Posts tagged ‘Pittsburgh’

At the National Aviary, Birds—and Penn Staters—Abound


Jenny Walsh ’06 and a laughing kookaburra.

I’ve long been fascinated by birds—from the cardinals and chickadees that frequent my backyard feeders to the toucans and hummingbirds I’ve seen on trips to Costa Rica. On a visit to Orlando, Fla., some years back to speak at a magazine conference, I skipped Disney World and instead spent my free time at Discovery Cove, because it has a very cool aviary.

But I hadn’t been to the National Aviary in Pittsburgh in many years. And when I found out that a Penn Stater, Cheryl Columbus Tracy ’86, is executive director of the aviary, I decided it was time for a road trip.

A few weeks ago I drove to Pittsburgh and got a tour of the place from Cheryl. Wow, has she made an impact there—she’s overseen a major expansion in the past seven years, adding new exhibits, new space for the penguin colony, a FliteZone and a Sky Deck for special shows with live birds, and other features.

In the new Grasslands exhibit, I got to see birds I never knew existed: owl finches, Gouldian finches, paradise whydahs, and red bishops, to name a few. Elsewhere I saw one of the aviary’s four Andean condors, part of a breeding program to help restore populations of the endangered bird. I met a beautiful hyacinth macaw named Benito and a couple of strange-looking birds called rhinoceros hornbills.


Valentino, the aviary’s enormously popular—and mellow—baby sloth.

A highlight was the chance to see one of the aviary’s newest and most beloved residents: Valentino, the baby two-toed sloth. Valentino came to the aviary last winter to serve as an ambassador for sloths, birds, and other creatures whose rainforest habitat is shrinking—and, oh man, is he cute. (Click on the photo at left to see a bigger version and gaze into his dreamy eyes.)

I also got to hang out for a while with some of the Penn Staters at the aviary:

Mike Faix ’05, an education trainer, who teaches the birds to perform in the aviary’s shows.

Tammy Carradine Frech ’85, who’s in charge of volunteers and interns.

Teri Danehy Grendzinski ’93, supervisor of animal collections. She’s been at the aviary for 23 years, pretty much ever since she graduated.

Michael Leonard ’04, who does IT for a local law firm and volunteers at the aviary.

Jessie Baird Lehosky ’06, events manager. She handles weddings and other events that take place at the aviary.

Jenny Walsh ’06, assistant manager of behavioral management and education.

I shot the short video clip below with Tammy Frech, who’s holding a scarlet macaw named Red. As you’ll see, Red can speak on command—when he’s not busy eating a treat.

You can read more about my aviary visit in the September/October issue of the magazine, and you can see a handful of additional photos from the aviary visit on my Flickr page.

Tina Hay, editor


August 30, 2016 at 9:07 am Leave a comment

‘Radio Golf’ to Open Friday


Just weeks before Pittsburgh-born playwright August Wilson died in 2005, he finished the last of his series of 10 plays called “The Pittsburgh Cycle.” That last play is called Radio Golf, and it’s the next offering in the Penn State Centre Stage season.

A relatively small cast—just five actors—will stage the story of Harmond Wilkes, who wants to redevelop Pittsburgh’s Hill District and who also is campaigning to become the city’s first black mayor. There are complications along the way, and those complications challenge Wilkes to rethink a few things, not the least of which is his ethics.

I checked out the dress rehearsal on Monday night and took some photos, including the one above of Penn State MFA acting candidates Bianca Washington (playing Wilkes’ wife, Mame) and Andy Lucien (playing Wilkes). I not only liked the play, but I also liked that it’s full of Pittsburgh references, making it enjoyable on a couple of different levels.

It also was my first chance to see Penn State theatre professor Charles Dumas on stage. Dumas has been on Law & Order and a bunch of other TV shows; (more…)

August 25, 2011 at 1:27 pm Leave a comment

Dave Jones on Big Ten Expansion

The college football offseason is rarely quiet, and much of the noise this year has come from folks talking, writing, prognosticating and blogging about the possibility of Big Ten expansion. The traditional story line — the Big Ten has coveted Notre Dame as a 12th member ever since Penn State joined the league nearly two decades ago, but the Fighting Irish never bit — has been updated as the league recently announced it was taking its most serious look yet at adding a 12th school. The topic has been buzzing online, with a variety of folks making arguments and guessing at the league’s intentions. What seems clearer than ever is that, with or (most likely) without Notre Dame, the Big Ten is more likely than not to expand in the next few years — to 12 teams, perhaps, but maybe to 14 or even 16. The ultimate decision will reshape the college football landscape as drastically (if not more so) than did Penn State’s switch from independent to Big Ten power nearly 20 years ago.

David Jones of the Harrisburg Patriot-News posted a three-part story today that’s as well-done as anything I’ve seen on the topic. Part One explains why expansion appears to make so much sense right now, for reasons that shouldn’t surprise anyone (hint: it’s what makes the world go ’round). Part Two explains why, in Dave’s opinion, the addition that Penn State fans would most like to see is not the most likely to happen (hint: the lure of a classic rivalry is trumped by the bottom line, every time). And Part Three offers Dave’s pick for the “sleeping giant” that might ultimately make the most sense if the Big Ten adds just one team.

Time will tell if Dave’s right (or if our friend Frank the Tank is prescient with his prediction of Texas), but this is compelling stuff regardless.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

March 8, 2010 at 9:53 am Leave a comment

Holiday Travel Advice

I’m thankful that for the first time in five years, I can have Thanksgiving dinner with my family simply by jumping in the car and driving a couple of hours west. (A drive that is, incidentally, way easier than it was when I was a student thanks to I-99 and some road-widening on Route 22. No more interminable five-hour bus rides from State College to downtown Pittsburgh for me!)

Those of you who need to brave the airport should take a look at these travel tips from Ben Mutzabaugh ’97 EMS, USA Today’s travel guru. He stresses something I’ve always aspired to, although I’ve not always achieved it: No matter how frustrated you are, be nice to the airline employees.

Lori Shontz, senior editor



November 24, 2009 at 4:25 pm Leave a comment

Ted Anthony on Pittsburgh

In conjunction with the G20 summit in Pittsburgh this week, Associated Press national writer Ted Anthony ’95 offers a nice little tribute to the city. Ted grew up in Pittsburgh and now lives there again after a 20-year absence. He writes with affection about how the city has reinvented itself for the 21st century.

Tina Hay, editor

September 25, 2009 at 12:26 pm 1 comment

Ted Anthony on Violence

When I was in San Francisco last week for a professional conference, the morning paper each day carried front-page news of the March 21 killings of four Oakland, Calif., police officers. Their public funeral last Friday at the Oracle Arena was huge—more than 21,000 people, including police officers from all over the country, were there.

In the short time since then, we’ve seen two more shocking and sobering acts of violence—yesterday in Binghamton, N.Y., where a man with a gun killed 13 people and then himself, and this morning in Pittsburgh, where a gunman killed three police officers who were responding to a domestic dispute.

Penn Stater Ted Anthony ’95 of the Associated Press today put together this analysis, in which he notes that 47 people have died in mass shootings in the U.S. in the past month, adding, “It’s to the point where on Saturday, dizzyingly, the mayor of Binghamton found himself offering Pittsburgh its sympathies.”

Tina Hay, editor

April 4, 2009 at 5:14 pm 1 comment

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