Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

September 25, 2013

Author's book offers light lessons in life

Devan Strebing
Hendricks County Flyer

— Former Purdue University professor Mary Ellen Stepanich has written her first book, D is for Dysfunctional and Doo Wop.

In the memoir that came out in late June, Stepanich discusses her life and the mistakes both she and people around her have made. She also shares the fun that came with those mistakes and the joy she has for singing doo wop songs with her quartet who are featured on the front cover of the book.

Born in the 1940s in a small town in Gibson County, Stepanich said her parents suffered the Great Depression, where the economy was awful and the philosophy on prosperity was no good. After World War II there was more money, more work; things were looking up.

“The people growing up in that decade became undecided people because of the two philosophies that were going on,” she said. “This decade attributed to my personality and how I grew up and made my mistakes.”

Stepanich said children growing up in the 1940s were to be seen and not heard in school. She explains this with an example in her book of when she was a student pursuing her doctorate at Purdue.

“I never talked in class because my voice was suppressed by teachers and family when I was growing up,” she said. “In order to get an A in the class I had to speak up, and I finally did.”

Hopefully, she said, readers will get life lessons from her book. It includes lessons she learned from her childhood, potential and actual careers, four marriages, divorce, how to be a widow, and living alone and liking it.

After graduating from Indiana State University, she left for Chicago to start a career. Her dream was to become a professional singer.

“I love music,” she said. “Music saved me from being a nobody; I’ve had music in my life since the first grade.”

While in Chicago she was asked to be in the Harvest Moon Festival, a singing competition, and she was a finalist. Soon after, she was asked to join an orchestra.

Stepanich said her mother was firmly against her pursuing a singing career.

“I was afraid to take a chance,” she said. “That was the turning point in my life. I could have been a singer, but if I hadn’t turned it down, I would not have become a professor at Purdue and have so many opportunities in academia.”

She was offered a position at Purdue after she received her doctorate and by that time she had gone through three divorces. She then met her fourth husband and gave up her career to follow him to Arizona. She was offered a position at Western International University, became a dean, and then an associate dean. She taught strategic management until retirement.

After her husband died, Stepanich became a volunteer reader for Sun Sounds in Arizona, a radio station for the blind and disabled. She read books and magazines that were broadcast live to listeners and spoke to groups around the area about the services that the company provides. She then met the chairman of a local group of writers, and he invited her to join their group.

“I had written some small, funny stories about the things that have happened in my life, but I’d never published anything before,” she said. “Everyone that read my stories encouraged me to publish.”

She went to the South West Writer Conference and started restructuring her book. She decided to self-publish the book with Abbott Press, a publishing company in Bloomington.

“I felt confident going with them because they felt close to home,” she said. “I was very happy with their design, and it more than satisfied my expectations.”

She then hired a publicist and did book presentation in Arizona, where she read funny stories from her book and her quartet sang a song about the situation in the book.

“We sang parodies of ‘Why do fools fall in love’ and ‘I’ll be seeing you’ about my second husband,” she said.

Stepanich said she had a good turnout at the first presentation and has two more scheduled within the next few weeks.

“I don’t expect to get famous,” she said. “I don’t know if the book will do well in sales, but people have been saying it is real and funny. Things in my life are funny, so we shall see.”

She says her life lessons are not like punches in the face, but rather lessons learned by observing someone else’s life.

“I had this opportunity, people encouraged me, I just wanted to entertain the reader, but I’m also teaching people about life now,” she said.

For more information about Stepanich’s book, visit the website at http://www.amazon.com/Is-Dysfunctional-And-Doo-Wop-Hoosier/dp/1458209873.