Jared Kass '68 and the Birth of Ultimate Frisbee

Submitted on Thursday, 10/11/2018, at 3:38 PM

"I didn't know that we were creating a game that was going to be on going to have a life of its own," Jared Kass ’68, who recently spoke with National Public Radio about his role in the creation of Ultimate, the soccer-like sport played with a Frisbee.

Working at a camp for high school students the summer before his senior year at Amherst, he taught a group of students a Frisbee game that he'd learned at Amherst. One of those kids was Joel Silver (who would later become a producer of Hollywood blockbuster films), who returned to his high school in New Jersey, where he and his friends developed a set of rules for Ultimate.

The game is now played worldwide, and in 2015 was officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee, and more recently there's been talk of adding the free-flying sport to the Games. Kass is now a professor of psychology at Lesley University in Boston.

UPDATE: Kass and the history of Ultimate were the subject of an extensive article in the Daily Hampshire Gazette. “The whole thing happened to me as a big surprise,” Kass says of the game in the story. “It’s wonderful the way it all kind of happened in an organic sort of way.”

Brooks: Remembering Chief Polin

Submitted on Thursday, 10/4/2018, at 3:38 PM

Lisa Brooks, professor of English and American Studies, recently attended the unveiling of a monument in Westbrook, Maine honoring an 18th-Century Abenaki leader whose story she helped locals recover from obscurity.

The Portland Press Herald covered the dedication of a memorial garden and monument honoring Chief Polin, an Abenaki sagamore who fought to preserve native fishing in the Presumpscot River. When European settlers built mill-powering dams on the river in the 1730s, he twice walked to Boston to convince the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony to have fish passages installed to save the native food supply.

Help never came, and Chief Polin was killed by a settler in 1756.

Michael Shaughnessy of the nonprofit Friends of the Presumpscot River said much of what has been learned about Polin has come from Brooks’ research.

“She gave our mission a depth we never could find,” Shaughnessy told the Press Herald.

The paper reported, “Brooks said she was always struck by what Polin said to the Colonial governor after he traveled by foot to Boston to make his case for saving the river,” calling it “the river which I belong to.”

“That phrase really meant a lot,” Brooks said. “If we unpack that a little, we see how they really understood their kinship to this place – their incredible dependence on this river and this land.”

Cram and the Class of '64: JFK's Last Speech

Submitted on Thursday, 10/4/2018, at 3:34 PM

New Jersey Stage recently spoke with director Bestor Cram about his film, “JFK: The Last Speech,” which examines the context and impact of the October 26, 1963 speech that President John F. Kennedy gave at Amherst College, the last speech he gave before his assassination in Dallas on November 22 of that year.

“The film grew out of a dialogue during the 50th anniversary of the Amherst Class of 1964, wanting to contribute in some meaningful way an understanding of their experience in college and how it relates to public issues of today.  I believed it was a worthy endeavor,” Cram said.

“We interviewed more than 25 graduates to eventually find the four stories we thought would provide an accurate representation of this class, one that is engaged and providing a contemporary voice for a generation that continues to “participate” regardless of age and circumstance,” he said.

The film screens at the New Jersey Film Festival Oct. 5.

Thai Lee '80 on the Forbes 400

Submitted on Thursday, 10/4/2018, at 3:31 PM

Thai Lee ’80 was written up by Forbes in a piece profiling 57 women billionaires, members of the newest “Forbes 400.”

“Another newcomer is Thai Lee, who is the richest female immigrant in the U.S. and one of just 11 self-made women on The Forbes 400. At 59, she is also the youngest self-made woman in the ranks,” wrote Forbes.

“The daughter of a Korean economist, Lee was born in Bangkok, Thailand, but grew up in South Korea, then moved to the U.S. as a teenager for high school. The Amherst College and Harvard Business School alum worked stints at Procter & Gamble and American Express, then bought a small software reseller for less than $1 million with her ex-husband in 1989.

“Rechristened Software House International (SHI), the firm grew into one of the biggest minority-owned businesses in the country, with $8.5 billion in sales and Boeing and AT&T as clients. The IT reseller, which started out selling business licenses for software programs, has expanded to selling custom applications and consulting services, such as data center management and network security checks.”

Jeffrey Wright '87: Art and Athletics at Amherst

Submitted on Thursday, 10/4/2018, at 3:29 PM

“I started acting when I was at Amherst my junior year, and my lacrosse career kind of started to flop sideways after that,” Jeffrey Wright ’87, star of HBO’s sci-fi thriller Westworld, told The Atlantic’s Lola Fadulu in a recent Q&A which delved into college and early work experiences that molded his life as an actor.

“There is a correlation between athletics and the arts that I didn’t quite appreciate when I was at Amherst,” Wright said. “I thought of the arts as existing outside of athletics, in a kind of bohemian space.”

“I wish I had been more sophisticated and nuanced back then to understand that there’s a marriage between the two of them,” he continued. “I find that the work I do as an actor that’s most challenging commands an athleticism, or certainly a physicality. And also a rigor, a physical rigor.”

“But I’m still close with a lot of the [lacrosse] guys I played with, and yeah, we did some good damage on that field.”

UPDATE: Wright spoke with the magazine Capitol File about growing up in Washington, DC, and its impact.

“I loved growing up in DC. It was a complicated place, you know. It was the heart of American political power, and at the same time it was the heart of blackness, too," he said.

Steven Simon on Syria's Civil War

Submitted on Friday, 9/28/2018, at 10:14 AM

Steven Simon, Visiting Professor of History who served on the National Security Council in the Clinton and Obama administrations, recently wrote an opinion piece for Foreign Policy on the Syrian civil war and its entanglements involving Iran, Israel, Russia, Turkey, and the United States.

“The Trump administration’s derisory commitment in Syria is proportional to the United States’ actual strategic interests there. Humanitarian intervention, unlike strategic intervention, is a political issue. The Trump White House clearly does not believe that the popular support exists for a long-term humanitarian campaign. And in strategic terms, Syria represents only one among many issues in the competition between the United States and Iran,” he wrote.

“Whether or not the president is on board, the truth is that the United States has almost no real influence in Syria and lacks the resources, capacity, and political resolve to sustain a major military and diplomatic commitment to shape the region’s future. In this latest phase of the war, then, restraint would be the better part of valor,” he wrote.

George Will Offers a Counterpoint

Submitted on Friday, 9/28/2018, at 10:12 AM

The recent campus appearance by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist George Will, in which he engaged in conversation with Ilan Stavans, Lewis-Sebring Professor of Humanities and Latin American and Latino Culture, was the subject of an article in The Daily Hampshire Gazette.

“Will held forth on conservatism, claiming the political philosophy -- based upon natural rights, free markets, and small government -- is the best way to go,” the Gazette reported.

"Before government interferes with the freedom of an individual, they must state a compelling reason for doing so," Will said, urging a "presumption of skepticism about what government does."

The talk was part of the "Globalism and Its Discontents: Point/Counterpoint" conversation series, which features Stavans, host of NEPR's "In Contrast,” and guests engaging in discussions attempting to bridge the growing ideological divide in our nation. The series continues throughout the fall.

Corrales: Maduro's Steak Statement

Submitted on Friday, 9/28/2018, at 9:28 AM

A recent video of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro eating gourmet steak in Turkey —while millions go hungry at home— provoked outrage worldwide, which may be exactly what he wants, said Javier Corrales, Dwight W. Morrow 1895 professor of Political Science.

In a Spanish-language editorial for the New York Times, later published in English, Corrales suggested this is a political strategy for Maduro. The op-ed was translated and discussed by National Public Radio affiliate WLRN in Miami.

“An extremist government like his prefers economic devastation to economic recovery because misery destroys civil society, and with it the potential challenges to tyranny,” he wrote.

“The idea is that you’re glad to see people leave the country, to see that the state has no rivals," Corrales told WLRN. “That way, people "have to increase [their] dependency on the state in order to survive. [Madulro thinks], 'I don’t really want to fix [the crisis] because it’s making me stronger.'"

Amherst and the New England Humanities Consortium

Submitted on Thursday, 9/20/2018, at 5:31 PM

Amherst College is among a group of colleges and universities forming the New England Humanities Consortium (NEHC), which will focus on programming in such fields as history, language, art, literature, and philosophy.

“The Northeast is a worldwide center for research in the humanities, and this consortium will allow us to do something genuinely new – to embark on initiatives that no single institution could accomplish on its own,” said Michael Lynch, director of the University of Connecticut’s Humanities Institute.

According to the article released by UConn, the university is leading the new collaboration of colleges, with the support of a $100,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Besides Amherst and UConn, the consortium also includes, Colby College, Dartmouth College, Northeastern University, Tufts University, University of New Hampshire, University of Rhode Island, University of Vermont, Wellesley College, and Wheaton College.

“Two pilot projects are now planned. The first includes the formation of a working group to aid in supporting, mentoring, and creating research collaborations for faculty of color in New England,” UConn Today wrote. “The second is a lecture series, ‘Time’s Up: What Now?’ that will move between students, faculty, and speakers across three campuses to serve as a model for future joint speaker and faculty events.”

A New Name for the Inn

Submitted on Thursday, 9/13/2018, at 4:14 PM

Word is rippling out through the media concerning the College’s recent announcement that the Lord Jeffery Inn will become the Inn on Boltwood shortly after the New Year.

“The new name for the college-owned inn, which opened June 3, 1926, makes clear its connections to Boltwood Avenue, but removes its associations with the 18th century commander-in-chief of the British forces during the French and Indian War,” wrote the Daily Hampshire Gazette.

The Inn’s full-service restaurant has been named 30 Boltwood since 2012 when it opened following a major renovation.

Other Western Massachusetts outlets carried the story, which made its way to pieces in the Boston Globe and U.S. News & World Report.

The 46,000-square-foot Inn, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Amherst College, is designed to meet the needs of Amherst College faculty, staff, alumni and visiting guests as well as corporate and leisure travelers. The 8,000-square-foot building features a 2,360-square-foot ballroom and a tented garden area.

Update: in a recent editorial, the Gazette lauded the change, noting, “we commend Amherst College for taking the belated step of changing the name of their inn. Though some, during the original discussion over the mascot, raised the legitimate point that the college can’t erase the past, we believe this decision looks ahead to a more inclusive future.