Kushner visits campus
A banner year for student awards
Amherst celebrates Ellington
An apprentice in Siberia
A viewbook view
And by the way
Fitness and faith
The college opened two renovated spaces in January and provided new amenities for physical and spiritual life on the campus. One is a spacious well-equipped Fitness Center in the Alumni Gymnasium, the other a roomy Center for Religious Life on Woodside Avenue, behind Newport House (formerly Phi Delta Sigma). Both provide new room for the activities they promote: the exercise of body and soul.
Construction of the new, 8,000-square-foot Fitness Center was part
of the recent, $13.4-million in renovations to the college's athletic buildings. The facility, at the heart of the gymnasium complex, is on two glass-enclosed levels overlooking the Cage. It triples the combined spaces of the separate Nautilus and weight rooms that used to serve the campus. Don Faulstick, the athletic coach who supervises the new center, says its popularity is astonishing. About 1,700 students, faculty and staff signed up to use the facility in January during the first three weeks it was open, and following that it averaged 2,300 visits a week.
"Initially, we thought it was just New Year's-resolution stuff," he said, "but people are coming out of the woodwork." The attractions include a whole new array of cardiovascular machines including stairmasters, bikes, and treadmills as well as body-master and free-weight equipment. Faulstick speculates that many faculty and staff people used to join private fitness clubs away from the campus but--now that "we've gone from having a very, very modest facility to having a health club" --they work out on campus.
He says the center is also a boon to the athletic program and is the best such athletic facility in the New England Small College Athletic Conference.
"There's more than enough stuff for our athletes," the coach says, including free-weight equipment and "jammers" that promote lifting strength in the hips and legs. "It can only help our athletes. There really aren't any excuses now for them not to use the facilities."
The current, $200-million Amherst College Campaign includes a fund-raising goal of $60 million for new and renovated facilities. Major gifts for the athletic part of these have included a joint contribution of $3.2 million from Philip Friedmann '67 and Michael Keiser '67, and gifts of $1 million each from Joseph Schell '68, William McC. Vickery '57, and David Wolff '62.
The new fitness equipment cost about $200,000 and replaced some older machinery that the college has given to Amherst Regional High School.
Meanwhile, the college has converted a former faculty house at 38 Woodside Avenue and made it into a new Center for Religious Life with offices for a staff of religious advisors whose work there is coordinated by the Rev. Deene D. Clark. The modern-style house was built in 1967 and originally was the home of the late Vincent Morgan, professor of music.
Clark notes that, before moving to Woodside Avenue in January, he and his four fellow religious advisors all shared one tiny office near Chapin Chapel in Chapin Hall. "It was hard to adjust everyone's schedule there," he says, recalling the difficulties of using the same room at certain periods for a priest to hear confession, at other periods for Clark to counsel couples who planned to get married, and so on. "I began long ago to say we really need to make a place for campus ministry," Clark recalls. "It's the answer to a long-time hope. It says that Amherst College takes seriously the spiritual side of young people's development."
The college spent $180,000 in renovations to the building. The religious advisors are now spread out among three different offices, and they and several student religious groups enjoy the use of a large living room, a conference room, and a kosher kitchen.
Kushner visits campus
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner drew a near-capacity audience to Johnson Chapel in early March for a talk on "The Intelligent Homosexual's Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures." In a rapid-fire delivery style that confounded notetakers but kept listeners riveted, Kushner urged his audience to consider an alternative to the status quo. "If you think that life at the end of the 20th century lacks dignity, beauty, meaning, and hope," think about socialism, he said.
Kushner's talk was a dense mix of politics, activism, and humor. "I have no movement to recruit you to at this moment," he admitted. "But the world is a terrible mess. The world may, in fact, be ending. This in and of itself may be reason to start a revolution," he suggested.
The recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for his two-play cycle, Angels in America, Kushner spent three days at Amherst and met with a range of students in formal and informal settings. He lectured in classes, met with the Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay and Transgendered Alliance and the Queer Alliance, and held an informal meeting with students interested in discussing socialism. Part of the Creative Writing Center's Spring Reading Series, Kushner's appearance was supported by the Croxton Fund, which brings a significant speaker to campus every year.
Other speakers in this year's Creative Writing Center series have included poets Glyn Maxwell and Paul Muldoon, Tikkun fiction editor Melvin Bukiet, New York Times Book Review editor Charles McGrath, comic novelist Mark Leyner, and short story writer Amy Bloom.
A banner year for student awards
Several Amherst students and a recent graduate received awards
in prestigious national scholarship competitions this spring.
Divya Rajaraman, a May 1998 summa cum laude graduate, received an International Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University for a maximum of three years. An economics and French major who graduated with a B.A. degree in Interdisciplinary Studies with High Distinction, Raja-raman received the Jeffrey J. Carre Award for French in 1996-97 and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. She plans to study at Oxford, and then hopes to return to Botswana to conduct international development work.
After graduating from Amherst, Rajaraman returned to her home in Botswana, where she taught high school history for a semester and then conducted economic research. While Rajaraman was supported and guided in her Rhodes application by faculty and staff at Amherst, she was, as a foreign student, required to apply through her home country of Botswana.
In the past 20 years, four Amherst graduates have attended Oxford on Rhodes Scholarships; the college's most recent Rhodes recipient was Stephanie Reents '92. The Rhodes Scholarship covers travel and educational costs and provides a stipend for living expenses.
Melvin Rogers, a senior from Bronx, N.Y., was one of only four students nationally to receive a Keasbey Memorial Foundation Scholarship for study in a British university. Rogers will spend the next two years at Selwyn College, Cambridge, where he will study the legacy of the Enlightenment. The first member of his family to go to college, Rogers plans to attend graduate school in the United States after completing his studies in England.
A political science major, Rogers transferred to Amherst after completing his first two years at Bowdoin. Melvin is a One Hundred Black Men Scholar, and last summer he was one of 15 undergraduates who received a Ralph J. Bunche Fellowship to participate in a six-week graduate school institute at the University of Virginia. The Keasbey Scholarship is a highly competitive program open, on a
revolving basis, to students from Amherst, Bowdoin, Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Haverford, Middlebury, Princeton, Swarthmore, Wesleyan, and Yale. In addition to tuition and fees, the Keasbey carries a scholarship equal to the Rhodes stipend.
Sophomore Jordan Krall and junior Thomas Wexler have received Goldwater Scholarships, awarded on the basis of academic merit to mathematics, science and engineering students nominated by faculty members of colleges and universities nationwide. These scholarships cover the cost of tuition, fees, books, and room and board to a maximum of $7,500 per year.
Amherst students received four of this year's 60 Thomas J. Watson Fellowships for independent study and research. Paul Abelsky, a history major from Skokie, Ill., will travel to Austria, the Czech Republic, Germany, Morocco, Poland, Spain, Tunisia, Ukraine and Uzbekistan to study the construction of spiritual space in the architecture of Islam and Christianity. David Kim, an art history and English major from Tampa, Fla., will conduct a comparative study of funerary art in Madagascar, Mexico and Thailand. Mabel Lajes, a pyschology and theater and dance major from Bronx, N.Y., will travel to Brazil, Ghana, Puerto Rico and Spain to study the origins of Afro-Caribbean dance. Tessa (Kate) Van Til will examine how the Neolithic conception of personhood is reflected in burial processes in Malta, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. Van Til is an anthropology major from Grosse Pointe, Mich.
David Kim and Paul Abelsky both declined Fulbright Awards in order to accept their Watson Fellowships. Two Amherst seniors (Rebecca McCabe and Andrew Logan) were among the finalists for the American Rhodes Trust, and Melvin Rogers (Amherst's Keasbey recipient) and Laura Moser were Marshall Scholarship finalists.
These young people join an impressive list of Amherst alumni who have been recognized with the nation's most prestigious scholarships. In the past 15 years, Amherst has graduated 26 Fulbright Scholars, 15 Goldwater Scholars, five Keasbey Scholars, three Luce Scholars, seven Truman Scholars, 30 Watson Fellows, and approximately 30 Mellon Fellows.
Amherst celebrates Ellington
Amherst College helped celebrate the 100th anniversary of Duke Ellington's birth with a three-day symposium in early March. Featuring lectures, concerts, and open rehearsals, the event brought together Amherst students, musicians who had performed with Ellington, and jazz aficionadosnovices with only a cursory awareness of Duke Ellington's significance as well as experts in all things Ellington.
The opening night concert featured music for piano and small ensembles, and a Friday night performance featured Ellington's "Sacred Concert" and one of Ellington's orchestral works, "Night Creature." Pulitzer Prize-winning composer and conductor Gunther Schuller directed the Amherst College Orchestra and Jazz Ensemble in the orchestral work. Thursday night's performances featured pianist and Ellington scholar Mark Tucker, former Ellingtonian and current Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra conductor David Berger, and conductor Herb Pomeroy, a 20-year member of the faculty at the Berklee College of Music in Boston. Andrew Homzy led the Amherst Jazz Orchestra in the rarely heard "Blue Belles of Harlem." The breadth of these programs "helps us understand that Ellington's music is without categorical description of any kind," said symposium organizer Andy Jaffe, director of jazz studies at Amherst and a senior lecturer in music. A number of Amherst's musical ensembles participated in the event, including the Amherst College Orchestra, directed by Lanfranco Marcelletti, and the Amherst Jazz Ensemble, directed by Dave Sporny. The "Sacred Concert" was directed by Sporny and longtime U. Mass. professor Horace Boyer.
To conclude the symposium, scholars including cultural critic Stanley Crouch offered lectures about Ellington's impact on cultural history.
"The concept was to bring to the Amherst campus those with whom we have an association," said Jaffe. "We have people whose books we use in class [Jaffe teaches a course on the music of Duke Ellington], people who have conducted here in the past. This is about continuity, mentoring, and the tradition of passing music down from generation to generation. This happens less often as economic circumstances make it harder and harder to get this through the club scene," Jaffe noted. "So events like this one are increasingly important."
Andrew Logan '99 is one senior whose post-Commencement plans are a little vague.
Not to worry. This independent many-talented graduate has a few ideas up his sleeve.
His favorite idea, though it is by no means certain to pan out, is to travel to Kamchatka in Siberia and join an international development group that hopes to build a geothermal energy plant. Logan himself hopes to set up thermal-powered greenhouses on the site.
Hope is the operative word. "With Russia these days you never know," says Logan philosophically. He speaks of Russia from first-hand experience--much of it acquired on a year's break before his junior year.
Logan, a Russian and geology major, patiently explains to a nonspecialist that the geothermal project is a good one for Kamchatka. Harnessing energy from the geysers and hot springs will bring cheap, reliable electricity
to this remote, sparsely populated region. Currently oil arrives in tanker trucks travelling overlandand it is often in short supply because of the compounded problems of bad roads and difficult weather conditions.
Kamchatka is a peninsular area in Siberia, not far as the crow flies from the Aleutian Islands. In 1996-97 Logan lived on the peninsula in the town of Petropavlovsk and in various rural locations--among research scientists and humbler folk. He was no mere tourist. His major projects during that action-packed year were studying volanoes and geysers at the Institute of Volcanology, teaching eighth graders how to set up their own Web pages, and helping with a village salmon harvest.
Logan jumped in feet first. At the Kamchatka River salmon run he spent six weeks working alongside a colleague and his extended family. The workday lasted from 4 a.m. until midnight, and the work consisted of catching, salting, and smoking the village's food source.
And as part of his work at the Institute of Volcanology he flew by helicopter with scientists to a spectacular volcanic eruption in the middle of a lake. With the team, he surveyed the chemical composition of the lake and studied the ways in which the land had shifted during the eruption. After his return to the United States, he presented the results of his research at a meeting of the Geological Society of America in Portland, Maine.
The Russians "are extraordinarily skilled scientists," Logan says. "Since the collapse of the U.S.S.R., there is no money to send students to these institutes. So they took me in, made me an apprentice, and allowed me to take part in their research."
Logan hails from the Boston area, and first studied Russian at Phillips Andover, where he won the academy's Jones Prize for Russian. He chose Amherst in large part because of its excellent Russian program. As a sophomore he translated some priceless documents in the Amherst Center for Russian Culture. The documents were letters by a Russian existentialist philosopher dating from the Russian Revolution. "At most schools, this is something that a sophomore would not get to do," he says.
Also at Amherst, he took up the study of geologyand earned the Richard M. Foose Scholarship Prize in Geology in his sophomore year. And at the end of his sophomore year he decided he must find a way to combine his twin passions for Russian and geology.
Logan had learned of the Kamchatka Peninsula during a four-month high school exchange in Central Siberia. Kamchatka was 2,000 miles from his Russian high school and a place seldom visited by Westerners. It possesses abundant hot springs, geysers, and 28 active volcanoes. "Most of it is a beautiful and uninhabited wilderness," Logan says, a wonderland for anyone who is interested in volcanology and thermal systems.
At one time, Logan planned to spend his junior year abroad through the American Collegiate Consortium, run out of Middlebury College. ACC had recruited at Amherst, and it piqued Logan's interest. "They had never sent anyone to this part of Russia before," Logan says. But in April, as he was preparing his trip, the Consortium went bankrupt and the program collapsed. "I was on my own."
ACC gave Logan the names of several contacts who might help him put together the trip he had planned. He identified an organization in Minnesota that paid $2,000 for his plane ticket in exchange for a promise that he would teach the use of the Internet in Kamchatka classrooms to enhance cross-cultural education.
This promise Logan faithfully executed when he arrived in Petropavlovsk, a city of about 200,000 souls. He was billeted with a host family--a mother and four children ranging in age from four to 22. The father, like most of the city's working men, was out to sea fishing most of the time. Not long after he arrived, Logan appeared at the Institute of Volcanology and began his apprenticeship.
For such a young man, Logan has an impressive amount of experience in geology. Besides two summer research projects at Amherst, he did his senior honors thesis on the effects of highway road salt on a wetland area. He can read maps and papers in Russian. And he knows "how the system works. I'll network when I go next time."
Next time, whether it's this summer or later, Logan will also go to Sakhalin Island, an isolated island north of Japan that was once the czars' penal colony.
"It's on the rim of fire. There are a lot of volcanoes and hot springs there," Logan says with quiet passion. "I have a lot of friends there, some of them scientists. There's so much to explore." He speaks of nomadic tribes that herd reindeerand of a Russian friend who photographs them and has invited him to come along.
Graduate school, he believes, will come later, when he knows more specifically which sub-specialty in geology he will study. For now, one way or another, it is Russia.
"We'll see if it works," he says.
A viewbook view
The college's new admission recruiting viewbook contains a handsome, eye-catching frontispiece: a two-page color drawing of the Octagon, Johnson Chapel, and the steep hill--beloved of all alumni--on which they perch. The artist is Elise Brewster '84, a landscape architect who lives in Berkeley and works with scientists who are trying to restore San Francisco Bay.
When she was tapped for the project, Brewster was in Rome. A 1997 winner of the prestigious Rome Prize, she was spending a year living and working as a Fellow at the American Academy. Her goal was to deepen her understanding of the classical landscape. She did this by sketching constantly at the Janiculum, the beautiful hilltop on which the Academy is located, and on excursions around the city. By the time she left Rome she had filled 24 sketchbooks with her drawings. "This is the way I learn a place," says the former art and English major.
While at the Academy, she befriended a couple from Brookline, Mass. Samina Quraeshi and her husband, Richard Shepard, are principals in the graphic group Shepard-Quraeshi Associates. Through their projects, they like to build community through design. Brewster and the couple quickly discovered an Amherst connection.
As a Resident in Design, Quraeshi had brought some works in progress with her--a book of stories about early travellers from Italy to India, and a commission from Amherst College to design a new admission viewbook.
"Elise talked about how important Amherst was for her, how formative the college was in her career. And then I saw her work. It is very impressive," says Quraeshi. "Elise is a gifted artist, and an extremely special person, and I knew she could make a powerful, personal contribution" to the viewbook.
And so it was arranged that in the autumn Brewster would spend a weekend at Amherst sketching, and that from the sketches she would eventually prepare a formal drawing. Brewster donated her labor to her alma mater, asking only for airfare. She and her husband, Paul Smith, arrived on "one of those unbelievable October weekends," says Brewster--"the sky electric blue, fall colors to die for. No rain, though I was prepared for it; in Rome, I'd figured out how to sketch under an umbrella."
During their short stay, Brewster sketched to her heart's content. Among her sketches was a view from the War Memorial overlooking the playing fieldsa landscape view that is "embedded in my brain; I could sketch it in my sleep." Another was the freshman quadrangle, which Brewster perceives as "a room of trees."
And, of course, she sketched the landscape that eventually made its way, as a graphite and pastel drawing, into the viewbook. To Brewster it is "what you see coming back from a football game, when you're returning to South College or the dorms: the view above you, of the Octagon, with the Chapel peeking out from behind the trees. For me, what's powerful is the sense of history I get from those early buildings. I can imagine myself as a student when the college was just a chapel and one other building. Of course, I'd have to change my sex," she says with a laugh.
Brewster says she is thrilled to have had her drawing included in the viewbook. "It's risky to use art to illustrate a publication like that," she says. "After all, it is just one person's view. But one hopes it will suggest a way to enter Amherst--and suggest that people should have their own views of it. I found Amherst exciting, wonderful, scary, and hard." Those elements, she believes, found their way into her drawing.
A sample of Brewster's work will be on display at the alumni show in the Eli Marsh Gallery on Reunion Weekend in May.
And by the way:
A faithful reader calls our attention to the fact that this magazine turns 50 years old this Spring. We checked and found that, indeed, Volume I, Number 1, of the Amherst Alumni News appeared in May 1949. It may seem odd, then, that this latest issue is Number 3 of Volume 51, but that reflects changing frequencies of publication over half a century.
In another sense the magazine is 88 years old, not 50, because its earliest incarnation, The Amherst Graduates' Quarterly, first appeared in 1911. Still, the publication as we know it today began in 1949 when the editor, Horace W. Hewlett '36, transformed the dry, bookish pages of the Graduates' Quarterly into the more open magazine format of the Alumni News.
Hewlett ended the first issue of the new magazine with special thanks to the Class and Association Secretaries for their contributions. Their Notes at the time filled 15 pages. In our alumni edition today they usually exceed 80 pages--entitling us, without question, to the Guinness record for publishing the World's Largest Alumni Magazine Class Notes Section. Editors at other colleges and universities are always amazed when they see our Class Notes (Williams publishes about 45 pages per issue, Wesleyan 35).
Perhaps the most fitting way to celebrate our 50th anniversary is to tip a birthday hat, once again, to these hard-working, devoted Secretaries--and to the pioneering Horace "Bud" Hewlett, who for many years now has been enjoying retirement in rolling South Amherst. Gratefully, without further fuss, we salute all of them on their 50th--somewhat whimsically, and with a centennial nod as well--by reprinting here the Notes for the Class of 1899 which appeared, long ago, in Volume I, Number 1, of May 1949:
Harry B. Marsh,
For the first time in the history of our class the nominations and elections of class officers are being conducted by mail this spring. Nominations were made in March from postcard returns. Ballots have now been sent out to all members of the class. The polls will be open until Saturday noon of commencement week. By this method our class meeting on this our 50th reunion year is a country wide affair, extending from Maine to California and from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. All members of the class, wherever they may be located and whether or not they may be able to return to Amherst this June, are having an opportunity to share in the election of class officers.
"When the windmill rod broke in freezing weather I had to bust the ice on a little pond and tote water for washing and when the little electric light plant went blooey, we used candle light. My landlady, whom I knew as Pistol Packing Mama, was a wonderful cook. She kept a loaded shot gun leaning by the kitchen door and another in the parlor and every time she glimpsed an owl or a chicken hawk or a flock of quail through the window, she'd drop anything she happened to be holding, grab a gun and make a perfect shot. There was always venison and quail in the larder, in and out of season."
From New Hampshire George Duncan writes: "I have resigned from the State Tax Commission, not on account of any dissatisfaction myself with the job, nor apparently on the other side. Simply I decided it was best to slow down a bit before some doctor told me I would have to. Still, with my store, town clerk's duties, New Hampshire Electric Cooperative and so on, it seems that I won't rust out."
As the college's Writing Fellow who is helping to counsel students this year about their writing problems, Sarah G. Pearcy '97 recently invited faculty members to help her make a list of "Words (and Phrases!) Faculty Say They Don't Want To See Again, Ever." They responded by sending in a tremendous number of words--including the word "tremendous." Some of the others were:
in terms of
with regard(s) to