Diversity on the Playing Field

Submitted on Friday, 11/15/2019, at 1:07 PM

Amherst College was recently the subject of an in-depth piece in the New York Times sports section, detailing groundbreaking efforts at increasing diversity in athletics.

Since getting a mandate from President Biddy Martin about three years ago, Amherst coaches “have since looked beyond the most popular, suburban-based youth sports tournaments and frequently taken the less-traveled path to far-flung locales, small urban gyms and foreign countries,” Bill Pennington wrote for the Times. Youth sports in America “radically skews college athletic opportunities toward high-income families,” resulting in teams that are, in the majority, white. The piece told the story of how Amherst has worked to have teams as diverse as the student body.

“You have to turn over every stone to uncover players in places where other people are not looking,” Justin Serpone, the Amherst men’s soccer coach, told the Times. “There are thousands of kids on nobody’s radar who are good enough to play college soccer … If diversity matters to you, you’ll find kids and take a chance.”

Serpone added, “The most important step is having the college’s leadership tell its coaches point blank that being diverse is an overwhelming priority.”

“And that is something that can be done anywhere.”

When We Talk About Money: Chloe McKenzie '14

Submitted on Friday, 11/15/2019, at 1:03 PM

“A lot of people in [the financial industry] continue to think that wealth is just something that you put on a balance sheet, but there is [a] much deeper, more humanistic meaning,” Chloe McKenzie '14 said in a recent profile by Ozy about her financial consulting work and BlackFem, the nonprofit she founded to teach financial literacy to disadvantaged students.

“I want people to think critically about the narratives we tell ourselves about money,” she said, “because who is the person making those rules?”

“BlackFem offers a multifaceted curriculum for pre-K to sixth grade: In the classroom, lessons about wealth are taught five days a week, using games, discussion and simulation as teaching tools. A summer academy helps BlackFem-affiliated teachers become certified wealth educators, better trained to integrate financial literacy curricula into their classrooms. And parent-focused workshops map what’s being taught to students, which allows the learning to continue at home,” Ozy reported.

“Her message to the students she meets is blunt: ‘Listen, because you come from a certain area or because you look the way that you look, you’re going to be exploited. Here’s how — and here’s how you can respond. Now go practice.’”

Structure and Light at the Science Center

Submitted on Friday, 11/15/2019, at 1:02 PM

Structure Magazine, the magazine “exclusively published for the practicing structural engineer,” recently published a piece on Amherst College’s new Science Center, in which the project’s architects and engineers got down to nuts-and-bolts detail on how glass and steel came together.

“Faced with an aging science center unable to accommodate today’s technologies, equipment, and pedagogies, Amherst sought a new, forward-looking building that would create an open learning environment for the entire campus community for the next 100 years,” wrote  Adam P. Blanchard, principal at LeMessurier, and Jeffrey Abramson, senior associate at Payette.

The Value of Herman Melville

Submitted on Thursday, 11/7/2019, at 9:45 PM

“With more than 100 scholarly and popular tomes on Melville now available, what new—and what more—is there to say about him and Moby-Dick?” Daniel Ross Goodman asked recently in The National Review.

As an answer, he discusses English Professor Geoffrey Sanborn's "eminently insightful" The Value of Herman Melville (2018, Cambridge University Press).

“Sanborn reads Moby-Dick through the lenses of philosophy, literary criticism, and psychoanalytic theory, and brings the author and his work alive in ways that few have done before,” Goodman wrote.

Goodman continued, “With the generosity of a patient teacher and the enthusiasm of a wise and knowledgeable tour guide eager to show travelers the hidden wonders of a quaint old city he knows well, Sanborn allows us, and invites us, to read Melville’s great novel in ways that illuminate its meaning for us in our lives today, giving us the tools to approach Moby-Dick not only as a monumental, occasionally intimidating work of art but as a text which is invaluable in the life-wisdom it contains and in its ability, if we read it carefully, to help us better cope with the existential dilemmas of our existence.”

On the Purity of Amateur Sports: Guttman

Submitted on Thursday, 11/7/2019, at 9:42 PM

In a recent editorial supporting Illinois legislation that would allow intercollegiate competitors to hire agents and make money off the commercial use of their own names, images or likenesses, The Chicago Tribune’s Eric Zorn cited The Olympics: A History of the Modern Games, by Allen Guttman, Amherst’s Emily C. Jordan Folger Professor of English and American Studies, Emeritus.

In his 1992 work, Guttman noted that the idea of purely amateur sports “was an invention of the Victorian upper and middle classes … its freely acknowledged purpose was to exclude the ‘lower orders’ from the play of the leisure class … the avocation-vocation distinction seemed madly irrational to almost everyone except those whose power and privilege enabled them to define reality.”

Holy Picture Deal, Batman! Jeffrey Wright '87 Cast in Reboot

Submitted on Friday, 11/1/2019, at 11:54 AM

Fire up the Bat Signal! Following up a “talks are under way” story in The Hollywood Reporter, director Matt Reeves has confirmed that Jeffrey Wright '87 has been cast as Gotham City Police Commissioner James Gordon for Reeves’ upcoming film The Batman. Previous incarnations of the character have been played by Gary Oldman, J.K. Simmons, Pat Hingle and Neil Hamilton. The movie is currently slated for a 2021 release.

Reeves subsequently took to Twitter to confirm the report.

“Wright, an Emmy and Golden Globe winner, will be a key asset to what is already an intriguing cast that includes Zoë Kravitz as Catwoman/Selina Kyle and Robert Pattinson as Batman/Bruce Wayne. Wright is quite the acclaimed actor, most recently for his work in Westworld,” writes The Root.

Telling Stories with Paul Steinle '61

Submitted on Friday, 11/1/2019, at 11:51 AM

“When you step inside the firebases, the stereotypes dissolve and the young men who face death everyday become real people. Some handsome, some jovial, some deeply morose, some totally unable to cope with what they are facing,” a young Paul Steinle '61 reported from Vietnam during the Christmas of 1969.

“I was free to rove and do enterprise reporting at all the firebases,” Steinle said in a recent interview with the Medford, Oregon Mail Tribune. “There was danger, to a degree, not like the grunts faced.”

“Steinle in 1962 graduated from Amherst College in biology-chemistry, hoping to start medical school, but it was while viewing a TV documentary on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy that he realized broadcast journalism was what called to him,” the Mail Tribune wrote. “Steinle freelanced for ABC, CBC, NPR and Newsweek in Singapore in the ’70s, worked at TV stations in Boston and Syracuse, New York, and taught journalism at the University of Miami and Quinnipiac University. He still teaches online at Quinnipiac. His earned his MBA from Harvard and went on to many posts in academia.”

He subsequently wrote Practicing Journalism: The Power and the Purpose of the Fourth Estate, about a two-year road trip he and his wife Sara Brown took visiting American newspapers.

“There’s always been tension between politicians and the journalism community. Some politicians may not like it, but most come to realize the power of the First Amendment and how fortunate we are to have people through whose eyes and ears we’re able to know about very important realms that influence our lives,” he said, speaking about the idea of “fake news” currently in vogue. “Only a very small minority of journalists are mean-spirited and would attempt disinformation, which is an intentional effort to deceive and harm you. ... It’s sad to see a leader who is supposed to represent the best values of America who is incapable of understanding the role of journalism.”

Kellie Jones '81 on Trends in Art and Art History

Submitted on Friday, 11/1/2019, at 11:43 AM

Kellie Jones ’81, professor in Art History and Archaeology and the Institute for Research in African American Studies (IRAAS) at Columbia University, recently spoke with the College Art Association of America’s newsletter about art and art history. Jones will be the Distinguished Scholar for the CAA’s annual conference in Chicago this coming February 12-15.

Speaking about emerging trends in art history, she remarked, “Gender studies. Queer studies in art history. Trans studies. All those things really change how we understand the object, how we understand history, the histories that we look for.”

“There’s a similarity to the discoveries that I made when I was a student in college about how art history at that time did not represent even the histories of African Americans who were in New York, for instance,” she said. “I think students and academics—particularly a new generation—don’t want traditional art history as we have known it. They want a more interdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, global understanding of art in the world. Art history is not just Europe, and it’s not just the United States. And the art of the United States meaning not just New York!”

Richard Lefrak '68 Among the Top 20

Submitted on Thursday, 10/24/2019, at 12:15 PM

In a recent article posted by Money Inc., Richard Lefrak '68 was ranked as one of the twenty real estate investors in the world with the most financial worth.

“As well as being responsible for the construction of Newport, an exclusive 600-acre neighborhood in New Jersey, Lefrak can claim several high-end properties in Beverley Hills and Miami to his name, including a 12-story office building on Hollywood Boulevard,” Money Inc. wrote. “Considered one of the US’s most influential real estate investors, Lefrak is currently estimated to be worth $4.2 Billion.”