The Week: What Caught Our Eye

February 29, 2020

Mary and Rich Templeton on a stage announcing their gift to Union CollegeINDOMITABLE: The ocean wave hit Mary Haanen Templeton during a beach vacation in 2013. It slammed her to the ground. She was instantly paralyzed from the waist down. The Queensbury native told her story in an inspirational commencement speech that CNN called the “one graduation speech you should watch.” Mary and her husband, Richard, the CEO of Texas Instruments, made another speech last week, at place they know well: Union College in Schenectady, where they met in the old chapel 40 years ago. They announced a $51-million gift, the largest in Union’s history, launching, appropriately, “The Campaign for Multiple Tomorrows.”

MOVE OVER, JIMMY FALLON: The College of Saint Rose is widely admired for its academic programs in music, beautiful performance spaces, even its own record label. Now, it has a coast-to-coast star, too: Singer/songwriter Julia Gargano took the country by storm Sunday night with a dazzling performance (you have to watch!) of her soulful original “Growing Pains” on American Idol. Judge Katy Perry awarded her with a big hug and wrote:
 “Is … anyone … else … falling … in … love … with … @Julia_Gargano’s … voice … right … now?” Now, Julia is headed to Hollywood.

ONE STRANGE BATTLE: The hero of this story hails from tiny Norwich, N.Y. In the waning hours of World War II, he led American and German soldiers to fight side by side – the only time that happened – in one of the last great combat actions of the war. The scene: A mountain castle home, detention for a group of combative French VIPs, including former prime ministers, generals and a tennis star.

BIG PAPIBILIA: Big Papi’s having a garage sale. Today, you can pick up an autographed Big Papi bobblehead in its original box, a Big Papi hoverboard or a Red Sox World Series Champions table commemorating the wins in 2004, 2007 and 2013. How about a mock scoreboard for the living room? Or an asparagus rug? David Ortiz has those too.

THE WAR BEFORE OUR EYES: Since 1999, more than 700,000 people in the United States have died from a drug overdose. In Tennessee, overdoses have become so common, schools are teaching 6-year-olds how to administer Narcan. Now, a father who lost two sons recounts his fight to save his kids and what he learned about fighting addiction.

WHO OWNS THE PHANATIC? The Philadelphia Phillies’ Phanatic made its debut in 1978, the brainchild of an executive who wanted to attract more young fans. It worked: Marketers across the country realized that similar characters could be much more than a distraction during the lulls of a game. Now, the New York design firm that created the mascot wants a piece of the Phanatic. Can a Phanatic become a free agent?

LISTEN UP: The Pittsburgh Pirates have a new president and he’s seeking advice from an unusual source: the fans. “I think the most important thing we can do as an organization is listen.”

U SELLING, I BUYING: Fintech – financial technology firms – are disrupting banking and insurance. Now, it’s real estate’s turn. Internet buying services known as I-Buyers view homes online and make sellers an almost instant offer over the Internet. Sometimes closings happen within a week. Then the I-buyers fix ’em and flip ’em.

LABS AS LIBERATORS: They put the puppies in prison in 1997. It was intentional: Five Labradors in the maximum-security Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women in Westchester County. Ten female inmates nurtured and trained the puppies to be future working dogs. Now, Puppies Behind Bars instructors teach in six correctional facilities in New York and New Jersey, with approximately 140 prison inmates participating as “puppy raisers.’’  Many of the pups have gone on to public service careers, sniffing out bombs or helping first responders with PTSD.

Photo of Braeden with his mom, dad and sister on a baseball field during practice, with Mets players in the backgroundBraeden (far right) and his family on the field with the Mets (Make-A-Wish Northeast New York)


JUST AMAZIN’: Braeden is 14, a Capital District kid, a pitcher and first baseman who suffers from cystic fibrosis and wanted to meet his favorite baseball team, the New York Mets. Braeden especially wanted to talk to his favorite player, first baseman and rising superstar Pete Alonso, who set the team and Major League rookie records for home runs in 2019. The Mets and Make-A-Wish of Northeast New York teamed up. That’s why on Sunday night, we saw Braeden’s family in the best seats in the house, Braeden chatting up Michael Conforto, Jacob deGrom, Jeff McNeil and former Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow, and Braeden in full Mets’ uniform bringing out the lineup card to home plate before the game against the St. Louis Cardinals. Hat tip to Mark McGuire of Make-A-Wish, a former local journalist with a heart as big as Citi Field, for helping to make it happen. 

SON OF THE CRICK: Dan O’Keeffe was an obstetrician/gynecologist who delivered 10,000 babies, but that is only the start of what he accomplished in 98 1/2 years. This devoted son of the Adirondack hamlet of North Creek (“The Crick,” as natives like to say) was the president of the State Medical Society, the official gynecologist at the 1980 Winter Olympics, author of four books, a philanthropist, a one-time soda jerk, the father of three physicians, and, in his 80s, the Senior Olympic U.S. National Champion in tennis.

SEVEN DECADES A CHAMPION: As a teenager, she won more than 100 speedskating titles and seven North American, national and U.S. open short track championships. In 1961, she became the youngest woman at the time to win the New York State Women’s Amateur Golf Championship. Then she put her golf career on hold to raise children and run the family business. When she came back 42 years later, Gail Purdy Brophy won the New York State Super Senior state championship and Northeastern Women's Golf Association championships. The Glens Falls native and Saratoga Springs businesswoman was 77.

A LIFE IN LETTERS: Dr. Roger J. Malebranche arrived in the United States in 1961, an African-American who became chief of surgery at St. Clare's Hospital in Schenectady. He was a passionate reader, thinker and collector. And a man of ideas. Over a 30-year period, he wrote as many as 100 letters to the editor of Schenectady’s Daily Gazette. He left one unfinished. The Gazette’s gifted storyteller Jeff Wilkin picked up the story from there.

THE OLD COUPLE: It’s Neil Simon’s three-act comedy about couples, one blissfully happy, one deeply unhappy, one old friends with potential benefits. Three different couples, three relationship studies, funny, heart-piercing and resonant. And who better to play the roles than an old married couple like Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick?

ONE HOSPITABLE FAMILY: Her mom was a housekeeper at The Breakers in Palm Beach, and she and her eight siblings followed her path into hospitality.  One brother runs the yacht club in Palm Beach, another the Trump National golf club near Charlotte. Now, Gina Mintzer, the former director of sales for the Albany County Convention and Visitors Bureau, is helping Lake George create a year-round season.

SHOVELING OFF TO BUFFALO: What New York place is synonymous with snow? What better place to shoot a wintry movie?  How Hollywood got buffaloed.

MEN ARE FROM MARS: A five-hour prison standoff in Ireland ends with only minor injuries on a sweet note.


THE FOREIGN LANGUAGE OF BUSINESS: Shall we have a touchbase to sync up and see if you have the bandwidth to operationalize this?

YOUR INNER LEADER: Leaders usually rise in organizations based on deep expertise and demonstrated success. They are consummate tacticians who get things done. But the interpersonal skills, the essential soft skills they need as they move into the senior ranks, are different. How to develop vision? How to inspire collaboration and innovation? How to empower and inspire?

WHISTLING IN MORIAH: Moriah, N.Y., deep in the heart of the Adirondacks, was once known for iron ore mining and a steel mill, but the mines closed a century ago and the steel mill is long gone, too, and now the community is digging deep to reinvent itself. It’s home to a company that makes electrical housings for airplanes and U.S. Army tanks. It’s home to a test by Stewart’s Shops into whether a broader line of fresh produce, seafood and beef would sell in convenience stores. And soon it will be home to a WhistlePig plant. A what?

NO PLANKS: A 62-year-old former Marine and DEA agent holds a plank in position for longer than most people work — eight hours, 15 minutes and 15 seconds – setting a world record and then capping it off with 75 pushups. Oorah!


March is the month God created to show people who don't drink what a hangover is like.

— Garrison Keillor


A FACE FOR RADIO: Some TV reporters now use their iPhones to broadcast field reports. That can lead to image problems.

PLEASE SHARE: Feel free to pass this along to your friends and colleagues.

THANK YOU to our contributors: John Brodt, Bill Richmond, Bill Callen, Lisa Fenwick, Colleen Potter, Tina Suhocki, Tara Hutchins, Matt Behan and Claire P. Tuttle.

FACING OUT is what we do. We help companies, organizations and individuals work effectively with their most important external audiences – their customers, their shareholders, their communities, the government and the news media.

Facing Out features news and other nuggets that caught our eye, and that we thought might be of value to you, our friends and business associates. Some items are good news about our clients and friends, others are stories that we hope will leave you a bit more informed or entertained than you were five minutes ago. As always, we welcome your ideas and feedback. 

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