We've taken a look at the very full schedules of some students. Now what about alumni? From the pages of the class notes, we touched base with three alumni whose lives have gone in unusual directions.
Susan Lee, yoga instructor
Susan Lee '78 took an unusual vacation in September of 1993. Pursuing a hobby and love she had begun in the early 1980s,
she took a month off from her job at the Maritime Administration, Department of Transportation in Washington, D.C., and headed north to a yoga ashram in Woodbourne, N.Y., where she became a certified yoga instructor.
An ashram is a commune, and yoga is a means of disciplining the mind and body, Lee says. Hatha yoga is physical exercise and breathing techniques for calming the mind, relieving stress, and making the body fit. It is the first step of raja yoga, or meditation.
Ashram guests can be as active or as inactive as they want, but are invited to participate in various daily activities such as hatha yoga, chanting,
meditation, and “selfless service” (helping out the community with an hour's worth of “chores.”) Yoga teacher training also includes studying Sanskrit, philosophy, anatomy, and the Bhagavad Gita.
Lee taught hatha yoga at work for a year after leaving the ashram, but found that she preferred being a student to being a teacher. After a good yoga class, she says that she feels like a “well-oiled machine-it's easier to move, my body is strong, and my mind is quiet.”
Currently, in addition to taking two yoga classes, Lee works full-time while pursuing an MBA part-time at George Washington University.
Jeffrey Greene, furniture designer
As a young graduate student in psychology at Fairleigh Dickinson University, Jeffrey Greene '65 rented a garage and started building furniture.
“I made some furniture that wasn't too terrific, but I loved doing it and realized that I wanted to do it professionally. So I made the jump and just did it,” he says.
Thirty years later, he's still
doing it, and doing it well. For twenty-four years he's owned Jeffrey Greene Design Studio in New Hope, Penn., where he designs and builds dining sets, cabinets, and bedroom furniture, all made from fine rare woods.
Greene was a psychology major, which he says has been helpful in the sales aspect of his career. His father, a professional artist, taught him to draw and encouraged him to pursue a profession that would involve creativity. He took a few art courses in college, but at the time he didn't realize that it was what he really wanted to do.
After building the “not-too terrific furniture” in graduate school, Green was taken under the wings of James Martin and Philip Lloyd Powell, two experts in furniture craftsmanship. Now Greene takes young artisans under his wing through the apprentice program he runs at his studio. Students from the United States and abroad come for a year to work and learn with Greene.
He also owns Greene and Greene Gallery, also located in New Hope, with his wife. The “selling arm” for the studio, the gallery carries Greene's furniture as well as artisan-made jewelry and home accessories.
Greene knows many of his customers well and designs
specifically for them, starting with a freehand sketch of a design, then a more detailed rendering, and often a scale model of the piece of furniture.
One of his favorite and most popular pieces is a center-leaf dining table with matching chairs, made from solid Bolivian Rosewood and Black African Wenge with hand-cut incised detailing in Brazilian Purpleheart.
Paul Forlenza, selfmade photographer
Paul Forlenza '67 was frustrated as a kid because he thought he couldn't do anything creative. While he struggled in school with a later-diagnosed learning disability, he picked up a camera-quite subconsciously, he says-and started taking pictures.
Even though he received a lot of positive feedback, he continued to struggle with the issue of creativity when he came to Union. Because he saw the camera as a technical tool, rather than an artistic one, he began as a math major, switched to political science, and never really experimented with art classes. He remembers that a highlight of his undergraduate
years came during a term abroad in Madrid. He took an art appreciation course and a course at the Prado Museum and discovered the artist El Greco, falling in love with the bold figures and colors of the artist's work.
After graduation, he earned a master's degree in computer science, worked in management consulting and marketing, ran for Congress (in 1984 in Vermont), and joined IBM, where he now is government relations regional manager in Washington, D.C.
All the while, he kept snapping pictures, with little formal training.
“It's taken me thirty years to craft and develop my abilities into something I feel really good about,” he says. And others feel good about his work as well. Forlenza has taken pictures for IBM, the Make-a-Wish Foundation, and an adult home in Washington, D.C. In November of 1995 he won an Equal Award from the Art League of Virginia-his entry was one of six out of 300 recognized for artistic excellence. His photos have been in eight juried exhibitions over the past year, and he had a solo exhibit sponsored by the Capitol Hill Art League. He has also had photos published in three magazines.
While he shoots in color, the amount of color in his photos is limited. He focuses on light and the use of light. “I isolate and simplify images …I look for a sort of universal message,” he explains. “I pick something as a vignette and explore it.”
One of his favorite photos, one that he calls “Mellow Yellow,” is a photo of a yellow fire hydrant in front of a yellow brick wall. The hydrant is reflected in a puddle of water, making the whole picture yellow. Another of his favorite photos is one that he took in New Mexico of an old brown stucco staircase. A broom sits in the corner. “I wanted to capture New Mexico, without really overstating it,” he says. “Looking at the photo I can imagine my grandmother sweeping the stairs.”