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Director’s Message

  • Author:
    Scott Westerman III
  • Published:
    Winter 2013
Art is everywhere at MSU.  We see it in the symmetry of Beal Gardens and the Student Organic Farm.  It’s embedded in the terra-cotta of the original Sparty statue that stands guard at the entrance of the Spartan Stadium Tower and in the mosaic of recycled glass that Tim Whaley crafted into the green and white floor beneath it.  It’s expressed in the beauty of human performance on the Wharton Center stage and in the practice rooms at the Music Building.  It hangs from the ceiling above the Brody Square staircase and is reflected in the diverse architecture that makes up our campus. 
 In this issue, we spotlight the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum as the newest ground-breaking example of artistic expression.  But hidden in the Zaha Hadid architecture is the brilliance of the artist who made it all possible.  Eli Broad is that artist. 
Stefanie Lenway, the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Dean of the Broad College of Business, would agree that woven into the numerics and physical processes of commerce is the art of execution.  So would Dean Satish Udpa at MSU’s cutting-edge College of Engineering.  His students turn the prism to see the laws of nature in new ways, putting them to work to solve the world’s most complicated problems.  Dean Marsha Rappley at the College of Human Medicine inoculates the art of the “bedside manner” into future Spartan docs.  Our graduates understand that a diagnosis isn’t just based on what appears on a microscope slide. And Joe Hotchkiss, director of the our best-in-the-nation School of Packaging and Center for Packaging Innovation and Sustainability, teaches every one of his future leaders about the creative artistry that takes Spartans beyond convention and into the realm of innovation.
 Perhaps art is best inculcated into Spartan minds in the classroom.  Talk with a Spartan and the names of gifted professors, past and present, flow like the Red Cedar rapids.  Jill Spiekerman Bonham points to Dr. Kirk Heinze as an outstanding practitioner of the teaching art.  “With his guidance, we discovered our talent, learned new skills and reached for the sky,” she says.
 Erika Olson Myers’ imagination was fired in Lucinda Davenport’s classroom. “She is one of the smartest people I have ever met,” says Erika.  “To this day, I still use what she taught about good writing, attention to detail and telling both sides of the story.”
 Kevin Smith and Dan Redford were touched by Michael Schechter.  “A brilliant mind with great research chops,” Kevin notes, “but a mentor who cares deeply about teaching undergrads and was very skilled at it.” 
 “He had a way of expressing that he wasn’t totally satisfied with what I had handed in,” Dan adds.  “Yet made me so motivated to improve and to come up with better ways to stand by what I believe in.”
 Alumni Career Services counselor Dave Isbell points to the multi-dimensional artistry of John Mooradian.  “Not only does he know his stuff (because he actually practiced/practices in the field) but it is evident that he really cares about his students,” explains Isbell.  “He goes out of his way to help his students really understand the content.  Beyond that, he makes everyone feel valuable as the individual learners they are.  He is willing to admit when he is wrong and has an artist’s way of calling you out, making you feel thankful for his always constructive criticism.  Dr. Mooradian embodies MSU’s community engagement imperative!”
 I receive literally hundreds of these messages of admiration for the men and women who helped each of us to understand the most complex ideas, challenging us to stretch them, reinvent them and pass our knowledge on.
 This is what Spartans do. 
 From our inception, MSU has been a testament to the confluence of art and science.  We teach the rigor of research and analysis, but we also celebrate the interpersonal magic that lives in the right brain.  This the secret of the Spartan Life.  It teaches us to contemplate both the beauty of the world around us and to seek to understand the fundamental laws that make it spin. As you turn the pages of this issue of the MSU Alumni Magazine, you will see amazing examples of both art and science. This is the essence of the MSU experience and the elements within us that make Spartans uncommonly successful.
By Scott Westerman, III, ’78
Executive Director, MSU Alumni Association