About J. Todd Bennett

J. Todd Bennett is the Chief Communications Officer at Oglethorpe University.

Debbie Aiken ’12

Six states, six colleges, ten years – this was my life as a military wife. I was a stay at home mom of three young kids, determined to not let my husband’s unpredictable career deter me from reaching my goal of getting a college education. To say I was discouraged, however, would be an understatement. As we moved from state to state, I completed prerequisites for programs I wouldn’t get the chance to finish before we moved again, and I sometimes thought of just forgetting the whole idea. But I didn’t. I attended community colleges and an online program at a big university, but always felt dissatisfied about missing out on the traditional college experience. Then we moved to Atlanta and in my search for my next college, I discovered Oglethorpe’s Evening Degree Program. I was drawn to the fact that it was a flexible program for busy adults at a distinguished university. My first visit to campus for an open house in the Hearst Great Hall sealed the deal; I knew Oglethorpe was the right university to help me reach a goal I’d been pursuing for 10 years. Oglethorpe gave me more than a degree – it solidified my determination to roll with the punches and not let life’s speed bumps slow me down.

Debbie Aiken ’12
Assistant Director, University Communications, Oglethorpe University

*photo taken on commencement day, 2012.

 

Heather ’03 & Brian Clark ’03

Heather Clark ’03 first discovered the Hearst beech tree in fall 2002. A senior, she and Brian Clark ’03, also a senior, had been dating for four years after knowing each other since middle school. As an early childhood education major, Heather was required to choose a campus tree and study it all semester. One October afternoon, Heather and Brian met at “her tree” to take an autumnal photo for Heather’s class. Much to Heather’s surprise, Brian proposed then and there, comparing their love to the mighty tree growing from a tiny seed. Brian and Heather married a few weeks after graduation in May 2003, and life has taken them on many adventures since then.

Heather Staniszewski ’02

You see hundreds of advertisements a day, but how many do you really absorb?

It was the spring semester of my senior year in high school and a poster caught my eye. Not because of the beautiful gothic architecture pictured on it, nor because of the quote from Aristotle, or even that for once there was a poster that wasn’t featuring a gator, knight, or Seminole. It was because the tear-off postcard said reply by November 1997 and it was 1998. I asked if it could be recycled and the counselor laughed and told me I might like a small liberal arts school in Atlanta. I had a roommate and a full tuition scholarship to a state school, but I completed the application to Oglethorpe anyway. My mom drove me to an info session two hours from my house and drilled the VP of Admission. I spoke to a current student for hours on the phone. I received a phone call from alumna Barb Henry inviting me to the infamous Spring Fest during which I stayed with three of the smartest and most involved women I have ever met.

Enter the personal OU touch. My admissions counselor came to Tampa, drove five of us Florida girls eight hours to visit the campus, and four years later three of those girls cheered me on as I gave the graduation speech to my fellow Class of 2002 Petrels. I never thought an expired poster would bring me to study communications and business, to meet my best friends, to work in foster care or hospice, or to lead students to serve everywhere from New Orleans to San Juan, Guatemala. Now, I leave expired posters up one more day hoping that someone reads it and changes their path for the better.

–Heather Staniszewski ’02, associate director, Center for Civic Engagement, Oglethorpe University

Janet Wood ’13

Never have I felt more uninhibited and at home at Oglethorpe than one summer evening when my best friend and I played in the sprinklers at the baseball stadium. To this day, it is my favorite college memory.

–Janet Wood ’13, coordinator of academic programs, Academic Success Center, Oglethorpe University

Ricardo Carvalho ’85

Originally from Brazil, Ricardo Carvalho ’85 came to Oglethorpe in 1981 to study business. His visa wouldn’t allow him to work off-campus, so he accepted a job as a dishwasher at the cafeteria to pay his tuition. Lisa Mitchell was a student at an Atlanta art school and came to campus on occasion to visit friends. Later, when the two were formally introduced, Lisa confessed she had noticed Ricardo from behind the dish window where she returned her plate and silverware. They have now been married for 26 years.

Troy Dwyer ’94

I spent my first two years at OU doing theatre because it was fun and I enjoyed it. I loved it, but I thought of it as an extracurricular activity. In my junior year—after I realized that I wasn’t going to be major in Biology, to the relief of every professor in Goslin—I started to recognize that my love for theatre didn’t have to be an extracurricular love, that “art making” was a way to know the world, a kind of inquiry and an intervention. I just wasn’t sure what that could mean for me professionally. I was in Hearst one afternoon and I happened to pass by Dr. Vicki Weiss and I mentioned the struggle. Very offhandedly, she said something like ‘well, do what students in other disciplines do when they’re investigating career paths: find out what internships are out there.’
Of course, it seems so simple now. But at the time it was a bit of a revelation for me. The idea that there was apprenticeship in art making—practical experiences that students could have so their affinities could transform into opportunities—THAT was new. So I did some research and found my internship at the Spoleto Festival, which ended up being a transformative experience for me.
–Troy Dwyer ’94, associate professor, Department of Theatre & Dance, Muhlenberg College