Author Archive for: ‘John Syme’

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A Davidson Gentleman Needs No Introduction. Ladies, Too!


Anatomically close but no cigar

The new Davidson College Store at the corner of Main and Depot is piling high with books and merchandise arriving in transit from the former location in Alvarez College Union.

There’s a homepage story with full details to come, but I couldn’t help noticing this morning that the mannequins are already, well, ready.

A beat cop who shall remain nameless refused, categorically refused, to lend me any part of his uniform for the photo shoot, so it is what it is.

Word on the brick sidewalk is that there was some harumphing in last evening’s town planning meeting over this Main Street display of nekkidness. Au contraire, I say, it’s au naturel! Or as naturel as an injection-molded plastic mannequin is likely to be…

Wildcats on display: Rowrrr!

Kayaker Caroline Queen ’14 Doesn’t Advance in Olympic Qualifying Round


Update 7/31—Quote of the story: ““No regrets from this experience, that’s for sure.”And Charlotte Observer sports columnist Scott Fowler details the dynamic of Never. Giving. Up. in his column Davidson’s Queen Didn’t Medal But Didn’t Quit, Either.

Davidson College kayaker Caroline Queen ’14 made it to London 2012, but did not make it past today’s qualifying rounds, knocking out the only American on the team of 21 kayakers, reports The Baltimore Sun. Cheers to a great run, Caroline, and enjoy your remaining time in London!

Crossing Swords: AIDS, the Olympics, and the Liberal Arts


Being a liberally educated generalist is a double-edged sword, in a good way. This is perhaps particularly so when one comes home to roost at one’s alma mater, among the smart eggs who educated one so liberally and generally in the first place; I’m just sayin’. [N.B. “Here is a lesson in creative writing. First rule: Do not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.”― Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country]

No double-edged swords in the vault, but Special Collections Outreach Librarian Sharon Byrd did find these: One presented to President Emeritus Samuel R. Spencer ’40 during his student ROTC days, the other belonging to Capt. J.P. Grey 1885

And lo these years later, I am still of two minds, maybe more, all of them double-edged. As a generalist, I tend to know a little about a lot, deploying my inexpertise and short attention span across a broad range of—SQUIRREL!!!

On the other hand, when I can sit still long enough to breathe and think and feel and delve a little deeper, I find it reassuring that I can keep up and at least understand the smartest and most specialized of smart eggs.

Happily, these complementary approaches of breadth and depth lend themselves to my main job description, telling stories about same. Consider two stories I got to work on this week, both of them fresh from the leading (double?) edges of liberal arts and sciences and athletics that characterize Davidson.

• First comes the story of Olympic kayaker Caroline “Bam Bam” Queen ’14, prepping and psyching and training herself to paddle her heart out at the Games of the XXX Olympiad in London starting Tuesday. Read all about Caroline: Caroline Queen ’14 Soaks Up Village Life While Preparing for Olympic Kayak Competition

• Next comes the story of Davidson College students who’ve created a uniquely global project for the Global Village of the XIX International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C., with help from local high school students of the Community School of Davidson. Read all about it: Students at HIV/AIDS Conference Post Experiences in Online Diary

These are important global stories. They have Roman numerals in them and everything, just like the Super Bowl. And I remain happily of two minds, a generalist reporting on and marveling at the directions both broad and deep that the liberal arts and sciences can lead, lifting high a double-edged sword for good. And, of course, paying my salary. I like that part, too.

To explore more Davidson history, visit the Archives blog Around the D.



A Few Summer Tidbits from the Mailbox


Slamming Socrates, In a Good WayClint Smith ’10 crafts his classroom experience in Teach for America into a performance at Beltway Poetry Slam 2012.

When Pups FlyMary Olive Smith ’86, director/producer at Flying Pup Productions, co-directed Fixing the Future, an expanded feature-length version of the original broadcast, with host David Brancaccio looking at how local movements are working to bring jobs, community and sustainability back to our towns. “…a fun and hopeful journey across America.”

To Be, Not to Be IgnoredThe New York Times Book Review takes note of the leading role of Jim Pepper ’65 as the first sponsor of the New York AIDS Walk in 1986, in a review of Linda Hirshman’s Victory.


A Serviceman, A Servicewoman, and a Service Dog


Thanks to Greg Anderson ’72 for sending along a link about the legacy of Josh Harris ’94, of Virginia Beach, Va., a Navy SEAL who died Aug. 30 in a combat operation in Afghanistan. It is the story of another service veteran, Natasha Young-Alicea, her service dog named Josh, and the trip they took to visit Josh Harris’s parents and honor his memory. Read “Dog helps Haverhill veteran, fallen serviceman’s family, heal” by the Boston Globe‘s Katie Johnston.

Davidson Alumni Are the Best in the Whole Wide World


"Come here, we're the best!" Admission tour, photo Bill Giduz

Sometimes when I see an Admission tour and I am of a mood, I’ll blow past on my bike and yell, “Come here, we’re the best!” Makes the parents smile, makes the high school students wince at the public display of uncoolness and scares the backwards-walking tour guide if you time it just right. A threefer! I just love that. Heh.

A lot of my fellow alumni have the same warm feelings for Davidson, apparently: A greater percentage of Davidson alumni participate in our Annual Fund drive, consistently, than just about any other college in the nation. The end of this fiscal year brought the happy news that Davidson has met its Million/Ten/Sixty challenge. Proper respect to Davidson gentlepersons the world over! To celebrate, let’s check the ol’ alumni mailbag.

• Read All About It—In case you missed the Alumni Reunion panel presentation of Director of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government Graham Allison ’62 and former U.S. Senator Wyche Fowler ’62, in conversation with Davidson’s own Brown Professor and Chair of Political Science Shelley Rigger, their classmate Dr. Robert H. Moore ’62 wrote an op-ed piece on the talk in the Beaufort Tribune, “Terrorism and Nuclear Proliferation.” “The Beaufort Tribune is published by another of our classmates, George Trask,” notes Moore, “so it is a Davidson trifecta.”

Ahoy, Matey!Bobby Mohr ’09 was driving the underwater robots during a recent NOAA shipwreck discovery in the Gulf of Mexico, reports Caitlin McCarville ’10. See Today Show coverage.

• Arts and Architecture—Matthew Griffith ’96 reports that his architecture firm, in situ studio, has been named one of the 15 young firms to watch in North America by Residential Architect magazine. In other “people to watch” news, John MacMahon ’95 was named one of “50 under 50 –  the most exciting young collectors worldwide” by Modern Painters magazine.

Stay tuned for more alumni news, coming soon to a Daybook blogpost near you!

June 28: I Gave at the Office • Pizza and Freezy Pops for the Annual Fund Staff


College Communications had leftover pizza from an alumni Web focus group last night, so this afternoon we ate our fill and then I took the rest to our colleagues in the Annual Fund. We’re generous that way.

I also took along my Annual Fund contribution (FISCAL YEAR ENDS SATURDAY JUNE 30!), which I had promised to deliver personally to the staffer or student caller who would a) stand on his/her head or b) dance a jig.

As luck would have it, callers were on a Freezy Pop break on the back deck of Hood House (corner of Glasgow and Main, right next door to the lovely home of Wildcat stalwarts Mary and Bill Vinson ’48, seen in background of my flipfone pix). The pizza was welcomed heartily (what could go better than cold pizza with Freezy Pops at 95 degrees outside and climbing?).

Maddie Stough ’08 (pictured), assistant director of the Annual Fund and freshly minted yoga teacher, volunteered for the headstand. She’ll do one for you, too, if you’ll send in your contribution. Heck, so will I. Anyway, see previous entry for links to “challenging” news about the Annual Fund.

Time to do this, or not. Let’s do it!

Hot, Hot, Hot: FY12 Best Year Ever? You Decide…


As the Davidson campus ramps up for the heat wave wending its way inexorably toward us across the Deep South even as I type, the Davidson College Annual Fund team is working feverishly to make this a hot, hot year of celebration. You can help!


The “Million Ten/Sixty Challenge” is in the home stretch toward making goal, and individual classes are drumming up support for dear old alma mater. My own class, 1985, currently has a medium ways to go before June 30, but it’s doable, and I bet we do it! Facebook activity is picking up overall. Does your class have a page?

Full disclosure: Though a fidele compensated spokesman now, I was a sporadic giver, at best, for a number of The Early Years, and my contributions have always been quite modest, I assure you. The point that has come home to me full force as I survey the landscape of higher ed from Davidson Grownupland is that the number of gifts received is as important, in many ways, as the dollar amounts. We are in the tippy-toppest tier among a small handful of schools nationwide in percentage of alumni giving, a primary marker in marketing terms of customer satisfaction.

The customer satisfaction angle, for my money, supports the notion of the liberal arts education being more vital to the world we live in than ever. Yes, ever, I say! Think about it. “Liberal,” in its root sense, means free. “Art” comes from the Indo-European root “to fit together.” The liberal arts helps us “fit together freely” the world around us. Another name for that is critical thinking, and God knows we need as much of that as we can get around this beleaguered globe right now, can I get a witness?!…

… Ahem. Anyway, I’d further posit that the preceding hortatory paragraph could have never existed without one man’s Davidson education. Not that it’s such a stellar graf, I’m just sayin’. Right now I must dash, I’m over deadline for a final 300 Words of copy for the next Davidson Journal, coming in July to a mailbox near you.

Please give.

Chariot of Fire in the Water: Kayaking Caroline Queen ’14 Going to the Olympics!


Caroline “BamBam” Queen ’14 is going to the Olympics!

Read the Charlotte Observer‘s Scott Fowler’s blog post.

And stay tuned to Daybook blog and the Davidson homepage for the latest.

More links on Caroline here.

A Deep Summer Breath • Huffington Post Exhortations • New Dorm


I think this place is finally starting to take a breath.

No matter what the department, any given semester here spirals upward and sideways and upward again until its energetic crescendo marked by exam-time midnight screams and, in spring, commencement. Speaking of which, here’s a link to Professor of Mathematics Tim Chartier’s graduation “speech” on Huffington Post.

For the past two years, Davidson’s graduation was the unofficial marker of summer, followed closely by the traditional faculty-staff appreciation day, at which this year President Quillen cracked us up with a couple of choice “all in the family” bits.

Click for more.

Then, it’s Memorial Day and the blessèd loosening of some of our calendars in June and July. Yes, only some. You’d be surprised how much Davidson College physical plant folks get done between Commencement and Orientation every year, even when there’s not a 251-bed residence hall under construction, which there is now, thank you very much.

And now that we have moved Alumni Reunion to early June, the undercurrents of frantic campus activity roil a bit longer into the warm weather, until the last happy alumnus has piled into the family crossover hybrid and toodled on back up or down 77. That happened Sunday, so…. altogether now:


Summertime, case in point: Today I had Hansford Epes on my calendar for a laidback sandwich hour in the Union. But come to find out late yesterday that lo and behold, the wonder women of South Chambers had pooled resources to make a Subway run in Hansford’s honor today, so I got invited. What fun! I got there early and helped set up the President’s Conference Room with paper plates, and greeted Hansford and introduced myself to the one other male in the room, David Heilbron ’13, who is working in Academic Affairs this summer. The gang was all there, these friendly, fun, smart, funny people, generous of spirit and quick of with, who keep Chambers humming no matter what. Today, much of the no-matter-what was apparently happening somewhere else, so we all just hummed along our respective familiar tunes, chatting and laughing three or four conversations at a time, occasionally coming into one big happy flow across the table before streaming back out into smaller rivulets. Yes, I’m mixing my metaphors, so sue me. It’s summer.

Honestly, I can’t remember what all we laughed about, foolishness mostly, but laugh we did, and loud and hard. There was this one recurring bit involving everybody, about the effect of a baby on a group, and that progressed to the effect of a dog on a group, so I ran outside and got Dodger from the bench I’d tied him to with a Duke TIP kid to prove a point. I mean, I went and got Dodger to prove a point, not tied him to a bench with a TIP kid. I mean, not with a TIP kid. I mean—I didn’t hurt any kids, okay? Nor dogs neither! Sheesh. Anyway, back inside, things veered even a little more out of control when Marcia started giving Dodger multiple potato chips in rapid succession, with predictable results in the offing, so time came to break it up and get back to work. Sigh.

All that to say: I love summer on this campus because it offers a bit more time in the day—or at least the occasional feeling of a bit more time in the day, and even at that, don’t ask anybody in Annual Fund until after June 30!—to touch base with the fine, fun people of Davidson College, staff and faculty from across campus, to breathe the same air of conversation for its own sake and laughter just because, in real time and in real space.


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