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Spartan Profiles

  • Author:
    Robert Bao
  • Published:
    Winter 2014


More than 1,500 pieces of art by more than 1,800 artists representing 45 states and 47 countries were entered in this year’s ArtPrize in Grand Rapids, the nation’s largest art competition. After nearly half a million votes were cast, 17,670 in the final round, the winner was Ann Lo­eless, ’82, a quilter from Frankfort. Her winning entry is a stunning 20-by-5 foot landscape quilt titled “Sleeping Bear Dune Lakeshore.” The week after winning the grand prize of $200,000, Loveless and her husband Steve were coping with unexpectedly high traffic in their State of the Art Framing & Gallery in Beulah. “We’re being overrun, but that’s OK,” says Ann. “A group of ladies drove four hours to come here. We can’t get stuff on the walls fast enough.” This was Ann’s third time as a contest participant. “Last year I got into the Top 25,” she explains. “This year my goal was the Top Ten.” Accordingly, she made her textile art a bit bigger and chose a popular scene—Michigan’s Sleeping Bear Dunes. “I sell a lot of lakeshore scenes,” says Ann. “People love it. And Sleeping Bear Dunes was recently voted Good Morning America’s ‘Most Beautiful Place in America.’” So she found a photo taken by her husband Steve, a photographer, and based her four-panel polytrich on the photo. A native of Frankfort, Ann wanted to be a dress designer and chose to attend MSU for its apparel and textiles program. While at MSU, she took a number of art classes as electives. “Looking back, those were very valuable,” recalls Ann, who learned to quilt about a decade ago. Ann believes her success at ArtPrize also strikes a Blow for other quilters and textile artists. “Textiles are generally not considered fine art as are oil paintings, pottery and blown glass,” she explains. “When you think of quilts you think of something functional that grandma made for the bed. I think this has paved the way for quilters in the future.” Ann’s entry is currently on display at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum in Grand Rapids.


Jazz and opera may seem like very different genres, but a new CD challenges that outlook. In Dyad Plays Puccini, alto saxophonist Lou Caimano, ’74, ’75 (performance saxophone), MM ’76 (woodwind specialist), and pianist Eric Olsen, an adjunct professor at Montclair State University, perform 10 classic operatic melodies in their jazz style. The result has elicited rave reviews. One jazz critic calls it “the perfect equation, algebra in C flat minor,” while another calls it “perhaps the most amazing transformation of cultural enlightenment in the last quarter century.” Caimano, a longtime Broadway musician and founder of the Ridgewood Conservatory of Music, Paramus, NJ, calls it “my greatest musical achievement so far.” The idea was first suggested by Olsen’s wife Pam, an opera soprano, who observed that Lou’s playing reminded her of a soprano singer. With that, the music duo Dyad decided to fuse classical and jazz music. A native of Garwood, NJ, Lou’s route to East Lansing was a happy accident. “When I was 13 or 14, I received very bad advice,” he recalls. “My guidance counselor didn’t think I was very good in music and advised me look to math and chemistry, which I was good at. There was an engineering institute at MSU, so I went.” Later, Lou chose MSU over Rutgers and Penn State because, he says, “MSU was the only place that treated me nicely.” Once at MSU, he tried out for the concert bands and made the Wind Ensemble. “Those were some serious musicians,” says Lou. “Most of them were graduate students.” Although he received his degree in chemical engineering, his heart was in music and he received a second bachelor’s degree in music performance, as well as a master’s in woodwind specialist. After MSU, he studied in France under saxophonist Jean-Marie Londeix, then taught at Beimidji State University, and in 1980 began a long stint as a Broadway “doubler” (woodwinds and saxophone). In 1998, he founded the Ridgewood Academy, which he calls “Juilliard in the burbs.” Says Lou, “I would never be in music if it were not for MSU.”


In four years as an undergraduate at MSU, she never played any sports, other than a flag football game with some friends. But after moving to Chicago in 2009, Brandy Hatcher, ’08, a telemetry and med/surg nurse at Rush University Medical Center in Oak Park, IL, has emerged as one of the nation’s top running backs in professional women’s tackle football. “I wanted to meet people and I saw there was a tryout for the Chicago Force,” Hatcher recalls. “Honestly I didn’t think I’d make the team.” But she did make the cut, and by her second year, “I got the hang of it.” Brandy credits good coaching with her ability to run and catch the football. “I’m not that fast, or that big so I can break tackles,” says Brandy, who is 5-5, 140 and boasts 5.1 speed in the 40-yard dash. “But I have good field vision. When you know where to go, it helps.” This past season she had 72 carries for 490 yards and five touchdowns. Her 51 receptions—for 627 yards and five touchdowns—were second-most in the Women’s Football Alliance league. “I really worked hard to improve my receiving skills,” she notes. “You have to really watch the ball and catch it with your hands and not your body.” A native of Holt, she threw the discus and bowled in high school. “The closest thing to football was wrestling with my brother, usually for the TV remote,” she says with a chuckle. Brandy chose MSU to stay closer to home. She is “a huge fan” of Spartan football. This past year, Brandy made the national U. S. team and went on to win the International Federation of American Football Women’s World Championship in Finland, beating Canada 64-0 in the finals. In August, the Chicago Force, which plays in Evanston, IL, won the national WFA championship in San Diego, CA. Brandy has succeeded in her quest to meet people. “My best friends are teammates,” she notes. “I have great friends all over the U.S., and also in Finland and Spain.” And the majority owner of the Chicago Force is a fellow Spartan, Linda Bache, who played softball at MSU and was a tackle football MVP for Chicago in 2005, 2006 and 2008.


What are the odds a couple named Dick and Jane might be involved with helping little kids learn? Well, Dick, ’85, and Jane Held, ’85, who met on the MSU campus in 1982 because of a cookie, are in the business of producing educational baked goods for kids. Their Troy-based company, Dick & Jane Educational Snacks, produce whole grain, nut-free cookies that teach kids about state capitals and presidents, and words in both English and Spanish. “We’ve created something new and so unique that everywhere we go people are blown away by it,” says Dick, who came up with the idea five years ago when he saw tots learning about animals when noshing on Animal Crackers. Dick and Jane initially distributed the cookies via schools. “We’re in thousands of school districts in 31 states, including 50 of the 100 largest districts in the country,” says Dick. “Right now we’re going through the approval process for New York city, which serves 1.3 million students daily.” In early 2013, the products have been made available at the retail level—via Whole Foods Markets—and also internationally in such places as Seoul, South Korea. “We’re in 380 stores and hope to be in 5,000 by next summer,” says Dick, who previously worked in the retail ski business and credits an MSU advertising class with inspiring his entrepreneurial vision. They have also founded the Dick and Jane Foundation, to help kids “eat right and do well in school,” their motto. Dick and Jane met when they were sophomores living in McDonnell Hall. Dick’s roommate Rob had some fresh cookies and Jane, passing by, asked if she could have one. Rob said “No.” Dick jumped up, handed her a cookie and said, “Hi, I’m Dick.” The rest has been a fairy tale story. They have four children—the oldest just graduated from MSU, the next is currently a student, and two others are hoping to join their siblings. “To answer a question everyone asks, no, we don’t have a dog called Spot,” says Dick with a chuckle. “Our dog is called Starbucks.”


Based on FBI statistics, Detroit may be the nation’s second most dangerous city (after Flint). But beginning in January, the city’s law enforcement will be bolstered by the arrival of a new Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)—Steven J. Bogdalek, ’86, who heads the Justice Dept.’s ATF office in Los Angeles, CA. “In a way, I am back full circle,” says Bogdalek, who began his ATF career in the Detroit office in 1987. Steve also had stints in Toledo, OH; Washington, DC; St. Paul, MN; and Los Angeles. “Detroit faces many challenges but it has a very competent new police chief who is very highly thought of,” notes Steve. “We intend to partner with them and with the (Wayne County) sheriff ’s office and help in the current effort for Detroit to make a comeback.” Although some may think ATF work involves action-packed shooting scenarios, as was depicted in the television series The Untouchables and various movies about Eliot Ness, Steve says his job does not entail so much firepower. “Shooting is what we try to avoid, unless it’s a dire, last resort situation,” he explains. “Our job is dangerous, but we rely on our training and on our planning to mitigate those risks.” His task in Los Angeles included dealing with all the violent crimes, from shootings to extortion, that are committed to further organized drug trafficking. Steve notes the ATF works in close cooperation with local law enforcement agencies as well as federal agencies. “No one agency can do everything and solve every problem,” he explains. “Partnerships are what make it work.” A native of Chicago, Steve played football at MSU and was an All-Big Ten offensive tackle in 1986, helping Lorenzo White rush for 2,066 yards in 1985—the first Big Ten back to break 2,000 yards in a season. His son is currently a student at MSU and with his move to Detroit, he anticipates being able to attend some football games in Spartan Stadium again.


Two years in the making, Katrina Fried’s American Teacher: Heroes in the Classroom (Welcome Books, 2013), published in October, portrays a selection of the “most passionate, innovative, and decorated teachers” in the nation. The collection of 50 “extraordinary educators” includes one exemplar from the state of Michigan—Kristi (Darkowski) Law, ’98, MA ’01, who teaches a gifted and talented magnet program at Roosevelt Elementary, Keego Harbor, a part of West Bloomfield Public Schools. “I was overwhelmed,” says Law, who lives in Waterford, about her inclusion in the book. “I see so many great teachers every day, and I’ve mentored many great teachers, I also feel a little embarrassed. Every teacher is a hero.” Nonetheless, the book touts the energy Kristi brings To her classes. “I’ll get up on the table and dance,” says Kristi. “We dance every day. My classes are exciting, happy, unique. My goal is for learning to take place and for no one to be bored.” A native of Plymouth-Canton, Kristi grew up in Northville and, after her older brother graduated from MSU, only applied to MSU. In her sophomore year, she did some self-assessment and decided to change her major from engineering to education. “The experience was unmatched,” she says. “I have no doubt that it helped shaped who I’ve become. When I was a sophomore, they already had me In a classroom—learning, observing, gaining a better understanding of the classroom experience.” She says her favorite class was one on interpersonal communication. “The course was taught by a husband and wife team,” she recalls. “On the first day of class, they jumped up on a desk and kissed passionately. I loved their level of enthusiasm and presentation and have tried to apply it to how I teach.”