Tuesday, May 3, 2011

What Keeps Me Blogging

Our National Science Foundation (NSF) funded ICT Center is participating in another NSF funded project called Synergy.  The Synergy project focuses on equipping the leaders of NSF funded Advanced Technological Education (ATE) centers with the tools and resources needed to bring successful projects to scale.  The goal is to have a greater impact on advanced technological education at community colleges across the country

As part of Synergy, our ICT Center is building a replicable new media and search engine optimization (SEO) model that will aid centers and projects in further dissemination of their work.  This model focuses on using new and emerging web-based social media technologies including blogging, micro-blogging, audio and video to reach out regionally, nationally, and internationally.

Since our project’s focus involves the use of social media I thought it would be interesting to tell the story of how I started blogging. My first entry was posted on May 7, 2005 and titled MentorLinks Deadline June 10, 2005. According to that first blog, the site would be be a place to post announcements, give technical updates and keep you posted on what NCTT (what we were called before the ICT Center) is up to.

To be honest, it was an experiment to try and move us away from disseminating our NSF Center work using traditional newsletter and email blast methods. On May 18 and June 7 of 2005 I posted a couple more entries, one on something called The Onion Router (Tor) and another on MIT Media Labs plans to produce a $100 laptop. I was not getting a lot of traffic (basically none) and going back and forth in my mind back then - should I continue or let the blog go. Everything changed for me a few days after June 10, 2005 when I posted my fourth entry. Here’s how.

Back on June 6, 2005 a 36 year-old friend, academic partner and great guy from Midlands Technical College in Columbia, South Carolina was killed in a motorcycle accident. His name was Mark Anthony Wildermuth (he liked to be called Mark Anthony). It was heartbreaking and I remember thinking I needed to do something in honor of Mark. I decided to write a short blog about him and his amazing (but short) life. Here’s that blog post from June 10, 2005.

In Memory of Mark Anthony Wildermuth
Posted June 10, 2005 by Gordon Snyder

The last two weeks have been sad ones for those of us who knew Mark Wildermuth from Midlands Technical College in Columbia, SC. Mark had a bad motorcycle accident two weekends ago and passed away Monday, June 6.

Mark had quite a life in his 36 years. Many of us did not know he graduated from the United States Military Academy, West Point, NY, in 1991. At West Point, he was Brigade boxing champion in his weight class, competed on the Army's intercollegiate boxing team and was Sandhurst military training company captain. After West Point he had a well-decorated Army career, rising to the rank of Major, serving in Korea and in several stateside posts. He was Ranger, Airborne and Expert Infantryman qualified.

I first met Mark five years ago when he started at Midlands and was working to create a Telecommunications degree program. In September 2001 Midlands, with Mark as PI, received a grant from the NSF to adapt and implement the NCTT telecommunications education program and our formal relationship was launched. Mark and others including Keith Quigley worked hard to build an exceptional program and over the grant adapted the NCTT curriculum to include a pre-telecommunications technologies component delivered by secondary teachers to local SC high schools. Laboratories were designed to house the appropriate equipment, and Midlands ensured the ongoing operation and continued support for the work. In addition to articulated course work in telecommunications in local high schools, the project facilitated the professional growth and development of college and high school instructors as well as recruiting, retaining, graduating, and placing students in good jobs.

Two years ago, with Mark's leadership, Midlands became one of the original NCTT Regional Partners. Mark was an active participant in the NCTT group, always willing to share his technical and leadership skills. He also like to have fun and could always get us laughing. Marks work can be found at: http://www.midlandstech.edu/telecommunications/default.html. A wonderful person who I will miss greatly.

Midlands Technical College has established a scholarship in his memory. If you wish to contribute, send an email to me at: gsnyder@stcc.edu

I was choked up writing this and still get choked up when I read it now. I heard from several people after posting that had searched his name including his ex-wife, army buddies, racquetball players (I heard after he was quite the “B” level player), people from the motorcycle club he had recently joined and his mother who took what I had written, printed it and distributed it at his memorial service. My entry was also reposted as a eulogy to Mark at Westpoint.org.

I learned more - Mark was Sidney High School's (Ohio) Class of 1987 President and played football, basketball, baseball, and tennis. Rumor even has it he kicked a winning field goal for an Ohio football state championship.

While at West Point, his classmates knew him by several nicknames including "Muth", Tony, Mark, "Wilderbeast" and "Mattresseater". When he was stationed in Korea, his buddies knew him as "Moot".He had written and published a book on how to survive Army basic training.

He was riding a Honda  VTX1800 motorcycle and I received a heart breaking email from a guy who he had played racquetball with and had a similar bike. Mark had walked out of the gym with the guy after playing a few months prior to the accident and admired his bike. He liked it so much Mark went out and bought one. It was tough to to read the guy’s email - he was so upset and felt guilty in some way.

Mark’s entry was a spark for me - I quickly realized the potential of posting optimized content online where it can be crawled and picked up by the search engines. I’ve continued to post regularly for almost 6 years now about mostly technical topics related to ICT with the occasional fun post - an August 2010 post titled The Last End of Summer Haircut? comes to mind!

It has been a wonderful experience and I like to think Mark got me started and his memory always gives me a little push (he was a boxer so maybe it’s more like a punch) when things get busy and I get tight on time.

Thanks Mark. It's been almost six years and we miss you buddy. Be Thou At Peace.

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