Making Good Places

– Kristen Card

Photo by Jessica McConnell

Jason Hercules ’00

A connection to two different cultures helped Jason Hercules determine what he wanted to do with his life.

Hercules’ family moved from their native Trinidad and Tobago to Houston when Jason was just 10. “A fairly stark difference” is how he understatedly describes the change — not only a culture shock, but also a complete transformation of living situations and circumstantial pressures, in addition to the natural stresses of adolescence.

As his high school graduation approached, Hercules felt he was still acclimating to American culture. He sought a smaller, more intimate school, and already had some familiarity with Southwestern University, where his older sister had gone, so he headed to Georgetown.

One of the opportunities Hercules took advantage of at Southwestern was the chance to pursue an independent major in environmental studies through then-biology professor Stephanie Fabritius. (Southwestern subsequently developed a formal Environmental Studies Program). During his time at Southwestern, Hercules also launched the Environmental Club, which is now known as Students for Environmental Activism and Knowledge (SEAK). He says his interest in the environment stems from his dual roots, but really blossomed during a four-month study-abroad trip to Costa Rica.

“The trip focused on sustainable development, which examines everything in a more interconnected manner,” Hercules says. “You see how the decisions we make are all interrelated — how the choices of what we eat or how we get around or where we live affects other systems, other places. It solidified everything for me, and made me sure this was the work I wanted to do.”

After graduating from Southwestern, Hercules earned a master’s degree in community and regional planning from The University of Texas School of Architecture. Today, he lives in Washington, D.C., and works for a global provider of integrated infrastructure solutions, Parsons Brinckerhoff, as a planner within a division of the company called PB PlaceMaking. Hercules describes his division’s work as the creation of “un-suburbs.”

“The idea of placemaking is to shape a destination people want to spend time in,” he explains. “It has a mix of uses — housing, offices and retail — so that people don’t have to travel as far to do different activities. People can live in the same community most or all of their lives, aging in place, if they want to. There are condos for younger people, homes with yards for families, and housing closer to museums and other activities for retirees. If you design a place well, then someone wants to walk around rather than drive their car, they enjoy spending time out in the place you’ve made. And the offshoot of that is they’re making decisions that are better for the environment. Just in making good places, you provide an opportunity for people to do something better for the environment, for themselves and for others.”

Photo by Taylor Jones

From Wellwater to Rainwater

– Kristen Card

John and Mary Curtner Powell ’55

John and Mary Powell might not fit the stereotype of envi- ronmental activists, but ask this New Braunfels couple about “going potable,” and their answer just might surprise you with its passion, progressive thinking and big-picture vision.

Several years ago, Mary became interested in collecting rainwater for outdoor watering. The Powells live off of a well system, and thought using rainwater for some purposes might relieve their well — and the Glen Rose Aquifer, which it draws from — so they installed gutters around half of their home that feed into two 1,000-gallon water storage tanks.

“Like many others around here, we were concerned about the aquifer’s ability to provide enough water for all the people who are drilling wells in the Hill Country,” John says. “We noticed immediately that with only half of the house guttered, our tanks oveflowed every time it rained. There was just a tremendous amount of rainwater available.”

The Powells’ rainwater collection mini-system was working so well, Mary furthered her research into harvesting rainwater for all uses, including drinking water. They attended a seminar held on the subject by John Kight, a retired engineer and Hill Country resident who has been studying Central Texas rainfall patterns for about 15 years, and is a well-known advocate of rainwater harvesting. The Powells’ visit to Kight’s 100 percent rainwater-run home was a turning point; they decided to “go potable.”

Hill Country Water Solutions began installing the Powells’ system last February. It has four main components. There are four-inch gutters all the way around the house, with downspouts that flow into underground pipes running 30-40 yards downhill to four, 5,000-gallon dark green plastic gravity-filled storage tanks. The tanks are about 12 feet high and 12 feet across, but luckily, the Powells’ land includes a cedar grove behind their home that renders the giant tanks barely visible. A small shed by the tanks houses a pump and pressure tank, which pumps the water up to a pumphouse closer to the main house, where the water is filtered for organic matter, put through UV light treatment to destroy bacteria and connected to the pipes within the main house.

The whole system became fully operational in May, but the storage tanks collected water all the way through an unusually wet Central Texas spring, so as of the beginning of June, were 20,000 gallons full.

“Since we use only about 65 gallons of water a day, our current supply should last us about 10 months,” John says. “And it will rain again within the next 10 months.”

The Powells have noticed some differences since switching from well water to their new rainwater system. The water temperature seems warmer overall, and the water pressure is a little less, due to a lower-set pump. But the biggest difference they’ve noticed is taste.

“The water tastes a world better,” John crows. “Our well water was extremely hard, with quite a lot of iron in it. We had to treat it and treat it and treat it to make it drinkable. This water, you send it through the filters and the UV light treatment, and it’s completely tasty and drinkable.”

While retrofitting the Powells’ home with a rainwater-harvesting system was rather expensive, the cost of new home installation is competitive with installing a well — and might ultimately help prevent paying a much higher price environmentally.

“We feel like this [water] system is more ‘green,’” John says. “It diminishes the drag on the aquifer, and that’s going to become more and more critical over time because the subdivisions going in around us are expensive houses. They all have lawns, and many have swimming pools, and all that water is coming out of the aquifer. At some point fairly soon, the aquifer is not going to support the sort of population we’re going to have, and rainwater will do it.

“And when you taste it,” he adds, “you’ll fall in love with it.”

Pastor Organizes Fellow SU Clergy Members

– Megan Radison

Rev. Milton Jordan ’62

Rev. Milton Jordan ’62 knew early on that he wanted to become a Methodist pastor. His father was a member of the clergy, and it was his father’s connection to Southwestern that guided Jordan there. The University Chaplain at the time, David Switzer ’47, and Jordan’s father were friends from Beaumont. Even with that initial connection, Jordan claims that his intention to attend Southwestern was solidified when he learned that there was no Latin requirement, his least favorite subject from high school.

As a student, Jordan focused his studies on history. “Southwestern had a strong department that included Frederick Gaupp, George Hester, Ralph Jones and Martha Mitten Allen,” he says. “Gaupp was full of stories from pre-war Germany. In September 1959, during the Tuesday required assembly, Gaupp lectured on the 20-year anniversary of Germany’s invasion of Poland. Unlike the usual Tuesday assembly, this lecture held nearly everyone’s attention.” But, it was Dr. F. Burr Clifford, professor emeritus of English, who had the most influence on Jordan. “Dr. Clifford taught me what education is all about. I started reading things, and not because I had to. He made a difference for me,” he says.

After graduating from Southwestern, Jordan spent a year at the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest in Austin and then went on to The Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University. Jordan served in the Idaho and Oregon-Idaho Annual Conferences for a number of years and then took a voluntary leave of absence from the clergy. In 1988, Jordan returned to East Texas as pastor. He worked in Port Arthur, Buffalo and Marshall. “I loved to prepare sermons and to preach. Plus, I enjoyed hospital visitations, probably for selfish reasons. People always seemed so pleased to see me,” he says. Jordan retired after serving for six years in the Heights area of Houston. In December 2005, Jordan and his wife, Anne, returned to Georgetown.

Since Jordan arrived in Georgetown, he has been active in the Southwestern community. Most people on campus would know Jordan by his regular attendance at Pirate baseball games. He assisted Ansa Copeland ’07 with planning last year’s Peace Conference, featuring keynote speaker Arun Gandhi. His next project is organizing the SU Alumni Clergy connection group, in an effort to create a web of communication among alumni clergy, across all jurisdictions and denominations. “Each year, during the Southwestern breakfast at the Texas Annual Conference, I learn of at least one person I did not know was a Southwestern alumnus/a,” he says. “Now, we need to increase that level of communication. We all have something to offer and can learn from one another.”

To assist with these efforts, Jordan is organizing an Alumni Clergy Luncheon during Homecoming and Reunion Weekend. Rev. Paul Barton ’83, assistant professor of Hispanic studies at the Episcopal Theology Seminary of the Southwest, will be the luncheon speaker.

If you are interested in assisting Jordan with the SU Alumni Clergy connection group, please contact the Office of Alumni Relations at