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Gateshead College is located in Gateshead, England, just across the Tyne River from the larger and richer Newcastle. A sister city of Atlanta since 1977, Newcastle overshadows Gateshead and the other small cities occupying the Tyne’s banks roughly stretching from its North Sea mouth to about twenty miles upriver.


David Mastaglio is a very large and warm man – the late, former Mayor Maynard Jackson stood six feet four inches and weighed perhaps 300 pounds.

Georgia State University in Atlanta and the University of North Umbria at Newcastle embraced the exchange program too.

The exchange program and partnership was primarily the collaborative vision of Mrs. Ann Goellner, CIS Instructional Coordinator, Dr. Douglas Frutiger, Social Studies Chair, Mr. David Smith, Chair, Atlanta – Newcastle Sister City Committee, Dr. David Mastaglio, Professor of Marketing, Newcastle, and the Coca-Cola Foundation for sponsoring several of the ongoing exchanges. The strength of this program was the wonderful friendship that developed between Dr. Frutiger and Dr. Mastaglio who became best of friends. Doug and Dave facilitated the nearly annual exchanges while David worked at Tynemouth College, University of Northumbria, Gateshead College, Washington Business College, and Newcastle College.

While I was busy building exchange programs with Montego Bay (Jamaica), Mainor School of Economics (Tallinn, Estonia) Port-of-Spain (Trinidad), American School of Rio and others, I had very little connection to Doug, Dave, and Ann’s very successful exchange program. I schmoozed with our English guests in the halls, after school in the CIS office, at the welcoming and farewell partyies, and served as a support person for Doug and Ann as needed – but it was “their baby” and I respected that.

My real involvement with a Newcastle exchange began when the Center for International Studies magnet program received a $10,000 Coca Cola Foundation grant to fund several magnet needs. The subsidy portion allotted to the exchange funded airline tickets for Dr. Frutiger and I to chaperon our six students to experience a three week long marketing class taught by Dr. Mastaglio. My son Sasha had been enrolled in the International Business Program that year and participated in this exchange too.

Dave and Doug’s itinerary included a four day tour of the Scottish Highlands and Edinburgh, seminars with leading Newcastle businesses, visits to local attractions, and perhaps a full week in the classroom. Dave and Gateshead joined the IBP network of schools before the exchange and he was a good partner until my retirement in June 2004 – Doug retired in 2010.

Alan Hudson, a student of Dr. Mastaglio and an anchor of this 1995 exchange, was supposed to house me and indeed owned a lovely home. Unfortunately, at that point in time, I was subject to allergies to cats and dogs, especially large hair dogs like Mr. Hudson’s. Our search for another residence proved fruitless so I rented a suite in a local hotel that served a very good breakfast. My son Sasha had been placed with a very nice young man but whose home and family situation was so chaotic that Sasha soon joined me in the hotel.

Gateshead College was located in a working class area that at that time had many pubs but very few restaurants. Sash and I searched nightly for new places to eat but were essentially limited to two hotel dining rooms.

Limited group photo, l – r: J. Arthur Navolis, Evaras Kihara, Dacia Crowder, Lakeita Graves, Shateira Andrews

My son Sasha Heller(left) at age 16 and Matt Reagan . Dr. Frutiger’s head is pictured above my left elbow. The woman is a Gateshead instructor and friend of Dr. Mastaglio.

The North Atlanta students sold ACTCo goods at a kiosk in the Metro Center Mall and the Gateshead College cafeteria during the busy lunch period.

Dacia Crowder holding a leather mask made in Jamaica and that ACTCo was trying to create export markets for in Newcastle and environs. These masks were the product of Jean Dominique Boudot, a Frenchman born in Senegal, who sailed the Atlantic Ocean to Jamaica, married a Jamaican woman, settled down and began hand making these African masks. He became renowned for his craft but disappeared in 1997 and some believe he was robbed and murdered.

An example of current ongoing exchange program between Atlanta and Newcastle schools.

My collaboration with David Mastaglio, Gateshead College, Atlanta – Newcastle Sister City Committee and many others afforded me the opportunity to travel throughout north-eastern England and much of Scotland. This whetted my appetite to visit Ireland and Northern Ireland. Some Irish towns and cities, in both Irelands, send sizable delegations to Sister Cities International Conferences to win friendship and support – they all succeed through their sheer charm, exceptional warmth, and very well organized efforts at cultivating a favorable view of them, particularly in the hotel pub.

I had numerous discussion with Irish officials about bringing the IBP to their town or city, or engaging in student exchanges to develop friendship and trade linkages – but one stands out among the rest. I first met Councilor Christopher P. McCaughn of the Moyle District Council, Ballycastle, Northern Ireland, UK, at the 1997 SCI Convention in San Diego and we occasionally corresponded to stay in touch. In 1999 at the SCI Convention in Miami, FL, the Atlanta Sister City Commission (ASCC) won a campaign to host the 2000 SCI Convention in Atlanta. Chris McCaughn, planning to attend the Miami Convention, had heard that Atlanta was going after the hosting nod and contacted me.

The ASCC Convention Team put on a full court press to secure the hosting choice for 2000. I produced the message t-shirts that the ASCC team wore to help make our case. During a convention break, Chris and I made plans for a North Atlanta – Causeway Institute (Ballycastle campus) student exchange to take place later in the year. I agreed to try and make it happen – he and the Causeway Institute would petition a grant from the government to subsidize their airline tickets to Atlanta.

My most memorable moment at the Miami Convention was when I was in the hotel elevator on my way up from the lobby to my room on the seventh floor. At the third floor, the elevator door suddenly opens up, Chris is standing there with a bottle of Jameson Irish Whiskey in each hand and is smiling wildly. He says; “Here my friend, take a little bit of Irish cheer back to Atlanta courtesy of me and Ballycastle.” Chris puts the bottles in my hands, steps back, smiles, and the door closed. I’m standing there with a fifth of whiskey in each hand and a bit shell-shocked when an elderly rider in the elevator says to me; “So, what are you planning to do, take up drinking?” I took those bottles back to Atlanta with me and each time I took a shot, I thought of Chris and the third floor stop and started laughing.

Unfortunately, Chris and the Causeway Institute did not obtain their grant request and had to postpone plans for at least a year.

The exchange to Newcastle had to be canceled which ended any inclusion of Causeway Institute students. I have not yet made it to Ireland, nor have I been back to Newcastle. Actually, David Mastaglio has been living in Riga, Latvia for some years now in collaboration with one of the best IBP partner schools, the Riga Commerce School.

I recognized that despite the good will efforts Chris made on our behalf, this partnership and exchange was likely to fade away – and it did. Student exchanges are very easy to propose, hard to make them happen, and harder still to do it well for all involved. My experience was that if I wanted to make two student exchanges happen in one year, I had to have at least five initiatives going simultaneously because three were going to fall through.

Good job David Smith:

In conclusion, I wish recognize Mr. David Smith, Chair of the Atlanta – Newcastle Committee for the more than twenty year long contribution he has made to the Atlanta Sister Cities Commission and program. David has linked Atlanta and Newcastle in many fruitful ways and built a strong and ongoing program.

The ASCC members and I are all very grateful to David for producing the annual ASCC report to the Atlanta City Council from 1999 to the present. David, a gifted ad executive with excellent computer skills, has made the Commission look good for fourteen years.