Gardening, Elevated


Perched 95 feet above the streets of downtown Philadelphia, Cira Green is no ordinary public park. A sea of Kentucky bluegrass and tall fescue flows across the football field-sized roof of a 12-story parking garage wedged between two gleaming residential towers in the city’s University District.

Cira Green will help reduce flood control and storm water management costs by absorbing rain and snow. But it’s also expected to do more. The man who designed the grassy aerie, crisscrossed by walking paths, has another abiding objective.

“We can share the cities with nature in a way that is engaging and keeps us connected to who we are as human beings, and as organisms on the planet,” says Charlie Miller MS’76 MS’82, founder and president of Philadelphia-based Roofmeadow, a firm that pioneered the design of living roofs—or “green roofs”—across the United States.

“There’s a little bubble around you when you’re on a green roof,” he adds. “It gives you a sense of intimacy and security. Psychologically, the green also will be soothing to you.”

But green spaces, including parks, are under siege. The United Nations reports that 66 percent of the world’s population—compared to 54 percent now— will live in urban areas by 2030. Further, the World Health Organization says that physical inactivity due to lack of access to recreational areas accounts for 3.3 percent of global deaths.

Cira Green (which won the 2016 Philadelphia Design Award from the American Institute of Architects) and other green roof projects could be part of the solution.The roofs are commonplace in Europe, and they’ve been expanding in the U.S. since Miller launched Roofmeadow in 1997, when it became one of only two businesses of its kind in the country.

“If you can provide a dozen green roofs in a big city, and you have enough parks connected by a necklace of green areas, you can start to reap psychological benefits,” Miller says. Green spaces are also credited with, at least incrementally, reducing cities’ heat island effect, which refers to localized warmer temperatures brought on by human activities. Through evapotranspiration, plants secrete water through the pores in their leaves, cooling the air in the process. Supporters note that there are other benefits: plants also filter the air, which improves air quality by using excess carbon dioxide to produce oxygen.

Miller has designed more than 200 green roofs in 25 states—including Chicago City Hall, whose roof teems with 20,000 plants representing 150 species, many of them native to the prairie. Flora include shrubs, vines, and two trees, which provide a verdant home to a pair of beehives.

Nineteen years ago, Miller’s idea struck some as daft, eliciting blank stares as he articulated his unusual vision. But it didn’t take long to find believers. High-profile clients now include the Baltimore Convention Center, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the Kansas City Central Library, Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, and the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust.

“Charlie has pushed the boundaries of design,” says Ed Snodgrass, founder of Street, Md.-based Emory Knoll Farms, the first nursery in the country to exclusively grow and sell plants for green roofs. “He’s an innovative and creative designer who’s good at what he does because he’s always learning.” “He understands the whole assembly,” Snodgrass adds. “You’re dealing with a structure, waterproofing, draining, engineered medium, and plants. It’s a completely unique assembly compared to anything else.”


Cira Green, Philadelphia.

Cira Green, Philadelphia. Photo by Albert Vecerka/ESTO

Designing living roofs wasn’t always Miller’s career ambition. After graduating from the College of William and Mary with a degree in chemistry (“It turned out I loved chemistry, but I hated being a chemist”), he enrolled in the University of Utah’s highly regarded master’s program in geology and geophysics.

His love for geology was informed by his experiences as a kid growing up in Lancaster County, Pa., where Miller thrilled to discovering limestone formations shot through with clear quartz crystals. “Things like that caught my attention,” he says. After obtaining his master’s, Miller worked as a field geologist for a year and a half with the Kennecott Copper Company and Getty Oil Minerals, both based in Salt Lake City.

But there was one problem. “When I got married, my wife said I had to have a sedentary job,” he says. “So I went back to the University of Utah and got another master’s degree, in civil engineering.”

A 1997 trip to Germany changed his career focus yet again. A German friend, a professor of environmental landscape design at the University of Pennsylvania, suggested that the pair travel to Berlin to check out the city’s Potsdamer Platz, a public square where high rises abound with green roofs. At that point the roofs had been a fixture in the city’s urban landscape for two decades.

“I could see that not only was the business potential to do something like this great, but you also could do it on such a scale that you could change the hydrology of cities and begin to reverse some of the negative effects of development,” Miller says. “I came back from my encounter extremely energized and excited, and I thought naively that if I could just explain what I had seen and what the potential was to my fellow architects and engineers and developers, that this would sweep across the United States.” Instead, he notes, “I spent a decade just trying to educate people what a green roof is. That job is not done.”

Back home in Pennsylvania, Miller wasted little time plotting his business venture. He began to mix his own soil substitute—or medium—often of light porous substances such as scoria or pumice. Laying plants and medium over a roof, after all, requires a delicate touch. Soil typically weighs 100 to 120 pounds per cubic foot; Miller’s homemade creation registers 60 to 75 pounds per cubic foot.

He designed his first green roof, a 3,000-square-foot “freebie,” atop the Fencing Academy of Philadelphia, where the husband-wife proprietors lived in a penthouse apartment. He went on to design a 6,000-square-foot roof at an alternative medicine business in Hazleton, Pa. Then came Chicago City Hall. The big-name clients have continued ever since.


Not all of Miller’s efforts lend themselves to foot traffic. In Chicago in 2006, he designed a green roof for Walmart, which sought to control storm water runoff at one of its stores. The retail giant has since added green roofs to two other Windy City stores, and to another in Portland, Ore., where the retailer worked with Portland State University to study roof impacts on everything from heat island effects to improving overall building performance.

Green roofs are actually easier to maintain than their plant-free counterparts, says Don Moseley, Walmart’s senior manager of sustainable facilities. The roofs are planted with drought-tolerant sedum, a kind of succulent. Volunteer rose bushes sprouted at one of the Chicago stores, where a pair of geese raised their goslings amid the unlikely garden.

The roofs have also proven durable; Miller guarantees them for 20 years. “The roofing membrane itself is quite protected by the soil and vegetation,” adds Moseley, “so there’s very little or any degradation as a result of ultraviolet rays from the sun.” Green roofs, which cost from $6 to $150 per square foot, typically are overlain with four to 12 inches of medium, Miller says. “Putting four or five feet of soil on top of a building is not really a green roof,” he says. “My business is built on systems that are lightweight and thin.”

Another of Miller’s high-profile projects is Lakeside, a Brooklyn, N.Y., skating complex in the borough’s 149-year-old Prospect Park. Completed in 2013, a pair of pavilions totaling 30,000 square feet stand partly submerged in man-made hills, the roofs of which Miller topped with a mélange of trees, shrubs, perennials, and grasses.

Brooklyn Botanic Garden, New York. Photo by Albert Vecerka/ESTO

Brooklyn Botanic Garden, New York. Photo by Albert Vecerka/ESTO

“It was a pretty big undertaking, and a pleasant surprise,” says architect Andy Kim, who designed the pavilions for award-winning Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects. “Buildings on parkland usually don’t take risks like that; they go for safer solutions.”

“What makes Charlie really useful and kind of unique is, he’s got an artistic design sense, but he’s also got a rigorous, highly pragmatic and sophisticated technical knowledge about that kind of construction,” Kim adds. “He shares what a lot of architects who are good share—a balance of traits that includes a sense of composition and the materials—but he also has the ability to execute something that will stick around for a long time.”

A New York Times review said Lakeside “is all about the seamless integration of architecture and landscape,” calling it “subtly remarkable” and a work of contemporary architecture “that looks as if it has been here all the while, emerging from the land and integral to it.”

“You can walk up the path for the first time and not quite know where the line is between the park and the top of the building,” says Kim, who lives nearby and takes his two children to the park’s pair of skating rinks.

While thousands of green roofs now dot the United States, Miller doesn’t expect them to ever be as commonplace here as in Europe, where he says there is “an imperative to garden.”

“There’s a devotion to horticulture, and there’s more faith in Europe in general to undertake large public programs with the expectation that it’s going to create a substantial public good,” he says. “There’s much more forbearance when it comes to establishing regulations and criteria that would result in city greening laws to be visually and hydrologically transforming.”

That said, Miller helped to spawn a movement with a following all its own in America. There are now hundreds of green roof designers across the country, many of them “mom and pop” operations that take on smaller projects.

Older and wiser, Miller says he’s driven these days by a Zen-like “spiritual imperative,” a different kind of evangelism than his early days in the business. “I always used to lead with the engineering side, as in ‘We can make our cities work again. We can make them absorb water, and we can cure nuisance flooding and all sorts of things using this technology. And, oh, by the way, they’re pretty,’ ” he says.

“My company’s approach at this point is to say that you can have something on your home, on your business, in your city, or at your college that will be special and will create a unique environment that you will treasure. And it will allow you to understand what it is to be an urban dweller in a way that you may not have conceived it before.”

—Andrew Faught is a California-based freelance writer who has written widely on issues and ideas in higher education.

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The Dalai Lama Visits the U

Photo by August Miller

Photo by August Miller

The spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, the Dalai Lama spoke to a sold-out crowd at the Huntsman Center at the end of June. President David W. Pershing had the privilege of introducing His Holiness and honored him with a presidential medal and a visor with a U logo, which the Dalai Lama wore through most of his speech.

Addressing more than 8,000 people, the Buddhist leader spoke with enthusiasm, seriousness, and even humor as he shared his message of peace, compassion, and universal responsibility. The 80-year-old Nobel Prize winner explained that man creates violence and destroys peace and that prayer is not the answer, but action is. “Not God, but you have the responsibility to solve problems,” he said. He urged the audience to create a happier, more compassionate world. A peaceful world starts with one person, then families, then whole communities. “That’s the way to change society,” he said. “I feel it in my heart.”

The Dalai Lama explained that his friends who are scientists promise him that the basic human nature is compassion. “This gives me real hope,” he said. “If our basic nature is anger, then no hope.” When asked about climate change, he laughed and said to ask an expert, but offered this comment: “This blue planet is our only home. If it is damaged beyond repair, then we have no other choice but to be responsible for it.”

His main message, the answer to the meaning of life, was simple. “Serving others. Helping others.” Putting his teachings into action, the morning before his speech, the Dalia Lama visited with and blessed patients at the U’s Huntsman Cancer Institute.

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Renowed Ecologist Wins Rosenblatt Prize

_DSC2937James Ehleringer has received the most prestigious faculty award on campus—the Rosenblatt Prize for Excellence. A Distinguished Professor of biology, he was chosen for the $40,000 gift based on his outstanding teaching, research, and administrative efforts.

One of the most influential scientists in the world in plant ecology, Ehleringer was instrumental in developing the use of stable isotopes for ecological, geographical, geological, and anthropological studies. He created the Stable Isotope Ratio Facility for Environmental Research at the U and has been its director since 1984. During nearly 40 years at the U, he has produced more than 470 publications.

Ehleringer has a doctorate in biology from Stanford University and started teaching at the U in 1977. He served as biology department chair from 1993-96, and was made a Distinguished Professor in 2000. From 2009-15, he served as the founding director for the U’s Global Change and Sustainability Center, and he is currently a member of the Office of Sustainability leadership team.

Photo courtesy Kory Mortensen/U Athletic.

Photo courtesy Kory Mortensen/U Athletics

Leader of the Pac

To many college baseball pundits, the Utes did the unthinkable. They won the 2016 Pac-12 championship—in a conference that has produced 28 national champions (including two in the past four years). But what makes this feat truly impressive is the fact that just one year ago, the Utes finished dead last in the conference. It’s the first time a U men’s athletics team has won a Pac-12 championship since joining the conference in 2011 (Utah Gymnastics has won it twice). The title also clinched a berth in the NCAA postseason tournament, only Utah’s second appearance since 1960.

Last year, Utah Baseball won seven conference games. This year, they won eight series versus Pac-12 foes. Utah entered conference play with a 3-11 record. But as the weather warmed up, so did the Utes, starting the season on a 7-2 run and finishing with a program-best 18-11 Pac-12 record. For such a turnaround, Bill Kinneberg was named the Pac-12 Coach of the Year, four players were named to the All-Pac-12 Conference team, and three others were honorable mention picks.

The team played in the first round of the NCAA Division I Baseball Tournament, where they upset the host school and number one seed Ole Miss, then lost in double elimination to Boston College and Tulane.

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Moran Team Treats Patients in Micronesia

Moran sunglassesIn Micronesia, an island nation in the western Pacific, the population is more than 110,000 and the number of people with curable blindness is staggering. In addition to expensive or nonexistent health insurance and a cultural tendency to avoid wearing UV protective sunglasses, Micronesia had no ophthalmologists—until now. Dr. Padwick Gallen, who works at Pohnpei State Hospital, is the country’s only practicing ophthalmologist, thanks, in part, to his training with doctors from the University of Utah’s Moran Eye Center.

In late June, a team from Moran’s Global Outreach Division, led by glaucoma specialist Dr. Craig Chaya, volunteered their time in Pohnpei. Former Moran International Fellow and oculoplastics specialist Dr. Anya Gushchin trained Gallen in dacryocystorhinostomy (DCR) surgery to relieve a chronic condition that causes blocked tear ducts and is prevalent in Micronesia.

Working with Gallen, Moran’s team treated patients with nasolacrimal duct obstruction, cataracts, and pterygium (a growth on the surface of the eye strongly associated with chronic UV light exposure). By the end of their 12-day mission, they had completed 182 eye surgeries, and the smiling patients were wearing—with pride—UV protective sunglasses given to them by the outreach team.

Chemistry Professor Turns Ninja Warrior

IMG_1007-4In May, in front of national television cameras, 44-year-old U chemistry professor Janis Louie, with two degrees and three children behind her, stared down the toughest obstacle course she’d faced yet: American Ninja Warrior. Louie’s journey to the Ninja Warrior stage was a unique combination of athletic discipline, academic dedication, and maternal devotion.

A former gymnast, Louie has always loved to push herself physically and academically. At UCLA, she was a chemistry major and a cheerleader. In grad school at Yale, she delved deeper into chemistry, taught aerobics classes, and picked up bodybuilding.

Fast forward to five years ago, when she started her family while teaching chemistry at the U. “I had triplets, which does a number on your body,” she says. But she was determined to get back in shape, good enough shape that Ninja Warrior actually looked “fun” to her.

You can imagine what the producers thought when they saw on her application that she is a chemistry professor, mother of triplets, and fierce competitor. She was selected, and the intense training began.

“How many times as adults do we get the opportunity to put ourselves in a really uncomfortable situation where you can grow from it?” she says. At the competition, she cleared the first obstacle, but the second one took her out of the running. Her own takeaway from the experience, which she says she’d happily do again: “You’re never too old to try.”

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Stadium Gets New Sound System and Scoreboard

Football season just got even more exciting. Ute fans at Rice-Eccles Stadium this fall get to experience a new and greatly improved sound system and video scoreboard. The upgrades take the live game-watching experience up a notch while also reducing the noise disturbance to the surrounding community.

The stadium now has inward-facing speakers along its perimeter, directing sound toward the center of the bowl rather than sending it across the stadium. Previously, all speakers were mounted on the old scoreboard structure. Now there are 130 throughout the stadium, even in the bathrooms.

The freestanding LED scoreboard is 122 feet wide and 64 feet tall, and has 2.6 million pixels, making it one of the bigger boards in the country. It replaced a board that was more than 10 years old and was difficult and expensive to maintain. The screen is placed about 50 feet behind the south end zone to accommodate the possibility of any future changes to that area of the stadium. The $13.5 million for the upgrades was funded by Utah Athletics and Auxiliary Services, not from tuition or state funds.

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Recent Appointments

Andrew Weyrich has been named the U’s new vice president for research. Weyrich has been a major contributor to medical research at the U since becoming a faculty member in 1995. Most recently, he was associate dean for research at the School of Medicine, where he helped develop and implement a strategic research plan and oversaw core facilities, recruitment and retention efforts, and graduate programs. He holds an H.A. and Edna Benning Presidential Endowed Chair, a recognition honoring the university’s top medical researchers.

Sherrie Hayashi BS’88 JD’91 is the new director of the Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (OEO/AA). In this role, Hayashi also serves as the university’s Title IX and ADA/Section 504 coordinator. Hayashi is deeply committed to the principles of equal opportunity and nondiscrimination. Hayashi came to the U from the State of Utah, where she had served as the Utah labor commissioner since 2006.

H. David Burton BS’67 was unanimously voted in July to lead the University of Utah board of trustees. Burton is an emeritus general authority for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and also served as the church’s presiding bishop for 16 years. He has been on the U’s board of trustees since 2013. He has a degree in economics from the U and a master of business administration from the University of Michigan.

Doctoral Student Competes in Paralympics

ParaolympianChristopher Hammer, graduate teaching assistant and doctoral candidate in Exercise and Sport Science at the U, headed to his second Paralympics in September, in Rio. There, he joined the first triathlon event in Paralympic history—as a newbie to the sport.

Born with one hand, Hammer started as a runner. A four-time NCAA academic and track All-American (2006-09), he competed in the 2012 Paralympic Games (1,500 meter and marathon). Since then, he added biking and swimming to his athletic endeavors and dialed back on the running.

Hammer’s motto is: “Accept the challenges, so that you may feel the exhilaration of victory.” It was on a poster above his bed as a kid, he says, and he has internalized its message as an adult.

Also a husband and father, Hammer says he’s gotten good at balancing things in thirds—three events in his sport and three ways his personal life is being pulled. The U has offered him the unique opportunity to perfect that balance. “I’m fortunate to be a student and working toward a degree that will result in a career long after my athletic days are done,” he says. “I’ve also been able to combine my academic and athletic interests in my research, and that has been a rewarding experience.”

Hammer noted that he was looking forward to his second Paralympics and representing Team USA in Brazil. “No matter where we race, it is always a huge honor to wear the red, white, and blue,” he says.

A Big Splash


O n the best afternoons, on his way home from elementary school in Salt Lake City, there would be snowbanks and sunshine, and snow melt that rushed down the hill on 1500 East. The boy would kneel down and start rearranging the dirty piles of snow, making spillways and sluices and dams that took the water this way and that (including into large puddles that cars had to maneuver around, but oh well).


Mark Fuller

All of that was more than a half century ago. Still, all these years later, Mark Fuller is captivated by water and what he can make it do. “The closest thing the world has to a fountain genius” is the way The New Yorker described him a few years ago.

Fuller HBS’76 and his team at WET in Sun Valley, California, are the creators of famous water features including the Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas, the Olympic fountain at the 2014 Winter Games in Russia, and the largest fountain in the world, the 12-acre Dubai Fountain in the United Arab Emirates. This December, WET is adding two new water features in Dubai, including one at the Dubai Opera House, and several large projects in Asia that Fuller says he can’t talk about yet because he’s been sworn to secrecy.

It’s hard not to gush about what WET creates: the playful arcs and spouts that light up the night, the sensuous fans of water that look almost human as they sway and twirl, the jets that pulse to music and leap 50 stories into the air. As if the water was happy just being itself.


Fuller built his first permanent water feature, a three-foot-by-nine-foot pond, in his parents’ tiny backyard in Sugar House when he was in junior high. That success (i.e. his mother was thrilled) was followed by his first fountain.

“The floor of my basement was covered with garden hoses,” remembers his mom, Faye. “His Dad would shake his head and say, ‘Do you think anything will come of this,’ ” referring to not just the mess but also his son’s passions. “And I said, ‘Of course it will.’ ”

That first fountain, created with his grandfather, was a long concrete planter box next to the house and was powered by an old washing machine pump. “Mark always wanted to embellish everything,” his mother says, recalling how the next step was to put in electric lights. Can’t be done, said a woman at some store they went to. “So of course Mark went ahead and did it. He made them out of tomato juice cans.”

The Dubai Fountain was created by WET in 2009-10 and is considered the world’s largest choreographed fountain system.

The Dubai Fountain was created by WET in 2009-10 and is considered the world’s largest choreographed fountain system.

By the time he got to Highland High School (class of ’69), Fuller says, he was a classic nerd, a slight young man who did not excel in sports—but who today, as an illustrious alum, has a spot of honor in Highland’s showcase cabinet that also celebrates its all-state jocks.

At the University of Utah, he was a civil engineering major but stayed an extra year so he could take all the classes that intrigued him. He was president of the exhibition ballroom dance team. One year, for the theater department’s outdoor production of Agamemnon, he made a fake-stone altar that shot out a giant ball of fire when he pushed a button on a wireless garage door opener.

Here’s what he told an audience this past spring when he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the U: Ever since he was nine years old, he wanted to work at Disneyland. “This is what it must be like to be God, to create worlds as you imagine them and have the technical ability to do so,” he remembers thinking. And right out of graduate school at Stanford University, he did in fact work at the theme park. But perhaps the real Disneyland in his life, he said, was the University of Utah—“the Disneyland of knowledge and wonder and the endless possibilities that can be realized through the rich and near boundless intellectual riches on this campus.”

Fuller took enough theater classes at the U to nearly get him a double degree. He was initially attracted to the theater because he thought he could meet some pretty actresses. But he stayed because he liked the technical side, inspired by Bill Barber, then technical director at Pioneer Memorial Theatre, and Ron Crosby, the theater’s set designer, and director Clyde Vinson.

Mark Fuller was a U engineering student during the 1970s.

Mark Fuller was a U engineering student during the 1970s.

“He was always very creative and persistent; he always came up with new ways to do things,” remembers U emeritus professor of physics and astronomy Haven Bergeson. Mostly, Fuller worked with Bergeson outside of class, spending time helping with cosmic ray experiments in the Silver King mine in Park City, and designing a thing they named Prometheus, an electrical device that flickered as if it were a flame.

But the pivotal moment at the U came one day in a civil engineering class. He was sitting at the back of the room with his friends Dave Ayer HBS’76 MAr’79 and Lee Sim BS’76, watching an audiovisual about fluid mechanics, when all of a sudden a man on the screen was talking about laminar flow: the ability, under the right circumstances, of water to flow in a solid, glass-like rod. Hey, said Fuller, maybe we could do our senior honors thesis on that. The typical topics, he says, were things like sewage treatment plant design and storm culverts, but what he wanted to do was create his own really cool fountain.

They ended up making a 10-by-20- foot, four-stream arcing fountain out of cylinders and screens and hundreds of soda straws they cut into tiny pieces. They convinced a friend’s father to contribute a few hundred dollars, and then later to install the finished product in the Conquistador Apartments on 3300 South, making it the unlikely home of the first permanent laminar flow fountain in the world. It was removed when the building was remodeled years later. Who knew the kid was going to become famous?


Could there be a better name for a job than “Imagineer”? That was Fuller’s first job title after getting a master’s degree in mechanical engineering at Stanford in 1978; he was hired at Disney to develop rides at the California park and then create new works for the opening of the EPCOT Center in Florida. That’s when he came up with the Leapfrog Fountain outside the Journey into Imagination Pavilion.

“The one thing I think we recognized right away was that Mark was willing to take a chance,” recalls Marty Sklar, former president of Walt Disney Imagineering. “He wasn’t afraid of trying something nobody else had done before.” The Leapfrog Fountain used laminar flow, but instead of the water just moving in a solid, arcing rod, Fuller figured out how to make it jump from one spot to another.

After an offer from a Dallas developer to create a fountain at a new shopping center, and with work at EPCOT slowing down, Fuller and two of his colleagues, Melanie Simon and Alan Robinson, started WET (Water Entertainment Technology) in Los Angeles. But it was hard at first to convince other venues that a fountain would be worth their investment, and at one point they were so broke that 13 of Fuller’s credit cards had maxed out.

The problem was this: “Fountain” conjured up a bit of gurgling water that was often secondary to the statues and rocks around it. What Fuller, as CEO and chief cheerleader for WET, had to do was convince people that fountains could be playful and daring and emotional, and an asset to a building site—that fountains could in fact be a destination in themselves. Because water, he says, is “the world’s most magical substance.”

WET’s choreographed fountain at the City Creek Center mall in Salt Lake City debuted in spring 2012.

WET’s choreographed fountain at the City Creek Center mall in Salt Lake City debuted in spring 2012.

WET was the first to create the now ubiquitous fountains that spout up from pavement, and many of the innovations in fountain design that have followed. “I can say this humbly, I think,” says Fuller, “that modern fountains and their omnipresence are contributable to us.”

Everything changed for WET one day in 1995, with a phone call from Steve Wynn, who was creating the Bellagio Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas strip. Wynn’s landscape architect had seen the EPCOT Leapfrog Fountain and thought the two men should meet. The result was a $27 million contract to create what filmmaker Steven Spielberg later told Wynn was “the greatest single piece of public entertainment on Earth.”

Before the Fountains of Bellagio were officially opened to the public in 1998, there was a chain link fence around the lake, which meant people could peek in at the initial tests of the elaborate fountains. “The crowd was cheering and clapping,” Fuller remembers, “and Steve [Wynn] turned to me and said, ‘Do you realize there’s not a human performer out there?’ ”

Instead there were more than a hundred swaying streams and a thousand bursting jets of water, all precisely choreographed in time to music. (You can find many such displays on YouTube; one of the most spectacular is a nighttime fountain show choreographed to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” at the fountain in Dubai.)

All this spectacle is achieved using WET-designed and manufactured water devices (“shooters”), plus nozzle-clad robotic arms (“oarsmen”) that can move the water in any direction. To create the oarsman, Fuller had to first visualize what shapes it might make, so he had one of his engineers don a raincoat and then hold a hose over his head while twirling around on a spinning office chair.


“He’s the Willy Wonka of water,” says Fuller’s personal trainer, Eric Fleishman. “I’ve rarely met someone who is consistently in such a bubbly mood.”

Fleishman, who mostly trains Hollywood actors and their families, including Arnold Schwarzenegger’s, also oversees the free fitness programs at WET, with a list of classes that includes not just the usual yoga and aerobics but also boxing and ballroom dance. For those employees who tend to be more sedentary, Fuller sends trainers to their desks for workstation workouts.

WET is “a living museum of all the things I think are important,” he says. Employees get to take free classes in everything from physics to improv comedy, and work in a state-of-the-art space called “the Idea Playground.” The staff of 350 includes mechanical engineers, architects, animators, textile designers, graphic designers, choreographers, chemists, model builders, machinists, and optical engineers, who are all encouraged to brainstorm together.

U alum Mark Fuller makes a presentation about the Dubai Fountain’s design, in 2008.

U alum Mark Fuller makes a presentation about the Dubai Fountain’s design, in 2008.

Fuller owns more than 50 patents, but these days, he says, what he mostly does is “flit around pollinating” the ideas of his staff. One day not long ago, though, he was driving home to his wife and kids and had to pull over to the side of the road to write down five new ideas for an upcoming project in Shanghai.

“Make something that’s never been seen before,” Wynn told him when he hired him to create the Fountains of Bellagio 20 years ago, and the trick now is to keep doing that, to continually come up with something more surprising. Fuller’s fountains incorporate fire, and there is a water feature at the Las Vegas City Center that uses columns of ice that rise up, sculpted by tiny jets of water, and then submerge back into a black pool. But even the small projects are satisfying to create, Fuller says. “It’s not at all about the size. It’s about seeing people enchanted.”

The City Creek Center mall in downtown Salt Lake City has three WET fountains, including one in front of Nordstrom that performs small music-and-water shows and is entrancing but will probably never get a million views on YouTube. “This is my Norman Rockwell fountain,” Fuller says.

This is what he imagines: It’s Christmastime, a light snow is falling, and at dusk, some tired shoppers stand in front of the fountain with their packages. They see the water jumping up in the air, as if the water were a kid on a trampoline, and they smile.

Here’s maybe what it comes down to, all this inventing and choreographing and designing with water, he says: “I like making people feel more glad to be alive.”

—Elaine Jarvik is a Salt Lake City-based journalist and playwright and a frequent contributor to Continuum.

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From the Sidelines

By Ann Floor

Holly Rowe interviews Baylor University football player Bryce Petty (now with the NFL’s New York Jets) during a 2014 game. (Photo by Joe Faraoni/ ESPN Images)

Holly Rowe interviews Baylor University football player Bryce Petty (now with the NFL’s New York Jets) during a 2014 game. (Photo by Joe Faraoni/ ESPN Images)

Holly Rowe BA’04 has known from the time she was in fifth grade that she wanted to be a reporter. This year, she is celebrating her 20th year on the sidelines covering everything from volleyball, March Madness, and college softball to the World Series, gymnastics, and especially, college football for the ESPN sports television network. Her energy, enthusiasm, spunk, and just plain tenacity for getting the interview—her “great hustle”—have earned her high praise from her peers.

How did you become so interested in covering sports?
My father, Del B. Rowe [JD’60 ], loved sports. He took me to everything. We lived in Bountiful, Utah, and attended games during the U’s glory days of basketball with Jeff Judkins [BS’84], Jeff Jonas [BS’77], Danny Vranes [ex’81], and Tom Chambers [ex’77]. I can honestly say I am sports obsessed. I work covering sports about 45 weekends a year, and on my few weekends off, I attend sporting events. I just can’t help myself. I love it and feel so lucky to have a job that I feel so passionate about. I am one of those who has never “worked” a day in my life because I love what I do.

How did your broadcast journalism classes at the U help prepare you for your work as a sportscaster?
I had a wonderful professor, Louise Degn [ex’83], who was a tough critic on the stories we would do. I still hear her voice in my head saying, “No excuses!” She didn’t want to hear what went wrong—she just wanted to see a good story. This helped me get used to how real bosses and news directors work. And I was so proud to get an A in a basketball coaching class from Rick Majerus. He was great to me. I’ve always believed the letter of recommendation he wrote for me was the reason I got a pivotal internship that launched my career. When he died, I flew to Milwaukee to attend his funeral because I am just so grateful that he took the time to help me in what turned out to be a crucial stepping stone in my career.

What was one of your more memorable interviews? 
I once interviewed Indianapolis Colts tight end Dallas Clark through the ear hole in his helmet because fans had rushed the field and he didn’t want to take it off. I grabbed his facemask and screamed in his ear holes so he could hear me. It was hilarious and crazy. It’s everyone for themselves out there—you have to fight for your interview. Another time, hundreds of fans stormed the basketball court at Kansas State when they beat the Kansas Jayhawks in an upset, so to avoid getting crushed, I got pulled up on the scoring table along with some of the players and did an interview with Thomas Gipson. I was wedged between him and another player above a sea of screaming fans, the table wobbling under me. At the time, it seemed totally normal, but when I see it on video… not so much. And as my longtime broadcast partner Brent Musburger told me, “Hey, it’s show business, baby!”

You do media training with college athletes around the country to prepare them to do well in interviews. What do they tend to need the most help with?
So many people don’t realize how they come across on camera, so I like to do one-on-one sessions where we tape the interview and then watch it together. It allows us to make quick, lasting fixes that will help them present themselves better to the media. The number one problem is the use of “uh” or “you know” multiple times when they respond to a question. It’s a habit they don’t even know they have. And there’s often a lot of rocking back and forth. They need to be strong. We also go over how their social media posts can influence others’ opinion about them before they even meet. I urge the athletes to be sure that what they are posting reflects the true image they want to present. I have had many coaches tell me they quit recruiting kids after seeing what they post on social media—a good lesson to remember.

What do you enjoy most about your job?
Everything! I have met some of the most amazing people—from Pat Summitt to LeBron James. I still have the paycheck stub from the first interview I did with Michael Jordan when I earned $25 as a stringer for Chicago Radio. I am passionate about finding and telling compelling stories. It makes me happy. And of course the games. There’s nothing like competition.

Ann Floor is an associate editor of Continuum.

Ed. note: In early 2016, Rowe found herself undergoing a second surgery to remove a tumor from her chest. Read a February 2016 update on Rowe in the Inquisitr news feature here.

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A Home in the Opera

By Marcia C. Dibble


Hugo Vera performs in La Traviata at Philadelphia’s City Center Opera Theater in 2013, with Jennifer Holbrook. (Photos courtesy Hugo Vera)

Now in his seventh season with The Metropolitan Opera, tenor Hugo Vera got his start with the Met as an understudy in a production of From the House of the Dead in 2009, when they invited him to audition after a scout saw him perform at the Chautauqua Music Festival. Since then, the University of Utah alum has sung (or waited in the wings as an understudy) in more than 100 performances with the Met, including a turn as the messenger in Aida that he counts among his most memorable “because I got the pleasure and honor of being conducted by the famous tenor Plácido Domingo, who is my all-time idol.”


Hugo Vera

Vera BMu’95 (magna cum laude) didn’t set out to become an opera singer—or any kind of singer, as a matter of fact. “I actually never sang before going to the U,” he says. His roommate at the time needed a one credit hour class, decided choir was a good option, and convinced Vera to audition with him.

“When I auditioned, I was asked if I would be interested in taking voice lessons,” Vera recalls. “I needed another one credit hour to fill, so I said yes.”

Vera, who was then a communication major and a member of the U speech and debate team, eventually changed his major to vocal performance. He had long loved music, and he played the saxophone with the wind ensemble, marimba ensemble, and marching band both in high school and at the U. His parents were also both amateur musicians—his mother a singer and his father a percussionist.

Vera had initially planned to attend college in his home state of Texas but changed his mind soon after visiting friends in Salt Lake City. “I took a tour of the University of Utah and just fell in love with the school, area, and people—so I stayed,” he recalls. At the U, Vera worked with professor and professional tenor Robert Breault, who in addition to teaching also continues to perform nationally and internationally, with companies including New York City Opera, Bayerischer Rundfunk Symphonieorchester, and Opéra de Nice. “He took the voice/opera program to the next level and truly challenged me as a singer and performer,” Vera says.

After receiving his music degree at the U, Vera continued his training with noteworthy young-artist programs, including the Aspen Opera Theater Center and Glimmerglass Opera. He eventually went on to receive master’s and doctoral degrees in music—both with honors—from the University of Kansas.

Over the years, Vera has performed important principal roles including Manrico (Il Trovatore), Cavaradossi (Tosca), Pinkerton (Madama Butterfly), Faust (Faust), Alfredo (La Traviata), and Radames (Aida, in a role perhaps most famously performed by Domingo). But his favorite role is Don José from Carmen—which he has performed with The Aspen Opera Theatre, Opera North, GLOW Lyric Theatre, LOLA, and (just this past August) the Lawrence Opera Theatre in Kansas, where he is general and artistic director. He also maintains a schedule as a soloist with orchestras across the country, and he has performed at the Spoleto and Tanglewood festivals and soloed at Carnegie Hall.

Vera maintains a private voice studio in New York City and remains on the roster at the Met. He also started a new permanent position this August as assistant professor of voice at the University of Arizona. “The title of my position at UA is artist in residence, so part of that is to continue to keep performing,” notes Vera. “So, I am feeding both my teaching and performing needs.”

His concerts this fall include Carmina Burana at Concordia Santa Fe on September 20, a solo with the Arizona Symphony Orchestra on November 17, and Messiah with the El Paso Choral Society on December 12. He even makes it back to Utah on occasion and last fall was an artist in residence at Westminster College. During his stay, he had an opportunity to visit Gardner Hall on the U’s campus, he says. “My how it was changed!”

Marcia Dibble is managing editor of Continuum.

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Alumni Board Welcomes Six New Directors

The University of Utah Alumni Association has six new members of its Board of Directors, as well as new presidents for three of its affiliated boards. The new members and leaders were introduced by board President Julie Barrett BA’70 and Vice President Scott Verhaaren BA’90 MBA’91 at the association’s annual board meeting in May.

The new directors are John Dunn, Matthew Gregory, Annie Nebeker, Joseph Sargetakis, Carolyn Schubach, and John Ward.

John DunnDunn BA’92 JD’95 is president and chief executive officer of Metro Ready Mix, a Utah-based concrete company, and the founder and managing director of the investment firm Banyan Ventures. He received an undergraduate degree in political science and went on to graduate from the U’s College of Law.

Matt GregoryGregory BS’85 is the chief sales officer for Arches Health Plan. He has had a long career in the health care insurance industry and prior to joining Arches was a vice president with Leavitt Benefits Practice Group from 2001 to 2013.

AnnieNebekerNebeker HBA’87 PhD’10 is a clinical social worker with the Breast Cancer Clinic at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. She previously served as the U’s dean of students from 2007 to 2013. She holds a bachelor’s degree and a doctorate from the U, as well as a master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

JoeSargetakis2Sargetakis BA’80 is a co-owner of Frog Bench Farms, which supplies organic produce to farm-to-table restaurants in Salt Lake City. He also is the distribution manager for Parallel Wines. Prior to those endeavors, he was a vice president and financial advisor with Morgan Stanley from 1998 to 2006 and an account vice president with Kidder Peabody/Paine Webber from 1987 to 1998. He received his bachelor’s degree at the U in organizational communications.

Carolyn SchubachSchubach MEd’72 has had an accomplished career as a K-12 educator and most recently served as the associate director for Advanced Learning and Dual Immersion Programs for Granite School District. In June, she became director for dual language immersion programs statewide for the Utah State Office of Education. She received her master’s degree in education from the U.

John Ward 2015Ward BS’82 has been the chief financial officer for Harmons Grocery since 2000. Previously, he was president of the HealthGroup, a manufacturer and seller of medical products. He holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from the U and an MBA from Westminster College.

The Alumni Association also welcomed three new presidents of its affiliated boards. Jim Cannon BA’68 is now president of the Emeritus Alumni Board. Gail Ellison BA’12 leads the Beehive Honor Society Board. And Mary Neville is the new president of the Student Alumni Board.

U Graduates Form Brazil Alumni Club

Pão de Açúcar

The University of Utah now has a Brazil Alumni Club. Graduates in and from Brazil formed the club this spring, bringing the total number of U international alumni clubs to 11.

The U has 144 Brazilian alumni, and 80 students from Brazil are enrolled at the University this year. The president of the new Brazil Alumni Club is Jefferson Dias da Silva BS’07, who lives in São Paulo. After receiving his undergraduate degree in information systems at the U, he went on to get an MBA from Florida Christian University, and he now works as a channel and product manager for Hewlett-Packard in Brazil.

The U Brazil Alumni Club also has three board members: Chase Olson BA’13, who lives in Campinas; Mark Neeleman BA’05, in Florionopolos; and Berthold Kriegshäuser PhD’97, in Rio de Janeiro. Olson, who received his degree from the U in international studies with an emphasis in Latin America, works as a client retention leader for Vigzul, a security service company based in Campinas. Neeleman, whose U degree also is in international studies, has been involved in several entrepreneurial endeavors since graduation and now is founder and executive director of Bamazon Technologies, a company that develops bamboo for use as a wood replacement, with the aim of helping halt the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. Kriegshäuser, who received his doctorate in geophysics from the U, manages geoscience and reservoir navigation teams across Latin America for Baker Hughes, an oilfield service company.

The U currently has 10 other alumni clubs, along with the new Brazil club, in China, Europe, Hong Kong, India, Mongolia, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, and Vietnam.

Get Ready for Two Away-Game Tailgates

GB9A5074Join the University of Utah Alumni Association for two away-game tailgate parties for the 2015 football season! The events will be held at two Pac-12 venues: the University of Southern California and the University of Washington.

The Official Utah Tailgate at USC will be held Saturday, October 24, near the stadium in Los Angeles. The tailgate party for the Washington game will take place Saturday, November 7, in Seattle. Both tailgate parties will begin two hours prior to kickoff.

The tailgates will include a full buffet with food and beverages, as well as prizes, giveaways, Utah merchandise, music, and more. For prices and registration, visit

U Alumni Gather for European Reunion in Salzburg


About 40 University of Utah alumni from eight countries attended this year’s U European Alumni Reunion in Salzburg, Austria, along with U President David W. Pershing and his wife, Sandi. Alumni from Austria, Armenia, Belgium, Egypt, Germany, Romania, Ukraine, and the United States gathered for the festivities that were held May 23 and 24.

The reunion included a walking tour of the historical section of Salzburg, with visits to St. Andrä Church at Mirabellplatz and the house where composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born. At the historic Stiegl Brauwelt Brewery, the alumni heard from the Pershings. The president spoke about recent developments at the University in academics, medicine, and research, as well as the U’s international activities. Sandi Pershing, the U’s assistant vice president for engagement, then presented the annual award for contributions to the European Alumni Club to Elke Binder, from Austria. Binder, who was an exchange student at the U in 1993-94, has attended eight previous reunions and helped organize the 2004 Vienna reunion.

The U alumni also listened to a presentation from U law professor Wayne McCormack, who spoke about scholarship and teaching of international law at the University of Utah. Nelly Divricean BS’09 MS’12, the U Alumni Association’s international alumni relations manager, then announced the first two recipients of European Alumni Club scholarships: Alina Safargalina, from Russia, who is seeking a doctorate in linguistics, and Jelena Cingara from Serbia, who is pursuing a doctorate in piano performance.

The new European Alumni Club president and board members also were introduced. Peter Huber MS’96, an alum from Germany who received his degree in medical informatics from the U, will serve as the club’s president. Kasper Grann, who was a U exchange student in 2009 from Denmark, and Helgi Geirhardsson MS’87, an alum from Iceland who received her engineering degree at the U, are now board members, along with ongoing board member Alexandra Kaul BS’87 MBA’88, from Germany.

Through the Years: Class Notes


Hauck_620_748Paul A. Hauck MA’51 PhD’53 recently received the 2014 Albert Ellis Humanitarian Award for his contributions to the field of mental health. Hauck, a psychologist who practices in the northwestern Illinois and southeastern Iowa areas, was instrumental in the development of cognitive behavior therapy. His 16 popular psychology “how to” books, which have been translated into a score of languages, remain top sellers today. The award is presented each year by the New York-based Albert Ellis Institute, a psychotherapy training institute. Ellis was the founder of cognitive behavior therapy, which treats issues including anxiety, depression, jealousy, and emotional behavioral problems by teaching coping skills for current and future problems. Most of Hauck’s books are based on that approach. Hauck received both his master’s and doctoral degrees in psychology from the University of Utah.


TTY_fall_15_Ron ColemanRonald G. Coleman BS’66 PhD’80, a history professor in the University of Utah’s College of Humanities and a former U associate vice president for diversity and faculty development, was one of three honored with a 2015 Humanitarian Award by the Inclusion Center for Community and Justice. The Salt Lake City-based center’s award recognizes individuals and organizations that are involved in building inclusive communities. Coleman received a bachelor’s degree in sociology at the U; a master’s degree in social science (history emphasis) at California State University, Sacramento; and a doctorate in history at the U. He joined the U faculty in 1973 and has also served as coordinator of the Ethnic Studies Program. His primary research focus is African American history in Utah and beyond.


TTY_fall_15_Randy Danielsen_3Randy D. Danielsen BS’78 has received the Eugene A. Stead Award of Achievement, the highest award presented by the American Academy of Physician Assistants. The award honors lifetime achievement that has had a significant impact for patients and the profession itself. Danielsen was recognized as a national physician-assistant leader and clinician, and for his accomplished career as an educator and editor. He began his health care career in 1970 as a medical corpsman and served 28 years with the Air Force and the Army National Guard. He received a bachelor’s degree in health at the U, a master’s degree in physician assistant studies from the University of Nebraska, and a doctorate in interdisciplinary arts and education from the Union Institute & University. In 1995, he began teaching in Wichita State University’s physician assistant program. He currently is dean of the Arizona School of Health Sciences and an adjunct associate professor at Nova Southeastern University.

TTY_fall_15_Steve Morgan_2Stephen R. Morgan BA’78 has been selected as president of Westminster College of Salt Lake City. Appointed by the college’s board of trustees, he becomes the school’s 18th president when he is inaugurated in September. A fixture at the college of 3,000 students for 30 years, Morgan has served as acting president since February. As vice president of institutional advancement, he is credited with building the college’s endowment to more than $70 million and overseeing fundraising for major construction projects at Westminster. Prior to his employment at the college, Morgan was controller for Weidner Communications and a senior auditor for Coopers & Lybrand. He received his bachelor’s degree at the U in accounting.


TTY_fall_15_Salam NoorSalam Noor PhD’98, former director of academic planning and policy for the Higher Education Coordinating Commission in the state of Oregon, has been appointed by Governor Kate Brown to lead the Oregon Department of Education. He began in his new position in July. Noor, a first-generation immigrant from Jordan, previously was assistant superintendent and chief academic officer for the Salem-Keizer School District, Oregon’s second largest in enrollment. He is credited with helping improve graduation rates and provide opportunities that engage students and help them prosper beyond high school. “Throughout his career, Salam has shown that he can engage diverse stakeholders in an authentic way and deliver results,” Brown says. Noor received a bachelor’s degree in international relations and a master’s degree in public administration from Eastern Washington University, and a doctorate in political science and Middle East studies from the University of Utah. He also has a certificate from the Executive Leadership Program at Harvard University.


TTY_fall_15_Aida-headshotAida Neimarlija BA’03 BS’03 JD’08 was named the Utah State Bar’s 2015 Young Lawyer of the Year. She is an attorney in the law firm of Burbidge Mitchell & Gross, where she has litigated cases in both state and federal courts, including disputes dealing with intellectual property, real estate, catastrophic personal injury and wrongful death, and legal malpractice. During law school, she interned at the Securities and Exchange Commission and served as a judicial extern in the Utah Court of Appeals. Neimarlija also interned at the Special Department for War Crimes of the Prosecutor’s Office in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. She recently served as president of Women Lawyers of Utah, where she created a mentoring program to encourage and better prepare qualified diverse lawyers to apply to the bench. She received two bachelor’s degrees, in economics and political science, from the University of Utah before going on to graduate from the U’s S.J. Quinney College of Law.

To submit alumni news for consideration, email Learn about even more outstanding University of Utah alumni—from Pixar founder Ed Catmull to Kansas City Chiefs QB Alex Smith—here.