Life’s Journeys Lead Alumnus to Write ‘Bearcat’s Journeys Through UC’

October 2, 2015

It’s a long way from being the handler of FBI dogs that sniff out bombs to being the author of a children’s book about the Bearcat discovering the unique history of the University of Cincinnati. Yet Joel Altman, CECH ’03, covered that ground in a few short years thanks to the strength of his UC degree and the power of the UC alumni network.

The events of Sept. 11, 2001, led Altman to enroll at UC to study criminal justice, and he joined the FBI in Washington, D.C. upon graduation. He served in a variety of roles before attending K-9 School and began handling explosives detection with the bureau’s dogs.

“At one point I decided to try and capture the interesting things about the job in a book about a police dog and his adventures — something children might especially enjoy in learning about law enforcement,” says Altman. “I was fortunate enough to do a lot of cool stuff when I was with the FBI and the Department of Defense, so I converted much of that into a simple story about a police dog. That was in 2010.”

He would later write three similarly styled books about his hometown baseball team, the Cincinnati Reds, which indirectly led to a UC book. Newly relocated from D.C. to Columbus, Ohio, Altman heard about President Santa Ono’s forthcoming #HottestCollegeinAmerica Tour stop in November 2013.

“I hadn’t been very connected to UC since graduation, but I knew about President Ono and the impact he was making. I wanted to hear him and meet him, so I went to the event.”

After the program, Altman introduced himself to Jerry Tsai, A&S ’08, who had been UC’s student body president a few years after Altman had graduated and appeared at the #HottestCollege event representing the UC Alumni Association’s Columbus Alumni Network. They chatted about Altman’s career and thumbed through the Reds book that Altman had brought along.

Shortly, the president came by, caught up with the conversation, and upon seeing the Reds book remarked that such a book about UC and the Bearcat would be fun.

Five days later, Altman found himself chatting again with Ono, this time in his office on campus as part of a Columbus alumni bus trip to take in a UC home football game. Others chimed in with enthusiasm for such a project, and Tsai began to connect Altman with key UC contacts who could turn the idea into reality.

“Over the coming months, Joel and I met regularly to come up with the plot, storyboard, UC facts and photos, and we began to assemble “Bearcat’s Journey through UC,” says Tsai, who is credited as a contributor in the book. “It went off to the illustrator and publisher, and after many rounds of edits, the book went off to the printer in the winter of 2015.”

Altman says the planning and writing process proceeded at a deliberate pace to make sure sufficient quality was maintained. President Ono wrote the book’s foreword.

“You know, I never set out to be an author,” he says. “I’ve always considered myself a regular guy. I just wanted to serve my country and community in some capacity, whether it was with the FBI, Department of Defense, or becoming a Coast Guard reservist since returning to Ohio.

“I want to have a sense of purpose, and I want to bring something positive to UC — I owe the university a lot. It’s good to be part of the UC community this way after having been away from it for quite a while. And I hope to continue to write books about this city and region that I love.”

Read more about Joel Altman and “Bearcat’s Journey Through UC.”

“Bearcat’s Journey Through UC” can be purchased at the UC Bookstore as well as through Amazon and Mascot Books.


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