Jesup Scott Honors College

Alumni of the Month Features


 Dr. Burr Zimmerman

B.S., Chemical Engineering: 1994-1998.
Co-founder and Principal of Urban Venture Group, Inc.

Tell us about yourself.
I grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan and was an undergraduate student at UT. I worked in the pharmaceutical industry for a number of years, went back to school for a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering, and then started a consulting company. My company is Dr. Burr Zimmermancalled Urban Venture Group, Inc., and I describe what we do as “innovation consulting.” We focus on raising capital to support early stage technology research and development. I am still a huge Rockets fan – I come back to campus for UT football and basketball games and attend a lot of road games, too. Goooo RRRRockets!

Why did you decide to leave the pharmaceutical industry?
It was really cultural. I’m more of a rule-breaker rather than a rule-follower. The pharmaceutical world is highly regulated, as well it should be. That meant I found myself trying to be innovative in a system not designed for innovation. What prompted me to make the change was when I oversaw a pharmaceutical manufacturing process. I made a change to the procedure, in a way that didn’t affect the regulatory filing so that we could implement with minimum disruption, and that ended up saving the company almost a million dollars a year. The company awarded me its highest technical award, which was great. They also took me aside and said, “Don’t do that again,” however, and reassigned me to a position where I couldn’t make those kinds of changes. This was a tough lesson about the difference between what I thought was good for the company and what the company wanted from me. I decided I wanted to be in a place where innovation was more aligned with the overall mission.

As the alumnus keynote speaker at the Spring Medallion Ceremony on Sunday, what advice did you offer the Honors graduates?
I touched on a few themes that hopefully will be meaningful for a graduating Honors student getting ready to enter the workforce, go to graduate school, or start a business. I focused on risk-taking. The way in which today’s economy is changing, becoming skills-based instead of job-based, it gives today’s graduates new opportunities to create individualized forms of professional happiness.

The way the human brain works, it makes us bad at judging risk. We tend to overestimate the risk of change and underestimate the risk of staying the same. A paycheck every two weeks might feel safe. It can be tempting to discount or ignore “new economy” jobs. Being an entrepreneur, “freelancing,” or “gigging” might feel risky. If you create a startup or freelance, after all, your income almost assuredly will fluctuate. But along the way, you will constantly be developing new skills and learning what people will buy, honing your skills around things people need. In contrast, if you work at the same job for a while, your skills narrow and become stale. This has happened to a number of my friends: your employer has a poor quarter, you get laid off, and now your income has zeroed-out. Your skillset is built around a job you no longer have and a career that may not even exist anymore. You found out the hard way just how risky that paycheck is.

The real risk is not taking risks.You need to take risks to learn, to keep your skills relevant, and to grow. The faster the world changes, the faster the economy changes, the more critical it is to stay nimble and engaged. Stability is the risk.

I stumbled into this way of thinking. When I graduated from UT in 1998, I had an Internet startup that I just shut down to accept a “real job.” I made the very decision that I’m telling you to avoid. Since then, I stumbled around in the dark to get to what I do today. I consider myself lucky. I can tell you, it wasn’t planned. But, looking back, I want to let other people know that this path is not just important; it is possible. I wake up each morning and have to pinch myself that I get to do this for a living. I love what I do. It’s fun, it’s invigorating, it’s challenging, and it’s important. You just have to keep an eye out and look for opportunities to break out of your mold.

What kind of skills or perspective did you gain from the Honors College?
I like working with others – communicating and not just doing. I also don’t like working on the same thing all the time. I like to have my hands in lots of different cookie jars. The Honors Program gave me an outlet to fulfill my interests outside of Engineering and have a more diverse social and intellectual experience. In fact, I almost transferred out of Engineering and into a Biology-Philosophy dual major because I loved my Honors Philosophy class so much!

What is a memory at UT you would say influenced you later in your career?
Two come to mind, actually. The first time I ever came to campus, I visited unannounced. I just showed up one day in the summer. I was walking through the old Engineering Science building and Dr. Steven LaBlanc, who was then the chairperson of Chemical Engineering, poked his head out of his office and asked if I was lost. I told him I was there visiting, and he sat down and talked with me about the program. He spent a lot of time with me, I don’t even know how long. I came to Toledo because of the spirit and the dedication that he showed. To this day, I remember Dr. LeBlanc and it reminds me to always be looking to help others and try to give back.

The second was when Dr. Vik Kapoor was the Dean of Engineering. He asked me to develop a digital portfolio for the new engineering campus – when Nitschke Hall was being built. It was a great responsibility, more than I had ever taken on before, and it required skills that were new to me. It was 1996, the “World Wide Web” was brand-new, and the college didn’t own a digital camera! I was motivated and, thanks to Dr. Kapoor, I felt empowered. When the project completed successfully, he created a “Student Innovation” award to recognize my role – and gave me a pay bonus, too. Dr. Kapoor modeled for me the importance of having a vision and perseverance. I didn’t think about it at the time, but he also showed me how important it is to set people up for success – put them in the right position and let them do what they do best.

 Alan Lapp

B.A., History: 1965-1969 & J.D., UT College of Law: 1969-1972.
Retired Deputy Chief Counsel and Chief Hearing Examiner for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency.

What was the Honors Program like when you were a student?
I joined the third Honors Program class as an entering freshman in the Fall of 1965. There were approximately 30 students in that class. The Director of the Program was Dr. Ernest Gray and the Assistant Director was Jim Larson. The class divided in half for two freshman Readings Conference sections, each of which was taught by Professors Gray and Larson. The requirement for graduatingAlan Lapp with University Honors then was the successful completion of at least 12 Honors classes.

What skill, perspective, or wisdom gained from your time here most contributed to your success?
In my mind, these three questions are all variations on a theme. The Honors Program didn’t necessarily create my love of reading and my desire to learn, but the Honors experience certainly reinforced and expanded them. I remain a constant reader and, I hope, learner. Through all the reading and interaction with my professors and fellow students, I learned to think critically, analyze, and evaluate opposing opinions and points of view, develop coherent arguments, as well as write clearly and persuasively. These were important qualities in my law school and career experiences.

What is a favorite memory from your Honors experience?
The entire Honors experience was memorable to me; it’s difficult to pick out one or two. However, I really enjoyed the Readings Conferences, the freedom to take any course being offered at any time regardless of prerequisites, the one-of-a-kind Honors seminars, as well as socializing and arguing with fellow students in the Honors lounge.

Are there faculty in particular you remember?
Ernest Gray and Jim Larson for Readings Conference and their constant association as Director and Assistant Director. I also fondly recall Noel Leathers and his seminar on “The Age of Romanticism” as well as Herbert Schering and his seminar on “Goethe’s Faust.”

What would you like our current students to know about you?
I graduated from The University of Toledo College of Law in 1972 and began my employment in the Legal Office of the newly created Ohio Environmental Protection Agency that Fall. The Ohio EPA became my career, where I served as Chief Hearing Examiner and Deputy Chief Counsel. After retiring from the Ohio EPA, for a number of years I worked with the Columbus Board of Health as a Hearing Examiner and Legal Consultant. I was a member of the Board of Directors of the Ohio Environmental Council for 12 years. As important as the Honors Program and my fraternity were to me, the most significant event of my college experience was meeting Susan Carlson. In January, we will have been married 49 years.

What advice would you like to give our current students?
Life and careers can be complicated. You are likely to make mistakes now and then. Develop a short memory. Don’t dwell on them. Learn from them and move on.

 craig holden

B.A., interdepartmental: 1977-1983.
Currently Director of corporate and foundation relations at the new mexico state university foundation.

Craig HoldenWhat was the Honors Program like when you were a student?
The Honors Program was quite small when I was in it – 100 or 125 students total. It was in one of the small buildings in front of University Hall and felt very comfortable – like a club, almost. I enjoyed all three advisors but was closest to Dr. Jim Larson – that relationship has lasted a long time. Mary Sue Cave (Deisher) and Trudy Chermak were the other two. They all taught and were always happy to sit and discuss whatever was on my mind. I stayed at UT because of the Honors Program, and it felt like my little home inside a big city. I liked that very much. Although, the fact that Honors is its own college now is pretty impressive and cool in its own way.

How did the UT Honors experience influence you as a person?
It influenced me greatly, both in terms of the advice I received about becoming a writer, and also the classes I took – especially the Honors seminars. One offered a history of thought through great books and the other focused on art and cultural history. Both were year-long courses. To gain scope of the history of the world in those ways couldn’t help but have a big effect on how I saw it. I spent my junior year in England and had a chance to travel around the continent to see in the real world where some of these events took place.

How did Honors influence your success in meeting your professional goals?
I knew I wanted to write, though I also held a pre-med concentration for a time. In fact, I got a job at St. Vincent Medical Center through the pre-med program and ended up working there for over three years. At the end of it, I knew I wanted to write, not go to medical school. The Honors Program had prepared me for that in non-traditional ways, I suppose. Jim Larson had advised me from the beginning not to major in English or take too many creative writing classes. Rather, he told me to read and study as broadly as you can, which is what I did. I took courses in a lot of natural sciences, social sciences, and liberal arts – especially philosophy. That has always stood me in good stead. I find that nothing I’ve learned has been wasted. When it comes to writing books, all knowledge and experience is valuable. My first novel, for instance, was about a doctor and drew on my experiences at St. Vincent’s.

What skill, perspective, or wisdom gained from your time here most contributed to your success?
In addition to the above advice, Jim also offered me valuable insight regarding writing. I told him that I loved the idea of having written. He said, "Well, of course. Everyone loves the idea of having written. You'd better figure out whether or not you love to write." So I spent several years after that just working and writing. And realized I did love it! I then went to graduate school to get an MFA. But that time writing, alone, in an apartment on Torrey Hill Drive, was invaluable. I don’t think I wrote one word that was worth anyone reading, but I came out of it knowing something about myself.

What is a favorite memory from your Honors experience?
It’s hard to name a single memory. I didn’t socialize a whole lot as an Honors student. Or rather, much of the socializing I did was in the library. There was a lounge then where you could eat and smoke (believe it or not), and we spent a lot of time there and up in the stacks studying, talking, and wondering about the future. Collectively, those are good memories. I also really just liked the coursework, especially the reading. My vistas expanded so broadly at the time that it’s hard to describe now.

Are there faculty in particular you remember?
I mentioned three of them above. In addition, Dr. Tom Barden and Dr. Harriet Adams in English were also key to my education – Tom with folklore studies and Harriet with creative writing. The first money I ever got for writing was a $25 English Department prize for an essay I wrote in one of her classes. It would be another 15 years before I got any more money for writing! Another professor I learned a lot from was Dr. Steve Goldman in Biology. He taught genetics and was really tough. But the thinking in that class, the logic of it, was remarkable to me.

What would you like our current students to know about you?
I suppose that when you’re looking at a writer, everything you really need to know is in the books. Aside from that, I came from a pretty humble place in Toledo. My parents were school teachers. We didn’t have a lot of money. I didn’t meet one professional writer until I left for graduate school. So it’s not like I had an inside track. I had no idea what I was doing. I just did what I loved and learned as much as I could. And even after graduate school, when I went to New York to work in publishing, I had no special connections. It was just following what I wanted to do, meeting whomever I could meet, and working hard – both in the office and on my writing. That’s pretty much how I still live.

What advice would you like to give our current students?
Do what you love. Life is long – at least in the beginning, it seems that way. And to spend years doing something you don’t look forward to seems pretty miserable to me. I don’t dread Monday mornings. I look forward to the work I do here in New Mexico, and always to writing. I work most of the time, both in the office, after work in coffee shops, and at home on the weekends. I suppose I’m a workaholic, but it’s because I’m doing what I want to do, not what I have to do. That makes all the difference.

 Shamila Chaudhary

B.A., English Literature & Women's and Gender Studies: 1997-1999.
Currently a senior adviser to the dean of johns hopkins school of advanced international studies & Senior Fellow at new america.

What was the Honors Program like when you were a student?
The Honors Program had a very community-oriented feel to it. Most of the students were coming from the social sciences and Shamila Chaudharyhumanities, but we were all able to get individual support from leaders and faculty. We were a close-knit family, so it’s where I ended up making my closest friends. The seminars were also extremely interdisciplinary. I remember in one class, being able to talk about philosophy and biology in the same conversation – two fields so different from each other. The experience was incredible!

How did it influence your success in meeting your professional goals?
I think it was the seminars that had the biggest impact. Having the interdisciplinary aspect made it more fun and challenging. The seminars ended up furthering my interest in politics because I was learning about so many different subjects. It also set me up to have a good range of analytical and thinking skills, which I believe is important for anyone working in policy. As an advisor in the White House and the State Department, I would have to deal with things I’m not exactly an expert in – and do it with urgency. Having those skills from the Honors seminars, I knew how to react to these problems as they came in, rather than struggling to find ground.

What skill, perspective, or bit of wisdom gained from your time in Honors contributed to your success?
David Hoch was the Director of the Honors Program while I was at UT. He spent so much time with you one-on-one, at first you thought it was just for you! Then you looked around and realized he spent the same amount of time with all of his students. He put in what he wanted out of the Honors Program. I had never experienced that kind of attention from a mentor before. I learned from Dr. Hoch and his team that how much time and work you invest into something will carry into your outcome. From then on I was looking for strong meaning and purpose in every project, meaning I wouldn’t do anything halfway. Having that kind of mentorship taught me how I should treat other people – how I should lead an individual or lead for a community.

What is a favorite memory from your Honors experience?
When I was in the Honors Program, we had Internet, but it was relatively new. There was a messaging system called “the VAX” – an earlier platform for instant messaging. We would go to our computer lab to work, but we would end up all messaging each other to avoid writing our papers!

What would you like our current students to know about you?
I didn’t plan this kind of profession for myself; it just happened as I was going about my business. It sounds strange, but it’s true. As I was going about the world, I kept trying to find people that had the same interests as me. In doing so, I became exposed to a lot of professional opportunities. I learned that you can’t plan for success, but if you take care of your goals and your work, success will happen as you’re going about your business. There’s not one model or path you can take. Typically, people would look at my accomplishments and say “she got good grades and everything she ever wanted,” but that’s the complete opposite of the truth. I didn’t always get good grades nor was I always involved on campus. It wasn’t until I joined the Honors Program that I was really challenged and found a path to start down. I want students to know how I got to this point because, even though they may not feel confident in where they’re at, what they’re doing now is exactly what they need to do to succeed.

About a year ago, you wrote an article in The Atlantic about the unlikely friendship among Muslim and Christian refugees here in Toledo. What do you think we can learn from their example?
Seeing two people become friends, who back in their home countries may not have been friends, shows us how important community is and how it can form relationships. America is that kind of place where people from opposing sides can come together and become close. I think the real lesson here is to not forget our country is a very unique place, to not forget who we are and that the past is not behind us. My family is from Pakistan. We faced our own challenges, but these transitions are still happening and contain new challenges. We have a moral responsibility to help people fit in, and work with the people that can’t. It’s easy to ignore these problems, but if we take the time to work through it, it can really show how unique the U.S. truly is.

 Judge Gene Zmuda

B.A., political science: 1977-1981 & UT college of law: 1981-1984.
Currently lucas county common pleas court judge.

“I’ve been here in Toledo my entire life – I did not choose to leave and have enjoyed every bit of it!” remarked Judge Gene Zmuda, who works in the Lucas County Common Pleas Court. “I think I have the best job in the world.”

Judge Gene ZmudaThe successful, well-liked judge with a reputation of being fair but friendly, is a two-time alumnus of The University of Toledo. He earned his B.A. in Political Science in 1981 before pursuing a law degree at UT, which was achieved in 1984. Though well served by his studies, the elected official with 24 years of experience (10 years on Toledo City Council and another 14 as a judge), attributes much of his success to another element of his UT experience. According to Zmuda, none of these accomplishments would be possible without his time in the Honors Program.

The value of Honors, Zmuda said, can be traced to its “requirements about developing the person, the critical thinking that goes into you becoming a more holistic thinker.” As a political science major, Zmuda’s first days in the Honors Program were strikingly different than the days he spent working in his major. As one of the only students in his Honors classes not stemming from the field of medicine, he was surprised by how differently those from other fields thought and problem-solved.

“I realize they don’t think like I do, and a lot of that is how differently they analyze things,” he remarked. “I had never experienced that before […] the whole exposure to various viewpoints – I loved it!” In a profession dedicated to the interpretation and application of a legal tradition, these skills have been indispensable. “To view issues from a perspective other than ‘What is the answer?’ – to understand how decisions are made and explore along the way what it means to make a decision, these are skills I learned in Honors,” Zmuda said.

Though much of what it means to be an Honors student has not changed, Zmuda welcomes some of the changes in the community since his time as an undergraduate.

The Honors Program, “deserved to be a college, and I am happy it has become one,” he said. “It recognizes more clearly what Honors at UT stands for, which is the fundamental importance of a liberal arts education.”

When he began in the Honors Program, Zmuda worked closely with the then-Director Jim Larson. He believes it was Dr. Larson’s drive that allowed the Program to take off and eventually become what it is today. After Larson, Zmuda said that he and Director David Hoch became close, and that through Dr. Hoch the Program focused on what Honors could do to expand and help students. “Jim is responsible in my perspective for the starting of the Honors Program,” Zmuda explained. “He wasn’t the first director, but he really helped it grow. Then, when he retired, Dave Hoch ushered in features like service learning, trying to understand what broad role the Honors Program could fulfill for the student body, university, and community.”

After he graduated with his undergraduate degree and then as a law student, Zmuda remained in Toledo and began his long career as a public servant. In addition to serving the City of Toledo, Zmuda has contributed to the UT community by teaching courses in Honors and at the UT College of Law. He has taught a class on Political Leadership, provided guidance to the Mock Trial team, and even once brought his courtroom to campus. He scheduled one of his cases to be held in The McQuade Courtroom in the Health and Human Services Building for students to observe the proceedings and learn.

Zmuda’s advice for students entering the Honors College today is to expose yourself to as much as possible. “Don’t be afraid to pursue something, going out of your comfort zone. You will never retrieve the time once you graduate,” he added. “You’ll never be able to have the freedom you have now to figure out exactly what makes up you.”

Judge Zmuda was recognized for his contributions to the community and his embrace of the ideals of UT Honors as the 2017 recipient of the James K. Larson Distinguished Achievement Alumni Award.

 Maureen Brown

B.A., Public Administration: 1973-1977.
Currently the Director of Private Banking at Fifth Third Bank.

Maureen BrownWhat was the Honors Program like when you were a student?
It was still relatively new, but was gaining traction and recognition on campus. You definitely felt the sense of community and camaraderie in the Honors Program. You could walk into the Honors lounge and feel the vibe – students and professors were always having wildly interesting conversations about a wide range of topics, and welcomed you into the discussion. The Program was a happy blend ofchallenging students’ intellectual curiosity through independent study and small seminars, while affording you the ability to “escape” many of the standard courses required for all new students at the university.

How did the UT Honors experience influence you as a person?
It influenced me more than I realized while at the university! The Honors Program pushed me outside my comfort zone (thank you!), and that discomfort was part of my “growth,” both intellectually and emotionally. I came into the Program as a sheltered high school student, and quickly saw there was no place to “hide” for a shy and retiring student (again, thank you!). I learned to have more confidence in my opinions, and to freely express those in class and discussions.

The premise of the Program – allowing students to focus on their majors and areas of interest without having to take many of the standard required courses, afforded me the privilege of a deep dive into several areas of study. From that, I learned the power of intellectual curiosity and critical thinking. While I did not end up in a career of my major, I have carried those two traits into my career in banking, and they are useful every day.

How did it influence your success in meeting your professional goals?
My professional goals changed dramatically during my senior year. As part of my major in Public Administration, I was able to do an internship for a quarter. That experience was invaluable, and made me realize that my goal of working in government or politics was not my cup of tea. That probably isn’t the typical result of an internship, but it motivated me to look at a career in some aspect of business. When I graduated, there were far more graduates than job openings, and I embarked on a career in banking. My career found me, and I’ve spent over 38 years in an industry I love. The confidence I gained from my Honors experience allowed me to make this late “U-turn” in my college curriculum, and know that I had the skills to adjust and find my way. Flexibility, whether in critical thinking or career strategy, is a valuable skill.

What skill, perspective, or bit of wisdom gained from your time in Honors most contributed to your success?
My Honors experience taught me invaluable life skills: the importance of working hard to create a solid reputation in your field of endeavor, intellectual curiosity (life-long learner), flexibility (to take advantage of new ideas or opportunities), and the courage to forge one’s own path. Those skills have served me well over my career, and I continue to learn something new every day from clients, coworkers, or industry publications.

What is a favorite memory from your Honors experience?
I cannot pinpoint just one favorite memory. My Honors experience always brings to mind a feeling of happiness at being able to partake in something important, stimulating, and relevant. I still get that feeling from walking on campus today – this is where you learn to be a part of something much larger than yourself, and it is exciting.

Are there faculty in particular you remember?
There are so many wonderful faculty members from those four years. Of course, Dr. Jim Larson springs to mind – he was our fearless leader and an inspiration to the Honors Program; Dr. Roger Ray, who brilliantly taught Medieval History and illuminated the Dark Ages; Dr. Robert Freeman Smith and Dr. William Longton, who taught Latin American History and Ante-Bellum History, respectively, and challenged me to see the present through the voices and events of the past; and Dr. Ron Randall, who inspired me to major in Political Science/Public Administration (and I still love politics even though I did not make it a career!).

What would you like our current students to know about you?
I have had several five-year career plans, and every one of them was jettisoned for an opportunity to take what appeared to be a step to the side with a new position and challenge. Every one of those sidesteps has been rewarding, fulfilling, and ultimately led to my current career in Private Banking with Fifth Third Bank. I don’t regret any of my career decisions, and feel very blessed to have had so many wonderful mentors and opportunities in my career. I truly enjoy helping clients simplify financial complexity, and am thankful every day that I have a career I love.

What advice would you like to give our current students?
Many will tell you to have a career plan. This is usually great advice, but sometimes the career we study for isn’t the one that ultimately finds us and captures our passion. Be open to alternative paths, which may lead you to greater happiness and fulfillment.

The Honors experience is very special, so take advantage of every opportunity possible in the Honors College, and get involved in campus and community activities. Not only do prospective employers look for those well-rounded students, but you will find fulfillment in giving back.

 Mark Luetke

B.Ed., Social science and journalism: 1966-1970.
Currently the President of fls group, a division of Thread Marketing Group.

Mark Luetke ThenWhat was the Honors Program like when you were a student?
When I arrived on the UT campus in 1966, the Honors Program was relatively new – more of a concept than a thing. The concept was to create a community that provided a path toward intellectual challenge and better academic success that would be harder for a student to find if left to his or her own devices. The delivery system was through Honors seminars with much smaller student-professor ratios and much more intense learning than normally available. Plus, we got the opportunity to do independent study with outstanding faculty in our individual degree-granting college.

There was a “thing” – a small “Honors Lounge” on the ground floor of a now-departed dorm. Some students used it almost like a club – participating in ongoing card games and late-night discussions. Since I was working to earn school money, however, I never had the time to take advantage of the lounge – which is something that I regret.

Perhaps most valuable was that our Honors advisors really guided me through an innovative and outstanding academic program that served me exceptionally well in my professional career.

How did the UT Honors experience influence you as a person?
The Honors experience taught me that I had greater capabilities than I thought I had. I was an underachiever in high school, and was recommended for the Honors Program by a vice principal who saw something more in me than I did in myself. (I actually accepted the invitation to join the Program only because they promised I could skip English 101.)

Very quickly I was exposed to concepts and ideas that I never knew existed. I made relationships with students and faculty that expanded my point of view and broadened my expectations of myself. I learned critical thinking. The most lasting takeaway was that the Program made me more intellectually curious, nimble, and fearless – characteristics that have served me in good stead since.

How did it influence your success in meeting your professional goals?
Understand that my career followed a trajectory that was far from straight. I entered UT thinking that I wanted to become a high school history teacher. While I did teach for a few years after graduation (probably not very good – but highly entertaining), I also worked as a production assistant at a weekly newspaper, show business publicist, political campaign consultant, held several public relations jobs, and finally as the founder and owner of a marketing company for 30 years. 

My Honors experience taught me the value of listening and learning from others, organizing my thoughts and effectively advocating them, looking at the world in a holistic way. The collegial nature of our (relatively small) Honors cohort allowed me to perfect teamwork, learn what I could from people smarter than me (there were a lot of those around), and embrace risk. All of this helped propel me to reach goals that I didn’t even know I had.

What skill, perspective, or bit of wisdom gained from your time in Honors most contributed to your success?
In the second semester of my freshman year, journalism instructor Fred Endres told me that I would miss most of the learning opportunities UT had to offer communications students if I did not work for the Collegian. At his (very firm) urging, I walked into the student newspaper office one afternoon and its very fine editor, Tom Taylor, handed me an assignment to cover a campus speech by the Speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives. When I saw my byline that first time, I was hooked. With the encouragement of Taylor, Endres, and a handful of outstanding journalism faculty, I moved up the ladder to edit the paper myself as a senior.

That was a year of foment on campuses nationwide, and our Collegian staff covered student anti-war protests, the takeover of University Hall by a student group, the shooting deaths of four unarmed student protesters by the Ohio National Guard at Kent State University, the first Earth Day – and the start of a 35-game win streak by the football Rockets. As editor, I became close with President (William) Carlson and his outstanding vice president, Jesse Long, many faculty and administrators, and the media professionals at The Blade. That admonition to join the paper built a foundation for a lifetime of contacts and success.

What is a favorite memory from your Honors experience?Mark Luetke Now
I created and taught a for-credit Honors symposium my senior year. At the time, I became engrossed with Daniel Boorstin’s book The Image and its prophecy that “pseudo-events” would shape the media landscape of the future (we know how that turned out). Dr. Ernest Gray encouraged me and a fellow student to put together a syllabus and green lit the class.  How many students get an opportunity like that?

Are there faculty in particular you remember?
Dr. Gray directed the Program at that point, assisted by Dr. James Larson (who eventually went on to become director), and both had a profound impact on me. In addition, the program allowed me to take Honors symposia in my degree-granting college (Education). There, Dr. Edward Nussel showed us how good teachers got that way, and Dr. Jack Ahern encouraged us to be fearless. 

What would you like our current students to know about you?
My experience in the Honors Program had more impact on my life than anything – other than meeting my wife.

What advice would you like to give our current students?
Learn your primary profession, but also get good at 2-3 side skills. Build a personal “advisory board” of 3-4 people you can trust and admire to help direct you on personal, professional, leadership, and financial questions. This cast of characters may change over your lifetime, but asking questions of smart people will never fail you. Be flexible and take risks.

Last Updated: 6/24/19