All That Jazz: Ric Ryder ’84

Like so many times in his life before, Ric Ryder moved to the edge of the stage. The lights came up, and a round of applause sounded throughout the audience.

Instead of bowing, however, the Broadway veteran took a step back and clapped along with the crowd for a student named Michael, who just sang 16 bars of “Why Should I Wake Up?” from the musical Cabaret for the second time.

“With only 16 bars, you want to end that BIG,” said Ryder, who taught a one-day master class in vocal performance at UMBC last semester. “Let the voice do it…you don’t need to wave your arms on that final note. There’s a big difference, right?”

Musical Beginnings

A Baltimore native, Ryder grew up enjoying everything musical. As a high schooler, he studied voice on scholarship at the Peabody Conservatory. When he came to UMBC, he did so with one driving motive – to make vocal performance his career. When he graduated in 1984, he felt technically and emotionally prepared.

“What UMBC gave me is that when I graduated, I was really a proficient musician. I really had the skills to be able to compete,” said Ryder, who has since performed everywhere from cruise ships to the Holy Grail of musical theater – Broadway.

“If I went to an audition, and they wanted me to sight read something, I could do it quickly and accurately,” he said. “The sooner you get that technical stuff out of the way, the sooner you can be able to act the song. In terms of singing, there wasn’t anything that I couldn’t do, that I couldn’t accomplish.”

Like many actors, Ryder worked his way up the chain of performance. His first job in musical theater was at Opryland USA, where he performed jazz and other standards four shows a day, six days a week. Later on, he took on a role in Barnum on the SS Norway, a passenger ship. Looking back, he is glad for his pre-New York experiences.

“Doing three to four shows a day in the hot Tennessee valley sun, you learn your threshold, what you’re capable of, how to pace yourself,” he said. “I was interested in working. And that was work that paid the bills.”

Success in the Big Apple

Since moving to New York in 1987, Ryder has found jobs in regional theater, touring companies and on Broadway. He performed in the well-received Broadway musical Starmites, which received seven Tony nominations, as well as Blood Brothers, The Music Man and Grease! in which he portrayed Doody.

“I audition all the time,” said Ryder, who shows no signs of slowing. “It’s just an ongoing process. You’re always looking for the next job. Even while you’re doing a job, you’re still auditioning, maybe looking for a job to replace that job. It never ends.”

Ryder currently works as a private voice teacher and gives master classes similar to the one he gave at UMBC. During the summer, he works at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts Collaborative Artists Project 21, better known as CAP 21.

Tips for the Broadway Hopeful

Ryder put his teaching skills to work at his UMBC master class. Working with a handful of music majors, he offered suggestions on posture and expression through song. He even sang a couple of his own favorite songs – “Out There,” from The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and “Maria,” from West Side Story.

As for tips for the Broadway hopefuls, he offered students the following: be well-rounded; be prepared; be passionate. He encouraged the students to take advantage of opportunities during school and beyond.

“I think college is a good experience,” said Ryder. “You get as much out of the training as you put into it, and you want to get as much out of it as possible.”

– by Melissa Gilden ’10
Originally published June 2007

Striving for Social Change: Diane Bell McKoy ’73

For anyone with anything less than a “half-full” attitude about the potential for positive social change, Diane Bell McKoy has one unwavering response.

“Challenges are just opportunities,” said the 1973 sociology graduate, who serves as president and CEO of Associated Black Charities, a Baltimore non-profit devoted to making African-American individuals and families economically self-sufficient. She is also a member of UMBC’s Alex. Brown Entrepreneurship Center Advisory Board.

“I love challenges, as it relates to improving outcomes within the community,” said Bell McKoy, who is organizing a major gala in June to support ABC’s efforts. “I am hooked on trying to figure out pieces of the puzzle to make major social changes.”

An Agenda of Empowerment

Bell McKoy came to UMBC after learning of its social work program and its connection with the University of Maryland Graduate School of Social Work. She first became interested in social work when her field placement advisor noted that her social and communication skills would be helpful in such work.

“She noticed my ability to decipher and pick up on issues and emotions and translate those to lead people to help,” said Bell McKoy, a native of Washington, D.C.

Following her graduation from UMBC, Bell McKoy earned her master’s degree in social work in 1975. Although she spent some time as a case worker, she eventually found her calling in the administrative side of social work, spending ten years with Empower Baltimore Management Corporation, then serving as a senior fellow with the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

There, she developed a different level of patience to focus on using resources of relationships in the African-American community to further enhance her social change agenda. She also created a program called “More in the Middle,” which works to develop a greater African-American middle class, and pays attention to improving the outcome of low wealth African-Americans.

“Challenges Are Just Opportunities”

Bell McKoy started her work at Associated Black Charities in November 2006. In addition to instilling positive economic goals, ABC also serves to educate African-Americans on how they can make a difference in their community by contributing their time and talents to various projects. The work is never boring and always fulfilling.

“ABC has continued to stretch me, stretch my thinking, stretch my ability to connect in relationships,” said Bell McKoy.

“I see people get disconnected, and the reality is, if we all aren’t trying to pay attention to make a difference, then we can’t become a strong economic state and sustain that over time,” she said. “It’s not about being black, it’s about bringing together a stronger community, a stronger country, whether it’s African-American, Latino, or whatever minority group. If we’re not trying to close that gap, then we’re not trying to make America strong”.

ABC is one of five national organizations to receive the 2007 National Leadership in Action Award from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, which recognizes outstanding philanthropic work done in minority communities by non-profit organizations.

Blazing the Trail for all Entrepreneurs

Over the years, Bell McKoy has contributed to her alma mater in a variety of ways. As a member of the Alex. Brown Center Advisory Board, which strives to infuse the university with the attitude, activities and ideas that will inspire entrepreneurial accomplishment in all its forms, she has found a way of combining her work and volunteer lives.

“Entrepreneurs have a focused agenda, and having those critical thinking skills like an entrepreneur is important,” for just about everyone, she said.

In addition, Bell McKoy is one of the original founders of UMBC’s Second Generation Scholarship, which is given annually for undergraduates who demonstrate a commitment to the advancement of minorities. She also spoke in the video shown at UMBC’s 40th anniversary celebration, crediting UMBC with further developing her critical thinking skills, her analytical skills, and her ability to translate those skills into a strategic mindset, which is extremely important in running an organization like ABC.

Although her work is often difficult, Bell McKoy thrives knowing she’s making an impact.

“We currently have a limited staff, so like any entrepreneur, I’m doing multiple jobs,” she said. “I don’t believe in stress. I believe that I’m blessed and highly favored. I love challenges.”

– by Melissa Gilden ’10
Originally posted May 2007

Sibling Revelry: The Hughes Family Five

For the Hughes family, nothing says “way of life” quite like the letters “UMBC.”

Over the course of three decades, five out of eight Hughes siblings – J. Barry ’71, history; Stephen ’76, economics; Kevin ’79, economics; Brian ’80, mathematics; and Maureen Hughes Shields ’85, American studies – worked their way through college, eventually earning the first college degrees in their family’s history.

“The decision to attend UMBC was a no-brainer,” said J. Barry Hughes ’71, history, who currently serves as Judge of the Circuit Court for Carroll County. “Having the five of us live at home during college also kept us closer growing up… and we remain a close-knit family.”

Small Beginnings

The Hughes’ eight children grew up in a tiny Cape Cod in Relay, Md., and attended local Catholic elementary and high schools. In 1967, when the time came to attend college, son Barry started looking into the brand-new school down the street – UMBC.

Attending UMBC made it possible for the Hughes siblings to work while attending school, as well as continue to live at home. Even as college students, they had to squeeze into the house’s two small bedrooms – five boys in one, three girls in the other. Despite the tight quarters, an educational spirit drove the family.

“Much of the dinner table conversation (back then) centered around issues or ideas we were studying in school,” including women’s liberation and war, said Stephen, who acted in a number of plays (at one point he ran lines with former student Kathleen Turner) during college and after law school became a founding partner at Pope & Hughes.

Haven’t I Seen You Before?

Although each sibling’s college years were spaced out considerably from the others, they did overlap occasionally.

During his later years, brother Kevin – now a self-employed Certified Public Accountant – recalls having some trouble registering for classes due to his freshman brother Brian’s unpaid parking fines. (“Sorry, Kevin!” writes Brian, now a professor of electrical and computer engineering at North Carolina State University.)

Kevin also was able to use some of his elder brother Stephen’s books.

“He still had some of his notes from the classes he took,” he said, joking, “and most of his textbooks looked like they had never been opened!”

A True Family Affair

Once youngest daughter Maureen was ready for college, all her brothers had already graduated. She did, however, find a new kind of family in the faculty of UMBC. Close to leaving school to get married her junior year, Maureen found the support she needed to graduate after all.

“Tupper Webster, Nita Barbour and Mary Duru were such mentors and role models,” said Mrs. Shields, who went on to become an educational diagnostician. “They went above and beyond for me so that I could complete my senior year.”

In addition, brother Brian met his future wife, the former Linda B. Walden ’81, mathematics, at UMBC. The couple will celebrate 27 years of marriage this year.

Even beyond the five graduates, other members of the Hughes family have not been able to resist the pull of classes at UMBC. Sister Lil Hughes Knipp attended for a couple of semesters before finishing her degree elsewhere, and several of the siblings children have either applied to UMBC or will soon be Retrievers themselves.

The spirit even inspired the family matriarch, Lillian.

“Our parents, and particularly our mother, were fascinated by the new world of ideas that was opening up before us,” said Stephen. “It was a time of great debate and discussion in our household. This was so true, that after shepherding five children through UMBC, my mother enrolled and took several UMBC courses!”

– Jenny O’Grady
Originally posted April 2007

To Protect and To Serve: Bob Garrity ’73

After more than 30 years with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bob Garrity has pretty much seen it all.

He has traveled the country as an agent, worked on high profile cases, and helped to steer the organization into the highly-technical 21st century. It’s no wonder he’s still excited about the job after all these years.

“I consider myself very fortunate in that even after 30 years of serving as a Special Agent, I still jump out of bed each morning and look forward to going to work,” said the 1973 sociology and psychology double-major graduate. “Like many FBI Agents, I don’t consider this a job; to me it’s a calling.”

Garrity, who currently serves as Deputy Chief Information Officer and Business Progress Reengineering Executive for the FBI, will detail elements of his work when he headlines UMBC’s upcoming Visionaries in Information Technology Forum March 29 at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel.

A Strong Background

Like many UMBC students, Garrity was born in Baltimore. He met his future wife, the former Shirley McPhee ’74, psychology, and her sister, the former Linda McPhee ’74, psychology, during an Eagle Scout ceremony put on by his Boy Scout troop. After graduating from Parkville High School in 1970, he made the choice to attend UMBC based on the small class sizes.

He had hoped to play lacrosse, as well, but the need to work part-time to pay for college and living expenses cut seriously into practice time. Instead, he concentrated on school and work.

“So much for my lacrosse career!” he said.

Following graduation, Garrity attended the University of Baltimore, School of Law. In 1974, he and Shirley married. The following year he earned his law degree, and the year after that entered the New Agents Class at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. He subsequently earned a master’s degree in public administration while in the FBI.

Thirty Years, Ten Transfers

One of the things about the FBI Garrity most appreciates is the fact that it always keeps him on his toes. Transferring from office to office every few years certainly helps with that.

After training in Quantico, he served in field offices in Savannah and Statesboro, Ga., New York (where he first started dealing with foreign counterintelligence, specifically the Soviet Military Intelligence), Washington, D.C., Dallas, Texas, and Jackson, Miss.

In addition to working with counterintelligence against the KGB, Garrity had a major role in shaping policies and procedures following the conviction of former Special Agent Robert Hanssen of espionage. In July 2001, he also oversaw assessment of records management during the latter half of the Oklahoma City bombing trial. He has served in his current position, in which he identifies business practices most in need of re-engineering, since 2005.

“There is an endless amount of variety in the work I have been privileged to perform, and all of it has been exciting, important work,” he said.

“Nearly everything we do has a significant impact on the citizens of this great country. The FBI has an incredibly important and diverse mission, so there is never a dull moment.”

The Future of the FBI

Looking at its nearly 100-year history of intelligence-gathering, Garrity is more than aware of the FBI’s need to stay ahead of the curve. During his talk at the Visionaries event, he will discuss the challenges and opportunities the FBI has faced and will continue to face in a post-September 11th world.

“It is more important than ever that the FBI transform itself from a post-crime, investigative agency to a pre-crime, preventative agency,” he said.

“The whole paradigm of how we operate has changed. It is no longer acceptable to wait for another act of terrorism and then find, arrest and bring to trial the guilty. We must do all that we can, in collaboration with our international, federal, state, local and tribal partners to prevent the next act of terrorism.”

– Jenny O’Grady
Originally posted March 2007

Love at First Byte: Lisa D. Price ’87 & Dwayne A. Price ’87

It’s freshman orientation 1983 and your parents have dropped you off way too early. So, what do you do to pass the time while the other students arrive?

Do you study? Tour the campus? Twiddle your thumbs quietly?

If you’re like Lisa and Dwayne Price, you very well might fall in love.

“Dwayne was almost literally the first guy I laid eyes on at UMBC,” said the former Lisa Dates, who, like her husband, arrived on campus very early.

“We got to know each other during the orientation, remained friends, and later started dating in the second semester of freshman year.”

Made for each other

After they met, it didn’t take Lisa and Dwayne long to figure out they had a lot in common. Both grew up in Prince George’s County, MD. Both were active students. And both planned to major in Information Systems at UMBC.

While at UMBC, the couple threw themselves into their studies while making plenty of time for fun student activities. Dwayne played an array of intramural sports – tennis, table tennis, basketball (for which Lisa acted as a cheerleader) and football. Lisa took on duties with the Office of Residential Life, organized events like UMBC’s first water gun fight, and volunteered as a “sweetheart” for the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity. She also worked with the Federal Aviation Administration as a Cooperative Education student.

Still, being together was the best activity of all.

“In terms of romance, walking the campus loop was a favorite activity for us, when we weren’t studying,” said Lisa.

Achieving their goals

Two years after graduating from UMBC, Lisa and Dwayne married. Already deep into their blossoming careers in IT, they decided to return to school to earn their master’s degrees before having children.

“We both understand and appreciate the opportunities education brings,” said Dwayne. “We both started graduate school part-time within a few years after earning our undergraduate degrees. We achieved our goal of earning our advanced degrees before we started our family.”

Over time, Lisa earned her master’s in IT from Johns Hopkins and a project management certificate from George Washington University. Dwayne also earned a master’s in IT from Bowie State University.

The decision paid off for both. Today, Dwayne is director of information technology for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and Lisa is director of IT project management for the Board of Education of Prince George’s County Public Schools. In addition, in 2003 Lisa was selected from a nationwide pool as a participant in the American Society of Association Executives’ Diversity Executive Leadership Program. She also served a term on the UMBC Alumni Association Board of Directors.

“I enjoy the continued ability to apply technology to the field of education,” said Lisa of her job. “It’s particularly gratifying to support my own community and county. However, the best part of my job is collaborating with my staff, an excellent, hardworking team that rises to any challenge.”

The secret to their success

So what’s the trick to staying happily in love for nearly 20 years? For the Prices, it’s family, commitment, honesty, humor and faith.

“Our shared Christian faith is essential to our marriage,” said Dwayne. “And we really do believe we were made for each other.”

The couple has two children (or “future UMBC alums,” as the Prices call them), son Devin, 13, and daughter Layne, 12. Devin shares the name of friend and fellow UMBC alumnus, Devin Walker, and Layne’s name – crafted during their college days – is a combination of her parents’ first names, a constant reminder of their special union.

“The friendship, love, and respect that we experienced in courtship continue to be the hallmarks of our marriage,” said Lisa. “As my husband and friend, Dwayne is the very best souvenir I could have received from UMBC…in addition to the excellent education, of course!”

– Jenny O’Grady
Originally posted February 2007

Behind the Scenes: Josef Novotny ’04

Every year, swarms of talented singers, dancers and aspiring filmmakers move to Los Angeles looking for a chance at stardom.

A meager few actually do it, seeming to instantly top the charts and clog the tabloids. Many more fail, finding the road to celebrity too difficult.

Then there are the patient ones, like former UMBC tennis standout Josef Novotny ’04. Using his skills on the courts to network and secure odd jobs on the sets of movies like Eli Roth’s “Hostel: Part II,” he has begun the long climb to fulfilling his dream of becoming a filmmaker.

“When I moved to LA, I found out (again) that playing tennis was one of the best things to ever happen to me in regards of selling my resume in an extremely competitive field, looking for a job, paying rent, and networking,” said Novotny, a native of Sokolov in the Czech Republic, who believes the pressures of the sport prepared him well for the stress of working in the film industry.

“Competitive sports make you a thick-skinned fighter,” he said. “Viva student athletes!”

Everything In One Place

So how did Novotny make the big leap from the Czech Republic to UMBC? Just like in Hollywood, where buzz can make or break a film, word of mouth led Novotny to Catonsville.

“I wanted to make movies, study, play tennis and travel,” he said. After talking to a friend who already attended UMBC, Novotny realized he could do it all in one place.

“I applied to UMBC and submitted a film portfolio to the film department and was admitted,” he said. “Meanwhile, I was offered a tennis scholarship without which I could not afford to attend UMBC, and that was it. I was in.”

While a student, Novotny more than earned his scholarship. He ranked number one among his teammates in men’s singles tennis, becoming a champion at the Cornell Invitational twice over and winning the Matt Skalsky Outstanding Scholar Athlete Award, having climbed to #4 overall in the Northeast regional rankings his senior year.

The Real World

Following graduation, Novotny made a leap yet again, this time moving to Los Angeles. Instead of landing his dream job right away, though, he took advantage of his expertise in tennis as a means of networking.

“I started looking for jobs within the film industry, of course, but that didn’t happen right away,” he said. “I got myself an afternoon job at one of the many country clubs as a tennis pro. [It was] a very good place to meet the right people.”

Soon after, Novotny landed a job in the mailroom of the William Morris Agency, a talent and literary agency. He then moved up the ladder a bit to the agency’s independent film department, where he was able to read submitted scripts and help out with the buying, selling and packaging of films.

Home Again

In February 2006, Novotny’s student visa expired. Thanks to friends he made on the tennis courts, however, Novotny secured a new job with International Production Company back home in Prague. With IPC, he worked on several commercials before getting the assignment to work on the horror sequel “Hostel: Part II,” for which he shot a behind the scenes feature to be included on the DVD.

“(Director) Eli Roth and his brother Gabe offered for me to do ‘behind the scenes.’ Of course, I took it,” he said. “It allowed me to be everywhere – on set, behind the scenes in the offices of the producers, location scouts (trips to determine shooting locations).”

Once he receives a new working visa, Novotny plans to return to the States early this year and continue working with the William Morris Agency. He’s also working on writing a few scripts, which he hopes to start submitting in the near future. Though he is flexible in terms of movie genre, Novotny’s storytelling goals are clear.

“I love mythology, its stories and archetypes. But I also love movies with a feel so raw and real that pulls you into the scene and wakes something up in you you forgot you had,” he said. “I would like to make films that tell stories of ordinary people who become the ‘heroes,’ not for what they were born as, but for what actions they take. I would like them to be not only a spectacle to watch, but a stinger that gets under your skin and stays.”

Although his young career has taken some twists and turns, Novotny considers himself to be on his way to attaining his dream job as a filmmaker.

“I learned so much,” he said. “Just being on the set every day is such a great experience. I recommend it to everyone who wants to do films. Save up some cash and do it even for free if there is no other way.”

– Jenny O’Grady
Originally posted January 2007

Better Than Fiction: Arnold T. Blumberg ’93

The next time someone teases you about your hidden passion for philately, Hummel figurines or sudoku, consider the successes of UMBC’s own Dr. Arnold T. Blumberg.

An avid comic book reader and collector since early childhood, Blumberg ’93, English, has managed to weave his love of super heroes, zombies, monsters and robots into a career as a published author, adjunct professor and – most recently – curator of the brand-new Geppi’s Entertainment Museum, a mecca of pop culture paraphernalia located in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

“I like to joke with people and tell them all my hobbies have eventually turned into jobs,” said Blumberg, the author of five books ranging in subject from comic book pricing to the finer points of zombie movies.

“It’s pretty much true, though.”

A Passion for Stories

Blumberg, who grew up in Randallstown and has lived in Baltimore ever since, started reading comics like Richie Rich and Casper the Friendly Ghost as soon as he was able – around two years old if you believe his mother. Like many young readers, he also started writing short stories. When it came time to choose a college, he knew two things right away. He would be an English major, and he would do it at UMBC.

“I always felt comfortable at UMBC,” said Blumberg, who visited the campus as a 10th grader. “When I walked around on campus I felt a sense of the world opening up to me.”

While a student at UMBC, Blumberg joined the staffs of student literary magazines Bartleby and the now-defunct Apostrophe, which gave him his first taste of desktop publishing. He also worked with the late Dr. Philip Landon on an honors project examining how robots in science fiction film and literature reflect America’s changing relationship with technology.

The Next Steps

Following graduation from UMBC, Blumberg entered the publications design program at the University of Baltimore, earning first a master’s, then a doctorate. During this time, he found employment with Gemstone Publishing, a local publishing house devoted to comics and toy collecting literature owned by the Entertainment Museum’s namesake/owner Stephen A. Geppi.

In November 2000, Blumberg self-published his first book, a comprehensive guide to collectibles associated with the British science fiction series, “Doctor Who,” entitled Howe’s Transcendental Toybox (co-authored with David J. Howe). To date, Blumberg has written or co-written ten books, including The Overstreet Comic Book Grading Guide, The Big Big Little Book Book, Pop Culture With Character: A Look Inside Geppi’s Entertainment Museum, and Zombiemania: 80 Movies to Die For, which he penned with fellow UMBC alumnus Andy Hershberger ’99, American studies.

“One of my main passions is to continue to write books about the things I love,” said Blumberg.

In addition, Blumberg has taught a course in comic book literature at UMBC every year since 1999. Not surprisingly, the course fills up pretty darned fast.

“Being able to go back and teach was wonderful,” said Blumberg, who describes himself as an innately nostalgic person. “I love the idea that every year I come back and I’ve never really left UMBC.”

A New Home

Walking throughout Geppi’s Entertainment Museum, Blumberg can spout fun facts about everything from the 1,400 glassed-in comic books to Steamboat Willie, from a Superman secret chamber ring to the display of Star Wars figurines, which includes more than one piece belonging to Blumberg himself.

But no amount of knowledge of comic book statistics or story could prepare him for the effects such a collection would have on viewers. Since beginning his tenure as curator of the museum in August 2005, Blumberg has come to truly enjoy watching the faces of museum-goers as they re-live integral pieces of their younger lives.

“There are very few places where you can go and be completely immersed in your own childhood,” he said. “I learn something new every day.”

– Jenny O’Grady
Originally posted December 2006