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Blog

Alumni Spotlights

Summer 2018

COACH ROBIN FARRIS LOGS 500-PLUS WINS

As Robin Farris, TU Class of ’79, closes his 28th season coaching women’s basketball at Indiana University Southeast (IUS), in New Albany, Indiana, he logs 500-plus wins. That makes him one of four active coaches in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics to reach that career achievement.

How does he do it? Farris says recruitment and teamwork made it happen.

“When I go out to look at players, I look at speed and shooting ability, but the number one thing is competitiveness,” he says. “The most important thing you can do is find the self-motivated players who are also talented. The ones who want to win every drill.”

At IUS, they must also be team players. “It doesn’t matter who gets the credit, they have to trust in one another,” he explains. “I’ve seen teams not reach their potential because they’re selfish or not willing to sacrifice to one another. Without team work, it’s not going to happen.”

His formula has led the IUS Grenadiers to 11 Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (KIAC) championships, two regional championships and six trips to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) National Tournament. His 2001-02 squad advanced to the NAIA Sweet Sixteen.

Robin’s college basketball career started at Tiffin University in 1974. While studying business management, six-foot tall Farris was a point guard for the Dragons. The short guy on the team, he was responsible for the “cerebral stuff,” he says, like getting the ball to the right person and getting the offense started.

He earned his professional chops playing basketball in England and Scotland for seven years. From there he went on to coach men’s and women’s basketball in Norway. His team won the women’s national championship in Norway.

The game was somewhat different in Europe at that time, he says. “The European teams played more of an open style – big players could run and shoot from outside,” he says. “Basketball in Europe and the states are more similar now due to the influx of players and coaches now overseas.”

When his European career ended, Farris looked for business management opportunities. As fate would have it, he landed at Indiana University Southeast in basketball. “I was lucky,” he says. “In life that’s the way things work out sometimes.”

It wasn’t just luck, really. Farris had played basketball most of his life. “I loved sports – my dad was a coach and a teacher. I dreamed of playing professional sports, but I wasn’t tall enough for the NBA.”

“I have many fond memories of Tiffin. Many nice people at the University and from the city itself who were always very good to me,” Farris said. “It was the perfect fit for me. I loved the school and the basketball experience. I still visit Jim Huss and Randy Sherwood in Florida every year and I am also in touch with Jim Smith.”

Coaching started at TU for Farris. “I was given my first coaching opportunity at TU in 1978-79 as assistant to Coach Jansen as well as coaching the baseball team. I am very impressed with how much the University has grown and achieved. Very proud to be an alum,” he said.

While Farris has given up basketball to avoid injuries, he plays tennis several times a week in the offseason. He lives in Louisville, Kentucky just across the river from Indiana University Southeast.

GROUNDBREAKING RESEARCH

Science is a way of thinking; it is a body of knowledge. Tiffin University alum, Chanel Arnold-Murray, class of 2012, along with a research team, published groundbreaking findings in women’s health.

The team of researchers from Northwestern University created Evatar, a virtual/digital model of a female reproductive system. The three-dimensional model has all the parts of the female reproductive system: ovary, fallopian tubes, uterus and cervix. It also contains the liver cells and the vessels necessary to pump nutrients between the organs. The model mimics what a human body does in real life. Evatar can be used to test drugs, with implications for women dealing with painful periods, infertility and other conditions.

“Understanding the make-up of Evatar sheds light into the important advancements that can come,” said Chanel. “A system of this capacity is the future in drug testing and in personalized medicine.” The model will assist in studying, finding cures and developing personalized disease models of cancer, PCOS, infertility, endometriosis and other women’s health diseases.

Currently, Chanel is a histotechnologist at the University of Chicago Medicine. She is also pursuing her master’s degree in forensic science at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. “I love the ability to help patients by using something so small. It is a very interesting field that requires a lot of patience, due diligence and integrity.”

Evatar is one of the many accomplishments Chanel is proud of. She has used every experience as a lesson. Chanel encourages future graduates to find skills from jobs that can transfer over to their future career choice. “Never look down on an experience just because it is not exactly where you want to be; draw from the lesson to prepare you for your career.”

FINDING YOUR PURPOSE

The meaning of life is to find your gift, and the purpose of life is to give it away. Tiffin University alum, Matt Coleman, class of 2002 and MBA 2004, found his gift of helping children and made it his purpose by working for a nonprofit organization.

“I want to help kids make better decisions for a brighter future,” said Matt. He is the Mentor Coordinator at Seneca Mentoring Youth Links (SMYL) in Tiffin, Ohio. Matt matches young boys and girls with a mentor that will become another positive resource for a child in need. His goal is to help kids realize their potential in a positive manner. “It is fun to help kids realize what they are capable of and expose them to opportunities that they otherwise may not have been able to experience. They’re able to understand that anything is possible for their life moving forward and that they truly have control.”

It took Matt a few years to find his gift, his purpose. Sports were always a passion of Matt’s; he dreamed of working for a professional sports team and pursued a degree in sports management at Tiffin University. However, Matt felt like something was missing. “Eventually, I figured out that working with kids was my purpose.” After working with Tiffin’s Park and Recreation for years, he decided to make a more direct impact on children and joined SMYL.

Matt has many memories of mentees’ successes, such as performances, behavior and self-esteem improvements. “Some of the experiences we have been able to expose the kids to have been awesome.” One of his favorite memories is converting a mentee who was a Yankees fan to an Indians fan when they met Francisco Lindor at Progressive Field on SMYL’s Career Day. “Other great memories are the ‘firsts’ for our mentees, such as their first time traveling outside of Seneca County or riding in an elevator.”

Matt advises future graduates to find their purpose. “Constantly evaluate what is important and what fulfills you. We are constantly pointed in the ‘right’ direction by those around us; however, your dreams, passions and purpose will fulfill you. You have to enjoy what you are doing and understand why you are doing it.” Happiness doesn’t result from what we get, but from what we give.

HISTORY IN THE MAKING

In celebration of Kansas Wesleyan University’s 130th anniversary, Tiffin University alum, Jennifer Toelle, class of 2014, compiled a commemorative book composed of photographs from the late 1800s through today.

Toelle’s book, “Kansas Wesleyan University, the Campus History Series,” illustrates the university’s history and its Coyote spirit. The collection of images tells the story of the special people and extraordinary moments that defined the Kansas Wesleyan University experience.

Toelle sorted through thousands of photos, used many reference and genealogical research tools and did extensive research with newspapers and other archival material. “It was difficult to work within the page limitations because there were so many wonderful photos,” she said. “So, I selected those that told multiple stories.”

“It definitely was a fun project. The book is really about the Salina community and their connection with the university, both on and off campus. It’s a shared experience.”

Toelle, the registrar at the Smoky Hill Museum in Kansas, holds a bachelor’s degree in American studies from Columbia College and a master’s degree in humanities from Tiffin University. She is actively engaged in many organizations, including the Kansas Museums Association and the American Association of State and Local History. She has a passionate enthusiasm for biography and institutional history and maintains strong ties to the Kansas Wesleyan community.

“I love what I do; I have the ability to connect people, places and things through historical research. During my capstone project at TU, I was able to stretch and expand upon those skills.” Toelle encourages future graduates to pursue their dreams and do what they love. She also advises to stay connected and get involved with the industry they plan to pursue.