Skip to main content

Reggie Reads: February 2015

The Alumni Center bookshelf.

The Alumni Center bookshelf.

Illinois State is proud to be able to acknowledge the work of graduates who are successful authors.

If you’ve written a book that has been released by a publishing house within the past decade, submit it for review by Professor Emerita of English JoAnna Stephens Mink ’73, M.S. ’75, D.A. ’85.

All books authored by alums will be added to a collection of work by other graduates on display in the Alumni Center. Autographed copies are especially appreciated.

Please send your book to Illinois State editor Susan Blystone at Illinois State Alumni Center, 1101 N. Main Street, Normal, IL 61790. Inquiries can be sent to

Whitlow book cover

“Swagger, The Life and Times of Rick Whitlow,” by Rick Whitlow.

Swagger, The Life and Times of Rick Whitlow

By Rick Whitlow. Denver: Outskirts Press, 2014. 400pp.

Summary: The title says it all. This book begins with Rick Whitlow’s birth in Michigan City, Indiana, in June 1953 and ends on March 2013 when he left Michigan City to return to Atlanta, Georgia. Whitlow’s journey encompasses many miles and many experiences between that convenient beginning and ending for Swagger, The Life and Times of Rick Whitlow. He describes his self-published memoir as his life project. The double-spaced text is filled with particulars recounting the minutiae of Whitlow’s life experiences, an incredible amount of detail considering the span of time which he covers.

ISU alums who attended the University in the early 1970s will be particularly interested to read about Whitlow’s experiences as part of the basketball team coached by Will Robinson. Fans in the stands at Horton Field House did not know that during Whitlow’s first campus visit, “I was a half hour on campus and had an epiphany. I loved Illinois State and Bloomington/Normal from the first time I set foot on the ground. The campus was great. … I was in love” (45). Since he was recruited as a football player but really wanted to play basketball, Whitlow had to work his way onto the team. He contacted Coach Robinson and eventually was offered a scholarship.

In the subsequent 50 pages, we learn about the “other side” of playing on Robinson’s team through a narrative fleshed out with details about practically every practice and every game, as well as life off court. An underlying thread is how Whitlow felt detached from most of the other players, especially the Black players whose experiences in inner-city Detroit were very different from his growing up in Michigan City. One exception was Whitlow’s relationship with Doug Collins: “From the first day [it] was always very good. I think he respected me for being sincere, honest, and not having a hidden agenda” (73).

Concerning the rest of the team, Whitlow opines that even Coach Robinson was unaware of the degree to which “this was an environment that had to be navigated very carefully because there were pitfalls at almost every turn. … Unfortunately the elements that would be ignored were the drugs and alcohol that were consumed by so many players.” Whitlow summarizes, “There was rarely a dull day in the ISU basketball Redbird family during the years 1971-1975. It was an incredible journey that tested my character, courage, and will every day” (67).

After his basketball days at ISU ended, Whitlow began his career as a sports broadcaster at WJBC. His pursuits soon took him beyond the Midwest. The remainder of Swagger provides details, photographs and reflections of Whitlow’s professional and personal life.

About the author: Rick Whitlow ’79 is a member of ISU’s Athletic Hall of Fame. He is founder, CEO, and principal consultant of Bizops Consulting Group. The 10 year private consultant firm specializes in resource development, project management and capacity building assignments. He served on the board of directors of Make A Wish Foundation and Metro Jackson (MS) YMCA. Whitlow maintains an active support role for organizational activities and programs ( He lives in Atlanta, Georgia.

The Reluctant Mentor book cover

“The Reluctant Mentor,” by Lew Sauder and Jeff Porter.

The Reluctant Mentor

By Lew Sauder and Jeff Porter. Create Space, 2013. 148pp.

Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting

By Lew Sauder. 2nd ed. Create Space, 2014. 332pp.

Summary: The Reluctant Mentor, self-published by Lew Sauder and Jeff Porter, offers according to the Foreword a unique glimpse into the dynamics of two complementary “value sets” in today’s workplace. Four generations are active workers for the first time in history. Sauder and Porter utilize an interesting approach to put forth advice useful for both employees (of all ages) and employers. They create Stewart Bicycle Manufacturing, a fictional company that depicts real-life work situations between executives, mid level managers and younger employees.

The opening scenario demonstrates one source of generational conflict. Roger, who started the company that has grown to employ 45 people, emailed Phil that a meeting would begin later than scheduled. Phil, a new employee only two years out of college, expected a text because he rarely checked email. Frustrated, Phil wonders, “Who the hell uses email anymore? No wonder our sales are going down. We’re living in the dark ages” (7). Moreover, Roger doesn’t have a LinkedIn profile. What a dinosaur!

This exchange demonstrates one element that hinders clear communication and collegial working relations within a company. Four months later in the narrative that comprises The Reluctant Mentor, Roger’s company not only has a new website but Roger has “friended” Phil on Facebook. “He’s come a long way,” boasts Phil. Advice provided in the Epilogue will help other managers and employees to follow that road.

The stories and advice in Consulting 101, also self-published, are the result of Sauder’s many years of interacting with people in the business workplace. Each of the eight chapters is comprised of tips (101 in all), which are clearly detailed in the Table of Contents. Chapters focus on aspects of business management: Getting in, Client relations, Personal branding, Expectation setting, Communication, Meetings, Sales, and Career management.

Tips are useful and straightforward. For example, under Network Effectively, we are advised how to meet people in business and personal settings: meeting with prospective clients, dinner meetings with colleagues, joining professional organizations and attending their meetings, conversing with someone over lunch, joining a bowling or golf league, joining a group such as Kiwanis, and always carrying business cards. An Afterward and Glossary of Consulting Terms rounds out this book.

About the author: Lew Sauder ’89 has worked in the IT and consulting industry for more than 20 years. He is a certified project management professional (PMP) with the Project Management Institute. He lives in Plainfield.

Naked Feet Leadership book cover

“Naked Feet Leadership,” by Lisa Shasky and Cyndi Streid.

Naked Feet Leadership: Real People Leading in Extraordinary Ways

By Lisa Shasky and Cyndi Streid. CreateSpace, 2014. 114pp.

Summary: Each chapter in Naked Feet Leadership begins with a true story of a person who demonstrated leadership in an inspirational way. Lisa Shasky and Cyndi Streid were encouraged to self-publish their second book to inspire people to reevaluate their perception of a leader. As they explain in their Introduction, being a real leader is “about becoming the best you can be and inspiring others by how you live, conduct yourself, and interact with those around you.” In other words, leaders are not heroic but “just regular people”—handymen, hairdressers, parents, and secretaries, as well as business professionals.

Chapter 1, Three Cs of Leadership, begins with a timely story from Susan Mitchell, whose passion is to educate parents on the risks and ingredients in vaccines. Because the topic is so controversial, Mitchell experienced more than the usual angst. But now she is glad she did so because her leadership stance empowered her to speak out on other issues. Having a cause is obviously important. One also needs courage to encounter one’s fears, which for Mitchell was being afraid her community would think she was crazy or that her children might be ostracized for being different. Commitment is essential for all great leaders. Mitchell uses daily affirmations: writing down statements that describe all you want to be and do, and then saying them aloud several times a day. Chapter 1 ends with Getting Naked, a short list of questions to guide the reader.

Each of the remaining 11 chapters follows the same format: inspirational personal story by that chapter’s author; application and discussion of the chapter’s theme, often with references to major writers such as Maya Angelou; and short list of questions. The short Epilogue summarizes the book’s main points and encourages the reader to apply its advice.

About the author: Lisa Shasky ’85 is an experienced leader, mentor and communicator who believes every person has unique strengths. The key is identifying them and using the ones that make you happy. Her career has spanned insurance, sales/marketing, banking, risk management, and communications (author’s Website). Shasky is the co-author of Naked Feet Living: Finding Your Real Self at Work and in Life (also self-published on CreateSpace). She lives in Bloomington.

If Only I Could Bark book cover

“If Only I Could Bark,” by Debra Weingarth.

If Only I Could Bark

By Debra Weingarth. Illus. Catherine Mahoney. Hermann, MO: 2014.

Summary: According to the author’s note at the beginning of this children’s book, it is a true story about an 1850 land grant farm and how a family who moved from the city found a new way of life. The story focuses on how one kitten joined that family. If Only I Could Bark is written as a “sharable text,” where the beginning reader can read the simple white text, and the fluent reader the black text that includes more narrative details. The text is written by Debra Weingarth. Catherine Mahoney’s beautiful watercolor illustrations completely fill each page.

For example, on one page: “The lady with rubber boots on her feet walked up, leaned over, and dripped milk from a bowl down to the kitten.” At the bottom of the page in white print, “Mew, mew, that makes my tummy feel better. Will you be my mommy?” When the story is read aloud, the two readers (beginning and fluent) become a harmonious duet. Likewise, the narrative and the illustrations symbiotically reinforce each other so that the whole becomes greater than either.

The gist of the story is that the stray kitten wants to be adopted by this farm family. The woman opens the door when their dog barks. The kitten wants to come in too, but she can only mew, so has to stay on the porch. The dog tells her to use her talent, which she does—her claws to make a hole in the screen door. (One wonders if the kitten misheard the dog, mistaking “talent” for “talon”!)

This is a cute story with interesting, detailed illustrations. The book is printed on heavy paper with strong covers, so it should bring the children in your life many hours of reading pleasure.

About the author: Debra Weingarth ’75 has taught in private, parochial, and public schools, and has worked in both urban and suburban settings. She currently resides on her family farm near Hermann, Missouri, from which she instructs teachers online at Jacksonville (AL) State University.