WILDCATS TO WATCH

Photography by Julie Fletcher

Every generation seems hopeful that the next generation will manage to create a more just and caring society and will solve all the problems that we — and the generations before us — have left unsolved or made worse. That’s why recently, Winter Park Magazine asked administrators and teachers at Winter Park High School to identify some “Wildcats to Watch.” We didn’t necessarily want the star athlete or the valedictorian — although either would have been fine. We just wanted a diverse sampling of students who were talented, engaged, positive, hardworking and a joy to teach. There were many more submissions than we had space to recognize. So the six students in this sampling, while impressive, are far from the only Wildcats to Watch. Winter Park High School, as it has always been, is packed with outstanding (and sometimes quirky) kids of the sort who’ll ensure that the world will, someday, be a better place. Most of the students profiled were seniors at press time and will have just graduated when this issue of Winter Park Magazine publishes.

Mya Bell

Class of 2022

Mya Bell was the outreach officer for the school’s Gay-Straight Alliance chapter (called Prisms) as well as a member of the band and orchestra (she played clarinet), the National Math Honor Society and the National Science Honor Society. In the community, Mya was a STEM tutor at Brookshire Elementary School and a needs-drive coordinator for the Zebra Coalition, a nonprofit organization that provides social services for LGBTQ+ youth in Central Florida. A dancer, Mya was also an ambassador for Travel Tutus, a Kissimmee-based nonprofit that provides dancewear and accessories to underserved children. If all that weren’t enough, she’s also a multimedia artist who makes jewelry. Mya says she plans to earn a Ph.D. and to pursue a STEM career. Whatever she does, she’ll always strive to “educate people and further equal rights for those who are treated as ‘lesser than’ because of their identities.” Her nominating teacher described her as “a brilliant young woman [with] a big heart.” This fall, she’s off to the University of Florida, where she’ll major in chemistry.

May Dao

Class of 2023

An artist, a writer and a musician, there isn’t much that May Dao doesn’t do well. She paints beautifully — often vividly colored self-portraits — and plays viola in the school’s orchestra. She’s also a member of the Creative Writing Club, but says she foresees a career as an art director for films. “I want to create experiences that give the audience something to take away,” says May. “My favorite films are the kind that change me.” May adds that she admires anyone who makes a living from their artistic pursuits: “They remind me that my goals are never out of reach, as intimidating as they may be.” At least they aren’t out of reach for May, says her nominating teacher: “This student is going places. Her thought process, ideas and interpretation of the world around her are like none I’ve ever seen.” In 2021, as a cut-paper artist, May won first place in the student division, mixed media category, at the Maitland Rotary Art Festival. 

Ethan Garrepy

Class of 2022

Ethan Garrepy was “the top student in the performing arts department,” says his nominating teacher. He sang in all the school’s choirs — including Naughty Scotty, the super-selective men’s a cappella group — and his makeup designs for Rocky Horror Picture Show won first place at the 2021 District V Thespian Festival. Last Halloween, he created an immersive haunted house experience and an accompanying film festival (that featured one of his own films, a slickly produced short horror spoof entitled The Wildcat Killer) while simultaneously performing a lead role in Damn Yankees. Ethan — whose passion is LGBTQ+ rights — has been nominated for three Applause Awards, presented by Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. He was also an intern for Central Florida Vocal Arts, a nonprofit music advocacy organization and sister organization to Opera del Sol. “Ethan is fun and charming and humble but he knows what he wants,” adds his nominating teacher. “That’s a great combination for a youngster with a very bright future.” This fall, he’s off to the University of Florida, where he’ll major in musical theater.

Rylee Perrault

Class of 2022

You may have seen Rylee Perrault on stage in a Central Florida Community Arts production. In fact, she describes Leah Porrata, senior director of education and youth programs at CFCArts, as her role model: “I admire her drive to positively impact the lives of everyone around her.” Rylee was also a member of Beta Club (for which she organized a schoolwide blood drive), the Thespian Honor Society and the National Honor Society. And she was part of the Park Singers, the school’s elite vocal jazz ensemble, as well as a volunteer for Army of Angels, where she has done everything from bagging rice to packing boxes and making deliveries. She graduated with 51 credits (24 are required) and says she might like to become a physician’s assistant — but adds that whatever career she chooses, “I’ll be having fun and helping people.” Says her nominating teacher: “Rylee is an awesome part of our school and I think she deserves recognition for her work around campus.” This fall, she’s off to the University of Florida, where she’ll major in biological sciences.

Grace Peters

Class of 2022

Grace Peters, in addition to playing on the school’s varsity lacrosse team, maintained a 4.0 grade point average and participated in almost too many extracurricular activities to list. But we’ll try. She was a representative on the Student Government Association in addition to being a member of Beta Club, the Psychology Club, the UNICEF Club, the Sports Analytics Club, Women in STEM and, not unexpectedly, the National Honor Society. She has also been a volunteer with Special Olympics Florida and headed a holiday food drive for Army of Angels, an Orlando-based nonprofit that gathers and delivers necessities to students and their families who are undergoing hardships. During the pandemic, she started her own nonprofit, Students Supporting Senior Citizens, for which Grace and her team of volunteers delivered cards and flower arrangements to senior care facilities. She has also been a greeter at the Winter Park History Museum and is a graduate of the Youth Leaders program of the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce. This fall, she’s off to the University of Florida, where she’ll major in business.

Thanapa (Tammy) Premchan

Class of 2022

Tammy Premchan, who was president of the school’s Asian American Association, is an aspiring film director who hopes to use the medium to promote social justice causes. “I love the idea of producing an entertaining project and at the same time advocating for things that I believe in, she says. In fact, she’s already doing just that. Last year, Tammy and her friend Katie Smith took second place in C-SPAN’s annual StudentCam competition for a short documentary, Assembly Required: The Building Blocks of Our Future, about getting young people involved in the political process. Tammy most admires her mentor, Michele Washington Gerber, who teaches video film production at the school: “She taught me life lessons every day. And since we’re both women of color in the film business, her life experiences are valuable for me.” Tammy  was also a member of Beta Club, the Principal’s Advisory Council, the Math Honor Society and the National Honor Society. Plus she’s a classically trained violinist and plays guitar for relaxation. This fall, she’s off to the University of Southern California where she’ll major in film studies.

 

THE INFLUENTIALS 2022

It’s time again to recognize Winter Park Magazine’s Most Influential People. The program, in its seventh year, recognizes those who — sometimes quietly — make a difference through their professions, their volunteerism, their philanthropy, their talents or their community engagement. The selectees are presented in the summer issue and celebrated at a big event at the Alfond Inn, which was canceled the past two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It is tentatively scheduled for September 23 at the Alfond Inn and will celebrate the Classes of 2020, 2021 and 2022. On the following pages, please meet the Class of 2022 — which is every bit as deep and impressive as previous classes and, as always, includes some people you may not know as well as some longtime community icons. They come from all walks of life but share a love for Winter Park — and a desire to keep it as special as the founding visionaries intended.

INFLUENTIALS FROM 2015-2021

Sir David Adjaye, Roy Alan and Heather Alexander, Phil Anderson, Richard O. “Rick” Baldwin, Jim Barnes, Dan Bellows, Sabrina Bernat, Justin Birmele, Anna Bond, Rita Bornstein, Jill Hamilton Buss, Jeffrey Blydenburgh, Lauren Bradley, Daniel Butts, Michael Carolan, Sid Cash, Charles Clayton III, Billy Collins, Grant and Peg Cornwell, Linda Costa, Julian Chambliss, Patrick Chapin, Judy Charuhas, Carolyn Cooper, Chris Cortez, Deborah Crown, Jere F. Daniels Jr., Mary Daniels, Robynn Demar, Mary Demetree, Tom Dyer, Betsy Gardner Eckbert, Jeff Eisenbarth, Dykes Everett, Andrea Massey-Farrell, Carolyn Fennell, Bill Finfrock, Allen Finfrock, Meg Fitzgerald, Sue Foreman, Scot and Christine Madrid French, Shawn Garvey, Christy Grieger, Hal George, John Gill, Alan Ginsburg, Steve Goldman, Sarah Grafton, Elizabeth “Betsy” Gwinn, Ralph V. “Terry” Hadley III, Jane Hames, Larry Hames, Frank Hamner, Ena Heller, Debra Hendrickson, Catherine Hinman, Eric and Diane Holm, Herb Holm (deceased), Charlene Hotaling, Jon and Betsy Hughes, Katrina Jenkins, Susan Johnson, Gary I. and Isis Jones, Phil Kean, Allan Keen, Linda Keen, Tom Klusman, Randy Knight, Debbie Komanski, Steve Kramer, Linda Kulmann, Cindy Bowman LaFronz, Jack C. Lane, Whitney Laney, Steve Leary, Fairolyn Livingston, Chevalier Lovett, John (deceased) and Rita Lowndes, Lawrence Lyman, Lambrine Macejewski, Paula Madsen, Robert Mandell, Ted Maines and Jeffrey Miller, Jesse Martinez, Brandon McGlammery, Deirdre Macnab, Genean Hawkins McKinnon, Gus and Kristi Malzahn, Joanne McMahon, Micki Meyer, Johnny Miller, Anne Mooney, Ronnie Moore, Patty Maddox, Alex Martins, Marc Middleton, Kristine Miller, Elizabeth Tiedtke Mukherjee, Stephanie Murphy, Tony and Sonja Nicholson, David Odahowski, Betsy Rogers Owens, James and Julie Petrakis, Jim and Alexis Pugh, Jana Ricci, John Rife, John Rivers, Randall B. Robertson, Laurence J. “Larry” Ruggiero, Jason Seeley, Greg Seidel, Peter Schreyer, Polly Seymour, Thaddeus Seymour (deceased), Shawn Shaffer, Jason Siegel, John and Gail Sinclair, Greg Spencer, Sarah Sprinkel, Susan Skolfield, Sam Stark, Chuck and Margery Pabst Steinmetz, Bronce Stephenson, Bruce Stephenson, Dori Stone, Richard Strauss, Julie von Weller, Matthew Swope, Paul Twyford, Bill Walker, Fr. Richard Walsh, Jennifer Wandersleben, Harold A. Ward III, Debbie Watson, Todd Weaver, Bill Weir, Chip Weston, Pete Weldon, Cynthia Wood and Becky Wilson.


Photography by Carlos Amoedo

Boris Garbe

Owner, Mills Gallery

THE ARTS AGITATOR

The arts community is, naturally, crowded with creative characters. But among the most intriguing is Boris Garbe, 56, a colorful iconoclast who is neither an artist nor a musician. The native of Berlin, Germany — a Winter Park resident and founder of Mills Gallery in the Mills 50 neighborhood — is instead an innovative advocate whose outside-the-box approach helps attract new audiences for individual artists and arts organizations such as the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra, which heartily endorses his irreverent podcast, Tenor and Toneless. Co-hosted by Garbe and Peruvian-born operatic tenor Rafael Cavero, Tenor and Toneless is hilarious — and at the same time educational — thanks in large part to Garbe’s almost total lack of interest in classical music and his off-the-wall interviews with musicians and executives from OPO. (“What the hell is a viola?” he asked Mauricio Céspedes Rivero, OPO’s principal violist and the show’s first guest.) A new podcast, due out later this summer, is Art AF, which features artists and connects them with civic leaders and decision makers. Garbe had previously co-hosted several arts-related podcasts with Marla E (that’s her legal name), a painter, sculptor and instructor, and had produced a podcast with a young musician named Chris Fioravantti, who interviewed guests ranging from artists to elected officials. The Experience with Chris Fio had been voted one of the top podcasts in Central Florida by readers of Orlando Weekly before the host was tragically killed in a motorcycling accident last summer. Garbe, a former teacher of Spanish and sign language, has also produced a compelling short autobiographical film, Spit, Glitter and Glue, which was screened locally in 2020 at FusionFest and the Global Peace Film Festival. And he plans to use footage of his many conversations with renowned 98-year-old abstract expressionist painter Harold Garde to create a video series called Harold Garde Unfiltered. “That one is going to go national,” he says. But Garbe’s primary job is as a gallerist. “I don’t particularly like art,” he says. “But I do like artists.” The mission of Mills Gallery is to attract younger visitors and to provide an inclusive showcase where gender equity is among the guiding principles. “I’m an optimist and a realist,” adds Garbe. “I love the art world, but I see the problems that many people do not want to engage with.” 

THE BOTTOM LINE:

For the arts to attract new audiences, it will need to speak to young people who haven’t been to a gallery, a play or an orchestral concert. Unconventional thinkers like Garbe, who aren’t tethered to tradition, can get the attention of a generation whose cultural lives have previously involved only their smartphones.

Clarissa Howard

Director of Communication, City of Winter Park

THE RELIABLE SOURCE

Clarissa Explains it All was an early ’90s sitcom on Nickelodeon in which a young woman, played by Melissa Joan Hart, directly addressed viewers to discuss mostly coming-of-age issues. Winter Park has its own version of the fictional Clarissa — you know her as Clarissa Howard — whose job is explaining it all to reporters and taxpayers who ask questions about everything from city services to ad valorem taxes to “attack squirrels” running rampant in Central Park. (This really happened in 2006.) As director of communication, Howard, 48, runs the city’s multipronged informational outreach program, which includes newsletters (online and in print), social media platforms and even a Vimeo channel. “I always say I have the best job in the city because I’m able to share all the great news about Winter Park,” says Howard, who also has a reputation among media members as being responsive and forthright when they’re reporting a story that needs context or clarification. With a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s degree in communication from the University of Central Florida, Howard began her career as an event manager at the City of Orlando. In 2003, however, she snapped up an opening as communications director in Winter Park. Among her first tasks, in early 2004, was to spearhead a municipal rebranding effort that saw “The City of Homes” become “The City of Culture and Heritage,” with a new city seal featuring the now-iconic peacock. Just a few months later, her crisis communications skills were brought to bear when hurricanes Charley, Frances and Jeanne pummeled the region in rapid succession. There have been plenty of local controversies during the ensuing 19 years, but Howard, who considers her role to be that of an impartial disseminator of facts, diligently keeps her opinions to herself. Her department also runs several high-profile public events, such as the city’s 4th of July and Veteran’s Day commemorations. Howard is a graduate of Leadership Winter Park, a program of the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce, and was named Winter Park Champion of the Year by the chamber in 2012.  She and her husband, Jason, have three children: Luke, 13; Jakob, 15 and Cassidy, 17. We don’t know if Howard is a daydream believer, but she really was a homecoming queen — at Dr. Phillips High School.

THE BOTTOM LINE:

In a city where everyone is interested in what’s going on at City Hall, Howard is an accessible fount of facts who loves sharing good news but finds answers to tough questions as well. She says: “I try my best to always be optimistic, honest and sincere, which makes me a credible and trustworthy source.”

Marni Jameson

Author and Nationally Syndicated Columnist

THE PEOPLES’ PUNDIT

Marni Jameson was such a chatterbox in kindergarten that her teacher put tape on her mouth. “She wanted to know why I talked so much,” says grown-up Marni, who vividly recalls her answer: “I have so many important things to say!” By age 8, she was saying them in a purple diary with purple ink. Today she says them in a column, “At Home with Marni Jameson,” syndicated to than 20-plus newspapers (including The Orlando Sentinel) that reach 5 million readers. She’s author of six bestselling books on home design, decor and downsizing with such titles as House of Havoc: How to Make and Keep a Beautiful Home Despite Cheap Husbands, Messy Kids and Other Difficult Roommates. The title reflects a breezy, self-deprecating humor that makes her writing enjoyable even for those with zero interest in home design. Jameson’s husband, attorney Doug Carey, goes by “DC” in her column and serves as her comic foil, playing nonplussed Dagwood to her eye-rolling Blondie. In college she majored in magazine journalism because, she says, “I wanted my work to look pretty.” Freelancing in Southern California, where she grew up, Jameson was asked to write a home-design column. She agreed, but only if it was honest and tackled such real-world issues as “how projects take three times longer than you expect, the costs double, the contractors disappear for weeks on end and you’re not speaking to your spouse when it’s over.” Jameson recalls leafing through glossy home magazines wondering, “How do people get to live like this? I didn’t know how to pick out a sofa. I’m still just the girl next door trying to figure it out.” In 2011, she left behind a “marriage on the rocks” and moved to Orlando to cover health and medicine for the Sentinel — winning several statewide journalism awards in the process — while continuing her column and running a nonprofit dedicated to lowering the cost of healthcare. Jameson and DC, now proud Winter Parkers, share a blended family of five grown children, five grandchildren and “three unruly dogs.” Jameson is puckishly coy about her age. “I am past the half-century mark, or on the back nine, as I like to say.” At heart, though, she’ll always be the irrepressible chatterbox with a purple pen and important things to say.

THE BOTTOM LINE:

Jameson takes a topic that invites pretention and makes it fun and relevant for everyday folks. She says: “When I was much younger, I used to go into bookstores and say to myself, ‘I want to have a book on these shelves.’ Today I have six books in print and in stores, and a seventh in the works. Maybe I should have aimed higher.”

Christopher Jaskiewicz

President and CEO, ICON Park

THE I-DRIVE EMISSARY

Christopher Jaskiewicz, president and CEO of ICON Park on International Drive, was truly a child of the regional tourism industry. His father, David Jaskiewicz, spent 35 years at Walt Disney World and retired as vice president of human resources. As a student at Bishop Moore High School, the younger Jaskiewicz held an array of jobs in hospitality and was impressed by the customer-service standards of Disney as well as the creative spirit of such fondly remembered local attractions as Mystery Fun House, Pleasure Island and, especially, Bob Snow’s Church Street Station complex in downtown Orlando. Jaskiewicz, now 54 and a resident of Winter Park, later majored in communications at Florida State University and earned a law degree from St. John’s University. After that, the Denver, Colorado, native practiced entertainment law and became in-house counsel for the Gotham Organization, which specialized in upscale residential and mixed-use retail development in New York City. Eager to return to Central Florida, Jaskiewicz accepted the job at ICON Park in 2018 and quickly began to rebrand the attraction, which encompasses some 20 acres owned by Orlando-based Unicorp. On the property there are nearly 50 themed restaurants (including brands by Gordon Ramsey and Blake Shelton) and such draws as Madame Tussauds Orlando, the Museum of Illusions Orlando, the Sea Life Orlando Aquarium and the iconic, 400-foot-tall Wheel at ICON Park. When the pandemic struck and attractions were shuttered, Jaskiewicz not only led the charge to reopen quickly (and safely) but also pulled neighboring attractions together to form the Orlando Entertainment District and began marketing to locals. ICON Park, in fact, was the first attraction in the region to welcome guests back — on June 3, 2020 — and instantly posted strong attendance numbers. Jaskiewicz — who with his wife, Christine, have three school-aged children — was subsequently named one of Orlando Business Journal’s CEOs of the Year and one of Orlando Magazine’s 50 Most Powerful People, among other recognitions. But there were more challenges to come. At press time, a St. Louis teen, Tyre Sampson, was tragically killed when he was flung from the Orlando Freefall, owned and operated by the California-based Slingshot Group. While that ride is closed pending a final investigation, ICON Park has demanded that the Slingshot Group suspend operation of its other ride on the property, Orlando Slingshot.

THE BOTTOM LINE:

Jaskiewicz loves the quiet charms of Winter Park — after all, he and his family could have chosen to live anywhere — but reminds us that “part of the fun of living in Winer Park is it’s easy to access quality entertainment districts” that are nearby — such as ICON Park.

Mark Leggett

President and CEO, Arthur’s Catering and Events

THE MEMORY MAKER

As a young man, Mark Leggett channeled his knack for numbers into a marketing degree from the University of Central Florida. But Leggett, president and CEO of Arthur’s Creative Events & Catering, had no interest in being stuck behind a desk. Leggett loved people — and food. He got a job in catering (as a busboy) while in college and never stopped. He had a gift, it seemed, for hospitality. “I think catering chose me” he says. “One of those God things.” Leggett, 58, cofounded Arthur’s in 1989 with Lisa Grant, now retired. “Arthur” is Leggett’s middle name — but it was also the given name of his father, a construction salesperson who died when Leggett was just 10. Because Leggett’s roots run so deep in Winter Park — and his company’s presence is so ubiquitous locally — many are surprised to learn that the business is, in fact, headquartered in Altamonte Springs. The youngest of three children, Leggett was born at Winter Park Memorial Hospital (now AdventHealth Winter Park), where his mother was the lead obstetrics nurse, and graduated from Winter Park High School. He and his wife, Courtney, once high-school classmates, have a son, Coleman, 28, and a daughter, Mary Page, 26. Leggett’s company survived the pandemic — when business abruptly plummeted by 90 percent — by delivering family-style meals to homes. Today, however, Arthur’s is once again “the life of the party” (which also happens to be the company’s slogan). By the numbers, it’s the second-largest caterer in Orlando, generating $7 million-plus annually and employing more than 250 people. This year it will produce 1,400 events — about 400 of which will be in Winter Park. Parties may be Arthur’s bread and butter, but for Leggett community service “is the foundation for everything we do.” Arthur’s — which offers in-kind support to nearly 30 local civic and charitable organizations — has also won numerous “best caterer” awards and was cited by the Orlando Business Journal as one of the region’s best places to work. Leggett, who still personally works events catered by his company, says he’s having fun. “It’s a lot of moving parts,” he says. “Our team is an orchestra. Running it is like being conductor of the philharmonic.”

THE BOTTOM LINE:

Leggett is a business leader with a social conscience shaped by his faith: Says Leggett: “I came to realize and understand early on in our business that servant leadership embodies who we are as leaders and how we empower our team members. I believe that when you put the needs of others first, you empower your team members to perform at their very best.”

LaShanda Lovette

Executive Director, Winter Park Housing Authority

THE HOME MAKER

Growing up in Marianna, Florida — a city of 6,000 people near the Alabama border — LaShanda Lovette had a dream: to leave. She recalls: “I told my parents that when I turned 18 that I wanted to do more. I wanted to be more.” She found her way to the University of Central Florida, where she majored in entrepreneurship and computer science, and later made history as the first African American executive director of the Winter Park Housing Authority, which was founded in 1970. “I was just a little Black girl from Nowhere, Florida,” she says. “To have the opportunity to do what I’m doing — it’s huge.” And it’s important, too, placing people of limited means in safe, sanitary, nondiscriminatory housing that they can afford. Lovette, 45, was deputy director of the Seminole County Housing Authority for 11 years before taking the local post in 2019. She had worked in banking for six years but kept feeling the pull of public service. “In Marianna there was this project — that’s what we called it, ‘the project’ — that embodied all the stereotypes associated with public housing. We didn’t live there. But I always said that if I ever got the chance to tear it down and rebuild it, I would.” That dilapidated Marianna complex was razed and rebuilt before Lovette could get to it — but she’s fulfilling her vow by helping people in Winter Park. The authority oversees 119 public-housing units, which receive funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and 586 “affordable-rent” apartments, which receive only rent revenue. Rent, however, is never enough to cover the full cost of maintaining the buildings, so Lovette is constantly scrambling for grants. In a way, she’s like the mayor of a small town with 1,200 constituents who live in authority-controlled housing. “Part of the job is building relationships,” she says. “I like talking to people informally, getting to know the kids, the aunties, the grandmas, the whole extended family.” Lovette and her husband, Michael, have two sons. Once when asked for a word that described his wife, he said “humanitarian.” She had never thought of herself that way: “I was not taught to look at myself like I really mattered. I was taught to take care of others.” 

THE BOTTOM LINE:

Lovette is passionate about her work — which is reflected by a slew of community-service awards — and is committed to helping the city embrace its diversity. Her work is more important than ever — especially in Winter Park — as decent housing has become exponentially less affordable.

Jack Rogers

Retired Architect 

THE PARKS PROMOTER

When Jack Rogers was 13, he and his 15-year-old brother Gamble (later of folksinger fame) took a 2.5-mile canoe trip up Howell Creek (then referred to as Snake Run) from Lake Osceola to Lake Howell. Rogers, 82, never forgot the primal beauty of the forests and wetlands that flanked the creek. The impression made by that long-ago adventure explains, at least in part, why the native Winter Parker remains passionate about preservation. “We’ve never had an opportunity like we have today to create more greenspace,” says Rogers, who’s chair of the planning and acquisitions committee of the Winter Park Land Trust. The courtly retired architect — whose other pursuits include carpentry, boat building and maintenance of his family’s circa-1860s timber-and-peg cottage in Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains — is the son of another architect, James Gamble Rogers II, whose elegant homes, about half of which still stand, have long defined Winter Park’s neo-Mediterranean ambiance. Jack Rogers, in fact, was a leader in saving one of his father’s most significant residential projects, Casa Feliz, from the wrecking ball. Rogers was a founding member of Friends of Casa Feliz, a nonprofit that raised funds to move and renovate the Spanish farmhouse-style structure — which reopened as a civic space in 2004. While guitar-picking Gamble worked briefly in his father’s practice, it was his younger brother — a graduate from the University of Virginia — who grew the operation into Rogers, Lovelock & Fritz (now RLF), a big-time firm with institutional clients worldwide. He stepped down as chair and CEO in 2006 but remained busy with projects and causes. In 2021, Rogers designed an arts-and-crafts-style chapel for the Glennon House, previously an inn and now headquarters for the healing ministry of adjacent All Saints Episcopal Church. “I’ve seen how effective this can be,” says Rogers, himself a survivor of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma who serves as a prayer minister. In addition, Rogers is re-creating his father’s studio at Casa Feliz, complete with everything from the legendary architect’s drawing boards and reference books to his long-necked banjo adorning the wall. The studio will open in the fall, says Rogers — winner of the 2022 Winter Park Mayor’s Founders’ Award — who with his wife, Peggy, have a daughter, Betsy Owens (who was the inaugural executive director of Casa Feliz) and two sons, John and Geoffrey.

THE BOTTOM LINE:

Doing well by doing good: Rogers has served on numerous boards, usually those dealing with healthcare and children’s issues, and established, with RLF, a scholarship in his father’s name for architecture students at the University of Florida. 

Michelle Strenth

Senior Director of Government Affairs and Public Policy, Orlando Health

THE CONSENSUS BUILDER

As board chair of the Winter Park Chamber of Commerce, Michelle Strenth is a testament to the city’s vital interconnectedness with greater Orlando. Strenth, senior director of government affairs and public policy for Orlando Health — the 3,200-bed hospital system that also operates specialized care centers such as Jewett Orthopedic Institute and the Women’s Pavilion in Winter Park — is a master relationship builder. It’s her job to know issues and to know people. To a chamber nearing its 100th anniversary and looking for partners to help address concerns identified in its new “Prosperity Scorecard,” Strenth brings a talent for finding consensus. It’s her goal, she says, “to have everybody around the table with a shared purpose and vision” — no easy task in Winter Park. The Prosperity Scorecard, born of the economic shock of the early pandemic, uses a variety of data — job growth and housing prices, for example — to assess the financial health of the community. But it also offers metrics related to social and governance issues, such as sustainability and election turnout. “We can only make things better when we know what challenges exist,” says Strenth, 47, who has a bachelor’s degree in finance from East Tennessee State University and an MBA from the University of Central Florida. Strenth and her husband, Brian, an Orlando Health flight medic, have two children: Madeline, 9, and Garrett, 8. A native of Broward County, Strenth moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee, in middle school. She came to Orlando to work for Campus Crusade for Christ (now CRU) and then dove into public affairs, first at CNL Financial Group and then, since 2009, with Orlando Health. Strenth’s dedication to healthcare is both personal and professional. When she was age 5, her late father experienced a health crisis that required some 30 surgeries and months in the hospital. Her son, born prematurely, spent four weeks in neonatal intensive care. Strenth has a grasp of both the complexities of modern medicine and its miracles — and can explain these things to networks of legislators, association leaders, and county and state officials. Strenth is a graduate of Leadership Florida, Leadership Orlando and Leadership Winter Park. Though there’s no “g” in the spelling of her last name, Strenth’s leadership style clearly brings even more strength to the chamber’s formidable volunteer leadership.

THE BOTTOM LINE:

Leadership Winter Park continues to produce difference-makers. Says Strenth: “I truly strive for an environment where there can be consensus in an environment where there’s a difference of opinions — and we can find a path toward forward progress. It’s not about me, but what’s best for Winter Park.”

Mike Vertullo

Math Teacher, Rowing Coach, Winter Park High School

THE CREW CAPTAIN

When Mike Vertullo was choosing a life path there was little uncertainty, no anxious weighing of career options, no letting fate decide. For most of his 53 years, starting in eighth grade, Vertullo has been rowing for a crew or coaching one. In 22 years at the helm of the Winter Park High School women’s rowing team, he has done everything but walk on water. The always-formidable Wildcats have won 46 Florida Scholastic Rowing Association championships. And Vertullo’s current squad of oarswomen, ranked No. 1 in the United States, has been invited to this summer’s London’s Henley Royal Regatta — the most prestigious rowing competition in the world. The only other time in the 60-year history of the school’s program that a Wildcat crew participated in the elite event was 15 years ago — and it was the men who went. “We had an opportunity in February to race two of the top teams from the Northeast,” Vertullo says. “We won that regatta, which put us on our trajectory to go to Henley.” Vertullo was born in Poughkeepsie, New York, where rowing stokes passion in the same way that football does in Florida. He was a medal-winning rower in high school and competed at Rutgers University while earning a degree in statistics. In seven years as rowing coach at Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School in Hyde Park, Vertullo restored the women’s program to national prominence and twice was named coach of the year. Why did he leave behind a growing legacy in rowing’s heartland for a coaching gig in Florida that he found in the classifieds? “I was single, ready to move on,” says Vertullo, who now has a blended family of four adult children with his wife, Heather. He wasn’t sure how local high schoolers would respond to his spartan regimen of “land training,” with copious running and lifting weights. But they responded like the champions they became. “In rowing, hard work will beat technique every time,” he says. “I can teach hard workers to row — I can’t teach someone to be tough.” Vertullo, though, deflects credit for his astonishing run of success. “It’s more about the kids and what they’re doing, and where they’re going after rowing at Winter Park.” One destination is certain — the record book with their coach.

THE BOTTOM LINE:

The Henley Royal Regatta, which takes place on the River Thames, is in June, so by the time you read this you’ll likely know the results. But whatever the outcome, Vertullo has built a dynasty at WPHS and, according to parents and former rowers, has been a role model for how to leverage hard work to achieve goals. He says:
“I’m tough but have learned how to adapt over 30 years.”

John Wettach

Retired Attorney

THE OPERA AMBASSADOR

John Wettach was almost 40 before he found his voice — literally — when he was recruited from his pew for the All Saints Episcopal Church choir. His booming bass-baritone was an asset, and almost a surprise, to the 6-foot-5-inch real estate litigator, who took voice lessons to hone his talent. Wettach, 58, made his debut in the chorus of Orlando Opera Company’s production of Aida in 2005. But the fiscally challenged company — which predated today’s thriving Opera Orlando — went bankrupt in 2008. Wettach then jumped to the fledgling Florida Opera Theatre, founded by volunteers from the defunct organization. There he served on the board of directors and became its president in 2015. Most significantly, however, he was instrumental (so to speak) in guiding Florida Opera Theater through its transformation into Opera Orlando in 2016. Today, the revitalized (and innovative) nonprofit stages three full-scale productions during its Opera on the MainStage series at Steinmetz Hall. Also on the annual schedule are Opera on the Town and a Summer Concert Series at the University Club of Winter Park. Opera Orlando — which boasts a youth company and a variety of educational programs — now has 11 employees and a $1.8 million annual budget. Best of all, says Wettach, who stepped down as president in June, the operation is in the black. Getting there wasn’t easy, though. The failure of Orlando Opera left some people bitter and many others skeptical. “The ability I brought to the board was to work with these other groups,” says Wettach, a native of Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and a resident of Winter Park for 45 years. “It was a vision people could see and get behind.” Wettach, a veteran of numerous charitable boards, attended Trinity Preparatory School and the University of Florida, where he majored in journalism, earned a law degree and married his high-school sweetheart, Amy Lowndes, also an attorney and daughter of the late John Lowndes, a legendary lawyer, developer and philanthropist. The couple has a daughter, Callan, 28. Now, says Wettach, who recently retired from his law practice, he’ll welcome a return to the background, to the chorus of the great operas that he believed all Central Floridians should be able to enjoy. “We’re the keepers of the flame,” he says. “We may be the only way people see Puccini, Verdi or Mozart.” 

THE BOTTOM LINE:

Wettach is emblematic of successful Winter Parkers who devote their skill and savvy to bolstering arts and culture. Says Wettach: “I truly believe that collaboration is the key. I’ve been very lucky to have mentors, both professional and personal, who’ve shown me how important it is to bring people together and to build relationships while working on any project.”

Keith Whittingham

Professor, CEO of Artifx Café 

THE COFFEE CRUSADER

“Think globally, act locally” could be Keith Whittingham’s mission statement — if you flipped the order. Thinking locally led to acting globally for the associate professor of management science at Rollins College. Whittingham, 55, is CEO and founder of Artifx Café, a company that nurtures small farms in Costa Rica and Mexico by creatively packaging high-quality coffee products and marketing them throughout the United States. “The better we understand the people and places that produce our food, the stronger our bonds across the Earth will be,” he says. Born in The Bronx, New York, to immigrant parents from the Caribbean, Whittingham spent his Wonder Years in Trinidad and Tobago before earning a bachelor’s degree (Howard University) and a Ph.D. (Cornell University) in electrical engineering. He worked in semiconductor research and development for Lucent Technologies and Bell Laboratories in Orlando, until Bell shut down its local operation in 2002. Whittingham was offered an opportunity to transfer to Allentown, Pennsylvania, but declined and became a college professor instead. “I realized that my passion lay more in connecting with people and solving their problems,” he recalls. Since joining the faculty, Whittingham has become an expert on global sustainability and social entrepreneurship, taking MBA students — and sometimes his two sons — on overseas trips to places where farmers struggle to survive while large companies that wholesale their coffee reap massive profits. “As I researched business models to help these small producers climb out of poverty, I began to understand there are barriers to overcome to achieve that goal,” he says. “Artifx was launched to break through those barriers.” Artifx Café imports coffee from those growers and sells it online and through such upscale retail outlets as The Ancient Olive in Winter Park and St. Augustine. Each bag of beans, emblazoned with such names as Deep Cloud Forest and Tierra Monteverde, features a striking image by an artist from the region. Profits help provide a fair wage to growers, fund microloans for startups, and bolster recycling and water filtration projects. Launched in 2018, Artifx Café was a “café” in name only until April, when Winter Park Distilling co-founder Paul Twyford was awarded the food and beverage concession for Winter Pines Golf Club. Part of the upgraded clubhouse is The Artifx Café Coffee Bar. 

THE BOTTOM LINE:

Whittingham embodies the Rollins College ethos of social entrepreneurship as a way of facilitating change, both in the community and in the world. He says: “I try to be empathetic and empowering to all around me, I seek the win-win and I am not afraid to take risks if I can make a difference.”

Dawson’s books prior to Alias Anna had sent him to Ukraine and Israel where he could walk in his mother’s footsteps, see the places she had described and meet some of the people who had helped her survive — sometimes at great risk to themselves.

FINDING ZHANNA

Zhanna Arshanskaya’s favorite sheet music, Fantasy Impromptu, was the only thing she saved when the Nazis forced her family from their home. That and this blue silk scarf, recently returned to her by best friend Svetlana — now a Ukrainian refugee in the United States — are the Dawson family’s most cherished mementos of Zhanna’s once idyllic childhood in Kharkiv. Photo by Carlos Amoedo

My mother, Zhanna, and younger sister, Frina, both piano prodigies from Kharkiv, Ukraine, cheated death and survived the Holocaust by assuming false identities and spending the war entertaining Nazis who didn’t know they were Jewish. 

I knew nothing of this until I was nearly 3o years old, when Mom broke her silence and revealed the broad outline of her astonishing story. But it would be another 15 years before she described in lacerating detail the emotional scars left by this horrific chapter of a long and otherwise happy life. 

She divulged it all to our daughter, Aimée, then 13, who was interviewing her grandmother for a history assignment at Glenridge Middle School in 1994. Mom, quite unexpectedly, described how the Arshansky family was rounded up with 16,000 other Jews in Kharkiv, mocked and humiliated by the Nazis, kept in squalid conditions then put on a death march to a ravine called Drobitsky Yar.

She revealed how she miraculously eluded extermination, and how for the rest of the war she burned with anger as she played Chopin for audiences of soldiers who had murdered her parents and grandparents — and would certainly have murdered her, had she not slipped away after her father, using a gold watch, bribed a guard to look the other way. (Frina, who died in 2018, never told the story of how she, too, escaped.)

Why, I asked my mother, had she not told me and my brother her story? “How can you tell children about such things?” she replied. “It would have been too cruel.” As the decades passed, however, she decided that her real-life tale of terror should be — must be — passed along. And Aimée’s seemingly innocuous interview request provided an opening.

When the war ended in 1946, Zhanna, 19, and Frina, 17, were discovered in a displaced persons camp in Germany by a U.S. Army lieutenant and music lover, Larry Dawson, who heard them playing an old piano. The soldier pulled strings and called in favors to get them aboard the first ship of Holocaust survivors to arrive in America. 

There, both sisters were awarded scholarships to the Juilliard School in New York City. Zhanna married the lieutenant’s brother — later my dad — a Juilliard-trained violist named David Dawson. Both had careers teaching and performing at the Indiana University School of Music. Frina, too, married a musician, pianist Ken Boldt, and worked as a performer, teacher and administrator at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Yes, the story had a happy ending — as if the term “happy” could ever be used considering the horrific circumstances. Let’s just say the Arshansky sisters were more fortunate than millions of others.

As you might expect, the revelations changed everything and sent me — along with my wife, Candy — on a journey to find out more. The result was Hiding in the Spotlight: A Musical Prodigy’s Story of Survival (Pegasus Books, 2009), which was written over the course of six years while I was working at the Orlando Sentinel as a consumer columnist. 

When the book was published, Ukraine was, to say the least, far from top of mind for most Americans. I never could have imagined that only a dozen years later, Mom’s home country would become a household word and a fixture in our collective consciousness.

Coincidentally, before the Russian invasion, I was working on another book, Alias Anna: A True Story of Outwitting the Nazis, a reworking of the story for young readers that I co-authored with Susan Hood, a renowned writer of children’s books. Alias Anna was published in March by HarperCollins. (The sisters, concealing their Jewish heritage, performed as Anna and Marina Morozova, hence the new book’s title.)

By then the unimaginable had happened: History had repeated itself in a macabre reverse-mirror image, with a Russian leader doing to Ukraine what Hitler had done 80 years before. In 1941, terrified Ukrainians packed trains going east toward Siberia away from invading Germans. In 2022, they filled trains headed west toward Germany to escape Russian invaders.

Hitler was the greater mass murderer, killing an estimated 5 million Ukrainians — among them my grandparents and great-grandparents — but history will show that Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a fratricidal rage, wreaked far more devastation on the cities and villages and institutions of a place he considered part of his homeland.

Dawson says: “Zhanna’s story has become a family mission.” His wife, Candy, has penned a screenplay optioned by filmmakers, a live drama produced in three states, and made a short documentary filmed in places now ravaged by Putin’s war, including Kyiv. The onset of the war and publication of Alias Anna has compelled the couple to look for additional ways to support Ukrainians in their darkest hour, just as they helped Dawson’s mother and her sister in theirs. Photo by Carlos Amoedo

Zhanna’s story has become a family mission. Candy penned a screenplay optioned by filmmakers, a play produced in three states, and made a short documentary filmed in places now ravaged by Putin’s war, including Kyiv, Kharkiv and Mariupol. A quarter century after that fateful school assignment, history came full circle for Aimée when HarperCollins invited her to narrate the audio book of Alias Anna.

For Candy and me, the confluence of the war and publication of Alias Anna has compelled us to look for ways to support Ukrainians in their darkest hour, just as they helped my mother and Frina in theirs. More specifically, I’m referring to friends we made when we visited Ukraine in 2006 to research the first book to see the places that my mother had described. 

Among their number are descendants of the Christian family that had sheltered the fleeing sisters at their own great peril; a middle-school teacher who for years has shared Zhanna’s story with her students (and, at press time, was still teaching despite the chaos of war); and a young scholar who served as our translator and is now a soldier on the front lines.

Finally, I’m thankful that my mother, now 95 and befogged by dementia, is not able to comprehend what is happening to her beloved homeland — this time at the hands of Russians. It would break her heart all over again. 

What follows is my original afterword for Alias Anna — written before the invasion but edited and updated to reflect magazine editorial style and events of the war in Ukraine. Slava Ukraini! (Glory to Ukraine!)


I never had the experience of being a grandson. I never rode on my granddad’s shoulders or went downtown with him on Saturdays for ice cream. I never sat on my grandmother’s lap as she read Tom Sawyer aloud or helped me learn how to swim. 

I never heard stories about where my mother’s parents grew up, what life was like when they were my age or what my mom and dad were like when they were kids. I knew my dad’s father had died young, and I only saw his mother once when she was quite ill.

All this seemed normal to me. The space filled by grandparents in most families was empty in mine — a vast desert devoid of family trees, stories, faces. It stretched to the horizon beyond my ken.

“Why didn’t you ever ask about your grandparents?” I was 60 years old when first asked the question. It came from someone in the audience at a Barnes & Noble where I was speaking about Hiding in the Spotlight: A Musical Prodigy’s Story of Survival, which had recently been released. 

I had no answer for the baffled questioner and jokingly said that I was just a clueless kid interested in sports and TV cowboys. But I wondered, too, and the question keeps coming up about my mother’s parents. 

Why didn’t I ask about them when I was growing up? Maybe because I didn’t even hear their names — Dmitri and Sara Arshansky — until I was pushing 30. That’s when my mother, for the first time, told me the basic outline of how they, along with her grandparents, were murdered by Germans at the edge of a ravine in Ukraine.

Aimée Dawson (below), who interviewed her grandmother, Zhanna, for a history assignment at Glenridge Middle School in 1994, got more than anyone bargained for. A quarter century after that fateful school assignment, history came full circle for Aimée when HarperCollins invited her to narrate the audio book of Alias Anna (above), which is based on her grandmother’s accounts and is marketed toward younger readers. Also shown is a written account from Zhanna to her granddaughter that describes in terrifying detail life in Ukraine under Nazi control. Photo by Carlos Amoedo (above); Photo courtesy of Greg and Candy Dawson (below)

My children, Chris and younger sister Aimée, were blessed by rich relationships with grandparents: my wife Candy’s mother and father and his second wife, and my mother, Zhanna. They never knew my dad, their paternal grandfather, who died four months after Chris’s birth — a priceless connection short-circuited. 

If not for my mother’s vivid presence in Aimée’s life, the remarkable story recounted in my book would have gone untold, buried like her parents and grandparents and countless others in the annals of Holocaust crimes.

Aimée was 13 when her history teacher at Glenridge Middle School asked students to interview a grandparent about what their life was like at the same age. Aimée, unaware of her grandmother’s story, turned to “Z” as she affectionately called her. We silently wished Aimée lots of luck in penetrating a fortress of silence.

Fifteen years earlier, when I was a columnist at my hometown newspaper in Bloomington, Indiana, NBC aired the groundbreaking miniseries Holocaust over four nights in April 1978. All I knew then was that my mother was a Russian refugee who came to America after the war. 

Always desperate for material, I hoped she might have a few wartime memories that I could cobble together for a column to run during the miniseries. Gingerly, I asked her to share some memories. Grudgingly, she offered a small part of the story that she had kept from me and my brother. 

The column ran, but my mother didn’t watch Holocaust and made it clear that she had no interest in ever again speaking about her life as a young girl in Ukraine. So when Aimée wrote her grandmother with an interview request, we didn’t hold our breath.

We had underestimated the mystic bond between grandchild and grandparent. Aimée’s “Dear Grandma Z” letter elicited a “Hi, Dear Aimée” reply — four handwritten pages on 8-by-10 stationery — in which my mother related her Holocaust experience in a deeper and more personal way than she had years earlier for my column. 

Her words rang with love for her homeland, sorrow for her lost family, fury for the Nazis — “I can never tell anyone what hatred I had for them” — and a commitment to making her story “known to this world.” It was a long-delayed catharsis, an unlocking of memories, a second liberation — and her granddaughter had supplied the key.

Fired by a new mission, my mother agreed to be interviewed for Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Project — a video archive of survivor testimonies — and sat down with me for many hours of conversation leading to the publication of two books, Hiding in the Spotlight and Judgment Before Nuremberg: The Holocaust in Ukraine and the First Nazi War Crimes Trial (Pegasus Books, 2012).

Books with artful covers, numbered pages and compressed narratives can give the false impression of history as an orderly beast. Like history and life itself, book research is disorderly — a long and crooked road with hard obstacles and sweet serendipity, dry wells and gold mines, despair and triumph. 

At first, I thought I could tell my mother’s story using the interviews and material gleaned from the internet, such as the ship manifest for the U.S.S. Marine Flasher that brought her to America. But it turned out to be more complicated than that. The Nazis blew up Ukraine, scattering ashes to the winds. Imagine a crime scene with evidence — the dead, the buried, the missing — strewn across thousands of miles from America to Ukraine and Israel.

Troupes of non-Jewish Ukrainian entertainers — singers, dancers, musicians — were forced to perform for the Nazi invaders and to pose for propaganda purposes. Zhanna and her younger sister Frina (above) performed under the aliases Anna and Marina Morozova. In recent years, the Dawsons visited the memorial at Drobitsky Yar (below) and saw Zhanna and Frina’s names mistakenly listed among those murdered in the killing fields there. The memorial was recently desecrated by Russian bombs. Photos courtesy of Greg and Candy Dawson

My first draft, which I hoped was the final one, recounted the amazing facts of my mother’s journey, but it didn’t feel amazing. It lacked passion, a sense of place. “You need to go to Ukraine,” Candy said. And she was right.

I had to walk the streets of Berdyansk on the Sea of Azov, my mother’s birthplace, where little Zhanna roamed the bazaars, sorted shells on the beach and joined funeral processions, bewitched by the mournful music. 

I had to visit the grand music conservatory in Kharkiv, where she and her sister Frina studied, and stand at the door of the apartment where Nazis terrorized the family. 

I had to see the barren field where the doomed Jews were kept for two weeks in a tractor factory with no heat, water or bathrooms in the dead of winter. 

I had to walk their final walk — the exact route, on the same day, in the same arctic weather — to the killing field of Drobitsky Yar (recently desecrated by Russian bombs). And I had to see the spot where my mother jumped out of line into the woods, cheating Hitler.

In 2006, Candy and I visited Ukraine and Israel. Written after our return, my second draft was twice as long and much better than the first. I discovered the wisdom of the old saying that “eighty percent of success is showing up.” 

Only because we showed up in Kharkiv was I able to visit the memorial at Drobitsky Yar and see Zhanna and Frina’s names mistakenly listed among those murdered there. Brushing my fingers across my mother’s name etched in Cyrillic on the marble wall was surreal and chilling, like reading my own epitaph — had the Nazis not let this particular girl get away.

Only because we showed up did we acquire one of the most remarkable photos in the books: A troupe of non-Jewish Ukrainian entertainers — singers, dancers, musicians — forced to perform for the invaders and to pose for propaganda purposes. All are staring straight at the camera except my mother, head turned in fear of being recognized as the famous Jewish prodigy from Kharkiv.

The photo was given to us by the woman who took it. She and her sister had worked with the troupe and read in a Jewish newspaper that we planned to visit the Kharkiv Holocaust Museum. We were stunned when they introduced themselves and presented us with the photo. They had been equally stunned to learn that the girls they knew as Anna and Marina were Jews in hiding.

Only because we traveled to Kharkiv could we visit the home of Zhanna’s classmate Nicolai Bogancha, whose Christian family risked death by sheltering the fugitive sisters for two weeks, helping them invent new names and a fresh life story before the girls departed on their long journey from persecution and fear to freedom. We broke bread with Nicolai’s widow in the same house, eating on the same beautiful plates the girls had used.

In May 1946, when Zhanna and Frina boarded the ship carrying some 800 Holocaust survivors on the voyage to America, all she brought with her from Ukraine was the sheet music for her beloved Fantasy Impromptu — five delicate pages that she had miraculously preserved through five years of war. 

My father, David, died in 1975 at age 62, and by 2006, my mother was living and teaching in Atlanta. One day she picked up the phone and was taken aback when a woman speaking English with a heavy Russian accent said that her name was Tamara, a cousin.

Dawson’s books prior to Alias Anna had sent him to Ukraine and Israel where he could walk in his mother’s footsteps, see the places she had described and meet some of the people who had helped her survive — sometimes at great risk to themselves.

Unlike the Arshankys, her family had taken an eastbound train to Siberia and survived the Nazi siege. Tamara said she was calling from Israel, where her family emigrated after the war, and that she had never given up trying to discover what had happened to Zhanna. 

Mom didn’t believe her, suspecting an impostor, but Tamara finally made her believe, and sent the family photos used in my books. It was the first time I had seen pictures of my mother as a child and my first glimpse of the faces of my grandparents, Dmitri and Sara. When we visited Tamara in Israel, she gave us more photos expanding the picture of my mother’s life — and mine.

Nearly 80 years after the terror began, pieces of my mother’s fragmented story continued to appear — belated fruit of our research and publication of the books. In 2018, I received a Facebook message from a stranger named Ludmila who lived in Ukraine. She explained that her mother, Svetlana, a friend of Zhanna’s mentioned in the book, was still alive and lived in the same home in Kharkiv.

Before the Jews were sent to Drobitsky Yar, Zhanna had given Svetlana her blue silk concert dress for safekeeping. After escaping the death march, Zhanna returned to retrieve the dress and on the way out the door a matching scarf “dropped unnoticed and was left with me forever,” Svetlana said.

“Forever” ended in 2019. Svetlana’s granddaughter, Kate, who lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her Russian husband, Dmitriy, visited her mother in Kharkiv and returned with the priceless blue ribbon of silk cloth. The scarf and Fantasy Impromptu sheet music — the only remnants of the life Zhanna left behind — have become our most treasured possessions. 

On our next visit, we handed my mother this lost piece of fabric, a symbol of her past. By then, at 92, dementia had stolen her voice, but her eyes told us that she knew what she was gently running through her still nimble fingers. She nodded and smiled with a faraway look. And I thought of the last thing she told me in our many hours of conversation.

“Somehow the story, the history, went around us instead of through us. It is a miraculous thing because anything could have been done to us at any moment in those five years. We did not remain the same, I assure you.” 

Nor have we. 


Editor’s Note: Greg Dawson, a former Orlando Sentinel columnist and a contributing writer to Winter Park Magazine, lives in Maitland with his wife, Candy. His books include Hiding in the Spotlight: A Musical Prodigy’s Story of Survival (Pegasus Books, 2009) and Judgment Before Nuremberg: The Holocaust in Ukraine and the First Nazi War Crimes Trial (Pegasus Books, 2012). A new book, Alias Anna: A True Story of Outwitting the Nazis (HarperCollins, 2022), is a reworking of Hiding in the Spotlight for young readers that he co-authored with Susan Hood, a renowned writer of children’s books. 


UKRAINE BALLET BENEFIT ORIGINATES IN WINTER PARK

Marc McMurrin, president and CEO of the Winter Park-based Ginsburg Family Foundation, has pulled together an extraordinary benefit that will feature local arts groups performing with the National Ballet of Ukraine. All proceeds for the event will benefit humanitarian organizations working in Ukraine. The Ukraine Ballet Benefit will be Saturday, August 27, at Steinmetz Hall, the acoustic venue at Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Performing with the ballet, which was on tour in Western Europe when the Russian invasion began, will be the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra and Opera Orlando. For more details on the benefit and how you can support it, visit our Events page.

Holt, a lifelong Republican, became an enthusiastic supporter of President Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat. He believed that the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations would lead to the sort of robust (and well-armed) world government that he envisioned. Photo courtesy of Rollins College Archives; photo restoration by Will Setzer at Circle 7 Studio

HOLT’S ELUSIVE DREAM

Photo courtesy of Rollins College Archives; photo restoration by Will Setzer at Circle 7 Studio

In the classic 1951 science fiction film The Day the Earth Stood Still, a humanoid from another world, Klaatu (Michael Rennie), lands his flying saucer on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., causing worldwide alarm. 

Exiting the saucer, Klaatu announces that he has “come in peace and good will,” but is shot and wounded by an overeager soldier. A hulking robot called Gort then appears and turns several military vehicles to ash using a mysterious ray blast emanating from behind a visor-like opening.

A wounded Klaatu later explains that the inhabitants of other
planets have become concerned by the existential threat now posed by the Earth, particularly since pugnacious humans have developed rockets and rudimentary atomic power.

The planet will be “eliminated,” Klaatu warns, unless the people unite and agree to end war. Over the course of 90 minutes or so, earthlings do everything possible to confirm the interstellar emissary’s impression of them as hopelessly warlike.

As Klaatu takes his leave, having failed to unite the world’s political leaders (and getting shot yet again for his trouble), the erudite alien issues a stark warning to a multicultural gaggle of scientists and sympathizers assembled around the saucer.

He explains that other civilizations throughout the galaxy have managed to live in harmony because an interplanetary organization has created a police force of invincible robots like Gort, whose sole purpose is to destroy those who attack other planets — with no questions asked. 

Not surprisingly under such an irrevocable arrangement, there would be considerable incentive to negotiate peaceful settlements when disputes between planets threatened to boil over.

“In matters of aggression, we have given [the robots] absolute power over us,” Klaatu concludes. “Your choice is simple: join us and live in peace or pursue your present course and face obliteration. We shall be waiting for your answer.”

In 1951’s The Day the Earth Stood Still, an alien and his invincible robot land in Washington, D.C., to warn that the planet would be “eliminated” unless nations ceased their warlike behavior. Hamilton Holt, president of Rollins College from 1925 to 1949, might have sympathized with a more earthbound version of the alien’s point of view.

So, what is the relationship between the premise of this Cold War-era morality tale — today considered by The New York Times as one of the “1,000 Best Movies Ever Made” — and Rollins College President Hamilton Holt, who led the institution from 1925 to 1949? 

For decades, Holt had been preaching about peace through world government. Although he is best remembered today for his classroom innovations and educational reforms, his true passion was to see all nations confederated under one authority that would arbitrate disputes and keep the peace. 

That sounds relatively benign, although entirely unrealistic. However, although Holt certainly did not envision deploying an army of invincible robots to compel good behavior, he did envision a legally constituted international entity that could use force against aggressor states.

Yes, Holt agreed, individual countries could maintain small armies. But the so called world government — a kind of United Nations on steroids — would command an army larger than any single country or alliance of countries. 

The idea that every nation on the planet — particularly superpowers and bitter regional enemies whose hatreds can be traced to ancient times — would agree to this sort of subjugation seems naïve at best. 

But what appears today to be a crackpot theory was, at times, considered at least worth discussing among academics and intellectuals like Holt. Milder versions (sans the international army) were even given lip service by some prominent politicians, including several presidents. 

The United States, it was argued, was founded as 13 colonies bound together by the Articles of Confederation. The nations of the world, then, ought to be ready and willing to implement “a new order of civilization” based upon the Founding Fathers’ vision for America.

Suffice it to say, one need not be a professor of international affairs to understand why world government was always a nonstarter. Holt, however, was a leader in this quixotic movement. And he never wavered in his belief that it was “the manifest destiny” of the United States to unite the all nations in “a Declaration of Interdependence.” 

He gave essentially the same world government speech perhaps thousands of times between 1910 and 1950, and seemed legitimately convinced that reasonable people, regardless of their country of origin or their political and cultural differences, would eventually see the logic and come around. 

Holt, whose heart was surely in the right place, died believing this — which says more about the man and his unflinching optimism than about the Utopian idea that he championed.

An Opinionated Editor

Hamilton Holt was never reticent about expressing opinions. As the owner/editor of an influential weekly opinion journal prior to his 24-year stint as president of a college in out-of-the-way Winter Park, Holt was a public intellectual whose high-profile crusades for social justice and world peace helped shape the national discourse preceding and following World War I. 

Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1872, Holt was the son of George Chandler Holt — a district court judge in the Southern District of New York — and Mary Louise Bowen Holt. Later his family moved to Spuyten Duyvil in The Bronx, where he spent his childhood. 

Holt, an 1894 graduate of Yale University with a degree in economics, was an undistinguished student who despised the classical curriculum and mind-numbing lecture-and-recitation pedagogy that he had endured in college. Surely, he thought, there was a better way.

While studying sociology at the Columbia University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Holt worked part-time at the family-owned magazine, co-founded in 1848 by his maternal grandfather, Henry C. Bowen.

Originally a pro-abolitionist religious journal, The Independent had evolved to encompass content intended for sophisticated and politically progressive readers. In 1897, Holt abandoned his pursuit of a doctoral degree to focus on his new role as managing editor of the weekly. 

He solicited manuscripts, edited copy and wrote editorials and features, perhaps most notably a series of 75 “lifelets” — a memorable moniker for compact but compelling autobiographical sketches of “the humbler classes” representing various races and ethnicities.

He collected 16 lifelets for a 1906 book, The Life Stories of Undistinguished Americans: As Told by Themselves, which he described hopefully in the introduction as having “perhaps some sociological importance.” 

At The Independent, Holt came to believe that a lively, collaborative workplace was more intellectually stimulating, and more conducive to learning, than a stuffy classroom in which a professor pontificated while students struggled not to snooze. 

In 1912, Holt formed the Independent Weekly Corporation and bought The Independent outright from his uncle, Clarence W. Bowen, for $44,000, most of which was borrowed from friends. 

In the coming years, Holt and a rotating roster of notable contributors championed such causes as civil rights, organized labor, open government, universal suffrage and prison reform. 

“The average reader has no conception how much hard thinking and painstaking experiment is given in every up-to-date magazine to the headlines, titles, sub-titles, borders, tail pieces, etc., before the desired effect is precisely secured,” said the meticulous Holt. 

He also pursued aggressive growth strategies. Between 1912 and 1917, The Independent absorbed three other magazines — The Chautauquan, Harper’s Weekly and Countryside — pushing circulation to more than 125,000. 

However, to the detriment of thoughtful mass-market journalism, such contemplative (if wordy) weeklies began to disappear in the early 1920s, when a sharp economic downturn pummeled the advertising market and the public clamored for lighter fare such as The Saturday Evening Post and The Ladies Home Journal.


“Peace has at last become a practical political issue soon the political issue before all the nations. It seems destined that America should lead in this movement. The United States is the world in miniature. The United States is a demonstration that all the peoples of the world can live in peace.”

—An excerpt from Hamilton Holt’s stump speech on world government


The peripatetic Holt — likely to the detriment of The Independent, which might have lasted longer with his undivided attention — expended more time and energy as a peace activist. 

He barnstormed the country from 1907 to 1914 delivering his “Federation of the World” lecture under the auspices of the Peace Society of New York, the World Peace Foundation and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. 

“Now, my friends, the peace movement is no longer a little cult of cranks,” said Holt in a typical stump speech, which was usually illustrated by stereopticon images of the 1907 Hague Convention in the Netherlands, which was attended by delegations from more than 100 countries including the United States, Great Britain, France, Germany Russia, China and Persia (today Iran).

Holt, who covered the conference for The Independent, believed that the international Permanent Court of Arbitration established there was a step in the right direction but ultimately inadequate because it lacked the authority to enforce its rulings. 

“Peace has at last become a practical political issue — soon the political issue before all the nations,” he declared. “It seems destined that America should lead in this movement. The United States is the world in miniature. The United States is a demonstration that all the peoples of the world can live in peace.”

Then came the presentation’s final flourish: “And when that golden period is at hand — and it cannot be very far distant — we shall have in very truth Tennyson’s dream of the parliament of man, the federation of the world, and for the first time since the Prince of Peace died on Calvary, we shall have peace on earth and good will to men!” 

The title of Holt’s lecture was a line from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s 1843 poem “Locksley Hall.” The relevant portion reads: “Till the war drum throbbed no longer, and the battle flags were furled / In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world. / There the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe / And the kindly earth shall slumber, lapt in universal law.” (The most famous line from “Locksley Hall” is: “In the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.”)

In 1910, Holt chaired the World-Federation League and testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs. He and other members supported a league-authored resolution introduced by Representative Richard Bartholdt of Missouri.

This resolution called upon President William Howard Taft to appoint a commission that would draft “articles of federation” for the “maintenance of peace, through the establishment of a court that could decide any dispute between nations.”

The commission would consider “the expediency of utilizing existing international agencies for the purpose of limiting armaments of the nations of the world by international agreement, and of constituting the combined navies of the world [into] an international force for the preservation of universal peace, and to consider and report upon any other means to diminish the expenditures of government for military purposes and to lessen the possibilities of war.”

Unlike The Hague’s Permanent Court of Arbitration, the more powerful body could “enforce execution of its decrees by the arms of the federation, such arms to be provided to the federation and controlled by it.” 

Wary of the policing provision, both houses of Congress instead unanimously passed a far less ambitious joint resolution that called for a commission to investigate both arms reduction and the creation of a multinational naval force to patrol the sea. 

Holt, tenacious but never one to take an all-or-nothing position, thought that the diluted resolution was at least a step in the right direction and personally asked former President Theodore Roosevelt — who had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906 for negotiating an end to the Russo-Japanese War — to serve as the commission’s chairman. 

“It is said to be extremely likely that before many months have passed, a powerful peace commission will be in existence with the Colonel at its head,” predicted one widely circulated editorial. 

Roosevelt, however, demurred, telling Holt that no U.S. president should pioneer an international movement. “Let others sow the seed,” said the Rough Rider, according to later accounts from Holt. “But let [the president] reap the harvest.” 

Holt may have been puzzled by the response, particularly considering Roosevelt’s supportive public declarations. In his 1904 address to Congress, Roosevelt had announced a “corollary” to the Monroe Doctrine vowing that the United States would act as an international police force to bar foreign intervention in Latin America. 

More recently he had gone even further. During a belated 1910 Nobel lecture in Oslo, Norway, he had called for treaties of arbitration between nations as well as “a league of peace, not only to keep the peace among [league members], but to prevent, by force if necessary, its being broken by others.”

In any case, Taft, whose diplomats floated the idea and received discouraging feedback from their counterparts, let the matter of a commission drop for the time being. 

Holt, a lifelong Republican, became an enthusiastic supporter of President Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat. He believed that the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations would lead to the sort of robust (and well-armed) world government that he envisioned. Photo courtesy of Rollins College Archives

A (Not So) Practical Proposal

At the outbreak of the Great War in 1914, Holt revisited the topic of world government in “The Way to Disarm: A Practical Proposal.” The editorial, which appeared in The Independent and other publications in September of that year, contained little that was new but was widely praised. 

“That the world should go on after the appalling experiences it is now undergoing … is a prospect to which no thinking mind can reconcile itself,” wrote the New York Post. 

The editorial continued: “When the bloodshed and devastation come to an end, the best thought in every nation must be centered upon the possibilities of remedy. And it is not improbable that it will be along such lines as those indicated by Mr. Holt that the remedy will be sought.” 

Encouraged, Holt marshaled his resources. The League to Enforce Peace, again subsidized by Carnegie’s foundation, was formed in 1915 by Holt and Theodore Marburg, a long-time activist in international peace movements and a previous U.S. minister to Belgium. 

Now-former President Taft, again at Holt’s behest, agreed to chair the new organization. Executive committee members included Holt as well as Abbott Lawrence Lowell, president of Harvard University, and Oscar S. Straus, former secretary of commerce and labor under Roosevelt.

Charter members also included another Roosevelt administration alumnus, Elihu Root, former secretary of state; as well as Alexander Graham Bell, scientist and inventor; Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, progressive social activist; Cardinal James Gibbons, Archbishop of Baltimore; and Edward A. Filene, a department store magnate representing the newly formed United States Chamber of Commerce. 

In June of that year, at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, league members endorsed a federation of nations whose members would “jointly use their economic and military force against any one of their number that goes to war or commits acts of hostility against another.”

Just weeks prior to the meeting, German submarines had sunk the British ocean liner Lusitania. The Kaiser, league members agreed, must be held to account; war, they assumed, was inevitable. The issue for Holt and others was how the world would be structured in the war’s aftermath. Once Germany was subdued, perhaps their ideas could gain real traction.

With a new sense of urgency, Holt again crisscrossed the country with a world government lecture that covered familiar territory but seemed more relevant in light of world events. Since antiquity, he told audiences, cities and states had resolved their differences with one another through legal means. Could nations not do the same?

Said Holt: “The peace problem, then, is nothing but the problem of finding ways and means of doing between the nations what has already been done within the nations.” 

World government advocates were not, he was careful to explain, intractable pacifists who demanded that all nations lay down their arms immediately. Nor did they propose that nations give up their operational autonomy. 

Because smaller individual armies would be permitted, “the league therefore reconciles the demand of pacifists for the limitation of armaments and eventual disarmament, and the demand of militarists for the protection that armament affords.” 

Still, because international police power remained a delicate issue, Holt vowed that any world governing body would exhaust every option before resorting to force against recalcitrant federation members. 

In the meantime, Germany continued its program of unrestricted submarine attacks against all ships that entered the war zone around the British Isles. In addition, it was revealed that the German government had sought a military alliance with Mexico to recapture Texas, Arizona and New Mexico.

On April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson, who had been reelected the prior year in part by maintaining neutrality, appeared before the U.S. Congress and called for a declaration of war “against human greed and folly, against Germany, and for justice, peace and civilization.” 

The league wholeheartedly supported the Allied effort to stamp out German militarism — it was, after all, a league to enforce peace, not just to wish for it — and distributed hundreds of thousands of pieces of pro-war literature. It also established a National Speakers Bureau through which some 3.8 million people were reached, according to league estimates. 

In the spring and early summer of 1918, Holt spent three months in Europe, sending surprisingly jingoistic dispatches from the front lines to The Independent. 

“The way our soldiers and sailors and marines have waded into the big fight and made good has electrified England and the continent,” he told the New York Sun upon his return. 

Holt added: “I don’t think it is too much say that the people in France, Italy and the other countries I visited look up to President Wilson as much or more than their own great leaders. They have come to revere him as their savior.” 

No ‘Mongrel Banners’

When the war ended with the signing of the Armistice in November 1918, concepts put forth in “The Way to Disarm” and supported by the League to Enforce Peace informed much of Wilson’s thinking. 

In early 1919, Holt and Straus traveled to the Paris as observers when Wilson (who was ill and erratic, perhaps the result of a stroke) negotiated and signed the Treaty of Versailles. Granted, the resulting League of Nations was considerably less potent than a world government that could by law — or, if necessary, by force — act to maintain order and guarantee security. 

But Holt and his allies rallied around the organization, reasoning that it was at least a start and could later be strengthened. 

“The dreams of the poets, prophets and philosophers have at last come true,” Holt wrote in a dispatch from Paris published in The Independent. “There can be no doubt whatever about it. The peace conference itself is the germ from which a real united nations will eventually develop.” 

Holt, a lifelong Republican, became an enthusiastic Wilsonite — although he did not yet change his party affiliation. In 1920, he was named the first executive director of the endowment fund for the Woodrow Wilson Foundation, an educational nonprofit established to make cash awards to individuals and groups that advanced world peace. 

Chairman of the National Committee of the Wilson Foundation was former Assistant Secretary of the Navy and future President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who proved to be a surprisingly ineffective fundraiser. 

Still, donors received a certificate imprinted with Wilson’s words from his 1917 address to Congress seeking a declaration of war: “The world must be made safe for democracy. Peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty.” 

Holt also became involved in various international friendship societies, including the Italy America Society, the Netherlands America Foundation, the Friends of Poland Society, the American-Scandinavian Foundation and the Greek American Club.

In Holt’s view, the world would inevitably become “federated in a brotherhood of universal peace” even if progress toward that noble goal was incremental. 

Then, despite Wilson’s exhausting effort, the U.S. Senate failed to ratify the Treaty of Versailles. At issue was Article 10 of the League of Nations covenant, which regarded collective security. 

“I have loved but one flag and I cannot share that devotion and give affection to the mongrel banner invented for a league,” thundered Massachusetts Republican Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, an opposition leader who contended that the article violated U.S. sovereignty and could lead to unwanted military entanglements. 

Holt, though, was unwilling to capitulate; in 1922, he organized the League of Nations Non-Partisan Association and through it attempted to rally public opinion and exert political pressure. 

After disassociating himself from The Independent’s successor publication, which ambiguously declared that its purpose was to “promote the principles of liberal conservatism,” Holt continued to participate in internationalist organizations.

In 1924, after anti-league Republican Warren G. Harding won the presidential election, he bolted the party for good and ran as a Democrat for a vacant U.S. Senate seat in Connecticut, where he had registered to vote just months before. (His summer residence was his mother’s family homestead in Woodstock, a picturesque village in the northeastern corner of the state.) 

Holt discovered, however, that League of Nations membership was not a compelling enough issue to overcome the statewide strategic advantage enjoyed by Republicans.

The Hartford Courant, in endorsing his Republican opponent, Hiram Bingham, contended that Holt’s world government crusade had hindered preparedness and cost lives when the United States entered World War I. 

“We would not say that Mr. Holt knew that would be the result when he opposed preparedness,” wrote the Courant. “But he is properly chargeable with bad judgment … and we want no bad judgment in the handling of the votes of the state of Connecticut in the United States Senate.” 

The editorial went on to call Holt “a pronounced pacifist” — which was not strictly true, since he had supported the war effort. In contrast, Bingham, was described as “gallant and soldierly.”

Holt lost the race in a rout and was back on the lecture circuit when he received a fateful letter from Rollins College in Winter Park.

Small Town, Big Ideas

A proverbial citizen of the world, Holt was not intimidated dealing with representatives from a shaky provincial college that surely needed him more than he needed it. 

Although he had never run a college — he did not, in fact, hold an advanced degree — he had opined frequently about higher education’s perceived shortcomings. 

Colleges were infected with three major ills, Holt wrote: “First, the insatiable impulse to expand materially; second, the glorification of research at the expense of teaching; and third, the lack of human contact between teacher and student.”

Holt was no stranger to Rollins or to Winter Park. He first visited the campus in 1910 to deliver his perennial “Federation of the World” lecture. 

There is no mention of the address in The Sandspur, the student newspaper, but it was likely well received on campus (assuming the audience consisted of young idealists), and Holt was a guest of honor at a reception hosted by President William F. Blackman. 

In 1914, Blackman invited Holt to join the college’s board of trustees, on which he served a single two-year term, resigning when it became apparent that he was too preoccupied trying to save mankind (not a hyperbolic statement in Holt’s case) to meaningfully participate. 

In 1924, Holt returned to Rollins during another lecture tour and informally discussed the now-vacant presidency. (Robert James Sprague, a college dean, was serving as acting president.) But the position was offered instead to William Clarence Weir, formerly president of Pacific College in Forest Grove, Oregon. 

(Weir mysteriously retired due to unspecified health reasons a year later. But whatever ailed him didn’t linger. A few months following his departure from the college, according to city directories, Weir and his wife, Nettie, were operating The Weir System, a real estate office, in Orlando.)

Bestselling novelist Irving Bacheller, a college trustee, then wrote Holt to gauge his interest in the position. He suggested a salary of $5,000 per year (the equivalent of about $70,000 today), noting that the job would be “a cinch for a man of your capacity.” 

The timing was fortuitous for Holt; his recession-battered magazine had been absorbed in 1921 by The Weekly Review, a competitive publication, leaving Holt with $33,000 in personal debt. 

In addition to having no steady source of income, Holt was beset by concerns that he had for years neglected his health and his family, which consisted of his wife, Alexandria Crawford Smith, and their four children: Beatrice, Leila, John Eliot and George Chandler.

For these and other reasons, Holt was eager to settle in Florida — a place he believed offered boundless opportunity — and was intrigued by the challenge of testing his theories about higher education. But he was accustomed to earning at least twice as much, even if the checks were less steady.

“I could not accept the terms you offer as I am unwilling to have any permanent connection with any educational institution that is compelled to underpay its president or professors,” he replied, countering at $10,000 per year. Both parties, he added, could reevaluate after the winter term.

In fact, some trustees speculated that Holt was “too big a man” to be truly interested in becoming a small-town college administrator, with its attendant paper-pushing and glad-handing. 

But perhaps out of regard for Bacheller’s judgment — and when a less expensive but arguably more qualified candidate declined — the college hired Holt in October 1925. 

Congratulatory messages from notables in politics and academia poured into the college, including one from now-U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Taft that read: “[Holt] is a man of the highest probity and character, a man of wide experience and great ability. I felicitate the college on securing him.” 

On that mannerly note, the Holt Era began.

“When I became president of Rollins College my viewpoint, naturally, was that of a layman,” Holt recalled decades later as he prepared to retire. “But I knew very definitely what I did not want in the way of educational methods. I had suffered under the lecture-and-recitation system too long for too many years not to know how seriously [such a system] may handicap any real flowering of a student’s mind; how eagerness may be replaced by indifference and finally boredom.”

Holt’s solution was the so-called “conference plan,” which replaced lectures with discussions and one-on-one interactions between professors and students. He also insisted that the college limit enrollment and recruit professors who were first and foremost skilled teachers — “golden personalities,” he called them. 

In 1931, Holt organized a high-profile colloquium on liberal-arts education led by renowned educational philosopher John Dewey. Ultimately, the conferees validated what Holt had called “a common-sense approach to higher education,” and endorsed key aspects of the conference plan and other reforms — including the elimination of grades and the reduction of specific course requirements. 

Holt also started the Animated Magazine, which each winter brought celebrities and prominent personalities to campus for a day of public presentations. Rollins, it seems, was constantly getting national attention for one initiative or another, thanks to the president’s background as a journalist and a promoter of causes.

In addition, Holt presented a plethora of honorary degrees to attract luminaries to campus and keep the college in the news. Most of the recipients did, in fact, warrant the recognition.


“Hamilton, if you’re about to tell me that the Roosevelts have accepted an invitation to come here, and that you want to have the convocation in the chapel, don’t forget I gave that chapel to the college not with any strings attached. It’s for you to use as you see fit. So, if that’s the purpose of all this, you’re wasting your time. I just have one request. Don’t ask me to be in town when those people are here, because I will not be here when they’re in town.”

—Frances Bangs Knowles, on word that President Franklin D. Roosevelt would visit Rollins


In 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt arrived to receive an LHD (an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters) in ceremonies at Knowles Memorial Chapel. (Eleanor Roosevelt received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan medallion, prompting her husband to remark that it was the first time he had seen his “better half” in a cap and gown.) 

Many conservative Winter Parkers despised FDR, but most — in that simpler time — respected the office of the presidency and held their tongues. John “Jack” Rich, in his 2005 oral history interview with Wenxian Zhang, head of the college’s archives and special collections, recalled the reaction of Rollins chapel benefactor Frances Knowles Warren to the Roosevelts’ visit: 

“The residents of Winter Park were very conservative, dyed-in-the-wool Republicans … who hated the name Roosevelt. So when [Holt] finally worked out the date for the Roosevelts to come… [he] thought it would be a polite gesture to let Mrs. Warren know. … She said, ‘Hamilton, if you’re about to tell me that the Roosevelts have accepted an invitation to come here, and that you want to have the convocation in the chapel, don’t forget I gave that chapel to the college not with any strings attached. It’s for you to use as you see fit. So, if that’s the purpose of all this, you’re wasting your time.’ And she said, ‘I just have one request. Don’t ask me to be in town when those people are here, because I will not be here when they’re in town.’”

President Franklin D. Roosvelt (left) received an honorary degree from Rollins in 1936. Holt (right) presented the Doctor of Humane Letters to Roosevelt and the Algernon Sydney Sullivan medallion to his wife, Eleanor (to Holt’s right). The uniformed man is not identified. “[Holt’s] old friends were not at all surprised when he substituted new ideas in education for old practices,” said Roosevelt. “These changes at Rollins are bearing fruit. They are being watched by educators and laymen. The fact that in some respects they break away from the old academic moorings should not startle us.” Photo courtesy of Rollins College Archives

The Roosevelts had originally scheduled their trip to coincide with Founders’ Week, but when they were delayed, the college pulled together a special convocation at which FDR heaped praise upon his host. 

“[Holt’s] old friends were not at all surprised when he substituted new ideas in education for old practices,” said Roosevelt. “These changes at Rollins are bearing fruit. They are being watched by educators and laymen. The fact that in some respects they break away from the old academic moorings should not startle us.”

Added Roosevelt: “In education, as in politics and economics and social relationships, we hold fast to the old ideals and only change our method of approach to the attainment of the ideals. Stagnation follows standing still. Continued growth is the only evidence of life.”

But one thing never changed, and that was Holt’s passion for world government. For a time, his crusading was subsumed by his duties as a college president. But as his early educational innovations became established, he increasingly returned to what he considered to be his most important life’s work — and used the college as a sort of bully pulpit.

A world again spiraling out of control may have prompted Holt to renew his activism. He supported the allied effort in World War II and, when the war ended in 1945 after atomic blasts devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he traveled to San Francisco as an independent observer when a charter was adopted establishing the United Nations.

He deemed the resulting organization only a marginal improvement over the soon-to-be defunct League of Nations, which had limped along without the United States and had notably failed to prevent yet another world war as its members dropped out (or were expelled, as was the case with Russia) and became combatants.

With the advent of nuclear weapons, Holt believed, it was more important than ever that a world government — not any independent nation — should control such awesome destructive power. 

The United Nations, he said, must be “transformed from a league of sovereign states into a government deriving its specific powers from the peoples of the world.” Realizing that this was unlikely, Holt insisted that someday — perhaps not in his lifetime — nations would join “in one universal brotherhood, in which cooperation shall succeed competition, faith shall supplant fear and law shall expel war.”

In 1946, Holt had an opportunity to personally deliver what he called “an open sermon” to President Harry S. Truman, who was in the midst of a whirlwind trip to Central Florida and stopped by the college to receive an honorary degree of his own. As the Cold War dawned, he urged Truman to call for a revision to the United Nations to revise its charter and reconstitute itself as a world government “with direct power to tax, conscript and otherwise make and enforce laws.” Photo courtesy of Rollins College Archives

In February 1946, Holt had an opportunity to personally deliver what he called “an open sermon” to President Harry S. Truman, who was in the midst of a whirlwind trip to Central Florida and stopped by the college to receive an honorary degree of his own. The steely Missourian’s Founders’ Week appearance came at a time of increased tension between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies. That struggle for global dominance, destined to span decades, would soon become known as the Cold War.

“We are working for peace,” vowed Truman, who likely anticipated — and just as likely did not wish to hear — an admonition from Holt. “We want peace. We pray for peace all the time in the world. And to attain that peace we must all learn how to live together peaceably and to do to our neighbors as we would have our neighbors do to us. Then we will have a happy world. And that is what we all want.” 

Holt, in turn, repeated much of his now-familiar world government stump speech and argued that Truman’s military buildup was as likely to cause conflict as to preserve peace. 

“The fact is there is no such thing as absolute preparedness,” he said. “That is why the generals and admirals are never satisfied.” Yes, Holt acknowledged, the Soviet Union almost certainly intended to “extend her political ideologies to the outside world and thus eventually abolish capitalism, if not democracy.”

But the answer, he continued, was not “feverishly to arm ourselves against an impending World War III.” Truman should instead call for the United Nations to revise its charter and reconstitute itself as a “world government with direct power to tax, conscript and otherwise make and enforce laws.” 

Holt claimed that he did not know what the domestic political ramifications of such a stance would be for Truman. He insisted, however, that in the grand scheme of things it hardly mattered. 

“If you are reelected you will have four more years to carry out your great design,” Holt said. “If, however, you are defeated, you will still have the acclaim of millions of mankind as well as the personal satisfaction of having done more than any living man to put this great ideal into the minds and hearts of your fellow men.” 

How would a world government deal with a recalcitrant Soviet Union? “We might have to set [it] up without Russia and her satellites,” Holt conceded. “But sooner or later, all the outside nations will come in.” 

Although he tempered his remarks during convocation, he had previously opined that any nation — most notably Russia — that rejected United Nations control over atomic energy “should be wiped off the face of the earth with atomic bombs.” 


“If you are reelected you will have four more years to carry out your great design. If, however, you are defeated, you will still have the acclaim of millions of mankind as well as the personal satisfaction of having done more than any living man to put this great ideal into the minds and hearts of your fellow men.” 

—Hamilton Holt in an “open lecture” to President Harry S. Truman about stopping the arms race


Truman, of course, never went so far as to endorse world government. But at the 1948 dedication of a war memorial monument in Nebraska — and speaking specifically of arbitration — he sounded very much like Holt when he said that international disputes between nations should be solved in the same way as disputes between states within nations: 

“When Kansas and Colorado fall out over the waters in the Arkansas River, they don’t go to war over it; they go to the Supreme Court of the United States, and the matter is settled in a just and honorable way. There is not a difficulty in the whole world that cannot be settled in exactly the same way in a world court.”

Holt’s stance, though, went far beyond an obvious nod to the value of arbitration over armed conflict. Philosophically, he was closer to Klaatu, the intergalactic emissary, but without a shimmering spacesuit and a robot companion. He wanted nothing less than an end to war — even if it meant obliterating warmongers.

World Government on Campus

In March 1946, almost immediately following Truman’s on-campus appearance, Holt convened the Rollins College Conference on World Government, inviting 40 like-minded luminaries — 25 of whom traveled to Winter Park. Among them were representatives from academia, industry, politics and the clergy.

After several days of discussion, the group, chaired by historian Carl Van Doren, adopted an “Appeal to the Peoples of the World.” The three-page document, which mirrored Holt’s convocation speech, called for creation of a world government “to which shall be delegated the powers necessary to maintain the general peace of the world based on law and justice.” 

Conferees agreed that the United Nations, toothless in its present form, at least provided a ready framework — much as the League of Nations had more than 25 years before — and could be reconstituted as a legislative body that would regulate the use of atomic energy, impose civil and criminal sanctions against violators of international law and, if necessary, launch military action against malefactors. 

Although practical detail, as usual, was missing, the document was signed by 80 prominent individuals. Theoretical physicist Albert Einstein, whose warning to FDR about Germany’s atomic research had spurred the Manhattan Project, was among the absentee signatories. 

Others who were not in attendance but who signed the document included Justice William O. Douglas of the U.S. Supreme Court; Florida U.S. Senator Claude Pepper, who later served in the U.S. House of Representatives; and California U.S. Representative H. Jerry Voorhis, who is remembered for losing his seat to a Red-baiting novice named Richard M. Nixon. 

Holt’s son, George, who had graduated from Rollins and was now its director of admissions, chaired the conference. Also in attendance was Edwin S. Slosson, Holt’s colleague from The Independent who had written Great American Universities, and Ray Stannard Baker, a muckraking journalist whose eight-volume Woodrow Wilson: Life and Letters (1927–1939), won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography in 1940. 

Holt, rather hyperbolically, declared the committee’s proposal to be “the soundest, most advanced and most statesmanlike yet issued to the world by men of high distinction and responsibility.” 

He also announced that the college would launch an Institute for World Government led by 25-year-old Rudolph von Abele, an assistant professor of English who had been active in the world peace movement during graduate school at Columbia University. 

When von Abele did not return to the college in 1947, the fledgling operation, the purpose of which was to promote internationalist ideals, was placed under the supervision of professor of mathematics George Sauté, who would later direct the college’s reconstituted adult education program. 

Holt headed the executive committee, which also included E.T. Brown, college treasurer; Edwin L. Clarke, professor of sociology; Royal W. France, professor of economics; Nathan C. Starr, professor of English; and Mary Upthegrove, a student active on the Inter-Racial Committee and the Pan-American League. 

The executive council included students Weston Emery, Eleanor Holdt, Marcia Huntoon, Tony Ransdell and Phyllis Starobin. Wendell C. Stone, the college’s dean; Horace A. Tollefson, the college’s librarian; and Alex Waite, professor of psychology, also served.

No longer solely a personal crusade, Holt had aligned the college with a cause that was surely going to cause controversy in the community as well as among donors and trustees.

In October 1947, Holt sent Sauté to the Convention of the United World Federalists in St. Louis, where more than 300 earnest activists representing 37 state chapters gathered to chart a course forward. 

The movement was, in fact, enjoying a brief resurgence in the years between the end of World War II and the start of the Korean War. Gallup Polls in 1946, 1947 and 1948 asked: “Do you think the U.N. should be strengthened to make it a world government with the power to control the armed forces of all nations, including the United States?” 

In each of those three years, around 55 percent said yes. The number began dropping in 1949 and bottomed out at 40 percent in the mid-1950s. After two world wars in little more than 20 years, it appears that many in the mid-1940s were at least willing to listen.

Several months prior to the St. Louis gathering, world government advocates from 51 countries had gathered in Montreux, Switzerland, for the grandly named Conference of the World Movement for World Federal Government. 

The resulting Montreux Declaration stated that “the United Nations is powerless, as at present constituted, to stop the drift of war” and opined that only the establishment of world government “can ensure the survival of man.”

Following this conclave, five smaller world government organizations — representatives of which had attended the meeting in St. Louis — merged to form the United World Federalists, which was based in Asheville, North Carolina.

Although there were internal disagreements, ultimately the attendees agreed that world government should be brought about through changes to the United Nations charter. As reconstituted, the organization would take ownership of nuclear technology and prohibit any nation from possessing arms deemed to be beyond the level required for internal policing. 

There would be no wiggle-room or opt-out clauses. National governments would agree “to the transfer to the world federal government of such legislative, executive and judicial powers as relate to the world affairs.” Miscreants would answer to “a supranational armed force capable of guaranteeing the security of the world federal government and of its member states.”

Sauté, who had been hired by Holt in 1943 and shared his internationalist fervor, was energized by the trip. “This crusade is not one to join, talk about, go home and forget,” he reported to Holt upon his return. “It is a crusade that will continue until a rule of law is established for the settlement of international disputes; then and only then can we enjoy lasting peace.” 

Clearly Sauté was preaching to the choir with Holt, who was nonetheless pleased to have found a faculty surrogate with whom to share the burden of advocacy.

In January 1948, the Rollins Institute for World Government hosted a meeting of the Florida UWF branch, which included delegations from chapters in Kissimmee, Lakeland, Orlando, Tampa and Winter Park. Sauté was elected state chairman, and it was agreed that Rollins would become state headquarters.

When the meeting concluded, an editorial in The Sandspur by Samuel R. Levering, a Quaker pacifist from Virginia who was among the founders of UWF, lauded Holt’s vision and listed prominent public supporters of world government, including activists, academicians, several industrialists and two U.S. Supreme Court Justices. 

The world government movement was neither communist or socialist, Levering wrote, and its lofty goals were “much more practical than the alternative — continuing the arms race with destructive war almost certain.”

But what about Russia? Would it participate in such an organization? Levering had an answer: 

“If Russia refuses, the rest of the world should go ahead anyway, leaving the way open for Russia to come in later. Should Russia stay outside, the rest of the world, united, would be stronger than at present, since Russia, isolated and in a worse moral position, would be less likely to attack.”

In any case, Levering concluded, time was of the essence “if our civilization is to survive … and World War III is to be prevented.”

Sauté, who possessed the physical endurance that Holt, now past 70, found more difficult to muster, began lining up speaking engagements. Although he was not an orator of Holt’s caliber, Sauté addressed virtually every civic group in Central Florida and many around the state. 

One headline announcing a Sauté presentation most accurately described his ambitious objective: “Sauté Charts Course Needed to Save World.” 

In addition, Sauté became a prolific writer of letters to the editor, and while his missives lacked Holt’s literary flair, they were effective in their forthright fashion. 

“Some people say we cannot hope to have a world government until nations understand each other better and are willing to cooperate,” he penned in a 1948 edition of the Winter Park Herald. “They add that you should have peace at home, in your community and in your country before you talk about world peace.”

The column continued: “Why do some think that the protection of law is all right up to the level of nations but shrink from the idea of extending it to the international level? There is nothing whatsoever that we are advocating … that denies the necessity of our country’s keeping a strong military until world government is established. Our strong contention is that we will not prevent war by preparing for it and doing nothing else.” 

Sauté even launched a weekly radio program, World Government and You, on Orlando station WORZ-AM, and was interviewed over Voice of America radio speaking entirely in French (having been raised in Belgium, he was fluent in the language). 

Yet Sauté seemed an unlikely crusader, according to a profile in a local weekly, The Corner Cupboard: “A man with an enviable philosophy of life is George Sauté. He lives life as it comes, day by day, with a deep conviction in the power of prayer to set things right. In his own affairs, Prof. Sauté takes a middle-of-the-road position. He is not one to have more courage than wisdom. Rather, his is a moral courage that has the patience and the self-control to await the outcome of events.” 

Holt, in the meantime, could not afford to wait for anything. He wore himself out chasing money; in May 1947, following the groundbreaking for Orlando Hall, he was hospitalized following an emergency appendectomy and spent much of the summer recovering at his home in Woodstock. 


“I see a bend in the river and try to tell myself that if I reach the turn, the water will be calm. But I know that is not so. When a problem is solved, there are others to take its place.”

—Hamilton Holt on his lifelong peace activism


“No one will ever know how hard [Holt] and his assistants worked during the late stages of the drive,” reported the Rollins Alumni Record. “This tremendous effort drained his physical strength and undoubtedly contributed to his illness.”

The story continued: “[Holt] personally wrote hundreds of letters, sent innumerable telegrams and made countless long-distance telephone calls in his appeal for funds. [He] felt there was nothing else to do but put his whole strength into the undertaking or he would probably not reach his goal — and he says that he would do it again.” 

The twin responsibilities of keeping the college solvent and saving the planet weighed on Holt’s health and surely on his psyche. “During a crisis I feel like a man battling a current,” he reflected in 1949, as he prepared to retire. 

“I see a bend in the river and try to tell myself that if I reach the turn, the water will be calm. But I know that is not so. When a problem is solved, there are others to take its place.”

Holt’s health had been in precipitous decline since his leg had been amputated due to diabetes. A seeker of peace, he finally found it on April 26, 1951, when he died of a heart attack at his home in Woodstock.

Holt was exhausted when he retired in 1949. The twin responsibilities of keeping the college solvent and saving the planet had weighed on his health and surely on his psyche. A seeker of peace, he finally found it on April 26, 1951, when he died of a heart attack at his home in Woodstock, Connecticut.

The Last Crusader

The beloved “Prexy,” as Holt was known, was replaced by Paul A. Wagner, a brilliant but arrogant 32-year-old wunderkind who, among other affronts, fired one-third of the college’s teaching staff, many of whom had earned tenure. It was a budgetary matter, he said.

Sauté’s job was among those on the chopping block. But, following an imbroglio that dragged on for nearly two years, Wagner was fired and, after much drama, evicted from the campus. Holt protégé Hugh F. McKean, a professor of art, was named president in 1951 and promptly rehired the dismissed faculty.

But the Institute for World Government was eliminated, ostensibly because there were no funds available. More likely, the institute was a casualty of Cold War wariness. 

With McCarthyism and the Red Scare running rampant, internationalists often found their names on lists of communists and other fellow travelers. In any case, the college was in no position to agitate anyone. 

“When I first started lecturing on the United Nations, atomic energy and international control of armaments for peace, it was popular,” said Sauté in a 1969 oral history interview. “And then suddenly it got very unpopular. I would be lecturing or debating, and someone would say, ‘You’re from Belgium, aren’t you? Well, then you’re not an American.’” 

Further, although McKean was an admirer of Holt, he was no crusader, and did not share his mentor’s political fervor. He had a college to save, after which, it was then assumed, he would return to teaching, curating and painting. 

Instead, he would serve as president for 18 years, retiring in 1969 and founding the Morse Museum of American Art with his wife, Jeannette. McKean died in 1995 at age 86. 

Sauté went on to direct Courses for the Community, a modest adult education program that eventually evolved into the Hamilton Holt School. However, the quality of the program never met McKean’s amorphous standards, and Sauté was frequently the recipient of terse memos from his boss threatening to shutter adult education altogether unless improvements were made.

Perhaps that is the primary reason that on McKean’s way out, he made certain that the mild-mannered mathematician, who had reached the college’s mandatory retirement age of 65, would also be put out to pasture. 

After 26 years, Sauté was not reappointed — over his vigorous protest — and died in 1986 at age 83.

World federalism has not gone away. Today, the World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy, based in The Hague, Netherlands, is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization “committed to the realization of global peace and justice through the development of democratic institutions and the application of international law.”

While Holt’s world government crusade may have been hopeless from the outset and especially off-putting to conservative Winter Parkers, no one doubted his deep-seated desire to render war obsolete. 

Two world wars occurred in Holt’s lifetime, and the human toll of war impacted him deeply. Little wonder that he undertook the Sisyphean task of trying to change what was likely not changeable.

Holt’s outrage over war in general would be exemplified in mortar and steel on the Rollins campus in 1938, when his Peace Monument was unveiled in front of Lyman Hall. Dedicated on Armistice Day, the monument was emblazoned with a powerful message: 

“Pause, passerby, and hang your head in shame” was written beneath a World War I-era German mortar shell presented to Holt by his friend Poultney Bigelow, co-owner of the New York Evening Post. Affixed to the monument’s base was a plaque with text written by Holt that read:

“This engine of destruction, torture and death symbolizes the prostitution of the inventor, the avarice of the manufacturer, the blood-guilt of the statesman, the savagery of the soldier, the perverted patriotism of the citizen, the debasement of the human race; that it can be employed as an instrument in defense of liberty, justice and right in nowise invalidates the truth of the words here graven.”

In August 1943, the Peace Monument was destroyed in an act of vandalism.

Holt, a lifelong Republican, became an enthusiastic supporter of President Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat. He believed that the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations would lead to the sort of robust (and well-armed) world government that he envisioned. Photo courtesy of Rollins College Archives; photo restoration by Will Setzer at Circle 7 Studio

MAYBE WE’RE AMAZED

McCartney’s connection to Rollins was through his stepson, who was a student majoring in communications. During his visits to Winter Park, the legendary composer of “Yesterday” and dozens of classic pop standards usually — but not always — kept a low profile. Photo by Scott Cook, Rollins College

Two men in their 70s dining at a casual Park Avenue eatery wouldn’t normally draw much attention. However, on this day in 2012, the man whose seat faced the front door of the bustling Briarpatch Restaurant was former two-term U.S. Poet Laureate (and Winter Park resident) Billy Collins with his wife, Suzannah Gail Collins. 

Their dining companion, who was seated with his back to the entrance and surrounded by extended family and friends, was a visitor named Sir Paul McCartney. Perhaps you’ve heard of him. 

As significant buzz began to build among astonished patrons, some of whom undoubtedly choked on their kale salads and performed involuntary spit-takes with mouthfuls of hot coffee, McCartney and Collins discussed the topic of adulation.

“I like to be aduled,” deadpanned McCartney, who was knighted in 1997. “It’s good to be aduled now and then.”

That kind of wordplay has been a constant in McCartney’s career. As a solo artist, he has filled arenas and stadiums for 50 years — and will continue to do on Saturday, May 28, when he performs at Camping World Stadium in Orlando as part of his “Got Back” tour. 

Prior to going solo, during his career with — oh, what was the name of that band again? Oh, yes, the Beatles. In any case, back then drummer Ringo Starr’s malapropisms often provided inspiration for songs and film titles: We’ve been working eight days a week. It’s been a hard day’s night. 

McCartney has always had a keen ear for turning an intriguing phrase into a No. 1 record. So maybe someday the Briarpatch banter will result in a song about being aduled. If it does, you’ll know when and where the idea originated.

After lunch, Collins says, McCartney didn’t try to avoid those waiting to adule him. “When we left, there was this gathering of acolytes,” he recalls. “He didn’t duck it. He walked right into it.” 

In Collins’s view, his genial dining companion that day — who just happens to be one of the most influential musicians in the history of the world — is the same guy whether he’s having lunch with friends or encountering adulers while, without disguise or security, he’s hoofing his way along the streets of New York City. 

“The charm is always there,” Collins says. “It’s his default position. There’s a genuine approachability. On the other hand, he’s a Beatle and people behave differently.” McCartney is indeed fan-friendly but, out of deference to those he’s with, eschews being photographed or giving autographs while eating.

Collins and McCartney had met years earlier at function of PEN America, a New York-based nonprofit that defends and celebrates free expression through the written word. They had remained friendly, which isn’t surprising considering McCart-
ney’s love of poetry and Collins’s love of music.

That’s why Collins was surprised to learn that McCartney had been spotted in town, prompting him to dash off a playful email: “How dare you sneak in and out of Winter Park without telling me.”

Until that point, McCartney had been unaware of Collins’s residency at Rollins College. The pair quickly arranged to meet and picked a favored gathering spot for most Winter Parkers. 

If you’re a Briarpatch habituate, especially during peak hours, you know that McCartney wasn’t overly concerned about remaining under the radar. If you’re there, you’ll be seen.

Billy Collins and Paul McCartney had been acquainted prior to McCartney’s visits to Winter Park. In New York, McCartney (left) had attended a book launch party for Collins’s new collection, Sailing Alone Around the Room, at the townhouse of journalist George Plimpton (right). The gathering was on September 10, 2001. The world would be a far less happy place the following morning, when terrorists attacked the World Trade Center.

THE ROLLINS CONNECTION

Coincidentally, it was the college that had brought McCartney to the City of Culture and Heritage. Arlen Blakeman, son of McCartney’s third wife, Nancy Shevell, was an undergraduate major in communications at the top-rated liberal-arts institution. 

From 2011 until Arlen’s graduation in May 2015, the McCartneys visited often enough to buy a luxury condominium near all their favorite haunts on Park Avenue. McCartney sightings became rather frequent during those years — although some may be dismissed as wishful thinking.

He did, however, on occasion attend services at All Saints Episcopal Church on East Lyman Avenue when he was in town on Sundays. 

Chevalier Lovett, now chief operating officer of a nonprofit called Florida Rising, is also a classically trained opera singer and was a member of the church’s choir.

McCartney, who usually sat in the first several rows, sought Lovett out after hearing his solo turn in “There is a Balm in Gilead.” 

Says Lovett: “The first time he complimented me it was surreal. I was like, ‘One of the greatest musicians in the world said that he loved my voice and that it made the service.’”

A second time, McCartney asked Lovett about his life and work. “I told him that I went to school for music, but worked in the nonprofit sector,” Lovett recalls. “I said that music was a part-time gig and my way out of a hectic world. He said I should seriously consider making music my thing.”

Which he did. Today, in addition to his work with the nonprofit, which helps marginalized communities organize politically, Lovett is music director of the contemporary service at First United Methodist Church of Winter Park and a frequent performer with, among other arts groups, Opera Orlando.

At the time, Collins was Senior Distinguished Fellow at the college’s Winter Park Institute, which presented a speaker series that attracted such luminaries as David McCullough, Jane Pauley, Ken Burns, Garrison Keillor and was anchored by an annual reading from Collins himself. 

He and WPI Executive Director Gail Sinclair had been discussing ways to get McCartney to the campus for some sort of public event. Usually, WPI speakers gave traditional presentations. But Paul Simon’s 2008 appearance was structured as a one-on-one discussion with Collins. Perhaps, he and Sinclair mused, such a format would appeal to McCartney.

Collins offered to contact the Rock & Roll Hall of Famer (a two-time inductee as both a solo artist and a member of the Beatles). In old-school fashion, Collins sent McCartney a personal letter of invitation. McCartney replied in the affirmative, via a neatly typewritten note with a drawing of an odd-looking cartoon character beneath his signature. The date was set: October 26, 2014.

Introducing McCartney to 600 lottery winners jammed into Knowles Memorial Chapel, Collins kept it short, sweet and typically wry: “He’s here to very generously share his experience and his wisdom about songwriting and being in the music business. And just as importantly, he’s here to make me look like a cool guy.” Photo by Scott Cook, Rollins College

“I knew he didn’t want to give a ‘concert’ of any kind,” says Collins. “After all, he was here to see his stepson graduate. He knew I had interviewed Paul Simon on stage more than once and had some experience talking about music. That was the focus, the music — not ‘my life as a Beatle.’ I might have suggested that he bring a guitar but maybe he just knew to bring one.”

The venue would be Knowles Memorial Chapel, but it all had to be strictly hush-hush. An all-campus eblast the morning of the event advertised a lottery system for 600 tickets to see an as-yet unnamed VIP.

It wasn’t announced until the last minute that the speaker was McCartney. Many, though, had already figured it out and tickets were snapped up almost instantly.

Collins remembers: “Paul wanted an intimate venue. If you’re him, 600 is intimate.” 

And so it was that the country’s most popular living poet, a veteran of hundreds of live readings before large audiences, faced a packed house buzzing with anticipation over the chance to see and hear an iconic rock legend whose level of fame occupies its own stratospheric category. 

Collins kept the introduction short and sweet, while adding a dose of his signature wry humor:

“He’s here to very generously share his experience and his wisdom about songwriting and being in the music business. And just as importantly, he’s here to make me look like a cool guy. Without further ado, a warm Rollins College welcome to Sir Paul McCartney.” 

Seconds later, McCartney’s appearance inside the ornate chapel drew shrieks reminiscent of the Beatles’ live show at Jacksonville’s Gator Bowl 50 years previous. 

Asked Collins, tongue in cheek: “You were in the Beatles, weren’t you?” When McCartney good-naturedly acknowledged that obvious fact — “Yeah, I was really in the Beatles, man” — the crowd shrieked again. 

“Now that the Beatles’ body of work is done,” McCartney offered. “I do think about it more. There were four people in this world who were Beatles, and I was one of them. I was the guy who wrote with John Lennon. I was very blessed.”

Collins steered the conversation to the early days, when Lennon and McCartney started their storied writing collaboration. “We did covers,” he replied. “The trouble would be, if you were on a bill with other bands, they may do your entire act. The only way ’round that was to write our own songs — prevent them from doing it before we did.”

Noted Collins: “You know the expression, ‘one hit wonder.’ You’re like an 800-hit wonder.” When asked about his approach to songwriting, McCartney candidly admitted: “I don’t know how to do this. Sometimes the music can come first, sometimes the words. If you’re lucky, the two together. There’s no rules.”

Of “Yesterday,” one of his most famous compositions, McCartney said, “I dreamed that song.” A melody had been wafting through his brain, he recalled, so he went around humming the tune, asking if anyone knew it. “After two weeks,” he said, “I claimed it.”

Collins noted how McCartney’s songs have been covered by countless bands over the years. (“Yesterday” alone has been recorded by more than 2,200 artists.) How did he feel about that? “If someone on the street corner is reading one of your poems,” he replied, “is it going to bother you?”

At the conclusion of an evening sprinkled with iconic moments, McCartney performed “Blackbird,” the song inspired by the Little Rock Nine — Black students who faced vitriol as the first to integrate Little Rock Central High School in 1957. (In 1964, the Beatles had insisted that their Gator Bowl show be integrated.) 

Following the hourlong presentation, Collins and McCartney, accompanied by Arlen — now a successful attorney in Miami — and a group of his college-age friends celebrated the evening with dinner at Luma on Park, a sleek and trendy restaurant that closed in 2020. “I think the whole motivation for subjecting himself to the interview was to give his stepson a chance to show him off,” says Collins.

Josh Walther and Phase 5 had played plenty of special events before. But when they performed at a graduation gig at Interlachen Country Club for Arlen Blakeman, the young man’s stepdad joined the band for a rendition of “I Saw Her Standing There.”

THE INTERLACHEN GIG 

McCartney reprised the role of cool stepdad the following year. He donned a coat and tie to attend Arlen’s graduation ceremony — attempting, futilely, to go unnoticed — and that evening cut loose at a celebration for his stepson held at Interlachen Country Club. 

Josh Walther is the lead singer of the Tampa-
based music group Phase 5, whom Nancy Shevell hired as the evening’s entertainment after conducting an internet search for bands. 

Here’s how the gig came about. Walther’s cellphone rang as he pushed a cart down the aisle at Home Depot. The caller was a mom looking to have live music for her son’s special occasion at some country club in Winter Park. In other words, business as usual.

“She said, ‘Well, my husband might get up and sing.’” recalls Walther, who was accustomed to talent-challenged relatives seeking a turn in the spotlight at such events. “Well,” he replied as politely as possible, “We usually don’t let someone get up and sing like that. We won’t know the song.”

“Oh, you don’t know who my husband is,” she replied. “Are you sitting down? It’s Paul McCartney.” Walther, who had not been sitting down, was stunned. “This can’t be real,” he replied. “Let me know what he’d like to play.” 

Still, Walther had been told many times that celebrities might show up when they performed, but it had never happened. He assumed it wouldn’t happen this time, either, especially considering who the celebrity in question was: “I told the band, ‘This lady is married to Paul McCartney, but I doubt he’ll be here.”

The night of the celebration, Phase 5 had been instructed to start playing early. During that awkward stretch, before people were in the mood to move, the dance floor remained empty. Mercifully, one irrepressible 73-year-old man finally broke the ice and stepped out.

“Oh my God, there he is!” exclaimed Phase 5’s singer Robyn Lista. There, on the dance floor, carrying a bulky video camera, was none other than McCartney, who clearly didn’t need any help from his friends to get the party started. Soon everyone was dancing.

During a break, McCartney approached Walther and the band: “I can do a tune,” he said. “Do you know any of my songs?” Walther said they knew a few, but not the one McCartney wanted to play: “I Saw Her Standing There.” 

However, when Paul McCartney offers to sing with your band, you do like the song says and figure out a way that “we can work it out.” Walther agreed to do some woodshedding during the next break and learn the chords.

Video of that performance demonstrates that Phase 5 did an admirable job working up the rollicking 1963 release, which was written by McCartney (with an assist from John Lennon) specifically to incite smitten female teens. “[McCartney] was shouting out chords and conducting,” Walther says of the performance. “I still get goosebumps thinking about it.” 

The band, having the time of their lives, then joined McCartney in a blues improv. After the 10-minute performance, McCartney took time to compliment the band and ask them about songwriting. The bassist, who played left-handed like McCartney, called the former Beatle his hero who had inspired him to emigrate to the United States from Japan. 

“It blew everyone’s mind when he got up and played,” Walther remembered. “I did have that feeling he was trying to impress his stepson.” Which begs the question: What does it take to impress kids these days? 

During the long ride home to Tampa, in a traffic jam, the gravity of the evening began to sink in for band members. Walther texted a few friends to share the amazing news. “Part of me didn’t want to say anything about it on Facebook,” he says. “It was such a nice moment. I didn’t want to capitalize on it.” 


WHEN SHE SAW HIM STANDING THERE

Ellen Titen, owner of ET Consultants in Winter Park, was a Beatlemaniac as a young girl. She, like most Winter Parkers, was aware that Sir Paul McCartney was known to pop up from time to time on the Rollins College campus or along Park Avenue. 

One evening in May 2014, he popped up on Titen’s birthday, while she was celebrating with friends and family at Luma on Park. 

At a table across the dining room sat McCartney, who was also dining with a small group. Service had been spotty because of the hubbub over his visit, but it hardly mattered. 

“It was so much fun for me, just to know that he was there,” says Titen, who adds that she would never have approached arguably the most important figure in 20th-century popular music because “he deserves his privacy.” 

Well, of course he does. But when McCartney and his guests finished their meal and began to stand up, Titen quickly engineered a way that the two would have to cross paths naturally — more or less: 

“I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, they’re leaving.’ I figured if I walked toward the front, they’d have to pass me on their way out. So I did, and they did. As he was walking by, I said, ‘Sir Paul, it was my birthday today, and it was more special just because you were here.’”

McCartney, she recalls, genially offered his best wishes and then sang “Happy Birthday” for her. Had she been a teenager, Titen might have screamed and torn her hair out. Instead, she composed herself and thanked him for being so thoughtful.

“It was just one of those brief moments in time,” she says. “But it said so much about [McCartney]. He’s one of those people who you feel good when you see. I know I’ll never forget that birthday.”

Venues often get booked well over a year in advance. So if you find that the venue you want is available on the date you selected, it’s best to go ahead and book it. For wedding transportation, some couples — especially those tying the knot in a historic space like Casa Feliz — enjoy the panache of renting a vintage automobile. Photos courtesy of JP Pratt Photography (table) and Arthur's Creative Events & Catering (couple)

COUNTDOWN TO FOREVER TOGETHER

Its cultural vibe and historic charm have always defined Winter Park. But if you’re getting married here, you’ve already noticed something else: The city is a very, very romantic place, with its graceful homes, granddaddy oaks, shimmering lakes and quaint (if bumpy) brick streets.

Couples expecting to tie the proverbial knot here will find an array of indoor and outdoor venues that stay busy virtually year-round hosting weddings and receptions. But this year could be perhaps the busiest yet. Many of those who postponed their nuptials due to COVID-19 (or settled for a small, informal ceremony with the intention of throwing a post-pandemic blowout) are suddenly flooding the market.

It has always been the case that memorable (in a good way) weddings don’t just happen — they must be planned. Now, though, planning and making arrangements even further in advance is mandatory for the sort of elaborate weddings that tend to take place in Winter Park.

Some couples — as many as one-third, according to some estimates — choose to hire a wedding planner. A planner can be a day-of coordinator or a full-service field general who shepherds the process from conception to completion. Other couples — those with plenty of time on their hands or those whose ceremonies will be intimate and uncomplicated — chose a do-it-yourself approach. 

Whatever your personal level of involvement, following a timeline or checklist can help smooth the often-fraught journey to what ought to be a joyous and hassle-free day.

Venues often get booked well over a year in advance. So if you find that the venue you want is available on the date you selected, it’s best to go ahead and book it. For wedding transportation, some couples — especially those tying the knot in a historic space like Casa Feliz — enjoy the panache of renting a vintage automobile. Photos courtesy of Arthur's Creative Events & Catering (couple) and JP Pratt Photography (table)

Find a Venue? Book It

A good time to begin planning is 18 months before your wedding day. And the first decision to make is how many guests you want to invite. The size of the guest list will determine your budget — or how much money you’ll spend per head. 

At this point you might decide to invite fewer guests or add some more. Then there’s the question of who’ll foot the bill: parents, couples or both? This is no insignificant question, as the average wedding cost $28,000 in 2021, according to The Knot Real Weddings Survey — up from $19,000 in 2020. Of course, 2020 was the height of the pandemic, when ceremonies were simplified.

According to traditional wedding etiquette, a bride’s family pays for the wedding ceremony and reception, while a groom’s family covers the cost of the rehearsal dinner and honeymoon. 

A same-sex couple can follow this breakdown, designating one family to pay for each set of expenses. But more mature couples, especially those who’ve lived on their own for any significant amount of time, might (and perhaps should) foot the bill themselves if they’re able.

The next step is to find your dream venue and make sure it’s available on the day you’ll need it. The venue determines not only how many guests you can accommodate, but the setting for your photos. Its unique ambiance may also suggest themes for the ceremony.

Does your style lean toward black-tie elegance in a formal setting? Or would you feel more comfortable in a casual venue, maybe even staging a rustic farm wedding? 

Venues often get booked well over a year in advance. So if you find that the venue you want is available on the date you selected, it’s best to go ahead and book it. Remember: In some cases, the venue may end up being your biggest expense. 

If you plan to get married in a church or to have a civil ceremony at the courthouse, now is the time to check availability and any requirements you’ll need to meet. (As of now, historic First Congregational Church of Winter Park is the only church in the city that unconditionally performs same-sex marriages.) 

Once the venue is secured, you can now comfortably move forward with your wedding planning. 

Your wedding should be as much fun for your guests (well, almost as much fun) as it is for you. At least 12 to 16 months before the big day, you should select a theme. This decision will influence your choice of flowers, style of photographer/videographer and even the type of music you’ll want. The ambiance of the venue may suggest a theme — or not. The Winter Park Library and Events Center (below) is a sleek and contemporary building, but it’s decked out here in a country-cozy traditional style. Photos courtesy of JP Pratt Photography (couple) and Lora Wardman Events (venue)

How Planners Can Help

Lisa Lyons, owner of Lisa Lyons Events & Etiquette in Winter Park, has been in business for 19 years. She believes that if you book six to 12 months in advance, a good wedding planner ought to be available. But these are not normal times.

“Now that we’re coming out of COVID, what we’ve been hearing is that 2022 and 2023 are going to boast the most weddings since 1984,” Lyons notes. “That makes it extremely competitive for us. So we’re looking at 12 or even 14 months. There are only so many Saturdays, and so many venues.”

Because of Florida’s temperate climate, she adds, March through April and October through December are busiest, particularly for outdoor ceremonies.

For each of her clients, Lyons creates a web portal so they’ll know exactly what’s happening every step of the way. This digital component is handy for couples who have successful careers and busy lives, because they can log on any time.

Lyons has worked with several venues in Winter Park. She speaks highly of the Alfond Inn — a beautiful, art-filled boutique hotel where the hospitality services are outstanding. She’s also excited about the new Winter Park Library and Events Center, which has a large ballroom and rooftop terrace. 

Lora Wardman of Lora Wardman Events in Orlando has been in the wedding planning business for 30 years. When it comes to hiring a planner, her advice is straightforward:

“The sooner the better,” she says. “Once you get engaged is best because of the number of weddings and venues available. Try not to set a date until you find the perfect venue for you.” 

Wardman’s team walks through the venue with the couple to discuss everything from lighting, tables, chairs, tabletop design and floral suggestions. 

“The details matter,” says Wardman. “We can save you money in the end knowing who to call, who has the best products and what things you don’t need to spend a fortune on.”

Speaking of fortunes, planners can also help set realistic budgets. As anyone who has tried to plan a wedding without professional assistance can tell you, costs can easily soar far beyond expectations. 

Order personalized paper products nine to 12 months in advance because of the time required for printing. In addition to invitations, you’ll need various printed pieces for place settings as well as thank-you cards or stationary. Photos courtesy of Maureen Hall Stationery and Invitations

Vendors and Themes

When hiring vendors, keep in mind that there are some who can service only one event at a time. Even the best DJ, for example, can’t be two places at once. So it’s doubly important to book solo practitioners far in advance.

Other vendors — such as bakers, florists or caterers — have large staffs and can handle more than one client on the same day. But that doesn’t mean that their capacity is unlimited. Only early booking will ensure that the vendor you want will be available.

At least 12 to 16 months before your wedding day, you should select a theme. This decision will influence your choice of flowers, style of photographer/videographer and even the type of music you’ll want. If the venue doesn’t provide food service, then you’ll also have to hire a caterer.

Designer Lori Strickland, with Arthur’s Creative Events & Catering in Altamonte Springs, says that the wedding’s theme can inform the food offerings. She also points out that some venues have certain restrictions or logistical challenges that a caterer needs to know ahead of time. 

“You should provide your guest count as soon as possible,” Strickland says. “It doesn’t have to be locked in yet, but a rough number helps determine menu style and the number of service staff needed.”

Strickland suggests scheduling an initial meeting eight to 12 months in advance. That gives the caterer time to get acquainted with your vision, arrange a tasting and create a menu. 

When considering food, remember that some venues where in-house catering isn’t offered present certain restrictions or logistical challenges that a caterer needs to know about ahead of time. Meet with your caterer eight to 12 months ahead of time to share your vision for the event, arrange a tasting and create a menu. Photos courtesy of Arthur's Creative Events & Catering

Few vendors are more significant than photographers, whose work will define the ceremony for generations to come. A good wedding photographer will be intimately familiar with the most popular venues and will know, for example, what sort of lighting setup is needed for each. 

“Since photographers can usually book only one client a day, and many of us will likely only take one wedding for an entire weekend, you’ll want to book as soon as possible,” says Kristen Weaver, owner of Kristen Weaver Photography. “Some will only book 12 months out, while others may open their calendar for a longer period.” 

Once you’ve set the date, Weaver — who opened her Oviedo-based business in 2009 — suggests that you determine your top three choices and make certain right away that one of them will be available.

If you’ve already booked a venue, she says, the photographer can put together a tentative timeline and decide how many hours will be needed — including travel time between locations, such as a church to a reception hall. 

KWP offers two photographers for eight hours. It costs more to book Weaver herself as part of the team. “Couples who may not be able to book me for either budget or availability reasons could still have an amazing photographer with my style,” she says.

Flowers are important for obvious reasons, but selections may be dictated by the season. Lee Forrest, owner of Lee Forrest Design in Orlando, recommends meeting with a floral designer as soon as you’ve set the date and booked the venue. 

“This gives you time to meet with a couple of possible vendors,” he says. “But dates book up pretty quickly. Some florists may already be full in popular times of the year.” 

During your appointment, Forrest says, “We discuss the moon and then see where we land on Earth. After we get a grasp on who you are as a couple and what’s important to you, we’ll create a proposal for everything.”

To accomplish that goal, Forrest says he’ll want to know your overarching vision for the big day. He also recommends bringing pictures and color swatches to the meeting. 

When it comes to invitations, many couples choose to send save-the-date cards followed by formal invitations, which should be mailed two months in advance of the wedding date. 

Maureen Hall, owner of Maureen Hall Invitations in Winter Park, recommends ordering personalized paper products nine to 12 months in advance because of the time required for printing and addressing. 

“A lot of people will use their engagement picture for the save-the-date card,” says Hall. “What’s nice about that is it allows you to see how you work with your photographer. Many times, that photographer is also the wedding photographer.” 

Another popular option for the card is a pen-and-ink drawing, such as an outline of the wedding venue — especially if the venue is a distinctive and recognizable structure.

The wedding suite traditionally encompasses several components: an invitation and an envelope, a response card and an envelope, and an information card with details about the event. Plus, there’s wedding stationery to be used for writing thank-you notes. 

Although some couples use websites for guests to RSVP, Hall says this procedure is more appropriate for weddings with international guests or a short lead time where mailed response cards might arrive too late. 

“I’m a traditional invitation store, and I promote mail-back cards because they’re keepsakes,” she says. “People write notes on them for the bride and groom, and so they become dear memories.” 

If you think it’s illogical to pay so much for a dress that will only be worn once, then you obviously are not the bride who’s planning to wear that dress. But remember — even an off-the-rack dress will require alterations that could take a couple of months. Grooms and groomsmen should also make their selections early. Photos courtesy of Kristen Weaver Photography (brides) and Laura Wardman Events (couple)

About That Dress

The average manufactured wedding dress costs $1,800, according to The Knot Real Wedding Survey. But alterations and additions increase the price, and custom-made dresses can cost many times that amount.

If you think it’s illogical to pay so much for a dress that will only be worn once, then you obviously are not the bride who’s planning to wear that dress. “A bride can never be overdressed for her wedding,” says Roberta Noronha, co-owner of The Bridal Finery in Winter Park.

“We normally recommend shopping for the dress anywhere between six to eight months before the wedding day,” adds Noronha. “The sooner the better.” 

Brides also need to take into consideration that alterations usually require about two months — but can be done more quickly in an emergency. 

“If you need a dress in a couple of weeks and you’re buying off the rack, it’s definitely doable,” adds Noronha. “We have an in-house seamstress who’s able to turn it around in three days if we need to.”

Noronha says many brides want dresses that can be adapted and worn at both the ceremony and the reception. For example, a dress with detachable sleeves and straps can be converted into a sleeveless or strapless garment for post-ceremony gatherings. 

At the 10-month mark, you’ll want to consider the wedding cake or wedding cupcakes, which have become popular. Set up a cake-tasting and place your order at least four months in advance to make sure that the baker you want will be available. Above all, give yourself a break from worrying about the calories. Photo courtesy of Lee Forrest Design

And Don’t Forget …

At the 10-month mark, you’ll want to consider the wedding cake or wedding cupcakes, which have become popular. Set up a cake-tasting and place your order at least four months in advance. 

Eight months out, confirm decorating and rental items for the venue. It’s also time to create your bridal registry and wedding website. Start thinking about booking wedding transportation — possibly a limo or special vintage car. 

At the same time, make a list of recommended hotels for out-of-town guests and arrange a group discount if possible. And, of course, don’t forget honeymoon plans. If you’re traveling, make reservations now.

At the six-month mark, book hair and makeup artists. Some brides enjoy a spa day with their bridesmaids the day before the ceremony. Book that as well. 

If you want live music but haven’t secured a band, now is the time. Also, pin down where you’d like to have the rehearsal dinner. Depending upon the scope of work you’ve agreed to, a wedding planner can help with all these tasks. 

Two to four months out, the groom and groomsmen need to decide upon their attire. John Craig Clothier in Winter Park, which carries both off-the-rack and custom-made tuxedos and suits, is a good place to start.

Alan Chambers, director of operations, says that more wedding customers than ever are opting to go the custom-made route. “Last year was our biggest suit and tuxedo made-to-measure year ever, and we have seven stores,” he says. “People are still dressing up and wearing tuxedos — but a lot of guys, especially groomsmen, like the suit option.” 

For custom-made clothing, Chambers says to allow six to eight weeks, which includes one fitting to measure and select fabric, and another for tweaking when the garment arrives. 

John Craig Clothier also offers custom ties, including bow ties handmade from feathers — everything from peacock feathers, which are particularly appropriate for Winter Park, to pheasant feathers. 

“A lot of grooms will gift their groomsmen with a custom tie or bow tie,” Chambers notes. “We did one wedding where the bow ties were monogrammed with their initials.” 

And the to-do list continues. There’s buying gifts for your wedding party and hosting bachelor or bachelorette nights out. And tending to small details that can make a wedding truly special? How about a special cake knife, ring-bearer pillow, toasting flutes, guest books and wedding favors? 

Yikes! If this all seems overwhelming, take solace in the fact that memories of the inevitable difficulties will begin to fade almost immediately after you say, “I do.” And remember: Although the wedding may be over, true love stories never really end — they just begin new chapters. 

In 1953, Alphonse “Phonsie” Carlo, was recruited to teach violin through Community Courses for Young People. By all accounts a kind and patient man who enjoyed instructing students of all ages, Carlo agreed and offered after-school lessons, as did his accomplished wife, Katherine, a concert pianist with whom he frequently performed. Original photo courtesy of the Rollins College department of Archives and Special Collections

FUN 101

Exclusive Book Excerpt
Editor’s Note: The following is a revised and condensed version of a chapter from a 2019 book entitled Rollins After Dark: The Hamilton Holt School’s Nontraditional Journeys. This chapter focuses on the children’s programs that were launched by President Hugh F. McKean as a community outreach effort in the aftermath of Paul A. Wagner’s brief but tumultuous presidency, which left faculty and students stunned and the community deeply divided. The programs, eventually assembled under the umbrella of the Rollins College School of Creative Arts, were introduced concurrently with adult education efforts that eventually evolved into today’s Hamilton Holt School.


Photo Restoration and Colorization by Will Setzer at Circle 7 Studio

The Rollins College School of Creative Arts drew thousands of youngsters to the campus for a variety of courses. Some of the teachers were full-time faculty members, such as Doreen Bligh-Jones (seated at left), who taught drama. Original photo courtesy of the Rollins College department of Archives and Special Collections

Anarchy on Ollie Avenue? An overstatement, perhaps, but it can certainly be said that Community Courses for Young People — launched at Rollins College in 1951 by new President Hugh F. McKean — brought children to the campus in droves: singing children, dancing children, painting children, acting children, swimming children, weaving children and musical-instrument-playing children.

Community Courses for Young People was initially directed by George Sauté, a professor of mathematics whom McKean had tapped to strengthen ties between the college and the community by offering educational and recreational programs for local residents. 

The impetus for doing so was likely fallout from the divisive debacle of Paul A. Wagner’s brief presidency, which roiled the campus and divided the community. (See “A Master Class in Chaos” in the Fall 2020 issue of Winter Park Magazine.)

Thousands of present-day baby boomers fondly recall attending after-school classes, which were sometimes taught by highly credentialed day school faculty, or the program’s popular Summer Day Camp, which began in 1967 and ran through the summer of 2015. 

Community Courses for Young People — an ancillary program to Courses for the Community, which would decades later evolve into today’s Hamilton Holt School — offered after-school piano lessons as well as rhythmics (dance), choral singing, junior theater, and arts and crafts. Headquarters was a barracks-like studio on Ollie Avenue, behind the infirmary near Dinky Dock. (Today the parcel is home to the college’s massive parking garage.)

Lessons in other musical instruments were added, along with instruction in swimming and canoeing. By the late 1950s, each eight-week quarter attracted more than 500 youngsters from pre-school to high school.

ROAR OF THE GREASEPAINT

From 1953 to 1958, students from the young peoples’ program commandeered the 400-seat Annie Russell Theatre for The Spring Thing, a collection of short plays, some of them original, as well as scripted and improvised skits. 

During the show’s run, art students created works to be displayed in the lobby, while crafts students helped to create sets, props and costumes. Music students provided accompaniment, and beaming parents packed the venue for performances. 

British-born actor Peter Dearing, director of the college’s Department of Theater Arts and an instructor for the young peoples’ program, offered his energetic charges numerous opportunities to perform with the Rollins Players onstage at “the Annie.” 

A former professor at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, Dearing began his career as a curly-haired child actor in films before touring the U.S. and Europe with the Ben Greet Players, a stock company that specialized in open-air Shakespeare productions.

Ben Greet was the stage name for Sir Philip Barling Greet, who may have inspired Dearing’s interest in children’s theater. When Greet managed London’s Old Vic theater from 1914 to 1918, he persuaded the U.K. Department of Education to sponsor school visits to the historic 1,000-seat venue. 

Over the course of four years, Greet presented Shakespeare plays to more than 20,000 elementary school students. Dearing joined the Ben Greet Players at age 14 and remained until Greet’s death nine years later. He clearly understood how to relate to children with a theatrical bent. 

 In 1955, Dearing cast 9-year-old Annette Moore and 12-year-old Danny Carr in an Annie Russell Theatre production of Mrs. McThing, a fantasy about children and witches written by Mary Chase of Harvey fame. Although a critic from The Sandspur savaged the play, opining that “the progression of innumerable ideas is exceedingly awkward,” he managed to coherently praise young Annette for “stealing the show” with her poise and stage presence.

Also appearing in Mrs. McThing was Rollins drama student Ann Derflinger, who would become a legendary drama teacher at Winter Park High School. The auditorium at the school is named for Derflinger, who died of cancer in 1983. She often cited Dearing as a major influence on her decision to teach. Derflinger, in turn, inspired actors such as Tom Nowicki (The Blind Side) and Amanda Bearse (Married With Children), both of whom were her students.

Dearing later drafted talented young peoples’ program participants for campus productions of The Crucible and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. And in 1957, when he directed Maxwell Anderson’s The Bad Seed for the Orlando Players, a community theater production, Dearing plucked a junior-high schooler for a plumb role. 

Precocious Anne Hathaway, 11, chewed up the scenery as pigtailed psychopath Rhoda Penmark in a performance the Orlando Sentinel described as “brilliant … [Anne] was able to project a chilling ruthlessness, which told her audience that under the smile a twisted brain was plotting murder.” 

Also that year, Dearing notched his only U.S. film credit, a small role in Naked in the Sun, a low-budget effort about the Seminole Indian warrior Osceola. Although ostensibly set in the Everglades, Naked in the Sun was shot primarily (and appropriately) in Osceola County. Despite lurid posters and “flaming Eastman color,” the film descended into obscurity following its grand premier at Orlando’s Beacham Theater.

Dearing left Rollins shortly thereafter to become artistic director at the Grand Theatre in London, Ontario, where he gained a reputation for staging lavish musicals such as The Boy Friend, Oliver, West Side Story and My Fair Lady. He died in 1971 at age 58, and memorial services were held at the venue’s main auditorium.

British-born actor Peter Dearing (standing), director of the college’s Department of Theater Arts and an instructor for the young peoples’ program, offered his energetic charges numerous opportunities to perform with the Rollins Players onstage at “the Annie.” In 1957, Dearing notched his only U.S. film credit, a small role in Naked in the Sun, a low-budget effort about the Seminole Indian warrior Osceola. Although ostensibly set in the Everglades, Naked in the Sun was shot primarily (and appropriately) in Osceola County. Despite lurid posters (inset) and “flaming Eastman color,” the film descended into obscurity following its grand premier at Orlando’s Beacham Theater. Original photo courtesy of the Rollins College department of Archives and Special Collections

TICKLING THE IVORIES

Marion Marwick, a pianist who had tickled the ivories with the Toronto Symphony and the Orlando Symphony Orchestra, enjoyed playing jazz — and was good at it. She also enjoyed teaching others to play the piano, and was among several adjunct instructors in 1957, when Community Courses for Young People was inexplicably renamed Community Courses for Children. 

She later became director of the program’s music division and, still reporting to Sauté, was named director of all activities under the auspices of the newly formed Rollins College School of Creative Arts. The school subsumed the children’s program — including the Summer Day Camp — following a reorganization in 1962. 

Under the energetic Marwick, a graduate of the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto, piano instruction dominated after-school offerings. By Marwick’s account, she taught more than 1,000 people of all ages to play during her career. 

“Everyone who took piano lessons from my mother loved her,” recalls Robert Marwick, her son. “She was dedicated. She built that program into a major force in the community and something that meant a lot in the lives of young people.”

Indeed, a social media post from Robert Marwick seeking memories of his mother drew dozens of nostalgic responses recounting how Mrs. Marwick had made a difference — as good piano teachers often do — by becoming a friend and confidant. 

Marwick’s jaw-dropping student count, however, was possible because in addition to individual instruction she was an exponent of the Pace Method — created by pianist and educator Robert Pace — which advocated teaching piano in large groups. The School of Creative Arts was one of the first in the U.S. to adopt the method. 

Pace, director of the piano department at Teachers College, Columbia University (from which he had earned a doctorate) and director of the National Piano Foundation, consulted with Marwick and visited Winter Park each year to check the program’s progress.

 Visitors to the School of Creative Arts when it moved to R.D. Keene Hall in 1974 (location of the college’s Virginia S. and W. W. Nelson Department of Music) remember the second floor as containing dozens of pianos of every sort, many side by side, and youngsters playing them while wearing headphones.

By the mid-1960s, the burgeoning school offered nearly 30 courses per term and attracted some 1,200 students who could choose from sessions in piano, voice, brass and woodwinds, violin and viola, and guitar and banjo. There was also instruction in painting and sculpture, ceramics and weaving and, somewhat incongruously, conversational Spanish and French. 

An annual Rollins Piano Festival of the School of Creative Arts was launched and drew music students and educators from around the U.S. Pace, among others, attended as an adjudicator for student competitions. Marwick, who left Rollins in 1970 to begin a private piano instruction school called Creative Keyboards, died in 2005 at age 81.

The School of Creative Arts was one of the first in the U.S. to offer piano instruction using the Pace Method, created by pianist and educator Robert Pace, who advocated instruction in large groups. Teacher Mary Jarmon Nelson is shown here, but the music program was run by Marion Marwick (inset), a graduate of the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. Original photo courtesy of the Rollins College department of Archives and Special Collections

PHONSIE’S LASTING LEGACY

Most classes in Community Courses for Young People — and later the School of Creative Arts — were taught by adjunct faculty, often teachers from Orange County Public Schools. One prominent college music professor, however, found a mission through the program and in so doing created a lasting but underappreciated legacy by establishing the Florida Symphony Youth Symphony. 

Violinist Alphonse “Phonsie” Carlo, during an interview for a job at the college’s music department — then known as the Rollins College Conservatory of Music — was asked by Rollins President Hamilton Holt, who had sung first tenor in the Yale Glee Club, if he could play an Irish folk song, “Londonderry Air.”

The tune, which originated in County Londonderry in Ireland, is used as the victory anthem of Northern Ireland at the Commonwealth Games, an international multisport competition. But anyone who has ever heard the popular ballad “Danny Boy” will recognize “Londonderry Air,” from which the melody is appropriated.

Carlo, who studied violin at Yale University and the Julliard School of Music, deftly fulfilled Holt’s request, accompanied by the president on an old stand-up piano stationed in his office. A delighted Holt offered Carlo a job as an assistant professor of music in 1943. 

In 1953, Carlo was recruited to teach violin through Community Courses for Young People. By all accounts a kind and patient man who enjoyed instructing students of all ages, Carlo agreed and offered after-school lessons, as did his accomplished wife, Katherine, a concert pianist with whom he frequently performed. 

Shortly thereafter, Carlo persuaded the Orange County School Board and the Florida Symphony Orchestra — for which he had become concert master — that a youth orchestra would benefit everyone involved. 

Through such a program, schools could offer orchestral training without the expense of starting orchestral programs. And the symphony could develop players-in-waiting while expanding its base of support through the proud parents of school-age musicians. 

Announcements were made and an article was published in the Orlando Sentinel. On the first Saturday in November 1953, more than 100 students from middle school through high school, their instruments in tow, assembled at Howard Junior High School. 

On subsequent Saturdays, there were free classes for beginning and intermediate players followed by a rehearsal for students who were sufficiently advanced to become the first members of the Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra. Assisting the busy Carlo, who also played in a baroque ensemble, were several other symphony players and public-school music teachers. 

Glenridge Junior High School was the first local public school to form an orchestra, in 1957. (Winter Park High School did not have an orchestra until 1962.) Forming a competent, much less a good, youth orchestra was no small feat in 1953, when the music programs in most public schools were centered upon brass-heavy marching bands. 

Still, Carlo had a gift for recognizing and cultivating young talent. In 1954, the 30-member youth orchestra — perhaps seeded with some more experienced collegiate ringers — played alongside the professionals at the Florida Symphony Orchestra’s annual Spring Pops Concert at Orlando Municipal Auditorium (now the Bob Carr Theater). 

“I’ve never seen a group of students with more self-discipline and more earnestness in their work,” said Edward Preodor, head of the violin department at the University of Florida in an interview with the Orlando Sentinel. 

Continued Preodor: “Students who will give up their Saturday mornings to study are the best type of students. But more important still is the leadership of your conductor, Alphonse Carlo. He is obviously a leading musician who understands young people and who loves to work with them.” The fledgling youth orchestra also performed solo concerts, including at least two that were televised locally. 

Carlo stepped down as conductor in 1960, but remained a steady and supportive presence. The college covered some operating expenses and was listed for several years in the 1970s as the youth orchestra’s sponsoring organization — although the nature of the partnership appears to have been informal. 

The Florida Symphony Orchestra’s Women’s Committee, meanwhile, provided scholarships for young players to study with Carlo and others at the School of Creative Arts. The youth orchestra, despite its popularity, received scant attention from the professional orchestra’s management team until 1978, when it was granted “full arm” status. 

Ironically, the junior partner emerged unscathed even after the senior partner collapsed under financial pressure in 1993. 

“Because we remained attached at the hip for so long, our historical narrative has been told from the Florida Symphony Orchestra’s perspective,” says Don Lake, president of the youth orchestra’s board of directors. “But Rollins College, through its former School of Creative Arts, was a profound co-sponsor and financial supporter. Our organization would not even exist without the help the college gave us.” 

Today, Phonsie’s pet project is a thriving 501(c)(3) organization with three full orchestras, a string training orchestra, a chamber music ensemble and a 24-piece jazz orchestra. While Rollins is rarely given credit, the Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra can trace its beginnings to Community Courses for Young People and the School of Creative Arts.

The legacy of the Carloses continues in other ways. The Alphonse and Katherine Carlo Music Scholarship, which was established in 1993 thanks to a gift from the Alphonse Carlo Trust, provides scholarships for students to study piano or stringed instruments. There is also a Carlo Room in the R.D. Keene Music Building. Katherine Carlo died in 1990; her husband died in 1992.

In 1953, Alphonse “Phonsie” Carlo, was recruited to teach violin through Community Courses for Young People. By all accounts a kind and patient man who enjoyed instructing students of all ages, Carlo agreed and offered after-school lessons, as did his accomplished wife, Katherine, a concert pianist with whom he frequently performed. Original photo courtesy of the Rollins College department of Archives and Special Collections

A LONG GOODBYE

Whatever happened to the Rollins children’s programs and the School of Creative Arts? It is indeed a long and convoluted story. But essentially McKean — who started the program — lost interest in it as his determination to establish a full-fledged, degree-granting adult education program grew. 

In 1960, McKean announced formation of the Institute for General Studies, which encompassed three divisions: Courses for the Community, which included the School of Creative Arts; the Graduate Programs, which offered an MBA as well as advanced degrees in physics and teaching; and the School of General Studies, which would for the first time in the college’s history offer an undergraduate degree — a Bachelor’s Degree in General Studies — to adult learners. 

Although the institute had no dean, Sauté directed Courses for the Community and the School of General Studies. The Rollins Alumni Record described the programs as “much more than a fine community gesture” and lauded Sauté as “not interested in press clippings and service awards; he is interested in education.”

His boss, however, had no qualms about generating press clippings. The following year, McKean attempted to launch a so-called Rollins College Space Institute, which he envisioned would become the crown jewel of the School of General Studies. 

Despite much hoopla — and lavish media coverage — the liftoff fizzled and the project was never mentioned again in print after 1963. However, the mercurial president continued to be intrigued with new ideas for expanded offerings — none of them involving children’s programs.

When McKean did take note of the School of Creative Arts, he seemed annoyed — perhaps embarrassed — by its presence. Several times, in fact, he threatened to shutter the program over administrative snafus. 

“I have appointed no one to teach in the [School of Creative Arts] for this fall term,” McKean wrote in a 1962 memorandum to Marwick. “If anyone is actually teaching, by this memorandum I will direct the treasurer to discontinue their salaries. No department of this college can or should make laws for itself. Unless the [School of Creative Arts] can conform to the principles and practices of the college, I will recommend to the trustees that it either be discontinued or reorganized.” 

While McKean was justified in insisting that Marwick follow established protocols, such as securing proper approvals for instructor appointments, his tone seemed unduly harsh. The school was, after all, a nonacademic, noncredit program that primarily taught arts, crafts and music to children. 

It is also not quite clear why McKean did not first take the matter up with Sauté, who was nominally Marwick’s supervisor. But Sauté, too, at times incurred the patrician president’s icy ire. In a 1963 memo, McKean expressed concern to Sauté about the caliber of the adjunct faculty in the institute’s degree-granting program.

“No one who would not qualify as a member of the College of Liberal Arts is to teach in the Institute for General Studies,” McKean wrote. “Unless it is possible for us to maintain identical standards in the institute and the liberal arts college, I will recommend that the trustees discontinue the institute at the end of the year.”

Frustrated by what he felt were mediocre programs but unwilling to invest in their improvement, McKean was surely elated in 1964, when the college received a $1 million gift from financier Roy E. Crummer. Now here was something McKean could be proud of — a prestigious, well-funded graduate school that didn’t draw comparisons to a kindergarten, a country club or a community college (then called junior colleges).

The funds were used to build and endow the Roy E. Crummer School of Finance and Business Administration (now the Roy E. Crummer Graduate School of Business), which originally offered both MBA and Master of Commercial Science degrees. 

Said McKean: “[The Crummer School] will help to strengthen the human element in business. It will strive to make men of its students, not machines. The business world needs leaders prepared to think responsibly, not rely on pushing buttons and pulling levers.”

 With the MBA program now having its own dean, McKean dropped the Institute for General Studies and formed the Central Florida School for Continuing Studies, which had responsibility only for Courses for the Community, the School of Creative Arts and a branch campus at Patrick Air Force Base in Brevard County. Sauté was retained as the school’s director.

Still, McKean never embraced the School of Creative Arts, nor the multi-named, all-purpose adult education program under which the children’s activities operated. Perhaps he had come to believe that they were detrimental to the college’s vision of itself as a serious academic institution.

Yes, he had allowed both programs to continue — but he complained about them constantly and never articulated a path forward that would gain his favor. The fence-mending outreach initiatives that had seemed so important a decade earlier now seemed to have become annoyances, especially as the Wagner debacle faded into memory.

As McKean approached retirement age, he continued to put forth big ideas. In 1967, he made headlines with a proposal to create a national university through which a student of any age and in any location could earn a low-cost bachelor’s degree through courses on television and radio, videotape recordings and correspondence instruction without setting foot on a physical college campus. 

“We cannot send everyone to college,” he said. “But we can send college to everyone.” The idea presaged later notions of virtual universities and the “colleges without walls” concept.

McKean, who had become an iconic figure in the region through his high-profile presidency, announced that he would retire and assume the newly created role of chancellor by the beginning of the school year in September 1969. 

“I’m just an old art teacher,” he would later tell the Orlando Sentinel. And perhaps he would have preferred just to paint, ensconced in his Park Avenue “scriptorium” (an apartment studio above the Winter Park Land Company) turning out haunting, impressionistic images dominated by blues, greens and blacks — some containing the sort of supernatural elements, such as ghosts and angels, often found in folk art. 

McKean, however, would not be the only departure from Rollins in 1969. In February of that year, Dean of the College Donald W. Hill sent a brief memo to the president: “Mr. Sauté, age 65, may be retired, if desired.” 

Obviously, McKean desired precisely that. In March, he notified Sauté by letter that it was his “unpleasant assignment … to tell you that the board of trustees have agreed, in view of the fact that you are 65 years of age, not to reappoint you to the position of director of the Central Florida School for Continuing Studies (previously known as the School of General Studies.)” 

Sauté was thanked for his years of service and offered an opportunity to teach — likely at an adjunct’s stipend — if he wished. The mathematician, however, resisted. He was healthy and, in his estimation, had done a good job given the limited resources at his disposal. 

True, enrollment in his program had dropped from a peak of 1,155 in 1966 to 828 in 1969, but Sauté had planned to introduce new courses for law enforcement officers as well as programs for public servants in recreation, finance and fire safety. 

Further, the School of Creative Arts, which Sauté allowed Marwick to run as she saw fit, had launched a successful Summer Day Camp two years prior — more than 1,000 youngsters attended its programs — and it had continued to foster goodwill in the community. 

But McKean would not back down — he had, in fact, already extended an offer to someone else — and Sauté’s plea to incoming President Jack B. Critchfield, the 36-year-old chancellor of student affairs at the University of Pittsburgh, was politely rebuffed. 

“In attempting to learn as much as I can about your retirement, it appears that the executive committee of the board of trustees, along with President McKean, decided that this action was necessary and that it should be a firm decision,” wrote Critchfield to Sauté. However, the incoming president continued, he hoped that he could count on Sauté’s wisdom and guidance in the coming months. 

In academia, it seems, pink slips are often accompanied by plaudits.
Sauté was dismissed with decorum at the May 1969 commencement. McKean read a citation, which surely sounded more like a eulogy to the honoree: 

“George Sauté, dedicated professor, concerned citizen, leader in common ventures; as one who has helped lift our vision of world peace, given new directions and dimensions to the education of adults, and helped so many to carry on past their discouragements and even their small hopes; for what you have done and the tradition in which you stand, it is my privilege to bestow upon you as a faithful servant of Rollins, the Rollins Decoration of Honor.” 

And so ended a 26-year career at the college. Sauté pioneered the program that would become the Hamilton Holt School, yet his name is little remembered today. His legacy, however, can be seen most nights on campus when classrooms fill with men and women of all ages and backgrounds — many of whom have already spent the day working or caring for children.

Although he was also named professor emeritus, there is no record that George Sauté, dedicated professor, concerned citizen and faithful servant, ever again taught at Rollins.

The School of Creative Arts continued for a while. But it was absorbed in 1982 by the Division of Non-Credit Courses, which was a subsidiary of what had by then been renamed (again) and was known as the School of Continuing Education. After several other iterations, it became today’s Hamilton Holt School in 1987. 

A last vestige of the School of Creative Arts, the Summer Day Camp, remained until the plug was pulled in 2015. In an email to the families of campers, Rollins Assistant Vice President Patricia Schoknecht wrote that the program was being canceled “after careful consideration and assessment of resources.”

Ironically, the program was more popular than ever, even with three- and four-week sessions costing $825 to $1,100. “We’re a huge fan of it, and we’re sad to see it go away,” said parent Sally Castro in an Orlando Sentinel story about the closure. “It was unique.” Added parent Susan Godorov, who went to the camp as a child and also sent her daughter: “I feel like a gem in the community has been lost.”

Perhaps the children’s programs were a vestige of an earlier, simpler time. But for many Winter Parkers of a certain age — and for many of their children — the after-school hours spent laughing and learning on a college campus made a profound impact. Even if it sometimes felt like anarchy on Ollie Avenue. 

GIVE HIM A BREAK

Dr. Dean Cole’s greatest fear in life seems to be wasting any of it. An orthopedic surgeon who specializes in difficult cases, Cole says he’ll be a surgeon “until I die.” Photo by Rafael Tongol

The patient was not wearing a seatbelt when the crash occurred. His femur was in pieces. So was his pelvis. So was his forearm.  

Doctors and nurses rushed about the Orlando Regional Medical Center emergency room, issuing orders, wheeling in equipment, assessing damage, setting up X-rays. 

I was in the background with my reporter’s notebook, on assignment for Florida magazine, which was delivered with the Sunday edition of the Orlando Sentinel. The subjects of the story were two orthopedic residents. I was with them day and night, going to doctors’ meetings, going on rounds, observing surgeries ranging from hip replacements to shoulder repairs to knee arthroscopes.

This was my first look at the controlled chaos of trauma.  

The bedlam of the emergency room soon gave way to the calm and quiet of the operating room. The patient was buried under coverings, only the wounded areas left exposed for scalpel access. 

The doc in charge didn’t seem much older than the residents. He was so engaged he didn’t notice me. There wasn’t any of the music or banter I heard in other operating rooms.

A screen was next to the patient. It displayed X-ray images of his broken femur. The surgeon referred to it constantly as he inserted instruments into and out of a small incision. He was lining the bones up for the hardware that would hold them in place.

I recalled when my brother badly broke his femur in a motorcycle accident in the 1970s. The scar extended from his hip to his knee.

This surgeon was, in essence, building a ship in a bottle. He worked all night and into the morning. His name was Dean Cole, a hotshot trauma specialist the likes of which the hospital had never seen. He arrived only a few months earlier from Houston, where he worked at one of the busiest trauma centers in the nation.

And I thought to myself, “If I ever break a bone, I’m going to that guy.”

About 25 years later, I was lying prone on the Cross Seminole Trail, my bike on one side and my friend calling the ambulance on the other.

We were coming down an overpass, when I let off the brakes and picked up speed, oblivious to the sharp left turn ahead. An earlier drizzle left the trail slick, and the tires lost their grip. My bike reared like a horse coming across a rattlesnake and I got tossed. 

My left hip absorbed the blow.

I never had a serious crash in all my years of bike racing. It was only when I quit for the sake of safety that the ER trips began. This would be my second. The first was four years prior and involved a somersault over the handlebars that broke six ribs, a collar bone, punctured a lung and dislocated my shoulder.

As before, Seminole County firefighters came to the rescue. 

“Got a doctor?” one of them asked.

The name popped into my head. 

“Dean Cole,” I said.

Cole (left) is a boneyard legend and often the surgeon of last resort for patients with extremely severe injuries. Assisting Cole in this procedure is surgical scrub technician, Brian Barrera.

–––––––

The X-ray confirmed my hip was broken. Florida Hospital Altamonte shipped me off to Florida Hospital South, where I expected Cole would be operating on me the next morning.

Between now and the time I first saw him in 1989, Cole had become a boneyard legend. He was the surgeon for patients with bones so shattered that other doctors could not repair them. 

There were construction workers who had fallen from on high. The endless car and motorcycle crashes. The tugboat worker whose leg was torn apart in an accident and badly infected by the oily water. Cole saved the leg from amputation.

His phone never stopped ringing. Cole worked nonstop, often seven days a week, for up to 15 hours a day. As one of only about 10 orthopedic trauma surgeons in Florida, he saw roughly 1,000 patients a year and was labeled by the Orlando Business Journal as “a physician of last resort for patients throughout the state.”

It was no small matter, then, when Cole affiliated with Florida Hospital (now AdventHealth) in 2004. The hospital created a Fracture Care Center for him to run. He got access to a cadaver lab for his research. He was given guaranteed beds for his patients. He got high-tech equipment in the operating room. Cole brought his entire team with him, a group of highly trained assistants, nurses, and technicians that in size would rival the entourage of an NBA all-star.  

I was brought down to pre-op at 5 a.m. for the hip repair. I assumed Cole would be the surgeon, then found out otherwise. And so I refused to go in the operating room. 

“He has a full schedule,” a nurse told me.

“I’ll wait,” I replied.

The hospital staff tried several more times, but I wouldn’t budge.

After about 12 hours, a masked face appeared through the curtain. I recognized it from long ago.

“OK,’’ he said. “I’ll fit you in.”

–––––––

Cole pretty much had life figured out early on. He met his future wife, Debbie, in sixth grade. He knew at age 12 that he was going to be a doctor and started studying anatomy in the encyclopedia.

He was a beach kid raised in Mims, in Brevard County, while his dad worked as an engineer at the Kennedy Space Center. He spent his time on the water — surfing, fishing, swimming and even driving a shrimp trawler because he was the best at triangulating positions.

He worked in a boatyard where the owner advised him to forget this doctor stuff and be an electrician. Cole passed the electrician’s exam while in high school, but the goal of being a surgeon had not changed.

“Things became easy at that point because I knew the end point,” he says. “All I had to do was follow the path.”

He attended Titusville and Astronaut high schools, played halfback on their football teams, and opted for Rollins College when offered a scholarship and job as a campus electrician. 

“Rollins isn’t known for pre-med,” he says. “But everyone who made it through their program got into medical school. After going there, it made medical school pretty easy. Rollins prepared you how to study. You could tackle problems. There were small classes. The professors knew you and pushed you on what you could handle.

“I looked at it as work and took it seriously.”

The University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine medical school accepted him into an early admission program after one interview. 

While training to be an orthopedic surgeon at USF, Cole was not happy with the surgical tools. And so he tapped into his background as an electrician and began developing his own. His first patent was for an offset drill that could produce more accurate holes in bones. There would be many more to come.

From USF, Cole went to the University of Texas and a traumatology fellowship at the Red Duke Trauma Institute in Houston — one of the busiest in the nation. For five years he worked in the operating room, seeing and doing everything under the best tutelage possible. He became an assistant professor in the Division of Orthopedic Surgery at the University of Texas Medical School.  

He returned to Central Florida in 1989, returned to the water and warmth of his childhood.

“I decided I couldn’t live north of Orlando,” he says.

Cole (above left, with the author) decompresses from constant 15-hour days by retreating to the Dominican Republic for kiteboarding (below) — a dangerous sport from which he has emerged unscathed. “I don’t get tired,” he once said. Photo by Rafael Tongol (Cole and Author)

–––––––

Two weeks after my hip surgery, I paid my first visit to Cole’s office. The waiting room looked like Lourdes. Those seeking cures hobbled in on crutches and in wheelchairs, some with mending bones, others with new knees, hips, ankles and shoulders.

Cole, now medical director of the AdventHealth Orlando Orthopedic Institute, had greatly expanded his repertoire from fractures. 

After a long wait, I was summoned for X-rays and vital signs. And then Cole appeared in my room. “Hello, Michael.” 

He was loose and relaxed — a white doctor’s coat but no tie. His hair was undisciplined. He was lanky and agile, obviously fit and still athletic. He could have slid off a surfboard an hour ago. He sat in front of me — no desk between us — and looked at me intently while talking as if to ensure I didn’t miss a thing.

He said it was a little tricky getting the bones lined up right, as if to validate my intransigence in pre-op. 

I pulled out a piece of paper with questions. He smiled at that and answered each one. He was used to explaining things. Then he mentioned something that grabbed my attention — the bone had not started healing yet — not unheard of at two weeks, but still not great.

The bone had not made any progress in subsequent visits. This is called a “nonunion.” Cole’s concern was that the hardware he installed was designed to hold things together temporarily until the healed bones took over the load. I was approaching the design capacity and, at some point, the hardware could fail.

In which case I would likely face more surgery, beefier hardware and some other intervention to stimulate healing. Near panic, I spent days researching nonunions before coming across a drug called Forteo. Designed to strengthen bones of women with osteoporosis, some research showed it could promote fracture healing when used off-label.

I asked Cole about it over the phone, expecting rejection. Instead, I heard, “Hmm, that’s interesting. Do you know about the cancer risk?”

I did and it was acceptable. Cole’s office got me the Forteo, which is injected daily like insulin. I knew the bone hadn’t been healing because of the sharp pain that came from standing on the bad leg. Over the next couple of months, that pain diminished.

An X-ray taken on a visit a couple months later confirmed what I already knew. The bone was healing.

But that was not the last I would see of Cole.

–––––––

My right knee was no longer functioning. Back in 1982, I had intercepted a pass in a sandlot football game, pivoted to reverse direction and collapsed screaming. My anterior cruciate ligament popped.

Back then, to fix such things, surgeons carved through your knee like a Thanksgiving turkey. And then they immobilized the leg for six weeks in a cast, allowing the surgical adhesions to set in like stone. 

I couldn’t get my range of motion back. Two different surgeons gave me two different solutions, both involving more cutting. I stopped going to doctors and started running. At first, I hobbled like Quasimodo off to ring the bells. Eventually I wound up in the Boston Marathon trying to break three hours. 

After almost 30 years of racing on foot, racing on bikes and backpacking in the mountains, the knee had lived its life. It had become a source of pain and limitation and, as much as the idea terrified me, it had to go. I considered other surgeons — ones who specialized primarily in knee replacements. But I had also kept in touch with Cole, usually through texting, asking him questions about quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s hip injury or golfer Tiger Woods’ shattered tibia.

I appreciated his obsession with perfection, his acknowledgment of what he didn’t know and his practically nonexistent infection rate. It turned out that he was also fascinated with knees, the way they moved in so many directions, their complexity compared with the hip.

“Knees are cerebral,’’ he told me when describing a hip versus knee replacement. “Hips are all shoulders and back.”

Cole regularly performed knee replacements on cadavers to test out techniques and implants. All of this was impressive, but what really stuck in my mind was the Forteo. He had listened to me. He had given me a voice in my treatment. He had let me try it.

And so, having replaced my hip years before, he replaced my knee last September.

I now am biking up the Clermont hills on 50-mile rides with no pain. I recently hiked the Black Bear Wilderness Trail at a record clip. I paddle board, kayak, fish, lug stuff around — all like I used to do.

But I would not kiteboard.

–––––––

I am at the Orlando Executive Airport, about to get on Cole’s private jet, headed for the Dominican Republic. There’s not a whole lot there except for strong afternoon winds and an offshore reef — the combination of which make it a top kiteboarding destination.

With us is Kevin Healy, a Vero Beach chiropractor who was run over by a Mercedes while riding his bike several months ago. The accident split and fractured his pelvis, tore his muscles apart and damaged the nerves. His innards were a disaster. Cole put him back together. The X-rays practically constitute art. Unfortunately, you can’t fix nerves with hardware and there are lingering issues. But Kevin does pretty well.

The fourth person in our group is the pilot, who once suffered a major tibia fracture in a kiteboarding mishap. Cole fixed him, too. If you play hard, he’s a good friend to have.

Cole’s wife, Debbie, is quite accomplished at water sports but didn’t come along this trip. She runs the office, located on North Orange Avenue. She is very tolerant of his absences.

Arriving at the Dominican airport, we are whisked to a yacht. Cole owns that as well, courtesy of all his inventions and patents — about 25 to date. He doesn’t have to do surgery. He operates because he loves it. His private practice does little more than break even because he is the sole doctor and income-generator.

The jet and yacht are more about time management than luxury and wealth. Cole gets out of surgery after midnight on a Thursday. He is on the plane a few hours later at 6 a.m. The flight takes a little over two hours. The boat ride takes a couple of hours more. The small crew anchors off a beach, lowers the dinghy, loads the gear, and off they go. The entire crew kiteboards. 

Cole is a fun boss, a different breed than the usual yacht owner. Nobody calls him Dr. Cole. It’s Dean.

The winds are gusting to more than 30 miles per hour. Portions of the reef stick menacingly out of the water, other corals are dangerously submerged just below the surface. I want no part of getting dragged across sharp coral connected to a runaway kite. 

And so, I hike the beach, watching the kiteboarders dart about at warp speed, changing directions, going airborne, performing maneuvers. At age 65, Cole is last to come in.

“He is not human,” says Melanie, one of the crew. “That’s why we love him.”

Cole is a gunslinger at both work and play. The play is a necessary decompression that allows the work to continue. He still puts in 15 hours days in surgery. “I don’t get tired,” he once told me. Now I believe it.

He still is inventing new tools and medical devices. His greatest fear in life seems to be wasting any of it. 

I ask him if he ever reflects on the thousands of lives he has impacted.

“No, not really,” he says. “I just move forward.”

I ask him how much longer he is going to do surgery.

He considers the question a second.

“Until I die.” 


Mike Thomas, a member of the Maitland City Council, is a former award-winning reporter and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel. He now is an occasional consultant and freelance writer, but spends most of his time cycling, paddle boarding, fishing and being a cross country and track dad at Winter Park High School. He can be reached at mikethomas2420@gmail.com.

Toledo - Tapas, Steak & Seafood at Disney’s Coronado Springs. (Courtesy VIAVAL/Alamy Stock Photo.)

A CHEF’S BEST PAL

Pam Brandon, the Doyenne of Disney Dining, has created 22 cookbooks in conjunction with the theme park’s restaurants, including the soon-to-be-published Delicious Disney: Walt Disney World Recipes & Stories from the Most Magical Place on Earth.

If you’re an advocate of alliteration, you might be tempted to label Pam Brandon as the Doyenne of Disney Dining. After all, the Winter Park resident, who began her career as a journalist, has created 22 cookbooks in conjunction with the theme park’s restaurants, including the soon-to-be-published Delicious Disney: Walt Disney World Recipes & Stories from the Most Magical Place on Earth.

The lavishly illustrated tome, which celebrates Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary, was written in collaboration with Marcy Carriker Smothers, a California-based author and media personality whose 2017 book Eat Like Walt: The Wonderful World of Disney Food was dubbed a “must have for any Disney fan” by the Huffington Post.

The same is already being said about Delicious Disney, which includes more than 60 popular recipes from Disney restaurants past and present as well as delicious origin stories behind some well-loved menu items, from the kitschy (the peanut butter and jelly milkshake) to the classy (smoked buffalo with melted fennel and leeks with hearts of palm salad). 

For example, Walt Disney loved fried chicken, which his wife, Lillian, discouraged for health reasons. But when Walt visited Central Florida to announce his vision for the vast acreage that his representatives had clandestinely assembled, Lillian wasn’t around to object to his diet. 

So the boss, whose usual comfort-food indulgence was hamburgers, specifically ordered that fried chicken lunches be delivered to the old Irlo Bronson house, located on the present-day site of the Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, where the entourage of Californians had set up headquarters from which to explore the lake-dotted property.

Walt died eight years before he could have sampled the Hoop-Dee-Doo Fried Chicken, from the Hoop-Dee-Doo Musical Revue at Fort Wilderness. But, if you don’t have a spouse who forbids fried foods, you can make it at home by following the recipe reproduced in the book.

The Handwich, also known as “the one-hand sandwich,” has an interesting backstory. It resulted from a challenge by Michael Eisner, then Disney’s chairman and CEO, to create “fun food” and was conceived not by chefs, but Imagineers. The Food & Beverage department got involved to ensure that whatever the research-and-development whizzes imagined could be practically replicated.

The resulting collaboration was a cone-shaped loaf of bread, hollowed out and filled with mix-and-match possibilities such as ham and cheese, steak and cheese, shrimp salad, Italian sausage, barbecued chicken and the bestseller — a combination of salami, cheese and red onions topped by a vinaigrette. 

Handwiches, launched in 1987 and originally sold primarily at Tomorrowland’s Lunching Station, are now ubiquitous. And they offer the added advantage, for hungry tourists, of easy portability. New iterations are still being introduced, although Brandon and Smothers suggest that you considering stuffing your version with Walt’s chili topped with shredded cheddar and crushed saltines.

You get the idea. Delicious Disney, released last October by Disney Editions, is a cookbook and a pop culture history rolled into one oversized 304-page package. Which explains why it’s selling out at theme park retail stores and, through pre-orders alone, is rocketing up the bestseller list among cookbooks available on Amazon.

WONDERFULLY SERENDIPITOUS

Brandon, who wanted to be a teacher, never imagined a career for herself as a culinary celebrity. But she describes the journey as “wonderfully serendipitous,” with her career choices leading unexpectedly to new and even more exciting opportunities.

A native of Parkersburg, West Virginia, the down-to-earth Brandon is no diva despite her rarified stature among legions of Disney aficionados. “Eleven years after I met her, I’m still in awe of Pam’s ability to create community and her boundless but clear-eyed positivity,” says Kendra Lott, publisher of Edible Orlando magazine, which Brandon edits with her daughter, Katie Farmand. “She’s for real, and the scores of people who call her a friend are beyond lucky to do so.”

The only diva-like thing about Brandon is her friendly (but final and firm) refusal to divulge her age. Sure, readers can do the math based on the dates of milestones in her life — for example, she graduated from Marshall University in 1975 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and Spanish — but friends say she seems eternally in her 30s.

After graduation, Brandon (then Pam Florence) worked five years on the copy desk at the Charleston Gazette, which she describes as “an old-school newsroom” where reporters hammered out stories on manual typewriters and Brandon made sense of it using scissors, rubber cement, blue pencils and correction fluid. “I just edited,” she says. “At the time, I didn’t want to write.”

She got married (becoming Pam Parks), and after five years with the Gazette left her job — and her pursuit of a master’s degree in journalism — so that she and her “starter husband” could travel across the country in a station wagon, visiting mostly national parks and camping at days end. “I’d never been in a tent in my life,” says Brandon, “but it was an amazing experience.” The couple ended up in Florida, with $32 between them, because Brandon had a favored aunt who lived in Kissimmee.

Her Kerouac period sputtering to an end, Brandon needed a job and found one at Orlando Magazine. She took a story she had written about her year on the road to the legendary Ed Prizer, then publisher, and was hired in 1980 as a typesetter. Soon thereafter, she was promoted to news editor and, as fate would have it, began writing a tourism column that covered Disney and other attractions.

A MEMORABLE MENTOR

“Working for Ed was as good as it got, I thought,” recalls Brandon. “He was an old A.P. (Associated Press) guy. He and his wife, Artice, became like second parents to me. When I went through a divorce, I became a single mother with a young daughter. And Ed and Artice came to my house to reassure me that I always had a place at the magazine.”

Brandon would not be the only young journalist to be unofficially adopted by the Prizers, who were childless and considered the dozen or so staffers at Orlando Magazine (then Orlando-Land Magazine) to be extended family. 

Ed, a gregarious raconteur who gnawed on an ever-present pipe, was a Damon Runyonesque character who had been a Spitfire pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II. He reveled in relating sometimes bawdy (and sometimes lengthy) anecdotes about his days as a swashbuckler while the long-suffering Artice quietly, but affectionately, rolled her eyes in mock frustration.

Although the stories often seemed over the top, they were also undoubtedly true. In fact, Ed is believed by historians to have been one of two Spitfire pilots who, in July 1944, strafed a car carrying Erwin Rommel, commander of German forces in Normandy. Rommel, who would take his own life three months later, suffered serious head injuries when he was thrown from the vehicle. 

The incident was significant because it removed one of Germany’s most capable senior commanders from the field at a critical moment, which may have helped the Allies break through the Axis defenses. But, in a 1987 Orlando Sentinel profile, Ed preferred to reminisce about enjoying “the drinking spots and flesh pots of Canada and Europe.”

After the war, Ed attended the University of Southern California, where he earned a degree in journalism and served as editor of the Daily Trojan. He then joined the AP as a reporter in Detroit, eventually rising through the ranks to become assistant general supervisor at the news service’s headquarters in New York. He lasted there for three years before deciding that hard news didn’t fit his disposition.

“I decided that’s as far as I wanted to go,” Ed told the Orlando Sentinel in a 1987 profile. “I would look around the newsroom at the AP and see outdated bureau chiefs and Pulitzer Prize winners with cigarettes in their mouths sitting at Royal typewriters. They had a cynical attitude toward everything in the world. I would say, ‘Is this what newspapering does to people?’”

Ed and Artice, seeking a sunnier outlook (both literally and figuratively), bought the Orlando-Winter Park Attraction, a digest-sized tourist guide, in 1961. They struggled through the 1960s, initially running the business from the kitchen of their Maitland home. 

But recognizing that the region would enjoy a decades-long boom as a result of Disney and the development that would come in its wake, Ed revamped the modest publication into a full-sized city-regional monthly that tied its success to the growth of what he called “a city of destiny in America.”

And thus was born Orlando-Land Magazine (the word “Land” was dropped from the title in 1981), which from the early 1970s until the mid-1990s — when it fell victim to changing times and a series of disastrous ownership changes following Ed’s retirement — was jammed with ads and considered among the most financially successful city-regional periodicals in the country. 

Orlando Magazine’s editorial pages were filled not with frothy lifestyle articles, as were those of its peers and competitors, but with reportorial (if sometimes boosterish) accounts of new residential and commercial real estate developments and profiles of prominent businesspeople. 

Ed, a skilled and meticulous writer, churned out numerous major stories about Disney and its impact on Orlando, sometimes traveling to headquarters in Anaheim, California, where he was granted unusual access for a reporter. He eventually came to be regarded by the company’s brass as an unofficial corporate historian thanks to his accurate, detailed (and unabashedly enthusiastic) coverage of the theme park’s plans.

MICKEY COMES CALLING

Disney executives trusted Orlando Magazine to get it right. But Ed wasn’t the only writer toiling away on Clay Avenue (and later Gene Street) whom they appreciated. In 1987, just as Disney-MGM Studios was opening, Brandon was visited by Charlie Ridgway, director of press and publicity, and Bob Mervine, public relations manager, who took her to a casual lunch. 

She was, to her surprise, offered a job as senior publicist for the company whose activities she had chronicled for the past seven years. “I didn’t even know what a publicist did,” Brandon recalls. “I had a newsroom background. And then there were Ed and Artice, who had been so good to me. I cried for days trying to make up my mind. When I told Ed, he said, ‘You should take this job. It’s a great opportunity.’”

And so it proved to be. Brandon started out producing a newsletter for media members and later headed publicity for new Disney hotels such as the Dolphin, the Swan and the Yacht & Beach Club. Later she helped to roll out Disney’s Boardwalk and Celebration developments in part by arranging media roundtables with world-renowned architects and community planners such as Robert A.M. Stern and Jaquelin T. Robertson, who created the master plan for Celebration.

“I can’t overstate the importance of Ed Prizer to the biggest chapter of my career,” Brandon says. “I would never have been offered the job with Disney if he hadn’t pushed me to excel. He was such a pro who expected the best. It was a privilege and an honor to live up to his standards. He was a great firsthand teacher who showed me how to create professional relationships with integrity.” 

Those were indeed halcyon days at Disney, adds Brandon, who never got over the thrill of walking up the steps to her office overlooking Main Street USA and working in the same office as other young publicists who were there before her and later became iconic figures in the local public relations world.

Brandon’s predecessors included Carolyn Fennell, who has been a top community affairs executive with the Orlando Aviation Authority for 41 years and counting, and Suzanne McGovern, who had stints with a major travel and tourism-oriented advertising agency before becoming director of college relations at Rollins College and, for the past 18 years, vice president of communications for the Florida United Methodist Foundation.

But when the erstwhile editor married commercial real estate developer Steve Brandon in 1991 and had another child, Will, in 1992, she began to reevaluate her priorities. “I was giving up too much personal and family time,” she says. “I wanted to regain the right work-life balance.”

Brandon resigned her full-time position in 1995, but wasn’t on the sidelines for long. The following year, she became a contractor for the company’s Food & Beverage department as it went on a spree opening restaurants in conjunction with prominent chefs. 

She also worked on special projects unrelated to Disney’s Orlando operation, including Disney California Adventure Park (2001) and Disneyland’s 50th anniversary (2005). Then came the Aulani resort in Hawaii (2011) and Shanghai Disney (2015). 

Since 1996, Brandon, whom Carriker Smothers calls “the ultimate Florida food expert,” has written 22 cookbooks for Disney. But she also wrote The Unofficial Guide to Florida with Kids (2001), Culinary Confessions of the PTA Divas (2005) and co-authored two award-winning Florida cookbooks with her daughter and former Orlando Sentinel food writer Heather McPherson: Field to Feast: Recipes Celebrating Florida Farmers, Chefs and Artisans (2012) and Good Catch: Recipes & Stories Celebrating the Best of Florida’s Waters (2014). 

When Edible Orlando magazine was launched in 2010, Brandon and offspring Katie — demonstrating that the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree — signed on as editors. “It’s one thing to promote Disney chefs, but it’s really special to promote local chefs and small farms,” Brandon says. “But most of all, it’s a continuing joy to work every day with my daughter.”

SHARING AND CARING

A resident of Winter Park’s historic Virginia Heights neighborhood, Brandon has also been an effective community volunteer. At the urging of Thaddeus Seymour, the late president emeritus of Rollins College, she served for a decade on the board of the Winter Park Public Library and started a “Bash for Books” fundraiser, winning the library’s Evaline Lamson Meritorious Service Award in 2006.

“Working with Pam on the library board was a highlight of my volunteer life,” says Ann Hicks Murrah, no slouch when it comes to volunteering. “She became not only a friend but a personal hero. She always made any task fun with her sense of humor. And she has a talent for inspiring others and recruiting people to help accomplish goals.”

Subsequently, Brandon chaired several iterations of the annual Peacock Ball for the Winter Park Historical Association (which operates the Winter Park History Museum) and lent her marketing savvy to the Bach Festival Society of Winter Park. 

For 19 years, the Brandons have hosted parties at their home where guests were asked to bring books for the Adult Literacy League. More than 4,000 volumes have been donated so far, she says. Brandon is also integral to the league’s “Reading Between the Wines” fundraiser, recruiting chefs and restaurants to participate.

Eight years ago, leveraging her Disney relationships, Brandon and Edible Orlando founded the annual “Field to Feast” dinner at Long & Scott Farms in Zellwood. The event, which raised money for Second Harvest Food Bank, wasn’t held last year due to COVID-19. But Brandon is hoping that it can be revived in some form this year.

In May of last year, Brandon again called upon her chef buddies to participate in a “Loyal to Local” dinner, sponsored by Edible Orlando and held at the Emeril Lagasse Foundation Kitchen House and Culinary Garden in College Park, which is home base for the Edible Education Experience (EEE). 

The program was started at Orlando Junior Academy, a private school for kindergartners through eighth graders, by instructor Brad Jones and chef Kevin Fonzo, then from K Restaurant. But it was able to become a separate nonprofit and build its own facility with a grant from Lagasse, who learned of it from Fonzo during a trip to Orlando to inspect his own restaurant at Universal CityWalk. (Emeril’s local outpost closed in 2018.)

 Participating chefs in “Loyal to Local” included James and Julie Petrakis from The Ravenous Pig, Fabrizio Schenardi from Four Seasons Resort, Lo Lalicon from Kadence, Wendy Lopez from Reyes Mescaleria and Fonzo, who’s now chef at La Tavola. Brandon also serves on the development board for EEE, which has a teaching kitchen and a culinary garden and offers programming for children and adults.

Although Delicious Disney could still be classified as hot off the press, Brandon is already looking forward to 2023, which will be the 100th anniversary of the Walt Disney Company. In fact, she has begun working on a centennial cookbook with Karen McClintock, global public relations manager for the company’s Food & Beverage department.

“My admiration for Pam runs deep,” says McClintock, who has worked with Brandon on 20-plus cookbooks. “Professionally, she’s the epitome of the perfect partner: dedicated, organized, and fun. Personally, she’s the epitome of a true friend: selfless and loyal.” 

Also, adds McClintock, punctuating each word for emphasis: “Best. Laugh. Ever.” 

GET YOUR COPY

Delicious Disney: Walt Disney World Recipes & Stories from the Most Magical Place on Earth will be available for purchase at most bookstores and through online booksellers beginning in April, which is its official release date. For now, you can pick up a copy at Walt Disney World’s retail shops or order  one through shopdisney.com. 


Editor’s Note: The following are recipes from Delicious Disney: Walt Disney World Recipes & Stories from the Most Magical Place on Earth. Each was personally selected by co-author Pam Brandon, who has added a brief comment about each just for readers of Winter Park Magazine.

Kusafiri Coffee Shop and Bakery at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park.

PLANT-BASED QUINOA SALAD

Kusafiri Coffee Shop and Bakery — Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park

Kusafiri is the word for “to journey” in Swahili, and plenty of guests make a beeline to the little bakery for the colossal cinnamon buns. But we make the trek for the simple curries and this healthful quinoa salad that makes a delicious quick meal.

SERVES 6

Ingredients

1 cup red quinoa
½ cup white quinoa
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup finely chopped dried apricots
½ cup finely chopped red onion
1 cup chopped cucumber
½ cup chopped mint
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Course salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

  1. Combine 3 cups of water and quinoa in medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, cover, and reduce heat to low. Cook for 15 minutes or until liquid is absorbed.
  2. Remove from heat and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.
  3. Place cooled quinoa in a large mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Season to taste.

PAM SAYS: Not all theme park food is hot dogs and burgers — the chefs look for ways to offer healthful, quick-service alternatives in the parks, like this salad that’s served at a walk-up window in Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Woody’s Lunch Box in Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. (© Disney. © Babybel 2021. Used with permission. © Bel Brands USA.)

S’MORES FRENCH TOAST

Woody’s Lunch Box — Disney’s Hollywood Studios

BUZZ: “In just a few hours, you’ll be sitting around a campfire with Andy making delicious hot sch’moes.”
WOODY: “They’re called s’mores, Buzz.”
Sch’moes or s’mores, this breakfast from Woody’s Lunch Box will have your family asking for … some more!

MAKES  4 SANDWICHES

Ingredients

2 eggs
¾ cup whole milk
1 ¼ cups heavy cream, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups dark chocolate morsels
1 cup graham cracker crumbs (6 full-size sheets pulsed in blender)
8 (3/4-inch) slices brioche loaf
1 cup mini marshmallows

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400⁰ F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Beat eggs, milk, ¾ cup cream, and vanilla extract in a shallow medium-size bowl. Set aside.
  3. Melt chocolate in a small mixing bowl using double boiler method. Add remaining ½ cup cream to melted chocolate, whisking until smooth. Set aside.
  4. Place graham cracker crumbs in a shallow dish.
  5. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and lightly coat with cooking spray.
  6. In assembly-line fashion, dunk 2 brioche slices in egg and milk mixture, then coat both sides with graham cracker crumbs. Add to heated pan and brown on both sides, then transfer slices to prepared baking sheet.
  7. Spread 1 tablespoon of chocolate-cream mixture on each slice, then top with 2 tablespoons marshmallows. Bake for 3 to 4 minutes or until marshmallows begin to puff.
  8. Create a sandwich with the 2 slices. Repeat steps 6 to 8 for remaining 3 sandwiches. Serve warm.

PAM SAYS: Do calories count at Disney World? The kid in all of us loves a decadent sweet like this, served at Woody’s Lunch Box in Toy Story Land in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

CILANTRO COCONUT CURRY

Sanaa — Disney’s Animal Kingdom Villas – Kidani Village

Sanaa serves East African cuisine infused with Indian flavors; this coconut curry is an excellent example of its unique offerings. The restaurant in Kidani Village is authentic in every way, from the spaces used in the cuisine to the savanna-like surroundings. Truly destination dining at the edge of the resort, it’s well worth the trip!

SERVES 4

Ingredients

Curry Sauce

2 cups cilantro, washed and dried, large stems removed
1 cup coconut milk
½ cup mint leaves, washed and dried
½ small jalapeno pepper, seeds removed
2 teaspoons peeled chopped ginger
2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons coarse salt
Juice of 1 medium lemon

Vegetable Curry

1 pound of butternut squash, peeled, cut in 1-inch dice
2 cups cauliflower florets
1 small red onion, julienned
1 pound of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup shelled edamame
Course salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons canola or olive oil
Rice, for serving

Directions

For Curry Sauce

  1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth.
  2. Bring to a simmer in a saucepan over medium heat.

For Vegetable Curry

  1. Season vegetables with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat oil in large sauté pan over high heat. Add squash and cauliflower and sauté about 5 minutes. Add onion and sauté 2 to 3 minutes more.
  3. Stir in warm curry sauce, to taste. Serve over rice.

PAM SAYS: You find such diverse cuisine at Disney, and Sanaa at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge is one of my favorite restaurants, serving East African cuisine infused with Indian flavors. This super-easy version of a curry has intense flavors from the cilantro, coconut milk, mint and ginger — you could use almost any vegetables in season for this recipe.

Jaleo by José Andrés at Disney Springs.

GAMBAS AL AJILLO
(Traditional Garlic Shrimp)

Jaleo by José Andrés — Disney Springs

With stellar architecture in a blaze of red and yellow that celebrates the Spanish flag, Jaleo by José Andrés showcases the cuisine of the noted chef’s homeland and his legacy of innovative dishes. Just make sure you have plenty of good, crusty bread for dunking in the sauce.

SERVES 4

Ingredients

¼ cup Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
5 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
16 large shrimp, peeled, heads on or off (about 1 pound)
1 guindilla chili pepper, or your favorite dried chili pepper
2 tablespoons brandy
Juice of 2 lemons
Coarse salt, to taste
1 tablespoon chopped parsley

Directions

  1. Heat the olive oil in a medium sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and sauté until just beginning to brown, about 2 minutes.
  2. Add shrimp and chili pepper and cook for about 2 minutes. Turn the shrimp over and sauté another 2 minutes, until the shrimp is pink.
  3. Add brandy and lemon juice and cook for another minute. Season to taste with salt, sprinkle with parsley, and serve.

PAM SAYS: Some of the best restaurants at Disney World are at Disney Springs, where Jaleo by José Andrés is one of my favorites, serving innovative Spanish cuisine. If you make this dish, look for the freshest head-on Florida shrimp — and make sure you have some good crusty bread for dunking in the sauce.

SEASONAL OLD FASHIONED

Enchanted Rose Lounge — Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort 

It’s easy to become spellbound at Enchanted Rose Lounge, inspired by Beauty and the Beast (2017). The cranberry in the recipe isn’t just for the holidays. It represents the red of the enchanted rose that held the Beast’s life in the balance: “If he could learn to love another, and earn their love in return, by the time the last petal fell, the spell would be broken.” Look for the fairy-tale touches throughout the four rooms, including the chandelier evoking Belle’s ball gown.

SERVES 1

Ingredients

Cranberry Simple Syrup

¼ pound cranberries
1 pound brown sugar
¾ cup water

Seasonal Old Fashioned

5 cranberries
1 quarter slice of orange
3 dashes of orange bitters
¾ ounce of cranberry simple syrup (recipe on this page)
2 ounces of single-barrel bourbon
Ice, to liking
1 orange peel twist, for garnish
1 fresh rosemary sprig, for garnish

Directions

For Cranberry Simple Syrup
Makes about 1 pint

  1. Blend cranberries in blender.
  2. Combine cranberries, brown sugar, and water in medium saucepan and simmer for 20 minutes. Cool; strain syrup through fine-mesh strainer. Keeps for 1 to 2 weeks.

For Seasonal Old Fashioned

  1. Muddle cranberries, orange slice, orange bitters directly into rocks glass. Add fresh ice.
  2. Stir in Cranberry Simple Syrup and bourbon.
  3. Garnish with orange peel twist and rosemary sprig.

PAM SAYS: Just in time for the winter holidays, this cocktail is from Enchanted Rose Lounge, inspired by Beauty and the Beast at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort. (The cranberry also represents the red of the enchanted rose, the mystical flower that has become symbolic of the movie.)

Toledo - Tapas, Steak & Seafood at Disney’s Coronado Springs. (Courtesy VIAVAL/Alamy Stock Photo.)

CREMA CATALANA

Toledo – Tapas, Steak & Seafood — Disney’s Coronado Springs

Here’s a decadent dessert from Toledo – Tapas, Steak & Seafood! Similar to French crème brûlèe, but not as heavy or rich, Spanish crema catalana has a crisp caramelized topping and silky custard.

SERVES 6

Ingredients

Crema Catalana

1 small lemon
2 cups 2 percent milk
½ vanilla bean
1 cinnamon stick
¾ cup of sugar, divided
6 egg yolks
1/3 cup cornstarch

Topping

6 tablespoons sugar, divided
Fresh orange segments

Directions

For Crema Catalana

  1. Peel lemon. Place lemon in a medium saucepan with milk. Split vanilla bean in half and scrape seeds into milk. Add cinnamon stick and ½ cup of sugar.
  2. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until milk reaches a temperature of 200⁰F. Remove from heat and cover. Steep at room temperature for 2 hours.
  3. While milk is cooling, whisk together egg yolks, cornstarch, and remaining sugar in a large mixing bowl until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  4. Strain cooled milk mixture into a clean saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-low heat. Turn off heat.
  5. Slowly whisk ½ cup of hot milk mixture into egg yolk mixture to temper the eggs. Strain egg yolk mixture into milk mixture, whisking constantly. Turn heat to low and cook whisking constantly, for 5 minutes, until thick.
  6. Remove from heat and pour into 6 individual ramekins. Cool slightly, then cover the ramekins with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

To Serve

Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of sugar on top of each crema catalana. Use a kitchen torch and caramelize the sugar until brown and crusty. Serve immediately with orange segments.

PAM SAYS: Disney loves theming food to match the story and design of restaurants, and this silky sweet is on the menu at Toledo – Tapas, Steak & Seafood at Disney’s Coronado Springs’ new Gran Destino Tower. Grab a cocktail in the adjoining Dahlia Lounge, inspired by Spanish surrealism — Walt Disney and Salvador Dali collaborated on a short film called Destino, and the lounge has gorgeous artwork and references to the film.


The recipes and photos used on the preceding pages were selected from Delicious Disney: Walt Disney World Recipes & Stories from the Most Magical Place on Earth (Disney Editions, 2021), and are © 2021 Disney, except for the Gambas al Ajillo dish from Jaleo by José Andrés on page 60 and 61. Jaleo by José Andrés is owned and operated by THINKFOODGROUP, LLC. Its recipe is © 2021 THINKFOODGROUP, LLC and used with permission. Photo © 2021 by Aaron Van.

MEANT TO BE

A Beautiful Day for a Neighbor was originally planned to be a solo statue of Fred Rogers. But sculptor Paul Day made the case that Rogers ought to be shown surrounded by children. This image is of the full-sized clay model from which the bronze sculpture was cast. Photo courtesy of Paul Day Sculptures

Fred McFeely Rogers, known to the world as children’s television icon Mister Rogers, graduated from Rollins College in 1951. But throughout his life, he continued to visit the campus on his seasonal sojourns to Winter Park.

Now, the beloved one-time music composition major, who taught generations of youngsters about kindness and tolerance through his PBS series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, will have a permanent presence at the college, where he was inspired by a plaque that reads “Life is for Service.”

British sculptor Paul Day — whose works include The Meeting Place, a 30-foot-tall sculpture in London’s St. Pancras International, a major railway station — has created a bronze tribute to Rogers. 

The word “statue” seems too formal  and fails to convey the work’s complexity, while the word monument” seems too pretentious for such a gracious and unaffected honoree.

So let’s go with “sculpture,” which in this instance stands 7 feet tall and weighs more than 3,000 pounds. It depicts Rogers, seated, wearing his signature sweater and sneakers. On his hand is his best-known puppet, Daniel Striped Tiger, and he’s surrounded by seven entranced children — including one in a wheelchair. 

The pedestal is a bustling montage that depicts habituates of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe, both people and puppets, including X the Owl, King Friday XIII and Lady Elaine Fairchilde. The familiar characters preen from balconies and peek from arched castle windows. Along the bottom, in script, are lyrics from “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” 

A Beautiful Day for a Neighbor, set to be on public view beginning October 29, will be placed on campus between the Annie Russell Theatre and Knowles Memorial Chapel. And the timing could hardly be better, since Rogers has undergone a posthumous renaissance in recent years. 

Perhaps that’s because the values for which he stood seem under daily assault, and his gentle and tolerant spirit seems sorely missed in a world plagued by rancor and division. Suffice it to say, we could all use a dose of Mister Rogers and his Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

Plenty of people seem to share that opinion. In 2018, director Morgan Neville’s Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, a heart-tugging documentary about Rogers’ life, became the top-grossing biographical documentary ever produced to the tune of $ 22 million. (It’s also the 12th top-grossing documentary in any genre.)  

And a big-budget theatrical film, It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, was released in late 2019 and starred Tom Hanks as Rogers. Director Marielle Heller’s biographical drama was based on a 1998 essay by Tom Junod (“Can You Say … Hero?”) published in Esquire. 

It’s a Beautiful Day grossed $68 million worldwide and earned an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor for Hanks, whom The New York Times described as “the closest thing we have to Mister Rogers — an uncomplicated-seeming, scandal-free man with a long career who never had to issue a public statement that included the phrase ‘It was a different time.’” 

Of course, Rollins has saluted its most famous alumnus before, displaying his sweater and sneakers in the Olin Library’s archives, arranging self-guided tours of Rogers-related locations on campus and publicly celebrating the affiliation at every opportunity.

In 2019, faculty, alumni and students along with a cappella superstars Voctave staged a concert, Mister Rogers: The Musician, at Tiedtke Concert Hall — where a Don Sondag portrait of Rogers hangs in the lobby. 

The event, which underscored Rogers’ formidable musicianship, included familiar songs from his television show as well as selections from an opera he wrote while at Rollins entitled Josephine the Short-Neck Giraffe.

Day’s creation, though, will be a more enduring tribute to a man whose comforting presence and emphasis on essential human values has guided (and still guides) millions of people through personal challenges while easing the trauma of social upheaval and national tragedies.


FAST FACTS

Title: A Beautiful Day for a Neighbor

Sculptor: Paul Day

Weight: 3,000 lbs.

Height: 71⁄2 feet

Materials: The initial clay model was created using wood, steel, aluminum, wire, polyurethane and more than 6,000 pounds of clay. The finished sculpture is bronze with a stainless-steel armature for structural support.

Process: Research and development began in July 2019. It took 11 months and more than 4,000 hours to complete the clay model. A team of four people then spent two weeks making the molds needed to cast the final bronze sculpture at a foundry in the Czech Republic.

Commission Originated by: Allan E. Keen, Rollins College Trustee

Public Debut: October 29, 2021


Just Happenstance

Like much of what happens in Winter Park, the initiative began with Allan Keen, founder and owner of The Keewin Real Property Company and twice chairman of the college’s Board of Trustees (from 2006 to 2008 and 2016 to 2019). He also earned a bachelor’s degree in 1970 and an MBA from the college’s Crummer Graduate School of Business in 1971.

In May 2019, Keen and his wife, Linda, were enjoying a barge cruise along the Burgundy Canal near Dijon, France, with two other local couples, Ralph and Carol Hadley and Jeffrey and Caroline Blydenburgh. 

Not normally an aficionado of sculpture, Keen noticed some intriguing maquettes (scale models of larger originals) in the vessel’s gathering area. The wife of the barge captain pointed out that Paul Day, who happened to be a family friend, was the artist, and asked if they would like to visit Day’s studio near Dijon.

Well, of course they would! Although Day was away when the group came calling, his wife, Catherine, offered a tour and said that her husband would visit them the following afternoon. The British-born sculptor motorcycled to where the barge was docked, and the group enjoyed drinks and conversation. The subject of Fred Rogers never came up — at least not then.

Later, at St. Pancras International en route from the Channel Tunnel (better known as the Chunnel) that connects England and France, Keen took note of The Meeting Place. The statue of an amorous couple embracing was difficult to miss.

While at St. Pancras International, Allan Keen, founder and owner of The Keewin Real Property Company and a Rollins College trustee, saw two juxtaposed works of art that sparked the idea for a Mister Rogers sculpture on campus. One was Day’s The Meeting Place (above), while the other was an installation above the station’s Grand Terrace that reads “I Want My Time With You” (below). Keen, who recognized the neon script from several smaller works that had been on display at the college-owned Alfond Inn, did a quick internet search and found that the artist was the same: Tracey Emin. Voila! The genesis of A Beautiful Day for a Neighbor can be traced to that chance observation. Photos courtesy of Paul Day Sculptures

But so was an installation hanging from wires above the Grand Terrace and visible from most of the station’s first floor. The words “I Want My Time With You” appeared to have been scrawled in quasi-cursive writing by a blunt marker filled with hot-pink neon ink. Recalls Keen: “I thought it looked familiar.” 

As well it would to anyone who had ever been to The Alfond Inn, the college-owned boutique hotel that displays selections from the Alfond Collection of Contemporary Art. The collection was donated to the college by philanthropists Ted and Barbara Alfond, who met while they were students at Rollins and graduated together in 1968.

A quick internet search by Keen revealed that the creator of the neon art displayed at St. Pancras International was Tracey Emin, whose much smaller work using the words “Language Must Speak for Itself” had been displayed behind the hotel’s check-in desk. Then came Keen’s ah-ha moment.

“It sounds really happenstance,” says Keen when trying to explain how this knowledge came to have such (literally) monumental consequences. “Maybe happenstance isn’t the right word. Maybe it was just meant to be.”

Whatever the case, seeing Day’s work in proximity to work from an artist represented in a collection owned by Rollins led Keen to think of Mister Rogers, and how wonderful it would be if Day could create a sculpture of him that would be installed on the campus.

The Keens had only met Rogers once, in 1991 at an intimate dinner held by former Rollins President Rita Bornstein and her husband, Harland G. Bloland. They were particularly close to Rogers’ wife, Joanne, who served alongside Keen for 18 years as a college trustee.

“Fred was exactly as he seemed on TV,” recalls Keen, who adds that just days following the dinner, his two young daughters, Kristen and Kinsley, received handwritten notes from Mister Rogers. 

“Although he was funny and modest, there was an aura about him. You could see how he was able to connect so well with people of all ages.”

An Emotional Connection

Inspiration isn’t easy to logically justify. Ideas come to all of us, sometimes circuitously, and are usually discarded or forgotten. Keen, though, tends to view inspiration as admonition. If an idea truly fires his imagination, as the sculpture did, then he typically finds a way to make it happen.

Upon his return to Winter Park, Keen contacted Rollins President Grant Cornwell, who was enthusiastic, and gauged the interest of potential donors, who were intrigued. No one doubted that if Keen was driving the bus, then it was only a matter of time before Mister Rogers returned to the neighborhood.

“Mister Rogers and the values he represents are important to Rollins and important to me,” says Cornwell. “So I embraced the concept immediately. That said, I never envisioned the scale or storytelling power of the sculpture that Paul Day created — and I never foresaw what a significant installation this would be for Rollins and for the legacy of Mister Rogers.”

Neither did Day, who admits that he had no idea who Fred Rogers was. “I never say no to a commission,” he says from his studio. “But when Allan called, I thought he might be talking about a prominent businessperson or faculty member. Fred just isn’t well known in Europe.”

Google provided Day with everything he needed to know. “I had something of a Damascus Road moment,” he recalls. “I realized how significant Fred was to American national culture.”

Sculptors often create monuments to celebrated people, notes Day, but rarely do they feel an emotional connection to their subjects. “As I researched, I was captivated and extremely moved,” he says. “Fred was important in terms of morality, wisdom and a voice of sanity in an extremely troubled world.”

Day watched old episodes of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and other footage, such as Rogers’ 1969 testimony before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Communication in which he rescued a $20 million grant to fund the creation of PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Keen only met Rogers once, at a private dinner party, but quickly realized that the guest of honor “was exactly as he seemed on TV.” The Winter Park developer was, however, a close friend of Rogers’ wife, Joanne, with whom he served as a college trustee for 18 years. Photo by Rafael Tongol

By the end of his six-minute statement, Rogers — who was not then well known — had melted the heart of the subcommittee’s gruff and initially dismissive chairman, Senator John O. Pastore of Rhode Island. “I think it’s wonderful. I think it’s wonderful,” said Pastore. “Looks like you just earned the $20 million.”

That testimony is cited today by many public relations practitioners as perhaps the most effective example of salesmanship ever recorded. But it was, in fact, just Fred being Fred. 

Day also viewed two other statues of Rogers. One, in Latrobe, Pennsylvania — Rogers’ hometown — showed him sitting on a park bench. The other, in Pittsburgh, showed him tying his sneakers. In both, he’s alone — a fact that Day found incongruous. 

“As I began to mull it over, I felt that Fred needed to be seen in context, doing what he did,” says Day. “He always said that everything he did was about celebrating the lives of children. So I thought that the key to creating a successful sculpture of Mister Rogers would be to have him be where he’d want to be — communicating with children.”

But the project was growing larger, more complex and more expensive. Early discussions had been about a life-sized solo figure with a price tag of about $250,000. Now, with the addition of children and a complex pedestal that showed other characters, the total cost of the project including installation had risen closer to $750,000.

Keen was undaunted: “I said I’d raise whatever we needed.” A contract was drawn between Day and Rollins so that Keen could fundraise on the college’s behalf. As he worked his way through his formidable Rolodex — or the modern electronic equivalent — checkbooks were readily opened.

“It really wasn’t that hard,” says Keen. “Nobody said no. I didn’t do any mass solicitation. It was all one-on-one.” 

Inspiration and Perspiration 

In September 2019, as Keen quietly marshaled the finances, Day visited Joanne Rogers at the Fred M. Rogers Center in Latrobe. “That was a critical moment,” says Day. “It was very important for me to get her personal insight and approval. I felt a great sense of responsibility about this.”

Day and Joanne ended up spending several hours together. “Talking to Joanne about Fred made it so personal and visceral in my heart,” says Day, who’s saddened that the warm and witty woman who so effectively carried forward her husband’s legacy passed away before the unveiling ceremony, at which she was to have been the guest of honor.

Later that month, Day made his first visit to Rollins to meet college officials, scout potential locations and talk to people who had personal connections with Rogers, such as John Sinclair, chair of the department of music, and Rogers’ nephew, Daniel Crozier Jr., professor of music, theory and composition. 

He also visited the college’s Hume House Child Development & Student Research Center and spoke with Sharon Carnahan, executive director. Although he didn’t use the children as models, he drew upon their energy as inspiration.

Back in his studio, Day got to work. Progress reports were delivered via Zoom and, after maquettes were approved, a full-sized clay sculpture undergirded by a wire and metal frame was built. 

Keen only met Rogers once, at a private dinner party, but quickly realized that the guest of honor “was exactly as he seemed on TV.” The Winter Park developer was, however, a close friend of Rogers’ wife, Joanne, with whom he served as a college trustee for 18 years. Photo courtesy of Paul Day Sculptures

Representatives from the foundry then made molds of plaster and silicone rubber. The molds were taken back to the Czech Republic and reproduced in wax, from which bronze castings were made and welded together. 

The entire process, from conception to delivery, took nearly a year — just as Day had promised and despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Keen says that once the college realized how stunning A Beautiful Day for a Neighbor would be — and considered the sculpture’s likely drawing power — it was determined that the visible and accessible area between the Annie Russell Theatre and Knowles Memorial Chapel would provide an ideal location for Fred and his young friends.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I expect that this chance encounter [with Day] would evolve into an iconic work of art,” says Keen as the unveiling nears. 

“And nothing is more fitting for Rollins’s most famous alumnus than to have a permanent memorial to his life’s contributions. Paul’s work will be a great asset for the community. And the community had great friends in Fred and Joanne.”


A SPECIAL THANK YOU TO KENNETH MEISTER

This commemorative publication was made possible by a gift from Kenneth Meister, founder and senior managing director of Orlando-based KJM Capital. Previously, Meister served as president of AP Capital Holdings, a private investment firm, and has provided senior-level management consulting services to, among others, Raymond James Capital and H.I.G. Capital. He has served as a senior vice president in investment banking with Raymond James Financial and a corporate/securities attorney for Foley & Lardner, where both practices focused on public offerings and mergers and acquisitions for growth companies in the telecommunications and information technology sectors. Meister received both his BBA in Accounting and Finance in 1986 and his Juris Doctor in 1989 from the University of Wisconsin.


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