Alumni Shorts

Someone to watch over them

Operation Brave Kids When John Ghee (public administration '66) returned from active duty after a three-year Army stint in Vietnam, he learned that his wife, Dorothy, had been forced to borrow money to support their two children while he was fighting overseas. "Even on my captain's pay, she had a difficult time getting by," he says.

Last January, that memory cropped up anew when Ghee learned that hundreds of National Guard and Reserve troops in South Florida, where he works as an accountant, were being called up for duty in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Unlike the families of active duty military personnel, Ghee explains, the spouses and children of reservists have no support system, such as the resources offered by a military base. In addition, reservists often leave good-paying jobs to serve, with their family budgets taking a big hit.

One night, Ghee woke up at 3 a.m. thinking about the situation. "It just hit me that I needed to do something to make the children feel better," he says. So he put his money where his heart is and created Operation Brave Kids, an organization that provides every child of a reservist with a $25 gift certificate each month his or her parent is away. Families who qualify can choose gift certificates from Toys R Us, grocery store chains Publix or Winn Dixie, Home Depot, Office Depot, Wal-Mart, Target, or Blockbuster.

"At the time, I was thinking about toys, something to make the kids feel better," Ghee says, but he soon realized that the majority of caregivers were choosing food over toys, which showed him the depth of their needs. One reservist's wife wrote, "When I saw the Publix gift certificate in the mail ... I was so relieved, I didn't have to feel helpless anymore. I can now go to the grocery store and buy diapers, milk, bread, and the basic things I took for granted when my husband was home."

Ghee was also surprised by the number of families affected by the reservists' call to active duty; in October alone, the organization distributed 825 gift certificates. Although some units returned home in late fall, others continue to be activated. "We're going to keep it going until every unit returns home," he says. "We're at about 100 kids now."

To raise money for Operation Brave Kids, Ghee has made appeals in the media, written letters to local businesses, and spoken to countless groups, including the Miami Dolphins. Every cent of the $300,000 he has raised goes to the families, and Ghee himself funds the costs of running the organization. He says that the payoff is simply knowing that he has made a difference, adding that a thank-you note from one of his "brave kids" is his "most cherished gift of the year":

"Dear Operation Brave Kids, My sister and I would like to thank you for the gift certificates. But we still miss our Daddy."

To learn more about Ghee's Operation Brave Kids program, go to

Playing by the book

An educational specialist and former school psychologist whose recent itinerary has included a book tour with her miniature Chihuahua, Deborah B. D'Andrea (psychology '82) definitely has a read on what helps kids learn.

The president of Playhouse Publishing in Akron, Ohio, D'Andrea is the creative force behind the company's best-selling book series for children, Picture Me Books, Nibble Me Books, and Little Lucy & Friends, launched in 1989, 1997, and 2001, respectively. The company's mission, D'Andrea says, has always been to find "imaginative new ways to inspire young minds to read, learn, and grow."

Little Lucy
D'Andrea, who received an M.Ed. and Ed.S. in school psychology from Kent State University in the mid-'80s, says that she learned in graduate school the importance of play on a child's developing social and cognitive intelligence. "Our first book series, Picture Me Books, allows a child's photo to be inserted and to appear on each page as an entertaining character," she explains. "This is a concept that I was able to patent and has since been the foundation of our product line for the last 15 years."

Designed to encourage the development of pre-literacy skills in even the youngest children, Playhouse Publishing's books are downright fun. The Nibble Me Books imprint, integrating candy to teach basic motor skills and colors, includes such titles as Reese's Math Fun (which uses Reese's Pieces) and Jelly Belly Princess (which uses Jelly Belly jelly beans). D'Andrea notes that "candy turns 10 times faster than books. Combine a quick-turning item like candy with a book and you're going to increase sales."

Not only are D'Andrea's books in demand--850,000 were sold to Kodak and Walt Disney World, and 350,000 were purchased by Imation--they have received plenty of attention. Picture Me Books, now comprised of 40 titles, has received awards from Read America!, Dr. Toy, and Childhood News. And Nibble Me Books, named "Product of the Year" by the Professional Candy Buyers in 1998, was featured on both "Live with Regis and Kathie Lee" and "The Rosie O’Donnell Show."

Little Lucy in costume

Targeting 5-to-8-year-old readers, Playhouse's newest imprint, Little Lucy & Friends, focuses on the school adventures of D'Andrea's own Chihuahua, Lucy, and her classmates at K-9 Elementary. Boasting a cast of six canine characters in costume, the books' images show actual dogs situated in realistic 3-D clay backdrops, something no other children's book has done. "Kids love this series," D'Andrea notes, "and it gets them excited about school."

Last year, D'Andrea--Ohio's honorary Read Across American chairperson--and Lucy (in costume, of course) visited the winning schools in a contest sponsored by the Ohio Education Association's Reading Initiative Program. These days, the two promote Playhouse Publishing's newest imprint on the Happy Tails Book Tour, a story time and met-and-greet with Little Lucy.

"At the end of the day," D'Andrea admits, "I enjoy making something that enriches the life of a child. It's great to receive e-mails and letters from people who have bought our books or received them as gifts and want more because their child has enjoyed them so much."

For more information about Playhouse Publishing, go to

A virtual Hokie

Teresa Mullins
On May 10, 2003, Teresa Mullins and her family arrived in Blacksburg for graduation commencement exercises. When she crossed the stage to receive her M.A. in instructional technology, Mullins proudly joined the ranks of Virginia Tech alumni--despite the fact that she had never before set foot on campus.

Mullins completed an online degree program, offered through the Department of Teaching and Learning at Virginia Tech, that was perfectly tailored to her interests and schedule. At the time a high school math and computer science teacher with tests and papers to grade each evening, she managed to complete the three-year program in just two.

"eLearning has many advantages for the working professional," says Mullins, citing flexibility as the most important.

There are no scheduled classroom meetings, and Mullins accessed course materials and submitted assignments using the Internet. Online delivery allowed her to complete course work on her own schedule, even when her summer Upward Bound program activities took her to Huntsville, Ala., along with 200 teenagers. She recalls waiting for "lights out" so she could log into the program website, receive her next assignments, and submit course work. To succeed in an online graduate course, Mullins believes, time management skills and self-motivation are essential.

She also praises the well-planned layout of the instructional technology (ITMA) online program. "Easy introductions to the various mechanisms that make up a quality online education took away any fear factor I might have initially had," Mullins remarks. But were the actual online courses easier than face-to-face classes? Her answer is an emphatic "no."

Barbara Lockee, associate professor for the Instructional Technology Department of Teaching and Learning, says, "Virginia Tech's ITMA program is a master's program designed to meet the needs of practicing professional educators, trainers, and instructional designers as they confront the increasingly important role technology plays across all learning environments."

All ITMA program courses are offered electronically through VTOnline (, Virginia Tech's electronic gateway to eLearning, where there are currently a total of 22 distance-learning programs, certifications, and licensures. VTOnline is an initiative of Virginia Tech's Institute for Distance and Distributed Learning (

Today, Mullins is an instructional designer at Bluefield State College, a job she landed only two weeks after her graduation. Because of what she describes as a very competitive cost of obtaining her master's degree online and the ease of doing so, she says that she couldn't be happier with the outcome.

University loses devoted corps alumnus, historian

Col. Temple Col. Harry D. Temple (industrial engineering '34), author of the most comprehensive history of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets, died Feb. 24 at the age of 92.

After earning his undergraduate degree from then-Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Temple went on to graduate studies at George Washington University and the University of Georgia and then joined the U.S. Army. A career military man, Temple was a graduate of the Army's Command and General Staff College, the Army Logistic Management Center, and the Army Management School and was a combat veteran of both World War II and the Korean War before retiring in 1966.

During his last five years of service, Temple was chief of the Army's Institute of Heraldry. His expertise in heraldry and his leadership at the institute landed him a position as heraldry adviser to the Federal Commission of Fine Arts, and President John F. Kennedy chose Temple's design for the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Temple also designed the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets' coat of arms, the first officially granted by the Army to a unit outside the regular Army, National Guard, or Army Reserve. He later donated to Virginia Tech's University Libraries his collection of more than 1,000 volumes on heraldry, a combination of rare and scholarly books dating from the 16th to the 20th centuries.

Upon his retirement, Temple began what would become a 23-year project: researching and writing the history of the corps of cadets. Spanning 1872 to 1934, his work, which was published in a six-volume set titled The Bugle's Echo, also chronicles the history of Virginia Tech during that period. In 1992, Temple produced Donning the Blue and Gray, a pictorial history of the uniforms worn by cadets at Virginia Tech.

The Virginia Tech Board of Visitors recognized Temple with a Special Citation in 1996 for his many contributions to the corps of cadets, and later that year the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets Alumni Association honored Temple with a celebration. He also received special recognition from University Libraries.

"Harry Temple was the epitome of Ut Prosim [That I May Serve]," says Maj. Gen. Jerrold P. Allen, commandant of cadets at the university. "He served with distinction as a career Army officer and as a historian who preserved the history of the corps of cadets. He will be missed by all alumni of Virginia Tech."

Order of the Gavel reunion

Plans are underway to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Order of the Gavel Leadership Honor Society. The order has been recognizing student leaders at Virginia Tech for two decades and has reached back to recognize alumni who were student leaders prior to its founding in 1984. Make plans now to join us Oct. 15-16 to reunite with other alumni of the Order of the Gavel and the leadership organizations that preceded it. For more information, or if you have questions regarding the event or your membership, go to, or contact Nicki Cantrell at 540/231-4057 or