Retired engineer cruises with kiwi crop

June 3rd, 2016 | No Comments | Posted in Alumni Profiles

By Vicki L. Kroll

20160411_141941When these little kiwis grown by James “Jim” Smith (Eng ’56) go to market, the small fruit take a sweet journey. Smith drives his truck north a few minutes up the middle of Lopez Island to the Washington State Ferries for a 50-minute ride across the Puget Sound to Anacortes, where the 85-mile road trip south to Seattle begins.

It’s just another day for Smith, who lives on the third largest of the San Juan Islands, which are located in the northwestern part of Washington.

“The island itself is about 17 miles long and roughly about 3 or 4 miles wide. The full-time population here is about 2,500 people. But in the summertime, that grows tremendously because of the tourism,” Smith said.

Sitting in his second-story home office, the Toledo native looked westward out the window at his 30 acres, which includes a fruit-tree orchard, garden, pond and grass fields.

20160411_142019“It’s a wide open area. What’s nice about it is the afternoon sunshine comes in and the place lights up; it’s really grand here in the afternoon,” he said and smiled.

“About 25 something years ago, my wife, Connie, and I planted a whole bunch of poplar trees along one of our lot lines, and these trees have grown to be over a 100 feet tall now. It makes a nice boundary of property lines across our field and adds a nice look to the place.”

Indeed, it’s the quintessential springtime image: White and pink blossoms dot the manicured 5-acre orchard of kiwis, apples, pears and cherries. And the fields are greening up as the pasture grass grows to nearly 4 feet tall.

“We’re waiting for a friend to bring the lambs over for the spring. We lease out 25 acres of pastureland for his flock and for cutting and baling,” Smith said.

Life on the island is tuned to the seasons.

“Right now, the kiwis are beginning to set flowers, and by June or so, there’ll be pollination taking place. Then the small kiwi begin to show up after that and then they ripen,” he said. “We had to set up irrigation here because it can be dry in the summer, so it required the installation of a specialized system that goes to each plant and gives it the right amount of water every day.

“In October or November, about the time we might get a frost, we pick the kiwi and put them in insulated cold rooms in the barn so they won’t freeze. And in the first part of January after they have time to ripen, we sort and pack them into 25-pound boxes and load our trucks and go to town. Ten years ago, we were hauling close to 9,000 pounds of kiwi down to Seattle. Most of the kiwi go to Whole Foods Stores.”

DSC04406 Orchard 1Then it’s time to prune, which takes about six weeks.

“Today I’m going to work on the irrigation system; that takes some maintenance. And I’ll have to weed-whack all the aisles where the plants are, and that takes about a week. In the meantime, we mow the grass in the aisle ways about once a week. It’s a big job of maintenance, but it’s got to be done. When it’s done right, it looks nice and kind of like a big golf course.”

The only commercial kiwi fruit farmer in western Washington is no stranger to work. After graduating from DeVilbiss High School, he enrolled at UT and put himself through college.

“I lived at home, that saved money, and I was able to pay my own tuition and take care of my own needs by having part-time jobs,” he recalled.

While taking classes, he was a part-time estimator and draftsman at Surface Combustion Corp., which was on Dorr Street. After graduation, Smith was a mechanical engineer and worked on materials handling systems for industrial heat treatment equipment.

“Then one day the Boeing Company guy came to town recruiting. I had no idea what he was about, but it sounded intriguing, the aircraft business, and they were located in Seattle,” he said. “I’d never been out that way before, but when they offered me a job, I said, ‘Yeah, why not? I want to do that.’

“So we packed it up, drove our Volkswagen convertible out to Seattle and settled out here, and never came back.”

That was 1958, right when the Jet Age was taking off. Smith worked in customer service in the Commercial Airplane Division, drafting customer training devices for new 707s.

20160411_141646“I never was able to bring myself to be a desk-bound engineer. I wanted to get out and get involved with the customers,” he said. “And it was an exciting time in the airlines.”

After participating in the new 727 flight test and certification process in 1963, Smith was sent to LAX in Los Angeles as a field service engineer. There, he worked at maintenance bases of a number of airlines, including Western, Continental, TWA, United, Pan Am, American and Flying Tigers, all Boeing operators.

Four years later, Smith was accepted into Boeing’s Marketing Department to become an airplane salesman.

“Once again it was an exciting time because airlines were buying these newer aircraft and putting them into service, and I could become involved in the process,” he said. “Later in the ’70s, the domestic business began to fall off, Boeing was trying to sell a number of airplanes, which some airlines for financial reasons could not take delivery of. This situation provided opportunity to promote sales of the ‘white tails’ in Latin America.”

Sales expanded through Central America and in the Caribbean. Eventually, Smith was named sales manager focused in Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay and Ecuador.

In 1975, Smith became marketing manager at Boeing Computer Services, which was offering an automated passenger reservation system to replace handwritten ticketing in many of the world’s airlines. Travels took Smith around the world as he oversaw the employment of the computerized system.

He left Boeing one year later and worked as a marketing manager for several aircraft supplier corporations over the next 22 years.

DSC04408 Orchard 3 2013Smith retired in 1998 and moved from Bellevue, Wash., to Lopez Island into a new home on his farmland.

“When I go to the Boeing Museum in Seattle, I can visit the first 727, 737 and 747 airplanes that were used in the flight test programs and for customer demos and can say, ‘I’ve flown on that airplane, sometimes in the cockpit jump seat.’ They are famous test airplanes that have been put on display as museum pieces, but I can say I was able to fly on them. That was great fun.”

Over the years, he and his family also were having fun on the water: “In 1966, we bought waterfront property on Orcas Island, which is part of the San Juan Island group. Later on, Lopez Island became one of our favorite places to go with our 36-foot sailboat. You could say that’s how we got familiar with the waters around here. And at some point, I said to myself: ‘I really want to live here.’ And lo and behold we do.”

While he sold his sailboat, he and Connie break out the bikes and pedal around the island. They also drive antique John Deere tractors from 1928 and 1952 in the Fourth of July parade. “Our six grown children plus five grandchildren and friends march with us in the parade,” he added.

20160411_142423 20160411_142430

And, of course, they’re outside taking care of their property.

“That was part of the thought when we retired: You just can’t sit in a rocker somewhere and just go play golf, ride around in an RV, or something like that, and wait. To me, that’s going to kill you. And it seems like that’s what’s happening to a lot of people our age. Pretty soon you start looking around and go, ‘Whoa, some of them don’t look really good; they really aged.’

“I think that has something to do with health and keeping very active. You have to keep solving problems and go and do it,” Smith said. “I think this has been very beneficial all along, keeping life happy. So retirement on this farmland has been good for us.”

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Recognizing a Hero

December 18th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Alumni Profiles

By Patty Gelb

Dr. Richard Perry Ceremony for Soldiers Metal AwardIt took over 70 years for The University of Toledo alumnus, professor emeritus and Army veteran, Dr. Richard Perry
(’48, ’50, ’64)
, to receive the Soldier’s Medal designated for him on August 29, 1945 for his heroic acts during World War II. The Soldier’s Medal is an important recognition in the Army and is awarded for distinguishing oneself by heroism not involving actual conflict with an enemy. Until very recently, Perry wasn’t even aware he had earned this honor.

A series of lucky events, followed by the desire of the director of the UT Military and Veteran Affairs department to ensure this hero was recognized, culminated in Perry’s knowledge of his award and a celebration at UT on Nov. 5 where he was pinned with his long overdue medal.

“It was a twist of fate that he found out about it and another twist of fate that UT’s Army Reserve Officer Training Corps called our office where I happened to pick up the phone,” said Lt Haraz N. Ghanbari, USNR, director, Division of Military and Veterans Affairs.

Dr. Richard Perry Ceremony for Soldiers Metal AwardPerry, now 89 years old, was with the 63rd Infantry Division during WWII. In April of 1945, an ammunition explosion in Germany injured two American soldiers. It was then that Sgt. Perry ran into an inferno to rescue the soldiers. He then went back to the rubble to remove unexploded ammunition before a grenade went off and he was injured.

When Perry woke up in the hospital, he found he had been awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star. He did not have the paperwork for the medals and did not know at the time that he had also been awarded the Soldier’s Medal. Following the completion of his military service, Sgt. Perry was honorably discharged with some of the highest honors that can be bestowed by the military.

After the war, this Waite High School graduate came back to Toledo to obtain his bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees from The University of Toledo. An accomplished academic, Perry spent over 57 years teaching and holding various administrative positions at the University.

It took technology, and the time to research, that started the chain of events that led to his awareness of the award that he should have received during the war.

Dr. Richard Perry Ceremony for Soldiers Metal AwardOne day, Perry and his wife, Barbara Rondelli Perry, were searching online to find information about his former Army unit. Through their research, they found a retired Army colonel who was the unit’s historian and held many records of the unit from the war. The historian cross checked the rosters, found Perry’s records and informed him that he had copies of the morning reports, promotion reports and even the general order for the Soldier’s Medal. This was the first time Perry heard mention of this award.

Not fully knowing what the Soldier’s Medal was or meant, Perry reached out to the University’s ROTC group who led him to the Division of Military and Veterans Affairs. Ghanbari went to meet with Richard and Barbara in the Perry home and quickly learned that not only did the Perry’s not know about the Soldier’s Medal, they did not have the certificates and documentation that accompanied his Purple Heart and Bronze Star. He also had the wrong Bronze Star displayed in his shadow box in his home. The one that he had did not include the oak leaf clusters denoting that it was for multiple awards and it did not have the “V” symbol on the ribbon that signified that it was awarded for Valor.

Dr. Richard Perry Ceremony for Soldiers Metal AwardGhanbari knows how something as important as an award like the Soldier’s Medal and the paperwork for other medals can get overlooked during a war time period.

“He wasn’t alert when the Purple Heart and first Bronze Star were awarded to him in 1945,” said Ghanbari. “He found out about them when he woke up and found them pinned to his pillow in the hospital. Frankly, that happens quite a bit. When I was in Afghanistan, I saw our troops receive Purple Hearts that were in comas, unconscious or on life support. Often a soldier has no recollection of receiving these awards.”

After meeting with the Perry family, Ghanbari went into action to make sure this hero received the appropriate recognition. He asked for copies of the paperwork that Perry had and followed up the Army awards branch. Following discussions, they agreed to reissue the certificate and award for the Soldier’s Medal but they also issued his Purple Heart certificate and the correct version and paperwork for his Bronze Star.

Dr. Richard Perry Ceremony for Soldiers Metal Award“My initial thoughts were that we had to do something to present him the Soldier’s Medal because it’s the right thing to do even if it is 70 years late,” said Ghanbari. “Because he was not conscious when receiving his Purple Heart and Bronze Star, we wanted to pin all three of the medals that he received in WWII on him at the celebration.”

Ghanbari organized an event that was held at the Doermann Theatre in University Hall to recognize Sgt. Perry and award him with the medals. The event was attended by almost 100 people including Perry’s wife, along with many members of his family, college fraternity brothers, student veterans, members of the ROTC, and faculty and staff who worked with Perry over the years.

Ghanbari arranged for Lance Talmage, M.D. professor and interim chair, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology to act as the presiding officer at the ceremony. Talmage, retiring from the Army as a one-star General, is one of the most senior military officials locally and Ghanbari knew he was a close friend of Perry.Dr. Richard Perry Ceremony for Soldiers Metal Award

“It was a great honor to receive the medal,” said Perry. “The day itself was a great affair wonderfully put on by Lt. Ghanbari. The people who were there were just marvelous. I enjoyed it very much.”

Perry’s story and the celebration honoring him made the local news on TV and in newspapers. It was a touching tribute that really celebrated the bravery of this hero.

“I just wondered how all of this could be happening after 70 years,” said Perry. “The enormity of being recognized for just doing what a soldier does. I felt it such a privilege in serving the nation as a soldier. It was a great privilege to defend the constitution and, in a small way, stand for principles that no other nation has ever been able to put together to benefit its people. I just felt blessed. I was blessed to be able to serve.”

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A Healthy Dose of Reason

May 28th, 2015 | No Comments | Posted in Alumni Profiles

By Patty Gelb

Casey ReasonBeyond a reasonable doubt, Dr. Casey Reason (Education Specialist, ’94) is at the forefront of professional learning communities and virtual collaboration in the United States.

So much so, in fact, that the National Education Association (NEA) – the largest professional organization and the largest labor union in America – is sharing a chapter of his latest work with 3.2 million educators in this country ranging from kindergarten to higher education.

Professional Learning Communities at WorkReason’s book, “Professional Learning Communities at Work and Virtual Collaboration: On a Tipping Point of Transformation,” scheduled to be released this summer, was co-authored with Richard DuFour. DuFour is recognized as one of the leading authorities on aiding schools and their administrators in implementing the professional learning communities’ process.

Professional learning communities is a system that K-12 schools can adopt to change the way teachers work. Without a collaborative system in place, like professional learning communities, teachers could work alone as almost a free agent — managing their classrooms, teaching students, planning lessons and grading papers. Beyond faculty meetings to discuss issues, a teacher could be fairly isolated.

“In the era of accountability where we have to be consistent with what we present, professional learning communities asks that teachers meet consistently, share their approaches, share lesson plans and share data,” said Reason. “Common assessments are developed within the PLC structures so that all of the teachers use the same test within a similar time frame. They may find out that one teacher is able to bring more students to standard more consistently than another teacher. It is a way to ensure that every student is served, supported, and it allows teachers to work more collaboratively.”

Professional learning communities is not a new concept. It is used in many schools nationwide to facilitate teachers into working groups. Technology advances and the opportunities it could create in this field was an interest to Reason. The former teacher, assistant principal, principal, assistant superintendent, virtual course developer, consultant and author of award-winning educational books had been researching the effects social media and technology was having on education.

“The middle of last year, I approached my publisher with the idea of publishing a book on the topic of how professional learning communities were evolving because of technology,” said Reason. “I have worked with virtual learning for many years now, since the early 2000s. What we are learning about social media and virtual learning, and just the power to connect, is changing how people work in teams and what they are capable of.”

His publisher suggested that Reason reach out to DuFour about working on the book together. Reason knew DuFour, so he picked up the phone and gave him a call. He shared the concept and within a 15-minute phone call, DuFour was onboard with the project.

“He really liked the idea of a forward thinking book that focused on how technology is changing how people work in teams,” Reason said. “That is how the book got started.”

They spent the better part of the last eight months writing and collaborating. The pair just completed final edits.

“The professional learning community process is based on the premise that educators have expertise that can enhance their individual and collective practice if there is a process to share that expertise,” said DuFour. “The book parts out that this sharing need not be limited to colleagues in your building and can be expanded to include educators from around the world if educators tap into the power of technology.”

This latest book shares a lot of Reason’s most recent research interest; but it has been his experiences over the last 20 years that led him to the position where he is now in his career and those experiences began in Northwest Ohio. He was born in Sandusky to parents Clair “Tuffy” (Education, ’59) and Janice Scott Reason.

The couple met at UT in the spring of ’58 in an education class taught by Dean Kathryn Schwab. Tuffy played for the Rockets as a starting forward on Toledo’s very first Mid-American Conference Championship basketball team. Both went on to become educators; Tuffy an English teacher and Jan a principal.

“The University of Toledo provided the background and training needed to achieve goals we had planned for ourselves,” said Tuffy Reason. “We felt very confident in the classroom because of the excellent training we received from this institution.”

familyWhen Casey was born, his father was a radio broadcaster moving for his job across Ohio and Michigan. The family decided they loved the Toledo area and moved to Maumee. His father became a teacher at Clay High School. His mother became a principal for Toledo Public Schools.

Casey Reason first became a teacher, then an administrator. He was an educator for five years in Sylvania when he was offered the position of assistant principal in Findlay. His career continued to progress when he became an associate principal at Washington Local Schools, then the principal at Whitmer High School. Reason was just 30 years old. It was during this time that he decided to attend The University of Toledo to receive his education specialist degree.

“The University had a good and rigorous program,” shared Reason. “There was a personalization about it where there seemed to be genuine concern for people. I still think this is important and I assure you that I still carry that with me with what I do today.”

Upon completion of his degree at UT, this Rocket alumnus continued his meteoric rise in the field of education. He went on to become an assistant superintendent in Northville, Michigan. In 2008, he was offered and became the inaugural chair of leadership studies at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona. He wasn’t a stranger to the area having worked with the University of Phoenix over the years in distance and virtual learning and developing online curriculum.

But it was his time as associate principal of Washington Local Schools that helped him start his career as an author.

“When I was at Washington Local, the teachers and staff of the school worked very hard and we made some pretty significant changes and improvements,” said Reason. “After five years together, we ended up winning a special commendation from the State of Ohio for dramatic improvement and achievement in an urban setting. Because of that award, there was interest in how we did it.”

The school was studied and they were part of a reform network to learn how they achieved their success. Several years following, Reason was speaking at a conference when he ran into the president of Solution Tree Publishing.

“I told him a little about my background and what we had done at Washington Local,” Reason shared. “He asked me if I ever considered writing a book and I had. He pulled his cell phone out, called his publisher and said ‘Here is a guy that I really want to write a book for us. I will put him on the phone and I want a contract for him as soon as you can.’ Not quite ten years later I have written five books. I was the keynote speaker at Solution Tree’s biggest conference this year. It’s been a very good relationship and I think we both chose wisely.”

leadingalearningorganizationReason utilized his education experience to write “Leading a Learning Organization: The Science of Working with Others.” The book was awarded Phi Delta Kappa International’s book of the year selection for 2010. It was also endorsed by best-selling author Ken Blanchard.

MirrorImagesFollowing the success of that book, Reason and his father had the opportunity to work together. They co-authored his second book “Mirror Images: New Reflections on Teacher Leadership.”

“I approached my dad and said I thought it would be a good idea to write this book together and he agreed,” said Reason. “It was a great experience and a great opportunity to bond together… I gave him a template and he added to it. Then we took turns editing each other. My dad is an English teacher, well, we are both English teachers. But, he is a better editor than I am.”

100Days SLLY front_6-20-14
Reason went on to write “100 Days to Leadership Impact” in 2011 and “Stop Leading Like It’s Yesterday: Key Concepts for Shaping Today’s School Culture” in 2014.

“With schools, some of the biggest challenges we face are our old, existing paradigms,” Reason said. “In that book (‘Stop Leading Like It’s Yesterday) I talk about the fact that there are so many old paradigms. The fact that we take summers off has everything to do with an old paradigm. The idea that you learn lots of valuable information about a student while working with them for a whole year in elementary, and then pass them on to the next grade with almost no information following them, is an old paradigm that is based on the bureaucracy of the system, not what is good for learning. If you are running a business, there is no way that you would take a client, spend nine months nurturing it, abandon it for three months in the summer, then pass it off to another sales rep with almost no transition. You wouldn’t do that in business, yet we still do it to some degree with students all the time.”

Reason recently transitioned out of the chairmanship at Grand Canyon University to make more time for speaking and writing, but he keeps his hands in teaching as a part-time professor and supports universities in business development efforts. The majority of his schedule is filled as a full-time speaker and consultant. He is incorporated with his own company now.

An important part of Reasons’ world are his twin sons, Brice and Kiah.

“My boys were preemies and were in the Toledo Hospital for a month when they were born,” Reason said. “The doctor that delivered them was the former University of Toledo quarterback, Dr. Kent Bishop. He is a good friend and was great under pressure in bringing my sons into the world. Both boys are now good sized… one of them is almost 6-foot 2-inches. I am about ready to lose the height battle.”

Casey Reason’s parents now live near him and their grandchildren. The author likes to spend as much time as he can outside, hiking whenever possible. He is an elder in his church and spends time traveling all over the world consulting and speaking. One special trip he recalled was a consulting job at a boarding school in Switzerland. He took his sons on that trip, living in the boarding school. His kids got the opportunities to “live above the clouds” for a week. Reason enjoys the opportunities to travel with his boys.

Reason has had great achievement in the field of education and he and DuFour’s new book promises to continue this streak. The book will be available in August of this year and the NEA will be sharing the first chapter of “Professional Learning Communities at Work and Virtual Collaboration: On a Tipping Point of Transformation” to all of its members.

“I don’t think the NEA has ever done anything like what they have offered to do in this project,” said DuFour. “I think it reflects their efforts to bring educators together through technology as a means of helping educators meet the increasing demands that are being placed upon them. We were very proud to partner with the NEA on this venture.”

Reason shares DuFour’s pride in the work they did on the book and the fact that the NEA wants to share it with its membership.

“For the first time in the history of the NEA they’re sending a sample chapter of an author’s new book to ostensibly every teacher in America,” Reason said. “There are 3.2 million people in the NEA and there are another 600,000 in the American Federation of Teachers. A good majority of every teacher in American public schools are going to get a copy of a chapter of our new book.”

His work through the years has made an impact across the U.S. and specifically to the NEA.

“Dr. Casey Reason is exceptionally knowledgeable about online communities and digital engagement,” shared Barbara Hopkins, Ph.D., Sr. Program Specialist at the NEA. “His expertise has aided us greatly at the National Education Association (NEA) in order to build our online professional learning communities.  He’s a master trainer, researcher, practitioner and overall great person.  His role as a thought partner has greatly benefited us in the development of our strategy and training.  It’s been a great joy to work with him on this major initiative for NEA.”

Reason continues to work to improve the learning environment of schools and education for kids. He is very optimistic in the future of education in our nation.

“The fact of the matter is the reason schools haven’t changed much is that we have never run out of business.” Reason said. “General Motors and Ford would not have changed if other companies hadn’t come along and to some degree forced the issue. The point of my new book, however, is that technology is a flattening force that points to an optimistic future. We have got an unbelievably great opportunity to connect kids with resources that are free or nearly free today. Despite what is said in the news, this is a great time to be in education and I am very optimistic about what this new era of technology can mean for kids and the future of our country.”

The University of Toledo Alumni Association received an advanced copy of the first chapter that is being shared through the NEA. To read the chapter, click here.

To order a copy of Reason’s book, click here.

To learn more about Casey Reason and his work you can visit his website at:

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The 52/52 Project

January 30th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Alumni Profiles

My Year of Detours Out of the Cul-de-Sac

By Sherry Stanfa-Stanley

Sherry with Rocksy head_byCrystalHand_TheUniversityofToledoWhile I followed after the city’s SWAT team and vice squad as they stormed a house on a drug raid, I only wished I was wearing a bullet-proof vest, a holster, and a pair of Depends.

I never would have imagined myself having the opportunity to take part in a raid, let alone having the nerve to see it through. But at that moment—four months into my year of new adventures—I was learning to take deep breaths and let lots of wild, frightening experiences roll off my shoulders.

As I stumbled into my 50s, I realized I’d spent most of the last 30 years doing the usual ordinary things: same daily routine, same house, same job. Not that I have any complaints about my job: I’ve been director of communication and fund stewardship for The University of Toledo Foundation for nearly 22 years. I work for a place I respect and appreciate, with terrific colleagues, alumni, and donors.

Still, I knew my life was in a bit of a rut. I know many people in a similar situation, particularly middle-age women who spend more than their share of evenings folding clothes in front of the TV, daydreaming about the world out there while they contemplate having that second bowl of ice cream. Weary of dishing myself vanilla, I was in need of more exciting flavors—and maybe a bit of nuts.

Sherry police patrolSo, I sold my home of 21 years, bought a condo, and lost 30 pounds. Then I pondered how else I might shake up my life. Thus was born, “The 52/52 Project: My Year of Detours off the Cul-de-sac,” a year of enlightening, exciting, and frequently frightening new experiences.

As I approached my 52nd birthday, I embarked on 52 things I’d never before done—a year of weekly experiences far outside my comfort zone. They’ve ranged from being a zoo-keeper for a day, to plunging into the icy Maumee River in January, to auditioning for the show “Survivor.”

Not a Bucket List

A bucket list, this was not. The 52/52 Project has been about changing my life, pushing my boundaries, and learning to laugh at myself along the way. It’s been both terrifying and liberating.

Why now? Was the anticipation of turning 52 some significant or magical moment? Perhaps I subconsciously recalled that my father died a week after he turned 53. Maybe my recent visit to Italy, with half my trip spent traveling entirely on my own, taught me I was capable of more than I imagined. Or, maybe I was just losing it.

Regardless of my motivation, at some point we decide either to continue sighing at the status quo of our lives or else we embrace change. I chose change, albeit with trembling hands.

Sherry as Rocksy with Blue Crew by Crystal Hand_The University of ToledoI included a number of outrageous items on my list, primarily designed for a laugh. As adults, most of us have forgotten how to be silly. Going outside our comfort zone requires being able to laugh at ourselves.

Just a few weeks into the project though, it began to evolve. The readers of my interactive Facebook page and blog, where I’ve shared stories and photos of my adventures, appeared charged and excited. Several called me an inspiration. An inspiration? Me? The middle-age woman who never thought of herself as more than a cautionary tale? Based on my reader response, I included a couple more thought-provoking items on my list, including volunteering at a nursing home and taking a homeless person to lunch.

The 52/52 Project has inspired some of my readers to jump-start their own lives. Several have embarked on their own, similar projects. Together we’ve jumped the curb, taking a detour from the safe and secure cul-de-sac of our lives, to visit personally unexplored territories.

Along with my readers, I’ve learned three rules for changing one’s life through a year of new experiences:

  1. Never say never.
  2. Be assured the anticipation is almost always more frightening than the reality, although the reality is usually unlike anything you anticipated.
  3. Buckle-up. It’s sure to be a bumpy ride.

Here’s a synopsis of some favorites:

I Will Survive

Sherry Survivor auditionWhen I learned the TV show “Survivor” was holding an open cast-call on a Lake Erie island only a hop and a skip away, I cancelled all plans for the day. Because when serendipity comes calling, you’d better open the door.

I nailed my one-minute screen audition. At least that’s what my comrades at Put-in-Bay told me. Disclaimer: Some of them may have been drinking. But I’m still standing by for my call-back. Surely the show’s producers are seeking a middle-age, square-shaped woman who’s simply ready to change her life.


Nearly halfway through my year of new experiences, I’d never made it to the very moment of execution and still been consumed with such fear that I seriously considered backing out. That is, not until I was strapped upside down into a harness, 75 feet above the ground, with only an inch-thick cable keeping me from crashing to my death.

Somehow, I survived—and actually enjoyed my zip-lining ride. I realized the anticipation of fear is almost always worse than the reality of the experience. If we’re brave enough to spread our wings, we may be surprised just how high we can soar.

Choking down Creepy Crawlers

Eating a chocolate-covered cricket wasn’t so bad—until a leg or maybe an antenna—became wedged between two of my top molars and had to be dug out with my fingernail. The worm proved a bigger challenge. Unlike its gummy candy counterpart, it was crunchy. Much like the dried-up kind you find on the driveway a couple of days after a heavy rain.

The ordeal proved just slightly less horrendous than expected. But, let’s be honest: My expectations were exceedingly low.

Honk, If You Pretend to Like Mimes

Sherry mime wavingBeing a mime at a busy shopping plaza presented a few challenges, including the fact that when it came to silent street performers, most people I knew had few nice words to say. I geared myself up for feeling awkward, out-of-place, and unloved: much like my adolescent years.

Yet being a mime for a day proved that the craziest, most random ideas in our lives often end up leaving us smiling—and speechless.

Stranger of the Bride

Here’s a little hint about crashing wedding receptions: If you want to remain inconspicuous and anonymous, it’s probably best not to discover you’re Facebook friends with the owner of the reception hall—or to accidentally catch the bridal bouquet.

It’s All Happening at the Zoo

I fed an alligator, had my hand licked by a dingo, and exfoliated a rhinoceros. Just another day in the life of a zoo-keeper at The Toledo Zoo—and in my year of new experiences.

Out on the Street

For years, I passed by them: the disheveled strangers standing in the median, holding cardboard signs reading, “Homeless and Hungry.” I rarely stopped to offer a dollar or even a warm smile. I was wary and suspicious—until I took a chance on Linda.

I took Linda to lunch and gave her $5. She gave me an experience that changed me for good.

I’m Just a Singer (in a Rock and Roll Band)

My professional musical background consisted of singing along with the radio in the car. Still, singing on stage—with much pre-planning for my song, plus a rehearsal or two—had found its way onto my list. What I hadn’t planned on was unexpectedly being called up on stage by The Danger Brothers, a popular Midwest band. (Thank you, Joan Uhl Browne.)

As I lumbered onto the stage, I told myself that if The 52/52 Project was indeed about going outside my comfort zone, this impromptu performance surely fit the bill. Yet once I grabbed the microphone and launched into song and dance, my stage fright all but disappeared. It felt so right. At that moment, I knew I’d come a long way through the past six months. My journey wasn’t finished yet. Who says it’s over when the fat lady sings?

Rocking the College Mascot Costume

Possessing no athletic ability whatsoever, along with feigned interest in watching most sports, had hindered me as a sporting enthusiast. Maybe I just needed to find my niche.

Hitting the field as one of the mascots of my alma mater, The University of Toledo (Class of 1983), thirty years after I graduated, was my final chance to make NCAA history. After an afternoon of slapping hands and giving high-fives, I’d like to think I rocked being “Rocksy,” with one small caveat: It was tough to score a mascot’s M.O. of a sassy saunter when you’re a clumsy middle-aged woman—wearing clown shoes.


After my ordeal at a nude beach (I won’t elaborate), I promised I’d never again complain about cramming my full-sized, middle-aged parts into a swimsuit. Clearly, I never considered I’d be wearing one on New Year’s Day—in Ohio—while I plunged into the icy waters of the Maumee River.

I was joined by 300 others taking part in Waterville’s annual Polar Bear Plunge. One swimmer wore just a threadbare pair of underwear, and another was outfitted in a bathrobe and Viking horns. I rolled my eyes at the nuts around me, until it dawned on me that I was an active member of this circus freak show.

As I blinked to shake off the icicles forming on my eyelashes, I questioned my sanity. Yes, it would be a cold day in hell before I jumped into an icy river again. That would be nuts.

More to Come

Some of the adventures still to come over the next four months include:

  • Driving a stock car
  • Hopping on the first flight out from the airport—wherever it might be going—with no pre-scheduled airline reservation, no hotel reservation, no car rental, and no itinerary
  • Joining a team of professional ghost-hunters from the TV shows “Ghost Hunters” and “Haunted Collector” for a ghost hunt at the Mansfield Reformatory

Throughout my 52/52 experience, I’ve realized we’re all capable of changing our lives, whether we’re 30, 50, or 80. All it takes is a bit of imagination, an open mind, and an ability to laugh at yourself. And, perhaps, a tiny amount of crazy. “Crazy” comes in handy when you’re exfoliating a rhino.

To learn more about The 52/52 Project, follow along at or on Facebook at

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Pharm Grad Takes UT Training Down South

January 30th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Alumni Profiles

By Patty Gelb

100_0037With the recent freezing temperatures and the record breaking amounts of snowfall, you would think the reason Dr. Andy Hochradel (Pharm, ‘12) moved to Augusta, Ga. following graduation was to escape the cold. But the reason wasn’t to avoid Toledo’s weather, it was for opportunity.

Born and raised in Toledo, Hochradel attended Our Lady of Perpetual Help for elementary school and graduated from Bowsher High School. When it came time to go to college, he chose The University of Toledo. Originally he attended undergrad with an interest in environmental science, but quickly switched his focus over to pharmacy.

“Once I got started taking classes like biology, chemistry and physics, I felt I had a natural path for math and science,” said Hochradel. “When I started thinking more practically about what I would do using my knowledge, I thought pharmacy was a good field to be in.”

Hochradel also credits his parents for his decision to go into the field of pharmacy although he said that he didn’t realize that influence at the time.

100_0049“I wasn’t thinking this way when I was 18 or 19 years old, but my father is an accountant and my mother is a nurse,” said Hochradel. “Accounting is attention to detail and nursing is about as direct patient care as you can get. Pharmacy is smack dab in-between that, attention to detail and accountability, plus direct patient care.”

Hochradel worked at the Kroger Pharmacy on South Detroit and Glendale in Toledo for almost four years during pharmacy school. But, following his graduation from UT, he accepted a position as a staff pharmacist at Barney’s Pharmacy, Inc. in Augusta. He was exposed to Barney’s while doing one of his eight rotations during pharmacy school.

“I spent a month at Barney’s and it was my first experience in an independent community pharmacy,” said Hochradel. “It is a family-owned business, so I got to know the owner. I really learned a lot about operating a pharmacy and loved the autonomy of an independent store. Barney’s is in a growth phase and we aim to be our patient’s complete healthcare destination. Our slogan is, ‘Come home to Barney’s for all of your healthcare needs.’ We do a lot more than just fill prescriptions.”

A major area of interest for Hochradel is a growing trend in pharmacy called Medication Therapy Management (MTM). With MTM there are more and more opportunities to bill for cognitive services like ensuring that the medication is appropriate, making sure that a patient knows how to use their medication and monitoring the patient for side effects rather than just dispensing and getting paid per prescription filled.

“There are interventions that a pharmacist can do to help a patient reach a goal,” said Hochradel. “If I have an encounter with a patient that influences their adherence to their blood pressure medication for example, what kind of cost savings does that have on the healthcare system, employer, insurance company or patient’s out of pocket expense down the road? We know what will occur with uncontrolled hypertension. We are preventing issues such as cardiac disease or a heart attack. The price tag on a heart attack is hundreds of thousands of dollars verses compensating a pharmacist in the range of $1 to $3 a minute for an intervention. There is more and more outcome data showing that doing something in the realm of preventative health today is a cost savings opportunity and improves the care of that patient.”

MTM is very much a team-based approach, where the pharmacist works very closely with the primary care provider or physician. As Hochradel shared, it is not taking over the patient.

IMG_0062“One area where I feel my position is a big advantage is for patients with chronic diseases on maintenance medications,” said Hochradel. “Since they are coming into our pharmacy several times a month, I see them and can implement systems to check on therapy, triage any side effects or break down barriers to getting care. Sometimes something as simple as taking the time to understand their specific insurance issues can be a huge assistance because a lot of patients stop therapies because of cost. But if the patient knows I can help by looking into alternative treatments with their physician that are less expensive or that fit into their specific insurance formulary, I become a resource to them.”

Hochradel’s career is really taking off as of late. A couple of months ago, he transitioned from his staff retail pharmacist position to become the specialty pharmacy director, which is a new venture for Barney’s Pharmacy. Hochradel will be focusing on providing medications for specific disease states that are being treated by specialists.

“Augusta has a teaching hospital similar to UTMC,” said Hochradel. “They have transplant operations, oncologists, inflammatory conditions and rheumatologists. These are examples of the types of unique conditions that are being treated by specialists. Typically people in rural areas have to go to bigger cities to seek these treatments and these patients require extra attention. There are a lot of quality assurance initiatives and critical documentation. It is more involved than the types of prescriptions that we were doing at Barney’s today.”

IMG_0048Hochradel feels his education at UT really prepared him well. He was part of the transition at the College of Pharmacy where third and fourth year professional students were located on the health science campus at UT.

“The vision of moving to the medical campus was to have us work more closely with our colleagues who are in different disciplines in healthcare,” said Hochradel. “It put us in an environment where we have to meet each other early on in our careers and to have more respect for what everyone does and to learn the value in team-based medicine. My current ventures into specialty pharmacy and MTM are using those very principals. I am not hesitant to work with a physician or a nurse to do what we have got to do to improve the treatment for the patient.”

One day Hochradel would like to own his own pharmacy whether it is with Barney’s or on his own. Two other Barney’s locations were opened with junior partners and he has been in discussion with the owner about opening stores or formalizing the specialty pharmacy department as a new business. It seems like he is in the right place at the right time.

“I still call Toledo my home and choosing the pharmacy program at UT was one of the best decisions I have made in my life so far,” said Hochradel. “I would say the college’s focus on leadership and patient care helped me so much. One thing that they taught us really well was how to be a professional. Everything from dressing the part, acting the part to how to do an interview. It’s a really comprehensive program and I am very thankful for it. I also had some really good mentors like Dr. Steven Martin and Dr. Curtis Black who spent a lot of time with me one-on-one fostering my professionalism. And my advisor Jose Trevino played a big role in helping me get into the pharmacy program. We stayed in touch all through pharmacy school. I plan on maintaining my relationship with The University of Toledo, specifically the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Services. I always look forward to visiting my hometown.”


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