UAB Magazine Weekly - Features on UAB Alumni
Memorable Stories from the Oral History Project
Rosie O'Beirne works the camera while Pamela Sterne King interviews Ike Matson as part of the oral history project.
O’Beirne: “Maggie Bristow is a 91-year-old African-American woman who grew up at the base of Red Mountain and helped build the house she lives in today. Her late husband worked in the mines, and she still sleeps in the bed that he bought at the company store. She talked about the days when everyone grew their own fresh food in their backyard gardens and had to walk to get anywhere. I found it ironic that she describes a lifestyle that public health officials say we need to return to today.”
King: “One surprising thing that the workers told us is that when someone broke the law—even when someone killed somebody—the local police weren’t called. The company was called and handled its own. They operated in so many ways outside regular society because they had their own society.”
O’Beirne: “Willie Cammack is an African-American ore miner who is one of the happiest individuals I’ve ever met and a natural storyteller. He tells a great one about how his dad used to make moonshine in the nearby woods. His moonshine was apparently the best around, and sometimes whites would come buy some. One time a group of men came by, and Willie’s dad wouldn’t sell them moonshine because he said he had no way of knowing if they were the police. They kept coming back, and eventually they became customers—and as it turned out, they were the police!Back to main article
The Oral History Project is only one of UAB’s collaborations with Red Mountain Park, which will open its first phase in 2012. Here are a few examples of how UAB faculty, students, and alumni are using Red Mountain as a laboratory for hands-on teaching and research and contributing to the park’s creation:
- Sarah Parcak, Ph.D., director of the Laboratory for Global Health Observation and an archaeologist, has been researching underground structures and artifacts. She is also surveying the park with assistance from her students at UAB.
- Andrew Coleman, a Ph.D. candidate in biology, launched a herpetology survey to gauge the park’s reptile and amphibian populations.
- Coach Blake Boldon and the UAB women’s cross-country track team train on the park’s trails; they also have coordinated an effort to build additional trails on the property.
- History professor Colin Davis, Ph.D., has shed light on labor history and serves on the park’s historical committee. (Ellen Davis, a graduate student in the Department of History, spent a year documenting the past of the current park land.)
- Thomas Jackson, Ph.D., director of research engineering in the School of Engineering, coordinates park-focused marketing and engineering projects involving undergraduate and graduate students.
- Former UAB president Scotty McCallum, D.M.D., M.D., has been a commissioner on the Red Mountain Park board since its inception. As chair of the board’s personnel committee, he has been influential in selecting park staff.
- Tennant McWilliams, Ph.D., former dean of the UAB School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, was responsible for putting in motion many of the UAB-Red Mountain Park connections, including collaborations involving the history and engineering departments, as well as the cross-country team.
- Alumnus Jack Bergstresser, Ph.D., director of the Tannehill Iron and Steel Museum, conducts archaeological investigations into the mountain’s “lost” mining villages and consults on historical research.
- Nick Timkovich (system analyst at UAB’s University Computer Center) and Pat Higginbottom (assistant director at Lister Hill Library) are both officers of the Friends of Red Mountain Park, the volunteer arm of the park. They lead monthly public hikes, coordinate trail working days, host publicity events, and give community presentations to a variety of organizations.
- Retired UAB development office employee Betty Bock volunteers in the area of grant research.
UAB Alumni Practice Medicine in Unusual Settings
By Jo Lynn Orr
Robert M. Cosby has treated everyone from movie stars to circus performers to soldiers in the field during more than 35 years as a practicing physician.
Physicians are people, too. Like the rest of us, they dream of meeting Hollywood celebrities and sports stars, finding adventure in foreign lands, and getting paid to take tropical vacations. The difference is, doctors have the sought-after skills to turn those fantasies into reality—as several UAB graduates can testify.
Spirit of Adventure
Robert M. Cosby, M.D. (School of Medicine class of 1971), has always been drawn to doing common things in uncommon places. So when Mel Gibson’s film company came to Birmingham to shoot scenes for The River, Cosby contacted the production manager and was hired to be the physician on call at the movie set. “It was fun—something different,” he says. “It was also a learning experience. Everyone thinks being a movie star is glamorous and exciting, but in reality performers live a hard life. They often have to travel long distances and work long hours in difficult locations for months at a time.”
They’re also very dependent on appearance, Cosby says. “One actress called me to the set because she thought her eyes were becoming red, and she was afraid the camera would pick it up. Another actress who was feeling tired asked for a vitamin B-12 injection because she believed it would give her more energy. This seems to be a commonly held belief in entertainment circles, because I ended up being called to the set to give everyone—cast and crew, alike—B-12 injections.”
UAB Alumna Bakes Up a Business
By Caperton Gillett
UAB graduate Jan Moon used her knowledge of nutrition science to create a specialized bakery in nearby Homewood.
Customers are given fair warning as soon as they walk through the door of Dreamcakes Bakery. “Sorry,” a sign says, “everything’s delicious.” Even without sampling the entire menu, a few bites of Jan Moon’s signature Over the Moon cupcakes make it clear that here is no idle threat. But is this an honest profession for a former food and nutrition student at UAB?
“I get a lot of flak about that,” says Moon, owner of the petite confection shop in Homewood, Alabama. It was a love of food, though, and not a fear of frosting that led Moon to what was then UAB’s School of Allied Health in 1978. Afterward she took a position at UAB Hospital, where she worked with cancer and transplant patients and was charged with preparing meals that were both nutritious and palatable. “The thing I liked most was going down to the kitchen and trying to concoct something the oral cancer patients could eat,” she says. “They would tell me what they wanted, and I would try to come up with something they would enjoy.”
Story continues after the slideshow. (Can't see the slideshow? Click here)