The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather


    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower


    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships


    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

6 months ago

University of Alabama honors opera director with Blackmon-Moody Award

(University of Alabama/Contributed)

Dr. Paul Houghtaling, coordinator of voice and director of opera at the University of Alabama, has received the 2019 Blackmon-Moody Outstanding Professor Award.

“Paul is widely recognized as one of the most successful, innovative and respected opera directors and educators in his field on an international level,” said Dr. Charles Snead, director of UA’s School of Music in the College of Arts and Sciences. “His success at UA has been ongoing and consistent, and it has increased the productivity, reputation and national standing of our opera program.”


Houghtaling joined the UA faculty in 2007 and earned a doctorate at the City University Graduate Center in New York. He has turned the UA Opera Theatre during his tenure at UA into a program that emphasizes the whole musical performer demonstrating a range of skills.

“I wanted to build a training program wherein students would dive into acting and movement and dance and improvisation and stage combat and lots and lots of music,” Houghtaling said. “Thirteen years later, that’s what my program is most known for – it’s what the students learn in the program about the transition of skills onto the stage – that’s what is very special about the UA Opera Theatre.”

Houghtaling recently was elected president of the National Opera Association.

“I feel it has been Dr. Houghtaling’s combination of skills learned from his successful performance and directing career, a passion for education and the ability to motivate others to strive for excellence that have marked his time as president of the National Opera Association,” said Dr. Ryan Landis, instructor in voice at Mississippi State University. “As his student, Dr. Houghtaling challenged me to strive for excellence and for innovative and  imaginative solutions within the Vocal Studio and on the stage. As an educator and colleague, he continues to push me to see what is possible.”

At UA, Houghtaling also received the 2019 President’s Research Award as Senior Scholar for the Arts and Humanities and the 2015 Morris Lehman Mayer Award. Also in 2019, he premiered in the role of Mr. Murphee in Joseph Landers’ “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men” with the Tuscaloosa Symphony Orchestra. The project celebrated the bicentennial of Tuscaloosa and Alabama and was recorded by Alabama Public Television.

In 2020, the UA Opera Theatre will premiere “Remove Shoes Before Entering,” a one-act opera commissioned from composer Michael Ching.

“New opera is all the rage,” Houghtaling said. “Not that we’ve stopped doing or loving Verdi, Puccini or Handel and others, but there’s something in the water out in the opera field where new operas are being triumphed and paid for and written and loved and attended. It’s really quite extraordinary.”

In addition, Houghtaling, a bass-baritone, is the founder and artistic director of the Druid City Opera Workshop, a weeklong young artist training intensive held at UA. In 2010, 2011 and 2012, Houghtaling and several student members of the UA Opera Theatre represented UA as finalists in the National Opera Association’s Collegiate Opera Scenes Competition at that organization’s national conventions in Atlanta, San Antonio and Memphis. The ensemble placed second or third each year.

The Frederick Moody Blackmon and Sarah McCorkle Moody Outstanding Professor Award is presented annually to a UA faculty member judged to have made extraordinary research contributions that reflect credit on the individual, his or her field of study and on the University. The honor was created by Frederick Moody Blackmon of Montgomery to honor the memory of his grandmother, Sarah McCorkle Moody of Tuscaloosa.

This story originally appeared on the University of Alabama’s website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

9 months ago

University of Alabama part of tornado research project

(University of Alabama/Contributed)

Students at the University of Alabama will observe nearby volunteer households to record how people react to severe weather events.

The students will be trained as part of tornado research across the Southeast that is sponsored by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Severe Storms Laboratory. The goal of the broader study, called Vortex SE 2019, is to gain an in-depth understanding of what vulnerabilities communities face when taking action during severe weather events.

“There’s never been research on what actually happens in a home when they first become aware of pending weather,” said Dr. Laura Myers, director and senior research scientist of UA’s Center for Advanced Public Safety, who is leading the project at the university. “We want to observe how they get their weather alerts, what they do when they get it, do they have a plan, when do they enact their plan, when do they think they are safe and so on.”


CAPS will hire and train UA students to conduct interviews and conduct observations of Tuscaloosa volunteer households before, during and after severe weather events during the fall and spring severe weather season.

The researchers will contact participants as forecasts of severe weather become available. For example, if a 10-day outlook highlights possible severe weather, researchers will communicate with participants to see if they are aware, Myers said. Communication will continue as forecasts evolve. The day of the event, researchers will embed with the household to observe the hours leading to the event.

“We hypothesize that people prepare more than we might think,” she said. “That’s why it’s important to watch it actually evolve in a real event.”

The study wants to capture differences in risk perception among people forecast to encounter severe weather and capture when weather alerts spur people to prepare, if at all, Myers said.

The study will control each household for factors such as knowledge of how to prepare for severe weather, past experience with severe weather and the tools used to receive weather alerts.

The information will be reported to NOAA and Vortex-SE programs to share the data with weather professionals to improve distribution and communication of tornado warnings as well as publication of findings in academic journals and books.

A series of public outreach events will take place throughout Tuscaloosa County to foster greater knowledge of weather safety and preparedness actions during the beginning of the research project.

“We want to provide outreach to everyone involved about how they can be better prepared no matter what their circumstances are,” Myers said.

Student researchers will be managed by a meteorologist with CAPS, who will advise researchers of dangers so all will be out of danger before impacts. No student researcher will embed with a family overnight.

To apply for a research position in the project, students may contact Jake Reed at A meteorologist and social scientist at CAPS, Reed is managing the project. Available research positions will be posted on the UA student jobs website at

Church groups and households interested in participating in outreach events and this research project can contact Myers at

This story originally appeared on the University of Alabama’s website.

(Courtesy Alabama NewsCenter)

2 years ago

University of Alabama celebrates historic fundraising year

(University of Alabama)

The University of Alabama set another fundraising record for gifts and pledges received, raising $224.3 million from more than 62,300 donors during the fiscal year that concluded Sept. 30.

The University shattered the previous record by almost $104 million, representing an increase in giving of about 86 percent.


“We are tremendously thankful for the devotion of our alumni and friends who have helped us reach such a historic milestone,” said President Stuart R. Bell. “The 2017-18 fiscal year was truly remarkable and has created a strong foundation for the growth and development of current and future projects and programs at the Capstone.”

The 2017-18 fiscal year, which began Oct. 1, 2017, made history with cornerstone gifts from Hugh Culverhouse Jr. and UA alumni Marillyn and James Hewson.

The University of Alabama School of Law announced in September a $25 million gift commitment from Culverhouse, a prominent business executive and attorney. To honor Culverhouse’s impact and generosity, the UA School of Law now bears his name as the Hugh F. Culverhouse Jr. School of Law.

The naming recognizes the $25 million gift, the largest commitment in the university’s 187-year history, as well as a $1.5 million gift made in 2017 to establish the Hugh F. Culverhouse Jr. Endowed Chair in Constitutional Law, which serves as a foundation for an expanded program in constitutional studies.

Announced in July, a $15 million gift from the Hewsons supports the next stage of growth at the Culverhouse College of Business, where Marillyn Hewson earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration and a master’s in economics, and James Hewson earned a bachelor’s degree in communications.

In September, the Culverhouse College of Business announced a $30 million fundraising campaign for the construction of a building to be named Hewson Hall in recognition of the campaign’s lead gift from the Hewsons, which is the largest one-time gift in the history of the university.

The fiscal year also saw the launch of The Crimson Standard in August. Announced by the University of Alabama Department of Athletics, The Crimson Standard is a 10-year, $600 million capital initiative designed to improve athletic facilities and comprehensively elevate the student-athlete experience, recruiting efforts and the overall game-day experience for Crimson Tide fans. The fundraising success of UA Athletics contributed greatly to the $224.3 million record.

The historic year breaks the previous record of $120.7 million, which was set last year. Donors provided almost $32 million for scholarships, $99 million in faculty and program support and more than $93 million for building projects. The total includes deferred and athletic gifts given since Jan. 1, 2018, reported at 100 percent face value.

“The enthusiasm surrounding the accomplishments of the university, as well as this institution’s commitment to excellence, has contributed greatly to increases in our fundraising efforts,” said Bob Pierce, vice president for advancement. “President Bell’s vision for the university and attention to fundraising has inspired new donors and re-energized current supporters.”

The year also introduced the inaugural Bama Blitz, UA’s first day-of-giving fundraising campaign, which raised more than $1.8 million for projects in all academic units and provided alumni, parents and donors with a new way to support the Capstone.

“The greatest success of Bama Blitz is the students who will be impacted through the incredible amount of donations from the UA family,” said Mary Lawhorn, director of annual giving.

The Crimson Standard fundraising initiative, ongoing efforts to raise $15 million for a new Performing Arts Academic Center, $2.1 million for the Blackburn Institute and other initiatives are helping set the stage for an eventful 2018-19 fiscal year.

“I believe we are in the early stages of an era of incredible growth in charitable giving at the Capstone, and we encourage all UA alumni to participate,” said Pierce. “We are obviously thrilled and grateful for the transformative gifts made to the Law School by Hugh Culverhouse and to the Culverhouse College of Business by Marillyn and James Hewson. However, we are also excited by the sheer number of donors this past year.

“Every one of those 62,300 gifts is important and makes an impact in its own way,” Pierce said. “The generous support we have received from our UA family is a strong vote of confidence in our commitment to providing a premier education to our students and impacting our state, nation and world.”

This story originally appeared on the University of Alabama’s website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)