Amherst Magazine

College Row


A gleaming "new" museum

Town and gown turned out in droves on March 2 to get a close look at the light-filled new galleries of the Mead Art Museum. A record crowd of 500 people filled the elegant new spaces for a gala "reopening" to celebrate the completion of $4 million in renovations. Fortunately, the rooms stood up handsomely to the pressure.
No one had known, until the contractors began work in the fall of 1999, that inside walls of the 50-year-old structure were in a dangerous state. According to Jill Meredith, museum director, "Walls that used
to hold very heavy paintings were not even properly attached to the roof."

Before the renovations, temperature and humidity controls were also woefully inadequate, insulation was nonexistent, and, "because of the temperature extremes, you'd get condensation behind the artworks," Meredith says.

In sum, the old building fell far short of today's standards for art museums. An overhaul was long overdue.
Now the museum is ready for decades to come.

The building's priceless collections were moved out in August 1999 and the construction firm of Fontaine Brothers Inc. of Springfield, Mass., spent the next year gutting most of the interior and installing elaborate new climate-control, safety and other systems and replacing shaky ceilings and walls.

Truckloads of sculpture, prints and paintings began returning to their new home last September, and the job of re-hanging masterworks and storing thousands of other pieces was finally completed in February, just in time for the grand reopening.

Visitors who remember that the gallery rooms of the old Mead were distinctly different from each other (one room was gray, another brown, etc.) will find that—with the grand exception of the 390-year-old, walnut-paneled Rotherwas Room—all the galleries, for the most part, are now painted variants of off-white. "There was an aesthetic need to have the rooms more unified. We really wanted to tie them together," the director says. New facilities include a spacious teaching gallery with display surfaces and computer ethernet ports.

The Mead's collection consists of about 14,000 objects. All but five or 10 percent are normally in storage, which is typical of many museums. Many of the museum's familiar, prized possessions—like Thomas Cole's
majestic pair of early 19th-century landscapes, Past and Present—now hold places of honor on fresh, off-white walls lit everywhere by new track lighting. Many other familiar paintings and sculptures will also be exhibited year-round in the new galleries, providing familiar works for students, faculty and the public to revisit and study.

Works on paper, though, must be rotated back into storage rather frequently to avoid long-term light exposure. And there are now vastly improved storage environments in the building: while paintings used to be stored on racks made, literally, out of two-by-fours and chicken wire, and furniture was stuck away on plywood shelves, things are now efficiently organized and stored on all-metal shelves, racks and other protective surfaces; and different climates can be maintained for different media (ideally, for instance, works on paper should be slightly cooler and drier than paintings and furniture).

"It's not the same standard as human comfort," Meredith explains. "Art comfort is different."

Now that the Mead meets professional, up-to-date environmental and safety standards for art museums, it will be able to feature works and exhibitions from other museums—something that was not always possible in the past.

"As long as we could not provide a stable, museum-standard climate," Meredith explains, "we weren't able to borrow traveling shows or major and especially valuable works of art."

With its improvements in place, she says, the Mead looks forward to hosting more works and exhibitions.

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Major Russian art gift

This past winter, the writer, trans-lator and journalist Thomas P. Whitney '37 gave the college his collection of modern Russian art, which includes more than 400 objects created by artists in Russia and in exile
in the late 19th and the 20th century.

The collection will be housed, exhibited and studied in the Mead Art Museum and the Amherst Center for Russian Culture, which was created in 1991 by Whitney and by Stanley J. Rabinowitz, the college's Henry Steele Commager Professor and professor of Russian, to preserve Whitney's archive of Russian printed and manuscript materials.

The Thomas P. Whitney '37 Collection of Russian Art includes academic easel paintings, avant-garde mixed-media projects, stage and costume designs for ballet, opera and experimental theater, and illustrations for children's books. The paintings, prints, drawings, sculpture and artists' books exemplify the major innovative artistic movements of the early 20th century, such as Cubism, Futurism, Constructivism and Suprematism. The collection also includes many Russian icons, some dating as far back as the 17th century.

The artists, most of whom are represented by multiple works, include Alexander Rodchenko, Pavel Filonov, El Lissitzky, Naum Gabo, Alexander Archipenko, Mikhail Larionov, Natalia Goncharova, Liubov Popova, Olga Rozanova, Leon Bakst and Marc Chagall. Also among the artists are such traditional painters as Isaak Levitan, Valentin Serov and Konstantin Somov, as well as later 20th-century artists Alexei Remizov, Oleg Kudryashov and Ernst Neizvestny.

Hailing the new gift, President Gerety said "this remarkable collection of artworks, now rejoined with the extraordinary collection of manuscripts and documents into an organic whole, will make Amherst a center for scholarly inquiry into modern Russian artistic contributions to international modernism. It will be accessible to students and scholars from around the world, including scholars and students from Russia."

Rabinowitz, director of the Center for Russian Culture, said Whitney's collection "has accomplished his primary goal: to establish a living testimony to Russia's aesthetic preeminence in the history of world culture and to constitute a monument to those brave and remarkable artists, many of whom practiced their craft under appalling, even ominous conditions."

After his graduation from Amherst in 1937, Whitney received a master's degree from Columbia University in 1940. He was a U.S. embassy official and then Associated Press correspondent in Moscow in the 1940s and '50s. He is author of several books, including Russia In My Life, and translator of works by Alexander Solzhenitsyn and other modern Russian literary figures.

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Horace W. "Bud" Hewlett, 1915-2001

Horace W. "Bud" Hewlett '36 of Amherst, editor of this magazine and head of the public relations and publications office at Amherst College for 30 years, died February 15 at his home after a brief illness. He was 85.

Hewlett's quiet, relaxed, ever-gracious manner belied the extent and variety of the many activities he directed. He was director of public relations at the college from 1947 to 1958 and secretary of the college from 1958 until his retirement in 1977. For much of his career he also was involved in community service in a range of capacities: as chairman (1957-77) of the Western Massachusetts Broadcasting Council, chairman (1969-81) of the trustees of the Jones Library in Amherst, president (1963-64) of the American College Public Relations Association, and president (1958-59) of the board of overseers of Williston Academy in Northampton, Mass., among other engagements.

One of the founders of WFCR radio in Amherst, he played a key role in establishing public radio in Western Massachusetts. He was chairman of the Amherst Town Bicentennial Committee in 1958-59. A resonant baritone, he served informally as the college's choregus and often conducted alumni singing at annual reunion weekends.

Hewlett was born on July 27, 1915, in Derby, Conn., a son of Horace and Barbara (Lewis) Hewlett. After graduating from Amherst in 1936, he held teaching positions in Pennsylvania and Connecticut and worked in public relations and as university editor at the University of Denver. Hewlett received a master's degree in history from Yale University in 1941 and was a Navy lieutenant in Air Combat Intelligence from 1943 to 1946.

At Amherst he was responsible for all of the college's major publications—designing, editing, and often writing them himself. He assumed editorship of the Amherst Graduates' Quarterly in 1947 and, within two years, transformed the dry, bookish pages of that publication into the more open magazine format of the Alumni News—forerunner of this periodical. Those who had the pleasure of working most closely with him—seeing him write articles, edit galleys, crop photographs and measure page layouts—saw how intensely this quarterly was one man's steady, devoted labor.

They were struck, too, by Hewlett's unwavering sense of editorial integrity. R. Marshall Schell '72, who worked for him as a young intern many years ago, discovered this quality of Hewlett's in one of their first conversations. "Eager to impress my new boss," Schell recalls, "I shared
an idea for an article with Bud over lunch. The article was to be based
on research I proposed to do among young alumni—the research findings, I was certain, would reflect well on the college. I closed my pitch by saying, ‘Of course, if the research does not show Amherst in a favorable light, I won't write the story.'

"Bud looked disappointed," Schell remembers, "and he asked, quietly and somewhat sternly, ‘Why not?' I learned a lesson in intellectual honesty that I had somehow not learned in the classroom."

Hewlett edited and produced several books for the college as head of the Amherst College Press, including In Other Words (1964), a popular anthology of writings about the college. He also directed the college's news bureau and made arrangements every year for the commencement exercises. At the time of his retirement 24 years ago he was awarded the college's Medal for Eminent Service.

Survivors are his wife of 62 years, Mary (Lazear) Hewlett of Amherst; a son, Col. (USAF-Ret.) William "Tut" Hewlett of Redlands, Calif.; a daughter, Betsy Hewlett of Yarmouth Port, Mass.; and a grandson, David.

Family, friends and former colleagues gathered and sang some of Hewlett's favorite Amherst songs at
a memorial celebration held in the college's Chapin Chapel on February 24. The family asked that memorial gifts in Hewlett's name be made to Hospice of Hampshire County, Mass.

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Highest rating

Moody's Investors Service in January upgraded the college's long-term bond rating from Aa1 to Aaa, its highest rating.

Moody's said the designation is based on Amherst's "broad-based student draw and excellent student demand, vast financial resources relative to operating budget and debt, sound operating performance, and moderate potential future borrowing."

In particular, Moody's cited Amherst's high admission selectivity and commitment to need-blind admission and financial aid, strong investment record, and large endowment per student. It also cited the college's success in a sustained program of fundraising. In the past 10 years, gifts to Amherst have more than doubled, and the percentage of alumni making gifts to the college, 68 percent, is the highest in the country.

High bond ratings qualify institutions for borrowing at low rates of interest.

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Treasurer leaves post

Sharon G. Siegel, treasurer of the college for the past 10 years, recently announced that she was leaving the position to pursue other opportunities.

"My desire to try something different," she said, "comes at a time when the college is extraordinarily well-positioned for an easy transition in the treasurer's office."

President Gerety praised Siegel's "extraordinary career as an Amherst College administrator, a career marked at every turn by her brilliance, her passion, and her devotion to this institution and its people. . . . I speak for the Board and for myself in saying that it is hard to imagine a better counselor amid the arguments that go into important decisions about the future of the college."

The president announced that Peter J. Shea, the college's associate treasurer and budget director, will serve as acting treasurer, and that a national search for a successor to Siegel will occur in the fall. Shea has worked in the office of the treasurer and comptroller since 1987. He became comptroller the following year and associate treasurer and budget director in 1998. A certified public accountant, he holds a bachelor of business administration degree and a master of science in business administration degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Siegel joined the college administration 20 years ago as assistant comptroller, became comptroller and assistant treasurer in 1984, and associate treasurer and director of finance in 1988. After becoming treasurer in 1991, she became co-chair of the college's Priorities Planning Committee and was principal author of the Financial Framework statement in the committee's final report. In a resolution recognizing her service, the Trustees noted that the document "served as the impetus for The Amherst College Campaign, the basis
for sound budgeting and endowment spending over the past decade, and provided funding for a sweeping
revitalization of campus facilities that touches every aspect of campus life." Siegel served as secretary of
the Trustees' investment committee, and during her tenure as treasurer the college's endowment increased
in value nearly three and a half times, growing from $268 million to $912 million. Amherst's bond rating was upgraded three times, reaching Aaa, the highest rating given by Moody's Investors Service.

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Prof. Peter Marshall

Peter K. Marshall, the college's Moore Professor of Latin and Classics, a noted classical scholar who taught at Amherst for 41 years, died April 9, not long after learning that he had a virulent form of cancer. He was 66.

Marshall had taught his courses in Latin language and literature in the fall semester and had begun to teach his popular courses on Roman Civilization and the Augustan Age again this spring when illness forced him to drop his teaching.

Over his decades of service to Amherst Marshall taught virtually every course in the Classics Department, ranging from small seminars to large lecture courses. His course on Roman Civilization regularly had around
100 enrollments. Students enjoyed his profound knowledge of his subjects, his humor and repartee. He was an active figure both on campus and in the far-reaching world of classical scholarship.

Throughout his Amherst career Marshall wrote books and articles that were published by many international journals and presses. His books included studies and texts of the Latin authors Aulus Gellius and Cornelius Nepos, and of Servius, the medieval commentator on Virgil. At the time of his death, Marshall had recently completed another article continuing his pioneering work on Servius, whose interpretations dictated how the Aeneid and other works were read throughout the Middle Ages.

Marshall was a native of Cardiff, Wales, who graduated from Oxford University in 1956. He returned to Oxford frequently for sabbatical studies and was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1980.

At Amherst, Marshall served the college in many capacities: as faculty parliamentarian for several years, and on the committees on priorities and resources, student fellowships, college housing, Five College cooperation, dramatic arts, and others. He also served for a time as chair of the European Studies Program.

Marshall's colleague, Classics Prof. Rebecca Sinos, remembers him as "an extraordinary teacher, who communicated beautifully with a great range of students, from those who sought his expertise as a thesis advisor, to the fraternity members whose lobster feasts, some years ago, he attended and enjoyed as much as anyone."

Laura Marshall, a senior, recalls that "he was always making us laugh. I heard some of his stories a few times because I took several Latin courses with him, but they were always funny, both to us and to him. His teaching style was informal but thorough, and he moved rapidly through Latin texts, keeping us on our toes."

Marshall is survived by his wife, Nadia Margolis, and two daughters, Jennifer Blue of Herndon, Va., and Alison Mitchell of Roland, Mass. The family has asked that memorial gifts be made to the Cooley Dickinson Hospital Development Office in Northampton, Mass.

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Observatory to reopen

Alumni are invited to a gala event celebrating the renovation of Amherst's his- toric 18-inch Alvin Clark telescope. To be held in the afternoon and evening of Friday, June 1, during Reunion Weekend, the event will feature remarks by Astronomy Prof. George Greenstein and NASA astronaut Jeffrey Hoffman '66, as well as the world premiere of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Lew Spratlan's setting of a poem by James Maraniss, professor of Spanish, and a new play by Copeland Fellow Jeff Stanley.

When it was built in 1905, Amherst's refracting telescope was one of the largest and finest in the world. Astronomers will be on hand to train it on the moon and other wonders during the evening, and the observatory will host viewings on Saturday nights throughout the summer.

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Cuba first-hand

As Fidel Castro ages, and Cuba struggles to recover from the collapse of the Soviet Union while resisting the 41-year-old U.S. embargo, the island's future has become an increasingly hot topic. During the March spring break a delegation of 18 Amherst students, accompanied by two college faculty and two staff, traveled to Cuba to examine, first-hand, the relationship between America and Cuba and the effects of U.S. policy.

Beginning in January, the group (most of whom were part of a Special Topics class on Cuba) studied and discussed the Caribbean nation through a wide range of readings, speakers and films. Particular attention was given to the embargo and Cuba's role as both a third-world country and one of the few remaining nations with a communist government. While in Cuba, the delegation lived a schedule of roughly two conferences a day with governmental and grassroots organizations, individual speakers and scholars: an economist, a local pastor who serves in the National Assembly, leaders of the Cuban Federation of Women, directors and students of the Latin American School of Medicine, representatives of both the U.S. and Cuban government, scholars of Afro-Cuban religion and culture and students from the University of Havana.

Two days were spent in the western countryside visiting a rural health clinic, a school for mentally and physically retarded children and a tobacco cooperative. Both as a group and on their own, delegates explored Havana's historical revolutionary sites including the Museum of the Revolution, saw performances of ballet and Afro-Cuban dance, attended a baseball game and wandered the cobblestone streets of Old Havana.

The Martin Luther King Center, a focus of community and humanitarian activities in a working-class Havana neighborhood, served as the base for the Amherst delegation. There the group was able to engage with local people, and discussions started on the street often led to invitations for sharing coffee and lunch and meeting extended families.
Led by Amherst Outreach Coordinator Jennifer Cannon, Assistant Professor of American Studies and Anthropology and Sociology Karin Weyland and Alexander Irwin, assistant professor of religion, the delegation was organized through Witness for Peace (WFP), a non-governmental organization founded in 1983 in reaction to the Reagan Administration's involvement in Nicaragua.

Acute shortages of medical supplies and other material goods in Cuba, exacerbated by the U.S. embargo, spurred students to raise funds from Amherst-area businesses and individuals to donate almost two dozen boxes of supplies like aspirin, vitamins, notebooks, pens, baby clothing, latex gloves and antibiotics to the Martin Luther King Center to be distributed throughout the community by certified nurses.

When they returned to Amherst, the students, faculty and staff held panel discussions with slide and video presentations on Cuban daily life and the effects of the embargo; delegates said they hope to improve U.S.-Cuba relations through continued dialogue and engagement with U.S. lawmakers.

—Jennifer Acker '00

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Verbatim

A compilation of recent remarks made at Amherst.

"I miss his wit, of which he had more than anyone I've ever known. It's often been mentioned that Jimmy laughed at his own jokes. So he did. He laughed at his own jokes because he didn't think them up; they came to him. One could see them coming because he began laughing before he even spoke."

— Poet Richard Wilbur '42
In a tribute to a fellow poet, the late James Merrill '47, Johnson Chapel, April 12, 2001

"I've always liked to negotiate. As a lawyer I had many chances to negotiate, but not about the kinds of things I liked to negotiate."

— W. Robert Pearson, U.S. Ambassador to Turkey and Amherst parent
Explaining why he changed careers and entered the Foreign Service, Porter Lounge, April 2, 2001

"There should be an alliance between the fiscally conservative and the environmentally concerned. The destruction of the Amazon basin contributes nothing to Brazil other than debt."

— Stuart Pimm, ecology professor at Columbia University
In a talk, "Life on Earth: Does It Have a Future?" Cole Assembly Room, March 29, 2001

"There's a pseudo-controversy on campus right now about whether the college should start printing our diplomas on paper, instead of on the more traditional sheepskin. But I think the answer is obvious. Paper comes from trees. Trees make oxygen. Sheep steal oxygen!"

— Sam Rice-Townsend '01
At the Zumbyes' Jambo in Johnson Chapel, February 9, 2001

"I tend to be less judgmental than some of my colleagues. When students are in that world of searching for themselves, it can be good to let ideas grow and not be knocked down."

— Geoffrey Hendricks '53, professor, Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University
Asked about his teaching style, after a lecture, Stirn Auditorium, March 28, 2001

"Grade inflation is no laughing matter. Many a fine student has leapt off a tall building after receiving a C on a paper, let alone at the end of a semester. The same goes for some students receiving B's—albeit smaller buildings."

— Ryan Roman '03
In an Amherst Student opinion column, March 28, 2001

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From the Folger

Great cultural institutions like the Folger are constantly building their collections of rare materials, so as to make them even more useful for the scholarly community and accessible to the public. An equally important aspect of their mission is to maintain those artifacts–whether they be books and manuscripts, or paintings, Viking ships, baseball mitts, or Fender guitars–in optimal condition. Like medicine, conservation is both an art and a science, requiring of its practitioners a high level of technical training; plenty of well-supervised hands-on experience; good judgment based upon great powers of observation; a secure bedrock of knowledge of natural and synthetic compounds and how they react with objects under treatment; and a certain modesty as to what even the most skilled human agency can accomplish.

Within those limits, conservation at the Folger can claim bragging rights to two major innovations. Chief Conservator Frank Mowery pioneered the use of computers in measuring the precise quantity of wet slurry needed to fill holes in paper to their precise original thickness, a method widely imitated around the world. Today, Folger conservators are the only paper experts in the United States who can split ancient sheets of paper down the middle, insert a microscopic layer of hand-made rice paper to prevent leaching of ink from one side to the other, and close them up again. Some of the library's oldest and most valuable manuscripts have received this treatment, using a technique that's heart-stopping to watch, but quite safe.

All this goes on in facilities that need improving. The library's Patterson Conservation Laboratory was created in three small spaces in the basement over 20 years ago. Six conservators now work in a space designed for two, under very difficult conditions. But relief is in sight. The Folger's Facilities Renewal Plan calls for a greatly expanded lab on the library's top floor, occupying the space vacated by the Division of Public Programs when it moved last year to the new Wyatt R.('61) and Susan Haskell Center, across the street from the main building. In the foreseeable future, Mowery and his talented helpers will have state-of-the-art facilities to support their feats of literary life-support.

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