The Week: What Caught Our Eye

May 21, 2022

A calm lake at dusk with docks in the foreground, lights along the shore, and mountains in the backgroundThey aren’t far off now, those serene summer evenings when Lake George looks like glass. (Sara Mannix)

Dear Colleagues and Friends:

We begin this week with a story of a boy and a baseball card.

It was through some personal struggle that Elyjah, a shy Little Leaguer, Yankees fan and baseball card collector managed to obtain the autograph of his favorite player, DJ LeMahieu, #26, only to lose the cherished card. In this story, as in life, triumph and loss travel together, as do defeat and discovery. It’s a story that challenged our dark cynicism about social media and acquitted our faith in the blessed power of baseball and people, reminding us that there is still so much good in our world, so much generosity of spirit, and it is so much more powerful than the bad. Elyjah Blankenberg knows that now.

DOREMUS BENNERMAN was one of the greatest basketball players ever at Siena College. In 1994, he helped the Saints reach the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden. After they lost to Villanova, Bennerman scored 51 points in a victory over Kansas State in the third-place game. He finished his college career with 2,109 points, second in Siena history only to Marc Brown's 2,284. But he missed a lot of classes in that NIT run and, in 1994, completing his education suddenly seemed less important. The NBA was calling. Twenty-eight years later, he kept a solemn promise.

GOLDEN STATE superstar Stephen Curry also kept a promise. He was one semester short of graduation when he left Davidson University. But he worked closely with current and former professors to complete the requirements for a bachelor’s degree in sociology 13 years after he left to begin a professional career that will take him to the Basketball Hall of Fame. He had promised the school and his parents that he would graduate, which also clears Davidson, which has a policy of retiring only the jerseys of athletes who graduate, to have his No. 30 lifted to the rafters.

REPORTING FROM UKRAINE: Longtime listeners of New York’s excellent North Country Public Radio are familiar with the work of Brian Mann, who spent years reporting in the Adirondacks before moving on to NPR to cover addiction issues and more recently the Olympics in Beijing. Recently, he’s also spent several weeks reporting from Ukraine, taking shelter from incoming rockets and bringing listeners closer to the action through the words of the everyday people he interviewed. He is back in the U.S. for now — scheduled to return to Ukraine in August — and shared his observations and impressions in a gripping conversation with former NCPR colleague David Sommerstein. Mann said he thinks often about the children killed or wounded by indiscriminate Russian bombing. “My job is primarily just to capture the voices of other people talking about it,” Mann said. “But it is different. It's different for a reporter to be in that setting.”

FOR THE BIRDS: You remember the cast: Amy Cooper is the Manhattan woman who called 911 on a birdwatcher in Central Park, complaining there’s an “African-American man threatening my life.’’ Christian Cooper (no relation) is the birder who for years has observed the loons, egrets, falcons and owls of New York and many other species around the world. Since the kerfuffle, Ms. Cooper lost her job with the investment firm Franklin Templeton and was charged by the Manhattan district attorney’s office with filing a false police report. She has sued Franklin Templeton. Conversely, Mr. Cooper’s life has taken flight. It was announced this week that he’ll be hosting a new TV series for National Geographic called “Extraordinary Birder.” 

A man in a suit next to young boy in a red bowtie, with the Make-A-Wish logo and people in holiday outfits at a table behind themWISHING HIM THE BEST: William C. Trigg III was born in St. Louis but made a nearly four-decade career of nonprofit leadership in New York’s Capital Region, first as CEO of the New York State Trooper Foundation and, since 2006, as CEO of Make-A-Wish Northeast New York. The recipient of the 2019 Nonprofit Executive Leadership Award by the Capital Region Chamber, Trigg announced this week that he would step down after a nationwide search for his replacement. “After 16-plus years, it’s time for fresh perspective from the CEO chair,” Trigg said. “My passion for creating life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses will never wane. But I believe the time is right for both myself and the chapter to turn the page.” What a magnificent chapter it has been.

EMPLOYEE LOYALTY: Walter Orthmann retired from RenauxView, a Brazilian textile manufacturer, in 1978 because he had to — after 40 years, he had reached mandatory retirement. But he was so good at his job as a salesman that he was rehired the day after. He’s still on the job at 100, setting a Guinness World Record for longevity at the same company — (subscription required) 84 years and counting, still driving to and from the office each day.

TRACK STAR: Brock Pinkerous has a few years to wait before he can drive the roads around his home in Ellenville, N.Y., so for now he’ll just have to be content driving 2,400-pound open-wheel racecars on the dirt tracks of the Northeast. At 12, he just became the youngest person ever to win a feature event at the Albany-Saratoga Speedway. “I know I’m lucky,” he told Albany Times Union racing columnist Robin Yasinsac Gillespie. “No other 12-year-old is doing this.”

FAST TIMES: A high school student from Pennsylvania this week broke a track and field record that has stood for 57 years. Gary Martin, a senior at Archbishop Wood High School, is headed to the University of Virginia next year with Olympic dreams. He will finish high school as the holder of a remarkable record: A mile in 3:57:98.

HAIRY SITUATION: An employment tribunal in the United Kingdom ruled that calling a male colleague “bald” is impermissible sexual harassment. An electrician for a small family business sued for unfair dismissal and sexual harassment after, he alleged, a colleague called him a “fat bald c---.” The three-member panel, all men, also upheld the complainant’s claim for unfair dismissal.

Two gray, weathered barns in a field under cloudy skiesThis hillside in Buskirk on the border of Rensselaer and Washington counties may look quiet, but just beneath the surface the grass is planning an uprising. (John Bulmer)

FREE FITNESS: Planet Fitness has launched a brilliant new initiative to keep teenagers active and their gyms full during the traditional summer lag time for indoor fitness centers — free summer memberships for everyone between 14 and 19, through August 31. The company also will select one participant from each state for a $500 scholarship, with a chance to win a grand prize of a $5,000 scholarship.

MOOSE ON THE LOOSE: A moose that was spotted several times recently in and around downtown Schenectady, N.Y., and even received a police escort to a wooded reserve, was safely sedated and relocated to the Southern Adirondacks this week. The moose, a female, was tracked to a residential backyard, where it was immobilized for transport.

SOCCER EQUALITY: The U.S. Soccer Federation announced this week that members of the U.S. men’s and women’s national soccer teams would be paid equally as part of a collective bargaining agreement through 2028. Pay equality had become a major issue in recent years, with members of the men’s team earning more than the members of the far more successful women’s team. The federation said the two collective bargaining agreements – one for each team – have “identical economic terms” that include equal pay for all competitions, including the World Cup.

NOT HAPPY AT HOME? If corporations have rights and the environment merits legal protection, do animals have bodily liberty rights meriting legal protection? Lawyers for Happy argue that the 51-year-old Asian elephant is being held against her will in the Bronx Zoo, her home since 1977, and should be released to a spacious sanctuary in California.

LEFTY’S HARD FALL: Phil Mickelson seemingly had it all. Among the most popular players for two decades on the PGA Tour despite laboring in the considerable shadow of Tiger Woods, he won his sixth major championship last year at the age of 50, but in the months that followed, his comments and online behavior became more combative and controversial until it all unraveled in the wake of a remark he made to author Alan Shipnuck about Mickelson’s flirtation with a rival tour backed by Saudi Arabia. The blowback was such that Mickelson has not spoken publicly or played in a tour event since February, skipping The Masters and declining this week to defend his PGA Championship. Mickelson’s charm had helped him escape prior PR jams over tawdry financial dealings, but as ESPN’s Mark Schlabach and Kevin Van Valkenburg write, “This time seems different … for some fellow competitors and golf fans. This seems to be a hole that even one of golf's greatest escape artists can't climb out of.”

BEST GRADUATION GIFT: Snapchat co-founder Evan Spiegel and his wife, Miranda Kerr, founder of the beauty company Kora, surprised the 285 graduates of Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles by paying off the student debt of the entire class. Otis said the donation is the largest in the school’s century-long history. Spiegel, whose creation of Snapchat with two Stanford classmates made him the world’s youngest billionaire in 2015, took summer classes at Otis while in high school and told the graduating class, some of whom had $70,000 or more in debt, that his experience at Otis “changed my life and made me feel at home.” Meanwhile, graduates at historically black Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, learned at commencement that an anonymous donor had paid off the entire balance owed by the Class of 2022 – all tuition, fees, and room and board.

LIVES

KEN SCREVEN had a trademark look. He’d peer over his glasses in a way that said he was skeptical, he was friendly, and he was in on the joke. It was a skill that helped him get interview subjects to open up. But it was his booming voice that most remember – a voice heard nightly on Capital Region television news and heard raised in outrage in his retirement as he fought racism and hate. The first Black reporter on Capital Region television was 71.

ROSMARIE TRAPP was never seen on the big screen, though she was as much a member of the singing family made famous by the “The Sound of Music” as Baron Georg Johannes von Trapp and Maria Augusta (Kutschera) von Trapp. Their last surviving daughter was almost 10 when the family fled Austria in 1938 after that country came under Nazi rule. Rosmarie, who dropped the “von” years ago, did travel and perform with the Trapp Family Singers and was a presence at the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vt., where she would hold singalongs for the guests. She was 93.

JACK CAKEBREAD was an auto mechanic and photographer who, returning from a shoot one day, stopped to visit friends on a farm in Rutherford, California. If they ever wanted to sell, he told them he’d buy the place. They did, and he did, and with help from his neighbor up the road, Robert Mondavi, Jack and his wife Dolores built one of America’s most respected wineries. It was not an overnight success. Jack still worked as an auto mechanic for years. “Every day something new comes up, aerial imaging, etc.,” he told The Santa Rosa Press Democrat in 2004, “but the only way you really know is to leave footprints in the vineyard. Not tire tracks. Footprints.” He was 92.

JOHN CANLEY was 15 when he used his older brother’s ID to enlist in the Marines. When his commanding officer in Vietnam was severely wounded, Sergeant Major Canley led the 150-man Alpha Company, First Battalion, First Marine Regiment, in three days of counterattacks against North Vietnamese positions, saving the lives of 20 fellow Marines. Fifty years later, he became the first living Black Marine to be awarded the Medal of Honor. He was 84.

ALMOST FINAL WORDS

 “After all, the wool from the black sheep is just as warm.”
—Sister Margaretta, The Sound of Music.                                          

THE SIGNOFF

WHY NOT US? The parents of a 35-year-old Indian man are suing him and his 31-year-old wife for about $643,000 in damages for failure to give them grandchildren after six years of marriage. “They see people in their neighborhood playing with their grandchildren and feel like they should also have one,” the parents’ lawyer told CNN.

THANK YOU to our contributors: Bill Callen, Bill Richmond, Claire P. Tuttle, Sara Mannix, John Bulmer, John Brodt, Lisa Fenwick, Tina Suhocki, Tara Hutchins, Kelly Donahue, and Katie Alessi.

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.  www.behancommunications.com

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.  

Let’s make it a conversationmark.behan@behancom.com

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