UA Alum One of the Most Powerful Women in Business

One of the most powerful women in business today is UA’s School of Business alumna Marillyn Hewson, CEO and President of Lockheed Martin Corp.

In 2013 Hewson was making headlines and headway. It was a year that included her being named to the top position at Lockheed Martin and being ranked No. 4 on Fortune magazine’s list of 50 most powerful women in business. She was also named to Forbe’s list of the world’s most powerful women. She as also appointed by President Barack Obama to the President’s Export Council, the principal national advisory committee on international trade.

Hewson received her bachelor’s degree in business administration and master’s degree in economics from UA’s Culverhouse College of Commerce. She is also a current member of the Culverhouse College of Commerce Board of Visitors. So when Executive Magazine had the opportunity for a O&A with Hewson, we took the opportunity to find out more about her career, life and path to the top.

1. What was your reaction to finding out that you were named by Forbes as one of the world’s most powerful women?

Well, it’s certainly exciting to be named to that very prestigious list and humbling to be in the company of so many brilliant, successful women. One of the primary reasons I’m on the list is because I lead a world-class company. Lockheed Martin is a $45 billion global enterprise that’s performing very well for our customers and our stockholders. That’s a credit to the 113,000 talented men and women of Lockheed Martin, who are delivering outstanding work. I’m simply a reflection of all of their good work, and I’m very proud to represent them.

2. What advice would you give to female business students?

My advice for women – or, in fact, for anyone who aspires lo have a successful business career – is don’t set limits on yourself. Sometimes it’s hard to see the growth opportunity in a potential new assignment if it’s not what you had envisioned, so you may dismiss the assignment before you fully explore it. So my advice is, as you go after what you want in your career, remain open-minded to the opportunities that will push you out of your comfort zone. Challenge you and give you a new set of experiences that will strengthen your expertise. I’ve found that it’s often the unexpected opportunities that provide the most valuable experiences.

3. What is the biggest lesson learned, to date, from your career?

The most important lesson I’ve learned in my career is that you must always stay grounded in your values. And that means the company you work for should share those values.

Strong values are where leadership really begins. One of the many reasons I have loved working at Lockheed Martin all these years is because our values as a company align with my personal values. They’re very simple: Do what’s right, respect others and perform with excellence.

These are the values that guide every one of my decisions. You”ll face many turning points and tough decisions throughout your career, and I can tell you from experience that, for the really tough decisions, you have to be standing on a solid foundation of values.

4. Do you feel the way has been paved for women to rise in the leadership ranks of the business world?

Absolutely. I’m encouraged to see a growing number of remarkable female leaders take their place in business, as well as politics, the military, academia and every profession. I’m especially proud of my industry, which has been opening doors for women for decades. In fact, the aerospace and defense industry was one of the first to hire women into nontraditional professional roles.

During World War II, many women went to work hammering, riveting and welding the products that would help defend our nation and advance freedom around the world. Such empowerment of women built momentum for the kind of inclusion we have today. It’s rewarding to see so many women carrying on the legacy of those women who helped build the modern workplace. Today, women represent more than half of the professional workforce, and the number of women leaders continues to rise. I’m proud of how far we’ve come and confident that there’s even more opportunity ahead.

5. Who was your mentor?

When I began my career at Lockheed Martin more than 31 years ago. mentoring and talent development played a huge role in gelling my career on the right track. When I was a relatively new supervisor, the vice president of operations nominated me for the Lockheed General Management Development Program, which was a very selective program with only four employees or 21.000 applicants accepted. It required the vice president to do more than just put forward my nomination. He had to commit to having a job for me when I graduated from the program. It was clear that he genuinely wanted me to be successful at Lockheed, and he went out of his way to support me. When I was accepted into the program, he mapped out where I should go and how long I should stay in each rotation to ensure my experiences were diverse and that I would be prepared for my next role. At the end of the two years, he promoted me into my first department manager role and I felt prepared to be successful.

That experience turned out to be one of many turning points in my career. And it was all because a vice president in my company recognized my potential and was willing to get involved.

6. What led to your decision to attend The University of Alabama?

My ram1ly lived nearby the school. so I was aware that The University of Alabama had an exceptional business program. It aligned with my academic strengths and career aspirations, and I was working full time in Tuscaloosa to pay for my college education, so it was a natural fit.

7. What is the biggest lesson you learned from your time at the Culverhouse College of Business?

I enjoyed my time at the Culverhouse College of Commerce and learned many important lessons that I’ve carried with me throughout my career. I couldn’t point to just one lesson; however, the diverse and interesting people I met and their willingness to share their knowledge and experiences so openly was a highlight.

8. What is the best piece of advice given to you by a teacher?

There wasn’t only one. The faculty was top notch, and they consistently challenged me to remain intellectually curious and to perform my best on every project and assignment. Also, they showed me that great leaders never stop learning.

9. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?

While my role at Lockheed Martin doesn’t leave me with a lot of spare time, my husband I and do love to play golf, so we try to work that in regularly.  I enjoy traveling with my family. My husband and two sons and I take a family vacation every year. It’s an opportunity to spend time together and explore a new part of the world.

10. What would you do differently?

Because I feel very fortunate to have a supportive, loving family and a rewarding and fulfilling career, there isn’t anything I would do differently. The breadth of experiences I’ve had personally and professionally have allowed me to continuously learn and to grow as a wife, mother and business leader. I believe strongly that if you stay true to your values and surround yourself with others who share those values, you will rarely have regrets.

11. What are the latest books you’ve read?

I recently enjoyed Malcolm Gladwell’s “David and Goliath.” It’s all about ordinary people who have taken on huge, oversized challenges, some driven by emotion or passion, others just by circumstance. What you learn from these stories is that the outcome is not always what you might expect, and sometimes, one person’s adversity or suffering can be a catalyst for positive change in the world. I gave copies of it to my entire senior leadership team as a reminder that challenges can be a good thing, and when we work together we can overcome them.

12. What is your favorite quote?
I grew up n a very patriotic family, and I consider myself a patriot. My father worked as a civilian in the Department of the Army, and my mother served in the Women’s Army Corps during World War II. They were both drawn by a call to serve our nation, and they instilled that same love of country into me and my brothers and sisters. The work we do at Lockheed Martin in support of our men and women in uniform is my way of serving our nation and ensuring they have the best equipment and technology to protect our peace and freedoms.

One of my favorite quotes, which is engraved in the wall at the Korean War Veterans Memorial, says “Freedom Is Not Free.” It’s a reminder that we must be grateful for and always remember the sacrifices that our men and women in uniform have made while protecting our personal freedoms.

13. Do you see any future partnership opportunities with the University of Alabama?

Yes, in fact, Lockheed Martin is working m partnership with the University on a new data analytics laboratory.

The lab will focus on using data-driven models to make better decisions in areas such as program management and supply chain management. And most importantly, it will give students a great opportunity to meet with our engineers and develop skills in a technology area that is critical to our future.

We’re excited about this partnership opportunity, and I hope that it will help develop the next generation of University of Alabama alumni at Lockheed Marlin.

This article was originally published in The University of Alabama’s Culverhouse College of Business Executive Magazine in October 2014.

Is Public Relations Prepared for Deep Fakes?

The term “deepfake” sounds like a play-call in football where the quarterback fakes running the ball but then throws deep for his wide receiver. I learned in a presentation while at my Syracuse Immersion this spring that a Deepfake is something much more sinister that can have big impacts on our communications industry from journalism to advertising and public relations.

Simply put, deepfakes are fabricated videos that have been produced and edited to make a person say or do something that they never did. For example, in a political campaign, video of candidates can be manipulated to show that they said something they didn’t and it can be hard to detect because technology has become so sophisticated. The creators of deepfakes use face-swapping which means they edit one person’s face onto another person’s head (Villasenor, 2019). The most common method to create deepfakes is with free AI software (Fagan, 2018). These videos are based on “deep learning” or neural networks using artificial intelligence and they can be hard to detect.

How can you spot a deep fake? It can be difficult. Just check out this example from BuzzFeed that uses video of former President Obama. It sounds and looks real.

Deepfake example.

According to John Villasenor (2019), these deepfake videos exploit our inclination to trust the reliability of evidence we witness with our own eyes and therefore can turn fiction into fact.

When you think about it, deepfakes can ruin a candidate’s chances of getting elected, it can ruin people’s careers or it can ruin an entire company if the video is of your CEO doing or saying something inflammatory or detrimental. In our fast-paced digital world it’s easy for anyone to obtain and manipulate video of deepfake targets.

As our presenter and media law professor Nina Brown (2019) pointed out, deep fake videos are not synonymous with fake videos. Fake videos or scenes like the ones in Forrest Gump where the character is placed back in time with events in the 60s and 70s are harmless and not meant to deceive.

Imagine if someone made a deepfake video of your CEO talking negatively about your company, sharing fake financial information about the company or being placed in a crime scene. Talk about a nightmare for public relations professionals. This could ruin the company or send stocks crashing. How would you as a PR practitioner deal with such a crisis? In my opinion, we need to ensure that we have such scenarios included in our crisis plans and we should work with organizations and companies to create awareness of the things technology can do to harm our reputations.

Brown (2019) also discussed the implications of deepfakes as it relates to current law because the First Amendment protects freedom of speech and there is no legal duty for digital and social media to stop the spread of fake news. But as citizens, we have the duty to search for the truth. The problem is that most people are not media savvy enough to detect fake news or these deep fake videos. That’s why it’s critical for PR professionals to help create awareness.

According to Brown (2019), the solutions currently being developed include algorithms to detect deep fakes, but they must be implemented at the top of the distribution channel before they go viral or are shared. The other solution in the works is creating new laws for digital and social and using current laws like false light, defamation and right of publicity just to name a few. Also, public awareness is critical in helping publics understand that these exist, and they should not take things they see on the internet at face value, but rather should be critical of information.

The bigger issue is that the internet is worldwide and other countries do not have to abide by our laws. Also, under current law, Internet Service Providers cannot be held accountable for the content or sharing of third-party content. I believe though that ISPs must also take steps to deter or ban such content from their sites. Facebook and Twitter have implemented some policies and they do delete content based upon their policies. Villasenor (2019) wrote that deepfakes detection techniques will never be perfect and even the best detection advances will not be able to keep up with the pace of deepfake technology.

The bottom line is that AI is adding more complications to an already complicated digital and social media world, and as PR professionals we must be prepared to adapt and manage these issues and help create solutions.


Brown, Nina. (March 29, 2019). “Deepfakes and the Law.” Syracuse University. Lecture.

BuzzFeedVideo. (April 17, 2018). You won’t believe what Obama says in this video. In Retrieved from

Fagan, K. (2018, April 17). A viral video that appeared to show Obama calling Trump a ‘dips—‘shows a disturbing new trend called ‘deepfakes’. In Retrieved from

Peel, J., & Obama, B. (Actor). Peel, J. (Narrator). (2018). You Won’t Believe What Obama Says In The [Online video]. USA: BuzzFeed. Retrieved from

Villasenor, J. (2019, February 14). Artificial intelligence, deepfakes, and the uncertain future of truth. In Retrieved from

Deepfake photo: Shutterstock.

Computer-Generated Influencers: Can they Benefit Public Relations?

For two years Lil Miquela, a 19-year old model from California, existed on Instagram as a social media influencer with more than 1 million followers (Lil Miquela, Instagram, 2018)—that is, before she revealed in April that she is not human, but actually a computer-generated image or “virtual” person. In a publicity stunt, another computer-generated woman named Bermuda supposedly took over Miquela’s account and outed her. Miquela wrote on Instagram that she is not human, but rather a robot (Yurieff, 2018).


Posing with real people does make her look more human.
Photo from Lil Miquela Instagram

The success of this CGI influencer begs the question—are these virtual personalities the next big thing in social media and technology? How will these computer-generated personalities impact business? How will they impact the public relations profession?

I think first and foremost that the creators of Miquela misled the public by not disclosing that she is computer generated. Sure, most of us could tell she’s not real, but from a public relations standpoint, my concerns with this are that it violated the professional code of ethics that holds us accountable for truth, honesty and transparency. I would have had to reveal up front that Miquela was a CGI. I think the story is interesting enough without misleading the public.


It’s possible she could be human in this photo.
Photo from Lil Miquela Instagram

However, I do believe that this was a great marketing tool and creative way to showcase the talents of Brud, the company that is credited with creating Miquela along with her account hijacker Bermuda.

Brud created a personality so popular that even high-end clothing and apparel brands partnered with Miquela to promote their products. The concern is whether she was paid for those endorsements.

It presents a challenge to the public relations profession as noted in a Wired article (Katz, 2018) about who is responsible for disclosing that an influencer was paid. The Federal Trade Commission requires that influencers provide a highly visible hashtag such as #ad, #paid or #sponsored on their social media posts to disclose that they were paid for their endorsement. The Wired article poses the question that if the influencer is a robot who is responsible? I would argue the company who created the CGI. Also, was she a machine learning (AI) or was there a human posting for her?

Another concern with computer-generated influencers may include the question of copyright and celebrity rights. I’m sure we will have further discussions about the laws surrounding this topic.

CGI personalities can also benefit the public relations profession. We could use their popularity to build awareness, encourage people to donate to nonprofits and causes, act as influencers to encourage change or even serve as an online spokesperson. There are multitudes of positive uses.


She does look computer-generated in this photo.
Photo from Lil Miquela Instagram

One final thought—if you think about it, Disney World (and Disneyland) may have started this evolution of AI decades ago in their theme parks with the introduction of animatronics. It is not on the scale of HBO’s Westworld or what we are seeing today with AI, but I do see a connection.

I’m interested to hear from other public relations professionals. How do you think AI and CGI influencers will impact PR?


Katz, M. (2018, May 1). CGI ‘Influencers’ Like Lil Miquela Are About to Flood Your Feeds. In Retrieved from

Lil Miquela. In Instagram. Retrieved July 24, 2018, from

Yurieff, K. (2018, June 25). Instagram star isn’t what she seems. But brands are buying in. In Retrieved from

Featured Photo Credit:  metamorworks/

Is True Journalism Dying a Slow Death? By: Edith Parten

In today’s rapidly changing digital world most anyone can write a story and post it to their social media account, blog or website and call themselves a journalist. We might drive by an accident and take a photo with our smartphones and post a 280-character blurb about what happened. Does this make us a journalist?

As I continue to study media and culture in my digital media class at Syracuse, we discussed citizen journalism in class this week. Citizen journalists are those who have no formal training in journalism but may have a blog to which they post news and stories. The advances in the internet and digital technology have made it extremely easy for the everyday citizen to become a journalist, but at what cost?

As we discussed in one of our earlier classes, the barrage of information on the internet and on social media sites has made it difficult at times to decipher fake news from real news. So, if anyone can put information out there in the digital sphere, who is there to check for facts and accuracy. Real journalists are bound by ethics to be objective, accurate and attribute their sources. If you couple the citizen journalism style stories that may not be factual with cutbacks in journalism and the big media corporations, with an eye on the bottom line, we are seeing a trend in the slow death of journalism.

Most companies today are more interested in the number of clicks on a story than on true journalism and more importantly, investigative journalism. I’m talking about the type of journalism that holds our elected officials accountable and empowers our society with facts and the understanding to be able to make informative decisions. Instead many of the media holders (big media corporations) are holding journalism hostage. These corporations are more interested in clicks on stories about cute puppies, kittens and what celebrities are doing on vacation than on the real stories that are important to and impact our daily lives. And because of this trend, more people are believing the fake news or stories created by citizen journalists who may not have our best interest or the best interest of our society at heart.

But as we discussed in our class, there is a glimmer of hope that in today’s digitally-saturated world true journalism, especially at newspapers, can be saved. I want to believe that this is true. What about you?

Chocolate, Wine, and Cuddling with Sheep: A Trip to New Zealand’s Countryside By: Edith Parten

I’ve been thinking about the upcoming holidays and ideas for Christmas stocking stuffers. Chocolate always makes for a great stocking stuffer, right? So I thought back to my trip to New Zealand and it brought back my chocolate tasting experience at a small cottage along the countryside…And I thought maybe I should share a little of my experience.

My favorite part about visiting New Zealand a few years back for the Society of American Travel Writers convention was the day-trip via train from Wellington to the small village of Greytown. It’s about an hour ride northeast of Wellington and has a population just over 2,000.

Yeah, sure there’s lots to see and do in Wellington including the “Lord of the Rings” tour, but visiting the countryside was relaxing…and it satisfied my wine and chocolate cravings.


After hopping off the train, we headed for downtown. Greytown’s Main Street is lined with Victorian style cottages, boutique shops, historic trees, cafes, quaint hotels and a unique chocolate shop. I can see why it’s been called “the prettiest town” on the North Island.

Visitors should stop by the Cobblestones Museum to discover the history of the town for the first stop. Due to time constraints I did not tour the museum. Gotta save time for the wine and chocolates.

NZ Pioneer House
Cobblestones Museum


Not far from the museum sits my favorite place in Greytown…Schoc Chocolates. Step into this small-cottage shop to awaken your senses with smells of not only chocolate, but also saliva-inducing wafts of spices, flowers and mixtures of some 60+ flavors of hand-made chocolates that you would have never imagined…like the popular lime chili chocolate. It has a little kick to it, but it’s delicious. Hot chili flakes and lime are infused into the chocolate.

You will also find flavors like pink peppercorn, lemon and cracked pepper, strawberry and black pepper, sweet basil, geranium flowers, curry, lavender, and coffee with walnuts…just to name a few. And if that’s not enough, they also make chocolates infused with whiskey, rum, brandy, tequila, along with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines.


These unique blends of chocolate are the creations of owner Murray Langham, who calls himself a Chocologist. He opened the store in 2002 and has since been devising the tasty chocolate creations from scratch using cocoa beans to make the base chocolate.

NZ Cocoa Beans
Cocoa beans used to make the base chocolate

Schoc Chocolates is a must-visit for any chocolate lover. You can order online, but you’ll pay about $37.00 (US) dollars for shipping…it’s well worth it.


We also visited a wine shop and tasted a variety of New Zealand wines from Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Riesling to Viognier, Syrah and Pinot Noir. Greytown is a must-stop on the wine trail.


After a delicious sandwich at a local deli we hopped on a bus to drive to the countryside of Greytown to the Kahikatea Gardens where tour groups can pet and cuddle with the friendly farm animals, tour the gardens with fruit orchards and nut trees, or just relax. The garden and farm boasts native trees that are hundreds of years old. In fact, the farm is named after the 900 year-old Kahikatea tree in the garden.

20111110_Pie Lab_0777

The gardens are filled with roses, azaleas, camellias (Alabama’s State Flower), walnut, hazel and chestnut trees, and lemon trees. You’ll see so many more flowers like lilies, hydrangeas and Kowhai depending on the season. Chutney and jams are made with the produce from the farm and are available for sale in the small onsite shop.

Visitors can get up close and personal with sheep, alpacas, donkeys and miniature horses. They are cute and hard to resist.

The gardens and tours are only available for groups and are $25 or $20 depending on the size of the group.

Planning a trip to New Zealand? Make sure you visit Greytown along the way. Who couldn’t use a little chocolate, wine and cuddling?

NZ Funny sign
Thought this sign was funny. Posted outside of White Swan Hotel in Greytown


Haunted Tuscaloosa Tour By: Edith Parten

By Edith Parten

The faint cries of a baby heard across Greenwood Cemetery; a man falls to his death in his home; a deadly duel from the balcony of Woods Hall on the University of Alabama campus. These are just three of the many tales you’ll hear on the Haunted Tuscaloosa Tour.

I recently took the Haunted Tuscaloosa trolley tour that began at what is said to be one of the most haunted places in the city, the Drish House.

The Drish house, built in 1837, is a historic plantation house just off of Greensboro Ave. on 17th Street. It’s also listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Drish House

At night, the house looks spooky from the outside, but when you step inside it just appears to be an old house with a beautiful chandelier in the main room. The tour begins at the bottom of the staircase, the exact spot where Dr. John Drish met his demise.

The story goes…Dr. Drish fell to his death, reportedly intoxicated, from the second story to the bottom of the stairs inside the house. After her husband’s funeral, Sarah Drish saved the candles from the ceremony and requested that those same candles be used for her funeral; however, the candles could not be found at the time of Sarah’s death—her wish never fulfilled.

Drish House floor
Spot where Dr. Drish fell to his death

Maybe this is why the house is known for its story of phantom fire sightings. Some have reported seeing fires burning in the third story tower of the house—assuming that it’s Sarah’s ghost lighting the candles that were supposed to be used at her funeral.

I didn’t see any fires other than the candles lit for the tour. Our tour guide told us that over the years the house had been used as a wrecking company, a church and a school.

The house is also featured in Kathryn Tuck Windham’s “13 Alabama Ghosts and Jeffrey.”

The house has been renovated and is now used for hosting events and weddings.

We hopped on a trolley that seats about 30 people. Our first stop was at Greenwood Cemetery, one of the oldest cemeteries in Tuscaloosa with the grave markers dating back to 1821.

Dr. Drish is buried in Greenwood Cemetery, but he’s not the only soul buried there. Confederate soldiers, some of the city’s important leaders and many children are buried here.

Greenwood Cemetery
Photo credit: Carol Highsmith

A cholera epidemic hit Tuscaloosa in the 1800s and many of the victims were children. Many of them are buried at Greenwood. One of the youngest victims, Abby Snow, died from the disease when she was just 10-months old. Some say you can hear her cries at night. Also, the ghost of 12-year-old Virginia Summers is said to play hide-and-seek in the cemetery. During the time of the Civil War the young girl was thrown from a pony and died after hitting her head on a cobblestone street.

After departing the cemetery, the tour took us to the University of Alabama campus where we visited Woods Quad, The Round House, the Mound, Gorgas House and the Gorgas Library—each said to be haunted with their own ghosts.

William W. Alston, for whom the University business school building is named, reportedly haunts Woods Hall. Legend has it that Alston and Kibble Harrison had an argument over their perspective fraternities, Sigma Chi and Delta Kappa Epsilon. The squabble ended with Harrison challenging Alston to a duel on the second floor of Woods Hall. With pistols in hand, the men counted their paces, turned and shot at each other. Alston was shot and fell over the second-story banister to his death. Alston’s bullet missed Harrison.

Haunted-Woods Hall2
Tour group listens to ghostly tale at Woods Hall

After the dueling story, we walked a short distance to the historic Gorgas House that was built in 1829—surviving the burning of campus during the Civil War. It is said that Josiah Gorgas, the seventh University of Alabama President, can be heard tapping his cane and walking across the wood floors and stairs.

Haunted _Gorgas House night
The Gorgas House at night

We then stopped by the Little Round House, a round white structure that was originally built as a guardhouse and was once home for the drum corps. Friendly cadets purportedly haunt it.

The last stop was the Amelia Gayle Gorgas Library, named after the matron and librarian of the University. Most paranormal reports focus on the fourth floor of the library where many students claim to have heard things moving around. Some have witnessed books flying from the shelves. It is believed that Amelia Gorgas herself haunts the library, but we are told she is a friendly ghost.

Our tour headed back to the Drish House where it ended. The entire tour was about 90 minutes and was worth the stories; however, we did not get to go inside any of the buildings on campus. But you can go back on your own time during the day to visit the buildings on campus. The Gorgas House offers tours of the house during the week.

You can also visit other reportedly haunted sites on campus that the tour did not show us, such as Smith Hall that houses the Alabama Museum of Natural History.

If you want to take the tour next October be sure to visit





Me and My Shadow?

It’s nearly October and time to think about some haunted history and ghost stories. I pulled a skeleton (story) out of my closet that just might make the hair on your arms stand up on ends. On a past press trip to Foley, Alabama, myself along with ten travel writers took a tour of the Holmes Medical Museum. And the rest is, well, history.

During the trip to the small charming town, something unexplainable happened.  Look closely at the photos and what appears to be a shadowy figure next to me. Was it some sort of energy? A ghost?

The museum is housed in a former hospital that was built in the 1930’s and closed sometime during the 1960’s. Many babies were birthed in the hospital, in fact, the docent giving the tour was born in the hospital. Doctors also performed surgery and took care of whatever ailed the townspeople. The equipment looks medieval compared to today’s standards.

As I was walked up the stairs to the second floor of the hospital, I began to feel a little uneasy. It was dark, the stairs creaked, and the antiquated medical items on display made me feel a bit nervous. I eyed long needles sitting next to a needle sharpener. They didn’t have disposable needles in those days, so they used the same needle over and over while sharpening it from time to time.

When I walked into a second-floor room filled with antique medicine bottles on display, my eyes caught the site of a skeleton hanging at the far corner. A professional photographer on the trip, Patrice Raplee, asked me to stand next to the skeleton to have my photo taken. As I neared the skeleton it appeared to be R-E-A-L! Yikes! Afterwards, the docent said it was a real human skeleton. I let out a shriek once I saw up close that this was not one of the plaster ones from our childhood teachings of the human body.

Before I go on, keep in mind that this was a cloudy day.  There was only one window at the opposite corner of an approx. 200 square foot room, no other people were in the room, no shadows to cast, and no flash was used. Patrice had a long lens on her camera (about 10 inches). I leaned in toward the skeleton to make it appear that I was touching it when in actuality I was slightly behind it.

I posed smiling while Patrice snapped my photo letting out a gasp, “OH MY!” I asked what was wrong. She said, “I’ll show you in a minute …let me take another photo.” She snapped another photo immediately. Then others began coming into the room to find out what happened. Upon showing me the first photo I too gasped! Yikes! I could not believe my eyes. The photo showed me standing next to the skeleton, and appearing in front of me was a black, wispy, transparent, apparition (for lack of a better description). It looks like a person standing with their arms in the air. No, this was not Patrice’s hand or fingers. She was holding a long telephoto lens and I saw her take the photo.

So I leave it to your eyes. View the photos, the first with the black, transparent figure in the dark corner compared to the photo taken immediately after. Keep in mind there was nothing to cast shadows, no flash, no one else standing in the room.

Skeleton Holems Medical Museum photo2
Photos by © Patrice Raplee – Second photo
Skeleton at Medical Museum- 2
Photos by © Patrice Raplee – Second photo

Upon her return to Seattle, Patrice took the photos to the University of Washington to show it to a few professionals. She explained to me that the consensus among the professionals was that the shadowy figure had nothing to do with the camera and it could not be explained.

The museum’s docent had told us  that other visitors have reported seeing apparitions and hearing strange moans. And she left it at that.

So I ask, does the Medical Museum in Foley have ghosts? You may have to visit to see for yourself.



This story appeared in B’ham Biz

written by: Edith Parten

Birmingham couple David and Andrea Snyder had dreams of becoming entrepreneurs in the restaurant industry since college, and what better place to make that start than in Alabama’s culinary capital?

The two began their journey together as students at the University of Alabama where they were⎯inspired by renowned chefs, professors and other entrepreneurs. Since then, the couple has been on fire developing a business plan—initially using their college textbooks for guidance. They’ve now opened four Urban Cookhouse restaurants in six years.

The latest Urban Cookhouse opened in February in Birmingham’s central business district in the historic former Federal Reserve Bank building.

“I’m very intrigued by and have always loved history,” David says. “And I always wanted to have a store in the business district. With this location, I get both.”

It’s their third restaurant in Birmingham and their fourth in Alabama since they set their entrepreneurial plan in motion more than six years ago. They opened their first in Homewood in 2010, then the Summit in 2011, and Tuscaloosa in 2016. And they don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon.

“We are always looking for new locations,” David says. “I would love to open a restaurant in Hoover or Trussville. I’m also not ruling out the possibility of another Tuscaloosa restaurant.”

David’s former business partner, Will Gillespie, has opened Urban Cookhouse restaurants in Nashville, Charleston, Atlanta, Montgomery, and Columbia, South Carolina⎯with one opening soon in Huntsville.

The power couple graduated from the University of Alabama’s business school, the Culverhouse College of Commerce. David earned his undergraduate degree in 2002 and MBA in 2003 at Culverhouse while Andrea earned her degree in marketing in 2004.

Andrea proudly says the two relied on their textbooks from college and notes from favorite professors Dr. Lonnie Strickland and Dr. Ron Dulek when the time came to take the first step to becoming entrepreneurs.

“We saved our textbook from GBA 490 (Strategic Management) and used it to create the first business plan for Urban Cookhouse,” says Andrea, smiling.

“Dr. Strickland and Dr. Dulek’s ability to actually teach the subject matter made the textbook come to life,” adds David. “And the case studies they put us through inspired me to look at that textbook and say, ‘This is gold.’ I still have it, and I make sure that I go back to it. It guides my decisions a lot of the time.”

Upon graduating from UA, David went to work for Zoe’s Kitchen, a restaurant chain created by another Culverhouse alumnus, John Cassimus.

“I went straight to work for Zoe’s Kitchen right out of college and I moved to Birmingham,” says David. “At the time, there were only about five Zoe’s Kitchens. I was with them from mid-2003 to 2009. In that time period, I helped open 13 restaurants for the Cassimus family.”

David also worked with Birmingham’s renowned chef Chris Hastings. “Chef Hastings inspired me,” says David. “People don’t understand the detail that goes into preparing food until they have worked in a five-star kitchen like (Hastings’) Hot and Hot Fish Club. I’ve seen and been a part of a process where it took 12 hours just to make a sauce. It’s that level of detail that inspired me to not overlook anything when I’m preparing a meal.”

It’s that same level of commitment and attention to detail that David took to create the menu for Urban Cookhouse. From 2004 to 2008 David traveled the U.S. collecting menus from the restaurants he


“I wanted fresh food and I wanted to smoke the meats,” David explains. “I got a good idea for combinations of food that were popular in all the places I visited. I would circle things on menus that interested me. My wife and I took all the menus we collected, and on the way to the National Restaurant Association Expo in Chicago in 2009, I wrote out the Urban Cookhouse menu.

“While I worked for Chris Hastings during the day, at night I would go home and make the food that became the Urban Cookhouse menu,” adds David.

David reveals the secret to their menu—smoking everything on a Green Egg grill. Whether it’s the pork on the El Cubano sandwich, the Urban Cowboy’s lime marinated steak or the smoked turkey on the Turkey Crunch sandwich, all the meat goes through the smoking process.

“I really wanted to combine my knowledge and ability to run a quick-service casual restaurant with that idea,” explains David. “Let’s get the freshest food we can, let’s cook it over hickory wood and charcoal and let’s do it in a setting that’s modern and urban.”

The process took about a year to get the business plan and design together prior to opening their first restaurant in downtown Homewood in May of 2010. The restaurants continue to see great success thanks to a simple concept.

“It’s local and we buy from local farmers and the food is handmade,” says David. “We also do all that we can to make sure that our customer service is the best in our segment of the restaurant industry.”

Since opening in downtown Birmingham in February of this year, David feels confident he made the right decision to locate in the business district.

“We’ve seen growth every week that we’ve been open downtown. The success of Urban Cookhouse has exceeded our expectations and we couldn’t be happier,” he says.

Although they’ve had great success as entrepreneurs, David and Andrea still remain humble and give credit to those who have helped and inspired them along the way, including their hometown of Birmingham.

“None of our success would have been possible without Birmingham and its rise as a culinary destination,” says David. “Also, without the Cassimus family, and Chef Hastings allowing me to work in his kitchen for a year, I would have never learned the culinary side like I have.”

“Without Birmingham, there would be no Urban Cookhouse,” he adds.

What’s in a Name?

Andrea, with her marketing background, came up with the name.

“I know we called the shed at my dad’s hunting camp a cookhouse. It was a separate, covered, portable detached building for cooking and smoking meats. So, the word ‘cookhouse’ was going to be part of our concept. I thought that was a perfect name,” she says.

But Andrea adds that there was a slight problem with just calling it Cookhouse. “We didn’t want people to think it was country food,” she says. “It’s a little bit more progressive than that, and we were definitely going to be opening locations in urban areas. So, I thought Urban Cookhouse had a nice ring to it, and we stuck with it.”


Iceland…Where Time Begins

Its landscape is rugged with dramatic scenery that will take your breath away. From its lava caves, hot springs and geysers below, to its volcanoes, waterfalls and glaciers above, Iceland is more than the land of fire and ice. It’s where time begins.

Just ask master watchmaker Gilbert O. Gudjonsson (aka Gilbertson). He’s been repairing, designing and crafting watches in his 200 square foot shop in the capital of Reykjavik for more than 50 years.

You might miss the small shop on Reykjavik’s Laugavegur Street if you’re not looking. While window-shopping with my husband on the main drag, I caught a glimpse of a crimson faced watch sitting in the window display of the JS Watch Company. I couldn’t resist stepping into this quaint shop. The watch drew me in.

Once inside I sensed a special place…one where time seems to stand still. The left wall dons photographs of the celebrities who have purchased watches from Gilbertson—from movie stars to rock stars, and political figures…even the Dalai Lama.

Me with Master Watchmaker Gilbertson

As I walked in to inquire about the crimson-faced watch, a man with a loupe (a single magnifying glass) over one eye greets me. I knew that I had stumbled upon something amazing.  Gilbertson was so friendly and entertaining. He took the time to tell me about the watchmaking process and he told stories about the photographs and the stars who visited his shop.

He pointed to the photo of the Dalai Lama, whom Gilbertson reveals is a huge fan and collector of watches.

Then he pointed to a photo with actor Tom Cruise. Cruise bought one of Gilberston’s most expensive watches for his 50th birthday. The cost? $500,000. Giblertson’s watches sell for $2,500 to $500,000 (1.8 million króna.)

He says Cruise was so thrilled with his watch that he wrote Gilbertson a handwritten thank you letter.

Tom Cruise photo donning the wall of Gilbertson’s watch shop

“He didn’t have to do that, but he did and that just shows me what kind of thoughtful person he is,” Gilbertson says. “For him to take the time to sit down and hand write a letter to a small businessman like me says a lot.”

Gilbertson had created just over 2,500 timepieces in 10 years when I visited. He started out at a young age repairing watches and clocks before he discovered his passion for watchmaking.

“I don’t produce a lot of watches like Rolex does, although the quality of my watches are just as good or better,” says Gilbertson. “I make each one by hand and take my time. A lot of passion and personal care goes into each watch. I love what I’m doing,” he adds with passion.

Gilbertson went on to tell me that he gets the parts for building his time-pieces from Sweden and Germany. “They make the best there is,” according to Gilbertson. For the intricate detail on the bodies and bezels of the watches, he sends them to a custom engraver in New Zealand. When the watch is sent back, he then assembles all the  intricate pieces together in his small shop.

“Each watch is designed here, tested, assembled and tested again,” says Gilbertson.

When you see the intricate detail in each timepiece you understand that this watchmaker has a passion for a centuries-old profession. From the intricate hand carvings representing the Viking culture of Iceland to the faces made of volcanic ash from the 2011 eruption, the details are sights to behold.

Detailed symbols on watch body

His watches are worn by some of the most famous people from around the world from the Dalai Lama and Tom Cruise as we mentioned. Then there’s Jude Law, Katie Couric, Quentin Tarantino and Ian Anderson of the Jethro Tull band, who, by-the-way, gave Gilbertson a flute from his personal collection.

Flute from Jethro Tull
Flute from Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull

“A friend told me I could sell the flute on e-Bay for a million dollars, but I said no way, I’m keeping it in my family.”

Speaking of family, his son is responsible for the marketing and promotion of the business to include writing copy and designing the ads that appear in some high-end publications as well as on their website. He also helps design the watches and always has a new design coming down the pipeline.

“Maybe the next volcano eruption will play into the next watch design,” says Gilbertson with a smile.

Visit the JS Watch Company website.


Wall of Fame
Crimson Watch
The Crimson Watch that drew me in
JS Watch Store
JS Watch Company store front downtown Reykjavik