The fundraising campaign ended with a campus-wide celebration.[Campaign] The Lives of Consequence campaign officially ended Sept. 20–21 with music, lectures, a portrait unveiling and an outdoor party.
The portrait was of Richard Wilbur ’42, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, former U.S. poet laureate and now the John Woodruff Simpson Lecturer at Amherst (the same position once held by Robert Frost). At the unveiling in Johnson Chapel, where the painting will hang, President Biddy Martin noted Wilbur’s “ebullient and often surprising humor and celebration of everyday things.”
Before reading a series of Wilbur poems, David Sofield, the Samuel Williston Professor of English, recalled his “fierce doubles tennis partnership” with the poet, their five years of teaching together and his belief that Wilbur knows “more poems by heart than anyone else in the world.” He alluded to Wilbur’s experience during World War II, “following combat all the way from south central Italy to France, Germany and Austria.” Sofield then read Wilbur’s poem “Terza Rima,” published in The New Yorker in 2008.
Later, Wilbur took the stage and read a selection of poems, including “The House” (also published in The New Yorker), which he dedicated to his late wife, Charlee. It concludes: “Only a foolish man would hope to find/ That haven fashioned by her dreaming mind./ Night after night, my love, I
put to sea.”
The portrait is by Sarah Belchetz-Swenson and was made possible with the support of Axel Schupf ’57.
The party featured a huge version of the game Connect Four, in keeping with the theme of creating connections. Photo by Rob Mattson
Other weekend highlights included a party on the Main Quad with live music, food and games; a keynote address by Amherst trustee Howard Gardner, a Harvard professor best known for his theory of multiple intelligences; and a point-counterpoint conversation on affirmative action between two alumni: Bert Rein ’61, plaintiff’s counsel in the U.S. Supreme Court case Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, and Paul Smith ’76, who achieved for his clients a landmark victory in Lawrence v. Texas.