Cleveland, Ohio. Cash mobs have since found their way across 47 states and the District of Columbia, as well as nine countries around the world.

The rules of a cash mob state that participants will visit a predetermined locally owned store on a given day, between given times, and agree to spend up to $20, and because it is a community-building event, each participant should introduce himself or herself to at least three other people. Also, a portion of the day’s proceeds must go to a local nonprofit … (read more)


Playback Memphis’ collaborative acting promotes healing, compassion

Feature story for The Commercial Appeal

Oct. 4, 2012

Diversity is at the center of Playback Memphis, a professional ensemble made up of a dozen actors and musicians. Their focus: to offer healing through drama, and in the process, tell the story of what it means to be a Memphian through the experiences of its citizens.The mission of Playback Memphis is to “transform this ethos of Memphis that has been one of anguish and brokenness to one of connectedness,” says the company’s founder and director, Virginia Murphy. “Our work is about love and forgiveness.”

A Playback production is a collaboration between performer and audience in which an audience member is invited to tell the story of a moment from his or her life and then watches as the actors improvise that moment, “listening for really what is the essence of what this person is saying — what is the heart of their story,” Murphy said. “Their (the actors’) job is to communicate the feelings and the thoughts of the teller, and those layers of feeling, because so often in life we don’t have just singular feelings. They do that through movement and music; we use a lot of metaphor, and it’s just very symbolic, embodied expression.”The troupe puts on a regular series of shows titled “Memphis Matters” at Theatre South in First Congregational Church in the Cooper-Young area. The series was born of the idea that Memphis “is an intense place to live, no matter who you are,” Murphy said, “and there are aspects of life here that make it uniquely rich and wonderful, and aspects that make it really complex and challenging.”

Performances aren’t all about civic pride, though they do speak to the heart and soul of the citizenry no matter its level of income or social stratum. Robert Neimeyer, a longtime professor of clinical psychotherapy with the University of Memphis, has worked closely with Playback. He and Murphy are collaborating on a chapter of a book on grief and the expressive arts … (read more)