Author Archive

Heroes Among Us

 

In a different time, I would’ve hoped to spend a few days shadowing Brett ’03 and Corinne Andria Feldman ’02 as they made their rounds on the streets of Los Angeles. If only we’d found out about them a few months earlier.

Instead, we didn’t learn about the Feldmans until March, right as COVID-19 was beginning to take hold around the country. The alumni couple, who met as undergraduates in the kinesiology department at University Park, work together as physicians assistants and leading practitioners of street medicine—the provision of basic health care and social services to unsheltered homeless populations, delivered on the streets where they live and sleep. After running their own innovative practice in the Lehigh Valley for years, they were drawn in 2018 to Los Angeles, where the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine recruited them to establish the first dedicated street medicine program at a major university. There, they serve the largest unsheltered homeless population in the United States.

Work that was already hugely relevant became even more so with the outbreak of a pandemic, and as we pulled together features for our July/August issue, the Feldmans’ story seemed too timely to ignore — even if the timing did rule out a trip to Los Angeles. Instead, they found time to share their story by phone, and we’re proud to be able to include that in our current issue, and to share it as a PDF here.

Ryan Jones, editor

 

 

July 5, 2020 at 4:35 pm Leave a comment

Remembering Milt Feldman

Our May/June issue features a profile of Milt Feldman ’47, a World War II veteran who survived both the Battle of the Bulge and—particularly daunting given his Jewish heritage—a Nazi POW camp. Milt died in March at age 95, just as we were wrapping up the issue, so he never got to see our piece, but he did tell his story in a book, Captured, Frozen, Starved—and Lucky. Milt was adamant the rest of his life how lucky he was to have survived the war. As a small nod to so many others who never came home, we’re proud to share Milt’s story here.

Ryan Jones, editor

May 25, 2020 at 6:38 pm 1 comment

“The Last Day” Is Here

I had a chance a couple of weeks ago to drop in on an early rehearsal for The Last Day, a new musical commissioned by the School of Theatre and written by Mike Reid and Sarah Schlesinger. If one of those names looks familiar, it’s most likely Reid ’69, the former Nittany Lion football All-American and NFL standout who has enjoyed a long career as a singer, songwriter and composer.

The show, directed by John Simpkins, head of the musical theatre program, tells the story of “a young man tormented by a secret he has never shared. As he ends his junior year of musical theatre university training, he is dropped from the program as his secret overtakes him. Over the course of one night, his peers attempt to show him the value of his life and they all discover much they never realized about themselves.”

The cast is made up entirely of undergrads from the musical theatre department, one of the most selective of its kind in the country—point being, there’s a lot of talent on hand. And good thing—as Reid told WPSU this week, “What I hope the show reveals is, in the midst of crisis, how groups of people can come together and feel more a sense of authentic community … When you have something like that, you have people operating from a very high emotional level, it really opens the door for lots of music.”

Having spent some time with Reid since he’s been on campus the past few weeks, I can vouch for the thoughtfulness that infuses his work. The show opens tonight at the Penn State Downtown Theatre and runs through Saturday, June 15, and again June 19-22. You can find tickets here.

Ryan Jones, editor

June 12, 2019 at 1:57 pm Leave a comment

Racing to a Cure

I got an email recently from Mark Freed ’97, an acquaintance from my undergraduate days, that felt important to share here:

“My wife and I have twin children named Maxwell and Riley. In 2018, my son was diagnosed with a rare neurological disease known as SLC6A1. The disease is too rare for a formal name and is known only by its genetic location in the brain. Doctors told us we were 1 of 30 in the world and nothing could be done and we chose not to accept that answer. My wife and I interviewed 140 scientists over the course of three months and found the disease can be cured via gene replacement therapy. We are in the midst of raising a large sum of money to advance the clinical trial. We hosted the first symposium on the disease in November and found that the disease is dramatically under-diagnosed because it’s newly discovered. Our patient population is actually in the thousands . . . The quest to save our son has transcended our family and we have the opportunity to impact a multitude.”

Mark and his wife, Amber, are leading an effort to save Maxwell and other children affected by SLC6A1, with a goal of raising $1,000,000 to advance a gene replacement therapy clinical trial. It’s a daunting task, but the impact literally could be life-saving. They’re concentrating their efforts on a GoFundMe, and they’ve also launched a website with details on the disease, stories of Maxwell and other children afflicted, and updates on the research.

Ryan Jones, editor

 

May 9, 2019 at 1:04 am Leave a comment

In Sickness and In Health

Mike Petrash ’73 is a regular at the Barnes & Noble in Center Valley, Pa. He’s at the store every day, and always orders a Frappuccino at the in-store café. Everyone there knows him.

We heard about Mike’s routine from his friend Dan Wallace ’75, who wrote recently to share the story of a very cool Penn State connection — one that was written up in Barnes & Noble’s own in-house publication. One January day, Wallace and Petrash’s wife brightened up Mike’s bookstore routine by asking his closest Penn State friends to visit with him at the store. Petrash, Wallace, Greg Pierce ’74, ’76g, Tom Macenka ’75, and John Slaby ’75 met in college and have been firm friends for nearly five decades since. Their bond has always been strong, but it became even stronger after Petrash was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, and the group decided to meet with him regularly at the bookstore.

“They were a great group of guys, full of energy and lots of laughs. They even joked about receiving a senior discount,” says Colleen Gorsky ’03, the store’s community development manager. “As a fellow Penn State alum, I was thrilled to be able to encounter this wonderful reunion and be able to capture their experience.” We’re glad we could share it a little more widely here.

Savita Iyer, senior editor

March 12, 2019 at 3:05 pm Leave a comment

Every Day a Struggle, Every Day A Gift

Our November/December 2018 Cover Story

Caring for twin sons with autism has dominated Curt and Ana Warner’s lives for two decades. In a “blisteringly honest” new book, they tell their family’s story in a way that they hope will help other families—and, in the telling, themselves.

By Lori Shontz  ’91 Lib, ’13 MEd Edu WC // Photographs by Michael Lewis

*

When the invitation appeared in his inbox, Curt Warner ignored it. The National Autism Conference was holding its 2013 annual event at University Park, and the organizers wanted Warner ’83 Lib to speak about his family. He loved his boys so much—but how could he talk about them? For a lot of reasons, that just wasn’t the kind of thing Warner or his wife, Ana, had ever done.

At first, especially, they didn’t know what to say. As toddlers, their twin sons Austin and Christian were nonverbal and energetic and aggressive, far more difficult to handle than their older son, Jonathan. Doctors couldn’t explain why the boys would eat books or string or fabric, or why they’d cry and hit and slap and bite. Shoppers and passersby were judgmental when the Warners took the boys out and a meltdown ensued—whether through words or nasty looks, it was clear they blamed bad parenting.

The boys weren’t diagnosed as severely autistic until they were 5. The Warners then tried a variety of therapies and treatments; eventually Ana began cooking every meal they consumed—gluten-free, dairy-free, no preservatives, organic everything—because it consistently seemed to help the boys’ behavior. Still, they were a challenge. At one point, Curt and Ana had to sleep in shifts to monitor the boys, and for a while Ana homeschooled them.

As a three-time Pro Bowl running back with the Seattle Seahawks from 1983–89, Curt would have been a regular attendee at team events after retirement. But he rarely showed. He couldn’t. He didn’t leave his family except to work at the car dealership he owned in the suburbs of Portland, Ore.

When the boys’ behavior calmed after puberty, Curt didn’t want to relive what they’d been through. It’s never been a 24/7 job to take care of the boys. Says Curt: “It’s 25/7.” He and Ana had automatic locks and alarms installed on every door and window to make sure the boys didn’t leave, because they would have no idea how to get back. Curt learned to hang drywall, because the twins so frequently kicked and punched holes in walls. He rushed home in a panic one day when Austin, then 12, thought he was Pinocchio inside the whale, and he had to light a fire to get out—and he somehow found matches and ended up burning the house down. Everyone got out safe, but the Warners lost everything.

And so, when that invitation hit his inbox back in 2013, Curt at first didn’t respond. He couldn’t envision speaking about those days; he feared doing so would result in one of two things. First, that perhaps people would think he was complaining; he couldn’t abide that. He loves his boys, and in many ways, he believes he has been blessed. And second, the biggie: Curt didn’t think he could make it through a talk without being overcome by emotion. He didn’t want to cry. (more…)

December 10, 2018 at 2:14 pm 2 comments

Older Posts


Follow The Penn Stater on Twitter

Enter your email address to follow us and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 508 other followers


%d bloggers like this: