Closing the Book on “Mad Men”

Closing the Book on “Mad Men”
Sterling Headshot
“Remember, when God closes a door, he opens a dress.” God bless you, Roger Sterling. (PopSugar)

Tonight, it ends.

The story of a guy named Don Draper and the life surrounding an advertising agency in New York’s 1960’s. But, this story doesn’t begin with a script written by Matthew Weiner. It actually began, innocently enough, with a group performing in Des Moines one night. Critically acclaimed group “RJD2” performed at Vaudeville Mews. Popular for the tune “1976” and “Ghostwriter”, little did anyone, or even the group, would know that that another tune “A Beautiful Mine” would be selected by Weiner to be the opening theme to “Mad Men.”

Yes, Des Moines, you had a small part of television history, besides being the home of January Jones (Betty Draper Francis).

We tend to easily toss the banter of “greatest show ever” at anything we just watched (“The Sopranos” and “MAS*H” for examples), but there is something about television series that pulls us in like a black hole. But, there is validity to what The Sopranos and Mad Men mean to today’s television. It was unique, it had interesting characters that resembled the people we’re around these days.  I dare you to tell me you didn’t run across an Uncle Junior, Paulie Walnuts, or a Roger Sterling in your daily lives? Or wait, we wished we would run across people like that…

Remember when Peggy Olson in Season 1?  My how time have changed for Peggy. (Frank Ockenfels / AMC)
Remember when Peggy Olson in Season 1? My how time have changed for Peggy. (Frank Ockenfels / AMC)

Anyway, I have always been fascinated in how we watch television: how we view it, how we expect it to end and the reaction to it when it ends in the way that we did not anticipated it.

Do Colonel Henry Blake and Rosalind Shays come to mind?

As I wrote back in 2010 about the ending of The Sopranos, the idea that we want a perfect ending to a show is only wishful thinking. Shows should challenge our thinking and attitudes on what we think our perceptions are and to get us to view it a different way.

Larry Gelbart nailed it when how he described on MAS*H killing off Henry Blake. The viewers were upset that the writers would create such a killjoy in adding in Blake’s death, but the writers’ had another angle for viewers to understand: MASH wasn’t just a sitcom…it was a sitcom/drama about the reality of war.

So, as AMC closes the book on “Mad Men” this evening, don’t be surprised if the ending you expect isn’t the one you want.

Mind you, Weiner did work on The Sopranos. Anything can happen…just don’t expect it to live up to your own unrealistic expectations.

You Don’t Need To Win An Award To Be A “Hall-of-Famer”

You Don’t Need To Win An Award To Be A “Hall-of-Famer”

Dan Marino and Charles Barkley are considered the best athletes in their respective sports, football and basketball. Both of them are hall-of-famers despite the fact that they didn’t win a NBA title or a Super Bowl.

There are critics who feel that Marino, Barkley, and others should not be in the hall of fame, because they didn’t win the “big one.” According to conventional wisdom, winning a championship validates your legacy and punches your ticket into the hall of fame.

As the case, many great athletes have been inducted into their hall of fames without ever winning a championship.

The greatest athletes are enshrined into a hall of fame.  Does this apply to regular people and regular life?
The greatest athletes are enshrined into a hall of fame.
Does this apply to regular people and regular life?

There is a sense in local young professional circles that if you haven’t receive an award for making a difference in your community, then your accomplishments have no value.

Last October, at a YP event, a facilitator gave a group an assignment to write their dreams and what goals they wanted to achieve individually. On a majority of “dream” lists, YPs listed a plethora of dreams, but the majority theme on their lists is being named to “important lists” such as the Business Record’s Forty Under 40 and Juice’s YP of the Year Award.

After the event, several of us YPs read what was written on each list. A few of us found it troubling to read that the “end all be all” dream of many is “winning an award”. The question we asked was whether an award, being named to a board, or being recognized as an “up and comer” should validate a young professional’s status in the Des Moines business community.

Juice and YPC will announce the 2014 winner of the YP of the Year award in early February.
Juice and YPC will announce the 2014 winner of the YP of the Year award in early February.

As someone who have won two awards for community service, there is an harsh truth about winning awards: it doesn’t always validate your status and presence in the eyes of the community.

It doesn’t raise your profile as much as you think it should. For some, it does, which is why many YPs feel that Forty Under 40, the Business Record’s yearly honor list of 40 individuals under 40 who are making great strides in Central Iowa, is such a big deal.

None of those distinctions have landed me a permanent (or better) job and a higher profile. I’ve gotten a pat on the head for being a great volunteer, but nothing else. In 2011, there wasn’t much fanfare

The “checkbox “ that YPs are using to measure each other in the area of life and career is disturbing. If we’re not obsessively networking, gathering up as mentors, and taking leadership classes, then we must be failing and not living up to the standards of “being successful”.

Have Gen Xers and Millennials fallen into the "checkbox mentality" of trying to be noticed and admired?
Have Gen Xers and Millennials fallen into the “checkbox mentality” of trying to be noticed and admired?

It’s the Gen X/Millennial version of the “rat race.”

Last July, Juice’s Josh Hafner asked “do YPs do more than network, find mentors, and learning about leadership?” It was a great question because he was seeing a trend that I didn’t notice. When I look back at my experience as a YP over the past decade, I have struggled more than I have achieved. I didn’t get that big promotion, lofty job title, or the things that everyone I know already has: family, house/condo, significant other, et cetera.

Hafner’s column resonated to me. Being a young professional should be more than networking for your career, being mentored by great leaders, and learning how to succeed as a leader.

You are starting to learn how to live life: the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Not many YPs are going to have mentors. Either we can’t find the right mentor for the right fit, or a mentor may have no interest in mentoring you.

Many of us may be unable to sign up for leadership classes, if time permits us. There are leadership classes that will not be the best fit. Would it be better for me to take a Leadership Iowa class than GDMLI, because I’m interested in how leadership is done on a statewide basis, plus my interest level goes beyond what goes on here in Des Moines.

Despite those challenges, the list of finalists for the 2014 YP of the Year do not just sit on a bunch of boards, have a Rolodex of networks, have great jobs, and have mentors. Their interests include building houses for low-income families, encouraging women to run for elected office, raising money for children with serious illnesses, among other activities.

YPs understand that we have lives outside of the professional world and cultivating our individual lives is paramount for our sanity.

Gen X and Millennials are now experiencing their own “rat race” to success.

I have accepted that I will never be named to the Forty Under 40 list. I’ve never had the career or job that I could advance up the ladder in and have it linked to the activities I have done or doing in the community.

There are too many factors going against me for this honor. I’m at peace with never getting it. That’s one less thing I have to worry about.

I never sought out to win the YPC Ashley Okland Community Service award or receive the Iowa Governor’s Volunteer award. It was never a goal. Individuals nominated me because they felt that a person who is dedicated to what they love and believed in should be honored.

I never bring those awards up to brag or remind people about. Nobody cares.

It’s 2015, not 2011.

It’s nice to have them, but how many people remember that I received them?

I volunteer and network because I enjoy staying busy and giving back in a small way. Personally, it takes my mind off of feeling lonely and dealing with my own personal battles (health, lack of work). If volunteering and connecting people make a difference in one person’s life, I consider that a victory.

YP of the Year Award finalists (from left) Josh Dryer, Andrea Woodard, LaVerne Greenfield, Megan Ruble, Brianne Sanchez, Emilee Richardson, and Tyler DeHaan, Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015, at the YPC 2015 Kick Off event at Jasper Winery in Des Moines. (Juice)
YP of the Year Award finalists (from left) Josh Dryer, Andrea Woodard, LaVerne Greenfield, Megan Ruble, Brianne Sanchez, Emilee Richardson, and Tyler DeHaan, Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015, at the YPC 2015 Kick Off event at Jasper Winery in Des Moines. (Juice)

In her blog “BS in the Midwest”, Brianne Sanchez wrote about being fortunate in living in a city that let’s her do her job, pursue her passions and hobbies, spend time with her family, friends, and colleagues. Also, she never feel stressed out to hit those “self-made benchmarks” that most of us YP’s have unconsciously set for ourselves.

“Whether or not I “win” the YP award in February, the fact the I get to go to work in a job I love and live in a community that lets me pursue and explore so many ideas (and embraces me when all I want is to hang out in my sweatpants), is a huge reward in itself.”

Is an athlete a Hall-of-Famer, if they never won a championship?  The answer is yes.

Is someone a “Hall-of-Famer” if they don’t receive an honor or award, based on their accomplishments?

That answer should always be “yes.”

“March Madness” Finally Comes to Des Moines

“March Madness” Finally Comes to Des Moines
The 2013 NCAA Wrestling Championships at Wells Fargo Arena . Hosting this proved that Des Moines was ready to host any major sporting event.
The 2013 NCAA Wrestling Championships at Wells Fargo Arena . Hosting this proved that Des Moines was ready to host any major sporting event.

Remember when Wells Fargo Arena and the Iowa Events Center opened in 2005?

Remember when people complained about paying $6 for a beer at Wells Fargo?

Remember when the Polk County Board of Supervisors had that ridiculous iron-clad contract to put an AHL team inside Wells Fargo?

Remember when people expected Wells Fargo and Des Moines to land a NCAA men’s tournament game right away?

Funny how we forget those moments. People stop complaining about the price of beer. It’s cheaper than venues like Solider Field and Yankee Stadium.

After the first fiasco of having an AHL team, the Board of Supervisors finally got it right by having the right owners and an affiliate that was in the region (Minnesota Wild).

And all that talk about never getting to host March Madness?  That debate ended today.


This morning, the NCAA has announced that Des Moines was selected as one of eight cities to host the first and second round games for the 2016 Division I men’s basketball tournament…aka March Madness.

Yes…our city. How about that?

See what patience and proving doubters wrong can do?

Des Moines was ready for this moment to come. It took a few “no’s”, but here it is.

This is why the IAHSAA and the IGHSAU moved their tournament dates up a few weeks early, much to their displeasure.

This is why Des Moines was willing to host the NCAA Track and Field Championships, the women’s basketball early and regional rounds, Iowa State hosting the volleyball regionals, and the coup d’etat, the NCAA wrestling championships in 2013.

And not to mention, Des Moines has hosted the AAU Junior Olympics the last few years as well.

This is why after listening to what they needed to do to improve their chances at hosting the men’s tournament, Des Moines, quietly and patiently, worked diligently to put as many of the pieces together. A new hotel will be built next to the Events Center complex in the next two years.

So that excuse of not having a hotel on site can no longer be used as an excuse by the NCAA or anyone else.

This news even surprised WHO-TV’s Andy Fales, who thought Des Moines was going to miss out, yet again:

…after the announcement:

The more you doubt a person or something, the more they can prove you wrong.

The credit goes to the Greater Des Moines Convention and Visitors Bureau and others like Iowa State, Drake, and sports fans. We earned this. We proved that anything can happen…patience is a virtue.

Is hosting a major national sports event still a “useless folly”, Mike Draper?  I didn’t think so. The CVB just got scoreboard.

That also goes for those who will continue to find ways to player-hate on Des Moines. You can quietly exit stage left.

The haters are not going to ruin this day for sports fans. We’ve waited for a long time for this to happen. When 2016 arrives, it’ll be 44 years since March Madness was held in an Iowa venue (Hilton Coliseum hosted the 1972 Midwest regionals).

There are a few other things I want to add about the news (for one, it’s long overdue for the NCAA to find new cities to host tournaments), but for today, it’s a good day to see that the work towards getting March Madness paid off.

A “Hip” and Progressive City Like Des Moines Should Be More Inclusive

Des Moines skyline.
Des Moines skyline.

An acquaintance of mine posted a link on Facebook recently, celebrating a friend of hers on a story he is doing on Des Moines for the National Journal. The National Journal is doing a series called “The Next America”, specifically focusing on the reality of 21st Century Iowa (as if the rest of the world thinks we’ve just climbed out of the 19th Century, but Scott Siepker would beg to differ).

It’s no surprise that Des Moines, the city I live in, is receiving recognition from publications for being a great place to live, work, to create startups, and other things. It is a city that is recognized, along with the state of Iowa, for legalizing gay marriages, the influx of young professionals, and exuding “Iowa nice”.

The current topic in Des Moines and Iowa is encouraging women to take on a larger leadership role in business and politics. Iowa, along with Mississippi, are the two lone states that have not elected a woman to Congress. All of that could change next month. Maybe it won’t, but it’s a big deal.

What many here in Iowa do not realize, or have ignored, is that Iowa haven’t elected a minority to Congress either. And another topic that’s not being discussed, despite the all of the progress taking place in Des Moines, is that the African-American community is a non-factor.

It is an invisible community. We see it everyday in Des Moines, and yet we prefer to tout how same-sex friendly we are and our pursuit to elect a woman to Congress.  There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s nice to pat ourselves on the back for being #1 on every list from Forbes to The Today Show, but we still have work to do to make it better.

A lot of work.

Iowa State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad. (AP/Charlie Neibergall)
Iowa State Representative Ako Abdul-Samad. (AP/Charlie Neibergall)

State representative Ako Abdul-Samad spoke to reporter Matt Vasilogambros about how the urban core of Des Moines have been forgotten as the other cores of the city and suburbs like Beaverdale, Waukee, Downtown, and Gateway West has become desirable places for residents and businesses. While this is not surprising to me, what is disconcerting is that Abdul-Samad expressed his discouragement to a national publication…and not to the local media.

Did he tell the National Journal his sentiments because he felt that the local media, city/regional leaders, and the business community would continue to ignore the urban core? Is there a reason he chose to speak with a national publication about the plight of Des Moines’ urban core and the lack of progress from a business and quality of life standpoint?

For Abdul-Samad to tell a national publication and not address it locally puzzles me. He may have his reasons. The main point of this entry is that if Des Moines is going to brag about its “great” diversity when it comes to life and work, the African-American community should get the same attention and support that the growing Latino, Asian, and LGBT communities receive.

Des Moines and Polk County hasn’t had a minority on the city council or board of supervisors for nearly a decade. There has been little traction to encourage and engage African-Americans in the growing business sector, downtown projects, and overall when it comes to daily life. There are a few African-Americans in the Des Moines business community that people know of, but if you asked me, I hear of their names, but I never see their faces.

It’s discouraging for me as an African-American young professional to continue to have the sense of “I’m the only black in this meeting, event, or workplace.” I attended a local Young Non-Profit Network meetup recently. I surveyed the room before the meeting.

Yep, that feeling crept in. I don’t mind it because I can roll with it, but there has to be African-Americans in this city who are interested in non-profits, arts, and other stuff.

If there is an area of improvement that Des Moines has to work on, with genuine seriousness and not some make-shift short-term Band Aid solution to cover it up, is to re-engage themselves into the black community and encourage African-Americans YPs like myself to be active in the community, whether its volunteering at church, food pantries like Move the Food, or reading programs.

The Business Record, a local business publication, hosts forums and events to raise awareness of women in business. Why not do a similar one for minority groups?

I have to keep in mind that it is a choice. You can’t force people to “get involved” and “be engaged”. What is important is to make these opportunities available. If someone takes advantage of it, we need to embrace their opinions and perspective, for it helps us understand and improve our quality of life.

The Rose Garden at the Des Moines Art Center.
The Rose Garden at the Des Moines Art Center.

Des Moines is a good place to live and work, however, in order to reach its full potential, Des Moines need to address the lack of African-American involvement in the progression of this city. Awards are cute and nice, but everyone should be able to share in the accolades.

That means all citizens. No one should be forgotten or ignored as this city continues to progress towards newer and better things.

“Dear Cityview…” July 19, 2006

“Dear Cityview…” July 19, 2006
Not everything that is written on blogs are about fluff, club scenes, and Court Avenue antics.
Not everything that is written on blogs are about fluff, club scenes, and Court Avenue antics.

When Juice premiered in 2006, there was a lot of criticism about the publication, namely from Cityview Magazine. Cityview spent every week making Juice (and the Register) their personal pinata, attacking them for writing “fluff” pieces and not “hard news” as Cityview stakes their claim to.

The statement below from Cityview’s “Winners and Losers” column propelled me to send a reply back to Cityview…to prove that not everything is “trash” in their eyes…and that they sometimes don’t practice what they preach.

Dear Cityview…

Courtesy of Cityview Magazine, July 19, 2006:

We named The Des Moines Register a “loser” last week for sending its reporters to blog live from concerts. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention The Register’s pubescent progeny, Juice – particularly, its staffers’ stunning ability to continually churn out blogs about absolutely nothing.**

To the staff at Cityview:

Thank you for “reading” my blog (though I doubt you ever have). I hate to tell you this, but not everything comes from a 9-year old’s diary. The last blog post I wrote on Monday was not ripped out of a kid’s coloring book. It was a personal perspective about the slayings of two police officers in 1981 and the impact it had to a city and its citizens 25 years later.

The little girl who writes in her diary never wrote about the suicide of Dr. Stephen Gleason, the comical follies that is Nan Stillans and the Des Moines School District, and whether its cool or not to be a single person in the middle of Iowa.

Alright, I admit that the single person’s point-of-view wasn’t stellar reading.

I know you are offering constructive criticism (if that is the term you use over there) about blogs here on Juice.

Please allow me to explain myself: I don’t need a rival publisher to tell me how bad of a writer I am. I know how bad I am. I don’t have a journalism degree, nor did I attend the Writer’s Workshop at the State University of Iowa. The one positive thing I have learned from blogging is the appreciation for those who are journalists, and those who write or blog for a living.  They’re the ones who bust their asses off daily. I feel it is insulting to call myself a journalist.

I never wrote about getting drunk, acting like a d-bag, and hitting the club scene.
I never wrote about getting drunk, acting like a d-bag, and hitting the club scene.

It’s imperative to get the facts right, check your sources, and write a story that informs your readers as well as gauge their opinions. I thought I was doing that, until you informed me that my work is garbage. That is constructive criticism and I appreciate your magazine for calling it like it is.

I do think it’s fair that I offer the same criticism to you.

I do this for fun and to gauge the interest of what readers want to read or talk about. You do a very good job of that at Cityview. I don’t do your job nor will I insult your intelligence on how to be a writer. My attempt is to write about things that are relevant to us as individuals.

To you, I do a half-assed job of it.

I take it as terms of endearment.

I don’t aspire to be another Marc Hansen, Donald Kaul, Maury White, or Ron Maly. I wouldn’t last 30 seconds in their presence. They’re pros. I’m a schlub. 

If you want to throw a blanket on everyone who write for Juice, that’s your prerogative, but if you don’t read between the lines, there is someone who is trying to do what you expect them to do…

…write and open the lines of discussion on serious and interesting issues that do affect people.

If I’m not doing that, then contact the publishers of the Des Moines Register. I don’t have a “right” to blog, it’s a privilege.

Childish writing is for kids. I’m an adult. I have to write like one.  Just like you. 

Sincerely yours,

Romelle Slaughter


** – Post-script: the concept of “live blogging” at events have become very popular and is used constantly, much to the chagrin of Cityview. To Juice’s credit, they understood it could be a trend that is highly effective today.

The following week, Cityview said that though they were sticking to their statement, they did acknowledged that not everyone at Juice writes “nothing”. Put one up on the scoreboard.

A Look Back: The Mind of a Young Professional

A Look Back: The Mind of a Young Professional
Des Moines skyline at night.

NOTE: I’m introducing a series of old posts I wrote for Juice from 2006 until 2008. This post was written on February 23, 2006, during my first week blogging. The topic for this entry is about what is a young professional in Des Moines.

The uptick of young professionals in Des Moines started to become the “buzz” in 2006. Companies, business leaders, and others started to take notice of YPs, and YPs saw opportunities to have “a seat at the table” in the community. I wondered if I fit the prototype of a “young professional” and what exactly a YP is to symbolize? The definition of a YP has evolved significantly from 2006, as this post from 2012 examined.

The Mind of a Young Professional

It’s amazing how Des Moines is embracing the growing number of “young professionals” that has made the Golden Circle their home. Young professionals are looked at as “up and comers,” “the ones to watch,” and “the new leaders.” There are several well-known organizations that are targeted to young professionals: Young Professionals Connection, Young Variety, and Impact Downtown, to name a few. These organizations are phenomenal resources and places to go to network with other peers, as well as establish friendships.

However, in the back of my mind, I don’t feel that I am a “professional”, a “leader”.  I don’t work in a corner office, don’t have a mentor, or is looked at as a rising star. I don’t beg for adulation or a celebration for myself. I do my job and feel satisfied when the job is done. 

When I think of a young professional, I think of attorneys, teachers, real estate brokers, advertising, and executives. Places like Principal, CBRE, Drake, and Bankers Trust, also comes to mind. Since I work in an administrative assistant position, I don’t feel that I am a professional. I should be a “professional”, but how do I get to be where they are at? Do those who work in blue-collar jobs considered to be young professionals? Artists? 

2014 candidates for Juice Young Professional of the Year. (From Left to Right) Sunni Swarbrick, Lincoln Dix, Liz Lidgett, and Gabe Glynn. Juice Editor Sarah Day Owen on the far right. (Juice)

What constitutes a young professional in Des Moines?

Do I have to be involved in so many organizations that people will notice me as an emerging leader? Do I have to live downtown? Should I be in tune with the arts (music, paintings, and cultural events)? Do I need to have all of the professional connections to be a mover and a shaker in this town?

Is accomplishing all of this too much to handle? Or should I do several of these to feel that I’m doing something not only to help others, but to make me feel better about myself?

At times, I feel like an impostor. I go to social functions to network with my peers, attend and support the arts, volunteer in community projects, and as Cavan (Reagan Reichmann) noted I’m involved in the social fabric of the young sector of Des Moines. But, when I look around, it feels like it’s not enough. If I don’t stay in the public eye, I become irrelevant and of little value. 

Which begs the question: what value do I offer by networking, being involved in the community, doing good things? To build and enhance my profile so I can have the chance to move up in the world, or does it really matter?

That’s a question I can only find for myself. 

That One Night I Stopped By Bru’s Desk…

That One Night I Stopped By Bru’s Desk…
The newsroom at the new offices for the Des Moines Register. (Des Moines Register)

Three weeks ago, Amy Jennings, Eric Olmscheid, Emily Abbas, and I were invited by Des Moines Register business writer Lynn Hicks to take a tour through The Des Moines Register after a “14 People to Watch in 2014” panel at Capital Square. I had toured the new Register offices before (thanks to Josh Hafner), but I decided to go anyway, but for a more selfish reason. It was a chance to visit a couple of fellow Wartburg alums.

Randy Brubaker in particular, “Bru” as we called him.

As Waterloo natives and Wartburg guys, it was natural for the both of us to playfully needle each other about which school was better (I went to East, Randy went to West), what’s going on in Des Moines, the business of the news media, and more importantly, our love for Wartburg. You see, for those who may not understand small colleges in Iowa, schools like Wartburg are pretty special and unique in their own way. When it comes to Wartburg, the alumni are like a family. It’s a cliché, I know, but here’s the deal: there is so many Wartburg alums in Des Moines, we called ourselves the “Orange Mafia” or as I dubbed it “Wartburg South”.

Be it Outflys, school-sponsored gatherings, et cetera, we all show up…dressed in orange and black. The bond between Wartburgers is pretty strong. They’re friends for life, even if we’re 2,000 miles away.

Waterloo was another common bond that Randy and I shared. Waterloo is, what former Register Waterloo bureau chief Jack Hovelson described, a “Joe Six-Pack town.” It’s a blue-blooded industrial city, rooted in John Deere green. The both of us knew how Waterloo was growing up: racially diverse, amid socioeconomic issues, were among major factors of the makeup of the city. East and West High, to a certain level, embodies the competitive mindset that represents the city: the blue-collar east-siders vs. the white-collar west-siders. Black vs. white. Industrial vs. Professional.

Despite all of that, we were from Waterloo and we were damn proud of being from there. It was because we were in it together and learned how to live and do things together.

Randy Brubaker (Andrea Melendez/Des Moines Register)

I broke away from the tour and stopped by Randy’s desk. He was coming back from the break room, with a small plate of fruit, cheese, and crackers. First thing I asked was “How are you doing?” It was important for me to ask him this. The past 5 months has been a difficult one for him. His wife, Jan, passed away in January. I went to the funeral. Randy and his two sons having to mourn a wife and mother. Dowling Catholic students mourning a loss of a counselor.

Randy said he was doing okay. He was happy that things started to slow down in the newsroom. During the early part of the week, the old downtown Younkers building fire was the major story for the Register. As senior news director, his job was to oversee the stories that were going to be printed (or put online).

Over the next 10 minutes, he described in details about the new Register webpage, how the newsroom “command control” operated (a long HD interactive board that had CNN, ESPN, Bloomburg, etc on streaming and the Register’s website live), and what Steph Boeding was up to over in Design Studio. Steph was another member of the “Orange mafia.”

Bru gave back to Wartburg, When I say he gave back, it wasn’t always money. He gave his time to students in Comm Arts, served on panels, offered advice, and helped students and graduates get their feet planted in the media business. Many who have established their own careers continue to call Bru for advice, bounce an idea off of him, or needing a little encouragement.

Well respected and admired in the Iowa media, when Bru offered his thoughts or ideas, people listen. Never one to be demonstrative or loud, Bru was the guy to talk to when a news story came up.

Randy emailed me on July 19, 2011, a week after I wrote a blog post marking the 30th anniversary of the slayings of Waterloo police officers Wayne Rice and Michael Hoing.


How’re you?

I thought your blog post about T-Bone Taylor and your family connection was interesting, so I passed the link on to Randy Evans, our editorial page editor to look at.

With your permission, he might be interested in publishing a version of that blog on the op-ed page. It might take a bit of collaboration/editing, of course.

If you’re interested, let me know – and I’ll pass your email address on to the “other” Randy so he can get in touch with you!



Randy passed the story idea along to Randy Evans. It didn’t move forward after that point, but as far as I was concerned, that was one of the best compliments I’ve ever received…

…from a guy who runs the newsroom at the most widely read newspaper in the state of Iowa.

(Note: this past March, the suspect, Michael “T-Bone” Taylor, and one of the officers who captured him, Iowa State Patrolman Marvin Messerschmidt died within a week of each other.)

Randy Brubaker speaking to a class at The University of Iowa School of Journalism and Mass Communication. (University of Iowa)

After we talked about how Wartburg baseball and softball were doing, Randy had to get back to work. We shook hands, give each other a big hug, and he said:

“How ’bout those Wahawks?”

I couldn’t help but to smile and laugh and playfully shouted “Whoo!” as I headed down the hall to join Lynn and the group. Bru had a big smile on his face. A West Wahawk getting the last word on an East High Trojan.

On the following Monday, a friend, Nathan Groepper, posted on Facebook that Bru had a heart attack. A stent was place where the blockage was at, and he went home to rest.  Randy was expected back in the office on May 5, 2014….


That return has been postponed….permanently.

Randy passed away, from heart failure, on Saturday May 3rd.

That “selfish endeavor” to go up to visit him three weeks ago is one I will cherish. The look on his face, beaming when he saw me standing there at his desk, was all it took. I’m grateful I took that tour. I would have been kicking myself with regrets as I write this.

Sunday was a beautiful day outside, but it was not a happy day.

Bru is gone.

There are a lot of people, colleagues, mentees, friends, and alumni who are in mourning. Two sons have lost both of their parents in a span of 4 months.

Four months.

Life isn’t fair. It has never meant to be fair, but damn, doesn’t have to be so unfair?

I lost one of my favorite guys and above all, a respected friend.