Volume 44 | Number 1 | Spring 2014

Alumni News

Spring 2014 Issue

From the Courtroom to the Classroom

By Chris Gabettas

For more than 30 years, Tony Hall, '13, has been a counselor at law. Now he can add counselor of mental health to his nameplate.

In spring 2013, Hall, an assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Idaho, graduated from the Idaho State University-Meridian Health Science Center with a Master of Counseling degree in mental health.

"I knew I wanted to do something different in retirement," said Hall, 61.

But Hall isn't shelving his law books any time soon. By day, he litigates complex financial and asset forfeiture cases for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Boise. A couple of nights a week, he volunteers as a licensed mental health counselor for Catholic Charities of Idaho.

"I think the satisfaction I get out of the volunteer counseling is being a part of something bigger than me. It's very fulfilling," he said.

Hall grew up in Hailey, Idaho, and graduated from Wood River High School. He entered Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah with the intention of majoring in psychology, but switched to English literature and language.

In 1982, he graduated from BYU law school, clerked for the Idaho Supreme Court and became a partner in a private Boise law firm that specialized in real estate, business and construction litigation. In 1989, Hall joined the U.S. Attorney's Office, using his financial expertise and gifted legal mind to seize the assets of drug traffickers and white-collar crooks, a position he's held for 25 years.

Becoming a Bengal

Hall's love of the psychology courses from his undergraduate years and a desire to "get involved in health care" drew him back to college at the age of 58.

In 2010, the father of six children and grandfather of 13, enrolled in the counseling program at ISU-Meridian. Hall admits he was a little intimidated at first, wondering if he could balance the rigors of academic studies with his legal commitments.

"I'd packed my brain with law for so many years I thought I'd have a hard time soaking it up, but I really thought it [enrolling in the program] was the right thing to do," he said.

Hall would rise at 4:45 in the morning, work a full day at the U.S. Attorney's Office, and head to the Meridian campus for classes. He seldom would be home before 10 p.m.

Hall credits his professors—Drs. Judith Crews and Elizabeth Horn—with setting the bar high and helping students achieve their goals.

"They had an ability to communicate with someone in their 20s sitting next to someone my age. They were able to reach both of us and make it a meaningful experience," he said.

Hall is not the first Bengal in the family. His daughter is a graduate of ISU's dental hygiene program and his son-in-law holds an accounting degree from the College of Business.

"They had a wonderful experience at ISU," said Hall. That influenced his decision to select the ISU-Meridian counseling program out of others on his list.

Just Do It

For anyone who thinks it's too late to enroll in college or to embrace a new career, Hall shares a story.

He recalls an Ann Lander's column in which a reader sought advice on whether he was too old to enroll in medical school. The reader was in his 50s and would be close to 60 when he graduated.

Landers responded: "How old would you be if you didn't do it?"

It's a response that has resonated with Hall for years.

"Just do it... before you talk yourself out of it," said Hall with a laugh.

Tony Hall

Reflections on Idaho, History and Events

ISU Alum Chris Carlson, '70, former press secretary for Idaho Governor Cecil Andrus, pens new books on Idaho politics that reveals much about the author, too

By Andrew Taylor

Former ISU President William E. "Bud" Davis probably should have told his wife that he was running for the U.S. Senate before she read about it on the front page of the Idaho State Journal.

This is one of the many anecdotes shared about Davis in the book "Medimont Reflections" written by Chris Carlson, a 1970 ISU graduate with a master's degree in English who eventually became Idaho Gov. Cecil D. Andrus's press secretary.

"Nobody Calls Me Senator," the longest chapter in the book published last June, chronicles Davis's race in the Democratic primary and then against Republican James McClure, who won the tighter-than-expected general election in 1972.

For ISU alumni, the 28-page essay in the 13-chapter book is a fascinating account of one of Idaho State's former presidents. The book also includes chapters on the creation of the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area, a possible missing ballot box in a pivotal election, Idaho's most influential female politicians and other significant topics.

In the book's forward, former Gov. Andrus writes, "...Chris captures that indefinable something which makes Idahoans so unique while also capturing the essence of the individuals and their issues."

The book reveals much about Carlson, too. Besides being Andrus' press secretary, Carlson also was the Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Public Affairs when Andrus served as President Jimmy Carter's Secretary of the Interior.

Carlson was Idaho's first appointment to the Northwest Power Planning Council, was vice president of a Seattle-based publicity firm The Rockey Company, and was vice president for northwest public affairs for Kaiser Aluminum. In 1989, Carlson founded the Gallatin Group, a public affairs firm with offices in Boise, Seattle, Portland, Helena and Spokane.

Health issues contributed to Carlson retiring from an active role from the Gallatin Group. In 1999, he was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease and in 2005 was diagnosed with late Stage IV carcinoid neuroendocrine cancer. He was given six months to live, but, as he notes in "Medimont Reflections," "I'm still on the sunny side of this good, green earth."

Since being diagnosed with the cancer, Carlson has published another book in 2011, the admittedly biased biography, "Cecil Andrus: Idaho's Greatest Governor." He also writes a weekly political column carried by several Idaho newspapers including the Lewiston Tribune, Twin Falls Times-News and the St. Marie's Gazette-Record.

Chris Carlson

Former ASISU President Interning in D.C.

By Andrew Taylor

From Pocatello, Idaho, to Washington, D.C., is quite a journey, but it is one that Casidy Robison, '11, has undertaken gladly. The former ISU student body president from American Falls is now interning for the Council on Women and Girls in the Office of Public Engagement and Intergovernmental Affairs.

Robison is also a graduate student at The George Washington University. She will graduate in May with a master's degree in higher education administration with an emphasis on higher education policy and finance. She is also in the process of applying to doctoral programs to study public policy with a focus on education.

"My experiences at ISU really helped me develop a strong foundation, both personally and professionally. I will always be a proud Bengal, regardless of where I am in the country!" she said.

Between her internship and graduate school, Robison is no stranger to a busy schedule. However, she doesn't take any of it for granted.

"Every morning when I pass through the front gate and see the White House, I am reminded of how lucky I am to be provided this opportunity," Robison said.

During her time at Idaho State University, Robison, whose given name is Jahnke, was a student senator and then president of ASISU. She credits those experiences with preparing her for her work now.

"It was in student government that I discovered a lot about myself; who I was and who I wanted to become in the future," she said.

Her work at the Council on Women and Girls includes policy research, drafting memos and briefs, attending meetings and more. Created in 2009, the Council on Women and Girls aims to create equality for women and girls and to ensure legislation drafted is inclusive for them.

"I have been blown away by the individuals we interact with on a daily basis," Robison said. "It is a common occurrence to encounter senior officials in meetings, hallways or even the cafeteria."

Robison was selected from a number of highly qualified applicants. Her prior experience interning for Senator Mike Crapo likely helped her stand out from the field. That experience led to a job with the Sergeant at Arms, working on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

Her plans after graduate school are not yet set in stone, but Robison does know that she hopes to stay involved in research. Whether in a professorial or governmental capacity, she is excited to see where the future leads her.

Casidy Robison

Hill Helps Connect at White House

By Emily Frandsen

Every time she sees a photo or video of the president in the Oval Office, Laura Hill, '83, sees the Cisco phone on the desk and smiles.

Hill knows the history behind the phone, a story that began on a paper napkin, where Hill, White House communications staff and her peers in the U.S. Army began working to modernize communications at the White House just after 9/11.

It was then that Hill, a Jerome, Idaho native and now retired Lt. Colonel, took on the job of providing communications systems for the White House compound, an area she refers to as "the 18 acres." Hill and her staff were responsible for ensuring President George W. Bush had communications capability any time, anywhere, including setting up communications links in Air Force One.

Despite its importance, Hill is unassuming about her work. Life has been a great experience for an Idaho girl who never took a computer class in college, and majored in physical education and health education at Idaho State University. Her military experience, including offering communications support as chief of the Operations Center in the Defense Threat Reduction Agency at Fort Belvoir during the 9/11 terrorists attacks helped shape her future in the White House.

"It was a pretty cool dream job," she said with a laugh. "At that job, every day you were a part of history. Every time you walk through the West Wing, your blood starts pumping. What a rush!"

Today, Hill is a strategic planner for the U.S. Forest Service, where she is working with interagency partners on apps to help firefighters get critical fire information quickly. The goal, as in many things Hill does, is to make sure the people on the ground are safe. Hill worked in the private sector for awhile, but she found that her passion was as a public servant.

"I love public service," she said. "I'm not in it for the bottom dollar."

When she was a student at ISU, Hill knew she wanted to serve the United States. She attended school on an ROTC scholarship. It was at ISU that she met and married her husband, Bart Hill. It was also at ISU that Hill found more than an education — she found another home.

"I was so fortunate to have so many great mentors," Hill said. "They really care about what you want to do and where you want to go. I haven't found anything like it since."

Today, Hill spends time at Idaho State University working with the Veterans' Sanctuary as advisor-at-large with the board of directors. She is a member of the federal Department of Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee on the Readjustment of Veterans, and she is working to find ways to help veterans cope with many of the issues they face today, such as integrating into society while facing post-traumatic stress syndrome, brain injury and extreme stress.

She is currently a cohort project participant in a VA Hospital pain management class that uses mindfullness, including meditation, to give veterans a drug-free way to deal with stress and pain management. Hill is thrilled with the results.

"I never knew in a million years that could happen," she said, "We're all reacting in a positive way. It's amazing."

Now, Hill is working on creating a plan to provide a more holistic approach to veterans' services, a process she plans to build into a future career. When she is ready to move on to the next challenge, Hill is considering returning to school to become a counselor for veterans. She wants to continue to make a difference in the lives of others.

"I'm not done yet," she said.

Photo by Eric Draper

How a Shy Kid from Idaho Lands His Dream Job

By Chris Gabettas

It's 7:30 on a cold January morning. Much of the Treasure Valley—where Tito Livas, '06, grew up—is trapped under a dense fog.

Seven thousand miles away, the Idaho State University theater graduate is ending his day under a calm night sky, working a dream job that has taken him to every continent on the planet except Antarctica.

For the past two years, Livas has performed on cruise ships for the Holland America Line. This winter, he was in the Far East, singing the music of Michael Jackson and performing tunes from Broadway, the pop world and standards from the 1940s and 50s.

He also teaches dance classes based on routines from ABC's "Dancing with the Stars" to cruise guests, who compete in a dance competition at sea. Livas' down time is spent in exotic ports of call—one week earlier he'd been hiking volcanoes in Indonesia.

"It's pretty much a dream come true," said Livas, 33, during a phone interview as his ship sailed toward Cambodia.

Finding a Voice

Livas grew up in Caldwell, Idaho, 30 miles west of Boise. He was a shy kid who liked to sing, but preferred standing in the chorus line to taking center stage.

His sophomore year at Caldwell High School things changed. Livas' choir director suggested he try out for the musical "Grease," and he ended up landing a featured role.

During his senior year, Livas attended the All-State Choir competition at Idaho State University in Pocatello where he met ISU music professor, Dr. Scott Anderson, who was in charge of the competition.

"He was so great to work with. I liked how passionate he was when he was teaching and trying to get us to sing a specific way. So I thought, 'I want to go to ISU and to work with that man,' " said Livas.

Livas enrolled in ISU, studied music for two years, took time off, performed with the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, and kicked around Paris, France for a while.

When he returned to Bengal Country, he auditioned for ISU Summer Theatre and later enrolled in the theater department.

"I fell in love with the department and the people involved," said Livas, noting theater professor, Dr. Sherri Dienstfrey-Swanson, helped him hone his acting skills.

He had roles in ISU productions of "Man of La Mancha," "The Music Man," "The Secret Garden," "Antigone," "Servant of Two Masters," and "Twelfth Night." He also spent a year studying jazz and modern dance.

Livas says ISU prepared him well for his professional career. "I cherished the one-on-one instruction from instructors and professors. You really feel like they want you to do well. They believe in all of your talents," he said.

After Livas graduated in 2006 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre, he moved to New York City. He's been a featured extra in the NBC series "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," appeared in the Lenny Kravitz music video "Come On Get It," and acted with Joe Papp's iconic Public Theater.

Setting Sail

Livas landed the gig with Holland America Line after answering an open audition in New York City two years ago. The cruise shows are produced by Barry Manilow's Stiletto Entertainment, based in Los Angeles, where Livas spends up to six weeks a year in rehearsals.

The life of a professional singer and dancer is rigorous, highly competitive and not for the easily discouraged.

"You have to be tenacious. You have to want it. You can't be afraid to fail because 90 percent of what we do is auditioning and not getting a role. The remaining 10 percent is actually landing the job and getting paid to do it," said Livas.

Tito Livas