Giving Back to Jamaica

Submitted on Friday, 7/19/2019, at 3:50 PM

Jenine Shepherd ’20, the subject of a Spring 2019 Amherst Magazine article, was recently quoted by Caribbean Life concerning efforts to better encourage young educated professionals from her native Jamaica to give back to their birthplace.

“Jamaica is in the top 20 countries for the highest immigration rate of educated people,” said Shepherd, speaking at the 8th Biennial Jamaica Diaspora Conference, held mid-June in Kingston.

Jamaica’s “brain drain” means a financial loss for the country, she told conference attendees. “The government is missing out on valuable revenue they could have gained from taxes, or other investments made in the country,” she said.

“Shepherd, who received the Prime Minister’s Award for Nation Building, and is in the process of expanding her company to the USA and the Netherlands where she will build schools for refugees and inner-city children with the support of their heads of government and the UN, noted that Jamaica needs [young diaspora professionals] to make a contribution,” the publication reported.

She proposed that the Global Jamaica Youth Council back a Jamaica Youth Network initiative, a “transformative arm of the council” dedicated to better connecting Jamaicans with each other in the diaspora. 

“She has been working closely with the US Embassy, consulates and the ministry to ensure that the voices of approximately 800,000 Jamaicans residing in the USA are heard on issues of cultural estrangement how they can get involved in policy making,” Caribbean Life added.

Solving a Mural Mystery

Submitted on Friday, 7/19/2019, at 3:47 PM

The San Diego Union-Tribune recently told the story of one intrepid Amherst College student who took to sleuthing out the provenance of a mural that has for decades adorned the main archway at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

“I basically contacted every single person who might have an idea,”said Dean Gordon '22, who became engrossed with the mural on a tour a few years back, and was not content to hear that the artist was unidentified. He contacted “every archivist, historian or professor who might have some connection to the mural,” rumored to have been painted before the Coliseum hosted the 1932 Olympics.

The article tells of how he eventually traced the mural to Heinz Rosien, a German immigrant who was hired in 1969 to spruce up the archway in hopes of helping the city win a bid for the 1976 Olympics. Gordon would ultimately connect with Rosien’s son Igor Rosien, who had assisted with the painting.

“Thankfully, Dean didn’t take ‘mystery mural’ as an answer,” Igor Rosien told the newspaper.

Ken Danford '88 and the No-School Option

Submitted on Friday, 7/12/2019, at 11:27 AM

Ken Danford ’88, who walked away from a potential career as a school administrator to found a nontraditional learning center for teens, has a new book out, and the Greenfield Recorder’s Richie Davis spoke with him about it.

Danford taught public school in Maryland and eventually grew disillusioned with his career path while teaching in Amherst. He dropped out of a UMass doctoral program in school administration, to launch North Star (originally called Pathfinder) with Joshua Hornick in 1996, as a resource for teens who want to pursue their own interests without school.

His new book, Learning is Natural; School is Optional, discusses his motivations behind starting North Star as an alternative to more traditional middle and high schools. The Sunderland-based program enrolls about 60 teens each year for classes, one-on-one tutorials, and self-directed activities and volunteer experiences.

“North Star, Danford is quick to point out, isn’t a school,” Davis writes. “Attitudes among parents have changed since North Star was created, he says, and it’s now easier to explain it as ‘a clubhouse to help you home school’”.

“It’s still a misunderstood movement, but more people have somehow been touched in their neighborhood or extended families with the idea that someone’s being homeschooled, so it’s a little less of an uphill climb right now. And that doesn’t have to mean getting the curriculum at home. It can mean doing alternative stuff,” Danford said.

The center, which recently ended its fourth year in its fourth location, has helped 800 students from within a 40-minute radius. A number of similar centers throughout the country belong to a network following the North Star model.

Amherst, First in Baseball

Submitted on Thursday, 7/11/2019, at 5:01 PM

July 1 marked the 160th anniversary of the first collegiate baseball game, which pitted Amherst College against rival Williams College at in Pittsfield, Mass., and Amherst College won.

NCAA.com recently ran an account of that historic 1859 game, noting that modern ball fans might have been confused had they been there.

The teams played following Massachusetts rules of the day: “The playing field was a square with no foul territory, with the ‘striker’ setting up on a line halfway between first base and home base … there were no balls in pitching. If a striker swung at a pitch and missed, he received a strike. But if he repeatedly decided not to swing at good pitches in an attempt to delay the game, the referee would give a warning,” Daniel Wilco wrote.

“One of the most significant differences under Massachusetts rules was the ability to get a runner out by throwing the ball at him and hitting him. Seems just slightly dangerous,” he continued.

The two teams agreed to limit the game to 65 “tallies” (or runs), and that each team would consist of 13 players. Each inning only lasted for one out, meaning it took 25 innings before Amherst beat Williams 73-32.

“And for good measure, the two teams played a chess match afterwards, which Amherst also won,” Wilco wrote.

Later in 1859, St. John’s College Fordham Rose Hill Baseball Club (now known as Fordham University) played against St. Francis Xavier College in what would be the first collegiate game with the modern rules of the game.

Making Cheese on the Vinyard with Jessica Burt '96

Submitted on Wednesday, 7/3/2019, at 3:05 PM

Jessica Burt '96 originally intended to major in chemistry and biology at Amherst, but ultimately majored in geology, a choice that led to her spending more study time outside, which would ultimately lead her back to her native Martha’s Vinyard, making cheese.

For a Martha’s Vinyard Times piece about cheesemakers on the Vinyard, Burt talked about her work at Mermaid Farm, which has had a variety of cheesemakers and has begun adding aged cheeses to their lineup.  She’s been there since 2016.

“We had a banner winter in the dairy,” Jessica told the publication. “I feel like we are in good shape for a busy summer.”

Jessica is modest about her cheesemaking: “Any success I have as a small cheesemaker is because we have amazing milk to work with,” she said.

Corrales on LGBT Gains in Brazil

Submitted on Wednesday, 7/3/2019, at 12:13 PM

Following news of the June 13 ruling by Brazil’s Supreme Federal Court to include sexual orientation and gender identity  in the nation’s anti-discrimination law, the Associated Press published a piece looking at the history of LGBT rights in Brazil, speaking with Javier Corrales, Dwight W. Morrow 1895 professor of Political Science.

While President, Jair Bolsonaro has openly expressed his disdain for same-sex couples, and studies indicate Brazil is the most dangerous place in the world to be transgender. Still, Corrales said the ruling has important implications.

“It conveys to all actors the importance of respecting sexual and gender diversity,” he said. “Brazil is not the first. But it is not late.”

UPDATE: For a recent piece in Today Colombia, the article’s author cited a 2015 study that Corrales prepared for the LGBT Representation and Rights Initiative at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in which he noted that in countries such as Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay, LGBT legislation is more progressive than in some of the most developed countries in the world, because of higher income and better education, as well as pro-rights movements.

Martin Honigberg '81 Nominated to NH Judgeship

Submitted on Friday, 6/28/2019, at 11:57 AM

Martin Honigberg '81 has been nominated by New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu to be a state Superior Court judge.

The New Hampshire Union Leader and the North Andover (Mass.) Eagle Tribune reported the nomination following Sununu’s Executive Council announcement that he would be nominating New Hampshire Attorney General Gordon MacDonald as the next Chief Justice of the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

“Honigberg told the council he has always wanted to be a judge, noting he has thought about it for some time,” the Eagle Tribune reported.

Honigberg has been chair of the state’s Public Utilities Commission since December 2013, having served in the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office and as special council to former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen.

1,000 Years in Tahoe with Jonathon Keats '94

Submitted on Friday, 6/28/2019, at 11:43 AM

Tahoe Weekly spoke with “self-titled experimental philosopher and conceptual artist” Jonathon Keats ’94 about his latest project, photographing the future of Tahoe, California with pinhole cameras designed to last 1,000 years.

“After he graduated from Amherst College in Massachusetts, Keats moved back to San Francisco to do a series of experimental art projects with an emphasis on shifting people’s perspective on change and social responsibility. In 2010, he teamed up with Good Magazine to create a simple box pinhole camera in an attempt to capture a 100-year-old exposure. The results are set to be published in Good’s January 2110 edition,” Tahoe Weekly’s Kayla Anderson wrote.

The four millennial cameras are set to be placed at Sand Harbor State Park on the East Shore, Eagle Rock on the West Shore, Heavenly Mountain Resort on the South Shore and Tahoe City on the North Shore, accessible to the public.

“I want to get people to see these cameras in space and time, extrapolating futures, engaging the past and present,” Keats said.

UPDATE: The Tahoe project has since been the subject of articles in Popular Photography and The Phoblographer

The Immigration Experience With Min Jin Lee

Submitted on Thursday, 6/13/2019, at 2:44 PM

Author Min Jin Lee, who will join the College as a writer-in-residence starting in the 2019-2020 academic year, recently spoke with WBUR’s On Point about being an immigrant in America, and on its elite college campuses.

The piece cited three recent pieces on this theme, a New Yorker column, “Stonehenge,” a New York Times opinion piece, “Breaking My Own Silence,” and an interview she gave to The Guardian.

"I’m going to sound like an optimist here,” she told The Guardian. “We are having a dark moment in the American political climate regarding undocumented migrants and asylum seekers but, then again, the history of immigration in America has always been checkered.”

“In the United States we have two competing mythologies about immigration. On the one hand, we believe that different kinds of races make up an American person. On the other, a deep nativist strain keeps resurfacing. Nevertheless, there has also been strong resistance to nativism. Frederick Douglass, for instance, called the United States a 'composite nation' when he argued against the Chinese Exclusion Act [of 1882].”

Her three-year appointment to Amherst’s English department came about after her appearance at the College’s LitFest in March 2018.

Vickery's Gift to the Emily Dickinson Museum, and More

Submitted on Thursday, 6/13/2019, at 2:42 PM

Word of the $25 million gift from the late William McCall Vickery '57, largely to support the Emily Dickinson Museum, has been rippling out through press accounts.

“This is many, many times the size of a gift the museum has ever received,” Museum Executive Director Jane Wald told the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

Pieces have also appeared through Masslive.com, WRSI-FM, Philanthropy News Digest, and Diverse Issues in Higher Education.

Vickery, a founding member of the board of governors for the Emily Dickinson Museum 16 years ago, championed a campaign to restore Emily Dickinson’s bedroom. Of the $25 million being given to the College’s endowment, approximately $22 million is being specifically earmarked for the maintenance and improvement of the museum’s buildings, grounds and collections. Part of the Vickery’s gift will be used to create the “William McCall Vickery ’57 Piano Fund” to fund the restoring, rebuilding, repairing and purchasing of pianos for the College’s music department.