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walkingstick photo
A Better Life for Native Americans
Galela Walkingstick '34, a Cherokee Native American, grew up in Oklahoma's Cherokee Indian county where the eastern-based Five Civilized Tribes had been moved in the mid-1800s. The only girl in a family of ten children, she was a National Honor Society student in high school and the first Native American Indian to become valedictorian of her class.

After less than two years at Northeastern State College, Galena received a letter announcing that she had won the Henry Morganthau Scholarship to Mount Holyoke or Oberlin College. She promptly enrolled at Oberlin, and later established a scholarship for minority students.

Her family was devoted to the cause of Indian rights, and Galena followed their example. After completing an MA at the School of Social Work at the University of Minnesota, she devoted the rest of her working life--31 years--to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. She helped Creek and Seminole tribe members manage their budgets when they suddenly became wealthy from their gas and oil leases and royalties, enrolled any number of children in Indian boarding schools, and made regular home visits to the poor, bringing shoes and groceries for each household in her satchel.

Retiring in 1998, Galena lives with her brother, Howard Walkingstick, as the last two members of the family, in Holdenville, Oklahoma.

Knowledge at your fingertips

A LICENSED CONNECTICUT ARCHITECT WHO HAS ALWAYS LOVED KIDS, Eric Epstein '71 is not one to waste his creative spirit. He taught art and English in Oberlin schools' lower grades and art to third-graders in Montpelier. He designed a film-making workshop for inner city teens in Philadelphia and traveling exhibits and a teacher-oriented store for the Boston Children's Museum. He was design director for Olympic Town, the athlete's amusement park for the Special Olympics World Games. He's been a soccer coach, an Odyssey of the Mind coach, an after-school program coordinator, and has served on boards for schools and museums with programs for young people. And he keeps in touch with the way kids think today as father of three lucky lads aged 10, 13, and 16.

That's what he does for fun.

Along the way he supports his family through his architectural expertise and has distinguished himself as the winner of a merit award for Mill River Apartments in New Haven, a Design Excellence Award for his Helicopter Support Offices, and an Affordable Housing Award for Baldwin Court in Connecticut.


So what's this FANDEX thing that has made Eric Epstein a treasured author at Workman Publishing house?

In 1983 Eric had an idea to make a deck of cards cut to the shapes of various leaves so he could identify trees on his walks through the woods. It was a simple idea that he dropped into his "futures file," not to be seen again until 1995. One beautiful New England autumn morning, Eric put his kids on the school bus, blew off all his appointments, and headed into the city park across the street with his camera. He quickly realized that it wasn't just about leaves--in another week, and for the next five months, there would be no leaves. But there was the bark, and the fruit or nut, and the overall shape of the tree to aid identification. So the leaf card became a lollipop shape featuring the leaf at the top and a photo of the bark below.

Using color photocopies and a cut-and-paste technique, he mocked up the first FANDEX, which represented 35 trees from his tiny neighborhood park. The prototype was a beautiful thing, and he longed for it to have a commercial life. "But it was ungainly," he said. "So many wild cuts, so many photos. Expensive."

Could the idea work in black and white? He found a book containing official engravings of the U.S. presidents and photocopied and cut them onto parchment-like card paper. "It was Mt. Rushmore to the max--hilarious."

Eric knew of Workman Publishing through things his kids had--non-traditional books with unusual bindings and products attached--and he asked a bookstore client how to make contact with them. "My client referred me to his buyer who referred me to her sales rep who referred me to an editor whose office I assaulted with my presentation," he said. Eric was whisked upstairs to the CEO's office where he repeated the presentation, and that, as they say, was that. Today, FANDEX fans can read about mythology, dinosaurs, the Civil War, the 50 states, and more. Even the Kama Sutra, he says, is represented.

"From the moment I stopped thinking about the idea and started making it to the time the CEO said yes, was eight weeks," Eric mused. "A fairy tale, to be sure, and one that has led me to think about how I do what I do.

"In fact, the experience has probably spoiled me forever from working as an architect in a traditional setting. After all, why wait for someone to present me with a design problem when there are so many opportunities in everyday life?"
FANDEX Family Field Guides, Workman Publishing

Independent bookstores and an on-line distributors, $7.00-$11.00 each


"survivor's guide to sex" book cover
Healing with Pleasure

THERE IS A PLEASURABLE FUTURE FOR SURVIVORS OF CHILDHOOD SEXUAL ABUSE, AND STACI HAINES '89 IS HELPING THEM TO FIND IT. Staci is a sex educator in private practice in San Francisco, where she guides her patients' healing processes through somatics, an Eastern perspective that treats one's body, mind, and emotions as a whole. She is also the author of the well-reviewed book, A Survivor's Guide to Sex: How to Have an Empowered Sex Life After Child Sexual Abuse, which offers a powerful, open-minded, and powerful approach to recovery.

staci haines photo

A survivor of child abuse herself, Staci says that much of her healing took place as a student at Oberlin, where she organized a campus incest survivors' group and won government support for funding recovery resources. "It was a gift to find myself at the center of such a politicized and socially aware community," she writes. "I knew that I wasn't alone in surviving abuse. When I couldn't heal for myself, I healed to make a difference for the future."

Working through her own recovery, Staci managed Good Vibrations, a retail store that has become a leader in the field of sex education. Talking with other survivors and professionals about abuse and sex-positive recovery led her to write a series of articles and her book. Today she offers sex education training and presentations throughout the Bay Area and organizes legislative efforts to end child sexual abuse. She discussed her book at Oberlin last fall in a lecture sponsored by the Alumni Association and Multicultural Resource Center.

diana dumitru photo
Success is Sweet for Banker Turned Baker

She's been dubbed the person "at the forefront of the crêpe renaissance," an architect of flat, 14-inch folded French pancakes stuffed with wild mushrooms, spinach and feta, asparagus, avocado, or chocolate and bananas, to name a few. Her downtown Cleveland shop, Crêpes Plus, was a haven for the lunchtime crowd who yearned for something more fulfilling than a sandwich or burger.

Her name is Diana Dumitru, a 1990 Oberlin grad who at age 12 immigrated with her family from Arad, Romania. She was an excellent student who majored in economics, then landed a comfortable job with the Federal Reserve Bank in Cleveland. "I enjoyed my job and I learned a lot, but I couldn't see myself doing economic research forever," she says. As a child, Diana had picked up the baking bug from her grandmother, and decided that the time was right for a career change. She enrolled at Johnson and Wales in Rhode Island, emerged with a pastry arts degree, and won her way into the kitchen as pastry cook, then pastry chef, at Cleveland's Ritz-Carlton Hotel. In 1997, the Ritz sent Diana to a chocolate seminar in France. "While there I discovered crêpes," she says. "There was no crêpery in Cleveland and I had been toying with the idea of starting a business." She opened the city's only crêpe shop that year, supplementing her breakfast and lunch menu with speciality and wedding cakes and other made-to-order desserts.

But last fall, Diana's loyal customers found themselves crêpe-less when the shop closed to make way for renovations to the 109-year-old arcade that housed her business. Diana has an enterprising spirit, however, and it wasn't more than two weeks before she transformed the business into Cakes Plus, a European-style pastry shop one block away. Crêpes were replaced with fine pastries and ornate wedding cakes that attract customers from neighboring states. On this particular day, she was shaping hundreds of blown sugar balls, inspired by a Martha Stewart creation, to package and send to a Michigan wedding cake baker. The tedious process, not unlike blowing glass, involved pulling and heating sugar over a flame, then manually pumping air, expanding the ball of sugar into a delicate, fragile bubble.

Diana's creations have not gone unrecognized by her peers. Her mother, an able assistant, boasts of Diana's Art Studio awards in categories such as Best of Show, Most Artistic, and Most Decadent. Warner Brothers, the Cleveland Public Library, and the Federal Reserve Bank are among her clients, whose banquet guests might be treated to a chocolate Scooby Doo or an eight-foot cake.

At Oberlin, says Diana, she learned to focus, mature, and approach her life from a new perspective. "I loved Oberlin, and the education I received there has been invaluable to me. I still stay in touch by returning to campus for plays, operas, and other musical events."

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Alumni Profiles