The Influence of Amherst Alum Dr. William Montague Cobb Went Beyond Medicine

American Heart Association News – Cobb, class of 1925, “was a doctor, an anthropologist, a teacher, an author, an editor, a crusader for civil rights, and so much more,” writes Michael Precker. “Cobb’s achievements, and his battle for acceptance, helped pave the way for Black scholars and medical professionals who followed him.”

His achievements, as listed in the article, include a medical degree from, and teaching career at, Howard University; the first doctorate in physical anthropology ever awarded to an African American; presidencies of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, National Medical Association and NAACP; and authorship of five books and more than 1,000 articles. 

“Cobb spent a lifetime,” Precker adds, “exposing unequal levels of health care for white and Black people, and campaigning to integrate medical facilities and provide equal opportunities for Black doctors and patients.” 

Cobb received an honorary doctorate from Amherst in 1955 and is the namesake of a scholarship fund at the College. There is also a health institute named for him at Howard. He passed away in 1990.

Meridith Randall ’82 Becomes New President of Golden West College

Los Angeles Times Daily Pilot – “Randall has been selected as Golden West College president by the Coast Community College District Board of Trustees,” reports Matt Szabo. The Amherst alumna had served as interim president of the Huntington Beach, Calif., community college since April 2023.

“Randall has nearly 30 years of experience in higher education, including 17 years as a chief instruction officer in the California Community College system,” the article continues. She arrived at Golden West as a vice president of instruction in July 2020 and was appointed interim president after the resignation of President Tim McGrath.

“The interim period, from my perspective, was taking care of some long-standing issues and getting things on track,” Randall is quoted as saying. “Now, it’s a new era. It’s an opportunity for the college to really make connections with the community that we haven’t had, and move forward on several projects that we’ve been talking about.” Those projects include, among others, expansion of the school’s health care program and free noncredit programs for community members.

Randall majored in English at Amherst and went on to earn a master’s degree from Cornell University and a J.D. from New York University School of Law.

Photos: Amherst Celebrates National Girls and Women in Sports Day

Daily Hampshire Gazette  – “The Amherst College Department of Athletics, in partnership with the town of Amherst and Amherst Recreation Department, held a National Girls and Women in Sports Day last Saturday,” reports a local newspaper, sharing photos of the day’s activities.

“Girls in grades 4–6 explored various sports led by the college’s women’s sports teams including: squash, basketball, softball, volleyball, soccer, tennis, field hockey, lacrosse, golf, cross country and track and field,” the report continues. “The event was part of the town’s eight days of Winterfest.”

Featured photos show young girls from the local community practicing skills in soccer, field hockey, tennis and softball on campus, with guidance from members of the College’s women’s athletic teams. 

Capt. Chelsea Michta ’13 Becomes U.S. Army’s First Military Intelligence Direct Commission Officer

U.S. Army  “[H]ow often does a University of Cambridge Ph.D. graduate who speaks English, German, Polish and Spanish commission in the Army?” Jennifer DeHaan writes of Michta, who is now the officer in charge at the Army Europe Open Source Center in Wiesbaden, Germany.

Michta attended secondary school in Munich, where her father worked for the U.S. Department of Defense. “[S]he went on to earn a bachelor’s in European history from Amherst College and then attended Cambridge for her master’s. There, she was one of just a few graduate students selected by the university to receive a full tuition scholarship to pursue her doctorate,” writes DeHaan. “When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, she had to return to Germany … [and] spent the days of lockdown with Soldiers attending the Foreign Area Officers’ program there.” 

“I was struck by how diverse their experiences had been and the responsibility that was entrusted to them so early in their career, and by their sense of shared values and purpose,” Michta is quoted as saying. 

So she decided to pursue an Army career for herself, and thanks to “her combined education, cultural exposure and language capabilities, a panel of senior intelligence officers … selected Michta to be the first person to direct commission into the MI Corps.”

Professor Lucia Monge Presents “While a Leaf Breathes”

New Jersey Stage – An installation by Monge, assistant professor of art, is on display at ArtYard in Frenchtown, N.J., until Jan. 28. Made entirely from compostable plant- and fungus-based materials, the artwork “looks at plants up close, rendering the microscopic view on a grand scale,” reports Ilene Dube.

Monge “is interested in the way plants breathe,” Dube writes; “it was during the pandemic, she says in a video from her Amherst studio, that she became aware of the importance of breathing together.” 

“The materials in my works are prepared, fermented, cooked, and cultivated,” Monge is quoted as saying. “It is important for me to … have my practice be guided through their cycles, time, and urgencies.”

The article additionally mentions Monge’s other projects, including “Plantón Móvil, a yearly walking forest performance that has led to the creation of public green spaces in cities such as Lima, London, Providence, Minneapolis, New York, and soon in Paris.” 

Also currently on view at ArtYard, and described in the article, is an installation by Kendall Buster titled What Blooms.

For Louise Stevenson ’09, Tiny Life Forms Yield Big Insights Into Ecosystem Health – Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee highlights Stevenson’s research into the effects of contaminants on aquatic systems. The Amherst alumna is principal investigator for ORNL’s Environmental Toxicology Lab and former chair of its Women in Science and Engineering group.

Stevenson now has a Ph.D. in ecology from the University of California, Santa Barbara, but her interest in environmental toxicology crystallized while she majored in biology at Amherst. A research project on how plant-based hormones affect Siamese fighting fish showed her “that the problem of just one little fish in one little beaker in one little lab at one little college actually has applications to the whole natural world,” she says.

Much of Stevenson’s current research focuses on the stress responses of small planktonic crustaceans called Daphnia magna. “Extrapolating effects from individuals up to populations and communities,” she says, “can help scientists understand ecological risks at higher biological levels, where processes and interactions become more complex.”

Lung Specialist Dr. David P. Carbone ’77 Finds His “Sweet Spot” at the Intersection of Medicine and Technology

OncLive – The website of the Oncology Specialty Group presents a profile of Carbone, who directs the James Thoracic Center at The Ohio State University Medical Center and was honored with the 2023 Bonnie J. Addario Lectureship Award from a patient-support organization called GO2 for Lung Cancer.

Carbone refers to himself as “a geeky, technologically oriented person,” but says he has also always valued “being able to interact with people and to write and to think and not just compute.” “Realizing the importance of a well-rounded education,” Caroline Seymour writes, “he went to Amherst College … where, in addition to history, art, and philosophy, he continued his interest in math, physics, and electronics, and became the chief engineer for the college’s FM radio station.” He majored in biophysics at Amherst and went on to earn an M.D. and Ph.D. at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School Public Health.

The article describes Carbone’s family life and world travels in addition to his career path, his many contributions to cancer treatment breakthroughs and his own diagnosis with lymphoma. “What I want to be remembered for,” the doctor says, “is the impact I’ve had on patient care, on my patients, and on the young people that I’ve worked with and mentored.”

Actor Jeffrey Wright ’87 Sees Some of Himself in “American Fiction”

Associated Press – Wright shares thoughts about his career and his starring role in American Fiction, a new adaptation of Percival Everett’s 2001 novel Erasure. “There might be an impression of this film being comedic and satirical,” he says, “but there’s a deep vein of simple humanness inside of it that I appreciated.”

“Across an expansive array of roles both small and large for more than two decades, Wright has been among the most malleable of actors, able to transform endlessly while still maintaining a singular, rigorously grounded screen presence,” writes Jake Coyle. “But it’s Cord Jefferson’s American Fiction in which Wright gives one of the best performances of his career.”

“Wright attended private school, studied political science at Amherst College and briefly sought an MFA at New York University before leaving to pursue acting full time,” Coyle adds. Wright has performed in, among many other projects, BasquiatThe French DispatchWestworld and Angels in America, for which he won a Tony, an Emmy and a Golden Globe. 

A Mexican Hanukkah: Professor Ilan Stavans Reflects on His Heritage and the Message of Endurance – Stavans, the Lewis-Sebring Professor of Humanities and Latin American and Latino Culture, shares thoughts about his new children’s book, The Mexican Dreidel, co-authored with Linda Elovitz Marshall and illustrated by Maria Mola.

“For Stavans, maintaining his heritage after moving to the United States [from Mexico] became a focus of his writing. In the last three decades, the Amherst College professor has written over 30 books on American, Latino and Jewish identities,” writes reporter Arturo Conde. This new picture book “tells the story of a magical wooden dreidel, or spinning top, that a grandmother gives her grandson in a Mexican town.”

“Whether it is now, when antisemitism is rising, or in the past, during the Holocaust, or even further back, during the Spanish Inquisition, Hanukkah is a reminder that we have to find a way to endure,” Stavans is quoted as saying. “Hanukkah reminds us that as we go from one diaspora to another, we can get inspiration from moments of resistance in the past to continue our story.”

Mason Daring ’71 and Jeanie Stahl Celebrate a 50-year Musical Partnership

The Boston Globe – Reporter Ed Symkus interviewed Daring and Stahl, friends who live in Marblehead, Mass., and have been performing and recording together since they first met in a Boston coffeehouse in 1973. 

“I went to Amherst College, then I was signed to Columbia Records with a band, but the band broke up just before our album. So, I decided to go to law school in Boston, at Suffolk,” Daring is quoted as saying. 

After that, Symkus writes, “Daring practiced entertainment law. He also wrote, edited, and directed TV commercials; began composing music for film soundtracks, including 18 directed by John Sayles; founded the Daring Records label; and made a self-titled solo album” in addition to his collaborations with Stahl.

“We rehearse even when we don’t have a gig,” Daring says. “Age takes a toll on voice and chops. But we’re still good. We’ll rise above the threshold. We’ve been playing together for 50 years. That doesn’t happen to people very often.”

Professor Sonya Clark ’89, A Collaboration, at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta

Forbes – “Clark’s large-scale, community-centered, and participatory projects are brought together for the first time during the exhibition Sonya Clark: We Are Each Other,” writes Chadd Scott. “The exhibition features six of Clark’s projects created through mass participation, two directly addressing the Civil War, a theme common to her artmaking.”

Those two Civil War-themed projects are Unraveling and Monumental Cloth, which were exhibited in the Mead Art Museum in 2018. More broadly, the six works in We Are Each Other—on view at the High Museum until Feb. 18, 2024—serve as a refutation of the individualism that is often prized in American culture and in the art world. On the contrary, Clark, Amherst’s Winifred L. Arms Professor in the Arts and Humanities and Professor of Art and the History of Art, sees every artwork and every human life as inherently collaborative.

“I'm inviting all of those other people to come in and make the work with me because that helps me understand the work better,” she is quoted as saying. “When we remember that we are each other—you are me, I am you—we’re not the same person, but we are both human beings … [it] allows us to say we’re complicated.”

Meet Sage Loyema Innerarity ’22: Emerging Trailblazer in Tribal Archives – Previously a Postbaccalaureate Fellow working with the Amherst College Collection of Native American Literature, Innerarity is profiled on the website of Simmons University, where she has begun graduate studies at the School of Library and Information Science. She is focused on building and preserving archives for her community, the Ione Band of Miwok Indians of California.

“I had never really engaged in archival spaces before,” Innerarity says of her yearlong Frost Library fellowship after graduating from Amherst. “Previously, I felt that [as an Indigenous individual] I did not belong in these kinds of spaces, but I felt very welcome there, and I learned so much about tribal histories and collections.”

The profile also describes Innerarity’s work with the Miwok Heritage Center in Ione, Calif., and quotes her about “the oral vs. written binary”: “Even though orality and performance are very important to many tribal communities, Native folks have been involved in writing and printing as long as those communicative technologies have existed here.” Innerarity advises other BIPOC graduate students to cultivate support networks for themselves, and suggests resources for learning about the significance of Thanksgiving to Native peoples.  

Suzanne Edwards ’97 and Larry Snyder ’96 Teach Interdisciplinary Course at Lehigh University

Submitted on Monday, 10/16/2023, at 1:53 PM

The Brown and White – “[H]umanists should be thinking about tech from the get-go and tech folks should be thinking about humanities from the get-go,” Snyder tells the university’s student newspaper.  He and Edwards, who met at Amherst and are married, co-teach “Algorithms and Social Justice,” cross-listed in women, gender & sexuality studies and industrial & systems engineering. 

“After first meeting in an undergraduate Chaucer poetry class at Amherst College … Edwards and Snyder got married in 1998 and both began teaching at Lehigh in 2003,” says the article, written by Arava Rose. “Now, Edwards is an associate professor of English in addition to women, gender and sexuality studies, splitting her time between the two fields. Snyder is a professor of industrial and systems engineering and the director of the Institute for Data, Intelligent Systems and Computation.”

After a conversation about the potential for computer algorithms to detect bias in writing, the professors realized “they wanted humanities students to have technical competence and engineers to have knowledge about critical race theory, feminist theory, queer theory, disability studies and more.” They have been teaching “Algorithms and Social Justice” since 2022. 

Professor Nusrat S. Chowdhury on the Importance of Throwing Things: Pelting as Popular Politics

Submitted on Tuesday, 9/19/2023, at 1:55 PM

Public Seminar – “Aggrieved crowds have been throwing objects—stones, shoes, pies, eggs—that have doled out insult and injury in equal measure seemingly for centuries,” writes Chowdhury, associate professor of anthropology, in an excerpt from an essay first published in Social Research: An International Quarterly. “A common show of collective grievance, pelting has lost neither its significance nor its frequency over time.”

Chowdhury gives historical examples of displeased audiences pelting public figures, from the Roman emperor Vespasian, to playwright Oscar Wilde, to the newly crowned King Charles III of England. She relates pelting to other scholars’ theories about crowds and “the ‘carnivalesque,’ a term Mikhail Bakhtin used to describe an ethos similar to that of the medieval carnival.”

“Even when individual perpetrators of pelting are heroized or punished (remember Muntadhar Al-Zaidi, the Iraqi shoe thrower?), pelting is a performance of crowd sovereignty in all its joyous, violent, fun, furious, and law breaking glory,” the professor writes. “Spontaneous and ritualistic, orgiastic and meticulous, funny and somber, pelting is both a medium and a metaphor of the crowd.”

How Lauren Groff ’01, One of “Our Finest Living Writers,” Does Her Work

Submitted on Monday, 9/11/2023, at 12:26 PM

The New York Times – Groff takes reporter Elizabeth A. Harris on a hike through the Florida woods to give insight into her writing, reading and athletic habits. The acclaimed author’s newest book is the novel The Vaster Wilds, “in which a young woman escapes from Jamestown, Va., in the 17th century, and tries to survive on her own in the wilderness.”

“Groff played soccer at Amherst College and met her husband, Clay Kallman [’00], on the crew team,” Harris writes. Kallman is then quoted as saying, “For her, writing has been a great outlet, and so have athletic pursuits.”

“Groff, whose work slides back and forth between historical and contemporary settings, has had three New York Times best sellers and is unusually productive for a literary writer,” the article says, identifying those three bestselling books as 2015’s Fates and Furies, 2018’s Florida and 2021’s Matrix. “She’s able to keep up her publishing pace by working on several projects, even several novels, simultaneously, holding entire, vibrant worlds distinct in her mind.” She also reads an estimated 300 books per year.