Amherst College Holds Class Day Exercises

May 26, 2001
Director of Media Relations

AMHERST, MA - Morton Schapiro, the president of Williams College, told graduates at his school's arch-rival that "if you don't feel good when you graduate from Amherst College, you deserve to be miserable." Morton, invited by Amherst's Class of 2001 to give the traditional Class Day address, urged the graduates of elite liberal arts colleges such as Amherst and Williams to "surprise us. With privilege comes responsibility. Use it wisely. There"s a fine line between excellence and arrogance: don't cross it."

Two members of the class also delivered remarks in the ceremony held at LeFrak Gymnasium on a cool damp day. John M. Abodeely related what his father him when he "came out" about his homosexuality: "The love will always be there," and reminded his classmates that "the closet is not only for homosexuals, but for anybody with a secret." David Breslin urged his classmates to also listen the "whimper of insecurity" as they leave Amherst.

President Tom Gerety and Dean of Students Ben Lieber presented the Howard Hill Mossman Trophy for athletic excellence to Brian Daoust, the Psi Upsilon Prize for citizenship to Stephen Ruckman, and the Obed Finch Slingerland Memorial prize for dedication to the liberal arts to Nadya Direkova and Aura A. Elroy-Reveles. Kathrina Pluck was named the valedictorian and received the Woods-Travis Prize.

Daniel Cooper, the class marshal, presented the Student Government Organization Distinguished Teaching award to English professor Andrew Parker.

The class also invited 13 persons from the college's staff and faculty to become honorary members of the Class of 2001. They were Bernice O. Hrpiak, a server in the dining hall; Richard Scorpio, a technical assistant in the fine arts department; Ali Weeks, a campus police officer; Robert "Gramps" Keyes, a server in the dining hall; Charles A. Sorenson, a retiring professor of psychology; Joseph P. Grygorcewicz, a custodian; David A. Cetto, a server in the dining hall. Lanfranco Marcelletti, the director of instrumental music; Donald Kells, the supervisor of the college post office; Robert W. Shea, Jr., the grounds supervisor; and James E. Maraniss, professor of Spanish. Nadia Margolis accepted an honorary membership for her late husband, Peter Marshall, professor of classics; as did Electra Petropulos for her late husband, John Petropulos, professor of history.

Amherst also honored four exemplary secondary school teachers from across the country, chosen by members of the senior class to receive the Phebe and Zephaniah Swift Moore Teaching Awards. The awards went to Oliver Edel, a viola teacher at the Levine School of Music in Washington, D.C., nominated by Steve Ruckman; Ken Neff, a physics teacher and swim coach at Bethlehem Central High School in Delmar, N.Y., nominated by Ben Samelson-Jones; Phyllis Spadafora, a Spanish teacher at North Hollywood High School in California, nominated by Cathleen Sullivan; and Jane Pepperdene, an English teacher at the Paideia School in Atlanta, nominated by Laura Marshall.


Amherst College Holds 180th Commencement May 27

May 24, 2001
Director of Media Relations

AMHERST, Mass. - Four hundred and fifty-five men and women will receive Bachelor of Arts degrees at the 180th Commencement Exercises at Amherst College, to be held Sunday, May 27, at 10 a.m. in the college quadrangle. Speakers at the ceremonies will be President Tom Gerety and Daniel R. Johnson, a religion major from Summit, N.J., and a member of the Class of 2001. Folksinger Emily Greene, a graduating sociology major from San Antonio, Tex., will dedicate a song to the Class of 2001 from her recently released recording.

At the Commencement ceremony, Amherst College will award honorary degrees to Ken Bacon '66, chief executive officer of Refugees International and former Pentagon spokesman; Curt I. Civin '70, the director of the Division of Pediatric Oncology at The Johns Hopkins Oncology Center and inventor of a biomedical process for stem cell transplants; Ted Conover '80, author of Newjack: Guarding Sing Sing (2000) and several other works of narrative non-fiction; Hiroaki Fujii '58, president of the Japan Foundation and former Japanese ambassador to Thailand and Great Britian; Gabrielle Kirk McDonald, past president of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia; Peter Nadosy, trustee and banker; Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, professor of English at CUNY Graduate Center, critic, poet and former professor at Amherst, where she helped establish the Women's and Gender Studies Department in 1987; and Morton Own Schapiro, the president of Williams College. The college also will honor R. Thomas Green '59 with the Medal for Eminent Service. Green is chairman emeritus of Oglebay Norton Company of Cleveland and Zanesville, Ohio.

On Saturday, May 26, at 2 p.m. in the quadrangle, Senior Class Day Exercises will be held. Prizes will be awarded, and two members of the Class of 2001, John M. Abodeely, a biology and fine arts major from Upper Saddle River, N.J., and David C. Breslin, an English major from St. Louis, will offer brief remarks.

Morton Owen Schapiro has been chosen by the seniors to deliver the main address on Class Day. Schapiro has been the president since July 2000 of Williams College, where he is also a professor of economics. A scholar whose research in the economics of higher education has earned praise and attention, Schapiro has written or co-written more than 50 articles and five books, including The Student Aid Game (1998), Paying the Piper (1993) and Keeping College Affordable (1991).

Before coming to Williams, Schapiro taught at the University of Southern California, where he served as chair of the department of economics, and as dean of the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. He studied economics at Hofstra University (B.A.) and the University of Pennsylvania (Ph.D.).

At this event, Amherst will also honor four exemplary secondary school teachers from across the country, chosen by members of the senior class to receive the Phebe and Zephaniah Swift Moore Teaching Awards. The awards this year will go to Oliver Edel, a viola teacher at the Levine School of Music in Washington, D.C., nominated by Steve Ruckman; Ken Neff, a physics teacher and swim coach at Bethlehem Central High School in Delmar, N.Y., nominated by Ben Samelson-Jones; Phyllis Spadafora, a Spanish teacher at North Hollywood High School in California, nominated by Cathleen Sullivan; and Jane Pepperdene, an English teacher at the Paideia School in Atlanta, nominated by Laura Marshall.

A Baccalaureate service will be held on Saturday, May 26, at 10 a.m. in Johnson Chapel. This year's baccalaureate speaker will be the Rev. Jacquelyn Harris, associate minister at Saint Stephen's African Methodist Episcopal Church in Chicago.

In case of rain, Saturday afternoon's Senior Class Day Exercises and Sunday's Commencement ceremony will be held in LeFrak Gymnasium.


Russian Women Modernists at Mead Art Museum March 3 until May 13

February 22, 2001
Director of Media Relations

AMHERST, Mass. - The Mead Art Museum at Amherst College, reopening March 3 following an 18-month facility renovation, will inaugurate its new gallery space with "The World Opened Wide: 20th-Century Russian Women Artists from the Collection of Thomas P. Whitney '37," an exhibition of Russian modernist art on view from March 3 through May 13.

Dr. Jill Meredith, director and curator of European art at the Mead Art Museum, and Dr. Darra Goldstein, professor of Russian and chair of the Department of German and Russian at Williams College, are co-curators of this exhibition of 80 paintings, drawings and prints by pioneers of the avant-garde. Dr. Christina Lodder, professor of art history at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland, will speak about "An Exemplary Constructivist: Liubov Popova" on Friday, March 30 at 4:30 p.m. in Stirn Auditorium with reception to follow in the Mead Art Museum. Dr. Meredith will give a gallery talk on the exhibition, as part of the Mead's "First Tuesday" lecture series on April 3 at 12:15 p.m. Admission to all events is free and open to the public.

The Russian women artists featured in this exhibition were leading figures in the revolutionary artistic movements of the early 20th century: Neo-Primitivism, Cubo-Futurism, Constructivism and Suprematism. These so-called Amazons of the avant-garde "Alexandra Exter, Natalia Goncharova, Olga Rozanova and Varvara Stepanova, among others" explored innovative art forms seeking to discover new bases of artistic creation. Each distilled and transformed current western European art styles, yet drew inspiration from national folk traditions, science and technology, poetry and the performing arts. The diversity of their work "from the figural subjects to non-objective abstraction in easel paintings, linocut prints, mixed-media assemblages and artists' books" attests to their bold experiments with traditional and innovative art forms.

These women were trained in art schools; taught in art schools; exhibited in major avant-garde group shows in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Paris; promulgated new art theories; and undertook alternative work in theater and film decor, textiles and clothing design, and the graphic arts. Sympathetic with the radical politics and economic upheaval around them, they advanced the modern social revolution as participants in the new cultural order. Highly visible members of artist couples and avant-garde groups, they valued equal creative and social collaboration with male colleagues as they championed the cause of the "new art."

The exhibition takes its title from Olga Rozanova's 1913 manifesto in which she exhorts her fellow radical artists with the battle-cry: "We want to see this world opened wide!" and declares war on the sentimental, derivative and self-centered perspectives of other Russian artists groups. As Dr. Meredith writes in the catalogue, "Embedded in Rozanova's provocative rhetoric is the challenge to her peers and future generations to value any and all creative paths to produce works that engage and transform the viewer." Among the key pieces in the exhibition are two print portfolios, The Mystical Images of War (1914) by Natalia Goncharova and Olga Rozanova's War (1916), which grapple compellingly with nationalism, technology and civilian atrocities of the First World War. War combines Cubist and Futurist elements as well as trans-rational poetry to express the dislocation and horrific destruction in cities and on battlefields. The exhibition also features important Cubist oil paintings by Liubov Popova and Alexandra Exter, as well as theatrical designs by Exter, Goncharova, and Varvara Stepanova.

"The World Opened Wide" premieres selected works from the recent gift of the art collection of Thomas P. Whitney '37 to Amherst College. It surveys a significant portion of more than 400 objects of Russian art in the Whitney Collection, spanning the late 19th through 20th centuries, including major works by Alexander Rodchenko, Pavel Filonov, Mikhail Larionov, Vladmir Tatlin and Naum Gabo.

Whitney"s art collection has rejoined his extraordinary archives of Russian culture, donated in 1991 to the Amherst Center for Russian Culture at Amherst College. As part of the ongoing collaboration between the Mead Art Museum and the Amherst Center for Russian Culture a portion of this exhibition will be presented at the Amherst Center for Russian Culture. The Amherst Center for Russian Culture Gallery is open weekdays from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. For more information call 413/542-8453 or visit the Website at .

The Mead Art Museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. and until 9 p.m. on Thursdays. For information call 413/542-2335 or visit the Website


Amherst Celebrates its "New" Observatory June 1

May 14, 2001
Director of Media Relations

AMHERST, Mass. - When it was built in 1905, the refracting telescope at the Observatory at Amherst College was one of the largest and finest in the world. College and community will celebrate the renovation of the historic 18-inch Alvin Clark telescope, and the reopening of the Observatory, with a free public program of original drama, music and talks on the afternoon and evening of Friday, June 1.

From 4 to 6 p.m. a group of professional actors will read UFOs Over Brooklyn, a new two-act play completed by Jeffrey Stanley, a Copeland Fellow, during his residence at the college, and dircted by Florent Masse, the Levy-Despas Fellow at Amherst. An award-winning New York playwright (Tesla's Letters), Stanley describes UFOs Over Brooklyn as a very dark romantic comedy exploring the intersection of religious faith and human sexuality, and was inspired by media coverage of the Hale-Bopp Comet and the suicides among the Heaven's Gate cult. More information about Stanley and the play are at his Website,

At 8 p.m. the evening program will feature a musical setting by Lewis Spratlan, the Peter R. Pouncey Professor of Music, of a new poem by James Maraniss, professor of Spanish. Spratlan and Maraniss collaborated on the Pulitzer Prize-winning opera Life Is a Dream. NASA astronaut Jeffrey Hoffman (Amherst '66) will speak, as will George Greenstein, professor of astronomy.

Following the event, the Observatory will be open to the public for viewing of the waxing moon and other celestial objects. The public is also invited to visit the Observatory on Saturday nights through the summer, without charge.


Art Student Bans Coffee At Amherst College To Highlight “War on Drugs”

May 9, 2001
Director of Media Relations

AMHERST, Mass. - Andrew Epstein, a senior art major at Amherst College, convinced the college administration and dining hall to "ban" the sale and distribution of coffee at Amherst College, as part of a performance piece created to encourage thinking about the war on drugs. Epstein will discuss his work with the public in the Cole Assembly Room in Converse Hall at Amherst at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 10.

Epstein created posters and pamphlets that announced the prohibition to students, faculty and staff in the dining hall and snack bar early Tuesday morning, citing health concerns. "Pushers" were prepared to deal with coffee addicts' suddenly illicit needs, and "treatment centers" were set up to help headache sufferers. At an afternoon press conference Epstein said "This is a momentous day for Amherst College, and every American who cherishes the values of a drug-free environment." The ban ended as scheduled at midnight Tuesday, although the posters had hinted it was permanent.

Epstein, who will graduate with a degree in fine arts in December, created this event as a final project for a senior seminar at Amherst in "Social Sculpture" (Fine Arts 92-04). He described his "performance of conceptual art" this way:

"Typically set outside the gallery, art that intrudes on our space beckons us to consider its possibilities, its meaning. I have removed this substance from a sanctioned, daily routine and provided an appropriate alternative in the same form given to any prohibited substance--illicit street distribution. I hope that after the initial shock, members of our community will consider their own substance use, how prohibition stigmatizes even casual users as 'deviants' or possibly 'addicts' and the arbitrary criteria by which some drugs are deemed destructive."

DeWitt Godfrey, assistant professor of fine arts, says that his course aimed "to explore, through studio work and discussion, art and artists who blur the distinction between life and art." Students were required, in addition to textual and critical studies, "to formulate their own body of practical work, exploring and utilizing alternative art forms such as performance, text-based, installation and other hybrid forms."

Epstein says, "It was necessary to construct an environment of prohibition of an illicit and abused substance in order to comment on the issues of substance abuse, addiction, and our nation's current drug policies. Today's ban contains the same elements that evolve from a true drug prohibition, including literary propaganda, political pundits, a black market and a privileged class that is not effected by this ban due to its status." (Coffee was available in the faculty dining area by order of the Dean of Faculty.)

This event was an individual statement by Epstein, sanctioned by the student government with the support of the administration, and dining services cooperated accordingly. But the event does not reflect the views of Amherst College, the Amherst College Student Government Organization or Amherst College Dining Services.


Folger Shakespeare Library Director Announces Retirement

May 2, 2001
Folger Shakespeare Library

Washington, D.C. -Folger Shakespeare Library Director Werner Gundersheimer has announced his decision to retire in June 2002. Gundersheimer has served as Director of the Folger since 1984 and is the fourth director in the Folger's seventy-year history.

"It has been my great privilege and pleasure to work with our talented and devoted staff to build a stronger library, a livelier house of intellect, and a more vibrant urban community," noted Gundersheimer. "The Folger is a unique resource for Washington, the nation, and the international scholarly community. Having tried to advance its goals for nearly two decades, I now look forward to my return to a gloriously impractical life of research and writing."

Karen Hastie Williams, Chair of the Folger Library Trustees Committee, said "My fellow trustees and I owe an enormous debt to Dr. Gundersheimer for his extraordinary vision and leadership of the Library over the past seventeen years. His steadfast loyalty and his commitment to excellence have taken the institution to new heights and garnered respect for its collections around the world. Under Werner's stewardship, the public programs of poetry, music and theatre have flourished; the pre-college programs have expanded and opened the world of Shakespeare to thousands of young minds, and the endowment has blossomed. We wish him well in his retirement and are deeply grateful that he leaves us the legacy of a vibrant, healthy institution ready to meet the challenges of the 21st century."

Under Gundersheimer's leadership, the Folger has enjoyed unprecedented growth in every aspect of the institution, from exhibitions to programs, from the collections to the physical plant, from institutional financial stability to the commitment of the governing board. The endowment alone has increased over 643% in market value, from $27 million in 1984 to over $175 million in 2000, much of it in new gifts.

Among the beneficiaries of this unprecedented economic expansion are the Folger's cultural and education programs, which have more than quintupled their audience in the past 15 years. Currently, more than 35,000 patrons annually enjoy music and theatre performances, fiction and poetry readings, and family programs in the Folger's Elizabethan Theatre. The Folger's nationally renowned K-12 Education Department serves over 14,000 students and teachers each year through festivals, guided tours, performances, and groundbreaking teaching materials and publications.

During Gundersheimer's tenure, the Folger's landmark building has been significantly overhauled, with improved exhibition, performance, and research facilities, and the Division of Education and Public Programs is now housed in the new Wyatt R. and Susan N. Haskell Center across the street at 301 East Capitol. While the Folger remains primarily an environment of print and performance, Gundersheimer has ushered in technological improvements to expand accessibility and worldwide use of the collection by scholars and Shakespeare lovers alike. The First Folio is now available in digital form and the Folger's catalogue of holdings is now easily searched online.

A 1959 graduate of Amherst College, Gundersheimer earned his M.A. and Ph.D degrees at Harvard University, and has taught at several universities. Before joining the Folger, he was Chairman of the Department of History and Director of the Center for Italian Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. A noted scholar in early modern French and Italian history, Gundersheimer is author of numerous books and articles. He is a member of the American Philosophical Society and holds several honorary degrees. He has served as President of the National Humanities Alliance, and as a Senator of Phi Beta Kappa.

"Werner Gundersheimer exemplifies the attributes we prize most highly in our cultural and educational leaders," says Robert Allen Skotheim, President of the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. "We want them to embody the values expressed in the core mission of what we do. Werner is a scholar, who articulates that scholarship elegantly. We want institutional vision clarified and its implementation managed effectively. Werner has refined the Folger's view of itself, and managed its continually improving institutional health. At the end of the Gundersheimer tenure, the Folger Shakespeare Library is in the strongest financial condition of all American independent research libraries. This is his legacy to The Folger."

Home to the world's largest collection of Shakespeare's printed works, the Folger Shakespeare Library is a major center for scholarly research in the humanities and a lively venue for exhibitions, cultural programs, and the performing arts. A gift to the American people from Standard Oil executive Henry Clay Folger and his wife Emily Jordan Folger, the Folger opened its doors on April 23, 1932, Shakespeare's birthday. An independent research library, privately endowed and supported, the Folger is administered by the Trustees of Amherst College, the alma mater of Mr. Folger. Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the Folger welcomes over 200,000 visitors each year. For more information about the Folger and its programs, please call 202/544-7077 or online at


Valentine Hall Recognized by Community Enterprises

May 2, 2001
Director of Media Relations

AMHERST, Mass. - Amherst College Dining Services has received an Employer Award from the ICE Division of Community Enterprises, a Northampton agency that provides employment, training and educational support to people with disabilities.

Deb Omasta-Mokrzecki, the manager of dining services and student dining, and her staff and managers at Valentine Hall, the college's central dining facility, have worked with Community Enterprises for 13 years, beginning with a handful of group placements with on-site staff. Today six people have permanent jobs at Valentine Hall, where they perform such tasks as running the dishwashers, vacuuming the building, and washing tables in several dining rooms. According to Julie Lococo at Community Enterprises, "the college staff has gone the extra mile to ensure a good opportunity for all."

The ICE Employer Award recognizes individuals or businesses for outstanding support of workers with disabilities. ICE chooses recipients who have demonstrated a positive attitude and excellence in their relations with workers, and have supported and accommodated them on the job.