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"The Long Black Line"
You never know what digging into your family history will turn up. For Herman Wright Jr. '75, it uncovered a new career path. Actually, two -- film producer and rancher.
Wright calls himself a TCU history major who "bumbled my way into business." He holds a law degree (though he never practiced) and was an artillery officer in the Army before landing in Los Angeles' health care insurance industry.
But despite his business success, Wright never forgot his family's Texas heritage, which includes the continuously operating 1874 Ranch near Mount Union deeded to his great-grandfather after Emancipation. Wright uncovered intriguing stories of his family's determination to succeed after slavery, many of them revolving around the local school, which was one of 5,000 rural schools created from seed money from Sears in "freedom colonies" throughout the South. Working with Prairie View A&M University -- his parents' alma mater -- Wright is rediscovering those communities.
His family research was so inspiring that he decided to create a documentary. Starting with his family in Mount Union, "The Long Black Line" examines the progress of African-Americans following Emancipation, revealing significant events through ordinary lives. Then the project grew. "We realized that we had more stories to tell," Wright said.
From his Houston home, he launched MC3, a production company, and has hired producers, directors and a writer to take the lead on the project. "The thing has sort of gotten larger than me."
One documentary focusing primarily on his family has turned into a trilogy, complete with original score. Wright has already captured more than 100 hours of interviews and other footage. The second film, "The Bridge," examines integration vs. segregation in the 1960s. The third installment, "The 21st Century," looks at the generation coming of age after 1990 and even follows a young female soldier who takes up the story of her family as she goes to Iraq.
Wright hopes to have the first broadcast this summer, and the entire trilogy in the can by first-quarter 2008. He's pursuing additional financing and broadcast opportunities, as well as a university to partner in the research to bring to life the stories of these "freedom communities" in 13 Southern states.
Wright has traveled the country promoting the project, including, of course, to Los Angeles. "What I discovered when I was out there, it's a vehicle that requires grassroots. But it's a story that really does grab hold of multiple generations." -- RSM
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Neeley School of Business marketing Professor Bob Akin '89 (MBA '02) doesn't know much about raising farm animals, but he does know something about money and the value of teaching children. So he's leading the charge to buy animals at inflated prices as chairman of the Fort Worth Stock Show Syndicate.
Formed in 1980, the syndicate is a group of 100 local businessmen who get sponsors to pay top dollar at the Stock Show's junior livestock sale. Over the years, the syndicate has raised more than $14 million in higher education funds for Texas youth. Akin was accepted into the group in 1992; he was elected chairman in 2005 and finished his two-year appointment in February.
He took an unlikely path to this arena. A Corpus Christi native, he had no experience raising or showing livestock. Prior to joining the Neeley faculty five years ago, he enjoyed a career in private business, including owning a Terminix Pest Control franchise.
His Stock Show interest has more to do with the students than with the livestock sale. "It's all about these kids," he says. "They work hard at this, and we want them to be rewarded."
In 2006 the syndicate set a record, paying $2.16 million for the youths' livestock. -- SRC
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A gift of art
This spring, visitors to the Dallas Museum of Art get an insider's look at three intriguing private collections, including that of Deedie Potter Rose '63 and her husband, Rusty. "Fast Forward: Contemporary Collections for the Dallas Museum of Art," which runs through May 20, actually serves as a preview to the museum's future modern and contemporary holdings.
In 2005, three families -- the Roses, Cindy and Howard Rachofsky, and Marguerite Hoffman and her late husband, Robert -- together gifted their private collections and future acquisitions to the museum. Believed to be the first of its kind among U.S. museums, the joint collection is valued at more than $200 million -- the largest combined gift in the museum's history.
In all, the Roses have promised 130 works to the museum, including pieces featured in the "Fast Forward" exhibit.
"I never considered that I really owned the art," said Deddie Rose, who has served on the TCU Board of Trustees since 1988. "I always knew I was only a caretaker, so when the Hoffmans came to me about making this gift, it seemed like the most natural thing in the world. I have to say that working with people I really like and respect on a project like this has been nothing but pure pleasure."
With a strong emphasis on sculpture, modern furniture and handmade objects, the Deedie and Rusty Rose Collection features works from Sol LeWitt, Robert Ryman, Bruce Nauman, Sigmar Polke, Franz West, Ana Mendieta, Richard Tuttle and emerging artists primarily working in sculpture. The couple's past gifts to the museum include "Artauds Kreuz (Artaud's Cross)" (1987) by Martin Kippenberger, "Untitled" (1967-68) by Blinky Palermo and "Nanni and Kitty" (1969) by Gerhard Richter. -- RSM
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Paid to think
When Krys Boyd '92 signed on in November to host KERA 90.1's "Think" radio show, she began working her dream job. And when the show added a weekly TV version in February, it gave her the best of both worlds.
Boyd loves working in both radio and TV "because they stretch different parts of my imagination." She appreciates the purity of radio, where one can listen while doing other things, but she also enjoys how the audience can see the faces of guests as she interviews them on TV. "Sometimes you strike something, and there's immeasurable value in being able to see someone's facial expression."
Boyd's background includes time as a TV reporter and anchor -- the kind of journalism she thought was ideal for her. "But I started to realize that what I loved to do was to find out everything I could about people before I even walked in to interview them and then just kind of explore how their minds worked. This work certainly uses my reading and writing skills, and it sounds silly but it allows me to think for a living, which is really a luxury."
"Think" is not sound-bite radio. The show spends an entire hour speaking on one subject and often with just one guest. "You hear about these things in the headlines, but our goal is to establish those facts but then get beyond the facts and into the ‘why,' " Boyd said. "I'm so happy with this job. I feel like I'm at the beginning of this amazing period of growth," Boyd said. "For me the challenge is to continue getting better at what I do."
Listen to Boyd from noon to 2 p.m. Monday-Thursday on KERA 90.1. -- RSM
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A thoughtful image
Elizabeth Jekot '85, M.D., "helps the ladies," as her daughter says. Jekot, a radiologist and a breast cancer survivor, opened the Elizabeth Jekot Breast Imaging Center in Richardson in December 2005.
When she learned she had cancer in 2000, Jekot was medical director at the Center for Women's Health at the Richardson Regional Medical Center. As technology evolved, digital mammography and dedicated breast MRI became the most advanced imaging tools available. But the hospital would not be able to offer the advanced technology soon, so Jekot decided to open her own center.
Cancer free for six years, Jekot has maintained an urgent pace in helping others. In 2003 she was named New Balance honorary chairman of the North Texas Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Dallas, for which she won the Master Survivor Award. She has since won the Overall Survivor Award at the North Texas Race for the Cure three years in a row. Her husband, David Miller '85, D.D.S., and 10-year-old Katie have been there each time.
In August 2006, Jekot received the BMW Local Hero Award in the Fight Against Breast Cancer. She and the Elizabeth Jekot Breast Imaging Center were featured in the August 2006 Plano/Richardson edition of Living Magazine and in the March 2006 issue of Lifetime Fitness' membership publication, Experience Life. -- SRC
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