editor's essay

Taking a chance

Illustration: Barry Fitzgerald MFA ’90

Reviewing copy for this issue, I was struck by the number of stories about self-discovery, and what it can mean for an individual to embark on a different path than what he or she first envisioned. The people in these accounts may not have deliberately set out to change their life’s direction. But their ability to capitalize on unforeseen opportunities, to take a leap of faith amid uncertainty, has inspired me to take more risks, pursue more adventure—or at least peek out from my comfort zone.

Take Martin Diz (PhD ’15), who came to UB from his native Argentina to study drone technology. While working toward his degree, he was asked by some friends to help them develop a high-tech carry-on bag. He took the challenge, and the result—Bluesmart, the world’s first “smart” suitcase—became an instant success, surpassing its fundraising goals on Indiegogo in two hours and attracting thousands of pre-orders from around the world. Diz now travels back and forth to China overseeing production as co-founder and chief engineer of the company.

Then there’s Sandy Cross (BA ’92) who didn’t even play golf when she took a temporary position with the PGA of America 19 years ago. Since that fortuitous hire, she has not only risen through the ranks of the nearly century-old organization, but is helping to shape golf’s future as the PGA’s senior director of diversity and inclusion. Cross is literally changing the face of a sport that was once the epitome of an old boys’ club.

With his sociology degree in hand, Shep Gordon (BA ’68) took off for California to become a probation officer and help juvenile offenders get straight. That job lasted less than a day, but Shep’s openness to possibility, knack for creative problem-solving and deeply felt desire to help people in need soon led him down a career path that, in retrospect, makes perfect sense. As a hugely successful talent agent, Shep has guided so many careers and helped so many people that he more than deserves the title of “supermensch” bestowed upon him by director Mike Myers in his 2013 documentary celebrating Shep’s remarkable life.

Finally, consider Tziporah Salamon (BA ’72), who didn’t so much reinvent herself as realize what she had always been—“a person who dresses.” Raised by a tailor father and seamstress mother to appreciate the power of a well-put-together outfit, Salamon persisted through a serpentine job path that always had beautiful clothing—worn with originality and flair—as a central motif. Today her passions have all come together in a marvelous weave, as she combines teaching and her art in a thoroughly original way.

These stories of self-discovery reveal careers realized—but with a twist, an amplification, a deepening of the original dream. Sometimes our passions can be reapplied or reworked to fulfill ambitions merely hinted at when we first left our campus confines. I’ve learned that it’s wise to keep all doors open, because you never know what being an engineer, a sociologist, a teacher, or an editor, for that matter, will truly mean in your life’s work.

Ann Whitcher Gentzke, Editor