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May 26, 2020

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Purdue grad, recent Bluffton resident, lives in "Doug Smith's old house"

15 minutes with Dan Newkirk

15 minutes with Dan Newkirk
The Icon will interview his wife, Lauren, in an interview coming soon

Where do you live?
199 W. Kibler St, also known as “Doug Smith’s Old House.”

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in a large suburb in the Chicagoland area called Naperville.

How did you and your wife meet? Where is she from?
My wife, Dr. Lauren H. Logan, and I met at Purdue University while we were both pursuing our Master’s degrees in the Ecological Sciences and Engineering program. Lauren grew up in a small town in southeast Ohio, in Athens County. We definitely fit the “Small-town girl” and “City boy” stereotype.

You moved to Bluffton in the past year. What are your professions and how did you end up in Bluffton?
While finishing her PhD at the University of Illinois, Lauren was applying to multiple faculty positions at teaching-oriented universities. She applied to Ohio Northern University and shortly afterwards discovered a friend from Purdue was already teaching there. Between that and being located in her home state of Ohio, it was the perfect fit and she accepted a job offer in Civil Engineering.

We decided on Bluffton because we fell in love with the house’s backyard and it was not “too close” to where Lauren would work. Meanwhile, I was already working full-time as an Energy Engineer for a commercial temperature controls contractor in Illinois, and sometime after moving I started working for Heapy Engineering in Findlay.

Who was the first person from Bluffton who you met?
That would probably have to be Dr. David Johnstone, another Civil Engineering professor at ONU. After Lauren accepted her job offer, I got to meet her future co-workers at Viva Maria in Ada. It’s a tight knit community among ONU Engineering faculty and I’ve been very fortunate to get to know the people in that group.

How did you become interested in engineering?
Honestly I started in engineering because I was good at math and science in high school and wanted to keep my options open. It wasn’t until the summer after my sophomore year that I figured out I really wanted to specialize in reducing energy use in buildings. This felt like an opportunity to use my technical skills to do something good for other people and the environment. Ever since then reducing energy has been a focal point of my career.

And, were there other professions you considered exploring other than engineering?
Probably too many to list. While completing my undergraduate engineering degree I considered being an intellectual property lawyer or even a medical doctor. Even when I started my master's I was half considering going on to get a PhD and becoming a professor. I’m happy where I ended up though, it’s a good fit for me and I find it rewarding.

What are your interests outside of working?
Both Lauren and I are very career-oriented but we do have a couple hobbies on the side. I’m a runner and active user of Bluffton’s wonderful bike paths. Lauren likes to volunteer in different organizations and specifically likes to help inspire young women to pursue careers in STEM. Together we both enjoy the outdoors and like traveling to various state parks.

Can you name a movie you saw that was so bad that you’d like your money back?
Well I can name a movie so bad I paid to see it again… “The Room!” Lauren and I love bad movies and that’s one of our favorites. There was a documentary about the making of The Room with James Franco in it that came out not too long ago titled, “The Disaster Artist.”

Who is the most famous person you’ve ever met or saw from a distance? Tell us the circumstances of the meeting.
We got to hang out with Michelle Beebs, a Ska artist, who performed at Warped Tour and opened for Reel Big Fish. I made a donation to her GoFundMe page and she showed up to surprise Lauren for her 30th birthday. Lauren was ecstatic. Beebs is her favorite artist. She even played some songs for us at the party and afterwards multiple guys told me I “set the bar pretty high.”

When you tell your friends back home that you live in a small town in Ohio, how do you describe it to them?
I tell them we are located in a small community in the middle of northwest Ohio that’s only an hour away from a number of big cities. I also like to talk about how many amenities the town has for its size and how nice the people are. We must have had at least three different people give us welcome gifts!

What’s the most surprising thing about Bluffton that you’ve discovered?
Southgate Lanes! When people originally told us that the local bowling alley was the place to be we were a little skeptical. After going there a couple times though we were proven wrong. It definitely attracts a youthful, fun-loving crowd and has some great food and drinks for a small town place.

We’ve been fortunate enough to meet both Derek Dukes and his wife Joy, and can definitely see how their good-natured personalities have made the place a success.