August 2011 – Dan Gershman

August 1, 2011 | 826 Blog Post

Dan Gershman!

Dan Gershman!

It may come as some surprise to 826michigan followers that Dan Gershman has not, until now, received the honor of Volunteer of the Month. We can say, for sure, that it came as a surprise to us here in the office. The conversation about who the Volunteer of the Month for August should be went something like this:

  • Who should the Volunteer of the Month be for August
  • Hmmmm. [Name, name, name, etc.] Oh! Dan Gershman?
  • But…Dan Gershman’s already BEEN Volunteer of the Month, like, seven times or something.
  • Oh yeah, that sounds about right.
  • Let’s check, just to make sure…

We’re pretty sure the rest of that conversation fills itself in. It’s true enough that we TALK about Dan Gershman all the time. TODAY, we honor him, at long last, with Volunteer of the Month. (Susan Lucci comparisons come to mind. Because he doesn’t age. No, just kidding. He does. Gracefully.)

To honor Dan Gershman, you must do it uniquely, because there are few people we know more unique than Dan Gershman. So we thought we’d mix up the format a little. We’re going to let the man speak for himself, with excerpts from a few of the hundreds (literally) of emails we’ve gotten from him over the last couple of years. We feel these give a telling glimpse into the wonder and madness that is a Dan Gershman workshop. His energy, creativity, dedication, and engineering feats make him a truly unstoppable volunteer force:

  • So, I may be able to acquire (from one of my buddies who is a huge Michigan fan) a miniature Michigan Stadium.
  • PS I may now have a fedora and overcoat in my employ
  • If you could, please send out an e-mail to volunteers asking if they’d prefer to be a detective (help with the interrogation, dress up encouraged), or a suspect (be interrogated and be required to dress up). If they want to be a suspect, ask which role they’d like to play. The professor and senior engineer may be required to do some fake technobabble.
  • PS On my drive, I had the best idea ever. I almost called you from my car. Epic space workshops. Summer-long extravaganza. Visiting scientists. Fat suit. Book entitled: “Space: So Awesome It Hurts.” We should talk.

Also, he once titled an email: “Completely Unsolicitated Proposal For Faceviewing.” Which is his way of setting up a meeting.

Says Program Coordinator Catherine Calabro: “His workshops are fantastically imagined (a talk show with the planets; a safari –acted out by volunteers — that takes place in the basement in order to be Skyped in from a magical savanna; a series of robot mysteries in which the Michigan Stadium is shrunk and a prize fighter’s memory is wiped clean; a potluck of junk food and poetry). He loves costumes and phony accents, and he loves giving other volunteers the opportunities to act! When I taught a workshop, he [as a facilitator] made a Power Point from the point of view of his ‘character’ Dr. Dan, and composed a wonderful memo to our students when he couldn’t return for the final session of the workshop [see below]. He has helped out with dozens of workshops (either in running the show or as a facilitator), our open house, and our field trips, and we look forward to the Space Jams publication project, which, if we know Dan, will be nothing short of stellar.”

And now, we’ll turn it back over to Dan, with the previously mentioned memo:

To: The United Nations of Space/Time

From: Dr. Daniel Thaddeus Gershman


Dear Secretary General, Minister of Time, and honored delegates of the UNS/T,

It is with the sincerest of regret that I will be unable to meet with you all for our next discussion of the ZombieSTINK problem. I have been pulled back to 2032 to deal with an urgent scientific matter involving a court date, my dog Snuffles, and our local postman, Mr. Weatherby.

I very much look forward to hearing about (unfortunately secondhand) your perspectives on ZombieSTINK. I urge the fine delegates from the future to share their ideas and solutions for the betterment of all space and time. I also beg those who are at war with the zombies in their time to take this as an opportunity to think about ideas to reach out to them and perhaps give them a bar of soap.

As we faithfully said in 2018, “More brain-storming. Less brain-eating.”

Yours in time,

Dr. Daniel Thaddeus Gershman

See what we mean? When we think of highly creatively, wholly original masterminds, he instantly springs to mind. When we needed a field trip for fifth graders on persuasive essays, who did we call? Dan Gershman! (Thanks to those of you who sang that last part to the tune of “Ghostbusters,” a film, we are willing to bet, he’s seen any number of times.) (Worth noting: The field trip he came up with involved a British foodie mag — yup, accents required — called Edible Awesome. The students got to taste three desserts — brownies, cookies, and cupcakes — and then write persuasive essays on which was the best. Needless to say, we heard many students say things like, “This is the best field trip EVER,” you know, right before they went into sugar comas.)

All summer, Dan and his lovely and talented friend Kristen Mihalka have brought in experts and scientists for Space Jams, the multi-session workshop about planets. Formatted as a talk show, it has required him to dress up in papier mache reconstructions of the planets, sometimes twice a week. For now, that’s all we’re going to say. Feature of the Month and publication forthcoming!


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