Drew Hutchinson – Story Behind the Story

By Drew Hutchinson

For my Story Behind the Story assignment, I decided to interview Gaylord News reporter Emma Keith about her breaking news story/in-depth news story on Jim Inhofe’s appointment to chair the Senate Armed Services committee.

Her breaking news story was on the front page of The Oklahoman.

University of Oklahoma senior Emma Keith started out as an OU Daily reporter and news managing editor. She has also had an investigative internship with News 21. She currently works for Gaylord News, a new program that sends OU students to report in Washington D.C. to help Oklahoma get coverage on issues that affect the state.

Keith’s story broke the news that Oklahoma senator Jim Inhofe would succeed Sen. John McCain as chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Keith later wrote a more in-depth story about the appointment’s significance.

Keith said she and her fellow reporters knew about a week ahead of time that Inhofe would be moving into the Senate Armed Services chair position. She said she wrote the skeleton of the story before the announcement — she had sat down with people on Inhofe’s staff to confirm that Inhofe would get the position. She said she researched the position and its significance for Oklahoma. She called defense experts and political science professors, as well, including Michael Crespin, director of the OU Carl Albert Center.

Keith said she was at the Capitol when Inhofe’s position became official. She and other reporters with Gaylord News went straight to Inhofe’s office and were able to catch him for some brief remarks.

“That allowed us to get something no news outlets back home would have: an immediate response from the senator that I could then work into that (story) skeleton before I sent it off,” Keith said.

As for public response, she said stories about Sen. Inhofe are always polarizing, and many people responded to the story with disgust, especially on Twitter.

“I’m not sure the story was completely unexpected, but I also think a lot of people who are active on Oklahoma social media just aren’t fond of anything Inhofe does,” Keith said.

She said her time at The Daily had trained her to break news quickly. But her editors with Gaylord News are older, retired newspaper reporters, so their editing process was lengthy, while Keith tried to get the story out sooner.

She said the largest challenge of writing the story was figuring out how to write the breaking news first and then a follow-up after. She had to figure out how to split up all the sources she had already interviewed and put them in the respective stories.

She said working in D.C. is worlds different than her time at The Daily. She said working for The Daily meant budgeting out news and deciding for herself what to write about. But with Gaylord News, she always knows what stories and beats she should write about — though she said there’s so much going on that it gets difficult to decide what to write first.

“We’re trying to do work that couldn’t be done from Oklahoma so that we’re most useful to the papers there,” Keith said. “But there’s only three reporters here now and obviously a lot happening everyday in D.C., and it’s been quite a process to force ourselves and our editors to decide what’s important.”

She said she got to her current position in Gaylord News by working for the Daily and doing her internship with News 21. She also said student media experience is essential to work with Gaylord News. She said her experiences at The Daily have taught her leadership skills and the value of (really) hard work — all skills that she would perish without in her current position. She said she encourages anyone who wants to join her program to work for a news outlet.

Keith’s story on Inhofe was on the front page of The Oklahoman. She said she was delighted when she saw this, because it was the first time since moving to D.C. that she’d felt truly useful.

“I know it’s not the most groundbreaking or exciting thing I’ve ever written, but it did feel like a small triumph for this D.C. program, where we’re just starting to figure things out,” Keith said.

Story Behind the Story: Torey Van Oot

By Sierra Sizemore

Torey Van Oot is a free-lance writer, reporter and editor out of Minneapolis, Minnesota with bylines in Refinery 29, Teen Vogue and Glamour Magazine. Before a career path change to free-lance reporting, Van Oot was a contracted writer for Refinery 29 in Brooklyn, New York. She has appeared on CNN in regards to a political sex scandal and received a Center for California Studies award for best political blogging.

As a free-lance reporter, she often receives tips and assignments from editors looking for an outside voice to produce a story.  Van Oot produces her own stories and ideas, however, her article “For Women in Congress, the State of the Union is a #MeToo Moment” was brought to her by an editor at Glamour Magazine. According to Van Oot, it’s important for journalists to break news, enhance a story or figure out a unique angle. The State of the Union piece specifically falls under the last category in that she was working to find a voice or opinion that was not as prominent.

“For me, it’s about finding a story that no one else has or that’s going to be different,” Van Oot said. “I look for unexplored angles or compelling characters. I look at narrative arcs to see how much access I may have to the people or things I need to write about in a compelling and interesting way.”

The article revolves around the challenges women face as full-time members of the United States Congress in American society. The expose specifically discusses sexual harassment claims and those female legislators affected by the acts in question. Van Oot reached out to many congresswomen, both Democratic and Republican, however, the Republican representatives were unwilling or unable to give quotes for this piece.

“I really wanted to include the voices of Republican women,” Van Oot said. “My assumption is that they would’ve said, had they participated in this story, is ‘This is a symbolic gesture (referencing the all-black dress-code at the State of the Union) and we’re going to do other things to address this issue.’”

Van Oot discussed the ways journalists can give justice to victims in the future. As reporters, it is important to listen to the primary voices, but also to look outside the box and truly give an outlet to all parties involved.

“There’s a level of kindness, compassion and thoughtfulness that should always come with our reporting when talking to people who have gone through traumatic experiences,” Van Oot said. “I do think it’s really important to be mindful when talking to people and to be understanding of what people are going through when they are sharing such traumatic stories with you. Part of doing that justice is being upfront and honest with them about what you’re going to need to do as part of the reporting.”

Van Oot brought up the point to ask survivors about their next line of action and to make sure they have a support system to fall back on. When reporters tell a sensitive story, it is important to assure that the sources or subjects of the story are not negatively affected by the story that is being told. Journalist’s jobs are to give voice to the voiceless, however, they are required to follow the voices who want to be heard and will contribute considerably to the article in progress.

The article written for Glamour Magazine, mentioned in earlier graphs, was not predominantly controversial. Though it was shared multiple times on Twitter, the piece did not receive any kind of negative feedback from its intended audience.

Profile: Dr. David Anderson is the second senior fellow of Dunham

By Lauren Owen

Books line the many shelves of Dr. David Anderson’s office. More books are on his desks and on another table. Down the hall is where Anderson’s wife, Abby, son, and unborn child live in a part of Dunham’s living space. While he has not been working as a senior fellow at Dunham College for very long, the office is well-lived in.

Just a few weeks before move-in in August, Anderson took the place of senior fellow from his predecessor, Dr. Mark Morvant. Morvant now works at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas as the associate vice president of academic administration.

“I’m kind of haunted by the need to make a difference,” Anderson said.

Anderson said he is haunted because he was given this opportunity by OU that not everyone would have had. He said that he cannot take that for granted. However, he said that this is a healthy pressure to him.

Anderson has worked at the University of Oklahoma for 10 years. He started as a professor in the English department living in Cate. Now, however, he lives with his family in Dunham College as a senior fellow. He still teaches 16th and 17th century literature for the English department, but he is also a senior fellow, a husband and a father.

“There are a lot of people who would love to do what I do for a living, but can only do it as a little bit of a hobby,” Anderson said.

Anderson said his jobs as a professor and a senior fellow are related. He believes in teaching and studying literature, and said he wanted to be a senior fellow to bring meaningful education to students who he believed wanted more from their education outside of a classroom. He also said that he believed that taking literature seriously will make you a serious person.

“Books are not magical. They can’t solve all our problems, but if we take them seriously and if we really learn to gather around them, they can give us more than mere credentials,” said Anderson.

His favorite books are “King Lear” by Shakespeare, “Mansfield Park” by Jane Austen and “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens.

Anderson said that his favorite part of being a senior fellow is having one-on-one conversations with students, alongside the high table dinners.

“It’s about making ideas fresh and exciting for undergraduates. That’s exciting,” Anderson said.

When he has time off, he said he likes to do things such as throwing a football around in the Dunham courtyard. He said he also likes eating with people and likes the buzz of the cafeteria. Golf, cooking and reading are his other favorite pastimes.

He also spends time with his wife, who is currently staying home for her pregnancy, and their 21 month old son. She has worked for the last two years in south Oklahoma City to start Saint Paul’s community school, which is a school for low income families.

Anderson said that it is fun, rare and exciting to have Samuel growing up in Dunham. He said that Samuel is usually brought out to the courtyard to play. He said that he has a desire to have his kids look at him as a person with principle.

Anderson said that he also enjoys spending time with his friends and making dinner for them. His favorite meals to cook are French cuisine, homemade pizza, grilling, mixing cocktails, Italian cuisine and Indian food. He said that he knew Morvant because they were in the same group of friends.

Morvant said that he knew Anderson back when Anderson was the faculty in residence in the Honors College in Cate. When it was time for Anderson to take Morvant’s place, the two met and talked about Morvant’s vision for Dunham.

Morvant said that he would have loved to stay longer at Dunham. However, he wanted to take the opportunity to live closer to his parents. He said he wanted his kids to get to know their grandparents and so living in Texas made that easier.

Morvant said that there were some things he would have loved to have expanded on from what they did the first year. He said he also would have liked to have made more connections with students if he had chosen to stay longer.

Dr. Ronald “Keith” Gaddie and Morvant worked on the residential colleges early on to discuss the architecture to make the building a community for the residents. Morvant said that they worked with Residential Life and Student Affairs to build a model that put academics and student and residential experiences into one.

Morvant said that he worked closely with Mr. Dunham to build the crest and motto. The current traditions of Dunham were based off the motto “Integrity, perseverance, wisdom.” Morvant also said he liked to help set up activities for local schools at Dunham.

Morvant said that Residential College director Yolande Graham and assistant senior fellow Zac Stevens helped give each floor its own identity and crest. He said he also helped design the Thanksgiving dinner at Dunham, as well as putting up the Christmas tree. He said that for some it was their first time putting up a tree. Since international students cannot go back home for the holidays, Morvant made Dunham welcoming for the holidays.

Stevens said that Anderson wants to explore the humanities and great books. Stevens said that Anderson has been keeping many things the same as they were when Morvant was in charge.

“When he talks about that vision of wanting to gather around these books and conversations I think the students are like ‘yeah I can get behind that.’” Stevens said.

A new feature that Stevens said Anderson has brought to Dunham is what he calls the high table dinners. Stevens said that these dinners are to gather around and talk about the big ideas and the big questions of life.

Anderson said that he thinks he could not have been the first senior fellow of Dunham. He said that Dunham needed Morvant because of the need to be able to deal with the architects and donors that were making the college possible.  Anderson said that he is not trying to change much about the college and is instead letting the other workers take the lead.

“Mark had a very student focused attitude it was all about the students for him. What he told me when I took the job was his piece of advice for me he said ‘When all else fails, just love on the students,’” Anderson said.

Stevens said that he thinks that Anderson has been happy to let things continue as they were and not coming in to change everything.

“I think he appreciates what’s already here and is looking to whatever changes do happen to happen primarily because of a difference in maybe what our target is rather than how we do things and anything like that,” Stevens said.

Anderson said that he has a long term goal of making a difference in Dunham. He said that he wants to impress upon the students that Dunham is a community of learners.

Graham said she thinks that he has a desire to see students be successful and grow. She said that she thinks Anderson wants the students to engage beyond the things they normally do so be on social media engaging in real depth of conversation and learning together.

Graham said that she thinks he takes a genuine interest in what her role is in the community and the work she is doing with students. She said that she thinks students who have talked with him have learned a lot from him and opened their minds to new ideas.

Anderson said that budget cutting season is close and that he does not know how the cuts will affect Dunham.

“That aspect is something I’m prepared to do,” Anderson said. “I didn’t sign up for that but at the same time if you’re going to be a leader, you don’t have the right to look the other way and let someone else deal with that.”

Anderson said he has not been as involved as he would like to be because his wife is in her ninth month of her pregnancy. He said that when they lived in Cate, they felt they didn’t know many of the students who lived there. Now that they live in Dunham with their 21 month old son Samuel, who Anderson said is like the mascot of Dunham, they get more students participating in events.

Graham said that Anderson is driven. She said that it is challenging coming into a community like Dunham where there are certain traditions that have already been set and Anderson coming in the middle of that meant he was learning as he went. She said that he is making an effort to engage and be connected with students.

Emily Marcum, who is the vice president of community and traditions of the Dunham College Council, said that he helps with the community based events. 

At first, Marcum said she was not sure if she would connect with Anderson because she is a science major. However, she said that she knows him better now.

“Now that he’s here, he’s just so fun.” Marcum said.

Profile: From Los Angeles to Oklahoma, two OU alumni build a vision together

By Sierra Rains-Moad

The weather may be overcast and gloomy, but when customers step into The Social Club, it’s as if a 70 degree ocean breeze is blowing across their skin and warm rays of sun are beaming down on their face.

Maybe it’s the glowing ambiance of bright colors and bright lights, or maybe it’s the plethora of trendy handmade treasures, but visitors may feel like they’re “not in Oklahoma anymore” because of the Los Angeles energy co-owners and longtime friends Dana Scott and Erica Smith incorporate into their business.

The Social Club, located off of 210 E. Main St., functions as both a salon and a shop full of handmade goods crafted by many local and regional merchants. Several of the items in the shop are centered around the idea of social gatherings or gift giving and include candles, prints, postcards, jewelry and more.

Guests are offered locally brewed coffee and other refreshments, as well as many small, but detailed things like a hot towel in the salon to make them feel more relaxed and at home.

Dan Schemm, executive director of Visit Norman and chair of the Norman Downtowners Association, said The Social Club, like many other businesses along Main Street, has played a part in the revitalization of downtown Norman.

“The Social Club is a great neighbor, they’ve been participants in the art walks and supporters of all of the events– they really add a lot with not only the salon portion, but also the retail portion of the store,” Schemm said.

The Social Club resides at the center of many festivals held in downtown Norman. Scott said The Social Club serves snacks and cocktails on each 2nd Friday Norman Art Walk, while also supporting and featuring regional artists by displaying their work.

“It’s fun to have our shop be a part of town that is doing things on a regular basis and helps draw people in,” Scott said. “We still get customers that come in every second Friday that have never been in before or didn’t even know we existed.”

Building a vision together

Scott and Smith spent a good amount of their lives growing up in Oklahoma. As undergraduate students at the University of Oklahoma, the two spent many late nights talking of what their futures might be like.

“I would always say that Erica has been my dreamer friend,” Scott said.

Time passed by and Smith graduated in 2006 with a degree in political science. Scott graduated the same year with a degree in public relations.

Following the conclusion of their collegiate careers, their once entangled lives separated as they found themselves in far away places like New York and Los Angeles– until finally, fate brought them back together again.

“In a lot of ways, if I look back on the years leading up to this actually happening it makes sense that this is where we are now,” Scott said.

When Scott moved back to Oklahoma, she began pursuing jewelry making and event planning on the side from her full time job. It wasn’t until Smith came to her with a unique proposition that Scott decided to pursue her passions full time.

While Scott was assessing her own passions out of college, Smith was working at Lollie’s Beauty Bar in Norman. But in 2011, Smith decided it was time to take a leap of faith and branch out on her own. Only, she didn’t want to do it without her fellow dreamer.

“When I was kind of branching out on my own I was like ‘Dana, would you want to be a part of this with me?’– not knowing what we were doing at all,” Smith said.

By January of 2012, Scott and Smith were the official owners of a small, 500 square foot boutique and salon. Only a year later, their business expanded into a 2600 square foot space in downtown Norman.

With everything moving forward so fast, Smith said it “was a big bite” and a bit daunting at first. But even in the hard times Scott and Smith said it’s their friendship that has kept them going and that has brought out the best of both worlds in their joint business.

More than just business partners

Their two “yin and yang like” personalities work together to create a unique atmosphere and experience for every guest that walks through their doors.

“Dana is an amazing party planner, that’s just a huge gift she has. She can make an experience out of something really simple,” Smith said.

Scott said her favorite part of running the shop is being able to give guests a personal experience beyond what they would get at a superstore. Scott makes many of the items at The Social Club herself and even those items which she doesn’t make have their own unique backstory to share with customers.

“I just like to think about ‘What are the things that I would like to be given?’ and try and create them,” Scott said. “I think that makes buying a gift or putting something in your own home even more special when you know the story behind it.”

Both Smith and Scott work in the salon, where they have shared many special moments with clients for years. To Smith, her field of work serves a purpose far beyond just styling people’s hair.

“When you’re a hair stylist, you’re a part of people’s lives,” Smith said. “I’ve had some clients I’ve done for 13 years. You’re a part of these people’s world every four to eight weeks so you’re living in the ups and downs and all arounds of life with them.”

But it’s not always easy being the owners of a local business. Some nights are spent filing paperwork for hours upon hours and when something goes wrong, Scott and Smith are the ones who have to make sure everything is alright by the end of the day.

“We really are a small business, we do everything,” Scott said. “We have to wear so many hats, and some of the hats we’re really good at and some of the hats we’re terrible at– we look horrible in them.”

Even in those long nights and difficult times, Scott and Smith push each other to be better.

“I think that’s what’s so hard about owning a business is when you don’t have any support to keep going, so I think we’ve been able to be each other’s support in times where it’s like ‘This is so hard’,” Smith said.

Sharing personal connections

In the five years The Social Club has spent nestled between two buildings off of Main Street, downtown Norman has grown into one of the three major centers of entertainment, Schemm said.

“Back in the mid to late 90s and early 2000s, when I was in school, there were only a hand full of places, at best, downtown. There weren’t a lot of reasons to come downtown,” Schemm said. “Now, if people are thinking about ‘Where should we go eat dinner tonight, what should we go do?’ downtown is one of the places that is top of mind.”

Scott said The Social Club has caught the eye of many people along the road and something about the shop’s unique aesthetic keeps customers coming back.

Scott said she has many fond memories of interactions with customers.

Once, a couple road tripping through Oklahoma was trying to decide whether they were going to stay in Norman for the night and when they came into the boutique the next day, they said they decided to stay based on their desire to see the shop, Scott said. 

The couple then shopped and chatted with Scott for several hours.

“That is like the greatest compliment you can ever get,” Scott said.

It is those experiences and connections Scott and Smith make through their business that truly bring their vision of a “social club” alive.

“It’s just fun to be like ‘We got to be a part of your life for a little bit’,” Smith said.

The art of teaching

By Haley Harvey

Instead of standing at the front of the room, he sits among students. In front of him sits a paper cup of water, cough drops strewn about and a bulky, old-school projector filled with individual film slots of the paintings he discusses. He doesn’t bother with the modern overhead projector nor a PowerPoint presentation.

 

Victor Youritzin’s passion for art which at the University of Oklahoma has spanned for 46 years, is clear during his lectures, even to the adults sitting in the Thurman J. White Forum Building. Today, speaking about American paintings of the 19th century, he goes through the images and pays great attention to the details in every painting, frequently using words such as “marvelous,” “dazzling” and “magnificent” as he points his green laser at different areas of the works. He speaks very quickly and precisely, noting the shapes, shadows and lighting, overflowing with insight as if it’s a secret he just can’t keep.

 

“He gave us more information than we could ever absorb in the hour of class time,” said Gloria Groom, a former student of Youritzin’s. “He would speak about the paintings with such love and understanding of the techniques of the time, how and why they were done. He is just a born teacher.”

 

Throughout his life he has carried with him admiration of art. From his childhood, to his time as a student and eventually to the classrooms at OU, where he has taught since 1972. After officially retiring in 2016, he continues to teach part-time on campus and spreads his love of art to anyone willing to listen.

Groom, a Tulsa native, surpassed the Oklahoma borders to go on to the Chicago Art Institute, where she is the European Painting and Sculpture Chair. She says it was Youritzin’s class on paintings of the 19th century that inspired her career.

Donna Merkt, another former student, is the curator of education and marketing at the Mabee-Gerrer Museum of Art in Shawnee, Oklahoma. She says Youritzin had a genius way of helping students see what made art important and relevant.  

“The experience of examining art with Victor has continued with me always. I find myself asking, ‘What would happen to this artwork if this brushstroke were missing?’” Merkt said, noting one of her old professor’s often-used lines. “He made art very accessible, explaining how the artist’s choices contributed to the viewer’s experience.”

Youritzin’s lifelong passion for teaching traces not to a gallery, but back to when he coached his younger brother in football in a nearby park growing up.

“I love coaching,” he said. “Any time I see somebody playing some sport, whatever it was, I’d go and try to help them out. I just love trying to help people do better with whatever they’re doing.”

Growing up in the artistic Greenwich Village, New York, during the 1940s, Youritzin was surrounded by creative influence.

His family possessed various talents in the realm of fine arts. Youritzin’s father was a gifted photographer and worked as an aeronautical engineer, and his mother was a pianist, writer and gifted ballerina. At only 12 years old, she danced at Radio City Music Hall and toured with famous Russian dancer and choreographer Michel Fokine.

“I wanted to show you this,” he says as he rummages through his brown leather bag, revealing an orange envelope. He pulls out a printed copy of the program from Fokine’s 1928 performance in Cleveland. He points to the top, which reads “Le Reve De La Marquise: Michel Fokine, Vera Fokine, Tania Koshkina.” Koshkina would later become Youritzin.

 

Despite his artistic neighborhood and family, he didn’t always know he wanted to pursue art.

An extremely bright student, Youritzin attended Trinity School, a top college preparatory school on the Upper West Side of New York City where he graduated as valedictorian.

He spent his years as an undergraduate studying architecture at Williams College, which produced highly trained students in the arts and museum field. He refers to the “Williams Art Mafia,” a term used to describe a group of well-trained alumni who run many of the top modern art museums and galleries in America, to exemplify the skilled individuals who were products of the institution.

He went on to Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, however he didn’t like the Ivy League school at the time.

“It was a very great school, but the critics would disagree with each other all the time,” Youritzin said.

It was then that he began to consider transitioning his studies to art, having always had an affinity for identifying quality artistic skill.

He traces his criticism of art back to his childhood when he, his mother and younger brother stayed up late at night, listening to music with the help of his mother’s infallible musical taste. They would analyze it thoroughly, asking, ‘Is this the right pianist touch? Is this the right phrasing? Tempo? Etc.’

 

“I was always interested in quality,” Youritzin said. “Music, choreography, all of the arts, what constitutes the best? I think all the principles of art and what constitutes good art are the same, whether literature, music or whatever it is.”

To those who don’t share the same interest in the world of fine arts, it may seem as if artistic studies have lost their luster amid the growth of our digital world. With many students studying medicine, law and business, the empirical studies of art seem lost in the world of more practical majors. Art history may be seen to some as, well, history.

Youritzin is one who possesses an appreciation of art and has the desire to bring awareness to it. Appreciative of its influence and all that surrounds it, he decided to dedicate his life to sharing that with his students.

During his time at Columbia, he received an invitation from a friend to attend a lecture by a famous German art historian who introduced him to the New York University Institute of Fine Arts. It was there, in a beautiful mansion on Fifth Avenue in New York City, that he decided to leave his architecture studies behind and study art history.

“I thought, ‘This is very nice. I think I’ll transfer here and get out of Columbia,’” Youritzin said with a chuckle, having been accustomed to walking home from his classes in a more dangerous part of the city.

He spoke with the dean of admissions and, given his stellar record at Williams and Columbia, was accepted on the spot.

The thought of teaching didn’t occur to him, however, until he went to a party at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with some friends from NYU. It was there he was informed of an open position at Vanderbilt University from someone who had left on sabbatical.

A New York native, he was hesitant about moving out of the Northeast, having never been south of Staten Island. He jokingly refers to the “View of the World from 9th Avenue” map, featured on the cover of the New Yorker in 1967, as a visual representation of his reservations. It illustrates the rest of the United States as far, barren and irrelevant in comparison to the Empire State.

Youritzin doubted not only the new location, but also his own ability. He recalls having nightmares the whole summer before.

“I thought, ‘Can I do it? Am I going to be up for the job?’ The minute I walked into class to my desk I felt totally comfortable, and I knew right there. Teaching is my life,” Youritzin said.

 

“And I never looked back.”

After a year at Vanderbilt, Youritzin taught at Tulane where he met his first wife, Glenda Green. He finally made it to Oklahoma when Green wanted to be closer to her family in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. He came to Norman as an assistant professor at OU in 1972, and stayed ever since. Ten years following his divorce from Green, Youritzin married Cynthia Kerfoot to whom he was married for a year and a half. They divorced but remain a couple, having been “companions” for 33 years, and have no children.

Youritzin has received many awards and recognitions throughout his career. In 1997 he was a recipient of OU’s highest teaching honor, the David Ross Boyd Professorship, as well as the 2001-02 Most Inspiring Faculty Award from OU’s scholar-athletes.

“He knows so much about art and art history. He’s highly educated and has been an international expert for the better part of three decades,” said Chris Elliott, director of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the university, who works in the Forum building where Youritzin currently teaches. The institute is dedicated to providing lifelong learning and personal growth to adults over 50.

“He does such a good job of explaining what you’re looking at and why it’s important. How to actually look at a painting, even down to the minute points of how your brain – how your eyes actually scan a painting. Nobody else can do it like him,” Elliott said.

Teaching is what he does, but also learning from others as well. When some football players were struggling in his class, he recalls inviting them to his home to help and giving them an exam, which they passed. The roles then reversed, and he asked them for their help with a certain request.

“‘Well, now I’ve taught you something, maybe you can teach me something,’” Youritzin said. “I can kick a 35-yard drop kick field goal, but I never learned how to kick a spiral because I was a running back, not a kicker. They were so happy to teach me how to kick a spiral. It was a big deal for them.”

He said he feels privileged to have taught numerous art courses at the university, and to have helped contribute to the success of his students through art appreciation.

“There’s an art to teaching,” Youritzin said. “It’s an art form. A way of sharing good things with other people.”

When asked where his favorite place on campus is, his answer is simple.

“Wherever students are.”

 

Lucky timing the only reason K.J. Kindler coaches

By Paxson Haws

The coach who never intended to be one watched as her team narrowly missed becoming back-to-back-to-back national champions.

Oklahoma gymnasts had finished their rotation and were ahead by .175 last April in St. Louis, Missouri. In the final rotation, a UCLA athlete scored a perfect 10 bringing The Bruins from fourth to national champions with a final score of 198.0750. Oklahoma finished 0.0375 behind.

“It was a tough moment. It was a learning moment for our whole team,” said coach K.J. Kindler. “They certainly did everything they could. Just like the overwhelming feeling of ‘Wow we did it,’ we had that same feeling in reverse. That overwhelming feeling of ‘We thought we had it. We thought we did it.

Kindler, an eight-time regional coach of the year and three-time national champion, did not consider coaching until graduating from Iowa State in 1992. Despite her love for the sport, Kindler envisioned a career in the arts or journalism. When Iowa State University coach Mark Sharples suddenly resigned when Kindler graduated, an opportunity arose. Amy Pyle was promoted to head coach and offered Kindler a position as an assistant.

26 years later, she is considered one of the best college women’s gymnastic coaches in the nation.

“I 100 percent trusted her, believed in her,” Pyle said. “Wanted to give her that space to grow and obviously, she grew into an amazing young woman and, you know, is the No. 1 coach in the NCAA.”

***

Kindler has been coaching, either at Iowa State or OU, for 27 years but her athletic career did not start on that beam.

It started on the dance floor.

Kindler’s parents put her into dance and baton at age 4. There was tumbling directly after Kindler’s dance class and she would always watch. Her dance teacher suggested switching classes and Kindlers gymnastics career began.

Kindler gained her love and understanding of gymnastics from training at Hamlin University, 30 minutes from her hometown, with her club coach.

“My coach in Minnesota that I grew up with really instilled in me that love for the sport. I was what you would call a gym rat. I was always in there, always wanted to hang around after practice, never left on time, got there early and would have been perfectly happy sleeping there,” Kindler said.

K.J. was not the only Kindler who participated in gymnastics. Her two sisters and brother did, too, though her brother only recreationally. K.J.’s children, nieces and nephews have all tried gymnastics.

“We were together a lot because we were at the gym all the time together,” said Lori, K.J.’s sister.

Lori competed in club, college and now owns her own gym, Flips Gymnastics, in White Bear Lake, Minnesota. Lori and K.J. never competed against each other during club but did meet up when K.J. was an assistant coach.

Moving to Connecticut during high school and joining a new club didn’t slow Kindler down any. Instead, she joined a club that helped her improve her technique. But it was her performances at camp in Wisconsin that would vault her to collegiate mats.

Kindler joined the Iowa State women’s gymnastics team as a walk-on in 1988. To make ends meet, Kindler coached young girls at a nearby club, something she continued through her time in Ames.

“I didn’t really think about being a coach. I was just trying to be the best gymnast I could be,” Kindler said.

Kindler was a three time MVP, 1992 Big Eight all-around runner up, three-time NCAA regional qualifier and the first individual regional qualifier in Iowa State history.

Mike Sharples, head coach from 1985-1992, remembers her individual appearance at regionals. She was put into rotation with another team and performed without her teammates there.

“She handled the pressure well and being the only one to go out there and compete as an individual. It’s harder than being there with your teammates. But she did a good job and and represented Iowa State extremely well,” Sharples, who works as a financial planner at MKS Wealth Management in Durham, NC, said.

Kindler’s performance as a athlete is similar to her coaching style. As an athlete, she was determined, creative and had a positive attitude. These are attributes are important when performing and coaching, especially when the event is the balance beam, which Kindler coaches. Kindler carried her performance characteristics into her coaching career. These characteristics came across in her floor exercises, which she choreographed herself.

“I mean, that is a God-given talent. You don’t learn to be a choreographer so to speak. You just have that artistic ability and it’s really rare,” Pyle said.

***

Sharples’ resignation in the winter of 1992 led to assistant coach Amy Pyle’s promotion. A recent graduate, Kindler was faced with making a career decision. She considered working journalism or doing something in the arts. Instead, Kindler was offered an assistant coaching position. Looking to make ends meet and a believer in timing, Kindler took the opportunity.

“If that hadn’t happened at that time for me, I’m not positive I would have gone into coaching,” Kindler said. “I always loved to do it and was always super passionate about it but there was no plan. The plan just fell into place.”

Kindler stayed as an assistant until being hired as Iowa State’s head coach in 2001. As head coach, Kindler coached six All-Americans, 12 Big 12 champions and took Iowa State to its first Super Six appearance in 2006.

“In Iowa, she was head coach plus they had a gym on the side and coached a lot of young girls in Iowa. But that wasn’t where she really enjoyed what she was doing. She enjoyed coaching them and some of those girls ended up being on the Iowa State team with her. So she enjoyed that a great deal but she was really driven, the thing she wanted to do was have some national championships,” Tom Kindler, K.J.’s father, said.

Still, when OU Athletic Director Joe Castiglione called, Kindler didn’t exactly come running to Norman, Oklahoma.

“You could say the cards were stacked against him,” K.J. said.

Kindler had been at ISU for 18 years and was seven months pregnant with her first child when Castiglione called. A move would mean she would be almost 12 hours from her family instead of 3 and a half hours.

“One, She had experience in building a program. I watched what she had done at Iowa State. Two, I evaluated the success that she was having recruiting elite gymnasts. And three, we ultimately believed that she was the strong leader we needed to building a championship program,” Joe Castiglione, OU’s athletic director, said.

Kindler would inherit the program from Steve Nunno, who coached Shannon Miller in the 1992 Olympics. Nunno coached four NCAA All-Americans and brought the school its first regional championship in 2006. OU’s program had made six NCAA Championship appearances before Kindler.

“For a program like Oklahoma, I thought ‘Gosh, I could make a really big difference and that’s what I wanted to do so I went for it,” Kindler said.

***

When Kindler arrived in Norman, Oklahoma, she recalls being “shell-shocked.” Facilities were out of date and changes needed to be made. But coming off a Super Six appearance at Iowa State, Kindler had one thing on her mind: the national championship.

“Back then, the idea that this could become the center of the gymnastic universe, at least collegiately, had a certain amount of appeal. And certainly, it has become that,” Castiglione said.

Taking Oklahoma to the level Kindler aspired to reach would not be easy and she knew it.

“It took a lot of hard work. It takes a change in culture. A change in how we approach the sport, our responsibilities, our preparation for our season. There’s just so many things that had to change,” Kindler said.

Kindler’s changes to the program were immediately noticeable. The 2007 season ended with an 8th-place finish at the national championship, the highest place OU’s had received at that point. Kindler’s team has made an NCAA appearance every year since.

In 2014, Kindler’s goal became a reality. She coached the Sooners to their first NCAA national championship with a record-breaking score of 198.175. Kindler coached Taylor Spears to an individual national championship on the balance beam. Spears was OU’s first individual nation champion in 26 years along with two other teammates on floor exercise. Kindler won a championship again in 2016. And 2017.

“It’s so overwhelming. You work for it. You plan for it. You train for it. But when it actually happens, it’s mesmerizing. An out of body experience,” Kindler said.

Through it all, Kindler attributes OU’s success to her staff and athletes. Both assistant coaches also came to OU in 2006. Lou Ball, Kindler’s husband, coaches vault. Tom Haley coaches floor and the two team to co-coach bars. Kindler is primary coach for beam.

“I have an amazing staff and we have been together for 13 years. And I think that continuity is super important to the success of this program. Lou is super clam. Tom is very creative and adds humor to every situation and helps the team relax. I’m more of the intensity of the program. The person who keeps the ship running right. We all add something that so important to the dynamic of the program,” Kindler said.

Former coaches credit OU’s success to Kindler ability both as a coach and as an athlete.

She’s demanding, creative, competitive and compassionate.

“She just has a drive for excellence, an eye for excellence,” Sharples said.

She’s elegant, driven and focused.

“She’s improved the quality of NCAA gymnastics. People,” Pyle said, “are chasing Oklahoma now.”

Gymnasts are chasing Oklahoma because of Kindler.

“She’s a rare package. We’re grateful that she’s our head coach,” Castiglione said.

 

Profile: Kyle Brede

By Olan Field

Kyle Brede set out on the beginning of his retirement after 30 years of military service.

Lieutenant Colonel Brede’s last duty station was as the Army ROTC Professor of Military Science at the University of Oklahoma, but his influence continues like that of a teacher for many Cadets.

Brede’s 30 years of military service ended by doing what he loved, mentoring those who will soon become commissioned officers and lead the same Army he did. Taking the same oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”

His retirement was prompted at an inopportune moment of his career as he had been selected to become a Battalion Commander but declined the position.

“I was not doing what the profession says I should do,” said Brede. “I had to physically write a declination statement of declining command and had to go sit with the first general officer in my chain of command to be counseled, not fun.”

The decision was prompted by choosing to put his family first, because he wanted to spend more time with his wife and three sons, and less time at work or abroad on deployment.

“If you ever get in that situation pick your family; the Army will survive,” Brede insisted.

Stationed at the Pentagon prior to becoming the Professor of Military Science at OU, Kameron Brede, Kyle Brede’s oldest son, told me that their time at the Pentagon was one of the most difficult.

“There were constantly things going on at the Pentagon,” said Kameron. “That was the hardest time.”

…..

Brede’s military career began after graduating from high school enlisting as a UH-1 Utility Helicopter Repairer, in 1988.

“He was more mature than his fellow soldiers. He cared more about his work. He tried harder than the rest of them. He definitely was a was a standout,” said Robin Waycott, Brede’s first squad leader and now a retired Sergeant Major.

Brede would go on to be selected for the Army’s green-to-gold program. A program that transfers quality non-commissioned officers, commonly referred to as an NCOs, to go to college and become a commissioned officer.

The lessons Brede learned as an NCO would remain as he would learn for himself and use that experience teach others.

The leadership in an NCO is at times indistinguishable to that of a commissioned officer. NCOs are normally responsible for making minor decisions within the limits provided by their superior commissioned officer and caring for their lower enlisted troops.

Brede’s experience as an NCO worked as a hindrance when becoming a commissioned officer.

“When I showed up to Tarleton State University, Master Sergeant Leon McMullen was a senior military science instructor, and he brought me in,” said Brede. “He’s like ‘listen you need to take that in that NCO stuff and you need to set it aside.’”

Brede didn’t understand this at the time he said, but he did learn. The separation of NCOs and commissioned officers are at times fuzzy and the relationship is often misunderstood or confusing to new members of the military.

“I shared the same lesson with Ross Young (a current green-to-gold Cadet at OU) because the difference between the two ended up being so true,” said Brede. “I would find myself drifting to what I know when I would get in the NCO’s lane and I would interfere with their duties.”

…..

As a newly commissioned officer, Brede would become a platoon leader in Korea, after working on staff. Later taking company command in Fort Hood during the Invasion of Iraq and eventually serving as a Battalion Executive Officer at Camp Zama, Japan.

Timothy Burke, a now-retired Chief Warrant Officer 5, would first meet Brede in Korea.

“He’s a former NCO before he came to Korea and he had initially started off wanting to do all the work. I said, ‘You are the leader now. Let your guys do the work.’ Then he quickly transitioned to be a leader,” said Burke.

The two of them became friends outside of work, with their wives getting to know each other and also be friends. On a trip to Thailand together, Brede was nearly attacked by a monkey.

“Kyle wanted to take a picture with this monkey we saw. He had a beer in his hand and the monkey stole it from him,” said Burke. “Kyle had no idea how much a monkey could drink and was very worried about the monkey getting drunk and getting hurt.”

Brede would continue to fight and try to retrieve the beer back from the monkey, but nearly got attacked in the process. Finally giving up the efforts after pleas from his wife, Krista, to give up and not lose a finger to the monkey.

Brede is a caring person. He didn’t care too much for his beer, he just wanted to make sure the monkey would be safe. The level of compassion is visible throughout his career, as both a squad leader or as the Professor of Military Science. Possessing an element of humility and compassion not always seen in the military.

“He has a natural ability to construct and to bring everybody together. As one of the strong points of his vast personality,” said Burke. “We all know that we have work to do, but after work, you get together to have a barbecue or watch a football game.”

This natural ability to foster a trustworthy team supported his time at the University of Oklahoma while in command. As his leadership philosophy allowed for those below him to be friends and be human toward one another while getting the job done.

He taught cadets to be big believers in loyalty and personal responsibility. For himself though, he is currently searching for that new, personal responsibility following retirement.

“I know that loyalty may not be replicated in the same manner once I get on the civilian side of things. So, I’m trying to prepare myself for that personal responsibility. Because I learned personal responsibility as a young soldier and I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older that it can be very liberating,” said Brede.

In just the first weeks of his retirement, Brede looked to become a commercial pilot. He has since canceled all interviews scheduled and he wants to find a future that allows him to continue to teach and remain close to his wife and three kids.