Innovating Ideas

When Margaret (Hiscock) Marie ’78 graduated from Stonehill, “the most amazing technology was the electric typewriter,” she recalls. But years later, the former psychiatric social worker was part of a team that developed an iPad application, InstaAid, which won the Best Practices Caregivers Award at the 2015 AT&T and N.Y.U. Connect Ability Challenge in New York City in July.

Marie is a resident of The Boston Home (TBH), a facility providing specialized care for adults with advanced multiple sclerosis and other progressive neurological diseases. TBH also serves as a laboratory for a Massachusetts Institute of Technology adaptive technology class, where students develop technology to solve residents’ accessibility challenges. “At the end of the semester, the students usually take their projects back to MIT,” Marie observes. “I wanted to design something with the students that would stay at TBH and be useful to the residents.”

She didn’t have to look far. “Our call-light system is antiquated,” she explains. “It’s attached to the bed and few of us are in our beds—or even in our rooms—during the day.” Marie’s idea? An app allowing residents to use their iPads to call the nurses’ station. That’s exactly what InstaAid does. “It’s great because you can use FaceTime to speak to someone or if you can’t speak, you can text. It’s changed things for the better.”

Available on the Apple App Store, InstaAid is now deployed permanently at TBH. Because many assisted living communities can benefit from a similar solution, the app has great potential beyond TBH—something that’s already happening, according to Marie. “One resident attends an off-site day program where she accidentally locked herself in a closet. She called out for help, but no one came,” she explains. Luckily, she had her iPad and used InstaAid to call the nurses’ station at TBH. “They were able to call the program and let them know she needed help.”

In October, TBH honored Marie with its 2015 Compassionate Care Award for “her vision and initiative” in creating InstaAid. “I was touched because this was the first time a resident received the award,” says Marie. And, she concludes, InstaAid may not be her last innovation: “I always have ideas bubbling.”

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Farm to Fabric

Theodore Hoffman ’84 doesn’t like loose threads. That’s why, as CEO of Clothworks, a leading fabric manufacturer based in Seattle, he’s always on the lookout for opportunities to sew up new business deals across the globe. “It’s energizing because you’re constantly having to keep up with politics, the world economy, cotton prices and exchange rates while also understanding styles, trends and color,” says Hoffman, who majored in accounting at Stonehill.

Clothworks is the parent company to five brands, including lines that focus on organic fabrics and batiks, and American Made Brand, launched in 2013 with a commitment to producing domestically made fabrics. “A lot of what is advertised as ‘made in America’ is really just the assembly, the last piece of the process,” explains Hoffman. “Our goal with the American Made Brand is to produce fabrics from cotton that is grown, woven and dyed here. We call it ‘farm to fabric.’”

Clothworks is strictly a wholesale company: Its fabrics are distributed to 3,000 independent quilt shops and other fine fabric retailers in the U.S. and 25 other countries. Hoffman heads the company’s business operations while his wife, Candice, serves as creative director. Hoffman, who earned a master’s degree from the London School of Economics and Political Science, worked in consulting and for Microsoft before the couple purchased Clothworks in 2006.

Clothworks’ target market is quilters, crafters and do-it-yourselfers looking for premium quality cotton fabrics. “Quilting is a growing hobby and craft worldwide,” says Hoffman. “Quilters are passionate about their fabrics, so we work really hard with some of the best artists and designers in the world to create one-of-a-kind fabrics.”

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Honors in Accounting

The National Academy of Public Accounting Professionals (NAPAP) named not one, but two Stonehill graduates to the 2015 Top 10 Public Accounting Professionals for Rhode Island list. Jacquelyn H. Tracy ’88 [left], a partner at Mandel & Tracy, LLC, and Michelle Spriggs ’93 [right], a managing director and shareholder at CBIZ Tofias, who both work in Providence, are among “the small number of professionals who are good enough to make the list,” according to NAPAP. The honor acknowledges their knowledge, skill, experience, expertise and success in the accounting field.

Tracy and Spriggs began working in public accounting after graduating from Stonehill. Tracy specializes in individual taxation, while Spriggs focuses on serving higher education and not-for-profit clients.

To land a spot on the top 10 list, accountants must be nominated by industry peers or clients. A NAPAP research committee then evaluates each nominee’s credentials, including education, certification, publications and leadership.

Reflecting on their nominations, Tracy says that her clients appreciate her professionalism as she helps them with their income taxes, and Spriggs credits her dedication and hard work in helping her clients be successful. Both are involved in professional organizations and with their local communities.

Another element of their success is that the two alumni enjoy their profession. For Tracy, the opportunities and people are what she likes best. Spriggs finds the variety of clients rewarding as well as the challenges of the changes in regulations and helping clients navigate them.

While people might most closely associate accounting with numbers, it is very much about people. Tracy says, “I have learned not just about taxes, but also about presenting seminars, building processes, working with other people and being a good professional.” Spriggs notes, “The relationships I have built with my clients and others in the industry are both rewarding and educational; each day brings something new and exciting to discover.”

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Museum Opening

The idea came to Juvelyn Hartweg ’00 one afternoon in 1999, when she was babysitting and had run out of places to take the active toddler in her care. “I thought it was going to be easy, but it was very challenging to find ways to entertain her,” recalls Hartweg, who majored in education. “I thought then, that someday I would open a children’s museum.”

After graduating from Stonehill, Hartweg went on to teach elementary school, but the idea of opening a children’s museum kept knocking around in her head. “When my first son was born, we struggled to find programs and resources to allow us to play and connect with other mothers,” recalls Hartweg, who now has three sons, ages 13, 10 and 7. So she decided the time was right to turn her college concept into a reality.

In 2009, she launched the Hanson Children’s Museum as a traveling collection based out of a rented warehouse space. “We created traveling exhibits for local libraries and schools. It was a very nontraditional approach, because usually you open a museum space and then send exhibits out,” says Hartweg, who relied on a cadre of volunteers to help build and transport the exhibits.

The museum’s focus is American history. “In our Native American exhibit, children can touch things like beans and squash and corn. It spurs conversations,” she says. “Our most popular exhibit is the cranberry bog pit, which stimulates interest in history and geography.”

In 2013, the museum opened its first public space, in the Hanover Mall—and changed its name to the South Shore Children’s Museum. Demand has been so high that the museum successively moved to larger locations in the mall in 2014 and 2015.

While the museum is flourishing, memberships and admission do not cover its total costs. Thus, Hartweg is now focused on applying for federal and state funds as well as private grants. “My strengths are in programming, because I draw from my education background,” she says, but she’s quickly getting up to speed on how the nonprofit world works. “There’s tremendous demand for our museum, so here I am learning business and marketing. We have big dreams, and I know we can make them happen.”

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Carving Out A Musical Niche

While their story begins at Stonehill, The Ballroom Thieves—a trio made-up of Martin Earley ’10 [left], Devin Mauch ’11 [right] and Calin Peters—has certainly made a name for itself since Earley and Mauch began collaborating in their dorm rooms as students. In 2015, the group was named the Americana and Folk Artist of the Year at the Boston Music Awards.

“After graduating, Devin and I went on our first tour as a duo and booked all of our own shows,” says Earley. “It was really a glorified road trip, but we realized this is something we could do for our whole lives.” After developing their sound and adding a cellist, the band has since performed at festivals such as Boston Calling and the Newport Folk Festival and shared the stage with the likes of Dispatch.

Earley notes that the group has grown organically, which suits them. Mauch adds, “We try to approach the band as a start-up or small business.” This means that they’re doing a lot of the behind-the-scenes work themselves, including photography, social media and travel planning.

Coming off a national tour to promote their debut record, A Wolf in the Doorway, the folk-infused rock group is working on writing its next album. Earley and Mauch say listeners can expect more of the same sound, with three-part harmonies and energetic songs. “We’re looking forward to continuing to carve out our own niche,” Earley says.

Even with their success, the band still has time for its Stonehill fans. “Lina Macedo, assistant director of student activities, is one of our biggest champions. Period. She has supported our group as students and continues to do so now,” Earley notes. As such, The Thieves will be back on campus in April as part of the Brother Mike’s Concert series, which, Mauch says, “always feels like coming home.”