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Odyssey Medals awarded

CONWAY, Ark. (Oct. 23, 2009) – Accepting her Odyssey Medal at Hendrix College Thursday, world-renowned Little Rock architect Martha Jane Murray reminisced of her undergraduate days at Hendrix, talking about life as an art major mixed among the pre-med and pre-law students in her peer group. She acknowledged that she more realistically majored in the social elements of college life while at Hendrix, including her involvement as a Hendrix Warrior cheerleader.

Little did she know at the time, Murray would transition her art degree into a career in architecture where she would become the first LEED Accredited professional in Arkansas and utilize her skills to help rebuild New Orleans with sustainable building strategies following Hurricane Katrina. She now works for the William J. Clinton Foundation Climate Initiative where she serves as a policy associate to address global warming with large scale and replicable green building projects. 

“If we were back in 1977, I think I would have been voted the least likely to receive this award,” Murray said humbly. “I didn’t know it would take 20 years to find it, but I’m glad that I’ve found a passion worth fighting for.”

It’s that passion and accomplishment that earned her and five other Hendrix alumni their Odyssey Medals during a special convocation at the college’s Staples Auditorium. Odyssey medals are given in conjunction with the college’s Founders Day to recognize outstanding accomplishments of college graduates. It is one of the highest awards attainable by college alumni.   

From a Pulitzer Prize winner to an award-winning filmmaker to a groundbreaking medical researcher to a textile restorationist to an alumnus who is attempting to eliminate world hunger, Hendrix honored a diverse group of alumni Thursday, including:

Sheri Bylander ’85, a New York-based filmmaker and editor, who recently made her directing debut with Homestretch, a documentary about the redemption possible when used-up racehorses meet prison inmates. Accepting her award, Bylander discussed how her college experience ultimately shaped her professional life and taught her to “try everything, embracing my mistakes along the way.” After graduating from Hendrix with a history degree, Bylander eventually set off for New York City, landing a job working on a Stephen King movie and then as an assistant editor working for the popular television show Sex and the City. She has also edited the award-winning Rising Low for Phish bassist Mike Gordon; worked as an associate producer of Wonderland, a Cable Ace award winner chronicling the post-war phenomenon of Levittown, N.Y.; edited Al Maysles’ Grey Gardens: From East Hampton to Broadway; associate editor on A Love Song For Bobby Long, starring John Travolta and Scarlett Johansson; and additional editor on A Hole In One, a dark comedy about the days when lobotomies were elective surgery. Her first feature, Fast Food Fast Women, went on to win the Ecumenical Jury award at the Cannes Film Festival, giving her a peek at the glamour possible when you step outside the cutting room. She recently edited The Philanthropist, an NBC dramatic series about a vigilante philanthropist who often gets into trouble as he tries to do good. Bylander has also edited documentary-style and reality television shows like First 48, Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List and Wife Swap.  She was a History major at Hendrix.

Douglas Blackmon ’86, the Pulitzer Prize winning author of Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II, told the audience “we are blessed to live in a time” when Americans, “can write about and think about and talk about things that even a few years ago would have been difficult to do.” During the past 20 years, Blackmon has written extensively about the American quandary of race, exploring the integration of schools during his childhood in a Mississippi Delta farm town, lost episodes of the Civil Rights movement, and, repeatedly, the dilemma of how a contemporary society should grapple with a troubled past. As The Wall Street Journal’s bureau chief in Atlanta, he manages the paper’s coverage of the Southeastern U.S., including coverage of publicly traded companies and key news and issues, including race, immigration, poverty, politics and, in recent years, global warming and hurricanes  Blackmon's stories or the work of his team have been nominated by the Journal for Pulitzer Prizes four times, including for coverage of the subprime meltdown, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Florida hurricanes in 2004 and for his 2001 examination of slave labor in the 20th century. His article on U.S. Steel was included in the 2003 edition of Best Business Stories. The Journal’s coverage of Hurricane Katrina received a special National Headliner award in 2006. Blackmon penned his first newspaper story at the age of 12, for the Progress, in his hometown of Leland, Mississippi.

Eric Kenefick ‘84 told the audience of his passion to rid the world of chronic hunger, discussing that more than 1 billion people in the world are presently malnourished. Kenefick lives in Johannesburg, South Africa, and works for the World Food Programme’s Regional Bureau for eastern, central and southern Africa, which supports WFP operations in 19 countries in the region as well as working with other United Nations agencies and governments at national and regional levels. Upon graduation from Hendrix, he was a high school biology and chemistry teacher in Fiji as a Peace Corps volunteer before returning to Arkansas in March 1993 when he worked as a Youth and Programme Director at Trinity United Methodist Church. During that time, he worked with a group to establish the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCV) group for Central Arkansas. He later went to Cambodia to work with UNICEF on preparing the National Nutrition Investment Strategy and continued to do consulting work with UNICEF and the WFP in Cambodia (including 4 months doing a refugee study in Bangladesh) until late 2000 when he moved back to the U.S. He took consulting jobs with WFP and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in Myanmar, Nepal and Cambodia until moving to Rome in 2002 to work full time with WFP in their headquarters. He spent more than three years working in the Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping (VAM) unit in Rome, mostly in survey design and analysis for measuring levels of food insecurity and malnutrition in West Africa (Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ghana), Southern Africa (Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique and Madagascar), Eastern Africa (Eritrea) and Central Asia (Tajikistan and Azerbaijan).  He also spent time in Afghanistan and was part of the first assessment team, along with the CDC in Darfur in 2004. 

Dr. Michael Crowder ‘85 presently serves as the Dr. Seymour and Rose T. Brown Professor of Anesthesiology at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Mo. Accepting his award Thursday, Crowder discussed a summer he spent at Hendrix with other science students as undergraduate research assistants for Dr. Tom Goodwin, researching scientific issues that were groundbreaking. “What I learned that summer was that I was learning something so novel that no one else in the world knew it,” Crowder said. “That’s addictive, and it’s something that drives me still today.” Crowder completed a residency in anesthesiology at the University of Washington in Seattle before returning in 1993 as a postdoctoral fellow in molecular genetics and an instructor in anesthesiology. In addition to research involving identifying the targets of general anesthetics as well as looking for genes that control survival and adaptation to cellular injury from low oxygen, he is an attending anesthesiologist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, where he cares primarily for patients undergoing neurosurgical procedures. He also is a faculty member at the University's Hope Center for Neurological Disorders. Crowder is an author of more than 90 publications, and he has lectured nationally and internationally. He has trained numerous students and fellows. He is active in many professional societies and organizations, including the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Society of Anesthesiologists and the Society for Neuroscience. He is an associate editor for Anesthesiology and reviews manuscripts for 18 other journals. He is a recipient of the Public Health Service National Research Service Award and the Philip Needleman Pharmacology Prize. He has received awards and funding from the American Heart Association and the McKnight Foundation, and his studies on anesthesia mechanisms and hypoxic injury have been funded continuously by the National Institutes of Health since 1997.

Bryce “Missy” Williams Reveley ’66 owns and operates Gentle Arts, an uptown New Orleans business that cleans, restores, conserves and appraises old clothing and fabrics. She told the audience of the historic restoration projects she has completed through the years, from Jefferson Davis’ cape to Colonel Sanders’ trademark white suit to Pete Samparas’ tennis shirt. She has been instrumental in restoring numerous historic items and artifacts following Hurricane Katrina. “What my life’s work has become is helping people recapture their histories through textiles and buildings,” Reveley said, accepting her medal. “In some cases, what is brought to us is all that is left in their history of their lives.” Begun in 1983 out of her home and later moving to Jena Street, her clients are individuals as well as auction houses and museums, such as the New Orleans Museum of Art, who she represented as resident conservator.  During Hurricane Katrina, Bryce evacuated to Assumption Parish, but began receiving desperate calls from residents after the storm. She reopened her shop in October 2005 to meet the growing demand.  Over the past two years, she has restored countless heirloom wedding gowns, World War II uniforms, tablecloths, christening gowns and even Rex livery medallions ravaged in the flood. For some clients, those objects were the only things they tried to salvage after everything else was piled on the curb. The Little Rock native became interested in textiles when she took a lace-tatting course in her 30s, while pregnant with her first daughter. By the time her second daughter was born, the hobby had become a passion. Reveley studied textile conservation and lace identification at the American Institute of Textile Arts in Boston and spent three summers in London earning a certificate from the University of Textiles Conservation. She has been featured in Southern Accents magazine and on the Home and Garden network.  She is a regular textile expert at Doyle New York auction house.  She has appeared as an appraiser on the public television show "Antiques Roadshow" (the American Society of Appraisers created a textile appraisal license for her) and has even served as an expert witness in dry-cleaning litigation cases.

Murray ‘77 works for the William J. Clinton Foundation Climate Initiative where she serves as a policy associate to address global warming with large scale and replicable green building projects. Her past work included an emphasis on green buildings in healthcare, neighborhood planning, residential and camp structures. An architect, Murray was the first LEED Accredited Professional in Arkansas and the founding chair of the USGBC-Arkansas Chapter.  She was one of five national core committee members who organized the national USGBC GreenBuild 2005 response for the Katrina sustainable rebuilding effort. She spent two years working on sustainable rebuilding strategies for New Orleans, particularly in the public school system.  Murray was the LEED A.P. on the first LEED Gold certified project in the state of Arkansas. As a passionate researcher and design practitioner of “green buildings,” she has made numerous other public presentations including participating as a master speaker at the USGBC GreenBuild 2009, the Arkansas Governor’s School, Atlanta’s Greenprints Conference, ASHRAE’s Regional Conference, Rebuild America’s Regional Peer Exchange and the USGBC’s GreenBuild 2004 Chapter Day.   She just concluded a term on the national USGBC’s Government Committee and was one of 15 people nationally selected by the USGBC for their 15th Anniversary feature video series and written publication.  Currently, she serves on the Advisory Board at the University of Texas-Arlington School of Architecture, Potlatch’s Community Advisory Committee and she is a member of the Arkansas Women’s Leadership Forum.

 Hendrix College’s Odyssey program, established in 2004, requires Hendrix students to complete three hands-on liberal arts Odyssey experiences during their undergraduate career in areas selected from six categories: Artistic creativity, global awareness, professional and leadership development, service to the world, undergraduate research and special projects. The program developed the concept of “engaged learning” at Hendrix, allowing students to experience liberal arts and sciences “hands-on” educational opportunities outside of the classroom.

The program has been extremely popular with students and faculty. Since the Odyssey program was implemented, Hendrix College has set new records for applications and for entering students, successes directly attributable to the uniqueness and popularity of the Odyssey program. More than $1 million has already been awarded to fund approximately 1,750 student engaged-learning projects during the past four years.