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How I Got Here…and Other Reflections: In 1964 I joined a group of other prospective students at Northwestern University to study for a month in the Radio/TV/Film program. It was time well-spent because I learned two very important things about myself: 1) I wanted to make films, and 2) a smaller college would be a better fit for me. And it came to pass that at Lake Forest College I pursued a degree in psychology…and film! Although Lake Forest didn’t have a film program, I was not deterred. I audited film classes at Northwestern and made a film with Leslie Murray for a philosophy class. I participated on the Film Committee. My senior thesis included a short 16mm experimental film, an ode to Chicago with a soundtrack by Paul Butterfield, shot on the weekends and edited in my dorm room at Moore Hall. Some of you may remember when my dorm room was filled with strips of film hanging from clothes lines everywhere.
After we graduated, I was off to the West Coast to seek my fortune as a documentary filmmaker. Living in San Francisco, I took film classes at San Francisco State, and this gave me access to film equipment. I began making a documentary about an experimental approach to K-12 education called Project One. Over the next year, I took my documentary more than half way by getting free equipment and donated film, but in the end, lack of funds prevented completion. I found some freelance work here and there, most memorably on a crew shooting on Alcatraz during the Indians of All Tribes occupation. My real job was at an educational film distribution company (McGraw-Hill/ Contemporary Films) where I advised teachers about the best films to show in their classes. I continued to look for film production jobs, and eventually got tired of being asked about my typing speed. Time to move on.
After three challenging and shall we say, groovy years in San Francisco, I returned home to Chicago (1972) to take science pre-reqs and apply to physical therapy programs. Yes, I did say physical therapy. Where did that come from? The answer: I had become an aficionado of the world of dance and that led me to an interest in the physiology of movement, body therapies and women’s health. PT seemed a good idea at the time, but it was not to be. I proposed doing preventive physical therapy in my interviews. I think I sealed my fate with that rather heretical idea.
But all was not lost. In 1973 the job that would launch my career in adult education magically appeared. For three years I helped unemployed adults become Licensed Practical Nurses in a Manpower Development (MDTA) program at Chicago City Colleges. This was a very tough but very rewarding job! I realized that I loved teaching adults and I wanted to do that in a medical setting. Over the next 14 years I was director of education in two large hospital systems. We designed and taught medical and basic skills programs, as well as management and leadership development programs, for all areas of the hospital. I also had the opportunity to design and market a series of cutting-edge women’s health conferences in the mid-1980s. This was at the time when women’s health was just becoming a recognized topic of importance in medicine.
While working full-time, and thankfully, with significant tuition reimbursement from my employers, I completed an MA in Adult Education (University of Chicago) and then an MBA (Kellogg/Northwestern University). In 1989 I left the hospital setting to work in outplacement and workforce development consulting for the next four years. And it came to pass that in 1994 I launched my own company, Designs for Learning. Over the last 25 years, I have been fortunate to have very interesting and challenging projects with clients in the technology, management consulting, higher education and healthcare worlds. Most of my work has been related to coaching and developing trainers, program development, and change management. I’m still working and enjoying it.
The best thing that ever happened: In 1985 I finally met the right guy at the mailbox in my building, Greg Kuepfer. After the world’s longest courtship, we were married in 1996. Greg is a dental technician by trade. He’s also a talented street photographer, a musician (electric bass), an expert on the Bauhaus, and the love of my life. We live in Evanston, Illinois, in a Chicago-style octagon bungalow built in 1929.
A brief story about technological change: One day in the early 1970s I stopped on campus to visit with dear Mrs. Mosey. Always full of good ideas, she suggested I take a holography workshop taught by Lake Forest physics professor, Dr. Jeong, one of the inventors of the hologram. What a great opportunity! The technology was still in the early stages and the holograms we made in his summer workshop were very basic. I still have mine. Now, fast-forward almost 50 years to a time when I was working onsite at a client and a colleague suggested I might want to take a peek in the main meeting room. I slipped into the back of the room. The CEO was on stage with a panel of people having an animated discussion. But what I was seeing on stage was not actually the CEO. He was literally being beamed in to the meeting as a hologram! Oh how I wished that Dr. Jeong and Mrs. Mosey could have been there too!
On being a history detective: I love doing research and solving mysteries. Off and on for many years I have been trying to solve a mystery that has haunted my family for decades, the 1909 disappearance of my grandfather into thin air. I had almost given up, but the answer to the mystery came unexpectedly through my DNA analysis in 2018. Through that process I discovered second cousins I did not know about, and incredibly, one of them held the keys needed to unlock the mystery…an alias and a location. Through countless hours of internet research, and help from my newly found cousin, I’ve constructed an arc of my grandfather’s life until he died in 1967. This would have been impossible without DNA analysis, the internet and a lot of luck! It’s been a fascinating journey, and I continue to work on it.
Coming full circle: Gardening, landscape design, and especially Japanese gardens have long been interests of mine, and as a result I’ve taken many classes and completed several certificate programs at the Chicago Botanic Garden. I also volunteered in the Japanese Garden and helped create a resource manual for volunteer guides. In November 2019 I will finally visit Japan for the first time. And I’m planning to make a mini-documentary of my trip!
Looking back: I’m so very grateful for my experiences at Lake Forest College! And I’m especially thankful for the many friendships that have continued over 50 years and enriched my life immeasurably. I will treasure them forever.