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Bicentennial Puzzler

Posted on Mar 22, 1996

Question 9
Who were the two nineteenth-century brothers and alumni who were grandsons of a prominent founder of the College?

Answer 9

Our question, submitted by Richard A.B. Mitchell '50, proved a tough one. The correct answer came from Ira M. Rutkow, a physician in Marlboro, N.J., who knew that the brothers were Theodric Romeyn Beck (1791-1855) and Lewis Caleb Beck (1798-1853).

“These two gentlemen were distinguished grandsons of the Rev. Dirck Romeyn, D.D., one of the founders of Union. Theodric was one of the greatest experts in legal medicine that America has produced, and Lewis was a professor of chemistry at the Albany Medical College,” Rutkow says.

Our reply to a previous question, about FitzHugh Ludlow of the Class of 1856, drew the
following response from Donald Dulchinos '78:

“Your biography of FitzHugh Ludlow is slighting and incorrect in spots. He was not married in 1862 and divorced a year later. He married in 1859 and divorced in 1865-his wife married his close friend, the painter Albert Bierstadt, within six months.

The Hasheesh Eater was his one real success, but he and Bierstadt traveled to California via the Overland Stage and his Atlantic articles about the trip were among the first significant reporting from the western U.S.; later they were collected into a book,
The Heart of the Continent. He first contracted tuberculosis on that strenuous trip.

“He later edited a book, The Opium Habit. He was an acknowledged medical authority on that problem, which had grown rapidly in the U.S. in the wake of the Civil War.”

Question 10:

Since our query about the early nineteenth century proved difficult, this time we're more contemporary.

One of the great art thefts in the past twenty-five years had a Union connection. What was the theft, and what was the outcome?

Send your answer to Puzzle, Public Relations Office, Union College, Schenectady, N.Y. 12308.

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Stepping into the unknown

Posted on Mar 22, 1996

For Dr. Jonathan Spicehandler '70, the decision to switch careers was simply a matter of numbers.

Once a clinical physician specializing in infectious diseases, he now is a leading researcher and businessman in the pharmaceutical industry.

“It's the difference between helping hundreds of people and helping millions,” says Spicehandler, the president of the Schering-Plough Research Institute in Kenilworth, N.J.

“I enjoyed being a practicing physician, but I'm the kind of person who isn't just going to do one thing for the rest of my life,” he explains.

The decision has been beneficial to both Spicehandler and Schering-Plough, one of the largest producers of pharmaceuticals in the world.

When Spicehandler arrived at Schering-Plough in 1982 after spending three years with the Swiss pharmaceutical company, Hoffman-La Roche, it was a $1.7 billion company with half of its interest in only moderately-profitable consumer goods, such as Coppertone, Afrin, and St. Joseph's Aspirin. Today, Schering-Plough is a $5.5 billion company with eighty-five percent of its profits coming from high tech medication for the treatment of cancers and other serious diseases.

During this period, Spicehandler's research institute has grown to 2800 scientists with a $600 million budget and research centers in the United States, France, Italy, Switzerland, and Japan.

The change, according to Spicehandler, occurred when the company began a progressive research strategy, investing a significant proportion of its research budget in the emerging field of biotechnology. “We took the 'step off the clif into the unknown,” he says. Today molecular biology and the tools of biotechnology are one of the major sources of new pharmaceutical products throughout the world.

Instead of relying on factories and manmade chemicals to produce new medications, Schering-Plough began experimenting with producing medication in living organisms. For example, by taking the human interferon gene and combining it with the E. Coli bacteria, scientists were able to manage the production of the drug
Interferon, now the most widely used drug in the world for treating cancers and serious viruses. For Schering-Plough, Interferon is a $500 million annual business.

At the same time, Schering-Plough did not abandon more classical approaches to drug discovery, inventing the most successful antihistamine in the world, Claritin, with worldwide sales to exceed $1 billion in 1996.

Spicehandler credits his years as a practicing physician for his success. That clinical experience forces him to always ask the question, “How will this research ultimately help the patient?”

“It used to be easy to succeed in the pharmaceutical business,” he says. “You didn't have to come up with innovative drugs and could rely on 'me too' products to stay competitive. And you could keep raising your prices every year because third parties paid for almost everything.”

In the 1990s, however, the playing field has tilted in favor of the truly high-tech companies. Not only can these companies afford the truly cutting edge
research, they can also produce drugs that will actually cure human diseases instead of simply treating symptoms.

For Schering-Plough and Spicehandler, that has meant taking another step off another cliff into the world of genomics and combinatorial chemistry. Under Spicehandler's direction, researchers are now studying the genetic basis for diseases like cancer and immunologic disorders. The approach will lead to new
targets for drug discovery as well as the world of gene therapy, where diseased chromosomes could be replaced, thus providing potential cures for cancer, diabetes and many other chronic disorders.

Researchers also are creating vast chemical libraries, so compounds can be screened and analyzed at a much faster rate than was previously possible. With a library of several hundred thousand chemicals at his fingertips, Spicehandler expects Schering-Plough to be able to screen millions of compounds every year. That kind of rapid discovery system may help reduce the costly process of finding and developing an effective drug.

“Scientists realize that most of the time, we're going to fail,” Spicehandler says.

For every 10,000 compounds that Schering-Plough synthesizes, perhaps three will be considered for development-and only one out of three products tested will make it onto the shelves. Spicehandler has to track that process, and every so often he must pull the plug on a product even after $150 million worth of research has already taken place.

Despite the challenges, Spicehandler says now is the best time in history to be a part of the pharmaceutical industry. “Science progresses to a certain point and then the medical applications begin to spin off,” he says. “That's the point where we're at right now.”

And in the midst of it all, this avid athlete manages to find time to raise four children, ski, golf, jog, and catch the Union hockey team when they play at Princeton.

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Reaching for the stars

Posted on Mar 22, 1996

Jane Sadler's Starlab

Jane Sadler '73 enjoyed the ten years she spent working as a teacher and school principal, but, she says, those jobs don't compare to her current
occupation selling planetariums.

That's right, Sadler sells planetariums.

Well, it's called Starlab, if you want to get technical, and if you or your school system is in the market for your own portable planetarium, Sadler is the person to speak to.

It started seventeen years ago when Sadler's husband, Philip, was teaching at a special education school in Lincoln, Mass. One day he took his class to the Hayden Planetarium in Boston. The students were so taken with
their journey into the galaxy
that they told their teacher they wanted their own planetarium. Little did they know that they were planting a seed in an entrepreneur's brain.

Philip Sadler set out to fulfill his students' request, and nearly two decades later he and his wife have done that and much more. Together, they have brought the planetarium experience to more than 1,000 schools and millions of students throughout the country.

Along the way, their Cambridge-based company, Learning Technologies, Inc., has grown from a two-person operation to a
thirteen member team that has its own manufacturing facility producing between twelve and fourteen Starlab systems every month. Depending on how many projection cylinders are purchased, the Starlab costs between $10,000 and $13,000.

“Astronomy is a subject that excites a lot of people,” Sadler says, “but I have to admit, it was something I was just thrown into. I never would have grasped at it myself.”

She has done a lot more than grasp at it. Since quitting her job as a school principal in suburban Boston twelve years ago, Sadler has dedicated herself full-time to the family business. She runs the company and travels throughout the country pitching the product at trade shows. Her husband, the astronomy buff in the family, now teaches at the Harvard School of Education and works at the university's Center for Astrophysics.

“I was a psychology major at Union, so I never thought I'd be doing this,” she says. “I was
always interested in education, but I just didn't think I'd be involved in it in this way.”

The sales pitch is a simple one. An entire planetarium that can hold thirty students rolls into a forty-pound duffel bag, and the rest of the equipment fits into two small carrying cases. In fact, the entire contraption can fit into the hatchback of a small car. With the help of a fan that comes with the product, in less than ten minutes Starlab inflates into a
twelve foot high circular tent approximately sixteen feet in diameter. The projectors are simple to use and can project about 3,000 stars
across the roof of the dome.

“We've had planetarium directors from some of the best planetariums in the
country try it,” she says. “And they are shocked by how accurate it is. They're skeptical at first, but they end up being amazed by how many stars we can get up there, and how bright they are.”

The Sadlers have also used their Starlab to ride the wave of multicultural education. They have developed several projection cylinders that show how different cultures throughout the world have looked at the stars. The lessons also explore the relationship between mythology and the stars throughout history.

Starlab allows students to become involved in their learning because they can literally reach up and touch the Milky Way, the sun, the planets, and the constellations. “I think the trend in education is going away from lecturing to more interactive, hands-on activities,” Sadler says. “Starlab fits in well with that because it's not just a teacher standing at the front of a room and playing a tape recorder.”

The company also has a built-in expansion mechanism; users throughout the country can develop their own curricula and send their suggestions back to the Sadlers in Cambridge.

“I run into users all over the country who come up to me and ask for my husband's autograph,” she says. “It's really changed the way so many teachers teach. And the number of kids it has touched must be somewhere in the millions.”

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Building better cities

Posted on Mar 22, 1996

Joe James '69

Joe James's rise to some of the top urban economic development posts in the nation began nearly thirty years ago, when the teachings, work, and death of Martin Luther King, Jr., deeply touched a chemistry major during his junior year at Union.

“In his later years, King was still fighting for civil rights,” recalls James '69, who is the director of the Richmond (Va.) Office of Economic Development. “But King
was also beginning to see that true freedom is not possible unless one had the economic wherewithal to enjoy it.”

James has developed one of the most impressive resumes in his field while keeping King's vision in his heart. He has held the top post in the economic development offices in three of America's largest cities and was second in command in a fourth. A career that began with volunteering in his East Orange, N.J., neighborhood has led James to help create thousands of jobs through creative partnerships between the public and private sectors.

James spends a good deal of his time working with Fortune 500 companies such as CSX, Dominion Resources, Phillip Morris, and Reynolds Metals. Still, he says he has not forgotten King's influence. “If your city's overall economic development strategy doesn't include neighborhood and minority business development, you're missing the boat,” he says.

James is one of only a few African Americans leading economic development departments in the country. But he's used to breaking new ground. At Union, he was the first African-American to pledge the Delta Phi fraternity. When the fraternity's national board heard about it, they threatened to take away Union's charter unless he was thrown out. As James recalls, the Alpha chapter decided that the national could accept all of the brothers in his pledge class or none of them, and the national backed down.

“I will forever be thankful for the support of my frat brothers during that time and during all my years at Union,” he says.

After starring in football and setting the College's discus record, James began in business shortly after he graduated. His father owned a small trucking company
in northern New Jersey and struggled to find consistent business in the then highly-regulated industry. James helped form the Minority Trucking Transport Development Corp., which guided minority trucking businesses through the lengthy Interstate Commerce Commission application process.

Forced to leave law and business school because of an injury to his father, James went to
Philadelphia, where he worked his way up to become the deputy director of the city's Commerce Department. He helped foster new forms of neighborhood economic development, including the “enterprise zone” program, where the government provided tax incentives for business development and job creation in struggling neighborhoods. The enterprise zone concept is now a central component of President Clinton's Empowerment Zone strategy to rebuild America's urban centers.

After eight years in Philadelphia, James was hired by Austin, Texas, in 1986 to organize and direct the city's Economic Development and International Trade Department. He helped attract major computer chip company investments by enhancing the relationship between private enterprise and the University of Texas; thanks in some part to his work, the Austin area is now known as “Silicon Gulch.”

Despite his success, James is quick to admit that nothing could have prepared him for working for the City of Chicago, where he led that Department of Economic Development from 1989 to 1991. An outsider in a highly-charged political environment, he found that where economic development goals often took a back seat to political turf wars and interdepartmental rivalries.

Nevertheless, his accomplishments included a 2,000-job, $25 million United Airlines Reservation Center, the 1994 World Cup to Chicago, and Chicago's first economic development marketing effort in years.

Richmond held a personal and professional attraction for James. His father had been born in the city, and his ancestors were slaves on the plantations that bordered the James River, which cuts through the center of the city and is likely his family's namesake.

Shortly after arriving in Richmond, James began the search for his roots.

“I was very close to my father's mother, who lived with my family when I was a child. She died when I was nine years old,” he recalls. “It was the first great tragedy of my life. But seeing her would-be twin some thirty years later and hearing that similar voice after so long was my most emotional experience ever.” During nearly four years in Richmond, James's search has continued, and every few months he meets a new relative who opens up what he calls “a whole new branch of the family tree.”

Professionally, James has helped transform Richmond, the old capital of the Confederacy, into a new capital of economic growth. He has formed a $10 million small business loan program in a partnership among the city and six local banks. Most importantly, he has helped existing businesses in Richmond, including health care companies, financial institutions, high-tech firms, and of course, giants like Phillip Morris.

“We're competing for business investment and jobs on a worldwide basis,” he says. “When a company weighs its investment options in Richmond, it may also be considering alternatives in Europe and other countries and cities. Richmond has to be as competitive as possible, especially now with the uncertainty about jobs that has come with corporate downsizing.”

When he isn't creating a better Richmond for his fifteen-month-old son, Joseph IV, James tries to hit the golf links in Hilton Head, SC. An avid traveler, he also takes full advantage of the perquisites provided by his wife, Denee,
a flight attendant with American Airlines.

“My son has already flown more miles than most adults,” he adds with a laugh. “I hope his options in life are just as limitless.”

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Update on Alumni

Posted on Mar 22, 1996

We've taken a look at the very full schedules of some students. Now what about alumni? From the pages of the class notes, we touched base with three alumni whose lives have gone in unusual directions.

Susan Lee, yoga instructor

Susan Lee '78 took an unusual vacation in September of 1993. Pursuing a hobby and love she had begun in the early 1980s,
she took a month off from her job at the Maritime Administration, Department of Transportation in Washington, D.C., and headed north to a yoga ashram in Woodbourne, N.Y., where she became a certified yoga instructor.

An ashram is a commune, and yoga is a means of disciplining the mind and body, Lee says. Hatha yoga is physical exercise and breathing techniques for calming the mind, relieving stress, and making the body fit. It is the first step of raja yoga, or meditation.

Ashram guests can be as active or as inactive as they want, but are invited to participate in various daily activities such as hatha yoga, chanting,
meditation, and “selfless service” (helping out the community with an hour's worth of “chores.”) Yoga teacher training also includes studying Sanskrit, philosophy, anatomy, and the Bhagavad Gita.

Lee taught hatha yoga at work for a year after leaving the ashram, but found that she preferred being a student to being a teacher. After a good yoga class, she says that she feels like a “well-oiled machine-it's easier to move, my body is strong, and my mind is quiet.”

Currently, in addition to taking two yoga classes, Lee works full-time while pursuing an MBA part-time at George Washington University.

Jeffrey Greene, furniture designer

As a young graduate student in psychology at Fairleigh Dickinson University, Jeffrey Greene '65 rented a garage and started building furniture.

“I made some furniture that wasn't too terrific, but I loved doing it and realized that I wanted to do it professionally. So I made the jump and just did it,” he says.

Thirty years later, he's still
doing it, and doing it well. For twenty-four years he's owned Jeffrey Greene Design Studio in New Hope, Penn., where he designs and builds dining sets, cabinets, and bedroom furniture, all made from fine rare woods.

Greene was a psychology major, which he says has been helpful in the sales aspect of his career. His father, a professional artist, taught him to draw and encouraged him to pursue a profession that would involve creativity. He took a few art courses in college, but at the time he didn't realize that it was what he really wanted to do.

After building the “not-too terrific furniture” in graduate school, Green was taken under the wings of James Martin and Philip Lloyd Powell, two experts in furniture craftsmanship. Now Greene takes young artisans under his wing through the apprentice program he runs at his studio. Students from the United States and abroad come for a year to work and learn with Greene.

He also owns Greene and Greene Gallery, also located in New Hope, with his wife. The “selling arm” for the studio, the gallery carries Greene's furniture as well as artisan-made jewelry and home accessories.

Greene knows many of his customers well and designs
specifically for them, starting with a freehand sketch of a design, then a more detailed rendering, and often a scale model of the piece of furniture.

One of his favorite and most popular pieces is a center-leaf dining table with matching chairs, made from solid Bolivian Rosewood and Black African Wenge with hand-cut incised detailing in Brazilian Purpleheart.

Paul Forlenza, selfmade photographer

Paul Forlenza '67 was frustrated as a kid because he thought he couldn't do anything creative. While he struggled in school with a later-diagnosed learning disability, he picked up a camera-quite subconsciously, he says-and started taking pictures.

Even though he received a lot of positive feedback, he continued to struggle with the issue of creativity when he came to Union. Because he saw the camera as a technical tool, rather than an artistic one, he began as a math major, switched to political science, and never really experimented with art classes. He remembers that a highlight of his undergraduate
years came during a term abroad in Madrid. He took an art appreciation course and a course at the Prado Museum and discovered the artist El Greco, falling in love with the bold figures and colors of the artist's work.

After graduation, he earned a master's degree in computer science, worked in management consulting and marketing, ran for Congress (in 1984 in Vermont), and joined IBM, where he now is government relations regional manager in Washington, D.C.

All the while, he kept snapping pictures, with little formal training.

“It's taken me thirty years to craft and develop my abilities into something I feel really good about,” he says. And others feel good about his work as well. Forlenza has taken pictures for IBM, the Make-a-Wish Foundation, and an adult home in Washington, D.C. In November of 1995 he won an Equal Award from the Art League of Virginia-his entry was one of six out of 300 recognized for artistic excellence. His photos have been in eight juried exhibitions over the past year, and he had a solo exhibit sponsored by the Capitol Hill Art League. He has also had photos published in three magazines.

While he shoots in color, the amount of color in his photos is limited. He focuses on light and the use of light. “I isolate and simplify images …I look for a sort of universal message,” he explains. “I pick something as a vignette and explore it.”

One of his favorite photos, one that he calls “Mellow Yellow,” is a photo of a yellow fire hydrant in front of a yellow brick wall. The hydrant is reflected in a puddle of water, making the whole picture yellow. Another of his favorite photos is one that he took in New Mexico of an old brown stucco staircase. A broom sits in the corner. “I wanted to capture New Mexico, without really overstating it,” he says. “Looking at the photo I can imagine my grandmother sweeping the stairs.”

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