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Posted on Jan 30, 2005

President Roger Hull announced Jan. 10 that he plans to step down in June as he completes his 15th year as head of the College.

Roger Hull

Hull described his decision as a difficult one. “As an educational entrepreneur, I feel that the decisions that we have made together have now been implemented. With an incredibly dedicated faculty and staff, enrollment and student quality at all-time highs, balanced budgets and an endowment that has more than tripled since 1990, innovative programs and first-rate facilities, a campus recognized as one of the most beautiful in America, and town-gown relations that are a national model, Union's next leader will find a college poised to move to the next level of excellence. Now, though, it is time to take on a new challenge and 'to pass the baton.'” Hull, the 17th president of Union, also announced that he plans to create a charitable foundation, based on the work he did before coming to Union. It will focus on at-risk grade-school students and how colleges and universities can change their lives.

“Roger Hull has made a lasting positive impression upon Union College during his 15 years as president, and his contributions are greatly appreciated by the Union community,” said Stephen Ciesinski '70, chair of the board of trustees. “The College has never been stronger in its 210-year history. Roger leaves Union in terrific condition and poised for a dynamic new chapter in its illustrious history. We know that Roger will do well in his exciting new venture. He will always remain a great friend of the College.”

Trustee and Co-chair of the “You are Union” Campaign Frank Messa '73 said, “As an alumnus and as part of the regional business arena, I have watched Union grow and thrive under Roger's guidance. He has done great things here, and will be missed.”

Schenectady business executive and trustee Neil Golub said, “The city of Schenectady is a better place for Roger's leadership. All Schenectadians particularly-as well as others in Tech Valley and beyond-look forward to continuing the momentum he created.”

The Board of Trustees has created a search committee to find Hull's successor. “It will be a very difficult task to fill Roger's shoes,” Ciesinski said. “Leading Union as it enters its next phase is a tremendous opportunity. We expect to meet some extraordinary men and women who want to take the helm of this great institution.”

Hull is the fourth-longest serving president in the College's 210-year history, surpassed only by Presidents Carter Davidson (1946-1965), Charles Richmond (1909-1928) and Eliphalet Nott (1804-1866).

Biography of Roger H. Hull

Since becoming president of Union, Hull has advanced the College in five key areas:

  • Integrating the liberal arts and technology
  • Enhancing academic, social, and residential life
  • Increasing international education
  • Expanding undergraduate research
  • Encouraging community service

The College has launched a major initiative called Converging Technologies to better integrate the liberal arts and technology. CT at Union encourages creative thought from faculty and students to bridge those disciplines, and programs are being developed in such areas as bioengineering, mechatronics, nanotechnology, neurosciences, and pervasive computing.

Hull has been instrumental in the start of Union's Minerva Houses, a new approach to academic, social, and residential life that combines a house system with traditional residence halls, theme houses, and fraternities and sororities. All students and faculty are affiliated with Minerva Houses, which are developing new and exciting ways to contribute to the intellectual, cultural, and social life on campus.

Long interested in international education, he has expanded terms abroad and exchanges to two dozen countries. Today, more than 65 percent of Union's students study abroad at some point, a figure that ranks Union among the top dozen international programs at American colleges.

Opportunities for student independent study and research have expanded significantly, and Union regularly sends one of the largest student contingents to the annual National Conference on Undergraduate Research. More than 10 percent of Union's students have majors that combine work in two or more academic departments, and the College's annual Charles Steinmetz Symposium showcases the intellectual, research and creative activities of more than 300 students.

Committed to cooperative efforts between College and community, Hull was co-founder of Schenectady 2000, an extensive revitalization project for the city of Schenectady, and created the Union-Schenectady Initiative, a plan to revitalize the neighborhood to the immediate west of campus. The College has invested more than $26 million in projects, including the renovation of the former Ramada Inn into College Park Hall, a residence for 230 upperclass students. Through the College's Kenney Community Center, more than 60 percent of Union's students perform volunteer service in the local community and schools.

This fall, Hull announced a $200-million fundraising campaign that will strengthen Union in a number of key areas. The College's most recent campaign, which celebrated Union's Bicentennial in 1995, raised more than $150 million.

Hull has been the driving force behind the construction or renovation of 20 buildings on campus, including restoration of the Nott Memorial, Union's 16-sided centerpiece building; construction of the F.W. Olin Center, a high-technology classroom and laboratory building; construction of the Yulman Theater; renovation and expansion of Schaffer Library; renovation and expansion of Messa Rink at Achilles Center; and construction of the Viniar Athletic Center.

A native of New York City, Hull earned his B.A. degree cum laude from Dartmouth College, his law degree from Yale Law School, and his master's degree in law and his doctor of juridical science degree from the University of Virginia. From 1967 to 1971, he was an attorney with White & Case in New York City. In 1971, he became special counsel to Gov. Linwood Holton of Virginia, responsible for the administration's legislative program. Three years later, he joined the National Security Council's Interagency Task Force on the Law of the Sea as a special assistant to the chairman and deputy staff director.

In 1976, Hull joined Syracuse University, where he served as vice president for development and planning and as adjunct professor of international law. He served as president of Beloit College for nine years before coming to Union. He was inaugurated as the 17th president of Union College in the fall of 1990.

Messa to chair presidential search

Frank Messa '73

Trustee Frank Messa '73 will head the search committee to identify the next president of the College, it was announced by Board Chair Stephen Ciesinski '70.

“I'm proud and honored to serve in this important capacity,” Messa said. “Union is defined by the quality of its community-faculty, students, alumni, staff, and friends. The Union presidency is a demanding position that requires keen leadership, vision and the unique ability to bridge the academic environment with the world off campus. Union has a well-earned reputation of innovation and excellence and we look forward to welcoming the individual who will lead this historic institution in the future.”

Messa graduated from Union in 1973 magna cum laude and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. He received his law degree from Albany Law School of Union University in 1976, and has been active in College affairs including service as a trustee and national chairman of the Annual Fund. He is a senior vice president of Ayco, a Saratoga Springs-based financial services and planning firm that was acquired by Goldman Sachs in 2003.

For more on the search committee, visit http://www.union.edu/hullannouncement

“I am delighted that Frank Messa has agreed to chair the search committee,” Ciesinski said. “As one who has distinguished himself professionally and as a tireless and generous advocate for the College, Frank is ideally suited to lead this critical effort. From his close and long-standing ties to the College, his understanding of private higher education, to his professional work with many of the most prominent leaders in the United States, Frank's wisdom and collegial approach assures a great outcome.”

The search committee-representative of the entire Union community-will be announced soon.

“Given the complexities of the search process and our desire to appoint the most-qualified individuals, we have not set a hard deadline for this decision,” Messa said. “Certainly we will move ahead with alacrity.”

'Pleased to give something back'

Former teammates still call him “Bones.” The nickname assigned to the lanky freshman by then-Coach Bill Scanlon still fits David Viniar '76.

At the Alumni Basketball Game on Jan. 15, other things were very much as they used to be during Viniar's playing days. Except for one: the game was played on the gleaming hardwood of the new Viniar Athletic Center.

The game preceded the dedication of the building, made possible with a $3.2 million gift from Viniar and his family. “I got a lot out of playing basketball at Union,” Viniar said. “I'm very pleased to be able to give something back to Union.”

The Viniar Athletic Center is the fourth home of Union basketball. Dutchmen basketball began on Feb. 3, 1898 in the old gym, now Becker Hall, where the College also stored hay for livestock. Later, basketball moved to Alumni Gymnasium, sharing space with the track and wrestling teams. When basketball moved to Memorial Fieldhouse in 1955, the team practiced and played in the middle of a dusty dirt track (since resurfaced) and shared the building with all the other winter and spring programs.

The first basketball game in the Viniar Athletic Center was the Dutchwomen's 52-41 victory over Williams on Nov. 28.

The new home of the men's and women's basketball team has won praise from Union fans and foes alike. Brighter and more intimate than Memorial Fieldhouse, fans can better see and hear the players, coaches and referees. There is a welcoming lobby with trophy cases. The Joel Fisher '76 Hall of Fame Room, with large windows overlooking the court, is an ideal space for social gatherings.

Feigenbaum Forum

Armand V. and Donald S. Feigenbaum, leading authorities on Total Quality Management, led the ninth annual Feigenbaum Forum on Oct. 21, devoted this year to the topic of “Converging Technologies at Union.”

Panelists also included President Roger Hull; Leo Fleischman, professor and chair of biology; Valerie Barr, professor and chair of computer science; J. Douglass Klein, director of the Center for Converging Technologies; and Ray Martin, professor and chair of philosophy.

The Feigenbaums, both Union grads, are founders of General Systems Company in Pittsfield, Mass. The company designs and implements integrated management systems for major corporations and organizations throughout the world.

Burton Delack '36 makes gift of Seward building

At the dedication of Delack House on Oct. 7, from left, John Delack, son; Douglas Helffrich, son-in-law; Suzanne Helffrich, daughter; and Burton B. Delack '36, the donor

On the eve of his 93rd birthday, Burton Delack of Niskayuna gave Union College a gift: $250,000 to endow a building at 309 Seward Place that is home to eight Union College students.

At a dedication of the building on Thursday, Oct. 7, Union College gave a present to the 1936 graduate: a chorus of Happy Birthday from students and staff led by President Roger Hull.

Delack is a retired executive of General Electric who has been involved with a number of community projects.

“Burt's generous gift is a testament to his strong belief that Union is on the right course,” said Hull. “I am pleased that he supports the College's effort to enhance the residential aspect of the College at the same time that we contribute to the revitalization of Schenectady.”

Delack received his bachelor's degree in English from the College. As a student, he was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Student Council, Hale Club, French Club, Garnet yearbook staff and Idol, the campus literary quarterly.

Delack retired in 1972 after 36 years with GE, his last 15 as a consultant for the company's Corporate Management Development program in New York City. He joined GE's business training program after graduating from Union, and held various assignments in Production Control. In 1952, he became an administrator of the training program for Manufacturing Services.

Among his community activities, he has been a member of the Schenectady County Chamber of Commerce and has participated in fundraising drives for Ellis Hospital, Lynn (Mass.) Hospital, First Reformed Church, St. Clare's Hospital, YMCA and United Way.

He has been an active alumnus of Union. A member of the Schenectady Alumni Club, he has participated in a number of Homecoming and ReUnion events. He has served as associate agent for the Fund for Union and as a Terrace Council committee member.

He and his late wife, the former Violet Louise Kovacs, were married in Union's Memorial Chapel in 1936. Delack has two children, John and Suzanne; four grandchildren; and five great-grandchildren. In 1998, Union started the Union-Schenectady Initiative (USI) as a broad based program to improve student housing, promote home ownership and to foster student volunteerism in the city. This fall, Union opened the capstone of the College Park project, the newly renovated College Park Hall and playing fields at the former Ramada Inn.

Pipers celebrate 50 with 'We Did It!'

As they celebrate 50 years of harmony at Union, the Dutch Pipers, the male a capella group, have released their seventh compilation on a CD called “We did it!”

The new compact disc is a 15-song collection of contemporary and barbershop tunes including such favorites as the Beatles' “Yesterday” and “Lovin' Feelin'” by the Righteous Brothers. Songs from this decade include “Ants Marching” by the Dave Mathews Band and “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls.

CDs are available for $10 on campus or through the mail for an additional $3 for shipping and handling. They can be ordered by contacting Brad Akin at akind@union.edu or by calling (518) 265-2882.

Other releases by the Pipers include “Brandywine Diner” in 1996 and “Live from Avon Meatland” in 1999. For more information and a roster of current members, visit http://www.dutchpipers.com.

Group art project inspires expression

Someone wrote simply, “End War.” Another asked, “Do You Feel a Draft?” Some painted rainbows, hearts and peace signs next to words like “Unity” and “Harmony.” Others splattered paint in angry motions. From all over campus, they expressed themselves in the Unified Union Art Piece last fall in Library Plaza.

“This is something I've wanted to do for a long time,” said organizer Jason Tucciarone '05, a double major in biology and philosophy with a strong interest in art.

“This is a good way to have people express themselves,” he said, adding that they will get a sense for the whole piece when it is displayed on a large campus wall sometime after this term.

Having the mass art project the day after the election was coincidental, Tucciarone said, but the timing caused people to creatively express their thoughts about the election and the future of the country.

Tucciarone and fellow organizer Jeff Marshall '05, a philosophy major, coordinated the event as dozens of students and faculty took off their shoes to walk on the canvas and brush, spatter or finger paint symbols and words. The segmented canvas, which measured 20- by 40-feet, will be separated into eight sections for display.

A sunny day and high winds meant that the paint dried quickly. Facilities delivered cinder blocks to help anchor the work, Tucciarone said. WRUC broadcasted from Library Plaza during the event.

Support for the project came from Deans Steve Leavitt and Kimmo Rosenthal, a Social Enrichment Grant, Student Activities and Director Matt Milless, Student Forum and the Minerva Houses.

Consumer awareness one tag at a time

Annette Stock '05

Annette Stock '05 has a modest goal: “I want people to look at the tags when they put their clothes on in the morning.”

Stock spent last summer in China, where she used a mini-term at Tianjin University School of Traditional Medicine to lay the groundwork for her senior thesis about Chinese perceptions of their labor economy.

Stock said she wants to raise the consciousness of American consumers, especially her fellow college students, to make them aware that their purchases have a direct impact on people halfway around the globe. About five years ago, campus boycotts of clothing produced by so-called sweatshop labor helped call attention to the plight of workers in China and other countries. Now, Stock wants a “second step,” raising awareness so that consumers will push for humanitarian support for workers.

Stock, a native of St. Johnsbury, Vt., is a political science major with a minor in philosophy. She is a president of both Pi Sigma Alpha (political science honor society), and the College's chapter of Amnesty International. She is considering law school, but plans to take a year to do humanitarian work, most likely in China.

A Goldwater goes to Shira Mandel '05

Shira Mandel '05

As Shira Mandel '05, this year's winner of a Barry Goldwater Scholarship, prepares her applications for Ph.D. programs in chemical engineering, Prof. Ann Anderson seeks nominations for Union students to follow in her footsteps.

It's a prestigious award and it's been nice to have all that comes with it,” said Mandel of the prize that provides up to $7,500 per year to undergraduates who are destined for doctoral study. “All that comes with it” includes offers for other scholarships and instant credibility with the nation's top graduate programs, she said.

Anderson, who advises Mandel in the Aerogel Lab, said that the College's Goldwater Scholars, numbering four since 2002, also help the College's recognition among high schoolers who show promise in mathematics, the natural sciences or engineering.

“This is really the type of award that helps not just the winners, but all of our students,” she said. “This puts our programs on the radars of the best graduate schools and it makes Union an appealing choice for top high school students.” Other recent recipients are Mark Hoffman '03, Desiree Plata '03, and Will Johnson '02.

The Goldwater puts a premium on undergraduate research with possible applications, notes Mandel, a double major in chemistry and mechanical engineering. “They want to see that you've completed research and that it has applications that you've thought about as you do the research,” she said.

Mandel, a three-year member of the College's Aerogel Team, this year is researching the chemical precursors of aerogels and how altering them can change the properties of the ultra-light matrix materials that make excellent insulators. Her senior project involves a process to make aerogels out of aluminum.

The College's Aerogel Team, directed by Prof. Anderson of mechanical engineering, and Prof. Mary Carroll of chemistry, has been focused on finding improvements in the manufacturing process and on characterizing the properties of the aerogels produced. They have applied for a patent on a process they call a “Fast Supercritical Extraction Technique for Simplified Aerogel Fabrication.” The lab is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.

Mandel, a native of Hamden, Conn., was selected last spring as one of 310 Barry Goldwater Scholars from a nationwide pool of more than 1,100 finalists.

At Union, she has been a leader of Hillel; a campus tour guide; and a member of Pi Tau Sigma, the mechanical engineering honor society, and Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society.

For more on the Goldwater Scholarships, visit: http://www.act.org/goldwater/


Trip goes swimmingly

I had the occasion to share a plane flight from Florida to Philadelphia with members of the swim team, who were going home after spending time training down south.

I happened to have my son with me at the time and he just happened to have my second-year Block U varsity sweater with him; after I introduced myself and showed some of the team the sweater, I was pleasantly surprised at the warmth exhibited by these young men and women.

We had a short but animated conversation about the college (I asked about Foote pool and was told it had been replaced in the 80's) and they asked my fraternity affiliation (PDT).

Since we were just about to disembark the plane to make connection for our trips further north, we had to part ways after only five minutes or so. One of the team members extended his hand and said it was nice to meet me and he extended an invitation to visit the campus.

I haven't been a supporter of the College for some time. However, if the young men and women of Union are as friendly and nice enough to pleasantly speak with a fellow Union “brother” as these were to me, I can see that the College does have a good future for increased alumni involvement.

I just thought the College would like to know about my experience.

Robert W. Gronauer '75

Won't be down for breakfast

With reference to the fall issue of Union College magazine and in harmony with President Hull's “new model” on page 62, you use the harsh term of “Deaths”.

Whereas for births, you use the soft term “Arrivals” on page 61. To harmonize the converging thought theme, I propose the following possible substitutes for “Deaths”

Passed Over

Passed Away

Departed this Life

Popped Off

Shuffled off this Mortal Coil

The Last Sleep

Gone Over

Big Casino

Joined the Choir Invisible

Kicked the Bucket


And most popular in the Boston area: Won't be down for breakfast

These thoughts come more often since I find my Class of '56 news on the second page. Hopefully I will be around long enough to make page 1.

Best regards,
James A. Yannes '56

A gift from the late Robert '37 and Margaret Everest described in the last issue of this magazine incorrectly stated that the fund would provide scholarships to students from several countries in Asia. Rather, the fund supports Union students who are studying in Japan.

Streakers visit Homecoming

No, it wasn't part of the College's Homecoming program. Yes, it was memorable. A group of streakers, a co-ed assemblage of 15, bared all for an afternoon romp around the Nott Memorial on Friday afternoon, Oct. 1.

Stunned onlookers included students, parents, alumni, trustees and two photographers who were hired to record the highlights of Homecoming and Family Weekend. And record they did.

The naked harriers entered and exited via Chet's Courtyard between Reamer Campus Center and Arts.

Presumably, they were staging in Jackson's Garden for their jaunt around the campus centerpiece.

A few minutes after their exposure, a somewhat flushed young man, in clothes, sheepishly approached one of the photographers to ask if he could get one of the photos.

He explained that the group was from Hamilton College, and pursuing their goal of streaking at a number of premier liberal arts colleges in the Northeast. According to the web site for the Hamilton College Varsity Streaking Team, the Union appearance was the season debut. The team's fall schedule began Sept. 10 at Colgate with a “scrimmage,” whatever that means.

'French Connection' explores election, more

Students and faculty spent much of November analyzing the presidential election and wondering about the future. Union students had a chance to hear what their counterparts in France thought, thanks to a trans-Atlantic teleconference dubbed the “French Connection.”

I thought it was a fascinating experience, some of the most intellectual conversa- tion I've had,” said Leigh Ann Holterman '07, a double major in psychology and French who is planning to study in Rennes. “You don't often get a chance to hear another side of the world view.”

The brainchild of Prof. Andy Feffer, the 80-minute session connected a dozen Union students with 18 French peers at the Université de Haute Bretagne in Rennes, France.

Union's students came mostly from Feffer's “History of the 60s” course and from Prof. Michelle Chilcoat's French literature class. The French students were in English and American studies programs. Most students on both sides were Kerry supporters. The exchange, in English, covered other topics including the economy, the war in Iraq, energy consumption, religion and politics, and the balance of world power.

Feffer said the idea for the teleconference was developed about four years ago with help from Doug Klein, director of the Center for Converging Technology, and support from the Keck Foundation. Other contributors to the project include Charles Batson, assistant professor of French; Bob Balmer, dean of engineering; and Ann Longwell, professor of English on the University of Rennes Law Faculty.

Feffer sees the teleconference as a way to connect students from different perspectives, and he is considering using the teleconferences as part of a bigger project in Franco-American studies. This kind of trans-Atlantic communication “happens a lot with [professional] conferences, but not much with classes,” he said.

“This has a lot of potential,” Feffer said, acknowledging the challenge of fitting it into teaching plans. “What we're aiming for is to connect once a year an American studies class with French students.”

The session was introduced by Keith Martin, a professor at Rennes and a coordinator of the Union-Rennes exchange, who showed several headlines from French tabloids lamenting the re-election of George W. Bush. The French students began the conversation, most expressing disappointment over the election results. “I don't understand how you could have elected him for four more years,” one French student said. Another French student asked whether the nation's support for Bush was reflective of the youth vote.

It was not, a Union student replied, adding “our generation did not turn out the vote for Kerry.” Another said, “The Republicans worked just as hard for support.”

Next, the conversation turned to politics and religion, a French student asking, “How does Bush, being a religious man, make a good [political leader]?” A Union student responded that being a religious person does not make Bush a leader, but he has succeeded in making political issues into religious ones that appeal to a broad part of the electorate.

On the economy, a French student asked if Americans believe that political leaders affect the economy: “Did Bush simply not have economic trends in his favor?” Some Union students answered that presidents inherit economic conditions from their predecessors. Some argued that market forces largely dictate the economy. One student said that while a war can give a boost, Bush lost the opportunity to reinvigorate the economy by giving contracts to only one company, Halliburton.

Students in France said they felt the balance of power had tipped too far in one direction. “Be afraid,” quipped a Union student. “Be very afraid.”

Students on both sides agreed about the importance of involvement in the political process and said the election and teleconference had heightened their awareness. “I'm more interested in politics after this election and it makes me want to see if I can change the system as a whole,” a Union student said. A Union computer science major, citing the problem of electronic voting fraud, said “Someday, I can have an impact on that. I've been politicized in that way.”

“Previous to this year, I'd never been very interested in politics,” said Katie Crosby '07. “However, I feel a new excitement and eagerness to learn about it and contribute.”

Wanted: girl engineers

Do you know a talented high school girl with a knack for math and science and a passion for the difference it can make in people's lives?

The College's EDGE (Educating Girls for Engineering) summer workshop seeks applicants for a two-week residential program (July 17-29, 2005) aimed at recruiting and retaining women in the field of engineering.

This year's program will allow high school sophomore and junior girls to experience the challenges and excitement of designing and building toys and communication tools for disabled children. Women constitute 46 percent of the labor force but represent only about 8 percent of practicing engineers. While numerous programs have been developed in the past to increase female engineering enrollments and retention, few have met with much success.

Recent research by Elaine Seymour, director of Ethnography and Evaluation at the University of Colorado, Boulder, shows that young women are more interested in careers associated with helping people rather than simply building things.

“We have developed a new paradigm for attracting and retaining women into the engineering profession by demonstrating how engineers help people rather than simply design and build structures and systems,” said Dean of Engineering Robert Balmer, director of EDGE.

The workshop, now in its third season, will be taught by Balmer and two Union faculty and two area high school teachers. Three Union female engineering students will serve as mentors.

The program overhead is funded by a grant from the Northrop Grumman Corporation. The remaining costs are covered by a $1,000 tuition fee. Alumni and parents can donate funds for scholarships to reduce the tuition for specific girls.

For more information, visit http://engineering.union.edu/edge/ or call the Dean of Engineering at (518) 388-6530.

Matsue, Morris named MacArthur Professors

Jennifer Matsue, assistant professor of performing arts and East Asian Studies, and Andrew Morris, assistant professor of history, have been named John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Assistant Professors, a fellowship that supports new and promising faculty members.

Matsue is an ethnomusicologist who specializes in Japanese popular and traditional music. She teaches courses on Japanese popular music and culture, East Asian traditional music, world music, gender and sexuality in music, and global popular music. She earned her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago with a dissertation on underground bands in Tokyo. She is working on a book titled Mamonaku Tokyo Desu! (Next Stop Tokyo!): Underground Music-Making in Contemporary Tokyo.

Morris specializes in 20th-century American political history, public policy, welfare state and philanthropy. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Virginia with a dissertation titled “Charity, Therapy and Poverty: Private Social Service in the Era of Public Welfare.” He is working on a manuscript titled “The Limits of Voluntarism: Private Social Service and the Expansion of the Welfare State.”

The College has recognized a total of 28 MacArthur Assistant Professors since 1982, after it received a grant from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Last year's recipients were Anupama Jain, of English, and Erica Ball, of History.

Works in progress

James Underwood, Chauncey Winters Research Professor of Political Science, has authored an article, “Lincoln: A Weberian Politician Meets the Constitution,” in the June 2004 issue of Presidential Studies Quarterly. His entry on William H. Seward, Union Class of 1820 and Lincoln's secretary of state, was published in the Encyclopedia of the American Presidency.

Raymond Martin, professor and chair of philosophy, is author (with Daniel Kolak) of the book, Wisdom Without Answers, which was recently translated and published in Portuguese. The book, now in its fifth edition, was originally published in 1989 by Wadsworth. It has also been translated into Korean.

Carol S. Weisse, director of health professions, has written an article, “The Influence of Experimenter Race and Gender on Pain Reporting: Does Racial or Gender Concordance Matter?” to be published in a special issue on pain and disparities of the journal Pain Medicine. The article is co-authored by Kemoy Foster '01 and Beth Fisher '00. published in the Encyclopedia of the American Presidency.

Charles Steckler, professor of theater, exhibited art works in a group show titled “Shock and Awe: Some American Art,” at the Firlefanz Gallery in Albany last September. The works were also shown at the third annual Cyclics Art and Science Exhibit in Schenectady, and in a two-person show at the Dietel Gallery at the Emma Willard School in Troy. published in the Encyclopedia of the American Presidency.

President Roger H. Hull has been named to the boards of directors of the Albany-Colonie Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Center for Economic Growth. The Albany Chamber is made up of more than 2,900 businesses and not-for-profit organizations in the Capital Region. The Center for Economic Growth promotes efforts to attract high-tech talent and bolster local businesses, not-for-profit, academic, and governmental organizations. published in the Encyclopedia of the American Presidency.

Frank Wicks, professor of mechanical engineering, has authored an article describing one man's amazing feat of flying a six-pound model airplane across the Atlantic Ocean in August 2003. Wicks' article, “A Model Mission,” appeared in the December 2004 issue of Mechanical Engineering. The flight was organized by Maynard Hill, a 77- year-old, legally blind engineer. Like the Wright Brothers' epic manned flight in 1903, notes Wicks, Hill's model flight didn't receive much attention at the time. While the Wrights demonstrated the aeronautical principles that started the aviation age, Hill's flight demonstrated the dramatic progress in avionics that can be used for human and pilotless flight in air and space. published in the Encyclopedia of the American Presidency.

William A. Finlay, professor of theater and director of the Yulman Theater, was artistic director of the Saratoga Shakespeare Company, which last summer performed Romeo and Juliet. As in years past, the company featured several members of the Union community: Patsy Culbert, artist-in-residence, played the part of Lady Capulet, and three Union students-Phillip Chorba, Carly Hirschberg, and Christina Flores-worked as interns.published in the Encyclopedia of the American Presidency.

Steven K. Rice, associate professor of biology, has co-authored two papers: “Impacts of the exotic, nitrogen-fixing black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) on nitrogen-cycling in a pine-oak ecosystem,” co-written with Bryant Westerman '01 and Robert Federici '02, in the journal Plant Ecology; and “Cushion size, surface roughness, and the control of water balance and carbon flux in the cushion moss Leucobryum glaucum (Leucobryaceae)” in American Journal of Botany, written with Nicole Schneider '03.

Michael Rudko, Horace E. Dodge III Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, has co-authored, with Douglas Lockett '03 and Chris Roblee '03, a paper, “Genetic Algorithm Based Design and Implementation of Multiplierless Two-Dimensional Image Filters,” selected as one of the top three papers presented at the 2003 Artificial Neural Network and Intelligent Engineering (ANNIE) Conference.

Hilary Tann, professor of music, was a panelist for the Harvard Festival of Women's Choirs. She also visited the Boston University School of Theology for the performance of her composition, PSALM 136 (Luminaria Magna). By coincidence, the hired organist was a former student, Kurt Glacy '90.

Robert Sharlet, Chauncey Winters Research Professor of Political Science, served as commentator on a Russian/ East European constitutional law panel at the Midwest Political Science Conference in Chicago last spring, and was listed in Who's Who in America 2004. His 1980 co-edited, co-translated book, Pashukanis: Selected Writings on Marxism and Law (London: Academic Press), in print for over 20 years, has recently become available online at http://home.law.uiuc.edu/~ pmaggs/pashukanis.htm.

Dan Lundquist, vice president for admissions, delivered a commentary titled “Dean's Promise” on Best of Our Knowledge, a nationally syndicated public radio show produced by WAMC in Albany. See his commentary at http://www.union.edu/ Admissions/Applying/deans_promise.php.

George Gmelch, professor of anthropology, published an essay, “West Indian Migrants and their Rediscovery of Barbados” in Coming Home: Refugees, Migrants, and Those Who Stayed Behind (eds. L. Long and E. Oxfeld; University of Pennsylvania Press).

Daniel Mosquera, assistant professor of Spanish, presented a paper titled “El San Pacho quibdoceño: la crónica como espectáculo y el espectáculo como crónica” at the 2004 Latin American Studies Association Congreso at Las Vegas. This paper explores how an Afro-descendent religious festival re-appropriates portions of regional history.

Chad Orzel, assistant professor of physics, gave a talk at the Low Radioactivity Techniques Workshop in Sudbury, Ontario, in December. At this international workshop on astrophysical detectors and other projects requiring extremely low levels of radioactivity, he spoke on the use of Atom Trap Trace Analysis for measuring radioactive krypton background levels in other gases.

Pilar Moyano, professor of Spanish, published an article, “La poesía de Humberto Ak'abal o las palabras de un destierro,” in San Antonio de Béxar y el Hispanismo (Ed. María Jesús Mayans-Natals, New York: Aldeeu, 2004). She also gave a talk, “Mito y psicoanálisis en Amazonas de Lola López Mondejar,” at the Congreso Internacional Lorca, Taller del Tiempo of the University of Murcia, Spain.

Linda Patrik, professor of philosophy, presented a paper, “Buddhist Ethics of Compassion and the Feminist Ethics of Care,” at a conference of the International Women Philosophers in Goteborg, Sweden, last June, and published “Letting Philosophy Go: The Role of Reasoning in Kagyu Tibetan Buddhism” in International Studies in Philosophy in January 2005.

Mark Toher, professor of classics, published “Octavian's Arrival in Rome, 44 BC,” in Classical Quarterly. The article explores how long it took Caesar's adopted son to arrive in Rome after the assassination. Toher's work establishes a definitive chronology, thus contributing substantially to our knowledge of how accomplished a politician Caesar's heir may (or may not) have been at the start of his career.

Walter Hatke, May I. Baker Professor of Fine Arts, gave a gallery talk at the opening reception for an exhibit of his works in January, at the Nott Memorial's Mandeville Gallery. The exhibition consists of paintings, drawings, and prints completed between 2000 and 2005. “Walter Hatke: Recent Work” runs through March 13.

Robert Wells, Chauncey Winters Professor of History and Social Science, acted as consultant and gave the opening lecture in October at the Philip Schuyler Mansion in Albany for a museum display and lecture series on death in 18th-century America.

George Butterstein, Florence B. Sherwood Professor of Life Sciences, and George Smith, associate professor of biology, along with Gerald Mizejewski, of the NYS Department of Health, have published an article in Cell Biology International titled “Review and proposed action of alpha-fetoprotein growth inhibitory peptides as estrogen and cytoskeleton-associated factors.” Human alpha-fetoprotein has been used in the clinical laboratory as a tumor and gestational-age-dependent fetal defect marker and recently has been determined to be a growth factor in both fetal and tumor environments.

Kurt Hollocher, professor of geology, authored a primer on moon rocks and soil that was featured in an on-line news digest from Science Magazine. Also, Hollocher and fellow Professor of Geology John Garver have published a paper, “Provenance and tectonic settings of accretionary wedge sediments on northeastern Karaginski Island (Kamchatka, Russian Far East),” in Russian Journal of Earth Sciences (v. 6. No. 2, 2004). Co-authors are Ledneva, G.V.; Shapiro, M.N.; Lederer, J.R.; and Brandon, M.T. This work summarizes the findings of Russian Visitor Galina Ledneva and Jason Lederer '01 on the tectonic evolution of the eastern part of the Kamchatka Peninsula, a remote frontier area little studied by geologists.

Thomas Jewell, Carl B. Jansen Professor of Civil Engineering, and William Thomas, Director of International Programs, collaborated on three papers: “Benefit/Cost Analysis for International Study Options,” presented at the 2004 International Symposium on Technology and Society at Worcester Polytechnic Institute; “Exchange Programs as a Means of Increasing Engineering Students' International Study Options,” presented at the 2004 International Conference on Engineering Education and Research, held in Prague and Olomouc, Czech Republic; and “Maximizing Student International Study Options Under Tight Resource Constraints,” presented at the 2004 International Conference on Engineering Education at the University of Florida, Gainesville.

John R. Sowa, professor emeritus of chemistry, served on a community health assessment group for the Schenectady County Public Health Services to identify county health needs over the next five years. The panel considered priorities that included sexually transmitted diseases, teen pregnancy, communicable diseases, and injury prevention. Sowa is also chair of the Fire Prevention Task Force for the Town of Glenville.

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The character of water

Posted on Jan 30, 2005

Nothing unusual appeared in the program for the College's production of Metamorphoses, which ran last fall in Yulman Theater, until you saw the acknowledgement of “water consultants.”

Donald Birch and Joseph Decowski were instrumental in staging the first show at Union to feature water-a whole pool of it-as a central “character.”

The two men, who normally hold down duties on the Facilities staff, helped the Yulman crew design and build what director Joann Yarrow calls “a magical place”-a 20- by 20-foot pool of undetermined depth-for the play by Mary Zimmerman that is based on the myths of the Roman poet Ovid.

The pool, Yarrow said, provided the medium for human interaction in the play, and indeed the dozen characters in the ensemble used it continuously. “It was definitely another character in the play, another being with us,” Yarrow said.

The technical considerations for staging a play with water were enormous: Can the floor take the weight? How do you keep the water out of the basement? How do you filter it and heat it? Birch, Decowski and others solved the problems. Robert Balmer, dean of engineering, and students Victoria MacMullen and Tim Pulask helped design the pool.

The production required some items not normally found backstage: a large supply of towels (special thanks to Athletics), a clothes drier, mops and squeegees. Actors rehearsed in bathing suits; costumes, reserved for the production, needed a full day to dry. (“We could never do two shows in a day,” the director said.)

The play relied heavily on the actors' physicality, Yarrow noted. “This is a movement-based work. The actor is not just a talking head. It's the body which speaks as well.”

Yarrow brought in Louis Guillemette of Cirque du Soleil in Montreal to help the actors to develop the work through a process called contact improvisation. It was the actors themselves-not a choreographer-who developed the movements. The play, according to the program, “juxtaposes the ancient and the contemporary in both language and image to reflect the variety and persistence of narrative in the face of inevitable change.” Featured characters included Midas and Silenus, Alcyone, Orpheus and (naturally, given the reflective medium) Narcissus.

In the ensemble were Andrew Burke, Kassandra Collazo, Phil Chorba, Aneesh Dambreville, Jackie Garrity, Ryan Schiavone, Carly Hirschberg, Charles Holiday, Becca Hutton, Charles May, Mandee Moondi and Davin Reed.

Set design was by Prof. Charles Steckler, lighting by John Miller, costumes by Lloyd Waiwaiole, and sound by Doris Lo.

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Pens & Pitchforks: students relive the American West

Posted on Jan 30, 2005

If students had any doubts that their mini-term at the Double E Ranch in arid southwestern New Mexico would be a new adventure, these surely must have vanished when it came time to hold down a hollering calf for branding and castration.

At the gate of the Double E Ranch in Gila, NM

And if that wasn't enough, there was the “traditional” cowboy meal that followed.

“No sooner had I stepped up to find out why my classmates were huddled around a fire, than I had a small spongy lump resting hesitantly on the back of my tongue,” Rebecca Carlisle '05 wrote in her journal. “I stood shocked by the knowledge that, not only had I just eaten a testicle, but it hadn't even been that bad.”

Prof. Bonney MacDonald and ten students became buckaroos in the culmination of a course last fall that covered the journals of Lewis and Clark, some John Wayne films, and writings by Wallace Stegner, Mark Spragg and Annie Proulx.

Beauty and 'Inhuman Scale'

“You have to get over the color green,” wrote Stegner in Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs. “You have to quit associating beauty with gardens and lawns; you have to get used to an inhuman scale.”

Students recalled the author's words at the 30,000-acre ranch of high desert mesas dotted with juniper, piñon pine and cactus.

“When have you ever seen a night sky that made you feel as though you were in a planetarium?” asked Lauren Lohman '05. “When have you ever seen the entirety of a 200-car freight train, unobscured by trees or a bend in the track, stretched out on flat, endless land, so dwarfed by the mountains and sky that it looks like a toy? There is a point where silence is your only reaction to this amazing and breathtaking scenery, simply because you're tired of saying, 'wow'.”

Non-Union schedule

Students got into the heavy lifting of running a ranch, following what MacDonald calls a “very non-Union schedule”: chores at 7 a.m.; a massive breakfast at 8:30 a.m.; class until noon; lunch; an afternoon of trail riding, cattle herding, fence mending and roping lessons; an evening meal of ranch-raised beef or buffalo followed by reading and talking in the ranch's Cantina. Lights-out was 11 p.m., long after most students were asleep, MacDonald said.

“There was hardly a moment when we weren't thinking about Western issues and hardly a moment when we weren't socially engaged,” MacDonald said. “I had hoped to set up a seamless experience, off the beaten path, where intellectual rigor, manual labor and new friendships could all happen at once. It's testament to these ten students and to the folks at the Double E that it did.”

“It's one thing to deconstruct poetry and chase after Kerouac with a highlighter,” wrote Zack Lazovic '07. “It's an entirely different experience to read nature writing in the morning and hike rugged canyons and majestic trails by noon. New Mexico provides the opportunity to live the adventure, ride after the myth on horseback, and retell the tale over a buffalo meat and cornbread dinner. I dove deep into Southwest culture at the Double E Ranch and will never look at dry earth, a soft orange sunset, or the tail of a bay mare the same way again.”

“The history of Western settlement describes processes of continuous adaptation and rebirth-telling of adjustments to an arid geography, newly created social structures, hard work and new ideas born of that adaptive experience,” MacDonald wrote. “With pen and pitchfork, 10 students relived that memorable and complicated Western story of adaptation and renewal. I offer thanks and tip my Stetson to each and every one of them.”

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Ted Berger: Designing replacement parts for the brain

Posted on Jan 30, 2005

Ted Berger '72 has found himself in the surprising company of General Tommy Franks and actor Jessica Lange this year, as one of AARP's “2004 Action Heroes” and a recipient of its 2004 Impact Award. To millions of readers, the University of Southern California biomedical engineer is known as “a person who has had the courage to change our world.”

Berger is leading a team of scientists in designing and building a brain implant computer chip that could restore mental function in brains that have been damaged by stroke, epilepsy, or neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's. His hope is that such chips will perform functions once carried out by neurons that have been damaged or destroyed. Berger, who holds the David Packard Chair at the Viterbi School of Engineering at the University of Southern California, anticipates testing the chip in live rats within the next few years, and in humans in ten to fifteen years.

Berger, who has a Ph.D. in physiological psychology from Harvard, directs the interdisciplinary Center for Neural Engineering and is one of the leaders of the newly established National Science Foundation Engineering Research Center at USC. The NSF center focuses on developing implantable microelectronics that mimic biological functions of the brain (called “biomimetics”) for use as neural prosthetics.

One of the team members is his wife, Roberta Diaz Brinton, professor of molecular pharmacology at the USC School of Pharmacy. She is also one of Berger's greatest boosters: “Ted's work on neural prosthetics has received national and international attention at the frontier of biomedical engineering and neuroscience.” In fact, his work has appeared in The Economist; EE Times; New Scientist; Popular Science; Technology Review; Business 2.0; Der Spiegel and Discover, as well as AARP. The research has also been reported on CNN, 48 Hours, the CBS Evening News, and the Discovery Channel.

Hippocampus a kind of way-station

The cashew-shaped brain tissue that makes up the hippocampus plays a crucial role in learning and memory. The hippocampus is a kind of way-station where experiences are initially processed, assessed, and sorted. After a few days, those experiences that are deemed important move on to long-term memory; the rest are destined for the brain's dump heap. (When the hippocampus is removed-to treat epilepsy, for example-the patient loses the ability to form new long-term memories, but retains memories formed before the surgery.)

Especially intriguing to Ted Berger was the hippocampus' role in generating three-dimensional mental images of spatial positioning. Thus, a rat with a damaged hippocampus can't find its way around a maze. Neurologists believe the 20- to 50-percent loss in hippocampal volume associated with Alzheimer's disease may explain why AD patients are prone to getting lost.

Berger pondered how to mimic what neurons did, even if he didn't fully understand how they did it. A neuron processes inputs into outputs, he reasoned. How much of the “how” did he really need to know? A basketball player, after all, doesn't need to be a rocket scientist to launch the ball on a perfect trajectory through the hoop. So why should a neuroscientist need to understand every nuance of the brain before attempting a slam-dunk?

He and his colleagues bombarded live rat hippocampal neurons with all possible combinations of electrical impulses, and recording the emerging electrical signals. Studying the rat hippocampus made sense: It's essentially the same as a human hippocampus, and cells excised from rat brains retain much of their structure and can be kept alive with nutrients for a day or more.

The researchers traced how one neuron receives a sequence of digital-like pulses from another neuron, and how it transforms that signal into a new pattern of pulses, and sends that along to a third neuron.

Nerve cells communicate with one another using simple pulse signals, whose meaning is determined by the timing, or rhythm, of the pulses. By exposing the experimental cells to every possible set of timings (thousands), the team was able to collect the complete cell “vocabulary.”

Connecting with living brain tissue

The research team's biggest remaining hurdle was figuring out how to connect to living brain tissue-or “wetware,” but they have had a major breakthrough, successfully establishing two-way communication between living nerve cells (in brain tissue culture) and a silicon chip designed to function as the cells do. In other words, the chip can “listen” to brain signals, compute and answer, and then speak to living brain tissue, in brain tissue language, and the brain tissue responds. The demonstration solved three major problems: cracking the code; creating a silicon chip that speaks the code; and getting the chip to speak to living tissue. The next step will involve moving from brain slices in tissue culture to living brains in intact organisms.

In the process of doing this work, Berger has become a vocal advocate for interdisciplinary research. Says Brinton, “There is a grander vision, and to realize that grander vision requires a team of people to work together. Instead of each of us making bricks, we are all building the pyramid together. I expect to see the implant work. We will certainly see the application of this technology within our careers.”

Adds Berger, “We are on the brink of stretching the capabilities of the human race.”

Brains and brawn

Berger, the invited featured speaker at the Founders Day convocation this year, graduated summa cum laude from Union after majoring in math and psychology and taking the Catlin Prize for best scholastic record. He went on to Harvard to study the relationships between brain function and behavior. Soon after arriving, he and another graduate student made a discovery on the brain basis of classical conditioning; their paper was published in Science. By the time he finished graduate school, Berger had already published ten papers and had won the James McKeen Cattell Award from the New York Academy of Sciences for his thesis research.

He holds fond memories of his Union days. Classes he liked best were taught by Bob Sharlet (Political Science), Charles Huntley '34 (Psychology), and Willard Roth (Biology).

How did Union contribute to his success? “The vast majority of Union courses required written exams and reports-you learned how to write. All were very problem oriented: You had to conceptualize a problem, formulate a solution, research your solution, and evaluate it. This was incredibly exciting. Professors were really good at selecting key problems in society and science; they all thought very deeply about their field and were able to distill key problems in that area. And they presented the problems in such a way that you became a partner in finding a solution.”

What did he find most fun about Union? “Everything!” he concludes. “Everyone was very serious about their work and also about having fun. That was key-there was equal investment-we worked hard and played hard. It was balanced-a healthy environment.”

Berger remembers waiting on tables in the cafeteria and at his fraternity, Beta Theta Pi, to pay for meals. “I was a resident adviser one year to cover rooming expenses. I also had the campus concession for The New York Times for two years. I had to get up at 5:30 a.m. seven days a week-rain, sleet, snow, or shine-to deliver the Times to multi-story dorms. This was especially onerous on Sundays, when I had to haul a sack of the Sunday Times which hung around my neck, as I walked up three flights multiple times. Nearly everyone subscribed-which says a lot for the brains at Union-and the brawn that delivered it!”

An ear for crime

Ted Berger's pioneering brain cell research has led directly to a patented system now being rolled out to stem gun violence on the streets.

The new microphone surveillance system uses his insights to recognize-instantly, and with high accuracy-the sound of a gunshot, within a two-block radius. It can then locate, precisely, where the shot was fired; turn an attached camera to center the shooter in the camera viewfinder, and make a 911 call to a central police station. The police can then use the camera to track the shooter and dispatch officers to the scene.

Chicago is installing these devices in high-crime neighborhoods. And Los Angeles is soliciting community involvement in a pilot test.

Algorithms devised by Berger are at the heart of the “SENTRI” system built by Safety Dynamics, a company in which Berger is chief scientist.

SENTRI uses acoustic recognizers, posted on utility poles or other listening posts, which are tuned to certain specific warning sounds.

SENTRI stands for “Smart Sensor Enabled Neural Threat Recognition and Identification.” “Neural” refers to Berger's work, based on analysis of the “language” that nerve cells, or neurons, use to convey information, and specifically on his modeling of the way the brain forms memories of sounds.

Neurons' only way of distinguishing signals is to fire repeatedly in different temporal patterns. “The time difference between pulses carries the information,” Berger says-“a coding completely unlike that used by computers, which are collections of ones and zeros.”

Working with computer specialists, Berger has created neural-like computer systems that can model the neural time coding and make distinctions the way nerves do.

Four years ago, he and a colleague used the technique to demonstrate the first speech recognition system that could pick words out of ambient noise as well as humans can. Continuing work on speech recognition applications is very time consuming because the system has to learn each individual word.

“But for alarm signals,” says Berger, “you start with a relatively small number of sounds-gunshots, or diesel engines for border patrol crossings, or oil pipeline thieves, or chainsaws to listen for outlaw loggers. This vocabulary is quite manageable.”

Machine sounds are the only ones in SENTRI's vocabulary. It cannot eavesdrop on conversations. 

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Farewell, Peter: three decades of words and images

Posted on Jan 30, 2005

Many of the words and images that people have seen from Union College over the past 28 years have come through a keyboard or camera in the hands of Peter Blankman.

Peter Blankman

The editor of this magazine is retiring, and with him go three decades of vivid institutional memory and the good wishes of colleagues, alumni and countless other friends. He and his wife, Lynn, are starting a new chapter in Williamsburg, Va.

Blankman-an observant recorder of campus happenings through four presidents, 27 Commencements, and thousands of meetings-arrived at the College each morning with a journalist's curiosity and the expectation that, news being news, the day ahead would be like no other. “It's been a great job where almost every day you came into work wondering what's going to happen,” he said recently. “And I knew that in most cases it would be interesting and fun.”

Trained as a newspaper reporter, Blankman found at Union a goldmine of stories. “It's always puzzled me when people ask where we get ideas for stories,” he said. “How can you walk across this campus without learning about a story? There are 3,000 people here, most of them doing interesting things.”

He had the reporter's knack for cultivating his sources and he visited them regularly during his frequent campus forays. Rare was the time when he was not the first in the office to learn some bit of interesting campus gossip. Like any good reporter, he had a dry wit and a ready supply of fascinating, but unprintable, stories.

He wrote quickly and with an elegance that made the most complex of issues understandable. He distilled long budget sheets and reduced faculty meetings to their essence. He wrote introductions for guest speakers, citations for recipients of honorary degrees and remarks for the president.

He especially enjoyed the give and take of working with President Roger Hull. But he admits it took some time to learn the president's writing and speaking style. “The first time I sent over copy, Roger called and said, 'I can't say that.' To which I replied, 'that's why I wrote 'draft' at the top.'”

No stranger to last-minute requests from the president's office, Blankman would often mentally compose a piece of writing on the six-minute walk to Hull's office and put a draft on paper while he sat waiting for the president to finish a phone call. A lifelong photographer with a keen eye for design, his hobby became more than a passing interest at Union. It was another way to tell the stories of the College. He took his camera on many campus walks, capturing the beauty of campus for magazine covers, calendars, books and brochures. His landscapes were favorites on and off campus; a recent show of his photos stayed in the Humanities Gallery some seven months after it was to come down.

The best time for taking photos, he said, was just before sunset. “The kids are outside, teams are practicing, labs are out and the light is at its best.” He especially liked winter photography. “There's nothing like fresh snow, golden sun and bright parkas,” he said. One of his favorite shots is of a snowstorm taken from an eyebrow window of Reamer Campus Center. And his favorite subject? “What other campus has the Nott, which by itself is a continually fascinating subject?” Blankman was destined for a writing career at a small liberal arts college. He grew up a faculty brat at Saint Lawrence University, where he rode his bike, watched games and wrote papers in the library. “When you're not much more than knee high and your father takes you to the press box to see a hockey game between St. Lawrence and Clarkson, you think that's a pretty exciting thing and it makes an impression.”

His father, Edward, a longtime professor of English, took his journalism students on visits to newsrooms and had them read major national newspapers. The professor's son audited the course.

“I thought it was fantastic, visiting Jack Johnson [editor of the Watertown Times] and seeing how reporters work and how editors put papers together,” he recalls. He also remembers his fascination with out-of-town papers like the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and Minneapolis Star-Tribune, where he would become an investigative reporter and meet his wife. Blankman joined the College's Office of Public Relations as associate director in 1976 after an interviewer wrote in the margin of his application letter, “I think this guy's great. Good, punchy leads, lots of imagination. Obviously knows how to write something other than straight news copy.”

Blankman said his most memorable moments at Union included the time that a crystal-growth experiment built by student Rich Cavoli and the late Prof. Charles Scaife was lost aboard the ill-fated Challenger shuttle. After the experiment flew on a later mission, President Ronald Reagan praised Cavoli in his State of the Union address as an example of persistence and imagination for young people.

He remembers the campus visit by NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw and historian David McCullough, when they interviewed students in the newly-restored Nott Memorial for an NBC News story about the 50th anniversary of VE Day.

One incident reminds him that even the most learned and respected among us are, after all, human. While Blankman was escorting historian McCullough on a campus visit during the College's Bicentennial, McCullough announced that he needed to visit a drugstore. It seems the airline had lost his luggage and he needed some essentials.

He remembers the graduation of his daughter, Anne, and hearing from faculty “all the things that any dad wants to hear.” He also recalls the occasional surprise of hearing a “Hi, Dad” in a campus hallway, and shifting gears from PR professional to devoted father. (His son, Paul, a gradutate of Macalester College, worked at the Minnesota History Center. He is finishing his master's in public history at Northeastern University.)

Blankman said he always appreciated the College's “unspoken permission to be creative” and the fact that he could tell stories honestly and forthrightly “without falling into the world of hype.”

“At the end of the day, the goal is to make people feel good about education,” he said. “Who wouldn't be interested in that? It's easy to get excited about the product when it's education.”

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