October 25, 2014
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Eclectic Evidence

Warren’s successful tourism career decorates office in the Pagoda
Bob Warren, executive director at the Evansville Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Working in the tourism industry, there is no shortage of fun for Bob Warren.

Proof of his prolific career decorates his office at the Evansville Convention & Visitors Bureau, where he’s worked as executive director since 2011. Warren started working in tourism in 1987 and was the director of tourism in his native city of Galveston, Texas. He also worked as the president/CEO of the Panama City Beach Florida Convention and Visitors Bureau, and came to Evansville from visitgalena.org, an organization focused on marketing the city of Galena, Illinois.

In Warren’s office are mementos from his career such as a program where he judged the Miss Texas contest, which featured Eva Longoria in 1999, a shovel and hardhat from the Hilton DoubleTree Hotel groundbreaking in Evansville, a framed caricature by Doug Harmon, executive director of the Fort Worth Convention and Visitors Bureau, signed by all the board members and presented to him at his final meeting for the Texas Travel Industry Association, as well as many other items.

“I’ve had a very successful career in this industry,” says Warren. “I think it does put me at peace to have all the things I have experienced in my career in the office with me. It feels like home.”

Warren’s office is located in the Convention & Visitors Bureau, 401 S.E. Riverside Drive, in the Pagoda, which was designed by architect Harry Boyle of the firm Brubaker, Stern, and Boyle and built by contractor Charles Kleiderer in Sunset Park in 1912.

“It’s the coolest office I’ve ever had,” Warren says of the Pagoda, which was remodeled in 1995. The office spaces also underwent a $300,000 remodel in October 2012, which lasted around eight months.

The lower level holds the administrative offices, a conference room, and a reception area with oriental red lighting hanging from the ceiling, a river stone wallpaper, and grey, white, and red accents to highlight the Pagoda and the Ohio Riverfront. On the first floor is the visitor information area with staff to answer questions, exhibits, and brochures.

Warren has two years left on his contract and says he plans to retire and most likely relocate to Florida with his wife Vickie of 30 years in May.

“What’s going to occur here over the next 10 to 15 years is exciting,” says Warren. “With the Indiana University medical (education and research partnership expansion) and convention center hotel, you’re going to see more activity, a more robust Downtown. I won’t be here to see it, but I see continued growth just with what we have on the table right now.”

For more information about the Evansville Convention & Visitors Bureau, call 812-421-2200 or see visitevansville.com.


The Road Less Traveled

Evansville native shares his story of becoming an unlikely CEO
Fred Cook shares his journey of growing up in Evansville.

Fred Cook didn’t grow up knowing he wanted to be a CEO, but he had the courage to figure it out along the way.

It’s this kind of life education, or learning as you go, through travel, different career ventures and failures, and personal relationships that helped him advance his position at Golin, one of the world’s largest Public Relations firms. More than 25 years ago, the Evansville native started as an account supervisor in the Los Angeles office of Golin before moving to Chicago 11 years ago to become the company’s third CEO.

But Cook, a 1967 graduate of Harrison High School and Indiana University in Bloomington, didn’t join the corporate world until age 36. Prior to that, he worked at several odd jobs including chauffeuring drunks home from bars, substitute teaching in Los Angeles’ worst schools, serving as a cabin boy on a Norwegian tanker, and many more hilarious life pursuits as he went.

Cook shares his unusual path in his book, “Improvise: Unconventional Career Advice from an Unlikely CEO,” which was released in April (see Evansville Living September/October Shelf Life). In keeping with his unorthodox style of doing things, Cook plans to use all the proceeds from his novel and speaking engagements to fund what he calls an “un-ternship.” Golin will hire a staffer and provide the funds for him or her to experience the world for six months before returning to work at the company. It’s a method that has never been done before, says Cook, but he’s willing to invest in someone’s life education.

Evansville Business caught up with Cook to talk about his Evansville influences, new book, and how he became an unlikely CEO.

You pull so many of your experiences that you write about in your book from growing up in Southern Indiana and Evansville. How did that time influence you later in life?
Evansville culture was a huge influence for me and being an Arc Lanes rat and hanging out with dropouts and delinquents, it was my first exposure to people totally different than me, who had different socioeconomic conditions. Some had been in prison and in reform school; it was just such a cast of characters and I learned so much from them about so many different things. Many of them remain my lifelong friends.

That first exposure to people who had a totally different view on life opened my mind. My whole life since then I have been attracted to people different than me and perhaps that’s why I’ve been good at working with people and that all goes back to Evansville.

“Improvise: Unconventional Career Advice from an Unlikely CEO” has been featured in Forbes, Huffington Post, as well as many other national publications. What kind of feedback have you been receiving?
I just spoke (recently) at the University of Florida. Afterward, a lot of students came up to talk to me, and their reaction was of relief and reassurance and that’s very rewarding for me. I think they are all very stressed out about their careers and about the demands their parents are placing on them. They are relieved to hear there is more than one path to success and when they see my story, combined with a little advice that I give, it helps send the point home rather than just saying what you should do. It is about what happens to me and it makes it more real and more tangible for them.

In your book, you say you never took a business course and barely graduated from college, what would advice would you give to millennials furthering their education?
Looking back, I wish I had taken a business course or two. It probably would have helped me a lot. I do think school experience is very important, but I think life experience is equally important. A lot of young people coming into the business world today have great educations, but they don’t have much life experience and that’s what they need to work on.

Schools don’t teach enough about personal relationships and working with people and the skill level on the job, and I’ve found that’s the most important thing — how you deal with other people. I have a chapter in my book called “Enlist an Entourage.” It’s about how you have to surround yourself with people you trust, and people who will do everything they can to make you look good, everyone needs to nurture that kind of team. I don’t care how good you are at what you do; you can’t be successful by yourself. It is impossible.

How did failure and your many different odd jobs help you reach your position as CEO at Golin today?
It’s depressing when you fail. No one wants to. But every time you do it, you get a little stronger and you gain a little more courage because you find out you didn’t die.

Failure opens doors for you, because when something fails, you are forced to try something different. I’ve done that a dozen times and each case, I’ve learned a lot from the experience whether I was successful at it or not.

Interviewer Jim Church has been friends with Fred Cook for more than 50 years; they both attended grade school at Harper Elementary School and high school at Harrison High School.

For more information about Fred Cook’s work at Golin, visit golin.com.


Bob Koch

Bob Koch is the Chairman and past CEO of Koch Enterprises, a global, diversified, privately-owned corporation. The business has been in the Koch family since his great-grandfather George founded it in 1873. He also is the president of the Koch Foundation and Signature School and a board member of the Indiana Economic Development Corp. He is past chairman of the University of Evansville, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, and the Catholic Foundation of Southwestern Indiana. He has served as a director or board member for several public companies, including Vectren Corp., Fifth Third Bancorp, and numerous local non-profits. He helped start the Community Foundation Alliance and the Evansville Regional Business Committee.

Koch’s family also is active in the business. Son Kevin Koch is the president and CEO of Koch Enterprises, brother-in-law Jim Muehlbauer is the vice chairman, son David Koch is the president and CEO of Brake Supply, and daughter Jennifer Slade is the Secretary of the Koch Foundation. In addition he has a son-in law, two nephews, and two husbands of nieces working in subsidiary companies.

Your family history is an interesting story. Can you comment about that heritage and your family’s background?
Five generations ago, George and his father, mother, and eight other siblings, left Germany to come to the U.S., in 1843. The family ran a winery over near Mainz, Germany, and that winery is still in business. They built a building in 1820, and our cousins still live there and make wine in it today. We’ve been to visit with them a couple of times, and they’ve come here a couple of times.

Your name is synonymous with education in Evansville. What drew you in that direction?
It was in the mid ‘80s when our children were graduating from high school. We counted that in their last six years of school, school had been cancelled about 90 days because of bad weather and there were no makeup days. At the same time our companies were experiencing higher scrap and rework costs because of simple errors in math and communications. If we were going to get better in our companies, our schools had to do better. We started by forming a Business-Education Committee, which new Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp. Superintendent Phil Schoffstall and I co-chaired. Local businesses worked with the school corporation to reduce the numbers of students taking minimum requirements for graduation and get students to take more advanced classes.

You serve as the president of Signature School and its science center bears your name. What was your goal with getting involved there?
Phil Schoffstall and the EVSC school board had a retreat in which they came up with the idea of Signature School. The school would be part-time, located Downtown and would offer advanced classes and be available to juniors and seniors from all area high schools. To attend you had to sign a promise to try to do your best at this school. We were trying to raise the bar by making school, while rigorous, also exciting, fun, and engaging.

Some in the local “education establishment” later tried to close the school. What was the reasoning at the time?I’m not sure. It was not what I expected. But about that time, the State Legislature passed a new law enabling charter schools. And the parents and teachers asked if Signature could become a charter school. And that was the start of it, about 12 years ago now. Signature now has 330 students and is at capacity. Signature would like to expand but we rely heavily on local donations to operate the school. Charter schools receive only about 66 percent of the funds that traditional public schools get.

What is your role with Koch Enterprises today?
Today I serve as chairman and senior advisor. Also when I had ultimate responsibility for the company, there wasn’t much time for me to do creative work on our products or processes. But with Kevin taking charge, I’m back doing creative stuff.

What do you think Evansville will look like in the future?
I think in the long future, Evansville is really going to prosper. I think water is going to be the next short commodity, like oil is now. In some places it is already. We are blessed with having the Ohio River here, and I think river cities are going to prosper, and I think Evansville is well positioned to take advantage of that.


Pat Shoulders

Hometown: Evansville

Job: Partner at Ziemer, Stayman, Weitzel & Shoulders and Indiana University trustee

Resume: Patrick Shoulders holds two degrees from Indiana University. He received his bachelor’s degree in English in 1975 and his law degree in 1978, graduating Magna Cum Laude. Shoulders is a partner at Ziemer, Stayman, Weitzel & Shoulders in Evansville and has been an IU trustee since 2002. Dedicated to Evansville, Shoulders has been involved in numerous volunteer projects, the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corp., and other organizations throughout the Tri-State.

Family: Wife, Lisa; a daughter and son-in-law in Newburgh, Indiana, and a son and his partner in New York City, and three granddaughters.

On what being Indiana University trustee means to him:
The trustee position was kind of a natural evolution from the beginning to reconnect with IU about 35 years ago with a local alumni club. I was involved with the Evansville chapter of the IU Alumni Association. From there I was asked to join the College of Arts and Science Alumni Advisory Board, I became the national chair of the whole Alumni Association in 2000. A spot opened on the board of trustees — it was a governor appointee position that opened up — so I thought that it seems to be the next natural step. When I went on the board in 2002, Myles Brand was president of IU, that’s how far back I go. I’m now the senior member of the board in terms of longevity. So I guess I would tell you if you love your university, it’s a wonderful view from there. Indiana University was so important in my life. It’s been an opportunity to give something back to my alma mater that I love. I’ve been able to use it I think to benefit Evansville.

On seeing the evolution, expansion, and growth of Indiana University School of Medicine - Evansville:
It was a wonderful coincidence that at a time when Indiana University, which is the state’s only public medical school and the second largest medical school in the U.S. with eight regional medical centers, decided to expand medical education. We had a new dean who came in very motivated. And working together with him, being part of the ground floor, and there have been a lot of people in this town who helped make that vision reality, but I was able to steer it through the inside channels at IU. With new leadership, ambition, vision, it was just wonderful seeing all that develop and doing my part to make sure that it happened

On his parents’ influence on his education:
My dad went to Central High School; my mother went to F.J. Reitz. My mother graduated in June, they got married right out of high school in July, so we’re first generation college kids, my brothers and I. My parents are firm believers of the American dream and that is, every generation will have it better than we did and that education is key. Here are two high school graduates (Shoulders’ parents) who absolutely pounded into their boys that hard work and higher education is the ticket. So they have three sons, two lawyers and an architect. That was just really an ethic in our house. They (Shoulders’ parents) didn’t have it (a higher education), but by God their boys were going to.

On vision for Evansville:
I always believed Evansville could be the best at what it put its mind to. I want it to be a vibrant, viable, great city that gave me all the opportunities and joy I have had out of life. Now it is available for my daughter and her family. Potentially it will be there for my granddaughters if they choose.

Final thoughts:
I think that politics on a national level has become broken. It seems to be all about reelection and not much else. I am proud that we’re still able to get things done at a local level. I think the ideological divide of national politics is not the focal point of local government. I hope that continues. Locally it ought to be about retail, service, excellent fire and police, and economic development. I think we understand that locally. When this Indiana University School of Medicine - Evansville idea began to get legs, I had a very small group in this town. They worked hard. It was about Evansville. It wasn’t about who’s going to get credit, who’s going to get reelected, and who’s going to get rich. It was about Evansville and Downtown. That is the way progress is made. I think that is the spirit I am seeing now over these last 10 years in this town.


Notable Alumni

Local graduates went on to big things
Pete Fox, Benjamin Bosse High School graduate (1927) – Major League Baseball player from 1933 to 1945

Following graduation, many high school classmates lose touch. It’s common to wonder whatever happened to that guy who sat next to you in study hall, or that girl who had a locker next to yours.

But a few local graduates are pretty easy to find. They’ve gone on to fame or fortune – or both – in a variety of ways. From Playmates to politicians, they’ve been in the public eye. We’ve compiled a list of some of the people you could’ve sat next to in an Evansville high school, and who probably should have been voted “most likely to succeed.”

William Henry Harrison High School

Calbert Cheaney (1989) – NCAA men’s basketball player of the year at Indiana University, NBA player

Randall Shepard (1965) – Chief Justice of the Indiana State Supreme Court

Amanda Herrmann (1998) – Playboy Magazine’s Miss May 2008

Brad Ellsworth (1976) – Former Vanderburgh County Sheriff and U.S. Representative from Indiana’s Eighth Congressional District

Walter McCarty (1992) – Former NBA player with the Knicks, Celtics, Suns, and Clippers, and currently an assistant coach with the Celtics.

Steven Sater (1972) – Poet, playwright, lyricist, television writer, and screenwriter. Two-time Tony Award winner.

Paula Leggett Chase (1979) – Television actress, best known for roles on “30 Rock” and “The Sound of Music Live!”

Jami Stallings (2004) – Miss Indiana 2007

Benjamin Bosse High School

Arad McCutchan (1930) – Hall of Fame basketball coach at Evansville College

Pete Fox (1927) – Major League Baseball player from 1933 to 1945

Roy Halston Frowick (1950) – 1970s American fashion designer known as Halston

Ruth Siems (1949) – Creator of Stove Top Stuffing

Michael Michele Williams (1985) – Actress, best known for role on TV show “E.R.”

F.J. Reitz High School

Don Hansen (1965) – NFL linebacker for the Vikings, Falcons, Seahawks, and Packers

Matt Williams (1985) – TV producer whose shows include “The Cosby Show,” “Home Improvement,” and “Roseanne”

Central High School

Lee Hamilton (1948) – U.S. Representative from Indiana’s Ninth Congressional District

Andy Benes (1985) – Major League Baseball pitcher

Lloyd Winnecke (1978) – Mayor of Evansville

Reitz Memorial High School

Don Mattingly (1979) – Major League Baseball player and manager

Larry Stallings (1960) – Pro Bowl linebacker for the St. Louis Cardinals in the NFL

Jonathan Weinzapfel (1984) – Former Mayor of Evansville

North High School

Dave Schellhase (1963) – NBA basketball player, NCAA basketball coach

Bob Ford (1968) – ABA basketball player, Purdue basketball broadcaster

Jeff Overton (2001) – PGA golfer

Mater Dei High School

Suzanne Crouch (1970) – Indiana State Auditor

Castle High School

Jamey Carroll – (1992) Major League Baseball player

Michael Rosenbaum – (1991) Television and movie actor and director

Bryce Hunt (2000) – Olympic swimmer

Evansville Day School

Molly Newman (1972) – Tony Award nominee in 1985

William Snyder (1977) – Four time Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer


School Days

Some of your favorite high school memories

Most of us have at least a few favorite memories from high school. Maybe it was a big game or a first date. Maybe it was a favorite teacher. Maybe it was that time your buddy Ferris got you to skip school and you drove your dad’s car to Chicago for a day of shenanigans. Those were good times.

So, we asked you to send us some of your favorite high school memories. Too many of you responded for us to list them all here, but we chose a few of them. We’re almost longing to be teenagers again.

Julie Schutte Zuber — Mater Dei High School, 1979. My best memory is marching on the football field as a pompom girl.

Molly Blackford Mackey‬ — Castle High School, 1997. First and only (as far as a I know) class to go undefeated through four years of Powder Puff Football during homecoming week. We were kind of a big deal.

Marilyn Edgar Wurtz — Bosse High School, 1949. Great memory: Overnight choir trip to St. Louis with choir director Charles Horn (and chaperones) to see Risë Stevens in a performance of “Carmen.” We also visited the Botanic Gardens and got to ride the great wooden roller coaster! Fabulous time!

Tim Sloat — Bosse High School, 1980. Speech class with Mr. (Ray) Begarly. Thanks to him, public speaking is easy for me. He also was the teacher for those interested in being a radio personality. Several of his students have had successful radio careers because of him, including hall of famer Dale Carter.

Chad Hayden‬— Boonville High School, 1994. My favorite memory was being able to be a part of the Theater Department and see some amazing performances come off that stage. Judy McNeely (now retired) was an awesome and amazing instructor, mentor, and teacher of that program.

Bobbie JoAnn Hudson — Central High School, 1972. (We were) the first class to graduate from the “new” Central on First Avenue. I have many fond memories of my senior year at Central — classes, pep assemblies, and the like — but I think the one that sticks out in my mind is a whole group of us piling into a friend’s car — sitting on each other’s laps in fact — and racing over to one of the eateries on Diamond Avenue for lunch. Dangerous yes, but loads of fun!

Cathy Dyson — North Posey High School, 1989. My favorite memories of high school were the times spent at the football and basketball games and the high school dances that followed all the home games. The friendships made there and the music of the ‘80s were CLASSIC! Great times in a small town are what living in Indiana is all about!

Susan Weber Montgomery — Reitz High School, 1978. I would have to say my fondest memories of high school have to be the school spirit that we shared. Every week the Pep Club sold a button or ribbon for the upcoming game. For a quarter you could show your school spirit by wearing it to the game. I still have them, it’s quite a collection.

Tina Sizemore — North High School, 1970. Spanish class with Mr. Deig, pep club, and cruising in my friend’s GTO convertible!


“Never, Ever Give Up”

Diana Nyad says tapping potential is important at any age

When Diana Nyad made her fifth attempt to swim from Cuba to the Florida Keys in 2013, nothing was left to chance. From the special suit she wore to protect against jellyfish stings to the support boat that helped guide the way, every detail was meticulously planned.

Her Aug. 15 speech at the Mid-America Institute on Aging, hosted by the University of Southern Indiana along with SWIRCA & More, won’t involve nearly as much planning.

“I’ve never planned any talk,” says Nyad, who has accepted public speaking invitations for 35 years. “I’ve never written down a word of what I’m going to say. There are lots of things I try to do to connect with the audience from a stage, and I’ve had a good response all these years, telling inspirational stories and entertaining stories.”

In 1978, at the age of 28, Nyad attempted to swim from Cuba to the Florida Keys. After 76 miles in rough seas, she had to stop. It was 33 years later, in 2011, when Nyad tried again. She came up short, but kept trying and on her fourth attempt after turning 60, she made it, on Sept. 2, 2013. She swam the 110.86 miles without a shark cage, making her the first confirmed person to have done so.

“The message that I carried with me, and that I lived out loud and my team lived out loud, was ‘Never, ever give up,’” says Nyad. “Honestly, I am more proud of the fact that we didn’t give up than I am at actually having made it.”

The experience she says was very different from her distance swims of the 1970s, but not just because of physical reasons.

“I used to be much more egocentric,” says Nyad. “Back then, it had more to do with records and being ‘the one’ being recognized. This time around, it had nothing to do with that. It was about being in a state of awe about this planet we live on, and the feeling of pride and gratitude of doing something so epic and outrageous.”

Nyad says some people begin to feel marginalized in their professional and personal lives as they age, making it that much more important not to give up on what makes them feel important and useful. That’s part of what drove her to her record-setting swim.

“Every human being on earth has dreams,” she says. “And they can be small or they can be large. But it is important, because tapping one’s potential makes one feel alive, makes one feel purposeful.”

The Mid-America Institute on Aging at USI will be held Aug. 14 and 15. Other speakers include: Teepa Snow, a dementia expert who will discuss the choices caregivers must make; Dr. Mimi Guarneri, founder of the Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine in San Diego, who will talk about disease prevention; and comedic actor Breeda Miller, who will speak about finding humor as a caregiver. Nyad will speak at 3 p.m. Aug. 15.

“Hopefully, when you’re done listening to the speech you’ll leap to your feet, feel like you’ve laughed until you’ve cried, and you’ve actually cried,” says Nyad. “And you’ll want to get back to your life and live it full-tilt. It’s very organic, and whatever moves me as well.”

For more information about Diana Nyad, visit diananyad.com. For more information or to register for the Mid-America Institute on Aging, call 1-800-467-8600 or visit usi.edu/health.


How Sweet It Is

9-year-old raises money for cancer patients

“When I was in second grade, I heard about people with cancer and I just wanted to help them,” says Paige Miller.

That simplistic yet surprisingly strong motivation led to Paige’s Cupcakes for Cancer. This year Miller, 9, raised $3,650 for cancer patients at Deaconess Hospital.

“She started out digging up little seeds on the playground to grow plants to sell, to make money for people with cancer,” says Crystal Miller, Paige’s mother who works at Caze Elementary School as a kindergarten assistant. “We explained that she was actually digging up weeds and that wouldn’t work. Then she thought she was going to make makeup and we had to tell her that wasn’t going to work; there’s a lot more to that. And then she said, ‘Fine, if you’re not going to take me, I’m just going to walk the money to the hospital myself.’”

That was when Crystal and her husband, Mike, director of table games at Tropicana Evansville, knew Paige was serious. When Crystal put a status on her Facebook about how much Paige wanted to help, a friend commented, and the idea of baking cupcakes was born.

Crystal created the Paige’s Cupcakes for Cancer Facebook page and Paige, with help from her family, started baking vanilla cupcakes from scratch complete with pink, strawberry-flavored icing to sell for $20 per dozen.

“When we first started this, we thought this will just be a cute little thing and family and friends will order,” says Crystal. “We were expecting maybe 20 dozen (orders). And the first year (2012) she raised $1,200. Last year, her goal was to double that and she ended up tripling it.”

Paige’s giving spirit even has caught on at Caze Elementary School, where Paige is a fifth-grade student.

In May, teachers and staff stayed one night four hours after school to help bake cupcakes, something Crystal refers to as the “baking blitz,” meaning 50 dozen cupcakes were made in one night.

“We wanted the students’ help because they wanted to help, too, so each cupcake was $1 when they ate lunch,” adds Paige.

Those cupcake sales during lunch raised $225. Teachers also can purchase a Paige’s Cupcakes for Cancer T-shirt and wear them on the first school day in May, helping raise awareness.

The community’s awareness of Paige’s charity work also has increased. Paige received two nominations for the 2014 Kohl’s Cares Scholarship Program award, which is a chance at a $10,000 scholarship.

She won the Sam Featherstone Youth Award through Leadership Evansville at the 2013 Celebration of Leadership awards, and was asked to return this year as a presenter. She was given the 2013 Pam Rausch Spirit Award from Deaconess Hospital, the T-Green Perseverance Award from the Evansville Area Council PTA, and the Indianapolis Colts honored her with the team’s 2013 Student All-Star Award, giving her $500 to help with the project this year.

At the end of May, Paige presented a large cardboard check to the Deaconess Foundation for the entire profit amount. The only thing she keeps is the cardboard check afterward and a feeling of “excited happiness.”

Paige and her family plan on continuing the cupcake charity next May.

“Every little bit helps,” says Crystal. “Even if they can’t give money, they can always do something to help someone. It doesn’t matter the age, anyone can help somebody.”

For more information about Paige’s Cupcakes for Cancer, visit its Facebook page.


Champion of Change

Evansville native honored by White House for work inspiring youth to go outdoors
Hodge poses with his saw used to clear and maintain trails.

After 25 years in the corporate world of college athletics and broadcast media management, Evansville native Bill Hodge decided to “catch his breath” and ask himself what he really wanted to be doing. In 2009, Hodge began volunteering in conservation work and in November 2010, he started the Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards (SAWS) program, which became a project of The Wilderness Society in May 2011. Hodge, a North High School and University of Evansville graduate now living in Tellico Plains, Tennessee, works to recruit and inspire the next generation of wilderness stewards to ensure public lands are cared for well into the future. In 2013, the program employed 23 seasonal conservation leaders, trained more than 90 wilderness stewards and facilitated more than 8,000 volunteer hours of service across five National Forests.

In March, President Barack Obama invited Hodge to the White House and he was honored as one of 14 Champions of Change for Engaging the Next Generation of Conservation Leaders.

Evansville Living: What was it like finding out you were honored as a Champion of Change at the White House?

Bill Hodge: “I had no idea I was even nominated. When Michael Boots (acting chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality) called to identify himself and to tell me I had been nominated and selected, I, for a minute, thought it was a prank phone call, to be honest. I was completely surprised. It was a shock. He called Feb. 28 and I had to be there March 18. I asked my coworker what was on my schedule that day, and she said, ‘It doesn’t matter what’s on your schedule. You’re going to the White House now.’”

EL: How has Evansville shaped your passion for public lands and your love for nature?

BH: “My time spent on the Ohio River, down at Land Between the Lakes, and over on the Shawnee National Forest at Garden of the Gods, were all public lands I explored during my time spent in the Ohio River Valley. My parents started me camping as a young kid. We lived in Western North Carolina before moving to Evansville and we camped in the Pisgah National Forest and I was hooked. Public lands are where I would spend any of my time away from the corporate world. I didn’t hate what I was doing. I quite loved working in marketing and advertising, and all those skills I used then, I now use today. I use my marketing experience to get more young people involved in enjoying and serving public lands in general, and federally designated wilderness in particular.”

EL: What are immediate and long-term benefits in the work you do?

BH: “We are keeping trails open and accessible while connecting a younger and more diverse generation to the idea of protected public lands. People won’t protect a place they don’t know about, and they won’t know about a place with out experiencing it. We are rebuilding trails so people can get out there and enjoy it. The long-term benefit is building a new generation and watching the transformation. There is this phenomenon of a whole generation that has missed growing up in the outdoors, and we are working hard to change that.”

For more information about Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards, call 423-261-2543 or visit trailcrews.org.


Sculpture Takes Flight

Artist’s abstract sculpture chosen for Evansville’s airport

Bob Zasadny is a sculpture artist who uses a unique mix of fiberglass and recycled materials to create abstract sculptures. In his early 20s, Zasadny worked for a fiberglass fabricating shop in his native city of Chicago as a production worker. Once he got to know the material and how to apply it, he decided to follow his passion of art.

Zasadny’s art eventually led him to the Princeton, Indiana, area 26 years ago. Inspired by shapes in nature, he submitted an idea to Keep Evansville Beautiful in 2011 for a sculpture at the Evansville Airport Gateway Welcome Monument.

“I read about it right toward the very end of the call, found out the requirements, put together a small model, and that was accepted as one of the contenders for the final selection of six entries,” says Zasadny. “Then they had a process of elimination ultimately down to two (contenders), and I was fortunate to be chosen (on March 24).”

The sculpture titled “Aerial Beauty” will be made of Styrofoam, a steel support framework, and fiberglass, and will soon grace the Welcome Monument wall at the Evansville Airport Gateway. The shape of the wings on the abstract sculpture are similar to propellers of an LST or of a P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft, and the wing curves recall the bend in the Ohio River. They also relate to pods on the native Honey Locust tree. The body of the sculpture is similar to the shape of an American Indian knife-like tool made from deer antler or a piece of flint. The design also was influenced by the logos of the two airlines that use the airport, Delta, and American Eagle.

“And it relates to man’s early dreams of flying and flight, which seems to be the most appropriate theme for an airport,” says Zasadny.

Entirely funded by private contributions, Keep Evansville Beautiful has received several grants from organizations but still needs a substantial amount of money from additional resources. When the entire amount is raised, a contract is expected to be awarded to Zasadny’s choice of manufacturer Weber Group, Inc., in Sellersburg, Indiana, to fabricate, transport, and install the finished sculpture.

“This is the culmination of years of preparation for this moment because every job that I’ve had and every path that I’ve taken have all led to this,” reflects Zasadny. “I have to thank God for giving me the health and wisdom to create art that is inspired by all the beautiful and intricate shapes He has created and giving me the opportunity to share it with others. This is the right moment in my life for this to happen.”

For more information about Bob Zasadny or make a donation for “Aerial Beauty,” visit bobzabstractsculpture.com or keepevansvillebeautiful.org.