G. Edward White ’63 on the History of Soccer in the United States

Submitted on Tuesday, 4/12/2022, at 10:04 AM

In a Q&A for UVAToday, White, a professor at the University of Virginia School of Law and a former soccer player for Phillips Academy Andover and Amherst, talks about his new book, Soccer in American Culture: The Beautiful Game’s Struggle for Status (University of Missouri Press).

The Q&A begins with a question from interviewer Whitelaw Reid about how, in the mid-20th-century United States, “the sport didn’t have the kind of popularity that it did in other parts of the world.” “[A]t at both Andover and Amherst, the teams I played on had good equipment and good practice and game fields,” White says. “I do remember some supportive comments from fans at home games. But on the whole, we played in obscurity.”

The interview continues with discussion of the more recent “renaissance” in Americans’ enjoyment of men’s and women’s soccer, as both spectators and players. White attributes this to a number of factors, including the passage of Title IX in the 1970s, changes to the organizations of soccer leagues, and “the digital revolution [that] has expanded the capacity of Americans to play and watch sports.”

Arthur Bahr ’97’s Portal to Another World

Submitted on Monday, 4/11/2022, at 9:03 AM

MIT News highlights the work of Bahr, an associate professor of literature at MIT’s School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences. He is “completing a book on the Pearl-Manuscript—a rare surviving 14th-century document” whose component works “are critical to our understanding of the medieval world and literature.”

The article, with an embedded slideshow and video, explains that the handwritten, colorfully illustrated manuscript comprises “Pearl,” a poem about a bereaved father, as well as the stories “Patience,” “Cleanness” and “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.” “Part of my job,” Bahr is quoted as saying, “is to help these texts be audible and resonant in a very different cultural, social, and religious context than the one in which they were created.”

The article describes how the professor, who arrived at MIT in 2007, teaches courses on Beowulf, Chaucer and Old English. It mentions that he “fell in love with medieval literature as an undergraduate at Amherst College … and initially envisioned settling into a teaching career at a small liberal arts college.” It also notes that Bahr is a former skater who now works as a national judge with the United States Figure Skating Association.

Meet the Dallas 500: Michael Anthony Horne ’02

Submitted on Friday, 4/8/2022, at 2:57 PM

As part of its Dallas 500 series, D Magazine profiles Horne, a former teacher and school administrator who is now CEO and president of the nonprofit Parkland Foundation, “focused on making healthcare more accessible to individuals in southern Dallas.”

The profile, by Will Maddox, quotes Horne’s thoughts on a list of topics both professional and personal. These include, among other topics, his first job, as a cashier at CVS; career challenges and successes, such as overcoming pandemic-related limitations and “raising over $5 million to support Parkland Health in response to public health crises”; his desire to “make Dallas a more walkable and connected city”; and favorite travel destinations.

Horne notes, “I was in a college acapella group—the Amherst College Zumbyes (pronounced Zoom-byes).” He also mentions his marriage to Marissa Horne ’00, whom he met when they were both students at Amherst.

“The Privileged Poor”: An Interview with Harvard Sociologist Anthony Abraham Jack ’07

Submitted on Friday, 3/25/2022, at 9:03 AM

Jack, an assistant professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, recently spoke with Harvard Political Review about his research into the various experiences of first-generation, low-income students at elite universities.

Also a junior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows and holds the Shutzer Assistant Professorship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Jack told interviewer Coby Garcia how his work as a diversity intern in Amherst College’s admission office helped to inspire his sociological focus: it opened his eyes to “the fact that so many students of color, who are low-income, come from boarding, day, and preparatory high schools” that teach them “how to interact with wealth and whiteness” of the kind they will find at prestigious universities. “They were more familiar and even comfortable with those things than the lower-income peers who did not go to prep schools,” Jack said.

The difference in experience between these two categories of low-income college students, and the question of what kinds of support the students need, is the topic both of the interview and of Jack’s 2019 book The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students.

Josh Harmon ’18: “I Quit My Dream Job in TV to Become a TikToker”

Submitted on Wednesday, 3/23/2022, at 3:12 PM

In an essay for Insider, Harmon explains his decision to leave the prestigious NBC Page Program in order to focus on creating social media videos. His Rhythms of Comedy series, in which he drums along to clips of stand-up comedy, has garnered hundreds of millions of views.

The essay, as told to Charissa Cheong, starts with Harmon’s excitement at being hired into the Page Program, a well-known gateway into a television career. “For a year, I got to walk around 30 Rockefeller Plaza, working on TV sets for the Today show and The Tonight Show,” Harmon says. But starting in March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic forced him to work remotely from his childhood home, where he began making drumming videos. “I was blowing up on social media and making lots of money from ad revenue and brand deals, so I decided to quit and pursue content creation full-time.” By late 2020, he was invited to perform on The Tonight Show.

Though he acknowledges some difficulties in his social media career, Harmon calls it “a more efficient way of accomplishing my goals,” adding, “I can make and say whatever I want on TikTok, too, whereas in more traditional media, some of my jokes and personality would be edited out.” To his mind, “TikTok and YouTube are the new television.”

Harmon’s Rhythms of Comedy series is also highlighted in a Winter 2022 Amherst magazine article by Robyn Bahr ’10.

Activist Junius Williams ’65 on Teaching, and Making, Black History

Submitted on Friday, 3/18/2022, at 3:03 PM

“I’m a historian. I’m an attorney. I’m an educator. I’m a blues man. And I am an organizer,” Williams has said on his podcast, Everything’s Political. Recently he was interviewed for Chalkbeat, a newsletter focused on education issues in Newark, N.J.

Chalkbeat’s Patrick Wall spoke with Williams, a veteran activist of the civil rights movement, about his childhood in Richmond, Va., during the Jim Crow era, and about enduring issues of racial segregation, as well as the current legislative attempts in many U.S. states to suppress teaching about race and racism. The history of Newark, and the teaching of that history in Newark Public Schools, was another topic of discussion.

When asked what he hopes his legacy will be, Williams said, “I want to educate people. I want to pass on the knowledge that I have, that we’ve accumulated, that I learned from standing on the shoulders of giants.”

Professor Leo Marx, Who Studied Clash of Nature and Culture in America, Dies at Age 102

Submitted on Thursday, 3/17/2022, at 3:31 PM

After his death on March 8, The New York Times paid tribute to Marx, who taught English and American studies at Amherst from 1958 to 1977. During that time, he published the landmark book The Machine in the Garden: Technology and the Pastoral Ideal in America.

“Marx found that American writers had adapted the venerable literary genre of pastoral—born in the ancient Middle East and perfected in classical times by Theocritus and Virgil—to convey and reflect the country’s culture from the 1840s on,” writes John Motyka in the obituary. “The form, which favors an idyllic rural scene over a more sophisticated urbane one, was expanded upon by writers like Whitman, Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne, who would jarringly interrupt that setting—Professor Marx called it an ‘interrupted idyll’—by pitting an industrializing culture against nature.”

The obituary describes The Machine in the Garden, published in 1964, as a highly acclaimed and influential book in American studies, but one that also drew criticism as the field changed in later decades. Motyka also mentions Marx’s other writings, his family, his military service, and his teaching at the University of Minnesota and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before and after his time at Amherst.

Professor Ethan Temeles Explains Viral Video of Hundreds of Birds in Mexico Diving to the Ground

Submitted on Wednesday, 3/9/2022, at 4:27 PM

Boston.com reached out to Temeles, Amherst’s Thomas B. Walton Jr. Memorial Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies, to make sense of the Feb. 7 footage of “a black cloud of birds rapidly diving straight down all at once” and striking the pavement on a Mexican street.

Temeles identified the species as yellow-headed blackbirds. Though other birds have been known to fall dead from the sky when encountering very low temperatures or toxic chemicals, the professor said, these “birds were still moving, and it indicated that there must have been some predator” in their path. 

“Temeles explained that diving down is one of the best ways for a flying creature to avoid a predator,” writes reporter Susannah Sudborough. “Birds might dive down and then hide in a bush until the predator is gone. In this case, Temeles said, there may have been something blocking the birds from seeing that they were plummeting straight to the ground, such as fog.”

Black History Month: Honoring Dr. Charles Drew ’26

Submitted on Thursday, 2/24/2022, at 3:23 PM

The Mayo Clinic News Network and Discover are among a number of media platforms paying tribute this February to Drew (1904–1950), a Black American surgeon and medical researcher known as the “father of blood banking.”

“Dr. Drew was a top student and athletic child who was accepted to Amherst College on an athletic scholarship,” the Mayo Clinic article notes, but “a football injury and his sisterʼs death during a city-wide influenza epidemic fostered his interest in medicine.” Dr. Jeffrey Winters goes on to describe “Dr. Drew’s critical research into optimizing and standardizing blood collections, creating large scale collection centers that provided blood products to the military, and the creation of mobile blood drives.”

Drew also makes Discover’s list of “8 Amazing Black Scientists and How They Changed History,” compiled by Monica Cull. His entry on the list outlines his education and career, pointing out that he was “the first Black man to earn a doctorate from Columbia University” and that he “became the first director of the American Red Cross but left the position after two years, outraged at the racial segregation of the blood they collected.”

Today, Drew is the namesake of Amherst College’s Black cultural theme house.

Amherst’s Science Center Wins 2022 AIA Award for Interior Architecture

Submitted on Friday, 2/18/2022, at 3:14 PM

The American Institute of Architects has recognized the Amherst College Science Center as one of seven winners of its annual Interior Architecture award, which “celebrates the most innovative and spectacular interior spaces.”

“Meticulous craft, layered transparency, and academic connectivity are the hallmarks of Amherst College’s new science center,” begins the award citation. “Warmly welcoming the entire academic community, the center offers an ultra-transparent window into science.”

The Science Center was designed by the architecture firm Payette and opened in Fall 2018. The AIA citation notes that “its construction represents the most radical transformation of the college’s campus since its founding in the early 1800s,” and goes on to praise such features as the skylights and photovoltaic panels on its roof, the adaptability of its classrooms, and its “palette of clearly articulated and minimally expressed natural materials.”

German Giammattei ’22 Wins DIII Player of the Year Two Years in a Row

Submitted on Friday, 2/18/2022, at 1:50 PM

Giammattei, a striker for the Amherst men’s soccer team, was featured on Western Mass News after being named the 2021 NCAA Division III Player of the Year. He is “only the second to win the award multiple times and the first ever to do so in back-to-back seasons.”

The news segment highlights two accomplishments that have been important to Giammattei: “leading his team to the DIII National Championship game in 2019 against Tufts and this fall against Connecticut College.” It also describes “his dream of one day playing in Europe for one of the sport’s five top-flight leagues.”

“At Amherst we pride ourselves on a really good team culture, more than on the field, off the field—just being good people,” the Miami-born athlete says. “If the upperclassmen in general are being good people and helping out, then the younger class will just kind of buy into it and learn how to do it too.”

Conceptual Artist Jonathon Keats ’94 Envisions Clock Based on How Georgia Rivers Flow

Submitted on Friday, 2/11/2022, at 3:27 PM

An Associated Press article describes Keats’ latest idea, a project titled Atlanta River Time. It would feature “a large municipal clock in downtown Atlanta” that would display time based on “the natural ebbs and flows of Georgia’s waterways,” as measured by local volunteers.

Keats is a San Francisco-based creative currently living near Atlanta as the artist-in-residence for a community called Serenbe. He runs workshops for his neighbors to experiment with measuring the flow rates of waterways such as South Fork Peachtree Creek, as “a way in which not only to reckon time, but to reckon how we live in the world.”

The article, written by Ron Harris, describes some of Keats’ earlier projects, one of which involved installing a “millennium camera” at the top of Stearns Steeple on the Amherst College campus to take a 1,000-year-long photo of the nearby Mount Holyoke Range.

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Jenna Lamia ’98

Submitted on Thursday, 2/3/2022, at 4:32 PM

TVOverMind.com presents a list of facts about Lamia, a film and TV actor currently known for her role on the SyFy series Resident Alien. Lamia is also a producer, writer and audiobook narrator.

The list, compiled by Camille Moore, describes various facets of Lamia’s life and career, including her work on Broadway in a production of Ah, Wilderness!, her Audie Awards for audiobook narration, her pet dog and her love of reading. However, Moore writes, Lamia “has chosen to stay very private when it comes to her personal life and there isn’t much information about her outside of her career.”

The list concludes by noting Lamia’s education at  New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts as well as Amherst College.

Professor Michael Cohen’s Changing Room Illusion Voted One of the Best Illusions of 2021

Submitted on Friday, 1/28/2022, at 3:17 PM

In an annual contest held by the Neural Correlate Society, fans voted the Changing Room Illusion one of the top three most impressive optical illusions of the year. Cohen, an assistant professor of psychology, created the deceptive video as a demonstration of “gradual change blindness.”

The video at first appears to show a static, unchanging photograph of “the waiting room of a science laboratory.” At the end, however, the video reveals how multiple objects in the room have slowly changed color, shifted location or disappeared entirely, in a way that may have been difficult to perceive as it was happening.

“While trying to prepare a novel example of this phenomenon for students, I realized that I could change dozens of items without observers noticing," says Cohen, who teaches courses on cognitive neuroscience and whose research explores visual perception, memory, and awareness.

Ophthalmologist James Tsai ’85 Leads Field in Research, Instruction

Submitted on Tuesday, 1/25/2022, at 2:14 PM

Pennsylvania’s Altoona Mirror profiles Dr. Tsai, a fourth-generation physician (and Amherst trustee emeritus) who is president of the New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai and system chairman of the Department of Ophthalmology at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. 

The article, written by Patt Keith, touches upon Tsai’s family history as an immigrant from Taiwan; his young life in New York City and Hollidaysburg, Pa.; and his education at Phillips Exeter Academy, Amherst College (where he “became enamored with the body’s vision system as a neuroscience major”), Stanford University (where he earned an M.D.) and Vanderbilt University (where he earned an MBA). 

In describing Tsai’s medical career, the article quotes one of his colleagues, who praises the “research he has done on the neuroprotective agents to preserve sight and prevent further damage.” It also mentions Tsai’s mentorship of younger physicians and conveys his thoughts about how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed, and will continue to change, the practice of medicine.