Amherst Magazine: Summer 2012

Lives of Consequence: Creating Connections

A Campaign for Amherst

The continued success of the Lives of Consequence campaign reflects the extraordinary generosity and dedication of Amherst’s alumni, parents and friends. As of June 30, 2012, the college has received 19,541 individual gifts totaling more than $442 million, exceeding the initial $425 million financial goal. From gifts to the Annual Fund to the $100 million anonymous donation, all contributions benefit students, faculty, programs and facilities—the whole of Amherst—for generations to come.

In this final year of the campaign, as always, your gifts strengthen areas critical to Amherst’s mission, including financial aid, faculty and curricular support, student enrichment opportunities and campus upgrades such as the
new science center. The following stories highlight just a few of the gifts that advance the college’s priorities and illustrate ways that individuals, families and foundations can financially support Amherst. We encourage you to
continue to give to the campaign as we aspire to reach $500 million to secure Amherst’s future. Thank you for your unwavering commitment to the college and for creating connections that define the Amherst community.


A $1 Million Challenge

151190350

The Mead Art Museum has recreated itself as a laboratory for creative, interdisciplinary inquiries that lie at the heart of a liberal arts education. In spring 2012, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation affirmed the museum’s prominence by awarding it a million-dollar matching grant, the largest in the Mead’s history.

The Mellon grant, which advances the campaign’s priority to build curricular support, will provide half of the funds needed to permanently endow the Mead’s curator of academic programs position, which is held by Dr. Pamela J. Russell. Russell, who came to Amherst in 2009, is a renowned classical archaeologist with experience as a professor, curator and museum educator.

Last year, 100 classes met in the Mead Art Museum to study
works of art from the perspectives of virtually every academic
discipline—from music to neuroscience, English to religion,
psychology to math.

A laboratory for creative inquiries

The Mellon Foundation grant—coupled with support from Amherst alumni, parents and friends—will allow the Mead to excel as a laboratory for teaching and research across the disciplines. Through Russell’s leadership, academic use of Amherst’s art collection has quadrupled.

Last year, 1,525 students (about 90 percent of Amherst’s student body) interacted with the Mead, developing
lifelong skills of observation, research, reasoning and expression. Through the co-endowment of the curator of academic programs position, the Mead will be able to build upon its remarkable success.

To contribute to the Mellon endowment challenge, contact Elizabeth Barker, director, Mead Art Museum, at (413) 542-2295 or mead@amherst.edu.


Paving the Way for Future Students

At a young age, Howie Mitchell ’39 witnessed how generosity can change lives. His parents offered a striking example when they took in and raised his cousins after their mother died. Then, his own life was changed when Amherst provided him with a full scholarship. Mitchell grew up only blocks away from campus and never imagined going to college anywhere else, even though his mother and father did not have the resources to send him to Amherst.

After graduating in 1939 as an economics and history major, Mitchell started his career at the Stevens Institute of Technology and then moved to the personnel department at Pan American Airways, where he found his professional calling. In 1951, Mitchell joined Monsanto’s human resources department, where he spent the remaining 38 years of his career.

Mitchell continued to stay active in his community, serving on local nonprofit boards and representing his town as a selectman for 12 years. He also traveled the world with his wife, Martha.

Mitchell never missed a reunion. He was there for the Class of 1939’s one-year reunion in 1940 and the 70th reunion in 2009, and for every one in between. He also was an active volunteer, serving as class president, class agent, class secretary and reunion chair.

Mitchell was equally loyal as a longterm donor to Amherst: his giving started right after graduation and never
stopped. In 2011, as part of the Lives of Consequence campaign, Mitchell created an endowed scholarship fund and two professorships through a charitable trust and bequest. Mitchell, who passed away in May, never forgot the Amherst scholarship that changed his life.

In fall 2011, Mitchell noted, “Even as a new graduate, I knew that giving back simply was the right thing to do. Through these gifts I want future generations of students to have the same opportunity I was given.”

To learn more about planned giving, contact John Urschel, director of gift planning, at (413) 542-5193 or jurschel@amherst.edu.


Helping Students Explore Education Careers

“There is no more pressing need in America today than improving public pre-K–12 education. We need stronger teachers and education leaders, researchers and policy makers to make that happen,” says Charles “Chuck” Ashby Lewis ’64, a life trustee and past co-chair of The Amherst College Campaign.

Toward that end, Lewis and his wife, Penny Bender Sebring, Ph.D., founding co-director of the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research, are helping the college create a new program called Amherst Careers in Education Professions. They describe it as “a selective and comprehensive program to help Amherst students determine whether they want to pursue a professional career in education.”

151190360

The Amherst program is supported by a remarkable gift to the Lives of Consequence campaign from the Lewis-Sebring Family Foundation. The foundation is supporting similar “Careers in Education Professions” programs at the University of Chicago, where Lewis is also a trustee, and at Grinnell College, where Sebring is a life trustee. “Our family foundation is interested in the professionalization of pre-K–12 education,” Lewis explains. “In pursuit of that goal, we want to increase the likelihood that students of Amherst’s, University of Chicago’s and Grinnell’s caliber will pursue education careers. We appreciate Amherst’s efforts in supporting that ambition.” 


Charles “Chuck” Ashby Lewis ’64 and Penny Bender Sebring,
Ph.D., funded the Amherst Careers in Education Professions
program, which aims to help students interested in education-
related careers.

According to Ursula Olender, director of the Amherst Career Center, the foundation’s gift is timely. For more than a decade, recent graduates have been pursuing jobs in education and education-related fields in record numbers. With Lewis’s and Sebring’s new support, students will have access to a full-time director, who will work in conjunction with the college’s Career Center and Center for Community Engagement (CCE). The program will also offer a variety of resources for students: one-on-one advising, guest speakers, examination of education models, external partnerships with public and private schools, internships and volunteer opportunities.

“Amherst Careers in Education Professions will be an exceptional resource,” says Olender. “Through it, Amherst students will be prepared to one day take the lead in creating and supporting best practices.”

Lewis has no doubt that Amherst graduates who pursue education careers will dramatically change the educational landscape. “We need their passion for learning and their ability to tackle problems from different perspectives. The urgency cannot be overstated.”

To support the Career Center or the CCE, contact Megan Morey, chief advancement officer, at (413) 542-5900 or mmorey@amherst.edu.


Amherst Teaching: A National Impact

151190370

When Wako Tawa, professor of Asian languages and civilizations, argues that solid grammar skills are essential for attaining a high proficiency level in Japanese, it’s not just her students who are listening. Through a three-year grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, Tawa is helping train precollege instructors in her approach to teaching and learning Japanese, called the “stage-step” method. The emphasis on grammar in Tawa’s teaching differs from the communicative approach usually favored in Western European language instruction.



While at Amherst, Professor Tawa developed a new approach
to  teaching
Japanese and, with the help of the Arthur Vining
Davis Foundations grant,
is working to bring her methods to
a wider audience.

The grant also allowed Tawa to organize a colloquium for professors of “category four” languages—Arabic, Chinese, Korean and Japanese—to discuss the challenges of teaching languages considered especially difficult for native English speakers.

Tawa’s commitment to helping students master category four languages reflects a college-wide effort to place the liberal arts within the context of an increasingly global world. Recognizing that global experiences are essential to our students’ success, a priority of the Lives of Consequence campaign is to connect students and faculty with international opportunities, including language instruction, and to continue bringing a world of scholars, artists and leaders to campus.

The grant also illustrates the connectedness of the Amherst community: Arthur Vining Davis was Amherst Class of 1888, and the Foundations’ vice president for programs is William C. Keator ’86.

To support the sciences or faculty at Amherst, contact Megan Morey, chief advancement officer, at (413) 542-5900 or mmorey@amherst.edu.


Advancing the Sciences

When George W. Carmany III ’62, P’95 graduated from Amherst, researchers in biology were just starting
to use quantitative techniques borrowed from physics, following the Watson-Crick discovery of the DNA structure. Little did the political science major know then that he would be a witness to the launch and
evolution of the biotechnology industry during his 50-year banking career.

Carmany began his career in the investment banking division of Bankers Trust Co., moved through the ranks
at American Express and then started his own financial services firm. Over the years his clients have included
biotechnology companies, ranging from start-ups to industry leaders. This experience fuels his passion for the field and his desire to support the sciences at Amherst.

As a special 50th reunion initiative, Carmany and his classmates created an annual life science and health care
symposium named in honor of Dr. Gerald R. Fink ’62, the founder of the Whitehead Institute and a nationally
known figure in bioscience research.

 

151190380

Also in connection with his 50th reunion and the Lives of Consequence campaign, Carmany designated a bequest to support the construction of the new science center and its ongoing maintenance.

“When the new science center opens its doors, it will be a defining moment in Amherst’s history and a major competitive differentiator for the college,” says Carmany. “In our college days, Amherst was unique among undergraduate colleges for its emphasis on the quantitative sciences, leading many graduates into careers in medicine and research.”

Architect’s rendering of the new science center

“We are supporting the new science center because we believe it will make the college’s science teaching distinctive within its peer group, at a time when the broader mission and relevance of liberal arts education is being questioned.”


The Impact of Dedicated Scholarship Funds

Endowed scholarship funds play a vital role in connecting students from all economic backgrounds to an Amherst education. However, only 26.2 percent of last year’s overall financial awards came from such funds. The Lives of Consequence campaign seeks to increase this percentage, and donors have responded
generously. Among those supporting financial aid in perpetuity is Carolyn Pruyne W’56; P’82, ’87; GP’14, ’15.

151190430
A strong Amherst connection


Amherst pride runs deep in the Pruyne family. It’s a devotion that the late Robert “Bob” Pruyne ’56 learned from both of his grandfathers—Herbert Gates 1890 and Lafayette Pruyne 1879—and his father, L. Sumner Pruyne ’21, as well as from his older brother, David ’52. Bob, in turn, shared it with his wife, Carolyn; daughter Alison Gorman ’82, P’15; son Stephen ’87; and grandchildren Robert Cahill ’14 and Hannah Gorman ’15.

 

 

Robert “Bob” Pruyne ’56 and Carolyn Pruyne W’56; P’82, ’87;
GP’14, ’15 pictured with their grandchildren in 2009 at a joint
celebration for Bob’s 75th birthday and the couple’s 51st
wedding anniversary.


To recognize Amherst’s importance to their family, Bob and Carolyn established the Pruyne Family Scholarship Fund in 1998. The scholarship supports juniors and seniors, with a preference for students who have “combined academic strength with demonstrated positive interpersonal skills and leadership qualities.” In reference to these criteria, Bob’s friend and roommate Roger Williams ’56 noted, “It would be difficult to write a better description of Bob Pruyne himself as an Amherst student.”

Over the years the Pruyne scholarship has supported 21 students with nearly $480,000 in financial aid. The first recipient received just over $20,000 for academic year 1999–00. Twelve years later, three students received nearly $72,000 from the endowed fund. The dramatic increase in annual support resulted from Carolyn’s
generous gift made in memory of Bob during the Lives of Consequence campaign.

“When I married Bob in 1958, I became part of the Amherst family. I soon came to love and appreciate Amherst as they did,” reflects Pruyne. “When we were able, we wanted to return a small portion of what had been given to the family over many years.”

To establish a scholarship fund or contribute to an existing fund, contact Megan Morey, chief advancement officer, at (413) 542-5900 or mmorey@amherst.edu.


An Abiding Connection

151190400

As a first-year, Louise Stevenson ’09 arrived at Amherst with a keen interest in aquatic biology and a list of must-take professors compiled by her father, Frank E. Stevenson II ’77, and her sister, Caroline Stevenson Brownworth ’06. Both urged her to enroll in a class taught by David Sofield, the Samuel Williston Professor of English.

Louise heeded their advice. As a sophomore, she was accepted into Sofield’s upper-level course “Poetry 1950 to 2005,” which included works by James Merrill ’47 and Richard Wilbur ’42. The class provided Louise her first experience of truly studying poetry.

“Poetry had been a big part of my life; it matters to my family,” says Louise, a Ph.D. student in ecology, evolution and marine biology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. “My father always read poetry to us at bedtime when we were children.”

 

Frank E. Stevenson II ’77, and his daughters, Caroline
Stevenson Brownworth ’06 and Louise Stevenson ’09

Frank, who majored in English and then earned a law degree at the University of Virginia, credits Amherst’s abiding connection with poetry and Sofield’s distinguished teaching as the inspiration for his reading selections.
“I knew to introduce certain poems to my children only because David Sofield had introduced them to me. So when I opened Housman’s A Shropshire Lad and began taking my daughters through it, that was Amherst—just as much as when Professor Sofield guided my classmates and me through it. Even today there are poems that will only read in his voice,” says Frank, the recipient of Amherst’s 2009 Medal for Eminent Service.

During her senior year, Louise studied Argentinean poet Jorge Luis Borges in a Spanish literature class while also enrolled in “Donne, Herbert, Marvell, Milton,” a poetry course co-taught by Sofield and Wilbur. Louise consulted Wilbur—an esteemed translator of Borges—on her final project for the Spanish class.

“There I was, a biology major discussing my translations with one of the world’s best poets and translators. For me, that experience embodies Amherst.”

Caroline, who holds a law degree from Duke University, studied Shakespeare with Sofield. She says it was during a visit as a prospective student that she first saw what sets Amherst apart.

“My father and his two sisters had gone to Amherst, so I knew a lot about the college. And while visiting, I took an impromptu late-night tour with Betsy Cannon Smith ’84,” Caroline recalls. “We came upon a student production of Wilbur’s translation of Tartuffe in Johnson Chapel, and there, sitting in the front row, was the poet himself and President Tom Gerety. At that moment, I decided to apply early decision.”

151190410_cropped

Sofield, who joined the faculty in 1965, remembers the Stevensons well. He was delighted to find Frank and Louise back in his classroom—this time side by side—when he presented “Amherst Poets II: James Merrill ’47 and David Ferry ’46” for the September 2011 Amherst Today program.

“There were alumni of all ages and interests,” says Louise. “Seeing how Professor Sofield remembers his students was remarkable. He remembers not just our academic work, but also aspects of our lives outside of the classroom.”

Connections between professors and students are, in Sofield’s opinion, the hallmark of “an authentic teaching college.” He says Amherst faculty “care immensely about teaching” and that, in turn, involves caring about—and connecting with—students past and present.

“I write poems, and I write about poems,” Sofield explains. “But most of my time is spent teaching, and thinking about teaching, English at Amherst College. I would have it no other way.”

David Sofield, the Samuel Williston Professor of English