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profiles archive
Ringo Adamson ’78
Michael Adler ’83
Jeff Bender ’81
Jack Collins ’64, ’67
Marvin Creamer ’43
Joe Conte ’74
Renai Ellison ’89
Kevin Feeney ’78, Gregg Feistman ’80 & Sandy Maxwell ’69, ’84
Michael J. Fowlkes ’81
> Georgina Blake Fries '60
> Louise Hammel ’95
Mike Iaconelli ’94
> Billy Lange ’94
> Termaine Lee ’03
Mark Milan ’89 & Dave Gorham ’89
> Kenton ’85 & Kathy Iadicola Nice ’85
Elaine Reed ’85
Lindsey Roy ’04
> Mike Stengel ’78
> Dean Thomas ’72

The right touch
By Mary Galloway Dovey ’75, ’96

fter weeks of grueling deadlines, fingers glued to the keyboard and eyes to the monitor, I couldn’t wait to meet Michael Adler ’83. A former special education major, Adler has made his mark in a career of a different sort—massage therapy. My assignment was not only to interview him but also to receive my first-ever massage.
Voted “Best of Philly” in 1997 and 1998 by Philadelphia Magazine, Adler provides massages—many scheduled weekly—to dozens of devoted clients at center city’s Adolph Biecker Spa and Salon as well as in the Mantua home he shares with his wife, Fran Mannino Adler ’86.

I arrive and Adler offers to show me around. He leads me from room to room, including the couple’s well-equipped home gym adjacent to his massage studio. When I thank him, he chuckles and says, “I’ll bet that’s the first time you were ever given a tour by a blind man.”

Adler uses humor to disarm anyone uncomfortable with his blindness. Despite having been diagnosed at the age of nine with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative disease that causes total blindness over time, Adler himself had never met a blind person until after college, only months after his sight had worsened to the point that he could see only shadows. No longer comfortable with the idea of teaching, Adler faced graduation uncertain how he would support himself.

Within only a few months, however, he had taught himself Braille, and at the suggestion of a woman from the New Jersey Commission for the Blind, Adler decided to turn a life-long passion for sports and fitness into a career in massage therapy.

He knew immediately he’d made the right choice. After initial training in Swedish massage, Adler began his career at Toppers Salon in Philadelphia. He extended his training to include Shiatsu and other massage techniques and now offers clients what he calls an “integrated body works” approach. “I focus on a gradual movement from one part of the body to another to promote a soothing transfer of energy. My goal is to create a state of deep relaxation,” he explained.

It was time for my massage. Frankly, I was nervous. Like most women, I wasn’t crazy about taking my clothes off around a stranger—blind or not.

I shouldn’t have worried. Showing me into the studio, Adler puts me at ease, turning on soothing music and dimming the light, instructing me to call when I’m ready. He leaves the room and I undress, then sink into a cocoon of soft, heated blankets on the massage table.

When Adler enters, he explains that he wants me to relax and not speak. He will remain equally quiet; for him, the task is an art form. “When I’m giving a massage, it’s like I’m creating a sculpture or a painting. I can forget the person is there.” Sometimes, he says, if the client speaks, it startles him.

As he works, I feel, one by one, the knots in my muscles coming undone. My stress—and my fear—both begin to fade away. Anything that feels this good is definitely something to savor, I decide.

Adler calls the health benefits of massage considerable. “People come because they want to relax or because their neck or back or other part of their body is bothering them,” he explains. “During a massage, a person enters a relaxed state, which releases endorphins. This creates a feeling of well-being and helps cure the problem.”

He trades massages regularly with another therapist-friend and one evening, after his own massage, he found the relaxed state literally life-saving. Walking more slowly than usual, he had made it only to the middle of six-lane Market Street, one of Philadelphia’s busiest, when the light changed. As cars sped around him, Adler, stranded, simply stood calmly, staying where he was until he could tell from the flow of traffic that it was safe to continue crossing.

Both he and Fran, inside sales director for the Philadelphia firm, American Lawyer Media, say they knew from the moment they met they were destined to be married. Among the interests they share is traveling, especially to Baltimore to catch games of Adler’s beloved Orioles. “I can tell a homerun as soon as the ball hits the bat,” he says, true whether he’s sitting in the stadium or listening to the game on the radio.

This summer, the couple is embarking on a new venture—parenthood. They are expecting their first child in July, and Michael is planning to spend as much time at home as possible, caring for their child. Of course, for his local clients, there’s that great home studio…

from spring ’00

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