David Eyman is right-handed, but last summer he painted his entire deck with his left hand. Next year, he wants to do his whole house. He’s not a professional painter. He just likes a challenge.
He’s been an industrial designer, co-owned a design studio, pitched business ideas “Shark Tank”-style, manufactured a line of products and worked as an executive coach.
But students in the Farmer School of Business know him better as “Professor” — at least for now.
“I think a lot of times, we’re told that we’re supposed to be doing one thing, and I never thought that was a good idea for me,” Eyman said. “I’m right now on my fifth or sixth career, maybe even seventh, I don’t really remember…”
When he leaves Miami, he plans to be an author and a painter, but, if he could, he would be everything.
The walls of his shared office in FSB are covered in hundreds of bright yellow sticky-notes with a few stray orange, green and pink ones. Each note tells a different story, though the only one who knows that story is the student who wrote it.
Students in ESP 103: Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurial Thinking are required to show up on the first day of class with 12 packs of sticky-notes which equal 1200 pieces of paper per person. They’ll use almost every sheet throughout the semester.
His desk is a mess of papers, toys and Nerf guns. It’s a dream world for anyone under the age of 10. He used to have a collection of ninja toys on top of his whiteboard that students could try to shoot down with the Nerf guns. If they knocked one over, they got to keep it. The last ninja was defeated a few weeks ago.
A steady flow of students walk in and out of the office at all times, popping in just to say ‘hi,’ to ask a question or to talk to the other professor in the room.
It’s never quiet, but he doesn’t mind.
Yes and yes
Jim Friedman runs the creativity world in FSB’s Institute of Entrepreneurship. He’s both Eyman’s boss and mentor.
“And he’s just extraordinary,” Eyman said.
When Friedman came to FSB “a million years ago,” there was only one class on creativity, and he felt that was not enough. He made it his goal to create opportunities for students to learn more about creativity, and so the student-led organization IGoodea was born.
“It’s what a little kid would say,” Friedman said. “’Oh, that’s an IGoodea!’”
Friedman and one of his students in the organization wanted to find someone to host a creativity workshop around four years ago, but they didn’t know where to start.
“I said, ‘Well, let’s try this. Type into Google: ‘Creativity Cincinnati,’” Friedman said.
Eyman was the first result.
“So, we started stalking him a little bit,” Friedman said.
They discovered he went to the University of Cincinnati College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP).
“Well, I went to DAAP also,” Friedman said. “That was very interesting.”
Then Friedman saw that Eyman grew up in Wyoming, OH.
“Well, I’m from Wyoming, OH,” Friedman said. “I thought, ‘Why don’t I know this guy?’”
Friedman and his student decided to compose an email that would convince Eyman to come to Miami, but Friedman didn’t want to take the traditional route.
“I wanted to try something new,” Friedman said. “I typed in ‘Do I know you? Should I?’ I left my name and hit send.”
His student was shocked. You can’t do that! You didn’t even say ‘hello!’
“Three minutes later, I get an email saying ‘yes and yes,’” Friedman said.
They called up Eyman, took him out to lunch and brought him to Miami. For the first three years, he hosted various workshops until he accepted a full-time position a little over a year ago.
Rainbows on your birthday
It’s 11:37 on a Wednesday morning. Eyman stands in front of his class in Laws 303, three minutes before the class begins.
He looks like a modern-day Albert Einstein with a mess of curly dark gray hair. He’s dressed in a red, checked button-down that’s left untucked. He’s wearing black-framed glasses and a peppered scruffy beard covers his face from ear to ear.
The topic of the day is storytelling in business.
Eyman shows a series of ads to fit his point, from AllState to John West salmon.
Finally, he plays an ad showing a mousetrap with cheese and motivational background music. The mouse goes to take the cheese from the trap and the screen goes black with a sudden snapping noise.
Many students gasp or let out a squeal.
The video resumes with melancholy music and a presumably dead mouse. All of a sudden, the mouse comes back to life and starts bench pressing the trap while “Eye of the Tiger” plays.
Students clap and cheer on the mouse until the ad ends.
“You guys don’t even like mice,” Eyman said. “We’re trained not to like them and yet you were rooting for him. Why?”
His students talk about the story elements and the music and how emotion is so important in telling stories.
Then, Eyman asks students to share their own stories that would evoke emotion.
One student shared a story of his grandmother’s death. On the day she died, it stormed. But after the storm, came a rainbow. Every year since on his birthday, there’s been a rainbow.
Eyman, moved by the story, takes a moment to share his own.
His grandparents emigrated to the United States shortly after World War II from Maastricht in the Netherlands. During the war, an American soldier stood guard outside of his family’s apartment building.
“My grandfather befriended this American soldier,” Eyman said. “After the war, he sent a letter to Holland, to my grandfather, saying ‘I found a church in Louisiana that will sponsor you to come to the United States.’ So they did.”
His grandparents sold almost everything they had and came to the United States within a week.
“So fast forward to when I was in college,” he said. “My mother went to a little town in Indiana called Metamora. It’s a little touristy, antique-store village.”
His mother was walking through one of the antique stores when she noticed something peculiar.
“She looks up and says ‘Wow! That’s my mother’s China cabinet, and I bet there’s a bullet-hole in the back of it,’” Eyman said.
Sure enough, the antique dealer in the store turned the cabinet around to find a bullet-hole.
“My mother found the China cabinet that was her mother’s that she grew up with in Maastricht during the Nazi occupation in an antique store in Indiana,” he said. “Creepy? It’s like rainbows on your birthday.”
With that, class was dismissed.