Dr. Inger Damon ’84 led the CDC’s Ebola response and determined its smallpox strategy. Now she’s preparing for the next public health crisis, whatever it might be.
IN A BORDERLESS
IN THIS ISSUE
Ì SUMMER 2015 | VOLUME 67
18 JAMES MERRILL AT AMHERST BY LANGDON HAMMER
He was one of the great poets of his generation, but first he was a member of the class of ’47 at Amherst. 24 YOU CAN'T CLOSE THE BORDERS BY MARY LOFTUS
2 VOICES 4 COLLEGE ROW SONGS that tickle spines TWO SUPREMES cite one Amherst LJST professor THE NEW Greenway Projects and Strategic Plan A TEXTBOOK on Nazi Germany AND MORE
14 THE BIG PICTURE A view of a peaceful campus in July
Dr. Inger Damon ’84 led the CDC’s Ebola response and determined its smallpox strategy.
16 POINT OF VIEW Falling out of chairs, bursting into tears: it’s just another day on the job
30 SEEN AND UNSEEN PHOTOGRAPHS AND TEXT BY MARY BETH MEEHAN ’89
In photographing strangers, an alumna tries to understand something of the people who live in the city of Providence.
Ì ON THE COVER
Inger Damon ’84, photographed by Christopher T. Martin in Atlanta, June 2015
37 BEYOND CAMPUS HEALTH How one doctor finds time to solve medical mysteries GOVERNMENT Megan Carroll ’02 is getting an inside look at Washington TAXIDERMY Gregory Speck ’75 amassed a collection that filled his apartment SKATING An economics professor decides to return to the rink EDUCATION Why public schools should borrow from the military playbook
43 AMHERST CREATES FILM 5 to 7, written and directed by Victor Levin ’83 THEATER Bridge Repertory does big work in tiny spaces NONFICTION Former U.S. Rep. Tom Davis ’71 on how to bridge the partisan divide in Congress SCULPTURE Type sculptures by Lloyd Schermer ’50 RADIO A host of Seattle’s classical public radio station
50 CREATING CONNECTIONS 56 CLASSES 122 IN MEMORY 128 AMHERST MADE Jon Lind ’69 co-wrote Madonna’s “Crazy for You”
“There’s no waiting room, because patients never wait.” PAGE 38
THIS COLUMN: ROB MATTSON (3), HAO LIU ’16 (2). OPPOSITE, CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: KIMON FRIAR/AMERICAN COLLEGE OF GREECE, BRIAN WILSON, MELINDA BECK, MARY BETH MEEHAN, ROB MATTSON, COURTESY MEGAN CARROLL
VIDEO l As part of his visit to Amherst this spring, Defense Secretary ROBERT GATES sat for an interview and answered questions about a range of topics, including understanding adversaries and holding civil dialogues.
l Nicholas Cowan and DARYL HAGGARD, assistant professors of astronomy at Amherst, together gave a reunionweekend talk on the supermassive black hole and extrasolar planets in our gallactic neighborhood. l Rand Richards Cooper ’80 interviewed Professor Emeritus KIM TOWNSEND for the Amherst Reads book club. Townsend is the author of a 2014 biography on John William Ward, who was president of Amherst from 1971 to 1979, a tumultous time in the College’s history. AUDIO
l Each of this year’s
honorary degree recipients—Jim Ansara ’82, Eric Carle, Sonya Clark ’89, Alice Rivlin, PARDIS SABETI and Paul M. Smith ’76—gave a talk on the Saturday of commencement weekend.
l In Johnson Chapel, Senior Assembly featured the awarding of prizes and honorary class memberships, a speech by Professor RHONDA COBHAM-SANDER and talks by Ricky Altieri ’15 and Tony Russo ’15.
“‘Crossing Rough Terrain, Together,’ about the Day of Dialogue on race and racism, reinforced my pride as an alumnus.”
GOOD THING SHE HAD INSURANCE IN “THE TODDLER BEHIND THE TALKING Point” (Spring 2015), this sentence should stab our human consciences and create the sharpest pain imaginable: “But the kicker, Fei says, is that the words [of AOL’s CEO] reduced Mila’s existence to profit and loss.” In an era when we are bombarded by tales of the wonders of technology and the virtues of STEM education are being touted to produce those who will continue that technological development, how can we conscionably sit by and not do anything about a health care system which as much as says, “In this life, if you can’t pay, you can’t stay”? How many of us have been asked by our doctors, “Do you have pharmacy insurance?” before they write prescriptions for what they know will cure our ailments? What would have been the
THE PEOPLE IN THE PHOTOS After reading the spring issue of Amherst magazine, Dave Simpson ’54 wrote: “I am no doubt the 167th person to identify the undergraduate on the left in the picture on page 53 as (despite his attitude of repose) the peripatetic Frank Randall ’52.” In a class note in that same issue, Randall wrote about his recent tour of Saudi Arabia. t Judging by the haircuts, this photo is from the fall of 1965.
P R O F IT, B L AM E AN D
WHEN A CEO PUT A DOLLAR FIGURE ON THE HEALTH OF “DISTRESSED BABIES,” DEANNA FEI ’99 KNEW HE WAS TALKING ABOUT HER DAUGHTER.
H E R BABY
4/21/15 12:57 PM
outcome for Fei’s baby if she did not have the insurance plan she did? Would Mila have received less expert care? We need to have some brain work done—convene a multidisciplinary consortium of doctors, scientists, economists, ethicists, anyone who can think
Bob Dwyer ’69 recognized Kirk Conover ’69 (back row, at right) and Dwight Golann ’69 (front row, second from end) on page 71 of the spring issue. Dwyer writes: “Judging by the fresh (and short) haircuts and the short-sleeved shirt on the boy who is front row right, this must be the start of freshman year in the fall of 1965.” Larry Abrams ’68 identified another student in that same photo: Robert Hilliard ’68 is in the back, wearing glasses and a jacket. Abrams writes that Hilliard served in the Peace Corps and was later “among a number of law students at SUNY Buffalo who worked on the Attica Brothers Legal Defense team. For the past 30 years he has been an immigration attorney.”
clearly—to come up with some way to ensure that the marvels of technology will be available to all human beings. After all, for what end is all technological development pursued if not for the betterment of humankind? I am fairly certain that there were many complicated pieces of machinery employed in affording Mila a chance at life. Are they to provide little more benefit to humankind as a whole than they would if they were placed in museum display cases? JAY M. FREYMAN ’64 Reisterstown, Md. A HEALTHY DOSE OF AFFLICTION I always enjoy Amherst magazine, both for the warm remembrances it evokes and for the inspiration it provides as I learn about the vital work taking place on
Frank Randall ’52 (left) and an unnamed classmate.
Jonathan Gross ’77 noticed his daughter Rachael Gross ’08 on page 101 of the spring issue. The younger Gross (at right in the photo) says it was probably taken during firstyear orientation, because she’s holding the Oliver Sacks book that had been assigned to the entire class. Jennifer Ho ’08 is next to her. From left, Jennifer Ho ’08 and Rachael Gross ’08
2 Amherst Summer 2015
campus. The Spring 2015 edition was no exception. As with many initiatives Amherst has undertaken in recent years (aggressively pursuing socioeconomic diversity in the student body, encouraging crossdisciplinary teaching and learning, and articulating a reasoned alternative to other institutions’ enthralled embrace of the MOOC),“Crossing Rough Terrain, Together,” about the Day of Dialogue on race and racism, reinforced my pride as an alumnus. As events in our nation continue to remind us, the racial divide still poisons our culture 150 years after the end of the Civil War and seven years after the election of our first AfricanAmerican president. It has been said that the role of social activism is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” Amherst remains, despite its considerable efforts and laudable progress, a bastion of the comfortable, with much of its student, adult and alumni population (myself included) drawn from privileged segments of our society. This dynamic is only a problem to the extent that those of us who have benefitted from our privilege refuse to engage in dialogue and action regarding the persistent inequities in American life. The sole discouraging note in this stirring article, therefore, was that only “51 percent of the student body, 63 percent of the faculty and 27 percent of the staff ” attended the Day of Dialogue. I worry that the 49, 37 and 73 percent of those groups who absented themselves may have been the ones most in need of what this experience had to offer: a healthy dose of affliction. MATT MICCICHE ’93 Baltimore
A GLEN-LIEBER CONNECTION THERE IS A POINT OF CONNECTION IN the Winter 2015 issue between the profile of Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen ’88 and the review of Ron Lieber ’93’s The Opposite of Spoiled. Ron spends a few pages of his book discussing Manhattan Country School, a private elementary school located at the border of the Upper East Side and East Harlem. In the book and a previous New York Times article, Lieber discusses the school’s commitment to social justice and ethnic and class diversity, including trips that students make to each other’s homes to see how life is lived at other income levels. Alicia Glen is a graduate of Manhattan Country School. Whatever positive values an Amherst education reinforced, for Glen (and for me), learning to be an upstanding citizen of the world began in kindergarten at MCS. DAN LEVINSON WILK ’95 Brooklyn, N.Y. TELL US WHAT YOU THINK
Please go to www.amherst.edu/ magazine to take a short survey about the magazine. We want to know which stories you read in this issue, so we can give you more of the types of articles you want.
FULBRIGHT AND THE PENTAGON PAPERS Rand Richard Cooper ’80 writes of “the critical and dissenting patriotism of … Sen. J. William Fulbright” (Amherst Creates, Spring 2015). I greatly admired Sen. Fulbright during the Vietnam atrocities. But I didn’t know then that he’d spurned Daniel Ellsberg’s Pentagon Papers, about the smokiest of smoking guns in human history, and precisely the evidence one would have thought Fulbright most wanted and needed to support his dissent. I suspect that even for Fulbright, the strength of his misplaced loyalty to the Old Boys’ network (“proper channels”) outweighed truth, legality, morality, prudence, common sense, human compassion—even when all those desiderata were on his side of the confrontation. JOE MORTON ’57 Towson, Md.
AMHERST VOLUME 67, NUMBER 4 EDITOR
Emily Gold Boutilier (413) 542-8275 email@example.com ALUMNI EDITOR
Betsy Cannon Smith ’84 (413) 542-2031 DESIGN DIRECTOR
Ronn Campisi ASSISTANT EDITOR
Katherine Duke ’05 MAGAZINE ADVISORY COMMITTEE
Lawrence Douglas Mark Edington Ann Hallock ’89 Darcy Jacobs ’87 Ron Lieber ’93 Megan Morey Meredith Rollins ’93 WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU Ì WE Amherst welcomes letters from
its readers. Please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org or Amherst Magazine, PO Box 5000, Amherst, MA 01002. Letters must be 300 words or fewer and should address the content in the magazine. WWW.AMHERST.EDU/MAGAZINE
Amherst (USPS 024-280) is published quarterly by Amherst College at Amherst, Massachusetts 01002-5000, and is sent free to all alumni. Periodicals postage paid at Amherst, Massachusetts 01002-5000 and additional mailing offices. Postmaster: Please send Form 3579 to Amherst, AC # 2220, PO Box 5000, Amherst College, Amherst, MA 010025000. Summer 2015 Amherst 3
11 The Strategic Plan lays out seven priorities for the College’s future
Songs THAT TICKLE SPINES Nina Shallman could become the next Norah Jones. For now, she’s an Amherst sophomore.
Amherst Summer 2015
Singer-songwriter Nina Shallman ’18 works hard to balance her music career with her life as a college student.
MUSIC U In her song “Daisies,” Nina Shallman ’18 coaxes an unnamed companion: Sing those notes that tickle my spine. But it’s her own voice that has been thrilling audiences. At Northampton’s Iron Horse Music Hall this spring, Shallman— accompanied by her cousin Aaron Blick on bass—sang a selection of original and cover songs and played piano and ukulele for a crowd of 45. Darya Bor ’18, a reviewer for The Amherst Student, praised the “poignant, romantic tone” of her lyrics and described her voice as “like smoke, like Chicago.” For Shallman, a highlight of the evening was that some Amherst friends showed up to support her, even though they were busy with finals. She returned to the Iron Horse 10 days later to open for veteran singer-songwriter Holly Near, before a full house of 170. “It was a much bigger crowd than my show had,” Shallman says, “but she really put me at ease.” Which is good, because Shallman’s career seems to be taking off. The Southern California native grew up
BETH WALLACE PHOTOGRAPHY
NEWS AND VIEWS FROM CAMPUS
10 A new textbook debunks common myths about Nazi Germany
TWICE IN ONE CASE In one day, two U.S. Supreme Court dissents cited separate books by one Amherst professor.
harmonizing to Beatles music and absorbing the influences of Ella Fitzgerald and Joni Mitchell. She took up piano at age 6, poetry at 11, guitar and songwriting at 13, studio recording at 14. When she returned to a Los Angeles area studio as a high school senior to record some songs as a supplement for her college applications, she and producer Andrew Williams clicked and decided to collaborate professionally. Shallman’s aunt became her manager, and three other L.A. musicians joined Blick to form her backup band. Reviewing a live show, a blogger known as “Concert Addict Chick” predicted Shallman could become “the next generation’s version of Norah Jones.” “Daisies” and several other original songs have gotten radio airplay in Western Massachusetts and Philadelphia. Meanwhile, Shallman has been balancing her music career with the demands of
college life. One of two students chosen to represent Amherst at the 2015 Five College PoetryFest, she hopes to major in music or English, or both. She sings with The Bluestockings and a student jazz combo—experiences that she says have kept her voice warm, taught her about music theory and group dynamics and helped her overcome “debilitating stage fright.” This summer she’s vacationing with family, reading Moby-Dick and performing at the E Spot Lounge in Studio City, Calif., and The Mint in L.A.—a venue she’s sold out twice before. Soon, with Williams’ help, Shallman hopes to release her “first real album.” “We’re still working on the track listings, because I have a bunch of songs, and it’s hard to choose, because they’re like my babies!” she says. “We’ve had enough songs to make a real album for a while, but I was a little busy.” KATHERINE DUKE ’05
← Shallman sang original and cover songs at Northampton’s Iron Horse this spring.
↑ Shallman and her cousin Aaron Blick, who plays bass in her band, with the playlist from her Iron Horse show.
LAW U Few professors ever see their scholarship appear in a U.S. Supreme Court decision. Rarer still: to have two books by one professor cited on the same day, in the same case, by two justices. On June 29 Austin Sarat was cranking out two op-eds on the new U.S. Supreme Court decision Glossip v. Gross—which upheld the use of the drug midazolam in carrying out the death penalty— when a colleague sent him a congratulatory email. It said that Justices Steven Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor had each cited a Sarat book in their dissenting opinions. “I responded with a quick ‘thanks’ and went back to my writing about the case,” says Sarat, the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science. Only after filing his op-eds did he go back and look for his name. “For some legal academics, being cited in a Supreme Court opinion is a little like being anointed by the pope,” he says. For this particular legal academic? “I don’t write with the expectation that the Supreme Court justices are going to pay attention. But there was a moment
of pleasure in realizing that this work was making a difference on a matter of tremendous legal and political consequence.” Breyer cited Mercy on Trial: What It Means to Stop an Execution, about then-Gov. George Ryan’s move to commute every death sentence in Illinois. Breyer referenced the section on Ryan’s reasoning: that it is cruel and unusual for victims’ families to go through legal limbo for the 20 years on average that inmates spend on death row. Sotomayor cited the finding in Gruesome Spectacles: Botched Executions and America’s Death Penalty that the firing squad is more reliable than lethal injection. Despite Glossip v. Gross, Sarat predicts an end to the U.S. death penalty “in the not-too-distant future.” He notes that executions have declined by half in 15 years. On the day of the ruling he sent his own congratulatory emails—to the four Amherst students who’d worked on Gruesome Spectacles. Kate Blumstein ’13 responded first: “Coolest thing that has probably ever happened to me/ will ever happen. Wow.” EMILY GOLD BOUTILIER Summer 2015 Amherst 5
TOGETHER New building projects will offer academic and social spaces—and plenty of room for connection. CHANGES U A major building and landscaping project now under way will transform the eastern part of the campus with a landscaped greenway, four new dorms and a state-of-the-art Science Center. The Greenway Projects will all be completed by fall 2018.
The Greenway Residences, located near the soccer fields, are designed in part to encourage a strong sense of community among the sophomores, juniors and seniors who will live there.
hillside and with views of the Holyoke Range. Combined, they will house 300 sophomores, juniors and seniors. Designed in part to encourage a strong sense of community among residents, the dorms will offer students opportunities to call them home for multiple years, including by moving from double rooms to singles to suites in the same building. These dorms will integrate academic and social life by combining social and seminar spaces within a residential complex. Special features will include “lounge bridges” connecting the four buildings, a demonstration kitchen students can use for dinners and classes, a bike shop and a yoga room. Roofs will capture rainwater. Barbecue pits and volleyball courts will offer places for fun outside. The Gateway Residences are designed by Kyu Sung Woo Architects.
THE SCIENCE CENTER Enrollments in hard science classes at Amherst have increased 53 percent from 1999 to 2013. The new Science Center addresses this rise in demand. With state-of-the-art labs and classrooms, it
THE WALKWAY The Greenway—a landscaped walkway lined with trees, gardens and gathering spaces—will meander from Valentine Dining Hall along a reconfigured Mead hillside, past the new Science Center on the east side of campus and down to new dormitories on the southern end. This 12-acre landscape will include gentle slopes, stormwater gardens, an orchard of flowering and shade trees, a natural ampitheater, other performance and recreation spaces, and stone walls for sitting. Designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, creators of Brooklyn Bridge Park, the Greenway will help unify the physical campus and act as a community space.
THE DORMS The four Greenway Residences will be to the south of Merrill, tucked into the 6 Amherst Summer 2015
Construction began this spring on the four new dorms, which will have views of the Holyoke Range.
About the Projects The Science Center will house six academic departments. The dorms will integrate academic and social life.
increase in enrollments in hard science classes
A central commons will run the length of the Science Center and be visible from the Greenway through a glass façade.
RENDERINGS: KYU SUNG WOO ARCHITECTS (DORMS), PAYETTE (SCIENCE CENTER). PHOTO: ROB MATTSON
The Greenway, a landscaped walkway designed by the creators of Brooklyn Bridge Park, will feature gentle slopes, stormwater gardens and a natural ampitheater.
In this rendering, the four Greenway Residences are in the foreground. The Science Center is visible in the background, at center. The Greenway will connect these and other spaces.
will accommodate roughly 80 percent of science classes and 15 to 20 percent of non-science classes. Occupying the area where the Social Dorms now stand, it will house six academic departments—biology, chemistry, physics and astronomy, psychology and neuroscience, math and statistics, and computer science—as well as a science library and the Moss Quantitative Center. The roof will feature an observation platform with telescope mounts. The building will use less energy than even a standard dormi-
tory, without sacrificing comfort or use. The building is designed by Payette Associates, the firm behind the College’s Beneski Earth Sciences Building.
THE TIMING Dorm construction began this spring. The dorms and lower Greenway will open in fall 2016, and the Science Center and the rest of the Greenway in fall 2018. The Social Dorms are being demolished. Plans are pending to renovate Merrill and use it for another purpose. E.G.B.
The Science Center will use at least 73 percent less energy than an average science building.
=== = = = = = =
Total number of beds in the new dorms. They’ll house a combination of sophomores, juniors and seniors.
Summer 2015 Amherst 7
COUTURE On the runway: baby food jars and paper bags
ROB MATTSON (6)
Kyndall Ashe ’18 wore a paper bag to the fashion show. To complete the ensemble, she added book covers and blue painter’s tape. “With straightened hair, some red lipstick and red pumps, I felt ready to walk the runway,” she says. Amherst students gathered in the Powerhouse on a spring evening for the College’s first Trash to Fashion Show. Su Ghosh ’16, a member of the Green Amherst Project, organized the event as a way to celebrate Earth Day and raise awareness about excess waste on campus. The event challenged student designers to use postconsumer materials to create outfits for student models. Megan Adamo ’17 stormed the runway in a dress made from empty baby food containers. “Though this type of event is outside of my comfort zone,” she admits, “my roommate is very artsy so I knew it would be fun for her to create an outfit for me.” For Ashe, designer Lindy Labriola ’17 combined the raw materials to create a strapless minidress. “Being in a fashion show,” Ashe says, “was sort of a longterm dream of mine.” ELAINE JEON ’17
ELENA SEIBERT (BLUME)
JUDY BLUME VISITS CAMPUS Growing up in Elizabeth, N.J., Judy Blume “hated the secrets that adults kept from children.” Blume, author of such beloved titles as Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, has made a career of being honest with young readers. In June she came to Johnson Chapel to promote her new book for adults, In the Unlikely Event. The talk was a Q&A with novelist Curtis Sittenfeld. Blume’s husband was in the audience. Blume talked about her new book, which is built around a true event: a series of plane crashes that took place in her hometown in 1951 and 1952, when Blume was a teenager. Among the nuggets of information Blume shared: Summer Sisters is her least autobiographical book. Even after 28 novels, writing a first draft is “torture.” As a first career, she made felt pictures for children’s bedrooms, but she became allergic to the glue. Her mother used to type her final manuscripts. And she’s still in touch with women who’ve been writing to her since they were 12-year-old fans in the 1980s. E.G.B.
THREE JOIN BOARD The newest College trustees are from ’80s classes.
SUSANNAH GRANT ’84 is a screenwriter,
DOUGLAS C. GRISSOM ’89 works
CHRISTINE NOYER SEAVER ’81 started
director and producer. She received Academy Award, Writers Guild and BAFTA nominations for best original screenplay for Erin Brockovich (2000). She wrote or co-wrote the screenplays for such films as Pocahontas, Charlotte’s Web and The Soloist. In 2007 she wrote and directed Catch and Release. Grant was a writerproducer-director on the Golden Globe-winning television drama Party of Five, and she created and executive-produced A Gifted Man for CBS. She is currently producing Confirmation, a movie for HBO about the Anita Hill/Clarence Thomas hearings. She also cowrote The 5th Wave, to be released in 2016. Grant majored in English at Amherst and is also a graduate of the American Film Institute’s Center for Advanced Film and Television Studies screenwriting program. She is a longtime member of the board of Street Poets Inc., an arts-based violence-prevention program.
at Madison Dearborn Partners as a managing director on the business and government services team, focusing primarily on software and software-enabled services. In this capacity, and also outside of work, he serves on several boards of directors. Earlier, he worked at Bain Capital in private equity, McKinsey & Co. in management consulting and Goldman Sachs in investment banking. He has an M.B.A. from Harvard. Grissom has served as chair of the College’s Lives of Consequence campaign in the Midwest Region, co-chair of the class of 1989’s 25th Reunion Lead Gift Committee, co-president and treasurer of his class and associate agent for the Alumni Fund. He majored in European studies and German at Amherst, graduating magna cum laude. A member of the squash team, he served on the College Council and the Student Alumni Association. He received the College’s 2014 Medal for Eminent Service.
her professional career in foreign exchange sales and trading at Irving Trust Co. She then worked in a progression of industries and functional capacities in the Bay Area, including as associate development director for the San Francisco Ballet, in marketing and strategic planning for a computer start-up, and with a boutique executive search firm in Silicon Valley. An active community volunteer, she has served primarily in her children’s schools and with educational causes in New Canaan, Conn., and Palo Alto, Calif. She is former chair of the board of trustees at St. Luke’s School in New Canaan. She is on the board of the New Canaan Library and is a longtime volunteer for Meals on Wheels. Seaver received the College’s Medal for Eminent Service in 2010. Her B.A. is in economics, magna cum laude. She earned an M.B.A. in 1986 from Stanford Graduate School of Business. Summer 2015 Amherst 9
The Myths ABOUT NAZI GERMANY HISTORY U Dean of the Faculty Catherine Epstein is the author of a new textbook, Nazi Germany: Confronting the Myths (Wiley-Blackwell). An expert in modern German and Central European history, she earlier wrote a book on the Nazi occupation of Western Poland. As Epstein worked on the textbook, she tested a draft on Amherst students, whose suggestions informed the final version.
The problem with other textbooks
The myth of industrial killing
Until she became dean last year, Epstein had been teaching the history course “Nazi Germany” since her arrival at Amherst in 2000. She’d grown frustrated with existing textbooks, many of which are now outdated. “There hasn’t been a major new textbook on Nazi Germany in many years,” she says.
People know that Nazis put millions of Jews on trains, sent them to concentration camps and killed them in gas chambers. “But roughly 40 percent of all individuals who died in the Holocaust” did not die that way, Epstein says. “They died by being lined up against pits and shot point-blank, or any number of other brutal ways. So much of the Holocaust was actually oneon-one killings.” The genocide was less sanitized, and therefore “much worse than you imagined,” she says.
Myths as a structure Student often came to her class holding incorrect ideas about Nazi Germany. “I wanted to write a textbook that confronts those stereotypes,” she says. “Students need arguments that they can then amplify or argue against. Many textbooks don’t provide an argument-driven account.” She decided to structure her book by setting up and then debunking various myths. Dean of the Faculty and Professor of History Catherine Epstein
The myth of Versailles It’s a common belief that the Treaty of Versailles is responsible for Hitler’s rise to power. “In fact, during the 1920s the Germans were pretty good at overturning the treaty,” Epstein says. “You can imagine that process continuing if the Great Depression hadn’t intervened. It was the Great Depression that allowed the Nazis to come to power, not the Treaty of Versailles.”
The myth of over-policing Another misconception is that the Gestapo was around every corner. “Nazi Germany was actually under-policed,” Epstein says, and relied heavily on regular citizens to turn in “undesirable” neighbors.
The myth of military might In researching the book, Epstein was surprised to learn the Nazi army was under-equipped. “It’s hard to imagine how the Nazis could have defeated Russia even if everything had gone their way,” she says. “It’s remarkable how much of the German campaign revolved around horses: they sent 600,000 horses into Russia.”
The textbook is part of the Wiley-Blackwell Short Histories series, of which Epstein is general editor. Future books in the series will cover, among other topics, World War I and the Soviet Union. While history textbooks commonly run about $80, Epstein says, “I made a big stink to make sure the cost of each textbook [in the series] is limited to $30. It’s important to me.” E.G.B. 10 Amherst Summer 2015
COURTESY CATHERINE EPSTEIN
More textbooks, at an affordable price
THE FUTURE How can Amherst best prepare students for a lifetime of learning, success and fulfillment in a rapidly changing world?
By assessing and, where necessary, changing the curriculum. Renewing a commitment to recruiting the best students of all backgrounds. Increasing support for faculty and student research. Creating new residential communities. These are among the ideas outlined in the College’s new Strategic Plan. The 55page document—finalized in June after gaining approval from the faculty, student government and Board of Trustees—lays out seven College priorities. “The plan does not envision a transformation of the College,” President Biddy Martin wrote in a letter to the community; “instead, it outlines vital incremental changes that will reaffirm our commitment to liberal arts education.” E.G.B.
REINVENTING LIBERAL ARTS
ILLUSTRATION BY ADAM MCAULEY
PRIORITY 1 proposes that Amherst reinvent liberal arts education. Among other recommendations, it outlines plans for a “faculty-driven review and assessment of the curriculum that will consider what liberal arts education ought to be in the 21st century.” This priority also calls for an increase in courses that focus on research methods, as well as more “experiential and project-based courses, internships and activities.”
LIFE ON CAMPUS
PRIORITY 2 focuses on the quality of Amherst’s faculty, including by emphasizing strong search processes, increased support for faculty research and greater opportunities for professional development. It also highlights the need for upgrades to a variety of classrooms and research facilities, as well as to such spaces as Frost Library and the Mead Art Museum.
PRIORITY 3 addresses the importance of the residential experience. It highlights the promise of improving health and psychological services, capitalizing on the College’s diversity as a source of learning and turning groups of new and existing dorms into “neighborhoods” where students would choose to live for multiple years.
A DIVERSE STUDENT BODY
PRIORITY 4 emphasizes the College’s commitment to “enrolling the most promising students from all social and economic backgrounds.” Among the recommendations: more recruiting in “socioeconomically diverse, previously untapped geographic markets” and more resources for financial aid.
PRIORITY 5 calls for cultivating international perspectives by supporting foreign language fluency, increasing the number of courses that offer “breadth and depth in the study of other cultures” and enhancing support for international students. By partnering with other organizations, the College also aspires to expand its offerings of highly meaningful learning opportunities in other countries.
PRIORITY 6 underscores the College’s vision for becoming a model of financial, environmental and institutional sustainability, including through “a new, rigorous budgeting process,” achieving a carbon-neutral College footprint and strengthening its recruitment and retention of staff.
PRIORITY 7 stresses the imperative of alumni involvement in the life of the College and outlines a series of ideas for advancing that connection, including providing greater opportunities for lifelong learning, engaging alumni more fully as student mentors and expanding outreach to international alumni.
g DOWNLOAD the plan at www.amherst.edu/go/strategic. If you’d like a printed copy mailed to you, write to email@example.com.
COMMENCEMENT U Charles Hamilton Houston, class of 1915, is widely recognized as the legal architect of the modern civil rights movement. He developed the strategy that led to the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education, which declared racial segregation unconstitutional in public schools. But before that, Houston was the first African-American student to speak at Amherst’s commencement. A century after Houston’s graduation address, President Biddy Martin focused heavily on the civil rights leader in her 2015 commencement speech. She urged the 470 new Amherst graduates to follow Houston’s example and restore faith in our society’s institutions by remaking them. “If we are to ‘let
D Grit &
JOY Amherst awarded 470 bachelor of arts degrees on May 24. America be America again,’ to invoke Langston Hughes, you will have to put your remarkable intelligence to work,” she said. “You will have to develop wellinformed points of view; you will have to acquire breadth not only of knowledge, but of perspective. You will have to find ways to engage others. And to all of
F WATCH the speeches by Martin and Ponds, and see Martin present the honorary degrees l www.amherst.edu/magazine
those things you need to add grit, selfawareness and respect for others, even adversaries.” She gave the graduates other advice, too: “Don’t sell intellectual work short. Don’t let a faux populism on the left or the right obscure the importance of what you have learned to do here—think critically, deeply, creatively, with joy in your own intellectual and artistic feats.” Student speaker Katherine Ponds ’15 recounted the story of the Trojan hero Aeneas, who “sailed far and wide on a treacherous yet wondrous journey to fulfill his destiny and become the founder of Rome.” She said her classmates will hold fast to their memories of Amherst “as we go on to found our own little metaphorical Romes.” E.G.B.
W TOP HONORS During the commencement ceremony, Amherst awarded honorary doctorates to six people. JIM ANSARA ’82
Founder and chairman of Shawmut Design and Construction. His many philanthropy projects include starting a nonprofit that builds medical facilities in Haiti and in developing African countries. ERIC CARLE
Author and illustrator of more than 70 children’s books, including, most famously, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which has sold more than 38 million copies. SONYA CLARK ’89
A contemporary artist and educator known for her original use of common materials—including human hair, combs and cloth—to address race, class and history.
From left: Alice Rivlin, Jim Ansara ’82, Sean Clancy ’78, Pardis Sabeti, Leo Arnaboldi ’81, Sonya Clark’89, Paul Smith ’76 and Eric Carle
An economist who has served as founding director of the Congressional Budget Office, vice chair of the Federal Reserve Board and director of the White House Office of Management and Budget. PARDIS SABETI
A computational geneticist who specializes in genetic diversity and devising algorithms to locate the occurrences of natural selection. Some of her discoveries relate to the evolution and spread of Ebola in West Africa. PAUL SMITH ’76
A partner at the law firm Jenner & Block, where he chairs the Appellate and Supreme Court Practice. He has handled many cases involving civil rights and civil liberties and has argued 16 times in the U.S. Supreme Court, including in the landmark gay-rights case Lawrence v. Texas. OTHER HONOREES
FACTS ABOUT THE GRADS 27
Countries represented by the class of 2015 (including Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Norway, Romania and Zambia)
Senior theses completed Economics English
Mathematics Psychology FIVE COLLEGE CLASSES
Medal for Eminent Service LEO ARNABOLDI ’81
ROB MATTSON AND HAO LIU ’16 PHOTOS
Woods-Travis Prize EILEEN LUCÍA TROCONIS GONZALEZ ’15 Phebe and Zephaniah Swift Moore Awards, given to high school teachers nominated by members of the graduating class BOB JONAS (Carnegie Vanguard High School, Houston) LINDA MAIER (Emma Willard School, Troy, N.Y.) STEVE SCHMIDT (Lowell High School, San Francisco)
The graduates took 13,867 courses at Amherst, 423 at UMass, 98 at Smith, 85 at Mount Holyoke and 75 at Hampshire. Data scientist, Facebook
Honorary Marshal SEAN M. CLANCY ’78 Obed Finch Slingerland Memorial Prize SAMANTA ALANA ENGLISH ’15
Clinical research assistant, Beth Israel Deaconess Research Center SOME OF THEIR NEW JOB TITLES
Teacher, City Year Investment banking analyst, Credit Suisse Utilities locator, Summit Utilities Services Editorial intern, The Nation Legal assistant/paralegal, U.S. Department of Justice
Summer 2015 Amherst 13
BIG Picture ON THE QUAD, chairs beckon in midsummer. e If you would like a reprint of this photo, email firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and address, and we will send you a complimentary copy.
Photographed on July 14, 2015, by CHRISTOPHER CHURCHILL
Summer 2015 Amherst 15
POINT OF VIEW
My Amygdala Ate My Homework! F A L L I N G O U T O F C H A I R S , B U R S T I N G I N T O T E A R S : I T ’ S J U S T A N O T H E R D AY O N T H E J O B . BY LAUNA SCHWEIZER ’91
WHEN I ARRIVE AT MY JOB, SEVERAL PEOPLE RUN TO THE DOOR to hug me. Each day, at least one person falls out of her chair, someone bursts into tears and several fail to complete their work. My co-workers drop food on the carpet, flip upside down into headstands and make fart jokes. Half of them interrupt me with off-topic remarks. The other half sit in sullen silence. Sometimes they pick off the keys from our shared keyboards. Really. I wish I were kidding. When I get home, things are similar. While my roommates have recently grown taller than I am, they are only intermittently able to cook a meal and clean up, or wash and fold their laundry. A person who worked or lived with adults like these might quit or move out. But in my world, these behaviors are not only normal but healthy. The people I work with are my middle school students, and my newly tall roommates are my own teenaged daughters. Patience, emotional stability and flexibility are essentials in my work, but a solid understanding of neuroscience is my sharpest tool. I first began to understand the brain in Professor Lisa Raskin’s sophomore-level neuroscience class at Amherst. Although I now teach humanities, and took nearly half of my Amherst courses in the English department, her lessons have shaped my thinking ever since. Neuroscientist JoAnn Deak calls teachers “neurosculptors,” because everything we do—or fail to do—has a long-term impact on our students’ brains. The more I can inspire my students to attempt now, the more they will be able to do later on. But my adult-sized students need not act like actual adults. In fact, they need to be impulsive, inconsistent and intensely emotional. When I start to utter that classic adult scold, “You should know better!,” I try to check myself and recognize: actually, that is not the case at all. Mature brains make good decisions when three brain regions work together smoothly. The amygdala initiates an emotional choice, signaling with cavemanlike insistence that it’s time to act. It grunts at the cerebral cortex, the eager nerd in our brains, to generate plans and ideas for how to get that something done. The frontal cortex, like the bossy front-office executive, then chooses among those options. Wise choices require processing in all three areas. The typical adolescent’s cerebral cortex gears up during middle school and is working at full strength by age 15 or 16.
Adolescents feel smart (hence the sassing back and eye-rolling) no matter how shallow their experience or poor their judgment. To learn, they need to exercise this new power by sending it flying off awkwardly in all directions. However, my students (I must remind myself, over and over) also have newly empowered amygdalae. The amygdala is a primal, deep-brain structure that cues aggression and fear but is also crucial to the most basic sort of learning: fear conditioning. Recent MRI studies demonstrate high levels of activity in the amygdala starting six months before puberty. Other studies show that kids with the largest amygdalae argue more with their mothers. Really. Again, I wish I were kidding. Smart brain. Intense emotional learning. Only one problem: because the cortex develops from back to front, my students’ passionate brains are operating without adequate judgment. The amygdala is shouting at the cortex, “Do something!” The cerebral cortex is firing off powerful ideas in response. But there is precious little activity in the frontal cortex, where wisdom and judgment will one day hold sway. Hence their flashes of brilliance and their equally frequent missteps. Think back to your own adolescence, which neurobiologists would tell you continued into your early 20s, when your three brain regions came into their adult forms of alignment. Think of your own questionable choices, your powerful emotions, the risk-taking that probably paid off as frequently as it led to failure. If you have college memories that cause you to exult or cringe, thank your adolescent brain. You were not then just a flawed adult but also a remarkable learner, growing in fits and beautiful starts. This is what I must remember each time an adolescent in my world shouts in my ear, slams a door or neglects some crucial responsibility. We adults must gently guide from the outside, remembering all the learning, growth and energy germinating within. The line between guiding and shaming is different for every child; parents need to model compassion and respect, and acknowledge our own missteps. But most importantly, we must embrace the awkwardness. The goal is not that children look, behave, speak and think perfectly at age 13, but rather that they spend their adolescent years trying, failing, then trying again, getting comfortable with the effort and risk-taking that healthy growth and deep learning require. k
Launa Schweizer ’91, a teacher and writer, lives with her family in Brooklyn, N.Y. An earlier version of this essay appeared at RewireMe.com.
16 SUMMER 2015 / AMHERST
Illustration by Polly Becker
MERRILL 18 Amherst Summer 2015
He became one of the greatest poets of his generation, but first he was a member of the class of â€™47 at Amherst, where he developed an obsession with memory and a transformative interest in Proust. By Langdon Hammer
AMHERST Proustâ€™s material was the life of a writer rather like Merrill, an exquisitely self-conscious young man.
SUMMER 2015 AMHERST
IN SPRING 1944,
Jimmy Merrill enrolled in English 1. The course was the creation of Theodore Baird, who, breaking with standard procedures for teaching grammar and argument, treated writing as a tool for intellectual exploration and experiment: the aim was to find out what and how one thinks by writing. But before students could use composition for self-knowledge, they needed to be shown how conventional were their notions of the world and how little they really knew about it.
Baird might enter the classroom by climbing through a window and ask his students whether it should not be called a door. Such theatrics were distantly indebted to the philosophy of William James. But the course communicated its guiding ideas only indirectly through passages from modern autobiographers such as Henry Adams. Writing prompts were meant to puzzle students and force them to use self-reflection to find a way out of their bafflement. The two-term course was required of every student. In 1944 it was team-taught by Baird, Reuben Brower and G. Armour Craig ’37. Craig was in charge of Jimmy’s section. Craig went on to teach at Amherst for 45 years and serve briefly as college president. But in 1944, he was new on the job, and the 18-year-old Merrill liked to lean back in his chair and test his teacher with questions about fashionable contemporaries like Jean-Paul Sartre or Albert Camus. Students would laugh about Jimmy’s impudence and imitate his drawling questions after class. Jimmy was already resistant to Meaning with a capital M. This stance would develop into the militantly casual diffidence about ideas that can make Merrill seem anti-intellectual in his mature approach to poetry. But he had an intellectual, in fact an academic, justification for his attitude in his education at Amherst. The dandified French
Hanging over his first three terms was the knowledge that he would be called by the Army after his 18th birthday. aesthete he was growing into was being influenced by American pragmatism as embodied in Amherst English and its composition program in particular. Merrill liked to say that he wrote in order to find out what he thought, and he never knew what he wanted to say in a poem until he finished it. Baird would have approved. Merrill took two classes with Baird, but the teacher who affected him most deeply was Reuben Brower. Brower was a learned, genial, quietly 20 Amherst Summer 2015
charismatic professor of Greek and English—an unusual double appointment. His training in philology and New Critical close reading combined with a stress on the sound of literature that was particular to Amherst. Brower, like Baird, had encountered Robert Frost at Amherst, and he assimilated Frost’s insistence on the dramatic nature of poetic language and the role of voice in creating meaning. It was a piece of local lore at Amherst that the young Ben Brower had volunteered in Frost’s class to read aloud an obscure Elizabethan poem, after which the white-haired poet declared before the class, “I give you an A for life.” The story captures the approach to literature that Brower developed out of Frost’s poetics. “Literature of the first order,” he said of his method as a teacher, “calls for lively reading: we must almost act it out as if we were taking parts in a play.” Oral performance of a text, a nuanced reading that entered into and communicated the tone of a poem, voicing meaning rather than decoding it, was itself an act of interpretation; and poetry was the quintessential literary form because of its verbal density and reliance on voice. But Brower brought the same focus on “the sound of sense” (Frost’s phrase) to the novel, and he helped to develop Merrill’s appreciation of fiction too. Jimmy read Jane Austen in tutorial with him, and Proust would be the subject of his senior essay under Brower’s supervision. Merrill had first encountered Proust in freshman composition, where he was one of the autobiographers Baird featured in that course (indeed Proust was the source of more examples than any other author assigned). He at once became a transformative passion for Merrill, sweeping away Baudelaire, Wilde and Elinor Wylie like schoolboy crushes. Asked by an interviewer years later why Proust meant so much to him, Merrill pointed first to the scale of Proust’s seven-volume novel, its “wonderful size.” But À la recherche du temps perdu was not War and Peace or Bleak House (big books Merrill came to love later): Its setting was Belle Époque French society as seen through the prism of Proust’s life; its monumentality contrasted with the subjective focus epitomized in the stand-alone, quasi-lyric passages picked out by Baird (such as the pages about the madeleine,
the steeple of Sainte-Hilaire and Marcel’s obsession with actress Berma). The novel’s material was the life of a writer rather like Jimmy, an exquisitely self-conscious young man at ease in wealthy society, preoccupied with music, art, drama and books, whose tale begins with a boy alone in his room, desperate for his mother’s good-night kiss.
COURTESY GEORGE LAZARETOS. PAGE 18: KIMON FRIAR/COURTESY AMERICAN COLLEGE OF GREECE, ATTICA TRADITION EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATION
with memory dates from his time at Amherst. With Proust as tutor, he began to remember “so much of my own life”—he was just 18 when he wrote this—“that said life is beginning to appear immensely richer than it really was or perhaps it really was + I never knew it.” The Southampton home of his childhood figured largely in his “disjointed memories,” he told his friend Frederick Buechner, including the wallpaper pattern in his bedroom, his father’s Irish setters and the jigsaw puzzles he pored over “until Mamma became convinced I was going blind doing them. All of these [memories] make up a puzzle so much greater + more blinding.” These are the metaphors he would explore in “Lost in Translation,” his Proustian memory poem written 30 years later. “Everything will remind me of something now,” he concluded, as you might speak of an affliction or gift. Proust’s homosexuality and the homosexual themes of the novel were a crucial part of Jimmy’s identification with him. About the direction of his own desires, Jimmy was entirely clear. Back in 1942, he’d written a letter to his mother justifying his refusal to attend society dances in New York. “You have to understand this: it is more than just disliking dances.” He simply could not bring himself to act like “one of the fellows.” “I have accepted this feeling,” he said, “and I believe there is nothing you or I can do.” The pressure that mother and son both felt about this issue expresses a mutual awareness that much more was at stake than whether he would show up to a Junior League ball. Jim, as his Amherst teachers and classmates called him, was known to everyone as Charles Merrill’s son. Merrill Lynch, in the midst of major reorganization and a national marketing campaign, was a prominent national brand, and the co-founder of the firm arrived at his alma mater (he was a member of the class of 1908) like a
potentate, chauffeur-driven onto the gridiron to cheer the purple-clad Amherst football team. Even if he refused to join his father’s fraternity, Chi Psi, Jim did not shrink from association with him, and the fact of his own wealth. “He was smarter, richer and maybe better than the rest of us, and we wanted to get as much of him as we could,” remembered Bob Wilson ’47. Jim had the good fortune to draw as his freshman roommate Horton Grant, a bespectacled, sweet-natured boy from Los Angeles. The two were active in Amherst’s theater scene, which included a role for Jimmy as the butler in P.G. Wodehouse’s The Play’s The Thing in fall 1943. Jimmy joined the Masquers, which grew into the Kirby Theater Guild. The group made a respectable alternative to weekend excitement at the football field. Hanging over Merrill’s first three terms at Amherst was the knowledge that he would be called by the Army after his 18th birthday. His father urged him to prepare by getting himself in top shape, but all he managed were a few wistful walks in the hills. In May, interrupting his studies in the middle of his sophomore year, he entered the Army Enlisted Reserve. Reporting for duty on
"Everything will remind me of something now," Merrill (second from right, in Crete) once wrote, as you might speak of an affliction or gift.
Summer 2015 Amherst 21
from combat wounds in France. It was hard for Jimmy to know what to feel. “Elegy for an Enemy,” a poem he wrote in response to the news, begins, Death was by far too good for him, we said. The small, pale eyes, the soul of blunted lead. The snake-swift smile tracing the shape of dread. Can he be dead?
Between a god and a poet: As a 19-year-old at Amherst in 1945, Merrill posed with a head of Hermes and a life mask of Keats.
June 14, 1944, at Fort Dix, N.J., he buttoned up a private’s uniform. A month later he was sent to Camp Croft in South Carolina, where he learned to march, clean a gun, dig a foxhole, wear a gas mask and crawl under barbed wire while explosions roared overhead. Somehow he had time to read a lot: this “Marcelomaniac” was consuming quantities of Proust; poetry by Rilke, Yeats and Valéry; and novels by Stendhal and Henry James. His mind drifted to Isabel Archer and the “Archaic Torso of Apollo” while he was making notes about
Not long after that came a shocking report from Amherst: Horton Grant had died in a car crash one Saturday night, along with a buddy and their two dates. It wasn’t necessary for a young man to go to war to die an arbitrary, violent death. Jimmy also had his father’s health to think about. Decades of hard living and the strain of his recent work for Merrill Lynch had left Charlie’s arteries blocked and his heart vulnerable. In April 1944, he suffered a major heart attack, followed by another in July. With his father’s life threatened, and his memory stimulated by Proust, the 18-yearold soldier longed to return to childhood. A letter from his nephew Merrill Magowan released a flood of feeling in him. The little boy described being left alone in a rowboat and drifting “all the way over to the swans” before he was rescued. “That phrase,” Jimmy wrote to his mother from Camp Croft, “somehow makes me so homesick for not Southampton but for being a child again, being in a position to experience the fear and magical delight of the little boy caught among the big white, beautifully evil birds, to utter the squeaks and gasps he must have uttered. I envy him more than I can say for that.” Barely having come of age himself, Jimmy looked into his past and found a character who would soon appear in his poetry: a child magnetically drawn to the “beautifully evil” swans. In late 1944, he took an Army physical exam, for which he prepared by popping Benzedrine, hoping to push his heart rate up to an alarming level. But that was unnecessary: his eyesight was found to be poor, and he was designated for “limited service” only, which meant that he wouldn’t be sent overseas; he was assigned to the typing pool. Then, in January 1945, with Allied troops advancing on the Rhine, he was abruptly discharged. Back at Amherst, he was summoned to an audience with a distinguished campus visitor: Robert Frost. The poet was 70. He wore old-style black shoes laced to the ankles. Rheumy and tired, yet “with brilliant blue eyes and an enchanting smile,” Frost read and reacted to Merrill’s poems. He warned the young man away from “vague words,” while praising him for phrases that forced readers to “say things in a new way.”
Professor Brower walked into the classroom and announced that Merrill was destined for some sort of greatness. the range and caliber of ordnance. “I am in this dreadful affair,” he wrote about the war to Coley Newman ’45. “I have a very good chance of being killed or emotionally sterilized.” He was afraid of “losing time” “cleaning the latrines,” not to mention the prospect of dying on the battlefield. “I have such a huge desire to live […]. I want to write so much and so well[.]” That letter was written shortly before he learned that David Mixsell, his prep-school nemesis, had died 22 Amherst Summer 2015
AMHERST COLLEGE ARCHIVES. PAGE 22: KIMON FRIAR/COURTESY AMERICAN COLLEGE OF GREECE, ATTICA TRADITION EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATION
MERRILL’S SENIOR ESSAY on Proust, “À la
recherche du temps perdu: Impressionism in Literature,” begins by discussing French Impressionist painting, but his real subject is Proust’s complex use of metaphor. The power of metaphor, he explains, is that “it permits discovery. What is unknown may be known through analogy, as Einstein is said to have taught a blind man what ‘white’ is by letting him feel the neck of a swan.” The essay is, throughout, a controlled academic performance. Yet there are glimmers of the personal where more is at stake. While discussing the opening of Sodome et Gomorrhe, where Baron de Charlus and the tailor Jupien meet and then disappear to make love, Merrill has this to say: “The homosexual, [Proust] tells us, is […] a member of a race that must live by falsehood and perjury, obliged like a Christian on the day of judgment to renounce his strongest desires.” But there is nothing so eccentric, Merrill insists, about the homosexual: “Such a man is shunned not so much for his difference from other men, but because these others recognize in him certain fleeting aspects of their own natures.” A few pages further, describing the “protecting surface of metaphor” in Proust, Merrill perhaps describes some of his own motives for writing: “It is as though we were skating upon a sheet of ice that had formed above a black torrent: we may skate with an assurance of safety, but the ice does not make the water beneath us less terrible.” The essay was a smashing success with the English department. Richard Silva ’49 remembers Brower walking into class and announcing, “in the most reverent, even awestruck manner that Merrill had turned in his senior thesis on Proust, that it was brilliant, and that we were all privileged to be students at the same time and in the same place as Jim Merrill, who was destined for some sort of greatness.” Having finished his senior-year classes and submitted his thesis in February, Jimmy had time on his hands before commencement. He spent inordinate time on plans for a spring costume party.
Merrill inherited his love of parties from his parents. But he was also influenced by the soirees that punctuate Proust’s novel, and parties show up at important points in his own writing. Parties satisfied his faith in frivolity as a balm and his pleasure in drama and ritual, costumes and masks. These elements were combined in his oneact play The Birthday. Written during summer 1946, it was produced by the dramatic arts class at Amherst in May 1947. The play concerns a birthday party for an ordinary young man named Raymond. The sly, distinguished host is Charles. The guests are Max, a painter; the society matron Mrs. Crane; and Mr. Knight, “a wizard.” The name “Charles” came from Merrill’s father and brother—he would use it several more times in his work to create a comic alter ego. The play has the setting and clever dialogue of drawing-room comedy, but it veers at once toward the mystical, since it isn’t in fact Raymond’s birthday: the occasion being celebrated is purely symbolic. Raymond thinks he knows none of the others, and yet each of them represents some aspect of the person he will become or a dimension of himself he has yet to learn about. Merrill was ready to see his life as an adventure, as Raymond is encouraged to; and at 21 he hoped the adventure was beginning. When the question of what he would do after college came up at commencement, he replied mildly, “Oh, nothing,” smiling to himself about how much he intended to accomplish (in life, in art) without going to work like other graduates, while aware of how much work that might turn out to be. Raymond runs away from his birthday party. He fails to grasp the sort of drama he’s been thrust into; or maybe he understands perfectly well, and shies away from the task of self-creation before him, unsure how to begin. k Langdon Hammer is the author of James Merrill: Life and Art (2015, Knopf ), from which this article is adapted. He is a professor of English and American studies and chair of the English department at Yale.
Amherst produced Merrill’s play The Birthday in 1947. It has qualities of comedy but also veers toward the mystical.
Summer 2015 Amherst 23
24 Amherst Summer 2015
DR. INGER DAMON ’84 LED THE CDC’S EBOLA / YOU CAN’T CLOSE / RESPONSE AND DETERMINED ITS SMALLPOX / THE BORDERS / STRATEGY. NOW SHE’S PREPARING FOR THE NEXT
PUBLIC HEALTH CRISIS, WHATEVER IT MIGHT BE.
/ 25 / /
SUMMER 2015 / AMHERST
/ BY MARY LOFTUS / / P H O T O G R A P H S B Y C H R I S T O P H E R T. M A R T I N /
CV reads like a litany of potential pandemics and apocalyptic scenarios: She has taken on rabies in the Americas, a multistate outbreak of monkeypox, smallpox as a possible bioterrorism agent and the largest Ebola outbreak in history. Because she’s the director in charge of “high-consequence” pathogens and pathology at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you might expect Damon to be constantly anxious. She is, instead, a model of calm, unflappable, reassuring efficiency. She comes across as exactly the person you would want deciding what to do with the nation’s smallpox stocks, preventing the inadvertent release of anthrax and overseeing the CDC’s response to the Zaire ebolavirus outbreak in West Africa. All of these are, in fact, tasks with which Damon has been charged during her 15-year tenure with the agency. Walking across the grounds of the CDC headquarters in Atlanta, Damon points out the various locations in which she has worked: here’s the site of the original smallpox lab, a rabbit warren of cinderblock no longer standing; there are the new glass buildings that today house the rabies group, the personnel for chronic viral diseases and genomic sequencing, and the global communications center. An artificial creek bed meanders along, sans water, and a volleyball net sits on a manicured swath of green, looking more decorative than functional. Guards check badges at every building. The atmosphere is more staid than playful, more high-security complex than Googleplex.
of Clinical Microbiology. A caricature of Damon as “Pox Avenger” hangs on the wall. And a photo album labeled “Ebola Response 2014” rests on her desk—a souvenir of Damon’s eight months as head of the CDC’s efforts to contain the deadly virus. The first Ebola outbreak to reach epidemic proportions began in Guinea in December 2013 and quickly spread to Liberia and Sierra Leone. It has now killed more than 11,000 people and infected more than 27,000. When Damon took over the CDC’s response in July 2014, she says, “it had become painfully clear that the outbreak was not in control.” She was charged with creating and carrying out the agency’s strategy, and overseeing the day-to-day operations of the CDC’s largest international The outbreak was out of control emergency response when Damon took charge. Doctors to date. were dying. Clinics were closing. Ebola is a brutal hemorrhagic fever that overwhelms the body’s defenses, disarms the Damon’s division, part of the National immune system and has a 50 to 90 perCenter for Emerging and Zoonotic Infec- cent mortality rate. While past outbreaks tious Diseases, has five branches that are had been brought under control within a responsible for studying and managing few weeks, the one in West Africa proved dozens of alarming-sounding diseases, resilient. Fueled by improved transporpathogens and syndromes, from chronic tation and increased connectivity, the wasting disease, to rat-bite fever, to tickvirus jumped across borders and spread borne encephalitis. In her office, high rapidly through densely populated urban above the lawn, orchids and African areas, overwhelming health care systems violets sit alongside a copy of the Manual that were already under-resourced and 26 Amherst Summer 2015
short-staffed. Multiple factors compounded the rapid spread, including extreme poverty, traditional hands-on burial practices and a widespread distrust of government officials. Hospitals and clinics struggled to stay open. Even as their doctors and nurses began to die from the virus, these centers had too few gowns and gloves—basic equipment for personal protection. “These were countries already ravaged by years of civil war,” says Damon. In Liberia and Sierra Leone, for example, insurgencies and coups had led to the looting and damage of medical clinics. Hospitals lacked electricity and running water. Health care workers were scarce. It was not the ideal scenario for a potential pandemic. Rather, it was ideal for the pandemic; not so much for the humans.
IN A SENSE, Damon had spent her
entire career preparing to lead the fight against Ebola. The daughter of two academic scientists—her father was a physicist, her mother a chemist—Damon decided to take a different path. “My parents were aghast when I told them I was thinking about medical school,” she says, only half-jokingly. Her father, Dwight Hills Damon ’53, grew up in Amherst and attended the College on a scholarship for town residents. When Inger first arrived at Amherst, she joined her sister Candace ’81. Inger majored in chemistry, joined
Damon, a U.S. Public Health Service captain, is one of the world’s top experts on poxviruses.
the coed fraternity Alpha Delta Phi and worked in the lab of chemist Dave Dooley, now president of the University of Rhode Island. At Amherst, she says, she developed “a level of curiosity and critical thinking” that continues to influence her work. After earning an M.D./Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut Health Center, she did her residency in internal medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. After that, she completed a fortuitous infectious-disease fellowship and molecular virology postdoctoral fellowship at the National Institute for Allergy and
Infectious Diseases. There, she worked in Bernie Moss’s lab on poxviruses, studying how viruses invade cells, how poxviruses replicate and how vaccines work. She married a fellow scientist, Greg Armstrong, and they settled on Capitol Hill, commuting by Metro to the NIH in Maryland. When Armstrong got a job with the CDC’s hepatitis group, Damon began looking for a position in Atlanta. She joined the CDC’s poxvirus group in 1999 as a medical officer in the U.S. Public Health Service, with the rank of lieutenant commander.
“Atlanta, the CDC and Emory were perfect for my interests—the triple threat of clinical, research and teaching,” she says. In addition to her work with the poxvirus group, Damon lectured at Emory’s School of Medicine and treated patients in the HIV clinic at the Atlanta VA Medical Center. She became one of the world’s foremost experts on orthopoxviruses—a group of viruses that includes monkeypox, cowpox, camelpox and, most famously, smallpox. Like ebolaviruses, orthopoxes are zoonotic; that is, they are able to jump from animals to humans. Damon has studied their genetic diversity, resolved outbreaks around the globe and learned how these viruses “outthink” their host organisms, becoming efficient and adaptive. Among many other projects, she compiled the first significant database of whole-genome sequences of variola, the virus that causes smallpox. This intimate familiarity would go on to serve her well. Damon was a lead investigator of the first (and so far only) outbreak of monkeypox in the United States. Monkeypox is rare in humans, and until the 2003 U.S. outbreak, it had been limited to Africa. It causes fever, swollen lymph nodes and a rash, and is usually relatively mild. In deciding how to respond to the U.S. outbreak—which was traced to imported exotic rodents—Damon and the CDC looked to the worldwide eradication of smallpox as a model. Smallpox killed millions each year until it was wiped out in 1979 through vaccination efforts and other tried-andtrue public health practices: educating and engaging the community, quickly identifying new and potential cases, isolating patients and tracking their movements to find people with whom they had contact. To contain the monkeypox outbreak, Damon and the CDC employed the same strategies, including smallpox vaccination, which is effective against monkeypox. Seventy-one people came down with monkeypox in the Midwest. Summer 2015 Amherst 27
All recovered. Although no vaccine exists for Ebola, the basic “shoe leather” methods—case identification and isolation, contact tracing, community education—are the same tools the CDC would rely on in 2014.
honor to do the job.) Public anxiety in this country began mounting. “Ebola was a huge wake-up call in terms of how globally prepared we are to handle an epidemic, and how interconnected our world is,” says Damon. “I mean, you can’t close the borders.” Under Damon’s leadership, the CDC and one-time tracked reports of all passengers who marathoner, Damon was training for a developed fevers and other symptoms new challenge—the 17.1-mile Imogene while flying internationally and sent in Pass high-altitude run—when the CDC medical teams whenever anyone—such tagged her to lead its Ebola response. In as the Liberian-American lawyer who fell July 2014 she gave up her training and ill before landing in Nigeria on July 20— prepared for a different endurance chaltested positive for Ebola. lenge, setting up shop in the agency’s The CDC initially aimed to send 50 Emergency Operations Center. staffers at a time to work on the ground Activated during hurricanes, terrorin West Africa. As the death toll rose, ist attacks and disease outbreaks, the however, the agency increased that Emergency Operations Center is staffed number to 250. Damon visited one of the with CDC experts dedicated to the task Ebola treatment units being built in Liat hand. An open space, it is filled with beria. “My job was to gather information, video screens, banks of computers and identify gaps and needs, and provide clocks set to the local times in cities continuity and leadership,” she says. around the world. Once activated, the She talked daily with CDC Director Tom center is busy 24/7. Frieden, and when President Obama visBy this point, the World Health Orited the CDC in the fall, she briefed him ganization was calling the escalation of on the epidemic. the Ebola outbreak “precarious.” From Damon coordinated work among July 28 to 30 alone, 117 new cases and 97 agencies within the U.S. government, deaths had been reported in West Africa. state and local health departments, and Then, in August, the crisis came home: international agencies and organizations. A major obstacle was in training enough workers to staff the “Ebola was a huge wake-up call in treatment units in West terms of how globally prepared we Africa—and in replacare to handle an epidemic.” ing the staff who were dying. “Ebola took out a third of the physicians and healthcare two American medical missionaries who workers in some places,” Damon says. acquired Ebola in Liberia while tending Media reports told of families driving to patients—Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy from one clinic to the next in search of Writebol—were flown to a special isolahelp, and of victims dying in the streets. tion unit at Emory University Hospital Damon and Stuart Nichol, the chief in Atlanta, built in collaboration with the scientific officer for the response, came CDC to safely treat patients with highly up with the idea of a CDC training course infectious diseases. (One of the pilots to augment the efforts of the nonprofit was Randy Davis ’76, of Phoenix Air Doctors Without Borders. The course, Group. He told ABC News that it was an held in Anniston, Ala., ultimately gradu-
A MASTER SWIMMER
28 Amherst Summer 2015
ated 600 volunteers, largely American doctors and nurses, many of whom immediately went to work in West Africa. This effort was not entirely altruistic. As Frieden said often during the outbreak, “We are all connected by the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, and by airplanes that can bring disease from anywhere to anywhere in a day.” With the death from Ebola of Thomas Eric Duncan—the first person to be diagnosed in the United States—in October in Texas, and the subsequent infection of two health care workers who treated him, our own vulnerability was clear. “To protect our interests, you have to develop capacity in these countries,” says Damon. “They are clamoring for it, but they need resources and technical assistance.” The CDC provided both, as well as guidance on infection control and clinical care. Frieden remembers Damon as focused and calm, even when the death toll was at its highest. “She is the epitome of a
Damon meets with colleagues in the midst of the Ebola crisis in August 2014.
CDC scientist,” he says: “dedicated to service, committed to evidence-based medicine and passionate about public health.” Damon looks back on those eight months as exhausting—she took a total of four days off—but exhilarating. They were also highly successful. Today, the epidemic has scaled down to a scattering of cases in Guinea and Sierra Leone. Liberia, the country hit hardest, is officially Ebola-free.
© BRANDEN CAMP/EPA/CORBIS
IN DAMON’S LINE OF WORK,
there’s always another threat looming just beyond the horizon, like a gathering storm. “There are constantly new emerging infectious and zoonotic diseases,” she says. “And there are even more now, with climate change and our global interconnectedness.” Recently her expertise on poxviruses thrust her into the international spotlight. When the WHO declared smallpox eradicated, the remaining stocks of vari-
ola were voluntarily consolidated in two WHO Collaborating Centre labs. One of these labs is at the CDC in Atlanta, the other at the State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology in Russia. This spring, scientists and policymakers asked: What should happen to these stocks? To understand the emotional desire to eliminate every last remaining trace of smallpox from the world, all one needs to do is view a photo of an infected child. But while the scientific community is somewhat divided on the question, many top researchers argue that destroying the known stores does not guarantee elimination of the scourge. The World Health Assembly (the WHO’s decision-making committee) convened on May 19 to vote on whether to recommend keeping or destroying these stocks. Damon, in her role as director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Smallpox and Other Poxvirus Infections, falls strongly on the “keep” side of the argument: “There’s always the possibility that smallpox could re-emerge,
through undisclosed stocks or biosynthesis of the virus. We must conduct more research [on the live virus] to be prepared.” In an opinion piece for the journal PLOS Pathogens, Damon and her coauthors wrote: “Despite significant advances, there is more work to be done before the international community can be confident that it possesses sufficient protection against any future smallpox threats.” Keeping the existing stores, they maintained, would allow scientists to conduct research that might eventually lead to newer and safer vaccines, antiviral drugs and better ways to diagnose the disease. Today, Damon continues to study the genetic sequencing of existing poxviruses, to identify new ones and to work on the development of vaccines. Her emphasis is on what’s safe, cheap and effective—vaccines or treatments that can be stockpiled or produced quickly and at large volumes, and that are hardy enough to be transported and used in developing countries and rural areas. “It’s tremendously rewarding to continue to learn and be curious at the intersection of communities, the environment and basic science,” she says, as she hurries off to a meeting across the CDC campus, this one on redefining chronic fatigue syndrome. Through all of this—brainstorming with colleagues, creating protocols, weighing in on international policies, researching, writing and educating—Damon is protecting hundreds of thousands of people who most likely will never know her name, or the fate that would have befallen them, or the catastrophe that was, quietly and calmly and systematically, prevented from ever even happening. k Mary Loftus is editor of Emory Medicine magazine and recently reported on the treatment and recovery of four Ebola patients at Emory Hospital’s Serious Communicable Disease Unit. Summer 2015 Amherst 29
In photographing strangers, one alumna tries to understand something of the people who live in her city. Photographs and Text by Mary Beth Meehan ’89
Last year I began walking around Providence, where I live, and photographing strangers. In my career as a photographer I have worked mostly candidly, responding to an action as it unfolds. With this project I wanted to explore portraiture: someone agrees to be photographed by me, but then what do I do? I published the images online, writing about the people I was meeting as well as my process. I wanted to examine how the pictures happen, as well as the ethics of trying to represent another human being. This June eight of the portraits were reproduced as banners up to 40 feet high and installed on buildings in the city. The result has startled me. The mother of Darnell, the boy with his hands in prayer, says she drives by the portrait every day. She tearfully thanked me for having shown her son’s tender side. A man who works in the building where Darnell’s portrait hangs, an arts center, says the energy inside it has changed completely: young people of color seem to have taken more ownership of the place. Fernando, from Guatemala, pictured outside his auto shop, says many immigrants are now asking his advice on how to succeed in this country. Gazing into strangers’ eyes and asking them to reveal themselves turns out to be a radical act. Normally, we travel our well-worn routes and aren’t quite interested. This project has led me to question how we see one another: What do we think we see? How much do we miss? What remains unseen?
AMHERST SUMMER 2015
DARNELL Darnell’s mother thinks he looks high in this picture: glossy-eyed, thin, struggling with life. She says it shows the pain he was in when I met him. I first met Darnell over the summer, at the Community Boating Center, where he was working. He was open, laughing, horsing around with
“I was getting in too much trouble in Providence”
his friends. Everyone calls him Bookie (pronounced Boo-kie). One of his legs was encased in a cast from thigh to ankle. I asked him what had happened. “I got shot,” he said. I was surprised, curious about this boy. I asked if I could make his portrait. Bookie, who is now age 17, agreed. He took a couple of days to get his hair cut and ask his mom’s permission, and then we met, outside his family’s apartment, in South Providence. We made some photographs in the courtyard behind the building, but he was jumpy, nervous, looking up every time a car went by. I tried to get him to talk about the shooting, but he was reluctant. He said he didn’t know who did it, didn’t know why it had happened. He asked if we could finish up quickly. Near the end of the session, he asked if I would make a few pictures with his hands held in prayer. I went home and edited the take, and, indeed, the ones with his hands in prayer were the best. I began searching on the Internet, looking for Bookie on Facebook, trying to learn about the shooting. I texted him and left phone messages, but got no replies. I started to question my interest, to worry about having singled out this kid: Was I assuming he was at fault? Was this somehow perpetuating a harmful stereotype, to profile a black kid from the South Side who’d been shot? Should I have avoided including him in order to avoid the stereotype? But he was a real person. Didn’t his real-ness override these questions? When I finally reached Bookie, by phone, weeks later, he told me he had moved—to North Carolina. “I was getting in too much trouble in Providence,” he said. He told Summer 2015 Amherst 31
MARINA me I could take the finished print to his mother, and he gave me her phone number. His mother’s name is Erica; we met at the entrance to her building on a Saturday afternoon. She led me upstairs, past dozens of framed photographs: of her four children on the football field, at the prom, in colorful caps and gowns. Inside the family’s apartment, every shelf was crammed with trophies: football, basketball, cheerleading. There were more photographs, from family vacations, plus inspirational sayings about motherhood, laughter, faith. While Bookie’s father watched basketball on TV, I showed Erica the portrait I’d made, and she said she loved it. She then called him, and he appeared on the cell phone’s small screen. She held up the photo to show him; he said he liked it. Then she asked his permission to tell me what had happened to him. He agreed, and they hung up. Bookie had been at Bishop Hendricken High School, playing sports, doing well, following in his older brother’s footsteps. But once that brother had left for college, Bookie kind of went off the rails. At around age 15 he started getting high and drinking; then he got kicked out of school. With some neighborhood kids he’d known since they were little, he joined a gang. Erica said he turned dark, sullen, and they began arguing. She grew anxious and depressed, stopped sleeping, didn’t recognize this child who had been so happy till then. She said that when her phone rang once at 2 in the morning, she knew he 32 Amherst Summer 2015
was in trouble. Bookie had been shot. Two bullets had entered his left leg, shattering the tibia; another one had grazed his back. She said that when he got home from the hospital he was terrified, and the boys in the gang started coming around again. Erica wasn’t sure how to help her son, and then it came to her: she had to get him out of Providence. She called her sister in North Carolina and made arrangements for Bookie to go to her. She told him the plan and bought him a plane ticket; he didn’t put up a fight. Since then, she said, he’d gotten clean, put on some weight, enrolled in an online course for his highschool diploma. He’d even gotten a job, standing outside a tax preparer’s office, wearing a Statue of Liberty costume to attract customers. “He would never have done that here,” his mother said, laughing. Looking again at my portrait, Erica pointed to Bookie’s prayerful hands. She said he’d since gotten a tattoo on his shoulder of that image, but she wasn’t sure why. I said: could we call him back and ask him? Bookie laughed when he appeared again on Erica’s screen. “Bookie,” she said, “in that picture, why’d you do the prayer sign?” “Because I pray every day,” he said. “And because I’m blessed. God was by my side the day of the shooting.… It’s a blessing from God for making me able to speak to you guys right now.” Erica said she’d call him back later, and Bookie said that he loved her. She hung up and turned to me: “He had gotten out of saying ‘I love you,’ and all that stuff.”
On the East Side, clustered around the Providence Hebrew Day School, on Elmgrove Avenue, is an enclave of Orthodox Jews. I live near there, and when I walk to the store or take my children to the playground, I often see the members of this community, the men wearing stiff black hats, the women with their hair covered and long skirts concealing their legs. When I pass them on foot, I say, “Hello,” but often they don’t meet my eye. Sometimes I put an extra effort into greeting them, to see if they’ll respond to me. Over time I began to notice something that I didn’t like: when they didn’t engage with me I would get angry. And when I saw the women, with their bodies encased in clothing and their many children trailing them, I would think how oppressed they must be. I’d get angry about that, too. When I began making portraits of Providence people, I decided to try to include someone from this community. I contacted the Hebrew school’s rabbi, and, after a series of phone calls, emails, meetings—and even a letter of reference—he asked me to write a short description of my work, which he said he would distribute within the community. Slowly, there followed a wave of openings; I, with my camera, began to be invited in. I was invited to a morning prayer service, to a winter Purim parade, to a communitywide fundraiser. At one banquet a young woman approached me and said, “You must be the person who wants to meet us.” We chatted, and I asked if I could speak with her again, at her home. When I later got to her house, as arranged, she told me that she’d called the rabbi—twice—to make sure it was okay to let me in. Thinking of the women who didn’t say “Hello” to me on the playground, I asked her why she’d been so wary. She said that all four of her grandparents had been in the Holocaust, and that that colored the way one looked out on the world. This stopped me cold. During the weeks that followed, I photographed many people in the Orthodox community, including students at the Hebrew school and an elderly rabbi who had taken in two non-Jewish homeless men, saying, “The Talmud doesn’t talk about love for fellow Jew; it talks about love for all God’s children.” But I remained most interested in the women. For many of the women, the idea of being photographed conflicts with the law of modesty. This topic launched numerous conversations, in kitchens and on front steps, as the women explained to me that the law of modesty led to a kind of freedom: from the world of appearances, from the outside culture’s obsession with women’s bodies, from the gaze of men other than their husbands. Many refused to be photographed, especially if their names were to have been used and their pictures
seen widely. But then I met Marina. Marina was born in Russia and raised as a non-Orthodox Jew, but as an adult she had converted to Orthodoxy. She is now a professional in the financial sector, in Providence. She acknowledged that the law of modesty is complicated, and that in some Orthodox communities it is indeed used to subjugate women. But as someone who has chosen this spiritual path—and written two books on it—she has come to revel in the liberation that the law enables. “True beauty must stem from one’s deeds, speech and thought, and it radiates from the inside out,” she has written. She described a culture that I know well: one that worships youth and beauty, in which adolescent girls, consumed with anxiety about their looks, often fall prey to eating disorders. Marina said that within the bounds of modesty there is room to concentrate on one’s inner virtues, to see oneself as completely human, regardless of how one’s body, social standing or material wealth conforms to society’s standards. And she referred to the Orthodox community as a source of support, within which the outside culture’s superficial rules are irrelevant. When I first met Marina she’d been wearing a snood—a crocheted covering of her head. When I returned to make her portrait, she was wearing a wig. It brushed her shoulders and
framed her face in thick bangs. When we stepped outside to make the picture, the late-evening sunlight glinted off the auburn strands. Back in the house, since we were just two women alone, I asked Marina if she would show me her hair. She said, “No.” She asked if I would get naked in front of a stranger, even if that stranger was another woman. I said, “Probably not.” She said that it was the same thing; my modesty was akin to hers. “It’s private,” she said. Not long after, I saw a group of Orthodox women and children at the neighborhood playground. I have a plot at the adjacent vegetable garden, and while I was working there my T-shirt and pants had gotten muddy. I spotted some of the women I recognized, and I was tempted to say “Hello” to them. But I was self-conscious about my appearance, and didn’t want to intrude. I noticed, though, that nowadays I feel differently about them.
“True beauty must stem from one’s deeds, speech and thought, and it radiates from the inside out.”
Summer 2015 Amherst 33
OMOWUNMI Omowunmi is a soldier, a mechanic in the U.S. Army. Her specialty is “lightweight vehicles”: trucks, trailers, Humvees. She has been stationed at Fort Campbell and Fort Bragg, and was deployed twice to the war in Iraq. It was there that an accident injured her hand and ended her military career. She told me all this inside the sweet yellow bungalow she shares with her husband, off Mount Pleasant Avenue. She’d invited me there to tell me her story. When I first arrived, we stood in the en34 Amherst Summer 2015
When her car turned out to be a lemon, she learned to be a mechanic.
tryway talking. “Where are my manners?” she suddenly said, and took me into her living room. While we talked she served fried fish and fruit, and cold drinks. I had first met Omowunmi at the Chapel of Peace, a small church on Potters Avenue; I’d been attracted to it by the name. Her husband, whom she had met and married in their native Nigeria, is the chapel’s pastor. She had wanted to marry a man of God, and had dreamt of him almost 10 years before she met him. There were others who wanted to marry her, but she knew that he was the one. Before coming to the United States, Omowunmi was trying to make a living in her country, selling bottled soda and bread on the roadside, when her uncle told her she’d won “the lottery.” He was in Providence, and had entered her name for a green card. She was selected. Soon after she arrived here, almost 20 years ago, she bought a used car, for $800. It turned out to be a lemon and cost more than that to be fixed. So that this would never happen again, she decided to learn to be a mechanic. Omowunmi’s father was a Nigerian soldier in World War II, and she adored him. He died when she was 8. From then on she’s wanted to honor him, by living a life of discipline and service—first as a soldier, now as a wife and a teacher of Sunday school, and then in whatever callings might follow. Last year Omowunmi got her bachelor’s degree at the University of Rhode Island in healthcare services, and she now works at a veterans’ hospital. Her nickname is Peace. She’s thinking about changing her name permanently. It’s easier for Americans to pronounce, but, more important, she loves the word. “I love the meaning of that name.”
FERNANDO Sometimes I see a perfect picture in front of me: the light, the color, the mood, the gesture. The person. In my mind is the criticism that we photographers objectify people, that we commit “the violence of the aesthetic.” But at this moment, I am only thrilled by what I see. A man is leaning against the doorway to a mechanic’s shop, in Olneyville; his hand is resting under his chin. I’m afraid this will change, so I walk quickly toward him. I hear men all around me speaking Spanish, so I hold out my hand and say, in Spanish, “Please don’t move. Would it be okay if I take your picture and explain later?” He says, “Sí.”
He sings a love song. His voice is full of longing.
in East Providence. He records them in the “notes” section of his phone, which he pulls out and shows me. He plays me a video of himself, singing a love song he’s written. His voice rings out, full of longing. When I began this project, I wrote about Providence as
a pie chart of percentages, of immigrants coming from Central and South America, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, West Africa. But as I sit in this man’s company, I realize how reductive that is, how those ideas just eclipse the fullness of a person.
His name is Fernando. I ask where he is from and he says Guatemala, but he doesn’t have time to talk. I go back on another day to give him a print, and to find out more about him. We walk through the garage and he offers me a seat in his tiny office. I ask him about Guatemala. He tells me about a difficult passage through Mexico, and crossing the Rio Grande on foot on his way to this country. That was 16 years ago. For seven years he has owned this shop. I tell him I want to write something about his life, and he explains that writing is something that he loves to do. When he’s gotten home from work, after he’s had a shower and begun to relax, words come to him: about a woman he loves and is trying to win back, about his gratitude for a healthy son, and his resolve to keep working so the boy can stay in private school, Summer 2015 Amherst 35
ANNYE I’m sitting in my car in Washington Park, in front of a big white house with red trim, and I can’t believe what I see: Annye is walking onto the porch and down the steps, decked out in a sun-yellow suit and plum-colored hat. After weeks of introductions and phone calls and being cajoled, she has finally submitted to my making her portrait. I’m excited but also a little worried that I won’t do her justice. She was first introduced to me as Sister Annye, at the Bethel A.M.E. (African Methodist Episcopal) Church, on Rochambeau Avenue, just down the street from my house. I’d lived there for 12 years, often passing the tiny brick
She didn’t want to be singled out, didn’t want any “glory.” structure with its glossy red door, but had never entered. So one winter morning I decided to go there and introduce myself to the pastor. I told him I was making portraits of Providence people and that I was interested in his congregation. He invited me to a service, and told me that I had to meet Annye. When Annye and I were introduced she was polite, but when she heard about my wanting to make photographs she said, “No, no, no!“ She didn’t want to be singled out, didn’t want any “glory”; but she did give me her phone number, saying that I could call her. Nighttime was best, she said. During the day she was “always running,” doing errands for the elderly, visiting the sick. But at night
she stayed home reading—the Bible and African-American history. Sometimes, she said, she’d get so engrossed in her reading that the sun would come up before she turned out her light. Many weeks and many conversations followed. I learned that in 1959 Annye had come to Providence from Montgomery, Ala. She’d answered an advertisement in the newspaper, placed by an East Side widower who was looking for a livein caretaker for his three children. She met other domestic workers in Rhode Island, many of them also Southern black women—some of whom had college degrees but found that they could make more money here, taking care of white people’s children, than they could in their professions in the South. I learned that Annye had had eight children, that all had been well educated—“Thanks be to God”—and that one had even had an audience with the pope. But there were many questions Annye refused to answer. She wouldn’t tell me her age, and was stony silent when I asked about the father of her children. “No, no, no,” she said. “That’s a sore subject.” But she finally agreed to a photograph. So on this spring evening she gets into my car and I suggest that we go to Roger Williams Park. She agrees, saying she remembers many evenings there, with her children in pajamas, enjoying a dinner under the trees, on a broad blanket spread with chicken, potato salad, chocolate cake and punch. We get out in front of a beautiful old tree—“This tree is older than the both of us”—and as I work Annye is patient with me in ways I’m grateful for. When we are finished and back in the car, she hands me something that she says she’s written and would like me to quote. Here’s an excerpt: Annye R. P. Community Missionary Is a fanatic when it comes to Serving God, about Obtaining a Religious Education, Scholastic Education, Black History Education … Service to your Fellow Man, Especially the Elderly, and Teaching and Training our young people to Utilize their God-Given Gifts and Talents. Not to Expect Anything In Return but God’s Grace, Mercy, and Blessings. When it’s all over remember whatever you have done for the last one you have also done it unto God. May the Work I have done speak for me.k
Photographs and text © Mary Beth Meehan, 2015. To see more from this ongoing project, go to marybethmeehan.tumblr.com.
38 It’s a tumor: Dr. Chris Leininger ’69 solves medical mysteries. 39 Megan Carroll ’02 is one of 15 White House Fellows.
Photograph by Costas Picadas
ALUMNI IN THE WORLD
Gregory Speck ’75 amassed a collection of 400 taxidermy specimens. He came to think of the beasts as friends. Page 40.
Summer 2015 Amherst 37
Solving Medical Mysteries BY KATHERINE DUKE ’05 HEALTH U Medical students are often advised: “When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras.” That is, start by assuming that a patient’s symptoms indicate a simple, common ailment, not a rare and complicated one. But at his innovative clinic, Dr. Chris Leininger ’69 takes time to focus on the “zebras.” Opened in 2008, Seattle Premier Health is a “concierge medical practice,” treating an intentionally low number of patients, outside of the traditional medical insurance system. For a flat fee of just over $200 a month, each patient gets access to all commonplace procedures within the clinic—such as annual physicals, Pap smears, vaccines and 38 Amherst Summer 2015
There’s no need for a waiting room. There’s no need for a chart room.
Chris Leininger ’69 MAJOR: PHYSICS
In one patient, a CAT scan showed a lung mass “the size of a tomato” and four brain lesions.
stitches—and can spend as much time with a doctor as desired. “They can come in every day and talk to us, they can call us, they can email us,” says Leininger, whose board certification is in family medicine. The clinic also offers advocacy and assistance when patients need specialized care from other facilities. “We charge the same fee whether you’re 30 years old and have nothing wrong with you or are 70 and have some strange tumor somewhere.” At this late stage of his career, Leininger relishes the more challenging “medical mysteries.” Consider the uninsured 45-year-old who had already visited five free clinics in five months, complaining of lethargy and cognitive difficulties. Lacking X-ray machines and sufficient time to thoroughly examine her, the doctors had given her pain pills and told her she was
COURTESY CHRIS LEININGER
For a flat fee, each of his patients gets unlimited time with a doctor who relishes a challenge.
depressed. Meanwhile, her symptoms worsened. When Leininger took her on as a patient at the request of her father, she was delirious in the emergency room. A CAT scan showed a lung mass “the size of a tomato” and four brain lesions. “We all assumed this was lung cancer spread to the brain,” says Leininger. However, a biopsy showed the lesions were filled with pus. The diagnosis: disseminated cryptococcosis, a rare fungal infection. The fungus is thought to ride on trucks traveling from Canada. Her home was near the highway. With treatment, she became healthy enough to return to work. The NIH is still studying her case. Leininger describes this and other success stories when giving presentations about his clinic. He hopes that at least some aspects of its uncommon business model will catch on, allowing other doctors to devote more time to each patient. Originally affiliated with the city’s nonprofit Swedish Medical Center but now private, Seattle Premier Health employs three physicians and one nurse/receptionist. Instead of complex insurance billing, monthly fees are deducted from patients’ credit card accounts with the push of a button. “There’s no waiting room, because patients never wait,” says Leininger, who has about 100 patients. “We have no chart room, because we’re completely electronic, so there’s no paper floating around.” And exam rooms are decorated with works by low-income artists whom the clinic agrees to treat for free. Leininger estimates that, with about two-thirds of the difficult and mysterious cases, he and his colleagues are at least able to figure out what’s wrong, if not successfully treat the ailments. And even when they can’t pinpoint a diagnosis after many months, he says, patients often remain loyal to the clinic, because “it’s a comfort to have a doctor you can talk to, who knows you.”
COURTESY MEGAN CARROLL
As one of 15 White House Fellows, she’s spent a year rubbing shoulders with the political elite.
An Inside Look at Washington BY EMILY GOLD BOUTILIER GOVERNMENT U Every year, a select group of young men and women head to Washington, D.C., to work in the highest levels of federal government. These White House Fellows serve in full-time, paid positions throughout the executive branch, from the Treasury Department to the National Security Council to the Office of the First Lady. This year, Megan Carroll ’02 is one of these young people. President Lyndon Johnson founded the nonpartisan fellowship in 1964 to provide “first hand, highlevel experience with the workings of the Federal government.” Carroll is one of 15 fellows for 2014–15. Her assignment: the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, housed in the State Department. The position builds upon her previous work with the U.N. in South Sudan. The fellows attend lunches and seminars with experts. Carroll has met cabinet secretaries, senior White House officials, Supreme Court justices and members of Congress, as well as President Obama and the First Lady. The fellows also travel together. “A highlight,” Carroll says, “was landing on the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier while at sea to spend two days learning about the U.S. Navy.” All this, Carroll says, “has given me a much greater appreciation of the complexity and challenges of issues and decisions facing our policymakers, as well as a deeper understanding of the strategic importance of the U.S. Mission to the U.N. and the institutions that shape and drive domestic and U.S. foreign policy.”
Carroll’s work assignment: the U.S. Mission to the United Nations
Megan Carroll ’02 MAJOR: POLITICAL SCIENCE
“A highlight was landing on the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier while at sea to spend two days learning about the U.S. Navy.”
Carroll came to Washington from South Sudan, where she led the U.N. Development Programme’s Democracy and Participation portfolio for that country. Earlier, she was acting director and deputy director of The Carter Center’s Democracy Program in South Sudan and Sudan. She was an international observer in the 2011 referendum that resulted in South Sudan’s independence from Sudan. “It was a unique privilege to witness the birth of a new nation,” she says, but “heartbreaking to see the young nation descend into violence.” It was nighttime in Juba, South Sudan, when Carroll got the phone call saying she’d been named a fellow. “Due to the security situation and curfew, I was at ‘home’ in my tiny tukul on the UNDP compound,” she says. She was happy and grateful, but also sad to leave “a place I had come to know as home.” After the fellowship ends later this summer, Carroll plans to continue to work in public policy, either with the federal government, for a foundation or with the United Nations. SOUTH SUDAN, A PRIMER / Here are some little-
known facts that Carroll says people should know about South Sudan: It is not only the world’s newest nation but also one of the youngest, ”with an estimated 70 percent of the population under the age of 30.” “It has the potential to be the breadbasket of the region and has incredible wildlife.” It is home to the Sudd, one of the world’s largest wetlands, and the white-eared kob, an antelope species. The people are among the most resilient she has met.
Summer 2015 Amherst 39
BY EMILY GOLD BOUTILIER HOUSEMATES U Gregory Speck ’75 does not own a gun, or even a fishing pole. Yet this non-hunter spent decades living among stuffed, mounted creatures. Two hundred of them filled his apartment in the Beresford building on Central Park West. He kept the other 200 in his home in Harrisonburg, Va. When he decided to move full-time to Virginia, he knew he’d have too little space for the entire collection, and he didn’t want to break up his animal kingdom. He needed to find a new home for the deer, caribou, fish, beavers, ducks, black bear, bobcats, foxes and lynxes, not to mention the mute swan with an 8-foot wingspan, which he’d found as roadkill on Route 81 in Virginia; the buffalo he says was shot by Gloria Vanderbilt’s husband while on safari with Ernest Hemingway; and the bison he found in a supermarket freezer. And, not least, there was Max the Wolf, an alpha male shot by a rancher in Wyoming. A lifelong animal lover, Speck—a celebrity journalist who’s held, among many other titles, that of press agent for Studio 54—views the collection as an educational zoology display. He’d once dreamed of creating “a Noah’s Ark of live animals.” Knowing that goal was unrealistic, he decided, “At least I can preserve the animals in this 40 Amherst Summer 2015
A taxidermy collection filled his apartment on Central Park West—until he headed south.
Gregory Speck ’75 MAJOR: ENGLISH AND FINE ARTS
“I said, ‘Do you have bison steak?’ He said, ‘We have a bison head,’ and he took me to the walkin freezer.”
artistic way.” He came to think of the creatures as his friends. Speck acquired them from auctions, hunters and taxidermists, and in some cases from the side of the road. He started the endeavor in the 1980s. While driving up the Hudson River to write an article for the magazine 212, of which he was editor, he and two friends saw an enormous, dead raccoon. Speck wanted to put it in the car. His friends insisted otherwise. Speck hid the animal behind a hedge and called Jon Davis ’75, who lived nearby. Speck asked Davis to pick up the raccoon and freeze it. Instead, Davis found a taxidermist, who mounted the racoon and gave it to Speck. Ten years later Speck was again driving up the Hudson. He noticed a taxidermy shop while stopping for gas in Cold Spring Harbor. Inside, a man was working on six animals, including a rare Indian jungle bull. “I rented a van, went to get these six big hits and put them in the ballroom,” Speck says. By 1996, “I had a ready-made museum”—one that cost him about $150,000 to collect and that he estimates to be worth more than $1 million today. Late last year he donated all of it to the Virginia Museum of Natural History. Well, not quite all: For the time being, he could not bear to part with a cougar, now in his Harrisonburg living room, and Max the Wolf, now atop the grand piano.
EMILY ANDREWS/THE NEW YORK TIMES/REDUX
Where the Wild Things Were
SKATING U As she sat in the cold outside the rink in North Adams, Mass., watching her then-9-yearold daughter, Maia, practice figure skating, Lara ShoreSheppard ’91 had three thoughts: “I could do that. I used to do that. I want to do that again.” A year later, she brought home a bronze medal from the Bay State Games. Shore-Sheppard figure-skated competitively from third grade until midway through high school. Then, deciding the sport was too expensive and time-consuming, she gave it up. Only occasionally during her years at Amherst did she make use of Orr Rink. But, decades later, her daughter’s foray onto the ice inspired Shore-Sheppard to follow suit. She rejoined the U.S. Figure Skating Association in 2014. She found a coach, Cheri Daub, who was close to her in age and therefore familiar with the kind of
skating she’d done in the 1980s. Back then, a skater would do “both freestyle, which is what you might have seen on the Olympics—jumping and spinning in a program—and then you also did figures,” Shore-Sheppard says, “tracing, very slowly, 8’s or other shapes onto the ice.” In the intervening years, the USFSA had replaced figures with “moves in the field,” a type of skating focused on “strength and flow” and “being able to do different kinds of turns at high or low speeds.” And, of course, Shore-Sheppard’s own body has changed over time. “When you’re over 40, and you’re trying to do these things that involve landing with bent knees on a hard surface, it’s tough on the knees and the hips,” she says. Practicing more than three times a week can get painful. Fortunately, the skates themselves have also changed: her new ones are made of lightweight composite material, with shorter blades. Shore-Sheppard—a professor of economics at Williams—worked with Daub to prepare a routine
Lara ShoreSheppard ’91 MAJORS: ECONOMICS AND ASIAN LANGUAGES AND CIVILIZATIONS
“I literally could have been her mom. So that’s what I told myself when she beat me.”
Lacing Up, Again While watching her daughter skate, an economics professor decided to get back in the rink herself.
for the Bay State Games, which took place Feb. 20–22 at the Williams ice rink. She competed in the Adult Silver category against five other women, one of whom was 20 years her junior. “I literally could have been her mom,” she says. “So that’s what I told myself when she beat me: ‘OK, you’re competing against your kid.’” Shore-Sheppard’s actual kids— Maia and 13-year-old Ethan— watched her win the bronze, as did her husband, Tony Sheppard ’91, a music professor at Williams. She’d like to skate again in next year’s Bay State Games and in other competitions, particularly ones “where all the 40-year-olds compete against each other, and they don’t compete against the 20-year-olds.” In the meantime, she’s relearning how to do an axel jump, and she’s testing her way up through the skill levels of “moves in the field.” She says, “It’s one of the things that I like about coming back: there’s new stuff to learn that I couldn’t have learned when I was a kid.”
She competed against five other women at this year’s Bay State Games and took home a bronze medal.
SNAPSHOT SPORTS MEDIA
BY KATHERINE DUKE ’05
Summer 2015 Amherst 41
BY WILLIAM SWEET
42 Amherst Summer 2015
The U.S. military has turned around the lives of many troubled young people, but not for the reasons you might think.
Not Like Boot Camp
PRINCETON UNIV./BRIAN WILSON
EDUCATION U When Hugh Price ’63 argues that schools should borrow from the military playbook to help low-achieving students, he’s not talking about shipping kids to boot camp. Instead, he’s concluded that ROTC and military schools succeed for a reason that might come as a surprise: they value social and emotional growth. “The U.S. military figured out long ago how to nurture the potential of aimless young people,” wrote Price, a senior nonresident fellow of the Brookings Institution, in a recent Education Week article. As he notes, the achievement gap between poor and rich children, and between white children and children of color, has widened in the United States. In fact, according to a 2012 report from the Schott Foundation for Public Education, only slightly more than half of black male and Latino male ninth-graders graduate from high school in this country within four years, compared to 78 percent of white, non-Latino males. This disparity has grave economic implications for a nation with a growing minority population, Price says. Price’s career has taken him from The New York Times editorial board, to WNET (New York City’s public radio station), to the National Urban League, among many other places. He began his legal career serving poor clients in New Haven, Conn. As a vice president of the Rockefeller Foundation, he oversaw investments to improve education for at-risk youth. There, he began studying the military model, eventually approaching the National Guard to launch its Youth ChalleNGe Program. ChalleNGe now operates 22week residential programs on various U.S. military bases, serving roughly 5,000 teenaged high school dropouts per year. The goal: a high school diploma or GED, or, barring that, functional literacy. Cadets work on community
service projects that incorporate reading, math, planning and teamwork, and they learn techniques for dealing with anger, stress and frustration. They also learn job skills, physical fitness and hygiene. National Guard reservists are on staff. The National Guard reports that ChalleNGe has graduated more than 121,000 cadets since 1993, with 60 percent earning a GED or high school diploma while in the program. Price envisions public schools similarly devoted to the academic and social development of struggling youngsters. For example, trained life coaches could “mentor, monitor, and minister to the social and emotional needs of the students,” he wrote in Education Week. Price visited Amherst this spring to donate his papers to Archives
About half of black male teens finish high school in four years.
Hugh Price ’63 MAJOR: POLITICAL SCIENCE
ROTC succeeds, he says, not because it’s militant but because it values social and emotional growth.
and Special Collections at Frost Library. The visit came as he was promoting his latest book, Strugglers Into Strivers: What the Military Can Teach Us About How Young People Learn and Grow (Small Batch Books, which is owned by Fred Levine ’78). John Merrow, education correspondent for PBS NewsHour, included the book in a list of a dozen recommended titles about education. Price has also been hitting education conferences to broadcast the message. He knows that invoking the military sits poorly with some in the education world. But he is pragmatic: “The message is about the critical importance of social and emotional development,” he says, “and making sure that kids who are on the cusp of school failure have intensive social and emotional support.” k
SQUEEZING IN AN AFFAIR He wrote for Mad Men and Mad About You. Now, in his directorial debut, he combines dramatic weight with sitcom lightness. | BY JOSH BELL ’02
5 TO 7 Written and directed by Victor Levin ’83 IFC Films
Arielle (Bérénice Marlohe) and Brian (Anton Yelchin) have an immediate chemistry. Levin shoots their interactions in long, unbroken takes that emphasize the immediacy and intensity of their connection.
44 Amherst Summer 2015
FILM U Writer-director Victor Levin ’83 begins 5 to 7 with a whimsical device, showcasing the quirky, heartfelt and sometimes sorrowful plaques that New Yorkers have placed on benches in Central Park in tribute to loved ones. This opening belies the serious drama that follows, an often melancholy story about a relationship that may have been doomed from the start. Levin began his career as a sitcom writer (most notably on Mad About You) and has written for Mad Men. The movie 5 to 7—Levin’s directorial debut—combines sitcom lightness with dramatic weight. It starts with struggling writer Brian Bloom (Anton Yelchin), a classic New York cinema archetype who stares at his computer every day, hoping to say something meaningful. Wandering the city, Brian comes across Frenchwoman Arielle (Bérénice Marlohe), and is immediately captivated by
her beauty. Brian and Arielle have a breezy, winning chemistry, and although she’s almost a decade older than he is, they seem to have the same outlook on life. Levin shoots their interactions in a series of long, unbroken takes that emphasize the immediacy and intensity of their connection. The complications arise quickly. The main one is that Arielle is married. She has a tacit agreement with her husband that they are free to conduct extramarital affairs between the hours of 5 and 7 p.m., as is French custom (although not as frequently anymore). Brian is an idealistic romantic, so he’s heartbroken at first, but he’s also far too smitten with this woman to let her get away. The couple’s awkward arrangement is fodder for comedy when Arielle’s husband invites Brian to dinner at the couple’s opulent home, where Brian meets their two charming young children, as well
Travel this summer from Manhattan to the Near East to China, and from college to the business world. Amherst writers, editors and translators will guide you. BY KATHERINE DUKE ’05
Josh Bell ’02 is the Las Vegas Weekly film editor. COURTESY WALTER THOMSON (2)
as his female counterpart in authorized adultery, Jane (Olivia Thirlby). But Levin is not interested in cringe humor, and he never makes jokes at the expense of his characters’ emotions. As Brian becomes more and more attached to Arielle, the movie takes a somber turn, and the early giddiness of their relationship informs the hard decisions they have to make Complications later on. arise quickly. Characters like Arielle, The main one a sexually open free spirit, are common in indie movis that Arielle ies. They often serve as plot is married.” devices to aid the emotional growth of male protagonists. While 5 to 7 remains mostly focused on Brian’s perspective, Levin does not neglect his female lead. The movie’s third act offers a moving look into Arielle’s experience: the relationship is as gut-wrenching and life-changing for her as it is for Brian. Levin returns to the plaques on the benches with that accumulated wisdom and heartache, and the movie ends on a note that mixes regret, optimism and just the right amount of whimsy.
New York’s 54 Below supper club presented two concerts on May 5 titled Total Eclipse: The Music of Jim Steinman, in honor of the class of ’69’s renowned songwriter. G.A. Mudge ’65 shows us Alice in Central Park: Statues in Wonderland (Fotobs). Derek Krueger ’85 takes on Liturgical Subjects: Christian Ritual, Biblical Narrative, and the Formation of the Self in Byzantium (Penn Press), while Christopher B. Hayes ’96 reveals Hidden Riches: A Sourcebook for the Comparative Study of the Hebrew Bible and Ancient Near East (Westminster John Knox Press). Eleanor Goodman ’01 has translated poems by China’s Wang Xiaoni for the bilingual collection Something Crosses My Mind (Zephyr Press). Bruce Tulgan ’89 identifies The 27 Challenges Managers Face: Stepby-Step Solutions to (Nearly) All of Your Management Problems (Jossey-Bass). Stanley B. Lemons ’88 expounds on Expanding College Opportunity: A Roadmap to College for Parents and Students (The Secret to Writing LLC). Some alumni are not content to publish just one book in a year. Dixon Long ’55 published Olive Street, Connections and All Things Change (CreateSpace). Jack Hailey ’67 co-authored the Life, Love, and Bifocals trilogy (CreateSpace). Abraham Schroeder ’01 introduces kids to The Gentleman Bat and Too Many Tables (Ripple Grove Press). And from the faculty: My Father’s House: On Will Barnet’s Painting, by Thomas Dumm, William H. Hastie ’25 Professor of Political Science (Duke University Press), and Punitive Imagination: Law, Justice, and Responsibility, edited by Austin Sarat, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Jurisprudence and Political Science (University of Alabama Press). Summer 2015 Amherst 45
BIG WORKS IN TINY SPACES In Boston, an unusual repertory theater does everything from cabaret to Julius Caesar. | BY KATHERINE DUKE ’05 BRIDGE REPERTORY THEATER Founded by Olivia D’Ambrosio ‘06E Boston
again.” Nine young adults make up the core artistic “team” of the nonprofit, but they’ve collaborated with other theater companies and guest artists. With a mission to “connect actors to audiences, artists to artists and the theater to our city,” Bridge Rep has been featured on local TV and radio. Its 2013 production of Stephen Jeffreys’ The Libertine was reviewed as “must-see debauchery” in The Boston Globe and earned an Elliot Norton Award nomination for “Outstanding Production by a Fringe Theater.” The company as a whole has racked up 13 award nominations in two years from the Independent Reviewers of New England. D’Ambrosio also teaches acting at MIT and takes classes in business management. “There’s this big stereotype that artists can’t learn how to do anything practical, and that’s just not true,” she says. She wants to roll out “what I hope will be a revolutionary new way to get people to give and go to the theater”: a subscription plan whereby a monthly “gesture of support” of as little as $5 will buy a ticket to every Bridge Rep show. And she’d like the company to venture into new performance spaces, beyond the tiny rooms of Calderwood Pavilion. Katherine Duke ’05 is the assistant editor of Amherst magazine.
MARC J. FRANKLIN (2)
Below, from left, the Bridge Rep production of The Libertine, which The Boston Globe called “must-see debauchery,” and its staging of the musical Hello Again.
THEATER U Not many theater companies would stage a Harold Pinter play from the 1960s, a cabaret-style musical, a contemporary one-woman show and Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, among others, all in the same building, all within their first three years. But Boston’s Bridge Repertory Theater aims for variety. The only unifying characteristic, says founder and producing artistic director Olivia D’Ambrosio ’06E, is that every production unfolds in “an intimate space.” Every Bridge Rep show has taken place in one of two small rooms in the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, with an audience of no more than 70 people. “We use our little spaces in intriguing ways,” says D’Ambrosio. During the musical—Michael John LaChiusa’s Hello Again, staged in March 2014—“singers moved in and out from around the tables” where the audience sat. In February 2015 the company put on both Dan LeFranc’s Sixty Miles to Silver Lake and Obehi Janice’s FUFU & OREOS, using an “interlocking set system where it would be easy to put one set in, sort of over and around the other set, so they could both cohabitate in this little space,” she says. “You could see one show at 2 o’clock, and come back at 8 o’clock and it was a different show.” D’Ambrosio played lacrosse and majored in theater and dance at Amherst, then earned an MFA in acting at Brown. She launched Bridge Rep with five friends in 2012; its official headquarters is her home in Jamaica Plain, Mass. “Being just an actor is a very discrete, individual cog in the machine of a piece of theater,” she says. “I wanted to have a community and lead, and use up more of my energy and skill set—kind of like being on a team
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DYSFUNCTIONAL HOUSES Congress is a mess. What’s the solution? | BY CHARLES
THE PARTISAN DIVIDE: CONGRESS IN CRISIS By Tom Davis ’71, Martin Frost and Richard Cohen. FastPencil Premiere
David Eisenhower ‘70 wrote the forward. Bruce Butterfield ‘71 published the book. Liz Wallingford ‘10 edited it.
NONFICTION U Tom Davis ’71 and Martin Frost, former members of Congress from Virginia and Texas, respectively, have joined political reporter Rich Cohen to produce an informative and timely work on the growing dysfunction of Congress. Their analysis of apportionment of Congressional districts by partisan state legislatures, the influence of race in the drawing of those lines and the consequent importance of primaries and marginalization of moderates is based upon intimate and long involvement. The authors convincingly assert that Congress has become more like a “parliamentary” system, in which the minority party is the opposition rather than an affirmatively participatory bloc. Some of their other criticisms—of time taken away from the legislative process for fundraising, and of the reliance on political action committees to fund campaigns—speak to the diminution of political parties as the main recipients and disbursers of campaign contributions. And their belief that the electronic media have an inordinate and fragmenting influence on decision-making is beyond dispute. They propose insightful reforms. Instead of having partisan state legislatures set congressional districts, they want that authority given to bipartisan or nonpartisan commissions—an idea that has gained traction in several states and recently survived U.S. Supreme Court scrutiny. Today, most congressional elections are decided in primaries by the A glaring lack only voters inspired to show of institutional up—the extremes of both memory” is on parties. The authors suggest primaries, in which the display in Con- open top two candidates, regardgress today. less of party, face each other in the general election. To increase campaign financing transparency, the authors would remove legal constraints, allowing parties, not PACs (which do not disclose all donors), to be “on a level playing field” toward receiving contributions. But too much time and treasure is already devoted to electioneering. And their proposed reincarnation of a “Simpson-Bowles”-type deficit reduction commission seems far-fetched given Congressional struggles to deal with revenue enhancement and delegate legislative functions. Just as Davis and Frost developed a personal friendship and mutual respect, they encourage
W. JOHNSON ’60
members of Congress to become acquainted. Doing so, they argue, can be the catalyst for compromise. They also say that collegiality, even if partially self-serving, could re-emerge through a return to legislative “earmarks,” whereby members of Congress can, with full disclosure, push for bills that would bring money to their districts. This would prove beneficial in budgeting, and in bringing members together to forge compromises. Missing from the book’s recommendations is a return to “regular order” as traditionally understood and practiced: A majority of both houses could investigate, amend and enact legislation with proper minority-party participation. The book does not dwell on the glaring lack of institutional memory that currently deprives all members of Congress of the knowledge of how the standing rules and norms, as traditionally interpreted until the 1990s, could engender mutual respect and trust. Both parties’ use of Senate filibusters makes cooperation with the president extremely unlikely. The pressure on the executive to act unilaterally, while sometimes Constitutionally suspect, is better understood when the Senate makes cooperation impossible. In the House, leaders use the partisan House Rules committee to minimize what were not so long ago considered essential protections for the minority party and individual members. Both trends demand more restraint by leaders, and greater understanding by the electorate. Charles W. Johnson ’60 retired in 2004 as the parliamentarian to the U.S. House of Representatives.
VIDEO from a reunion talk about the book, and the Amherst Reads audio interview: www.amherst.edu/magazine
LANGUAGE ART A sculpture inspired by Russian history will be installed at the Library of Congress. | BY RACHEL ROGOL LIVE! By Lloyd Schermer ’50 Library of Congress
COURTESY LLOYD SCHERMER (3)
At right, a detail from Live!, which uses wood type from a bankrupt UkranianCanadian newspaper. Below, the artist in his studio with another sculpture.
SCULPTURE U A free press was not exactly a priority for the Soviet Union. “Under Stalin, anyone caught with Cyrillic type was shot for treason,” says Lloyd Schermer ’50. “Those who had wood type used it to keep warm in the winter.” Schermer has found a better use for it. He’s taken antique Cyrillic wood type—the kind used for centuries in ink printing—and used it to make a sculpture that will hang in the Library of Congress. Titled Live!, it is one of dozens of Schermer’s type sculptures. These works hang in galleries and offices ranging from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, to The New York Times, to Amherst’s Frost Library. Live! is a tribute to the Cyrillic alphabet. It takes its shape from
48 Amherst Summer 2015
Rachel Rogol covers the arts for the Amherst Office of Communications.
Friday Night Live The class of 1988 includes a composer, a performer, an inventor, a photographer, a radio host, an athlete and a polyglot. His name is Sean. | BY KATHERINE DUKE ’05 To quote a 2005 Seattle Post-Intelligencer profile: Sean MacLean ’88 is “a rarity in this day: a multilingual Renaissance man.” By the time he arrived at Amherst he was already a successful pianist, and at 22 he composed Pange Lingua, an award-winning choral piece based on a hymn by St. Thomas Aquinas. He went on to earn a master’s degree from Yale School of Music, launch the Standing Wave Audio production company, write music for PBS documentaries and invent the Remora, a 6-foot-long wooden extension that turns his guitar into a harp guitar. An outdoor sportsman and published travel photographer, he speaks French, Spanish and Japanese. Since 2005, MacLean has been a host on Seattle’s Classical KING FM 98.1. His show, NW Focus, is live on Friday nights. “Other nights, it’s a preview of local concerts, using recordings,” he says. “Listeners discover the wealth of Pacific Northwest talent and often show up, on my recommendation, to try a new concert experience.” He also gives piano performances and lectures, and he MCs benefit galas that have raised more than $1 million for local music education and arts groups. Here he is, in his own words: The pressure of live radio The live radio show is a blast, because the pressure is high for everyone: my engineer, me and especially the performers. We have an audience of about 300,000. Everyone performs more generously when the mic is open and live. I’ve taken to making videos of the performers after the live show, designing my own grip gear: cranes, dollies, Steadicams. Making music with glasses and floss I do not get to program all my own music. That’s done by our music director. But occasionally I get to fill up the hour with my own picks. The response from listeners who have never heard Latvian choral music, Ethiopian flute or Thomas Newman’s unused movie cues—employing only wine glasses and dental floss—makes me love my job. The lowdown on the Remora The need for deeper bass strings arose from
COURTESY SEAN MACLEAN
the first letter of the Russian word ɀɢɬɶ, which means “to live.” “It’s one of those uniquely beautiful and graceful Cyrillic letters invented to symbolize the Slavic sound,” Schermer says. He made the sculpture out of 700 pieces of antique Cyrillic type—the rarest script in his extensive collection of more than 20,000 pounds of letterpress type. A retired newspaper publisher, Schermer creates art out of the materials that surrounded him during his publishing career. Letterpress type was used in printing for centuries, until technological advances in the 1950s made it obsolete. At that time, Schermer says, “most of that beautiful type was hauled to a dump.” Large collections are now hard to come by. Cyrillic type, perhaps because of Stalin’s aversion to it, is especially scarce. When Schermer became interested in finding it, he first worked with a museum in St. Petersburg to search publishing houses throughout Russia. That effort proved fruitless. Eventually he found a bankrupt Ukrainian newspaper in Canada that happily sold him what they had. All of the type in Schermer’s collection is hand-carved and made of maple, beech, birch, mahogany, ebony, cherry or walnut. The letters are so full of ink that every side of every letter needs to be sanded down to the raw wood. After sanding, Schermer cleans each piece to allow the natural patina of the wood to show through. Then he applies a layer of conservator’s wax. The Library of Congress does not often accept art or artifacts as donations. It made an exception for Schermer’s sculpture. Grant Harris, head of the library’s European Reading Room, where the sculpture will be installed, hopes to plan an event in conjunction with its display, featuring a scholar of Slavic languages.
MacLean is a host on Seattle’s Classical KING FM public radio station.
my dissatisfaction with the guitar’s bottom end. To make a purely acoustic instrument that could play the deep low notes, I’d have to make it huge. Enter the cantilever design that [luthier] Bill [Cumpiano] helped me figure out. The treble component of the Remora strings is conducted through the guitar’s saddle. But the deep, fundamental bass note has to be electronically picked up and mixed into the acoustic signal. There is nothing “electronic”sounding about it. His big secret to getting work done I picked Amherst over a music school like Julliard because I saw too many of my musician friends in high school come back narrowed and neurotic from their time at conservatories. Ultimately, though, my decision to major in Japanese was a bit of “liberal-artsing myself into a corner.” By my third year, I relaxed into my calling: composition. My senior thesis was six poems of Wallace Stevens set to voice and piano. Finally, my big secret, the only reason I ever was able to get any work done as a composer: Somehow, I got a copy of the music building key. I would go to the best piano in the best practice room and work all night undisturbed. Jerome, the famously grumpy janitor, would find me in the morning and curse me out for being in there. That key, though. It represents the best of what an education can offer: the best teachers, in the best facilities, with unlimited access to the space wherein you can discover yourself. k Summer 2015 Amherst 49
special section: Creating Connections
Amherst Advancement www.amherst. edu/alumni alumni@ amherst.edu
Career Advice, On Location During four career treks, students met with alumni working at places ranging from Google to the Department of the Treasury.
Alumni urged students to use Amherst as a springboard for careers that excite them.
This spring, 11 students and a staff member traveled to Annapolis and Washington, D.C., for one of the four new “Amherst Careers In” trek programs. The students—from different majors and class years—spent several days visiting sites and taking part in panels and discussions with alumni in government and nonproﬁt sectors. Alumni detailed their diverse paths since college and encouraged students to see government and nonproﬁt careers as avenues for change. “I was surprised by the breadth and scope of careers in public service,” said Christina Won ’15. “Whether it’s a government post or a nonproﬁt, there are so many alumni working for the social good and doing so on vastly different paths.” Treks are one of many resources offered through the “Amherst Careers In” initiatives, which began as a studentalumni collaboration in 2012, when Charles “Chuck” Ashby Lewis ’64, P’93 and Daniel Alter ’13 joined together to help strengthen a Career Center program that advises and mentors students interested in education. (For roughly 16 percent of Amherst alumni, the ﬁrst job post-graduation is related to education.) Chuck and Daniel wanted to help students build on skills they’d learned at Amherst so they would be classroomready. Today, the Amherst Careers In Education Professions program is funded through the Lewis-Sebring Family Foundation and has a dedicated staff member. Careers In Education Professions and the well-established Health Professions program were the ﬁrst of these initiatives offered through the Career Center. Similar programming is now in place for ﬁve other areas: law, science and technology, business and ﬁnance, and arts and communication. In all seven programs, students learn from alumni and potential employers and have the chance to take part in internships and treks.
ON THE MOVE In California (top), students learned “an incredible amount about career paths in the entrepreneurial space.” In Maryland, trekkers met with State Delegate Sandy Rosenberg ’72 (above).
“I was able to imagine myself in a similar situation in just a few years,” said Christina Won ‘15.
The focus of an Amherst education is on the liberal arts, but through the Career Center, students have resources and support for more comprehensive career preparation. Each year the center expands and strengthens its “Careers In” initiatives through the generous support of alumni. Doug Grissom ’89, who provided funding for Careers In Business and Finance, recalled the challenges he faced as a recent graduate navigating the business world. He wanted to ensure that current students feel wellequipped as they start their careers. “Amherst provides a top-notch education, and the world needs more well-rounded liberal arts graduates, especially in business and ﬁnance,” said Grissom. “I want Amherst to continue doing what it does best—providing an outstanding liberal arts education—and for the Careers In Business and Finance Program to have the resources to prepare students for life after Amherst, through internships, networking and counseling. I also hope that my gift inspires other graduates to fund additional ‘Careers In’ programs.” This year, thanks to generous support from Lewis, Grissom, Sandy Rosenberg ’72 and Richard Stoddart P’15, as well
TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THIS OR OT HER STUDENT ENGAGEMENT OPPOR TUNITIES, CONTACT URSUL A OLENDER AT UOLENDER@AMHERST.EDU OR (413) 542-2265.
New capital projects have already started to transform a once-overlooked area.
as the Harold Grinspoon Foundation, the Career Center strengthened the “Careers In” programs and offered four treks: the government and nonproﬁt trek, an innovation trek to California, an education trek to Boston and a communication trek to Chicago. The treks were highly selective: each had only 12 spots available. Expenses were covered by alumni, grant and College support. The strong Amherst alumni network makes these treks especially distinctive. A common theme was student gratitude for the more than 50 alumni who offered insights and advice. In California, students visited alumni at Facebook, Google, tech startups, private equity ﬁrms and even a vineyard. Alumni shared their sometimes unexpected career paths, giving students the space to rethink goals and consider how to leverage their education in emerging ﬁelds. In Maryland, State Delegate Sandy Rosenberg ’72 talked about how that state’s General Assembly functions. “It helped us get a better sense of what government on the local level looks like and appreciate how much gets done by each state,” said Emera de los Santos ’17. U.S. Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Sarah Bloom Raskin ’83, P’17, 14 encouraged students to be guided by what sparks their intellectual curiosity. Micah Stewart ’17 came away with “a sense of the range of paths to pursue after graduation and how my time at Amherst can be best spent preparing for a career in the public and nonproﬁt sector.” On each trek, alumni spoke about the necessity of “soft skills,” but also about the importance of drawing connections across diverse subjects, analyzing problems and applying critical thinking to solutions—all classic skills acquired in a liberal arts education. Through the “Careers In” initiatives, Amherst is offering students a structured way to explore their interests. What’s more, it’s helping them articulate what they’ve gained through their education. An Amherst education provides a foundation for success across a wide range of careers and other pursuits. The Career Center helps students sharpen the skills they already have.
Big Changes to Campus
The Greenway Projects (top) will transform the east campus. The Powerhouse (left) has already begun the effort.
These days, campus eyes are looking east. Over the next four years, the area between Keefe Campus Center and the railroad tracks will be the site of major building projects that will expand Amherst’s academic, living and social spaces. The transformation started last fall with the renovation of the Powerhouse, made possible by the support of Hope Pascucci ’90. A for-
mer steam plant on the eastern edge of campus, the building is now a studentoperated social space. On opening day, the Powerhouse attracted a large campus crowd. Throughout the year, the popular and versatile space was booked with events ranging from movie nights, concerts and performances to informal study groups and gatherings. The Greenway Projects—a landscaped walkway, four new dorms and a new science center—
are the next changes coming to the eastern portion of campus. This March construction began on the residence halls, and in 2016 the College will begin work on a new science center located on the current site of the Social Dorms. See page 6 of this issue of the magazine for more about the Greenway Projects. Contact the Advancement Office at (413) 542-5900 for information about how you can support this and other campus projects. Summer 2015 Amherst 51
special section: Creating Connections
Amherst Advancement www.amherst. edu/alumni
Annual Fund Success and Impact
Research, library books, scholarships, orientation: Annual Fund dollars at work.
PROFILE IN PHILANTHROPY
The Annual Fund raised $10.1 million during the 2015 ﬁscal year, thanks to the generous support of more than 11,000 alumni, parents and friends. All gifts, of all amounts, help Amherst students and faculty. The Annual Fund allows the College to fund immediate priorities year after year: scholarships for exceptional students, resources for our distinguished faculty and for student research, and support for campus preservation and upkeep. Thank you to all donors and volunteers—class agents, associate agents and 1821 chairs—who contributed to the success of this year’s Annual Fund.
What Your Gifts Support A sampling of the College’s budget. Annual Fund gifts are used in the current ﬁscal year to support all areas of the budget.
$36.1 million Scholarships (not including endowed funds)
$550,000 Student Research
$1.94 million Library Books, Journals and Periodicals
$200,000 First-Year Orientation
DOUG BACON ’ 71
Dedicated to Financial Aid Doug Bacon ’71 has many connections to Amherst—both the town and the College. His father, Ted Bacon ’42, was a dean for 14 years and professor for two years at the College. Doug grew up in Amherst, enjoying access to campus life at a young age, so it was no surprise that he “I WANTED to make a gift that honored my family’s time at and his brother, and commitment Ken Bacon ’66, both to the College, while directly decided to attend beneﬁting students. I ﬁrmly Amherst College. believe in the transformative Ken later served power of education. I as a trustee of the want to do what I can to College. ensure that an excellent education will be available While at Amherst, to all students accepted to Doug Bacon majored Amherst College regardless in English, was on the of their ability to pay.” varsity ski team and was president of his DOUG BACON ’71 fraternity, Alpha Delta Phi. After earning a J.D. at Syracuse, he became a real estate attorney with Choate, Hall & Stewart in Boston and was later senior counsel at Bank of Boston. In the mid-1990s, Bacon earned an M.S. in real estate development from MIT. He founded his own real estate development company specializing in the acquisition, development and repositioning of large industrial warehouses throughout the United States. Since graduation, Bacon has watched Amherst become a leader among colleges and universities in providing educational opportunity to low-income students. Bacon is impressed with and gratiﬁed by Amherst’s efforts to encourage applications and acceptances by those who are ﬁrst-generation college students. Bacon notes that The Chronicle of Higher Education named Amherst “the Best of the Best” for supporting low-income, high-talent students. In 2011, Bacon created the Bacon Family Fund at Amherst, dedicated to ﬁnancial aid. Bacon recently made a sizable annuity gift in support of the fund. Bacon’s gift will allow Amherst to continue to offer an unparalleled education to those who might not otherwise be able to attend.
OFFICE HOURS Danielle Benedetto, lecturer in mathematics, meets with a student. Nearly half of the class of 2015 took two or more math courses while at Amherst.
PROFILE IN PHILANTHROPY
DAVID ROSENBLUM ’92 AND JEANET T E ROSENBLUM
A Mathematics Renaissance Interest in Amherst math courses has increased by 28 percent in the past decade. Math at Amherst is having a renaissance—started by students, facilitated by professors and supported by alumni. Interest in math courses has increased by 28 percent in the past 10 years. What’s more, nearly half of the class of 2015 took two or more math courses during their time at Amherst. In 2014 the faculty approved statistics as a new major—making it the 38th— and the department was renamed as the Department of Mathematics and Statistics.
Many other academic departments have incorporated math and statistics into their teaching and research.
The increase in student interest in math and statistics comes as no surprise to David Rosenblum ’92; the ﬁeld has fascinated him since his time at Amherst. Rosenblum majored in mathematics at the College and graduated summa cum laude. Since then, he’s focused his career on ﬁnance and capital asset management. Rosenblum was excited to learn that the College had created the new statistics major in direct response to student demand. In only two years, the major has attracted 15 students. Faculty have developed several new courses for the major and created a fellows program for students eager to test their skills outside the classroom. Statistical understanding is needed in a variety of ﬁelds; as a result, many departments have incorporated math and statistics into their teaching and research. The student fellows assist faculty and offer peer tutoring. Projects range from biology to sports analysis, but all offer the fellows vital experience and a deeper understanding of their discipline. Last fall, through the support of the Rosenblums, this student program was permanently endowed as the David and Jeanette Rosenblum Fund for Statistics Fellows. Once fully funded, it will support six to 12 student fellows each year. David and Jeanette Rosenblum are happy to support the initiative. “Helping students who are motivated to learn both in and out of the classroom was an easy choice,” said Jeanette. Adds David, “The mathematics education that I received at Amherst was top-notch and a clear prerequisite to a very successful career after graduation. The phenomenal growth of the mathematics and statistics department at Amherst in recent years is only further testament to the ever-increasing importance of these ﬁelds to our society today. Data permeates all aspects of our lives, and it’s important to know how to assess and draw conclusions from it. I want current Amherst students to have the opportunity to sharpen their skills, and, through the newly established fellows program, learn how to explain and present math and statistics to others.” Summer 2015 Amherst 53
GIFT SUCCESS The chairs of the Senior Gift Committee celebrate with President Biddy Martin.
special section: Creating Connections
Amherst Advancement www.amherst. edu/alumni
PROFILE IN PHILANTHROPY
A WONDERFUL END A fundraising effort helped mark a big transition.
JULIE WHIT NEY ’90
Startup Help for Students Amherst because of it. Once there, I began to understand why he felt Amherst was such a special place, and I realized what a gift it was to be there. What was your favorite class?
In 2015, Julie Whitney ’90 established the Whitney Family Fund for Student Aid in memory of her father, Thomas P. Whitney ’37, and her grandfather, Herbert Whitney 1899. The endowed fund, administered by the Dean of Financial Aid, will support lower-income Amherst College students with startup and emergency needs and help prepare them for campus life at Amherst. Why did you choose to attend Amherst?
I have a long family history at Amherst; both my father and my grandfather are graduates. My father was an ardent Amherst supporter, and his love of the College was infectious—I chose to attend 54
I enjoyed all the usual favorites with Professors Rabinowitz, Sarat and Maraniss, but I also particularly remember a class I took in introductory physics for non-science majors. Although I had been terriﬁed of science ever since I very nearly failed chemistry in high school, this professor explained the major theories of physics in a way that even I could understand. He cured my science phobia, and that made me feel more comfortable venturing outside my academic comfort zone at Amherst. How did Amherst prepare you for your future?
Amherst provides an educational foundation—the ability to read, write and think critically—that has been indispensable in my career, but also in so many other aspects of life. There was such an emphasis on writing at Amherst, and when I pursued my J.D., that part of law school didn’t intimidate me as
it did others. Amherst also taught me a lot about how to listen to other opinions and perspectives, be respectful of them, and yet still come to my own conclusions. What motivated you to create the Whitney Family Fund for Student Aid?
Amherst has done a very good job in recent years of opening its doors to all students regardless of their ability to pay. But the College also has a responsibility to help students once they get here so that they can succeed. Some students may arrive without bedding, school supplies or even warm clothes. Or a student from another country might need to get home during the year for a family emergency. I wanted to support students in these sometimes overlooked areas that seem small but can have a substantial impact on their time at the College. I was fortunate in that I never had to worry about my basic needs being met while at Amherst, and this is a way to express my gratitude for that. This fund is also something I can continue to support, and that my children might eventually choose to contribute to as they get older.
“Alumni generosity made it possible for me CAPTION TKto TK attend Amherst,sHiliquid accept certain uninternships andribuseven travel torro abroad,” ant saidessimu Savannah West ’15. “I’m excited to join in this incredible tradition of philanthropy so that future students can have an experience like mine.” West, along with Will Gillespie ’15, Siyu Shen ’15 and Olivia Tarantino ’15, chaired this year’s Senior Gift Committee. Joining them on the committee were 22 seniors representing a variety of majors. With few exceptions, the Senior Gift Program has run each year since the 1930s. This student-led effort allows each class to honor its time at Amherst and mark the transition from student to graduate with a gift to the Alumni Fund. This year’s committee hosted fundraisers such as a Homecoming brunch and a Mead Art Museum reception. The committee and the Advancement Office encouraged every senior to make a gift of any size. Eighty-nine percent of the class made a gift, and by June 30, the senior class gift total came to nearly $6,000. “Gifting our senior contributions to Amherst was a wonderful end to an incredible four years,” said committee member Amani Ahmed ’15. “It was a way to thank Amherst not only for our education but also for the unforgettable moments we shared and will remember for the rest of our lives.”
PROFILE IN PHILANTHROPY
JESSE BRILL ’64
Investing in Efficiency New light bulbs will save the College $21,000 in energy costs each year.
Thanks in part to Jesse Brill ’64, Amherst’s outdoor lights have been replaced by more efficient and ecofriendly LEDs. Installed last year, the bulbs will save the College both energy and resources. Brill funded the project as a way to mark his 50th reunion, but he describes the idea behind the donation as a group effort. “The class of 1964 had a conversation about the legacy our class could provide Amherst. Vince Simmon ’64 pointed out that LED lights could help the college make its money back easily,” said Brill. “A lightbulb went off in my head and I decided I was going to pay for the LEDs.” The facilities department began the project in spring 2014. They met with College police to decide on a bulb with the proper color, rendition and wattage for safe lighting.
SEEING THE LIGHT All of
the College’s outdoor lights are now efficient and ecofriendly LEDs.
The LED project shows how ecological sustainability can intersect with ﬁnancial sustainability, said James Brassord.
“The LED project is a great demonstration of how ecological sustainability can intersect with ﬁnancial sustainability. It’s reﬂective of our ethos and initiatives over the past 10 years,” said James Brassord, chief of campus operations. Since then, the College has replaced 458 high-pressure sodium lights, which have a much shorter lifespan, with LEDs. The new bulbs will save $21,000 in energy costs annually, as well as saving on installation and replacement costs. Brill said he is not done improving Amherst’s carbon footprint and has plans for other projects. Next up: replacing all ﬂuorescent lighting with LEDs. Yet, despite the changing campus landscape over the past 50 years, what drew Brill to Amherst remains unchanged: “I have watched the development of campus over time. It still feels like the idyllic college I went to when I was a naïve kid in the ’60s.” k Summer 2015 Amherst 55
IN TIME 1985: a good year for Madonna, and for songwriter Jon Lind ’69
In 1985 Madonna starred in Desperately Seeking Susan. She was on the cover of Rolling Stone. And “Crazy For You,” her first hit ballad, reached Number 1 on Billboard, bumping “We Are the World.” It was also a good year for Jon Lind ’69, who cowrote “Crazy For You.” In 1983 Lind was early in his career with Warner Brothers Music Publishing when he got the assignment to co-write a song for the movie Vision Quest. The recording artist: a mostly unknown Madonna who had yet to release her first album. “I didn’t know a thing about her,” Lind says. He read the script and wrote the melody on his acoustic guitar. “I had the chorus and the title. I didn’t have a plot, or much else.” Lind already had one big hit under his belt, Earth Wind & Fire’s 1979 “Boogie Wonderland.” And for the Madonna song, he had a proven lyricist in co-writer John Bettis, who’d written “Top of the World” for the Carpenters.
128 Amherst Summer 2015
Inside Lind’s Hollywood home, Bettis pulled out a legal pad and wrote, “Swaying room as the music starts.” Lind didn’t like that first line; he found it too hard to say. Bettis suggested, “Let’s come back to it.” Four hours later, pleased with their work, they returned to the first line. Bettis told a still-skeptical Lind, “Trust me.” A few weeks later they met Madonna in the studio. She seemed awkward and uncomfortable, and the song as she recorded it “was not warm, fun or inspirational,” Lind says. “It was not good.” After the session Lind and Bettis walked to a Mexican restaurant and ordered tequila shots and beer. Failure seemed certain. Flash-forward 58 weeks. “I’m in a bar, Joe Allen’s, and a woman comes over from across the room.” She said “Crazy For You” was going to be the
Illustration by JAN FEINDT
next single for Madonna, by now a pop culture sensation. Lind’s reaction: “Impossible.” But as he soon learned, the original recording had been scrapped and replaced with a recut, entirely different version. “And it was awesome,” he says. Lind went on to co-write “Save the Best for Last,” a 1993 Grammy nominee for Song of the Year. He became head of A&R at Hollywood Records. Now semi-retired, he often meets young songwriters who ask how he came up with a line as great as “Swaying room as the music starts.” To Lind, the line proves a lesson he’s carried with him since the writing session with Bettis: trust your collaborators. Today, Vision Quest is long forgotten. “Crazy For You,” from the first line to the last, has stood the test of time. E.G.B.
Johnson Chapel Associates JOHNSON CHAPEL ASSOCIATES span generations and the globe. From the class of 1930 to 2006, from Tokyo to Boston, from business to art and everything in between—there is no easy way to classify a Johnson Chapel Associate. What defines this group is their dedication to Amherst College and commitment to supporting its excellence through a planned gift— by making a bequest, creating a charitable trust or establishing a gift annuity. These gifts ensure that future students have access to the same outstanding academic opportunities that have opened so many doors for you and all alumni.
Nine of the Johnson Chapel Associates who came to Amherst for Reunion 2015. Second row, from left: Laura Yerkovich ’80, Bill Vickery ’57, Andrew Pierre ’55, Rick Gartner ’75, Doug Clark ’70 and Ken Rosenthal ’60. Front row, from left: Michael Barach ’80, Sandy Rosenberg ’72 and Bill Alford ’70.
FOR MORE INFORMATION about how your financial plans can include a gift to Amherst, please contact Melody Twigg, Director of Gift Planning, at (413) 542-5193 or email@example.com, or visit us online at amherst.edu/give/gift_planning.
AMHERST PO Box 5000 Amherst, MA 01002
“THERE’S THIS BIG
stereotype that artists can’t learn how to do anything practical.”
Olivia D’Ambrosio ’06E, Page 46
“Everything will remind me of
“We’ve had enough songs TO MAKE A REAL ALBUM FOR A WHILE, BUT I WAS A LITTLE BUSY.” Nina Shallman ’18, Page 4
WHEN HE’S GOTTEN HOME FROM WORK, WORDS
COME TO HIM.
James Merrill ’47, Page 18
Fernando, Page 35