Union College News Archives

News story archive

Navigation Menu


Posted on Jul 17, 2004

As Greece prepared for this summer's Olympics, Ariadne Papagapitou '02 (or, if you choose, Papagapitos) is swamped with work.

“It's incredible that for the first time since the modern Olympics were revived in Athens in 1896, they are returning to their birthplace,” she said in June, taking a brief break from mountains of work. “It's significant that they will take place against the backdrop of the Acropolis, along the original marathon route, and in the stadium that was built for their revival, among other Classical remnants of the era of the original Olympics.”

Preparing for the games, Athens was one big construction site, as venues were built, buildings and sidewalks resurfaced, and roads repaired. A new tram system went in and the Metro was expanded. “It's a very small country,” says Ariadne, “and still in many ways undeveloped, so it's been a huge rush to get ready, which is why to many it looks as though it's not going to happen, especially considering what is going on in the world politically.

“Security is a great concern. It's unfortunate that Greece's modern Olympic debut has to fall within this uncertain context. Over $1 billion is being spent on security, and I am truly not worried. Luckily, Greece has good relations with its neighbors (including Turkey), and the seas will be heavily patrolled by Greek and NATO forces.”

Ariadne's job is in the Media Villages Planning and Operations Department. When she started, in the summer of 2003, she was in the planning section, where she helped organize, create, and determine how the seven media villages of Athens will run. Most recently she was a duty manager at the National Technical University of Athens, one of the media villages, which will house 10,000 reporters, camera people, photographers, and media support staff from all around the world. The media villages are like large hotels, with special services that cater to the daily routine of the press. Ariadne, who was born in New York City and who spent her early years in both Greece and New York, has dual citizenship and grew up speaking Greek at home. “Both of my parents are from islands in Greece,” she explains, “my mom, from Andros, and my dad, from Rhodes. They immigrated to America in their twenties, when things here were not so good.”

After Ariadne graduated from Union, she found a temporary job at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Human Rights/ Women's Rights Division. She left after a few months and started working at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Athens Branch, in the Public Information and Social Services Departments. “I loved working there, but as the office is slowly being closed down, I began looking for something else and thought it would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience to work for the Olympics Organizing Committee. It is a ton of work and sometimes feels overwhelming, but it has been really rewarding and a lot of fun. And I have gotten to know Athens and Greece very well.

“I love living in Greece,” she adds. “It's a beautiful country, warm people, and it upholds a combination of modern and traditional in a very harmonious way. It's very lively, and there are myriad unique activities you can partake of any time, like trips to islands, ancient sites, old-fashioned tavernas and towns.”

She also enjoys moving around, “seeing what life is like in new cities. I did my Union term abroad in Kenya, and I really hope to go see more of Africa at some point, hopefully in the context of work.” Her Union degree is in Classics, which she is still passionate about (“I try to keep reading ancient texts and going to ancient theaters here.”)

In September, Ariadne will attend the London School of Economics and Political Science to study for a master's in human rights. “Human rights is the field I would really love to get involved in; working at the UN High Commissioner for Refugees really encouraged me to seek entry into the field on an academic level.”

Now, if you're wondering about the two versions of her name:

In Greek, all nouns, including names, are conjugated, so they vary by case and gender. “Since in English this is not the case, most Greek women abroad retain the male version of the name, that is, the one with the –os ending. Papagapitou (with the feminine -ou ending) is the name I use in Greece, even though Papagapitos is what my American credit cards and passport say. So I have acquired two names, depending on where you are and what documents you're looking at!”

Executive by day, Statistician by night

It's all in the numbers for Eric Hornick '86-mild- mannered actuary by day, stats man for the New York Islanders by night.

Many alumni will remember Hornick as the impassioned “Voice of the Dutchmen” when he was the College's broadcaster on WRUC, calling both hockey and football while reporting everything from national championship games to “Final Four” competition. What you may not know is that even his four years away at college did not deter him from his duties with the National Hockey League's Islanders. Despite his academic and WRUC work, he still found time to attend many games to serve as the team statistician. Hornick's love for the Islanders began when he was still in grammar school on-where else-Long Island. He was eight years old when the team was formed, and it was love at first sight. He began reeling off statistics for the team's announcers when he was a senior in high school, and his big thrills have included the Stanley Cup playoffs, a ride in the victory parades, and “touching the Stanley Cup,” he recalls.

His first thirteen seasons were spent at the side of Hockey Hall of Fame broadcaster Jiggs McDonald,and for the past nine seasons he has worked with Howie Rose on Fox Sports New York, who says of Hornick, “Quite simply, he is the best at what he does.”

Hornick also is a reliable source for sports reporters and contributes two regular columns for the Islanders' website, newyorkislanders.com-“The Skinny” and “This Week on the Isle.”

Eric and broadcast buddy Scott Wykoff '85 were back on campus twice in the past year. They handled the introductions for the twentieth reunion of Union's national finalist teams in both football and hockey, and also reunited in the broadcast booth for a Union hockey victory over St. Lawrence.

The Goal

In an article written this past winter for the Union hockey program, Eric Hornick '86 and Scott Wykoff '85, the WRUC broadcast team during the 1983-84 season, recreated “The Goal.” Here is a recap:

Of all the goals in Union's hockey history, only one was scored after midnight. Only one can be called “The Goal.”

It was 12:40 a.m. on St. Patrick's Day, 1984, and Union was in an epic battle with RIT at Ritter Arena in Rochester for a berth in the Division III national championship game. Union was a decided underdog as RIT had gone 28-1.

The game ended at 4-4 and went into overtime-overtime after overtime, thanks largely to remarkable goaltending by Wayne McDougall '86, who was to make 61 saves that night, 25 of them in overtime. “Doogie was making saves that did not seem possible,” remembers Union co-captain Jamie Knight '85. “Wide open shots, breakaways… it was one of the greatest games I have ever seen a goalie play at any level.”

At 3:26 into the fourth overtime, Gavin Morton '87 had the puck behind his own goal. “Gill [Egan '85] was breaking and I hit him on the fly down the left wing. He stepped in across the blue line and hit an amazing slapshot to the top right corner, just under the crossbar, just inside the post. I was the first to Gill to congratulate him. He said 'just hold me up and don't let go.' ” Egan had played that night with the flu.

The Cinderella story did not have the perfect ending-Babson beat an exhausted Union team later that night for the national title-but nothing would take away from “The Goal” that brought Union to the national championship game for the only time in its hockey history.

Union and RIT would meet again in the playoffs in both 1985 and 1986. In 1985, Union won the ECAC title but RIT won the national championship at Achilles, defeating Union in the semifinals. RIT also beat Union in the 1986 ECAC and NCAA playoffs.

Urban developer with a difference

If the stereotype of a New York City developer is someone who puts up big towers, meet a different kind of developer. Richard Kahan '67 is building schools.

Kahan is co-founder and president of the Urban Assembly, a nonprofit organization that over the past seven years has opened four small public high schools-the Bronx School for Law Government and Justice, the Academy for Careers in Sports, the Bronx Academy of Letters, and the New York Harbor School. This September will bring five more-a high school for architecture, engineering and construction; a high school of history and citizenship; a high school of media; a second high school for law, government and justice; and a sixth- through twelfth-grade school focused on applied math and science.

The Urban Assembly works in partnership with the New York City Department of Education and New Visions for Public Schools. Each school they have created has a compelling theme that serves both to engage students and to connect the school to a network of partners in the public, private, and non-profit sectors. The theme is integrated into the core curriculum, and through field trips, classroom visits, internships, and mentoring programs. Through ongoing interaction with the school's partners, students establish a link between what they learn in the classroom and their collegiate and professional futures (partners come from the worlds of culture, commerce, and public service, and they range in size from the Bowery Poetry Club to Harper Collins).

Kahan graduated with a degree in history and went on to earn his law degree from Columbia University. He joined the administration of New York Gov. Hugh Carey, eventually becoming head of New York State's Urban Development Corp., managing such difficult and large-scale projects as the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center and Battery City Park. In the 1980s, he established Take the Field, which rehabilitates athletic fields at public high schools in the five boroughs of New York (to date, some forty have been revitalized).

Then, believing that schools are investments in the future (“if you change education, you change everything else”), he turned to the challenge of improving the city's educational system. This multi-faceted task combines repairing the crumbling infrastructure, strengthening educational systems to prepare students for college or employment, and uniting communities to optimize economic potential. The work reflects his gospel-“Urban growth can be socially responsible, ecologically sustainable, politically participatory, and economically productive.”

Kahan, who is described by colleagues as “intense,” “determined,” “smart,” and “innovative,” once received the Thomas Jefferson Award from the American Institute of Architects for his efforts to “set new standards in the practice of urban design and planning.” Today, he measures success in the impact his organization has on children. “You want to excite children about education and expose them to a world they rarely see,” he told the New York Times recently.

Big Ten Coach of the Year

Four years ago, the Northwestern University men's basketball team was winless in Big Ten play.

This past year, the Wildcats were 8-8, and Coach Bill Carmody '74 was honored by media voters as the Big Ten Coach of the Year-the first time a Northwestern coach has been so honored.

Carmody was recognized for leading a very young squad (starting with only one senior, three sophomores, and one freshman) to the university's best Big Ten record since 1968. Additionally, the team had its best finish in the conference standings since 1969, tying for fifth place with Michigan.

This most recent accolade for Bill is no real surprise. As a three-year starter at Union, he led the Dutchmen to a 59-11 record and broke all the team's assist records. He was team captain during his senior year and was named first-team All-ECAC as well as Union's Most Outstanding Athlete.

After graduation, Bill served as head coach for Fulton-Montgomery Community College in Johnstown, N.Y. After a 17-10 record and a conference title, he returned to Union as an assistant coach. In 1982, Bill left for Princeton, where he served as assistant coach to famed coach Pete Carrill for fourteen years before becoming head coach for four years, leading the Tigers to a record of 92-25, an Ivy League mark of 50-6, and a Top Ten national ranking and the second round of the 1998 NCAA tournament. In his first two years, he was named the U.S. Basketball Writers' Association District II Coach of the Year and the New Jersey Coach of the Year. He is one of only four to coach a team to a perfect Ivy League record and the only coach to attain such a distinction in his first two years.

In September 2000, Bill moved to Northwestern to revive a moribund program. He instituted the offensive system that brought success at Princeton and a match-up zone defense that consistently flummoxed opponents. The stats tell the result: 5-25 in 1999-2000 prior to his arrival; 11-19 in his first season; and 16-13 in 2001-2002. Sports Illustrated wrote that he was the “best offensive coach in college basketball,” and during the 2001-2002 season, the magazine's basketball writer voted him “one of the fifteen best coaches in the college game.”

Bill and his wife, Barbara Dewey Carmody '75, live in Wilmette, Ill., with their sons, Michael (12) and Edward (10).

Drawings from the underground

John Donohue's “Thinking Lady”

Many artists struggle to find models. Not John Donohue '90. Each day more than four million people pose for him. Donohue draws while riding the New York City subway system. His models often aren't aware that they are being drawn-many are deep in a book, lost in thoughts, or have nodded off (the subway, ironically, is one place where the city that never sleeps catches up on its shuteye)-but Donohue doesn't trespass on his subjects' dignity. Despite the constant motion of the train and the need to work quickly, he captures their essence with an intense yet benevolent eye. This spring his work was exhibited at the Big Cat Gallery in the East Village.

When Donohue closes his sketch pad, he goes to his job as editor of The New Yorker's “Night Life” listings. He joined the magazine's staff in 1993, starting as a staff assistant. That, he says, is a fancy title for the job of messenger. After eighteen months “shepherding artwork and manuscripts around the city,” he was promoted to assist the editor of the “Goings On About Town” department. Five years later, he took over the “Night Life” section.

If making subway portraits seems daunting, try keeping track of New York City's cultural and entertainment scene. Each week Donohue sorts through the city's offerings to cover the best pop, jazz, and world-music acts. Part of his job is going out on a regular basis. “One of my favorite shows was the sixty-eight-year-old Brazilian singer Tom Zé,” he says. “In his youth, Zé helped found the tropicalia movement by mixing psychedelic and Afro-Brazilian music. When I saw him a few years ago, he was still up to his innovative tricks. At one point, he broke out a grinding wheel and sent sparks flying as he laid down a beat. Another great night out was watching Ryan Adams last year, as he strode across tabletops in a downtown café, belting out Rolling Stones covers.”

Despite its name, The New Yorker is a national magazine (there are more subscribers in California than there are in New York). “I'm writing and editing for people who may never realize that a certain lower Manhattan thoroughfare is not pronounced like a major city in Texas,” he says. “The goal is to make the section a reading pleasure that offers a vicarious New York experience.”

Donohue graduated with an English degree and decided to pursue journalism, looking for a career that would take him out into the world. After getting his job at The New Yorker, he started to freelance for other publications, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Village Voice. A few years ago he had a realization. “All my life I worked with words,” he says. “I once read that words are processed by the brain's left side. I wondered what would happen if I started working with images. Being literal minded, I opened a copy of Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, and made a fascinating discovery-I love to draw. I am most happy when I have a pen or pencil and I am sketching.”

He gave up his freelance writing career to devote time to creating art. He has studied at the Arts Student League, the School of Visual Arts, and the New York Academy of Art. “When I'm not taking classes, I'm drawing at home or on the subway. I've been drawing on my daily commute for about three years now.”

His artwork and New Yorker job are a nice fit. “Last fall I covered a benefit concert for an underground music-and-arts magazine called Yeti. I met the publisher and showed him my drawings. He called a few months ago and asked me to be in a group show he was putting together. I was thrilled because it was my first New York City show.” Last summer he started submitting cartoons to the magazine, and he recently sold his first one.

Donohue says his goals are to grow as an artist, constantly altering the way he sees the world, and changing the vision of those around him. He takes to heart the advice from his father-in-law, a former Penn State professor and successful investor: “You should never let your education get in the way of your career.” Reflecting on those words, Donohue says, “Union gave me a solid liberal arts background that helped me see his logic. I couldn't agree with him more.”

To see more from John Donohue, go to www.johndonohue.com

Following his bliss

Tony Pallone '87

If you'd asked Tony Pallone '87 in 1987 where he saw himself in five years, the answer would have been an anxious “I have no idea.” He had some wonderful college experiences, from involvement with Mountebanks to a term interning in the U.S. Congress. But, as he puts it, “I had yet to truly find myself.” Now a visual artist with the Albany Times Union, an acting teacher with the New York State Theatre Institute, an actor with the regional Pentimento Playback Theatre, and a faculty member at Albany's Glass Lake Studio, he feels like he's finally arrived.

“It was Mountebanks that gave me my first taste of the acting bug-unless you count experiences in grade school!” he laughs. “College allowed me a wide range of choices-I'd started as a mechanical engineering major, then switched to political science when I realized I was more interested in the way systems of people worked. [Professor] Bob Sharlet was a wonderful mentor, and more than anyone else, he helped me learn how to organize my thoughts and create a focus.”

After college, Pallone moved to Northampton, Mass., where he furthered his pursuit of the arts by appearing in as many shows as he could, and where he also first became interested in working

with children (he received an elementary teaching certification in 1992). The relaxed and culturally vibrant atmosphere of the town was just what he needed. “My creative spirit really flourished there,” he notes. “For so many years I had heard-and believed-that I needed to have a certain kind of career, to achieve a certain status to be successful in life. Northampton's message to me was simply: Be yourself.”

After returning to the Albany area in the early 1990s, Pallone volunteered his time to join the still-fledgling Pentimento Playback Theatre improvisational troupe. Though part of an international organization of similar companies, the group's mission was relatively unique to the Capital District: not simply to entertain, but to honor the stories of the community. Playback is an interactive art, inviting true-life experiences from audiences, which are then enacted spontaneously on stage.

One of Tony's most memorable performances was at Greene Correctional Facility, where he later taught for a semester. “The atmosphere was wildly intimidating at first,” he notes. “Once we started using the Playback form, however, I realized that inviting stories was just as valid here as anywhere-maybe even more so. Eventually I found myself performing in a scene with three inmates, all drawn from the audience, as actors.”

As actor and publicity coordinator for Playback for the past ten years, Pallone has seen the group through many transitions, and today uses the work in his classes for teenagers at the New York State Theatre Institute, in Troy, as well as ongoing acting workshops for adults at Glass Lake Studio, in Albany. His workshop series uses theatre and the dramatic arts to tap into the creative resources of average people from all walks of life who are interested in the arts and in cultivating their artistic selves but have not necessarily been trained.

“It's really rewarding for me when someone, of any age, comes through the door with a feeling of 'I'm not sure why I'm here,' and then leaves with a sense of how their personal story, large or small, is important to the world.” The arts, he feels, are the most vital link to this sense of importance in the big picture “because they exist largely on a plane that transcends the day-to-day realities of our lives, of what we do for a living.”

Not that making a living isn't important. For Pallone, it was the business of commercial art. Starting from the humble beginnings of the “cut-and-paste, enlarge-and- reduce-on-the-copier” method when he produced flyers for a band he managed in Northampton, Pallone now is a sought-after graphic designer for many local businesses and has a full-time job in the art department of the area's largest newspaper.

Still, he reminds himself, “My answer to the question of where I will be in five years hasn't really changed-what has changed is the tone with which I respond.

The only truly important thing, I think, is to follow your bliss.”

Good works in paradise

Rene Maduro '62

While at Union, René Maduro '62 was an active member and later president of Hillel.

During his four years, he received several leadership and activity awards.

Since then, he has continued his volunteer activities on the island nation of Curaçao in the Caribbean, amassing a growing list of leadership awards for his community service with organizations Jewish and non-Jewish, such as B'nai B'rith and Lions International; he even has been decorated as an Officer in the Order of Orange Nassau by Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands.

Like most of the island's Jewish population, Maduro is descended from early Sephardic Jewish settlers who arrived in the seventeenth century from Holland after being expelled from Spain and then Portugal when the Inquisition began. Born in Panama, he was reared on his mother's native Curaçao until he was sent to boarding school in the U.S.A. and then to prep school at Trinity-Pawling School in Pawling, N.Y. While he was at prep school, his family's finances changed, and he came to Union because the College offered him a work-study position and an education loan. He lived in Professor of English Harold Blodgett's house for his room, worked in the cafeteria for his meals, and mowed lawns and tutored for extra income. “I needed a great deal of financial assistance, or else no college,” he says.

After graduation, René was recruited by IBM World Trade Corp. Not only did he have a degree in economics, specializing in management and international trade, he also was fluent in four languages-English, Spanish, Dutch, and Papiamento (Curaçao's native dialect). He took a systems engineering position in IBM's Caribbean territory, traveling to Suriname, British Guiana, Trinidad, and Aruba from his home base on Curaçao. Since then, he has been involved in several international enterprises (including IBM), land development, the beauty/health industry, retail/wholesale distribution, data processing, entrepreneurship, and human resource development and management training. However, he cut back on his activities in 2001 after triple by-pass surgery.

He and his wife, Debora, will be married forty years this August. Their daughter, Rosalie, attended high school in Israel and the U.S.A., then college in the U.S.A. She and her family emigrated to The Netherlands six years ago. Their son, David, lives on the island with his family.

A longtime leader in Curaçao's Jewish community, Maduro muses that his decades of activism, starting with Hillel, is

“Perhaps it is in my genes?” In 2001, the island's Sephardic Mikve Israel-Emanuel Congregation celebrated its 350th anniversary while Maduro was serving his eighteenth year as president of the congregation. The congregation is the oldest active one in the Americas, and the synagogue is the oldest in continuous use in the Americas, according to a website featuring its history.

Reading about Curaçao, viewing its natural beauty, and experiencing its welcoming culture, it is easy to imagine how one might think it is a utopia. Maduro concurs, but he also acknowledges that there can be trouble even in paradise: “This is a wonderful place to live. Sure, we have our social, political, and economic problems, but we have over forty nationalities/groups living in almost perfect harmony on this island, and we work very hard at it. It does not come easily. Yes-outside influences do have their impact, most certainly when our children come back from their university studies in a cultural environment that is different from our own here. Also, the Internet generation is making distance and time almost invisible; this is not always an advantage, nor is it good in many cases.”

Still, the little country of Curaçao and the good works of people like Maduro set powerful examples that resound beyond borders and nationalities. Their message is universal and worthy of emulation.

Read More

Choose and get involved

Posted on Jul 17, 2004


To Kevin Rampe '88, Commencement 2004 was a demarcation line. “Up to this point, your life and what you have achieved has been defined by your education, your test scores, and your summer experiences,” he told the nearly 500 graduates at the College's Commencement ceremony on Library Field. “Starting tomorrow, your life and your happiness will be defined by the choices you make.”

As president of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., created in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks to oversee the rebuilding of the World Trade Center site, Rampe makes decisions every day that affect family members of victims, downtown residents, business owners, real estate developers, and numerous government agencies. To begin his Commencement remarks, he set forth four principles he follows when making choices:

“First, make choices. Make choices wisely, but make them. Far too many people miss great opportunities because they are frozen in place for
fear of change. Don't fear change-embrace it. Tens of thousands of dollars spent on thousands of hours of higher education have been preparing you for this moment. Take a chance. More often than not the worst choice is not making any choice.

“Second, in making choices, draw upon your values and experience. Know that gathering information does not prepare you to make a choice. Spend time thinking about your values and your morals. They will help you interpret the information and, in the end, the choices you make should reflect your values.

“Third, understand that all of your choices cannot be made according to some
master plan. You cannot plan your life. When I sat in your chair I never imagined that I would return sixteen years later to deliver this commencement address. How I got here is not the product of any plan-it is the result of a series of choices.

“And fourth, know at the outset that some of the choices you make may turn out badly. Recognize this and realize that often in the wrong choices lie great lessons, in making mistakes, and learning from them, you will gain deeper personal understanding and knowledge. You will also develop better judgment to assist you in making future choices.”

He said that along with the right to make choices come certain responsibilities.

“First and foremost, you have a duty to make choices that improve our world for others and for future generations. You carry this responsibility if only because of the many who did not have the same opportunity. The diploma you receive is not simply an honor bestowed upon you which grants you the right to lucrative employment. It is a document which imposes on each of you a responsibility to undertake some form of public service or involvement in your community.”


Rampe shared the stories
of two alumni-people he came to learn about because they were among the more than 3,000 lives lost on
September 11.

“Andrew A. Fredericks was a 1983 graduate of Union. On September 11, 2001 he was in his 20th year as a firefighter and his 11th year serving in Squad 18 as a New York City firefighter. That morning he found himself on the front lines of the worst terrorist attack in our nation's history. In choosing to become a New York City firefighter, Andrew chose, many years earlier, to put his safety at
risk to save others.

“Thomas W. Duffy was a 1971 graduate of Union. A resident of Rochester, on the morning of September 11th
he was on the 99th Floor of World Trade Center Tower One for an appointment at Marsh, where he was a senior vice president. In addition to having an extraordinarily successful career, Tom chose to spend time giving back to Union as an active alumnus, and he gave back to his community by coaching his sons' sporting teams.

“Neither of these individuals knew the tragedy that awaited them on the morning of September 11. However, what both men knew, and what I hope you take home with you today, is the importance of public service, of giving back to your community.

“I see it every day. The recovery of lower Manhattan is not the brain-child of great political leaders or brilliant architects, although each has played a role. Big businesses have clearly been a part but they alone could not rejuvenate our community. Rather, lower Manhattan's recovery is the result of individuals volunteering their time, their resources, and their expertise -put simply-giving of themselves. It is that America which came under attack on September 11.”

Rampe said that he and the graduating seniors, although separated by sixteen years, share a common bond as a generation shaped by the events of September 11.

“On that day we saw evil. In the days, weeks, months, and years that followed, despite all of the problems facing us at home and abroad, we have seen a renewed commitment to community and public service. We hold in our hands, all of us, the legacy of over 3,000 people who lost their lives that day. We also hold their hopes, dreams, and aspirations. We have the ability to make the choices that they can no longer make. Together we face a choice-do we allow this legacy to falter as a single tragic event, look inward and detach from the world, or do we mourn, rebuild, and carry the September 11th legacy of community spirit, public service, and caring for others?

“That is your choice-make it wisely.”

Rampe received an honorary doctor of laws degree. His citation said, in part, “You are convinced that we can bring about a lower Manhattan that will serve as a model for the world. And you believe that such an endeavor is the most meaningful way in which we can show resilience in the face of tragedy, creativity in response to destruction, hope overcoming despair. For your tireless work in restoring our greatest city, we are proud to welcome you back.”

Rampe is a cum laude graduate of the College with a B.A. in political science and psychology. He earned his law degree magna cum laude from Albany Law School and became a litigator at the law firm of Sherman & Sterling. As part of his practice, he was involved in domestic and international securities, antitrust, and contract litigation. He also lived in Kuwait, and in 1994-1995 he was involved in the firm's representation of the government of Kuwait and its preparation of environmental claims against the government of Iraq arising after the Gulf War. He then became New York Gov. George Pataki's senior legal advisor on insurance, banking, civil justice, worker's compensation, and labor matters, and, after that, first deputy superintendent and chief operating officer of the New York State Insurance Department. He was named president of the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. in 2003 by Pataki and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Receiving the honorary degree of doctor of fine arts was Wolf Kahn, widely known for his intensely colored and meditative landscape paintings. A native of Stuttgart, Germany, he fled Nazi Germany as an eleven-year-old. He graduated from New York City's High School of Music and Art and the University of Chicago, and studied with abstract expressionist Hans Hofmann, whose practice of using nature as the starting point for a painting was a great influence. Kahn's use of color has placed him at the forefront of American representational art, and he has received such honors as Fulbright and Guggenhein Fellowships. His work is exhibited throughout the world and is included in the collections of such major museums as the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The citation for his degree noted, “Asked to describe your paintings, a colleague of yours once compared your work to a string quartet, where the four principal colors, or voices, resonate together in a tightly-structured composition.…You combine landscape and abstraction to create atmospheric and sensual paintings that are refreshments to our souls.”

The College awarded a total of 492 degrees-260 bachelor of arts, 179 bachelor of science, 19 bachelor of science in civil engineering, three bachelor of science in computer engineering, 16 bachelor of science in electrical engineering, and 15 bachelor of science in mechanical engineering. Fourteen students graduated summa cum laude, 52 received their degrees magna cum laude, and 110 were cum laude. Starting a “new” tradition, graduating seniors and the
faculty marched through the Nott Memorial at the processional and recessional; the route honored Eliphalet Nott, who became president of Union 200 years ago, in 1804, and who served until 1866-the longest tenure of an American college president.

Sari Ziegelstein, a psychology major from Spring Valley, N.Y., was valedictorian of the Class of 2004. During her four years, she was a selected presenter for the National Conference on Undergraduate Research; a dean's list student; vice president of Chi Psi, the honor society in psychology; a team captain for Relay for Life, a fundraiser for cancer research; a volunteer peer mediator for Law Order and Justice at Elmer Avenue Elementary School; and a
volunteer reader for ROAR (Reach Out and Read), a
literacy program. She plans
to pursue a master's in education degree with dual certification in early childhood and special education at the Bank Street College of Education in New York City.

Co-salutatorians were Jeremy Dibbell, a political science major from Bainbridge, N.Y., and Claudia Gutman, a biology major from Floral Park, N.Y.

Dibbell, a past editor-in-chief of Concordiensis, the student newspaper, served on a number of campus committees; held various positions with the Office of Residence Life; and was on the Writing Board, Minerva Committee, and Commencement Committee. He will continue next year in the College's archives, planning the commemoration of the bicentennial of Eliphalet Nott's inauguration as Union president and assisting with other projects.

Gutman, a member of both Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi, the scientific research society, was a crisis support member with Safe Space, an organization dedicated to the support of survivors of rape and sexual assault. She was a volunteer personal reading tutor for second-grade students and a “Big Sister” through the College's chapter of Big Brothers and Big Sisters, and she worked as an intern with a local dentist, traveling to Jamaica to assist with missionary dental care. She is planning to work for a year as a dental assistant and then attend dental school.

Thanks for the memories

When Phil Snow, associate professor of civil engineering, was asked for some retirement memories, he was able to come up with a list quickly:

  • “When I came in 1974, I got a great office looking out over the football field and was able to watch the construction of Achilles Rink.
  • The wedding of President Bonner in Memorial Chapel was quite memorable.
  • Eight years of exciting research with Carl George and Peter Tobiessen [both of biology] on the lake restoration of Collins Pond in Scotia, with rain, snow, and pond weeds so thick the boat would stop after each time you pulled on the oar, followed by another eight or ten years doing dredging and lake restoration projects of Saratoga Lake, Ann Lee Pond, Central Park in Schenectady, and numerous other lakes and ponds in the area.
  • Numerous trips with Gil Harlow to the Army Surplus Warehouse in Rotterdam where many of the drying ovens and microscopes in my environmental lab came from (we also got hundreds of nuts, bolts, screws, assorted hardware, and even parachutes).
  • Working with Frank Griggs [chair of civil engineering from 1980 to 1987] during the strongest years of civil engineering at Union, with the Squire Whipple Bridge and six other old bridges being rebuilt in the surrounding area.
  • Almost 500 civil engineering students went through Union during my 30 years and, I am proud to say, almost every one of them is doing great in their life and in their profession.
  • Seven years of teaching 'Water Resources in Sao Paulo, Brazil,' a mini-term in December of each year. Martha Huggins [of sociology] and later William Garcia [of modern languages] were great partners as we visited slums, wastewater treatment plants, steel mills, and the beaches of Rio de Janeiro!”

Snow, a graduate of Marietta College, received his advanced degrees from Syracuse University and the University of Massachusetts and joined the Union faculty in 1974. Much of his career, both teaching and research, has centered on water resources, and it is not surprising that his professional affiliations have included membership in the American Water Resources Association and the North American Lake Management Society.

Although he is “retiring”, Snow will be back on campus next year to teach three classes in civil engineering's final year. After that, he says he is looking at opportunities with local consulting firms.

Seven other members of the campus community retired this year, and at the College's annual recognition luncheon this spring they reflected on their 165 years of memories. Here are a few of their comments:

Barbara Bell, administrative program assistant, Department of Performing Arts: “I worked at Union for thirty-four years. Obviously, I started here shortly after my adolescence. My BEST day was my LAST day-I was given a retirement party to beat all retirement parties. I was surrounded by good friends, I was serenaded with all my favorite songs, and I felt like a celebrity. So many people said such wonderful things to me. And as I looked around I was moved to tears.…I realize that Union truly was 'my home away from home.' ”

Giuseppina Biasiucci, day cleaner, Facilities Services: “I enjoyed the summers, when all my co-workers and I were able to work together, side by side, instead of in individual buildings. I will always remember and treasure the way the girls at Richmond dorm always made me feel special and appreciated. They treated me like more of a second mom, not just a housekeeper. And last but not least, I now have a special memory of the going-away party my department gave me. I will always remember their kindness and will miss them all.”

Martha Huggins, Roger Thayer Stone Professor of Sociology: “There is no ONE memorable moment during my almost twenty-five years at Union. I see Union as a package that includes making many new friends, people I will never forget. I include in the package of positive memorable moments, a group of students that I have taught at Union and in the term abroad to Brazil that allowed me to grow with them. Most of these students are still in contact with me and share their good experiences with me. Their lives are memorable moments to me.”

Leon Ward, grounds equipment operator, Facilities Services: “During the twenty-nine years I worked at Union, I saw a lot of changes-the building of the Alumni Gym, the football and soccer fields, the library renovation, the building of the theater, and, most recently, the football field grandstands and the remodeling of Achilles Rink. I have worked for three presidents (Tom Bonner, John Morris, and Roger Hull), I made a lot of friends over the years, and have a lot of fond memories of Union.”

Also retiring were Mary Ann Baker, secretary in the Human Resources Office; Sandy Andrejcak, director of Health Services; and George McMillan, purchasing director.

College receives $1.6 million from Howard Hughes Medical Institute

The Howard Hughes Medical Institute has given $1.6 million to the College to effectively build programs and motivate students toward research, study, and careers in emerging new fields in the sciences and engineering.

The grant, to begin this September with an organizational year, will change the way biology students learn and introduce students from other disciplines to biological problems, says Professor Leo Fleishman, chair of the Biology Department.

Among the main components of the grant are:

  • the creation of a new
    Center for Bioengineering
    and Computational Biology
    to include two research laboratories, design facility,
    outreach area with virtual
    bioengineering lab for use
    by other colleges and high schools, computer teaching center, and teaching laboratory for bioengineering courses.

  • research opportunities for six students per year for summer interdisciplinary research combining biology with engineering, computer science, or other disciplines. Four opportunities will be at other institutions (Albany Medical College, the New York Health Department's Wadsworth Lab and Syracuse University).
  • two new faculty hires (one has already been made in engineering, and the second, in biology, will be in two years).
  • funds for two-faculty teams (biology and another discipline) to create new laboratory modules based on application of engineering and/or computing to solutions of biological problems. These will be inserted into laboratories throughout the biology curriculum. A new interdisciplinary course in bioinformatics will be created and a laboratory will be developed for the introduction to bioengineering course.
  • four new years of support for a redesigned Summer Science Workshop for underrepresented talented high school students. The program is designed to encourage juniors and seniors to attend college, major in biology or another science, and go on to graduate or professional school.

“We are delighted by the Howard Hughes Medical
Institute's confidence-once again-in Union,” said President Roger Hull. “The grant comes at a perfect time for
the College as we move forward with Converging Technologies, our unique effort to blend the liberal arts and engineering. We are appreciative of HHMI's support and their recognition of the groundbreaking work we are doing.”

In announcing the award, the Hughes Institute noted that colleges face a number of tough challenges in teaching science today. New fields that blur the lines between disciplines are emerging, and biologists, chemists, physicists, and mathematicians are forging interdisciplinary collaborations. Scientists trained to be outstanding researchers need to learn to be outstanding teachers, and more minorities must be encouraged to pursue scientific careers.

In 2003, Union began offering an academic minor in bioengineering. This program will be greatly strengthened by these funds.

The College received grants from HHMI in 1993 and 1988 as well. Among the programs funded by past Hughes grants were several
targeting K-12 science, and math and tech-nology curriculum improvement (particularly in economically-disadvantaged school districts in the region). The present grant will allow for the continuation of these programs.

HHMI awarded nearly $50 million in grants to forty-two colleges in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Union shared the lead for top awards with Williams College and Haverford College. HHMI invited 198 public and private baccalaureate and master's institutions to compete for the new awards. Those receiving awards were selected for their record of preparing students for graduate education and careers in research, teaching, or medicine.

Works in progress

Ann Anderson, the Thomas J. Watson Sr. and Emma Watson-Day Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering, was recognized for achievement in science and technology at the Mohawk Pathways Council's annual Juliette Low dinner. Robert Balmer, dean of engineering and computer science, nominated Anderson for the award. He said, “Under Ann's well-respected leadership, the College's enrollment in mechanical engineering has grown, and she is clearly a role model for all students, and particularly for young women interested in engineering.” Anderson was a founder of the College's Aerogel Lab, a collaborative project between mechanical engineering and chemistry that has generated a number of undergraduate research projects. Aerogels, ultra-light matrix materials that are excellent insulators, are gaining widespread use in aerospace and medicine.

Richard Fox, associate professor of political science, is co-author of a study that found that fewer women than men run for elected office because they lack confidence, rather than the ability to garner votes. The research, which Fox did with Jennifer L. Lawless '97 of Brown University, appeared in the American Journal of Political Science in April. With men accounting for eighty-six percent of Congress, and previous studies finding that women perform as well as men in fundraising and getting votes, the researchers surveyed nearly 4,000 men and women whose professions
suggest they would be inclined to run for office. Women were twice as likely as men to rate themselves as “not at all qualified” to run for office, the
survey found. Women also received less encouragement than men to run.

Megan Ferry, Luce Junior Professor of Asian Studies, presented a paper at Harvard University's Fairbanks Center on Chinese underground
film maker Cui Zi'en titled “Between Realism and Romanticism: Prostitution and Homosexuality in Cui Zi'en's Night Scene.”

Christine Henseler, assistant professor of Spanish, has received a Franklin Research grant from the American Philosophical Society. The grant supported travel in Spain this summer to interview several authors and do research for her book on the publishing history of Spanish women's narrative from
1850 to 2000.

Silva Kantareva, an exchange student from
Bulgaria, advised by Robert Hislope, assistant professor
of political science, is the author of “The Balkans: A Study of a Discourse,” which was published in Politikon, the journal of the International Association of Political
Science Students. The paper, based on an independent study she did with Hislope, examines the logic and causes of the Balkan conflicts.

Quynh Chu-LaGraff, assistant professor of biology, was the co-author of a presentation
at the forty-fifth annual Drosophila Conference in Washington. Her talk was titled “Drosophila lacking palmitoyl-protein thioesterase1 accumulate autofluorescent inclusions and abnormal ultrastructural deposits in the adult CNS.”
Co-authors were A. Hickey,
H. Chotkowski, J. Ault, and R. Glaser, all from the Wadsworth Center of New York State's Department of Health.

Lorraine Morales Cox, assistant professor of visual arts, has joined the Board of Trustees
of the Schenectady Museum, serving a three-year appointment on the Programming, Diversity and Strategic Planning Committee. Brad Lewis, professor of economics, joined the museum's board last year.

George Butterstein, Florence B. Sherwood Professor of Life Sciences, was co-author on a paper presented at the International Conference on Bear Research and Management in San Diego. The title was “Seasonal Changes in the Correlation of Body Condition, Body Fat and Circulating Leptin in American Black Bears.” His collaborators were from the San Diego Zoo and the University of Wyoming.

Wilfried Wilms, assistant professor of German, presented a paper at this year's 20th Century Literature Conference in Louisville, Ky. The paper, “Negative Apophasis: The 'Indescribable' Ruins of Postwar Germany,” investigated rhetorical strategies in Allied war reporting on the bombing war, focusing primarily on Martha Gellhorn and Janet Flanner.

David Ogawa, assistant
professor of visual arts, has
been nominated to a two-year appointment on the Collections Committee at the Hyde Art Museum in Glens Falls, N.Y.

Union author explores the Opium War

History, for the most part, paints a picture of late nineteenth-century China as an empire in decline, plagued by widespread use of opium, a weak government and military, and a dwindling treasury.

But the 1908 photo that Joyce Madancy chose for the cover of her new book tells a different story.
The story is not in the piles of opium and related paraphernalia waiting to be burned at an opium suppression rally. Rather, it is in the slightly fuzzy background, where a large and diverse crowd of Chinese stands. The photo, according to the associate professor of history, shows that political participation in the opium suppression movement revealed not only a stronger state than expected but also a new emphasis on popular opinion in Chinese politics.

Madancy's book, The Troublesome Legacy of Commissioner Lin: The Opium Trade and Opium Suppression in Fujian Province, 1820s to 1920s (Harvard University Press) tells the story of vast official and popular participation in a nationwide campaign to eliminate the sale, smoking, and importation of opium in China in the early twentieth century.

“When the Opium War happened, China was helpless in the face of western imperialism,” she says. “But, as we can see in this case, right as the imperial system is supposedly dying, the Chinese launched this incredibly complex movement in which the whole country is organized against opium.”

While the campaign was not totally successful, it was very well organized, Madancy says. Authorities issued licenses with photographs, people
registered as addicts to get treatment, and newspapers devoted solely to the suppression campaign reported extensively on statistics and investigations.

Madancy's book focuses on the province of Fujian, where the leader of the campaign was the great grandson of Commissioner Lin Zexu, who seized and destroyed 20,000 chests of British opium and provoked the infamous Opium War in 1839. Lin, and later his great grandson, Lin Bingzhang, became icons of China's efforts to rid itself of opium against overwhelming odds. Both men are memorialized in China; the elder one even has a statue in New York City's Chinatown.

“When people talk about opium in China, they generally think about the Opium War, and they see opium as something that was foisted on the Chinese,” Madancy says.

“It becomes symbolic of Chinese weakness in a number of ways-socially, politically, economically. What I'm looking at is a well-organized and comprehensive attempt by the Chinese to actually get rid of opium on their own.”

Madancy, at Union since 1995, earned her Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. She specializes in East Asian history. Her research has been supported by a number of grants, including a Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation
Fellowship in Chinese Studies from the American Council of Learned Societies, a Humanities Fund Research Grant from Union, and grants from the University of Michigan.

Alcohol policy updated

A campus alcohol task force has recommended a number of changes to the College's current alcohol policy.

Steve Leavitt, dean of students, said the committee, which included fifteen students and a half dozen staff members, “has been a wonderful example of how student and staff insights can result in a better policy for all at Union.”

Geoff Bowman '04, a member of the committee, said,
“I hope these revisions are not only perceived by the student body as realistic for our social needs, but also emphasize that we must continue to advocate responsible and respectful drinking. I hope this will
alleviate social tensions on campus and, along with the coexistence of the Greeks, themes, and Minervas, continue us on the path to a stronger Union.”

Another committee member, Dan Colish '04, noted that the process of revising the College's alcohol policy is
never complete. “This newpolicy represents the best efforts of this committee to evolve beyond the consumption of alcohol while also
concentrating on the student body's wishes for a better social environment.”

The committee recommendations include:

  • enforce broadly the ban on hard alcohol at all social events;
  • remove the 100-person limit at social events; instead, fire codes will determine size limits;
  • require substantial food and non-alcoholic drinks at all social events with alcohol;
  • establish a new category
    of registered social events with alcohol for twenty-one-year olds that can occur during
    the week at Minerva Houses, theme houses, and Greek houses; such events will have a size limit, limited quantities of alcohol, and be organized around an event;

  • allow social drinking,
    of beer and wine only, for twenty-one-year-olds in a designated social space at a strictly limited number of houses or dorms;

  • enforce more stringently
    the ban on drinking for underage drinkers;

  • implement a suspension-of-party-privileges-plus-probation policy for organizations hosting large-scale social events; repeated and gross
    violations may result in losing one's house;

  • develop more alcohol awareness programs for broad-based alcohol education;
  • augment on-campus
    ounseling services for alcohol-related assistance;

  • establish a standing
    committee on alcohol and drug use, with prominent
    student membership.

Note: Dean of Students Steve Leavitt has further comments about responsible drinking in
a column that appears on
page 41 of this issue.


Peter Williams, a longtime member of the College's grounds operations staff, died June 3 at his home in Schenectady. He was sixty-eight.

Williams, who began with the College in 1964, retired in 2000. More than 100 colleagues attended his retirement party, held on the occasion of his 65th birthday, and sang a chorus of “Happy Birthday.” He was cited at the event by President Roger Hull, who acknowledged that Williams should get much of the credit for the College's then-recent beautification award from the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Williams's contributions to campus beautification also were recognized by the Class of 1993, which presented him with a special citation at their Commencement.

Williams was the son of the late Clinton Williams, professor of civil engineering at Union. Survivors include two brothers and a sister. Plans are for interment in the College Plot of Vale Cemetery sometime this fall.

Phil Beuth '54 gives $2 million to Minerva Houses

On the fiftieth anniversary of his graduation, former ABC television executive Philip Beuth '54 pledged a $2 million gift to the College to support Beuth House, one of seven houses in the College's new Minerva House system that
will provide a place for living, attending class, and interaction with other students and faculty.

“Union had a significant impact on my life, and was there with Bailey scholarships when I could not afford tuition anywhere,” Beuth said. “I was very fortunate, and I hope that my gifts will encourage others to give back as well.”

The gift will fund the
renovation of the former Psi Upsilon fraternity house near the center of campus. Beuth House will open this fall as one of seven social and academic hubs on campus, part of the new Minerva House system; it joins Golub House and Wold House as named houses, and the College anticipates announcing more names in the next few months. After recent elections, all seven Minerva houses have both students and faculty in leadership positions.

“We are deeply appreciative to Phil for his continued generosity to Union,” said President Roger H. Hull. “As the College embarks upon an exciting and unique system to transform and meld our students' intellectual and social lives, we are particularly grateful to Phil Beuth for his support.”

Beuth, who lives in Naples, Fla., with his wife, Mary, retired in 1995 as president of CapCities/ABC's “Good Morning America.” A former trustee of the College, he was honored for his service at this spring's meeting of the Board of Trustees.

He is a member of the board of the Guadalupe Center in Imokalee, Fla., a daycare center for the children of migrant workers. He is also on the board of the Broadcasters Foundation, and he and Mary operate a small resort on St. Maarten in the Caribbean.

Beuth began his career in 1952 as a page for WRGB in Schenectady and later was the first Capital Cities employee at WTEN in Albany. As a senior at Union, he was president of the Psi Upsilon fraternity. In 1996, he donated $1 million to support the expansion and renovation of Schaffer Library.

Union's athletic league changes name

The Upstate Collegiate
Athletic Association, to which Union has belonged since the league was formed in 1995,
has changed its name to the Liberty League.

The new league includes Clarkson University, Hamilton College, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the
University of Rochester, St. Lawrence University, Skidmore College, Union, and
Vassar College. The U.S. Coast Guard Academy, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, and Worcester Polytechnic Institute are associate members
for football only.

Margaret Strait, athletic director at St. Lawrence and league president, said, “The new name and logo project a positive image for a group of institutions that has worked together to provide a very meaningful educational
experience for thousands of student-athletes. We came together as selective private institutions with shared
values to bring out the best aspects of intercollegiate
athletics. The name change and new marks will help us tell our success story and will better reflect who we are as a
league. We have stood for
tradition and excellence,
and we are proud of what
we have established.”

The Liberty League sponsors championships in twenty-four sports. During the 2003-04 academic year,
members of the Liberty League sent seventeen teams in fourteen sports to NCAA tournaments, as well as dozens of individual athletes in cross country, swimming and diving, track and field, and tennis. Liberty League athletes earned five CoSIDA Academic All-America awards and thirty-seven CoSIDA Academic All-District Awards.

The Liberty League has partnered with Strategic Marketing Affiliates, Inc., of Indianapolis, to perform the role of licensing agent for the league and to oversee the administration of the new identity and the release of marks to approved vendors.

Cooperstown, Pittsfield…China

Whether baseball was invented in Cooperstown, N.Y., or
Pittsfield, Mass., as new research claims, the sport was widely played by Chinese soldiers as a grenade-throwing exercise at the turn of the nineteenth century.

The information came from Joe Reaves, author of the award-winning book, Taking in a Game: Baseball in Asia. That fact, and many others, were discussed by baseball authors, journalists, and scholars when Professors Ted Gilman of Political Science and George Gmelch of Anthropology hosted a day-long program this spring
on “Baseball in Asia.”

Robert Whiting, author of two books, You've Gotta Have Wa and the recently-released The Meaning of Ichiro, spoke about the influence that Japanese players have had on the U.S. and Japanese major leagues. He is working with DreamWorks to create a major motion picture version of one his fictional books, Tokyo Underworld.

Marty Kuehnert, a one-time journalist, broadcaster, and agent in Japan's major league, and author of books on Japanese baseball, talked about the reasons for baseball's current Japanese decline. He suggested much of the blame falls on their league's corporate structure, but also cited the recent exodus of Japanese superstars.

Bill Kelly of Yale University, who has written on the Hanshin Tigers and Japanese fans in general, gave an anthropological perspective.

In addition to speaking at Union, the four scholars were the featured panelists in a roundtable discussion at the Baseball Hall of Fame the next day, also titled, “Baseball in Asia.” The special program, moderated by Gmelch, was hosted in the Hall of Fame Library's Bullpen Theater. Union students accompanied the scholars to the Hall of Fame.

Read More

What’s in a name?

Posted on Jul 17, 2004

William H. Seward

If you're an inveterate map-reader, then you know place names reveal a lot. As the author George R. Steward says in his book Names of the Land, names offer clues on “how here one man hoped and struggled, how there another dreamed, or died, or sought fortune, and another joked, twisting an old name to make a new one.” The more than 3 million names on the map of the United States include several with Union connections. Some are well-known–the Seward of Alaska, for example. Others are surprises, such as Constable Hall in central New York. Here, we present a sampling, and we invite readers to send us other Union place names.

About 125 miles south of Anchorage is Seward, named in 1903 for one of the College's most illustrious alumni-William H. Seward, Class of 1820, the secretary of state under Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson, and the man who negotiated the acquisition of Alaska from Russia.

The red-haired Seward came to Union in 1816 at the age of fifteen and enrolled in the sophomore class. His stay was interrupted by a financial misunderstanding with his father. Ashamed of his rustic appearance, young Seward had a Schenectady tailor make him clothing. His father refused to pay for what he thought was an unreasonable expense. So Seward withdrew from the College, traveled to Georgia with a friend, and became a schoolmaster for a short time. After a change of heart, he returned to Union and completed his studies with high honors, becoming one of the earliest members of the College's chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. After graduation, he studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1822.

Although inexperienced in international affairs when he was named secretary of state, Seward was no political novice, having served as a New York State senator, governor of the state, and a U.S. senator.

Seward negotiated for Alaska's sale in the face of heavy political opposition, which used “Seward's Folly” to describe the effort. He believed the territory's value would increase and that it would be a secure place for commercial and naval operations. The treaty to buy Alaska was signed in 1867. The cost of adding 590,000 square miles (about one-fifth the area of the continental United States) was $7.2 million. Later, when asked what his greatest political achievement was, Seward apparently told a friend, “The purchase of Alaska. But it will take another generation to find out.”

Today the town named for Seward has a population of 4,000. Located at the head of Resurrection Bay, it offers sport fishing, glacier and wildlife cruises, kayaking, summer dog sled races, and more. North of Nome is the Seward Peninsula, and across the nation in Auburn, N.Y., can be found the Seward House, a museum containing many articles associated with the former secretary's career.

Edward Tuckerman

Edward Tuckerman, Class of 1837, discovered the ravine that bears his name during one of his many field trips into the White Mountains of New Hampshire during the summer of 1842. Tuckerman Ravine, a favorite spring and summer skiing spot, is on the southeast shoulder of Mt. Washington. Known for its spectacular scenery and deep snow (fifty-five feet in the deepest spot), it is about 5,100 feet in elevation at the headwall's lip and drops about 800 feet.

As a youngster, Tuckerman studied various plants, animals, and minerals of Massachusetts. After Union, he graduated from Harvard Law School and spent a year traveling in Germany and Scandinavia, studying with botanist Elias Fries. In 1842, he returned to Union and earned his master's degree; in 1845, he returned to Harvard and completed his divinity degree. After his marriage, he settled in Amherst, Mass., where he taught botany at Amherst
College until his death in 1886. He devoted his life to the study of lichens, publishing about fifty botanical papers, and continued to revisit the White Mountains, contributing a chapter about its unusual vegetation to Starr King's renowned book, The White Walls. Tuckerman was known as the dean of American lichenologists, and the genus Tuckermania and several species have been named for him.

On the 100th anniversary of his graduation from Union, the College's Outing Club placed a bronze plaque in Tuckerman's honor near the little headwall at the junction of the Sherburne and Tuckerman Ravine trails. Attending the ceremony were representatives of Amherst, Harvard, and Dartmouth as well as botanists, conservationists, and members of Tuckerman's family.

Edward Berthoud

During the height of
Colorado's gold rush in 1860, Edward Berthoud, of the Class of 1849, and his wife, Helen, settled in the town of Golden. Soon after arriving, Berthoud-a Phi Beta Kappa graduate in engineering-became associated with the Colorado Railroads. One of his first projects was to set out with a surveying party in 1861 to find the most direct route from Denver to Salt Lake City. The expedition led to the discovery of Berthoud Pass, a 11,314-foot pass located on the Continental Divide sixty-five miles west of Denver and now a popular ski resort area.

Berthoud served as secretary and chief engineer for the Colorado Central and Pacific Railroad for sixteen years. Considered one of Colorado's greatest pioneers, he is also one of its respected educators. In 1940, the Colorado School of Mines dedicated Berthoud Hall, a building for the study of geology and geophysics. Berthoud was a member of the territorial legislature that authorized the school's establishment and served as its first registrar. He headed the Departments of Civil Engineering and Geology and was also a member of the college's Board of Trustees.

In addition to Berthoud Pass and Berthoud Hall, the small town of Berthoud also honors Union's pioneer
and explorer.

Sheldon Jackson graduated from Union in 1855 and from Princeton Theological Seminary in 1858. Shortly after his ordination, he began his extensive missionary career, which took him through Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, and much of the Rockies.

It is Alaska, however, that became his passion. From his arrival in 1877 until his death in 1909, he was committed to the spiritual, economic, and educational well-being of the people of the territory. He founded numerous schools and training centers that served native Alaskans, imported nearly 1,300 reindeer to bolster the livelihoods of Alaskan Eskimos, and worked toward the passage of the Organic Act of 1884, which ensured that Alaska would begin to set up a judicial system. (The next year, Jackson was appointed the first commissioner of education for Alaska.)

Worried that native cultures and their arts and ways of life would vanish, he traveled extensively and collected representative items. Today the Sheldon Jackson Museum in Sitka houses many of Jackson's pieces, as well as other examples of Tlingit, Eskimo, and Aleut culture. It is the oldest museum in Alaska and was placed on the National Historical Register in 1972. The museum's collection has been called a jewel in the crown of Alaska ethnographic collections.

Jackson also played a major role in the beginning of what was to become Sheldon Jackson College, the oldest educational institution in continuous existence in the State of Alaska. Begun as the Sitka Industrial and Training School, it later became an elementary school, and in 1910 it was renamed Sheldon Jackson School. In 1917, a new boarding high school was added, and in 1944 the college program was organized. The college has grown into a four-year institution offering associate and bachelor degrees to students from widely diverse backgrounds.

In the mid-1970s, an Alaskan mountain was named for another alumnus who loved to study the land and headed West to explore it. Fritts Mountain, named in memory of Crawford E. “Jim” Fritts, of the Class of 1948, is located at the west end of the Angayucham Mountain Range.

A geologist with the Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys, Fritts spent two seasons mapping the Angayuchams. In 1972 he drowned while mapping along the Kogolutuk River in the Brooks Range, not far from the Arctic Circle.

At Union Fritts concentrated in the sciences, but showed a keen interest in geology. He earned his master's degree in geology from Michigan Tech and his doctorate from the University of Michigan. He worked a number of years with the U.S. Geological Survey in Denver before heading for Alaska.

In addition to the two years that Fritts spent mapping the Angayuchams, he also explored the Brooks Range over four seasons. During that time he compiled and published a six-volume bibliography of geology that was welcomed by the mineral industry and those concerned with Alaska's geology.

William Constable, Jr., died before he was thirty-five, never having had the opportunity to live in the house he lovingly built for more than nine years. Now known as Constable Hall, the house in Constableville, N.Y., is on the National Register of Historic Places and is considered by many museum experts as one of America's most delightful restorations.

Constable Hall was patterned after a mansion that stood on the family estate in Ireland and was meant “to surpass all the other houses of that day north of the Mohawk.” Construction began in 1818, the year Constable married. Nine years later, when the house was nearly finished, he was seriously hurt when a
ten-ton capstone that was to be laid in the front portico split and injured his leg. He never recovered, and died two years later.

Constable Hall contains much of its original furniture and a number of rare antiques and articles, among them a satinwood sewing table that belonged to Marie Antoinette; a piano, inlaid and decorated, which came from London in 1812; a seagoing secretary-chest, given to the elder Constable by Alexander Hamilton; a chess set, belonging to an acquaintance of the younger Constable's, Clement Moore, author of “The Night Be fore Christmas;” and a hand-sewn flag of thirteen stars.

In 1800, Joshua Forman, of the Class of 1798, moved to Onondaga Hollow, N.Y., and opened a law office with his brother-in-law. In 1805, while serving in the New York State Assembly, he heard an idea for an inland waterway connecting Lake Erie to the mouth of the Hudson River. He promptly became a canal supporter.

When the Erie Canal was built, the section in Onondaga County went through what would become the village of Syracuse-a locale generally avoided by settlers due to the swampy, fetid living conditions. Forman, however, advertised the advantages of the area, including the location of the intersection of the Great Western Canal and the Seneca Turnpike, the proximity to the salt works, and water power from Onondaga Creek, where three mills were already in operation. When it came time to choose a name for the new community, one man remembered a poem he had read titled “Syracuse,” about a town in Sicily built on a lake with marshes that contained salt and freshwater springs. The similarities were noted, and the new village became Syracuse.

Forman is considered the “founder of Syracuse,” and he was recognized after his death by the creation of Forman Park in the heart of the city. The park's magnificent water fountain, colorful flowers, shady trees, and park benches make it a popular gathering place for neighborhood residents.

George Washington Gale

George Washington Gale, of the Class of 1814, was a Presbyterian minister from upstate New York who, in the 1830s, conceived of a plan to bring a “thorough system of mental, moral, and physical education” to the frontier. He inspired a band of colonists to set out with him for the prairie of Illinois, where they established an educational institution known as Knox Manual Labor College. Chartered in 1837, the college was among the first open to people of color and to women. In 1957, the name was changed to Knox College.

The college is located in Galesburg, also founded by Gale and his band of twenty-five settlers. The town was home to the first anti-slavery society in the state of Illinois and was a stop on the underground railroad.

The name's familiar

Union's heritage of names is by no means confined to the alumni cited in the main article. It includes, for example, Toomsboro, Georgia, named after Robert A. Toombs, Class of 1828, the first secretary of state for the Confederacy during the Civil War (the “b” got dropped somewhere along the line, according to residents). And Eliphalet Nott, president of the College for sixty-two years, has a stretch of highway named for him in Ashford, Conn.

Nor are all Union names with Union connections as far-flung as those in the article. The city of Schenectady has at least twenty street names with Union connections. Some are obvious-
University Place, Union Avenue, Union Street, Nott Street, Nott Terrace, and Nott Terrace Heights. Some are less so, such as Seward Place, for William Seward, Class of 1820, Lincoln's secretary of state during the Civil War and the man behind the purchase of Alaska; Bigelow Place, for John Bigelow, Class of 1835, Lincoln's ambassador to Paris; and Gillespie Place, for William Gillespie, an internationally recognized pioneer in engineering education and the College's first “Lecturer in Civil Engineering.”

Read More

Outstanding Students

Posted on Jul 17, 2004

Union wins Robot Rivals
The winning Robot Rivals team of Adam Retersdorf ’04, Marissa Post ’04, and Jason Fishner ’05

Mechanical engineering students Marissa Post ’04, Jason Fishner ’05, and Adam Retersdorf ’04 came out on top on the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) TV Network’s new show, Robot Rivals.

Union was one of fourteen colleges that competed on Robot Rivals, which pits
student teams in a grueling competition to build a robot to complete a task. Each team gets access to the show’s “robot laboratory” containing all kinds of components, parts, motors, wheels, and one “household item” such as a refrigerator. Teams are given a time limit in which to design, build, and prepare their robots to compete; they also have the assistance of an “expert” in the robotics or engineering fields.

Union won the entire competition after defeating Dartmouth, Princeton, the University of Rochester, and, in the final competition, the University of Pittsburgh. The championship match involved building a robot to maneuver through a maze and collect keys to unlock a door. The Union team’s other winning robots had to rake leaves,
pick vegetables, and play
floor hockey.

“This competition was a great opportunity for our engineering students to show that they are some of the brightest in the nation,” said Robert Balmer, dean of engineering. “The producers of the show researched the best engineering colleges in the country and, of course, found Union to be one of them.”

As champion, the College received the J.F. Engelberger Trophy, which is presented by the “father of industrial robotics” himself, and a $2,000 prize awarded to the Robotics Club.

Post, the team captain, is a senior from Shakopee, Minn. Fishner is from Long Valley, N.J.; Retersdorf is from Mayfield, N.Y., and alternate Ben Porteus is a junior from South Wellfleet, Mass.

The episodes featuring the Union team were televised throughout May and June.

Success becomes mechanical

Success by Union students at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers meetings seems to be getting, well, mechanical.

For the third year in a row, a Union student-this year, senior Tim Smith-took top honors in the oral competition at the ASME Regional
Student Conference at the University of Rochester (the region includes forty-six colleges and universities in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and the District of Columbia). Katie Arthur won the poster competition, and Marissa Post took second in the oral competition.

“The consistent success of Union students must be attributed to more than random chance,” said Prof. Frank Wicks, noting that the probability of three consecutive wins by a college would be about one in 100,000. “It is the result of outstanding students who are provided with excellent research projects, facilities, staff support, and faculty advising.”

Smith, advised by Prof. Brad Bruno, spoke on “The Development of the Hydrogen Fueled Internal Combustion Engine.” He took home a $300 prize and an invitation to compete for $2,000 at the ASME International Congress in Anaheim in November.

Arthur, advised by Prof. Ann Anderson, gave her
winning poster on “Too Hot to Handle: An Investigation into Safe Touch Temperatures.” Post, advised by Anderson and Prof. Mary Carroll of the Chemistry Department, spoke on “Density Dependence in Young’s Modulus in Silica Gels.”

Previous winners of the
oral competition were
Smitesh Bakrania ’03 and David Chapin ’02.

Walking challenge brings international competition

The phrase “Walk This Way” had special meaning for
students from nineteen colleges and universities from across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico who were on campus this spring for the Society of Automotive Engineers’ annual Walking Robot Challenge.

Student teams designed and built their robots, which operate by a self-contained power source. During the two-day competition, the machines performed in six events ranging from a simple “dash” to autonomously traversing an obstacle course. A panel of judges scored the machines on their components, construction, and “intelligence,” as well as performance during the tasks. Entrants also had to submit a technical paper.

This was the first time the College hosted the prestigious international event, and, perhaps acting the role of gracious host, the Dutchmen’s six-legged robot was an early casualty. Instead of walking for twenty-seven feet, the Union robot, called “Dutchbot,” flopped to the ground. After an analysis, Dutchbot’s designers and crew-seniors Adam Retersdorf, Jason Cook, and Craig Johnson-said the machine had too much weight for its motors, causing it to stall.

Despite the early departure, the three agreed that the experience was a valuable lesson in real-world applications.

The nineteen colleges sent twenty-two teams, with the winner coming from Universidad Autonoma de Aguascalientes in Mexico. Union finished sixteenth, just behind York College of Pennsylvania and ahead of ahead of Washington State University. And, just for the record, none of the robots was able to finish all of the events.

Union team wins elevator pitch;
U-Start adds another student company

Impermeable Molding Company, a company founded by Union students and housed in the College’s U-Start Business Incubator, won the “elevator pitch” contest in this spring’s Tech Valley Collegiate Business Plan Competition.

To qualify for the two-minute contest, which simulates a brief elevator ride with a venture capitalist, the teams had to be one of five semi-finalists in the overall business plan competition. The Union team won $1,000.

Impermeable Molding was founded this year to produce environmentally friendly tanks for the storage of various fluids such as oil and gasoline. Union students in the College’s Entrepreneurship Club have been working on this new business idea, using a state-of-the-art plastic resin from the Cyclics Corporation of Schenectady, founded by alumni John Ciovacco ’87 and Ted Eveleth ’87.

Other partners in Impermeable Molding are Bobby Syed ’03, chief executive officer, co-founder and former president of the Entrepreneurship Club; Josh Fiorini ’04, chief financial officer, co-founder and vice president of the Entrepreneurship Club; Brian Lindenberg ’05, chief operating officer; Kerem Kacel ’03, chief information officer; and Brett Durie ’04, chief technical officer. Junior Lucas Englehart, chief marketing officer, did the elevator pitch on behalf of the six-member company.

“We are extremely proud
of our team’s work,” said Jon Lemelin, executive director of the U-Start Incubator and an advisor to the team. “This is the first time a team from Union has entered the competition. To qualify as a semi-finalist, the Union team outperformed thirty other
student teams.”

Helped by Union mentors, Britnie Girigorie and Ariel Thurman won a state competition

The business plan competition was sponsored by the Severino Center for Technological Entrepreneurship at Rensselaer’s Lally School of Management and Technology. The annual competition is open to full-time students at area colleges and universities.

Besides Lemelin and Ciovacco, the club’s advisors are Y.F. King Wang, marketing director of Americas for Cyclics Corporation; Professor Hal Fried, economics; Mike O’Hara, director of development; and Mel Chudzik, dean of the School of Management of the Graduate College of Union University.

In another U-Start news note, three students pursuing degrees in medicine, computer science, and philosophy have founded a new company and become tenants in the U-Start Business Incubator. Their firm, Exousia Health, Inc., develops new software platforms and application services to assist the healthcare industry with emergency preparedness and remediation.

The students, all juniors, are Christopher Macomber, chief executive officer; Edward Maas, director of technology; and Jeffrey Marshall, director of communications. Macomber is in the rigorous Leadership in Medicine Program, through which students earn a B.S. from Union, an M.B.A. from the Graduate College of Union University, and an M.D. from Albany Medical College. He founded Exousia to promote the interest of patients and to improve communication within the health care sector.

Union pitches in with local schools

Every year, students and faculty from the College provide hours of guidance to local secondary school students in a variety of ways. Here are some examples from this spring:

Two teams of high school and middle school students mentored by Union students placed first and second in the New York State Science and Technology Entry Program (STEP) competition.

The first-place award was in the area of human service research. The team’s project, “Embryonic Stem Cell Research,” reflected on ethical issues as well as benefits that embryonic stem cell research brings to the medical field. Winners were Britnie Girigorie, a tenth grader at Niskayuna High School, and Ariel Thurman, seventh grade, and Ezria Brown, eighth grade, both from Mont Pleasant Middle School in Schenectady. Union mentors were seniors Angelo Cross and Kara Cotich.

The second-place award was in the area of technology. The team’s project, “How does solar energy affect a turbine?”, studied a turbine that uses light energy that converts to heat energy, which then converts to kinetic energy, causing the turbine to spin. From this process, the turbine produces mechanical energy. Winners were Domonica Farley, a ninth grader at Schenectady High School, and Marina Bianchi, seventh grade, and Brian Nowell, eighth grade, both from Central Park Middle School in Schenectady. Union students Cross and Cotich also mentored this team.

STEP is a statewide program to help prepare historically-underrepresented or economically-disadvantaged students for entry into college, with a focus on science, technology, and health-related fields. At Union, STEP is one of several volunteer and community
service programs that operate out of the Kenney Center. Union student-mentored teams competed against teams from numerous colleges in New York State, including Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Rochester Institute of Technology, Fordham University, and the State University at Albany.

In April, forty students from ten Capital Region high schools became pollution investigators in the fictional town of Willow Creek, analyzing samples and doing some detective work to determine the type and source of pollution that has affected the town’s water supply. The exercise was part of Union’s second annual Irving Langmuir Chemistry Laboratory Competition, an event designed to expose students in Regents-level chemistry courses to the excitement of doing chemistry.

The students used their laboratory skills to solve the make-believe case, using real samples they tested to determine which business or industry in Willow Creek was the culprit. The students used the College’s laboratories and a variety of chemistry analytical techniques. They were assisted by Union chemistry students.

The competition was organized by the Chemistry Department with support from Albany Molecular Research Inc., GE Global Research Center, and Schenectady International, Inc. “The Langmuir competition is designed as a fun way to get the high school students to make creative use of some of the things they have been learning in their Regents chemistry courses,” said Joanne Kehlbeck, assistant professor of chemistry. “At the same time, this is a great way to introduce them to the fun of doing chemistry.”

Irving Langmuir, a GE research chemist who taught at Union, was the first industrial chemist to win the Nobel Prize. His discoveries included the gas-filled incandescent light bulb, atomic hydrogen welding, and cloud seeding.

Near the end of April, more than a dozen teams from local middle schools came to campus for the 2004 Rube Goldberg competition. Now in its fourth year, the “Olympics of complexity and redundancy” was sponsored by the College’s engineering program, Knolls Atomic Power Lab,
GE Elfun Society, and the
Schenectady Museum. GE employees served as judges.

James Hedrick, professor of engineering and director of the competition, says, “The Rube Goldberg contest, quite simply, makes engineering fun. Students have the opportunity to put their creativity to work and design wild contraptions to perform what is usually a very simple task. The only limits on machine design are their own imaginations. It’s a great way for students to showcase their design talents and inspire an interest in engineering at the same time.”

This year’s winner, a machine built by a team from Van Antwerp Middle School in nearby Niskayuna, was judged the best at removing a small pie from a box, placing it on a plate, and topping it with a dollop of whipped cream. The rules required each machine to take twenty or more steps, use a minimum of five different forms of energy, and demonstrate engineering and scientific know-how, creativity, and whimsy. In past years, the tasks have included sticking a stamp on a letter, sharpening a pencil, making a baloney sandwich, opening a bag of M&Ms, and putting toothpaste on a toothbrush.

The contest pays tribute to Rube Goldberg, an engineer and cartoonist whose works appeared in thousands of newspapers from 1914 to 1964. His inventions, he said, symbolized “man’s capacity for exerting maximum effort to accomplish minimal results.” His name has become eponymous for anything that is unnecessarily complex, cumbersome, or convoluted.

Union history buff wins Bailey Cup

Jeremy Dibbell, a political science major from Bainbridge, N.Y., is this year’s winner of the Frank Bailey Prize, awarded to the senior who has rendered the greatest service to the College.

Dibbell, a fixture at most campus events, is perhaps best known as past editor-in-chief of Concordiensis, the student newspaper. “There will never be a perfect Concordy, that’s one thing I have learned,” he says. “But we can come close. It takes a lot of eyes and a lot of effort. One of the things I’ve really liked is that you can tell people are reading and that [the paper] is sparking debate. That’s what we all need to be going for.”

Dibbell served on a number of committees, including Planning and Priorities, which gave him “the ability to have a voice for students and to be involved in the nitty-gritty
of the College’s budgeting process.” He also held various positions with the Office of Residence Life and was on
the Writing Board, Minerva Committee, and Commencement Committee.

He also worked in the
College’s Special Collections, showing a special interest in Eliphalet Nott, president of the College from 1804 to 1866, and William Henry Seward (Class of 1820), Lincoln’s
secretary of state and the
driver behind the purchase
of Alaska. “Every aspect of American history is somehow encompassed at Union College,” he says. “The institution is so rich in history.”

Dibbell, who spent much of the past year researching Nott’s speeches and letters, will continue next year in the archives, planning the commemoration of the bicentennial of Nott’s inauguration this fall and assisting with other projects. His plans include graduate school in history and teaching at a liberal arts college, perhaps Union, he says.

Letters from Merjit

Marcy Hersh ’03, a political major, is spending the year teaching Engish as a second language on Mejit Island, an outer island of the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) in Micronesia. The Marshalls are home to twenty-five American volunteers, and Marcy is there with a non-governmental organization, WorldTeach, which is based at Harvard University. Here are excerpts from a couple of letters she has sent:

Before Christmas
I’m finally back in Majuro with its electricity, air conditioning, and Internet! I couldn’t wait to run down and send out an e-mail to all my favorite people on the other side of the world. I’m sorry that I haven’t been as good a correspondent as I should have been, but I am quite busy with school, learning Marshallese, making handicrafts with the women…I end up not having as much free time as I had thought I would.

It’s been such a crazy fall semester that I hardly know where to begin to explain everything, but I’ll try to do the best I can to give you a picture of what outer island living is like.

Mejit Island is a small, incredibly beautiful place where the people are incredibly kind. Welcoming, and
giving. I live with a great little family. Mama and Papa provide me with plenty of canned meat to eat and coconuts to drink! I spend a great deal of time with my little host sister, Lilliana, who is ten and my new best friend. We don’t have cold drinks, fresh fruit, or a flushing toilet, but these things have become less important over the last four months. I’ve come to truly love showering outside with a bucket, under the stars, and, in general, living naturally and simply really suits me.

School is going pretty well, but it took me a little while to get adjusted to being a teacher and not a student. I have about 110 students, grades 1-8, and with a few exceptions, they are eager learners, making lots of progress with their English. I’ve had to summon up all my reserves of creative energy to dream up interesting ways to teach ESL, and while there are rough days, it’s a beautiful thing when the kids finally understand and start speaking complete, grammatically-correct English sentences.

When a lesson fails, I fall back on singing, as music is really a great uniter of our most different cultures. I spent a whole week teaching my older kids Beatles songs, and it was such a hit that for weeks afterwards I was woken each morning by eager kids standing out my window belting out “You say goodbye, and I say hello!” At these times I have to smile and be grateful that they’re at least enthusiastic about the material.

Outside of school, I play volleyball in the afternoons with the women my age and help with cooking and handicraft making. The women of Mejit make these beautiful woven mats, made from the leaves of pandanus trees. While the matmaking itself is very complicated and I don’t have it figured out yet, I’ve gotten quite good at the decorative embroidery that they do, and we spend a great many afternoons sitting around, drinking (instant) coffee and making these gorgeous mats.


My Marshallese has gotten quite good and I’m capable
of communicating most anything I need to say (which is
a good thing, as no one out there really speaks much
English). Lately I’ve spent my evenings lying around with Lillana and telling “bwebwenato,” or stories-tall tales. She makes up little stories to share, and I’ve been translating children’s stories like the Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan, etc.

With Christmas right around the corner, we’ve all been busy preparing for the holiday celebration. Mejit Islanders are extremely religious, and life entirely revolves around the church, which I dutifully attend every Sunday. Christmas is a HUGE celebration with food, singing, and dancing. Rehearsals have been going on since the end of October and stretch late into the night. Typically we start singing around eight p.m. and aren’t finished until two or three a.m.! I’ve gotten pretty good at the songs and their native dance, called Beat. I can even accompany myself on the ukelele a little! It’s a pity I won’t be there to see the actual event, but I’m leaving for Hawaii on Monday to spend Christmas with my family.

I’ve always had a travel bug. While an undergrad at Union, I went on two terms abroad-to Paris to study art history at the Louvre and then to Florence. The summer after my junior year, I spent two months volunteering in a middle school in rural Ghana in West Africa. That experience really opened my eyes to the shocking poverty, political corruption, and suffering of developing nations and their inhabitants. My work in the Ghanaian school taught me the powerful international currency of smiles! After my summer in Africa, I knew I had found my calling. When I found the WorldTeach program in the RMI, I jumped at the chance to experience a new culture, teach children, and share my positive, can-do spirit with a depressed community-oh, and live in paradise for a year!

The capital city of the RMI, Majuro, is a fairly modern city. Outside of Majuro are twenty-nine completely undeveloped island/atolls. Mejit Island, where I’ve been placed, is approximately one square mile and has 450 inhabitants. We have an elementary school, three churches, hundreds of coconut trees, but no phones, flush toilets, or refrigerators. I am the only American and the only English speaker.

Education isn’t supported in the community in the same way it is in the U.S. Parents fail to motivate their children to complete homework assignments, study for tests, or even attend school at all. This has been one of my greatest hurdles. I’m trying to change the spirit of the school and show the kids that learning can be fun and rewarding. The children are seriously behind, as a result of many years of non-English-speaking teachers trying to teach them English. The eighth graders are at the second-grade level in reading, writing and oral skills. I’ve tried to engender a love of learning and inquisitiveness in my students. Through donations from home, I’ve started a small library to encourage reading for pleasure.

Some of the highlights of the year include the performance of a play that I wrote for the seventh grade, a Christmas concert of Marshallese and American Christmas carols, teaching the kids various American pop songs and classic Beatles songs, and a spelling bee. I hope that by the end of the year, my students will understand that they don’t need to grow up to be poverty-stricken fishermen or handicraft makers, but instead have the intelligence and opportunity to go to high school and college and become doctors, senators, and bringers of vitality to this island community.

I love life in Mejit. I work hard all week teaching and tutoring, then on the weekends I explore the island on foot and with my snorkel and flippers. It’s just so gorgeous and pristine here. I frequently see sharks, turtles, and millions of varieties of fish. It’s easy to forget that I’ve given up electricity, running water, and modern conveniences as I’ve gained so much in their stead. I love living simply and close to nature, in the company of the warmhearted and gentle Marshallese people.

In June, my one-year contract will be over and I will be heading back home to the U.S. There I’m planning on finding a more traditional kind of employment and pursuing an advanced degree in international development.

Marcy suggests that donations
of children’s books and school supplies may be sent to: Mejit Island, c/o WorldTeach, P.O.
Box 627, Majuro, MH 96960.
For information on WorldTeach, visit www.worldteach.org

Read More

A Taste of India

Posted on Jul 17, 2004

Manju Nichani

Not every college president would choose to take on the added responsibility of a faculty assignment. But in India, it's not unusual-in fact, it's required. And Manju Nichani, president of KC College in Bombay, has taken this requirement one step further, spending the spring term as a visiting professor at Union.

Why does she do it? “I love teaching, and I love meeting people.” She is also pleased to offer American students their first real taste of India, “not only the world's largest democracy, but also one of the most ancient cultures,” she says.

Her journey from her native Bombay is part of Union's faculty exchange program involving a confederation of colleges affiliated with the University of Mumbai (Mumbai is Bombay's official name). KC College has a student body of about 4,700 and is one of 23 colleges in the Hyderabad Sind National Collegiate Board.

Nichani taught two courses in the Anthropology Department here: “Gender and Sexuality in South Asia” and “Religion, Caste and Class in India.” Both were filled to capacity. Amanda Haag '04, an anthropology major, comments, “When I heard Professor Nichani was coming, I was excited, because we don't have a lot of courses on southern Asia.” For her part, Nichani was surprised to find American students so disciplined. The only thing that bothered her: “They eat in class-but I've learned to accept it.”

She also noticed how much competition there is here for grades. “Everybody wants an A. In India, we're not so generous with marks.”

Nichani had the chance to meet more students through Shakti, the South Asian student club on campus (“shakti” means “power”). “We recently offered a showing of 'Monsoon Wedding' and discussed themes in the film, such as child abuse and the demand for dowry.”

One day, she cooked an Indian dinner for both of her classes, to give them a sense of home-cooked food. Amanda Haag worked with her in preparing the meal for fifty, and the two cooked all afternoon. The food included 200 puris (Indian bread that's rolled and fried). The students loved the dinner. “There were no doggie bags,” Nichani says. “Everything was eaten. I always say, you can understand the culture of a country only when you've had its food-the kind of food served, the spices used, the way it's served, all reflect the culture.

“Architecture, too, tells you a lot,” she continues. “For example, in India, doorways and balconies all face one another, so people meet, see each other. Taking in the newspaper and the milk in the morning is an opportunity to greet one another. Here, more importance is attached to privacy.”

Nichani's research specialty is women and law in India, specifically, major judgments and how they reflect attitudes towards women. Her work has focused on interpretation of the law and its impact on status of women.

“Attitudinal change will take a long time,” she says. “Male dominance is still very strong. Here in the U.S., the man shares housework with the woman. But in India, when a woman is working, even if she's in a top position, the man never does any work in the house. That attitude has not changed. Women are partly responsible for preserving this tradition, by not letting their sons do the work. When my nephew was five, and I asked him to pick up a glass and wipe the table, you know what he told me? 'Girl's job!' His father laughed and said, 'Never mind. Get your sister to do it.'

“Indian women, even those living in the States, are expected to cook for the men, even in the morning. In fact, the Indian community here hangs onto more traditional cultural observances than do people in India. Maybe Indians who were born here will have a
different perception.

“Woman, as mother, is respected tremendously in India, however,” she says. “Mother comes first in India. You respect your mother more than you do your wife. The right to vote is the only place where Indian women have true equality.”

The Bombay-Union faculty exchange

Bringing faculty from India to Union is a natural outgrowth
of India's growing importance in Asia, says Eshi Motahar,
associate professor of economics at Union who chairs the

Coordinating Committee for the India Exchange Program.

“At the time the program began, six years ago, we didn't have anyone who taught about Indian culture,” he says. “That has changed since last year, when Anu Jain (English) began teaching postcolonial literature of India and South Asia.”

Motahar teaches international economics and was interested in economic developments in India. He also has done a lot
of international work and travel. Since 1998, each year, on
average, two Union faculty travel to Bombay over the winter break to present lectures and workshops, and to participate in other activities. Motahar gave several lectures and seminars there in 1999, and participated in a panel discussion at the Reserve Bank of India (the central bank) on foreign investment and aid and international capital markets. He also served as a visiting professor at both Hyderabad Sind National Collegiate Board Colleges and the University of Mumbai.

Of their Indians hosts, says Motahar, “They are extremely
gracious, putting up our faculty in a residential guesthouse
in downtown Bombay, with a cook who makes absolutely
delicious meals and a driver who takes them to and from the colleges where they are presenting. Faculty can also travel on their own. I fell in love with the country. After my duties in Bombay were over, I traveled all over. It is an extraordinary place-so different from any other country-sort of a churning center of humanity, of culture, of history, of everything.”

One Indian faculty member comes to Union each year, to teach two courses, usually in the social sciences. Manju Nichani and earlier visiting faculty came under the rubric of the Hyderabad Sind National Collegiate Board. “These colleges have an interesting origin,” explains Motahar. “They were established after India's independence from Great Britain and after the partition of India and Pakistan. Most of these folks were Hindus who migrated from 'Pakistan,' which was carved out of the Indian subcontinent in the late '40s. Many had leadership positions in Sind, a province in today's Pakistan. Academics, lawyers, and the business elite felt a sense of obligation to do something for their displaced community, so they started these colleges, which are now open to anyone.”

The Coordinating Committee at Union looks after visiting
faculty who come here from India, and select Union faculty who have expressed an interest in going to India. “We have a waiting list now,” says Motahar.

On outsourcing, India's elections, and politics

A number of U.S. companies have found it profitable to outsource jobs to India for call centers. But this trend is relatively minuscule when you look at the big picture, says Professor of Economics Eshi Motahar.

“It's a few thousand jobs, in a population of over one billion. There may be more outsourcing in the future-of stock analysis, and reading and interpreting x-rays. And software development, particularly specialty software-accounting, medical, legal-has been growing in the past decade. Still, on the Indian scale, these developments are relatively small, although they're beginning to have an impact on what one might call the urban elite.”

Businesspeople in India are doing well, he adds, “but as in any country, people get cocky with success. The previous government called for early elections-taking a gamble that they could increase their number of votes in Parliament. But lo and behold-they lost! In hindsight, it's easier to see that while the cities and the elites have been doing well, the rural majority has not been doing fine. There was a perception in rural India that they had been left out of the economic boom.”

Manju Nichani, president of KC College in Bombay and a visiting professor at Union this spring, adds, “Seventy-four percent of the population is rural-the forgotten people, the people without computers. And they voted en masse. It came as a shock that the ruling party lost, but this only shows that India
is truly democratic. Even more shocking was Sonia Gandhi's stepping aside and offering the job to Manmohan Singh, the first non-Hindu prime minister. He is a wonderful man, an economist and a Sikh, who has been responsible for India's new economic policy-he will do very well for us. There was a lot of resistance to Sonia, as a foreigner (born in Italy and a Christian), not as a woman. After Sonia declined the prime
ministership, she rose higher in people's estimation.”

Of the future, Motahar offers, “My guess is, reforms will continue
-maybe some reallocation toward social safety nets, toward rural areas. But Indian politics is complicated and, arguably,
by some criteria it is much more democratic than American politics. The band of public discourse is wider (in both directions) and therefore more vibrant. Dissent is allowed and even encouraged, within the law, of course. In the U.S., there aren't a significant number of radical critics within the mainstream.
In India, in mainstream newspapers, people present genuine critiques of whatever party is in power. More rough and tumble in political discourse. More bluntness.”

Read More