Tailored for Protection

Class project leads to lifesaving haberdashery

Aspetto owners Abbas Haider (left) and Rob Davis review swatch books of fabrics for the custom-made garments they sell, with and without ballistic protection. 
(Adam Ewing)

Story by Edie Gross Photos by Adam Ewing Abbas Haider ’12 scrolled through his email in August 2015 and spied a note from a contact at the U.S. State Department. The department had purchased nearly 1,300 bulletproof T-shirts from Haider and his business partner, Robert Davis ’12, a year earlier for agents combating corruption and drug crimes abroad. At the time, it was one of the biggest contracts the Mary Washington grads had negotiated through their company, Aspetto, which specializes in armored menswear. The email said an officer wearing one of those shirts had recently been shot three times with a Mini Uzi 9mm pistol. Not only had he survived – he was unharmed. “Your vest saved a life,” read the note. Haider immediately called Davis, who was sitting across the lunch table from a client and rocketed out of his seat at the news. “I remember thinking, ‘This is exactly why we started this business. That guy’s going home to his family because of what we do,’ ” Davis recalled. … [Read more...]

Lifting Off

Langley internships changed women’s lives in the summer of ’65

Several of the Langley interns worked on typewriter-like Friden calculators, similar to the one shown in this 1960s-era photo. 
(Smith Collection/Gado/ Getty Images)

By Laura Moyer Other eighth-grade girls in the late 1950s filled their scrapbooks with Elvis Presley pictures, but Bertha Jo Terry ’66 dedicated hers to Sputnik. So as a junior math major at Mary Washington College in 1965, she was thrilled to see on a bulletin board that NASA was seeking summer interns. To Terry’s delight, she was among six Mary Washington women chosen for summer jobs with NASA at Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Virginia. The jobs were prestigious and well-paid, and for good reason: NASA urgently needed brainpower for the calculations required to put American astronauts on the moon. As Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine noted in an editorial that year, the summer of 1965 was “the time when the U.S. effort … began breaking its own new ground, in contrast to the earlier era of stern-chasing the Soviets.” Prompted earlier this year by seeing the movie Hidden Figures – about the female African-American mathematicians at Langley during the space race – … [Read more...]

Training Astute Citizens

Farnsworth turns students into savvy political consumers

Steve Farnsworth brings real-world knowledge to his teaching thanks to his journalistic background and experience training overseas reporters. 
(Norm Shafer)

By Chelyen Davis Steve Farnsworth doesn’t want his students to swallow everything they hear from politicians. “What’s important,” the political science professor said, “is that you have a level of resistance to being bamboozled.” He spoke from his small, book-lined office overlooking the University of Mary Washington campus. Farnsworth is a national political pundit, author of five – soon to be six – books on American politics and the media, and head of the UMW Center for Leadership and Media Studies. He seeks to impart a deeper understanding of how American politics functions. In his teaching, his work with international journalists from former Soviet countries, and his punditry, he deciphers how the media communicate about politics, how public opinion develops, and how to find the truth in what we hear from our elected leaders. In campaigns, honesty often takes a back seat to expediency, he said, and that annoys him. His answer: To help others become “smart consumers of … [Read more...]