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Singing in the New Year

SHU Vatican Choir Has Memorable Visit to Italy

Most people consider New York City’s Times Square to be the ultimate place to ring in the new year.

Beth Tibbs may disagree. She and a small group of Siena Heights University students, faculty, staff and alumni and friends spent New Year’s Eve in Italy as part of the Vatican Choir. The group performed before Pope Benedict XVI as well as at several other holy sites during the 11-day trip, which Tibbs called “amazing.”

In fact, she said her group was so excited they often broke into song during the trip.

“We would stop periodically and just start singing,” said Tibbs, associate professor of music and choir director at SHU. “People would jump in front of us and want to get their pictures taken with us.”

This was the second time Tibbs took a choir to perform at the Vatican. In 2010 she led a youth choir from Arizona. During that trip, she befriended the Vatican’s head of music.

“He invited us back whenever I wanted to bring a group,” Tibbs said. “When I got the job at Siena (in August 2011), I thought it would be a perfect fit for us to go to Italy and perform. I thought it would be really important for us to include all the different things that are connected to Siena Heights.”

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Practical Professor

Art Faculty Member John Wittersheim Left a Lasting Legacy at SHU

An allergic reaction eventually brought John Wittersheim to Siena Heights, and cancer took him away.

The man who spent 34 years teaching metalsmithing and sculpture in his “garage-like” studio on campus passed away March 17 after a long battle with cancer. He was 59.

After earning a bachelor’s degree from Eastern Michigan University and his Master of Fine Arts degree from the Cranbrook Academy of Art, Wittersheim took a job as a clay modeler with the Ford Motor Co. However, he had an allergic reaction to the special clay he was forced to work with at Ford, so he pursued other career paths.

The path he eventually followed led to Siena Heights, where he began as a faculty member in 1979. He quickly established himself with students and colleagues as a versatile, prolific and talented artist. His metalworking specialties included the creation of plumb bobs, a small, pointed brass weight on the end of a string used to determine a line perpendicular to a point.

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Double Duty

Bobby Hopewell ’96 Balances Full-Time Job, Mayor of Kalamazoo

Bobby Hopewell '96, Mayor of Kalamazoo
Bobby Hopewell '96, Mayor of Kalamazoo

By Doug Goodnough

If there was an award for the Busiest Person in Kalamazoo, Bobby Hopewell ’96 would be a shoo-in for it. In fact, there are a couple of Tigger plush animals sitting on a shelf in his office that friends gave him because “I bounce around” like the famous Disney animated character, he said.

The 49-year-old Siena Heights University graduate balances his full-time job as director of Hospitality Services at Kalamazoo’s Borgess Medical Center while also serving as mayor of the southwest Michigan city with a population of approximately 75,000 people.

Two jobs. One person. How does he do it?

“It takes a lot of time and energy and attention,” Hopewell said. “You’ve got both of these worlds that’s got (many) of the same things going on. They’re similar, but different, and they take a lot of time and energy. Both roles are a labor of love.”

First, a glimpse inside his hospital “world.” The former EMT and paramedic worked his way up the health care ladder, working first in an ambulance and later running ambulance operations at Gull Lake Ambulance and Life EMS. For the past nine years he has worked at Borgess, Kalamazoo’s main health care provider. He currently is responsible for approximately 250 staff members and supervises 15 managers in areas like food and nutrition, mail, switchboard and other connective services. He recently was also put in charge of emergency management, and next year will transition into a new position as of director of the new $26 million outpatient care facility currently under construction in Battle Creek.

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