UMD’S BIGGEST GIFT / 2 STRESSED FOR SUCCESS / 24 MOTOCROSS BOSS / 30
FALL 2014 / Connecting the University of Maryland Community
AN HONOR AIMS TO HE AL A PAINFUL PAST P G. 18
LETTER FROM THE PUBLISHER
FALL 2014 / VOL. 12, NO. 1
Peter Weiler VICE PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY RELATIONS A DV I S E R S
Brian Ullmann ’92 ASSISTANT VICE PRESIDENT, MARKETING AND COMMUNICATIONS
Margaret Hall EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CREATIVE STRATEGIES M AG A Z I N E S TA F F
Lauren Brown UNIVERSIT Y EDITOR
John T. Consoli ’86 CREATIVE DIREC TOR
Joshua Harless ART DIREC TOR
Liam Farrell David Kohn Karen Shih ’09 WRITERS
Megan Blair Jasmine Byers Kelsey Marotta ’14 DESIGNERS
Gail Rupert M.L.S. ’10 PHOTOGRAPHY ASSISTANT
Letters to the editor are welcomed. Send correspondence to Managing Editor, Terp magazine, 2101 Turner Building, College Park, MD 20742-1521. Or, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. ¶ The University of Maryland, College Park is an equal opportunity institution with respect to both education and employment. University policies, programs and activities are in conformance with pertinent federal and state laws and regulations on non-discrimination regarding race, color, religion, age, national origin, political affiliation, gender, sexual orientation or disability.
7 A Totally
Awesome Anniversary EMAIL
ONLINE VIDEO NEWS
FAC E B O O K .C O M /UnivofMaryland F L I C K R .C O M /photos/wwwumdedu T W I T T E R .C O M /UofMaryland V I M E O.C O M /umd YO U T U B E .C O M /UMD2101
I am pleased to present the latest edition of Terp. From the compelling story of Len Bias, arguably the greatest basketball player in UMD history, to an emotional look at mental health issues on college campuses, to a fun profile of a Terp who owns one of the nation’s most popular motocross race tracks at Budds Creek, this magazine is full of important and entertaining stories. And President Wallace Loh’s annual column of B1G things ahead is a must-read. There are always so many terrific stories to share—we could easily fill many more pages. Earlier this year, we established a magazine website at terp.umd.edu where we showcase bonus content, including videos. It also includes a feature that allows you to share the stories with friends, colleagues and fellow alumni. I encourage you to check it out! This year marks the 25th anniversary of the University of Maryland Alumni Association. Since 1989, the alumni association has built the Samuel Riggs IV Alumni Center, raised more than $1 million for student scholarships and kept thousands of Terps connected to Maryland and each other. To celebrate our anniversary, we’ve hosted special events, held contests on social media, established a special $25 limited-time annual membership rate, and even produced a special 3-D sidewalk art display outside of the Riggs Alumni Center. If you haven’t yet joined, please consider joining before the special pricing ends on Oct. 19. Finally, on behalf of the students, faculty and staff here at UMD, I want to say “Thank you!” Because of your generosity, we raised over $142 million for university programs—the single-best year in UMD history. Much of that total went to vital scholarship support for our outstanding students. We do not take your generosity for granted. Every day, we are working hard to keep you connected to your alma mater. Football games, arts performances, and clubs and chapter events across the country are all great opportunities to get and stay involved. The power and reach of 342,000 alums across the globe cannot be overestimated. Together, we will continue to do great things for the state of Maryland and the world. Go Terps! Peter Weiler Vice President, University Relations
Departments IN BRIEF
6 Motor City Motivator
16 Tiny Robots, Big Plans
COVER STORY: OUR BIAS In an instant, Len Bias went from Maryland’s most celebrated basketball player to a generation’s cautionary tale. With his induction into the UMD Athletics Hall of Fame nearly 30 years later, old wounds have begun to heal.
Bias and teammate Derrick Lewis celebrate a victory during the 1985-86 basketball season.
STRESSED FOR SUCCESS Are today’s students more anxious and depressed than ever? UMD expands its corps of mental health care experts to meet a rising demand for services.
30 TIFFANY WILLIAMS PHOTO COURTESY OF TEACH FOR AMERICA; ROBOT PHOTO BY JOHN T. CONSOLI; MOTOCROSS PHOTO BY FERRELL MCCOLLOUGH; LEN BIAS PHOTO COURTESY OF PAUL SOUDERS; MAZE ILLUSTRATION BY KELSEY MAROTTA; TESTUDO COURTESY OF UNIVERSITY ARCHIVES
HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE Motocross track owner Jonathan Beasley ’83 has turned Southern Maryland into one of the country’s prime spots for thousands of riders and race fans.
“Giving back at this time allows us to participate in the school right now…. We’re going to be able to go back and not just talk there, but be able to help spread a lot of this technology and a lot of this innovation that we’re creating at Oculus.”
Record $31M Gift to Jump-Start New Computer Science Building OCULUS VR CEO HOPES TO PUT UMD IN FOREFRONT OF VIRTUAL REALITY
Brendan Iribe aims to transform entertainment, communication, education and more with the most hotly anticipated tech advance since the smartphone: a pair of goggles and operating system offering a totally immersive 3-D experience in virtual reality. The Maryland alumnus’ boldness extends to the university, where he envisions a building that will become a model for the study of computer science, allowing students and faculty to explore the potential of virtual reality, as well as robotics, computer vision, computer-human interaction and immersive science. Iribe (left), co-founder and CEO of Oculus VR, has pledged $30 million to Maryland to help fund construction of the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Innovation. With an additional $1 million supporting scholarships in computer science, his is the largest gift in university history. His longtime business partner, Oculus co-founder and Chief Software Architect Michael Antonov ’03 (right), is pledging $4 million to support construction of the building and scholarships, and Iribe’s mother, Elizabeth Iribe, is contributing $3 million for new professorships in the Department of Computer Science. “‘Giving while living’ is what many people are saying now,” says Iribe, whose company was acquired by Facebook in July for approximately $2 billion. “Giving back at this time allows us to participate in the school right now instead of waiting until we’re retired or much older. We’re going to be able to go back and not just talk there, but be able to help spread a lot of this technology and innovation that we’re creating at Oculus.” The building, expected to open in 2017, will be prominently located at the corner of Campus Drive and Route 1 and designed to encourage collaboration, with open work spaces, community areas and “maker spaces” where students and faculty can experiment and create.
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“Brendan’s remarkable vision will catapult our computer science department to an even greater level of national distinction,” says university President Wallace D. Loh. “It will spark student creativity, galvanize collaborative innovation and entrepreneurship across campus, and stimulate tech-based economic development in the state.” Iribe and Antonov met as freshmen in Fall 1997 when they lived in Denton Hall. With Iribe as the business visionary and Antonov and Andrew Reisse ’01 as coding whizzes, they founded their first company, SonicFusion, in 1999 with lofty ambitions: to create a better windowing system than Windows. “We were in a little bit over our heads,” Iribe later joked. After freshman year, Iribe withdrew from Maryland to continue growing the newly renamed Scaleform; Antonov briefly did the same, then returned and juggled classes and coding with Reisse. After six long years of being broke, they finally licensed their technology and started developing a new Flash player for 3-D applications. Their software was used in hundreds of video games by Activision, Disney and more, and in 2011, Greenbelt-based Scaleform was acquired by Autodesk for $36 million. The trio then moved to a cloud gaming company called Gaikai in California, and figured out how to stream games onto smart TVs. The next year, Sony bought that company, this time for $380 million. “We were starting to get the hang of it,” Iribe says drily. In 2012, Iribe met Palmer Luckey, who as a home-schooled teen had cobbled together a virtual reality (VR) headset called the Oculus Rift, predicting it would someday offer true immersion—the holy grail of gaming. John Carmack, the godfather of 3-D gaming who created Doom and Quake, took a duct-taped prototype of the Rift to a top video game conference, where he declared it “probably the best VR demo the world has ever seen.”
PHOTO BY JOHN T. CONSOLI
Watch a video about how the building will change computer science at terp.umd.edu.
Iribe and his team came on board to formally create a company and launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $250,000 to keep improving the Rift. It blew past that goal in hours and ultimately brought in more than $2.4 million. The first developer kits shipped out, and the ideas multiplied for how it could be used beyond gaming: to help children learn about the solar system or human body, to take homebound (or cash-poor) users on virtual vacations, to put sports fans in the middle of a game. The company’s evolving headset was winning awards and positive press, when Reisse was killed in a hit-and-run crash near his Santa Ana, Calif., home in May 2013. Antonov, Iribe and their co-workers, along with Reisse’s parents, Robert ’76 and Dana ’73, quickly funded a new scholarship for Terp computer science students in his name. “We wanted Andrew to be remembered and to support the kind of independence, creativity in computer science and love of nature, which he had,” Antonov says. The first scholarship recipient invited Antonov and Iribe back to Maryland for Bitcamp, an April event that drew 700 students nationwide to hack together websites, apps and computer hardware projects. It was a stunner when, 10 days before the pair arrived, the Oculus-Facebook deal was announced. Department Chair Samir Khuller gave them a tour of the computer science classrooms and labs carved out of the A.V. Williams Building, built in 1987 as office space. Iribe recalls, “My first thought was, this is pretty depressing. How can people get inspired to create the future in a space like this?” Someone mentioned that computer science needs a new home. “I said, ‘We can fix that. How much is a building?’ The more we thought and talked about it, the more excited we became about the opportunity to transform University of Maryland with a new computer science building that inspires students the same way our offices and engineering labs inspire and attract the best and brightest in the industry.” His offer was a godsend for the department, where undergraduate enrollment had doubled in the past five years, to 1,700, and is expected to double again in the next decade. As a result, students are working in a maze of cubicles in four buildings spread across campus. It’s hurting Maryland’s recruitment of faculty and graduate students, says Professor Emeritus Bill Pugh, who is spearheading the building’s fundraising effort, as well as kicking in $500,000 of his own money. He envisions a vibrant place that spurs cutting-edge research in the department and the university’s Institute for Advanced Computer Studies and offers courses, events and creative projects that attract students from practically every major. “We need a building where formal and informal learning co-exist so our students can imagine and invent products that will change our world,” he says. “This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity.”–LB
FALL 2014 TERP 3
ALUMNI PROFILE / DIRK HOOGSTRA ’94
History in the Making NETWORK EXEC’S SERIES PUT NEW APPEAL IN THE PAST
Ten years ago, the History Channel was known mostly for low-budget World War II documentaries. Cut to 2014, and the network’s profile might now be described as a more historically minded HBO. Dirk Hoogstra ’94 has had a lot to do with that. As executive vice president and general manager of History, as it’s now known, Hoogstra has helped drive the network’s transformation into one of the new breed of cable channels offering long-form dramatic series starring top-level talent. “It’s a really fun time to be in the business,” he says. “What we’re doing, and what other people are doing, it’s the quality of a feature film, but you can do eight to 10 hours of it.” Hoogstra was executive producer of 2012’s Emmy-winning “Hatfields and
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McCoys,” starring Kevin Costner, Bill Paxton and a bevy of young, hot actors and actresses. The finale’s 14.3 million viewers broke cable records. He championed the highly rated series “Vikings,” which debuted last year with Gabriel Byrne, Alexander Ludwig (“The Hunger Games”) and a bevy of other young, hot actors and actresses. He also played a key role in the decision to remake the famed slavery miniseries “Roots,” which is now in development. Since he was 11, he’d envisioned a career in entertainment, either in movies or music. While at Maryland majoring in psychology, he began playing bass in a rap-metal group called Sampson. After graduation, it recorded two albums and performed regularly at clubs from Buffalo to Norfolk, but Hoogstra burned out. “It just got to be too hard,” he
says. “Drive with the band to a gig, drive back all night, and then go to work the next day without any sleep. I couldn’t keep it up.” So he quit, and focused on his job in production at the Discovery Channel in Silver Spring. Seven years ago, he moved to History, based in Manhattan. He began in reality TV and oversaw several successful shows including “American Pickers,” which follows a pair of intrepid antique finders, and “Mountain Men,” about tough guys who live in the wilderness. In 2010, he became a vice president, and last year was promoted to his current job. Because historical scripted series attract different advertisers than reality shows, Hoogstra says, the network sought to capitalize on a new revenue stream. Plus, he loves stories. Hoogstra, who lives
PHOTO BY ADAM KRAUSE / POSTERS COURTESY OF THE HISTORY CHANNEL
“It’s a really fun time to be in the business. What we’re doing, and what other people are doing, it’s the quality of a feature film, but you can do eight to 10 hours of it.”
CLASS NOTES Submit your class notes and read many more at terp.umd.edu.
Singer-songwriter Kathryn “Kat” Pace ’12 released her debut EP, “Survivor,” in June. She’s also been a page on “The David Letterman Show” since last October. For a peek into her music, see katpace.com.
Fitness trainer Kym Perfetto ’02 is competing with roommate Alli Forsythe on the 25th edition of “The Amazing Race” this fall on CBS. The around-the-world competition began May 31. Read more about her at kymperfetto.com.
A LU M N I T R AV E L north of New York with his wife and two young children, says, “For years, I was trying to start doing scripted dramas. I’d always wanted to do that.” There is no precise formula for picking a show, he says: “It’s mostly gut and experience. I always look for a story with good characters, a story that covers new territory.” What appealed to him about “Hatfields and McCoys,” for instance, was both its universality and its subtlety. “It’s a story about the desire for revenge, this deep-rooted feeling that we’ve all felt,” he says. “And the show doesn’t have good guys and bad guys. It’s very complex.” In September, the network aired a fourhour miniseries about Harry Houdini, starring Academy Award winner Adrien Brody. In the pipeline are a World War II tale about
a maverick army officer, a Revolutionary War drama called “Sons of Liberty” and “Roots.” He remembers watching the original “Roots” and is eager to begin work on the new version. With modern technology and production values, he thinks the remake can be even better. “It’s such a cultural touchstone,” he says. “And as great as the first one was, I think we can do something special, bring it up to date for a new generation. It’s a huge opportunity.” As Netflix, YouTube and other Web outlets change how and what kinds of programs Americans watch, Hoogstra is confident that viewers will benefit from vastly improved quality. Networks have to respect viewers’ expectations. “It’s very competitive now,” he says. “The best shows will be the ones that win.”–DK
KAT PACE PHOTO COURTESY OF KATPACE.COM / KYM PERFETTO COURTESY OF CORBIS
Flavors 1 of 2 Provence 2 MAY 16–24, 2015 2
Visit charming markets and vineyards, see historic sites, tour a craft distillerie and meet skilled chefs in their kitchens on this journey through southeastern France. For more about this and other trips, visit alumni.umd.edu/travel or contact Angela Dimopoulos ’07 at 301.405.7938 / 800.336.8627 or email@example.com.
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ALUMNI PROFILE / TIFFANY WILLIAMS M.C.P. ’08
Motor City Motivator
ALUMNA LEADS TEACH FOR AMERICA TO REVITALIZE HER HOMETOWN
WITH A POPULATION that’s shrunk by nearly half since 1980, student test scores that rank among the nation’s lowest and a staggeringly high violent crime rate, Detroit might strike some as a hopeless cause. Not Tiffany Williams. The city’s best public schools didn’t prepare her for the rigors of college, she says, but what she did learn from her teachers was grit and determination. And now with two master’s degrees, including one in community planning in 2008 at UMD, she’s back as the executive director of Teach For America’s (TFA) Detroit region, determined to turn around the city by turning around the schools. She’s pushing her teaching corps to create tough curricula and to instill an expectation of achievement that will prepare students for college. Then she hopes to bring those college graduates back home. “For many, the ‘golden ticket’ is moving to Chicago or New York or D.C.,” she says. “That’s pulling away resources and the livelihood of our community.” At TFA, which recruits young college graduates and other professionals to teach two years in disadvantaged areas nationwide, Williams has climbed the ranks as the Detroit teaching corps has
grown from 100 to nearly 300 since 2010. The incoming cohort of TFA teachers this fall is nearly 50 percent Michiganders. Williams started as a TFA special education teacher in Philadelphia after college at the University of Michigan. She then came to Maryland for its urban planning program, finding a shared passion with Associate Professor Alex Chen. “She’s so smart and so gifted. She can pull together her diverse background in teaching, planning and working with the community to make a difference,” says Chen, who worked with her to teach local high school students how to study and contribute to policies affecting their communities. It may be years before she sees Detroit students returning as young adults in the workforce, but they’re making progress in other ways: TFA teachers are introducing students to outside-the-classroom opportunities like robotics and math competitions, as well as ACT prep classes. “There’s a different type of urgency when I walk into classrooms and literally see my little cousin in the seats,” she says.–KS
The University of Maryland invites you to come together to support scholarships on Dec. 10 for the second annual Scholarship Day. It’s UMD’s biggest single day of giving, and your gifts will help students come to—and stay at—Maryland. Visit scholarshipday.umd.edu for more information. C ALLI N G ALL TE R PS
PHOTO COURTESY OF TEACH FOR AMERICA, DETROIT / TYPE ILLUSTRATION BY JASMINE BYERS
Share your stories about campus life 25 years ago at terp.umd.edu.
A TOTALLY AWESOME ANNIVERSARY
The University of Maryland Alumni Association turns 25 this year, and we’re partying like it’s 1989. Since its formation, the alumni association has been hard at work connecting Terps and fostering pride. This fall, the association is hosting a campus scavenger hunt and a Homecoming tailgate, launching a crowdsourced art project, making surprise TERPRIDE bus visits, and more, all to celebrate the milestone. Let’s turn back time and look at how UMD has changed since 1989.
The Vous, the Cellar, Bentley’s
Purple Pizza, Hungry Herman’s
South African divestment
Terrapin Technology Store
The Dairy in Turner Laboratory
The University Book Center
Vicky Williams, Neil O’Donnell, Walt Williams
Making friends face to face
Roast beef at Roy Rogers
Gathering in the dorm lounge to watch “The Simpsons”
Oversize sweatshirts, shoulder pads and Bugle Boy acid-wash jeans
PHOTOS COURTESY OF UNIVERSITY ARCHIVES
Cornerstone Grill, Looney’s Pub, Bentley’s Jimmy John’s, Slices or anything on Grubhub Big Sean and Wale Gay marriage
The Dairy in the Stamp Dalai Lama Physical Sciences Complex Renting or buying textbooks online Alyssa Thomas, Dez Wells, C.J. Brown Having 1,500 Facebook friends you may have not met Chick-fil-A nuggets Bringing an iPad to the Mall to stream “The Walking Dead” Uggs, yoga pants and North Face backpacks Adele’s
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ALUMNI PROFILE / TYRONE BROOKS ’96
Big League View GROWING UP, Tyrone Brooks ’96 was the kid who
would go around the neighborhood and organize baseball games on a nearby tennis court. He thrilled to the sound of bat connecting with ball and sending everyone into motion. “I loved legging out a triple and seeing guys run the bases,” he says. Brooks is still getting players together for games, only now on a much grander scale as the director of player personnel for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Although he didn’t play baseball in college, Brooks didn’t leave sports behind once he arrived in College Park. The accounting and marketing major was “living in two different worlds”—while going to business classes and eyeing work with the IRS, he also photographed sports for the yearbook and The Diamondback. “The sports (fan) in me couldn’t leave,” he says. After graduation, Brooks landed an internship for the Atlanta Braves; he was offered a full-time position just two months later. He spent 11 years with the club in various roles, at one point driving 60,000 miles a year to scout prospects in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota and South Dakota. “It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” Brooks says. “You are on your own little island.” After three seasons with Cleveland, he arrived in Pittsburgh in 2010—the Pirates’ 18th consecutive losing year, with a dismal 105–57 record. It was
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a far cry from life with regular contenders like the Braves and Indians. But by 2013, two years after Brooks was promoted to his current position, the Pirates made the playoffs for the first time since 1992. In midSeptember this season, Pittsburgh was once again in the thick of the race to secure a Wild Card berth, jockeying with San Francisco, Milwaukee and Atlanta for the two National League slots. Maintaining that success begins each day around 7 a.m., as he reads reports from scouts, gives feedback and organizes schedules to get the right eyes on the right player at the right time. Brooks’ job is about gathering and synthesizing information, an appropriate task for someone with a business education amidst the explosion of statistical analysis in baseball. Ultimately, it’s his responsibility to give the general manager the background needed for personnel decisions. Brooks still spends a lot of time on the road, up to 170 nights a year, often visiting minor league affiliates. Unlike richer teams, the Pirates rely on a grassroots system rather than on plucking established superstars for gaudy contracts. “Our margin for error is a lot smaller,” he says. He may be a long way from neighborhood kids playing a pickup game on a tennis court, but the romance is still there. “It’s something I don’t think I’ve ever taken for granted,” he says. “I love what I do.” –LF
PHOTO BY TONY RICHARDS
DID CAL RIPKEN JR. ONCE PLAY AGAINST THE TERPS BASEBALL TEAM? —Franchesca Davis
Questions for Anne Turkos, the university archivist
A: Ripken was in just his second year with the Baltimore Orioles when they took on the Terps at Shipley Field in 1982 in an early-season exhibition. It was a strong O’s team that would go on to win the World Series the next year, with Ripken playing alongside fellow future Hall of Famers Eddie Murray and Jim Palmer. The Terps weren’t too shabby, either: They were in the middle of a 33-game winning streak at home. More than 4,000 fans packed the stands—and Testudo even took on the Orioles mascot in a mock fight—but in the end, the O’s won, 12–6.
HAS THERE BEEN ANY NOTABLE HALLOWEEN-RELATED MISCHIEF AT MARYLAND? —Supraja Murali ’09
erty damage and performed “other pranks” on the area’s citizens, according to The A: Over the years, there have Baltimore Sun. In the mornbeen many tricks and treats, ing, President R.W. Silvester but one notable incident was called to return them to occurred on Halloween night campus. Each student was in 1906, when 76 cadets—the fined $3.75, the equivalent of majority of the student body about $95 today. The students back then—were arrested en spoke fondly of the event in masse and held overnight in a the yearbook, and it’s not clear makeshift cell inside the water pumping station in Hyattsville. whether they received any further punishment. They had caused mild prop-
I SEEM TO REMEMBER A PICTURE OF MARYLAND WINNING SOMETHING CALLED THE “COLLEGE BOWL,” A SCHOLASTIC QUIZ CONTEST SIMILAR TO “IT’S ACADEMIC,” IN THE EARLY 1980S. DO YOU HAVE ANY RECORD OF THIS?—Paul Miller ’82
A: Your memory served you correctly. The UMD College Bowl team won the national championship in April 1981, according to The Washington Post. The five-man team of Tom Rogers, Townsend Reese,
Robert Whaples, Robert Salzberg and captain Brick Barrientos defeated Davidson College, 360–180, to take the crown. “College Bowl” began as a radio show from 1953–59 and moved to television until 1970. It disappeared from broadcast media for seven years, returning to TV in 1977 and running until 2008.
Questions may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org or @UMDarchives on Twitter. ONLINE
lib.umd.edu/univarchives / BLOG umdarchives.wordpress.com / FAC E B O O K University of Maryland University Archives
CADET PHOTO COURTESY OF UNIVERSITY ARCHIVES
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THE SOUND DESIGN IS ON POINT! MAKES ME WANNA MOVE #DANCINGINMYSEAT #TWILIGHTLA
LOVE THE SHIFT IN ENERGY AND MOVEMENT VOCABULARY. #STARDUSTUMD
CLICK AND CLAP CLARICE PATRONS FIND APP, TWEETS ILLUMINATE PERFORMANCES, NOT VENUES As the lights dim and the audience whispers fade out, a recorded announcement precedes each show at the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center: Please take this opportunity to silence your cell phones and any other electronic devices. These days, however, select groups don’t have to follow that rule. The Clarice has placed iPads in the hands of some patrons and is encouraging others to tweet during performances as part of a new focus on enhancing the audience experience through technology. For film- or concertgoers who seethe when others’ phones light up a theater for some critical Facebook-checking, this may sound scandalous. But for
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Martin Wollesen, executive director of The Clarice, these tools present an opportunity to attract and engage people, particularly young adults. “Technology is part of their everyday lived experiences. It cannot be divorced from eating, drinking or socializing,” he says. “When we think about engaging or reflecting during a performance, they’re doing it in an immediate forum with technology.” This summer, The Clarice became the first testing site for Symphony Interactive, an app developed by Linda Dusman D.M.A. ’88, a professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She and her team compile information about a particular piece of music and then present it in real time during the performance on pre-programmed, silenced, low-light tablets distributed to volunteers. In this classier spin on pop-up videos, test subjects at the National Orchestral
Institute and Festival’s June performance of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, for example, were alerted to incoming insights with the appearance of a piano key on their screens. By tapping on each key as it appeared, they could read short messages noting that cellos and basses had taken over a motif first played by violins, or highlighting the composer’s innovation in adding oboes. “If you’re not a musician, it might be revealing to become aware that something in the music is changing,” says School of Music Professor Robert Gibson, who brought the app to Maryland. “One of the areas we’re really trying to pursue is people attending a symphony orchestra concert for the first time. One of the realizations we’ve had is that one reason young people stay away from concerts is that they have preconceived notions that may cause anxiety. They may feel they don’t know when to applaud or how to
Find out which Fall performances at The Clarice will use tweet seats at theclarice.umd.edu.
AMAZING NAMES. AMAZING WORDS. HANGING ON TO THEM ALL. #ANILIADUMD THAT SPOKE TO ME IN SUCH A PROFOUND WAY. THAT SHOW WAS THE DEFINITION OF WHY THEATER IS SO AMAZING! #SPRINGAWAKENINGUMD
dress. So how do you make these listeners more comfortable? Symphony Interactive may be a way to engage them with something familiar that speaks to having a new experience.” Maryland musicology students are participating in this research in the fall by developing annotations about other popular works of music, helping to create a library of Symphony Interactive program notes that may be made available to professional orchestras as the app evolves. The same thinking and strategy went into the introduction of “tweet seats” last spring at The Clarice. It’s among a growing number of performing arts centers and theaters inviting patrons to discuss their observations about the performance is it happens, via Twitter. The Clarice seats the group in the back and off to the side, to prevent their screens’ glare from distracting others, and it’s carefully choosing which performances
ILLUSTRATION BY BRIAN G. PAYNE
are the best fit for tweeting and which artists are open to the idea. Gavin Witt, associate artistic director and director of dramaturgy at Center Stage in Baltimore, was “thrilled” for the chance to tweet through the one-man show “An Iliad,” but said he was clumsy at it and at times struggled to toggle in and out of the performance to type. “A con was that it ultimately asked me to be both inside and outside the show more than I was comfortable with,” he said. “But a big pro for me was this really exciting sense of community. We were all there, sitting next to each other, sharing the same moment, and people outside could witness it through us and take part.” That’s the point, says Wollesen. He’d be the last to criticize any of the tweets themselves, even if they just quote dialogue or urge others to check out the show. “There is this traditional idea of experts who mediate this experience—what’s ‘right’
or what’s ‘correct.’ We are interested in discovery. We come at different points of experience, and that’s part of a learning process. What we care about is that learning process.” The effort extends beyond the theater itself. This fall, the dialogue of tweets will be projected on the walls of the lobby to stimulate conversations among patrons heading home. And The Clarice is expanding the use of its 2-year-old video-recording booth, now calling it the YouBooth and asking guests to talk not just about their impressions of the performance, but about themselves, to show the variety of people who enjoy the arts. Wollesen, who joined the university last fall, says he’s grateful to be part of a community so open to these ideas. “We want to create a space in places where different people can come together and can have a shared experience that reflects their individual needs.”–LB
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A Hackerspace, from A to Tee A hackerspace isn’t where cybercrooks hang out. It’s a workshop where inventors interested in computers and technology come together to share equipment (from cardboard to 3-D printers) and ideas and create prototypes of those ideas. Graduate students using the hackerspace in Maryland’s Human-Computer Interaction Lab (HCIL) earlier this year pumped out such novelties as a spaghetti piano and a 3-D version of the game Pong, while doctoral student Leyla Norooz ’11, M.S. ’14 (right) refined her longerterm project, an interactive shirt that teaches children about anatomy and physiology. The creator of BodyVis walks us through the try-and-try-again process of hackerspace, or makerspace, culture:
Norooz didn’t start with a shirt. In computer science Professor Jon Froehlich’s “Maker” class, she came up with a riff on the Clapper: a bedsheet that turns the room’s lights off when somebody climbs onto the mattress. But she crossed the live wires in her prototype and started a fire. Her interest in e-textiles ignited (truly), Norooz watched a video about a New York University student’s sweatshirt invention that warns of the presence of carbon dioxide. She was already working on education technology with 7- to 11-year-old volunteers in the HCIL and wondered if a shirt could be used as a teaching tool. After researching elementary school science textbooks, Norooz suggested a shirt featuring the digestive, respiratory and circulatory systems. “The KidsTeam wanted lots of visual and sound effects and colors,” she says. Actually, they clamored to see what happens to a swallowed potato chip. This was something to chew over.
REAL-TIME DATA FOR RESPIRATORY SYSTEM
SMALLER “ARDUINO” COMPUTER BEHIND HEART
PROTOTYPE 1 RESEARCH & DESIGN: 2 WEEKS CONSTRUCTION: 1 MONTH REAL-TIME BLOOD FLOW SHOWN ON LED LIGHTS
FINGER SENSOR MEASURES BLOOD PRESSURE
DATA SENT TO TINY, HIDDEN COMPUTER BOARD
“TRON”-LIKE ELECTROLUMINESCENT WIRES
ORGANS ARE LABELED, REMOVABLE & ACCURATELY SIZED
ACCURATE LENGTH OF SMALL INTESTINE
PROTOTYPE 2 RESEARCH & DESIGN: 1 MONTH CONSTRUCTION: 2 MONTHS
FLATTER, LIGHTER ORGANS
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CONDUCTIVE THREAD REPLACES WIRES
PHOTOS BY JOHN T. CONSOLI; PHOTO CREDITS
SEE IT, HEAR IT
ALUM WITH DYSLEXIA HELPS PROVIDE TEXTBOOK ALTERNATIVES
PROTOTYPE 3 RESEARCH & DESIGN: 2 MONTHS CONSTRUCTION: 2 MONTHS
With Froehlich, she tested different microprocessors, thin wires, LEDs that could be embedded in fabric, and pulse sensors, then used a sewing machine and soldering iron to put together her first shirt. But this rapid prototype was bulky and heavy— especially the large intestine. Norooz lightened things up, flattening the organs and replacing the wires and LEDs with conductive thread and sewable LED pixels. About a third of the way through, she and Froehlich demonstrated this shirt at the Silver Spring (Md.) Maker Faire, and the organs “died.”“I didn’t understand how much more battery power I needed,” she says. Back to the drawing room, or in this case, the hackerspace: This time, Norooz picked thin, flexible wire and switched in a bigger battery pack. Because she had a limited knowledge of circuitry, she bought a respiratory monitor with a chest strap to avoid building her own. She and Froehlich brought in an undergraduate to develop a “swallowing sensor” to activate the entire shirt, but it became clear it was a big project requiring more manpower. Instead, she sewed on a “Snack Time” button as a short-term fix. Meanwhile, Froehlich and doctoral student Matt Mauriello programmed an app to run the system. Then Norooz collected feedback from children at local Boys and Girls Clubs and teachers. WHAT’S NEXT?
Challenges persist, including programming bugs and having kids wear four AA batteries and a tangle of wiring between two layers of fabric. Norooz is also eager to add live visualizations on organs beyond the stomach. She’ll get her chance: In August, the National Science Foundation awarded the pair $550,000 to keep improving the shirt and get to the bottom of things. “Now I can add the waste functions and reproductive system.”–LB CELL PHONE IN STOMACH MAKES SOUND EFFECTS
See more on Norooz’s project at terpconnect.umd.edu/~leylan.
MEASURES BREATHING & HEART RATES, BODY TEMPERATURE & STRESS INTERFERENCE
BY THE TIME Pat Patterson unscrambled the words of the first question on a test at Maryland, everybody else was on the third. When he arrived on campus in the late ’50s, few people had heard of dyslexia, and universities didn’t know how to accommodate students with the disability. Just one professor in four years allowed him extra time on a test when he asked. The others told him it would put his classmates at a disadvantage. Today, the university’s Disability Support Service provides hundreds of digital and audio versions of textbooks to students in need, and a new $25,000 endowment funded by Patterson ’63 (left) will allow the expansion of its “Text to Voice” program. “I wanted to help students who have disabilities like me because it was very, very painful for me,” says Patterson. As a child, “I was told I was ‘slow.’ I thought there was something drastically wrong with me because everyone else was getting it and I wasn’t.” The agriculture graduate went on to create a successful nursery business with his family (he discovered his talent for hands-on projects when working on submarines for the Navy) and hopes he can inspire students struggling today. Andy Martin ’15, who suffers from memory problems following a head injury, says she transferred into Maryland anxious that she wouldn’t be able to keep up. The self-described “super, super senior” majoring in family science says the digital versions of the textbooks help her search for particular phrases. She can also work with the DSS staff to set the appropriate speed for the audio versions to be read, and take home a CD copy. “I’ve seen a huge improvement in my grades with these services,” Martin says. “I’m confident that I’ll graduate now.”–KS
PHOTO BY JOHN T. CONSOLI / IMAGES COURTESY OF LEYLA NOROOZ / PATTERSON PHOTO BY EDWIN REMSBERG
STUDENTS REGISTERED WITH DSS IN 2013–14.
BOOK REQUESTS RECEIVED BY DSS IN 2013–14.
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NO WEEKENDS AT HOME FOR TERPS KICKER AUSSIE TRANSPLANT TAKES STEPS TO BECOME ONE OF NCAA’S BEST Growing up in Adelaide, Australia, Brad Craddock played its country’s version of football, which combines rugby, soccer, basketball and a lot of running (the field is 200 yards long). In Aussie Rules, as it’s known, he played fullback, a position that blends defensive back and on-the-run punter. Craddock had a good leg—with a running start, he could send the ball 70 yards downfield. But after breaking his left arm twice and his right arm once during collisions, Craddock found himself on the sidelines. Unable to play the game he loved, he spent his time punting: hours and hours, mostly alone, kick after kick. “I saw the guys in the NFL,” he says, “and I thought to myself, maybe I can do that.” Maybe he’s right. The Terps kicker is now starting his junior season, and could be one of the best in college football. His 10,000-mile journey to College Park began in 2012 when he sent a video of his punting to all 120 colleges with a Division 1 team. Maryland Coach Randy Edsall liked what he saw and offered Craddock a scholarship as a punter. In preseason training camp, however, the team’s placekicker was injured, and
Craddock suddenly had a new job—one he hadn’t practiced much. Over the season, he was inconsistent but showed promise. As a sophomore in 2013, he was much steadier, making 21 field goals and missing just four. He was a semifinalist for the Lou Groza Award, given annually to the nation’s best college kicker. Craddock has also gotten more comfortable off the field; he’s on target for a degree in family science, and if he doesn’t make the NFL, he may go on to study sports psychology. He does admit to missing a few things about home, including the ocean (he’d go to the beach several times a week) and kangaroo meat: “It’s sort of like beef,” he says, “only more tender, with a more intense flavor.” Over the past year, he’s been working with former Baltimore Ravens kicker Matt Stover, who played in the NFL for 19 years and won two Super Bowls. They get together every few weeks and exchange frequent emails and videos. “Brad took the initiative with his kicking career,” says Stover. “He’s got the ability to become an excellent kicker.” How much does Stover like his charge? “He could marry my daughter.” Craddock says good technique allows him to relax under pressure. He loves those moments, when everything rests on his shoulders. “I don’t hear anything,” he says. “I don’t pay attention to anyone. It’s a weird feeling—it’s actually really relaxing. Nothing else matters.”–DK
Watch a video on Craddock’s winning ways at terp.umd.edu.
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PHOTO BY JOHN T. CONSOLI
Waste in Space
NEW UMD CENTER SEEKS TO LIMIT JUNK IN ORBIT
IN 1957, space was utterly, pristinely free of humanity. The Russians sent up Sputnik that year, and since then, humans have polluted space with all manner of flying machines and the junk that breaks or falls from them. These millions of objects, including rocket boosters, fuel tanks, screws, paint flecks, even a spatula, zoom around the Earth at speeds of up to 25,000 mph. This ever-growing detritus could collide with satellites or other spacecraft, experts say. If left unchecked, it has the potential to eventually cripple global communications and space-based scientific research. “The risks are growing,” says Raymond Sedwick, associate professor of aerospace engineering. “If we don’t deal with it, eventually it’ll be too late.” He recently launched the Center for Orbital Debris Education and Research (CODER), which he hopes will become a focal point for academic, industry and government research collaboration. “There is a real need for a center like this,” says David Spencer, a professor of aerospace engineering at Penn State University who has been studying space debris for more than 30 years. “Right now we don’t have a centralized clearinghouse that includes private industry, government and academia. I think this center will do that.” Sedwick first began working on the issue when he teamed up with a small aerospace company to develop a vehicle that could guide large pieces toward the atmosphere, where they would burn up during re-entry. The project was discontinued, but Sedwick was hooked. He realized that although several government agencies and the military are working on the problem, there was no academic center devoted to space debris. He and his colleague, Marshall Kaplan, a visiting professor of aerospace engineering at UMD, set out to close this gap, and in May, after two years of planning, CODER was born. Sedwick is now talking to industry and government agencies about funding for specific projects. The most pressing issue is the several hundred pieces that are the size of a car or larger. The larger the object, the more likely that a collision with a working satellite will produce more debris. Reducing this risk will require removing many of these large objects from orbit. Possible solutions include attaching sails or tethers to the objects to change their trajectory. But the center won’t only look for technological solutions; Sedwick says CODER will also examine the issue from scientific, legal and economic angles. For instance, he says, it’s unclear whether one country is allowed to clean up the rubbish left by another. “Who’s in charge of cleaning up orbital debris?” he says. “There is no agreement. Even within our own government there is no policy on this. Is it NASA? Is it the Department of Defense? There is so much we need to figure out.”–DK
PHOTO BY JOHN T. CONSOLI
NO BROOMS FOR THIS DEBRIS
Space debris comes in all shapes and sizes, with the smallest detected by ground-based radar and the U.S. Space Surveillance Network tracking the largest: SIZE (DIAMETER) NUMBER
< 1 cm
One of the largest pieces of debris is the Envisat Earth-observing satellite, which lost contact with its handlers in 2012. The $2.9 billion spacecraft is the size of a school bus. Two events created about onethird of all orbital junk: In 2007, China used a missile to blow up an old weather satellite, and two years later, American and Russian communications satellites collided. The greatest concentration of all debris is 460–500 miles above the Earth’s surface. Most of that will stay aloft for decades before falling to Earth, while debris higher than 600 miles will remain in orbit for a century or longer. SOURCES: NASA, RAYMOND SEDWICK
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“Language education in the U.S. has been seen mostly as a national security issue, not an education issue.” RICHARD BRECHT, CENTER FOR ADVANCED STUDY OF LANGUAGE, ON THE LANGUAGE-LEARNING DEFICIT IN ENGLISH-SPEAKING COUNTRIES, IN THE (U.K.) GUARDIAN, JULY 7.
“Recording calls is a great idea. It provides incontrovertible evidence of poor customer service.” JANET WAGNER, MARKETING, ON THE INTERNET FAD OF POSTING RECORDING BAD CUSTOMER SERVICE CALLS ONLINE, IN THE HUFFINGTON POST, AUG. 19.
TINY ROBOTS, BIG PLANS
RESEARCHER CREATES MICROBOTS INSPIRED BY INSECTS TO SARAH BERGBREITER, watching insects crawl, jump and scurry is amazing. Some fleas can hop 100 times their height, the equivalent of a human leaping a 60-story building. Adjusted for size, ants can move much faster than Usain Bolt and easily outpace humans on rough terrain. When was the last time you climbed straight up a wall or made yourself into a human bridge to ensure the continued existence of your community? The associate professor of mechanical engineering isn’t wasting time watching bugs. She’s getting inspiration for her microrobots, which could one day be used in medicine, consumer electronics and surveillance. “You have this incredible proof that these designs work,” she says. “They already exist in nature.” Since coming to Maryland six years ago, she has created more than a dozen kinds of microrobots, ranging in length from 4 millimeters to
a whopping 6 centimeters. The eight graduate students in her lab painstakingly craft some by hand while others are machine-made. Since she was a kid, she’s been into robots— “the idea of instructing something to move was always really fascinating to me,” she says. She studied electrical engineering at Princeton, and as a grad student at the University of California, Berkeley gravitated to designing mini-robots. Practical uses for her inventions remain years away, but she envisions dumping a bucket of camera-equipped mobile devices into a collapsed building, where they would work their way into otherwise unreachable crevices and alert rescuers about people who are trapped. Or they could scramble up the stanchions of a bridge, checking for structural defects. She sees myriad possibilities: “Imagine what you could do if you had thousands of minirobots at your beck and call.”–DK
“You have this incredible proof that these designs work. They already exist in nature.”
“Nobody expected Hamas to stand up for so long.” SHIBLEY TELHAMI, GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS, ON A POLL SHOWING SUPPORT AMONG PALESTINIANS SHIFTING FROM THE PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY TO HAMAS SINCE THE END OF THE GAZA CONFLICT, IN THE INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS TIMES, SEPT. 2.
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ILLUSTRATION BY KELSEY MAROTTA / PHOTO BY JOHN T. CONSOLI
PHOTOS BY JOHN T. CONSOLI; PHOTO CREDITS
FACULTY Q & A / MICHELE LAMPRAKOS
Unraveling Architectural Mysteries It was the lowly silkworm that led Michele Lamprakos to spend three decades studying architecture and material culture in the Middle East and the Mediterranean. The assistant professor of architecture and historic preservation paused during a trip to Spain to spin that tale and talk to Terp. TERP: YOU’RE EXPLORING THE HISTORY OF ONE OF THE WORLD’S MOST BIZARRE BUILDINGS. WHY?
Lamprakos: I’m researching the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba. I can see
the baroque bell tower that covers the ancient Islamic minaret from my balcony. It’s the only mosque that wasn’t destroyed when the Christians conquered Spain. Instead, they inserted a cathedral in the center. Why would any architect do that? It’s a story with incredible twists, right up through the 20th century.
TERP: WHEN DID YOU START WORKING IN THE ISLAMIC WORLD? Lamprakos: Right out of college, I went to Cairo as a development worker.
I had the opportunity to work on kind of a crazy project to revive the cottage silk industry. Women and kids would pick leaves from mulberry trees in their yards and feed them to silkworms so they would form cocoons. Reelers would boil the cocoons, unreeling fine silk thread; women would take the waste and spin it into yarn. My Greek grandmother remembered doing the same thing when she was a child. It was a way for rural women to supplement their income. Seeing how that material culture had the potential to transform people’s lives led directly to my interest in architecture. TERP: ARCHITECTURALLY, WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE AREA OF THE MIDDLE EAST? Lamprakos: Yemen is the most incredible country in the region in this
respect. The settlements are like Italian hill towns; materials vary from region to region, mostly fired brick in the north and mud brick in the south. Many of the settlements are threatened by development pressures or abandonment. Working in the developing world changes the whole nature of preservation. It’s not a refined, effete exercise—it’s about maintaining the everyday environment. We can learn a lesson from this. How do we maintain buildings? How do we transform them?
TERP: WHERE SHOULD I GO IF I WANT TO SEE GREAT ISLAMIC ARCHITECTURE? Lamprakos: The problem since the Arab Spring is where you can go safely.
Yemen and Syria would be on the top of my list, but tragically so much of Syria has been destroyed. Morocco is fantastic and hasn’t really seen civil unrest. Fez is the jewel in the crown, the first city in the region to become a World Heritage site, in 1981. Marrakesh is spectacular but very gentrified, unfortunately. The oasis region in the south is incredibly beautiful and lesser known to Americans. Wherever I go, my favorite thing to do is to walk around and sketch and think about how the cities and buildings got to be the way they are.
PHOTO BY JOHN T. CONSOLI / DRAWINGS COURTESY OF MICHELE LAMPRAKOS
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AN HONOR AIMS TO HEAL A PAINFUL PAST BY LIAM FARRELL
PHOTO BY LARRY CROUSE
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Len Bias goes up for a jumper against Michael Jordan on Feb. 16, 1983. (UMD defeated North Carolina, 106–94.) In the years since Bias’ death, many have said his talent and potential were similar to Jordan’s.
HE LOOKED INVINCIBLE THAT NIGHT. The skinny high school kid plucked from the basketball courts of Prince George’s County had grown into a hometown hero with super strength and the power of flight. He held Maryland records in 15 categories, led the Terps to the 1984 ACC Tournament title, earned two ACC player of the Year honors and had been named the 1986 ACC Athlete of the Year. It was June 17, 1986, and Leonard K. Bias was sublime as always, dressed in a sharp white and gray striped suit, a green Boston Celtics cap askew, as he addressed reporters after the defending NBA champions drafted him second overall. Leonard, Lenny, Len, the Human Eraser: No matter what he was called, he was on his way to fulfilling the rarest of destinies. He was a Maryland kid, a Terp, the heartbeat of Cole Field House, and he had made it. “My dream has come true,” he said. But it ended less than two days later on the floor of his suite in Washington Hall, where Bias died of complications from cocaine intoxication. The entire Maryland community and basketball fans across the country were whiplashed from celebration to mourning as their man of the hour turned into a cautionary tale
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for a generation. The natural impulse following tragedy—to assign blame, to do something about a seemingly indestructible life ended in an instant—brought a storm to College Park that lasted for years. The administration launched investigations into Maryland’s academics and drug use. A grand jury was convened to see if anyone was culpable. Congress, beating the drums for the War on Drugs, passed harsh new sentences for offenders. University leaders received death threats and spent their days dodging the reporters camped out at their cars. Admission counselors had to constantly assuage the safety fears of parents, and coaches struggled to balance the need to win with tighter recruiting standards. Within five months, the athletic director and basketball coach had resigned from their roles. Within two years, Maryland’s chancellor, the equivalent to today’s president, stepped down as well. And most importantly, there was a family mourning the worst fact of all: the death of a loving son. Yet tragedy can eventually turn into memory, and stark lines of black and white often blur into shades of gray. Nearly three decades since Bias died, he is talked about with more sympathy than scrutiny. And on Oct. 3, Len Bias was one of eight athletes inducted into the University of Maryland Athletics Hall of Fame.
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE WASHINGTON POST/GETTY
“Hopefully it’s an opportunity to heal, hopefully it’s an opportunity to forgive for those that want to blame a young man for a lot of things he wasn’t in control of,” says Kevin Glover ’88, a former Maryland and NFL football player who knew Bias and is president of the M Club, which selects Hall of Fame inductees. “The part that has been overlooked for many years is celebrating the person that Len Bias was. “I guess because of the way things happened, it was difficult for all of us to have these conversations with anybody that didn’t know him,” Glover says. “Because that’s how much respect and love we had for him. And for each other, really.”
AN ASTONISHING ASCENT Bias was a beautiful basketball player. In a sport that rewards rare combinations of grace and power, he could one minute go up for a picture-perfect jump shot—body and arms held straight, seemingly floating, his fingers releasing the ball at his apex with a silky backspin—and in the next, stretch his 6-foot-8-inch frame toward the roof of the gym to deliver a rattling slam dunk. On Feb. 20, 1986, Bias almost singlehandedly willed the Terps to a landmark upset of top-ranked North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Down by nine with about three minutes left, Bias hit a long jumper, then stole the ensuing in-bounds pass and scored again with a backwards jam. With 15 seconds left in overtime, he flew across the lane to block a potentially game-winning shot by future NBA champion Kenny Smith and help seal a victory. “He could do so many things. He could jump. He could run with the best of them,” says longtime Terps sports announcer Johnny Holliday. “The sky was basically the limit.” Bias was ferocious and unrelenting at his sport, lifting weights with the football team, calling his point guard the night before games to ask for the ball and sometimes dominating practice to the point that he had to be benched. In the estimation of his coach, Charles “Lefty” Driesell, Bias was “one of the finest young men I’ve ever coached.” Whenever he asked Bias if he was ready to play, Bias would respond: “Coach, I was born ready.” “He wasn’t good. He was great,” Driesell says. “I loved him. And I think he loved me.” Long before he started dunking a basketball, though, Bias was an active and imaginative kid growing up outside Landover, says his mother, Lonise. When he played outside and saw something he liked—maybe an unusual rock—he would take it back and say, “Mom, isn’t this stone pretty?” “He was bringing me diamonds then,” she says. At first, Lonise didn’t see his interest in basketball as anything approaching a possible career. That dawned
PHOTO COURTESY OF UNIVERSITY ARCHIVES
slowly, as Bias had a junior high growth spurt—“it was like a surge”—and began to draw interest from colleges while playing in high school. The fact that he could get a scholarship to play basketball was “just mindblowing,” she says. Even as his fame increased and the accolades poured in at Maryland, Lonise says her son honored the humble lessons she and his father, James, taught him and his three siblings, like always using good manners and respectfully speaking to others. Many people describe how Bias remained a quiet and sensitive soul, someone who enjoyed dressing to the nines but also drawing pictures, someone who would shake a rim but also stop to talk to tour groups and skip part of an awards banquet to welcome a visiting poet to campus with flowers. “I can go anywhere in the country and people will say, ‘I love your son,’” she says. “People still talk about him as if he was still alive.”
Bias poses outside Cole Field House in September 1982, the start of his freshman year. The seasons ahead would catapult him to superstar status.
A TRAGEDY UNFOLDS Jeff Baxter was awakened by teammate David Gregg on the morning of June 19 and told that Bias was unconscious in their dorm suite. It had been just few hours earlier that Baxter had returned from his girlfriend’s place to catch some sleep before an exam. He had knocked on one of the doors, where Bias was celebrating his new career with Gregg, teammate Terry Long and friend Brian Tribble. Baxter did his “usual—go jump on him, he holds me like I’m 2 years old.” Now, just a few hours after Baxter had left the group and gone to sleep, his friend wouldn’t move. Bias—and so much else—was gone. By the time he arrived on campus on the day of Bias’ death, Chancellor John Slaughter saw a community already under siege. He quickly convened a crisis team and for the next six months dealt with little else. Not only had Bias, the picture of heroic invulnerability, died, but he was a casualty of the foremost public fear of his era: drugs. From the living rooms of fans to the newsrooms of The Baltimore Sun and Washington Post, from the offices of lawyers to the halls of Congress, people demanded answers. Staff members anxiously waited for the sound of the newspaper slapping to the ground outside the front door. Every day was a new opportunity for headlines to bring fresh pain to a hurting campus. Although the entire athletic community was affected
“Hopefully it’s an opportunity to heal, hopefully it’s an opportunity to forgive for those that want to blame a young man for a lot of things he wasn’t in control of.” Kevin Glover ’88 m club president
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“Bias was one of the finest young men I’ve ever coached. He wasn’t good. He was great.” Charles “Lefty” Driesell Bias and his teammates listen to Coach Charles “Lefty” Driesell. Whenever Driesell asked if he was ready, Bias would say, “Coach, I was born ready.”
by the attention, Bias’ teammates in particular struggled with the combination of sympathy and what they saw as suspicion of drug use. One day, a stranger approached Baxter in Georgetown, asked if he was a Maryland player, and then started crying in his arms. On another, his brothers took him to get a urinalysis just in case he was accused. “The perception was everyone at Maryland was bad kids. It was like all of us were put in a category,” says Keith Gatlin ’07, a Bias friend and teammate. “The kids are left back with nothing, and their names are crushed.” A pallor had descended on College Park.
HARD DECISIONS Two committees convened by Slaughter—one on drug polices, enforcement and education, and the other on the academics of student athletes—revealed the problems at Maryland and their utter ordinariness in the 1980s. The drug task force surveyed 1,518 undergraduate Terps in the fall of 1986 and found that 20.1 percent had used cocaine in the past year. Similar results were found at colleges throughout the United States, and the media and lawmakers tagged the drug as the scourge of American society. In response to the work of the education committee, which found athletes needed better academic support and counseling, the university instituted more difficult grade and admission requirements and brought a new focus to retention. Slaughter says they were the highest standards at the time in the ACC. Those sorts of issues were hardly limited to College Park, though. Many peer programs had—and still have— to deal with academic scandals in a continuing era of exploding popularity for televised NCAA competition. Maryland was making hard decisions. In one of the most difficult, Slaughter decided to replace Driesell, who
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was moved to an assistant athletic director position in October 1986, only a few weeks after athletic director Dick Dull resigned. “I had and still have a tremendous admiration for Coach Driesell,” Slaughter says. “It was clear to me there had to be a change in the way that we were dealing with basketball and the players.” Driesell, who went on to coach at James Madison and Georgia State, remains diligent in defending his players. He says Bias, who was 21 credits short of graduating in August, fell behind only because of the numerous meetings and workouts associated with preparing for the NBA draft, and that he never otherwise posed an academic problem. He remembers how great it was to receive a call from Bias on the night of the draft, thanking him for all his coaching. “I wish I would have said, ‘Lenny, come over to my house and let’s celebrate,’” Driesell says. No one was found legally responsible for Bias’ death. Prosecutors eventually dismissed misdemeanor charges of cocaine possession and obstruction of justice against Gregg and Long. A jury found Tribble not guilty of drug charges in June 1987, and an obstruction of justice charge was also dropped. By then, the federal government had already made its own judgments. As recounted by journalist Dan Baum in his 1997 book “Smoke and Mirrors: The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure,” the atmosphere in Washington the day of Bias’ death “was like Pearl Harbor had just been bombed.” House Speaker Tip O’Neill (D–Massachusetts), whose home state was rocked as much as Maryland by losing the Celtics’ future star, demanded legislation. Within four months, Congress passed 26 drug-related mandatory minimum prison sentences. Now a first offense of dealing small amounts of drugs could net 10 years without parole. “In life, Len Bias was a terrific basketball player,” Baum writes. “In death, he would become the Archduke Ferdinand of the Total War on Drugs.”
PHOTO COURTESY UNIVERSITY ARCHIVES
ELATION & CLOSURE A university community is virtually reinvented every four years, and the people who played the largest roles in the aftermath of Bias’ death are no longer in College Park. Eventually, he turned into a tragic part of the past, unfailingly woven into the stories explaining the Boston Celtics’ 22-year title drought and the Terrapins’ woes until the 2002 national championship. He had become only a symbol, and he wasn’t there to throw down a powerful dunk, swat away an opponent’s shot, jokingly tackle a friend in the aisle of a department store, or do anything else to regain his humanity. “People failed to realize that he was, in fact, a very fine young man,” Slaughter says. “The only thing they think of is that he overdosed on cocaine.” Now, for the first time in decades, his name is once again attached to something celebratory. Hall of Fame inductions are held every two years, and an athlete is primarily judged on his or her “superior athletic achievements as a student, which brought considerable fame to the university and the individual.” The criteria also say, however, that “nominees must have good character and reputation, and not have been a source of embarrassment in any way to the university.” Hall of Fame voters long wrestled with that provision and its implication for Bias’ on-court achievements and the aftermath of his death. “The fact is, he’s deserving and he was elected,” Glover says. Lonise Bias has spent decades as a public speaker, addressing the loss of not only Len but also one of her other sons, Jay, who was shot to death in 1990. In her speeches at schools and conferences, she emphasizes the importance of making good decisions, taking responsibility and respecting authority. She has been heartened over the years by the number of people who say they never touched drugs because of what happened to her son. “He was a precious seed that went down into the ground to bring life. I believe that with my heart,” she
says. “He was really, really special, and it can only take the hand of God to bring a message to people and not be so caught up in the tragedy my family experienced.” Her faith extends to Bias’ induction into the Hall of Fame. “Things happen in God’s own timing,” she says. “We’re not long-faced. We are very grateful and excited.” Baxter, who still wonders what would have happened if he had returned to his dorm earlier that night, wasn’t merely happy when he got the On draft night, Bias was selected second overall news of Bias’ induction—his first reacby the Boston Celtics and thought to be a key tion was “just elation.” piece in continuing the team’s dynasty. But less than two days later, he was gone. “I think it’s just kind of closure,” he says. For Gatlin, losing Bias was like losing a brother. Now a high school coach in North Carolina, he reminds his players that everything they have can vanish in the wake of a single poor decision. When they break a huddle, Gatlin has them say, “Family.” Just after Bias’ death, one of the few places that Gatlin could find solace was on the basketball court. While dribbling, shooting and passing, Bias’ friends could imagine that he was nearby, waiting for the right moment to jump to the rafters and slam the ball home. “That was the only place you felt peace and comfort,” Gatlin says, “that you found a connection to Lenny.” The most visible memorial to Bias on campus today is above the court of the Xfinity Center, a red banner with white lettering and black numbers that hangs in front of thousands of spectators every year and above the players on the court below. The plain “Bias 34” gives no indication of a legacy any more fraught than “Elmore 41” or “B. Williams 52.” With just a name and a number, in Maryland colors, he is once again just a player who had enough on-court accomplishments—who did enough good things—to deserve remembrance. TERP
Share your memories of Len Bias at terp.umd.edu. To learn more about other Hall of Fame inductees, go to umterps.com.
PHOTO COURTESY OF PAUL SOUDERS / DRAFT PHOTO COURTESY OF CORBIS
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Stressed for Success
Are Today’s Students More Anxious and Depressed Than Ever? by David Kohn / illustrations by Kelsey Marotta ’14
Ashli Haggard saw her future collapsing with her first ‘F’. She wasn’t just afraid the failing grade would keep her from going to nursing school. The then-sophomore wondered if she was smart enough to be in college at all. ¶ Haggard ’15, who had a history of anxiety and depression since elementary school, spiraled into a deep funk. She holed up in her room on the fifth floor of LaPlata Hall and began thinking about suicide. ¶ “I felt like everything I’d worked for was gone,” she says. “I just didn’t want to exist anymore.” ¶ Haggard called the university’s Counseling Center to say she had been thinking about harming herself. “They said, ‘Be here in 20 minutes. We’ll see you right away,’” she remembers. She asked her dorm’s resident adviser to walk her over; otherwise, she feared she would chicken out. ¶ As they walked the 15 minutes across campus, Haggard thought, “I just have to get there. If I get there, I can get fixed.” FALL 2014 TERP 25
She’s one of about 3.5 to 4 million college students nation- debt—$10,000 more than just eight years earlier, according wide who are struggling with serious anxiety, depression or to the nonprofit Institute for College Access & Success. (For other mental health issues, according to a 2013 survey by the UMD students, this amount is lower: $21,000, on average, American College Counseling Association. It also strongly in 2013.) Beyond unease about jobs and career, many college suggested the problem is growing: 95 percent of counseling directors at four-year colleges think that more students than students feel more academic pressure than previous generations. “These institutions are clearly becoming more comever before are dealing with these issues. The University of Maryland is spending $5 million over 10 petitive places,” says psychiatrist Victor Schwartz, medical years to boost its counseling staff to respond to an increase director of the Jed Foundation, a nonprofit based in New York City that promotes emotional in students’ requests for help. Nearly health among college students. This 2,000 students sought treatment at year, for example, Stanford University the Counseling Center in the 2013–14 accepted 5 percent of its applicants, academic year, a 12 percent jump from perhaps the lowest rate ever recorded a year earlier. at a U.S. university. Psychologist Sharon KirklandIn this competitive context, many Gordon, director of Maryland’s millennials simply rev too high, says Counseling Center, says the number Kirkland-Gordon. “We have a very of UMD students who consider suibright, very talented, very ambitious cide has increased, as has the overall group of students,” she says. “With severity of mental illness among that comes a lot of stress.” patients and the number who say they Dance major Nicole Turchi is have previously attempted suicide. familiar with this trajectory. She “The situation is definitely more received a full scholarship to serious now,” she says. Maryland, has done well academiIt’s hard to say definitively that cally here and is on pace to graduate college students are more stressed in December. But she has wrestled than ever, as mental illness remains sharon kirkland-gordon director of umd’s counseling center with depression, anxiety and eating complex and poorly understood. But disorders. Fear about staying thin many researchers, educators and enough drove her to binge-eating, counselors point to mounting academic pressure, the uncertain economy, a decline in coping and when she felt out of control, she sometimes went to the skills and increased social alienation for a generation that Stamp Student Union to eat “four or five lunches.” A bad grew up online. Others see the rising numbers as the result breakup, as well as a series of chronic injuries that kept her of reduced stigma surrounding mental illness, as well as from dancing, led her to consider suicide. “When you’re a student, there are so many hats you have improved efforts to diagnose and treat children—who then to wear and so many balls you have to keep in the air,” Turchi bring those diagnoses with them to college. says. She has gotten help at the Counseling Center, and praises the therapists there for helping to improve her outlook. Some observers say some students are ill equipped to OVERWHELMED AND UNDERPREPARED No one wants to wait tables after spending four years and withstand the slings and arrows of breakups, bad grades tens of thousands of dollars earning a degree. That kind of and loneliness. “It’s clear that young adults have fewer copfear about the shaky economy and their career prospects ing skills, and less resilience than past generations,” says pediatrician Sarah Van Orman, incoming president of the ignites anxiety, say researchers, educators and students. “College students are definitely aware of the economic American College Health Association as well as director of climate,” says Haggard. “There is really a lot of pressure health services at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She puts some of the responsibility on the increase from that.” The data back up this angst: Among recent college grad- on overprotective, overinvolved parenting. Kids brought uates, unemployment and underemployment (a category up this way may not learn self-reliance, and when they that includes people who are working part-time because become undergraduates, may lack the psychological tools they can’t find a full-time job, or have given up searching) to handle the adversity that is an inevitable part of inderemain nearly twice as high as before the 2008 crash, at pendent adulthood. Students’ pervasive use of social media may also increase 8.5 percent and 16.8 percent, respectively, according to the their vulnerability. Kirkland-Gordon calls this “artificial Economic Policy Institute. At the same time, students face mounting school costs. In connectedness,” and says many Maryland students tell 2012, the average college graduate faced $29,000 in student counselors that their constant texting and posting some-
“We have a very bright, very talented, very ambitious group of students. With that comes a lot of stress.”
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Sarah Polus ’14 exemplifies this shift. Throughout her years at Maryland, she suffered from anxiety disorder and panic attacks. Both are now under better control, thanks to therapy and medication. Polus has no problem sharing her struggles, whether making a point in class or talking to a stressed-out friend. “I try to bring it up as much as I can,” she says with a laugh. Haggard shares this view. “It’s not the end of the world if you need help,” she says. “If you have a toothache, you go to a dentist. If your mind hurts, you go to a therapist or a psychiatrist. It’s the same thing. Pain is pain.” Still, men, minority students and international students are much less likely to use mental health services on campus. “We’ve made great progress on this. But we have a long way to go,” says Alison Malmon, executive director of Active Minds, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit devoted to raising awareness about mental health among college students. The group has 9,000 members spread across 400 campus chapters, including one at Maryland. Adam Ziegel ’14, a physiology and neurobiology major, NO SHA ME IN ADMITTING PAIN Schwartz says decreased shame and embarrassment about understands this reluctance to get help. In high school and mental illness has allowed more students to face their in his freshman year, he suffered from depression, stemanguish. “We have done a pretty good job of destigmatiz- ming mainly from the fact that he was gay but not ready to ing these problems,” he says. “It’s now more okay for many come out. “I was hiding myself,” he says. “It got worse and worse and worse, until I just couldn’t take it anymore.” students to go for treatment.”
times replaces more meaningful relationships. Recent studies have found that social media such as Facebook and Instagram often instill a sense of inadequacy among frequent users. “Facebook can be depressing,” says Van Orman. “You don’t see posts where people say, ‘I’m an average person and I’m having an average day.’ No. On Facebook everyone is having a wonderful time and doing amazing things. For some, constantly being exposed to that can be psychologically damaging.” Turchi has experienced this. Two years ago, she realized she was spending too much time on Facebook, and was judging herself harshly against others’ digital personae. She stopped using the social media site, and says, “It was one of the happiest periods of my life.” After six months she went back, and has since been more disciplined about limiting her use and recognizing when she needs a break.
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In his sophomore year at Maryland, he sought help, and health treatment when they see problems with their kids,” she his parents agreed to pay for him to see a psychiatrist. Ziegel says. “They’re much more aware of their kids’ emotional state.” decided to come out, and he began taking antidepressants. Today, he is still getting comfortable talking about his illness. “I hate to say it, but it’s the old stereotype,” he says. “Men A STRONGER PRESCRIPTION FOR CHANGE just have this weird block about talking about their feelings.” The decision to add counselors at Maryland was brought into What progress has been made is on display in the wait- sharp focus by the case of UMD graduate student Dayvon ing rooms of university counseling centers. Experts say that Green, who in February 2013 shot two undergraduates, one more secondary school students are receiving mental health fatally, then killed himself at their off-campus house. treatment. (Haggard is among this group: She first saw Green suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disa therapist in elementary school, for anxiety.) In the past, order, police said. He had never sought treatment at the some of these students might not have made it to college Counseling Center, but after the murder-suicide, critics said because they didn’t have the grades or couldn’t handle the the university had a relatively low number of psychologists demands of being away from home. Today, with the help of and psychiatrists available to treat students. therapy and more effective medications, they often do well. Maryland’s Counseling Center used the $5 million in But once they’re on campus, they may be more likely to seek new funding to add three psychologists, bringing the total help for a relapse or a crisis. to 17. The center also has four interns (doctoral students in Psychiatrist Marta Hopkinson, director of mental health psychology) who see clients, with supervision from staff at Maryland’s Health Center, sees this regularly. She says psychologists. It’s also adding a care manager who will overits seven psychiatrists frequently must help students who see treatment and work with students who want to extend arrive at school with prescriptions, and now need adjust- treatment beyond their allotted eight free sessions. ments in dosage or different medication. In addition, the Health Center has added two psychiatrists She says much of this is due to changes in how kids are to its existing five. These practitioners don’t provide therapy, raised. “Parents today are much more likely to get mental but work with students who need psychotropic medications.
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has studied the issue for more than a decade. He points to studies in which students report they’re not more stressed, and to the fact that the suicide rate among college students has held steady for the past 30 years, at around 7 per 100,000 annually. In fact, the rate for college students is about half that of people in the same age bracket who aren’t in school; Schwartz says being in college actually reduces suicide risk. Victor Schwartz says even if that’s true, colleges must continue to focus on helping students in distress. “We have to make sure we remember how important it is to give these students the support they need,” he says. “If we want them to do well, as students and as people, colleges have to make sure they get treatment.” These days, Haggard is doing much better. She joined one of the Counseling Center’s therapy groups, where she realized that it’s common for students to worry about measuring up academically. She switched her major to behavioral and community PROVIDING HELP, NO health and plans to become a social MATTER THE CAUSE worker, and she joined the UMD Van Orman and others see the growchapter of Active Minds. She sees a ing use of services as a sign that colprivate therapist in Rockville, takes leges are doing more to find and help antidepressants and relies on coping troubled students. “This is a testastrategies such as running and writment to what colleges are doing,” Van ing in a journal. Orman says. “In many ways, this is a ashli haggard ’15 Even so, she still has hard days, success story.” when everything—school, friends, Because college counseling centers the future—feels overwhelming. are more likely to help those who are “I know this is a long-term process,” she says. “It’s like in real trouble, this creates the perception that the problem is worsening, says University of Rochester clinical psychiatry diabetes or any other chronic disease. It won’t magically Associate Professor Allan Schwartz (no relation to Victor), who disappear. You just have to stay on top of it.” TERP The Health Center also has five psychotherapists, who offer services similar to Counseling Center psychologists. With the additional hires, Maryland has reduced its ratio from one counselor for every 1,608 students to 1 for every 1,423 students. The International Association of Counseling Services recommends that universities maintain a ratio of 1 to 1,500. Maryland is using other strategies to raise awareness and reach students, including widespread screening; training for students, staff and faculty; and involving counselors in dorms, fraternities and other student institutions. This year, the Counseling Center will also expand the number of “mindfulness meditation” groups for students. This approach, which teaches participants to consciously regulate their response to stressful experiences, has been shown to treat conditions including depression and anxiety.
“It’s not the end of the world if you need help. If you have a toothache, you go to a dentist. If your mind hurts, you go to a therapist or a psychiatrist. It’s the same thing. Pain is pain.”
MORE MENTAL HEALTH HELP
Nearly 2,000 UMD students sought treatment at the Counseling Center in the 2013–14 academic year, a 12 percent rise from the previous year. ¶ To improve care, the university is spending $5 million over 10 years to boost its counseling staff. Here’s what the money has funded:
• The Counseling Center added three psychologists, bringing the total to 17. It also added a care manager to oversee all cases and help students once their allotted eight sessions have finished.
• The Health Center hired two new psychiatrists and now has seven. These practitioners don’t provide therapy, but
work with students who need psychotropic medications. The Health Center also has five psychotherapists, who offer services similar to Counseling Center psychologists.
• With the additional hires, Maryland has reduced its ratio from one counselor for every 1,608 students to 1:1,423. The
International Association of Counseling Services recommends universities maintain a ratio of 1:1,500. (The ratio calculations do not include psychiatrists, but do include four Counseling Center interns (doctoral students in psychology) who see clients, with supervision from staff psychologists).
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PHOTO BY GARTH MILAN
D L E E I G F A T E N M A O V H AD 9
OU IN S
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y “IT’S A GREAT SPORT
BUT A LOT OF PAIN. THERE’S NO WAY NOT TO SPILL UNLESS YOU WANT TO RIDE IN LAST PLACE ALL THE TIME. YOU TEACH YOURSELF TO ALMOST IGNORE IT. IF YOU WANT TO BE COMPETITIVE, you’re always on the edge of control. ” Jonathan beasley ’83
Standing in the center of this moto HE IMPROMPTU CITY appears sudcross village is a rugged and long-limbed denly in the Southern Maryland countryman with a shock of gray hair, who’s side, as open fields turn into rows of RVs hawking fliers about track events later and cars with license plates from Florida, this year. At a glance, you wouldn’t know North Carolina, Kentucky, Michigan, the man in a faded, red 2006 Budds Creek New York and New Jersey. T-shirt and cargo shorts is the track’s The midmorning buildup of heat and owner, Jonathan Beasley ’83. humidity doesn’t deter relative latecomers Over several decades, Beasley (far to the 2014 Pro Motocross Championship right, top) has turned this area outside of series at Budds Creek Motocross Race Mechanicsville into one of the country’s Track. After parking on lawns along Route prime spots for thousands of riders and race 234, couples, parents, children and even pregnant women drag lawn chairs, umbrel- fans, regularly hosting national championship races and even the 2007 Motocross des las and coolers. Nobody wears a collar and Nations—the “Olympics of Motocross.” sleeves are an endangered species, with Beasley surveys the crowd ringing the shirts next on the hit list. All are heading valley in the brilliant sunshine. toward the ear-splitting siren call: roaring “This is about perfect,” he says as the motorcycles producing what sounds like engines start to roar. “You can quote me history’s largest swarm of hornets. on that.” To reach the track, they must pass all the accoutrements of 21st-century action sports, a festival fairway dedicated (ALMOST PARADISE) to adrenaline rushes. There are stands A few weeks before race day, Beasley pulls stocked with Red Bull, racing shirts and up to the track in his red, turbocharged souvenirs next to an enormous exhibit for 1988 Porsche 930. The license plate, GoPro cameras. Off to the side, the riders “R1SKY,” nods at the car’s ability to top out camp out before their events, napping on at 210 mph, a limit he has tested. cots or tinkering with their bikes. Muddy More mundane tasks await that day, little rivers crisscross the ground as one however, as he climbs the stairs of a of the ubiquitous tools of motocross—the two-story building that serves as the power washer—cleans the vehicles after track’s office and concession space. Its preliminary runs. porch, which gives VIPs a bird’s-eye view
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of races, needs to be stained before thunderstorms roll in. Beasley also has to pick up trophies and grab an order of fried chicken from the Chaptico Market, where he usually proposes to the 80-year-old woman who makes the pies. Ed Day, a friend of Beasley, has been coming to the track since it opened in the 1970s. He says the Motocross de Nations—“It was massive. There were more people there than a Maryland football game”—was a symbol of Beasley’s success, the pairing of the local race community’s loyalty with the courting of a bigger and wider fan base. “He’s nationally and internationally known as a race promoter,” Day says. “He just had the vision and foresight to stick with it.” Budds Creek is at the comely midpoint between Maryland’s mountains in the west and the beaches in the east. If the state is truly “America in Miniature,” St. Mary’s County is probably its closest descendant of the antebellum South. Lush farms with houses labeled “Manor” lie not far from an independent gas station that sells cases of Budweiser and has a Port-O-John for its public restroom. Beasley says it’s jokingly referred to as the “Redneck Riviera,” and the locals take care to introduce themselves using all three of their given names.
PHOTO BY RYNE SWANBERG
Beasley was the first in his family in 200 years born outside of Tennessee. As the story goes, his father, who died when Beasley was 9, got lost while duck hunting in Calvert County. While asking for directions in Leonardtown, the nascent dentist noticed his only other prospective competition in the area was an octogenarian orthodontist. In the 1960s, the family bought the land, once an Amish dairy farm, for hunting—about 20 deer were standing on it the first time they drove by. In the early 1970s, a local track run by naval officers was closed, and they helped the family start their own. Beasley, who grew up in the property’s 1940s-era farmhouse, was involved from the start. Every day after school, he and his brother rode their bikes on the Budds Creek course and even at 13 years old, he would hop on a bulldozer and help maintain the track. He didn’t stop when he got to the University of Maryland, where he majored in marketing and put what he learned into practice. Running a racetrack and going to college didn’t always mesh. Once, to leave College Park for a race, he told a professor he was needed back home because an uncle had fallen off a barn and couldn’t hang tobacco. “I had five rows of calluses, so I could pull it off,” he says.
Beasley has lived an itinerant life, although he says, “‘degenerate’ is more the proper word.” He hitchhiked across the country for the first time at age 15, with his Boy Scout equipment, to catch a dirt bike race in San Diego. Later, the seasonal nature of the business let him be a bartender in South Beach, Key West, Aspen and Ocean City. “I had a good time,” he says. “That’s what life is about.” Racing was always there, though. He has a brusque assessment of his own skill as a competitive rider—“I stunk”—but was addicted to the adrenaline.
JONATHAN BEASLEY PHOTO BY RYNE SWANBERG / CROWD PHOTO BY FERRELL MCCOLLOUGH
“It’s a great sport but a lot of pain. There’s no way not to spill unless you want to ride in last place all the time,” he says. “You teach yourself to almost ignore it. If you want to be competitive, you’re always on the edge of control.” Another constant is Southern Maryland. “Jon used to own Leonardtown,” says longtime friend Ernie Pfeiff of the man’s social prowess, and it appears that he still does. Beasley can’t go far without chatting up an acquaintance in a parking lot or waving to friends as he drives through town. A history buff, he delights in Civil War trivia, likes dropping in on the local historical society and eagerly points out the churchyard with graves of two members of the “Maryland 400,” soldiers who bravely held off the British at the Battle of Brooklyn in 1776. Last year, Beasley helped get a local elementary school named after his childhood idol, Capt. Walter Francis Duke, what he calls “probably the best accomplishment of my life.” A Leonardtown native, Duke was an ace combat pilot in World War II who signed up with the Canadian Air Force before America entered the war and was later shot down over Burma. “Only need a couple mountains,” he says of his hometown, “and it would be paradise.”
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(THE HARDEST SPORT) Breaking into the mix of country, electronic dance music and rap pounding over the loudspeakers on race day, Tim Cotter, the event director, welcomes the more than 18,000 spectators to “these hallowed grounds.” “If you can’t have fun racing at Budds Creek,” he says, channeling the thoughts in the muddy helmets below, “you better get up and do something else.” Inside the track offices, the walls are covered with posters, jerseys and articles. Beasley talks about riders with none of the creeping cynicism he occasionally throws at corporate forces at work in the business. One of his favorites was Doug Henry, who during a race at Budds Creek in 1995 launched himself far too high into the air, crashed in spectacular fashion and broke his back. A few years later, with a titanium cage around part of his spine, Henry came back and won. The hill where he wiped out is now called Henry Hill, and is where Beasley married his wife, Kimberleigh Mitchell ’89, M.S. ’99. When asked why a rider would come back and risk another near-fatal crash— Henry actually was partially paralyzed in a 2007 wreck on a different course before returning to racing yet again—Beasley
says, “They’ve spent their whole lives to get to that point.” Injuries are the part of motocross that Beasley hates. During his senior year at Maryland, he considered walking away after witnessing one of the two fatalities to ever happen at Budds Creek, becoming so rattled he even took the Officer Candidate School exam. But he couldn’t stay away from what he calls the hardest sport in the world.
(BACKYARD HEROES) For Beasley, race day is a tug-of-war between sports fan and track owner, as the love and admiration he has for motocross bubbles up amidst his more banal duties. Men with headsets walk back and forth on the newly stained porch, barking race updates to pit crews. Beasley stands with family and friends as the pack roars from the starting line into a brown cloud and then unwinds like a snake into contenders and pretenders. Beasley points out one racer as the rider barrels down Henry Hill. “I’ve never seen anyone take it that fast,” he says. No matter how many dips, turns and hills are thrown up along the dirt ring, there
isn’t a bad vantage point at Budds Creek. In a little valley where only the elevation for tunnels is artificial, most spectators aren’t even provided stands; they simply find a place on a hill and watch the motorcycles roar by close enough to get sprayed with dirt. The races, or “motos,” last for 30 minutes plus two laps. Competitors push their bikes to the limit, picking their lines in the soil, ducking into turns and flying over mounds, looking for the chance to sneak past the man in front. Winding through the crowd, Beasley stops at trash can after trash can to tie up bags full of beer cans and discarded food, all the time preternaturally aware of who is leading the race and where the exciting battles are taking place. So the day goes, as spectators smile and laugh and cheer at the riders shimmying for hours just to the brink of losing control and back again, dirt spurting up in their wake as they roar into the next turn. Beasley says over the din: “It’s pretty wild seeing your heroes in your back yard.” TERP
F See more great photos of Budds Creek at terp.umd.edu.
“IF YOU CAN’T HAVE
FUN RACING AT Budds Creek, YOU BETTER GET UP & DO SOMETHING ELSE.” Tim Cotter
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PHOTO BY RYNE SWANBERG
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