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Outdoor adventurer

While working for RadioShack’s global office, Daniel Ramón ’94 enjoyed international travel and was applying his political science and international relations expertise to his job, but he felt something was missing. His friends were moving away or getting married, and he grew tired of the same social scene. An ad for DFW Outdoors (DFWO) in Fort Worth Weekly caught his attention — and changed his life.
An outdoor adventure club, DFW Outdoors offers a range of social, cultural and athletic events to its members. Ramón joined in September 2002. Three years later, when the business was up for sale, he made the move from member to owner.

Ramón plans and hosts events each week for more than 200 members with the help of 20 volunteer event leaders. “What makes DFWO special is our diverse calendar. At any given time, we’re hosting hiking, kayaking, spelunking and camping excursions; trips to museums; meet ’n greets, dinner nights, and sporting events,” he boasted. “Our events reflect a range of interests because our members reflect this same diversity. And we host events that you might not otherwise be able to do on your own, such as a night tube float down the Comal River.” In 2005, he guided members on a 12-day trek through Peru, culminating in a four-day hike on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.

Celebrating its five-year anniversary, DFWO is expanding. Ramón is most proud of the growing network of sister clubs in Texas, California, Florida and Virginia that members can tap into.

“Our members want alternatives to the bar scene and the office happy hour,” Ramón noted. “We do all the planning; all they have to do is show up and have fun.” — SRA
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Dickens in Denton

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times …” For J. Don Vann ’59, (MA ’60) and the Denton Dickens Fellowship, it’s been the best of times. Vann, professor emeritus at the University of North Texas, founded the group in 1988.

“I had visited Dickens fellowships in various places in England, and I saw the way it brought people together who were interested in reading [Charles] Dickens. And there’s just a nice warmth to the group of people,” he said. “So I advertised here in Denton, and about a dozen people showed interest.”

The group meets monthly and has about 30 members, ranging from teachers and librarians to a retired banker and a retired pilot. While some are well versed in Dickens, others are just discovering the acclaimed English novelist. “It’s a nice spectrum of people,” said Vann.

The group chooses one Dickens novel a year and plans several programs around it, including a readers’ theater. Other activities include a Dickens birthday dinner, a Victorian tea and an essay contest for junior high and high school students.

Vann has published several books on Victorian literature, written numerous articles and given lectures on Dickens in England. He and his wife, Dolores Warden Vann ’57, used to take groups of tourists to England over spring break. On one of those trips about 20 years ago, the curator at the Dickens House Museum in London arranged for Vann to meet Cedric Dickens, great-grandson of Charles Dickens.

The two (shown above, Vann is on the right) struck up a friendship, and Cedric Dickens invited Vann to join his Pickwick Club — named after Charles Dickens’ first novel, The Pickwick Papers. The group meets at London’s George and Vulture pub. (In the novel, Mr. Pickwick often stays at the George and Vulture inn.)

“I think Dickens reminds us of the obligation we have to look after each other,” Vann said. “Over and over in his novels he shows people who are selfish and self-centered, who are countered by people who care about what happens to others. It’s a lesson that we need to keep learning.” — RSM

A Cup of Europe

Keira Breeden Moody ’92 isn’t just looking for coffee snobs. She’s creating them.

Moody, a CPA, left her post as vice president of investor relations and corporate communications at Crescent Real Estate to found Eurotazza Coffeehouse on Fort Worth’s west side in March 2006. An upscale alternative to Starbucks, Eurotazza is where old world meets chic to indulge in some of Europe’s finest coffee and tea.
Moody was inspired to trade corporate life for the perks of entrepreneurship by personal travels to France and Italy and her love “for the culture that revolves around coffee and teas.” Plus she realized all that’s known — at least in the southern part of the country — is Starbucks.

“About two years of research in the coffee industry in the United States led me to believe this true European niche of a coffeehouse product and environment would prove to have a competitive edge over the 800-pound gorilla that is Starbucks,” she said.

First-year performance is brewing above expectations.

“We are finding that we are essentially re-educating the coffee and tea consumers in our community on what is quality and what makes this more upscale than they’re used to. And it’s proving to be very successful,” she said.
Loosely translated, Eurotazza is Italian for “cup of Europe.” And every sip is uniquely and authentically European.

“The espresso and coffee is roasted according to Italian traditions,” said Moody, who chose Caffe D’Arte for her coffeehouse. She also hand-selected all of Eurotazza’s exclusive teas from Paris’ Mariage Fréres — her favorite teahouse. (Only one other teahouse in the Metroplex serves it.)

To add another European flavor, Moody partnered with Louise Lamensdorf of Fort Worth’s popular Bistro Louise to provide lunch selections, French pastries and other desserts. Eurotazza also serves up free WiFi connectivity.

Located in the Villages of Camp Bowie, the Fort Worth coffeehouse is what Moody deems her flagship location (leaving us to believe others may follow).

“We have had a lot of interest from potential investors to expand in Fort Worth and outside of Fort Worth,” she said. “I’m exploring those options right now, but I want to be smart about it. I don’t want to risk diluting the concept.” — RSM
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Dreams at Vickery Meadow

Sarah Polley ’00 (M.Ed) fulfilled a long forgotten dream when she was named executive director of the Vickery Meadow Learning Center in Dallas last summer.

Months after taking the job, a childhood friend reminded Polley that she had always said she wanted to “run a school,” though Vickery Meadow Learning Center is hardly a typical school.

VMLC, a non-profit program, offers free English as a Second Language classes to residents of the Vickery Meadow neighborhood, a poor, densely-populated immigrant community in Dallas.

Polley first came to VMLC as a volunteer in 2001, bringing with her an extensive background in education. She had taught Spanish in the Highland Park ISD, and earned her M.Ed with an emphasis in ESL.

Volunteering evolved into part-time employment. In 2002 Polley was named program director, a full-time position she held until 2006 when she earned her current position. As executive director, she oversees 150 volunteers and a staff of five.

VMLC offers four levels of English language courses, as well as citizenship and pre-GED classes, to more than 550 adults and 150 children annually. Community organizations, private donations, and various churches sustain the programs. Though there is no government funding, Polley admits that does have its advantages.
“Without [government funding] we can be more flexible with our program and meet the students’ needs more effectively.”

Classes are open to students who live in the Vickery Meadow neighborhood at the time of their enrollment. Some students relocate during the course of their studies, notes Polley, “and certainly, that’s what we want. Our goal is for them to make better lives for themselves.” — SRC
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Reaching the top

After 35 years of devoted service to Auburn University Montgomery, Guinevera (Guin) Nance ’67 retired as the school’s chancellor last fall.

Nance had served AUM in several capacities through the years, serving as English professor, chair of the division of liberal arts, the first dean of the school of liberal arts, and vice chancellor of academic affairs.
“TCU changed my life,” says Nance of her path to AUM. A first generation college student from Rhome, Texas, Nance worked full-time while she completed her bachelor’s degree at TCU, earning an English major and a minor in French.

Two English faculty members nominated her for the prestigious Woodrow Wilson Fellowship. When she won, she used the award to pursue her master’s degree at the University of Virginia. Upon completion of her master’s, she received from UVA a Virginia-Wilson Fellowship for her doctoral study.

Nance arrived at a brand new AUM in 1971. The campus’ first two buildings had just been constructed. Nance liked the prospect of teaching at a university that was just getting off the ground. She spent only seven years of her AUM career in the classroom. Just two years after her arrival, she was offered the position of chair of the liberal arts division, the first in the college’s young history, and the first of her many administrative positions.

In 2000, Nance accepted the university’s highest (and her last) post when she accepted the chancellor’s job. Though she had arrived to teach in 1971, Nance answered the administration’s call to duty each time. “I never planned to go into administration,” she recalls. “It always came back to helping people when they needed me.” — SRC