Author Archive for: ‘John Syme ’85’
Summer reading kickoff: Random links that reveal Davidson in bits and pieces.
Astronaut Tom Marshburn ’82 once described to me in an interview how it feels when the rocket engine of your space capsule suddenly stops thrusting you skyward and, with no fanfare although you know it’s coming, drops you into orbit. From massive g-forces roaring under your backside to a feeling of simultaneous motionlessness and falling forward, silent and weightless in space as time itself begins to reconfigure.
The Davidson campus feels like that the week after graduation. For long stretches of time this week across Chambers Lawn, it’s been nothing but random grown-ups and squirrels and the occasional muffled banging of physical plant crews renovating Little Hall dorm. The first day, it was so quiet I could barely think.
Then, in the “thoughts between thoughts” that Professor and Chair of Art Cort Savage so eloquently evoked at the recent dedication of the campus’s new Jaume Plensa sculpture, I began, again this year, to sense the deeper spirit of the place itself—the spirits and voices of the land and the buildings and the people who’ve come before, alive and well in all the ways that matter most, yet oh-so-quiet until you pay attention in summer lulls. Open a yearbook for a virtual stroll, and you’ll remember, too.
For now I’m still hearing hear the echoes of the voices of those we’ve most recently sent out, my student friends and now fellow alumni whose taillights we watched disappear Sunday afternoon. It strikes me that graduation is a bridge not only for these freshly-minted graduates and their families, but for those of us who stay here, a bridge we cross every year.
And the warming sun filters through the trees on a campus suddenly quiet and weightless, as time itself reconfigures into summerti-i-i-ime….
This from Gabrielle Wallace ’12 speaks—volumes—for itself.
An Old Man’s Wish and a Wildcat Favor
I cannot count the number of times older alumni mentioned the strong connection that we graduates share, and how the Davidson bond follows you wherever you go. “Great,” I thought to myself, “Real handy when I’ll be 3,000 miles away.” After graduating last May, I moved back home to the West Coast. Yet as fate would have it, a Wildcat was about to make history not those thousands of miles away in North Carolina, but in my own back yard. And not just any Wildcat, but Stephen Curry.
I found out about Stephen gearing up to break the 3-point single-season shot record the morning of the game. The very first thing in the morning, in fact, with my father rapping at my door and shouting how we needed to buy tickets immediately. I had to rub my eyes to realize I wasn’t dreaming, because I couldn’t remember the last time Dad had urged me out of bed.
My dad had been diagnosed with liver cancer on August 15, 2012 and given approximately one to three months to live. By the grace of God (and some holistic medicine), he had been outliving the doctor’s expectations by several months. However his health still steadily declined, and he moved in with me on his 73rd birthday. Some days he would not leave the bed, his liver cancer now also in his lymph nodes, a lung, and spine draining all of his energy. Yet there was my father (in mid April) with a vitality in his voice I hadn’t heard since before his terrible diagnosis. I opened my eyes to see him peeking his head in my bedroom door, listening how much he wanted to watch Stephen beat our home team, the Portland Trail Blazers. So, around noon, we splurged on some good seats for the 7:30 game. He was so excited he could hardly sit still, which was saying something for Dad these days. And suddenly an idea hit me, and I decided to put this Davidson connection to the test.
The first person I contacted was my friend Meg Jarrell: she lived across the hall from me freshman year on Second Belk, and as an athlete got to know Stephen herself. I told her that it would mean the world to me if he could grant us a short hello, and wondered if she could get a hold of him. It was 12:30 and I had 7 hours until tip-off to make it happen. She suggested I e-mail Bob McKillop, so I sent him an e-mail explaining my situation. I got no reply. After clinging to my iPhone for four hours, I finally let the crazy idea go, and went to run an errand. I came back home to a missed call and froze in shock as Bryant Barr’s voice came through my voicemail. Coach McKillop had forwarded my e-mail to Bryant, who had spoken with Stephen, and suddenly I was being offered post-game visitor’s passes and courtside tickets.
I decided to keep it a surprise for my dad until we got to the arena, and asked if we could wait a minute in the lobby before sitting down. Bryant and his friend (a friend who was offering up his courtside tickets for us) kindly explained to my father that he would not be sitting in section 121, row R, but would be sitting floor-level, watching the game from mere feet away. It was a moment I’ll never forget: realization and pure gratitude filling my father’s face as tears swept over mine. The rest, as basketball fans across the nation saw, was history.
Dad was elated to meet Stephen and, though I had to support his weight as we walked slowly up the stairs and out of the arena, he claimed he was so happy he felt he was floating on air. And I realized, 3,000 miles away, that my Davidson connection had never felt stronger.
Expedition 35 Commander Chris Hadfield handed over control of the International Space Station yesterday to Expedition 36 command, as Canadian Hadfield, Russian Roman Romanenko and Davidson College Wildcat Astronaut Tom Marshburn ’82 prepare to close the hatch this afternoon at 3:50 p.m. and return to Earth.
But first, Expedition 35/36 posted what’s being billed as the first music video from space, with Hadfield rocking revised lyrics in honor of their pending trip. Brilliant! Safe travels home, gentlemen, and, as the 1969 David Bowie single says, “May God’s love be with you….”
As this is posted, the video has recorded more than a million views on YouTube.
Since Wildcat NASA Astronaut Tom Marshburn ’82′s conversations from space to the 900 Room, we’ve spotted him flying over Lake Norman several times at dawn or dusk, sun glinting off the International Space Station 230 miles up at 175,000 mph.
Now hear this, just in: NASA will broadcast live coverage of his expedition’s return to Earth May 12-14.
An interesting memo crossed my desk this week by kindness of Vice-President for Academic Affairs, Dean of Faculty and Frontis W. Johnston Professor of Economics Clark G. Ross (who is retiring this year from the deanship but not from Davidson). Clark quotes a memo about a planned faculty research Web page from Associate Dean for Teaching, Learning and Research and B. F. Dolan Professor of Biology Verna Case. I’m adding hyperlinks to her draft text below, to offer a sense of scope about what’s percolating at www.davidson.edu.
Subject: Info for website—The Davidson faculty is dedicated to and engaged in an immersive higher education experience for undergraduates and themselves. Active research and other scholarly pursuits allow faculty to be on the leading edge of their fields and enhances their teaching. Between 2007 and 2011, more than half of the faculty published, exhibited, or performed original work for a range of audiences beyond Davidson. The publications included 56 books, 46 book chapters, 655 scholarly articles in peer reviewed journals, 139 web-based publications and 85 performances or exhibits of their art. Approximately 60% of faculty members publish with undergraduate co-authors.
From 2007-2012, faculty supported their research with $10.3 million in funding from federal, state, and private funding agencies. These agencies include the National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Geographic Society, the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, and the North Carolina Arts Council. The funding allows faculty members to purchase scientific equipment, to travel to distant research sites, museums and archives around the world, and to provide summer research fellowships for Davidson undergraduates. Well-equipped research labs on Davidson’s campus rival many Research 1 institutions. Science faculty and students have access to a confocal microscope, laser technologies, Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy, and technology for analyzing and manipulating DNA and RNA. Faculty and students engaged in field research have used iPads and GIS technologies, and other mobile equipment to track animals and record locations of ancient relics.
Whether tracking pythons in the Everglades, designing apps for sports ranking, analyzing recent insurgencies around the world, studying ancient civilizations in Mexico or Greece, or constructing bacterial computers, Davidson faculty are solving important problems, developing useful tools, and generally contributing to our understanding of the world. Davidson is also a place where the original production of art in many forms enriches and gives meaning to our lives.
Addition, 5/8/13: Citing the publication’s intellectual rigor and international reputation, the prestigious Spanish publishing house Anthropos, based in Barcelona, will assume financial responsibility for the publication of the academic journal Letras Peninsulares, while the journal’s founding editor, Mary Vásquez, will retain full editorial functions, independently. This initiative by Anthropos ensures that Letras Peninsulares, once published through Davidson College, will have a second life after its initial 22 years of publication. —Mary S. Vásquez, Joel O. Conarroe Professor of Spanish
This just in from my colleague Anna Prushinski, maven of all things Steph:
“Regional SI cover is… Who else? Comes out Thursday but probably nowhere near here. Anyone have a west coast friend?”
I just spent a fascinating hour in the 900 Room listening to Now You See It author Cathy Davidson talk about how digital communications are changing higher ed and the world. I know that I am not alone in more than once having had the thought that we just need to follow the lead of our students. So no surprise that the first thing I see when I walk out in the Brown Atrium is Valerie Leveille ’16 of New York City (right) chilling on the sofa with not one but two portals open on the world, and sideways to boot. Now you see it, indeed!
At first glance, the term “digital studies” strikes my workaday intellect the same way as, for instance, “interdisciplinary studies.” That is to say that my first glance is askance. Really, aren’t most things “digital” at some point anymore? And doesn’t, you know, everything eventually tip into interdisciplinarity if you push hard enough? Well, just so, yes and no, it’s complicated, and glad you asked.
It turns out that some of the inherent complexities of ideas and knowledge circa 2013—meta-ideas, and thoughts between thoughts about meta-ideas!—are now inviting, even demanding systematic exploration in their own right. Happily, that’s what we do here at Davidson College, just this kind of fast-moving critical analysis of the human condition on the vast, unfurling canvas of the liberal arts and sciences. This week, guest lecturer Cathy Davidson will give a talk on Thursday, May 2, at 11:05 in the C. Shaw Smith Room of the Alvarez College Union, “Now You See It: Changing Higher Education to Change the World.” The lecture is free and open to the public.
Davidson is the author of Now You See It: How Technology and Brain Science Will Transform Schools and Business for the 21st Century, and has published over twenty books on technology, education, and the history of reading, writing, and printing. “Starts where Malcolm Gladwell leaves off, showing how digital information will change our brains. We need this book,” blurbed Daniel Levitin, author of his own New York Times bestseller, This Is Your Brain on Music.
There is an ever-emerging body of academic thought and knowledge surrounding all that might be termed “digital studies.” More on that as it continues to develop at Davidson College, but suffice here to say that Cathy Davidson is a luminary in the field, and one who promises an intriguing hour filled with food for thought—at “first glance” and far beyond!
We talk a lot about the power of place around here, and what that means at Davidson in 2013. Right now it means green, green grass and cool, clear spring days of blooming azaleas and dogwoods on a rising tide of exam-time hysterics….
Yesterday as I pedaled across campus, I heard a massive boom and spied a big white cloud over by the flagpole at Chambers—exploding nitrogen gas and ping-pong balls, it turns out, courtesy of the Society of Physics Students. Davidson physics students, constant readers will recall, founded the national physics honor society Sigma Pi Sigma in 1928. Today, they were just blowing stuff up. Bazinga! Click to enlarge photos, courtesy of moi-même and Professors of Physics Mario Belloni and Tim Gfroerer.