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A toy story: Stone Newman makes a ‘big’ impact with Sababa Toys

Posted on Dec 18, 2006

stone newman 1997 '97 sababa toys

When Stone Newman '97 was in the eighth grade, his mother took him to see the movie Big. In the film, a boy's wish to be a grownup comes true, and overnight he inherits an adult body. Soon he has a girlfriend, an apartment and a job in the corporate playground of New York City's toy industry.

The 13-year-old Newman didn't realize that watching the famous “Chopsticks” scene with Tom Hanks jumping on giant piano keys in F.A.O. Schwarz was akin to looking into a crystal ball.

Newman, who owns the Manhattan-based Sababa Toys, got his start at F.A.O. Schwarz the summer after his sophomore year at Union. An economics major, he began considering a career on the corporate side of the toy industry. He got an internship at Tyco the following summer.

At Tyco, he took the opportunity to pitch toys to such distributors as Wal-Mart, Kmart and KayBee Toys. One of his supervisors was so impressed with his work that he wanted to keep him on permanently, but Newman insisted on returning to Union for his senior year.

At Union, Newman kept active as a member of Psi Upsilon and the rugby team. Immersed in his studies, he found Professor Douglass Klein's economics classes riveting. Klein's lectures on market segmentation, it turned out, were also instrumental to his career.

“I regularly use them while evaluating new ways to expand my business,” Newman says. In addition, “the broad parameters and flexibility in Union's entire curriculum allowed me to gain knowledge in a lot of different areas, which has helped me in many important aspects of my life.”

After graduation from Union, Newman took jobs at both Tyco and Hasbro in New York City. At Hasbro, he marketed the famous Tonka line, which included Chuck My Talking Truck, named after his grandfather.

Newman soon decided to play with a new idea: a toy company of his own.

In 2000, he founded Sababa Toys. The company's continually expanding product portfolio contains such classic brands as Rubik's Cube, Fisher Price, Tomy, Etch-A-Sketch and the card game, UNO.

In addition, Newman has partnered with industry leaders Matel, Nickelodeon and Major League Baseball to offer co-branded games and toys like Muppets plush toys ($14.99-$16.99), New York Yankees Rubik's Cubes ($13.99), and SpongeBob SquarePants UNO ($9.99). Newman cites the latter as the company's biggest seller and a personal favorite.

Sababa produces more than 70 versions of UNO, ranging from Superman to Dora the Explorer. Its line of officially licensed sports team items and games continues to grow each year.

“After the Boston Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, within five weeks we introduced a World Championship Edition UNO game commemorating the victory. It included all images from the series,” says Newman. “Since then, we have followed with a version for both the Chicago White Sox and the Pittsburgh Steelers.”

Sababa products are offered in more than 50,000 retail outlets. Besides retail giants such as Target and Borders, the company's broad appeal also means Sababa items can be found in a range of smaller and less obvious venues: sporting goods stores, Claire's Accessories, Hot Topic and the Open Door Bookstore on Schenectady's Jay Street.

New to hit the shelves this holiday season will be games and toys based on the book series, Dragonology, Fischer Price Wood Board Puzzles and movie tie-in games for the Warner Brothers' animated Happy Feet.

Despite the fast-paced lifestyle of a successful CEO, in many ways Newman says he is still a boy at heart, much like Hanks' character in Big.

“I have some great memories playing Monopoly with my older brother, and I also was a huge G.I. Joe fan growing up. I'm also very proud of Sababa's own line of UNO games and look forward to the release of our Hello Kitty edition this fall.”

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John E. Kelly III ’76 cited by Rensselaer

Posted on Dec 12, 2006

John Kelly III '76

John E. Kelly III '76, a Union trustee and senior vice president of technology at IBM, received the Davies Medal for Engineering Achievement from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Alumni Association on Dec. 7, 2006.

Kelly, who earned his doctorate from Rensselaer two years after graduating from Union, also was keynote speaker at the Institute's 2006 Trustee Celebration of Faculty Achievement where he spoke on “A Formula for Innovation.”

The Davies Medal for Engineering Achievement recognizes a Rensselaer alumnus for a distinguished career of engineering achievement, public service, and technical and managerial accomplishments. It is named for Clarence E. Davis, a 1914 graduate who was one of the Institute's most accomplished, active, and loyal alumni.

Kelly, a longtime supporter of Union's interdisciplinary endeavors, last winter spoke at the dedication of the John E. Kelly III '76 Digital Arts Lab, where he said, “My Union experience meant so much to me; it was such a tipping point in my life.”

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Union volunteers back from second visit to Katrina area

Posted on Dec 11, 2006

December 2006 Katrina Relief,Mary Volcko '08 gutting the bathroom in a house.

Twenty-two Union College students and two faculty mentors who recently spent a week helping out in the Katrina-ravaged area of New Orleans say their work has just begun.

“It seems unreal how fast this week went by and it's tough to digest everything we saw and did,” said Bilal Mahmood '08. “I hope we can spread the message of how much [community service] help is needed in New Orleans and around the world.”

Students experienced first-hand the difficulties facing New Orleans residents as they try to rebuild. Working side-by-side with AmeriCorps volunteers in the St. Bernard's Parish region, they gutted buildings, moved refrigerators, hung siding, removed rubbish and repaired roofs. Oftentimes, they lacked appropriate tools and manpower to do the work.

December 2006 Katrina Relief, Bilal Mahmood '08 and Selvin Elliott '09 tacking up trim.

“It's tough to know where to start in the rebuilding effort when whole communities are devastated,” said Mahmood. “Even though gutting one house and working on a few new houses did nothing in the grand scheme of the rebuilding project, it seems like the only option is to start fixing things that one can fix.”

The days were long, with work beginning as early as 7 a.m.; and the nights were cold, as they soon found out. Camp Hope, a renovated elementary school in the Parish which served as their dorm and dining area, lacked both insulation and heat. So getting the requisite sleep essential for long days of toiling proved daunting in the chilly 29-degree weather.

Still, it wasn't all work.

December 2006 Katrina volunteers,Standing:Aaron Goldman '08, Meredith Brandon '09, Libby Johnson '08, Assistant Director of Residential Life Molly MacElroy, Mary Volcko '08, Jyoti Bankapur '09, Angelique Kelley '10, Mary Berkery '07; Front Row: Hannah Com

The group took one evening during their week-long rehabilitation project to hit a local institution on Bourbon Street. The 1950s bowling alley afforded a fun evening of Rock ‘n Bowl and the zydeco dance band allowed the students to cut loose a little.

Another treat was the promise of a warm bed and heat for their final night in the Big Easy. Laura Eyman, a junior from New Orleans, arranged with her parents for the group to spend their last evening at the family's home.

Union students were charged with documenting and recording their work in the hopes of producing a core of students who will continue the efforts each year. Accompanying them were Molly S. MacElroy, assistant director of residential life; Janet P. Grigsby, visiting associate professor of sociology; and Gribsby's 23-year-old son, Matthew. Libby Johnson '08 and Meagan Keenan '09 volunteered for their second time.

The $12,000 funding for the Union trip was paid by the same anonymous Union alumnus who funded last year's efforts. Lew Dubow, father of Risa Dubow '07, donated safety goggles, masks, gloves and other essential equipment. Dubow's NYC-based hardware supply company donated equipment after 9/11, and he was eager to contribute to this year's trip.

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Holiday card features wintry Nott

Posted on Dec 6, 2006

2006 Union College Holiday Card,Nott Memorial during an evening snowfall,watercolor,pen and ink by Lawrence Van Alstyne

A new holiday card commissioned from artist Lawrence Van Alstyne makes its debut this season.

Van Alstyne is best known for his collage creations of college campuses across the nation. 

The watercolor, pen and ink art card features the Nott Memorial during an evening snowfall. The inside of the card contains a holiday greeating.

The commemorative holiday art cards may be purchased individually for $3.49, in packs of five for $14.99 and in packs of ten for $26.99 with matching envelopes. Phone orders may be placed by calling (518) 388-6189 and online orders will soon be available through the campus bookstore.

Orders may be placed through December 21. A minimal shipping charge applies based on weight and destination.

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Alumnus rings in the New Year with the Pops

Posted on Dec 6, 2006

Robert Bernhardt '73

Join Union alumnus Robert Bernhardt '73 as he counts down to 2007 with the Boston Pops Dec. 31 at Symphony Hall in Boston. He will conduct “Holiday Pops and New York Voices,” a concert featuring members of the Boston Pops, beginning at 10:15 p.m.

The doors open at 8:30 p.m. for entertainment throughout the hall, and post-concert dancing and refreshments wrap up the celebration. Tickets are $80-$167 and can be obtained through the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Bernhardt is currently in his 13th season with the Chattanooga Symphony and Opera (CSO), where he is conductor and music director. He has brought great accomplishment and a sense of fun to one of the Southeast's oldest arts organizations.

Equally at home in all genres, from symphony to pops, Bernhardt has a vast symphonic repertoire that covers most of the standard canon, and his commitment to the music of our time is significant.

Concurrent with his CSO tenure, Bernhardt holds the additional title of principal pops conductor of the Louisville Orchestra, where he is celebrating his 25th anniversary this year. He began his professional career there in 1981 as assistant conductor and has worked with the orchestra every year since.

High praise for his work, which has been consistent throughout his tenure, has included:

“Mr. Bernhardt and musicians (are) now playing with unmatched precision and confidence.” (Chattanooga Times Free Press)

“In addition to being a conductor of immense musical ability, Bernhardt has the unique gift of demystifying music for the masses… with few exceptions, the orchestra under Robert Bernhardt's direction set the standard with clean, intelligent, and energetic playing. Bernhardt's control and pacing brought this exciting music alive with solid intonation and a tight ensemble.” (Chattanoogan.com)

Born in Rochester, N.Y., Bernhardt is a Phi Beta Kappa, summa cum laude graduate of Union, where he received a bachelor's in Art and was an Academic All-American baseball player. He holds a master's degree with honors from the University of Southern California School of Music ('77), where he studied with Daniel Lewis. 

A lover of opera, Bernhardt has conducted staged productions for the Chattanooga Opera as well as the opera companies of Nashville and Birmingham. He has been a frequent guest conductor with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and Boston Pops.

He has also been a guest with the Seattle, Phoenix, Nashville, Colorado, Iceland and Pacific symphony orchestras, among others.

Bernhardt made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1978 and has recorded for Vanguard, First Edition, Carlton Classics and RPO record labels. He also has conducted the Louisville, North Carolina, Jacksonville and Lonestar ballet companies.

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