Alumni Profiles

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Gabby Bishop '14 on her experiences as CatlinSpeak co-editor

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From the Spring 2014 Caller

I came to Catlin Gabel in my sophomore year from Grant HS. . . . I had never done any journalistic writing before.
 
One of the favorite stories I wrote came about because I heard that a friend was involved in a protest against austerity measures in November 2012 with the Portland Student Union. There was no permit to walk in the street, but they walked near Lloyd Center, and the police pepper-sprayed them. Researching it was a very long process of asking for and being denied access to public records. . . . It was a fun article to write, but I found the process to be the most interesting part.
 
Editors Simon McMurchie, Nico Hamacher, and I each lead groups of three to four people, and each group publishes every third week. It keeps the workload lower but allows for more in-depth articles. The editors lead the groups, create schedules, help students come up with ideas, and edit the articles.
 
Our advisers Pat Walsh and George Zaninovich review the ideas and content to see if we are on the right track with angles and help facilitate class discussions. We talk about current events and about possible articles. We talk about how to pump an article up or offer angles so a student can choose a direction if they are having trouble writing.
 
CatlinSpeak is a creative outlet for me. Catlin Gabel has an open curriculum, but CatlinSpeak is astronomically more open. Writing about what I’m interested in is very rewarding, especially when I think I’ve done a good job or learned from it. As editors, it’s gratifying to see other students fulfill their full potential. The education offered here is amazing, and students accomplish wonderful things. CatlinSpeak is just one way.
 
I guess I just have an open mind. I’m very determined about things and have opinions, but they’re not set, and I want to learn more. If people ask me for my opinion and I’m not educated enough, that drives me to find out more.
From an interview in March 2014

»Read about her co-editor Simon McMurchie '15

A Fanatic for Service

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Nkenge Harmon Johnson ’93, spokesperson for Oregon’s Governor Kitzhaber, has worked in political communications for the U.S. Congress and President Obama

From the Spring 2014 Caller

By Nadine Fiedler

Political nerds are service fanatics. You can’t really shake it off,” says Nkenge Harmon Johnson ’93. She should know. Three years shy of turning 40, she has already carved out a notable career in public service in U.S. and state politics. A brilliant, curious, and resilient woman, her driving force is her love for this country and an overwhelming ethic of inclusivity and giving back.
 
Since January 2014, Nkenge has served as communications director for Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber and as a member of the Governor’s executive team. “I deal with the media, elected officials, and the public about really important issues that affect lives today and affect the future of the state. It’s no small matter,” she says. It’s her voice you hear discussing state issues and policies, her words that you will read in the media about the Governor’s stance on crucial matters.
 
Nkenge does much more than talk about policy, though: she is an instrumental player in shaping the work of the Governor’s office. “Not only do I help define how to discuss the work at hand, I also identify ways to focus the work to the greatest effect,” she says. “It’s about identifying commonalities and differences where that is most important. The job is not just talking to people but helping us to listen.”
 
Nkenge began her work in political public service 11 years ago. After Catlin Gabel she attended Florida A&M University as a business and engineering major, and then attended Howard University Law School, which had recognized her potential and vigorously recruited her. Nkenge’s law school class was the first to graduate after 9-11, and the job situation was brutal for her and her peers because of the economic downturn. Her family has a strong military tradition, and she recounts the day when she was in D.C., trying to figure out how to serve her country in a time when the employment outlook for budding lawyers looked bleak. She looked up and noticed the Capitol, and realized: that’s what she could do to serve.
 
But Oregon was calling her back, so Nkenge returned home to take the Oregon Bar exam. She passed the Bar, and went as far as accepting a job at Legal Aid in Portland. She grabbed a chance to take a road trip before she began working—and was in a terrible car accident in Texas. “Every now and again I feel as though the universe puts its hand on my shoulder and says, ‘Slow down,’” Nkenge says. “I was lying on a hospital bed looking up and saying, Oh! Was I not paying attention to something?” That’s when she decided to act on her moment of inspiration and seek work on Capitol Hill.
 
When Nkenge finished her rehab and recovery from the accident, she began working as legislative counsel for U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, of Texas. Nkenge’s first experience with the duties of a press secretary came when she realized the haphazard nature of the communications coming from Lee’s office, and decided to be the gatekeeper for all public material. Although she yearned to practice law, she says, “The job was a natural fit for me to be talking to reporters and talking to the public and helping to shape messages, because I understood the underlying policy and motivations behind what I was saying. There’s nothing better than that.”
 
Growing weary of the politics of being in the minority party in the House, Nkenge worked for two years supporting national political campaigns as deputy press secretary for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Her focus was outreach to stakeholders and media such as the African American, Spanish language, and faith press, a great learning experience. When the election cycle concluded, she earned an MBA and worked as a lawyer in New York and D.C.—and found a way to fulfill her intense entrepreneurial drive.
 
Before she turned 30 Nkenge bought a mixed-use housing development in D.C., one she owns to this day. She started this business in 2005 partially to see if she could put into practice principles of highest and best use. “I had some theories and ideas about housing issues, homelessness, and finance. I wanted to see if I could walk the talk,” she said. She lived in the building and maintains close relationships with her tenants, some of whom have been living there longer than she has been alive.
 
After her business was up and running, Nkenge’s thoughts turned to working on the Hill, stirred again by her love of public service. She took a job as director of outreach communications for Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. Shortly after, she became communications director in 2009 for Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, a state that resonated for Nkenge because of its economic similarities to Oregon. Nkenge admired Sen. Stabenow’s strength of character, and enjoyed the work of helping her build a strong national presence.
 
And then the President called: the Obama administration tapped her to help move forward the country’s trade agenda. When that happens, you act. She joined the office of the U.S. Trade Representative, a position she held for three years, working to help solidify trade agreements with Korea, Colombia, and Panama. “Our schedule was unrelenting,” she says. “But it’s a great honor to work in service of my country and this President. I have to start and stop with these points.”
 
When the three trade agreements were signed, Nkenge saw that as an opportunity for change. Once again, Nkenge left D.C. to return to Oregon, this time for a very personal and important reason. In September 2012 she married Erious Johnson, a classmate of hers from Howard University Law School. She had been based in D.C., and he was successful attorney in New York. Moving to Oregon was their chance to make a life together. Nkenge and Erious moved to a house in south Salem above a Christmas tree farm, with sunsets, great views, deer, and space to grow. They established a law firm of their own, where she worked until she was called upon to serve Governor Kitzhaber.
 
“Success for me means finding people from whom I can learn and who are supportive of my decision to work hard to build my dreams,” says Nkenge. At Catlin Gabel, headmaster Jim Scott, science teacher Paul Dickinson, and most of all Spanish teacher Roberto Villa were those people for her. Nkenge had been part of a cohort of students who came from Harriet Tubman Middle School, which brought what she saw as interesting challenges. Jim Scott was someone she went to for help with finding solutions to those challenges, and was a hugely supportive presence. Nkenge loved science and says that Paul Dickinson allowed her to “play with ideas and participate in events outside of school, like the Bickleton bluebird trip, which I did every year at Catlin Gabel.” Roberto Villa is most memorable for her because he challenged her when she didn’t want to do what she saw as a tedious and boring part of her classwork. He urged her to do work that was more complex and interesting, and earned her trust by supporting her to do the work her own way and in turn learn more deeply. She still credits him with her love of and facility with the Spanish language, which she used daily as a lawyer in New York and D.C.
 
Nkenge says that one of her biggest challenges is helping others see the greatness of her community and state the way she does. “I reject conventional theories about diversity in Oregon. I figure I have a reason to know,” she says. “What’s important is not census numbers or language or heritage, but opportunities that need to be available for all of us. I reject the idea that one has to look a certain way or be from a certain place to succeed. It’s a challenge to make it true that everyone can do what he or she makes up their mind to do—in education, employment, arts and culture, sports, or health care. As long as we think about the state as homogenous it lets us off the hook. Oregon is not so. What the state looks like calls us into account to make our organizations resemble the state,” she says.
 
“And the same is true nationally. In the Senate I was one of two African American communication directors out of one hundred. There were two Asians and no Latinos. The numbers of persons of color were far underrepresented, and this was true of every level of senators and their staffs, and it is still true,” she says.
 
Another great challenge for Nkenge has been her equal desires to be both a public servant and an entrepreneur while working in jobs that are difficult and consuming. She was always interested in business, had thought in college that she would work in finance, and always had the sense that she would work for herself at some point in her life. “Being a public servant means being focused on issues of others. It’s very external. Being an entrepreneur means being mostly focused on oneself and the business, and the mission to build a going concern. Both are different and important to me! I’ve spent most of my time, though, in public service. It’s a challenge to find a way to embrace the entrepreneur in me. It’s probably also a success in that I continue to believe I am able to do more than one big thing at the same time,” she says.
 
When she looks back on the years since she began working on Capitol Hill, Nkenge feels fortunate to have had an exciting and fulfilling career, and to have been nimble enough to take advantage of opportunities that came to her, even at inopportune times. “I’m not a written-in-cement planner,” she says. “I’m lucky to get to do interesting work. I’m committed to making choices that allow me to do what I want most of the time. I’ve been through pay cuts, moves, leaves of absences, starting businesses on a wing and a prayer. I’m willing to allow myself the chance to do what’s satisfying personally and of most use to the society in which I live. I’m trying to learn from experience.”
 
Nadine Fiedler is Catlin Gabel’s director of publications and public relations, and the editor of the Caller.

Annual Alumni Awards

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From the Winter 2014 Caller

Every year the Catlin Gabel alumni board recognizes former students for their life work and accomplishments. Through their unique contributions, these alumni embody the school philosophy “in qualities of character, intelligence, responsibility, and purpose.” The 2012–13 honorees were recognized during Alumni Weekend in September. 

Gretchen Corbett ’63

Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award

The Catlin Gabel alumni board honored Gretchen Corbett ’63 with the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award for significant accomplishments in business or professional life. Gretchen is a well-known actress who has appeared in prominent roles in theater, film, and television.
 
Gretchen’s theater background includes major roles on and off Broadway, in Shakespeare festivals, and in notable regional theaters across the nation. Her career has been punctuated by her work in many iconic roles including Jeri in Kojak, Jessica Conroy in Columbo, Arlene in Gunsmoke, Glynis in Hawaii Five-O, and Beth Davenport in The Rockford Files.
 
Locally, Gretchen has performed for Portland Center Stage, Portland Playhouse, Third Rail Rep, and Sojourn Theatre, receiving numerous lead actress awards. Gretchen is also an award-winning director for her work with Reasons to be Pretty and Anse and Bhule, and acted as resident director for the ASK Theatre in Los Angeles. Gretchen founded and ran the Haven Project, a local nonprofit focused on pairing underserved children with professional actors to create original theater, for 10 years.
 
During Gretchen’s acceptance speech she spoke of English and theater teacher “Mrs. Jo,” Vivian Johannes: “She expected you to come in with a burning appetite to work on some scene or play or monologue. And these were not plays of light fare—these were Euripedes and Ugo Betti and some odd playwright named Constant Connaught, who, I found out later in my adult years, was Vivian herself. . . . I was taught that my passion was not only appreciated, it was a requirement for my success.”
 

Wick Rowland ’62

Distinguished Alumni Service Award
 

The Catlin Gabel alumni board honored Wick Rowland ’62 with the Distinguished Alumni Service Award for extraordinary service to the community, state, nation, or the world.
 
Wick is a leader in public broadcasting and communications studies. Wick is longtime president and CEO emeritus of Colorado Public Television and has played many key roles in the development of public broadcasting and its stations and policies. He is also dean and professor emeritus of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Colorado–Boulder, and served as president of the Association of Schools of Journalism and Mass Communication. Wick’s published works have focused on communications policy, public media, television violence debates, and the history of journalism and communication education. He received a BA in history from Stanford, an MA in communication from the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, and a PhD from the Institute of Communication Research at the University of Illinois.
 
When asked to speak to Upper School students on life after Catlin Gabel and the path he took, Wick spoke of Manvel “Schauff” Schauffler’s enduring legacy and said, “After you graduate and over the years as you move on to other things, I hope you will remember this heritage and always celebrate it, just as those of us returning this weekend are doing.”
 

Amani Reed ’93

Distinguished Younger Alumni Award
 

The Catlin Gabel alumni board honored Amani Reed ’93 with the Distinguished Younger Alumni Award, for high achievement in a profession or social service before the age of 40.
 
Amani is a leader in independent schools and progressive curriculum development. After Catlin Gabel, Amani attended Howard University and the University of Portland. He began his career in education at Sewickley Academy in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where his former Catlin Gabel mentor Roy Parker hired him as Summerbridge director. Amani worked at the school for six years, teaching, coaching soccer, working in admissions, and serving as diversity director. He went on to serve as assistant middle school head at Lakeside School in Seattle.
 
After completing his master’s in educational leadership from the Teachers College at Columbia University, Amani was hired as middle school principal at the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools. In 2012 Amani was appointed head of the School at Columbia University, leading 500 students and 130 faculty and staff members. Most recently, Amani successfully led the school through a major facilities renovation.
 
In accepting the award, Amani said, “As I thought about today, I focused on the time I spent at Catlin Gabel, and how this school has influenced my life as an educator. Important lessons were learned here about perseverance and belonging. . . . I rely on the leadership lessons learned from mentors like Roy Parker and Jim Scott and Lark Palma, who helped me understand what it means to truly care. I think about the community that found such strength in itself to bring a class together, that truly survived it all, and I think about what I might have become had I not had the opportunity to come to Catlin.”
 

Dave Corkran

Joey Day Pope ’54 Volunteer Award
 

The Catlin Gabel alumni board honored retired 35-year Upper School history teacher Dave Corkran with the Joey Day Pope ’54 Volunteer Award for a Catlin Gabel community member who personifies volunteerism within the community. The awardee is selected by a committee of alumni and faculty-staff. Dave is a leader in many arenas in the Catlin Gabel community, continuing to dedicate his time as a committed volunteer.
 
Dave graduated from Middlebury College and received his MA and PhD from the University of California, Berkeley. He joined the Catlin Gabel faculty in 1968, and began coaching cross country and track in 1971. Ten years into retirement, Dave is still an enthusiastic and knowledgeable volunteer coach, and a vocal soccer fan. Coaches, players, and spectators often hear him imparting words of encouragement from the hill above Davis-Gant field.
 
In presenting the award, Len Carr ’75 said, “Dave has given generously and selflessly to the athletic program for 45 years. He has traveled thousands of miles across the state by school bus and has left his indelible mark on hundreds of athletes and students.” Dave has led 16 senior class environmental restoration trips to Mount Hood and 16 other senior trips around Oregon, and continues to go on freshman trips. He has been committed to the Elana Gold ’93 Memorial Environmental Restoration Project since its inception in 1991, leading Catlin Gabel students and alumni in more than 15,000 hours of volunteer work restoring degraded land and protecting sensitive riparian zones. In 2010 Dave accepted a Regional Forester’s Award from the Mt. Hood National Forest for the successful restoration work that has been done through the project.
 
Dave ended his acceptance speech noting, “The Colombian environmentalist and reformer Paolo Lugari says that if you are not dreaming you must be asleep. Thanks everyone, for helping me stay awake.”

"The Learning is in My Hands"

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The Catlin Gabel journey of lifer Qiddist Hammerly '12, now at Northwestern University, was made possible through financial aid

From the Summer 2013 Caller

Catlin Gabel helped me develop skills in organizing, fundraising, and creating projects that were my own, because it gave me the freedom to take an idea and run with it. My projects in Lower School included an Environmental Friends club, a huge potluck and tree planting, and a tsunami relief fund and walkathon—I even had an opportunity to go on the local news to talk about that. I’ve continued to use those skills.
 
In the Catlin Gabel community there’s a lot of trust and respect, both among peers and between peers and teachers, that inform how students learn and give them the ability to succeed both in school and out in the real world. Teachers hold you accountable for your own learning and give you a lot of responsibility, whether that’s teaching a class or creating a class discussion that engages your peers. The level of trust allows students to take safe risks in the classroom and when they leave the school. I always think back to what my 1st grade teacher Zalika always said: “Your worth is not bound in your performance.” You learn that you’re not always going to do perfectly, but you’ll push yourself to strive for something. You learn that it’s more about the learning and not about the grade.
 
Going through Catlin Gabel has helped me to not be afraid to try something new at Northwestern University, or tackle something that might be really hard. Catlin Gabel has taught me that if I’m interested in something, I should put my all into it, and that it’s worth the challenge. I’m majoring in social policy; I’m interested in education and education policy, and working with youth in the criminal justice system. I have a job working in a 1st grade classroom, teaching reading and writing skills. I’m also doing a mentorship at a youth detention center in Chicago, with its music program.
 
Talking to students from other schools, I’ve found that it’s a uniquely Catlin Gabel thing to have such a close and personal relationship with your teachers. That’s something that the school does really well. That connection outside of the classroom has been really beneficial to me.

Catlin Gabel teachers and the school push you and encourage you to make your learning your own, and they give you the ability and the freedom to create your own experiences. If you have an idea, you have the power to turn that idea into a reality. As a kid, for me that was the coolest thing. I have the power to create what I want to do? The learning is in my hands? That’s what made Catlin fun for me, whether it was volunteering in Middle School at Albina Head Start, or a research project as an intern at OHSU, or going on a trip to Botswana.

My parents didn’t really expect to send me to Catlin Gabel: financially, it didn’t seem like an option. Through the combination of the sacrifices that they made throughout my time here and the generous scholarships I received, I was able to stay all the way through. I am grateful to everyone who made it possible for me to stay here, both to the donors and to my parents. I’m also grateful to my teachers, because I was here from such a young age. Catlin Gabel made me who I am.
 
Excerpts from an interview with Qiddist conducted in February 2013.

Gus Van Sant: Portland's greatest filmmaker & his controversial new movie

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Willamette Week article, December 2012

Tom Cramer '78 artwork named best painting of the year in Portland

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Willamette Week article, January 2013

Distinguished Alumni Awards

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From the Autumn 2012 Caller

Every year the alumni association recognizes former Catlin Gabel students for their life work and accomplishments. Through their unique contributions, these alumni embody the school philosophy “in qualities of character, intelligence, responsibility, and purpose.” The 2011–12 honorees were recognized during Alumni Weekend in October.

Philip Hult '88
Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award

The Catlin Gabel alumni board honored Philip Hult ’88 with the Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award for his significant accomplishments in business and education. Philip is the co-CEO of EF Education First, a privately held international education organization founded by his father, Bertil Hult.
 
A 1993 graduate of Brown University, Philip holds a degree in international relations and comparative literature. After graduation from Brown, Philip joined EF, where he has focused primarily on emerging markets and digital learning. From 2001 to 2006 he worked in Hong Kong, where he led EF’s growth in China and expanded its academic products. Globally under Philip’s tenure, EF has started a private high school and built what is today the world’s largest graduate school of business: the Hult International Business School. Together with his brother, Philip oversees the strategy and operations of EF’s 16 business units, which specialize in language training, educational travel, academic degrees, and cultural exchange.
 
Recently, Philip has been instrumental in funding the Hult Prize, a $1 million prize to fund the next wave of social entrepreneurs through a business case competition that crowdsources ideas from top business schools around the world. The 2012 prize was announced by Bill Clinton at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City. 

Philip lives in London with his wife, Britt, and three children.  

Pippa Arend '90
Distinguished Alumni Service Award

 

The Distinguished Alumni Service Award was presented to Pippa Arend ’90, co-founder and development director of p:ear, a Portland nonprofit dedicated to building positive relationships with homeless and transitional youth for over 10 years.
 
Pippa is a 1995 graduate of Marlboro College with a BA in art history and choreography. After running a metal shop in Poland, Pippa returned to Portland and founded her own metal shop, Tornado Creations, where she designed, fabricated, and installed custom metal furniture. She also worked for Eric Peterson, and studied welding at the Pacific Northwest College of Art with Manuel Izquierdo.
 
In 2002, she co-founded p:ear, a mentor-based program for homeless youth, which strives to develop hope and trust through education, art, and recreation. p:ear’s ultimate goal is to affirm a sense of personal worth in homeless youth as they create more meaningful and healthier lives off the streets.
 
Pippa says that working at p:ear has been the single most challenging yet rewarding adventure of her life. She is thrilled to spread the word about the innovative ways p:ear interacts with post-risk youth by encouraging personal choice while giving youth the role models, guidance, and support they need to both struggle safely and succeed with affirmation. In 2011, p:ear’s program staff of five and 120 volunteers served 1,200 young people ages 15 to 24 for a collective total of 22,000 hours. Youth artwork, made independently or through workshops with guests, is displayed at the p:ear Gallery in Northwest Portland.
 
“As a creative and resourceful problem solver, Pippa has focused her life with unselfish dedication to establishing long-term solutions to the issues surrounding youth homelessness—ensuring that equity and access are embedded in p:ear’s mission.”  —Portland mayor Sam Adams  
 

Michael Mandiberg '96
Distinguished Younger Alumni Award

The alumni board was proud to honor Michael Mandiberg ’96 with the Distinguished Younger Alumni Award for his achievements as an interdisciplinary artist, designer,and scholar. A former senior fellow at Eyebeam, he is currently assistant professor of design and digital media at the College of Staten Island/CUNY.
 
Michael’s work spans web applications about environmental impact, to conceptual performances about subjectivity, to laser-cut lampshades for compact fluorescent light bulbs, to  investigations about how they overlap. He creates conceptual art projects, design objects, and publications that explore themes that include environmentalism, systems of exchange, pedagogy, software art, collaboration, Free Culture, and appropriation. He sold all of his possessions online on Shop Mandiberg, made perfect copies of copies on AfterSherrie Levine.com, and created Firefox plugins that highlight the real environmental costs of a global economy on TheRealCosts.com.
 
Michael is co-author of Digital Foundations and Collaborative Futures. He has received residencies and commissions from Eyebeam, Rhizome.org, and Turbulence.org. His work has been exhibited at the New Museum for Contemporary Art in New York City, Ars Electronica Center in Linz, ZKM in Karlsruhe, Germany, and Transmediale Festival, Berlin. His work has been featured in such books as Tribe and Jana’s New Media Art, Blais and Ippolito’s At the Edge of Art, and Greene’s Internet Art.
 
Michael lives in, and rides his bicycle around, Brooklyn, New York. This past spring he was a panel participant at Catlin Gabel’s Esther Dayman Strong “Let Creativity Bloom” event.   

 

Joey Day Pope '54 Volunteer Award
Alix Meier Goodman '71

 

The Joey Day Pope ’54 Volunteer Award was established in 1992 to honor its namesake, an outstanding volunteer. This award is given each year to a Catlin Gabel community member who personifies volunteerism within our community.
 
Alix has deep roots at Catlin Gabel: both her father, Roger Meier ’43, and grandmother, Jane Seller Meier ’17, were alumni. She was an active parent with the Portland Public Schools when her eldest son, Andrew ’09, decided he wanted to attend Catlin Gabel’s Middle School. Her younger son, Reid ’11, followed. She says, “I happily rejoined this community of great families and lifelong learners.”
 
Her fundraising efforts on behalf of Catlin Gabel began way back in her sophomore year in high school, when she organized a Christmas tree sale, using trees harvested from Mrs. Henry Biddle’s Columbia River estate. This early fundraising experience was parlayed into a marketing and sales career with Bloomingdales in New York and Pendleton Woolen Mills in Portland. She has served on numerous nonprofit boards in New York, Portland, and Claremont.
 
Alix received an AB in art and French from Mt. Holyoke College in 1975, and brought savoir-faire to her leadership as a Catlin Gabel trustee, serving as board chair from 2007 to 2010. She continues her service as a trustee and is a tenacious campaign fundraising volunteer for the school’s $20 million Campaign for Arts and Minds.
 
Alix lives in Portland with her husband, Tom, a retired radiologist.  
 

 

 
 

 

Health Care Solution? It's All in the Research

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Joel Hay '70 studies the economics of health care and medicine

By Nadine Fiedler

From the Autumn 2012 Caller

Health economist Joel Hay ’70 has seen the crisis in health care costs coming—for a long time. Since his time as a graduate student at Yale in the late 1970s, Joel’s extensive research has focused on the health care market, the value and costs of medications, health insurance reform, and more. While he has worked in theoretical economics, Joel’s passion is doing research that has an effect on the real lives of real people.
 
“What it really comes down to, is how do you trade dollars for lives?” says Joel. “Medicare is a $62 trillion unfunded liability. We have to deal with health costs in this country, or we’ll go bankrupt. The question is, how much can we provide to an 88-year-old needing a bypass, or should the resources go for neonatal screening instead? How do we make it equitable?”
 
Although the present crisis is far from simple, Joel says that the three options for extricating ourselves are clear: we raise taxes, we cut benefits, or we try to make the health care system more efficient. “The first two solutions are inevitable, but they are political solutions based on compromise. To help create the third solution, health economists study the decisions that have been made, provide evidence, and make recommendations. We demonstrate what works, and doctors apply it. We can say with authority that Drug A is better and more cost effective than Drug B or Surgery C.
 
“It’s a win-win. A full 30% of all health care given in this country is unnecessary or harmful. By being more efficient, we could solve the budget deficit and a lot of other problems.”
 
Joel came into his own career serendipitously. He studied economics at Amherst, and continued in the field at Yale. In his PhD research he happened to use data about physicians’ incomes and specialties, and on the strength of that study he was hired at the University of Southern California (USC). Its Health Economics Research Center was the leading institute for the field in the 1970s, but health economics was undervalued and was considered a backwater; the Center eventually folded.
 
Joel left in 1980 to teach and do research at the University of Connecticut, Stanford, and elsewhere, but came back to USC in 1992 to found a graduate program when it revived health economics. The Center has since graduated 120 PhDs from the program and is again one of the best research and teaching institutes of its kind, with burgeoning interest from students, scholars, and policy makers from around the world. He is also proud of his work co-founding the International Society for Pharmacoeconomics and Outcomes Research and serving as founding editor of their enormously prestigious journal, Value in Health. He has also consulted for many U.S. agencies and several countries, and is often quoted in national media on topics related to health care.
 
Since those early days, health care economists have made enormous contributions to public health. For example, two of Joel’s students did the study that found that the pain medication Vioxx causes heart attacks. Their study caused Merck to pull Vioxx from the market—and that prevented more than 100,000 heart attacks per year.
 
“That’s the research we do,” says Joel. “It can make a tangible difference in the lives of people.” He won’t stop doing his research and teaching any time soon, either. “If I had to pay to do what I do, I still would,” he says. “If I can contribute in a meaningful way, I’ll come in every day and work.”
 

Nadine Fiedler is the editor of the Caller and Catlin Gabel’s publications and public relations director.   

Danny Schauffler '75 named to Oregon Music Hall of Fame

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Portland Tribune article, August 2012

"Food is everything"

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Paul Folkestad '82 is the public face of culinary education

From the Summer 2012 Caller

Paul Folkestad ’82, age 16 and studying abroad, pondered the escargot on the tines of his fork at the Café Beaux Arts in Paris. After all, native Portlanders know all about snails and slugs. Disgusting, right? But this garlic-and-butter-drenched bite was a revelation, an inspiration that would lead, more and less directly, to Paul’s career as a chef and educator in the culinary arts.
 
A second trip to France as a journalism major (and French minor) at the University of Oregon cemented Paul’s fascination with cooking and eating. His homestay mom in Avignon, an astoundingly good cook in her 60s, wowed him with her meals, although he wasn’t allowed in the kitchen.
 
Paul eventually parlayed those inspirations into a life spent in kitchens, but only after a foray into journalism, his supposed career field. Working as an assignment editor in Portland television news, he found himself dreaming of food all the time. After a year of boredom, Paul enrolled at the Western Culinary Institute in Portland.
 
While a student, Paul worked at Portland’s red-hot Zefiro restaurant, and began catering on the side. That business grew into Armadillo Catering, the full-time business he ran for 11 years, catering many events at Catlin Gabel over the years. It got old fast, though, especially when his family was growing. “Catering was demanding. It’s like being an on-call physician, but you carry the hospital on your back,” he says. So when Western Culinary expanded and put out a call for instructors in 2003, Paul joined the faculty.
 
Paul is grateful to Catlin Gabel for setting the stage for his career with “a broad and culturally diverse education that helped open doors for me.” His studies in journalism at the U of O paid off when he taught English and writing at Western Culinary Institute. As Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, the focus is now strictly culinary, and today he is brand ambassador, teacher, and restaurant manager. “Le Cordon Bleu is diverse culturally and in terms of age and gender, the ultimate cross section. We get to know each student in depth and engage them, and that’s the most fun,” he says.
 
Paul has become visible in Portland’s food scene, doing events such as cooking demos at the Portland Farmer’s Market and speaking about all things culinary on KPAM radio. As part of Chef’s Annex, he also offers private cooking classes, small-scale catering, and teaching dinners. He loves doing community outreach, providing food for fundraisers for P:ear, a service for homeless youth, and leading his school’s Slow Food chapter. He’s also a fine writer (as seen in his blogs) and hopes to publish a cookbook in about five years, a travel diary centered on food.
 
“The most important thing I’ve learned is that there is no more important community connection than food,” says Paul. “The more we learn about food, and how it’s produced, and who’s affected, the better we are. Food influences economics, politics, and health care. Food is history. Food is everything.”   

 

Environmental Science and Policy: Real-World Learning

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Students in this interdisciplinary class learn facts--and how to cope with complexity and ambiguity

From the Summer 2012 Caller

By Andrea Michalowsky '12

Catlin Gabel prides itself on being green. We recycle, compost, and emphasize environmentalism in the elementary and middle school curricula. We even have goats roaming the campus to help with landscaping. Surrounded by all this sustainability, I considered myself environmentally conscious and aware of ecological concerns. However, my Environmental Science and Policy classes reminded me of just how little I know and how much there is for me to still learn. More importantly, they showed me the nuances, the importance of understanding issues fully, and how to gather the information necessary to form my own opinion.
 
Peter Shulman and Dan Griffiths began this interdisciplinary class in 2007. Peter, an experienced history teacher who had previously founded the PLACE urban studies program, presented the idea to Dan as an opportunity for students to understand both the politics and facts behind current affairs. Dan, a science teacher and biologist, saw the material as an opportunity for students to better understand the importance of science in current affairs.
 
Originally, the classes were linked, and the teachers sat in on each other’s classes. This year, however, they were separated for the first time, allowing students to take one of the classes without the other. Moreover, the Environmental Policy class ran for only one semester, complemented by a class on oil in the Middle East. These alterations not only gave the students more freedom in choosing classes, but also gave the teachers more freedom in choosing specific topics. Dan included a unit on truth and recognizing biases in articles. Peter further explored oil, currently a particularly pressing issue in regards to the environment. Even as the program evolved, it maintained its founding ideals and emphasis on experiential learning.
 
On the first day of Environmental Science, Dan told us that he intended to run the class as he would a college class. He expected us to lead our own learning. As such, one of the major projects of the year was a plant lab that was formulated by the students. Dan provided the plants and the nutrient formulas (we were studying the effects of nutrient deficiencies), but we had to create the procedures. We spent several class periods sitting around the U of desks discussing what should and should not be measured on the plants. The conversation went back and forth among the 17-person class. We often ended with the sense that nothing had been accomplished. The process was slow. In retrospect, I realize just how much I learned during those debates. They taught me the importance of listening, how to work with a group, and the necessity for patience. Moving forward with the lab and editing the procedure as it progressed, I also learned the evolutionary nature of experiments. This was a new aspect of science for me, a transition away from the traditional classroom labs. It provided a real-world applicability that had been lacking before.
 
This real-world applicability was matched by a real-world foundation. Both classes took field trips, seeing the issues in action. Environmental Policy took a tour of New Seasons Market as a model of a business that emphasizes local and sustainable products. During the genetically modified plant unit, Environmental Science visited Oregon Tilth and a genetic modification lab at Oregon State University. At OSU, one of the professors presented his argument for the necessity and naturalness of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The farmers working at Oregon Tilth objected to the superficiality of this solution and called for natural processes. Visiting the lab and the farm, we were able to see both sides of the debate in the real world. We then used this information, along with an extensive list of resources provided by Dan, to craft scientific essays for or against GMOs. However, the essays meant little compared to the field trips. Seeing the issues out in the world provided a grounding that could never be attained in the classroom.
 
We not only saw current issues in action, but also did projects to address them. We spent the last month of Environmental Science helping the rest of the school community with various environmental issues. The class divided into groups that addressed anything from curriculum for the Lower or Middle School to the best way to improve the greenhouse at the school in Ecuador that students will visit this summer. These projects required communication both within the groups and with the adult clients. Working with the adults to achieve a mutual goal made our projects more immediate. It was also like working for someone, further preparing us for the outside world.
 
In addition to teaching us life skills, these experiences provided the foundation for a full understanding of issues—and the recognition of the necessity for this understanding. Another project in Environmental Science consisted of a formal debate about nuclear power. We were split into a pro team and a con team and then did the research to support our arguments. We presented these arguments to the class and a panel of judges (Dan, outdoor education director Peter Green, and science teacher Aline Garcia-Rubio). Aside from the public speaking experience, we learned the nuances of the argument. In the end, the debate was tied; neither team came out as the obvious victor. This reflected my sentiment and that of most of my classmates: we don’t know definitively if nuclear power is good or bad. Although we remain unsure about the conclusion, we now better understand the issue. This understanding of the gray area revealed more than a decisive conclusion ever could. Not only did we see both sides, but we also recognized the importance of seeing both sides: the information became more important than the conclusion.
 
This full understanding and so many other aspects of this program left a lasting impact on students. On the first day of class, Dan had us each say why we were in the class and what we hoped to learn. On the final day, we discussed what we had learned, and if our opinions had changed. The vast majority of students agreed that we were now less sure of our standing on issues such as nuclear power but valued our greater understanding of the issues. We felt prepared to talk about the issues as informed citizens.
 
As Dan had promised, the class also prepared us for college. Sabin Ray ’11, who took the class last year and subsequently enrolled in an environmental studies class at Brown University, said that she arrived at college already informed about many of the issues that came up. The big, open-ended papers and labs Dan and Peter assigned prepared her and all of us for college-level courses. Beyond college, the classes taught us about learning in any capacity and working on projects and in groups. They provided life lessons that will be useful whether or not we go into environmentalism.
 
Catlin Gabel teaches us to be green, but more importantly it teaches us to be active learners and thinkers. Likewise, Environmental Science and Policy informed us about current issues, but more importantly taught us how to learn and form our own opinions.
 
Andrea Michalowsky ’12 will attend the writing seminars program at Johns Hopkins University this fall. She was the chief editor of the Catlin Gabel literary magazine, Pegasus.  

 

The Public Pediatrician

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Dr. Don Shifrin '66 speaks for children's health

From the Summer 2012 Caller

By Nadine Fiedler

In the cacophony of voices giving endless and often contradictory advice to parents, that of Don Shifrin ’66 stands out. For decades Don has been the steady, calm, informed voice of reason representing the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). He has earned a place in the national media as a premier advocate for children’s wellness, weighing in on a huge variety of topics—from obesity and nutrition, to children’s use of media, to safety and medical issues. His expertise draws from a deep well of experience: his 34 years as a beloved and award-winning pediatrician in private practice in Bellevue, Washington.
 
“Pediatrics is all about communication, about teaching families,” he says. His overriding mission: “Consider what kids need, which is often not what parents realize.”
 
For 13 years, Don has recorded a radio program that runs twice a day on CBS Newsradio in Chicago called “A Minute for Kids,” also available on HealthyChildren. org. He has testified in Congress as a spokesperson for the AAP. He has served on and led the AAP councils on media, communications, and childhood obesity. Don has appeared as an expert on national networks and in many periodicals including the New York Times, Wall St. Journal, Time, and Newsweek. His first encounter with the media was a bit of a disaster, though, and he learned a big lesson from it.
 
When Don realized in the mid 1970s that car accidents were the biggest killers of children, he gave the first lecture on auto restraint safety systems, and proselytized for years to change the laws in Washington State. People were angry about the possibility of being required to use any form of restraint: they felt safe holding their kids. During one of his testimonies, a reporter asked him how he felt about always coming back and not getting anything from the legislature. “There are only two reasons people won’t use safety restraints,” Don said. “One, they don’t see the need. Two, they’re stupid.” Predictably, the headline the next morning was “Pediatrician calls parents stupid.”
 
Lesson learned, Don sought out the medical reporter at the Seattle Times, resulting in an article and a TV program about the worth of restraints. “The light bulb went off for me with this media coverage. I thought, ‘I can reach more people in one minute on TV than in five years in an office.’ So we must make media our friends and collaborators. Let’s tell them what’s medically appropriate for kids,” he said.
 
Don was first taken with the idea of a life devoted to the good of children when he was a child himself in Portland, and adored his pediatrician, the legendary Dr. Benward. Don’s father was a Russian immigrant— a salesman—and his mother was of Austrian descent. They both planned for him to become a doctor. After earning his B.S. at the University of Washington, Don went to Georgetown University Medical School, and then did a residency and chief residency at the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles during the golden age of pediatric mentors there.
 
Pediatrics is dauntingly complex, a dense specialty due to the tremendous variation of ages and stages from toddlers to teens—so the work held Don’s interest. He felt that the field was a tremendous opportunity for him: “Kids are a tabula rasa. Most kids don’t want to be sick; they want to get well. So they are compliant. If you do the right things and make the right diagnoses, things usually can go pretty well,” he says. “In most cases you are able to make a significant difference in the life of a child. That’s the great joy of pediatrics. You see youngsters from a young age through all their physical, mental, emotional, and social changes and can be a resource as well as a caregiver.”
 
Childhood obesity is one of the concerns Don deals with in his office as well as in the media. “You must have sensitive antennae as a pediatrician. If you don’t notice and ask about a health concern, you won’t be able to initiate a discussion,” he says. He measures body-mass index and looks at family factors, such as what and how much they eat and snack. When he talks to children and families about foods, he describes them as healthy or unhealthy: not “bad” or “good.” He talks to parents about small, measurable changes, because big changes are difficult for kids: a bagel cut in three pieces instead of two, chocolate milk once a day instead of twice. He speaks to children in a way they can understand: a can of soda pop equals a glass filled with 10 ½ teaspoons of sugar. “A pediatrician is a health translator,” he says. “We engage caregivers in this dance, and it is a dance, about how they can participate in their child’s health.”
 
“Kids walk through their parents to get to the world,” he says. “Can we give them the right opportunities?” He speaks to parents about how they affect their children using what he calls Dr. Don’s 4M Method:
 
1. Model the behavior you want your children to achieve. (Use your napkin, be polite, don’t smoke, be active.)
 
2. Mentor that behavior, teach that behavior. Kids have big eyes and big ears. (Did you notice that I held the door open? Did you see that I didn’t say a bad word back there?)
 
3. Monitor closely to see if the behavior is being done.
 
4. Mediate to change behaviors. Parenting is a slow, time-intensive process. It’s like a cruise ship: it takes a while for it to reconfigure its course. You have to mediate with your children in a slow, steady, consistent, calm way. Kids stop listening if you yell. Remaining calm and in control, and trying to achieve balance, is the key.
 
Don gives credit to Catlin Gabel for best preparing him for his life and career. “My best education—considering my college, medical school, and residency—was still my elementary and high school education at Catlin Gabel,” he says. “My teachers didn’t just teach: they took it on themselves to make me better and help me learn. Every time I give a talk I remember Schauff [former head Manvel Schauffler] by putting words into language everyone can understand.”
 
The American Academy of Pediatrics honored Don for his work in 2009 with its Holroyd-Sherry Award, in recognition of his national impact in talking about kids and media, and forming policy that has national implications. Don is proud of that award, as well as his charitable work. He received an award in 2000 from Seattle Family Services for his work as medical advisor on its Children Grieve project. His biggest satisfaction, however, lies in his daily work.
 
“Pediatrics is like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates. It’s one thing one moment from toddlers to teens, and another thing the next,” he says. “But with great challenges come great rewards. You can try to help everybody, but you don’t have a magic wand. What you can do is to make small changes that will build lifelong habits. Pediatrics is not just about helping the sick get well. It’s about working together with families every day to identify better ways to improve the health of their children.”
 
Nadine Fiedler is editor of the Caller and Catlin Gabel’s publications and public relations director.

 

The Advocate Who Makes a Difference

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Curt Ellis '98 works to educate about food policy--and bring healthy food to children nationwide

From the Summer 2012 Caller

By Nadine Fiedler

Curt Ellis ’98 changed the national conversation about food and agriculture with his film King Corn. Now he’s set in motion a new national organization, FoodCorps, that will improve children’s access to better nutrition and school food. He’s idealistic, determined, and a great collaborator. With enthusiasm and humility, Curt Ellis faces big challenges—and gets things done.
 
Curt began his work as a food and agriculture advocate as a student at Yale University. “Something felt strange to me about graduating from college with an understanding of philosophy, science, and history, but knowing nothing about the food we eat,” he says. “The more we learned about the way food is grown and produced, and its impact on land and people, and the decline of health in Fast Food Nation, we came to feel that the system was not serving people well.” He and his friend Ian Cheney engaged the campus community with actions that were hard to ignore: they filled a kiddie wading pool with manure, stocked the quad with sheep, and brought in renowned chef and food activist Alice Waters to cook a dinner with food from local farms.
 
After graduation, Curt and Ian kept telling the story of the state of food and agriculture. They co-produced a documentary film called King Corn, released in 2007, which chronicled how Curt and Ian grew an acre of corn in Iowa for a year. Ian, Curt, and the film’s director, Curt’s cousin Aaron Woolf, produced an engaging, funny, and deeply serious film that brought to life their concerns about how food systems undermine health and fill markets with unhealthy food such as high-fructose corn syrup and confined, corn-fed beef
 
Curt and his collaborators weren’t content to stop at the making of the film: they wanted to bring its message to as wide an audience as they could. They used King Corn as a vehicle to change minds by screening it in Congress during deliberations about the Farm Bill and showing it in church basements and colleges in the Farm Belt and around the country. They worked with journalists to get them involved, and they connected with people at the grassroots level working on the issues. “The King Corn distribution blitz was a great, crazy adventure. We poured blood, sweat, and all our credit cards into King Corn, so it was a relief to know people other than my mom were watching it,” says Curt. Their efforts paid off: King Corn has had a powerful effect on the way Americans now view food policy.
 
“We’re still small potatoes in the world of blockbuster Hollywood movies, but King Corn reached several million people who saw the whole film, and many millions more who heard about it from the media and started getting educated on the issues. Film is a conversation starter—it’s not the last word. We got people talking, and that led to real change,” Curt says. After PBS aired King Corn in 2008, he and his crew were honored for their efforts with a Peabody Award.
 
Curt and Ian followed up with the 2010 film Big River, another collaboration with Aaron Woolf, about the effect of their acre of corn on downstream waters, and it was shown on Discovery Channel’s Planet Green series. They then embarked on the Truck Farm public art project, growing food on the back of a pickup truck in Brooklyn. On a road trip with the Truck Farm, Curt saw how magical it was for schoolchildren to see food grown in a strange place, and how it perked up their interest in fruits and vegetables.
 
With the experience he gained in making and marketing King Corn, Curt began conversations in 2009 with a group of five other advocates to figure out how they could accelerate the changes they wished to see in the national food system—in particular, with children in communities where obesity and hunger are significant challenges. Their idea, which is completing its first year on the ground, was FoodCorps: a national nonprofit, a “Teach for America for healthy school food.”
 
“There’s an inspiring generation of young leaders interested in food and agriculture,” says Curt. “FoodCorps gives them an opportunity for one year of paid public service. We thought it would work. We made it possible and paved the pathways.”
 
In an open planning process, the New York-based FoodCorps group solicited applications from organizations at the state level that were already doing work of this kind to be FoodCorps partners, and to work with the service members. They felt that working with local organizations and agencies, which are attuned to their local cultures, was key to success.
 
More than a thousand people applied for the 50 open positions as FoodCorps service members. “It’s not easy work. The service members earn a poverty-level wage, and they donate all their time and talent to make change possible in the world. The good news is the hard work is incredibly rewarding,” says Curt. Service members, who are also members of the AmeriCorps national service network, are working right now in 10 states, including Oregon, concentrating on three areas:
 
+ Food and nutrition education. They show where food comes from, in the classroom or in the garden. They talk about why fruits and vegetables are good for you in a way that sticks.
 
+ School gardens. This may be the students’ first time tasting healthy food. Because they’ve grown it, they can take pride in it. It’s a way for kids, parents, and community members to get their hands in the dirt side by side with their neighbors.
 
+ Access to good food, and a chance to eat well. FoodCorps members involve food service staff and chefs to get healthy farm-to-school food on school lunch menus.
 
Many FoodCorps service members have told Curt about the positive reactions they get from the schoolchildren. One stationed in Arkansas told about a day she did a pesto taste test with the kids, and a girl said, “I’d rather have this than a cookie.” A kid said to one member in Maine, “I never knew you could eat green leaves grown in the dirt!” And one member in Des Moines reported that a kid said to him, “You’re just like Justin Bieber, but for vegetables.”
 
In its first year, FoodCorps has shown remarkable results. “We’ve worked with 42,000 kids in the nine months we’ve been active. We’ve recruited more than 1,100 local volunteers to join in the work and help sustain it. We’ve built or revitalized 323 school or community gardens since August of 2010. We’ve donated 7,465 pounds of extra produce to needy communities,” says Curt. FoodCorps hopes to double the number of service members next year, and to keep growing.
 
Reflecting on his time at Catlin Gabel, Curt sees the value of a close community. “People care about each other at Catlin Gabel, in a way that sometimes feels like it’s missing from our culture at large. Our food culture can be brutally unfair: people who are not affluent often don’t have access to healthy, high-quality food. We’re not farming sustainably or looking out for our kids’ health. It’s a short-sighted view, when you think of the long-term consequences to the environment and health. My teachers at Catlin Gabel did an amazing job helping all of us to learn to take the long view. We were always asked to look outside ourselves, and to think how we can contribute, individually and as a country.”
 
“FoodCorps is all-consuming for me. I work long days, but I love my job,” says Curt. “It’s different from making films, but is actually a better fit for my interests and skills. Making films, you get to tell stories about people making a difference—but now I get to be part of getting things done myself.”
 
Nadine Fiedler is editor of the Caller and Catlin Gabel’s publications and public relations director.