Features

Alumni Bookshelf

Among Niagara’s talented alumni are authors of books ranging from children’s picture books to instructional texts on informatics. Some of our most recently published authors offered information and shared the inspiration behind their work.

Sara Breckenridge Sproat, ’87, Ph.D., R.N.
Book:
The Nursing Informatics Implementation Guide. Précis: A practical guide for nurses and health care professionals that guides the reader in successful execution and management of clinical computer system implementation, in turn improving the delivery of health care. Inspiration: The barrage of questions she was asked by health care professionals regarding the implementation of clinical computer systems. What’s next? Writing an update and a second edition.

Suzanne Simon Dietz, M.S.’90
Book:
Lewiston Then and Now. Précis: The story of Lewiston, N.Y., from its destruction during the War of 1812 through its rebuilding and ongoing transformation into a popular tourist destination for music, theater, festivals, and more. The book includes history and photographs of Niagara University and its students. Inspiration: A spiritual journey that includes her family’s ongoing history and connections with NU. Both her parents and eight of her siblings attended the university. What’s next? Work on two books: Honor Our Brothers, veterans’ stories from Korea and Vietnam including several NU ROTC alumni; and an authorized biography of Dutch Van Kirk, the navigator of the Enola Gay.

Mary E. Furlong, M.A.’83
Book:
Seven titles for an educational publisher as part of the Benchmark series. Précis: Easy-to-read fiction and nonfiction books that conform to the Fountas-Pennell system of leveled reading, which provides high-interest reading materials for children of a broad variety of reading abilities. Inspiration: The challenge ofmeeting the comprehension goals and guides regarding the reading skills at each book’s level. The limitations are fun to work with and lead to some very creative writing. What’s next? Picture books for the youngest Catholic readers.

John P. Curtin, ’63
Book:
Pucker Street, The First 100 Years; The New Pucker Street, Since 1953. Précis: A documentation of many of the changes that have taken place in the Village of Marcellus, N.Y., addressing some of the issues that face American villages in modern times. Inspiration: A love for Marcellus, where he and his wife raised their children and where both of their families have deep roots, dating back more than 150 years. What’s next? A third book highlighting the family histories of some of the early pioneers of Marcellus.

Robert Rafferty, ’52

Book: Cruising Is Amusing. Précis: A cartoon book that shows the funny side of cruise ship life from the passenger’s point of view. Inspiration: Combining his work as a gag writer for magazine cartoonists with his enthusiasm for cruising to create a book that could be sold directly by cruise lines in their on-ship gift shops. What’s next? Gathering material for a couple of other nonfiction books.

Dianne J. Anderson, ’89
Book:
The Peachtree (under the name J. Wells-Dickerson). Précis: A cautionary tale of domestic violence through the eyes of a woman who endured more than 25 years of abuse. Inspiration: Her desire to prevent other young women from experiencing what she did. What’s next? Encouraging high school and college social work teachers to include her book in their curriculums.

Mike Zollitsch, ’99
Book:
Buffalo, Rochester & Pittsburgh Railway, Volumes 1, 2 & 3. Précis: A pictorial history covering scenery and operations, from steam days to its most current inception, along the former Buffalo, Rochester and Pittsburgh Railway in New York and Pennsylvania. Inspiration: A desire to compile an in-depth history of the railway using the vast amount of research and photographic information available. What’s next? The fourth in the series.

Pam Spremulli, ’93
Book:
Letter Birds (winner of the Mom’s Choice 2010 Gold Distinguished Illustration Award). Précis: A fun ABC book about birds using simple and colorful graphic illustrations. Each letter has a corresponding bird (even X and U!). Inspiration: Her children (ages 4 and 2 at the time) and her love of nature. She initially drew the images because she loves birds and finds them fascinating. What’s next? A uniquely illustrated book called Woof! that offers insight into the different personalities of various breeds of dogs.

Richard Herdlein, M.A.’70, M.S.’76, Ph.D.
Book:
A History of Innovation at the University of Pittsburgh: The role of the student personnel dean, 1919-1980. Précis: An examination of the development of student affairs in higher education specifically focusing on historical events at the University of Pittsburgh and highlighting the evolution and accomplishments of three remarkable women. Inspiration: His 31-year career as a student affairs administrator prompted his research interest in the evolution of student personnel deans. He also teaches a course on the history of student affairs, which dovetails with his research agenda. What’s next? Writing a book on his personal experiences of serving in the academy.

Frank D. McCann, ’60
Book:
Soldiers of the Pátria: A History of the Brazilian Army, 1889-1937. Précis: A history of the Brazilian army through civil war, rebellions, and conspiracies, moving back and forth from ministerial offices to the firing lines. Inspiration: As a specialist in Brazilian history, he wrote a book about Brazilian-American relations during World War II, which got him involved in studying the Brazilian army. What’s next? Finishing three projects: a book on relations between Brazil and America from the 18th century to the present, another on the “homefront” in Brazil during World War II, and a biography of a leading political-military figure.

Peter C. Scumaci, M.S.Ed.’94
Book:
Western New York and the Gilded Age. Précis: A discussion of a variety of topics relating to Western New York during the late 1800s and early 1900s, including politics, business, natural wonders, and communities. Inspiration: The chance to work with both his wife and a local author on a project that gave him an opportunity to explore the WNY area and its history. What’s next? A project that may involve the experience of war and its effect on the people of Western New York.

Tinashe Munyaradzi, ’00
Book:
Not for the Fainthearted: The Ultimate Challenge for Men. Précis: A motivational book that discusses men’s roles and responsibility in their relationships, marriages, families, and communities. Inspiration: His wife, who observed how he changed during the course of their relationship and the positive impact it had on them, and his desire to share this experience to help other couples. What’s next? Making his book into an audio book and translating it into other languages.

Patrick H. Dockery, ’66
Book:
Vietnam Was More Than Just the Killing. Précis: His memoirs as an infantryman of the day-to-day life of soldiers at the front. Inspiration: His belief in his soldiers and how he felt about them. What’s next? Marketing his book at battalion reunions.

Gary Ferris, ’90
Book:
Presidential Places: A Guide to the Historic Sites of U.S. Presidents. Précis: A directory to the historical sites associated with U.S. presidents –– their homes, schools, places where they worked, got married, worshipped, were inaugurated, died, and are buried. Inspiration: A conversation with a park ranger at the John F. Kennedy birthplace, who noted that while many families try to visit as many presidential sites as they can, there was no comprehensive guide to the more than 350 sites. What’s next? Performing one-man plays that he wrote called Until It’s Over Over There. The shows are re-creations of a weekly World War II Armed Forces Radio show.

Jason A. Borton, ’95, M.D.
Book:
Memoirs of a Volunteer Firefighter. Précis: A chronicle of the many challenges and rewards of being a volunteer firefighter with the Sweeney Hose Company No. 7 in North Tonawanda. Life lessons are learned in the bingo hall, on the training grounds, and in smoky burning buildings. Inspiration: His desire to share the unique experiences he had as a volunteer firefighter, including the things they do that the public doesn’t always know about. What’s next? Putting this book into an e-book format and deciding whether to write a follow-up.

Ken Beirne, ’66
Book:
The Best Things Always Disappear: A Family History. Précis: A record of his family, his ancestors’ immigration to the United States, and how each generation influenced the next, based on hundreds of interviews. Inspiration: His interest in learning about his father, who was born in 1899 and whom he never met. What’s next? A thriller novel based upon historical events.

Michael Storey, ’65
Book:
Representing the Troubles in Irish Short Fiction. Précis: An academic study of Irish short stories that treat the theme of the “Troubles,” a euphemism for Ireland’s violent struggle to win independence from England in the early 20th century and the conflict between nationalists and unionists in Northern Ireland in the last three decades of the 20th century. Inspiration: His deep interest in the Irish “Troubles” and in the way that 20th century Irish writers have depicted them in their stories. What’s next? Researching the similarities between Ireland and Taiwan, particularly the ways in which both peoples have pursued a sense of their cultural identity through language and literature.

Franklin E. Dailey Jr., ’39
Book:
Joining the War at Sea 1939-1945. Précis: An account of his experience as a destroyer gunnery officer in antisubmarine warfare, convoys, landings at Casablanca, Sicily, Salerno, Anzio and Southern France. (He has also shared his experiences on the History Channel in three episodes of Patton 360.) Inspiration: After a life in the Navy and a second life in industry, he was motivated to share his experiences. What’s next? Continuation of his website, launched in 1996, which provides opportunities for reader feedback and discussion.

Naomi Douglas Davis, ’92
Book:
The Write1.com. Précis: A woman goes on the Internet to meet her Mr. Right. Readers are invited to interact with the characters, the novelist, and other readers in various ways through this e-mail interactive novel. Inspiration: An NU English professor who ignited her passion for writing, and the desire to share the stories of the people she’s met. What’s next? Perhaps pursuing a doctorate degree.