Ikwo Frank '13 and her peers from American University recently took the stage at the National Academy of Medicine to pitch their solution to the sixth-annual DC Public Health Case Challenge. The competition engages teams of students from DC-area universities in an intensive two-week process of researching solutions to a significant public health issue, culminating in the presentation of a proposal to a panel of expert judges at the Academy's annual meeting. This year's challenge was "Reducing Disparities in Cancer and Chronic Disease: Preventing Tobacco Use in African American Adolescents."
Ikwo, who is about six months away from completing her master's degree in health promotion management, joined American's team at the invitation of another program student—she thought it would be a good academic challenge. Plus it's a subject she and her team members are passionate about, which served them well during the strenuous research phase and at the panel presentation on October 14.
Left: Ikwo with fellow American University students Liz Fam and Elizabeth Taormina. Right: Ikwo on stage.
Her cohort spent hours working individually and as a team, sharing ideas for the best and most practical ways they could tackle the case. Ikwo, who has been living in Washington DC for almost a year and a half, found herself focusing on what students do after school. "It's a big city," she said. "Where do all these kids go?" Her team devised an idea for an after-school program built around mental health and wellness—the program would help kids become more mindful, teach healthy strategies for coping with stress, and provide a safe space when school lets out.
Ikwo's team devised an idea for an after-school program built around mental health and wellness—the program would help kids become more mindful, teach healthy strategies for coping with stress, and provide a safe space when school lets out.
Even though her team didn't win the competition, Ikwo regards the experience as extremely worthwhile. The conviction they brought to their presentation earned positive reviews from the panel, and the collaborative energy of participants was inspiring. Furthermore, all teams' proposals will be summarized in an upcoming National Academy of Medicine publication.
And there's one more benefit not to be overlooked: the competition requires students to apply a narrow lens—and look for feasible solutions—in a field where the scope and volume of problems often seem daunting. "The health world is so broad, and there's so much work to be done," Ikwo said. "I wish we could save the world, but we have to be realistic. One small thing really does go a long way."
Ikwo is already applying her studies to the greater community. When not in school, she works at the World Bank as a fitness specialist and instructor. Prior to attending American, she earned her bachelor of science from Weber State University in human performance management (the program has since been renamed).
Banner photo: 2018 DC Public Health Case Challenge Participants. Photo credit: National Academy of Medicine.
The University of Utah School of Medicine welcomed 127 students into its ranks at Friday's annual White Coat Ceremony, and six of of those newly cloaked scholars graduated from Rowland Hall.
Congratulations to our young alumni, pictured above. From left: Madeline Foley '13, Hank Shipman '13, Saeed Shihab '13, Kellyn Maves '12, andSophie Janes '12 don their new coats Friday, August 10. Not pictured: Emma Naatz '12. (Photo by Julie Shipman)
Both Hank and Emma also competed for Rowmark Ski Academy while at Rowland Hall. Hank has an especially inspiring story—a tragic Rowmark car accident and his subsequent recovery spurred him to pursue a medical degree.
According to the U's med school, the White Coat Ceremony makes student-physicians more aware of their professional responsibilities and conveys that doctors should ultimately "care as well as cure." Watch the ceremony video.
It's no small feat that these six Rowland Hall alums have matriculated to the med school just up the street from their alma mater.
It's no small feat that these six alums have matriculated to the med school just up the street from their alma mater. The U is well-known for its robust health-care community, and U.S. News and World Report lists the med school among the nation's best in research and primary care.
During the White Coat Ceremony, Interim Executive Dean Dr. A. Lorris Betz said the med school received 4,227 applications for the class of 2022. After officials review initial applications, they interview approximately 500 candidates each year. In the comprehensive admissions process, evaluators explore applicants' "motivation for seeking a medical degree, awareness and understanding of the medical profession, leadership, problem-solving skills, understanding of medical ethics, and interpersonal skills," according to the school.
Our alumni who have pursued careers in medicine often credit their well-rounded Rowland Hall education for helping them succeed in that field: read our 2014 story on the subject.
Alumna Johanna Varner is an expert on pikas: furry little mountainside-dwelling mammals that, at first glance, couldn't get any cuter. Then, you hear the sound they make, and all bets are off—they're like a squeaky plush toy come to life. Tech news site The Verge even facetiously deemed the pika superior to its cartoon counterpart, Pikachu, the lightning-shooting Pokemon character.
Of course, pikas offer more than a cuddly facade: studying this animal serves as a gateway to understanding complex ecological issues. The hamster-like creatures "are sensitive to rising temperatures and thus threatened by climate change," according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Johanna, now an assistant professor of biology at Colorado Mesa University, has built a career on researching pika survival and teaching students of all ages—including underserved populations—how to do the same. In February, AAAS honored Johanna with the 2018 Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science. The esteemed nonprofit lauded her for "infusing her public engagement with multi-directional dialogue, reaching diverse audiences and empowering participants to join in the entire process of science."
To put Johanna's achievement in context: the AAAS is the world's largest general scientific society and the publisher of the renowned academic journal Science. During the association's annual meeting in February—attended by about 10,000 people—they gave just seven awards to individuals (and one to a research team) in a variety of categories. Johanna was one of those individuals.
Watch the AAAS video on Johanna below, read the award announcement on their website, and read our Q&A with "Pika Jo" below, lightly edited for style and context.
How did it feel to win the AAAS award? What does it mean to you?
I was completely humbled—AAAS is a prestigious society in science, and it was very humbling to be recognized by them. Public engagement in science is really important, but there aren't many venues that recognize work in this area. This is one of the few awards for scientists that doesn't focus on publications, grants, or impact of science, but instead recognizes people who go out of their way to share science with nonscientists. It's pretty cool!
You wrote in an AAAS blog that you "have always been mildly obsessed with pikas (ask my college roommates)..." How did the obsession start?
Honestly, totally by watching David Attenborough documentaries. I think Planet Earth (the first one) was the first time I had seen pikas. I then made my college boyfriend and his family traipse all over Rocky Mountain National Park looking for them.
How did the nickname "Pika Jo" come about?
It was bestowed upon me by middle schoolers I worked with in SLC! I loved it.
A lot of Rowland Hall students are interested in pursuing STEM careers like yours. What advice do you have for them?
Stay curious! A lot of people think that scientists have to put their heads down, work hard, stay inside, and study books, but the real business of science is asking questions about the natural world. Obviously, hard work and studying are important, but don't forget to pay attention to the world around you, make observations, and ask questions.
Why teach the public about what you do?
By sharing our extensive knowledge of Earth's natural systems, scientists help the public make sound choices about complicated issues. However, I believe public input can also enrich our science by offering new perspectives, refining the relevance of our research, and stimulating new inquiries. Citizen science is an excellent example of these dual benefits. Volunteers who have participated in my research have reported feeling a sense of community and a closer connection to scientists in general. I've also become a better scientist as a result of participating in and directing these programs. Citizen observations have led to new investigations in my research (e.g., unusual behaviors or animals in unusual habitats). Perhaps most importantly, participating in these projects has dramatically improved my communication skills. Working with public groups forces me to conceptualize my research as compelling stories and to distill the most important and interesting points. Finally, public engagement is incredibly gratifying on a personal level. Discussing my research with public audiences reminds me why it's important and why I love ecology.
Why teach underserved populations?
So much of science outreach relies on voluntary participation, but if you think about who is likely to come to a science talk or presentation, it's most likely going to be the people who already know about science, already think it's important and relevant to their lives, and may already know a little bit about your topic. In contrast, we often overlook SO many populations who could be really interested in science, but don't have the opportunity to engage with it. I think it's important to meet people where they are, make science relevant to their lives/interests/values, and make it accessible so that they can not only understand, but also participate in constructing new knowledge.
What was it like to lecture about pika ecology and ecology to inmates in Utah's Salt Lake County Jail System?
The inmates were really interested, very engaged in the presentation, and asked insightful follow-up questions. It challenged a lot of our preconceived, culturally held notions about what inmates are like.
How did Rowland Hall shape you? What specific teachers, classes, experiences, etc. helped to steer you toward your current professional endeavors, from pikas to public outreach? Peter Hayes was probably the biggest influence on my career path—he taught us to identify plants and animals and to ask questions about the natural world. I didn't take a straight path to ecology, but I think his class gave me a really important foundation. I'm always learning new things, especially now as a teacher, and I occasionally stumble on something I learned in ninth grade and remember a corresponding mnemonic device Mr. Hayes taught us—it's a nice moment when that happens!
What's next for you? Any exciting projects in the works?
I'm really enjoying my teaching job at Colorado Mesa University, but I'm still very active in both pika research and citizen science. This summer, we're working hard to be able to engage folks from the Portland area in conducting pika surveys to see how pikas in the Columbia River Gorge are faring after the Eagle Creek Fire last fall. It's an adventure, but I am really excited about both the science and the public engagement aspects of the project.
"Eat It!"—Eric "Ed" Heath's cheeky senior yearbook quote was a career harbinger. The 2000 Rowland Hall alumnus is a two-time semifinalist in the James Beard Foundation (JBF) Restaurant and Chef Awards—the Oscars of the culinary world.
To put Ed's accomplishment in perspective: the foundation receives over 20,000 entries for these awards every year. From there, JBF names 20 best-chef semifinalists for each of their 10 regions across the country. Ed made that list for the Great Lakes region in 2015 and 2016 for his work at Cleveland-Heath (CH), a restaurant he and longtime partner Jenny Cleveland opened in 2011 in Edwardsville, Illinois, 20 miles northeast of St. Louis.
"It was surreal," Ed said of his first semifinalist nod. "The second time was even more surprising. To this day, it feels like it was a mistake and they meant to nominate someone else."
Ed may be incredulous about his own achievements, but he doesn't hesitate to give his CH team credit for their role. "Our staff was so amazing," he said. Running a restaurant, he stressed, is no selfish undertaking: "It's about building relationships and being friends with people, and that's when the food's the best—when you have a happy kitchen."
After a decade away from home honing his skills at culinary school and picking up experience and accolades in kitchens around the country, Ed has brought his talents back to Salt Lake. He and Jenny are part owners of the Pub Group, which runs four familiar names in town—Martine, Stella Grill, Desert Edge Pub, and Red Butte Cafe—and the pair looks forward to putting their stamp on these local institutions.
Finding his path
As suggested by his senior quote, Ed has always been a bit of a revolutionary. He started at Rowland Hall his freshman year after bouncing around middle schools. His older brother, Cody Skarning '97, advised Ed that attending Rowland Hall might help. It did.
"This really turned me around," Ed said of his alma mater. "I learned more about life here than I've ever learned in a four-year period." Rowland Hall inspired him to be respectful, tolerant, patient, and accepting, he said. "Teachers let me be who I was without taking any bull from me," he said. "There was discipline, but not over discipline. They gave me a way to behave."
That atmosphere paralleled Ed's experience in school at the elite Culinary Institute of America (CIA) at Greystone in California's Napa Valley—a food and wine mecca. At Greystone, Ed adhered to a demanding schedule and strict rules, including keeping up appearances with pristine fingernails, pressed jackets, and spotless toques. "It was almost militaristic," he reminisced, adding that he spent 40 hours a week in school and another 50 to 60 hours working—and he loved it. Like Rowland Hall, he said, "it was very detailed and disciplined, but they also accept people for who they are and help them find their path."
Prior to culinary school, Ed earned a BA from the University of Utah in natural resource management and cooked in restaurants to pay for college. He landed promising internships in that field, but sudden funding cuts and job shortages steered him elsewhere. Ed was working in Desert Edge Pub's kitchen alongside Jenny when he reevaluated his path. "We were having a conversation and she said, 'What would you do if you could change anything?'" Ed told Jenny he'd go to culinary school, and she said she'd do the same. "So we made the trip out to Napa," he said.
Drawn to the 'adrenaline rush' of cooking
Ed turned cooking into a career in part because it fit his personality. "It's creative, but there are still rules to follow, so you've got to walk these fine lines," he said. He compared it to being a stage performer, like an actor or dancer: there are time constraints and crowds to please, and the show must go on even if you're wounded or exhausted. "It's a really big adrenaline rush."
After working in renowned Napa restaurants, Ed and Jenny moved to Illinois, near Jenny's family, and opened CH. He credited his high school foundation for helping him through that entrepreneurial experience: "The fact that Rowland Hall teaches how to think independently and critically was the biggest thing: never accept anything at face value," he said. "When we were opening a business, we got all kinds of advice—some poor and some amazing—but you don't take it all at face value. You research it and take it one day at a time."
CH became a local favorite early on, credited for serving "some of the best comfort food in the metro region," according to St. Louis Magazine. Shortly after it opened, Ed recruited friend and Greystone classmate Rick Kazmer to help run the kitchen, and in 2017 Rick took over as CH head chef after Jenny and Ed returned to Utah. Rick described Ed's cooking style as off the cuff—a reflection of Ed's personality. "He likes to go in with a small idea or plan of what he's doing and see where it takes him," Rick said. Ed impressed Rick with one early CH dish in particular: crispy pork belly with watermelon, jalapeños, and mint, tossed in lime juice and Nước chấm, which is like a Vietnamese vinaigrette. "I'd never seen anything quite like it before," Rick said. "It just worked really well."
Ed's Rowland Hall classmate and friend David Sandberg '00 doesn't fancy himself a foodie, but in his pithy words: "I like good food." David visited CH twice while attending dental school in Omaha, and discovered firsthand that Ed was really good at his job. "I was blown away," David said of the food. "It was different and fun." David didn't know exactly what the James Beard awards were, but after he heard Ed was a semifinalist, he looked them up. "I was surprised, but in the same vein, I've always known Ed as a really hard worker," he said. David has also visited Ed at Martine since he's been revamping the kitchen there. After nearly 20 years, David said, Martine felt forgotten among locals, but that's changing: "Ed's breathed new life into it and it's exciting to have him there."
Circling back to Salt Lake
Ed and Jenny returned to Utah to be closer to Ed's family, and to suit their active, outdoorsy lifestyle—the pair enjoys skiing, mountain biking, and fishing, and Ed has been playing basketball at the Lincoln Street Campus with a group of fellow Rowland Hall alumni. "We feel like we're on a permanent vacation now," he said.
Though they have more leisure time, Ed and Jenny are still working hard to bring their creative edge to the Pub Group. "Salt Lake is growing like crazy, so we have to figure out how to stay relevant," Ed said, adding there's a positive side to that. "There's a million people in the bowl. Anybody has a chance here."
He and Jenny are reviving Martine by changing the food, bringing in effective leadership, and emphasizing hospitality. "It's a beautiful place—all you have to do is perform in that building and you can be successful there," he said. He's similarly working to revitalize the Desert Edge Pub, and expects an impending renovation at Trolley Square will help.
Ed fondly recalled the close-knit restaurant community back in St. Louis: chefs knew each other and bonded over their collective struggle. "Some of the famous chefs down there would come in our back door and be like, 'You need any help?'" Ed said. After over six months in Salt Lake, he's gradually getting ingrained in the scene here—including reconnecting with classmate Liam Connelly '00, co-founder of Proper Brewing Company: "Since we've been able to get to know people, it's become a community for us," Ed said.
Given their industry savvy, we suspect Ed and Jenny will help to push that community to the next level. As friend David explained, when he and Ed were growing up here, people didn't always see Salt Lake as "cool." But as friends have left for school or work and visited to find the city evolving, they've been choosing to move back. "With his restaurants, Ed's trying to be a big part of that fun energy that's coming to the city," David said. "It's cool to see. He's being himself and having a lot of success with it."
Within two decades of graduating from Rowland Hall, alumna Meghan Tuohig '98 has climbed the Overstock.com ranks to become a vice president, designed the publicly traded company's headquarters in Midvale, and landed in the Utah BusinessForty Under 40. She's excelled in a high-profile career and is helping to elevate others along the way: in December, she made the front page of The Salt Lake Tribune for championing gender parity in her workplace.
During our annual Alumni Senior Breakfast May 30, Meghan humbly distilled her life experience into timeless advice for our latest batch of graduates: be bold, be present, and be grateful.
"All of my greatest memories, my greatest lessons learned, my greatest accomplishments, have come from the moments in life where I've been bold," Meghan told the class of 2018. "Take risks—don't take the safe road."
At 23, Meghan said, she bought her first house here in Salt Lake City. The down payment left her too broke to hire professionals to remodel the 1897 building. So project by project, she improved the house herself: she ripped up the carpet, rented a belt sander, bought a tile saw, and read a plumbing book. "It could have been disastrous, but it ended up being a wonderful investment," she said. The experience taught her to be resourceful and served as an appropriate introduction to a bigger project she'd tackle down the road: building the headquarters for Overstock in 2013.
Meghan, who holds a BS from the University of Utah and an MBA from Westminster College, also completed a program in interior design and architecture at New York University in order to better lead the $100 million undertaking for Overstock. CEO Patrick Byrne envisioned a round building, and Meghan added flair to that idea: she devised the concept of a hub and spoke, and tilted the left and right spokes down to create a peace sign visible from the air. In the approving words of her CEO: "The Coliseum represents the duality of man; the dichotomy of the coliseum representing toughness, strength, and boldness, while the peace sign represents gentleness, peace, and love."
After working on the project for three years, introducing 1,700 Overstock employees to the so-called Peace Coliseum amounted to the proudest moment of Meghan's career, she said. "We wouldn't have gotten the awards, the accolades, the press attention had we just built a regular steel square structure with 90-degree angles," she said. "So be bold, because it will pay off. And frankly, even the failures that come from taking risks will be some of the most incredible growing experiences in your life."
Meghan Tuohig tells Utah Business about opening the new Overstock headquarters.
Another bold move for Meghan entailed advocating for gender-diversity initiatives at Overstock. In addition to having her company sign the ParityPledge, she backed reforms that included opening a childcare center at the headquarters and expanding maternity-leave policy to include more paid time off for birth mothers, fathers, same-sex partners, and adoptive parents. "Despite the abundance of evidence that diversity leads to better business outcomes, the proportion of females in leadership roles remains dismally low," Meghan told Fine Print in a wide-ranging interview before the May 30 breakfast. "At Overstock, we want to create an environment where females feel inspired, supported, and celebrated, and that they have opportunities equal to their male counterparts."
Meghan has an acute ability to multitask, a trait that's aided her success in tackling such bold endeavors. The businesswoman credited Rowland Hall's challenging environment for teaching her to juggle multiple responsibilities at once—while here, it was school, sports, and life, she said. Director of Alumni Relations Hilary Amoss Gibbons '96 gave insight into her former schoolmate's superhero-like multitasking skills when she introduced her at the breakfast: "When Meghan was at Rowland Hall, she was known as a happy, energetic, athletic, hardworking, smart student who was a volleyball star," Hilary said, highlighting Meghan's Region 12 MVP award and her spot on the All-State Team.
Though she's still a natural multitasker, Meghan cautioned seniors against being so goal oriented that they don't carve out time to enjoy their surroundings. When Meghan worked her way through her MBA program, for instance, she neglected to unwind and forge many fond memories. "I didn't take time to be present," she candidly told seniors. "So remember to take moments like this one right now and ingrain it into your memory, because these are really special."
Meghan now enjoys a healthy work-life balance: in addition to working at Overstock, the mom and former volleyball star stays active via skiing, mountain biking, and playing competitive tennis—and she still tackles various home-improvement projects. She lauded Rowland Hall for similarly encouraging students to balance challenging academics with fun activities. Winter sports, volunteer opportunities, and interim trips provided appealing respites from intense studying, said Meghan, Overstock's vice president of people care—their version of human resources. "That balance is necessary in the workplace too," she said. "Employees need fun perks to offset the often-stressful demands of their roles."
In Meghan's final piece of advice at the breakfast, she urged seniors to be grateful: "Graduating from Rowland Hall is an incredible privilege, and don't lose sight of that. This degree that you're receiving can propel you into success if you let it," she said. "Don't forget to thank those who have supported you along the way—your friends, your family, your teachers, your peers. Stay grounded and be grateful in your journey. This is an advantage that most others don't have in life."
The Rowmarker and two-time Olympian on how Rowland Hall shaped her, and how she's turned a traumatizing and widely covered incident into a rallying cry for her community
In February of her Rowmark Ski Academy postgraduate year—which skiers often use as a stepping stone to national or college teams—Alex Shaffer '94 competed in exactly zero races. She took a month off in the middle of racing season.
"People thought I was crazy," Alex said. Some peers and national coaches saw her hiatus as a big mistake. But a race-free month was hardly the death knell of the 19-year-old's career.
The respite (from competing, not practicing) was part of a post-knee-injury plan hatched by Alex and Rowmark Co-Founder Olle Larsson. "It gave my body and my mind a chance to find that fire again," Alex said. Come spring, a string of successful races qualified her to the U.S. Ski Team. By her 2004 retirement from the sport, she'd earned two national championships and competed in two Olympics, cementing her legacy as one of our notable Rowmark alumni.
The September 1995 Rowmark Edge announcing Alex's spot on the U.S. Ski Team.
Rowmarkers like Alex thrived because they were independent thinkers, Olle said, and weren't deterred by occasionally unconventional training plans. "It's difficult with a young teenager to sit down in the fall, and lay out a whole program for the winter, and stick to it," he said. "Alex had that ability because she could see there could be higher gratification in the end."
Alex Shaffer—now Alex Wubbels—honed that kind of mental fortitude at Rowmark. In true Rowland Hall tradition, her sixth-grade biographers documented that evolution in 1994: "Alex is a person who has grown more self-reliant, independent, and has increased her self-esteem over the past four years," wrote then-sixth-graders Kaebah Orme '99 and Myndi McCloskey. "The person who has most influenced her life would probably be her coach, Olle Larsson, who taught her about life, rules, and learning. He taught her to understand herself and depend more on herself."
Olle's lessons stuck. Now a critical care nurse, Alex proved her enduring conviction on the University of Utah Hospital floor.
On July 26 last year, during a mind-boggling incident recorded on a body camera, Salt Lake City Police Department Detective Jeff Payne wrongfully arrested Alex when she refused to allow him to take a blood sample from an unconscious patient who'd been in an automobile accident. Per hospital policy—which Alex calmly relayed multiple times—Payne needed a warrant or patient consent, or the patient needed to be under arrest. Payne lacked any prerequisites. Alex adhered to the policy and refused to yield.
After a half-hour of bullying by the detective, she could have given in. Maybe it wasn't worth it.
But for Alex—who sees it as a privilege to help patients and keep them safe when they're unable to do so themselves—the issue transcended worth.
"You can't just come in and take something that isn't yours," she said. "If there's anything more proprietary and more personal than your blood, I don't know what it is."
So she did her job and protected her patient, even though it entailed being grabbed, dragged from the ER floor while yelling for help, handcuffed, and put in the back of a police car.
"My heart was pounding," Alex said. "I was scared to death." She's still coping with post-traumatic stress from the arrest, but even in the chaos of it all, she knew she was doing the right thing.
"In moments of duress, our guts tell us a lot about right and wrong," she said. "I learned to trust my gut that day, I think, more than I probably have in a while."
Alex's story went viral in September, after she and her lawyer released bodycam footage from the arrest. The video sparked international outrage over the aggressive arrest and mistreatment of a nurse doing her job.
"Alex Wubbels did everything correct," Utah Nurses Association (UNA) President Aimee McLean told the American Nurses Association (ANA). "She stepped away from her patient's unit, she deescalated, she followed hospital policy and procedure. This never should have happened." ANA called Alex "a hero to her patient, to her hospital and to nurses across the country."
During the wave of media attention, Alex told reporters she hoped her actions were enough to invoke change. They certainly were.
Alex reached a $500,000 settlement from the city and university—she donated some money to the UNA, and set up a fund to help others obtain police bodycam footage. Relevant hospital and police policies were updated. Payne was fired and his watch commander was demoted, though news media have reported they're both appealing. The Utah House and Senate have passed a bill that aims to prevent this from happening again, and now it awaits the governor's signature.
The Rowmark Effect
Alex's Rowmark years with Olle primed her to go against the grain when needed. "Talk about the principles of standing up against bullies—that's pretty much what he taught us from the very beginning," Alex said of Olle. The duo has maintained their friendship. "He is one of those people that I am just so grateful to have in my life."
When he heard about the arrest, Larsson wasn't surprised that Alex stood her ground that day. He cited her independence, thick skin, and broad life experience as an elite athlete competing internationally. "She could be calm-minded skiing at 70 miles per hour," he said.
Like so many skiing prodigies, Alex started young. She and her brother, Pete Shaffer '96, also a Rowmarker, grew up on a ranch in Aspen, Colorado. "We didn't have babysitters," she said. "You either skied till the mountain closed and got the bus home, or you skied till your parents got off work and you caught a ride with them. So you just skied—that's just what you did."
Alex joined her local ski club one year younger than normally allowed, climbed in the rankings as a middle schooler, and attracted the attention of recruiters, including Larsson. She committed to Rowmark due to the selling point of a Rowland Hall education—her parents knew skiing wouldn't sustain her forever, and they wanted her to attend a challenging school.
So Alex and Pete moved to Salt Lake City and lived with host families while their parents stayed in Aspen. During Alex's senior year, the Shaffer siblings happily landed with Middle School math teacher Nancy Robinson, now a popular tutor. After Alex's second of two knee injuries, Nancy remembers the skier's dogged determination to heal. The teacher, who's now like a sister to Alex, even begrudgingly joined the senior for some early morning physical therapy—a 6 am aqua-jogging class at the Steiner Aquatic Center. "We spent a lot of time running back and forth in the pool," Nancy laughed.
"Alex's big goal was to go to the Olympics, and despite her various setbacks and challenges, she made it," Nancy said, adding Alex acknowledged her challenges and found a way through them. "Whatever she's going to do, she's going to do it as well as she can."
Learning How to Learn
Rowland Hall delivered on the challenging education Alex's parents sought for her—it was, in fact, probably more challenging than Alex would've liked at the time. "I remember being so focused on skiing, literally nothing else mattered," she joked.
But in retrospect, she's grateful that Rowland Hall helped her hone her learning skills. Her junior year, for example, she'd just had knee surgery and needed to write an essay for Carol Kranes' English class. She perfunctorily completed it in her hospital bed, and in a suggestion that seemed novel to Alex, Ms. Kranes later encouraged the Rowmarker to resculpt the essay into something better, and turn it in for a new grade. "I was like, 'huh,'" Alex said quizzically, imitating her teenage self. Through interactions like that one, Alex said, Rowland Hall dispelled her misconceptions about school. It was about learning how to learn, staying curious, and gaining a deeper understanding of subjects, not rote memorization or completing an assignment for the sake of completion.
"I was a blob when I showed up. I was actually a figure of someone when I left," the alumna said. Her teachers and coaches, she explained, helped to shape her into an effective citizen, and a good person who strives to be the best version of herself.
This set her up for success in her nursing career—a job that shes says keeps her on her toes, and in a state of perpetual learning. She even spends 20 hours every two weeks as an educator in the burn unit. "More than anything, the curiosity that I have for medicine and for nursing came directly out of Rowland Hall," she said. "If you're curious about something, learning is easy. I got that from Rowland Hall in a way that I could have never imagined."
'Nurses are closing their ranks around Alex Wubbels'
Alex's desire to understand and educate steered her actions after the arrest: "This happened, it should never have happened, and it will never happen again," she said. "In that light, what can I do to inform people."
Friend Nancy Robinson confirmed that after the incident, Alex felt a responsibility to raise awareness and help nurses and others who perhaps had similar experiences but didn't receive media coverage. "She's very conscious that this is not just her experience, she just happens to be in the limelight because there is video footage," Nancy said.
Indeed, the incident was isolated, Alex said, only in the sense that it was filmed. "Without the bodycam my story would've gone nowhere," she said. "It made it really easy for anyone to watch that footage and feel like it was them, or someone that they loved."
According to the ANA, one in four nurses has been assaulted at work. In addition to new legislation here in Utah, Alex's arrest sparked an ANA-led movement to #EndNurseAbuse, including a pledge with 13,000 signatures and counting. On a personal level, the response to the incident reinforced her commitment to nursing. In the same blog post where the UNA president defended Alex's actions, the national organization doubled down in a heartening way. "Nurses are closing their ranks around Alex Wubbels," the post reads. "ANA has your back." She received an outpouring of supportive letters and emails from nurses across the world. "We're not just here for people that need help—we're here for each other," Alex said. "I couldn't have done what I did if I wasn't a nurse."
One of the most important things Alex learned as a ski racer was how to recover. You can set the goal of a perfect run, she explained, but it's not realistic. "If you're always aiming for perfection, the little bumps are going to throw you off so much so that you won't ever recover," she said. "I realized that it wasn't about the perfect run. It was about who can recover the fastest from the mistakes." As in ski racing, so in life: "There are bumps and bruises, and that's to be expected," she said. "It's how you recover and how you pick yourself back up and move forward that determines what happens." Through no fault of her own, Alex hit a major bump. But she's moved forward admirably by fighting for what's right and defending herself, and her community.
Gallery Owner and Artist Traces Passions Back to Rowland Hall Education
Bonnie Phillips '60 and husband Denis founded the Phillips Gallery in 1965, and now it holds the title of the oldest-running commercial art gallery in the Intermountain West. Mature shade trees form a canopy over their tidy historic storefront that for 50 years has held its own against newer, bigger commercial buildings on the block. Much like its owners, it's comfortably elegant and teeming with fascinating stories.
The gallery holds a special place in Salt Lake as a factual framework for Utah art history. Artists Bonnie and Denis built their successful business by representing—and often befriending—other regional artists, including Rowland Hall alumni Lee Deffebach '45, Stephen Goldsmith '72, and Hadley Rampton '94. In the late 1960s, Utah Art and Sculpture magazine recognized the Phillips Gallery for "challenging the bounds of Utah taste through their intelligent promotion of less traditional art" and called the business "the first viable modernist and avant-garde concern in the Utah art market."
Indeed, Bonnie has done more than establish an alluring storefront: she's cultivated a community of creatives and served as an ambassador for Utah arts, according to Hadley, a gallery fine art consultant. Phillips Gallery almost exclusively shows pieces by Utah artists, and clients visiting Salt Lake from major art centers such as New York City or Los Angeles "are just blown away by the quality and variety of work here," Hadley said. Salt Lake is lucky to have Bonnie, she added. "Our community here is very strong...she has definitely contributed in a big way."
Denis and Bonnie grew up in different Salt Lake neighborhoods and met after college, yet both credit the daily presence of art in their youths for what would become a mutual passion. Bonnie fondly remembers Rowland Hall as a "warm and friendly place" where teachers appreciated and nurtured her love of art. One of those teachers was the late George Fox, a beloved Rowland Hall art educator for 32 years—read more about him on page 40 of the Spring 2012 Review. With a laugh and a shudder, Bonnie recalled a memory from the so-called "A Building" on the old Avenues Campus: she watched Mr. Fox make the risky climb to the top of the foyer to open a light well so students could enjoy the sun.
"I remember the light streaming in through the huge Avenues Campus windows, illuminating the art on the walls," Bonnie said. "Some was student work and other was by professional artists—but it was all honored."
Nearly seven decades later, much of the art now illuminated on Rowland Hall's walls is there thanks to Bonnie—she has loaned the school 114 paintings from her personal collection with the hope of enriching students' educational experiences, just as the school once enriched her childhood. The collection appropriately includes 17 pieces by Bonnie and seven by her husband.
In the Beginning School, 19 loaned works contribute to the calm, beautiful environment carefully cultivated by Principal Carol Blackwell. In one piece—an untitled 2002 acrylic painting by prominent Utah artist and Rowland Hall parent Willamarie Huelskamp—a red stag turns to look behind him, toward a sliver of red moon. The other pieces also depict colorful, creatively interpreted insects, animals, and plants. Such works enlighten our youngest learners, who appreciate art's intrinsic value and worth: "Children can observe shape, color, emotional qualities, and intangible traits such as kindness," 4PreK Teacher Kate Nevins said.
For Bonnie, Rowland Hall nurtured some of those good, intangible traits. She grew up with grandparents of mixed religions and remains grateful that whether at home or school, adults around her emphasized a message of inclusion: "At Rowland Hall, we began school every morning singing hymns together in chapel," she said. "It didn't matter what your religion was at home, we all sang together. It was such a wonderful way to open our hearts and minds to learning for the rest of the day. It was truly spiritual."
Years later, Bonnie combined her passion for art with the lasting impression of kindness and spirituality to form the Golden Rule Project, an organization based on the law of reciprocity—do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
The ideas that led to the Golden Rule Project first percolated in Bonnie's mind as Edna Traul's fourth-grade student at Rowland Hall. Mrs. Traul had students memorize and recite poetry, the Pledge of Allegiance, and the golden rule. "The pledge seemed sort of exclusive, whereas the golden rule had a sense of fairness," Bonnie said.
The lessons intrinsic to the golden rule continued to simmer in Bonnie's heart, and with the help of her mother, Jane Dooly Porter '36, the Golden Rule Project became a reality in 2003. Two years later, Bonnie worked with Urban Crossroads Center and then-State Senator Fred Fife to introduce a state resolution asking lawmakers to consider the rule as they carried out their duties. Now, the project is a thriving nonprofit that combines art, mindfulness, and communication. It encourages people to incorporate the principle into their daily lives, in part by promoting the rule's many artistic representations found across faiths, philosophies, and teachings.
When Ms. Porter died in 2008, she donated her spacious, art-filled house at 1229 East South Temple to the project. Her memory lives on through the home, nicknamed Jane's House, a place designated for diverse gatherings and discussions.
Jane's House has expanded the Golden Rule Project, but art remains at the heart of the message. Beautiful variations of the golden rule hang in schools and organizations nationwide, including the Utah State Capitol. Each formulation is a unique two-page, framed diptych, measuring 21 inches by 13 inches (golden mean proportions), and letterpressed on paper hand-marbled by local artists.
Bonnie said she believes deeply in the principle. Each night, she assesses her day by asking herself, "Have I done unto others as I would have them do unto me?" The Rowland Hall community certainly thinks so. In 2009, the school inducted Bonnie into the Alumni Hall of Fame for her countless hours of service to the community.
Dooly-Phillips Family Rowland Hall Alumni
Peggy Dooly Olwell '33 (Jane's sister and Bonnie's aunt)
Jane Dooly Porter '36 (Bonnie's mother)
Bonnie Phillips '60
Ellie Olwell Roser '60 (Peggy's older daughter and Bonnie's cousin)
Carol Olwell '62 (Peggy's youngest daughter and Bonnie's cousin)
"Define what you want, and then ask for what you want. If you don't find it where you are, create it." This advice was at the heart of Rowland Hall alumnus Dave Stockham's speech at the breakfast welcoming the class of 2017 into the Alumni Association. A member of the class of 1991, Mr. Stockham is currently the vice president of sales at Cotopaxi, an outdoor retail company focused on creating sustainable products while helping to alleviate poverty worldwide.
Mr. Stockham appealed to the soon-to-be graduates with a mix of humor, anecdotes, and hope, emphasizing that they all have the power to shape their own futures. He encouraged them to not just define what they want, but to write it down, whether it be a list of things to accomplish in one day—with a nod to Ferris Bueller's infamous day off in Chicago—or the outline of a five-year plan. He shared his own to-do list from the conclusion of his senior year at Rowland Hall, which included working as a river guide, graduating from college in four years, and living to be 30, all goals he successfully reached. Mr. Stockham also advocated for any interested young graduate to leave Utah and live in other places, but beware of "Utah's elastic band effect," because this state has booming industries and natural resources that may very well draw them back.
Ultimately, his message was one of self-fulfillment through adventure and hard work. Mr. Stockham told the seniors that while ideas aren't rare, people who put in the effort to develop their ideas are extremely rare, and he believed that everyone in the room was capable of being one of those people. He advocated collaboration and networking—especially within the Rowland Hall community—and stressed that perfectionism can be defeating. "Oftentimes, 30% of the work is enough to help others understand what you're trying to have happen and for them to help build it," he said. "Over time, it will become perfect."
The young entrepreneurs, engineers, artists, and scientists in the room, along with those who don't quite know yet what they want to do, could all glean something from Mr. Stockham's speech. He acknowledged that while defining what you want can be difficult, life is also meant to be fun, which is what he heard from the guest speaker at his senior breakfast in 1991. "Life is better than you can plan," Mr. Stockham said in closing. So while these young graduates head out into the world and make lists of things they want to accomplish—which Mr. Stockham hopes will include tackling issues such as gender disparity in the workplace—they can expect a few surprises and detours along the way.
After graduating from Rowland Hall, Mr. Stockham earned his Bachelor of Arts in international political science from Bates College, and worked various jobs in internet sales and business development before taking on his current role at Cotopaxi. He is a member of Rowland Hall's Entrepreneur Circle and a proud father of three.