Editor’s note: This post is Part 12 of “Celebrating the People of Bloomington,” a special retrospective revisiting some of the stories Bloom has published since its inception in 2006. The details in these stories have not been changed since they were originally written, but we have provided updates when possible. Each story highlights an individual who contributed to making Bloomington a compassionate, diverse, and creative community. For more stories from “Celebrating the People of Bloomington,” click here.
Gerardo Gonzalez: A Sentimental Journey
After 50 years, Gerardo Gonzalez, dean of the Indiana University School of Education, returned to his native Cuba for the first time to lead a trip for the IU Alumni Association.
“I spent most of my time just talking to people, whether in a museum or restaurant or on the street. They heartened me. I was impressed by their resilience and warmth and ability to overcome a very difficult set of circumstances,” he says.
When Gonzalez was a boy, he and his family fled Cuba in the hopes of finding a better life than the one offered by Fidel Castro’s repressive communist regime. They were among the last in Cuba to receive immigration visas and enter the United States as political refugees.
Lauren Robel: IU–Bloomington Provost
As Indiana University–Bloomington provost and executive vice president since July, Lauren Robel’s job is to maintain an all-encompassing perspective. She describes her responsibilities as “ensuring the academic quality of the institution”—working with all campus academic and administrative units to meet the university’s overarching goals. It’s a monumental task, but Robel is unshakably serene.
Robel began developing composure long ago. Growing up in an Air Force family, she moved at least a dozen times during her childhood, often across oceans. She learned to rely on tolerance, useful in balancing the needs of a diverse faculty and student body. “If you are always the new person and always the outsider, you can’t make the assumption that your values, your culture, your perspective is the right one.”
Sharon Fugate: Relish — Philanthropy with an Artistic Sensibility
For Sharon Fugate, philanthropy isn’t a garnish—it is baked into the business. Along with her husband, Brad, Fugate co-owns furniture gallery and apparel boutique Relish, which forgoes most traditional advertising. Instead, Relish underwrites radio stations WFIU-FM and WFHB-FM, as well as events such as Bloomington’s Chef ’s Challenge.
In order to raise money for the United Way Community Action Fund, Fugate worked in her store’s wheelhouse. She designed and commissioned a set of marble coasters with iconic Bloomington words and images, sold them in the store, and donated the profits. “I call it full-circle fundraising,” Fugate says. “Our customers support us, and we support agencies that support the community, of which our customers are a part.”
Ken Nunn: Personal Injury Attorney
“I’m still a poor kid living on the wrong side of the tracks,” says Ken Nunn, 72. It’s a difficult image to reconcile with the smartly dressed personal injury attorney in television commercials.
“I keep looking back over my shoulder at where I came from,” says Nunn, who was raised by a single mother in a home often without heat or electricity. His first office contained “nothing but a card table and folding chairs.”
Now, the Ken Nunn Law Office takes approximately 3,000 personal-injury cases each year and is ranked first in the state for the number of jury trials for injured plaintiffs.
Michael Hamburger: Earthquake Expert
When Indiana University planned to convert the woods along Griffy Lake into a golf course, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences professor Michael Hamburger organized faculty, students, and members of the community to convince the administration to preserve the area for research and teaching.
Hamburger’s professional work involves preservation on a grander scale. He studies and predicts the impact of earthquakes and eruptions on human communities, as well as the converse, something Hamburger calls “induced seismicity”—how human activity induces geologic events. “It’s clear when you look back at history,” Hamburger says, “natural disasters are the true test of the resilience and survivability of a civilization.”
Bill Oliver: Oliver Winery Celebrates 40th Anniversary
Now celebrating its 40th anniversary, Oliver Winery is Indiana’s oldest operating winery and one of the largest in the eastern United States.
Bill Oliver, 52, the winery’s president and director of operations, remembers how it all began when his father, Indiana University law professor William Oliver Sr., took a sabbatical in Ithaca, New York, in 1965.
“The areas where they had grapes growing struck him as similar to the terrain in Bloomington,” Oliver recalls.
Oliver Winery sells 36 varieties of wine, 15 of which come from the grapes grown at Oliver’s 53-acre Creekbend Vineyard in Bloomington.
“When we step back, I guess it’s pretty impressive what we’ve pulled off,” Oliver says. “But I think we can all stand to raise our expectations of what’s possible.”
Ariel Horowitz: Young B-town Violinist Competes in China
On April 9, Bloomington violinist Ariel Horowitz, 15, performed before an international panel of judges at the Menuhin Competition in Beijing. A Bloomington High School South sophomore, Ariel was one of 20 young violinists—including just five Americans—chosen from a field of 230 worldwide.
When she was 3, Ariel and her mother, Amy Horowitz, were listening to classical music. Ariel asked, “What’s that?” Amy told her it was a violin. Ariel said, “That’s what I want.”
In 2006, she began playing for Mauricio Fuks, famed professor of violin at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music.
“It’s a big commitment,” she says. “But this is what I want to do with my life.”
Horowitz went on to study with Itzhak Perlman at The Julliard School and has performed at concert halls around the world.
Jeff Mease: A Farm Where the Water Buffalo Roam
Water buffalo abound at Loesch Farm, the latest venture of longtime business partners Jeff Mease and Lennie Busch. With the herd of nineteen buffalo, they plan to manufacture mozzarella di bufala, an artisanal Italian cheese.
It’s not your everyday business move in the uplands of south-central Indiana. But Mease sees the animals as an adventurous outgrowth of their more conventional undertakings—Lennie’s Restaurant, Pizza X, Bloomington Brewing Company, and One World Catering & Events, all of them organized under the umbrella of One World Enterprises.
“I’m inspired by things that take time to develop,” Mease says of the farm. “To me, that sort of organic process is the most interesting and often yields a richer and more beautiful result.”
Dwight Worker: 9 Lives of a B-town Maverick
A young man spends 2 1/2 years in a brutal Mexican prison, goes on to earn an M.B.A., and winds up teaching at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business.
This is the true story of Bloomington resident Dwight Worker—former IU lecturer, Vietnam protester, alleged environmental outlaw, organic farmer, world traveler, rugged individualist, drug addict, prisoner, fugitive.
In 1975, this native of Highland, Indiana, successfully escaped from Mexico’s infamous Lecumberri prison. These days, Worker lives an unencumbered life on his 17 acres, keeping a sustainable and self-reliant lifestyle.
“You’d think I’d have reason not to be optimistic, but I am. And why shouldn’t I be? After all,” he says, sounding every bit a child of the ’60s, “life’s a gas.”