The Power of One

every-person-can-make-a-difference

by Terri Carroll ‘88

BGSU faculty and staff embrace their role in preparing students for meaningful futures. They are accessible, willing to share their time and knowledge, and eager to work in partnership with students. Faculty and staff challenge students with tough questions, open doors to internship and international opportunities, and guide them through research and publishing processes. Sometimes it is simply a helping hand or sympathetic ear that makes a difference for students.

For each life touched, more possibilities unfold as that student goes on to make a difference for families, communities and organizations throughout the world with the Power of One.

“The power of one exemplified.”

“I often wonder how different my life would be if I didn’t have the good fortune of having Dr. Neil Browne as a teacher,” said BGSU Board of Trustees member David Levey ’71, retired executive vice president of Forest City Enterprises Inc., an $8 billion, publicly traded real estate firm based in Cleveland.

M. Neil Browne, Ph.D., J.D., is a Distinguished Teaching Professor Emeritus in Economics.

In 1968, Levey walked into Browne’s economics class without any idea that his life was about to change. He remembers being in class and trotting out one of the popular phrases of the time, “power to the people.”

“Neil just pounced on that,” said Levey. “He asked me ‘which people, what power?’ It really wasn’t a very thoughtful statement, and his response challenged my whole thought process, which was fuzzy and unclear.”

From there, Levey said he began a transformation from a good student to a great learner. Browne taught him to ask questions, analyze data, check sources, justify decisions and seek challenges.

“He taught me so much more than the subject matter,” Levey said. “We discussed art and literature, current events and history, culture and society. I didn’t know it at the time, but this foundation of critical thinking and liberal arts became the heart of my future success.”

One of Levey’s great joys in life was returning to campus as a University Trustee 37 years after his graduation to find that Browne had continued to hone his craft in undergraduate teaching.

“Neil is so accomplished; I assumed he had moved on to other arenas of higher education,” said Levey.

Browne is the co-author of more than 50 books and over 100 research articles in professional journals. One of his books, “Asking the Right Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking,” now in its 11th edition, is a leading text in the field of critical thinking and the most translated book in the world from publisher Prentice Hall. He has won numerous teaching awards at BGSU and nationally, is the director of the University’s Honors Scholars Association, and coaches the Mock Trial Team.

“With Neil’s incredible research and publishing record, he could devote himself solely to these activities,” said Levey. “Fortunately for generations of BGSU students, his true passion is for undergraduate teaching. He is willing to put in any amount of time needed to show a student that he or she can climb higher than they ever thought they could. ”

“It has always been my goal to maximize the benefits of a public university by showing the students the joys and rewards of a rich intellectual existence that are more typically associated with privileged private universities,” said Browne. “Many BGSU students have experienced very little of the world beyond their own families and communities. Challenging class work, Honors Scholars lectures and trips, arts performances, book fairs, Mock Trial tournaments, undergraduate research … nurturing undergraduate students through these experiences makes me feel like maybe it’s been a good thing that I’m alive. I just don’t get that feeling from other areas of academia.”

To celebrate Browne’s passion for undergraduate education, Levey and his wife, Shirley, established the Neil Browne
Endowed Professorship. “Neil is the power of one exemplified,” said Levey. “He has taught hundreds of students each year for 47 years. His impact is immeasurable and humbling. With this professorship, another great teacher will have the inspiration and resources to change lives at BGSU.”

“You can do this.”

When Lakeisha Adamson ’00 attended her BGSU freshman orientation, she quickly found herself overwhelmed.

“I was the first person in my family to go away to college,” she said. “As my mom and I went through the orientation day, I became more convinced that I was in over my head. The classes seemed too difficult, the campus too big, and everything just too expensive.”

She turned to her mom and said, “I can’t do this. It’s too hard and will cost us too much money.”

Before Adamson’s mother could answer, Sidney Childs, Ed.D., assistant vice president for Student Affairs - Access, Diversity and Inclusion Programs, and director of TRIO programs, introduced himself, having overheard their conversation. He was associate director of Student Support Services at the time.

“You can do this. You are going to be fine,” he assured Adamson.

Now, Adamson is principal intern at Damascus High School in the Montgomery County Public School System in Maryland. She credits her success to Childs.

“Without Sidney, my mom and I would have just headed right back home,” said Adamson. “He wasn’t my adviser or anything, he just cares about people and wants them to aim high. He didn’t just say I would be fine, he worked to make sure that I was.”

Childs led Adamson through the financial aid process, connected her with resources throughout campus to adjust to college, and found social organizations that would expand her horizons. When she struggled during her first semester, he made sure she received tutoring and pushed her to stay focused and motivated.

His help didn’t end there. “Sidney was always challenging me to be my best. He was compassionate, but demanding, asking me what my purpose was,” said Adamson. “Following his example, I earned two master’s degrees and gained the skills, credentials and compassion needed to support and guide my own students to success in the most diverse public school system in Maryland.”

Adamson is one of the many students who found their path at BGSU with help from Childs and the TRIO programs. Funded by the U.S. Department of Education, TRIO focuses on first-generation, low-income students as well as students with disabilities. It comprises four programs: Upward Bound, which sends mentors and tutors into secondary schools to increase the rate of completion and prepare students to enter and graduate from college; Educational Talent Search, which identifies and aids middle and secondary students with academic, career and financial counseling; Student Support Services, a learning community for undergraduate college students providing holistic advising, tutoring and financial aid; and the Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Scholars Program which encourages students to pursue graduate studies.

“This work isn’t just a job, it’s my passion, my mission, my calling,” said Childs. “A number of people helped me achieve a quality education, and it is my responsibility to share that gift. Often, underrepresented and first-generation students don’t have the resources to navigate the world of higher education – they can feel very lonely and overwhelmed. Every story like Lakeisha’s and the incredible work she does for her own students strengthens my resolve to ensure a valuable and quality experience for each BGSU student.”

“The best teacher I ever had.”

Born and raised in Tiffin, Ohio, Sheila Spradlin Reich ’87 came to Bowling Green determined to pursue a career in international business.

“I had never even been on a plane before, but I knew I wanted to see the world,” she said.

Spradlin Reich was in the first class of students taught by Akiko Jones at BGSU. Jones has now taught at BGSU for 31 years and is the director of the Asian Studies Program.

“Hands-down, Akiko was the best teacher I ever had,” said Spradlin Reich. “Frankly, I was just taking the class because I wanted a job. Japanese investment was growing in the Midwest at the time, so I simply wanted to learn to speak Japanese for my future career.”

Instead, Jones brought Japanese culture to life for Spradlin Reich and her classmates, and Spradlin Reich studied with Jones for three years. During her senior year, Spradlin Reich finally took her first plane trip when she traveled to Japan to complete an internship Jones arranged for her.

Now, Spradlin Reich is managing director of international banking at Huntington National Bank. She is expanding Huntington’s international reach and participates in frequent economic trade missions to drive global trade and foreign investment in the Midwest, thereby improving the lives of countless families and communities.

“That first internship set the course for my career,” said Spradlin Reich. “I never would have risen through the ranks of international banking without the foundation provided by Akiko.”

Part of the magic of Jones’s teaching is that she engages students far beyond the classroom. Each semester she invites members of the Japanese Club, which she founded, to her home for traditional Japanese meals, and students accompany her on month-long summer trips to Japan. She is also part of the Peace Studies Program and has taken students in that program to Hiroshima every other year since 2006. Her efforts also reach beyond the campus community as she promotes business connections between the United States and her native country.

Jones was recognized with the 2013 Teacher of the Year award in the post-secondary category by the American Association of Teachers of Japanese.

In addition to the thousands of students she has taught at BGSU, Jones has further expanded her reach with the recently established Akiko Kawano Jones Study Abroad Scholarship to enable students to study in Japan. She and her husband, Dr. Eric Jones, a retired faculty member from the College of Education and Human Development, had previously established the Marguerite and J. Charles Jones Memorial Teacher Education Scholarship, in 2007.

“Part of the family.”

It is a rare day when Lee Meserve, Ph.D., Distinguished Teaching Professor of Biological Sciences, isn’t seen somewhere on the BGSU campus proudly sporting his orange and brown. Whether that is in the classroom, where he has taught for 41 years, at one of the numerous sporting events he faithfully attends with his wife, Marge, or treating a student to coffee in the Union while providing advice about applying to medical school. Meserve is always present, always engaged, and always willing to go the extra mile to make a difference for students.

Meserve’s sincere and genuine interest in helping students achieve their dreams is what convinced Tom Shehab ’90, M.D., M.M.M., F.A.C.P.E., that BGSU was the right choice for him.

“I was a football player and being recruited by a number of schools to play, but my main concern was making sure I could graduate from college and attend medical school,” he said. “So, the Bowling Green coach took me to see Lee in the biology building.”

Shehab remembers Meserve at the time as “… a mountain man of a guy with a big beard and dressed in a flannel shirt.”
The two spent most of the morning together, and Shehab was convinced that Meserve really cared about his dream of becoming a doctor and that both Meserve and Coach Moe Ankney would do everything they could to help him.

Shehab became a physician and also earned a master’s degree in medical management from Carnegie Mellon University. He spent 12 years as a practicing physician specializing in gastroenterology. He was involved in a number of entrepreneurial health-care-related ventures and held multiple physician-executive roles. Most recently, Dr. Shehab served as chief of staff for more than 1,000 physicians at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor and as the chair of medicine for Integrated Health Associates, a multi-specialty group consisting of more than 300 providers.

Shehab is currently a principal at Arboretum Ventures, a health-care-focused venture capital firm investing in medical devices, diagnostics, health care information technology, and health care services with a goal of reducing health care costs and improving patient outcomes. The potential for the lives changed by his work is immense, and Shehab credits Meserve for his progress. Shehab describes Meserve as the type of leader who produces the next generation of leaders, thereby exponentially changing lives.

“Other than my dad, Lee is one of the most important mentors I ever had,” he said. “His presence is a defining measure in my life, and not just at BGSU. He and Marge attended our wedding and are part of our family.”

“I love working with college students as they have continued to make me think for the last 41 years that I am 29 years old, like I was in the fall of 1973 when I arrived at BGSU,” said Meserve, who has received every teaching honor awarded by BGSU. “I recall several times in my own educational pathway when I questioned my direction in life, and there were faculty and staff members who helped me answer those questions. It has always been a pleasure serving in that helping role myself. Marge and I go to weddings, receive announcements of births, and are welcomed into homes across the country because of the students who have touched, and continue to touch, our lives.”

If Meserve’s influence wasn’t already extraordinary, consider the additional financial support he and Marge provide to BGSU students. They are inaugural Champions Circle donors, annually contributing the equivalent of one year’s tuition and fees to help an individual student-athlete year after year. They have endowed the Meserve Scholarship, given to the senior male and female student-athletes of the year. In 2013, the couple made a transformational $1 million gift that touches future generations of student-athletes, the Department of Biological Sciences and the Meserve Softball Field.

The power continues

In the fall, as BGSU welcomed the Class of 2018, a young scholar attended Neil Browne’s weekly Honors Scholars lecture and was elated to find an intellectual home that “… is everything I hoped college would be.” She has started her own academic journey as an undergraduate research assistant for Browne. Sidney Childs is shepherding a student through the graduate school preparation and application process. The determined young man from Detroit never even imagined he could graduate from college until he met Childs. Akiko Jones will be connecting students with interest in expanding their horizons to businesses and opportunities in Japan. Lee Meserve is writing dozens more letters of recommendations for students with dreams of becoming doctors who bring comfort, care and cures to
our world. One person can make a difference, and at BGSU they do.