People and Projects
On the line
Dorothy Skripak Penner ’63 may keep to the sidelines, but never passively. Penner, who lives in Annapolis, Md., officiates at local, regional, and national tennis matches. Her service at the net requires that she attend “chair academy” once a year and work at least five chairs annually to maintain her umpire certification. She sits several feet above the court (shaded by an umbrella, as necessary). “You can see pretty well from that height—enough to overrule a line call on the baseline if necessary,” she says. “The hardest call is the one on the sideline nearest the chair.”
Penner has also been to “line school.” Being a linesperson involves additional coordination. “It’s not easy getting your movements straight,” she says. “First you call ‘out’ (or ‘fault,’ if a serve), and then raise your arm to the side. You also have to move from the middle of the court to the sideline, but when the server changes ends, your movement to the left or right changes.” At her first professional tournament, Penner spent the whole time saying quietly to herself, “‘Fault, go left, out’ and the next point, ‘Fault, go right, out’ or ‘Fault, stay, out.’ Obviously it gets easier the more you do it.”
At USTA-sanctioned junior tournaments or league playoffs, Penner is a “rover”— overseeing several courts, enforcing warm-up time and the point penalty system, reporting code violations, resolving scoring disputes, overruling line calls and calling foot faults, and controlling spectators.
“Officiating collegiate tennis matches is probably the most fun,” she says. “It’s good tennis, and mostly well-behaved players and coaches”—although now and then there’s one who’s still a little rough around the edges. She says she recently penalized a young player a point for ball abuse, a game for racquet abuse, and finally
defaulted him for unsportsmanlike behavior—toward her.
A Skidmore phys-ed major, Penner herself still wields a racquet twice a week, either competitively in doubles league play or purely for recreation. And that’s enough to satisfy her. “I enjoy watching young players hone their skills, older college-age players compete, and adult recreational players have fun,” she says. “Watching professional tennis is icing on the cake.” —MTS
Dianne Colby Dean ’64 has helped hundreds of Sandpipers take flight—in song. The organ-performance major and longtime choral conductor founded the Maine-based Seacoast Children’s Chorus, known as the Sandpipers, in 1993. Open to boys and girls ages 9 to 16, the group performs a diverse repertoire of secular and sacred music that spans cultures, languages, and styles. In 1995 she also created the Sandpipers Prep Chorus, to prepare children ages 7
to 10 for in-depth musical training.
Over the years Dean, who earned a master of arts in music from the University of New Hampshire, has nurtured 400 young voices, many of whom have gone on to sing in top choirs and professional productions. She is particularly proud of her work with kids who came to her with marginal skills. “I’ve been so lucky to watch them grow as people and gain confidence, presence, and musical ability,” she says.
Starting from scratch, as she did with the Sandpipers, wasn’t new to Dean. When her husband, James, took a job at Maine’s Berwick Academy in 1968, the school had no music program. She soon remedied that, establishing one and running it until 1991. She also launched the South Berwick Community Chorus, which she directed for twenty years, and served as musical director at a church for ten years.
This past spring, Dean decided it was time to retire and bid farewell to her flock of Sandpipers. After years of coaching young singers, teaching music theory and sight reading, planning concerts, and overseeing rehearsals, she passed the baton to a new director. Leaving, she says, was bittersweet. She misses working with the children (“They feed your soul”), but admits it’s nice not to be in charge anymore. She is eager to spend time with her grandchildren, travel, bike, and kayak, and deepen other volunteer commitments. It’s true what they say, she observes: “You close a door and another opens up. You get excited about something new, and that, hopefully, keeps you young.” —MM
Sew it goes in Afganistan
After selling her New York advertising agency five years ago, Wendy Cohen Summer ’76 took care of her ill parents. “After they died, I said, ‘What am I going to do now?’
I wanted to do volunteer work, and I really love to travel.” As luck would have it, someone turned her on to the Business Council for Peace, an international network of volunteers who help Afghan and Rwandan women build businesses.
Bpeace workers, Summer explains, make a three-year commitment to assist with ideas, marketing, and sales. “We act like consultants. We cost-share for equipment they may need, help pay for education courses, and prepare the women to hire and train others.”
Summer, who’s made several trips to Afghanistan in the last two years, mentors two “associates,” as the women are called. They range in age from their late 20s to about 55; many are widows whose husbands were murdered. (“These women have stories that are so horrible,” Summer interjects. “They’ve had terrible hardships. Yet they have such a desire to learn, and they laugh a lot.”)
One associate, 31-year-old Bakhtnazira Niazi (pictured at Summer’s left with Nasima Payman, another mentee), has a dress shop. While she was not wholly impressed with the garments themselves, Summer—a collector of early textiles—was struck by what she calls “the most exquisite embroidery I have ever seen.” She’s encouraged Bakhtnazira to expand her business to include items such as pillows and window treatments, which will prove more profitable. “With all the foreigners in Kabul, and the new restaurants… it’s like the Phoenix rising from the ashes,” Summer says, “and there’s a huge opportunity for people who sew to make some money.”
About ten Bpeace associates have started a cooperative, she notes. They still have some issues with product development and quality control to work out, “but they are making huge strides, and some items are selling well.” Summer says, “The next time I go over, I’m going to help them with a marketing initiative. I foresee them eventually having branch stores and hiring more people. They’ll be able to show others in Afghanistan that women can do anything.” —MTS
Talk is talent
Moe Egan ’84 isn’t the least bit shy about saying, “I want to be the voice in your head.” And if you’ve heard commercials for PC Connection, Kroger Supermarkets, or Xtra Mart convenience stores, she may already be.
As a voice-over artist, Egan has a lengthy
list of clients on five continents, including Vtech, Chase Bank credit cards, Fidelity Investments, even the US Department
of Education (hear samples at voiceoversbymoe.com). In addition to radio and TV ads, she does narrations for corporate training, product tutorials, and Web-site audio—plus phone messaging (her “bread and butter”), which you may hear when you’re on hold or navigating an interactive voice-response system. She’s also recorded some political ads. “I have fun with those,” Egan says. “It’s not often you get to vent righteous indignation
and get paid for it.”
Egan—whose training included theater work at Skidmore and at-the-mic experience on WSPN, the college radio station—did her first paid VO at a Rhode Island radio station in 1985. Her career picked up when she became a news anchor in New Hampshire and did spots for the local ABC affiliate. “Four years ago I took the plunge into full-time voice work,” Egan says. “I built a home studio (in New Hampshire) and haven’t looked back since.”
Conducting business from home means that Egan has more time to be around her kids (“Yes, some days I do work in my pajamas,” she says.) Despite their mother’s famous voice, they keep her humble. Their biggest thrill is hearing mom on the loudspeaker at Canobie Lake, a local amusement park. “My being the voice that says, ‘The fireworks start in ten minutes’—that’s what they’re most proud of,” Egan laughs.
She herself is a big fan of Billy West—the voice of Doug and Stimpy on Nickelodeon, the red M&M, and Honey Nut Cheerios’ BuzzBee, among others. “There are so many amazing voices to learn from,” Egan says. “There’s a joke among VO people that we’re the only ones who turn the TV up during the commercials.” —MTS
Disney in Turkey
You never know when something from a college course might become relevant in your present life. For Sinan Ceylan ’82, it was the Walt Disney Company, the subject of his case study in a Skidmore business class. Today, hanging with Eeyore, Tigger, Mickey, and Goofy is all in a day’s work for Ceylan, who runs Disney’s licensing office in Turkey.
After graduating with a degree in economics Ceylan spent thirteen years as export and marketing manager for two Turkish consumer-products companies. In 1996 he was offered the job with Disney, issuing licenses to leading Turkish companies seeking to use the famous characters on stationery goods, home textiles, apparel, food items, toys, personal-care products—as well as “everything related to babies and children,” Ceylan says. His office, he adds, looks like “a large-scale Disney store.”
Earlier this year Ceylan took on the additional responsibility of managing all Disney businesses in Turkey—including cinema, home entertainment, television, the Internet, and live entertainment. Since Turkey has a very large young population, Ceylan says, the company has declared it “a priority emerging market.” “Launching the Disney Channel in 2007 in Turkey was a major step in helping to increase brand awareness,” he says. And despite the cartoon competition (Barbie, Looney Tunes, The Simpsons), Disney, “with its powerful range of movies and evergreen characters, holds the leading position in Turkey.”
Before his gig with Disney, Ceylan had been to Disney World once with his family, which includes wife Lane Riker Ceylan ’80 and daughters Lara ’09 and Aylin. He loved it. Now the perks of his “magical Disney experience” include frequent travel to Paris, London, and Orlando, Fla., for meetings—some of which are held at Disney Parks. He also gets to meet Turkish celebrities in the music and film industries.
A special highlight came in 1998 when he escorted Mickey Mouse—who had come from Disneyland Paris to Istanbul, to celebrate Turkish Children’s Day—to the presidential palace in Ankara. “Mickey was greeted by the president of Turkey,”
Ceylan says proudly, “and all the national TV channels broadcast this VIP reception live.” —MTS
Built to last
Fifteen years in commercial real-estate finance left Bill Greenleaf ’86 feeling somewhat empty, he says. In his search for more meaningful work, he decided to incorporate his love of the outdoors into his professional life. “I was particularly interested in balancing the preservation of natural resources with economic growth,” he relates. Greenleaf is now chief operating officer of William McDonough and Partners, a Charlottesville, Va.-based architectural firm that specializes in the sustainable design of commercial buildings.
The firm’s philosophy is based on McDonough’s book Cradle to Cradle and “strives to emulate natural systems in the design of buildings, materials, and systems,” Greenleaf says. “Nature operates in a closed-loop system that does not create any waste; in other words, waste equals food. When you consider this, why wouldn’t you design a system that is as effective as nature? I want to be a part of integrating this philosophy into our modern-day economy.”
The value of building green and sustainable is slowly seeping into the public mindset; but making "environmentally intelligent" design the rule, rather than the exception, is still a ways off. Greenleaf, noting that the majority of WM+P’s work is in California, says, “The East Coast is beginning to catch up with the West Coast in its eagerness for sustainable design. The gap is closing, driven by factors such as climate change, energy costs, increased environmental awareness, and shifts in public policy.”
Greenleaf is inspired by some unlikely advocates for a greener economy: “I am continually amazed at the number of corporations that contact our firm seeking consultation on sustainability,” he says. “It motivates me and gives me hope for the future.”
As more and more firms offer green-design services, COO Greenleaf will be donning his strategic-thinking cap to determine how WM+P can maintain its edge in the field. One of the firm’s most exciting current projects, he notes, is working with the Google facilities team on architecture and sustainable design elements at Google’s main campus in Mountain View, Calif. —MTS