Avery Rose Puryear: Sounds that Inspire

Avery Rose

It seems like Avery Rose Puryear was born to make music. She comes from a musical family and developed her love for the art from her father, who is a bass guitarist.

At just three years old, Avery began playing her grandfather’s upright piano, which she has mastered over the years. Along the way, she’s added the drums, saxophone, and bass guitar to her musical repertoire, and recently has become a songwriter. Oh, did we mention she’s only 17?

“I started writing songs my junior year of high school,” said Avery, who is now a senior at Rumson-Fair Haven High School. “My friend Shannon Corsi wanted me to give it a try sophomore year, and I was hesitant that I would never be as good as her. She constantly encouraged me until one day I decided I was going to write a song.

“After I showed it to her, she told me not to stop and to keep going with it. Her criticism on how I wrote and on new ideas on how to make certain parts stand out still follow me today. Every time I write a song, if I’m unable to show it to her, I think of things she’s told me in the past to help me succeed in my writing.”

Avery will perform one of her original songs, Inhaling Can Go Wrong, at TEDxAsburyPark IDENTITY at the Paramount Theatre Saturday, May 20. Avery earned a spot at the event after wowing the crowd at an open mic contest in January with the song.

“The song speaks on behalf of troubled teens facing loss in the community to do substance abuse in high schools as well as colleges,” Avery said. “Too many lives are lost due to making bad choices and following bad leaders. People need to lead themselves when it comes to making healthy choices.”

Avery is no stranger to the Asbury Park music scene. She took classes at the Lakehouse Music Academy in Asbury Park, where she met a few other musicians and formed a band, Avery Rose and The Thorns. The group performed at local spots, including The Stone Pony, and were headliners at The House of Independents.

Avery also attended GRAMMY Camp, an exclusive summer music industry program for high school students interested in having a career in music.

Though her band has disbanded, she still plays music as a solo artist. The busy high school student works part-time at Mr. Pizza Slice and Whipped Creperie in Red Bank and has developed a new passion—food.

She considers the owner of the two food establishments, Nick Napoletano, a mentor and her work there has inspired her to attend culinary arts school. Her ultimate goal? To combine her passion for music and food.

“I want to open up a restaurant,” she said. “I’ve realized that there are very few places where you can sit down and have an excellent meal plus listen to local musicians on a big stage, like the good old days when there was more of a jazz scene long before my time. I’d like to become an entrepreneur and incorporate music and food into areas to benefit the community.”

With all she’s accomplished already, there’s no doubt she can do it.

Come hear Avery perform at TEDxAsburyPark and listen to other musicians and speakers at IDENTITY. Get your tickets today.

Jasmin Singer: Compassion Unlocks Identity


By Jane Lai

“If we don’t question our assumptions, we won’t be able to grow,” said Jasmin Singer. A writer, feminist, and activist, Jasmin is the senior editor of VegNews Magazine as well as the co-host of Our Hen House, an award-winning podcast that works to mainstream the movement to end animal exploitation, which she co-founded and co-hosts with Mariann Sullivan.

Jasmin’s memoir, Always Too Much and Never Enough, was released in 2016 through Penguin Random House’s Berkley division. In the book, she tells her story of finding herself through juicing, veganism, and love, and how she went from feeding her emotions to feeding her soul.

A vegetarian since she was 19, Jasmin became vegan – giving up all animal products – five years later after a friend showed her some footage of animals on factory farms.

“I learned how I was being betrayed by the food industry – in particular, factory farming,” Jasmin said.

While she no longer consumed anything containing meat, fish, eggs, or dairy, she continued to indulge in greasy, rich foods, until one day—after finding out she was on her way to heart disease at age 30—she committed to a whole food, plant-based diet along with monthly juice fasts. Jasmin redefined her relationship with food, and she finally shed her lifelong food addictions and the emotions that spiraled around them. She ended up dropping nearly 100 pounds.

But that’s not the end of Jasmin’s story. The weight-loss transformed her body and made her healthier, but she was most shocked by another change—how people were much nicer and accepting of her now that she was a so-called “regular” size. Surprisingly, instead of being flattered, her first reaction was outrage.

Experiencing different treatment first-hand based on her size opened Jasmin’s eyes to other inequalities in the world and deepened her compassion for all beings.

Jasmin will speak at TEDxAsburyPark IDENTITY at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park on May 20. In her talk, Compassion Unlocks Identity, she will focus on the ways we often hold ourselves back from living as truthfully and compassionately as possible. She will make the case that we can’t access our authentic self without accessing our compassion, and we can’t be totally genuine without starting with compassion for ourselves.

That often includes acknowledging our complacency.

“Complacency is believing other people’s perceptions of our identity, and compassion is creating our own beliefs around our identity,” Jasmin said.

Jasmin encourages people to use their beliefs—not beliefs ascribed to them by societal norms—to reach their highest potential. She said this kind of positive change starts within ourselves first, and then inevitably extends to creating a just world in which we would like to live.

She maintains that by focusing on ourselves first, we are more likely to affect positive change against the inequalities that surround us, whether they have to do with the rights of animals, the LGBTQ+ community, women, people with disabilities, or people of color.

“Justice is one big wheel, and so many different issues are spokes on that same wheel,” she said.

Hear Jasmin and other dynamic speakers share ideas worth spreading at the fifth annual TEDxAsburyPark (formerly TEDxNavesink). Get your tickets today and join us on the Asbury Park Boardwalk.




Rob Van Varick: The Positive Effects of Design on Identity

Rob Van Varick

By Katalin Gyurián Toth

What comes to mind when you think of a wheelchair? Limitation? Disability? Aging? Lack of independence?

Yet the wheelchair is accepted as an as-is solution—no one questions its design nor the universal symbol that it’s become.

As a partner at Michael Graves Architecture and Design, Rob Van Varick believes that design plays a key role in our identity. “Every single choice we make redefines who we are,” he says. With that in mind, the aging or disabled population has “their choices limited or cut off entirely.”

Rob will be a speaker at TEDxNavesink IDENTITY on May 20 at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park. In his talk, A Declaration of Independence: How Design Can Change the Aging Experience, Rob will convey the importance of design in our everyday lives.

“We see design as having the ability, the necessity even, to play a role in designing towards [accessibility for all], but doing it in a way that’s still creating choices that are aspirational to people,” he said.


Rob has a bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from the Rhode Island School of Design, where he studied industrial design.

He was inspired by his former boss of 12 years, Michael Graves, who revolutionized the field of architecture and design. Graves took design to a different level by looking at healthcare from a holistic perspective and the implications that design had not only on the aging or disabled patient but also on the families and clinicians. In fact, Graves gave a TEDMed talk on this topic a few years ago.

Rob says that a person doesn’t want to age and lose himself simply because of his limited choices. The products that are meant to help patients with accessibility, such as canes or transport chairs, tend to suffocate and demean them. But proper holistic design can protect people and allow them to be themselves and pursue their own happiness.

Prime TC
The Prime T.C.

Think of how a simple curb cut in sidewalks has changed accessibility for so many people. Not only does the simple redesign of a curb help people with disabilities, but it also helps moms with strollers or mail carriers with trolleys. That was a result of smart, intuitive design.


Rob is particularly proud of the modified wheelchair which he helped in design with Stryker Medical. It is a transport chair called the Prime T.C., which is already used throughout hospitals in the U.S. and Europe.

“We don’t often get an opportunity to take a look at an object that is so engrained in the public psyche like a wheelchair is, where you don’t even question it anymore; it just is the solution… and to get an opportunity to rethink it from the ground up.”

Instead of having harsh edges, rusting parts, and being a nuisance for clinicians to maneuver, the Prime T.C. is designed from a human perspective. Not only is it functional, sleeker and more hygienic, but the feeling that it elicits is neither demeaning nor limiting.

Rob says that as soon as a patient sees it, his perception of the care he will receive is immediately more positive.

So what does Rob want the TEDxNavesink audience to take away from his talk? We can all start to look at the world differently and not be limited by outdated designs.

“Whether you are in retail or whether you are in business, everyone has an opportunity to make the experience better by making it more accessible to everyone,” he said.

Come hear Rob and other speakers share ideas worth spreading on the theme of Identity at the Paramount Theatre on May 20. Get your tickets today.

Alexandra Lewis: Bringing Peace, Love and Equality Through Poetry


By Vera Boateng

Many parents try to shield their children from the harsh realities of the world that appear on the news. But in today’s age, with the prevalence of social media, there’s no way hide from the headlines, videos, and images of negativity in the world.

And for some, those incidents happen right in their communities. As a young African-American, Alexandra Lewis has witnessed and experienced the impact of inequality and racial issues. Instead of just watching or sitting idle, Alexandra uses her pen and her voice to address the negativity.

She has been writing thought-provoking poems about inequality, feminism, race, and gender since she was 11, displaying a wisdom and maturity beyond her age. And with tensions high in the African-American community in recent years after a string of racial profiling incidents that led to the deaths of African-Americans at the hands of police, Alexandra knew she had to address the issue through her art.

Peace, Love and Equality is a poem I wrote after seeing the Philandro Castile shooting on the news,” said Alexandra, a 14-year-old from Tinton Falls and student at Rumson Country Day School. “The poem had been building up inside of me for months. I wrote it during a time when hate and fear were instilled in many people, and I believe it still is. This poem is about some of my hardest struggles throughout my life and describes many of the struggles that minorities face in America every day.”

Lewis performed the poem at TEDxNavesink’s Open Mic contest in January, impressing organizers and the audience. She earned a speaking spot at TEDxNavesink IDENTITY this May at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park.

“After the second or third time I recited the poem, I knew I wanted to audition for a spot at the TEDxNavesink conference,” she said. “I thought this was a good topic to get out there and if I were to speak at this event, it would be easier to get the word out and show others what I’m really passionate about.”

While she’s been writing poetry since she was 11, Alexandra has been a public speaker for longer. She joined the New Jersey Orators, a public speaking organization, at age 7 and has won numerous awards at the organization’s competitions. She’s also active in her church and is the fundraising chair for the Jersey Shore chapter of Jack and Jill of America, a children’s leadership organization.

“My inspiration to write came from my parents,” she said. “They always taught me right from wrong. I used those lessons to decide what was wrong in my own eyes and figured I had to write about it.”

Alexandra believes that it will take teamwork to erase the bigotry and other inequities in the world and it begins by consciously observing others’ viewpoints and showing empathy.

“Walking a mile in the shoes of others helped me understand that I am not the only person in the world, and that other people also live lives with different realities,” she said.

Alexandra continues to write and share her work with others and hopes that the audience at TEDxNavesink IDENTITY will ponder ways that they can join her in the fight against injustices.

“The Rumson Country Day School is proud to support Alexandra Lewis and her undeniable display of talent and bravery,” said Whitney Slade, Head of School at Rumson County Day School.

Want to hear the poem that wowed the open mic crowd? Come hear Alexandra and other inspiring speakers at TEDxNavesink IDENTITY. Get your tickets today.

Jenan Matari: Embracing Your Identity

By Tommy Chung

Jenan Matari is like a walking oxymoron. A 25-year-old Muslim feminist, Jenan knows that people hear those two terms and think they contradict each other. But they’re part of her identity and what makes her unique.

She helps break down those stereotypes and misconceptions through media. Jenan is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Miss Muslim, a women’s empowerment website that covers topics such as faith, dating, sexual health, politics, and pop culture. The site sparks conversations about topics deemed controversial or taboo for women in various communities.

While she admires her culture, she’s also an activist who is passionate about equality and human rights around the world. At a young age, Jenan realized a person’s voice could have a huge impact on making a change in the world.

“One person alone is so powerful but when multiple powerful people get together and become activists for the same cause, a movement happens,” Jenan said.

Using social media, blogging, and speaking at schools and rallies, Jenan encourages her audience to be true to themselves even when society expects something else from them. She hopes that by spreading her ideas to the world, it will inspire women to speak out and demand that their voices be heard. (Jenan participated in National Women’s March earlier this year and Mic News documented her day below).

Jenan will speak at TEDxNavesink IDENTITY on May 20 at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park. Her talk will focus on embracing one’s identity and remaining true to self when the pressure to conform is at an all-time high.

“My identity has been something I’ve struggled to fully understand throughout my life, and I’m now in a place where I must defend it,” Jenan said. “I am honored to be given this platform to help the audience relate to other people like myself and to develop compassion for those who are different than us. Hopefully, I’ll even be able to help others embrace their own identities with my talk.”

It was difficult for Jenan to embrace her identity because it crosses so many cultures. She is Arab and Latina and Muslim. After years of trying to choose which parts of her life should become her identity, she realized she should just embrace all the parts that make her who she is instead of trying to choose parts of her identity.

Now she boldly declares and lives all aspects of her identity: “I am a woman, I’m a writer, I’m an activist, I am Arab, I am Latina, I am Muslim,” she declares.

She hopes her talk will help the audience realize that blending in is not so great and becoming a unique individual is a beautiful aspect of life.

Hear Jenan and other dynamic speakers share ideas worth spreading at the fifth annual TEDxNavesink. Get your tickets today to join us on the Asbury Park Boardwalk in May.

Mary Rawlinson Combines Art and Business at TEDx

Putting on a TEDx conference is a big task. For the fifth straight year, TEDxNavesink is bringing ideas worth spreading to Monmouth County. In this monthly series, we introduce you to the people who organize one of the largest independently organized TED conferences.

Have you ever been mesmerized by an inspiring TED talk? While most of the credit goes to the inspirational speaker, the real magic happens off stage. The speaker coaches and organizers make sure the event runs smoothly, and at TEDxNavesink, Mary Rawlinson plays a vital role as chief of staff and speaker coach.

This is Mary’s second year with TEDx. She coached six speakers for the TEDxNavesink Makers event earlier this year.

Outside of TEDxNavesink, Mary is a communications consultant specializing in global brand, design and relationship management projects, brand guidelines, and implementation. She chose the profession because “it involves art, business, critical thinking, and producing expertise.”

She combines her creative and analytical skills to help build powerful brands and foster a constructive, productive, harmonious project environment. Her skill set translates well to an event like TEDxNavesink.

“My background is in theater and performing arts, and I’m trained as a communicator. It’s great to combine that experience with the business of producing a TEDx conference,” Mary said.

So what drew Mary to get involved with TEDxNavesink? “Meeting highly intelligent people doing fascinating things with their lives,” she said. Many TEDxNavesink volunteers and speakers share that sentiment. Bringing creative people together is a large part of the event. It creates a collaborative space, which is what TEDxNavesink is all about.

“I’m genuinely curious about people and companies, and I hope I’m sympathetic to individual challenges,” Mary added. “It’s very satisfying to be part of, organize, and rally a team for maximum efficiency.”

Mary coached speakers Garry Kvistad (above), Gary Mottola, Akin Shoyoye, Chris Dudick and Bernadette Mullen, and Rinde Eckert for the TEDxNavesink Makers event and cited those as her favorite talks. She also said actor and writer Baba Brinkman’s talk from 2014 was one of the best in the event’s history.

When she’s not consulting brands and organizing the conference, Mary enjoys going to the theater, blogging, exercising, gardening, and seeing family and friends. She is also involved with Best Buddies and local arts councils.

Are you looking to use your creativity and communications skills for a good cause like Mary? Get involved with TEDxNavesink to be a part of our collaborative community. Fill out a volunteer form to get started.

Exploring a Virtual Identity in New Jersey

virtual identity

By Lindsey Konkel

What if you could experience life in early America, embody a different gender or race, or even swim through the polluted sea like a fish? How would these encounters change the way you thought about yourself, our history, or the world around you?

These are the enticing possibilities of virtual reality.

The idea of virtual reality—technology that can replicate real or imaginary spaces or experiences—has inhabited science fiction since the 1930s. Yet recent advances in technology and big investments from tech tycoons mean virtual reality may be closer than we think.

“Pretty soon we’re going to live in a world where everyone has the power to share and experience whole scenes as if you’re just there, right there in person,” Mark Zuckerberg said at a tech conference in Barcelona earlier this year.

Virtual Reality Emerges in NJ

Two Monmouth County tech developers are getting in on the action by working to bring virtual experiences to the mainstream.

“It’s a space that’s rich with creative possibility right now, and that makes it really exciting,” said Tammy Laverty, co-founder and executive producer at Atomic Veggie Studios in Middletown. Atomic Veggie develops multimedia content for animation, motion design, virtual reality, and other interactive experiences.

Tammy and her husband and co-founder, Matt, have partnered with the Coney Island History Project to recreate a turn-of-the-century Coney Island amusement park called Luna Park.

Luna Park exists now as a modern amusement park, but in the virtual reality experience, users will slip on a headset and immerse themselves in antiquity—standing among old-fashioned rides, listening to the carnival barkers, and viewing the thousands of Edison light bulbs that electrified crowds when Luna Park opened in 1903.

Tammy hopes to have the virtual Luna Park ready for Coney Island museum-goers later this year.

One of the most intriguing advances in virtual reality, says Tammy, is the ability to interact with other people in a virtual space. Introducing a social element to virtual reality comes with a quandary of ethical issues and questions about the impacts of virtual experiences on real-life relationships. Yet Tammy sees great promise in the potential to “walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.”

Virtual Reality for Social Good

Tammy’s Atomic Veggie Studios and another Monmouth firm—My Small Factory, out of Fair Haven—are both working on empathy and social skills programs to help children with autism experience real life situations virtually.

Kids with autism have difficulty with social interactions, in part because they have a difficult time processing the verbal and non-verbal cues—facial expressions, body language, or specific gestures—that hint at another person’s emotional state, explained Bernadette Mullen, a speech and language pathologist who has worked with kids with autism for over 25 years.

Bernadette partnered with My Small Factory owner and graphic designer Chris Dudick to create a computer program to aid social skills training for kids with autism.

In the program, groups of kids enter a virtual world where they act out social situations through avatars. The avatar allows the kids to see themselves and direct their actions from the “outside.” That’s a helpful perspective for kids with autism said Bernadette, who notes that the children don’t always choose avatars that look like themselves.

Mullen and Dudick spoke about their program, which is in 25 New Jersey school districts, at TEDxNavesink Makers.

Both creative teams believe how we interact with others in the virtual realm will become an integral component of how we construct our unique identities in the years to come. “Psychologically speaking, it’s a really powerful medium,” Tammy said.

Forget Jaws! The World Can Thank New Jersey for its Shark Obsession

New Jersey Shark Attacks

By Katalin Gyurián Toth

Where did our fear of sharks come from? Jaws, Sharknado, Deep Blue Sea, and the cult following of Shark Week documentaries are evidence of our shark obsession.

Some people believe our fear of sharks began with Steven Spielberg’s 1975 movie Jaws (based on Peter Benchley’s 1974 book of the same name). But it started with several New Jersey shark attacks in 1916.  A series of horrific events changed our perception of sharks and instilled a sense of fear of our waters forever.

The Matawan Historical Society along with the Borough of Matawan and the Chamber of Commerce held a centennial anniversary event in July to commemorate the 1916 shark attacks.

Before that summer, residents never feared entering the waters of the Jersey Shore, let alone the inland creeks of rural towns. However, unprecedented shark attacks changed the way we perceived our waters. The attacks also ignited our fascination with sharks.


During the heat wave of July 1916, people rushed to cool down in the alluring waters of their backyards. None of them expected to lose their lives to a shark.

  • Charles Epting Vasant, a 25-year-old businessman from Philadelphia, was the first victim. On Jul 1, he was swimming 50 yards offshore in Beach Haven when a shark attacked him, and he later died from blood loss.
  • Charles Bruder, a 27-year-old Swiss bell captain at the Essex and Sussex Hotel in Spring Lake, lost both his legs in an attack in Spring Lake on July 6.  The Washington Post reported “something in the .. attacked him and tore his limbs from the body.” He also died from blood loss.
  • Lester Stillwell, 11, was swimming with his friends in Matawan Creek, just off the Wycoff Dock. Lester’s friends witnessed the fatal attack, and they fled the creek running and screaming. According to the Asbury Park Evening Press, the boy’s body was so “horribly chewed by the sea wolf,” that the sight made his mother faint.
  • Stanley Fisher, a popular local business owner, heroically tried to find Stillwell’s body. In his book, Twelve Days of Terror, author Richard G. Fernicola interviewed a witness who said Fisher was heard saying, “I’ve got the boy, but the shark’s got me!” Fisher was bitten in the thigh and died at the Long Branch Monmouth Memorial Hospital.

The last victim was Joseph Dunn, a 12-year-old from New York City who was visiting his aunt in Cliffwood Beach with his brother, Michael. The two boys joined some friends in the creek for a swim. The boys heard someone yell “shark” and headed to the dock ladder as fast as they could. Joseph, who was the farthest from the ladder, was attacked by the shark and soon it became a tug-of-war between the shark and Dunn’s friends.

In Michael Capuzzo’s book, Close to Shore, Joseph was quoted as saying, “Suddenly I felt a tug, like a big pair of scissors pulling at my leg and bringing me under…the teeth of the shark evidently clamped down on my leg quickly, and I thought it was off. I felt as if my leg had gone.”

Luckily, there were people nearby who were able to help pull Joseph to safety. The Dunn brothers were taken to St. Peter’s Hospital in New Brunswick and Joseph survived.

jersey shore shark attacks


There were fewer bathers along the coast following the five attacks. Governor James Fielder had steel wire mesh installed around popular swimming locations.

Matawan Mayor Arris B. Henderson offered rewards for the capture of the killer shark from the creek. Matawan locals took dynamite to try to blast the shark themselves. Some even brought hunting rifles with them on their boats. Although hundreds of sharks were caught, no one could confirm if the infamous man-eater was one of them.

The panic spread nationwide, spurring the House of Representatives to allocate money to educate residents on shark threats. The Coast Guard also patrolled East Coast beaches.

Shark sightings increased from Asbury Park to Coney Island. Headlines such as, “U.S. War on Sharks” and “Uncle Sam’s Latest Crusade,” made front-page news in multiple American newspapers as well as in newspapers in London.

Before the attacks, no one perceived sharks as a threat. However, the summer of 1916 not only propelled New Jersey into the international spotlight, but the state was identified with the scariest shark attacks in history. Furthermore, sharks became symbols of danger in popular culture.

The world began to fear the waters, all because of what happened in New Jersey.

TEDxNavesink will explore all aspects of identity on April 8, 2017 at Monmouth University. Get your tickets today to be there and hear ideas with spreading.

First Women’s Weightlifting Champ Reflects on Shattering Stereotypes

Karyn Marshall

By Lindsey Konkel

Karyn Marshall felt immense pride watching American women compete and win a medal in weightlifting at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. While men’s weightlifting has been an Olympic staple since the start of the modern Games in 1896, women didn’t get a chance to compete until 2000.

Marshall, who took up competitive weightlifting in the 1970s when few women ventured into gymnasium weight rooms, smiled as she reflected on her path and the hurdles she helped tumble.

“It took a fight to get us here,” said Marshall, who spoke about her groundbreaking journey at TEDxNavesink Accelerators in 2015. “I’m proud that I was part of that fight.”

Weightlifting had always been a man’s sport. “Lifting heavy things just wasn’t seen as feminine,” Marshall said.

In the 1970s, women weren’t supposed to aspire to be strong or athletic or to enjoy the challenge of competition, Marshall explained. “But those were all attributes I identified with. I loved being strong and fighting for what I wanted,” she said.

Marshall lifted her first barbell in 1978 in the basement of a White Plains YMCA. “I think I was the first woman ever to go down there and work out,” she chuckled.

Marshall was in college at the time and missed the basketball, field hockey, and tennis competitions she enjoyed in high school. A male friend who weight-lifted told her she might enjoy it. Marshall entered that den of testosterone and never looked back.

She accelerated quickly in the sport. Soon, she was lifting as much or more weight than many of her male peers.

Marshall longed to test herself in competition, yet there were no women’s events. She got her first chance in 1979 in a regional qualifier for New York’s Empire State Games.

It was a men’s only competition, but the organizers let her compete. She lifted enough weight to surpass most of her male opponents and qualify for the Empire State Games, though she ultimately was barred from competing in the statewide competition because of her gender.

Marshall continued to prove herself and pave the way for other women in the sport. She set 45 national weightlifting records.

In 1985, she became the first woman in history to clean and jerk more than 300 pounds. (The clean and jerk is two-movement exercise where the athlete brings the barbell from floor to shoulder level and then from shoulder level to overhead.) Marshall won the first-ever Women’s World Championships in 1987, making her the world’s strongest woman.

Opening doors became as integral to her identity as being strong.

“That process, that fight taught me how to live and shaped who I am today,” Marshall said.

She’s a chiropractor and small business co-owner at Champion Chiropractic in Shrewsbury. She’s also a breast cancer survivor. The fight and focus she gained weightlifting helped her battle through chemotherapy.

Marshall still competes in athletic events. In 2011, she placed sixth in the 55-60-years-old Master’s Division at the Crossfit Games.

Getting women’s weightlifting into the Olympics was the ultimate goal. “We wanted to show that we were worthy of competing on that same stage,” Marshall said.

People sometimes ask if she is bitter or angry that she never got the chance to compete when the women’s weightlifting debuted in the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney. Not at all, she says.

“It wasn’t my time to be there,” Marshall said. “My time was to come before, to lay the foundation and to be part of that proving ground.”

Perhaps even more rewarding than seeing elite women’s weightlifters at the Olympics is knowing that women now enjoy lifting weights in gyms all over the world.

“Those little victories added up. Weightlifting is now a popular thing for women to do,” she said.

Marshall, who lives in Monmouth Beach, was inducted into the USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame in 2011 by none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger. Last year, she was inducted into the International Weightlifting Federation Hall of Fame.

Hear other inspiring stories such as Karyn’s at TEDxNavesink Identity in April 2017, where we’ll explore all aspects of identity. Get your tickets now.

Bell Works: Re-imaging How New Jersey Works and Plays

Bell Works

Ralph Zucker can barely sit still.

You’d think it’s because of nervous energy or stress. After all, he’s responsible for filling 2 million square feet of the former Bell Labs facility in Holmdel, and charged with preserving its rich legacy of innovation.

But it’s not anxiety percolating through Zucker—it’s excitement. Though the building is largely empty and the staff zips through the hollow halls that stretch three football fields long on Segways, Zucker sees the facility full and bustling.

“There will be a gourmet café there,” Zucker says.

“The hotel will be over there,” he points.

“Come with me, I gotta show you an office we’re working on,” he says, hopping up from a chair and nearly skipping around the corner.

Zucker can see it all, even though not much of it has manifested yet. But since he first saw the building in 2008, and his company, Somerset Development, closed on the purchase in 2013, he knew what he had envisioned—the vibe of the city in the middle of the suburbs.


The  history of the Bell Labs facility is well-known:

  • The innovative design by renowned architect Eero Saarinen
  • The home of seven Nobel Prize winners
  • The birthplace of radio astronomy
  • The idea factory that spawned much of today’s technology

Essentially, it was Google, Apple, and Microsoft in one, tucked away in a 472-acre campus in suburban Monmouth County.

But after the breakup of the Ma Bell monopoly, the new owners, Alcatel-Lucent, took over the facility in 2006, shut it down in 2007, and then left it vacant.

That’s when Somerset Development came in. Zucker saw the facility as an incredible opportunity for his company, which he describes as new urbanist developers that create people-centric, pedestrian-friendly environments.

Zucker shared his vision for the property with the town, but it took plenty of time, meetings, negotiations, and adjustments to come to a final plan.

“New Jersey doesn’t need another office building,” Zucker said. “But what New Jersey does need and is hungry for is better office space and a place that’s people-centric where you’re not just showing up to a suburban sprawl office park where nothing is going on…

“(People) are going to New York. They’re going to Philadelphia. They go to Red Bank. They go to New Brunswick. They go places with a little bit of a street scene, a little bit of an urban vibe. That’s what they want.”

And since that’s what they want, that’s what Bell Works will be, Zucker says.

bell works space


Before you can understand what Bell Works will be, Zucker wants to make it clear what it is not.

It’s NOT a building. It’s a neighborhood.

It’s NOT a mall. It’s an urban street.

It’s NOT an office park. It’s a blend of work and life.

Zucker drives home the last point. In New York, you can leave your office, walk a block to have dinner, drinks, check out entertainment, go to a fitness club—it’s all there. Bell Works aims to do the same in Holmdel.

“Anything you can imagine in a small city will be here,” Zucker says of the $200 million project. “Except for morgues. We won’t have a morgue.”

Why would they? This facility is about life.

It’ll be open 24/7. The first floor will have 75,000 square feet of retail and restaurants as well as the Holmdel Public Library, a health club, and a surgical center. There will be a 200-room hotel, conference center, 300-seat auditorium, medical offices, industrial kitchen, and activated rooftops.

Surrounding the facility will be a residential development, which Toll Brothers purchased. They’ve started development on 185 carriage homes and 40 single-family houses.


The Bell Labs facility was designed for collaboration. It consists of four buildings, each five stories, wrapped a quarter mile around with perimeter hallways. Anytime workers would step outside their office they would interact with someone else.

The massive atrium welcomes socializing and idea sharing, which was integral to the innovation of Bell Labs. Bell Works is capitalizing on that concept.

Chris Pallé and his company Vi, which is a co-working space and business incubator, has partnered with Bell Works to help foster a new ecosystem of innovation at the facility.

“We’re creating a culture of collaboration, of people getting together and networking as you work,” Pallé said of the co-working space at Bell Works. “We’re building a business incubator, and we knew we wanted to have the co-working vibe as the core piece of the culture for our business incubator.”

bell works office space

The incubator—which will be about 50,000 square feet and house a makerspace—will look to attract technology companies and startups and focus on innovative solutions, as well as the usability and marketability of those innovations.

Tech companies have shown the most interest in leasing space at Bell Works, according to Zucker.

One of the first tenants, Spirent, moved into the facility in February. The global telecom company is leasing 17,000 square feet of space.

“The potential of the project has brought a lot of excitement to our local team there,” said Ray Lee, who is in charge of global properties with Spirent. “Being a part of this whole revitalization of the area got everyone excited and I think they all want to be a part of that.”


Spirent is one of 11 tenants so far at the facility. While there is plenty of construction going on, Zucker expects to have about 100,000 square feet occupied by sometime in 2017.

“By the middle of next year, this place is going to feel alive,” Zucker said.

That’s welcome news to people associated with the rich history of the facility who were dismayed to see it wasting away for many years. Robert Wilson is one of those people. The Holmdel resident spent 31 years at Bell Labs and won the 1978 Nobel Prize for discovering background radiation.

“I followed along as various negotiations went on and contributed to a group here that sponsored a workshop on what could be done with the building,” Wilson said. “I was quite interested in not having the township burdened with something big but wanting to see the building saved. I think it’s worked out fairly well. I hope they’re successful in filling it. It’s certainly a huge undertaking to fill up 2 million square feet.”

A huge undertaking indeed. But this facility isn’t conducive to small ideas. That’s why everyone associated with Bell Works is inspired to dream big.

“The building is designed to make you think big and make you work on really big ideas,” Pallé said. “That’s what happened here, and that’s what’s going to continue to happen here. That’s what’s being revitalized.”

Bell Works is bringing a new identity to an old building. TEDxNavesink Identity will explore every aspect of identity on April 8, 2017. Reserve your tickets today.