Curating Letters From Laramie

In conjunction with the fall production of The Laramie Project at Ford’s Theatre, Shayla Roland helped create an exhibit of letters sent to the parents of Matthew Shepard after their son was murdered in 1998 because he was gay. Photo courtesy of Teresa Wood Photography.

Shayla Roland ’10 found herself in the basement of the Wyoming home of Judy and Dennis Shepard, sorting through thousands of letters. The notes − sent in an outpouring of support after the 1998 murder in Laramie of the Shepards’ gay son, Matthew − had remained largely untouched since. When Roland was studying to be a stage manager at the University of Mary Washington, she couldn’t have imagined doing work like this to support a major stage production of The Laramie Project, which explores the aftermath of the Wyoming hate crime. After graduation, Roland took parttime work at historic Ford’s Theatre. Last February, the Washington, D.C., theater − famous as the location of the 1865 assassination of Abraham Lincoln − made Roland its full-time special programming manager. What shows offstage is just as important as onstage at Ford’s, which aspires to honor the legacy of Lincoln by exploring the American experience through theater and education. Roland’s job is to help develop … [Read more...]

Curiosity Becomes Filmmaker

Now an executive producer with Off the Fence productions in Amsterdam, Izat said he practically “lived in the theater” at Mary Washington.

When people ask Emre Izat ’99 what he does as an executive producer, he replies: “I’m curious for a living.” To satisfy that trait, Izat has filmed on six continents, explored uncharted limestone gorges in Mozambique, and shouldered crocodiles Down Under as a documentary filmmaker. University of Mary Washington nurtured Izat’s inquisitive nature. After high school in Alexandria, Va., he selected Mary Washington because it allowed him to build his own curriculum and pursue the dramatic arts without sacrificing his love of literature and physics. And UMW’s black box theater appealed to him because he could get onstage right away. In fact, Izat said, he “kind of lived in the theater” at Mary Washington − there’s a police brief in The Bullet archives to prove it. One night, he was rehearsing on the Klein Theatre main stage while directing a show in the black box theater. A professor had asked him to speak to a drama class the next morning, so when Izat found himself still working … [Read more...]

Memphis Museum Perfect Fit for Fashion Historian

Karen Kilgore Ralston is responsible for a 1,000-piece clothing collection at the Woodruff-Fontaine House and creates
hats for Memphis Playhouse productions. The volunteer milliner and curator taught herself about vintage and Victorian clothes. Photo courtesy of Linda Raiteri/Memphis Downtowner Magazine

New to Memphis in 1999, Karen Kilgore Ralston ’69 felt uprooted. She and husband Jim had lived for 30 years in Cincinnati, where he worked as a corporate general counsel. But when Jim’s company changed hands, the couple relocated for his new job. To shake off her gloom, Ralston checked out the Woodruff-Fontaine House, a preserved Victorian mansion and museum in the city’s historic Millionaires’ Row. A self-taught historian of vintage and Victorian clothing, with a library of books on the subject and her own extensive collection of garments at home, Ralston wandered the three-floor house museum with pleasure. Then she spotted the ribbon. It was all wrong − a modern anachronism on an old blouse. “I opened my mouth and said, ‘Ooh, that ribbon is not correct,’ ” she recalled with a laugh. She soon started volunteering at the museum. There, she fixed that little ribbon– and took a big step toward banishing her discontent. Today Ralston is Woodruff-Fontaine’s volunteer … [Read more...]

Meant to Be

A Mary Washington Love Story

Elmer-and-Marcy-Morris

After what he’d seen in the South Pacific, Elmer Morris Jr. ’50 was ready to get back to college. But the school where he’d started was full. So he enrolled at his mother’s alma mater, near his hometown. Just for a few classes. Just until he could get back to Williamsburg. Enter Marceline Weatherly ’50. Drum Major. May Queen. Class President. Daughter Sent to an All-Girls School to NOT Meet a Boy. Unbeknownst to her parents, Mary Washington College of the University of Virginia would welcome men, including Elmer Morris, in 1946, the year Marcy arrived, more than two decades before going officially co-ed. Who could have guessed an agreement to admit World War II veterans would change everything for a 17-year-old beauty from South Carolina and a sailor lucky to be alive? Or that their love for each other – and for the magical place that brought them together – would still be unfolding today? “Joined at the hip,” Marcy said, reflecting on her 67-year romance with the man she … [Read more...]

Reinstating The Plan

The Plan is (from left)
Eric Axelson ’94, Joe Easley, Morrison,
and Jason Caddell ’93.

A decade after breaking up, The Dismemberment Plan is back with a new album, a cross-country tour, and a recent appearance on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. Uncanney Valley – its cover photo shot at a Fredericksburg show – was released Oct. 15. The indie-rock band includes two UMW English majors, bassist Eric Axelson ’94 and lead guitarist Jason Caddell ’93, who met on the steps of Westmoreland Hall, as well as drummer Joe Easley and frontman Travis Morrison. Formed in 1993, The Plan picked up speed with their eclectic style, boundless energy, and fervent fan base. They spent a decade building momentum, touring with Pearl Jam, co-headlining with Death Cab for Cutie, and releasing four studio albums. Since The Plan’s 2003 breakup, they’ve performed periodic reunion shows, but this fall's release is their first album in 12 years. Rolling Stone previewed Uncanney Valley (the misspelling is intentional) in July, NPR streamed it in advance of its release date, and The Plan … [Read more...]

Surgeon Scholar

A new MBA poises Dr. Balvant Arora to stay ahead of health industry changes.

Dr. Balvant Arora has passionately pursued education all his life, as his professional achievements attest. But in his 50s, he felt he had
more to learn, and the UMW College of Business was the right fit. Arora earned his MBA this year, and he made an impression on his
professors and fellow students. Photo by Norm Shafer.

Dr. Balvant Arora, MBA ’13 could have been content with his achievements. He’d succeeded professionally in his native India and in the United States, participated in groundbreaking surgery, and taught medical school. More recently he had moved to Fredericksburg to work for Mary Washington Healthcare as a plastic, reconstructive, and cosmetic surgeon, a career he chose for its balance of science and art. But as the Affordable Care Act brought the business aspects of the health industry into political and social focus, Arora identified a gap in his own knowledge – and an opportunity to contribute constructively. He approached the leadership at Mary Washington Healthcare about the possibility of getting an MBA with a concentration in health care and was granted permission and financial support. In 2010, at age 50, he went back to the classroom as a student in the University of Mary Washington’s College of Business. And in May, after 3½ years of a rigorous schedule and … [Read more...]