‘Great Conversations’ Filled Los Alamos High School

Executive Director Joanna Gillespie of the Los Alamos Public Schools Foundation thanks all of the participants, sponsors and community members who participated in this year’s “Great Conversations” fundraising event. The Los Alamos Public Schools Foundation leverages time, talent and funds to promote innovative learning for the local schools and last Sunday was no exeption. Its annual “Great Conversations” was packed with people interested in supporting the schools as well as learning something interesting and new from a broad spectrum of experts. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
Sold out early, Terry Wallace’s talk “Earthquakes! Will the world end in 2012?” had everyone talking. Nature views a century as the blink of an eye and Wallace, who before coming to Los Alamos National Laboratory, was a professor of geosciences and applied mathematics, points out that since the start of the 20th Century there has been a magnitude 8 earthquake every two to five years. Additionally, since 2004 there have been 13 earthquakes with magnitudes greater than 8. This remarkable cluster of “great” earthquakes has lead to much speculation about fundamental changes in the Earth. Could the Mayan calendar, ending in 2012, actually be portending a great calamity? Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Artist Abad Sandoval lead a conversation entitled, “The Splendor of Creating Art. How does a painter know when to put the brush down? Sandoval, whose work has been inspired by his love of New Mexico’s land, skies, and cultural diversity, has painted the landscapes, seasons, and historic structures of New Mexico all his life. He spoke about how he chose his medium, watercolors and how he creates what he is feeling and sometimes paints what he cannot see. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Rob and Kathy Hipwood spoke about “Coaching a Generation to Be More Than Average.” What does it mean to always seek improvement? Can your teen embrace working for something greater than oneself? Training for a disciplined lifestyle while embracing mental and physical health is something Rob and Kathy Hipwood, New Mexico Track & Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame 2012 Inductees, know something about. They have, with great success, coached students of all backgrounds, skill levels and the products of every parenting style. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Golf Pro Donnie Torres led a talk on “Fore! Golf Now and for the Next Generation.” Torres, a Class A Professional and Lifetime member of the PGA, believes that growing the game of golf is essential. Passionate about his 28 years at the Los Alamos Municipal Golf Course, Torres aims to see players both young and older improve their game. He spoke about the Los Alamos course – a community asset for 65 years, and some of the emerald green courses around the U.S. that are worthy of their greens fees. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Morrie Pongratz led a conversation entitled, “What’s Your Spark?” According to Los Alamos, Pongratz is both a Living Treasure and the Voice of the Hilltoppers. He discussed “why vetting is vital” and why he says civic efforts must cherchez l’argent (follow the money.) He spoke about what it means to make community service the mortar that cements local government, and one’s personal life. With a focus on youth, Pongratz shared insider knowledge of the LAPS Foundation, Juvenile Justice Advisory Board and Kiwanas Club’s efforts. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Dr. Tom Csanadi spoke on the unique topic, “Where’s Your Medical Home?” House calls may sound rather turn of the century, but they still exist. In the age of “the business of medicine,” Csanadi is more likely to talk about the “art of medicine.” How many times have you been asked a question that really means, “What are your symptoms?” Dr. Tom as he is affectionately called, has worked 14 years in private pediatric practice, the last year in solo practice. He is a progressive physician who is more likely to ask “how is your life, your health and your attitude? Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Cindy Rooney led a conversation entilted, “Yours & Mine: The State of Our Economy.” She addressed how household economic decisions impact the larger economic climate and global to local – what the economy is doing. Rooney, an economist and CPA, took a look at economic statistics, how they are calculated and how trends can be interpreted. She spoke about the overall employment situation and what it means for the national economy, what she reads, whose advice she seeks, and how she manages her family’s micro-economy. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Sheryl Bailey Heath and John Gustafson led a conversation about “Theatre in LA – Big and Small (LA, that is.)” They discussed how involvement in theater can teach a person about life. As a director and producer, Heath knows it’s called show “business” for a reason. She has seen theater’s transformative power up-close from many vantage points. Gustofson spoke about seeing ones self or family in a scene when the lights go down and the curtain parts. He is a Little Theater newcomer and has tried acting, directing and producing. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Dr. Paul Daly spoke about, “Boots on the Ground: a Doc’s perspective of Iraq & Kuwait.” Do the cultural differences between western and eastern culture shape the way the armed forces approach service?.Daly explained how a Command Surgeon functions within an Army Brigade. He gave the guests at his table a better understanding of how the geographical differences between North America and the Middle East are affecting our military leaders and troops. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Steve Anton led a conversation entitled, “FIRST Things First: What is FIRST Robotics?” The ultimate multi-disciplinary engineering topic: robotics. Anton shared his insatiable passion for First Robotics, which was the brain child of the inventor of the Segway. The program, aimed at youth, inspires them to become science and technology leaders. He briefed his table guests about the exciting projects of Team 4153. He also shared future robotic opportunities for students and discussed which community resources are needed most. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Rep. Jim Hall spoke about, “Round the Roundhouse: Where are the Big Wheels?” He gave a freshman legislator’s view of the Roundhouse: What’s the process and does it really work as intended? He also examined what happened and didn’t happen in the 2012 session and spoke about the winners, losers, and what was lost in the shuffle. Hall explained the responsibilities and restraints of local and state government and where money come from, where it goes, and whether there will ever be enough. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Also sold out early, Kate and Allen Thomas spoke about the timely topic of “Retirement is a Journey, not a Guided Tour.” Kate and Allen lived on a boat on the Chesapeake Bay for four years. After taking 13 months to travel 28,000 miles, see 24 states and visit 128 family members, they have a unique perspective of what is available for more exploring. The pair guided a discussion on visioning and planning for retirement, some things not to do and the resources necessary for create individual adventures. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Mark Wilhelm addressed, “Green: Transforming Schools, Homes and the World.” There are some great new, efficient and green technologies out there to consider – truly state-of-the-shelf stuff, he said and he knows green. He explained why investing in Energy Efficiency and Green Operations is one of the best investments that a school, a business or a homeowner can make. He saiid that with some planning, a person’s next re-model could reduce his or her carbon footprint and that the less money spent on utilities can mean more money spent on computers, teachers, better services, or a family vacation. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

The event included an array of appetizers and desserts. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com
Italian and Mexican appetizers were provided as well as a table full of cheeses, crackers, breads and fruits including grapes. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Los Alamos High School students served refreshments during the Great Conversations event. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Director Kurt Steinhaus of the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Community Programs Office thanked everyone for attending the Great Conversations event and recognized the Los Alamos Public Schools Foundation’s charter donors Los Alamos National Bank, Los Alamos Medical Center, TRK Management – Roger Waterman and Emily McGay, and Morrie and Cheryl Pongratz. He also thanked the sponsors of Sunday’s event including Los Alamos National Bank, Los Alamos Medical Center, Los Alamos National Security, LLC, Centennial Contractor Enterprises, Inc., Laurie A. Gallegos Attorney and Counselor at Law, SAX Insurance Agency – Vince Marciano, Neptune & Company, Inc., and the many annonymous individual donors. Proceeds from Sunday’s event benefit local educational programs. Photo by Carol A. Clark/ladailypost.com

Los Alamos Public Schools Foundation Executive Committee:

  • Kurt Steinhaus, President
  • Morrie Pongratz, Past President
  • Beth Breshears, Treasurer
  • Cheryl Pongratz, Secretary
  • Gene Schmidt, LAPS Superintendent
  • Joanna Gillespie, Executive Director
  • Karen Hawkins, Member at Large

Board of Directors:

  • Karyl Ann Armbruster
  • Art Brown
  • Judy Bjarke-McKenzie
  • Andrea Cunningham
  • Ken Johnson
  • Suzanne Lynne
  • Elizabeth Martineau
  • Joyce Richins
  • Kelly Stewart

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