Friday, February 27, 2009

Bright spot in the news

Getting mentioned in a story titled "Cutbacks Threaten College Experience" doesn't appear to be a good thing - at first.

The Wall Street Journal story in Thursday's edition focused on how cost-cutting may be undermining the educational experienced promised in glossy brochures mailed out months ago.

The story says that half of private colleges and universities have frozen hiring according to a survey by the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. Nearly the same number have slowed current construction and renovation projects, while 22 percent have canceled planned construction and renovation. The story also notes that dozens more schools - both public and private - are laid off staff and faculty, cut classes and other programs, to deal with slashed operating budgets.

It's important for families to consider some of these cutbacks, even if it means extra phone calls or another trip to campus," the Journal says. "Folding chairs in the new library at California State University, Fresno, might not bother everyone, as long as books are still available. But kids looking forward to lush dorms at Vanderbilt University may be disappointed, since plans for new residential halls have been postponed indefinitely."

But at the end of the article, TCU gets a positive mention.

"Many schools are promising to boost financial aid in line with tuition, with institutions such as Texas Christian University, Stanford University and Ithaca College in New York increasing the funds they set aside for aid as they anticipate stronger demand."

TCU's budget for financial aid was increased 18 percent to $73 million, and is rising year 5 ½ percent to $77 million in the coming academic year. That represents close to 25 percent of the university budget, says Brian Gutierrez, vice chancellor for finance and administration.

"Our desire is to make sure we have sufficient financial aid for our students. From what we see, we think what we’ve provided is adequate given the market conditions," he says. "We saw an uptick in enrollment in Fall 2008 and again in Spring 2009 and that’s positive. It demonstrates the demand for a TCU education is strong and the balance of financial aid and tuition price are finding equilibrium."

For more about how TCU is weathering the financial storm and helping students afford tuition, check out the upcoming Spring issue of the magazine, hitting mailboxes in March.

For the complete Journal story, go to this link:

Friday, February 20, 2009

Sign of the times

What started out as a fun way to thank the former President became something of a national phenomenon.
TCU sophomore Patrick Bibb thought making “Welcome Home George & Laura” yard signs and selling them at $20 a pop would be a nice way to show support for the former President as he relocated from the White House back to Texas while also raising a little bit of cash.
“The sign is not intended to be a political statement,” Bibb wrote in a letter he sent to neighbors. “It is simply a way of saying thank you to a man and his wife for numerous years of public service to our state and our country.”
After an initial run of 100 signs, he set out selling the signs over Christmas break from his parents home on Meaders Lane, just down the street from the 8,500-square-foot home the Bushes purchased on Daria Place in the posh Preston Hollow neighborhood in north Dallas.
A little media exposure including BBC Radio and, lead to overwhelming demand for the signs from all over the nation, bringing the total signs sold to more than 800.
Bibb, an economics major, is using his proceeds to help pay his TCU tuition and is donating $2 of each sign to nearby Pershing Elementary School’s library in honor of Laura Bush, a former librarian.
Bibb recently got word his sign hit home, so to speak, when he got a call from George W. Bush himself.
"He said he was in town a while ago with his wife and they had seen the signs ... and he was happy there was a lot of support and that someone had taken the initiative to do something," he told The Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "I told him: 'No problem. I understand you’ve had some hard times, but I wanted to do this. It’s the least we could do."

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

African-American firsts at TCU

Dr. Jennifer Giddings Brooks '71 and Yendor Reese '06 are separated by 35 years of Horned Frog graduating classes, and yet tonight, they sat at the same table and flashed knowing smiles at the other.
They're both TCU pioneers.
Brooks was the school's first African-American Homecoming Queen, a moment she herself didn't believe would happen. Reese was chosen by his peers as the first person of color to be selected Homecoming King, one of the highlights of his college experience.
They each shrugged off claims of individual importance, saying they were typical students wanting to fit in and make the most of their college experience. The two were guests of the Inclusiveness and Intercultural Services African-American Firsts Dinner.
Joining them were a trio of surprise honorees not on the program: Mildred Martin Sims '69, the first president of the African-American Alumni Association; Anthony Cregler, the first African-American participant in Army ROTC; and Ronald Hurdle '71, the first African-American cheerleader.
"I remember the [Homecoming] elections and bonfire and being on stage as one of the three finalists," Brooks recalled. "They called for the second runner-up and I walked over, and they said, 'No, not you.' And then they called for the first runner-up and I walked over, and they said, 'It's not you.' Then it hit me that I was the queen. My mom has a photo of me with my hand covering my mouth.
"I don't think they voted on the differences. They just picked who they wanted, not because someone was black or white."
Reese urged students in the audience to step out in boldness and get involved in campus life.
"We felt there was a need for an NAACP chapter on campus, and I'm proud that TCU has its own chapter," he said. "This is your time to make an impact. Every time you have a chance to soak up culture, take advantage."

Added Brooks: "I was a joiner. Find your niche and don't be afraid to participate. Be a part of the experience."

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A White House welcome

Air Force Capt. Joshua B. Hawkins ’03, serving as a White House military aide, met Janet Aston Norwood '73 and her husband, Bill, who were the guests of President George W. Bush at a dinner reception on the evening of his farewell address to the nation.

The Norwood's son, Sgt. Byron W. Norwood, was killed in action in Fallujah, Iraq, in November 2004, and he was honored by President Bush in his 2005 State of the Union address.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Generation Me Goes to College

They tend to think just showing up to class deserves at least a B and that a birthday celebration in Vegas is a valid excuse for missing a mid-term.

They are modern day teens and twentysomethings, part of generation that San Diego State University psychology professor Jean M. Twenge dubs "Generation Me."

She said the group of Americans born between 1982 and 2000 - also dubbed Milleniels, iGen and Gen Y - have been told since birth that they are special and so, naturally, they feel entitled to the good life that past generations struggled to achieve.

"They have inflated goals and high expectations," she said. "They are the generation of MySpace and Facebook and Youtube, whose slogan is broadcast yourself. The think it's all about me and of course I'm interesting."

Her book, "Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled and More Miserable Than Ever" explores the good and bad in this generation that grew up receiving trophies for simply showing up at soccer games where no scores were kept.

"They don't have the prejudice of previous generations," she said. "They don't judge people by the color of their skin or social background."

But she said their often over-indulgent parents gave them unrealistic expectations about real life.

"They grew up wearing bibs that said `I'm a princess,' she said. "But that doesn't mean the mother was the queen. Too often the mother and father were the royal subjects."

And she said the emphasis on the self puts tremendous pressure on today's college students, who measure themselves against unrealistic standards.

"Their definition of success is winning American Idol," she added.

She urged faculty and staff to help students find connections with others and giving back to the community and also construct a greater spirituality to offset our cultural emphasis on self.

She also told them to use more multimedia instruction, present information in smaller bits and use hands-on classroom activities such as labs. But she, warned, hold them accountable for turning in their work on time.

"In the classroom you're like Oprah - warm and engaging, but if they don't turn in their paper, then tell them 'you're fired,' " she said. 

Twenge studied self-esteem tests for more than 2 million people from those born in the Depression era of the 1930s to Baby Boomers born between 1946 to 1964, the Generation Xers born from 1965 to 1981, to those born after 1982 and found that Americans have become increasingly self-obsessed and even narcisistic. She pointed to a 2006 poll by the Pew Center that found the top goal of college students was becoming rich (80 percent) followed by becoming famous (50 percent) and helping others 30 percent.

"We think feeling good about yourself helps you succeed, but that's not necessarily the case," she said. "Kids may think they're better, but they're legends in their own mind. For college students who think they're so smart they don't really need to study, that overconfidence can lead to failure."

Twenge's research is part of a new book coming out in April titled "The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement."

Asked if the current economic meltdown will change the generation's narcissistic ways, Twenge said she doubted it.

"Some of the bling, the materialism, is going away but the desire for it is still there, she said. "Parents are still overindulging their kids and our culture is still obsessed with celebrity. I don't see those things going away yet.

For more information about her book, click here.

Horned Frogs create Karma

Look for the artistry of Horned Frogs in the movie Karma Police, released on DVD Feb. 10.
Red Sanders ’04 and Brandon Jones ’00 are two of the producers of the drama shot in Fort Worth and Dallas using an almost entirely local cast and crew.
The full-length film tells the story of Charles West, played by Chamblee Ferguson, a long-time Dallas stage actor. The character Charles West is responsible for judging others’ behavior when he should have been judging his own.
Karma Police began filming in February 2007 and made its premier at the AFI-Dallas International Film Festival last year. The movie also has been screened at the Marbella International Film Festival in Spain and the Lone Star International Film Festival in Fort Worth. It is being distributed on DVD only by Westlake Entertainment.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Green River Rising

He just graduated in December and already Denton Hunker '08 and his band Green River Ordinance is releasing another CD, this one through mega-producer Virgin Records.

The CD Out of My Hands is set for release Feb. 24. A single from the album Come On is already available from iTunes.

Band members, including former students Jamey Ice on guitar and Geoff Ice on bass, cite Radiohead, Cold Play, Tom Petty and U2 among their major influences.

The group signed a five-album contract with Capitol/Virgin Records in 2005.
Green River Ordinance is now on tour with a stop in Big D at the Palladium Ballroom on March 27.

Check out the band's website for more info.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Lecturer connects religion, science

Mary Evelyn Tucker of Yale University had no problem reconciling science and religion, and as people continue to better understand science, she said, their idea of the divine will be enlarged.

Tucker, a senior lecturer and research scholar at the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies at Yale University, spoke Wednesday night at Ed Landreth Hall as a guest of the Brite Divinity School.

Her speech, titled "Reconnecting Humans to Earth Community: Imagining a New Way into the Future," touched on issues of global climate change, evolution and environmental degradation, but the overarching theme of her talk and the question she asked her listeners to take home with them was, "What kind of story do you want to be a part of?"

Complimenting the university's mission statement, "to educate individuals to think and act as ethical leaders and responsible citizens in the global community," Tucker said that humans must begin to see themselves as "planetary people," rather than focusing only on how they connect with the local community. She said they must begin to look more closely at their relationship with the global community, and finally to the earth community, which includes ecosystems and what makes them up.

"Your generation is the first truly international generation," she said.

With the availability of instant communication around the world, the college-age generation will be able to easily acquire a global perspective and become citizens who embody the university's mission statement, Tucker said.

Tucker said that 20,000 animal species go extinct each year, and spoke of the endangerment of the horned lizard in Texas. Whereas this example is one that hits close to home, Tucker said, the American mindset of invincibility and distance must shift for survival of life on the planet.

Turning to religion, Tucker said the challenge for all faiths is to realize that all life is sacred.

"We have not yet begun to address that in its fullness," Tucker said.

Tucker said her own story began in the 1960s when she became involved in the Civil Rights Movement. She studied in Japan and said she was completely unprepared for the environmental degradation that she saw there and continued to see over the next 35 years.

Returning home and attending Columbia University, she began to ask herself what she could contribute.

"There is a sense in the human spirit that nature is a sacred process," she said.

This desire to contribute led her to focus her studies on the relationship between religion and ecology, she said.

The integration of science and religion is a sacred story, Tucker said. While people have learned a greater sense of compassion and care for the earth, they need to constantly be reminded of the scale and complexity of what they are facing, she said.

TCU inks 20 on Signing Day

Coach Gary Patterson and the Horned Frog football program announced the signing of 20 players yesterday on national signing day.

The Frogs' 2009 recruiting class features a quartet of four-star signees as ranked by In the previous eight years combined, TCU had just five four-star recruits. A total of seven signees landed in Rivals' final Texas top-100 ranking.

A total of seven signees landed in Rivals' final Texas top-100 ranking.

This year's four-star recruits are tailback Waymon James (Sherman), quarterback Casey Pachall (Brownwood) and safeties Jurell Thompson (Wichita Falls Rider) and Malcolm Williams (Trinity Valley Community College).

James is ranked by as the second-best running back in Texas and the 10th-best back in the nation. He set Sherman season records with 1,939 yards rushing and 26 touchdowns on an 11.3 per carry average as a senior.

Pachall, who turned down scholarship offers from the likes of Florida and Notre Dame, is rated by Rivals as the ninth-best dual-threat quarterback in the nation. As a senior, he passed for 2,808 yards and 31 touchdowns while adding 512 yards rushing.

Thompson is the nation's 19th-best safety according to Rivals. Williams, the lone junior college transfer, was the 5A Defensive Player of the Year at South Grand Prairie High School. He originally signed with Oklahoma and will have two seasons of eligibility at TCU.

Pachall, linebacker Tanner Brock (Copperas Cove) and wide receiver Josh Boyce (Copperas Cove) signed financial aid contracts and have already enrolled at TCU. They will take part in spring practice.

"The three kids who have already been in our offseason program have handled the transition as well as anyone we've ever had here," Patterson said. "If the rest are like them, we'll have one of our best classes at TCU."

Read the players' bios here.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Football-ex wins Super Bowl ring

Steelers long-snapper Jared Retkofsky ‘ 07 won a Super Bowl ring tonight after Pittsburgh beat the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII.

What’s more amazing is how he got there.

Twelve weeks ago, Retkofsky was loading furniture into the back of a truck for Bonilla Moving Company in Fort Worth, making $12 an hour.

"The last week I was there, I got a raise to $15," Retkofsky said by telephone last week from Tampa, Fla.

A three-year letterman (2004-06) as a defensive lineman and special teamer for the Frogs, Retkovsky was signed as a free agent in 2007 by Pittsburgh but never made the squad. In fact, he’d been cut by the Steelers twice in 15 months. The Seahawks cut him too, and Chiefs never returned a phone call after talk of an audition.

Money was so scarce that Retkofsky was going to skip a tryout with the Bills in September rather than pay for a flight to Buffalo until his agent, Chicago-based Ken Sarnoff, picked up the tab. When that chance never materialized, Retkofsky began to think seriously about Plan B and the rest of his life.

He and his wife had separated, and in the current economy the job market had shriveled. So Retkofsky started applying to the fire and police academies around Tarrant County and took the job moving furniture.

"My bills just started piling up and I had to take care of myself, so I was willing to do anything," said Retkofsky, who had 34 tackles, including 4.5 sacks, in his Horned Frog career. At one time, he held the TCU weight room record in the broad jump (10-1) for defensive linemen.

Vince Bonilla, owner of the moving company that employed Retkofsky for four months, remembered him bringing that attitude to work every day. He allowed Retkofsky occasional days off to attend tryouts, and he used the words "humble" and "clean-cut" to describe the guy who wore No. 61 tonight for the Steelers.

"This couldn't happen to a better person," Bonilla said. "He was an inspiration to a lot of people here who were thrilled when he got the call."

Everything changed on Oct. 26. His phone first rang that afternoon when he was shopping at Wal-Mart. His dad, Eric Dennis, called to see if he had seen Steelers long-snapper Greg Warren being carted off the field with a season-ending knee injury. Warren, with whom Retkofsky had become friends during his two training-camp stints, followed up on the phone hours later with some friendly advice.

"Greg called me and said, 'Hey, man, I'm done for the year, so you need to get in touch with your agent and get to Pittsburgh as soon as possible,' " Retkofsky recalled.

By the end of the night, Steelers special teams coach Bob Ligashesky had sent text messages to Retkofsky. By Monday afternoon he was on a flight to Pittsburgh for a tryout with three other long-snappers. That moment, Retkofsky's life began to change.

The Steelers always liked Retkofsky, a defensive end at TCU who learned to long-snap as a freshman. But Warren had signed a three-year, $2.3 million contract last off-season, and no team carries two long-snappers.

"Honestly, I was at the point in my life where I didn't know what I was going to do or what would happen next," Retkofsky said. "I told myself I was not going to be that guy who floats around for four or five years trying to make an NFL team.

"If you asked me 11 or 12 weeks ago if I would be snapping in the Super Bowl, I would've said, 'No chance.' It's surreal."

There have been times when the pressure forces doubt to creep into Retkofsky's mind. "Last week before the (AFC title) game, I was a nervous wreck," he said. "I was thinking, 'What if I screw up and I cost these guys a chance to go to the Super Bowl?' "

Now, not only has his team gotten there, it’s won the franchise’s sixth title. However, it might Retkovsky’s last game for the Steelers. If he is released when Warren returns, he will have made about $200,000 and an impression on any NFL team looking for a long-snapper with Super Bowl experience.

"Regardless of whether I snap again for the Steelers, I've had an OK run," Retkofsky said. "If this is my last game, I get to say I got to play in a Super Bowl. Considering everything, that's so emotional for me to say."

A moving story indeed.