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AnnArbor.com's News section covers government, crime, education, health and the environment across Washtenaw County.

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    An estimated 2,000 people showed up outside the Cabela’s in Dundee, Mich. in anticipation of the store reopening after an electrical fire last week, according to store officials.

    Thumbnail image for cabelas_mlive.jpg

    Officials estimated 2,000 people lined up outside Cabela's waiting for its reopening Friday.

    The store reopened at 4 p.m. Friday after closing after an April 24 fire. The small electrical fire damaged parts of the store, but much more damage was done by smoke and chemicals from fire extinguishers used to put out the fire.

    Officials said an estimated 2,000 people were waiting outside the store, 110 Cabelas Blvd., in a scene seemingly pulled from Black Friday sales after in November.

    “The store looks fantastic,” Joe Ross, general manager, said in a news release. “What we pulled off is truly amazing. The store is neat. The store is clean. A lot of people are proud to be part of this. We put our house back together.”

    According to officials, the first man in line arrived at 10 a.m. Friday. John Dunphy, from Perrysburg, Ohio, said he wouldn’t wait for any other store.

    “I told my wife I would never do Black Friday, or any other of that waiting in line stuff,” he said in a statement. “Now here I am.”

    Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at kylefeldscher@annarbor.com or you can follow him on Twitter.

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    Michigan pitcher Sara Driesenga stepped out of her circle and picked up some dirt with her pitching hand, and crushed it between her fingers. As she stepped back in the circle she took the ball and slammed it into her glove emphatically.

    After giving up a leadoff walk to start the seventh inning, the game-tying run Northwestern needed was only three bases away, and the Wolverines were still three outs away from claiming a Big Ten title.

    Driesenga wasn’t happy, and it was evident from the look on her face. But once the dirt left her hand and the ball smacked the leather, she was over it.

    Driesenga struck two of the next three batters out looking -- with a ground out in between -- and the celebration was on as Michigan softball team clinched the program’s 16th Big ten title with 2-1 win at Alumni Field.

    “I just let that one get away from me a little bit,” Driesenga said of the leadoff walk.


    It was Michigan’s sixth straight conference title, the most consecutive in program history.


    Michigan pitcher Sara Driesenga celebrates striking out a Northwestern batter and winning 2-1 for the Big Ten championship on Friday, May 3.

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com

    “Each one is separate from the last one. Everyone talks about six in a row, but really we just focus on the one,” Driesenga said.

    Driesenga said after her moment behind the circle, she was ready to get the job done.

    “I was just letting that go and focusing on letting that go and focusing on that next pitch and getting that next batter,” Driesenga said.

    Driesenga allowed one run on two hits while striking out eight with four walks.

    “Sara really gave us a great game and gave us a lot of confidence and that’s really what the pitcher’s supposed to do,” said Michigan coach Carol "Hutch" Hutchins.

    Driesenga’s contributions didn’t just come from the pitcher’s circle. She scored what ended up being the game-winning run in the bottom of the fifth after hitting a leadoff double to start the inning. Nicole Sappingfield drove her in with a single to left field.

    “I just love doing all that I can to win as a team and that’s all that I try to do is try to go out there and give everything that I have so that Michigan can win,” Driesenga said.

    Lyndsay Doyle scored Michigan's only other run in the fourth inning off of a Sierra Romero double. The Wolverines were unable to add to the lead after Romero was picked off on the basepaths later in the frame and Northwestern tied the score in the top of the next inning.


    Michigan center fielder Lyndsay Doyle slides into home plate as Northwestern catcher Paige Tonz bobbles the ball on Friday, May 3.

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com

    No. 10 Michigan (42-9, 18-2 Big Ten) also failed to add to its lead in the fifth inning despite loading the bases with just one out after. The Wildcats (30-19, 12-8) got a double play after the Wolverines had a popup followed by a play at the plate. Hutchins vehemently argued the call to no avail.

    “You’re not allowed to stand in front of the plate until you have the ball, and I thought it was an obstruction call,” Hutchins said. “And honestly it was a miscommunication between me and my runner. She shouldn’t have gone, and that was my fault.”

    Michigan had seven hits and reached base on three more walks, but was never able to translate it into runs as Northwestern pitcher Amy Letourneau found a way to get outs.

    "She’s a good pitcher. She strikes out more than one per inning which is a pretty good ratio, and she typically walks a lot, but she didn’t walk very many today," Hutchins said. “Northwestern’s a tough team. They never go away, they just fight and claw.”

    By the time the final strike was called, Hutchins was well over the argument at the plate or missed opportunities to score and ready to celebrate with her team and fans. She pumped her fist to the crowd and was met with a standing ovation after the postgame handshake.

    Hutchins preaches taking everything one pitch at a time, but she’s not opposed to celebrating a championship.

    “It’s a culmination of one pitch at a time,” Hutchins said of the winning the championship. “I was proud of the kids. It was a tough game against a tough opponent,”

    The series will resume at Alumni Field on Saturday (1 p.m., BTN) and conclude on Sunday (noon, BTN).

    Pretty in pink

    Friday was Michigan’s annual “Pink Game” which, in collaboration with its Softball Academy on Thursday, was used as a platform to raise funds and awareness for the making Strides against Brest Cancer organization. Players wore pink jerseys and the academy’s top fundraiser threw out the first pitch. The fundraiser raised more than $78,000.

    Pete Cunningham covers sports for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at petercunningham@annarbor.com. Follow him on Twitter @petcunningham.

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    Good competition has a way of attracting more good competition. And earlier this week, Saline found out it would be hosting some of the nation’s best runners at its 17th annual Golden Triangle Invite.

    On Tuesday, race organizers fielded a call from Erin Finn, a West Bloomfield senior and a national high school record holder who will attend the University of Michigan to run next year.

    Finn had heard that the Meier twins, Hannah and Haley of Grosse Pointe South would be running at Friday’s meet, and wanted to face the best competition possible a month before the state meet.

    “I don’t think there’s a purpose in racing without a purpose, I guess,” Finn said. “My goal is to put on a good race at states with them, and the best way to do that is to practice and get as much experience with them as I can.”

    More than 20 teams packed Saline Friday afternoon for the 17th annual Golden Triangle, making it one of the best high school track competitions outside of the state meet. But nowhere was there more top-end talent than in the girls distance events.

    More Coverage: Boys Results | Girls Results

    Finn set a national record in the 5,000-meter run last November, and the state 3,200-meter record at last year’s state meet. Hannah Meier is an indoor national champion in the mile, and set state records last spring in the 800 and 1,600. Her sister also finished under the previous state record in the 1,600.

    The significance of having all three competing simultaneously at Saline wasn’t lost on girls track followers.

    “You could be around track for decades and not have something like that,” Saline girls distance coach Mike Smith said.

    The group didn’t disappoint Thursday. Haley Meier edged Finn in the 1,600, setting a new track and meet record in the process. Finn went on to take the 3,200-meter win.

    Finn is hoping it’s the first of what will be many fast times turned in in Washtenaw County as she looks forward to joining the Wolverines next fall.

    “Oh my gosh, AP week is coming up so I’m just stressed to the max, and I’m so ready to get out of West Bloomfield and trade the green and white for the blue and yellow,” Finn said. “There’s nothing I’m more excited for right now.”

    Saline also had a pair of all-state distance runners return from last year’s squad -- Abby Rentschler finished third in the 3,200, and Elianna Shwayder finished fifth.

    And both got a preview of the state’s best competition Friday.

    “With two weeks to go until the regional, it was a good test for them to be in that kind of field today for sure, compared to the dual meets where sometimes there’s not a lot of competition,” Smith said. “There was competition today.”

    Local winners


    Berkley Edwards was crowned 100 dash champion Friday.

    Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com

    While Finn and the Meier twins dominated the girls distance events, six Washtenaw County competitors earned event wins Friday.

    Saline's Quenee' Dale won the 100 hurdles, then won the 100 soon after in 12.27 seconds.

    In the next race, Chelsea's Berkley Edwards won the 100 title in 10.79.

    Ypsilanti's Endia Francois won the girls 200 and finished runner-up in the 400.

    Three area competitors took home wins in the field events. Saline's Randi Bennett set a new school record with a throw of 40 feet, nine inches. Dexter's Noah Gary won the pole vault, and Lincoln's Tyree Waller won the long jump.

    Francois’ versatility


    Ypsilanti's Endia Francois runs in the 200-meter preliminaries Friday.

    Francois showed plenty of versatility at Tuesday’s meet, both on the track and in the field.

    So which events will she be competing in at the state meet?

    “It’s a surprise,” Ypsilanti coach Torin Moore said. “Because everybody wants to know.”

    If Moore wants to keep his lineup under wraps, it’s because Francois has a good chance to be all-state in any number of events.

    In her favorite event, the 200 meter, she placed third at last year’s state meet, and topped the Golden Triangle field by a healthy margin.

    She decided earlier this year to pick up the 400, to help her conditioning for the 200. She’s already run a 56.24 in the 400, and while she faded at the end of Tuesday’s 400, she’s confident she can improve.

    “It’s my first time doing a big 400, so I’m just waiting for regionals to come,” Francois said. “I’m going to get it next time.”

    Kyle Austin covers sports for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at kyleaustin@annarbor.com or 734-623-2535. Follow him on Twitter @KAustin_AA.

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    Ypsilanti foreign language teachers Barbara Martin, left, and Frances Heires seek solitude in the grass under the trees behind Ypsilanti High School Friday, after opening their letters from the new district and learning they were guaranteed jobs.

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com

    Despite 66 percent of teachers receiving "good news," the mood was a combination of somber, surreal and incredulous at Ypsilanti and Willow Run schools Friday afternoon, after teachers in the two merging districts were given notice of their employment status in the new consolidated district.

    One hundred and seventy-one teachers from Ypsilanti and Willow Run were told they definitely have positions within Ypsilanti Community Schools when it launches July 1. Another 32 teachers were placed on a callback list and could be hired by the start of the 2012-13 academic year, depending on how enrollment projections and budget numbers shake out.

    Even those teachers from Ypsilanti and Willow Run who were offered positions in the consolidated district had mixed emotions. And if one thing was clear as teachers left their buildings Friday: there was no cause for celebration.

    One teacher sat quietly in her car in the staff parking lot behind Ypsilanti High School waiting for a colleague. She said the school day itself was "fabulous" and that she loves her students. She was smiling, but her voice was heavy and laced with emotion.

    Teachers throughout the school echoed these sentiments, saying they felt truly adored and supported by their parents and students on Friday, despite the looming envelope they faced at the end of the day.

    Past Ypsilanti High School graduates visited the school Friday to say hello and to give hugs to their former teachers, wishing them luck, several staff members recounted.

    Ypsilanti foreign language teachers Barbara Martin, Spanish, and Frances Heires, French, found solace in the grass under the trees behind the high school.

    The teachers sat cross-legged, quietly reflecting on what they described as an overwhelming, but relieving day. They both had received commitments for the next school year, but they almost didn't open their letters.

    "We contemplated waiting until June," Martin said. "You know, we just wanted to keep as calm as possible for our students ... and had it been a 'no' it would have been a hard thing ... I didn't want it to change how I was with my kids."

    When the two teachers went down to the office to pick up their letters, they said some teachers grabbed theirs and immediately left, while other staff members opened their notices in the middle of the room, with people looking on.

    Heires, a 4-year Ypsilanti teacher, said she had students waiting outside her classroom Friday after school to find out if she was "in or out" for next year.

    Both language teachers said the most difficult part about the process was having such little time with the interviewing/selection committee, the committee's "poker faces" and not knowing what was expected of teachers. Martin described it as a "weird" and "mysterious" process.

    "We understood it had to happen quickly (the interviewing) ... but so many people felt like 'my career is hinging on these 30 minutes,'" Martin said. "I didn't have a sense that they (the selection team) knew how to judge us as teachers in that amount of time... And after that — it was so quick, with so much built up around it — we were left hanging."

    She said she was grateful school officials let teachers know as soon as possible in May because the waiting was stressful.

    Martin and Heires said the next step will be trying to determine how to tell their students and how to handle colleague responses.

    They said they both were often told by parents and students that they were good teachers and were well liked. But in going through the interview process, Martin, who has been with the district 8 years, said she still would not have been surprised if she had received a "no."

    "It's all a numbers game," she said, explaining if half the students decided not to come back to the new district next year, that impacts teacher decisions, as does teacher certifications. She said the district can have only so many of one type of teacher.

    Because it was determined one of the three small learning communities at the consolidated high school would be a New Tech program, it was assumed New Tech trained and certified teachers would be a hot commodity. But that was not the case for one Willow Run math teacher, Jessica Krueger.


    Many teachers from Willow Run High School are not happy with how the rehiring process for teachers went and feel like the whole consolidation has been an Ypsilanti "takeover."

    AnnArbor.com file photo

    Krueger is a recent graduate from Michigan State University, so this is her first year as a teacher. But she has made a big impact in a short amount of time.

    Her colleagues describe her as one of the best teachers at Willow Run High School and a favorite among staff and students alike. She also has been nationally recognized for her expertise in the New Tech model.

    She was invited by the New Tech Network, the nonprofit organization behind the project-based learning program, to help develop a curriculum and projects for math as part of the organization's STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) initiative. Krueger also was asked to present at this year's New Tech Network Annual Conference.

    Krueger said when she opened her letter Friday and learned she would not be offered a position in the Ypsilanti Community Schools district, nor would she be placed on the callback list, she was shocked and devastated.

    "Everyone had been telling me all week not to worry that I was good and I was cheap (being only right out of college)," she said, her eyes welling with tears. "Then to get a 'no' ... all I could think is: what did I do wrong?"

    Almost all of Willow Run's high school teachers went to Principal Kelly Pennington's office together to collect their letters and to open them at the same time Friday after school, staff said. The teachers then spent nearly an hour in the office consoling each other and talking about their letters and what the news could mean for children in the district.

    The teachers then moved to Sticks downtown Ypsilanti, where their conversations continued.

    Many teachers expressed they believe the new district will lose a great deal of Willow Run families and students with some of the rehiring decisions that were made. High school teacher Blake Nordman said to many people in the smaller district, the entire merger feels like a "takeover."

    Forty-three Willow Run teachers were offered positions in the new district, compared to 126 teachers from Ypsilanti. However, in total, Willow Run had about 90 fewer teachers apply for a spot than Ypsilanti did.

    The 43 "yes" teachers from Willow Run equates to about 59 percent of the 73 applicants receiving jobs. Ypsilanti had about 69 percent of its 183 teachers who applied receive commitments and it had about 20 percent receive maybes. About 24 percent of Willow Run's applicants received maybes.

    As teachers sat at Sticks in Ypsilanti reflecting on the day and the hiring process, many became angry and incredulous, asking how the new district's bar could have been set so high to exclude quality and committed teachers like Krueger and special education teacher Rachel Jenneman.

    The teachers also demanded to see a breakdown of how many YHS teachers were guaranteed positions verses WRHS teachers, as well as a comparison of the middle and elementary school teachers who will be hired from both districts. This information was not immediately available Friday night.

    Jenneman was another teacher who received a "no" notification on Friday, yet was praised by her peers as a phenomenal educator. One teacher, who asked not to be named, said even though he received a commitment from the new district, he will not be coming back if he can help it, knowing how teachers like Jenneman and Krueger were devalued.

    Ypsilanti Community Schools and Washtenaw Intermediate School District Superintendent Scott Menzel said Friday during a press conference on the teacher selection process, that there may be a need to post externally for additional special education teachers for the consolidated district because not enough internal special education candidates met the high quality criteria that the new district outlined.


    Superintendent Scott Menzel speaks at a press conference Friday afternoon in Ypsilanti Public Schools about the teacher notification process.

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com

    He said for any position that is posted externally, internal candidates who received a "no" initially are welcome and encouraged to apply for those jobs as they come up.

    Jenneman said she was still too shocked to process the news Friday evening. She said all she could think about was having 10 IEPs (individualized education plans) for her students due in a little less than two weeks.

    "I was already going to need to kill myself to do them. Now I feel like I need to do them extra well," she said. "These kids need good IEPs with having a new (teacher) coming in so that (he or she) can know them and know how to provide them an education that addresses their needs."

    Menzel said prior to Friday's press conference, the most important perspective for teachers to keep in mind right now, despite it being difficult, is that if Ypsilanti and Willow Run had not consolidated, one or both school districts could have faced a state emergency financial manager.

    He said if a state financial manager had been assigned to either district, there is no telling what might have happened to the districts' schools and teachers.

    Consolidation allows for local decision-making and local control. He added advisory groups of educators, community and business partners, parents and students have been active throughout the merger in shaping the new district, and helped to identify the specific characteristics of an effective teacher that were used in the candidate selection process.

    Menzel also acknowledged the seriousness of Friday's notifications in a statement.

    "This has been a difficult process, and I recognize the impact this has had on the teachers, their families and ultimately the community," he said. "Unifying two districts meant there would be streamlining and a reduction in the work force. We knew there would be displaced teachers.

    "It would be a mistake to assume that just because someone was not offered a position in the new district that they are not a good teacher. And we certainly want to assist those who were not selected in making the next steps in their careers."

    Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for AnnArbor.com. Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at daniellearndt@annarbor.com.

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    Feel free to hoop it up — the forecast calls for nothing but sunny skies and warm temperatures until Thursday.

    Daniel J. Brenner | AnnArbor.com

    It’s the one question on the lips of every winter-weary Ann Arborite after a few days of sparkling spring weather: When is the other shoe going to drop? When will the cold weather return?

    Well, the answer might make you feel warmer than the sun’s rays on your bare skin.

    According to the National Weather Service, Ann Arbor is in store for a week of 70-degree, sunny days all the way until Thursday. Feel free to spend a few minutes clapping and high-fiving anyone who is around you.


    Now that you’re back, let’s get to the forecast. It’s nothing but good news, according to NWS.

    • Saturday, sunny with a high near 70 but a bit windy.
    • Sunday, sunny with a high near 70 but a bit windy.
    • Monday, sunny with a high near 72.
    • Tuesday, sunny with a high near 73.
    • Wednesday, sunny with a high near 73.

    It would be almost boring if we didn’t endure the MC Hammer of winters (it was too legit to quit).

    The forecast predicts a chance of showers and thunderstorms coming into Ann Arbor on Thursday, which should be nice, if only for a bit of respite from the unrelentingly perfect weather. The high will still be near 73, according to NWS.

    Ann Arbor, it’s time to unpack your golf clubs, tennis rackets, hiking boots and kayaks. Maybe go get a drink or a meal at one of our local establishments with an outdoor patio.

    Let’s be real — we deserve this.

    (Also, if this story ends up jinxing it all ... well, please don't blame the messenger.)

    Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at kylefeldscher@annarbor.com or you can follow him on Twitter.

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    The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded $4 million to seven Washtenaw County homelessness organizations and the funds will be disbursed to 15 programs within the groups.


    The homeless population in Washtenaw County has doubled since 2011.

    Amy Biolchini | AnnArbor.com

    HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan made the announcement Thursday that more than 500 local homeless housing and service programs across the country will receive funding through HUD's Continuum of Care program.

    HUD also announced that it will provide a third round of funding to support “selected new projects later this year.” Washtenaw County has applied for $305,040.00 to go toward program funding for rapid re-housing for families experiencing homelessness and eight to 10 new units of Permanent Supportive Housing.

    The following organizations received funding:


    The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded more than $4 million to various Washtenaw County homelessness programs.

    Courtesy photo

    The Washtenaw Housing Alliance serves as the Continuum of Care for Washtenaw County, a HUD-mandated body that is responsible for monitoring, approving and submitting all applications for HUD homelessness services dollars. The housing alliance also submits applications for funding through the Michigan State Housing and Development Authority.

    “HUD challenged local communities to ensure that they are providing best practices with proven strategies in response to homelessness in their area. This award shows that we are doing just that.” said Julie Steiner, Washtenaw Housing Alliance Executive Director, in a statement. "...Without money for housing and prevention, we will continue to see a rise in homelessness and perhaps a rise beyond anything we have seen before."

    According to Steiner, while the Fiscal Year 2012 funds were not impacted by budget cuts under the sequestration that began March 1, future cuts are in the planning for homelessness services.

    The FY 2013 budgets that are being discussed may result in a 12.6 percent cut to funding for homelessness prevention and rapid re-housing programs and an additional 8.6 percent cut to the funding of HUD's Continuum of Care Program.

    Steinter noted that cuts have already gone into effect for Housing Choice Vouchers,section 8 housing vouchers, with a five percent reduction that went into effect March 1.

    Robert Guenzel, chair of the WHA Board of Directors said further cuts could be detrimental.

    “Washtenaw County remains the most expensive rental housing market in the state," Gunzel said. "If funds continue to be cut for affordable housing, we are going to continue to see a rise in the level of homelessness in our community. This is unacceptable.”

    AnnArbor.com previously reported that the number of chronically homeless individuals in Washtenaw County has doubled over the past two years.

    A report from the Washtenaw County Office of Community and Economic Development and the Washtenaw Housing Alliance found that in 2011, there were 426 individuals living in homeless shelters and 43 individuals living on the streets -- a total of 469 people.

    The 2013 count found 344 individuals living in homeless shelters and 166 people living on the streets -- a total of 510 people. On average each year, 3,000 to 4,000 individuals are homeless in Washtenaw County.

    Katrease Stafford covers Ypsilanti for AnnArbor.com.Reach her at katreasestafford@annarbor.com or 734-623-2548 and follow her on twitter.

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    Customers can watch a live video feed of Domino's pizzas being prepared at a store in Utah.


    Domino’s Pizza is telling customers it doesn’t have anything to hide.

    After installing five cameras at a Domino’s kitchen in Utah, the company launched a Domino’s Live website on May 1. Customers can watch a live video feed of the food being prepared in the store.

    “At Domino’s, we believe that when you make great food, you have nothing to hide,” the Domino’s Live website says.

    The camera angles show the various stages of pizza making: where the dough is kneaded, when the toppings are applied and pizzas going into and out of the oven. Domino's is testing the video feature at the store in Utah during the month of May.

    "People tuning into Domino's Live may be surprised with how much skill and action takes place during the middle of a Domino's store dinner rush," said Domino's spokesperson Chris Brandon.

    The live video feed is an extension of Domino's Pizza's redesigned store concept, which the company started rolling out this year.

    The newly designed stores feature open kitchens so customers can see employees spinning dough in the air and prepping pizzas. It includes interactive features such as a chalkboard for customers to write comments. The new store on Plymouth Road in Ann Arbor is one of the first in the country to feature the redesign.

    “We at Domino’s have made continued efforts to open our doors and be as welcoming as possible,” said Russell Weiner, Domino’s Pizza chief marketing officer, in a statement.


    Domino's Pizza is headquartered at the Domino's Farms Office Park in Ann Arbor Township.

    Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com

    “No matter what, we remain committed to being transparent and welcoming - and that is what this is all about,” he added.

    The Domino's Live launch also comes weeks after Domino’s hosted a technology open house at its Ann Arbor Township headquarters in the Domino’s Farms Office Park. The company is growing its various IT departments, with special emphasis on how to use technology to interact with customers.

    The company introduced the online Pizza Tracker, which allows customers to follow the progress of their order as it’s being made and delivered.

    “Technology really empowers the business,” Kevin Vasconi, Domino’s Executive Vice President and Chief Information Officer, told the open house attendees.

    If customers engage with the video feature, Brandon said the company could test it on other markets.


    The redesigned Domino's Pizza stores feature open kitchens so customers can watch their food as it's being prepared.

    AnnArbor.com file photo

    Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at lizzyalfs@annarbor.com. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lizzyalfs.

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    Jean Jennings, in her Ann Arbor office.

    Janet Miller | For AnnArbor.com

    Jean Jennings showed signs of Type 2 diabetes: Sudden weight loss without effort, fatigue and frequent nighttime trips to the bathroom.

    Still, she was shocked 17 years ago when her doctor said she had diabetes, even though she had watched her father struggle with Type 1 diabetes as she was growing up and her uncle had died of the disease.

    “I’m a denial person,” said Jennings, president and editor-in-chief of Ann Arbor-based Automobile Magazine.

    It took time, false starts and tough talk from her physician, but today Jennings is facing the disease head-on. She sits on the board of directors of the Metro Detroit and Southeast Michigan chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and was the emcee of Friday's Promise Ball Gala, an annual event that raises close to $700,000 each year.

    Before the diabetes diagnosis, Jennings had been able to explain most of her symptoms away: She figured she’d lost 70 pounds by cutting out a number of fatty foods, including her favorite onion rings, when she quit smoking to try and avoid weight gain.

    “I thought it was a late-in-life gift from God,” she said. And explaining away the fatigue was easy: As editor and chief of a national magazine, she traveled 100,000 miles a year. She rarely rested.

    But when she needed a physical to renew her car-racing license, she had to face the truth.

    But even with the diagnosis in hand, Jennings found other ways to fool herself: She was convinced that an impeccable diet and exercise would make the diabetes disappear.

    “If my blood sugar was normal in the morning, I figured I didn’t have diabetes that day,” she said.

    It took her six months to return to the beer and burger diet she loved. Her weight ballooned - she gained the 70 pounds she had lost plus 20 more. And the medicine Jennings had been taking to help control the disease was pulled from the market place as unsafe.

    Jennings' blood sugar skyrocketed, and there was even a short period where she lost much of her vision.

    Still, she resisted insulin. Shots, she said, would prove that she had the disease. And she would view herself as a failure. But when her aunt went into a diabetic coma, it was a wakeup call.

    It was time for her to change. “For 10 years, I was in denial,” she said.

    With a new endocrinologist, Jennings began giving herself insulin shots in the stomach. In the beginning, that meant up to six shots a day.

    “It was 180 shots a month with a long needle,” she said. Now it’s down to twice a day.

    She began controlling her diet without giving up everything she liked. “I was totally into carbs, but it’s all about counting carbs. I learned that fruit are carbs. You learn never to drink juice again: One apple equals a quarter-cup of juice,” she said.

    Diabetes is a chronic disease and the battle to control it is endless, Jennings said.

    It’s a daily fight: When she travels to Italy soon, she’ll face four temptations she should avoid: Pasta, wine, desserts and bread.

    “I decided I’d pick two - pasta and wine - and exercise portion control,” she said. And then there are gumdrops. “They are my personal Waterloo,” Jennings said.

    But she’s joined a gym, keeps a food diary and has maintained a healthy weight.

    A friend convinced Jennings to become active with JDRF and the Promise Ball. She figured Jennings’ connections with the automobile industry would help with fundraising. And other businesses followed with support.

    “Before the diabetes, I was having a great time living life, but I really hadn’t done anything for anybody,” Jennings said. As the emcee of the ball, Jennings said she keeps the speech-making brief, leaving more time for fun and fundraising.

    “I tell them everyone who has diabetes hates it,” Jennings said. “And that we don’t need to talk about how we hate it.”

    The 28th annual Promise Ball Gala, held May 3 in Detroit, has raised more than $4 million since 2005.

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    Whether they've touched on politics or dreams, urged students toward kindness or laid out critical U.S. domestic policy, University of Michigan commencement speeches throughout history — like most graduation orations — have had at least one common thread: speakers have urged graduates to make an impact, big or small, on the world around them.

    Some 5,900 undergraduates and 4,400 graduates are graduating from U-M this month, and many will be participating in this weekend's commencement ceremonies and hearing a version of the message some 525,000 living alumni have already heard.

    But with every orator, there's a new twist, whether it's Sanjay Gupta sharing how his parents met in Ann Arbor or Gov. Rick Snyder pressing on in his speech despite protests in 2011.

    U-M has hosted a wide range of people as commencement speakers, including jurists Thurgood Marshall and Sandra Day O'Connor and political figures such as Hilary Clinton and George H. W. Bush. Even the president of Michigan State University, Clifton R. Wharton, has given the U-M commencement address, in 1970. This year, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo will give the address.

    We've highlighted four past commencement speeches —from 1949 to 2010— to offer a taste of the range, and simultaneous similarity, of U-M graduations.


    Barack Obama speaks at graduation in 2010.

    Lon Horwedel | AnnArbor.com

    In 2010 President Barack Obama, before a crowd of 8,500 graduates and more than 80,000 total in the Big House, urged students to be open minded as they enter the workforce during a 30-minute speech that touched on politics.

    It was the first time a sitting president had given U-M's commencement since George H.W. Bush spoke in 1991.

    Here's an excerpt:

    "The men and women who sat in your chairs 10 years ago and 50 years ago and 100 years ago -- they made America possible through their toil and their endurance and their imagination and their faith. Their success, and America's success, was never a given. And there is no guarantee that the graduates who will sit in these same seats 10 years from now, or 50 years from now, or 100 years from now, will enjoy the same freedoms and opportunities that you do. You, too, will have to strive. You, too, will have to push the boundaries of what seems possible. For the truth is, our nation's destiny has never been certain.

    What is certain -- what has always been certain -- is the ability to shape that destiny. That is what makes us different. That is what sets us apart. That is what makes us Americans -- our ability at the end of the day to look past all of our differences and all of our disagreements and still forge a common future. That task is now in your hands, as is the answer to the question posed at this university half a century ago about whether a free society can still compete."


    Image courtesy of the University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library.

    On May 22, 1964, U-M's commencement speaker Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson used the venue not only as a chance to congratulate graduates and offer them life advice, but also as a platform to unveil the details of a set of domestic programs referred to as the Great Society.

    Here's an excerpt:

    "I have come today from the turmoil of your capital to the tranquility of your campus to speak about the future of your country. The purpose of protecting the life of our nation and preserving the liberty of our citizens is to pursue the happiness of our people. Our success in that pursuit is the test of our success as a nation. The challenge of the next half century is whether we have the wisdom to use that wealth to enrich and elevate our national life— and to advance the quality of American civilization. Your imagination, your initiative, your indignation will determine whether we build a society where progress is the servant of our needs, or a society where old values and new visions are buried under unbridled growth."

    During the speech Johnson told graduates that most of them would live to see population levels in America grow to 400 million and predicted that four-fifths of the population would live in urban areas.


    Image courtesy of the University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library.

    Marian Anderson, a celebrated singer and a member of the United States Delegation to the United Nations, gave U-M's commencement in 1959. A black contralto, Anderson chipped away at the race barriers in her profession.

    An excerpt from her speech:

    "Watching this procession, one could not help but think of the hours of planning, of sacrifice, on the part of those who made this day for you possible. Mothers and fathers and relatives who may have contributed in one way or another may not ask more of you than you make the best of what you have been able to learn here. You have before you your whole life and it will bring you in the end what you put in it from now on. If it has not been sincere, you cannot expect sincerity in return."


    Image courtesy of the University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library

    Sometimes things get a little political during commencement. In 1949 —that year's ceremony is pictured above— New York Court of Appeals Justice Bruce D. Bromley titled his talk "the conservative's role in America."

    The commencement ceremony that year was held at Ferry Field, home to U-M football games prior to the opening of Michigan Stadium. The venue could hold 13,600 people.

    An excerpt from Bromley's speech:

    "You leave the university at a time when the citizens of this and every nation are confronted with grave problems. But their scope and complexity are probably no greater than those with which our predecessors have wrestled in the great crises of this and other civilizations. True, it may be that they seem greater, actually they are not....

    Those of you who rendered the greatest of all services to the nation in the last war realize, I am sure, that the interests of liberal and conservative are no more irreconcilable in time of peace then in times of war. Together they can work out the delicate, and at times almost indefinable, lines of agreement which ultimately will spell lasting peace and prosperity for our great nation. Success in their efforts.... depends in part upon the assistance which they receive from those who are now graduated from colleges and universities. For this, we call upon you, the graduates of 1949."

    Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at kelliewoodhouse@annarbor.com or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.

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    Forget about taking the N Train to 57th Street and 7th Avenue. When a New Yorker asks you, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” the required answer is, “Practice, practice, practice.”

    Now that old joke has a new punch line.

    How do you get to Carnegie Hall? You join the UMS Choral Union (after a lot of practice, of course), and that, my friend, takes you from Tree Town to the Big Apple.

    Friday evening (May 10), 32 members of the town-gown UMS Choral Union, most famous locally for its annual performances of Handel’s “Messiah,” appear in New York to sing with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, under Leonard Slatkin, at Carnegie Hall. The orchestra is one of 5 American orchestras participating in the 2013 edition of the “Spring for Music” festival, May 6-11.

    “Spring For Music,” or S4M, is a festival of six concerts in Carnegie Hall by North American orchestras performing creative, stimulating, and adventurous programs. Eligible orchestras apply for participation by proposing programs reflective of their artistic beliefs and consistent with the festival’s artistic philosophy.

    This year, in addition to the Detroit Symphony, which appears twice, orchestras from Albany, Baltimore, Buffalo and Washington, D.C. (the National Orchestra) perform. The first Detroit program, Thursday, features Rachmaninoff, Weill and Ravel. The orchestra’s Friday program is an “Ives Immersion” - Ives symphonies Nos. 1-4, with the Choral Union joining in for the massive No. 4.

    The orchestra and singers presented the concert in an “out-of-town” tryout - i.e., in Detroit - last Sunday (April 28). The Choral Union is a frequent DSO choral collaborator.

    While the Choral Union, which usually numbers about 150 singers, held auditions for the Carnegie slots - which come with airfare and two nights hotel - earlier in the year, it’s more recently that the singers, immersed in the giant UMS/U-M School of Music Milhaud “Oresteia,” presented at Hill at the beginning of April and recorded by Naxos for CD release, turned their attention to Ives.

    The fiercely difficult Milhaud may have been good preparation for the Ives, said Choral Union Director Jerry Blackstone in a recent phone call.


    Jerry Blackstone

    “It’s not as difficult as the Milhaud,” he said, “but it’s quirky, as Ives can be. It can be hard to know when to come in and what the pitch is when you do come in. But it’s so interesting and colorful - very beautiful, hymn tunes - that it’s great.”

    Blackstone will accompany the singers. “I’ll go along to hold their hands, and to say ‘It’s gonna be fine,’” he said.

    Soprano Erin Scheffler Franklin, one of eight sopranos on the roster for Carnegie, has sung with the Choral Union for seven seasons now. Like other singers, she’s thrilled to be participating.

    Asked to comment by the University Musical Society, under whose auspices the Choral Union operates, Franklin said: “What young singer doesn't dream of someday performing at Carnegie Hall? None that I can think of! A dream that I have had since starting voice lessons at the tender age of 11 is now being fulfilled. I couldn't be more excited to travel with the DSO to Manhattan in May to perform Ives' Symphony No. 4 - a privilege and an honor!!”

    Ann Arborites who want to cheer on the Choral Union in this “away game” should know that seats (if not airfare and hotel) are cheap: all tickets for S4M are just $25 - a bargain in the Big Apple or even Tree Town.

    Or hear the concert from the comfort of your own Tree Town home: Classical 105.9 FM, WQXR in New York City, broadcasts all six “Spring For Music” concerts live from Carnegie Hall, with live audio streaming at www.wqxr.org. All concerts begin at 7:30 p.m. If you miss the live event, don’t worry. Concert streams will be archived on WQXR.

    For more information, visit carnegiehall.org or call the Carnegie Hall Box Office (212) 247-7800.

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    Elmore Ray

    Courtesy of Pittsfield Township police

    The 28-year-old Ypsilanti man accused of shooting at cars on the freeway with a sawed-off shotgun had a court hearing rescheduled this week, according to court records.

    Elmore Ray was set to appear in court Tuesday for a competency hearing, which has been moved to June 11.

    In March, a judge granted a request made by Ray's attorneys from the Washtenaw County Public Defenders Office that he undergo a psychological examination at the Forensic Center in Ypsilanti.

    Ray is charged with four counts of assault with intent to murder, four counts of assault with intent to commit great bodily harm, possession of a short-barreled shotgun, carrying a weapon with unlawful intent and possession of a firearm in commission of a felony.

    He is accused of being the gunman witnesses said used a sawed-off shotgun just after midnight Feb. 27. to shoot at multiple vehicles on U.S. 23 near Michigan Avenue south of Ann Arbor. No cars were hit and there were no injuries. Pittsfield Township police arrested Ray at gunpoint as he walked west from the area. No motorists were injured.

    John Counts covers cops and courts for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at johncounts@annarbor.com or you can follow him on Twitter.

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    University of Michigan graduates during Saturday's commencement ceremony at Michigan Stadium.

    Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com

  • Related coverage: Images from University of Michigan's spring 2013 commencement
  • Previous story: Michigan Memories: University of Michigan commencement speeches through the years
  • Related story: Twitter CEO Dick Costolo tells University of Michigan graduates: 'Be bold'
  • More than 5,000 University of Michigan graduates came together Saturday at Michigan Stadium to celebrate what many described as the greatest accomplishment of their lives, and now they'll disperse all over the world.


    A graduate looks out at the Big House as she makes her way through the stadium during the University of Michigan's spring commencement, Saturday May 4.

    Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com

    Some are going to medical school or applying to graduate programs, others are traveling around Europe. Many have taken jobs far away from Michigan, from engineering toys in Texas to facilitating ATV tours in Alaska. Some are waiting in Ann Arbor as they look for a job.

    "It's exciting. I definitely am not sure if I'm ready to take the next step, but I really don't have a choice now do I?" joked Sam Lewis, a public policy major who is staying in Ann Arbor this summer and then going to Washington, D.C. in the fall. He's still looking for a job. "It's overwhelming. It's a lot to celebrate."

    Roughly 5,900 undergraduates and 4,400 graduates are receiving their degrees this spring. The university's main commencement ceremony was Saturday at 10 a.m. at Michigan Stadium.

    Graduates hail from all 50 states and more than 100 countries. Twitter CEO and U-M alumnus Dick Costolo spoke during the ceremony.

    "It's scary to see what's going to come next but it's also exciting, for the new opportunities," said Alexis Steward, an architecture major planning to travel across Europe this summer. Steward is applying for jobs in her field to "get some experience under my belt outside of school."

    Anisha Chadha, a microbiology major, gave remarks during the commencement ceremony.

    "At this point in our lives as we set out into the real world it is so easy to feel uncertain, to feel that this is a big world and you are just one small person," she told the crowd. "Always remember you are contributing to our class's Michigan Difference.

    For many students, the fact that they've graduated hasn't fully set in.

    "It didn't feel real until this morning, until we put on our gowns," said program and environment major Elizabeth Pearce as she lined up to go into the stadium. "Last night I was feeling guilty. I was like 'we should be studying,' and then I remembered I don't have to do that anymore."

    Added Myah Ray, who is attending medical school at Michigan State University in the fall.

    "It's almost surreal because you dream about this moment and it's finally happening ... it probably won't set in until tomorrow."

    Math and statistics major Devin Riley, who is still looking for a job, called graduating "cathartic."

    "It's just a lot of release, a huge weight off my shoulders," he said Saturday. "I realize I don't have to think about school anymore at all. Everything is wide open, so it feels pretty great."


    Former Wolverines quarterback Denard Robinson shakes hands with a fellow graduating student as they take their seats in the Big House before the start of the University of Michigan's spring commencement, Saturday May 4.

    Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com

    Claudia Lampert, an engineering major that is moving to Texas for a job in the toy manufacturing business, is the first in her family of immigrants to graduate from an American college.

    "This just makes everything worth it, all the hard work," she said Saturday.

    In 2011, 54 percent of the graduates of U-M's College of Literature, Sciences and the Arts secured jobs before or shortly after graduation and 38 percent chose to continue their education, according to a voluntary response survey.

    "It doesn't feel like that long ago that I came into the undergrad program," said Elizabeth Showalter as she prepared to graduate Saturday. She is taking a year off to live abroad and apply to public health graduate school programs.

    Added her mom, Janice: "Wow. This is happening. There's a feeling of accomplishment that she did it."

    Dustin Wright, a movement science major, wants to get a job at the university this summer and apply to graduate school.

    "It's bittersweet. I've been here five years and last year I just didn't want to go so I stayed another one," he said.

    "I think we're ready to move on, but it's hard to do."

    Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at kelliewoodhouse@annarbor.com or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.

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    Ann Arbor officials are planning to hold a brief dedication ceremony for the new East Stadium Boulevard bridges at 10 a.m. May 14.

    U.S. Rep. John Dingell, who helped the city secure nearly $14 million in highly competitive federal grant funding for the bridges, is expected to be in attendance for the ribbon cutting, along with representatives from the U.S. Department of Transportation, Michigan Department of Transportation, Washtenaw County, city of Ann Arbor, project contractors and neighbors.


    Motorists drive over the newly constructed East Stadium Boulevard bridges in Ann Arbor right after the roadway opened for the first time about 4:10 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14.

    Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com

    The ceremony will take place near 1501 S. State St. Temporary public parking will be available on the University of Michigan Red Lot adjacent to the bridge over State Street.

    The $22.8 million replacement of the 83-year-old spans over State Street and the adjacent railroad tracks was undertaken with motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians in mind.

    The bridges officially opened in November after a year of construction. The city held a pre-opening celebration for the Lower Burns Park neighborhood last fall that allowed some of the residents most affected by the construction to walk across the new bridges for the first time.

    City officials said in November some remaining work would take place through May, including placing permanent pavement markings, completing landscaping and anti-graffiti coating, installing permanent right-of-way monuments and performing a number of routine "punch list" items.

    Ann Arbor received $13.9 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation and about $2.9 million from the state to cover nearly three quarters of the cost. The remaining funds came from various city sources, including the city's street and bridge resurfacing and reconstruction millage.

    Some of the project elements included improved sight distances, the addition of on-street bike lanes, sidewalks on both sides of the road, improved street lighting, greater vertical and horizontal clearances for both bridge spans, construction of a sidewalk on the west side of State Street and improved pedestrian access to East Stadium Boulevard via new staircases at State Street.

    The staircases feature light posts along the outside edge for enhanced visibility and an internal heating system intended to prevent ice and snow from accumulating on steps. Also on the staircases are raised troughs on each side to facilitate walking bicycles up and down the stairs.

    The project also included stormwater quality improvements, new water mains, improvements to Rose-White Park, landscaping, and many other features.

    Four artists from across the country are now competing for a potentially $360,000 contract from the city of Ann Arbor to create a new public art installation at the site of the Stadium bridges. Members of the public were invited to meet the four finalists during an open house last month.

    Design proposals from the artists are due May 9.

    Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at ryanstanton@annarbor.com or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's email newsletters.

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    Willow Run high school sophomores Jonathan Cole, left, and Erica Jo Post hold up a masquerade mask Thursday at the school. The mask is one of many props Willow Run will have for prom this year. Sophomores are being allowed to go to the dance because it is the district's last prom before the merger.

    Danielle Arndt | AnnArbor.com

    Although the theme of this year's Willow Run High School prom is "masquerade ball" and students will wear Mardi Gras-styled masks, the students in attendance will be anything but trying to hide their identities as Willow Run Flyers.

    Camaraderie, cohesiveness and school pride are the objectives for this final Willow Run prom.

    Saturday's dance will be the last for the high school before merging in July with Ypsilanti Public Schools to become Ypsilanti Community Schools. And WRHS is going above and beyond to make sure the celebration is one to remember and that all students are able to take part.


    Students and co-sponsors of the senior class prom Blake Nordman, second from right, and Belinda Styron, back, unpack several props for prom at Willow Run High School on Thursday afternoon.

    Danielle Arndt | AnnArbor.com

    Because the name of the new district incorporates Ypsilanti, many high-schoolers feel like the merger is the death of Willow Run, said humanities teacher and senior class co-sponsor Belinda Styron. She said because of this, the 2013 prom committee, which is comprised of all seniors, wanted to open up the dance to underclassmen. Sophomores are being allowed to attend the dance and some freshmen have been invited to act as party hosts.

    "It's really cool... You know, usually they don't want the younger kids around. This is their special night. But this was their idea and everything," Styron said of their willingness to include the lower grades, adding prom typically is just for juniors and seniors.

    Sophomore Erica Jo Post was ecstatic when she found out she could go to prom.

    "I texted my mom right away and said I had to go," she recounted. "It's a unique opportunity and with the merger, I won't ever be able to go to prom as Willow Run. It's our last year as Flyers. I think everybody is pretty hyped (about prom) because of it."

    Styron said the school is going all out for the kids this year. There will be more decorations, uplighting in the ballroom, a candy table, goodie bags, a photobooth and professional photographer. The professional photographer students would have to pay for, said senior class co-sponsor Blake Nordman, but the photobooth is free and will be available for four hours throughout the evening.


    Photo album souvenir for students.

    Danielle Arndt | AnnArbor.com

    Students also will be given a small photo album with "Willow Run High School" and the date embossed on the front as a keepsake for students to store their photobooth photos and to later remember the night by.

    Nordman also has contacted and invited back past Willow Run prom kings and queens to take part in the event. He received confirmation from a 2010 and a 2008 honoree. His plan is to have them help with the crowning of Willow Run's last prom king and queen.

    Nordman said the staff wanted the students to feel extra special this year and to have a great event that helps them take their minds off the pending merger.

    "It's been pretty depressing around here... In general, with the consolidation, our students feel pretty disconnected from the decisions that are being made... They see it as the end of Willow Run and the continuation of Ypsilanti (schools)," Nordman said.

    The idea behind prom is to give everyone an opportunity to have fun in an environment where they know each other and are comfortable, Styron said, adding the idea of so many new students and a new school is intimidating to some of the more shy, quiet high-schoolers.

    Willow Run's prom is from 7 p.m. to 12 a.m. at the Courtyard Marriott in Ann Arbor.

    Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for AnnArbor.com. Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at daniellearndt@annarbor.com.

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    Twitter CEO Dick Costolo spoke to University of Michigan graduates about being bold during Saturday's commencement ceremony.

    Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com

    Dick Costolo began his keynote at University of Michigan's commencement ceremony Saturday not by speaking, but by tweeting.

    The CEO of Twitter and U-M alum sent a picture of the roughly 5,000 students sitting across from him in the Big House, waiting to graduate, to his more than one million Twitter followers.

    "I am a professional, so this should only take a second," he joked.


    Dick Costolo took a photo with his phone before his speech at University of Michigan's commencement ceremony Saturday. He tweeted the photo afterward.

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com

    Costolo told graduates they "look like an amazing, giant choir" and urged them to be bold in their endeavors. He told them their lives were blank slates, that there is no script for their futures and that they should do what inspires them. He urged them not to look toward the expectations of other people, but to decide their own path.

    "You have to figure out what you love to do, what you have conviction about and go do that," he said.

    He also spoke about his time as an undergraduate at U-M. He studied computer science, but began taking acting classes during his senior year. When he graduated in 1985 he had three job offers to work as a programer for technology companies. He turned them down and instead tried to make it as an improv comedian in Chicago.

    "I decided to make a big bet on myself and took a chance," he said, recalling how while trying his hand at improv in Chicago and took comedy classes he also worked part-time job at Crate & Barrel. "I was grinding away for a long time and I had no money."

    He said that while studying improv he learned that he couldn't plan out all his moves ahead of time.

    "The beauty of improvisation is you're experiencing it in the moment. If you try to plan what the next lines are going to be, you're just going to be disappointed."

    That lesson, he said, often applies in real life, as well. Although Costolo at first wanted to be a comedian he began working on the Internet in the mid-1990s, eventually working for Google and joining Twitter in 2009.

    "As you get ready to walk out under the bright lights of the improvisational stage of the rest of your life... be bold," he said. "Don't always worry about what your next line is going to be."

    U-M president Mary Sue Coleman also urged students toward boldness during Saturday's ceremony.

    "You will take risks. You will make a difference with your advocacy, your inventions, your initiative, because these are the trademarks of leaders," she said. "You will create change for the better, you will work on behalf of your neighbors and you will do it with dignity and integrity."

    Saturday's speech was Costolo's first commencement speech.

    Costolo, who was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity as a student in Ann Arbor, last visited campus in Nov. 16, when he gave a talk about his experience as the top executive of one of the most popular social media companies in the world. U-M officials began forging a deeper relationship with Costolo when a group of communicators visited the company's California office in the fall of 2012 to talk with Costolo and other leaders about how to maximize U-M's presence on Twitter.

    Costolo received an honorary U-M degree Saturday, as did U-M donor and businessman William Brehm, ballet dancer Suzanne Farrell, scholar Rosabeth Kanter and historian David McCullough.

    At the end of her speech, Coleman told graduates:

    "The University of Michigan, the Diag, the Cube— they will always be there for you."

    Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at kelliewoodhouse@annarbor.com or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.

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    About 5,000 University of Michigan students —scratch that, graduates— celebrated commencement during a ceremony at Michigan Stadium Saturday.

    U-M President Mary Sue Coleman told graduates to take risks.

    "You will make a difference with your advocacy, your inventions, your initiative, because these are the trademarks of leaders," she said. "You will create change for the better, you will work on behalf of your neighbors and you will do it with dignity and integrity."

    Dick Costolo, CEO of Twitter, also urged students to be bold in their endeavors in his keynote address.

    "Don't always worry about what your next line is going to be," he said.

    Roughly 5,900 undergraduates and 4,400 graduate students are graduating from U-M this spring.

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    Fiorello LaGuardia, New York City's greatest mayor, famously said there is no Democratic or Republican way to pick up Gotham's garbage.

    A mayor's job is to set the priorities so that basic city services are delivered and to build consensus around a vision of what is required long-term to keep the city vibrant with a high quality of life. That is not happening today in Ann Arbor.

    We must assure our basic services: fire and emergency medical services that meet national standards; a police car in front of your door in a reasonable number of minutes to help in an emergency situation; and roads that are in good repair. They must meet the current and future needs of the city and keep it safe to traverse by car, bicycle, or on foot, or we risk everything.

    To be clear, Ann Arbor is a great town, but our fire department doesn't meet national standards for fire and emergency medical services response times; our police are reactive and not staffed to proactively solve crimes; 56% of our roads are in poor condition; some parts of our road and alternative transportation infrastructure that should have been built long ago are still missing and our crosswalk ordnance seems to reduce safety for pedestrians and motorists.

    Ann Arbor needs more money in the General Fund to properly staff the city’s fire and EMS services to get them to national standards. Once benchmarking data on police services is finally developed, we may need more funding for our police to be able to meet acceptable service levels.

    Properly funding fire safety and emergency medical services, police and roads should be our #1, #2 and #3 priorities, not an afterthought. We aren't attending carefully enough to the basics and, if things continue to deteriorate and Ann Arbor falls further below par, the quality of life in Ann Arbor will suffer.

    Despite these unaddressed problems, our mayor's priority is fighting to preserve a taxing structure that allows a projected increase of $1 million more a year in funds to flow to the Downtown Development Authority.

    The DDA's priorities as expressed during the debate on this topic are adding elevators and retail to the Williams Street Garage, paying for a sewer improvement to help develop the Y Lot into a tall building, and replacement of street lights on South Main.

    However, they shouldn't even rate a last place "10" on the list of top 10 priorities. High on that list would also be other key infrastructure like clean water, waste pickup, disposal and sewers.

    Former Mayor Lou Belcher recently made a statement discussing how upside down our city leadership's priorities are today. Here is what he wrote:

    "Priorities, set by importance, are the only way to operate anything, whether it is a government, a business, or a family. For any city, the government's first priority MUST be the health and safety of its citizens. Just ask them.

    “… We built the sixth and last fire station to meet the four minute response goal and it is, in my opinion, very bad policy to dismantle the very infrastructure that supports what should be a number one priority. When the money runs out you stop on the last priority and, if you have money left, give it back to those who gave it to you.”

    The mayor, who also sits on the DDA and sets its goals, is fighting for the DDA’s priorities, all of which are of lower priority than the city’s as a whole. This is not for the best interests of the citizens, which is to get more money to the General Fund to properly fund basic services.

    The seven members of city council who voted April 1st to reallocate the projected $1 million per year of extra funds that would otherwise go to the DDA are correct and the mayor is wrong.

    (Stephen Lange Ranzini is president of University Bank in Ann Arbor, where he lives. He's also an occasional columnist on AnnArbor.com.)

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    When the news broke in January 2012 that six months had passed between the discovery of child pornography on a University of Michigan Hospitals computer and the reporting of that discovery to police, many in the university community were shocked.

    At the time, U-M President Mary Sue Coleman called it a “serious failure on the part of our institution.”

    Last week, an AnnArbor.com review of documents released by the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office showed how a lack of coordination and communication among several units responsible for safety and security on campus allowed the investigation to be shut down without police involvement.

    Ultimately, Stephen Jenson, the resident who brought the pornography to the hospital on a thumb drive, was sentenced to three years in prison, but the reporting lapse allowed him to avoid prosecution for six months.

    Since the discovery of the reporting delay, the university has taken several steps to make sure such an incident does not happen again. We applaud those measures, which include creating a new division of Public Safety and Security to foster better coordination between police and security divisions on campus.

    But we’re troubled that the university continues to insist publicly that one person was largely responsible for the mishandling of the case. At least eight people, some in high-ranking positions, knew about the discovery of the child pornography and none of them took responsibility for going to the police. Such behavior shows a “not-my-job” mentality that reflects poorly on the individuals and the institution.

    We also believe the university, as a publicly funded institution accountable to the public, should go further than it has in revealing the findings of external reviews into the university’s handling of the case.

    As well as conducting an internal review of the reporting lapse, the university paid for two external reviews, one by campus security experts Margolis Healy that cost $120,000 and another by law firm Latham & Watkins that cost $487,000. Although the university has released the results of the internal review and the Margolis Healy report, it has cited attorney-client privilege in not releasing the Latham & Watkins report.

    While we understand the university’s desire to shield itself from legal claims, we believe this case is so important to public safety and public trust in the university that U-M should release the full report.

    0 0

    Voters will go to the polls Tuesday, May 7 to decide whether the village of Dexter should continue down the path to cityhood.

    It’s the first time residents there have had the chance to express their preference on cityhood through an election.

    Jim Smith, who formed the Committee to Keep Dexter a Village, said he believes that’s an opportunity residents welcome.

    “Throughout the whole process there has been nothing that people could say that would have stopped them from doing this,” Smith said. "This is our first opportunity to say 'OK we want you to know how we feel.' People feel like ‘Yeah it’s time to vote on this.’ ”

    Cityhood proponents say the village of Dexter already provides its core services and could reduce costs of paying for elections and assessing by $225,000 while eliminating a layer of government. Scio and Webster Townships currently provide those services.


    A yard sign urging residents to vote against cityhood in Dexter.

    Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com

    Smith said remaining a village and township would help retain a small-town feel and sense of community. He said the village pays relatively little in taxes to the townships and government wouldn’t be as simplified as proponents suggest.

    Residents AnnArbor.com spoke with in downtown Dexter almost all expressed two of the same thoughts when weighing in on the proposal. They feared cityhood would lead to growth that would “turn Dexter into Ann Arbor”, and they said they didn’t hear clear reasons from proponents on why cityhood is a good idea.

    Those who said they didn't have information said they favored not changing anything if they couldn’t find a good reason for cityhood.

    “I’m not up to key with the benefits of becoming a city instead of staying a village,” said Peter Theocharakis, owner of Dexter's Pub. But he added he doesn’t feel strongly against it.

    The Committee To Keep Dexter a Village has been meeting weekly at the Foggy Bottom Coffee Shop and held several other meetings in the community. Smith said the group's message has been well received.

    “A lot of people are very happy that we’re telling the other side of story,” he said. “We seem to have gathered a lot of support. We figure there is a very quiet, silent majority of people who want to stay a village.

    “I feel very good about the amount of support we’ve gotten,” he said.

    But Village President Shawn Keough said he has heard strong support for continuing the process to cityhood.

    If the yes vote wins on May 7, the Boundary Commission orders that an election be held to elect a Charter Commission, a nine-member group who will write the governing document for the new city. That election could take place as soon as November 2013.

    That document must then be approved by the Michigan attorney general, after which voters in Dexter would vote on whether to accept the document. If Dexter voters approved the document, the village would officially become a city.

    Keuogh said the “vast majority” of residents he spoke with about the issue during his re-election campaign in the fall supported taking the next step to cityhood. He said he has also been speaking to a variety of community groups, and added that the village has information on its website and has sent out mailers.

    Keough said the drafting and reviewing of a city charter is the portion of the cityhood process during which residents get to participate most and would provide a chance for residents to compare being a city and village side by side.

    “If they vote no, they don’t get to see that part of the process,” he said. “I would encourage people to be open minded to let that process play out. We’ve invested a lot of time and a little bit of money to have a great opportunity in front of us. To say no now - it seems like the wrong time.”

    Resident Karen Wilson said she wasn’t totally sold on cityhood, but said she felt strong enough about examining a city charter that she would vote yes on May 7.

    “There’s no reason not take a closer look after this much work has been done on it,” she said.

    The cityhood process began in 2006.

    But Mill Creek Sports Center owner Ray Croske said he feared that the change would lead to bigger government and municipal growth.

    “I’m anti-big government and don’t see any advantages to becoming a city,” he said. “Large government tends to waste money and screw things up, so I just don’t see an advantage."

    “We’re perfectly happy the way we are,” Croske added.

    Read the full ballot language on the county's website.

    Tom Perkins is a freelance reporter. Contact the AnnArbor.com news desk at news@annarbor.com.

    0 0


    Esperion President and CEO Tim Mayleben (left) and Chief Science Officer Roger Newton in the company's labs at the Michigan Life Science and Innovation Center.

    Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com

    When Roger Newton started the first Esperion Therapeutics in 1998, he raised more than $200 million and sold his company to Pfizer for $1.3 billion. Now in its second life, the Plymouth Township-based drug development company closed a new $33 million round of funding last week.

    The funding will allow the company continue its growth as it develops a drug that could help people who have negative reactions to Lipotor lower their cholesterol. The investment round, the largest in Ann Arbor since medical device company CytoPherx raised $34 million last year, was not easy to close.

    “Ever since the global financial crisis in 2008, if you talk to anyone in the biotech industry they would say it is much harder,” said CEO Tim Mayleben, who rejoined the company last December.

    “… There are fewer venture capital firms, fewer alternative sources of funds, it has been a shrinking universe of potential investors. You really have to try harder and you have to stand out more.”

    This funding round drew from previous investors in the company including local VC fund Arboretum Ventures as well as newcomer Longitude Capital. Mayleben believes that his current company has a unique asset that has helped it attract this kind of funding.

    "I like to say that there’s only one Roger Newton," he said.

    "There's only one guy who co-discovered Lipitor, founded the original Esperion and now brought it back. ... There’s a lot of people that want to be part of that."

    Newton raised an initial $22.75 million in 2008 to buy back the patent for the molecule, ETC-1002, that he said excited him more than anything he had ever seen before. He used that money to re-found Esperion, bringing a number of former Pfizer and Esperion employees on board with him.

    Esperion is using ETC-1002 to develop a drug in pill form that will be able to lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in patients without affecting the more healthy high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. The drug uses a different process than Lipotor, which Newton also co-discovered.

    “This drug will be able to be used by people who cannot tolerate statins, or who are statin resistant,” Newton said.

    “That is potentially 9 million people who currently have trouble lowering their cholesterol to where they want it. The only other non-statin drug only lowers cholesterol by 15-18 percent. We can get up to 40 percent lowering which is much more comparable to Lipitor.”

    The company began with eight employees and now has 13 people working in drug development, clinical testing and administrative capacities. While the first Esperion spent more time on drug discovery, Newton said the new company is focused on developing its primary product.

    “We’re pursuing a path that will allow us to take this drug through approval and onto the market ourselves,” Mayleben said.

    “However, we know from the original Esperion that if we keep our heads down and focus on doing great drug development then especially with the attracitive product we have a lot of people are going to be interested in acquiring us.”

    Pharmaceutical giants often acquire smaller drug companies because the process to take a drug to the FDA and then to the retail market can be extremely long and expensive. The most recent iteration of Esperion has been focused on developing the ETC-1002 drug since 2008 and is still at least 3 years from submitting an application for Food and Drug Administration approval.

    “We’re doing the kind of development that a large pharmaceutical company would do,” Mayleben said.

    “Roger [Newton] and the rest of the team have come from developing these kinds of drugs in large pharmaceutical companies, so the standards we’re applying are similar in terms of the size and length of clinical trials we are performing.”

    The drug is currently in its second round of phase two clinical tests. Most drugs go through three phases of testing before the results are submitted to the FDA for approval. Phase one clinical tests is generally a small test in healthy patients that for most drugs is simply used to determine that they will cause no harm.

    Testing periods for phase one are generally only two weeks, but that was enough showcase more than the fact that ETC-1002 did not have any severe negative effects.

    “When you’re lucky, like we were, you’re able to see beneficial effects, even with otherwise healthy testers,” Newton said. “Their cholesterol was actually lower in just two weeks of taking the drug.”

    Phase two testing involves small groups of patients and phase three typically includes at least 2,000 subjects. Once the last tests are completed, a waiting period has to be observed before results can be presented to the FDA.

    A larger pharmaceutical company could acquire Esperion (again) before that occurs, but Newton has no plans to leave Michigan.

    “This is a great place to live and thrive as a life sciences company,” he said.

    “The industry is doing very well here and there will be more of it. This is not just a one-off thing, you’ve seen a lot of other local companies doing very well, like AlphaCore that was just bought by AstraZeneca. We’re not a fly-over zone when it comes to drug development.”

    Ben Freed covers business for AnnArbor.com. You can sign up here to receive Business Review updates every week. Reach out to Ben at 734-623-2528 or email him at benfreed@annarbor.com. Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2

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