KSU graduates achieve FAME

llison Remcheck

Athletes, musicians, journalists: KSU provides solid degrees, experience

Credit: Andrew popik

Ever wonder how to get from Kent State to fame? Hard work, persistent effort and a little help from some Kent State stars might make it happen.

Andy Harmon

Andy Harmon, former business administration major, attended Kent State from 1987 to 1991 and was a Flashes football player. He went on to become a defensive tackle for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Harmon did not expect to become a major league football player. In fact, he didn’t play until his junior year of high school.

“I only played two years in high school,” Harmon said. “I had always wanted to play. My parents weren’t very sports related at all, so they didn’t want me to play.”

Harmon said he was tall and skinny as a teenager and had to put on weight before his parents would allow him to play football.

He then played so well, he went on to play in college and left school to pursue the sport.

“I got drafted in the sixth round by the Eagles, and I stayed there my whole career until I hurt my knee,” Harmon said.

Harmon’s personality and mindset made him successful in football.

“I had a competitive nature,” Harmon said. “I didn’t want someone to beat me up — I wanted to beat them up.”

Although Harmon had to quit professional football because of a knee injury, he still stays involved with the sport, coaching a high school team in his hometown.

He’s glad to be able to spend time with his family and instill his knowledge on the high school students.

“A big thing is,” Harmon said, “I let them look at me and lead by example.”

Mark Mothersbaugh

There is meaning behind the song “Whip It,” one of Devo’s most memorable songs, said Mark Mothersbaugh, the group’s lead singer and former Kent State student.

“The song was written after we’d done two world tours,” Mothersbaugh said.

And “Whip It” reflects then President Carter’s policy — Devo felt the policy was stupid and should be changed.

“We thought that Carter needed a pep talk,” Mothersbaugh said. “We saw it as being a song of empowerment.”

Of course, there is more to Devo and Mark Mothersbaugh than “Whip It” — the story of Mothersbaugh’s quest to become an artist began was he was 7 years old.

As a child, Mothersbaugh was legally blind, but was not diagnosed until he was 7 years old. He remembers the first time he emerged from the doctor’s office with new glasses perfectly. It was the first time he saw the world the way it actually was.

“I saw the sun in focus for the first time, and I was blown away,” Mothersbaugh said. “It kind of inspired me to start drawing.”

Mothersbaugh said he felt different all through high school and didn’t think about college until it was almost time to make a decision.

“I didn’t get along with other kids,” he said. “I really didn’t like school until I started Kent State.

“When I became of age, I hadn’t really thought about college much until my senior year.”

Kent State was the right choice for Mothersbaugh.

“All of the sudden, I went to this big school where I blended in,” he said. “It was a dream come true.”

Mothersbaugh majored in graphic design and spent most of his time expressing his creativity in the art department. He said art class, for him, “Was like an epiphany.”

“I like the idea of being kind of a loner,” he said. “All I wanted to do was go work on art. It was the best thing that had happened to me at that point in my life.”

In the ’60s, Kent State was an art hub that created an atmosphere filled with art and music.

“I got turned on to so many things at Kent State that became so important in my life now,” he said.

May 4 was turning point in Mothersbaugh’s musical life. He was sympathetic toward the anti-war effort and was on Main Street in Kent the day of the shootings. He was setting up an art studio for his experimental music band.

“It was kind of a direct result of the shootings that we started the band Devo,” he said. “I wanted to start a band, and I kind of abruptly left Kent.”

He only had a few classes left when he dropped out in 1973.

Devo started by making a short film, The Truth About the Evolution, which began winning film festivals.

And then the group began to drive back and forth from New York to Los Angles to perform.

“We had a cult following from doing this traveling,” Mothersbaugh said.

Thanks to their unique music, Devo got noticed.

“When we got to New York and played, we kind of blew people’s minds,” he said.

And the music world was shocked such a talented group was from Akron.

Devo went to Europe and released their songs through Stiff Records. Before Devo returned to Ohio, they had No. 1 hits all over Europe.

Now Devo may no longer be circulating mainstream radio waves, but Mothersbaugh has kept himself busy in Hollywood. He now composes the scores to films, television theme songs and music for commercials.

Among the more famous of his scores are the ones for: The Royal Tenenbaums, Happy Gilmore and the past three Rugrats movies. He also wrote the show’s theme song.

Recently, Mothersbaugh wrote music for Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, and Herbie Fully Loaded, which stars another person who attended Kent State, Michael Keaton.

For other future musicians out there, Mothersbaugh said the best way to get started in the industry is right here in the Kent State film department. Volunteer to write a score for a low-budget film for free.

“Do music for it that’s so good, that it doesn’t matter if the movie stinks,” Mothersbaugh said. “Look for people in Kent. You can get a start there without being in the industry.”

Wayne Dawson

Wayne Dawson studied journalism at Kent State and is now an anchor on Cleveland’s Fox 8 news.

He was at Kent State from 1975 to 1979, and chose the university because, “I heard it was an excellent journalism school.”

While at Kent State, Dawson was involved with the radio station and was the news director at TV-2. He was mainly interested in sports journalism.

“I wanted to do sports,” Dawson said. “I wanted to be an athlete. I wanted to be a sports writer.”

Dawson got into broadcast news because there wasn’t a position open for him at the Daily Kent Stater. After he was rejected, he ended up at the radio station, and the rest is history.

In order to succeed in journalism, Dawson said, “You have to pay attention to detail. You have to have a lot of curiosity. You have to be a self-motivator.

“(My) overall advice would be just to be determined — don’t get discouraged. If it’s something you love, go for it. In order to succeed, it has to be a passion. You got to love it — that’s the thing.”

A lucky internship lead to Dawson’s career at Channel 8. It was the first job he got out of college and he’s been with the station ever since.

And after 30 years of journalism, Dawson still loves his career.

“You’re basically a recorder of history,” he said. “It’s never boring to me. There’s always something new and exciting every day.”

Contact features reporter Allison Remcheck at [email protected].