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People and Projects

Talkin' Texan

Since 1993 Le Kaplan Killgore ’47 has hosted a weekly one-hour public-service radio show called “Dialog.” It broadcasts Sunday mornings on four radio stations across 11,000 square miles of rural Texas called the Concho Valley.

Killgore has lived in San Angelo, the county seat, since 1972. She says its multifaceted economy—agricultural, educational, financial, manufacturing, and military—provides an “interesting mix” of subjects to focus on. Killgore's guests include Texas legislators and US congressmen; folks from the military, schools, and hospitals; and the executive directors of the symphony, ballet, and Better Business Bureau. Police and social-service reps, political candidates, and clergymen also liven up the airwaves, discussing hot-button topics.

Killgore settled in San Angelo with her husband, a career Air Force officer and Texas native. For twenty years she worked for the Standard-Times, covering city, state, and federal government activities—and penning a weekly political column. Then, several months after retiring, she was invited to co-host a program on KKSA-AM, Concho Valley's first talk-radio station. She declined initially but says she was persuaded to “try it 'just once'—which turned into a permanent gig!” She now does the show on her own.

A Romance languages major at Skidmore, Killgore remembers doing her first journalistic interview as a freshman, “thrilled to be working on the college newspaper. I've loved interviewing ever since,” she says, “seeking information, thoughts and feelings, often from people I have never met before.”

Each week Killgore spends a couple of days deciding what topics to cover and inviting guests. The show is recorded on Wednesday afternoons. “For the rest of the week,” she says, “I have time to read, knit, crochet, play bridge, visit with children and grandchildren, go to concerts and plays, and whatever else.”

She adds, “I'm sure there are many other people eighty-two years old who continue with some profession, but I do run into people who think I’m crazy to 'keep working.' Well, it's not really work. It's a pleasure and a stimulating challenge!” —MTS


The whuffle and snort of contented horses… the pleasure of watching a well-schooled hunter take a fence… the satisfying labor of mucking out the stalls of twenty equine boarders—that’s the life for Carla Babcock Sharp ’67. She owns and operates Buttonwood Farm, a riding facility in Easton, Conn. Half the horses live in the farm’s ten stalls; ten more prefer life outdoors, in fields with run-in sheds.

“Overhead is high when you have twenty horses in your backyard,” says Sharp, so doing it yourself is crucial to her more-than-full-time job. Besides the basic horse care, she trains horses, teaches riding, and shows hunters, jumpers, and three-day eventers (horses that compete in stadium jumping, galloping cross-country, and dressage). On top of that, she trains and shows “project horses” of her own. Current candidate: a tall

Thoroughbred named Friendly Fred.
Sharp started riding on other people’s horses at age five but never had a lesson until she was an adult. “I’d get on and fall off, get on and fall off. I fell off a lot,” she says wryly. She left horses behind when she applied her Skidmore economics degree to portfolio management in New York City.

Then she and her then-husband bought an eight-year-old ex-racehorse. Sharp taught him to jump and sold him at a profit. “We’d buy and train a horse, sell him, build more stalls. Pretty soon we had a business”—and a horse-loving daughter, Heather ’95, who followed her mom to Skidmore and its riding team.

After her divorce, Sharp chose to make a go of the farm on her own, a decision she never regrets, even when a horse goes lame on show day or her truck won’t start. On good days, she says, “my lessons go splendidly, my students are happy, I ride my horse and think he's making progress.” Sure, Merrill Lynch pays better; as Sharp sees it, “I’m not creating an empire, but a life.” —BAM

Wings and strings

Any way you slice it, Seth Naugler ’82 is flying high. In Bucks County, Pa., he’s doing just what he wants to do: building guitars and piloting commercial aircraft. And believe it or not, there is a link between the frets and wings.

In the early 1990s another pilot showed Naugler, who was working full-time for Allegheny Airlines, a Martin guitar kit he bought. “I’d been playing guitar since 1966 but was completely unaware of luthiery,” he recalls. “I was fascinated by this ‘kit,’ which seemed a misnomer since so much more had to be done than simply gluing the pieces together.” Naugler, a carpenter in his early post-Skidmore years, “found the idea of building a guitar appealing,” but put the idea aside.

Until 2004. On a quest to find a guitar with certain specifications, he “happened into the world of custom builders through the Internet.” He decided to build for himself exactly the instrument he wanted. He bought how-to books and DVDs and set up shop in his renovated 1815 barn. “It took me a year to build that first guitar,” he says.
Meanwhile, he continued flying planes (now for US Airways)—but anticipated being furloughed in 2006. “I began to wonder what I would do with the time,” he says. After eighteen years of flying full-time he was ready for a break. And one day it dawned on him: he could make guitars for a living.

In July, Naugler was recalled to US Airways and has been flying reserve, which still allows plenty of time in his shop. The dual career keeps him happy. Piloting, he says, is “a mix of right- and left-brain activities, an application of both art and science.” And “the joy of creating a beautiful instrument out of a stack of wood is immensely satisfying” too.

Naugler shipped his tenth guitar just before Christmas and hopes to build about a dozen more each year (see for details). “The tone gets better as I learn the balance between strength and suppleness of the top,” he says, “and the playability is right where I want it. Pete Huttlinger, one of the best fingerstylists of his generation, said of one of my guitars, ‘It plays itself.’ That made me feel pretty good.” —MTS


Materials man

His “attraction to smooth fair curves began with several boats he built before attending Skidmore,” states a background bio for Michael Metcalf ’87, who earned an MFA at the University of Pennsylvania. Metcalf now teaches sculpture at Western New Mexico University, and to demonstrate to his students how they can get involved in public art projects, he sets a good example.

In 2005 he and 108 other artists from around the country applied for the I-40 and Louisiana Site Specific Sculpture Project commissioned by the City of Albuquerque. (New Mexico, Metcalf notes, is “required to spend one percent of capital monies on public art.”) Eight finalists built models of their proposals, which were viewable at the Coronado Mall. The public and the selection committee voted, and Metcalf's maquette was declared the winner.

His final creation—a pair of thirty-foot-tall steel and bronze sculptures placed on either side of Interstate 40 on Louisiana Avenue—was completed in 2007, with a formal dedication in December. The sculptures are mirror images, with stainless steel tubing spiraling clockwise in one and counterclockwise in the other.

Two former WNMU students helped with construction, as did a couple of interns and many volunteers. “There are two basic changes from the model,” Metcalf notes. “The whole base height was lowered to comply with traffic sight lines. And the number of spline curves was reduced from seven to five, to make it look better and so it would be more difficult to climb after lowering the base height.”

Metcalf took cues from his surroundings: “The spires are made of bronze, which is the first metal harnessed by man; the base is stainless steel, representing technologically advanced material; and the granite boulders represent nature and the earth.” The design, he adds, was inspired by “the cycle of life petroglyphs. From an aerial view, the spline curves form spirals similar to rock art drawings created by the ancients in the Southwest.”

As public art the sculptures are successful, Metcalf says, in that they “force the viewer to look at the environment around the works and to contemplate their relationships”—what he calls “the Positive Energy of New Mexico.” —MTS

Loyal to the corps

No sane person ever wants to go to war,” says Marine Corps major Dave Bardorf ’89. “But as Marines we train to address any situation from full-scale war to small-scale humanitarian-assistance missions.” Bardorf, who enlisted in 1991—out of a sense of duty as well as a need for “the discipline,” he says—had “a pretty good idea” by 2002 that he’d be going to Iraq. He’s an armor officer, assigned to the Marine Corps's 2nd Tank Battalion.

His first major combat operation, destroying Iraqi frontline armor units, was “almost surreal,” he says. “I saw my Marines killed and wounded. I witnessed unimaginable feats of heroism and bravery. I’ve experienced the gripping fear that hits the night before a battle and the acceptance of fate that alleviates that fear. War is a whirlwind of emotion, and you have to channel that so you can focus on the mission at hand.”

In Bardorf’s current tour in Iraq (his third), he leads a transition team embedded with an Iraqi infantry battalion. “We live, eat, and fight with Iraqi soldiers,” he says. He is impressed with the Iraqis’ commitment—and struck by the similarities to their young American counterparts. “They talk about girls, goof off, listen to music. Many of them taught themselves to speak English by watching TV and movies.”

Tactical advice is only part of his job, Bardorf says. There’s community relations too. “I meet with sheiks and imams, visit schools, and supervise community projects. It’s amazing to participate in building a democracy. I’ve learned that many seemingly insurmountable problems can be solved simply by talking over a plate of food and a cup of chai.”

And this time, Bardorf says, he sees real progress. “The markets are open, kids are going to school, hospitals are open. And the greatest indicator that things are getting better: the smiles on the Iraqis’ faces. During my last tour in Iraq, in 2006, I saw none of this.”

Bardorf, who admits it’s tough leaving behind his family—including his kids, who are twelve and three—can retire with twenty years of service in three years; but he isn’t sure he’s ready to. “I spent many weekends and off-time getting an MBA, an MMS, and a professional certificate of program management to help prepare myself for the civilian workforce,” he says. But staying on active duty also appeals to him. “My family will have the majority vote as to whether I stay or go,” he says. “They’ve had to put up with so much over years.” —MTS