Category Archives: Alumni Profile

Family Traditions at Penn

By: Lindsey Klinger-O’Donnell

Virginia Webster Hilligoss Patton, CW’67, recently returned to campus for a very special Alumni Weekend. Virginia celebrated her 50th Reunion and spent the weekend reminiscing and catching up with fellow classmates, alumni, and her three siblings. She spoke with Penn Alumni Relations about her college experience, fondest memories, and family connections to Penn.

Virginia is the youngest of four siblings. Her two older brothers, Spencer Webster, W’57, and Richard Webster, W’58, and older sister, Linda Webster Huggler, CW’62, all attended Penn in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. From an early age, Virginia felt a strong impetus to not only attend college but specifically the University of Pennsylvania. With such strong family ties to the University, Penn was really the only choice in her mind. While at Penn, Virginia and her sister were student-athletes, playing on the Women’s Field Hockey team. They were also members of the Tri Delta Sorority. They still value the strong friendships and bonds they made there.

Although Virginia grew up in Suburban Philadelphia with her family, she later moved to California and does not have an opportunity to return to campus often. This made Virginia’s homecoming to Penn even more meaningful. She remarked on how much the campus has changed, with so many new buildings and spaces. However, some buildings remained seemingly untouched, like the iconic architecture of Houston Hall, with its comfortable interior spaces and fireplaces. Virginia commented that Houston Hall had always been a common meeting place for her and her classmates. In that regard, not much has changed.

Virginia went on to share one of her most memorable moments from her time at Penn. In her Senior year, Virginia became the first woman to sit on an athletic board when she took on the role of President of Women’s Athletics. Virginia remembers advocating to an all-male board about the need for better facilities and equipment for Women’s Athletics. However, it’s safe to assume that after Alumni Weekend, one of Virginia’s fondest memories of Penn is probably this photo of her and her three siblings enjoying the Alumni Picnic. What a special moment it must have been to come back and share in this Penn Tradition together.


(Photo credit: Lisa Godfrey Photography)


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Filed under Alumni Profile, Alumni Weekend, Uncategorized

Penn Club of Chicago – Volunteer Member Profile

Name: Liane Jackson

Hometown: East Coast

Year: Class of 1993

School: School of Arts and Sciences

Degree(s):     B.A. in International Relations, University of Pennsylvania

J.D. , Tulane University Law School, New Orleans, LA

M.S in Journalism, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL

Penn Club of Chicago Member since 2013


CHI Profile Pic 0914


Liane claims the entire east coast as her hometown, as her family moved around on that side of the country. In the 1980s, she ended up in a suburb outside of Chicago and attended Rich Central High School. When the time for college came around, she was looking for a school that had a strong international presence, as she always had an interest in being in the Foreign Service. After graduating from Penn, Liane worked as an attorney, as a television news reporter/anchor, and as a press secretary. She’s now an entrepreneur. Liane and her husband live in Roscoe Village with their two daughters, Sienna, 5, and Brayden, 2.


What other schools did you apply to and why did you pick Penn? My top choices included Brown University, which I never visited, as well as Georgetown – because of my interest in diplomacy – and Penn. I didn’t visit Penn either, but it came across as a hip and diverse university with great programs – including their International Relations major. I’m so glad I made the decision to attend.


Name three favorite songs from your time at Penn. Back to Life (Soul to Soul), Pump up the Jam (Technotronic), and Rock Dis Funky Joint (Poor Righteous Teachers). I was also a DJ while at Penn so I have a lot of now ‘classic’ tunes running through my mind.


Favorite memories of Penn? I had a good time at Penn! I pledged Delta Sigma Theta my junior year, had a work/study job, did some theater and writing for the Daily Pennsylvanian, and I was a DJ for a while. Some of my favorite memories were being integrated into the city of Philadelphia and interacting with Penn students and local residents at the same time.


What course did you struggle with the most? What course was the easiest? Although I didn’t anticipate it, the course that proved most challenging was a Linguistics class I took instead of math……….probably the easiest was a Folklore class.


If you had to start college all over again, you would have……….I would choose Penn all over again, but I would try to take more advantage of the deep variety of course offerings.


What are you doing now? I own a coworking, meeting, and event space in the Wicker Park-Bucktown area of Chicago. We opened about nine months ago. The business offers entrepreneurs, freelancers and other independent workers a productive workspace, meeting space as well as learning opportunities. My website is


Advice for Incoming Freshman. Apply yourself! Don’t get lost in the social scene. Immerse yourself and you’ll feel great about your decision to select Penn. Go Quakers!!!

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Penn colleague, alumni volunteer and ARTIST . . .

Author: Kristina Clark

Nicole Maloy, W’95, is one of my colleagues in Alumni Relations. She is the Director of the Multicultural Outreach program. I thought I’d share a post about her simply because she is interesting!

Nicole not only works in Alumni Relations, she is a very active volunteer on Penn’s Association of Alumnae Board, members with whom I work closely. This post is not about Nicole’s role as an employee or as an alumna however, this is about Nicole’s personal creativity. For example and most recently, Nicole taught a few of her Alumni Relations colleagues how to knit. She is a patient teacher (for which we are most grateful) and now my ten-year old daughter wears a beautiful purple knit hat that I finished last month. Nicole has many talents — she’s a dancer, a singer, an athlete, and most certainly an artist, as confirmed by being chosen last week to exhibit her portrait drawing at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. This honor is what I wanted to share with you.

Here’s the story . . . Nicole once wrote a Penn Alumni Blog post about exploring art resources in Philadelphia (includes a photo of her at age 17 with several jean jackets that she painted for her high school classmates in the late ’80s and early ’90s). One resource that she had not yet taken advantage of is the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), the first school of fine arts in the United States. Its origin dates from 1791, when Penn was still located at 4th & Arch Streets.

In fall 2013, Nicole took a weekly evening class called “Intermediate Portrait Drawing” through PAFA’s Continuing Education program. Students who had been enrolled in CE classes or workshops from spring 2013 through spring 2014 were invited to submit artwork for the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts Continuing Education Programs Annual Juried Student Exhibition.

PAFA received nearly 180 submissions, and 80 were accepted. Among them is Nicole’s piece, a portrait in charcoal entitled “Waiting,” which was drawn from a live model in class. If you would like to see it, along with the other 79 drawings, paintings, and sculptures, the exhibition runs from February 28 – April 6 in Gallery 128, Hamilton Building, 128 North Broad Street, at PAFA.

Congratulations, Nicole!


Filed under A Day in the Life - DAR, Alumni Profile, Association of Alumnae, Kristina C., Multicultural Outreach, Nicole M., Philadelphia, Sweeten Alumni House, The Arts, Uncategorized

“We will find a way or we will make one!”

Author: Lisa Ellen Niver, C’89

Do you ever wonder how you will make your dreams come true? I find inspiration from the gate at the University: We will find a way or we will make one. In December 2012 on the beach in India, I said I think we should have a contest on our website, We Said Go Travel. George said, “Great! Let’s start in January and end on February 14.” Immediately I had several objections. I could not possibly be ready so fast to run a writing contest.
We were in Konark, India at the Sand Art Festival near the UNESCO Sun Temple. I was musing that 30 years ago when the festival began, someone probably said: “Sand Art Festival! You must be nuts!” But here we were, thirty years later and it was a large festival with many international sand artists!

In January 2014, we began our fourth travel-writing contest. (Travel Writing Contest:

Over the course of 2013, over five hundred writers from over fifty countries entered our contest. It was truly fantastic! I love all the stories and getting to email with people from all over our planet. We hope you will choose to join us by sharing a story or reading one from someone else! We did our first live announcement of the winners for our contest on google hangout on air.

WSGT gratitude 2013 google hangout (2)

Watch the hangout:

See the winners:

We had some technical issues and had to link one judge in by skype but it worked. We found a way to make it work! I learned many life lessons at the University of Pennsylvania but the message from the gate always rings in my head: “We will find a way or we will make one!”

I remember the contest really took off when I wrote to our friend, Richard Bangs from the PBS Travel Show, “Adventure with Purpose,” who offered to be a judge.  Sometimes all you need to do is offer to participate: by joining in a contest, being the judge or simply showing up. I was honored in October 2013 to share our travel knowledge in a webinar for the University of Pennsylvania Alumni Travel. George and I talked about our journey for 27 days in Myanmar (Burma). We were invited to participate and we said YES!

I hope that you make your resolutions for 2014 come true by taking a first step! I would love to hear about your progress.




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Filed under Alumni Perspective, Alumni Profile, Guest blogger, Lisa Ellen Niver, Penn Alumni Travel, Travel

Celebrating Diversity at Alumni Weekend

Author: Lillian Galindo Gardiner, GEd ’11

It may not be your reunion year, but there are other fun reasons to come back for Alumni Weekend this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Online registration is now closed, but you can still register on-site this weekend.

The Multicultural Outreach Team in Alumni Relations has worked with alumni leaders to plan some exciting opportunities for reconnecting with friends and celebrating the diversity of our Penn alumni.

Read on for details on events hosted by the Penn Alumni Diversity Alliance!



3:30 PM – 4:30 PM
University of Pennsylvania Asian Alumni Network: Reception
Houston Hall, Ben Franklin Room, 3417 Spruce Street
Meet with UPAAN at our alumni weekend reception to meet fellow alumni, reunite old classmates and connect with past, current, and future members of the Asian & Asian-American community at Penn. Alumni, bring your memories, Students, bring your energy. Refreshments will be served. Following the reception, please join us in a joint panel discussion in collaboration with our fellow Diversity Alliance groups on the topic of faculty diversity and initiatives.

3:30 PM – 4:30 PM
Association of Native Alumni: “A Tribute to Bob Preucel”
Houston Hall, Bishop White Room, 3417 Spruce Street
“A Tribute to Bob” (Robert W. Preucel), Department Chair, Sally and Alvin V. Shoemaker Professor, Anthropology: Curator-In-Charge, American Section, University Museum; Director, Penn Center for Native American Studies. With best wishes for a continued stellar journey at Brown University, we are remembering our time with Bob at Penn by sharing an archive of videos, stories, pictures, individual and collective memories. We recognize his work to develop the Center for Native American Studies and his ongoing support. Although Bob will not be joining us at Alumni Weekend, please gather with your fellow ANA alumni and Native students to pay tribute to him.

3:30 PM – 4:30 PM
Association of Latino Alumni: Networking Reception
Houston Hall, Golkin Room, 3417 Spruce Street
Join ALA at our alumni networking reception, the first of two events that will focus on the evolution that is sweeping campus. While you reconnect with fellow alumni and reunite with old classmates, meet current students and Latino faculty. Refreshments will be served. Following the reception, please join us in a joint-panel discussion with our fellow Diversity Alliance groups on the very current and relevant topic of faculty diversity and initiatives.

3:30 PM – 4:30 PM
PennGALA Networking Hour
Houston Hall, Brachfeld Room, 3417 Spruce Street
PennGALA and the LGBT Center welcome you to network with fellow alumni during Alumni Weekend. Learn what other alumni are up to and the paths they’ve taken since graduating. You’ll also hear about the LGBT Center and the ways students benefit from its presence on campus today.

3:30 PM – 4:30 PM
Black Alumni Society Reception
Houston Hall, Platt Rehearsal Room, 3417 Spruce Street
During the Alumni Weekend festivities, we welcome you to enjoy a reception hosted by the Black Alumni Society. This will be a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with friends and reminisce about your time at Penn. We will also acknowledge the 40th Anniversary of the W.E.B Du Bois College House with a few words from House Faculty Master, Rev. William Gipson, who also serves as Associate Vice Provost for Equity and Access at Penn.

4:30 PM – 6:00 PM
Penn Faculty Panel: Co-Sponsored by the Penn Alumni Diversity Alliance
Houston Hall, Class of ’49 Auditorium, 3417 Spruce Street
Please join us for a panel discussion featuring Penn Professors Dr. Eric J. Schelter, Dr. Emilio Parrado, Dr. Grace Kao, and Dr. Tukufu Zuberi, who will discuss what achieving diversity means to them. Following the panel, there will be time for audience Q&A.

6 PM – 10 PM
Taste of Penn Spectrum: A Celebration of Diversity
Location: Tent on College Green
Spend an evening surrounded by friends, food, and music celebrating Penn’s cultural diversity. Enjoy the company of the Penn Alumni Diversity Alliance: The Association of Latino Alumni, The Association of Native Alumni, The Black Alumni Society, The James Brister Society, PennGALA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Alumni Association), and The University of Pennsylvania Asian Alumni Network. All alumni are welcome to attend.

Special note: on Sunday, May 12 at 10:30am, join the Greenfield Intercultural Center at 3708 Chestnut Street for an alumni celebration in honor of their new Native American community garden!

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Filed under Alumni Profile, Alumni Weekend, Lillian G., Multicultural Outreach

Student to Alumnae: An Student Interview with Dr. Heidi Cohen, C’83, PAR’13

Author: Deirdre Bullard, C’14

Despite the thousands of alumni carrying the name of our proud alma mater, it really is a small world.

I say this after meeting Dr. Heidi Cohen (C’83, PAR’13, B.A. Biology with a concentration in microbiology), who returned to Penn recently to visit her son, Harrison Lieberfarb (C’13). But Dr. Cohen, a pre-med graduate of the college in 1983 and now a successful Assistant Medical Director of pediatric emergency medicine at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood, FL, came not only for a family visit. She attended her son’s class (led by Dr. Helen Davies, Professor of Microbiology), to give a lecture on malaria.

What makes the world so intimate is  that Dr. Cohen took this same class as an undergraduate student in the 80’s with the same professor. Furthermore, the course influenced a large amount of Dr. Cohen’s professional experiences both in medical school and afterwards. Below, you will see what I mean after reading our interview.


Pictured from left to right: Harrison Lieberfarb, C’13, Dr. Helen Davies, Professor of Microbiology at University of Pennsylvania, and Dr. Heidi Cohen, C’83, PAR ’13.

How did you join Helen Davies’ class?

A friend recommended that I take this class, which is a Benjamin Franklin Seminar. I had to get permission from Dr. Davies to join it because it was reserved for juniors and seniors. Our main project was a presentation on an infectious disease. My infectious disease for study was HIV. We had no access to computers like students to today, so I had to go the library and just research everything about HIV; everything about its symptoms. As an undergrad, I learned quickly how to synthesize this information and organize it. This influenced my later work greatly.

The way I presented the material also had a huge affect on my work methods today. Because we had no Powerpoint, I just had to get up in front of a class and talk. Now I teach and lecture in universities and at conferences.

What was it like to move from the instruction of a classroom to real-life practice of medicine?

Working in the ER puts you first in line to witness some historical outbreaks, like HIV. Even when working in emergency rooms after graduating, I saw this—it was the disease—all the time. Back then in the 80’s, there were no antivirals, no medicines, and nobody really knew what kind of disease it was—HIV was a death sentence.  It was depressing. Today, I couldn’t even tell you where the HIV positive children in the ER are. It’s been fascinating to move from seeing it in tons of children all the time, to never seeing it again.  In my residency, our emphasis was not on reading. We were told we would learn about medicine by seeing it. I own it now because I did it.

I chose a program where I had to make decisions quickly. I’m good with observing, making diagnoses, and dealing with anxious parents. At work I have five minutes to observe a patient, establish trust with them, order whatever they need, and convince them that the treatment is appropriate or alleviating. When you know your style, you learn about how you learn, and that can be very beneficial when you have to think on your feet.

What kinds of activities at Penn helped you prepared for your career?

I started research at the medical school as a sophomore. I knocked from door to door of various professors to see if any were hiring, even though I had only taken Intro to Biology at this point. Dr. Akira Kaji eventually hired me. In his lab I learned how to pipette, sterile plates, and map E.Coli. The work was published in well-known magazines like Science and Nature. I spent three years and every summer doing this work, along with working at CHOP. I also volunteered with high risk OBGYN organization. While other students were out there partying, I was helping deliver babies. Other times, I would work with rehabilitation patients, and we would do great things with them. We would walk the patients, in their wheelchairs, to Hutchinson’s gym, change them into bathing suits, and swim for therapy. It was a great experience.

Outside of Penn, such as at a public health clinic in Long Island, I was a translator. They needed someone to translate between Spanish and English. I offered to do this work if they let me cycle through their clinic. Altogether, when I started medical school I was in great shape, because I had all of this experience and exposure.

What kinds of cases do you see in the emergency room today?

The most frequent cases I see are common conditions—things like asthma and trauma, mostly from tourists. Most people come into the ER because they overreact to things that can be addressed by a visit to a general practitioner. I’d say about 80 percent of the cases I see should go to a regular office. Still, you never know what will walk in the door. I’ve seen some of the most unusual cases, like Addison’s disease. I once had a mother bring her young daughter in. She was scrawny, pale, and obviously very sick. The mother was mostly worried about a rash, but I noticed right away her gigantic lymph nodes. It took 20 minutes for us to confirm some suspicions. She had lymphoma.

Has being a female practitioner affected your career or work place?

I find it harder for women because we have to balance our families and children with our work. I had three children to take care of w. Working in the ER is exhausting, and you really learn to cope with the stress both from that environment and that constant balancing. But I never tolerated that I was weaker or inferior because I was a woman. That attitude, along with raising my children, really gave me better training as a pediatrician.

How does this job affect your family life?

As I said earlier, some things never leave you. My children, for example, do not go to carnivals since I dealt with an outbreak of an STD at one in New York. But my children have a unique perspective on what’s important. I try to remember that what’s important for me can be very different from them. They might be preoccupied with getting an A on their papers, or making it to practice on time, while I am dealing with all kinds of emergencies during work. But overall, they’ve heard a lot of different stories from me, so they know how to prioritize things.

My daughter, though, was Pre-Med at Georgetown for about 15 minutes. When asked why, she replied, “I will never leave the library.” And it’s true; if I could relive my experience at Penn, I would still study medicine, but I would spend less time in the library, and more time having fun.

You certainly see a lot of fascinating but disturbing things in your work. How do you handle emotional distress?

If I don’t get upset, then I know I have a problem; you should feel that way in this job, or you shouldn’t be working. I have to do my job, but I have to remember the emotional side when telling someone about their injuries and sickness, or telling a mother that her child just died. Would you want a doctor who wasn’t empathetic?

Any special messages for the classmates from 1983?

I am very excited to return for reunion to see what my old friends have done in the last 30 years since we graduated! As medicine has evolved so have we as providers, wives, husbands and parents. As my son Harrison will be graduating it will be like reliving my own graduation experience. I think his participation in Mask and Wig has brought my family closer to Penn as we have gotten to know the company, hosted them in our home for two tours and have seen countless productions.  Coming back for reunion will bring me full circle and enhance my memories of Penn both from the class of 1983 and from Harrison’s class of 2013.

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Filed under Alumni Profile, Deirdre B., Student Perspective

Alumni Fitness Success Stories

Author: Nicole C. Maloy, W’95

In January, while hopeful new year’s resolutioners fill gyms across the land, others stay home with their own personal “Ghosts of Broken Resolutions Past:” the dusty, still-squeaky athletic shoes they haven’t touched since January 2012. Is there any real hope for people who want to make a lifestyle change that lasts beyond a week or two? The answer is yes.

Prompted by some sobering news at the doctor’s office in the summer of 2012, Penn alumni husband and wife, Steve Miller, W’96, and Lucy Ramos Miller, C’97, made a genuine commitment to improving their health. They are still going strong in 2013 despite the challenges of full time jobs (he leads business innovation for a cluster of countries in Goodyear’s Latin America operation, she is a General Magistrate at the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit Court in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida) and raising three children ages 12, 9, and 4. What are their results? Where do they get their inspiration? And, most importantly, HOW ON EARTH DO THEY DO IT? Read on to find out, because you can do it, too.

Lucy and Steve - ‘90s pic from the Penn days.

Lucy and Steve – ’90s pic from the Penn days.

To what degree were you athletic or physically active in your student days?

STEVE: Some of my earliest memories include playing basketball in our front yard, tackle football in the back yard, or “any bounce” baseball in the street. As a teen, I focused my efforts on my best sport, wrestling. I was recruited by Coach Roger Reina to wrestle at Penn, but I realized early in my first season that I probably didn’t have the passion to do it for 4 years. Furthermore, my body was spent, and I couldn’t imagine more years of cutting weight. I “retired” from wrestling in my freshman year. In 1994, I became very restless and, as a result, joined Penn’s sprint football team. I thoroughly enjoyed my two years with Coach Bill Wagner and the team.

LUCY: I was never really active growing up. I played basketball and volleyball from grade school through high school, but that was really it. In college and graduate school, I always had lofty “plans” of becoming more active, but those plans never really came to fruition. Once I started my post graduate career, I no longer even had plans.

What prompted you to take on a fitness program?

STEVE: I’ve always tried to be active. After graduating from Penn, I played summer league baseball in Cleveland. I’ve played flag football sporadically for years. In 2006, while living in Jamaica, Lucy and I joined a running club in Kingston. We met some wonderful people through the group and learned a lot about distance running. However, after leaving Jamaica in 2008, I didn’t keep a consistent, organized workout regimen. At the end of 2011, I ran my first mud race. I started mud running because it looked fun. They seemed to be the perfect mix of short distance running and challenging obstacles. This seemed well-suited for my attention span.

LUCY: Sometime after relocating to Kingston, Jamaica in 2006, Steve and I decided to become more active. We started doing some distance running with the goal of running a half marathon. However, at that time we still weren’t completely committed and I became pregnant with our third child. Shortly after relocating from Kingston to Miami in late 2008 and delivering our third child, Steve and I began to revisit the half marathon goal. For me personally, I needed to shed the additional pregnancy weight, and I wanted to accomplish something physically that I never thought that I could do. In January 2012, Steve and I ran our first half marathon together.

What sparked your renewed commitment to fitness in summer 2012?

STEVE: For years, my HDL cholesterol level was too low. My doctor wanted to prescribe niacin to help improve my levels. He gave me the option of making a lifestyle adjustment or taking medication, but he stressed to me that two-thirds of my HDL level was genetic, so there was limit to how much I could change that with lifestyle alterations. I knew I would likely have to go on niacin, but I wanted to give 100% toward lifestyle changes to see how close I could get to the target. I needed to know, empirically, how much control I really had to influence the outcome. I asked him to give me 90 days to improve my numbers.

LUCY: After completing the half marathon, I took a period of time off from training with the idea of allowing my body to rest. However, as time passed I seemed to have lost the motivation to train for distance running. In June 2012, Steve and I both had annual routine physicals done. We both had some cholesterol issues and were threatened to be placed on medication to manage them. My triglyceride level was very high. Additionally, I was labeled as “clinically obese.” Wanting to avoid medication and ensure that we’d be around to watch our children grow, Steve and I decided we *had* to start and stick with a fitness.

Steve, before (2011).

Steve, “before” (2011).

Lucy, before (2011).

Lucy, “before” (2011).

How did you choose the right program for you?

STEVE: It was accidental. I had watched the CrossFit games on ESPN and thought it was interesting, but I never seriously considered starting CrossFit. However, a few folks from my office joined and really talked it up. When my doctor told me I needed to exercise with greater intensity, I immediately thought of CrossFit. The icing on the cake was when I realized a location opened less than 5 minutes from home. I signed up in June 2012.

LUCY: Steve loved CrossFit and encouraged me to try it as well. So in July 2012, I did and, like Steve, I loved it! I made a promise to commit to it for two months to see if I still liked it. I am now in my sixth month. I love it because it is varied, intense, and incorporates both cardiovascular and weight training. I realized that I need a program that simply requires me to show up and do as I am instructed. I tend not to stick with programs that require me to plan and create workouts. I also don’t have a lot of time to commit, so I need an intense workout in a condensed amount of time, and one that will maintain my interest. I get bored with workouts that repeat the same routine.

How would you describe your results?

STEVE: Quantitative – within 90 days, my HDL (mg/dl) increased from 36 to 44. My triglyceride level decreased from 197 to 121. I’ve lost 20 pounds while also gaining muscle. Dropped 2 sizes in pants. I’ve worn XL casual shirts since my days at Penn. I’m now uncomfortable in XL and prefer a large.

LUCY: After just three short months, my triglyceride level improved from 256 to 106. I had also lost approximately 20 lbs. and three dress sizes. I have gained muscle mass and am stronger than I have ever been.

What can you do now that you couldn’t do before?

STEVE: Sprint 400 meters without passing out.

LUCY: When I began CrossFit I could not do a box jump. Box jumps are when you jump onto the top of a box. I could not do a single jump onto the smallest box, which is 12 inches in height. I can now do box jumps on a 20 inch box. There are other examples, but this is the classic example for me.

Describe your proudest accomplishment since starting on this path.

STEVE: Competing in my first CrossFit competition in December. It was an important milestone. I was also proud to compete (and hold my own) against competitors half my age.

LUCY: Aside from achieving weight loss, my proudest accomplishment has been doing things (physically) that I never imagined I’d ever be able to do.

Lucy, today.

Lucy, “after” (2012).

Steve, "after," 2012 Color Run.

Steve, “after,” 2012 Color Run.

What has been the most challenging part of this journey?

STEVE: In the past, Lucy and I wouldn’t be on the same page. We preferred different workouts and different diet strategies. Of course, having two different tactical approaches is a burden and it sharply diminishes the probability for success for each of us. Now we are both on the same page. We speak the same language. We talk about our workouts. We empathize more. This has helped us stick with it.

LUCY: The most challenging part has and continues to be frustration with the rate of progress. Too often we are driven by instant gratification, and when we don’t get instant gratification we tend to quit the program. I have to constantly remind myself that slow/small progress is still progress!

How have others responded to this undertaking?

STEVE: Very positive feedback. I think people respect the process as well as the results. With this program, there aren’t any shortcuts. It requires hard work. As such, people seem to respond favorably to what we’ve been able to accomplish.

LUCY: Initially my family and friends thought that my goals were lofty and the fitness program insane. Many doubted that I would remain committed to the program. However, all of my friends and family are amazed with the outward physical results. When I inform them of the internal physical results, they are in disbelief. They now encourage me to stay committed to this lifestyle are some have even expressed motivation to start a program of their own.

You have three children, and you each have a full-time job. How, and why, do you maintain your commitment to exercise?

STEVE: Since health is my primary motivator, I’m not willing to accept the alternative. Although we have time constraints and competing priorities, it’s imperative that we make room for our fitness requirements. Plus, I’m a strong believer that kids do what they see every day. Creating a healthy lifestyle for our family is incredibly important. Family heirlooms aren’t always physical objects.

LUCY: Steve and I are both committed to maintaining the lifestyle changes that we’ve implemented. We include exercise into our daily routine just like any other activity that must be done on a daily basis such as going to work. We work together and coordinate schedules to ensure that we are each able to get our workouts in. We are also accountable to one another so that neither falls off of the wagon too much.

How has this endeavor effected the way you raise your children?

STEVE: We have transitioned from a “Dad thing” to a “Mom and Dad thing,” to a “Miller family thing.” Our kids are truly excited about participating in the same activities. In fact, Sidney, or younger daughter, listed “run more races with Mom and Dad” on her Christmas wish list. I think we’re on the right path.

LUCY: We have altered the way we eat and are teaching our children how to make good food choices. We also encourage them to live active lifestyles. To that end, we encourage the kids to play intramural sports, we encourage them to join us in 5k races, and we have even enrolled them in CrossFit for kids! The children really seem to have embraced these lifestyle changes and understand that the motivation behind them is healthy living.

Daughters Sidney (9) and Sam (12) starting a mud run. Son Nicholas (4) participates in CrossFit Kids with his big sisters.

Daughters Sidney (9) and Sam (12) starting a mud run. Son Nicholas (4) participates in CrossFit Kids with his big sisters.

Where are you in relation to your goals?

STEVE: My original goal was to improve my body chemistry. I’ve done that. Looking forward, I want to continue to do that and get stronger as an athlete while helping others accomplish big goals.

LUCY: My original goal was simply a fifty pound weight loss goal. By that measure, I have another twenty lbs. to go. However, as time passed I realized that the number on the scale is much less important than how I look and feel. I have lost three dress sizes. I would love to lose another dress size. If I lost another twenty pounds I’d be happy, but my size and shape are much more important to me than my actual weight.

How has your dedication to your fitness goals affected other areas of your life?

STEVE: For me, it has rekindled a passion for teaching and helping people reach their respective goals. Most of the hours I spend at the CrossFit box are dedicated to helping folks get better and stronger. I thoroughly enjoy being a cheerleader there, and that skill has helped me be a better cheerleader in the workplace as well.

LUCY: I have noticed an improved self-confidence socially and professionally.

What advice would you offer to those *without* a workout partner who want to take on a similar challenge?

STEVE: First of all, although having a partner helps, don’t use that as an excuse to sit on the couch. Even if you have to start as a solo act, get moving. Second, think about group classes or exercise clubs that usually bring together people at a variety of skill levels. They help create an ecosystem – a distinct subculture – that provides friendships, support, and best practices, and will improve your chances of success.

LUCY: I would encourage you to start off at a program where you have other members that can serve as sources of support. Other members of a box/gym can serve as your partner. You can likely find someone to workout with, but they can also be a source for support and motivation. Making these kinds of permanent lifestyle changes is difficult to do on your own. You will need a support system of some kind.

Steve (far left, shirtless) & Lucy (in “Don’t Bother Me” shirt) in the 2012 Mud Run with part of their CrossFit Siege family.

Steve (far left, shirtless) & Lucy (in “Don’t Bother Me” shirt) in the 2012 Mud Run with part of their CrossFit Siege family.

Many people start programs and don’t stick with them, but you are both still at it. Why? 
STEVE: I thoroughly enjoy what I’m doing. That wasn’t always the case. Although I enjoyed the camaraderie of my running group, I’m not very enthusiastic about running. It is a chore to train. Even though I accomplished a few significant milestones, I always loathed the training. Today, I love running through mud and jumping over fire. I enjoy the challenge and variability of my workouts. Making fitness fun is a key component to sustainable success.

LUCY: I have had to change the way I think about my fitness goals. I have had to retrain my brain to think of fitness as a permanent lifestyle change as opposed to a short term fitness goal. Doing this has forced me accept that this is a necessity in my life. And honestly, witnessing Steve maintaining his commitment and resolve gives me the strength and motivation to maintain mine.

What words of wisdom do you have for the person reading this who is seriously thinking about taking on his or her fitness goals?

STEVE: Think about sustainable lifestyle changes. Also, think about establishing your finish line some place beyond a dress size or some magical number on the scale.

LUCY: Stop thinking about it, and do it! There is no better time than the present. Don’t wait for January, or Monday, or after vacation, etc. The day is today, and the time is now. The other piece of advice that I would offer is to break down the ultimate goal into stages or smaller goals. Doing this not only makes the goal appear less far reaching and daunting, but accomplishing the smaller goals will also give you the confidence and motivation to work toward the next goal/stage.

Steve and Lucy one year ago, in January 2012, after completing their first half-marathon.

Steve and Lucy one year ago, in January 2012, after completing their first half-marathon.

Special thanks to Steve and Lucy for taking the time to answer these questions. I know they join me in cheering you on, reader, if you are considering new health and fitness goals in 2013 because, as mentioned, you can do it, too. So, without further ado, take your mark… get set… go.


Filed under Alumni Perspective, Alumni Profile, Nicole M.