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Scope WINTER 2012 Volume 42, Number 2 VICE PRESIDENT F O R A D VA N C E M E N T


Dan Forbush EDITOR

Susan Rosenberg A S S O C I AT E E D I T O R


Mary Monigan DESIGNERS

Michael Malone Maryann Teale Snell WRITERS

Kathryn Gallien Bob Kimmerle Peter MacDonald Maryann Teale Snell Andrea Wise EDITORIAL OFFICES

Office of Communications Skidmore College 815 North Broadway Saratoga Springs, NY 12866 phone: 518-580-5747 fax: 518-580-5748 online: SKIDMORE COLLEGE

Main number: 518-580-5000 Alumni Affairs and College Events: 518-580-5670 Communications: 518-580-5733 Admissions: 518-580-5570 or 800-867-6007 Scope is published by Skidmore College for alumni, parents, and friends. Printed on recycled paper (10% postconsumer)

21 alumni researchers of every stripe



12 18 Maya chemistry

IN SID E THE WE T L AB Students gain and create new insights into crucial proteins, fluid dynamics, bacterial life—and themselves


CHE MISTRY OF CULTUR E What can elemental analysis of ancient art reveal about its makers, patrons, and audiences?


PROBLE M- SOLV E RS Skidmore alumni are experimenting and propounding, advancing the front lines of knowledge, in fields from medicine to philosophy

26 26 quality control

ASSESSIN G ALUMN I A retrospective survey project is returning actionable data on student learning and development



28 Big Top celebration 11 postseason playoffs ON THE COVER: Skidmore’s bio and chem labs are testing, and even re-engineering, new truths about the very basis of life. See page 12. (Photo by Gary Gold)

You’re thoughtful about planning your schedule. Have you taken the time to plan your legacy?

Nearly 750 people have chosen to strengthen Skidmore by making a planned gift commitment, such as a bequest or charitable gift annuity.

Legacy society

learn more about planning your gift for Skidmore and joining the legacy Society. Office of Gift Planning: 518-580-5655 Brad Martin, Director of Gift Planning Erika de Bedout, Assistant Director of Gift Planning

Gift planninG for Skidmore


new-media environment I was impressed by the insights shared in the fall Scope’s “Shifting Media Marketplace” feature. In particular, I was heartened to read Jay Jochnowitz’s salient distillation of the often skewed climatechange debate: that giving equal air time to an expert speaking for the scientific community as to a nonscientist speaking for a fringe group “blurs the lines between opinion and fact.” Perhaps new media can play a profoundly important role. For example, the news and opinion flooding Twitter and Facebook may be transforming the national debate over the Keystone XL tar-sands pipeline, a project whose grave risks have been largely overlooked by mainstream news outlets. A well-funded, pampered fringe in favor of the project has engineered an argument that heavily weights energy independence as a benefit, but concerned citizens have been debunking their claims—online. Most importantly, the pro-environment message of this new breed of politically engaged online writers is reaching mainstream news consumers. These writers and experts are reshaping the climate debate, and the collective weight of their position is influencing Congress and the White House. The power of the people may reside in the most free and public of all presses—the everexpanding universe that is the Internet. Stacy Clark ’84 Dallas, Texas

Skidmore news memories I was interested to see the Skidmore News alumni in the fall Scope. Among my endeavors at Skidmore, the one I pursued with the most enthusiasm was writing and journalism, leading me to get involved with the newspaper in various ways. As editor-in-chief in my senior year, I recruited some of my friends to join

the staff. And so, on the last leg of our college careers, we found ourselves hunkered down in the basement of Jonsson Tower, staying up until the wee hours, cutting and pasting the old-fashioned way, assembling the Skidmore News. At first we knew little about how to produce a weekly publication. But through trial and error—armed with a hot wax machine, black tape, and determination—produce a paper we did. By year’s end we were responsible for some pretty nifty editions. After a master’s in journalism from Northeastern University, I landed at the Associated Press, where I stayed for the next 20 years. My experience at the Skidmore News was invaluable, as it had taught me teamwork, persistence, time management, and, most of all, quality journalism. On a recent visit to Skidmore, I found that the landscaping, sparkling new performance center, new student housing, and modern dining hall were just some of the changes that have taken what was always a serene oasis and made it seem even more scenic and lush. Memories of my carefree college days working at the Skidmore News came flooding back. As the paper transitions to an online-only publication, it’s nice to know that it’s still capturing the tranquility of life and work at Skidmore, while keeping pace with the digital age. Nancy Rabinowitz ’85 Jamaica Plain, Mass. I greatly enjoyed your article on the Skidmore News writers of yore. I too was a part of the paper, and with my classmate Ellen Knebel wrote “Skidmorania”

DO THE WRITE THING Scope welcomes letters to the editor. Send your comments by e-mail to or mail c/o Skidmore College. Letters may be edited for clarity and length.

and the movie reviews. We had a wonderful time amusing the students and ourselves with our nonsense, and my four years at Skidmore have remained a joy in my life. Elinor Sloss Schatz ’42 Woodmere, N.Y.

land and open space I became engrossed in the spring ’11 Scope and read it in one sitting. As a board member of Concerned Citizens for Open Space, I found the “Field Guides” article particularly interesting. There must be other alumni involved with environmental matters. They are welcome to visit our Web site, wpccos .org. We would especially like to hear about solutions to such problems as overdevelopment. Thank you for an informative and inspiring magazine. Nancy Hantman ’69 White Plains, N.Y.

Water research The spring 2011 “Who, What, When” photo reminded me of my time sampling water on Loughberry Lake, conducting research between my sophomore and junior years with faculty members Sue Van Hook and Kim Marsella. I recognize the Loughberry Lake shoreline, and in the background I believe I can see the cattails and aquatic plants that I sampled in 2004. While the Scope photo looks like it shows a motorboat, we used a rowboat. (Once, when we were far out on the lake and a thunderstorm started coming in, Kim quickly offered to take over paddling—she was on a rowing team that summer.) We used the same devices, including the Secchi disk, as shown in this photo. Christina Schull ’06 Portland, Ore.





“So,” said the interviewer, “why do gling with the analysis. “Wait a second… if this method is only miscoding a few you want to work here?” This was what I land-use types, why don’t we make a was hoping to be asked, because it was composite?” I asked. “That could work,” an invitation to tell him something nonmy partner said. And it did. A little bit of trivial about myself. “I believe in scientiflateral thinking allowed us to derive a ic answers to our problems,” I responded, reasonably accurate map by properly “and I want to apply what I’ve learned in combining different results. school to solving those problems.” He Final adjustments completed, we now must have liked that answer, and my had maps showing changes subsequent ones, because THE DEPTH OF OUR in land usage over a 20-year I was hired. PROBLEM-SOLVING span. Paired with census My work as an enviAND CREATIVE data, they showed some inronmental remediation THINKING WAS teresting results, which we consultant has been equal INVISIBLE TO THE later presented to stakeparts technical skills, END VIEWERS, BUT holders in the local comproblem-solving, logistics, IT WAS NO SMALL munity. The depth of and business dealing, with SATISFACTION our problem-solving a dash of good old manuFOR US. and creative thinking al labor. I came to the job was invisible to the end viewers, competent in the hydrogeology, cartogbut it was no small amount raphy, and sedimentology I needed. But of satisfaction for us. Data academic knowledge was only part of it. visualization combines I’ve been able to keep up because of my art, design, and science; whole Skidmore experience. In many accracking our analysis tivities at Skidmore, I had to modify my riddle tested our abiliapproach as I encountered obstacles and ties in all three. new information, and I do the same in My Skidmore admy work—for example, developing new visor once warned testing methods to respond to changing me about doing too envrionmental regulations. many different “I finished running the analysis, and things, saying, parts of it are working better,” my re“More isn’t better; search partner told me. We were in Skidbetter is better.” more’s GIS lab, running a land-use analyHe was right, but sis on satellite data of Saratoga County to my wide range of generate maps for our environmentalstudent activities science senior projects. “Hey,” I said, served me well. “this seems much more accurate on the Learning roads and urban areas. But I see what you workarounds mean that it’s miscoding the open water.” as a techniAfter a number of false starts, we had cian for the obtained a good dataset and were strugmedia serYOUR MESSAGE HERE vices office prepared me Got your own story of how Creative Thought Matters? Submit your for troubleshoot“CTMoment” to ing complicated or to Scope, Skidmore College, screening devices in subfreez815 North Broadway, ing temperatures during my Saratoga Springs, NY 12866. fieldwork. As manager of SkidTV,



organizing a half-dozen people on an hour’s notice to record an event came in handy when I had to organize and oversee three subcontractors all on the same day. Tutoring students in geology paid off when I was training coworkers. Helping Skidmore’s communications office launch a new video operation was good practice for starting and directing projects. Producing a weekly TV show helped me develop operational consistency. The list of work and life skills that I honed at Skidmore and found useful afterward goes on too long to do it justice here. These days, a college education is often thought of as an investment. As with any investment, putting more into it will yield better returns. I found that there was no limit to what I could get out of my time at Skidmore, just a limit to the time itself. The result wasn’t a specific guarantee of employment when I received my degree, but something better: the training and experience to go wherever I wanted to go. Matt “Strudel” Shrensel ’09, an environmental studies and geosciences major, is a staff geologist at Langan Engineering and Environmental Services in Pennsylvania.


liberal arts on the job



remembering J-term


showed that the “Flutie phenomenon” as well as a minor-league Albany Patroons The winter of my freshman year was may increase the number of applicants, game, an Adirondack Red Wings minora time of transition at Skidmore. Preparbut not necessarily their quality, and it league hockey game (in the movie Slaping its new Liberal Studies program for may bring in extra money, but only for shot, the player Dave Hanson was actualthe following year, the school was phasthe athletics department and not for the ly the Adirondack career penalty-mining out the 4-1-4 semester format that inwhole school. utes leader at the time), even a pro cluded a one-credit course during a fourAfter Skidmore, I earned a PhD in sowrestling match with week January term. WHAT I HAD IMAGINED ciology and public policy from the UniAndre the Giant, Jimmy The prospectus for the WOULD BE A versity of Maryland. My dissertation ex“Superfly” Snooka, and final J-Term included a FRIVOLOUS MONTH amined how college athletes balance athGlens Falls’ own Hackremarkable array of OF TALKING SPORTS letics and academics—not too well in Disaw Jim Dugan. We also courses typically unavailTURNED INTO THE vision I men’s basketball and football, watched Rollerball, Bang able during the rest of FOUNDATION I NEEDED but pretty well in other sports at both the Drum Slowly, and the year. Some entailed FOR MY CAREER. the Division I and Division III levels. That Championship Seaforeign travel—Italy, Today, as a senior analyst at the Governson. Requirements included keeping a France, and the Soviet Union—for study ment Accountability Office, the invesjournal of our reactions to the readings, of language and culture. Some analyzed tigative arm of Congress, I continue to films, and trips, as well as two short esthe past—“Europe’s Jews from 1789 to apply the critical thinking skills that I says and a final term paper—all packed 1945” or “Life of the Past” (a geology learned during my J-Term class to many into four fast-paced weeks. course)—while others examined the fuof the nation’s important policy probAmid the trips, the movies, and the ture, such as “America and the World in the Year 2000.” Courses ran the gamut from sociology (“The Children of Alcoholics”) to government (“National Security Policy”) to biology (“Gardening Under Glass”). While many of these appealed to my wide freshman eyes, I literally stopped in my tracks when I read the course title “Sports Heroes and Heroines in Literature and Society.” Having hosted my own drive-time sports talk show on Boston radio at age 16, and having entered Skidmore with the high school nickname of “Stats” because of my encyclopedic sports knowledge (not to mention “Crash” for my tendencies AN ’80S-ERA J-TERM WITH PROF. DENTON CROCKER when driving), I couldn’t believe my lems, including the current housing and books—including David Halberstam’s luck that this could be a class for credit. mortgage crisis and other consumer-proThe Breaks of the Game, detailing the I thought I had hit the jackpot. I imagtection issues. What I had imagined 1977 Portland Trailblazers’ champiined the course, taught by phys-ed prowould be a frivolous month talking onship NBA season—was my introducfessor and coach Jeff Segrave and English sports with my classmates turned into tion to critical thinking about society. professor Phil Boshoff, would be fun and the foundation I needed to begin my caWe learned how to look at social values easy. It turns out it had the most proreer. The Liberal Studies curriculum that and rituals, and at race, gender, and infound influence on me and my career followed the demise of J-Term was a equality, through the lens of sports. My path among all the classes I would take smashing success, but I will always be final paper explored the “Doug Flutie in my four years at Skidmore. thankful that I had the opportunity to phenomenon,” where a sharp rise in apThe class met Monday through experience the last J-Term at Skidmore. plications to a university occurs because Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. (I could of a star sports figure and successful sleep in and have Fridays off). Along Andrew Stavisky ’88 is a senior analyst at team that bring a regional school into with readings, it included a Celticsthe GAO in Washington, D.C. the national spotlight. My research Knicks basketball game in New York City





research, creative work, and the faculty role fessional conferences) our professors invite adUpon entering the Skidmore Presithrough our annual vanced students to pardent’s Office, a visitor first encounters a budget. Finally, we enticipate with them in sampling of scholarly books that reprecourage professors to these scholarly or artissent our faculty’s research and several apply for external retic endeavors. Some of works by members of the studio art desearch grants and supthe best learning at partment. We are an institution that port their efforts Skidmore occurs places its highest emphasis on our stuthrough the sponsored through collaborative dents’ learning and, hence, on our faculS KIDMORE P RESIDENT P HILIP research office—and faculty-student research, ty’s teaching. And yet we go out of our A. G LOTZBACH these efforts pay off: and it affords increasing way to celebrate our professors’ scholarly from June 2010 through September numbers of our students the opportunity and artistic productivity—for example, 2011, Skidmore faculty members reto present the results of such collaborain the prestigious Edwin M. Moseley Facceived more than $3.4 million in extertions at disciplinary conferences or in ulty Research Lecture, given annually by nal funding. professional publications. a faculty member selected by his or her Even more challenging is balancing Third, monitoring students’ progress colleagues. Why do we deem it so essenall the burdens on faculty time. In addias they gain expertise in a field is a key tial that each Skidmore professor maintion to their teaching and research, our aspect of teaching. But the studenttain an active research or creative agenprofessors are asked to serve as mentors teacher relationship is asymmetrical: studa? After all, we are a liberal arts college, for their students, to engage students in dents are seldom capable of evaluating not a research university. What relationindependent or collaborative research, to the expertise of ship does faculty reAS THEY DEEPEN THEIR continue developing their pedagogy, and their professors. search and creative INVOLVEMENT IN THEIR FIELDS, to contribute to the shared work of the So faculty memactivity bear to stuFACULTY MEMBERS GAIN NEW faculty through service. Managing these bers need to test dent learning? PERSPECTIVES TO SHARE competing demands presents a substanthe quality of First of all, as part WITH STUDENTS. tial challenge. So it is important that we their own scholof their ongoing pronot overvalue research and creative proarly or artistic work—and, by extension, fessional development, faculty members ductivity to the detriment of the other their current knowledge of their fields— owe it to their students to remain current crucial faculty responsibilities. Skidmore against the judgment of disciplinary in their fields—to be able to reflect the wrestles with these issues, as do other peers capable of making such informed newest developments in their teaching. elite liberal arts colleges. assessments. This is a primary reason They do this best not as passive observers In the end, however, the strongest arwhy we emphasize peer-reviewed rebut as active contributors to the extendgument for supporting faculty research search and creative work in promotion ed conversations that define their acaand creative work is passion. One purand tenure evaluations. demic disciplines. As they continue to sues a PhD because one has fallen madly Supporting faculty research and credeepen their involvement in their fields, ative activity comes at a high cost. Skidin love with a field of study, with the refaculty members gain new perspectives more professors teach five courses per sulting desire to make that field one’s that they then can share with students. year, down from an earlier six-course life work. The best professors inspire a Second, faculty members need to teaching load. They are eligible for presimilar love in their students, and over model for their students a life of active tenure sabbaticals and, following tenure, the course of an academic career they involvement in their disciplines—a life for regular sabbaticals every seven years. must keep their own disciplinary fires that involves doing precisely the kind of As a result, about 15 percent of our facalive. One of the best ways to do so is by work they assign to their students in ulty is absent from the classroom in any maintaining an ongoing program of reclass. If students see their professors degiven year, though we routinely replace search or artistic creation that leads them livering papers at disciplinary conferthose away on leave (at no small cost). to new questions, new explorations, and ences, writing books, or creating their We provide start-up funds for all new new discoveries—which translate into own works of art, then students know renewed enthusiasm in the classroom. faculty members, often at considerable that the work they are being asked to do This is the ultimate reason why faculty expense for science professors. We also in class is not just make-work. It is imresearch and creative work do indeed fund a good portion of our faculty’s reportant because it is what their teachers matter so much at Skidmore. search and scholarly travel (e.g., to proare doing themselves. When possible,



pointing the way to discovery


Grace Burton loves to hear a student Lértora Nardozzi ’04, daughter of Skidwhich comports with the “European complain that he’s “frustrated.” To that more Spanish professors Paty Rubio and Christian idea that things couldn’t be she replies, ”Congratulations!” This the late Juan Carlos Lértora, says she was less than whole. Arabic numbers begin year’s Ciancio Prize winner for excel“a total Burton addict. I made my schedwith zero, which was anathema to Westlence in teaching, Burton says the frusule around her classes, even if they were ern medieval thought. But now the halltration means “he’s right on the edge of on Friday.” Nardozzi always did the readmark of modern thought is relational understanding something. It’s not over ings, she says, but then in class “I realthinking.” his head and it’s not irrelevant—it’s ized there was within grasp.” so much more A Spanish professor at Skidmore since packed into the 1987, she asserts, “Students need tools to pages. Language solve problems productively, not simply and literature correct an error. This is not about Spancome to life ish. It’s about empowering a student to through Grace.” use his mistakes to move forward. I am Burton teaching for the long term.” Lindsey teaches introFyfe ’05 remembers the day she went to ductory SpanBurton’s office “when I was hovering in ish, intermedithe low B range, and she told me, ‘Your ate language mistakes are getting smarter.’ I had never and lit, and adfelt so good about messing up and makvanced indeing progress.” pendent studBurton’s approach was inspired by her ies. She says, BETWEEN HELPING HER STUDENTS ONE BY ONE, PROF. GRACE BURTON parents. “My father used to say that “I went to a every child adds up to 100 percent, with Catholic school GETS A WIDER OVERVIEW. talents in different categories, and it’s where we learned about language strucCindy Evans, who directs the Foreign your job as a parent to help each child ture, and I want my students to appreciLanguages Resource Center, calls Burton balance those categories.” She continues, ate that. Today kids learn to speak from “phenomenal” as a teacher and “exem“My parents were my best teachers and YouTube, which helps with dialogue, but plary” as a peer: “clear-minded, rational, my best students—geniuses. They looked they also need to recognize language as a analytical ... and with a sense of humor.” at me and asked, ‘Who’s this one?’ and symbol system, to learn its grammar.” She’s also “gifted at putting things into learned how to help me achieve my She adds, “I don’t want my students context, whether it’s a 17th-century goals.” She tries to to feel they have to novel or a student-advising matter.” “THIS IS NOT ABOUT SPANISH. do the same for her be perfect. ‘Perfect’ Outside Skidmore, Burton refuels IT’S ABOUT EMPOWERING A students. “It’s an means ideal, finthrough reading, golf, piano, crossword STUDENT TO USE HIS MISTAKES ished, complete, act of faith,” she puzzles, and time with her cherished TO MOVE FORWARD. I AM TEACH- full, no room for says, because “I husband, government professor Ron ING FOR THE LONG TERM.” don’t have to be improvement, no Seyb. Academic accomplishments notthere when they ‘get’ what I’ve been space in which to accelerate. Perfect withstanding, she considers her most teaching; I just have to help them arrive would leave no room for original important achievement the research that there.” thought.” In fact, the notion of absolutehelped to diagnose a dangerous longIn Burton’s survey of Spanish literaness captivates Burton, who is writing term illness that Seyb is now on top of. ture, Danika Robison ’11 sometimes felt about the “concept of zero” and its role From husbands to students, “everyone “like Alice in Wonderland, falling slowly in Western thought. “The idea of zero has a story,” she concludes. “I ask to down the rabbit hole. Then she would changed philosophy, literature, and scihear it. I can help organize the infordiscuss the passages that had eluded me, ence,” she says, noting that Roman mation, but discoveries are personal.” and a powerful light turned on.” Camila numbers begin with the numeral one, —Helen S. Edelman ’74



With its never-ending decimals, pi can’t be defined in finite terms by math or science but can be by visual art—in a simple circle. That contradiction intrigued Doug Stern ’89 as he painted Big Bang Pi Theory, on exhibit in A Resolution of the Arts and Sciences at Schick Art Gallery last fall. The show featured works by some 30 Skidmore alumni, faculty, and students. Christine Neill ’69, a Maryland art professor, says that while her focus shifted from biology to art at Skidmore, “the scientific principles that attracted me to biology have always predominated in my imagery.” Her Westerly, a watercolor and ink-jet print, depicts a glowing piece of seaweed above a beautiful but invasive species of red algae on the sea floor. Skidmore’s Lubin Family Professor Amy Frappier studies stalagmites as “precious artifacts” that record natural history and track climate change, and her polarized-light photos allowed gallery visitors to see their complex crystalline beauty. She was encouraged to submit this “artistic science” for the show by a student in her oceanography course, Rachel Fisher ’12, who was the exhibit’s prima mobile. When Fisher learned about “Walk Like an Egyptian,” a 1987 campus event led by Skidmore faculty sculptor John Cunningham to demonstrate an elegant method that ancient pyramid builders may have used for carrying massive stones, she recruited him, along with Ali CarneyKnisely ’12 and Nora Johnson ’12, to help devise the Resolution show and lecture series. In her pre-exhibit talk, Skidmore anthropologist Heather Hurst ’97 told of collaborating with a materials scientist to analyze the ancient Maya murals that she recreates. Dorothy Hafner ’74, whose student interests “toggled between the arts and sciences,” says it takes “a lot of scientific understanding” to achieve the range of colors in her glass and porcelain works. Megan Pini ’14 also discussed chemistry in notes on




pi, paint, and the big picture nected than you would think— they’re both very abstract and very creative.” Her own untitled piece crafted of brass, copper, and silver was inspired by blooddrawing instruments, reflecting the art major’s early interest in becoming a doctor. Cocurator CarneyKnisely combined her majors in art and exercise science in her bronze jewelry piece Looking Through Our Core, based on a hinged human rib cage and pelvis, and The Heart of the Matter, EKG patterns imprinted on medical ECLIPSE, BY JOHN MATHEWS ’79, ALLUDES TO ASTRONOMY (AND gauze. She says she PERHAPS ENTOMOLOGY?). came to Skidmore her Platter 1, 2, 3, 4, which show how “strictly as an art major” but discovered copper can be made to deviate from its exercise science in her freshman Scribtypical green to produce rich reds and ner Seminar on the human body, and purples. Michelle Molokotos ’13 created the exhibition has reinforced her growRepresentation of Monet’s ‘House of Parliaing understanding that “everything is ment’ in paint interrelated.” FISHER’S HOPE WAS THAT tubes as an homAnd that’s just “PEOPLE TAKE AWAY FROM THIS age to the portthe point, says SHOW THE REALIZATION THAT ART able tin tubes that Peter Stake, art AND SCIENCE ARE MUCH MORE liberated Impresprofessor and CONNECTED THAN YOU WOULD sionists from the Schick director. THINK—THEY’RE BOTH VERY confines of the “These disciplines, ABSTRACT AND VERY CREATIVE.” studio. Psycholboth involving ogy professor Flip Phillips says his human imagination and invention, “glavens”—abstract objects designed to help us understand our world and how be somewhat familiar yet impossible to we exist in it,” he explains. Frappier identify, which he uses to study how adds, “I think it’s good for scientists and the brain makes sense of 3D shapes— artists, creators and scholars, to consider “take inspiration from the production together the many and surprising ways of drawing, painting, and sculpture.” our disciplines intersect. Art has driven Fisher’s hope was that “people take science, science inspires art-making, away from this show the realization and both endeavors profoundly enrich that art and science are much more conour lives.” —KG

Last November, Beatlemore Skidmania packed the Zankel Center’s Ladd Concert Hall—twice. The organizers, who were students in music professor Gordon Thompson’s advanced Beatles seminar, auditioned 50-plus acts to choose fewer than 20 for the show. Audiences both nights were delighted by favorite faculty bands as well as 17 student acts that reinterpreted Beatles classics in some surprising ways. Thanks to SkidTV, this was the first Beatlemore event to be live-streamed online, where 250 viewers tuned in. Proceeds from ticket, raffle, poster, and Tshirt sales totaled $4,500 (double last year’s amount) for Skidmore Cares, the campuswide holiday drive that provides food, school supplies, and cash to Saratoga-area agencies helping people in need. —DF, SR


fab four revival



Worth the trip from anywhere!


kidmore debuted its latest fortepiano acquisition with a September concert by Kristian Bezuidenhout at the Zankel Music Center. Bezuidenhout, an earlymusic specialist, performed Mozart sonatas on a fortepiano modeled after a 1790-era original and then played Schubert’s Four Impromptus on an original Conrad Graf fortepiano recently given to the college on long-term loan. A preconcert talk was given by Edward Swenson, a fortepiano builder and expert on Grafs. Built around 1826 and restored in 2007, the Graf has 73 keys, for a six-octave range, and is similar to the instruments used by Beethoven and Schubert. It is said to have extremely clear articulation. —PD

Join us in Saratoga Springs for our sixth annual citywide celebration of the arts— music, dance, visual art, film, theatre, and literary art.

June 7–10, 2012



EXPERT OPINION : Winter driving, with dennis conway

Not preparing for what they know is coming. People have short memories, and they don’t like to plan ahead for inconveniences like snow and ice. Preparations should include ensuring your windshield washer is filled and your tires are good—I recommend switching to snow tires rather than leaving on the “all-weather” tires, especially for small, lightweight cars. Make sure you have an ice scraper in the car. It’s also smart to put a milk crate with a bag of sand into the trunk, and to tuck a hand-crank flashlight into the glove compartment. On long trips, keep the gas tank at least half-full in case you get stuck and need the car heater. Second-most common mistake: Forgetting that bad weather will make your drive take longer. Realize and accept that a 20-minute trip will take you 30 minutes on a snowy day, so you’ll need to start earlier.

What makes cars skid off the road? Often it’s more about braking than steering. On a slick road, your stopping distance is much, much longer. You need to anticipate and slow down gradually: first taking your foot off the gas, to start decelerating so you won’t need as much brake, then using a delicate touch on the brake to avoid skidding. People drive with one hand (or even two fingers!) pretty routinely, but in the winter, put both hands on the wheel— ideally at the 2 o’clock and 10 o’clock positions—to steer through any turning or braking.



Four-wheel drive gives too many people a false sense of security. In a snowy parking lot or up a hill, it can keep the vehicle moving where a two-wheeldrive car might get stuck, but it’s not safer for driving at full speed. Curves still need to be taken very slowly, coasting into them without braking if possible, and accelerating carefully out of them. State troopers always say many of the cars they find off the highway are fourwheel drives. Also, I don’t trust cruise-control in bad weather. Its steady pressure on the gas is not responsive to surface conditions and it can make the tires slip.

If I skid off the road, what should I do? Stay in the vehicle, except to attach a flag or ribbon to the antenna

or side mirror if you can. To stay warm, turn on the car heater for 10 minutes every hour (if your gas tank isn’t too low, that can keep you safe for a lot of hours). But keep checking that the car’s exhaust pipe isn’t blocked by snow, and open the window a crack while you run the car, to let in a little fresh air. If the heater fails, at some point you might have to leave the car and try to find help.

How can new drivers get prepared? To learn about driving in bad weather before you go out on a busy road, practice in a big, empty parking lot, away from light poles or other obstacles. Accelerate to 30 mph and then try some turns and stops. That’ll show you right away if you’re oversteering or too strong on the brake, and it will let you feel the vibration of antilock brakes. You don’t want to be learning about this during your first emergency stop in traffic. Former New York State trooper Dennis Conway has been Skidmore’s campussafety director since 2000.


What’s the number-one mistake of winter drivers?





Field hockey. Skidmore posted a 202 record for its fourth consecutive Liberty League title. The Thoroughbreds made their fifth straight appearance at the Division III tournament, where they lost to Amherst in the second round. Kelly Blackhurst ’14 was a league and regional Player of the Year and first-team All-American. Soccer. At 13-7-1, the women earned an at-large bid to the Division III tourney. They survived the first round, beating MIT on penalty kicks after a 0-0 tie, and then fell to #1 Messiah in the second round. Kelsey Yam ’13 (at right) led Skidmore in scoring and made the AllLiberty League first team. The men’s 7-10-1 record included a season-finale victory over league foe Union College. Volleyball. With a 28-9 record, Skidmore won its first league championship since 2001. The T’breds earned a Division III nationals berth and defeated Rivier in the first round. Kelley Vershbow ’12 was an AllAmerica and All-League selection. Tennis. Nataly Mendoza ’13 and Lee Ford ’14 earned All-America honors after winning the USTA/ITA regional tourney. The women open the spring ranked 25th nationally. For the men, a singles player and a doubles team made it to the final round of the USTA/ITA regionals. After their 2011 Liberty championship, the men look for a strong spring. Golf.The T’breds took first place in three of five fall tournaments and won the Liberty League qualifier by 13 strokes. They begin the spring ranked 17th nationally. Riding. Skidmore breezed through regional competition, winning the first five shows of the year. In the spring the team hopes to make another run at a national title. Crew. The rowers used the fall to prep for the spring championship season. Both the men and women look to compete for the Liberty League championship when that event returns to Saratoga’s own Fish Creek in April. —Cody Berschwinger THOROUGHBRED NEWS: Get full results and schedules for all teams at





Knowledge Embodying the dictionary definition, Skidmore science labs are uncovering new facts and hidden truths BY SUSAN ROSENBERG


ASt Summer’S bAtch of studentfaculty research included a bumper crop of high-tech “hard-science” lab projects, many of them continuing during this academic year. The work isn’t easy or eyecatching, but it’s fascinating—and important for advances in medicine and other fields. Here are three glimpses into the mental and manual work of modern bench science.

cuStom-deSigning protein FActorieS Sean Healton ’12, Matt Walsh ’12, and Madeline Frank ’13 are working with their faculty partner, biochemist Kelly Sheppard, on transfer RNA and its aminotransferase enzymes, crucial cell machinery for creating proteins correctly. For four

weeks they’re joined by local high school student Schuyler Lockwood, in a foundation-funded program called “Growing the Science Pipeline.” It’s mid-July, and their lab is crowded with incubators and other equipment, so everybody wears shorts and T-shirts under their lab coats. Along with the foundation and donor grants that fund most summer research teams, they’re also using Sheppard’s award from the Research Corporation for Science Advancement. Their goal is to re-engineer tRNA. Quick primer: transfer RNA, essentially a single-stranded version of the double-coiled DNA, helps cells to translate DNA’s genetic instructions for creating proteins—which cells do all day, every day, in order to stay alive. To start the g



process, the right amino acid must pair up with the right RNA; mistakes may result in errors in protein synthesis, which cause cell damage and disease. The ligation of each amino acid to its matching tRNA is performed by a matching enzyme. Sheppard’s students are converting a tRNA that pairs with glutamine into a tRNA for pyroglutamate instead. Pyroglutamate has been implicated in brain diseases (some suspect it of being an “Alzheimer’s incendiary device”), but it’s complicated for researchers to introduce it into proteins for study, so they’d love to have a tRNA that would simplify the process for them. Making a tRNA for pyroglutamate in vitro (in a test tube) is quite doable. The researchers start by using enzymes as “molecular scissors” to dissolve particular linkages in strands of genetic material, isolating just the sequence they want to manipulate. On that segment, “we change just one base pair in the base pairs. The four main chemicals that pair gene,” says Healup and repeat in long sequences to encode ton, “and then genetic information. In DNA, cytosine usually pairs with guanine, and adenine with thymine; we use standard in RNAs, thymine is replaced by uracil, and reagents and an other combinations can occur. incubator to generate matchdnA, rnA, genes. Along the double chain of chemicals in a molecule of DNA (deoxyribonuing tRNAs in a cleic acid), certain sequences are genes—that test tube.” Doing is, they contain instruction codes for making this in vivo (in a proteins. RNAs (ribonucleic acids) are singleliving organism) stranded versions that carry and translate is trickier. It engenetic instructions into the parts of the cell tails placing the that actually synthesize proteins. manipulated electrophoresis. A chemical and electrical DNA segment process that draws apart and sorts protein into a plasmid— molecules (including genes) by size. The a circular piece different proteins appear as blurry grey bars, or sometimes as dyed spots, arrayed on a of DNA used as small sheet of clear gel. a genetic Trojan horse—and inescherichia coli. A family of common bacteria, serting the plassome of which cause illness but many of which are used as “factories” in genetics and mid into a reother labs. search strain of Escherichia coli mathematical model. Equations or graphs bacteria, whose that precisely describe, compute, simulate, or predict the behaviors and relationships in a cells serve as system of variables. DNA factories for generating nucleotides. Component submolecules of lots of the inDNA/RNA molecules, featuring the four base chemicals of genetics: cytosine, guanine, adeserted genetic nine, and thymine (except in RNAs, where material. thymine is replaced by uracil). Since the students are workph. A measure of acidity or alkalinity. Vinegar’s pH is around 2 or 3, ammonia’s about ing on a submi11; plain water and saltwater are close to neucroscopic scale, tral, at about 7. Healton explains, the only



way to see if the ON A GEL THE RNAS ARE VISIBLE AS plasmid has sucSHADOWS UNDER UV LIGHT. THEY ceeded is to purify EXCISE THESE DARK AREAS—BY the genetic moleHAND, WITH A RAZOR—AND RINSE cules from their THEM REPEATEDLY UNTIL THEY’VE yellowish bacterial RELEASED ALL THEIR RNA. soup and run a sample onto an electrophoresis gel, which separates DNA, RNA, and other proteins by size; an added indicator chemical makes the genetic material fluoresce bright orange. Even then, Walsh says, “the molecules are so close in size that we can’t be sure they’re the right ones. We can see if we have tRNA genes, but not whether they’re our altered versions. For that, we send samples out to Yale for genetic sequencing.” For several days, Walsh has trouble. He says, “Our culture medium includes an antibiotic, to kill off any bacteria lacking the resistance that comes with our inserted DNA, but it’s been killing everything. So either the plasmid doesn’t contain a functional DNA insert, or the E. coli aren’t accepting it.” His hunch: “It may be a kinetics issue. The insert DNA needs to collide with the plasmid’s DNA to bind with it correctly; maybe that’s not happening.” Even with a good plasmid, E. coli can have a bad reaction. As Sheppard puts it, “Biochemistry can be fickle, and E. coli don’t always want to cooperate.” New culture plates are ordered from the supplier, and Frank even has Sheppard watch over her shoulder as she makes plates herself. The plates seem OK. Still, the temperature, the chemistry of the solution, or other conditions may need adjusting. “It’s frustrating,” Walsh admits. “Then again, it would be very surprising if it worked on the first try.” And their success in developing the altered tRNA in vitro is a good step toward facilitating more research into pyroglutamate’s role in disease. Also in Sheppard’s lab, Brittany Ulrich ’12 and Katie Stein ’13, with Stefani Mladenova ’14, are cloning certain genes from Staphylococcus and Bdellovibrio bacteria, using E. coli to express and reproduce them. From parts of that DNA, they’re making transfer RNA. Ulrich’s recipe: Use enzymes to cut out the desired portion of DNA. Mix with a polymerase and other reagents. Add nucleotides (available from retail lab-supply houses). Incubate mixture, swishing constantly, at 37 degrees Celsius (99 F) for about five hours. To test for doneness, look for precipitate gathering in the bottom of the vessel. To separate the freshly cooked tRNA from the other ingredients, Ulrich and Stein run the solution onto a gel where the RNAs are visible as shadows under ultraviolet light. They excise the shadowed areas of the gel—by hand, with a razor—and rinse those pieces repeatedly, checking their light absorbency until it’s evident they’ve released all their RNA. Next they add ethanol and spin the solution in a centrifuge until “we get a tiny pellet at the bottom,” says Ulrich. That pellet is one batch of fairly pure tRNA. They need to add many more pellets to it before they have enough for their testing. The standard procedure is to store the tRNAs in a freezer, to fend off the inevitable degradation that all biological flesh is heir to. Freezing also slows the action of enzymes whose job is


to break down RNA. Ulrich says, “These enzymes are on our hands and everywhere, so we use sterile methods in the incubator, and we keep the tRNAs frozen.” She adds that tRNA molecules are “small, thin, and fragile,” and at first thawing them and returning them to the freezer seemed to damage them. “But we tweaked our procedures, and we’re getting better yields.” Once they have a big store of the tRNAs, they’ll get to the real acid test—or, in this case, an enzyme test. Their batches of Staph and Bdellovibrio tRNAs are of two kinds, specialized to bind with two amino acids: asparagine and aspartate, both used in the bacteria’s protein synthesis. While they normally contain both tRNAs, these bacteria are known to lack free asparagine—so how can their asparaginebinding tRNA do its job? It seems to do it with an enzyme that binds aspartate both to its matching tRNA and also to the asparagine tRNA. (A separate enzyme reaction later converts that aspartate into asparagine.) Sheppard’s team will conduct assays to test whether that enzyme is in fact nondiscriminating, able to work on both tRNAs. They’ll add the enzyme to each type of

to the chromatograph they calibrated after it had sat idle following repairs. Neither student had prior experience with Sreenilayam’s research, so “their learning curve for the new terminology and processes was very steep,” she says, zooming her hand up over her head. She says their first week of the summer was “like a half-semester of biochem labs.” Zanetti admits it was “pretty overwhelming” until, as Hyde chimes in, “we did things so many times that they suddenly clicked: “Aha, this is what we’re doing!” In fact, what they’re doing is nine things, all preparation for solidifying the protein LGN into a 3D crystal so they can see and map its structure. Scientists are eager to know LGN’s shape, because its role in cell division and its tendency to be more concentrated in cancer cells make it a promising target for pharmaceuticals. LGN has recently been identified as a regulator of proper polarities and alignments of chromosomes when cells divide. To do this work, an LGN molecule may unfold and refold to bring its binding sites into proximity with those of its partner proteins. “If we can see where protein X or protein Y tends to bind to LGN, that’ll help us use or block those receptor sites,” Sreenilayam says. Her students are working with full LGN molecules as well as two important segments of LGN, and they’re testing three different methods of purifying their three different versions. The full LGN is in Zanetti’s hands, while the segments are handled by Hyde and Liam Casey, a local high school student joining for four weeks through the “Growing the Science Pipeline” program. For the supersaturation process of crystallizing protein molecules, their LGN sample needs to be “about 95 percent pure,” says Sreenilayam, “and that’s not easy.” The LGNs must first be expressed in large quantities by E. coli cells, which means that at harvest time, when the researchers apply sound waves to break open the cells, the LGNs are suspended in a slurry of other TRANSFER-RNA INVESTIGATORS KATY STEIN ’13, STEFANI MLADENOVA ’14, SEAN molecules. Their investigations focus on HEALTON ’12, BRITTANY ULRICH ’12, SCHUYLER LOCKWOOD, MADELINE FRANK ’13, how best to extract them. PROF. KELLY SHEPPARD, AND MATT WALSH ’12 One method is affinity binding. Zanetti tRNA, wait a few minutes, and watch. If a binding reaction explains, “The LGNs have small clumps of histidine molecules does take place, it will generate a byproduct that will change attached as tags, which are known to have an affinity for bindthe color of a detector chemical. And if they see that color ing to nickel. When we run our sample through a column conchange in the assay with the tRNA for asparagine, that will taining nickel resin, ideally it will pick out and bind the tagged demonstrate how bacteria can synthesize this crucial amino LGNs.” In practice, he reports, it’s only partially effective. acid even without the “right” enzyme. A second approach is an ion-exchange column, to separate molecules that have different electrical charges. With anion pure And unAdulterAted exchange, negatively charged segments of LGN adhere to a “Unlike many lab exercises within a course,” says biochemist positively charged resin; with cation exchange, it’s positively Brandy Sreenilayam, “actual research involves a lot of ‘hurry up charged LGN that sticks to a negative resin. Either way, the and wait.’ My students learn detailed note-taking, collaborabound LGNs are then released in a saltwater buffer, where sotion, and plenty of patience.” Michael Hyde ’13 and Alex Zadium takes the place of the positively charged proteins, or netti ’13 are learning fast, from the centrifuge they got unstuck chloride swaps places with negatively charged proteins,



Perfect, since the team is researching research—that is, seeking ways to make lab work faster, easier, and cheaper. Imagine a doctor in a remote or devastated region, needing to test patients’ blood for infections or toxins but without access to the glassware, reagents and solvents, and big, high-tech machinery of a good laboratory. That doctor’s best hope is the very new but quickly evolving “lab on a chip” technology: A plastic wafer no bigger than a Triscuit is etched with tiny channels and reservoirs; when an infinitesimal drop of fluid is injected, the chip operates as an automated lab, moving the fluid from one “station” to the next for processing and analysis. Frederick says electrophoresis, a multistep process to separate various protein molecules, can already be done on such a chip. And she’s working hard to make advances, experimenting simultaneously with different plastics, microcoatings, and channel depths, as well as ways of moving and filtering fluids. Leland Martin ’14 is making chips from plexiglass, while Brenda Olivo ’14 works with thinner plastic—old overheadtransparency film, to be exact. They use the lab’s commercial laser etcher to cut a tiny channel and two wells, then they fuse on another chip as a cover. For a while Martin tries “slightly melting the surface of the chip and letting it cool before finishing the fusing, which has been shown to prevent tiny air bubbles from forming.” He tests the chip by zapping a drop of ionized fluid with electricity and checking its flow to the other end of the chip’s channel. “If we get no current there, or if we see it spike, we know the fluid has leaked out somewhere, possibly due to these bubbles,” he says. Through many trials, he and Olivo learn that etching smaller-diameter tubes and larger wells works the best. They also determine which PROTEIN PURIFIERS ALEX ZANETTI ’13, PROF. BRANDY SREENILAYAM, AND MICHAEL HYDE ’13 combination of settings—for laser power, speed, and number of passes—tends to create the the drop, over days or weeks, until the LGN molecules form 3D smoothest channels. To measure depth and width, they instructures that they can see and chart with x-ray crystallography. spect the chips under a scanning electron microscope. As fine It’s painstaking, but the students agree, “It’s cool to be real as lasers are, the huge magnification of the SEM shows the intescientists. And it’s nice to think that, down the line, our work rior surfaces of the channels to be surprisingly rough. might contribute to cancer research.” Seeking the best lamination and sealing protocols for the thin honey, i Shrunk the lAb chips, Olivo (with high-schooler Denise Croote for four weeks) is Last spring three promising freshmen, just finishing Skidmore’s testing them with Schweppes tonic water—handy, she explains, introductory chemistry course, accepted their professor’s invitabecause “quinine fluoresces in ultraviolet light, so we can easily tion to do summer research in an innovative field. Their inexsee any leaks.” After concentrating the tonic water, she uses a perience wasn’t a concern, because “our curriculum never micropipette to inject a drop of it into the chip. To pressure-test specifically covers this kind of work anyway,” says chemist Kim it, she epoxies a nozzle from a nitrogen-gas tank to the chip’s Frederick. “I started them with take-home readings, and we did port, cures the epoxy in an oven, and then opens the gas valve. a daylong ‘research boot camp.’” At first, she says, “what fails when we apply pressure is the


freeing them back into solution. Whichever way the students charge their LGNs, ion exchange removes a few but not all of the extraneous proteins. The third step is gel filtration, in which a high-pressure liquid chromatograph pushes a sample through a two- or threefoot column containing beads of gel that sieve the various molecules by their sizes. As long as the machine works well, the method works well. Temperature, pressure, electrical charge, and other variables limit or enhance each method’s effectiveness. And that can only be checked after the fact, by running an electrophoresis gel. An ideal gel would be a nearly clear sheet, with bars showing only the LGN molecules. The team didn’t achieve that perfect purity, of course, but Hyde says they got close to their 95 percent target. And they honed the three-step protocol for getting there. When they get a pure enough sample, they’ll move on to crystallization, suspending a drop of LGN solution over a pool of liquid and letting vapor exchange gradually superconcentrate




epoxy.” Troubleshooting that setup takes several days, before the actual continence of the chip can be assessed. Chips that pass the Schweppes test go on to electricity-flow testing. Studying this electro-osmotic flow is Aaron Osher ’13. Working with Ryan Ahern ’14—whose “real” summer job is at the mall pretzel shop but who volunteers on the research team—Osher uses a laser system devised by Frederick and former students (with, you might think, a nod to Rube Goldberg). Osher flips a few switches on a tabletop full of clamps, wires, clear plastic boxes, screws in a metal pegboard, and duct tape, plus two high-tech lasers and a zigzag array of optical splitters and deflectors. Electricity sends fluorescent dye through a “L AB ON A CHIP” PIONEERS AARON OSHER ’13, LELAND MARTIN ’14, SARAH BASHAW ’11, clear hairlike tube analogous to a chip’s DENISE CROOTE, PROF. KIM FREDERICK, RYAN AHERN ’14, AND BRENDA OLIVO ’14 tiny conduit, the lasers pulse on and off just so, and, he says, “a sensor detects the fluorescent flashes to measured velocity of the liquid, “we should get an exponential measure the speed of the dye’s progress.” He adapted and wrote curve, with steeper velocity curves as we have bigger pH computer code to analyze the masses of compiled data—as changes.” Still needed are more repeats of his experiments, to many as 250,000 data points comprise one dense graph yielding amass a larger data set. just one or two numbers that he needs for his calculations—so Meanwhile, new graduate Sarah Bashaw ’11 is honing meththat he can develop mathematical models of the system. ods for detecting compounds in very small concentrations. With such tiny amounts of liquid, the walls of the tube affect She’s training Martin and Osher to use a capillary electrophoresis the flow significantly. Frederick says, “If the solution inside the instrument, where she loads thin tubes, just 1/25th as wide as a channel changes, then the overall flow changes. It can make the human hair, with minuscule plugs of a guanosine-gel filtration results of analymedium and adds tiny squirts of weak protein and saltwater soOSHER FLIPS A FEW SWITCHES ses different lutions. The idea is to concentrate the protein-containing soluON A TABLETOP FULL OF CLAMPS, each time, tion when it’s already inside a capillary, which is how it needs to be done in a “lab on a chip.” Bashaw says, “Since guanosine WIRES, CLEAR PLASTIC BOXES, SCREWS which really is so fussy about its conditions, we’re also trying a new gel prodIN A METAL PEGBOARD, AND DUCT TAPE, limits the use of this technoluct called Osorb, which absorbs organic molecules.” In a rack of PLUS TWO HIGH-TECH LASERS AND A vials, she’s tracking how fast it absorbs dye and how well it reZIGZAG ARRAY OF OPTICAL SPLITTERS ogy in the real world.” Osher leases it again when heated. By summer’s end she’s succeeded in AND DEFLECTORS. explains, concentrating and detecting insulin, casein, and albumin. Her “We’re looking at these inconsistencies, while they’re actually goal: “Get some parameters figured out, such as the minimum happening inside the tube, and trying to predict and control concentrations needed and the saturation limits of the gels, and them.” (Frederick knows only one other American lab using this leave that information behind for the next students.” method to measure fluid flow.) Osher’s experiments use dyes at “This is great experience in the real world of work,” says Freddifferent pHs, because a higher pH is known to cause faster flow, erick. And in life lessons as well. Sophomore Olivo admits, “In and lower is slower. With two small beakers on a carousel, he the beginning, I was shocked at how many things can go wrong! can rotate a different dye solution into the capillary very quickThen I got used to the process and more patient. And I’m makly. What he measures is how the rate of flow changes when he ing progress faster now that I have the knowledge I gained from adds a different solution that alters the pH in the capillary. the earlier problems.” She adds, “I never get bored. We use so Glitches happen, of course: the current surges a bit, the vacmany techniques, there’s always something new to work with.” uum comes unsealed, the temperature fluctuates. Any of these In September these and nearly 70 other projects from upcan produce anomalous, erratic data, which Osher has to recstate colleges were presented at a research conference at Skidognize and weed out. In those cases, about 90 minutes of testmore. It was the first such event by the foundation-funded ing must be repeated. When he gets a clean run, and later consortium of Skidmore, Union, Colgate, Hamilton, St. Lawgraphs the magnitude of the change in pH against the laserrence, Siena, and St. Rose.




final phase

“In terms of analytical science, my data are large murals, and fragments of them, buried inside ancient Maya buildings,” says Skidmore anthropology professor Heather Hurst ’97. Since 2001, Hurst has been part of the archaeological team investigating the Maya site at San Bartolo, Guatemala, where she and her colleagues discovered “some of the earliest Maya paintings combining images and text, dating to circa 300 BC.” The murals are deep within pyramids that the Maya destroyed and filled in when they built newer structures on top, around 100 BC. In chamber Sub-1A, roughly 12 feet by 30 feet, the team found two murals intact and some 3,200 fragments on the floor.

sub-v phase penultimate phase

To study the murals’ physical makeup, Hurst collaborates with materials scientist Caitlin O’Grady. With a portable x-ray fluorescence device from the new Skidmore Analytical Interdisciplinary Laboratory (funded with a National Science Foundation grant), they can analyze the chemistry of the art in situ, without disturbing it. Taking more than 300 XRF readings from yellow, red, black, and white paint in Sub-1A, the duo “collected data including the signature wavelengths of individual elements and their intensities, revealing different paint formulas in different areas of the artworks.”



D. STEWART, 2010

photo with XRF device


Architectural cutaway


scan of face and headdress The XRF data are crucial in Hurst’s research into artists’ practices—“who painted in what style, why they used which pigments, how autonomous they were or whether they were rendering someone else’s design...” Since the Sub-1A paintings are reachable only through narrow tunnel excavations, the researchers can’t see an entire mural at once or photograph large sections. Instead they started their documentation with measured field drawings and digital scans done in a grid pattern that they tiled together for a complete image of the original art.

painter two

painter one painter  three

Hurst scrutinized each area of the murals to determine “where the brush-strokes start and where they end as the paint begins to run out. Which color was applied first, and which color overlaps it? Hands and feet are often diagnostic: one painter might render fingers as long and thin, while another depicts stubby fingers.” Adding this visual analysis to her expertise in Maya culture, religious imagery, and technology, she formed the hypothesis that three different painters or teams worked closely to create a unified artwork. g




schematic of artists’ areas


recreated face and headdress During the site excavation, Hurst also drew the art, bringing out details that are hard to see or scan, to create an exact but clearer copy. Among her other Maya illustrations in this manner were the famous Bonampak murals from Mexico, which she and Yale University colleague Leonard Ashby recreated between 1999 and 2002. Her art and analyses have appeared in National Geographic, Arqueología Mexicana, the Met, the National Gallery of Art, and the Museo Nacional de Guatemala. In 2004 she won a MacArthur “genius” grant.

7.2 7.15 7.1 7.05 log (ca)

7.0 6.95 6.9 6.85 6.8 6.75 6.7 5.3




▲ Painter 1-North Wall ▲ Painter 1-West Wall, north



5.8 5.7 log (Fe)



h Painter 2-West Wall, nort th sou l, Wal t Wes 2ter ▲ Pain



X Painter 3?

“Plotting the XRF results and cross-referencing these with the stylistic variations” helped Hurst and O’Grady identify different pigment use, even when colors appeared identical. With yellow, for example, Painter One is associated with two different proportions of iron and calcium, but Painter Two mostly used a yellow with a low iron-to-calcium ratio. Regardless of recipes, Hurst says, “the artists exhibit the same style, color use, and iconographic conventions, which suggests shared training,” and she posits “a school of mural art in the Maya lowlands during the first century BC.” (Scholars previously described this tradition only for the Classic period, hundreds of years later.) Next Hurst will lead the reassembling of more than 50 square yards of painting now in shards. She says, “XRF is a great tool in piecing these together quickly and reliably, to help us rediscover these lost images and artists.”


yellowvariant graph

Search and replace Alumni turn curiosity into new discoveries Preparing seekers, pioneers, and problem-solvers has long been a priority for Skidmore, and lately it’s working to expand the opportunities for such training. Offering a wide range of thesis, capstone, laboratory, and studio research, it’s no wonder Skidmore ranks as a top producer of Fulbright grant winners, according to an October Chronicle of Higher Education. And many graduates build on the competen-

cies or content from their Skidmore projects to forge professional careers in research. Scope readers know about cancer researchers Pat Harran ’90 and Jonathan Brody ’92, market and finance analyst Gail Dudack ’70, civic-engagement scholar Rich Harwood ’82, marine biologist Penny Chisholm ’69, and scores of other alumni making discoveries in crucial fields of knowledge. Below, meet a few more:

Brain mapping


Scott Hayes ’98 is constantly evolving his research designs to stay ahead in the fast-moving world of neuroscience technology. A biology and psychology major with a PhD from the Uni-


versity of Arizona, he teaches psychiatry at the Boston University School of Medicine, conducts experiments at the Memory Disorders Research Center, and helps direct imaging for the Veterans Administration Boston Healthcare System. Using functional magnetic-resonance imaging—a key tool in mapping brain activity while patients are actively using their brains—Hayes studies the neurological processes of cognitive functions such as memory. Hayes says some of his work has focused on the influence of visual context on memory performance. Another big question in memory research “THIS IS A NEW RESEARCH is neuroplasticity: “the PATH FOR ME—LOOKING AT ability to adapt to insult HOW PHYSICAL FITNESS related to neuropatholCAN IMPACT THE ogy such as Alzheimer’s NEURAL UNDERPINNINGS disease, or to neurologiOF HUMAN MEMORY.” cal injury such as from hypoxia or stroke, or even to aging processes.” Hayes explains there are different types of memory—procedural, semantic, and episodic—and much of his research is with episodic memory, which is impaired by Alzheimer’s. He recently obtained a grant from the VA’s Rehabilitation Research and Development Service to study the influence of aerobic fitness on memory and neural activity in aging and in mild cognitive impairment. He says, “This is a new research path for me—a little more applied, looking at how physical fitness can impact the neural underpinnings of normal human memory.” Hayes considers Skidmore his leaping-off point for his career in brain research. He credits a Williamson Scholarship, targeted to students from Ohio, for allowing him to even consider attending Skidmore. “At the time I graduated, I liked both of my majors, but I went back to Ohio without a job,” he recalls. “Then I received a tip from the psychology department about a research assistant position at Princeton.” Denise Evert, then a new professor at Skidmore, knew of Hayes and told him about the assistantship at her alma mater. At Princeton for two years, Hayes went on to the University of Arizona, choosing very specific coursework and clinical rotations in neuroimaging and clinical neuropsychology. g



The way creativity flows through the Skidmore campus gave him a unique perspective on the science of data analysis and neuroimaging, he says. “I am creative about how I use the available paradigms as I think about problems in particular patient populations.” —Janit Stahl

In order to form a new union, workers must secure a vote, but many employers find ways to delay that vote and use the time to run an anti-union campaign. Johansson and her team found that the longer a vote was delayed, the more likely the NLRB would charge employers with illegal activity, but even then there’s very little punishment: “No one is paying attention to the National Labor Relations Board,” Johansson says. It was a suggestion by Skidmore sociology professor John Last year the NLRB proposed amendments that would prevent Brueggemann that led Erin Kain Johansson ’98 to identify employers from using delay tactics, and Johansson and anothunion supporters from the secrecy of a hotel closet. While er labor expert issued a research paper to support the proposals working as a room cleaner at a Sheraton, Johansson recogand underscore the importance of changing the election procedures. She maintains, “Unions bring value to society through workplace democracy, among other things, and research can quantify that with hard numbers. Our research shows that although unions are worth saving, it can be very difficult to actually form one.” For a long-overlooked subject, unions have gotten a lot of press recently. Johansson says she was excited to see the public employees’ union uprising in Wisconsin last year. “I’ve been in the labor movement for 10 years, and very few people understand my work. Suddenly, there’s a national conversation about it! It’s been extremely gratifying to see people care about having their rights revoked. We can thank Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker for OUT IN THE OPEN: ERIN KAIN JOHANSSON ’98 IS NO LONGER HIDING TO CONDUCT HER bringing this issue to the forefront of RESEARCH AND SUPPORT WORKERS’ RIGHTS. American conversation.” In fact, Johansson and other researchers folnized the struggle with low pay and even lower respect that lowed up their excitement with action. By providing resources most of the female employees endured. For her, it was just a to state scholars who have to testify, Johansson is showing summer job, but it was their life’s work. Brueggemann urged that years of research not only have real relevance in policy her to simply ask the women some questions, but Johansson debates, but can directly affect the lives of workers. —Robin ended up organizing a union vote. Her passion for workers’ Dale Meyers rights ignited, she embarked on a lifelong path to expose inequities and advocate for unionizing. As the director of research for American Rights at Work, JoFor many people, a trip to France is an opportunity to visit hansson has examined the National Labor Relations Board for great museums or tour riverside castles. For Skidmore professor seven years. She initially Bill Lewis ’94, the destination is the Normandy city of Caen, “UNIONS BRING VALUE TO discovered that the home to the Institut mémoires de l’édition contemporaine. A SOCIETY IN SEVERAL WAYS, NLRB was limited in its repository for 20th-century French publishing and authors, AND RESEARCH CAN ability to fulfill its own the institute is where Lewis studies the work of Marxist QUANTIFY THAT WITH mission of protecting philosopher Louis Althusser (1918–90). HARD NUMBERS.” workers’ rights through Lewis’s philosophical interests were rooted in literature. The collective bargaining. She blames underfunding, political atRed and the Black, a classic of French fiction by the 19th-century tacks, and weak labor laws. Then she saw an opportunity to writer Stendhal, was an early influence. He says the novel’s destrengthen the agency when Barack Obama took the US presipictions of the “ideological divides between church and state dency. She focused on union election procedures and how and country and city” started him “thinking about history they fail to protect workers who try to start a union. and class.” He majored in philosophy and minored in govern-


Work and justice

Philosophy and politics



Beauty and the biologist For Jennifer Stone ’85, life viewed at the cellular level is as beautiful as a fine painting. Driven by a fascination with both art and developmental biology, Stone learned through the support of her drawing and ecology professors at Skidmore that she wouldn’t have to choose one passion over another. “If science leads the way to understanding our world, then art allows us to interpret and reinterpret scientific information,” she explains. That outlook influenced Stone’s research specialization. Intrigued by the


ment, earned a PhD at Penn State, and joined the Skidmore faculty in 2001. In 2005 he published Louis Althusser and the Traditions of French Marxism. Despite bouts of mental illness, Althusser had a long academic career in Paris. A scholar of Hegel, he joined the French Communist Party in 1948. His work was influential in Marxist philosophy, and especially in several critiques of its development and interpretations. His 1970 essay on ideology and the state drew from Marx, “THIS THEORY URGES US TO Freud, and other thinkTHINK ABOUT POLITICS NOT AS ers to describe humans WARRING IDEOLOGIES BUT AS as inescapably bound up PUBLIC INQUIRY THAT INVOLVES in ideology. Lewis is RESEARCH AND DELIBERATION.” working on an Althusserinspired critical theory of culture that advocates the use of knowledge from the social sciences as part and parcel of political decision-making. Instead of accepting today’s reality of democratic politics as an expression of warring ideologies, he says, this theory “urges us to think about politics as public inquiry—one that departs from our given ideas about what is right and wrong with the world, but that involves research and deliberation about our perceived problems in order to decide collectively on what is to be done.” The author of articles on deliberative democracy, evolutionary moral psychology, and political aesthetics, Lewis also keeps an eye on current hot topics, like Occupy Wall Street. He says if Althusser were alive today, he might be critical of the protesters. “Their demands are amorphous, with no thoroughgoing analysis or organization. Althusser would be suspicious, I think, about whether or not creating an event can change political and economic structures. He was first and foremost a strategist.” Lewis’s inquiring mind addresses global issues too. If humans have evolved to feel more concern for family or clan than for strangers, he notes, that makes it more difficult to implement universal ethical principles, such as in the 1948 International Declaration of Human Rights. “If we desire such principles to be implemented,” he says, “we need to strengthen the institutions that support them and develop our feelings of sympathy and moral obligation to those outside our immediate community or nation.” He adds, “In contemporary political philosophy, a chief concern is making democratic procedures fair. And I am concerned also about making them productive of positive change.” —Nancy Rabinowitz ’85



complexity and beauty of hair cells, she was first drawn to inner-ear hair cells because they resemble exotic plants. And their important functional role in hearing transformed her aesthetic delight into scientific curiosity. As a research associate professor in otolaryngology and head and neck surgery at the University of Washington Medical School, Stone is studying hair-cell regeneration at the Bloedel Hearing Research Center. For the past 21 years, she has examined how the cells translate sound waves into neural signals that the brain processes. She has published research papers, review articles, and book chapters on neuroscience and hair-cell regeneration. Not every living creature can regenerate hair cells. Stone’s research explores why they’re regenerated in birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians but not in mammals. While hair-cell death may occur in many species, it’s irreversible in humans. This explains why “hearing loss is a major health problem that impacts more people than any other disorder,” notes Stone. Currently hearing aids and cochlear implants are the only treatments for hearing loss, but both have shortcomings. g




JENNY STONE ’85 IS LEARNING HOW BIRDS REGENERATE INNER-EAR HAIR CELLS; IF HUMANS COULD DO THAT, WE’D HAVE A LOT LESS HEARING LOSS. Stone hopes her research will lead to a biological treatment. “Instead of electronic or stimulant devices, a biological treatment would provide an actual replacement of the hair cells themselves—the very structure that is specialized to perform the function of hearing.” By studying the cellular and molecular mechanisms of hair-cell progenitors (stem cells that can develop into hair cells) in birds, Stone and her team hope to understand the link between certain genes and the processes required for hair-cell regeneration. Each step toward a full understanding of the regeneration process in birds brings them closer to identifying ways to “IF SCIENCE LEADS THE WAY promote this process in TO UNDERSTANDING OUR mammals. WORLD, THEN ART ALLOWS They recently made US TO INTERPRET AND an encouraging discovREINTERPRET SCIENTIFIC ery: After hair-cell damINFORMATION.” age, mammalian haircell progenitors do initiate the early steps of regeneration, which later stalls. “This is an exciting development that provides us with more hope that we can stimulate regeneration in mammals,” she says. “We are trying to identify where and why progenitor cells become stalled, and to find ways to push the cells past these stall points.” Stone’s work just might take her from exotic-looking cells to a revolutionary hearing-loss treatment, proving that science is, in fact, just as beautiful as art. —Robin Dale Meyers



One gutsy researcher Yashoda Sharma ’95 had researched the genetics of hearing in fruit flies and adult stem cells in mice, so when she arrived for her new job at Yale’s med school, she was armed with a love of science and a PhD in molecular biology. But she had no experience with digestive disorders, which are the focus of Yale’s Inflammatory Bowel Disease Genetics Consortium, where she’s program administrator. “I’ve had to learn on the job,” she says. “It’s been challenging, but it’s one of the things that keeps the job interesting.” Interacting with clinicians and researchers and doing “a lot of reading” has helped. The consortium, formed by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, is made up of the inflammatory-bowel programs from Yale, Johns Hopkins, the University of Pittsburgh, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the Universities of Montreal and Toronto, and a data-coordinating center at the University of Chicago. The consortium works with clinicians, researchers, and analysts throughout North America and Europe. Sharma and her colleagues are working toward better control and treatment of IBDs such as Crohn’s, which involves inflammation and ulcers in the large and small intestines, and ulcerative colitis, which affects the large intestine. IBD patients tend to have a genetic predisposition for it, and the symptoms can be exacerbated by environmental factors, including stress—though stress does not cause it, Sharma says. There’s also “no direct sci-


entific evidence that diet can affect the disease,” she says. “That’s still one area that needs to be studied quite extensively.” Sometimes requiring 10-hour days, Sharma’s job involves research, data management, designing experiments, analyzing data, and managing components of the consortium. She says she is committed to studying Crohn’s and colitis because she wants to help those living with these painful digestive maladies. In researching disease onset and how the disease progresses in each patient, “I’VE HAD TO LEARN ON THE JOB. Sharma and fellow reIT’S BEEN CHALLENGING, searchers examine the BUT IT’S ONE OF THE THINGS genetic factors that inTHAT KEEPS THE JOB fluence its activation, INTERESTING.” severity, and response to various medicines in different individuals. The long-term goal is to develop better therapies and improve quality of life for IBD patients. As many as 1.4 million Americans suffer from IBD, so “it’s a pretty prevalent disease,” Sharma says. “It’s debilitating, it really affects people’s way of life, and it strikes all ages. Learning more about this disease is worth investing a lot of money in.” The devoted researcher also has a 5-year-old son to care for, so she says she tries not to bring her work home. But, she admits, “I always have my e-mail open just in case.” —Nancy Rabinowitz ’85



“Some sort of healing”


Sociology mAJor Joelle SklAAr ’11 was studying in Prague in 2009 when she decided to travel to Trstená, Slovakia, to delve into family history. When she first announced her plans, her mother and grandmother were concerned. Her grandmother had narrowly escaped the Holocaust, and “there was a lot of fear surrounding ‘going back.’” It was the 70th anniversary of the Kindertransport that had saved nearly 10,000 children, predominantly Jews, from Nazi-occupied territory by transporting them to the United Kingdom. Sklaar’s maternal grandmother and two great-aunts were among that group and, like most, were never reunited with their parents. Sklaar’s mother, born and raised in England, later moved to the United States, while her grandmother still lives in London. Sklaar says, “I wanted to visit the village where she’d had to leave her parents, her home, her friends. I was seeking the an-

swers to questions left unanswered for many years.” Holocaust survivors, like her grandmother, often didn’t like to talk about their experiences of war, and their children, like her mother, grew up angry at the circumstances that had devastated their parents. “But the third generation, like me, has the opportunity to look at the situation more objectively,” she explains, “and work to achieve some sort of healing.” With scant firsthand information, Sklaar began her research on the Internet, made phone calls, sent e-mails. She eventually made contact with volunteers who had gathered resources, which they shared with her as she made her way to Trstená. Sklaar was alternately mesmerized, ambivalent, and filled with dread. What would the truth look like? Would the emotional landscape be desolate? How would she be received by a community that had expelled her relatives? What Sklaar found was welcome curiosity and personal generosity. The elderly people of Trstená shared memories, while schoolteachers shared research projects on the town’s prewar Jewish community. Students toured her around the area and listened to what she had to tell them, through a translator, about her family’s story. She walked the streets where her grandmother had played, visited her synagogue (now retail space), and stood in front of her childhood home, now abandoned. “It is very peculiar to be told about your family by total strangers, and even more so to come to the realization that the concentration camps did not kill memories,” she says. “While I previously felt that my ancestors were exclusively my own to remember and revere, I now understand that I am not alone. In their hometown, my ancestors are remembered still.” —Helen S. Edelman ’74



Retrospective research canvasses alumni BY SUSAN ROSENBERG

Skills & Abilities developed at Skidmore: top 5 in rank order on “enhanced by Skidmore” 1



Write Effectively

Develop a Commitment to Lifelong Learning Take Responsibility for My Own Learning Learn a Subject at a Deep Level



4.4 4.4

Appreciate the Arts


Skills & Abilities developed at Skidmore: lowest 5 in rank order on “enhanced by Skidmore”

Importance Enhanced by Skidmore


4.7 4.6 4.1 4.6 4.1 4.3



Importance Enhanced by Skidmore


3.9 3.2 3.5

Apply Scientific Principles and Methods

Use Quantitative Tools to Solve Problems



Communicate Visually

Maintain Healthy Living Habits



Work with People of Different Cultures




SKIDMORE GRADUATES CALL their college experience “life-changing,” “too expensive,” “the highlight of my life” … and a lot more. Those are just a few keywords abstracted from the 2010 Alumni Learning Census results. With the 2011 survey now being conducted, Scope talked with professor Sarah Goodwin, Skidmore’s assessment coordinator, about the early-stage research. The 2010 questionnaire went to all reachable alumni with class years ending in 1 or 6, and of the 4,742 online and paper surveys sent out, 545 were completed, for a respectable 11.5% return rate. Goodwin says, “First, I was pleased to see that alumni are so satisfied with some areas of their education that we also emphasize: writing well, communicating ideas confidently, developing a lifelong commitment to learning, and learning a subject in depth. These correspond very nicely with our teaching goals.” Those skills and attitudes were among 34 that alumni were asked to rank in two areas: by importance to their lives, and by how much those attributes were enhanced by the Skidmore experience. Overall, responses were strongly positive. Three of the top five items in importance—effective writing, lifelong learning, and responsibility for one’s own learning—were also in the top five for having been enhanced by Skidmore. Their average score was just over 4 on a

3.2 4.4 2.9 3.5 2.8

scale of 1 to 5. “Appreciating the arts” was even, at 4.3 in both the skills whose importance rankings differed the most from rankings; the other learned-at-Skidmore scores were just a few their enhanced-by scores. Healthy living and practical life tenths of a point behind their importance rankings. management, as well as appreciating and working with people As for the five skills rated lowest for being enhanced by of different cultures, scored at least a full point higher in imSkidmore, Goodwin admits, “those are unsettling.” But she portance than in being enhanced by Skidmore. Oral communipoints out that Skidmore is emphasizing these same areas in its cation and presenting ideas with self-confidence were the other short- and long-term planning. two rated as highly important Skills with greatest disparity Some have been tough nuts to skills that weren’t as highly enImportance between ratings of importance Enhanced by Skidmore crack for a few years and some hanced by Skidmore. and enhancement by Skidmore have moved to the front burners A few other data points stood 1 2 3 4 5 more recently, but they’re no surout. More than 80% of responMaintain Healthy 4.4 prise to college leaders. dents travel to places with difLiving Habits 2.9 “Working with people of differferent cultures at least someManage the Practical 4.5 ent cultures” was one of these, times; 31% do it very often. Aspects of My Life 3.4 with a 3.2 score. Ethnic diversity Daily Internet lookups are conWork with People 4.3 of Different Cultures 3.2 on campus wasn’t a major focus ducted by 60%, and daily newson many campuses until the past paper reading by 74%; at least 4.7 Communicate Well Orally 3.7 several decades, and older alumni weekly, 65% read a magazine Appreciate Cultural 4.4 scored this lower than the youngand 55% read articles on scienDifferences Between People 3.4 er ones did. But since the 1970s, tific topics. One-quarter of the Present Ideas with 4.7 Self-Confidence 3.8 and perhaps even more since the respondents read fiction or po1990s, Goodwin says, “diversity etry every day. More than 90% and intercultural literacy are recurring themes, which only volunteer at least annually; 34% volunteer daily or weekly. grow more urgent as the world becomes more globally interMaster’s degrees are held by 54%, with another 14% planning connected, and as differences in ways of life, income, and funto get one; 14% have doctoral degrees. The respondents’ undamental assumptions become more pronounced and conemployment rate is just 2.6%. More than 75% say their job is tentious for more people.” She says, “It’s gratifying to see that directly or somewhat related to their Skidmore studies, and our alumni view it as so important. Other responses in the sur19% work in a business they started. vey show that our alumni are interacting with colleagues and The Alumni Learning Census is just beginning, having surneighbors of different backgrounds and races quite regularly.” veyed 16 classes, from 1931 and ’36 up to 2001 and ’06. GoodShe says the 3.2 learned-at-Skidmore rating against its 4.3 in win and company are eager to see more answers to the quesimportance “validates the high priority Skidmore is placing on tions in future survey cycles. The second cycle is now polling increasing its diversity and on helping students develop a caalumni from class years ending in 2 and 7. After five years, each pacity to communicate and collaborate across alumni class will have been surveyed, yielding “WE’RE EAGER TO APPLY differences”—as codified in Skidmore’s “Goals “very valuable, statistically credible data that THIS RESEARCH TO for Student Learning and Development,” draftwill be closely analyzed as part of our broader FUTURE ADJUSTMENTS ed with Goodwin’s guidance and widely enassessment efforts,” says Goodwin. IN PROGRAMS, CURRICULA, dorsed in 2009. Speaking of broader efforts, while individAND POLICIES.” Practicing “healthy living habits” got a 2.9 ual programs and departments are conductrating. Goodwin observes that “the classical liberal arts don’t ing assessments on a regular basis, Goodwin is helping coorditraditionally incorporate this in the curriculum, and you nate research into more collegewide goals and outcomes. Writmight argue that it’s not in their purview.” But, she adds, ing across the curriculum has been a focus over several years, “Western academic traditions also include the model of the and now she’s planning to begin a study of visual communicaRhodes Scholar or scholar-athlete. In any case, do we think it’s tion. She says, “Today’s world is far more visual than ever beOK that college is where students practice unhealthy habits? fore—from TV and video to the Internet and PowerPoint—and Should we let that happen without offering some corrective students need to navigate and critically interpret this image-incontext to help guide better choices?” If not, she says, then tensive world. Many faculty members are incorporating visual “this is an area where strengthening our programming outside communications in a range of courses, but this year we’re the curriculum will be crucial.” The “Goals for Student Learnthinking about it more strategically and broadly. We may deing” cite skills related to making a successful postcollege trancide to become as intentional and systematic about how and sition and building a satisfying, purposeful life. And new adwhere we teach it as we are now with writing.” vising programs on career development, alcohol and drug use, Meanwhile, she and her colleagues are waiting by the mailwellness, and other areas are being implemented this semester box, as it were, hoping for a good return from the 2s and 7s in or are in the works. this year’s census. She says, “We’re eager to apply this research For another angle on these findings, the survey firm charted to future adjustments in programs, curricula, and policies.”



celebration Weekend 2011



























acrosse alums get ready for their mini-reunion match, one of several Thoroughbred team reunions held during the same fall weekend as the Skidmore Athletics Hall of Fame inductions. This year’s Hall of Famers were Will Crawford ’01 (tennis), Liza Gorman ’04 (lacrosse), Maria Nero Morin ’94 (softball), and Tom Spinella ’06 (lacrosse); the 1991 equestrian team and 2005 baseball team; longtime trainer Mike Garcia; and employee Sharon Shearman, P ’01, P ’99. The ceremony and benefit banquet brought together 188 alumni, parents, and friends to welcome the inductees and support Skidmore’s athletics programs.

Winners wanted Do you know a former athlete, coach, or team who deserves a place in Skidmore’s Hall of Fame? How about an administrator or someone else who’s been a fervid T’bred booster? Submit nominations at hof/nomination.cfm. Deadline is April 13, 2012.

tee off and serve it up for the t’breds



SATURDAY, J UNE 23 • 18 holes at the Saratoga Spa State Park Golf Course (four-star rating by Golf Digest’s Best Places to Play)

• Tennis on Skidmore’s courts • Cocktails and buffet dinner at Skidmore Gather a group of friends or family and make it a Saratoga weekend. Accommodations available in Skidmore’s beautiful Northwoods Apartments. All proceeds benefit Skidmore athletics. Don’t forget the Friends of Skidmore Athletics raffle—only 325 tickets will be sold. Top prize is a choice of seven getaway experiences for two, including accommodations and airfare. Details at or contact Beth Brucker-Kane: 518-580-5677 •




inspiring new businesses Ken Freirich ’90, a self-confessed “seriin all majors.” For al entrepreneur,” is beginning to fit the competition coordiprofile of a serial sponsor as well. The nator Roy Rotheim, second Kenneth A. Freirich Business Plan its disciplinary diCompetition is under way, offering versity is “quintes$10,000 to the student or team that subsentially Skidmore.” mits the best plan for a new business, An economics proplus second- and third-place awards. fessor, Rotheim Last year’s inaugural contest was won hopes the contest is by Trevor Mengel ’11 and Sam Brown “a profound educa’12, who devised Slingshot, a Web and tional experience, smartphone application to help people helping students to find or start local pickup games, from go beyond the intusoftball to basketball to Frisbee. Along itive and arrive at with $5,000 in cash, they received something con$8,500 worth of marketing, accounting, crete—and to gain and legal services to help them develop a firsthand undertheir plan. Two nonbusiness students standing of that also won cash and services as runnersprocess.” up: neuroscience major Sarah BelserTo that end, the Ehrlich ’11 outlined an expansion to the contest now inJust Call Me Cupcake bakery, and govcludes peer and exernment major Maddie Sullivan ’11 pert mentoring. Last planned to grow Collegiate Records, a year 30 students student music firm and record label. filed intent-to-comPAYING IT FORWARD, ENTREPRENEUR KEN FREIRICH ’90 IS HELPNow president of Health Monitor Netpete forms, but 16 ING STUDENTS PLAN AND START NEW BUSINESSES. work, Freirich started his first business as failed to submit a ful to have such a dedicated alumnus an undergraduate. Visiting as Skidmore’s plan—mostly, they say, because they just inspiring and supporting students in infirst entrepreneur-in-residence in late didn’t know how to formulate a specific dependent, innovative work across the 2010, he challenged students to present and complete business plan. This year all disciplines.” new-business ideas, and it was their “imthose wishing to compete were required Entrants worked over the winter break pressive talent, creativity, and effort” that to attend weekly sessions led by Alison to ready their plans for submission to inspired him to launch the full-fledged Frey ’12 and Todd Powell ’12, seniors in the judging panel by January 25. On business-plan contest as a way to support Rotheim’s MB360 course, which aligns February 10 they will present executive more student innovawith the SkidWHEN YOU CHALLENGE YOURSELF more-Saratoga summaries and field questions from the tion. As he told last BEYOND YOUR CONFIDENCE LEVEL, Entrepreneurial judges, who will choose seven finalists. year’s finalists, “When THAT’S WHEN YOU Then the mentoring will intensify: you challenge yourPartnership, REALLY GROW AND LEARN. each finalist will be assigned an individself beyond your conthrough which ual mentor, a Skidmore graduate or parfidence level, that’s when you really grow students advise local businesspeople who ent who’s skilled and successful in busiand learn.” Again this year, he says, “My want to improve their accounting, marness. The finalists’ business plans are due goal is to foster entrepreneurship and creketing, or strategic operations. With help April 2. Presentations before the judges ate real operating businesses. I don’t from Rotheim and MB360 classmates, will take place April 13, followed by the want this to be just an academic exercise. Frey and Powell spent September and Ocannouncement of the winners. I know this can be a life-changing experitober preparing lessons, and November The February and April presentations ence for students.” and December teaching them to the are open to the public, including any poProfessor Tim Harper, chair of manFreirich hopefuls, while other MB360 stutential “angels” eager to make groundagement and business, adds, “The condents volunteered to help mentor the floor investments in a new business. test advances our goal to spark more crecontestants through the first round. More on the competition is at the Skidativity in our students’ thinking about President Philip Glotzbach says, more Web site’s management and busi‘real-world’ dilemmas, as well as to in“Ken’s competition aligns very well ness page. —SR crease the business acumen of students with Skidmore’s key goals. It’s wonder-




in the black with la vie en rose

EDITOR’S NOTE For more exemplars of creative thought at work, see



mitted in the classroom. “I even taught the kids French drinking songs,” Rachlin laughs. “They loved them.” She says music is an ideal vehicle for language, embedding the words in memorable sound and meaning, as well as showcasing their intrinsic beauty. But she craved a new challenge, and her passion for singing became a hobby as she considered “practical careers.” She parlayed her French, teaching, and analytical skills into a position with Crédit Lyonnais; moved to Israel, where she taught English to soldiers planning to go to medical and dental schools; and returned to New York City, where she became a certified financial planner and investment specialist. “As a French student CHANTEUSE ELAINE RACHLIN ’62, ANALYTICAL AND ARTISTIC at Skidmore,” she says, Though she has appeared in bands with “I learned to be analytical in ‘explicaboth husbands, these days she sings with tions de textes’—a process by which we her jazz trio at the historic Rhinecliff would explore and explain a passage, a Hotel in New York’s Hudson Valley, paragraph, or just a few lines in great where she resides. One detail.” Hence her abil”LISTENING TO PIAF AND of her favorite memoity to excel in finance SIPPING FRENCH WINE, ries is singing at her without prior academI MELDED WITH 25th Skidmore reunion. ic preparation for it. HER SPIRIT.” Samples of her music “My interdisciplinary are at humanities background trained me to To be a shrewd businesswoman and be clear and creative with information an emerging artist, she observes, “you and to take risks.” She adds, “Being at have to be aggressive and enthusiastic,” Skidmore also made me a confident and her efforts have brought her “both woman, able to function in a man’s joy and suffering.” But, in Piaf’s famous world.” words, she concludes, “Je ne regrette rien.” Rachlin married twice, both times to I do what I love, and that’s success: la vie notable jazz musicians, but she is quick en rose.” —Helen S. Edelman ’74 to point out, “I get my own gigs.” TANIA BARRICKLO

As a junior at Skidmore, Elaine Rachlin ’62 got back a French paper with a D and a note from her professor: “Change your major.” She says, “It changed my life, but not my major. After that I sat with a French dictionary and worked in painstaking detail instead of just trying to get by.” Rachlin, who also studied theater and voice, went on to earn a master’s from Middlebury College’s graduate program in France, receiving an A+ on her thesis. She says, “Overcoming that D made it possible for me to thrive in Paris, to stand in front of a movie theater with my guitar and literally sing for my supper, and to fall in love with the music of Edith Piaf.” (Along with legendary chanteuse Piaf, Rachlin also names Billie Holiday among her “heroes,” though her first inspiration was her mother, Mary, a former radio singer.) She recalls “listening to Piaf and sipping French wine night after night, until I melded with her spirit.” Today, at 71 and after a three-decade career in high finance, Rachlin is herself a singer of French cabaret and American standards. The fusion of French and music was natural: she had been singing and playing guitar since childhood, and she has both a talent for languages and a compelling voice. She performs in English, French, Italian, Spanish, Russian, Hebrew, German, Yiddish, and Ladino and says, “I don’t learn the songs by phonetic memorization. I understand what I am singing.” After Skidmore, Rachlin taught French in elementary schools and on educational TV in the Schenectady, N.Y., school system; and after Middlebury, in schools in Westchester County and Long Island. Her approach was to create an “immersion environment” with only French per-

Storied career in tV news


“I’m from a long line of storytellers,” says Doug McKelway ’78, a Washington correspondent for Fox News. “It’s in my blood.” Grandfather Benjamin McKelway worked his way up from copy boy at the Washington Evening Star to become executive editor and served as president of the Associated Press. Uncle St. Clair McKelway was managing editor of the New Yorker magazine during its Algonquin Round Table heyday. And McKelway’s brother Bill is a celebrated reporter at the Richmond Times-Dispatch. At first, McKelway resisted his apparent destiny in favor of a music career. All through his Skidmore days, he was the shy kid who furiously practiced the banjo in empty stairwells and then dazzled Saratoga audiences on the weekends, playing with local bluegrass legend Frank Wakefield. At graduation, McKelway was struck by President Joseph Palamoun-



tain’s proclamation that grads would hold an average of six different jobs in their lifetimes. “No way,” thought McKelway. “It’s the life of a musician for me!” He headed straight to Burlington, Vt., and joined a bluegrass band. After a year of making $50 a week, though, he changed his plans. He scoured Washington, D.C., news bureaus for entry-level work and found a gofer job

for Westinghouse television. He learned port program edited by Brit Hume for to shoot, edit, and interview, eventually years. Now McKelway recalled his first cobbling together a broadcasting resume. day as a cub reporter 30 years ago, when When he was picked up by a Charlotte, Hume marched into a congressional press N.C., Westinghouse station, he had to office and rattled off details about that face his fear of public day’s legislation to the “MISTAKES ARE MAGNIFIED speaking. “I made all other veterans as he AT THIS LEVEL, my mistakes there,” began pounding away SO THE ONUS IS ON ME he says. on his typewriter. McTO GET IT RIGHT.” From Charlotte, he Kelway was transfixed went to a small newsroom back in D.C., and hoped someday to work with the where he would conduct interviews of likes of Hume. senators and congressmen and drive the Today, as Washington correspondent videotape to the airport for distribution for Special Report, McKelway has realized to affiliate stations across the country. He the dream. “I’m reporting on the major spent five years at KCTV in Kansas City, stories,” he says, “and able to do longerwhere he cut his teeth as an anchorman. form pieces, up to two minutes and thirIn Jacksonville, Fla., he anchored at WJKS ty seconds. That’s virtually unheard-of and back in Washington at ABC affiliate on other networks.” But with that expoWJLA and at the powerhouse NBC-owned sure comes more pressure. “Mistakes are WRC-TV. Joe Palamountain’s prediction magnified at this level, so the onus is on was ringing true. me to get it right.” He also reflects that in a nonstop media world, there are many more deadlines to meet: “I’m doing news packages, Web stories, radio pieces, print stories, and Internet-exclusive pieces.” Musing about how technology has transformed the news landscape over a career that has spanned analog and digital media, he says, “Now there’s much more information available instantly, and politicos and spokespeople are far savvier, so it’s important to have a discerning nose for BS!” He credits Skidmore for helping him develop his criticalthinking skills. McKelway is part of a Washington powerhouse media couple: His wife, Susan Ferrechio, is congressional correspondent for the Washington Examiner By 2010, McKelway was tiring of the and often pops up on political talk formulaic local news coverage of crimes shows. With musical-savant son Alexanand car crashes, and yearning for a bigger der and their new dog, they live inside stage. After a public disagreement with the Beltway. WJLA management, he was released from McKelway says he still admires great his contract, freeing him to find that storytellers, and his deepest pleasure in stage. reporting is weaving the nuanced strands He felt a personal and political affiliaof an issue, an event, or a life into a comtion with the Fox network’s approach to pelling and memorable story. —Jon Wurtnews, and he had admired its Special Remann ’78






NEXT ? Food and fun: “Seattle is a foodie town,” says Kimberly Davis Koeller ’89, and thus an appropriate setting for Skidmore’s “Wine 101” event at La Côte Crêperie in November. Skiddies from the classes of ’64 through ’10 tasted French wines, chatted over appetizers, and enjoyed cooking demonstrations by the restaurant’s staff. Mary Ayres ’71 found it a good opportunity for recent grads to network and was sufficiently impressed with the cooking that she plans to return to La Côte. “This was the first Skidmore alumni event I’ve attended,” says Hope Clunie ’10, “and I would say it was a great success.” As a “very new transplant from Boston,” she appreciated the opportunity to meet other Seattle-area alumni. Erina Malarkey ’05 organized the gathering. —PD

Alumni, parents, and friends of Skidmore can enjoy first-class educational opportunities in world-class destinations with the Skidmore college Alumni travel program. When you think of travel, think of Skidmore first! TANZANIA: AN ULTIMATE SAFARI February 9–21 (with Union College)


You know all about Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. But have you heard about

Skidmore Connect?



It's a useful set of tools that allow you to find and communicate with fellow alumni, post class notes and photos, create and join groups, and more. Built on the same advanced platform that more than 350 other colleges and universities are now using, Skidmore Connect offers many of the same great features as networks like Facebook and LinkedIn while giving them a distinct Skidmore spin. Want to network with other Skidmore alums in your profession? Post a class note or share a photo? “Friend,” e-mail, or instant-message a classmate? Register for Reunion and regional alumni events online? Create a personalized Skidmore news feed? Start a group for former teammates and club members? That’s all easy to do in Skidmore Connect. What’s more, you can sync your account with your Facebook profile, so you can post simultaneously in both networks and log into Skidmore Connect with your Facebook username and password. If you haven’t already received an e-mail invitation to log in, visit to learn more. Or call Alumni Affairs and College Events at 800-584-0115 or e-mail to get started.

Skidmore Connect

Spread the word. We’ll see you online.

Your Skidmore Community Network




For details, visit Questions? Call Alumni Affairs & College Events at 518-580-5610 or e-mail


• 2002 • 1997 • 1992 • 1987 • 1982 • 1977 • 1972 • 1967 • 1962 • 1957 • 1952 • 1947 • 1942 • 1937 • 1932 • 1927 • 1922 •

Time to get back to Saratoga Springs.

May 31–June 3, 2012 Rekindle old friendships • Rediscover Saratoga Springs Reconnect with faculty • Join the parade • Picnic on the green Go back to class • Visit the alumni art exhibition Enjoy live music and fireworks For news and details visit

1937 • 1932 • 1927 • 1922 • 2007 • 2002 • 1997 • 1992 • 1987 • 1982 • 1977 • 1972 • 1967 • 1962 • 1957 • 1952 • 1947

2007 • 2002 • 1997 • 1992 • 1987 • 1982 • 1977 • 1972 • 1967 • 1962 • 1957 • 1952 • 1947 • 1942 •

2007 • 2002 • 1997 • 1992 • 1987 • 1982 • 1977 • 1972 • 1967 • 1962 • 1957 • 1952 • 1947 • 1942 •


ICE MEN? Do you recognize any of these skaters? Where are they, and when was this team photo shot? If you have an answer, tell us the story at 518-580-5747,, or Scope c/o Skidmore College. We’ll report answers, and run a new quiz, in the upcoming Scope magazine.

FROM LAST TIME Seated dignitary? Nomi Zuchovitsky (parent of Orli ’99) says she recognizes Eleanor Roosevelt “because in 1958 my high school chorus sang for her, and we were only about six feet away.” Kay O’Neill Forster ’55 adds, “The date I’d give would be 1928, when Franklin was elected governor of New York State. She went around speaking, including to the Cornell School of Domestic Science, so maybe she came to Skidmore too.” Judy Allen Wilson ’69 agrees, guessing this was shot “in the living room of Skidmore Hall in the late 1920s, when Franklin was governor. Perhaps these Skidmore girls were members of student government.” In fact, Ed Wachenheim (trustee emeritus and father of Lance ’85, Kim ’88, and Amy ’01) has a copy of this photo and knows some of its story because, in the group with Roosevelt, he says, “the girl at the farthest left is my mother, Betty Lewis Wachenheim ’31.”



Eleanor Roosevelt appeared at Skidmore four times over four decades. This photo documents her second visit, in 1929. After serving as America’s first lady from 1933 to 1945, she made a third visit to Skidmore in 1951, when she was the first American representative to the UN Commission on Human Rights. Her last Skidmore visit was in 1961, when, according to Sue Corbet Thomas ’62, “a group of us had dinner with Mrs. Roosevelt in President Wilson’s house, before she spoke to the student body. She looked so much older then.” A footnote in Make No Small Plans, the Skidmore history, recounts how Ruth Wilson was impressed by Roosevelt’s friendliness and grace in that last visit, even after the Wilsons’ young son, showing her his pet turtle, spilled aquarium water on her fox fur.











SNIFFING AROUND SARATOGA Most mornings, nose prints on the glass tell Marianne Barker that her regulars tried to visit her shop after hours—and probably left with tails drooping in disappointment. As anyone who walks dogs downtown can tell you, Impressions of Saratoga is a first stop on the canine shopping list. “We’ve always welcomed dogs,” says Barker [sic], whose entryway features a bin of free biscuits and a photo collage of scores of her four-legged visitors. A sign outside says “Dogs and their owners welcome,” and while the former soak up the love and cookies, the latter can browse for dog- and Saratogathemed gifts like the kerchiefs proclaiming “I’d rather be sniffing around Saratoga.” If Fido sports such a scarf in other parts of the country, it only adds to the woof—er, word—that’s going around: “This is one dog-friendly town!” That’s what blogged, adding, “If you haven’t been to Saratoga Springs yet, put this town on your vacation list!” And deems this “one of the most pet friendly cities we’ve had the good fortune to visit.” Saratoga supports not one but two dog boutiques on Broadway. Sara Ellis, of Dawgdom, says there’s probably room for a third. Her shop emphasizes good nutrition, local connections—ComfortFlex collars made in Saratoga, Bread Basket dog cookies, Lazy Dog treats from nearby Ballston Spa—and dog adoption programs. “The store is almost an excuse for the philanthropic side,” she says, but “business is fantastic.” She reports the pet industry keeps growing despite the recession. Noticing trade shows giving more and more space to pet products, Melanie Dallas opened Sloppy Kisses in 2006, selling costumes and outfits, plus fun and healthy treats (anyone for a “pupcake”?), some of which she bakes herself. She soon got the idea that “this big family-oriented community would sup68 SCOPE


port businesses opening their doors to dogs,” so she started the Dog-Friendly Downtown campaign. Nearly 40 businesses now participate, proudly displaying the program’s decals. With your dog in tow—on a leash and well behaved—you can shop for clothing or gifts, browse an art gallery, get a facial, do your banking, even enjoy patio dining at certain restaurants. Many businesses offer water bowls right outside their doors. It’s fun for locals and also draws dog-loving out-of-towners. Pets are welcome at the Holiday Inn, Saratoga Hilton, Residence Inn, and Comfort Inn. The Union Gables Bed and Breakfast (Skidmore’s former Furness House) welcomes dogs of all sizes—“we don’t discriminate,” says innkeeper Ardie Pierce—to snooze in guest rooms and hang out on its wraparound porch. Saratoga hosts dog events year-round, and dogs go along on all manner of charity walks and runs. Summer “yappy hours” at the Gideon Putnam Hotel are well attended, as is the July Fourth “patriotic pooch” parade. The popular midwinter Chowderfest often includes a canine division. This fall marked Sloppy Kisses’ sixth annual Canine Howl-O-Ween Costume Contest, with proceeds benefitting the local Humane Society’s extra pet care in the wake of hurricane flooding. Dawgdom hosts puppy social hours and collaborates with a photographer on projects such as a rescue-dog calendar and a photobooth benefitting the Saratoga Dog Park Fence Fund. Ellis heads up that fundraising effort, to fence in what is now an informally sanctioned off-leash gathering spot on state land across from the National Museum of Dance. Dogs would sit up and beg for such a safe place to run free. For now most canines content themselves with nosing around Saratoga’s sidewalks while tethered to their humans. And nobody’s whining about that. —KG


........................................................................................................................ Did Skidmore Ignite JOHNNY SWING’s Passion for Repurposing Everyday Materials into Works of Art?

........................................................................................................................ You bet.


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Scope Winter 2012  
Scope Winter 2012  

Skidmore College alumni magazine