ALUMNI PROFILES • Summer 2002

Living the Artist's Life

Ralph Deuschle, B.S.E.E. '59

 

Most mornings, sculptor Ralph Deuschle settles into his studio in the Sonoran foothills near Scottsdale, Arizona, by 6:30 a.m. to work on sketches or build models for his playful sculptures. Now and then, he puts a movie in the VCR and listens to the dialogue from old movies like African Queen as he works. "I need noise, human voices," he explains. "One thing that surprised me early on is that you wind up working alone a lot—which is still a little uncomfortable.

On rare days, his solitude is interrupted by a visit from a collector.
"Today, patrons are a little more interested in knowing the artist," Deuschle notes. They ask a lot of questions about the process. Sometimes I sit and thumb through my sketchbooks; sometimes they like to sit and listen to me ramble. The creative process fascinates them."

In the evenings, Deuschle and his wife, Sharla, often feed the coyotes and other animals that make their homes in the the nearby desert. "We pamper them," Deuschle says. "We give them water and food. We feed the birds, too. Doing those things, it helps you to stay focused."

The artist's life is one that comes naturally to Deuschle, whose grandfather, Friedrich H. F. Deuschle, was a plein air painter specializing in rural Missouri landscapes. "I have one of his paintings hanging in my hallway," Deuschle says.

Occasionally, the elder Deuschle supplemented his income as a minister to small congregations by doing commissioned work of religious subjects. By strange coincidence, Deuschle found one of his grandfather's commissioned paintings hanging in a hospital chapel in Marshalltown, Iowa, the small town where the younger Deuschle first studied art. "I didn't know it was there," he says, "but I met one of the nurses who worked in the hospital, and she said, 'Oh, I think I've heard that name before.' Lo and behold, she took me down to the chapel and there it was."

Deuschle, the first in his family to attend college, is living a dream today miles away from the one-room schoolhouses his parents attended in rural Missouri. "When I said I wanted to go to college, that caused a lot of discussion," he recalls. "When I said I wanted to study architecture, that caused even more discussion."

Deuschle's father, who had struggled through the Great Depression, worried that architecture wouldn't provide much stability for his son. Instead, the family agreed on electrical engineering; after graduating, Deuschle embarked on a 30-year career as an industrial computer salesman.

Now retired to work full time as an artist, Deuschle began taking art classes in the 1970s at night when he worked in tiny Marshalltown. Initially, he worked only in pastels, oils, and acrylics, and sold his work at local art fairs. Later, when he was transferred to Minneapolis, he studied sculpture at the Minnetonka Center of the Arts. "There were some scary moments when I took my first waxes to the foundry to be cast," he recalls. "It was big, because all of a sudden these models were going to turn into bronze. I had to take a buddy with me."

It's clear from looking at Deuschle's work, which ranges from small pieces you can hold in the palm of your hand to large outdoor sculptures, that he has managed to retain some of his initial interest in architecture. "My work is very geometric, very contemporary," he says. "I'm a big fan of Frank Lloyd Wright and his use of geometric forms. I just seem to think geometric."

—Gretchen Lee, A.B. '96

 


 

Horseback Riding
Promotes Health

Sandra Rafferty, B.S.O.T. '66

 

The first time Sandra Rafferty put a person with a disability on the back of a horse in 1969, she knew she'd found a natural match between horseback riding and occupational therapy.

"At that moment, I thought I would really like to combine occupational therapy and horses in my life," Rafferty now recalls. "You could really see a change in how it affected people. Their eyes sparkled and they just kind of lit up."

In 1969 hardly anyone had heard of using horses as therapy for disabled people, but it made immediate sense to Rafferty—a 1966 graduate of the University's Program in Occupational Therapy at the School of Medicine and a horse enthusiast since here childhood.

Rafferty says a horse's gait is similar to that of a human's. For people with disabilities, riding a horse mimics a person's walking rhythm, and this helps strengthen and support the natural motion of their spine and pelvis. It also helps improve their balance, coordination, and muscle tone.

"There are people who are unable to walk but who are able to sit on a horse; riding a horse facilitates the same motion in their pelvis they would get if they could walk," Rafferty says. "So if you sit on a horse and your nervous system doesn't know the walking motion yet, then the horse's gait will help facilitate that movement."

After graduating from WU, Rafferty worked in a California state hospital with severely handicapped individuals—and she bought her first horse. She discovered in 1974 that she wasn't alone in seeing the benefits of hippotherapy, or therapy using a horse. While working on a master's degree in special education at San Francisco State University, she traveled to Chicago for special training in hippotherapy. The course was one of the only courses offered in the United States to train individuals in riding therapy. It was taught by John Davies, who started therapeutic riding in Chigwell, England, in the 1950s.

Rafferty initially tried to use hippotherapy in the Bay Area, but couldn't find enough people open to the idea. So she moved back to St. Louis in 1974 because the Easter Seal Society of St. Louis had shown interest in hippotherapy's potential. Working with Susie Deusinger, now director of the University's Program in Physical Therapy, Rafferty established Therapeutic Horsemanship and taught her first seven clients, charging $2 dollars each.

Today her nonprofit organization serves 190 students, ranging from age 2 to adults, who have a wide range of physical or mental disabilities. Although she still sees two children for traditional occupational therapy in the schools, she devotes most of her time to Therapeutic Horsemanship—her goal all along.

In addition to her therapy duties, Rafferty teaches sports riding for people with disabilities. She's been head coach for the U.S. Disabled Equestrian Team since 1987 and twice has take the team to the Paralympics—to Atlanta in 1986 and to Sydney in 2000.

Her accomplishments have not gone unnoticed. Last November, the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association presented her with the James Brady Professional Achievement Award, the organization's top honor. She hopes that the recognition will help raise the $2 million she needs to fund her next project: moving Therapeutic Horsemanship into its own stable in St. Charles County (Missouri).

Therapeutic Horsemanship has fulfilled many of Rafferty's personal and career aspirations, but she attributes part of her success to her training as an undergraduate.

"Washington University has such an excellent reputation in the educational community, and its occupational therapy program does as well," Rafferty says. "The University gave me the credibility I needed for people to try something different and new."

—Shula Newman

 


 

A Legal Mind and a Musical Spirit

Dale Wiley, A.B. '94

 

Moving from criminal defense attorney to record company president may seem a strange progression to some, but to Dale Wiley the two different careers strike a beautiful chord.

By day, Wiley practices law, along with his father, at Wiley Law Offices in Crane, Missouri (30 miles southwest of Springfield). He also makes calls representing his record label, Slewfoot Records. Being his own boss gives Wiley the flexibility to manage both careers—plus excellent staff members at both places help sustain a harmonious workflow.

Wiley says his responsibilities are split 70-30: 70 percent law and 30 percent Slewfoot—and he finds joy in both.

"I really like practicing law, especially the trial work," he says. "The judges appoint me a lot of times to represent children in abuse or neglect situations because I was a teacher before starting law school. This part can be depressing, but it certainly is a needed service—and I get a sense of making a difference, at least for a few people."

As for the music business, he says, "I have always been interested in music. When I was at Washington U., I edited Cadenza for three years and wrote for it all four years. And then while I was in law school at the University of Missouri at Columbia, I did a lot of booking of bands."

After returning to Crane, Wiley saw some bands in Springfield that he believed rivaled any he had seen, whether in Atlanta, St. Louis, or Washington, D.C. He decided, along with a few partners, to help these bands get exposure—thus Slewfoot Records was formed.

"Our idea was to create a place where the bands would get first priority," he says, "because, invariably, if you pitch a band to a bigger label (which we tried initially), the band mostly ends up being very low on anyone's list."

Making bands—such as The Domino Kings, Hadacol, The Morells, and Kristie Stremel—a priority is fun. In March, Wiley attended the South-by-Southwest Music Conference in Austin, Texas. There Slewfoot Records hosted a private party for approximately 75 to 100 media and industry personnel who came to hear six of its bands.

"Watching 'big-time' managers approach my bands and start talking to them was a lot of fun," says Wiley. "Helping these bands get exposure is a tremendous part of my job—it was so great to see other people latch on to what you see in a band's music."

And seeing the core of a band's musical talent or the true nugget of a legal case is a skill Wiley acquired while a classics major at WU. "I enjoyed one professor, George Pepe, in particular," he says. "With him, everything was to the point. His classes were not only designed to help a student understand the subject, they were designed to help a student become an independent thinker."

Thinking about his own future, Wiley still loves finding cases that he believes in and helping clients tell their story to judge or jury. [Out of nearly a dozens criminal trials, he has lost only one, and that man, facing seven years in prison, received only a fine.] He also continues to look for musicians who have potential to grow as artists, good stage presence, and a willingness to work hard. By night, he listens to submissions from bands hoping to get the next contract. He also spends quality time with his "very supportive" wife, Becca, and their 6-month-old daughter, Mary Claire.

Asked if he ever tires from all the work, he says, "Everybody who knew me in college knew that I was always lucky enough to do a lot of extracurricular things and still manage to get everything done."

—Teresa Nappier