ALUMNI PROFILES — Spring 2007
   

 
Alumnus Merl Huntsinger hit his first hole-in-one in August 2006. Photo courtesy of New Orleans Times-Picayune/Kathy Anderson.

Hitting First Hole-in-One

On August 15, 2006, 90-year-old Merl Huntsinger was playing golf at his home course, Timberlane Country Club in Gretna, Louisiana, with his golfing partner of 24 years, Slim Inzer, who is in his late 80s. The two still try to play nine holes four times a week. According to Huntsinger, the day felt like any other, especially since it was hot and humid when they got started. However, the day wound up being unlike any other, and Huntsinger’s round would provide him with a most-coveted accomplishment.

On the third hole, a 135-yard par 3, Huntsinger, B.S.B.A. ’47, hit a shot that he’ll remember forever. Flying the ball over a front sand trap, Huntsinger watched as his ball hit the green and then rolled into the hole for a hole-in-one—his first!

“Some people say they have an accident with a car; I say I’m a 90-year-old guy who had an accident with a golf club,” he jokes.

“I was just trying to get the ball over the sand trap. The ball was rolling and rolling on the green toward the hole, and it disappeared. I give the workman on the course credit for setting the cup right where my ball rolled over it!”

Huntsinger did not grow up playing golf but played some as an adult. Yet he says he’s played more golf since retiring in 1981 from Washington University in St. Louis than all his other years combined. He devoted his entire professional career to the University, working at various times as an internal auditor, chief accountant, assistant treasurer and assistant secretary to the Board of Directors, comptroller, assistant vice chancellor and treasurer, and secretary of the Board of Trustees.

Battling diabetes for some 25 years, Huntsinger plays golf, his favorite exercise, to stay active; he jokingly credits his longevity to “choosing his parents wisely.” No longer playing to keep score, he plays for the love of the game—and he says his hole-in-one is, after all these years, “just icing on the cake.”

(Some quotes appeared previously in the New Orleans Times-Picayune.)


Andrea Crumpler (left) works with the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project in the state of Washington.

Immigrant Rights: Protecting America’s Heritage

"We work to give everyone his or her rights.” This simple statement reflects the work and the passion of Andrea Crumpler, who has focused her career on immigration rights.

As a Washington University graduate student, Crumpler participated in two special immigration programs—the Immigration Law Project in St. Louis and ProBAR in Harlingen, Texas. After graduating in 2002 with J.D. and M.S.W. degrees, she headed up the Interfaith Legal Services for Immigrants in St. Louis.

Now with the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP) in the state of Washington, Crumpler is preparing to open this organization’s newest office in Spokane in 2007. The new office will expand the reach of this 22-year-old nonprofit organization, which handles more than 10,000 cases each year for immigrants ranging in age from 4 to 96 and representing more than 100 native countries.

Before moving to Spokane in September 2006, Crumpler spent 11/2 years in Tacoma as lead attorney for NWIRP’s Legal Orientation Program. Tacoma is the location of the Northwest Detention Center, which houses more than 800 detainees from Alaska, Washington, and Oregon, as well as others sent from anywhere in the country. About 80 percent of these detainees must fight for their rights without legal representation, so the rights training and the workshops on self-representation Crumpler provided three days a week were essential.

“It was very gratifying work because people were just happy that somebody was there to explain to them what the heck was going on,” she says.

Crumpler also directly represented some of the most vulnerable detainees whose cases most cried out for legal assistance.

Asylum cases, in particular, called for her combined skills in social work and law. “You are dealing with people who probably have post-traumatic stress, who may have lost family members, who may have been tortured. You have to build a relationship to find out what happened to them. Working with the clients to learn their stories, document their cases, prepare their testimony can take weeks and months.

“I’ve become connected to these individuals,” she continues. “I’ve become a part of their families. I’ve worked with them in so many ways: trying to connect them with housing, trying to make sure their kids are in the right schools, making sure they’re in counseling. You can’t just treat one thing. You have to work with everything, but the legal issue is really the crux. They need to know that they’re safe in the United States.”

Also heartbreaking, Crumpler says, are the cases of immigrants who came to the United States as babies and now, as adults over 18 years of age, find themselves facing deportation. It may be because they were unaware they didn’t have legal status or because they don’t have family members in a position to help them attain legal status or because they committed a deportable offense (perhaps as simple an offense as failing to appear at a court hearing years ago, but also crimes). “These are individuals who are deported to a country that they have never been to, where they don’t really have any family, and where they may not even speak the language.”

Amid the heartbreaks, she draws inspiration from many of her clients. “It’s amazing to me how resilient and hopeful people have continued to be despite all that they’ve been through. Their ability to keep going, to keep showing kindness and hope, is truly amazing. These are people with true strength.”

—Debora Burgess


Nora and Nick Weiser are owners of BetterWall, which salvages and sells museum exhibition banners.

Outside In: Banners Make Statement

Nick and Nora (Buriks) Weiser met their first week at Washington University in 1987. When they first dated, owning a business together was not on either’s radar. Nick was studying political science and Nora art history and French. After graduating in 1991, they moved to Chicago, where Nick worked at an environmental firm and Nora worked at the Art Institute of Chicago. While at the Art Institute, Nora admired the vinyl banners that hung on street poles advertising art exhibitions.

“Finally, I asked if I could get one,” she says. “Since then, we’ve had them hanging everywhere we’ve lived.” The banners always become the focal point in a room. “Whenever someone would see one, they would ask about it. ‘Can I get one? Do you have to give it back?’” However, museums didn’t sell them. Instead, the banners wound up decaying in landfills, because of the many logistical and copyright hurdles involved in selling them to the public.

In 1997, the couple moved to Denver, “to enjoy the outdoors more,” Nick explains. They married in 1998 and in 2002 had their first child, a daughter, Claire. When their son, Evan, was born in 2004, they decided to change their lifestyle, spend more time with their children, and pursue other interests. Nick suggested starting a business salvaging and selling museum exhibition banners. “I thought the idea was great, but knew it was easier said than done,” Nora says. However, after going through the list of challenges with the idea, they both realized they actually had solutions to each one, so they created a viable plan that utilized both their backgrounds. The plan developed into BetterWall (www.betterwall.com).

Their concept is simple. BetterWall takes banners from its partner museums, negotiates the copyright and licensing rights, then cleans and sells the banners that are restorable. They grind and recycle the rest, keeping tons of vinyl out of landfills annually. Nora states, “Every business is trying to incorporate green practices. Museums like the fact that these aren’t getting thrown into landfills.” BetterWall sells the banners at affordable prices ($300–800) and gives the museums a percentage of the profits.

Building the business has been hard work, but it has gone smoothly. Nora sold some art-world contacts on the idea, and once places like the Art Institute signed on, other top museums like The Museum of Modern Art in New York, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art wanted to participate too. Entrepreneur, BusinessWeek, and other publications have written about the business. This, along with word-of-mouth and the Weisers’ personal touch, has helped BetterWall thrive.

BetterWall, which now has two storage facilities and two part-time employees, works with 23 major art museums. The Weisers stock about 3,000 banners and have a rotating roster of approximately 75 designs. “We’re always adding new banners, with the most desirable ones selling out quickly,” Nick says. Also, they keep one of their original goals in mind: Each works a four-day week, spending the fifth with their children.

Nora uses her art history degree all the time in their business. As important as anything else, however, they say Washington U. developed their ability to think creatively. They also made great friends at the University—who initially thought their plan was “a little odd,” Nora jokes. Nick adds, “Once a year, I get together for a trip with Washington U. friends. A couple of years ago, I told them about the business idea when we went white-water rafting. They were skeptical and, frankly, doubtful; they couldn’t relate to it. Now, when they see the banners, they get it. They understand that it’s an idea that grew out of—uniquely—Nora and me.”

—Beth Herstein, A.B. ’83