Day of Service Celebrates Extraordinary Alumnus Fred Agel ’52

Mr. Fred Agel '52 (center) is surrounded by Day of Service volunteers, gathered in his honor.

Chances are that you’ve met Fred Agel ’52, a devoted alumnus, loving family member, and incredibly generous personhe is a member of Omicron Delta Kappa and the Board of Trustees, and you can often find him volunteering his free time in the library archives.  November 19th was a special day for Fred, who celebrated his 85th birthday with friends, family… and a big surprise.  To honor Fred and show how much they love and appreciate him, his entire family planned a Day of Service volunteer event with the OU community at Books for Africa.

“I hoped that we could find a way to work through OU since it has been, and continues to be, such an important part of my father’s life,”  said Laurie Agel Amerson, Fred’s daughter. “I believe that my entire family has watched my father’s community service, and each and every one of us finds a way to be involved in our communities. He taught by example the importance of giving back, and three generations later, he is still teaching.”

The volunteer event on February 16th brought together more than 40 students, alumni, Center for Civic Engagement staff, and friends of Mr. Agel. Members of the newly established Thornwell Jacobs Society were especially excited to join in, as the project not only highlighted their goals of integrity, initiative, and perseverance, but took place during Thornwell Jacobs’ birthday weekend.

“Celebrating Fred Agel is celebrating Oglethorpe,” said Ruwa Romman ’15, historian of the Jacobs Society. President Antonio Mantica ’15 said with a smile that, if Fred were a sophomore, he would be a prime candidate for membership in the Society. 

In addition to the Day of Service, several departments have sent Fred thank you cards, and the baseball team (of which Fred is a former member) has given Fred a baseball, signed with all of the players’ names.

“This is a great way to celebrate his legacy,” said Heather Staniszewski ’02, assistant director of the Center for Civic Engagement, who helped plan the event. “It’s exciting to see family, alumni, and students working together in his honor.”

“The day was a huge success,” added Laurie.  “My dad spent a lot of time just looking at everybody working and sorting books with a big smile on his face.  The most wonderful thing for me was seeing all four generations of my family working side-by-side with OU students.”

If you would like to participate in future service projects, contact Heather Staniszewski.

Oglethorpe Alumnus Releases Solo Piano Album

John Burke, a 2011 Oglethorpe University graduate, released his first solo piano album this past fall. The OU Blog recently caught up with him to see how he managed to reach such a milestone so early in his career.

OU Blog: Congratulations on your new album!  Tell us about it.

John: The album came out in October. It’s called “Synesthesia” and my goal was to provoke a sense of colors through music. All songs are named after colors and the album has a psychological edge to it that tests your mind while you’re enjoying the music.

It’s an instrumental album and I wrote and composed all the tracks. It took me about a year and a half to complete it. I actually found my inspiration during a study abroad trip to Spain I took while at OU.

OU Blog: So, Oglethorpe helped your development as an artist?

John: Yes. I chose OU because of its size and tight knit community. Looking back, I do not see myself being anywhere else but OU. I majored in Spanish and minored in Music. I also sang in the choir. Oglethorpe made it easy for me to balance between full academic load and music practice by providing access to the piano room on campus. I was able to steal little increments of time between classes to practice. It is a great place to thrive.

OU Blog: How did your love for music begin?

John: It started during my senior year in high school. My friends and I started a rock-and-roll/blues band named “Vinyl”. I had no formal schooling in music before OU. I just listened to music and tried to apply it by ear.

OU Blog: Impressive! What was the first tune you learned on piano?

John: The first tune I learned must have been “Imagine” by John Lennon. My favorite thing to play now is George Winston, whom I consider to be the most influential pianist in my life.

OU Blog: What’s your dream stage to perform on? Dream duet?

John: I would love to perform at Carnegie Hall. And a dream duet would be with Ray Manzarek, keyboardist for The Doors—piano and organ.  And I would also love to compose an album for a blockbuster movie. I dream big. The sky is the limit.

OU Blog: You are obviously very talented. Do you have musical genes in your family?

John: My father is a musician; he currently leads and directs a band at church.  He is my role model and motivation, and I can honestly say that if it were not for him I would not be where I am today.

OU Blog: How often and for how long do you practice? What advice would you give beginner musicians?

John: I practice every day, on a good day between 2-4 hours. Beginners, and even those with experience, should not stop practicing and always try new things and different styles. Practice and variety help you grow as an artist.

OU Blog: Music is a big part of your life. Do you have any other musical initiatives?

John: Yes, I am a choir director at a church in Brookhaven, and I have also taught music theory, reading music and also piano. I would like to spend more time teaching music and sharing my passion for it. It is very rewarding to reveal the beauty of music to someone else.

The album is available at www.johnburkemusic.com. John’s music also airs on Best Smooth Jazz and Best Smooth Grooves, two radio stations in the United Kingdom. 

How an Oglethorpe Biology/Chemistry Major Became Mayor

On Tuesday, November 7, the voters of Commerce, Ga. made a major decision. They elected their first new mayor in over 20 years as J. Clark Hill ’93 took 737 of the 1,095 votes cast.

Hill defeated both veteran City Councilman Donald Wilson and former Commerce Mayor Tommy Stephenson for the job. Clark, a local physician has also served as Ward 4 city councilman and chairman of the Downtown Development Authority. Jonathan Milford ’00, who owns an Allstate insurance agency in Commerce, was first to call me with the exciting development. 

Jonathan and other business leaders in the community feel strongly that Clark is the best choice to represent their interests and lead Commerce out of economic uncertainty. They trust he will bring inspired leadership to Commerce based on his strong character, integrity, caring and generosity for others. One local business leader said that, “going to the polls to vote for someone like Clark Hill for Mayor means your town won the lottery.”

Clark will replace outgoing Mayor Buzzie Hardy, who is retiring after more than two decades as Commerce’s mayor. “Commerce is at a critical point in its history with high unemployment and most new jobs going to the west side of Jackson County,” Hill said in an email over the weekend. He wants to modernize city hall; rebuild relationships with other local governments, schools and business groups; and reclaim the city’s status as an industrial and manufacturing hub in the I-85 corridor.

During the next few years, key city employees like the town’s long-time manager, clerk and recreation department director also are retiring, making the time a pivotal one for the city, he said. “Recruitment of qualified replacements and having a smooth transition will be paramount to our success,” Hill said.

Knowing Clark as an Oglethorpe undergrad student I never imagined this professional path for him. I knew he wanted to help others through medicine but it’s great to see what a difference his consistent caring spirit makes on those around him. It’s interesting too how his Oglethorpe experience may have nurtured his current professional and political path. 

Here’s a snapshot of Clark:

Councilman J. Clark Hill III received his BA in Biology/Chemistry from Oglethorpe in 1993. He is a 1997 graduate of Mercer University School of Medicine and completed a residency in Internal Medicine at Atlanta Medical Center. He moved to Commerce in 2001 to start an Internal Medicine practice. Dr. Hill owns Hill Medical Group, PC. Dr. Hill is married to Doreen (Hart) from Savannah and they have three daughters: Emily, Maggie, and Callie. Dr. Hill has served on the Commerce Downtown Development Authority since 2005 and is the current Chairman of the Board. He is a 2003 Leadership Jackson County graduate, current member and past president of the Commerce Kiwanis Club and serves on the Board of Directors of First Georgia Banking Company.

John Breton ’97 is Clark’s SAE fraternity brother.

OU Alum Michael Rowe Makes a Difference One Dog at a Time

Each year 10,000 abused and neglected dogs are brought to Atlanta’s Fulton County Animal Control.  Though half of those animals are adopted out to loving families, nearly 5,000 dogs become casualties in the most populated animal shelter in Georgia.  That’s where people like Michael Rowe ’95 come in.  Michael works for the Barking Hound Village Foundation Rescue, a non-profit that rehabilitates and find homes for dogs that end up on the shelter’s death row. Their mission is to save the lives of lost, abandoned and unwanted pets in Fulton County.  And that mission, according to Michael, falls right in line with his life course. 

Back in June of last year, three pit bull puppies found Rowe as he walked his pit-pointer mix, and through his search for a good home for those pups, he stumbled on Barking Hound.  This wasn’t the first time Matt had found himself seeking help for a misplaced canine in his community.  After spending some time with the organization, Michael seized an opportunity to carry out this work full-time. 

“[People] have always said, ‘Do [for a living] what you like to do anyway,” says Michael.  “Well, I’ve always taken the dogs in…I’ve done that all my life.  This is something I really love doing…and I think I’ve found my niche.”

There are only a handful of full-time associates at BHVFR, so Michael shares a number of different responsibilities—but his main job is preparing 60 dogs each month for a new home.  Unlike most other animal shelters, Barking Hound guarantees a home to the 60 dogs they take in each month, relocating them through other rescues  in the northeastern U.S.—where strays are fewer and sterilization laws are stringent.  Each month, Michael selects the dogs he is confident  the foundation can place, and spends the entire month rehabilitiating, socializing, and nursing sick dogs back to health.  After placing the dogs on their website for other reputable rescue organizations to see, the dogs are then transported to the partner rescue, where a loving family meets the dog.  In less than two years, Barking Hound has saved the lives of over 1,500 animals.

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OU Alum Tells the Story Of Stone Mountain in New Book

For more than a year, Dr. Paul Hudson '72 interviewed people, visited museums, and hiked the Stone Mountain trails to research for his book, Atlanta's Stone Mountain. Dr. John Inscoe, editor of The New Georgia Encyclopedia, called the book “a major contribution to Atlanta and Georgia History.”

According to Paul Hudson ’72, an adjunct history lecturer here at OU, “everyone has a Stone Mountain story.”  And now, it’s time to tell his. 

A native of Brookhaven, Dr. Hudson has spent years gathering information and writing articles about Atlanta’s local history (including Oglethorpe), and now he’s releasing his new book, Atlanta’s Stone Mountain: A Multicultural History

The 156-page read details the history behind Georgia’s famed granite mass, taking the reader back some 300 million years, before early Native Americans settled the area.  Dr. Hudson and his partner, Lora Pond Mirza, then take an in-depth look at how important Stone Mountain was to the Creek-Muscogee peoples, how emancipation occurred in the Stone Mountain area during the Civil War, the struggles of the Confederate Memorial carving, and the unique natural habitat of the mountain. (How can trees and yellow daisies grow in granite?)

Paul Hudson and Lora Pond Miraz

“The best part was meeting so many interesting people,” said Dr. Hudson.  “George and Susan Colletti, for examples.  He grew up in Stone Mountain and was the nephew of Elias Nour, “the Man of the Mountain” (read our book!)…Then there is Larry Winslett, a talented nature photographer, and so many others including Naomi Thompson, a geologist at the park.” 

“[The] most rewarding was the collaborative research and writing, getting great information from people, books, and online, structuring the book around the concept of multiculturalism, securing compelling images—more than 150, including ones off iPhones (from an Oglethorpe alumni couple!), from archives (the Library of Congress and Metropolitan Museum of Art),  and a vintage Civil War map (from Thornwell Jacobs’s granddaughter!)—and making it all complement an engaging but scholarly narrative…We did everything in our own unique way and are so proud because we think we nailed it!”

On Wednesday, June 15, Dr. Hudson and Lora Pond Mirza will debut their book at a launch event at Georgia Perimeter College, where both are faculty members.  The book also may be purchased at the Oglethorpe bookstore or online at Amazon.com.

What’s your Stone Mountain story?