1993! A movie ticket cost $4.00. “Jurassic Park” was box office king. Whoomp! (There It Is) blasted over the airwaves. “Home Improvement” was the most popular sitcom on TV. The average cost of new car was $13,000. The novel “The Bridges of Madison County” was a top seller. Tuition to Harvard University was $23,514.00. “Beavis and Butt-Head” made its debut. And, most importantly, ASMS graduated its first class! Here’s a look at a handful of graduates from the Inaugural Class of 1993.
“It’s hard to believe it has been 20 years since I graduated from ASMS,” admits Young, who works for ModernTech Corporation as an Application Engineer in Childersburg, AL. “Being a part of the first graduating class at ASMS is an awesome feeling. It’s always great being the first to accomplish something.”
Young also explains that ASMS prepared him for college and beyond and that he credits the school most for teaching him how to be resourceful. “I can still smell the tar on the roof as we were heading into the gym for lunch,” he says. “It didn’t always go well with what was for lunch. I also remember how great it felt to move into the guys dorm the second year. We felt like kings.”
RUTH ROCKER MCMULLIN
“Being a part of the first graduating class at ASMS was a wonderful experience,” says McMullin, who works as an attorney with the DeKalb County Public Defender’s Office in Atlanta, GA, specializing in representing juveniles who are charged as adults and face life in prison. She also teaches trial advocacy skills at Emory University School of Law. “I made lifelong friendships and learned a lot about myself in the process.”
McMullin is also thankful that ASMS taught her time management skills: “Being a litigator and wife and mother of three, being effective at management is a necessity,” she says. Although the campus was still under heavy construction at the time, Rocker says that the campus felt like home. “For the first time, I felt a true sense of belonging. The students were diverse in their backgrounds but we all shared the common goal of success. It really felt good to be amongst other academically high achieving students. I loved that the faculty embraced all of our quirkiness and even added some of their own. I still have my hard hat from the early days of campus life!”
SARA E. YOUNG
Young works as a family physician and an assistant professor in the department of Family Medicine at Georgia Health Sciences University’s Medical College of Georgia in Augusta. She teaches and advises medical students and residents and is heavily involved in grant writing, educational research. Young says that being part of the inaugural class of ASMS was a life-changing experience, as it allowed her to explore her interests, responsibilities, and independence in a supportive setting.
“I learned that the more experience I get at adjusting to life changes, the better I am at making those transitions more successfully,” she says.
ASMS, she adds, also prepared her to become a lifelong learner. “ASMS prepared me to be a compassionate physician by introducing me to a more diverse population in a larger community than I knew in my hometown,” she says. “Now as I serve as an educator to future physicians, I recognize that ASMS models excellence in teaching and in learning.”
Some of her remembrances: “Hard hats, selection of the Dragon as mascot, definition of the ‘Hood for walks, first calculus class (with Dr. Murdick, Matt, Mark, Bob, Aaron, and me), Krispy Kreme, guitar players in the quad, the coffee and 70 year old twins at Steak ‘n’ Egg, Magnolia Cemetery, the Oakleigh House and Garden District, Turnip Festival, weekend trips to New Orleans on the school van with chaperones, the blanket rule, Special Projects trip to Seaside, ‘The Devil in Literature’ for Special Projects, basketball and weight lifting classes for PE, Greek Fest at the Greek Orthodox church up St. Ann’s Street, and going home with other students for holiday breaks.”
Cochran works as a Professor of Information Systems at Kennesaw State University. “There was a sense of pride associated with being ‘pioneers’ endeavoring for the first time on the journey,” he says. “ There was a lot of energy already, but the uncertainty associated with being the first class enhanced our willingness to adapt to construction, incomplete projects, and new opportunities to begin defining what ASMS became.”
He also credits ASMS with instilling in him the ability to think critically. “In essence, ASMS is an experiment in Brownian motion” he says. “While we all had some resistance to being in the jar, the experience of being contained together in the environment, bouncing off one another for two years, led to an intensity of experience that would be hard to replicate in other environments. Living in the jar with fellow students and the ASMS faculty (who were surely happy to be able to leave the jar) taught me to think critically, to analyze information, and synthesize multiple points of view much more rapidly than I would have otherwise.”
What does Cochran remember about the early days? “Beyond being awakened by construction many days, taking van rides to the movies, contemplating the Calculus Cockroach, and pushing the administration to include sports from the start, one of my favorite memories of the early days was breakfast in the gym. For the first semester, it seemed most everyone came to breakfast – almost as a family. Everyone embraced the opportunity to get to know each other and there was a real sense that ‘we are in this together.’ Gym breakfast, along with the great icebreakers at the beginning, was critical for helping me form great relationships that I still value 20 years later. I could still talk today to classmates that I haven’t seen in years and feel in seconds like we all know some secret that binds us together.”
KARA MIZELL COLLINS
Collins works as a realtor with Roberts Brothers in Fairhope, AL, previously Dauphin Realty. In January, she received the Dauphin Realty Rookie of the Year Award (2011). What was it like to be a part of the first graduating class at ASMS? “It was amazing,” she says. “A rollercoaster ride of ups and downs, a taste of freedom with a hefty dose of new responsibility. Being first meant doing something no one else had done before. There was a huge element of risk, but the potential rewards were limitless.”
Collins believes that attending ASMS helped her to learn how to take risks. “I’ve done some pretty interesting things in my life, but nothing has been as fulfilling as success in the current real estate market,” she says. “I am very competitive and ASMS helped give me that edge required to take risks and succeed. ASMS helped open my eyes to the value, beauty, and diversity of my home state and her people. Meeting people from various backgrounds and learning to catch a glimpse of the world through their eyes was an invaluable lesson that continues to serve me well in business.”
Collins also says that she enjoys the life-long friendships that she formed at ASMS. “Some parts of life at ASMS in the early days were similar to the way they are now. Nothing is like learning to live in a dorm room with a person you’ve only just met, just ask Sarah Walker, but after 20 years, I still count Sarah as one of my dearest life-long friends. Of course there were other ‘quirky’ things that made it interesting. Honestly, the things I remember most are the wonderful friendships that were forged from a common experience and common goals. Those are the kind of friendships that stand the test of time.”
Walker works as a Branch Manager at Regions Bank in New Albany, MS. She says that being a part of the creation of ASMS was a unique experience.
“One of the most important things I learned was how to write,” she says. “ASMS also taught me that I can do anything I am willing to work for.”
A fond memory? “ASMS was under construction when we moved in. Our favorite Dr. Allen Tubbs phrase became ‘two weeks.’ When will the outlet work? ‘Two Weeks.’ When will the cafeteria be finished? ‘Two Weeks.’ When will the swimming pool be ready? ‘Two Weeks.’ Two weeks meant hope.”
JULIE CHESSHER STONE
Stone works at an environmental, geotechnical, and construction-consulting firm called Terracon as an administrative staff member. “When I am not working for pay,” she says, “I spend my time as a libertarian political activist, which currently among other activities involves me being the Chair of the St. Louis County Libertarian Party.”
“ASMS allowed me to explore what interested me the most at the time and to be an individual,” she says. “This independence gave me the tools to examine the issues on my own and the confidence to stand for a potentially publicly unpopular stance on educated and principled grounds.”
One memorable moment that stands out to Stone involves how the dragon was selected as the school’s mascot: “During one of our meals, we had an election with a list of proposed mascots that we could choose. Most of us were not very happy with the bland mascot choices presented; as such we stuffed the ballot box with our own choices such as griffin, blue fish (was in reference to a joke), and dragon. Due to this protest, they had to redo the mascot vote and added our protest suggestions on the second election. Thus the dragon was selected as the mascot by the students in a truly ASMS way.”
“I’ve always felt very lucky to be a member of the 1993 graduating class,” says Ott, who works as a Senior Statistician at Yale University/YNHH Center for Outcomes Research & Evaluation (CORE). “ASMS taught me the reward of seeking out difficult challenges.”
Ott, like her classmates, remembers what it was like to go to school in a construction zone. “In its early days, ASMS was loud,” she says. “I was awakened most mornings by the sound of construction workers finishing the initial build of campus. It was also very close quarters. All students were housed in one dormitory, and most activities took place in the small front room of the SAC or in the open areas on the dorm floors.
“On the other hand, we all felt very connected. The students, faculty, and staff knew that it was a special time, and we were all very excited to be embarking on this grand experiment together. I think we all felt a great responsibility to create something of high value for ourselves, the local community, and those across the state who invested so many resources in us. Looking back, I believe that we did.”
Harden is an MFA film student at Florida State University. Before that he worked as an Engineering Manager at bSquare Corporation. “My most recent project was adding PDF support to Amazon’s Kindle Desktop app and helping to launch the Kindle Fire,” he says.
So why did he enjoy ASMS so much? “ASMS made the first two years of college (Auburn) easy for me, he says. “It lead me to a degree in Electrical Engineering, a summa cum laude designation for both that and my MBA, and taught me one of the most valuable lessons of my life – that education can take your career to levels you may never reach without it.”
KATHERINE ELIZABETH TYLER THOMPSON
“Initially being a student at ASMS was intimidating, but after the school year actually kicked off, it was challenging, exciting, and rewarding,” says Thompson, who works as a Project Manager/Geologist at Bhate Environmental Associates, Inc. in Birmingham, AL.
How did ASMS prepare Thompson for her career? “Simply put, ASMS prepared me with knowledge, experience, and adventure, she says. “Not only is my career science-based, which was the ultimate motive for my ASMS attendance; I am required to work with and among various types of people, clients, and agencies. ASMS was the prelude to the development of my current manner of thinking and interacting. Tolerance, open-mindedness, and ultimately acceptance are valuable elements of life, which was afforded to me by the students, staff, and opportunities of my alma mater. Immersion into a culture of various socioeconomic, racial, and political backgrounds was my classroom to the world.”
Jason Ryder works as the Associate Director of Process Engineering for Amyris, a renewable chemicals and fuels company based in Emeryville, California. Amyris applies industrial synthetic biology to design and construct microbes capable of converting sugars into target molecules.
What was it like to be a part of the first graduating class at ASMS? “From the moment I heard about ASMS from my high school guidance counselor, I knew that this was THE SCHOOL for me,” says Ryder. “Twenty years on, I still glow with pride over the reputation that the school has built and the great students that continue to walk the grounds of the Old Dauphin Way Baptist Church.”
How did ASMS prepare you for what you are doing in life now? “ASMS helped me to identify a knack for chemistry and mathematics, the combination of which planted the seeds for my career in chemical engineering. I had unfettered access to advanced coursework ranging from statistics to partial differential equations to advanced organic chemistry. All of this would eventually frame my university and graduate studies, and my job today. My professors did an outstanding job of tying the problems in the classroom to real life application outside of the classroom.”
Favorite memory? “Dr. Kay Kouadio was chaperoning a Florida trip to the Miami Hurricane Center, Kennedy Space Center, and Disney World. We were disappointed that we missed the scheduled space shuttle launch at Kennedy Space Center. At approximately 1:15 AM, someone was yelling and knocking on my hotel room door. I opened it and found a super-excited Dr. Kouadio. It turned out that the space shuttle had launched and Dr. Kouadio had caught it just in time to wake everyone up. As it rose majestically into the air, Dr. Kouadio was narrating with the different chemical reactions going on between the solid rocket boosters and the main engines. I remember admiring his passion for teaching and love for his students, even at 1:15 AM in the morning.”
Downey works as an Information Security Engineer at Google. “When I started at ASMS, there was a lot that was legitimately awesome – teachers who easily could have been college professors, some really high end labs (we were fighting for the money to pay for crucibles in
chem lab back in my home town – meanwhile, we were busy doing gel electrophoresis in Dr. Schwaner’s biology class), and cutting edge equipment (486s in our computer lab and later my first account on a Unix system – as opposed to the three Commodore 64s my old high school had),” he says.
How did ASMS prepare Downey for his current career? “There is no doubt in my mind I would not be where, who, or why I am the person I am today without ASMS,” he says. “I was going to a high school in rural small town Alabama. I remember reading about differential calculus in a science fiction story, and asking my freshman algebra teacher about what this crazy thing was. She couldn’t tell me – college had been too long ago, and she’d been teaching the same two classes for decades. She looked me in the eye and told me: ‘Don’t worry about it – normal teenagers don’t worry about math.’ Gone went the school where even the math teachers didn’t care about calculus, and coming was the place where I got to study abstract algebra with people who loved it the same way I did. If I got hit by a bus the day after I graduated, I could probably die a little content that I had learned how to prove a theorem or two in my time there.”