College hopes to improve first-year housing

Campus groups working with consultants are considering several possible ways to improve the housing Amherst provides first-year students. For many years, some of the freshman dormitories—most notably, James and Stearns on the Main Quadrangle—have been considered substandard and over-crowded. The housing situation is seen as a disincentive to applicants who find better dormitories at schools they compare to Amherst. Also, Amherst officials would like entering students to enjoy residential facilities that are better than those now offered. These would include more flexible social spaces and up-to-date amenities.

The worst problem is one of space. In James and Stearns, postwar structures built 55 years ago, the college since the early 1980s has had to house three students each in two-room "doubles." So there is wide agreement that one urgent housing priority is to "de-triple" those rooms—a move that would relocate nearly 50 students.

Various solutions to this and related problems have been studied by a Dormitory Master Plan Committee with the help of Sasaki Associates, a Boston architectural consulting firm. The options were being discussed this winter by the Trustees, faculty and others on campus.

Rehabilitation requires extensive system upgrades to comply with modern building codes. The college wants to adopt these new standards, and James and Stearns, in particular, are found to be ill-suited for such improvements. One recommendation being considered, then, is to raze both of those buildings and replace them with two new, brick dormitories of a similar design that would blend with the traditional look of the center campus.

From the administration's viewpoint, another ideal goal of improving first-year housing would be to center it entirely on the quadrangle, where James and Stearns, Appleton Hall, and North and South dormitories already house first-year students. Today, 65 freshmen still live on another part of the campus, in Valentine Hall. In faculty discussion, some skeptics have questioned the argument for grouping all freshmen around a single quadrangle, while advocates—including many students themselves—say it strengthens class spirit and undergraduates' introduction to the college.

Different schemes under consideration could make that idea of a central freshman quad a reality. Proposals include the possibility of replacing Williston Hall, the old faculty office and classroom building just north of North Dormitory, with a dormitory that visually would "anchor" that end of College Row in much the same way (and architectural style) that Appleton anchors the opposite end. President Gerety mentioned the possibility of replacing Williston to an alumni gathering at Homecoming Weekend last November, prompting some letters of protest. There is mixed opinion about the aesthetic and historical value of Williston, which was built in 1857 to replace a dormitory, "Old North," that burned down earlier that year.

This plan centered on the main quadrangle also would relocate the Geology Department and its Pratt Museum of Natural History to new quarters and convert their 1883 building into a dormitory for first-year students while preserving that structure's historic character.

Groups have also discussed the impact that various changes might have on the desired mix of residential and academic activity at the heart of the campus.

Alternative proposals also being considered are, instead, to provide new housing for first-year students at other nearby locations but not all on the main quadrangle. One would be to relocate the faculty offices and Chapin Chapel that are now housed in Chapin Hall, raze Chapin, and replace it with a new dormitory; and/or to relocate upperclass students who are now in Morrow and Pratt Dormitories, and make one or both of those buildings freshman dorms instead. Chapin, built in 1948, has often been the butt of jokes because of its Howard Johnson's-like appearance.

The campus Dormitory Master Plan Committee hopes to make recommendations to the Trustees before spring, and after that the Trustees will make a final decision.


Hiler's royalties

Never underestimate the power of alumni Class Notes. This unusual story began simply enough, last year, when John Bendix '78 sent a chatty item to his class secretary at that time, David Ellis. In the Summer 2000 issue of Amherst, Ellis passed along the news that Bendix, a Philadelphian, had a new job as a senior researcher for the Presidential Commission on Holocaust-Era Assets in the United States. It was a tedious job in many ways, Bendix related; but he had stumbled on one bit of information that intrigued him. He discovered that the U.S. government, after World War II, had collected royalties on postwar sales of Adolf Hitler's notorious, anti-Semitic autobiography, Mein Kampf.

"If anyone knows where these royalties are," Ellis reported, "he [Bendix] would like to know."
Classmate David Whitman, a senior writer at U.S. News & World Report, read the question in the Notes and took it from there. "John's mention of his work first piqued my interest," Whitman says. "My initial reaction was, ‘This is a bizarre piece of history—I wonder if anyone has written about it.'"

Whitman tracked down the full story of the Mein Kampf royalties and, as a result of articles he wrote that appeared in U.S. News in September, the publishing firm Houghton Mifflin has announced that all royalties it has received from sales of the book will be given to charity. The same goes for future profits, the publisher said.

Whitman discovered that Houghton Mifflin had bought the royalty rights from the government for $37,254 in 1979. Since then, sales of Mein Kampf have generated about $400,000 in profits—an amount that will now go to unspecified charities.

Not an insignificant outcome—and it all began with Bendix's innocent question to his classmates.
In tracing the history of Mein Kampf, Whitman ran into another Amherst connection as he consulted a 1980 book, Hitler's Mein Kampf in Britain and America. It was written by historians James Barnes '54 and his wife, Patience Barnes.

Mein Kampf was published originally in 1925 and royalties from sales of the book formed the basis of Hitler's personal fortune. Whitman reported that, by one estimate, Hitler received $1 million a year in royalty payments. Sales of the American edition published by Houghton Mifflin were still about 15,000 copies a year as late as the 1990s.

We're grateful to Ann S. Wittpenn '78, Ellis's successor as class secretary, for sharing correspondence about this subject.


A lasting presence

Twenty-five years ago President John William Ward asked the retiring bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Missouri to accept a new position as minister at the college. The bishop was the Rt. Rev. George L. Cadigan '33.

Cadigan asked Ward what work he had in mind.

"I want you to be a presence," Ward told him.

Cadigan as minister was very much a campus presence for the next eight years. Giving him the college's Medal for Eminent Service in 1988, President Peter R. Pouncey recalled among other things that Cadigan had "been a friend—often a best friend—to students and countless others who [came to him] with either the ordinary problems of loneliness and pressure, or the more difficult traumas of grief, illness, or addiction."

By that time, Cadigan had retired again. He now lives in Topsham, Maine, but he returned to Amherst last October for a ceremony guaranteeing that the Cadigan name will be a presence in perpetuity. Noting that the bishop was known not only as a concerned and serious campus minister, but as a cheering and delightful presence, too, President Gerety officiated at the dedication of a new Cadigan Center for Religious Life. The college recently converted a former faculty house to create a center with meeting areas and offices for religious advisors. Several student religious groups enjoy the use of its large living room, conference room, and kosher kitchen. The building is at 38 Woodside Avenue, behind Newport House (formerly Phi Delta Sigma).

An overflow crowd attended the dedication and heard tributes by President Gerety and John Pemberton III, Stanley Warfield Crosby Professor of Religion, Emeritus.

As head of the Episcopal Church in Missouri during the tumultuous 1960s, Cadigan's strong and often controversial stands on such issues as the civil rights movement and the war in Vietnam won him many admirers and friends, but they also created enemies and cost the church some loss of membership and financial backing. In 1960 he publicly applauded protests to end segregation in restaurants in the South, and in 1964 he marched to the state capitol to promote passage of civil rights legislation. He led a local rent strike, lobbied in Washington for better public housing, backed Cesar Chavez's United Farm Workers, supported the ordination of women to the Episcopal priesthood, and spoke out in favor of planned parenthood and unconditional amnesty for draft evaders and deserters. Cadigan also strove to advance ecumenical understanding among the religious groups in his diocese.


Celebration of 25 years of coeducation

A celebration of 25 years of co-education at Amherst is being planned in conjunction with the 2001 Alumni Holiday and Reunion Weekend, May 30-June 3, 2001. The planners have chosen this occasion to explore the college's history of coeducation as the first nine women to receive Amherst diplomas will return this spring to commemorate their 25th Reunion as part of the Class of 1976. The celebration will feature four Alumni Holiday speakers, as well as programs organized by the college and individual Reunion classes. Alumni from all classes are invited to participate in this event.

An Alumni Advisory Committee is working with the staff of the Office of Alumni and Parent Programs to organize the programs. This committee of 12 is composed of alumni from the Class of '73 to the Class of '00. It looks forward to a festive and meaningful spring celebration.

Alumni with comments and suggestions for this event should contact Betsy Cannon Smith '84 or Alina Wong '97 in the Office of Alumni and Parent Programs, (413) 542-2313.


Alumna joins Trustees

Katherine Kai-Sun Chia '88 of New York City has joined the Board of Trustees as a Term Trustee. An architect and designer, she majored in fine arts at Amherst, where she was the founder of the Amherst Cambodian Refugee Tutoring Program. After graduation from college she received a Master of Architecture degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1991.

Chia was chosen by the board to succeed Kimba M. Wood, who asked to step down because of the trial commitments she faces as U.S. District Judge for the Southern District of New York.

The new Trustee is a partner in the Desai/Chia Studio in New York, with her husband, Arjun Desai, who graduated from Bennington College in 1988 and also received an M. Arch. Degree from M.I.T. Desai/Chia have designed many acclaimed projects, including residential apartments and lofts, a recording studio, a Manhattan day spa and a children's recreational center in San Diego. Their work has been featured in The New York Times, House Beautiful, New York Magazine, Interior Design, Elle Décor, Elle Décor Italia, Elle Japan and on television in the United States and Japan. Desai/Chia was rated as one of the top 100 design firms in House Beautiful and as one of the best loft designers in New York in New York Magazine.

Prior to founding the Desai/Chia Studio in 1994, Chia worked at the Maya Lin Studio and Prentice & Chan, Olhausen Architects and Planners. She has contributed articles to several architectural journals and also has served as a contributing editor to Architectural Record and Oculus. Chia has served Amherst as an alumni advisor, class associate agent, class president and class reunion chair. She also is the vice president of the Chia Family Foundation, a non-profit organization that provides seed money to projects that focus on under-served segments of the Chinese and Chinese-American communities.

In announcing Kimba Wood's departure from the board, Trustee Chairman Amos B. Hostetter '58
said "Kimba has been an invaluable colleague, serving at various times on our audit, Folger Shakespeare Library, human resources and instruction committees. With quiet but penetrating insight she has been a wise counselor in our deliberations, and was especially helpful as chair of the board's ad hoc committee on legal compliance and as a Trustee advisor to the College Council when it revised our student disciplinary code a few years ago."

The Amherst board consists of the president of the college, ex officio, and 20 other members: 14 Term Trustees elected by the board and six Alumni Trustees elected by the alumni.


Got satisfaction

In response to a recent survey, 65 percent of Amherst alumni in eight classes that graduated between 1979 and 1995 said they were "very satisfied" with their college education. An additional 28 percent said they were "generally satisfied"; 5.5 percent said they were "ambivalent"; slightly less than one percent said they were "generally dissatisfied"; and about half a percent said they were "very dissatisfied."

More than 1,500 Amherst alumni responded to the survey in which the Council on Financing Higher Education (COFHE) also polled alumni of 28 other leading private colleges and universities. Schools participating in the survey agree not to publicize any individual school's scores except their own. Still, general comparisons are possible.

Unlike Amherst, which asked that questionnaires be sent to eight different classes, the other schools commissioned surveys only of the class of 1989. For that class, results showed 68 percent of the Amherst respondents "very satisfied" with their educations compared to an average of 55 percent for all of the schools. The types of institutions with the highest percentages in the "very satisfied" category were the coed colleges—the group that included Amherst, whose high score was was matched by the others. Similar high percentages were found in a second group, the women's colleges, while lower scores were reported by two other groups: Ivy League universities, and "other universities."

In its findings report to Amherst, COFHE said some of Amherst's alumni were critical. "There were some reservations," the report said, "often based on socio-economic status, as expressed by a member of the Class of 1984: ‘I received an unquestionably superior liberal arts education. Despite the diversity represented in the student body, a prevailing feeling of East Coast moneyed status pervaded the social scene.'" Also representative, however, was the comment by another graduate who "felt strongly that there were ‘nothing but good things to say about my four years at Amherst: very positive and worthwhile education. A great place to intellectually mature; a wonderful environment in which to expand one's horizons.'"

Not a perfect snapshot, to be sure, but a heartening one.


Alumni sons and daughters

The Admission Office has scheduled four specially arranged Dean's Days to allow the sons and daughters of Amherst alumni and their parents the opportunity to learn more about Amherst and its admission policies. Dean's Days include group conversations for Amherst families with secondary school students who will be seniors in 2001-02. In addition, a light lunch will be served, and there will be tours of the campus. Dean's Days have been scheduled for Friday, June 1; Monday, June 25; Friday, July 27; and Friday, August 24.

If you are not able to attend one of these Dean's Days, you may arrange for a conversation with a dean, which would entail time with a senior member of the Admission staff to discuss not only Amherst and its admission policies, but would also allow the staff member to learn a bit about the student's interests and aspirations.

To register for a Dean's Day and for additional details about the two opportunities, call Flora Josephs at (413) 542-2328.



A compilation of recent remarks made at Amherst.

"I've always had this fantasy about a poetry reading in the Italian Middle Ages. It's ‘open mike' night and this guy gets up and says, ‘My name's Dante. I'm just going to read three poems.'"

— Poet Billy Collins at a reading of his poetry in the Cole Assembly Room, December 1, 2000

"I walked into an immaculate room that hadn't been lived in—my floor was actually visible, my sheets clean and cold and my dresser barren from disregard. My first perception was that this room did not belong to me. It had been taken over by some invisible neat freak without personality."

— First-year student Lauren Sozio in a column about going home for her first Thanksgiving break. The Amherst Student, November 29, 2000

"Literature need never be separated from, nor collide with, the agora . . . . In the work of Tolstoy or Dickens or Nabokov or even Proust, we find the writer occupied with the human condition in a way as natural as breathing."

— Journalist Christopher Hitchens in a talk on "Unacknowledged Legislation: Writers in the Public Sphere." Stirn Auditorium, December 7, 2000

"He really did know people's background and what they were doing. But he also had a way of saying some all-purpose word that sounded like ‘Bill, Dick, Joe or Pete' that he could mutter, and then the person would say: ‘Al, you're wonderful! How did you remember my name?'"

— Elizabeth "Mahat" Guest, reminiscing about her husband, the late J. Alfred Guest '33, who served as Alumni Secretary from 1946 to 1971, in an interview taped for the Friends of the Amherst College Library



From the Folger

Until January 1996 reading privileges at the Folger were provided only to fully credentialed research scholars and graduate students in Ph.D. programs. In that year a notable exception occurred when the Library opened its doors to Amherst students working on honors theses and sponsored by the Council of the Friends of the Amherst College Library. This January marked the sixth year in which, during Interterm, there is an Amherst undergraduate presence at the Folger.

All 11 students have reported substantial benefit from their two weeks' stay at the Library. For their part, the Folger's curators have enjoyed the process of introducing these eager and talented students to the unfamiliar and—to some extent—arcane resources and procedures of a great research library. Among the topics Amherst students have investigated in the past are "The Trickster Figure in Shakespeare," "Milton's God," "Milton's Satan," "The Reception of Pindaric Odes in the Renaissance," and "Catesby, Linnaeus, and Languages of Representation in Natural History."

The Amherst fellows are selected each December by a committee chaired by Professor Nicola Courtright (Fine Arts), and including Professors David Sofield (English) and Frederic Cheyette (History), together with Willis Bridegam, librarian of the college; Sam Ellenport '65, chairman of the Council of the Friends; and Richard Kuhta, librarian of the Folger. Candidates submit a formal proposal, with at least one letter of recommendation. For 2001, fellowships have been awarded to two seniors. Umit Dhuga, a classics major, is working on the influence of Catullus's wedding poem, Carmen 61, on the Renaissance epithalamion. Stacy Kitsis's thesis in Russian Studies considers early English nursery rhymes and folk tales as sources for Russian children's literature during the Soviet period.