Tag Archives: University of Michigan

Hail To The Victors (And Justin Paul)

Saturday’s University of Michigan graduation ceremonies — coinciding with the 200th anniversary of the institution — caused a bit of controversy. Some students were disappointed there was no keynote speaker.

But everyone loved the entertainment.

Justin Paul — the Staples Class of 2003 alum — joined with songwriting partner (and fellow Michigan Bicentennial Alumni Award winner) Benj Pasek in a special musical performance.

The Oscar and Golden Globe Award winners — accompanied by UM School of Music Theater & Dance seniors — entertained the 10,758 graduates and many more family and friends with “Amaizing Blue Medley.” It included songs from the duo’s “La La Land” movie and “Dear Evan Hansen” Broadway smash, along with original references to UM.

(Earlier today, Pasek and Paul earned a Best Original Score Tony nomination, for “Hansen.”)

Click below for a video of the cold and windy but energetic event (which unfortunately omits the “Amaizing” pun in the graphics). Justin and Benj begin at the 2:30 mark.

Congrats to the UM graduates from Westport: Siri Andrews, Perri Cohen, Jonny Denowitz, Jen Dimitrief, Anna Fiolek, Louisa Freeman, Jason Hoving, Julia Kaner, DJ Petta, Rusty Schindler, Lily Seo and Bailey Valente.

(Hat tip: Westport 2nd selectman Avi Kaner — proud parent of 2017 University of Michigan grad Julia Kaner)

The view from the stage of the 109,000-seat stadium.

60 Years Later, Elmo Morales Can’t Forget Westport

Earlier this month, Greg Wolfe and Nancy Lewis dropped their daughter Emily off for her 2nd year at the University of Michigan.

After dinner, the couple passed a tiny t-shirt shop near campus. As they looked at merchandise set on the street, the owner came out to chat.

Elmo Morales designed this t-shirt for Jim Harbaugh's return as Michigan football coach.

Elmo Morales designed this slogan for Jim Harbaugh’s return as Michigan football coach. (Photo/Ryan Stanton for The Ann Arbor News)

“Where are you from?” he asked.

“Westport, Connecticut,” they said.

He was stunned. “You’re the first people I’ve ever met here from Westport!” he said.

And then Elmo Morales told his story.

In 1957 he was an 11-year-old living in Washington Heights. The Fresh Air Fund arranged a week in Westport. He stayed with the Petrucci family. They owned a liquor store, and had a son around Elmo’s age.

His eyes welled up as he told Greg and Nancy his story.

On the way home after picking Elmo up at the train station — with his clothes in a shopping bag — the Petruccis took him to a toy store. They told him to pick out anything he wanted.

He chose a Mattel 6-shooter. “I never got anything, except at Christmas,” he says. “And then it was pajamas.”

It was the first time Elmo had seen carpeting in a house, or a TV in a bedroom. There was orange juice every morning. Every day, they went to the beach.

Most importantly, Mr. Petrucci talked with Elmo about college, and what he wanted to do with his life. It was the first time the boy had thought about his future.

“They broadened my horizons,” Elmo says. “I was able to see the rest of the world. Everything grew from that little seed.”

Elmo went back to Washington Heights. A shared love of jazz cemented a friendship with a youngster named Lew Alcindor (now Kareem Abdul-Jabbar).

Elmo earned a track scholarship to Michigan. He stayed in Ann Arbor, and became a teacher.

After graduating from Michigan, Elmo Morales continued to run.

After graduating from Michigan, Elmo Morales continued to run.

About 40 years ago, he opened Elmo’s T-Shirts as a sideline. For years it was on Main Street. Not long ago, he moved to East Liberty Street.

This is one of those great “Westport meets the world” stories I love so well.

But don’t just read it and smile.

Every year, Staples sends at least a dozen graduates to the University of Michigan. So, students and parents: Head to 404 E. Liberty Street.

Buy a t-shirt or souvenir.

And then tell Elmo you’re from Westport.

Max Berger Has Designs On Creation

Max Berger is an uber-talented designer. His products and sculptures interact with users in exciting new ways, while blurring the line between function and fine art.

In just past the couple of years, the Westporter has created a coffee table a bit higher than most, so folks can eat comfortably at it. The back panel is missing, providing 8 square feet of storage that can be accessed while sitting on a couch.

Max Berger - coach

Max has made a handsome water bottle with a sophisticated style that monitors and displays how much water you’ve drunk throughout the day.

Max Berger - Surge

He’s designed a 3-part steel candle holder that allows fire to dance between each level, while reflecting off the rusting metal.

Max Berger - steel candle holder

The collection is remarkable for its breadth, depth, creativity and curiosity. It’s even more remarkable because Max is just a college junior.

At Staples, he was influenced by Carla Eichler’s graphic design and Camille Eskell’s art courses. For college he chose the University of Michigan, because it combined a great art school with many other academic opportunities, along with Big Ten spirit.

A Bic pen drawing by Max Berger.

A Bic pen drawing by Max Berger.

En route to his BFA, Max spent 3 months at Copenhagen’s Royal Danish Academy of Design. That solidified his desire to work for an industrial design firm.

“That field is “multi-disciplinary,” Max says. “You use art, architecture, graphics and a lot more to create physical solutions to human problems. There’s business involved too. It’s messy, and fun.”

Max’s greatest creation so far — The Cube — combines many of those elements. As part of the Integrative Product Design competition — a Michigan grad course in business and engineering that’s been featured on CNN and in the Wall Street Journal — he helped lead the winning team.

Max’s group designed and marketed the “Unit.” It’s a combination stool/storage solution.

Max Berger models the Unit he helped design.

Max Berger models the Unit he helped design.

Users buy a file online, and take it to their local maker space’s CNC machine (most colleges have one). The Unit requires no glue or nails; it takes 1 minute to build from plywood.

Once assembled, the stools stack into a multi-fuctional shelf. The top unit is customized with hooks for backpacks and coats; the bottom units are customized with shoe racks.

Max Berger - "The Cube"

Max is always looking ahead. This summer he hopes to intern with an industrial design firm in New York or San Francisco. As a senior next year, he’ll work on his thesis.

And then — well, remember the name Max Berger. You read it here first.

(To see more of Max Berger’s multi-faceted work, click here.)

Another side of Max Berger: his charcoal drawing.

Another side of Max Berger: charcoal drawing.