- Cuomo urges students: "Use gifts well"
- Writings of Theodore Baird
- Secrets of the Dickinson Homestead
- The Class of 2003--In Their Own Voices
- More than solitaire
- Professor Emeritus Asa Davis
- Faculty Awards and Activities Fall 1999 Roundup
T wo weeks after beginning their college classes, Amherst's first- year students heard an impassioned political sermon from former New York governor Mario Cuomo. Addressing a capacity audience in Johnson Chapel on September 16, he implored them to improve a country he said is seriously flawed in spite of record prosperity.
"You're gifted and you're going to have to use those gifts well," Cuomo said. "All the politicians are talking about prosperity as if it can't get any better than this, and that's not anywhere near the truth. We're not as good as we should be . . . . The test [for a nation] is, are you as great as you should be, given the gifts you've received? You can make this place more dazzlingly beautiful than anyone can remember," he told the students. "You can do that in your time."
Cuomo's speech, on "Individualism vs. Community," was scheduled as an assembly for the 422 new students who are divided into 19 First-Year Seminars. While each of these required courses covers a different topic (such as Russian literature, the Holocaust, or evolution, to name three), all focus on introducing their students, through close faculty attention in 28 seminar sections, to college-level study and writing.
Cuomo acknowledged that "nobody's ever seen an economy like this" with low unemployment, low inflation, low interest rates, and large budget surpluses. Still, he said, "one in every four children is being raised in poverty in this miracle of a place." Raising his voice like a stump orator he spoke of the American child who "can grow up familiar with the sound of gunfire before she's even heard an orchestra play.
"We lead the world in imprisonment," he continued, "we lead the world in drug consumption, we lead the world in violence. We have more handguns per capita than anyone else. If you think I'm emotional about it--I am emotional! Why? Because it doesn't have to be this way."
He said that despite the nation's prosperity the average annual income for individuals in the U.S. is only $28,000, for families only $38,000. He said 43 million Americans have no medical coverage, and that wages for 120 million workers are not keeping up with the cost of living, so that "low and moderately skilled people are going nowhere but backward. The gap between the top and the middle and the bottom is greater than it's ever been."
Also, he defended big government programs. President Clinton's announcement a few years ago that "the era of big government is over," Cuomo said, "was the single most scandalous and demagogic thing I've ever heard a president say. Because it just isn't true. . . . You should have only the government you need, but all the government you need. In health care, can you do it without government? Of course not. That's why you have Medicare, that's why you have Medicaid." He invoked Abraham Lincoln's statement that "the legitimate object of government, is to do for a community of people, whatever they need to have done, but can not do, at all, or can not, so well do, for themselves--in their separate, and individual capacities."
"The only meaningful approach to life," Cuomo said, "is to share benefits for the good of the whole community. It's the idea of family, as old as that. We're interconnected, we need one another."
While the students responded to the speech with a standing ovation, reactions afterward were mixed. David Azoulay, a junior from Brooklyn, wrote in The Amherst Student: "If one wants to be selfless, that's great, but don't tell me that I will die unfulfilled unless I embrace the meaning that Mario Cuomo finds in selflessness. I think Cuomo was right to say that people need meaning in their lives, but I believe that meaning differs for each of us."
Another Brooklynite, first-year student Kwesi Christopher, said he hoped the Amherst community would take Cuomo's words to heart. He said he is discouraged, though, by the apathy he sees on campus. "Some people think playing frisbee out in the quad is day-to-day life," Christopher said, "and for most people in the world, it's not."
The Cuomo event was supported by the Croxton Lecture Fund.
Amherst College Press has published a book of essays written by the late Theodore Baird, the college's Samuel Williston Professor of English, Emeritus. The eclectic, 254-page volume of 13 pieces was organized by Baird's English department colleague of many years, William H. Pritchard, who selected the essays and wrote the Introduction.
The Most of It: Essays on Language and the Imagination, includes five previously unpublished historical essays on "Amherst College in Its Early Years," two pieces published in this magazine more than 40 and 50 years ago (one is Baird's description of "The Freshman English Course"), and five literary works that appeared in other publications between 1946 and 1962. The volume ends with Baird's delightful account of the year he and his wife, Bertie, commissioned
Frank Lloyd Wright to design a new house for them in South Amherst. "The Most of It" is the title of a poem by Robert Frost.
Pritchard, the college's Henry Clay Folger Professor of English, notes that the essays are distinguished by "the ever-present voice of Ted Baird, who was among other things, and as anyone who knew him or studied under him will testify, a wicked wit." Baird's work, he says, expresses "a double sense of the past, of people's behavior and the way they talked about it, as both absurd and something to be taken seriously, even admired . . . ."
In particular, Pritchard writes, the essays on Amherst history, "covering in rich detail matters of religion, education, the physical resources of the young institution, the character and aspirations of its graduates (especially their missionary proclivities), professorial and student life, questions of instruction, recreation, literary societies, social eventsall these are treated under the implied rubric of language. How, except through speech and writing, could a one-horse primitive bunch of buildings on a hill in western Massachusetts become a Consecrated Eminence whose motto was Terras Irradient?"
Baird, recognized as one of the great teachers in the college's history, died in December 1996. Serving on the faculty from 1927 until his retirement in 1969, he was the creator and driving force behind an exacting freshman composition course that he and scores of other faculty taught at the college for 28 years. During that time, Baird devoted himself mainly to teaching and did not write much for publication. Known for his sardonic observations as well as his brilliance, he once remarked, after retirement: "It seems incredible to me now that I should have put all that into Amherst College. I never thought it worth it. A kind of Pride at the bottom of it all, that anything I was a party to would be as good as I could make it. This never occurred to many of my teachers."
But he turned with relish to writing when he retired. In The Most of It, many lively results of this career after teaching now see print for the first time.
Amherst graduates Gorham Cross '52 and Kenneth Bacon '66 generously supported the book's publication.
A team of experts recently pried into every corner of the college-owned Emily Dickinson house in Amherst and found evidence they have used to describe what it was like when the reclusive poet lived there. Their "Historic Structure Report" traces more than 150 years of alterations to the layout and decoration of the building. It's a reference work that will help preservationists present a more accurate history of the famous Homestead to scholars and the visiting public.
The substantial red-brick house at 280 Main Street holds a special appeal to admirers of Emily Dickinson because she was born there in 1830 and spent most of her creative life at the property, seldom venturing beyond its grounds. Thirty years after her death in 1886, the Dickinsons sold the house to a family named Parke, who lived there until 1965, when they sold it to Amherst College. The Parkes altered the residence in several ways, changing aspects of its appearance inside and out. Among other things, they tore down the decaying Dickinson barnand a glass conservatory at the front, southeast corner of the house. The Parkes also removed exterior paint on the house, exposing the natural brick.
Detective work by the study group establishes that the bricks were painted a yellowish ochre in the Dickinson period, with off-white trim. The exterior shutters were probably green.
There's a strong possibility that the college will return the house to that color scheme, making it truer to the Dickinson era. A fundamental question for preservationists is how much they should replicate a building's earlier historical features. But the new Homestead report says that, fortunately, "a significant amount of fabric and evidence from the period of Emily Dickinson's occupation has survived."
That is not true of earlier phases of the building's history. The original structure, built sometime around 1813 for Emily's grandfather, Samuel Fowler Dickinsona founder of Amherst Collegewas a four-square Federal-style residence with a hipped roof. The next owner, David Mack, went to a Georgian style by adding a front portico, making the walls higher, and replacing the hipped roof with a high, gabled roof.
The Dickinsons lived in the west half of the house for a while during the Mack period and later returned after Emily's father, Edward Dickinson, bought the entire residence from Mack in 1855.
Edward, the Amherst College treasurer, then made further modificationschanges to adopt the Italianate style that was then becoming popular. His most conspicuous alterations were the addition of the glass conservatory and the present-day rooftop cupola. Like Mack before him, Dickinson also reconfigured rooms, stairways, trim and doorways inside. Studies show that the interior walls and trim probably were decorated in light colors until the 1870s but were then given darker Victorian accents. Much of the woodwork was repainted brown.
The investigators found that "paint scars and samples, wallpaper samples, reused building fabric, etc., all survive behind the present surfaces." They also identified several artifacts from that era that had been removed from the Homestead and stored in the attic of the garage: elements including the old front door, interior shutters, mantelpieces, spindles and banisters.
The poet's niece, Martha Dickinson, who lived next door, recalled in later years that, in the poet's day, the house "being brick and kept sacredly closed was always cool with a peculiar chill as one went into it from the hot sun outside. . . .
"The rooms were hung with heavily gold-framed engravings: 'The Forester's Family,' 'The Stag at Bay,' 'Arctic Night,' and other chastely cold subjects. The piano was an old-fashioned square in an elaborately carved mahogany case, and the carpet a fabulous Brussels, woven in a pattern. It had in the center a basket of flowers, from which roses were spilling all over the floor to a border of more flowers at the edge . . . . the wallpaper was white with large figures. The white marble mantels and the marble-topped tables added a chill even on hot summer afternoons."
Part of the "chill" may have come from two large white pines that shaded the front of the house. They're mentioned in a historic landscape analysis that is part of the report. This analysis also speculates that the Dickinson garden "may have contained a rose arbor along its central axis . . . . Evidence for the garden and any fencing should remain in the ground and be recoverable archaeologically."
The detailed study was prepared by a team of specialists including structural engineers and experts in architectural history, archaeology, restoration carpentry, conservation, architectural design, paint analysis, code compliance, and landscape history, under the direction of Myron O. Stachiw and Associates of East Woodstock, Conn. The project, supported by a $20,000 grant from the Massachusetts Historical Commission, was overseen by Cynthia Dickinson, who is director of the Homestead (and not related to the poet). More than 7,000 visitors tour the house every year.
For the past three years, a favorite part of New Student Orientation each fall has been "Voices of the Class," a dramatic, sometimes humorous production featuring excerpts from the application essays of incoming students. A cast of approximately 10 upperclass students (many of whom have been active in the college's theater and dance productions) bring the essays to life, narrating excerpts from them, and often choreographing them or setting them to music.
Dan Farbman '01, who directed this year's production, explains that the Dean of Students Office reviews the new students' application essays, selects approximately 150 as potential "Voices" material, then requests permission from
the student authors to use the essays in the show. The "Voices" cast convenes
on campus about 10 days before orientation to decide which essays to include, narrowing the pool to approximately 20. "We look for pieces that are well written, essays that are powerful, and things that would perform well," he notes.
Some voices from the Class of 2003:
"People have spent their entire lives trying to figure out what pi equals, but no one has succeeded. It extends as infinitely as the sky, and it holds no pattern. It is elusively beautiful. Empires will rise and fall, generations will pass, and pi will remain at the edge of our understanding."
"It was the beginning of my fifth week in Kinshasa, the capital city of Congo. We had gone to bed early in anticipation of a long day of work. My sleep was broken by a cacophony of thunderous explosions. My brother yelled, 'Get down on the floor!' At that moment I realized that the explosions were gunfire. . . . The radio announcer reported that a rebellion which was backed by the government of Rwanda had begun, and the government began rounding up suspected Rwandans, many of whom were executed. Because my brother and I were Sudanese Americans and had typical Rwandan characteristics, the American embassy advised us to prepare for evacuation. The night before we were to leave, our sleep was broken again. Soldiers had shot their way into the embassy compound in search of suspected Rwandans. In the blink of an eye, I had two AK47s pointed at my chest."
"The best part of church is, by far, the singing of the hymns. This is a time when, in an attempt to glorify God, we subject him to the auditory equivalent of a mass cat scratch. I mean, seriously, does God like bad singing? . . . I tell you, I'm all for someone singing my praises, but in this manner--with all the nuance and tone of a diesel engine--I'd start smiting some worshippers on the spot. I've tried to get into it (the Bible and all that) but it just isn't for me. I tried reading the Good Book, but the cast of characters is so unrealistic, and the tone is so--what's the word?--preachy. I even accepted Jesus into my heart. He was a really rotten tenant, though, and since has been evicted. I rent the space now to Dorothy Parker. She's a little rowdy, but she never says to me, 'Go forth and multiply.' Maybe it sounds foolish to flee from under the umbrella of understanding but frankly, I prefer the storm."
"Two years ago I converted to Christianity. My uncle had invited me to a retreat in Pennsylvania, and on the third night the minister preached the gospel. On the previous two nights I had found the gospel interesting, but not convincing. I felt I had no need for repentance because I had attended a Baptist church for 12 years. I assumed that attending church was enough to save someone from going to hell. This statement left great uncertainty in my heart. I wanted to change that uncertainty into certainty. The minister asked those who wished to receive Jesus as their savior to remain in the auditorium. I wanted to be sure that I was going to heaven before I left the auditorium, so I remained. When we finished praying, the minister took me outside to make the momentous announcement that I had just been saved. A man approached me and told me that his little daughter thought the reason that everyone was singing was because it was someone's birthday. I told her that it was someone's birthday. I was a born-again Christian, and that called for much rejoicing."
"It might sound extremely patriotic, but I want to devote my future to my country."
"I continue to have a fascination and love for film, particularly the teenage melodrama."
"Like anyone who's ever learned the alphabet, I am a closet writer."
"Since the age of four, I've had an unquenchable desire to rule the world."
When Allison Shook '98 was still at Amherst, she shared her most recent emotions, opinions and experiences with the Amherst community. But while students all over campus eagerly kept tabs on details of Shook's life, many of them would not have recognized her even if she stood with them at the salad bar in Valentine. These students had never met Shook. They had simply read her plan.
Like a growing number of Amherst students, Shook took advantage of an on-line feature of the Amherst computer network that permits users to post a public message, or "plan." To read somebody's plan, any user on the Amherst network simply logs on, types "finger" (or, for those in the know, "fi") and then the "username" (generally the first and middle initials followed by the last name) of the person whose plan they want to read.
To computerphobes, the process may sound complicated, but for a generation of students that has grown up with personal computers, reading somebody's plan is as easy as making a phone call. There is, however, a crucial difference between speaking to somebody on the phone and reading their plan: on the phone, both speakers usually know whom they are speaking to, but somebody who posts a plan has no way of knowing who reads it.
For Shook, it was a little strange to learn that some students read her plan even though they didn't know her. "Every once in a while I'd meet a new person at a party and they'd say, 'Oh, you're alshook,'" she said. "And that was a little weird."
Actually, the entire plan phenomenon is a little weird. At most schools, plans serve a simple purpose. "The tradition of plans on the Internet has been basically to put how-to-contact information on them," said John Manly '85, Amherst's co-director of Systems, Networking and Telecommunications. "Then around 1992-93 our students started to use them in a more dynamic way--that's to say, they updated them frequently."
Some put song lyrics, quotations from professors or jokes into their plans. Others added their recently updated life stories. "My impression had been that this was a little faddy thing that went on for a year or two and then stopped," said Manly. "But this year there seems to have been a resurgence of this kind of plan activity, where some users keep virtually public diaries."
Yet even as plans have taken on a life of their own, they have maintained a flavor that is distinctly Amherst. "Sometimes it's funny, but sometimes it's just a commentary on life at Amherst," says Shook. "So many plans are about the dining hall and other things that Amherst students have in common."
Plans make the already small Amherst community seem even smaller by giving people an instant link to others' writings. Perhaps the most attractive aspect of "plan watching" is that it is an easy way to, er, procrastinate.
"I think first and foremost it's just procrastination," admits Brian
Simoneau '99, who in his senior year began updating his plan frequently. "It's sort of a game, like trying to keep an in-joke going without letting everybody know what's being said. Instead of playing solitaire on your computer, you're playing this big interactive game."
The game is especially appealing to thesis-writing seniors, who with just a few clicks of the mouse can stop working on their theses and start reading and writing plans. Mina Suk '99, for example, wrote about her experiences in the computer center as she worked on her thesis. "It was a continuous plan. I just kept adding to it," she said. By the time her thesis was finished, Suk's plan was 28 single-spaced pages long. "I would really write down whatever quirky thing came to mind during the whole thesis experience," Suk says. "I used it as a release."
Some of Suk's plans described the frustration and fatigue that thesis-writing seniors inevitably experience. Others were more lighthearted. One of Suk's plans appeared under the heading "Wednesday, April 28, 10:56 PM," and read simply: "Oh my stars. The swim team just streaked through the Computer Center."
Luckily for Suk, the publicity and popular interest that her plan generated made her thesis-writing experience a little easier. "At first it was just my friends who were reading it, and then their friends started reading it," she says. "Then people started visiting me in the Computer Center and eventually they started to bring me food!"
But students use plans for more than just procrastination. They also use them to learn more about potential significant others. Plans can turn a vague interest into a full-blown crush, or they can snuff out the sparks in a heartbeat.
"You can find out a lot of information about someone through a plan if you really want to stalk them," said Shook, who paused before adding, "which I never did." For Shook, plans with hints of arrogance were an instant turn-off. "I remember someone on the men's swim team bragging about how their record was so good," she said. "I thought that was such poor form."
Perhaps Shook would have gained more enlightenment from reading a professor's plan. Yes, even professors have plans. Mathematics and Computer Science Professor Norton Starr's eclectic plans are especially well-read on campus. "I guess [my plans] are of several varieties in that some are nonfiction pieces that have appealed to me and that I've excerpted for the plan of a serious nature, some are humorous, some are mathematical and some are fiction humor," Starr said.
A sample of his old plans includes jokes, an obituary, puzzles, pictures, quotations from students, and newspaper and book excerpts. While some of Starr's plans are meant to entertain, others are more thought-provoking. One featured a quotation from Philip Roth's novel, Sabbath's Theater. "It takes a lifetime to determine what matters, and by then it's not there anymore."
"It's like a bulletin board," Starr said of plans. "It's like posting something on your door."
Some see the plan feature as nothing more than a stepping stone toward a more efficient type of electronic bulletin board. "My suspicion is that in the fullness of time this will give way to more ubiquitous use of the web," said Manly. "I would bet that in a few years students will check web pages" instead of plans.
Judging by how plans have changed the way Amherst students procrastinate and socialize, it's hard to imagine that plans won't be a fixture on campus for long. Then again, some students have already moved on. Shook, who now teaches kindergarten in California, no longer has a plan.
"It's funny," she says. "As much as I used to check my plan, it's just not a part of my life any more."
--David Abramowicz '01
Asa J. Davis, professor emeritus of history and black studies, died September 28 at Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, Mass., after a long illness. He was 77 years old. Davis joined the Amherst faculty in 1970 and established the college's Black Studies Department. He taught at the college until his retirement in 1992.
He was born in Nashville, Tenn., and educated at New York City schools. After graduating from Wilberforce University in Ohio, Davis earned S.T.B. and S.T.M. degrees at the Harvard Divinity School, then received a Ph.D. in history, philosophy and religion from Harvard University, where his dissertation focused on the spread of Islam in Africa south of the Sahara.
Davis was a senior lecturer at the University of Ibadan from 1962 to 1969, then taught for a year at San Francisco State University and the University of California at Santa Barbara before coming to Amherst. During his 22-year tenure at the college, he published extensively in professional journals on topics pertaining to the history of Africa and Europe during the Colonial period. He also was the author of several books, including The King's One Body: Symbol of Ethiopian Nationality, and Viagem Emafrica. He also served as editor of the Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria.
During his years at Amherst, Davis received numerous research awards, including two Ford Foundation Grants for research in the archives of Lisbon, Castanheda and Braga, Portugal; a Rockefeller Grant for study in Cairo, Lisbon and Rome; and a University of Ibadan Grant.
A World War II veteran, he was a member of several professional organizations, including the International Conference of Ethiopian Studies, the American Oriental Society, the Historical Society of Nigeria, the Historical Society of Ghana, the American Historical Society, the Ezra Pound Law Association and Omega Psi Phi.
Davis taught Amherst courses in African history, African nationalism, "African Elements in Brazil, Latin America and the Caribbean," and other subjects. Friends remember that he always engaged faculty colleagues and students alike in warm and gracious conversation, and many devoted former students returned to the campus to pay affectionate tribute to him when he retired in 1992.
He is survived by his wife, M. Jane Davis of Amherst; a son, Asa M. of Northampton; three daughters, Beryl Davis of Boston, Stephanie Davis of Washington, D.C., and Bridget Davis of Amherst; five grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.
A funeral service was held October 2 at First Congregational Church in Amherst.
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In May Rowland O. Abiodun, John C. Newton Professor of Fine Arts and Black Studies, delivered a lecture on "Anonymity and Identity: The Individuality of the African Artist" in connection with an exhibit, "Soul of Africa" at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh. He also chaired last year's Herskovits Award Committee of the African Studies Association. Each year the ASA solicits nominations for the award, which honors the author of the book judged to be the most outstanding and original scholarly work published during the preceding year. This year's award went to Susan Vogel for her book Baule: African Art, Western Eyes.
The December 7 issue of the Wall Street Journal carried an op-ed piece by Hadley Arkes, Edward N. Ney '46 Professor in American Institutions (Political Science). He comments on legal developments surrounding the partial-birth abortion debate and suggests the need for "legislation that puts the focus of the law on the child as the object of the law's protection."
"Of Men, Women and Bombs: India's Nuclear Explosions" is the title of a paper by Amrita Basu, professor of political science and women's and gender studies, published in the Winter 1999 issue of Dissent. In October Basu was one of three organizers of a conference on globalization and area studies sponsored by the Ford Foundation and was co-editor of Localizing Knowledge in a Globalizing World: Recasting the Area Studies Debate, a volume of papers presented at that conference. Basu was a speaker at last year's annual Jackie Pritzen lecture, where she spoke on "Mapping Transnational Women's Activism: Globalizing the Local, Localizing the Global." Pritzen was associate coordinator of academic affairs at Five Colleges, Inc. for many years. In July Basu served on the program committee for the Berkshire conference on the history of women, where she chaired a plenary on the theme of "Women's Human Rights Activism."
Edward S. Belt, professor of geology, is working on two research projects. In one he is studying 300,000,000-year-old rocks in western Maryland and comparing them with rocks of the same age in the Tri-State district (West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky). In the other he is examining 60,000,000-year-old rocks in eastern Montana and western North Dakota (a continuing project over the past 18 years). Belt is studying fossils, looking for breaks in the stratigraphic record not previously recognized, to determine the salinity of the water beneath the sediments. He hopes to establish that the strata in the Maryland project is of freshwater origin and that the strata in the Montana project is marine in part. A report about the western project will be published shortly by the Montana
Bureau of Mines and Geology. The authors include both Belt and Barret S. Cole '93.
Antonio Benítez-Rojo, Thomas B. Walton, Jr., Professor of Spanish,
is the general editor of two CD-ROM disks titled "Literary Eras: Literature of the Spanish Caribbean." His short story collection, A View from the Mangrove, translated by James E. Maraniss, professor of Spanish, was nominated for the PEN/Book-of-the-Month-Club Translation Prize Award. The third editions of The Sea of Lentils and his essay "The Repeating Sea" are due out this year, and his recent articles and short stories have appeared in books and periodicals. Benítez-Rojo was keynote speaker at the Sixth Interdisciplinary Congress on Caribbean Research held in Berlin in May and at The American Narrative Association Conference at Dartmouth College in April. He presented lectures and seminars at several universities and is on the editorial board of a number of international journals, including Revista de Ciencias Sociales, Cuba: An Illustrated Encyclopedia, Review: Latin American Literature and Arts, the Hispanic Review, and Hopscotch (a Latino magazine edited and founded by Ilán Stavans, professor of Spanish).
David W. Blight has been named the Class of 1959 Professor of History and Black Studies. Blight has written and lectured extensively on the Civil War, focusing on the black abolitionist Frederick Douglass and on the role of race and memory in the creation of Civil War history. Blight is completing his book, Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory, and is one of the authors of a college history text, A People and a Nation. His book, Frederick Douglass's Civil War: Keeping Faith in Jubilee, is in its third printing. He is also training National Park Service rangers on how to provide a more complete picture of slavery in their presentations at historical parks and monuments.
Carol C. Clark, professor of fine arts and American studies, spent a sabbatical last year at Columbia University as Fellow-in-Residence at the Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America. She worked on a project studying American travel to Italy around 1900 as seen through the lens of Maurice Prendergast's watercolors of Venice.
The Rev. Deene D. Clark, Amherst's Protestant religious advisor, has been elected lifetime member of the National Association of College and University Chaplains. The membership honors individuals for their contributions to NACUC, for their role as chaplain at an institution and for service as a counselor to students.
M. Morgan Conn, assistant professor of chemistry, was awarded a Trustee-Faculty Fellowship to pursue research in bio-organic chemistry. He will be synthesizing receptors for peptides and nucleic acids.
David A. Cox has been named Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Sciences (Mathematics). Established in 1974 by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the professorship rotates triennially. In 1998-99 Cox was Distinguished Visiting Lecturer in Mathematics at Oberlin College.
Cynthia Damon, associate professor of classics, has co-edited a special issue of the American Journal of Philology (spring 1999, vol. 120, no. 1) titled "The Senatus Consultum de dn. Pisone Patre: Text, Translation, Discussion." The issue is based on a recently discovered Roman inscription, the subject of the 1997 joint meetings of the American Philological Association and the Archaeological Institute of America.
David P. Delaney, visiting assistant professor of law, jurisprudence and social thought, received a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for College Teachers to work on a project called "Law's Nature" that grew out of a course he teaches at the college.
Jerry Dennerline has been named the Olin Professor in Asian Studies (History and Asian Languages and Civilizations). The author of two books (The Chia-ting Loyalists: Confucian Leadership and Social Change in Seventeenth-Century China and Qian Mu and the World of Seven Mansions) and a number of articles on Chinese social and cultural history, Dennerline contributes regularly to the Cambridge History of China and translates Chinese texts.
Lawrence R. Douglas, associate professor of law, jurisprudence and social thought, is the author of an article that appeared in the March Chronicle of Higher Education describing his purchase, at a bookshop near the Damascus gate, of a nine-volume transcript of the 1961 trial of Adolph Eichmann.
The February issue of The Atlantic Monthly reported on the pioneering research of Paul W. Ewald, professor of biology. Ewald explains his radical theory that many chronic diseases ascribed to genetic or environmental factorsincluding some forms of heart disease, cancer, mental illness, even auto-immune diseasemay actually be caused by infections. The article, "A New Germ Theory," dubs Ewald "the Darwin of the micro-world."
President Tom Gerety was a guest on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, broadcast nationally on PBS on May 24. Gerety was one of four panelists who discussed whether the NATO military intervention then underway in Kosovo was just.
Deborah B. Gewertz, G. Henry Whitcomb 1874 Professor of Anthropology, has been awarded an International and Area Studies Postdoctoral Fellowship on the senior level, to complete an ethnographically embedded social history of a sugar plantation in Papua New Guinea. The fellowship is jointly funded by the American Council of Learned Societies, the Social Science Research Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Caroline E. Goutte, assistant professor of biology, was awarded a Trustee-Faculty Fellowship. She will conduct molecular and genetic research to answer fundamental questions about how cells communicate with one another. She will be using the microscopic soil worm, Caenorhabditis elegans, as a model system.
Allen Guttmann, Emily C. Jordan Professor of English and American Studies, was named president-elect of the North American Society for Sport History. His two-year term will begin in the spring of 2001. In recent months Guttmann has been interviewed by the Australian Broad casting Corporation and has appeared in documentary films produced by ABC-ESPN. He is one of several scholars featured in a new book, Enlarging America: The Cultural Work of Jewish Literary Scholars, 1930-1990, by Suzanne Klingenstein. In the chapter on Guttmann's life and work, titled "The Meaning of Freedom," Klingenstein notes that Guttmann "opted to exercise an American right, available in no other culture, when he minimized his natal identity and replaced it with a fate of his own choosing." Guttmann's essay, "Les 'Jeux Olympiques Nazis' et le boycott américain," appeared in Sport et Relations Internationales, and his essay "Sacred Inspired Authority: D. H. Lawrence and the Fascist Body" appeared in June in "Shaping the Superman," a special issue of The International Journal of the History of Sport. Prof. Hideo Higuchi, the college's representative at Doshisha University in Kyoto, published a Japanese edition of Guttmann's book, The Erotic in Sport.
Allen J. Hart, assistant professor of psychology, was awarded a Miner D. Crary Summer Research Fellowship and Class of 1952 Dean Eugene S. Wilson Faculty Development Fellowship. The fellowships will be used to further his research on brain imaging.
Dale E. Peterson, professor of English and Russian, recently gave an invited paper at the Nabokov International Centennial Conference held at Jesus College, Cambridge, England. His topic was "White (K)nights: Dostoevskian Dreamers in Nabokov's Early Stories." Another Dostoevsky-related essay, "Underground Notes: Dostoevsky, Bakhtin, and the African-American Confessional Novel," will appear this fall in a collection of articles titled "Bakhtin and the Nation" to be published by Bucknell University Press.
Amherst College Press has published The Most of It: Essays on Language and the Imagination by Theodore Baird, selected and introduced by William H. Pritchard, Henry Clay Folger Professor of English. Pritchard is also completing a book on the literary career of John Updike and writing articles in the Hudson Review and other periodicals. His review of James Wood's The Broken Estate: Essays on Literature and Belief appeared in the July 25 issue of The New York Times Book Review.
Last summer David B. Reck, professor of music and Asian languages and civilizations, pursued his research in Madras, India, where he is making video and audio recordings and transcriptions and putting into Western musical notation a collection of about 50 songs arranged for the south Indian veena by the legendary master musician Karaikudi Sambasiva Iyer. Since the songs, many of them rare and up to 20 minutes in duration, exist only orally in the memories of a dwindling number of musicians who were students of Iyer in the 1930s and 1940s, the project is, according to Reck, one of trying to preserve an "endangered music." In addition, Reck's original songs for Shakespeare's Tempest were performed in June by the Brhaddhvani Chorus, directed by Dr. K.S. Subramanian.
In March Steven G. Rivkin, assistant professor of economics, presented the annual Max and Etta Lazerowitz lecture. A labor economist specializing in the economics of education, Rivkin titled his lecture "Teachers, Schools and Academic Achievement." The lectureship is awarded each year to support junior members of the faculty in their scholarly work.
In December Christian Rogowski, associate professor of German, participated in a symposium on Austrian writer Robert Musil (1980-1942) organized by New York University. The event celebrated Knopf's publication of an English translation of Musil's journals. The author of two books on Musil, Rogowski spoke on "Musil's Ethics of Reading."
Recent essays by Andrea B. Rushing, professor of black studies and English, include "Surviving Rape: A Morning/Mourning Ritual," which appeared in Confronting Rape, and "Goin' There and Knowin' There," about traveling through Nigeria's Yorubaland, which was published in Go Girl: The Black Women's Guide to Travel and Adventure. Rushing continues her work on "The Idiom of Yoruba Women's Attire."
Stephanie Sandler, professor of Russian and women's and gender
studies, guest-edited the June issue of Slavic Review commemorating the bicentennial of the birth of Alexander Pushkin.
Austin Sarat, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science, received a grant from the National Science Foundation for a project titled "Cause Lawyers and the State in a Global Era." He received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to direct a summer seminar for teachers titled "Law, Justice and Morality: Readings in Contemporary Jurisprudence." Sarat is chair of the National Working Group on Law, Culture, and the Humanities and was appointed editor of a new book series being published by Princeton University Press titled "The Cultural Lives of Law."
John W. Servos, professor of history, was elected vice president and president-elect of the History of Science Society. Servos will serve a two-year term as vice president, commencing on January 1, 2000, and then a two-year term as president. Established in 1924, the society is the oldest and largest organization for the study of the history of science and has an international membership of 4,000.
Last January the world premiere of "Vocalise with Duck" by Lewis Spratlan, Peter R. Pouncey Professor of Music, was performed by the New York ensemble Sequitur at The Knitting Factory. It received a highly favorable review by Paul Griffiths in The New York Times. In January 2000, world premiere performances of Spratlan's "Sojourner" for ten players and "Life Is a Dream," an opera in three acts with libretto by James Maraniss, professor of Spanish, will be performed in Buckley and again at Harvard University. Commissioned by the Serge Koussevitzky Foundation in the Library of Congress and performed by the Dinosaur Annex Music Ensemble, directed by Scott Wheeler '73, "Sojourner" is based on a comparison between the spacecraft taking temperatures of objects on Mars and taking psychic temperatures of various elements of society on Earth. For "Life Is a Dream," which will feature Metropolitan Opera stars, the Dinosaur Annex Music Ensemble will expand into a 34-piece orchestra and will be joined by the Amherst College Concert Choir, directed by Mallorie Chernin. The performance will be conducted by J. David Jackson '80 of the conducting staff at the Théâtre de la Monnaie in Brussels, Belgium.
The Oxford Book of Jewish Stories, edited by Ilán Stavans, professor of Spanish, is in its fourth printing and was chosen as an alternate selection of the Book of the Month Club and Quality Paperback Book Club. With the support of a Guggenheim Fellowship, Stavans spent his sabbatical year at the University of London, where he completed Borrowed Words: A Memoir of Language and did several radio programs for the BBC. The first few issues of his Latino magazine Hopscotch sold out, and the quarterly was selected by Library Journal as "one of the two best magazines" of the year.
Five College Visiting Assistant Professor of English Elisabeth Subrin, who teaches film-video courses, recevied the prestigious Los Angeles Film Crisics'Award for Independent/Experimental Film for her film, Shulie, a documentary about radical feminist Shulamith Firestone. Subrin also presented her films in a series of one-woman shows throughout the country, including a screening at New York's Museum of Modern Art. She was awarded a 1999 Andrea Frank Foundation grant and has been nominated for a Rockefeller Foundation Award.
In an aricle titeld "Fitting the Bill? Some Curvaceous Flowers Engage Pollinators in the Arms Race" in Natural History magazine (May 1999), Ethan Temelse, assistant professor of bioligy, and Paul Ewald, professor of biology, describe their experiments on curavture in bird-flower pollination systems. Contrary to the theory favored by researchers that the system is mutually benefical, the authors suggest that "plant and bird have somewhat conflicting interests" that result in continuous evolutionary changes in the curvature of bill and floral tube.
William C. Taubman, Bertrand Snell Professor of Policial Science, received a fellowship from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars for the year 2000. He will work on his latest book, a biography of Nikita Khrushchev. Taubman is one of 21 Fellows chosen from 432 applicants from 61 countries.
In February Ronald Tiersky, Eastham Professor of Polical Science, was elected to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. His book on former French President François Mitterand is due out soon.
In July, Wendy Woodson, associate professor of theater and dance, was one of 44 artists chosen from a pool of nearly 1,000 applicants to receive a grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council "designed to recognize exceptional artists in the state and to support their creative talent." The granr will help to support her latest project, a series of videos and performance pieces probing the nature of inspiration. Since 1980 she has made more than 45 original movement theater and video works as artistic director of Present Comapny Inc., in collaboration with other artists and as resident or guest artist with various universities, dance and theater companies. The grant is one of four she has revieved from the council over the years, along with more than two dozen other awards, including grants from the Amherst Cultural Council, the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanties and the National Endowment for the Arts.
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A compilation of remarks from recent events at Amherst:
"You are here for a reason. You are here because you choose to become not just someone with a degree and courses behind you but an intellectual: someone for whom ideas, the push and pull and play of ideas, are powerful and interesting and, above all, unintimidating."
President Tom Gerety
September 6, 1999
"We'll never have a hero not in my lifetime. We eat heroes for lunch in this society. The intense heat of the electronic information age will melt the feet of clay."
Former New York Governor Mario Cuomo
"Individualism vs. Community"
September 16, 1999
"Cuomo insisted that in today's information age, in which we can dig up the dirt on even the most seemingly puritanical candidates, we have no heroes. But our heroes exist; we just like them to wear their tragic flaws proudly. If they resist, we will rip them apart until we find a weakness we can relate to, to make us feel like we could have them over to dinner without wondering why we are such failures in comparison. Politicians should get down on their knees and thank investigative journalism; it helps them seem real to people."
Kimberly S. Palmer '01
Writing in The Amherst Student about Cuomo's remarks
"To make this nation work, America must lower the gangplank and let everybody on board. The dumbest and most dangerous thing we can do is to sail into the 21st century without every hand on deck."
Hugh Price '63
President and CEO of the National Urban League
"Destination: The American Dream"
September 24, 1999