Alumna Takes Career to New Heights
STEPHANIE DAVIS ’93
is climbing her way to success, one boulder at a time.
Regarded as one of the best female rock climbers in the world, she was partially following her parents’ dream when she enrolled in a master’s program at Colorado State University. But she couldn’t dismiss the real reason she chose to further her education there.
“I was always thinking, ‘I really want to be climbing right now,’ ” she says.
It was as a freshman at Maryland that Davis became instantly hooked on the sport after she climbed Carter Rock in nearby Potomac. She later traveled to Colorado to experience the challenging climbs of the West.
Once she admitted to herself (and to her more than surprised parents) that she wanted to pursue climbing full time rather than a law degree, she began traveling across country, sometimes living out of her car, to sharpen her skills and build her climbing reputation.
Since then, Davis has earned sponsorships from outdoor apparel companies, such as Five Ten and Patagonia, and has climbed some of the most difficult rocks in the world. She was the first woman to summit all seven major peaks in Argentina’s Fitzroy Range, and in 2003 became the second woman to free climb Yosemite’s El Capitan in one day.
“Our society runs all over nature. But when you go out as a climber, it’s not about controlling—it’s about working with nature and conforming yourself to it,” she says. “That, to me, feels like a really true way of living.”
Today, she and her husband, Dean Potter, also a rock climber, spend most of their time climbing in Yosemite and Argentina, where they camp in the mountains two to three months each year.
Davis devotes her free time to writing. Her book, an autobiographical collection of essays and photography, is scheduled to be released by Mountaineer Publishing in spring 2007.
“It turns out that my English degrees came in use after all,” she says. “It just goes to show that you can pursue your passion, and it will evolve into a career over time.” —JP
A Terrapin at the National Zoo
AS DIRECTOR OF THE Smithsonian’s National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C., John Berry ’80 (above) is responsible for the care and oversight of almost 2,000 animals, many of them representing rare and endangered species. Still, when making the rounds as ambassador for the nation’s only federally funded zoo, the 46-year-old Maryland alumnus usually begins with, “I’m John Berry, and I work for Tai Shan.”
Tai Shan, the beloved giant panda cub that just turned 1 in July, has been a public relations bonanza for the National Zoo. “It’s just been phenomenal,” says Berry. “He has brought incredible energy and public awareness—not only to his own species—but to wildlife and conservation issues in general.”
Hoping to leverage Tai Shan’s immense popularity, Berry now wants to showcase other animal exhibits, as well as increase the National Zoo’s conservation science efforts at a 3,200-acre auxiliary campus in Virginia. “As the nation’s zoo, it is our responsibility to welcome everyone—free of charge—to see the beauty of these animals close-up,” he says. “But we also want to educate people about the serious wildlife and conservation issues facing us.”
Prior to leading the National Zoo, Berry was executive director of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and also served as assistant secretary for management and budget in the Interior Department. “My background and training is really in management and finance,” he says. “But my passion has always been conservation and wildlife.”
When Berry was hired as director of the National Zoo in 2005, things were not all rosy: a National Academies of Science report had faulted prior management, and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums called for an overhaul of the 163-acre facility’s aging infrastructure. Berry immediately went to work fine-tuning a strategic plan that, he says, will make the National Zoo the “world’s finest” within the next 10 years. To make that happen, Berry and his 300-member staff will concentrate on four key objectives: providing the highest quality animal care; conducting world-class conservation science; increasing education; and promoting the concept of sustainability. “There won’t be a future for wildlife,” Berry says, “unless our species [humans] learns to better manage energy use, water use and our impact on the habitat.” —TV
Terp Trades a Pigskin for a Paintbrush
AS A CHILD, Lynde Washington ’99 loved to watch the television sitcom “Good Times,” but not because he had a crush on a young Janet Jackson and not even to follow the storyline. “I would watch the show just to see the paintings hanging in the background,” he says.
Though he didn’t know who he was at the time, the artist of the “Good Times” paintings, Ernie Barnes, would become a big inspiration to Washington. Not only did they have a similar artistic style, but Barnes, like Washington, was also an ex-NFL player.“He’s the one artist other than my great-grandfather who I ever paid attention to,” Washington says. “I was just excited when I looked at his work.”
Washington, a former Maryland cornerback and Baltimore Raven recently took off his own helmet to pursue his passion for painting full time. His paintings, which he describes as scenes from his past, portray black culture in warm tones of reds, oranges and yellows.
“The colors kind of tell a story, especially with the faces and expressions I use,” he says. “The colors bring it out for me.”
Washington says he’s been drawing since day one, and learned the techniques of perception and proportion from his great-grandfather. “When I went to visit, all I’d want to do is watch TV and be outside. But he always made me practice a couple of hours each weekend,” he says.
He wasn’t introduced to football until age 7, when his father taught him how to play. Unable to deny his talent, Washington pursued the sport and received a full scholarship to play for the Terps. He graduated from the University of Maryland with a B.A. in Fine Arts. Shortly after his acceptance to Hofstra University in pursuit of his master’s, the Baltimore Ravens picked him up as a free agent.
“I went back and forth. I said ‘Football is not who I am, it’s what I’m doing.’ It put me through school for free—but I didn’t want to be one of those guys who kept trying to play,” he says. “I didn’t want to depend on it.”
Washington knew he could make a career out of painting. He wanted to capture the memories of his past on canvas, and says that his family served as the biggest inspiration.
“Growing up around my family I saw a lot of things that people can relate to,” he says. “Some of them are in poverty, some are not, but those that make money now, they can appreciate it because they know where they came from. They can see it in my art work.” —JP
Lynde’s work can be seen at www.lyndeditions.com.
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