Through the Years: Short alum profiles and Class Notes

A Bold Rescue

By Ann Floor


The north face of the Grand Teton was the site of an unprecedented rescue of an injured climber in 1967 by a team of rescuers that included four University of Utah alumni. (All photos courtesy Jenny Wilson)

When Jenny Wilson BS’88 was growing up, she and her brother Ben HBA’87 JD’90 would pack their bags each summer, get in the family station wagon with their parents, Ted Wilson BS’64 and Kathy Wilson ex’66, and head from their home in Salt Lake City to the Tetons in northwest Wyoming. Ted had been a Jenny Lake Ranger in the 1960s—part of a team of Grand Teton National Park climbing rescue rangers—and the Wilsons gathered at Jenny Lake to be with friends. As the group sat around the evening campfire, talk often turned to the events of 1967 and a difficult and daring rescue that Ted and his ranger friends had made.

“What touched me over the years was not only the heroics on the mountain, but also the passion and bond of friendship among the men,” Jenny Wilson says. “Their story was an inspiration. Their connection with each other has lasted all this time, and I’ve been influenced by that.”

Six of the seven men who participated in the 1967 rescue of an injured climber gather for a reunion in the Tetons: from left, Ted Wilson, Pete Sinclair, Ralph Tingey, Mike Ermarth, Rick Reese, and Bob Irvine.

Six of the seven men who participated in the 1967 rescue of an injured climber gather for a reunion in the Tetons: from left, Ted Wilson, Pete Sinclair, Ralph Tingey, Mike Ermarth, Rick Reese, and Bob Irvine.

In 2009, when her husband Trell Rohovit BS’88 suggested that the story should be made into a film, it gave her just the incentive she needed. She forged ahead, and Rohovit became an executive producer on the project. The resulting 52-minute documentary film, The Grand Rescue, had its world premiere this past November at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center in Salt Lake City and is now making the film festival circuit around the country, most recently at the Anchorage International Film Festival in December. Wilson also plans to enter the movie in the Telluride Film Festival this summer. The documentary tells the story of the three-day rescue of an injured climber and his partner off the north face of the Grand Teton, the highest mountain in Grand Teton National Park. The film focuses on the rescuers, who included six Jenny Lake rangers—four of them Salt Lake City natives and U graduates—as well as one expert climber who wasn’t a ranger. “The essence of this rescue was a group of individuals who came together with a job to do and found within their bond a new power,” Ted Wilson says in the movie.

As a first-time filmmaker, Jenny Wilson learned on the fly. Most recently the executive director of institutional advancement at the Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah, she previously had served as a member of the Salt Lake County Council and chief of staff to then Utah Congressman Bill Orton. She also worked for the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the Olympic Winter Games of 2002 and for the Sundance Institute. To get started on her film, she secured some financial backing and then raised close to the final amount needed through Kickstarter, an online funding platform for creative projects.

She brought on a cinematographer and a full crew for the film shoots. She also asked a friend, Meredith Lavitt, to join her as director and producer. Lavitt had prior experience in film production and currently works for the Sundance Institute in a non-filmmaking capacity.

From left, Ted Wilson, Pete Sinclair, Ralph Tingey, Mike Ermarth, Rick Reese, and Bob Irvine, in a photo taken in 1967, the year of their daring rescue.

From left, Ted Wilson, Pete Sinclair, Ralph Tingey, Mike Ermarth, Rick Reese, and Bob Irvine, in a photo taken in 1967, the year of their daring rescue.

The making of The Grand Rescue brought together for the first time since the 1967 event the six surviving team members and Lorraine Hough, who was climbing on August 22, 1967, with Gaylord Campbell when a rock slide knocked Campbell over and caused a double compound fracture of his lower leg. The two were stranded on a ledge at an altitude of 13,000 feet. The young national park rangers quickly went to work, and the resulting successful rescue was the first on the Grand Teton’s north face. It was unprecedented for its time, due to the climber’s severe injuries, the challenging terrain, and the much more rudimentary climbing and rescue gear of the time. One year after the rescue, then Secretary of the Interior Stewart Udall awarded the rescue team a citation for valor for “courageous action involving a high degree of personal risk under conditions of extreme severity and hazards.”

Among the rescue team, ranger Mike Ermarth’s quiet leadership raised confidence in the others. He recently retired as a distinguished professor of modern German history at Dartmouth College.

Bob Irvine BA’62 MA’66 knew the Tetons well, having climbed them since his teens. After the 1967 rescue, he remained as leader of the Grand Teton National Park mountain rescue team for the next 28 years and had an accomplished career as professor of mathematics at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah.

Leigh Ortenburger, the one member of the team who wasn’t a ranger, knew the mountain best due to his years researching first ascents for his guidebook, A Climber’s Guide to the Teton Range. He had a long career as a mountaineer and award-winning photographer. He died in the Oakland, California, wildfires of 1991.

U alum Jenny Wilson, right, worked with producer and director Meredith Lavitt on the new film.

U alum Jenny Wilson, right, worked with co-producer and director Meredith Lavitt on the new film.

Rick Reese BS’66 was a problem solver with climbing skills that were critical to the rescue effort. A Woodrow Wilson Fellow, he went on to teach at Carroll College in Helena, Montana. He also founded the Greater Yellowstone Coalition and served as director of the Yellowstone Institute and of community affairs for the University of Utah. He now lives in Bozeman, Montana.

Pete Sinclair is the author of We Aspired: The Last Innocent Americans, published in 1993, which includes a chapter on the 1967 Grand Teton rescue that provided the framework for the documentary script. He now is a retired professor of English at Evergreen College in Olympia, Washington.

Ralph Tingey BA’67 became a permanent park ranger at Grand Teton after the 1967 rescue and later was an assistant park superintendent of Denali National Park and superintendent of Lake Clark National Park, both in Alaska, as well as assistant superintendent of Grand Teton National Park. Now retired, Tingey lives in Ouray, Colorado, and continues to climb several days a week.

Ted Wilson BS’64 went on to serve as mayor of Salt Lake City and later as director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah as well as the Utah Rivers Council. He also was Utah Governor Gary Herbert’s chief environmental advisor and worked as director of governmental relations for Talisker Corporation. He now is executive director of the Utah Clean Air Partnership.

As for Jenny Wilson, she is continuing her work on the film’s distribution. She also is running for the at-large seat on the Salt Lake County Council, a position she previously held from 2005 to 2010. She aims to continue to produce films.

Ann Floor is an associate editor of Continuum.

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Blossoming Into Her Own

By Marcia C. Dibble

“I am definitely a retro woman,” says Jaye Maynard BFA’85, who has been receiving accolades for her musical homage to the late jazz singer-songwriter Blossom Dearie. Maynard’s nickname is JayeBird, and her show Bird Amongst the Blossom: A Tribute to the First Blossom Dearie Songbook—styled as a midcentury-modern New York supper club act à la 1962—features Maynard on vocals, replicating the “wised-up baby-doll jazz stylings” of Dearie, with backup on piano and upright bass, interpreting songs written for and by Dearie in collaboration with such artists as Johnny Mercer, Dave Frishberg, and Bob Dorough (with whom Dearie worked on the popular children’s educational series Schoolhouse Rock!).

(Photo by Matthew Karas)

(Photo by Matthew Karas)

Maynard is hoping to bring her Blossom show to Utah this year as the opener for her friend John Ciccolini’s coming-of-age musical-comedy Frank Sinatra Screwed Up My Life. That double-header had its premiere this February at the M Bar—“red leather banquettes and Italian food,” Maynard notes fondly—in Hollywood, California. A Midwest native, Maynard spent more than 10 years in southern California after graduating from the U (finding her niche by looking “more East Coast amongst a sea of blondes”) before moving to New York about 15 years ago.

Maynard’s master’s thesis in vocal performance at New York University (completed in 2002) was called “Jaye Sings: The Barbie Show,” in which she wore a recreated Barbie dress and performed songs including numbers from a “Barbie Sings!” collection put out by Mattel in 1961. Early this year, she moved back to Madison, Wisconsin, her hometown, as a “bicoastal” base and to take her show around the Midwest.

Maynard was theatrical from childhood and says she has always been fascinated by the 1950s and early ’60s era in which her parents grew up. “I like to fantasize I was reincarnated from a 1940s big band singer turned ’50s housewife,” she says. A recent participant at the renowned International Cabaret Conference at Yale University, Maynard runs her own PlaidBird Productions, and she is also a producer with Angry Girl Gang Productions, which she co-owns with fellow U alum Mark W. Knowles BFA’85, a longtime friend and collaborator. Maynard was attracted to the U in great part because it offered “an actual musical theater program,” with classes from dance to music to theater and the chance to earn an Equity card at the same time. She performed in regional productions, including four shows with Pioneer Theatre Company, before being handpicked for a tour of Pirates of Penzance, and then moved to LA after the tour’s conclusion. There, besides the period pieces that are her love, Maynard also leapt at other opportunities, including performing improv and studying with Second City. She later appeared in the comedy-horror film Moonshine, which screened at the Sundance Film Festival, before starring in Aaliyah Miller’s short film After The Headlines, about a mother coming to terms with her daughter’s murder, which won several awards on the independent film festival circuit.

But Blossom has become her passion, and its namesake, her muse. “She was a self-producing artist, and she created an independent record label way back in the ’70s; no one was doing it back then,” says Maynard. After Dearie died in 2009, Maynard tracked down her songbook and began developing it into a show, and she eventually acquired Dearie’s last apartment piano on eBay. Maynard called on her longtime friend Dorian DeMichele BFA’84 to help her produce the show, and it had its theatrical debut in 2011 in the United Solo Theater Festival, in New York. The show has since been recognized as a Pick of the Week by the International Review of Music. “I know I’m going to be doing this for the rest of my life; maybe not the Blossom Dearie songbook, but this niche of jazz cabaret where you are expressing yourself truthfully through the story of song,” Maynard says.

Marcia Dibble is managing editor of   Continuum.

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nelsonKent A. Nelson BS’75 was recognized as one of eight outstanding community lenders in the nation for 2013 by the Independent Community Bankers of America, one of the nation’s largest banking industry trade groups, and was profiled in the group’s Independent Banker magazine. Recently named executive vice president of Brighton Bank in Salt Lake City, he will continue serving as branch manager and commercial loan officer of the City Center office. He has been employed by Brighton Bank since 1986 and has more than 30 years of banking experience, with an emphasis in management, business development, and commercial real estate loan production. At the University of Utah, he completed a double major in finance and management.


hendriksenNeil E. Hendriksen BMu’85 was selected by the National Federation of State High School Associations’ music committee to receive a Section Award, representing Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, and Utah. The award recognizes deserving high school or college band, choral, or orchestral directors, supervisors, and adjudicators who have had a significant impact on high school activities and programs. The regional award, presented to Hendriksen in February, also qualifies him for the next several years to be considered for a national award. For the past 28 years, he has been the director of choral activities at Woods Cross High School in Woods Cross, Utah, and the school’s madrigals and concert choir have earned superior ratings at the regional and state level for 27 consecutive years. Hendriksen is chair of the Utah High School Activities Association music committee and a past president of the Utah Music Educators Association.


wadeWilliam Wade BA’82, president and chief executive officer of Asia Satellite Telecommunications Company Limited (AsiaSat) was named the Satellite Executive of the Year in Asia-Pacific, at the 2013 Asia-Pacific Satellite Communications Council Awards held in Hong Kong. The award is given to an individual who has made outstanding contributions and achievements to the satellite industry during the year. AsiaSat, based in Hong Kong, is a commercial operator of communication spacecraft. Wade was appointed president and chief executive officer of AsiaSat in August 2010. Prior to that, he served as the company’s deputy chief executive officer for 16 years. He has more than 26 years of experience in the satellite and cable television industry. Before joining AsiaSat, he was with Hutchison Whampoa, also based in Hong Kong. Earlier, Wade served as executive director for Echosphere International (Echostar), where he established the company’s permanent Asian operations in Singapore while managing its activities in Asia and the Middle East. Wade, who speaks Mandarin, received his bachelor’s degree in humanities from the University of Utah and a master’s degree from the Thunderbird School of Global Management.


walkerJames D. Walker BS’83 MA’87 PhD’88, a scientist in Southwest Research Institute’s mechanical engineering division, has received the 2014 Edith and Peter O’Donnell Award, given by the Academy of Medicine, Engineering & Science of Texas. The O’Donnell Awards recognize rising Texas researchers “whose work meets the highest standards of exemplary professional performance, creativity, and resourcefulness,” according to the academy. The award honored Walker’s efforts on the Space Shuttle Columbia accident investigation and NASA’s return-to-flight program, as well as his work that has contributed to the safety of U.S. military forces. Walker’s research centers on personnel protection ranging from vests worn by soldiers and police officers to designs for ground vehicles, the International Space Station, and satellites. Currently, he is the principal investigator and manager of a $5.1 million project to analyze vehicle response to land-mine blasts and other weaponry. Walker received both his undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Utah in mathematics.


fazzioThomas G. Fazzio BS’97, an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, recently was recognized as a rising scientific star by President Barack Obama with a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. The presidential award is the highest honor bestowed by the U.S. government on outstanding scientists and engineers in the early phases of their research careers. Fazzio was one of 102 scientists and engineers chosen for this year’s award. Presidential awardees are selected for their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and their commitment to community service. A faculty member at Massachusetts since 2010, Fazzio’s research focuses on understanding how DNA is packaged into tiny chromatin structures inside the nucleus of stem cells. He has uncovered previously unknown processes governing how the chromatin structure of a cell’s DNA influences gene expression in stem cells, conferring on these cells the unique ability to replicate and differentiate into many different types of cells. A 2011 Pew Scholar, he received his doctorate from the University of Washington and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in 2004 after completing a bachelor’s degree in biology at the University of Utah.


levinNaomi E. Levin PhD’08, an assistant professor of earth and planetary science at Johns Hopkins University, has received the 2013 Young Scientist Award (Donath Medal) and a cash prize of $10,000 from the Geological Society of America. The award recognizes outstanding achievement by scientists ages 35 and younger who have contributed to geologic knowledge through original research that marks a major advance in the earth sciences. Levin’s research centers on understanding how terrestrial landscapes and organisms responded to ancient climate change. She has focused on reconstructing environments of about 5 million years ago from sedimentary and isotopic records preserved in the East African rift. Levin has been a faculty member at Johns Hopkins since 2009. She received a doctorate in geology from the University of Utah after completing a master’s degree in geology at the University of Arizona and two bachelor’s degrees, in geology and anthropology, at Stanford University.


watanabeShigeki Watanabe BA’04 PhD’13, a postdoctoral fellow in biology at the University of Utah, has been awarded the Society for Neuroscience’s inaugural Nemko Prize for his accomplishments as a young scientist. The new annual prize recognizes a young scientist’s outstanding doctoral thesis advancing the understanding of brain function. Watanabe works in the laboratory of U biology professor Erik Jorgensen and is studying how nerve cell vesicles—tiny bubbles that contain neurotransmitter chemicals—are recycled after they help send a nerve signal from one nerve cell to the next. His studies also have revealed that vesicles move faster than previously imagined. He received both his bachelor’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Utah in biology.


graefningsMaria Graefnings BS’12, one of Sweden’s top female distance skiers, has joined Team Sysarb, the mid-Sweden-based cross country ski team. Graefnings has competed in long and short distance races in both skate and classic disciplines. She has achieved multiple International Ski Federation Cross-Country World Cup starts and two victories in the NCAA. She is the reigning NCAA 5-km freestyle champion, the first NCAA title of her career. Among the many honors Graefnings has received are being named Rocky Mountain Intercollegiate Ski Association Female Skier of the Year in 2011, FasterSkier. com 2011 Women’s Collegiate Skier of the Year, and Ski Racing magazine’s 2011 Nordic Collegiate Skier of the Year. Graefnings received a bachelor’s degree in exercise and sport science from the University of Utah.

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