Author Studs Terkel once described work as a search for daily meaning as well as daily bread. Those of us privileged to work at Chapman University know first-hand the levels of sustenance our toil can provide. On these pages, we regularly profile professors, deans and researchers who guide students along the path to personal growth. But the daily contributions of many others also enrich this community and make life here more meaningful. These are a few of those faces of Chapman.
THREADS OF LOVE
Pat Cavins treats her costume shop like a laboratory: There must be an abundance of order.
“Versatile, flexible and responsible – those are the principles we work under,” she says.
In fact, Cavins comes to her role as costume shop manager at Chapman with a background in chemistry. Ask her about the principles of dye dynamics, and she will detail how and why chemicals respond to the composition of the fabric. Need formal suits to bend and flex for balletlike movement? Cavins creates an internal elastic garter that keeps shirts neatly tucked and suits smooth.
Her skills have been on display in just about every stage play, dance performance and Broadway-style revue during her 16 years at Chapman.
“At some point I realized I wasn’t going to be the one with her name up in lights,” Cavins says, “but I would get to see my students’ names there instead.”
Alicia Guy, associate professor of dance at Chapman, says Cavins has come through for her many times – “probably too many to count,” she adds. “From the year I hosted Cirque du Soleil and choreographed Art Through Collaboration … to the multiple years of her making my costume visions come to life, her knowledge, skill and expertise are greatly appreciated.”
At any given time, Cavins and her College of Performing Arts teammates are building, opening or closing a show, with hundreds of pieces of costuming on deck. For Chapman Celebrates, with its 116-member cast, there are 428 costumes under way, which means more than 1,000 items need curating.
For Cavins, it’s a dream job.
“I couldn’t ever imagine someone would pay me to have this much fun,” she says.
Inside the sound stage, buffered walls swallow Jose Herrera’s footsteps. He holds up his hands, points at the ceiling and laughs.
“This…this is super cool,” he says.
At Dodge College of Film and Media Arts, Herrera is the ultimate behind-the-scenes guy. He volunteers on multiple student films each semester, providing construction expertise that can help turn an empty sound stage into a Middle American living room, a medieval castle or a midcentury tiki bar. Without him, many a filmmaker’s vision might get lost on the journey from page to screen.
After a career as a construction contractor, Herrera wanted to show a different side of himself in retirement, so he started driving from his home in Redlands to act in student films and learn about cinematography at Chapman. He has played everything from a Civil War soldier to a comic foil. But he contributes so much more to the process.
“When we worked on my thesis film, Jose stayed with us to the end, which was like 3 a.m.,” says Sara Polito ’16, who designed sets for multiple student films. “He literally saved the project – and probably my sanity. The thing is, he doesn’t just do the work for you, he shows you the right way to do it, which I think is awesome.”
Herrera says that at Chapman, everyone learns from each other.
“In my day, life in construction was rough. Here, it’s kids who are learning,” Herrera says. “I get my rewards too – I’m helping them and it keeps me in shape. It’s a two-way highway.”
Herrera gets a lot of satisfaction from passing on his skillset to a new generation.
“When you know something that they don’t, you get to show it, with no intention other than seeing their faces light up,” he says. “It’s a pleasure.”
Something shifted in the life of Melissa Hoon, Chapman University alumni communications specialist, when her mother gave her a small, blue diary.
At age 4, Hoon filled that diary with writings about her day. Those scribbles were the groundwork for what Hoon considers her life’s calling – helping others heal through journaling. In 2013, she founded Inner Awakening Writing Center, through which she teaches her journaling and meditation program. Workshops serve human-trafficking survivors, homeless mothers, developmentally disabled adults and others seeking healing. Hoon also teaches journaling to Chapman students through the Health and Healing Club, as well as to staff during campus workshops.
“I left her class feeling lighter and with more room in my mind for new experiences and information,” says Traci Mueller, who works in University Advancement at Chapman.
Hoon’s workshops are rooted in her graduate studies in South Africa, where she worked with abused children.
“I knew I wanted to be dedicated to that population,” Hoon says. “It tugged at my heartstrings.”
When she returned to America, she began giving journaling prompts to clients while working for an anti-sex-trafficking organization in New York. Later, as a trauma counselor in Sacramento, she developed her workshop format.
She sees journaling keep anxiety in check and goals in focus – for herself and her students. It seems that teaching also serves the teacher.
“I live for this,” she says.
Careful and controlled, Howard Lauck noses the Chapman shuttle to one of its scheduled stops between the campus parking lots and Schmid Gate. When the doors open, his broad smile and spirited welcome turn a potentially rote encounter into a moment of connection. For many students and staff members, his greeting means their day is off and running.
So it has been for the 38 years since Lauck first started making the rounds at Chapman, first as the contract deliverer of the bulky water jugs that keep Panthers hydrated and now as the driver who keeps their lives moving forward.
“Howard is one of those timeless Chapman jewels who helps make our University shine brightly,” says President Emeritus Jim Doti. “I never ceased to be amazed to see his vibrant smile and receive his kind greetings as he lugged heavy water containers up flights of stairs. Now, in his new role at Chapman, I see that same smile as he greets the passengers who board the Chapman vans.”
Doti notes that television personality Huell Houser once told him the most special thing about Chapman is that everyone – from students to professors to those who tend the landscaping – is friendly.
“Howard is the epitome of someone who has become everyone’s friend,” Doti says.
Once during a University Address, Doti asked Lauck to stand and accept his thanks. The Memorial Hall audience gave Lauck a boisterous ovation. Not bad for someone who technically wasn’t yet a Chapman staff member.
A former drag boat racer and B-52 pilot, Lauck now finds time to work on the NASCAR Super Truck his son drives. Not to worry, however, because the elder Lauck always keeps to the speed limit and never misses a stop.
After all, it’s one more chance to brighten someone’s day.